Sunday, September 30, 2012

Recognize His Hand in All Things

Today I read Judges 17 where a man named Micah takes his mother's silver and returns it to her.  She then makes several idols and graven images out of the silver.  Micah then proceeds to consecrate his own priests.  It never fails to amaze me when I read the Bible how often the Israelites leave the Lord their God and go off and do their own thing, despite the abundant examples they have of how horribly that has turned out for everyone who has ever done that so far.

It's interesting that Heavenly Father took so open a hand with His people in those days.  Heavenly Father was openly doing things for and to the Israelites and the Nephites.  In our day, I believe Heavenly Father is just as involved in our lives if we pay attention, but it does not seem quite so open to me.  Heavenly Father's blessings are all around us if we care to look, but it is not so obvious as say Gideon's 300 men defeating the Midianites or Sampson's inhuman strength.  Instead in this day and age we have Heavenly Father whispering to His servants to save them from car accidents and blessing them because they pay their tithing.

But His blessings are all around us if we pay attention.  And if we really want to see them, all we have to do is ask Heavenly Father help us be aware of His help and His blessings.  He will help us recognize His hand and we can properly thank Him for all He does for us.  And I personally believe that the more we recognize and thank Him for His blessings, the more He will want to, and will bless us.  Who would want to pass that up?  Until tomorrow.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sampson is Tricked and Killed

Today I read Judges 16 which brings the story of Sampson to a close.  I've got to say, I have always wondered about Sampson and his intelligence anytime I read this part of his story.  He loves the woman Delilah and tells her three times what it will take to lose his strength and three times she does it.  I mean, why would you stay with such a woman?  It's like if you were to wake up to your wife holding a knife to your throat three nights in a row.  Would you stick around to see what the forth night is going to bring?  Or would you get out of there?  But Sampson, like a love sick fool, tells her his deepest secret and surprise surprise, she exploits it.

This is a different aspect of fearing man instead of God.  Sampson was more concerned with what Delilah would think of him and proving his love to her.  This is just another form of manipulation.  Anytime a man or a woman says to his or her partner "if you love me..." that is manipulation and should be put to a stop right away.  A partnership of love and trust has no room for such manipulative statements.  If the person truly loves his or her partner or spouse, then they will not question said love.  Such statements typically are found in puppy love such as teenagers have.  They have no place in true love where two people have committed their lives to one another.  It is just as much abuse as if one person hit the other. 

Love is a partnership and takes both people working at it constantly to be kept alive and healthy.  It cannot long survive if one of the parties starts abusing the other.  True love requires work and has to be fed often.  But when we put in the effort and the other half, the object of our love, puts in his or her half, it is one of the most beautiful and sacred things on this planet!  It is my sincere hope that everyone can find such love and happiness in this life.  Until tomorrow.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sampson Burns a Cornfield and Slays 1,000 Men

Today I read Judges 15 which continues the story of Sampson.  In this chapter Sampson tries to go visit his wife and when he arrives at the house of her father, he finds that his father in law has given her to another man because he thought he hated her.  This is another instance where I hope we only have the cliff notes of what happened because I really hope there is more to the story than this.  I mean, what a crazy thing to do without even consulting the husband.  Did people not communicate at all back then? 

It's a good thing that Sampson was an instrument in the hands of God, because he had one wild temper.  In response he catches 300 foxes and ties a torch to their tails and sets them lose in the corn fields of the Philistines.  I have to admit that my first thought when I read this was to wonder how long it would take to catch 300 foxes, and then tie a torch onto their tails.  But this act causes the Philistines to kill his father in law and his wife which only angers Sampson more.

This is part of the reason that Jesus Christ wants us to forgive one another.  Anger breeds more anger and only causes more hatred.  If Sampson had forgiven his father in law that would have been the end of it.  However because he did not, he caused hundreds of people to go hungry, set off a chain of events that killed his father in law and wife and ultimately led to killing one thousand men with the jaw bone of a donkey.  The age old law of an eye for an eye never solves anything, it only makes people more angry because they never see their own pain as justified for the injuries they have caused others.  It is much better to forgive and forget as hard as that may be to do.  But just imagine if everyone could forgive, really forgive, each other their trespasses?  What a wonderful world that would be!  Until tomorrow.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sampson Gets Married and Slays Thirty Men

Today I read Judges 14 where Sampson first truly enters the scene.  Sampson is a very interesting man and was an instrument in the hands of God.  And yet he was also a skirt chaser.  He would get smitten by a woman's looks and his sense would go out the window.  In this particular chapter he marries a Philistine woman, although the scriptures say it is of God, so perhaps God caused Sampson to find her attractive in the first place.  I'm not sure.  But she certainly ends up betraying his trust and revealing his secret to the men at the wedding feast. 

From the brief chapters we have on Sampson, it seems that he has quite the temper.  In this chapter when he finds out that his wife has told his secret to the men at the feast he goes down and slays thirty men to give them the thirty garments that he promised them.  Although I can understand being mad when they guessed his riddle and the only other person who knew it was his wife.  That would be pretty crushing to me too in the same situation, although I would not run off and kill thirty men for it.

The scriptures state that this is the time to prepare to meet God.  Alma tells us that if we are not stripped of pride then we are not prepared to meet God.  Anger seems to be a great stumbling block in this world.  It seems to have become something of a pandemic in this day and age though!  I work in the customer service industry and it is honestly disgusting how these people talk to my employees, and yet they expect politeness in return!  The Golden Rule has gone out the window it seems.  People talk to each other how ever they want and when the other person other person responds in kind, they are outraged, as if to say how dare someone speak to them like that.  Honestly if it weren't so upsetting it would be hilarious.  But I must say that anger is just as much a trait that needs to be overcome as lasciviousness is, or addiction.  This life really is the time to prepare to meet God, and if we don't use it wisely, well, it will not be well with us when we stand before Him at the great and final day.  Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sampson's Birth is Announced

Today I read Judges 13 where the parents of Sampson are visited by an angel, not once, but twice.  His mother, whose name we are not told, had an angel appear to her and tell her that she would bear a son who was to be a Nazarite from his birth.  He gave her a few more instructions and she did not realize that he was an angel.  When she told her husband everything that had happened they prayed to have the man return to them.  When the angel re-appeared he told them everything that he had told Sampson's mother the first time.

It is interesting to me how in the old times Heavenly Father seemed to announce what He was going to do a lot more often.  I understand that Sampson was a very important person to the Israelites as was John the Baptist, another whose birth was heralded by angels.  I guess maybe an angel came this time because of Sampson being a Nazarite?  So that his parents could teach him what to do and what not to do. 

I often wonder if angels still come down and visit people incognito like in this story.  I know that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught in their time that some of the Saints had entertained angels unawares.  I wonder if that is still the case in our day?  I kind of doubt it honestly.  But then again, who is to say what random encounters with strangers are not more than that?  It reminds me of the movie the Family Man where the character who shows Nicholas Cage's character his "glimpse" appears as a man robbing a convenience store and later a store clerk who gives a girl too much change back in order to see if she has any integrity.  Do we meet angels in disguise in order to see how we too will react?  Do we have integrity when we think no one is watching?  Because Heavenly Father is always watching us.  We are never truly alone and we will be called to account for all of our actions, even those we might have taken but didn't in the case of someone we might have helped.  You can never go wrong helping other people when they need it.  At least that is how I feel.  Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ephraimites Destroyed Because of Pride

Today I read Judges 12 where the people of Ephraim got mad at Jephthah for not letting them fight in the battles.  I've got to say I'm quite confused by this chapter.  They are upset they did not get to participate in a war and so they are coming to battle against Jephthah.  I really don't see how that makes any sense at all.  And the end result is that 42,000 of the people of Ephraim died because of their pride and anger. 

Pride is the downfall of most people.  It is very rare to meet someone without any pride at all.  The Ephraimites felt slighted and so went to war over it.  What a ridiculous reason to have almost a 50,000 people die!  It's no wonder that God was not with them with such a lame excuse for going to war.  Heavenly Father will not help us with our own folly.  He will only stand by us when we are in the right.  That very rarely means full of pride.  God has said in the past through His prophets that He will have a humble people, we can humble ourselves or we can be compelled to be humble, but we will be humble.  I don't know about you, but I'd much rather humble myself!  Until tomorrow.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Jephthah Sacrifices His Daughter

Today I read Judges 11 which contains a very important lesson about making rash promises.  This chapter contains the story of Jephthah who delivered Israel from the hands of the children of Ammon with the help of the Lord.  But because of his own foolishness it cost him his daughter.

I have always wondered about this story and why Jephthah was so foolish to make such a promise.  He promised the Lord that if the Lord would deliver the Ammonites into his hands in battle that when he returned home he would offer up sacrifice of the first thing that came out to greet him.  What a dumb thing to promise!  I mean, what was he expecting to come out and greet him?  A chicken?  A dog?  Why would anyone in their right mind promise such a thing.  Of course the first thing to come out would be a person.  Maybe a family member, maybe a servant, maybe even a friend.  But why would anyone think otherwise?  I can't even wrap my mind around what he might have been thinking.

But the lesson I have always taken from this chapter is to be careful what you say and promise to the Lord.  The one positive thing I can say about Jephthah is that he kept his promise and did in fact sacrifice his daughter.  However, if he had not been so rash and so dumb he wouldn't have had to do it in the first place.  The old saying goes be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it applies very nicely here.  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

God Refuses to Aid Israel

Today I read Judges 10 which I must say actually made me laugh out loud.  Sometimes I feel like reading the story of the Israelites is kind of like reading the back of a shampoo bottle where it says lather, rinse, repeat, because the Israelites do the same things over and over again.  Generation after generation leave the Lord their God and go after strange gods.

The part that made me laugh today was the Israelites got invaded once they went after strange gods, which is not surprising considering that is how God will sometimes humble His people to get them to return to Him.  However, in this case when they cried to the Lord for help, He told them to go ask the gods they now worship to save them.  That made me laugh hard.  I know Heavenly Father was not being silly and was very serious, however it struck my funny bone and was perhaps the perfect response to give a petulant child.

I had a very close friend when I was a teenager.  She would ask me for all sorts of advice and I would give it to her, the problem was, she rarely took my advice.  I would never say "I told you so" however it became increasingly frustrating to me that she would not listen to what I was telling her, even after she would ask me what she should do, and then do her own thing anyway.  Eventually I stopped giving her advice.  I told her I was tired of giving her advice and then she wouldn't take it.  So I completely understand how God was feeling when the Israelites ran to Him for help the moment things got out of hand.  Heavenly Father will not be mocked.  If we want His help consistently and whenever we ask for it, we have to serve Him.  Just like D&C 82:10 says He is bound when we do what He says, but otherwise we have no promise and it is up to Him if he blesses us or not.  I don't know about you, but I don't want to take that chance of missing out on a blessing.  Until tomorrow.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Rise and Fall of Abimelech

Today I read Judges 9 which tells the story of Abimelech, one of the sons of Gideon, who was a very evil man.  He had 70 brothers and he killed them all so that he could rule Israel and slaughtered thousands in warfare.  In the end he was slain when a woman threw a piece of rock and hit him in the head during a siege on a tower that held the inhabitants of an entire city. 

I have spoken here in the past about power and how fickle it is and it only lasts if those you command decide to follow you.  I have often wondered if the people who follow such bloodthirsty leaders are just as bloodthirsty themselves?  I mean, why would people follow such a leader?  Burning people alive in a locked tower?  Killing a thousand men and women that way?  My soul recoils at the thought of so evil an action.  It must be that those who followed Abimelech were just as bloodthirsty, why else would they not just walk away or try and kill Abimelech to make it stop?  It's the only conclusion I can think of.  I would never have been able to live back then, I would surely have been put to death for not joining the army or rebelling or something along those lines.

Thank goodness for the plan of God.  I firmly believe we were each placed in the time and place we were born into on purpose.  Heavenly Father knows my disposition and knows I would never have survived in those times and so He kept me from them.  My challenges I face in this time are much more spiritual than physical.  Much more suited to my nature.  I'm not sure I could ever get over having to kill someone, even in self defense.  Hopefully I never have to find out and in this day and age it is very unlikely I will have to.  I thank Heavenly Father every day for His guidance and His wisdom for putting me here in this time.  I hope you also see the wisdom in Heavenly Father in where you are.  Until tomorrow.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Stand with God

Today I read Judges 8 where Gideon is pursuing the kings of the Midianites.  As he was pursuing them he asked for help from two of the Israelites cities.  Both of them scorned Gideon and refused to aid them.  Gideon told them that when he had finished his business with the Midianites he would return and whip them with thorns and briars for one city, and tear down their towers in the other.

It is crazy to me that the Israelites would not assist Gideon in his destruction of the Midianites.  I suppose that the people of the cities that refused to help him were afraid that Gideon would lose and that they would be punished for their support of Gideon.  At least I assume that is what they were doing, I really don't know if that is the case or not.  However, you would think that after seeing the Israelites rout the Midianites once already, that they would be willing to help out Gideon and his followers.

This is a clear case of someone fearing man more than they fear God.  If they had feared God like they should have, they would have assisted Gideon and helped him when he needed it.  But they were more afraid of the Midianites and what they would do to them if it were discovered that they had assisted their enemies.  This sounds silly to us now, but is it any different than what we do, or don't do, in our day?  Do we stand up for what is right at all times?  Or do we shy away from standing up for Heavenly Father?  When righteousness is called into question and mocked, do we stand tall and proudly say that we are a Latter-day Saint?  Satan has done a fantastic job of confusing the world and convincing them that standing up for what is morally right is bigotry and hateful.  But it is not bigotry to stand up for what is right and what God stands for.  If it comes down to standing with God and offending people here, or joining the crowd and offending God, I know which one I will choose.  Do you?  Until tomorrow.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Lord Uses Gideon to Defeat the Midianites

Today I read Judges 7 which recounts the remarkable tale of the battle Gideon fights against the Midianites.  Gideon had gathered 32,000 men together to defeat the Midianites when the Lord came to him and told him that he had too many men.  God wanted Israel to know beyond a doubt that He was the one who had delivered them from the Midianites.  So God had Gideon send all those who were afraid home.  Gideon did this and when it was done he had 10,000 men left to help him fight.

Heavenly Father told Gideon that he still had too many men and so through a test to see how they drank water from a stream, managed to get them down to just 300 men.  Now no one could accuse Gideon of doing it himself.  There was no way it could happen without God's help.  And so with God's help and some subterfuge, or strategem if you want to use the Book of Mormon word, the Israelites defeated the Midianites without losing a single man in the fighting.

My father and I have a long standing debate on whether or not the United States needs a standing Army.  My father states that if we were righteous enough for the Lord to fight our battles for us, then we don't need a standing army.  I on the other hand maintain that Heavenly Father still expects us to do all we can for ourselves which includes having a standing army.  I have no idea who is right, but I do know that we can never go wrong if we put our trust in Heavenly Father.  When we do as He asks us to do, He will take care of everything, much like in the story of Gideon.  We can always put our trust in Heavenly Father, He will always deliver us if we do as He asks of us.  The wonderful thing is, it is almost always things we should be doing anyway.  Put your trust in the Lord, do as He says and you will never be wrong.  It's a wonderful feeling!  Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gideon Casts Down the Altar of Baal

Today I read Judges 6 where Gideon is introduced.  I like the story of Gideon.  It's one of my favorites really.  It is a story that clearly displays that God takes care of His servants.  Nothing about the story of Gideon could have happened without the help of Heavenly Father.  In this chapter, Gideon is visited by an angel who tells Gideon he has been chosen of God.  Surprisingly, Gideon does not respond favorably.

Gideon responds the way most of us would.  He gets angry and upset.  He asks the angel where God is and where are His miracles that he has read about and heard about all his life.  Now, for someone who has been living under the thumb of a people like the Midianites it is a perfectly natural reaction.  Neither the angel nor God gets angry and Gideon though for his outburst.  Rather the angel shows Gideon a miracle.  He causes fire to come out of a rock and consume a meal that Gideon had prepared for him.

That night Gideon and his servants, at the behest of God, cast down the altar of Baal and raise up an altar to God and make a sacrifice.  It makes me laugh because in the morning the people are mad and demand that Gideon's father bring him out so that they can punish Gideon.  His father, Joash, accuses them of worshiping Baal instead of God.  He then goes as far as to say let Baal take care of himself if he is a god!  I love it!  It reminds me of Elijah and his mocking of the priests of Baal which we will read later in the scriptures.  Heavenly Father gets angry.  It says it right in the scriptures.  The difference between God's anger and our anger is that God always has righteous anger.  It always makes me laugh when the prophets in the Old Testament stand up for Heavenly Father and cast down the false gods and are not gentle about it at all.  I can't say I really blame them because how would you feel if you are constantly having to prove that you exist and are the true God?  It would get old really fast in my opinion.  Better not to tempt Heavenly Father.  Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Praising the Lord

Today I read Judges 5 where Deborah praises the Lord for Israel's victory.  Heavenly Father delights in His people praising Him and singing songs.  In Doctrine and Covenants we learn that Hymns are a prayer unto the Lord and are to be treated with respect.  My daughter is two years old and she absolutely loves the Hymns and primary songs.  We sing them to her all the time and on Sunday's during Sacrament meetings she likes to hum along to the music and "sing" the songs with us. 

It is important that we recognize God's hand in all things.  If He has done something to help us, we need to acknowledge it and make sure that we are giving Him the proper credit.  The scriptures state that against none is His wrath kindled except for those who confess not His hand in all things.  We need to make sure we are praising Him for what He has done for us, and thanking Him in both public and private.  It makes you feel good too in my opinion to acknowledge that you couldn't have done something on your own and that you needed His help.  I'm not sure why, but I always feel good about it.  Maybe it's the Spirit.  I'm not sure, but I know that it is a good thing indeed.  Until tomorrow.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Sacredness of Women

Today I read Judges 4 where the Israelites are facing off against the Canaanites.  At this point the Israelites are being led by Deborah, a prophetess.  I've always found that term to be interesting.  A prophet is generally someone with the priesthood who speaks to God.  However, technically I have never seen anything that says a prophet has to have the priesthood.  Truly a prophet is someone who speaks to Heavenly Father and is chosen to be his, or her, spokesperson.  There is no reason it can't be a woman.

Heavenly Father can call whomever He wants to be His spokesperson here on earth.  At this point in Israel's history the Israelites are being led by judges.  They also have prophets and as it would seem, prophetesses to lead them.  In this case, Deborah is the judge and the prophetess together.  It makes me wonder about our history and how things have changed in the world.  For example here in our society, women were not considered to be on equal footing with men until the 1900's.  There were hundreds of years where women were considered second class citizens by Western Societies.  But obviously it was not always that way.  If a women could not only be God's spokesperson here on the earth, but also be the judge of all Israel, there were obviously societies in the history that did not consider women the same way.

It is nice to know that honestly.  Just like it is ridiculous to thing that people would be different or less than other people because of the color of their skin.  It is also silly to think than women would be less than men because they are women.  Yes there are more difference between men and women than just their sexual organs, however, it is ridiculous to think that they are less than anyone else and I have never understood why some societies treated them as less.  Now, there are of course many differences between the sexes and men are far better at certain things than women, just like women are much better than men at some things.  I'm personally grateful that I live in a time where we understand that just because you are a woman, or a man or you have skin that is a different color than others, it doesn't make you less than others.  It's just sad that societies used to not understand this true.  We are all equal in the sight of God.  He doesn't care if we are black, white, yellow or red.  Doesn't care if we are men or women, and quite honestly in my opinion I think he likes women a little better than He does men.  He certainly goes out of His way to ensure they are cared for and I firmly believe will punish those who do not take proper care of the women in their lives! 

The feminists of the world will cry out that they don't need to be taken care of and that chivalry is dead, but I promise that God believes in chivalry.  He is pleased when men take care of women and treat them with respect, which is really what chivalry is all about.  It does not lessen anyone to be treated with respect.  Feminists make me laugh with such notions.  But as always, it doesn't matter what others think, it only matters what God thinks.  Joseph Smith learned that lesson a long time ago, the hard way.  It's a lesson we all need to learn on our own and if we don't learn it on our own we will be taught it.  That will not be enjoyable I promise.  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

God WIll Help Us Overcome Our Weakness

Today I read Judges 3 where once again Israel forsakes the Lord to go after strange gods.  Honestly, you would think they would learn their lesson if nothing else from their own history.  I mean anytime in the past this has happened it has not turned out well for them.  Do they really think it will be any different this time?  Someone said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.  By this definition, the ancient Israelites were insane!  Although I don't know for a fact that they expected different results. 

It's sad really that the Israelites were so driven by their loins.  At least I can think of no other reason why they would constantly leave God to server fertility gods.  I would have to assume that whatever "worship" services such a god would have would include sex.  This of course would appeal to all those people who have a weakness for sex and things of the flesh.  But it's still no reason to forsake the Lord, at least to me.

I will be the first to admit that this world has a lot of appealing things to offer.  No matter what your weakness is, you can fulfill it in gusto.  If you have a weakness for sex, pornography is available like never before.  If you have a weakness for alcohol, we are a nation of alcoholics and can buy liquor at almost any store except fast food restaurants!  Anger issues?  No problem, we'll declare it a sickness and give you a way out of taking responsibility for it.  The list goes on and on.  Heavenly Father sent us here and blocked off our memories of our past life with Him so that we could decide, all on our own, what it was we really wanted for ourselves.  We make that choice everyday by what we do with our time and our thoughts.  If you want to change, Heavenly Father can and will help you if you ask Him. 

Each of us were given a weakness for the sole purpose of making us humble so we would come to Him for help.  Still, it's a strange feeling to desire something and yet desire to NOT desire it.  When you identify your weakness, most likely just because you know what it is, it will not go away.  You have to turn to the Lord for help.  We will have to pray that He will take away our unrighteous desires.  But He will not leave us to face our challenges alone.  If we are sincere in our desires, He will help us.  And that gives us the hope to keep moving forward.  Until tomorrow.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Israel Forsakes God

Today I read Judges 2 where Joshua dies and Israel forsakes the Lord their God.  I was pleased to see that at the very least, the generation that inherited Israel all remained faithful to Heavenly Father and it was not until they had all passed away that the people turned their backs on God and went after strange gods.  It reminded me a lot of 4 Nephi where the generation that met Jesus, even as children, all remained faithful to the end of their days and it was not until after they had all passed away that they started falling away and doing what was wrong.

Sin is attractive.  No one denies that.  We all have our own weakness and challenges.  Some have an addictive personality and so become addicted quite easily.  Others struggle with anger and controlling their temper.  No one ever said that following the Lord and overcoming the natural man was an easy thing to do, but everyone has said that it is worth it.  However, God is a merciful God and will allow you to choose for yourself what you want out of this life.  If all you want are the things associated with a telestial glory, well then there is a place for you. 

Not everyone wants the things Heavenly Father has prepared for those who remain true and faithful to their covenants.  Some who think they want to return to live with Heavenly Father are going to be very surprised when they meet Him and realize it is not what they want I think.  The great news is you don't have to wait for the judgement day.  If you like going to church and enjoy reading the scriptures and enjoy General Conference then you will most likely enjoy living with Heavenly Father.  But if you drag your feet over following the commandments and don't like doing the things that God has asked of you, then you need to decide if this is what you really want.  No one will force you to accept a higher glory where you would be unhappy.  Until tomorrow.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Counsel with the Lord

Today I read Judges 1 where the Israelites continue to fight the inhabitants of the land of their inheritance.  When I was younger I used to think it would be really neat to have the large plates of Nephi and read all the doings of the Nephites and see what they were up to all the time.  But after reading the Old Testament, I'm not so sure it would be fun to read anymore.  It would be a lot of names that we don't know doing things in places that mean nothing to us.  It would be very interesting from a historical perspective but not much else.

The one nugget that I pulled out of this chapter though is that Israel is still following the Lord.  Instead of just running off willy nilly and doing whatever they wanted they prayed and asked Heavenly Father which land they should take possession of first.  It's good that they are still asking God and turning to Him on things that are important and not leaning to their own understanding.  We can learn a lot from the Israelites and follow their example by including the Lord in our lives when we have important decisions to make.  Lean not unto thine own understanding but counsel with the Lord in all they doings the scriptures say.  We cannot go wrong if we follow that advice!  Until tomorrow.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Joshua Will Serve God

Today I read Joshua 24 where Joshua dies.  However, before he passes away, he calls the elders of Israel together and talks to them.  He reminds them of the great things the Lord has done for them and reminds them again to forsake strange gods.  He also gives a scripture mastery that no matter what they choose, he and his progeny will serve the Lord.  It's a powerful statement and one that can't be misinterpreted. Just like we stated the other day, God is just as focused on intent as He is action.  When we give lip service and say we are going to serve Him but we don't, that is worse for us than if we had been honest and said we had no intention of serving Him. 

I know that temptation is always around us and we always have weakness, but I swear, the way the scriptures are written it makes it seem like the Israelites are always doing what is wrong.  I know like I said before we only have the cliff notes version of what happened back then and I'm sure it was not everyone leaving after strange gods, but it sure does seem that way.  I'm sure there were plenty of Israelites that lived their entire lives loyal to Heavenly Father and living the commandments the way they should.  It's kind of like they say, no news is good news so we don't hear about it when they are doing well.  At least I sincerely hope that is the case, but we will know in the end.  Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

God Will Fulfill His Word

Today I read Joshua 23 where Joshua speaks with the leaders of the children of Israel and reminds them that they live in this land only on the grace of God.  He reminds them that while God has fulfilled every promise of good things to the children of Israel, He will not fail one whit to follow through on every promise of bad things should they abandon Him and go after strange gods. 

He also reminds them that while they stay faithful to God they cannot be conquered by another people because God fights their battles for them.  I have often wondered just how Heavenly Father helps fight battles for a people.  I mean, I know He is God and omnipotent, but can He really turn aside a sword stroke in the middle of a battle or cause a weapon to break or however He protects those who serve Him from harm in a battle?  I am sure He can but it just boggles my mortal mind to even think about it.  Although to my knowledge the only group of people He has completely protected from death in a battle are the Stripling Warriors of Helaman.  And even they all suffered many wounds, they just didn't die, not a one of them.

However, with a proper knowledge of the plan of salvation and the Atonement, we understand that death is not the end and that in fact we need to die in this life to begin the rest of our existence.  As long as we are living the commandments and doing what Heavenly Father wants us to be doing, we have no need to fear death.  Now, death can of course make us sad because we are separated from those we love.  But if we have been sealed in the holy temple then we will in fact see them again.  The Priesthood of Heavenly Father is the only thing that can bind us to one another in this life as well as the next life.  If we stay true and faithful to our covenants, we have nothing to worry about, it will all work out in the end!  Until tomorrow. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Tribes of Reuben and Gad Build an Altar

Today I read Joshua 22 where the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh are allowed to go back across the river Jordan and enjoy the lands that they were given for inheritance.  When they return to their lands they built an altar and were condemned for it by the priests, because now that they have a tabernacle they are only supposed to offer burnt offerings on the altar in the tabernacle.  However, the tribes have a most unusual response. 

The tribes said that in the future they worried that the tribes on the other side of the river Jordan might disavow the children of these tribes because they were on the "wrong" side of the river Jordan.  So to try and forestall this they built an altar, not for the purposes of burnt offerings, but rather as a witness that they too are of the house of Israel.  Personally I think this is brilliant and very insightful of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh.  They know their brethren well and were able to see quite clearly what would happen. 

This holier than thou attitude has always been around and as far as I can tell, outside of the millennium, will always be around too.  Because of pride, we feel more secure in our place in the Lord's eyes when we can point out that we are following the commandments or doing what is right better than someone else.  Of course the irony is that by so doing, we are making ourselves less in the eyes of God.  God is not impressed by pride.  He is not pleased by holier than thou attitudes.  I remember once I was living with some friends in California and we went out to lunch.  My friend got some iced tea with his lunch and I reminded him that he was better than that and shouldn't be drinking it.  I was shocked when he quite vehemently turned on me and accused me of being holier than thou on him and being, as he put it, high and mighty.  I was so shocked and hurt that I couldn't even respond.  I truly was only concerned about my friend when I had brought it up and his well being was my only thought, but to have him so hatefully respond to me was quite hurtful and shocking.  I later learned that drinking tea was the least of his problems he was having and that was the real reason he snapped at me, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard after all.

But we should not let negative attitudes stop us from doing what is right and trying to help others.  We need to make sure that we have the right intentions though and that we have the salvation of others as our goal.  The Lord is not pleased when our motivation is pride and tearing others down.  But that is between the Lord and each one of us.  We cannot hide from the Lord, no matter how much we might wish it!  Until tomorrow.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Reliability of Heavenly Father

Today I read Joshua 21 where the Levites are given cities to live in.  Also in this chapter the Lord fulfills all His promises to the Israelites.  This is by far the more important part of the chapter.  Joseph Smith said that in order to have faith in Heavenly Father, we must first have a correct understanding of His character.  This chapter helps lay out part of that character.  It is important to know that God will always fulfill His promises to man.  We need to understand that if God says something will come to pass, it will unless the requirements He sets forth are met, such as repenting, or He rescinds what He has spoken.

Mankind can avoid the bad things that God says will happen by repenting of their sins.  God always gives the people a way to avoid it.  Such as the case of the city of Nineveh and the prophet Jonah.  When Jonah preached his message to the people of Nineveh, they repented and the city was spared.  This happened at times with the Nephites also in the Book of Mormon.  When they were getting too wicked, Alma or another prophet would preach the word of God and the people would repent, or in the case of Ammonihah, cast out the righteous among them and so the destruction that God promised, came to pass.  God cannot say an untrue word otherwise He would cease to be God.  That will never happen so we know that if He says it, you can count on it happening.  That's comforting to me to know that we can rely on Him no matter what!  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cities of Refuge Laid Out

Today I read Joshua 20 where the Lord has Joshua choose six cities for refuge of the accidental murderer.  This is a concept that was previously laid out before Moses that when a person accidentally commits murder, with no intent and no maliciousness on their part, there needs to be a refuge for them to hide from the family of the deceased because they are not put to death the way the person who murders with intent is. 

This gives me hope.  It tells me that to Heavenly Father, intent is just as important as the act itself.  If murder was murder no matter what, then God would not have commanded that there be cities of refuge.  He would have commanded that the accidental murderer be put to death just like the murderer with intent is.  This to me indicates that when such a person stands before Him at the judgment seat, he will be held blameless before God.  Or at the very least will not be held as a murderer. 

Now, of course I do not intend of murdering anyone, on purpose or otherwise, but it gives me hope that perhaps other sins are not as clear cut as we think they are.  If intent is just as important as action, then perhaps we are better in our standing before the Lord than we thought.  Of course we will not know for sure until we stand in His presence, but we can have a good idea of how our standing before Him is just based on how we feel about things of the Spirit.  Do we embrace the commandments and going to church, or do we shun church under pretenses of being offended or other lame excuses and break the commandments rationalizing that they are not meant for us?  Our mental attitude says a lot about us, more than we would like it to.  Until tomorrow.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Joshua Receives an Inheritance

Today I read Joshua 19 where the rest of the children of Israel are given their inheritance by drawing lots.  At the end of it all, the Israelites give an inheritance to Joshua also.  It is wonderful to see how much the Israelites revere their prophets.  They loved Moses and would have done anything for him and it seems they love Joshua also.  They gave him his own city to live in and inheritance for his family.

I wonder if the reason most people love their prophet is because of the Spirit that they carry around with them?  I remember when I was 15 years old I attended the dedication of the St. Louis, Missouri temple and had the opportunity, however brief, to meet President Hinckley and the man just radiated love and the Spirit.  He put his hand on my shoulder and asked how I was doing.  He waited for an answer too.  I could tell that despite a hundred or so people waiting for him, at that moment in time, I was the most important thing to him.  He waited until I could finally croak out that I was fine.  He then patted me on the shoulder and said that was good and finally moved on.  I have also had the privilege of meeting Elder Neal A. Maxwell, President Dieter F. Utchdorf, Elder Richard G. Scott, and Elder David A. Bednar.  Each of them were full of the Spirit and love.  I was impossible not to be impressed by these men I had seen in General Conference for years, but more so I was impressed by how they just absolutely radiated love and peace.  I'll bet Joshua was the same and that is why the Israelites loved him so much.  I would certainly have reacted that way for any of our Prophets and Apostles.  I'm sure any of you who are LDS would also.  Until tomorrow.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Tabernacle is Established in Israel

Today I read Joshua 18 where they establish the Tabernacle in the land of Israel.  To me that truly indicates their intention to stay and stick around.  The Tabernacle has gone everywhere with them and was purposefully made to be collapsible for transportation.  And now they have given it a permanent location.  I wonder if the Israelites felt the same way?  Did they view it as really happening once the Tabernacle was permanently settled?

Joshua really censures the Israelites in this chapter too.  He reminds them that they all need lands for their inheritance and sends them out into Israel to survey the land.  While reading this, I couldn't help but wonder, many battles had been fought and thousands of people were killed to make way for the Israelites to live there.  Who cleaned it all up?  I mean this is going to be their new home, they can't just leave the bodies to rot on the ground the way the Jaredites did.  The only conclusion is that the Israelites did it themselves.  They in a sense had to clean up the mess they made.  I also can't help but wonder did they just move into the vacated cities, or did they tear them down and build them anew the way they wanted?  So many details are lost to history and considered unimportant by the people who wrote the histories, or at least the Bible.  But we will learn it all one day.  That will be fun I think, to learn all the nitty gritty details of history, how it all really happened.  Until tomorrow. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ephraim Complains

Today I read Joshua 17 where Ephraim and Manasseh are given the rest of their inheritance.  At first they complain to Joshua that what they have been given is not enough, that they are too great a people for such a small amount of land.  I often wonder when an entire people makes a statement like this, or in the Book of Mormon, just who is actually doing the complaining?  Does the common man really care all that much about it?  Or is it the leaders of the people that are doing the real complaining?  Most likely the latter.

Joshua seems a little harsh with the people of Ephraim too.  He basically tells them that if they want more land they can clear the forest and drive out the people living there.  That's a little mean in my opinion but perhaps there is more to the story than we are told.  Whatever the real situation, Joshua eventually agrees with them that they are indeed a mighty people and advises them to clear out the land so that they can grow and expand.  It is interesting to me that what is probably the greatest number of people are seemingly given such a small amount of land.  But this is probably another situation where the details are lost in history and will make a lot more sense when we know the whole story.  Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ephraim Receives Its Inheritance

Today I read Joshua 16 where the tribe of Ephraim is given their inheritance.  It is interesting to me that the tribe of Ephraim was not the largest tribe in the days of Moses and Joshua but now it constitutes the vast majority of the Latter-day Saints.  In later days those members of the tribe of Ephraim must have settled most of modern day Europe as that is where most of America has its ancestry. 

The other tribe that a lot of Latter-day Saints appear to be from is Manasseh.  This is no surprise as we know the Nephites, and Lamanites, were from the tribe of Manasseh.  So any people who have the blood of American Indians in their veins would be from the tribe of Manasseh.  When I was younger I had a hard time reconciling that because Manasseh was one of the ten tribes carried off to become one of the lost ten tribes.  It wasn't until I was much older that I realized it was through the blood of the Lamanites that so many would be from that tribe.  It will be interesting to see where the other tribes have gone.  In this day and age you wouldn't think they would still be lost but I have not heard any evidence of Latter-day Saints being named of other tribes so in a sense they are in fact still lost.  Heavenly Father will reveal it when we are ready I am sure.  Until then we just have to be patient.  Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Judah is Given Inheritance

Today I read Joshua 15 where the land that is given to Judah is laid forth.  Sometimes I think it would be really neat to have lived back then and to have a dedicated land for my people that was all ours.  Of course career choice would be severely limited and all but chosen for me based on my birth.  Not a bad system as long as you are ok doing what your father did and enjoy doing it.  I wonder what recourse they had if they didn't want to do their father's job?  I'm not sure but I'll bet it was not much.  Maybe, because it was all they had known, they didn't even wonder what it would be like to do something else. 

Not that it is ever to be doubted, it is nice that we have so many evidences of God fulfilling His promises.  As I just stated, we should never doubt that He will keep His word, He is God and if He did not, the universe would cease to exist.  But for those skeptics out there, it is really nice to have evidence that God keeps His promises.  He always will too!  Even the ones we would wish He would forget about, such as eternal punishments for those who did not keep His commandments and covenants with Him.  But it will all be fulfilled.  The way to make sure you are not disappointed is to make sure we instead our doing what is right and aligning ourselves with the kind of ultimate reward we want to have.  If ye are prepared ye shall not fear the scriptures say.  Do you doubt it?  I sure don't.  Until tomorrow.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Caleb is Given His Reward

Today I read Joshua 14 where Caleb is given a reward for all his faithfulness.  Caleb and Joshua were the only people that were above the age of twenty at the time they began their wandering.  When Moses sent in spies to look at the land of Israel, Caleb and Joshua were two of the spies and the only two that reported good things and that the Israelites could inherit the land right then.  Because they were faithful the Lord when He decreed that no one over the age of twenty at that time would be allowed to enter into the land, except for Joshua and Caleb.

Caleb tells us that he was forty years old when he spied out the land and it has been forty five  years since that time.  However he tells us that despite being eighty-five years old he is just as strong as the day he spied out Israel for the first time.  It never ceases to amaze me how the life expectancy of people has changed throughout the years.  Moses was 120 when he died and he was not bowed down by age that we are told.  Caleb is 85 and just as strong as when he was 40 and taking part in battles.  I cannot picture a single 85 year old taking part in a battle these days.  What made the difference?  Why could people live so much longer back then?  Where they buoyed up by God?  I guess I'll know when I pass on to the next life because it is not necessary for me to know right now.  But it is nice to see someone get their just reward.  Makes you feel happy and pleased for Caleb.  At least I do.  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Israel is Given Inheritance

Today I read Joshua 3 where the Lord commands Joshua to divide up the land for inheritance to the children of Israel.  Every tribe except the tribe of Levi was to be given an inheritance.  The tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh already had their inheritance, it was given to them on the other side of the river Jordan by Moses before he was translated.

It's always interesting to me to see how different cultures act and behave themselves.  In ancient Israel, and ancient America since it has inhabited by Israelites, they were very big on inheritance and lands for their people.  Here in America now, we do not really think in terms of inheritance.  We do not have a family plot of land that our family has lived on for generations.  We move all over the place and go wherever the wind takes us.  Who is to say which is the better way?  It is really just a difference in culture.  I think the idea of living on a family plot of land has appeal in one sense, I love my family and it would be amazing if all of them were right around us.  But on the other hand being stuck in one place like that would not necessarily be a good thing.  But that could just be my Western brain and upbringing talking.

Whichever way we would prefer, we have a celestial inheritance waiting on us if we prove ourselves worthy in this life.  Heavenly Father is prepared to give us all that He has by making us like Him.  However, we have to prove ourselves to Him.  Can you imagine giving someone like Adolf Hitler God's power?  Humanity shudders at the thought!  Only those who can become like He is are worthy of God's power.  The strange thing is, even though many people might think that is what they want, really it isn't.  We can know if it is our desire by what we do in this life.  Do we naturally strive for the things of the Spirit?  Do we seek after Gospel knowledge?  Or do we seek after things of the flesh?  Elder Bednar once said that we don't have to wait for the Judgment day to know how we stand.  We can take stock of how we are right now and know how things will turn out.  Do we genuinely enjoy living the commandments?  Or are they a struggle?  If they are a struggle here, they will be a struggle in the next life too according to Amulek.  The time to decide what we want out of the next life is this life.  We make that choice everyday by our actions.  Choose wisely.  Until tomorrow. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pride, the Destroyer of Civilizations

Today I read Joshua 12 which lists all the Kings and lands that Israel conquered.  That's all this chapter contains is a list of the names of those that Israel conquered.  It made me think again of all the people that had to make way for God to keep His promise.  And again reminded me of the speech Nephi makes to his people about their enemies, the Lamanites.  He tells the Nephites that if the Lamanites were more righteous than them, they would have been more favored.  That God is no respecter of persons and that it is only their ignorance and traditions that keep them away from the truth.

In the early days of the church when the Saints moved to Missouri, they were very proud and haughty about the fact that they belonged to God's true church.  They would brag about how all their friends were going to come and "take over" the land around them.  If they had been humble and done as the Lord commanded them to, they never would have been thrown out of the land like they were.  Pride is the great stumbling block of all people and civilizations.  If it weren't for pride, history would be very different than what we know it to be, for all peoples.  Pride is so hard to be rid of.  The only way to really and truly be rid of it is to ask God to help you.  However, you should be aware that the way He will most likely help you is to give you opportunities to be humble.  Be ready because it will not be easy!  Until tomorrow.