Friday, August 31, 2012

Israelites Defeat the Remaining Lands

Today I read Joshua 11 where the remaining kings in the land of Israel band together in an effort to kill all the Israelites.  It is interesting to me that no one except the people of Gibeon even thought to try and appease the Israelites.  They instead got upset at this invading horde and chose to fight back, which resulted in their destruction.  I mean, couldn't they see the writing on the wall and understand that it was inevitable?

But then I thought about it from the other side of things.  What if this were an invading force coming into America?  How would we all react?  Would be deign to be their servants like the people of Gibeon did?  Would a life of servitude be preferable to a violent death?  Or would we try and rally together and defend our homeland against the invaders and fight back with superior numbers?  It's easy to get caught up in the Israelites story and think of things from their point of view but really the Israelites are an invading army killing all the inhabitants that are in their way.  Is it any wonder that they fought back and scoffed at the idea of making peace?

God had given Israel that land centuries before this all taking place now.  I have to wonder what were the people like that God was wiping out in order to fulfill that promise?  They could not have been righteous or God would have spared them I believe.  God does keep His word no matter what, but I have to believe that if the people had been righteous, I don't think God would have had the Israelites destroy them.  I don't believe that God revels in death and slaughter.  I think it would have been avoided had they been righteous.  That is my thought anyway.  Until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Sun Stops for Israel

Today I read Joshua 10 where Joshua and Israel conquer most of Israel.  This chapter contains the famous miracle of the Lord stopping the rotation of the earth to lengthen out the day so the children of Israel could defeat the combined armies of five cities.  If I had been someone on the other side that day, I think I would have been even more afraid of the fact that the sun was not going down than I was of the armies of Israel.  Although, I'm not really sure how cognizant of time one would be in the middle of a battle. 

If the children of Israel had ever doubted that Joshua was a prophet, this day should have dispelled those doubts forever!  It's so interesting to me.  In the Old Testament and the New Testament too, the mark of a prophet was what miracles he would perform in the name of God.  In our day, I'm not sure I've heard of a modern prophet doing any miracles at all.  Joseph Smith did quite a few, but starting with Brigham Young, beyond the gift of prophecy, I can't think of any miracles that any of the modern day prophets have done.  And yet I have not the slightest doubt in my mind that each of them was a true prophet of God.  Does that mean we, as a society, have outgrown the need for "proof" that one is called of God?  Or are we more spiritual that we can rely on the quiet testimony of the Holy Ghost to convince us that President Monson is called of God?  Personally I think the latter is the case.  Few things are as clear as a testimony from the Holy Ghost and that is by design.  Heavenly Father always follows His pattern and if we can recognize what that pattern is, we will always be able to know His will concerning us.  Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Gibeonites Serve Israel

Today I read Joshua 9 where the old adage of "if you can't beat them, join them" comes readily to mind.  This chapter details the people of Gibeon coming to Joshua and the people of Israel as beggars because of their might.  However they lie about where they are from and once Joshua find out about it, he punishes them and makes them wood cutters and people who draw up water.  However I am sure the people felt that was preferable to being wiped out completely.

It's really a shame that the people of Gibeon were not more willing to actually join with the people of Israel.  They wanted life and would get it any way they could.  Instead of converting and becoming one with the people, if God would have allowed it of course, they settled instead of a life of servitude.  It makes me think of people today in our day and age.  Are they really converted to the Lord and living the kind of life that He would want us to live?  Are we truly living all the commandments and claiming our inheritance?  Remember, we are joint heirs with Christ, meaning we stand to inherit all the Father hath, but only if we willingly give our heart, mind and soul to Him.  Why should we settle for merely being servants of the one true God, when we can inherit all He has?  The choice, as it always is, is up to us and we can decide to serve Him, but it is all or nothing.  We cannot keep one foot in Babylon and the other in God's domain.  We have to be wholly committed.  The time to choose is now!  Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Israel Defeats Ai

Today I read Joshua 8 where Joshua and the Israelites defeat the people of the city of Ai.  This chapter reminded me a lot of the war chapters in the Book of Mormon.  Joshua and his people used subterfuge to obtain the city, or rather destroy it since they did not take possession of it.  Of course what made the difference in this battle is the fact that the Lord was on their side.

The Israelites had repented and stoned to death the person who had sinned at the battle of Jericho and the Lord was with them again.  The Old Testament certainly seems a harsh time to me, I mean a person allows his greed to overcome him for one moment and instead of being allowed to repent, they kill him.  To me it's kind of like if your foot is hurting you when you wake up one morning, instead of soaking it and trying to make it feel better, you just cut it off.  I really don't understand why the Israelites only responded to harshness like that.  At least I assume that is the reason Heavenly Father dealt with them like that.  I mean, we read that God is the same yesterday, today and forever so the only thing that has changed between the Old Testament and today is the audience, namely, us.

I know that I will have a full understanding someday, but for now I am just grateful to Heavenly Father that we are worthy of the higher law and can be living it.  I am not cut out for life in the Old Testament.  The idea of participating in killing someone, even at the behest of Heavenly Father, makes me cringe and almost want to cry.  I could never offer a blood sacrifice either.  I am too gentle spirited for that.  I am very grateful that all that is required of me is a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  I can handle that.  Until tomorrow.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Seeking the Lord's Counsel

Today I read Joshua 7 where one of the children of Israel is found to have disobeyed the Lord.  He took some of the belongings of the people of Jericho and hid them, causing the wrath of the Lord to be kindled and inadvertently causing the death of thirty six of the children of Israel during a battle that they should have easily won.

There are not always such cut and dry consequences when we disobey the Lord but there are always consequences.  The most common and will happen every single time is that we lose the Spirit of the Lord.  It will cease to be with us is we disobey the Lord.  This will in turn cause unhappiness and anxiety on our part.  We can only overcome these strong emotions by repenting of our sins and striving to do better.  The natural man is an enemy to God.  We know this from the scriptures, but it is never more evident than when we choose our own path over what God has told us is the best way for us to progress. 

Why would we spurn the knowledge and wisdom of a being who is omniscient?  Someone who knows everything and can guide us to the happiest paths in our lives.  Wouldn't that be the person that we listen to most eagerly and diligently seek out their advice on all matters of importance?  Sadly we don't but we really should if we are to be as happy as possible in this life.  I know I could certainly be better about following His direction and seeking out the best paths for myself.  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Jericho is Taken

Today I read Joshua 6 which documents the taking of Jericho.  This is perhaps one of the strangest battles ever written about in the scriptures.  It makes me wonder.  The details of course are the the Lord had Joshua bring all the men who would fight and walk around the city behind the ark of the covenant.  Priests were blowing horns as they walked but everyone else was silent.  They did this for six days.  On the seventh day it was the exact same except the men walked around Jericho seven times instead of just once.  After the seventh circuit was complete, the priests with the horns blew a long blast and then everyone shouted.  At that moment the walls of the city came down.

I have often wondered about this story.  I have tried to figure out just how this miracle was accomplished.  I am convinced it has something to do with the foundation of the wall.  I mean this is a lot of people walking around the wall for a total of thirteen times.  Hundreds of thousands if not millions of people walking on the same spot over and over again.  It had to have weakened the walls in some way.  At least that is my theory.

I have often wondered just how this plan sounded to the Israelites.  Did they just accept it and do it as they were told?  I mean they were kind of used to miraculous things happening to them.  They had eaten manna their entire lives for some of them.  The Red Sea and the river Jordan had both parted for their crossing.  I'll bet most of them had no trouble believing that God would be able to knock down a little wall surrounding Jericho.  I would hope so anyway.  It can be hard to trust in the Lord sometimes when we don't understand all of what is going on, but it is important to put our faith in God.  He is the only source that our faith will do any good in this life.  When we trust in Him, we cannot go wrong.  And He has proved it time and time again.  Until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Manna Ceases

Today I read Joshua 5 where Joshua is commanded to circumcise all the men of Israel.  I could not imagine doing that to grown men,  But it is the covenant that God made with the Israelites through Abraham and should have been kept by their fathers.  The chapter makes it sound as though they did not have the means to do this in the wilderness.  Truly I don't know but God has them carry it out and fulfill their part of the covenant. 

This chapter also records the first time in Forty years that the Israelites don't eat manna.  During the feast of the Passover the Israelites were able to eat some of the food of the land such as corn from the previous years harvest.  The Lord then caused the manna to stop and come no more.  Honestly, as miraculous as manna would be, I'm not sure I could stand eating the same food for every meal for forty years!  That would be a real trial.  I imagine real quickly that they would get full, but not satisfied.  I remember last year that I had to go on a liquids diet for a couple of days and every day I would get full from soups and jello, but I would never feel satisfied and some times I would even feel like I had not eaten anything at all.  However, the Lord took care of His people when they needed it, and that truly is what is important, not the manner that He did it. 

God will always keep His promises to us.  He has no variance, no hint of change in Him.  He is constant.  It is us that cannot keep to a steady course and cannot hold true to our covenants and what we have promised.  If we can learn to be steady and rely upon God instead of our own strength, then we can grow closer to our Heavenly Father and be the kind of men and women He wants us to be.  Until tomorrow.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Confess the Greatness of God

Today I read Joshua 4 where the Lord commands Joshua to pull out twelve stones from the river Jordan where the priests stood with the ark.  He commands Joshua to make them into some form of altar that will stand for all time so that the children of Israel would know what great things the Lord had done for them.  The honor of picking out the stones and carrying them was given to one man from each tribe of Israel.

This instance reminds me of the scripture that tells us that God's wrath is kindled against those who confess not His hand in all things.  Remember, Satan was cast out not because he thought his idea was better than Gods, but because he sought the glory and honor of God for himself.  He did not want the honor to go to God at all.  Christ on the other hand told God that He would in fact not only do it Heavenly Father's way but that the glory would be to God always.  We need to make sure we recognize His hand and that we confess that we need His help always.

Without our Heavenly Father we would be nothing.  None of us would be here at all.  He is the creator of our Spirits, but also He created this earth.  He also created the bodies of Adam and Eve which made it possible for each and every last one of us to be born on this earth.  Without His help and Him constantly sustaining us, we would not be able to survive at all on this earth.  King Benjamin reminds us in the Book of Mormon that we are all beggars relying on Heavenly Father for breath in our bodies and for everything we have.  Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminded us in his lifetime that everything is God's already.  The only thing we can offer up to God of ourselves, is our will.  It is the only thing that is truly ours in this life.

It reminds me of our earthly life.  As children we like to claim things as ours.  This is my room we say.  Those are my toys.  It's my food.  However, everything we have as children come from our earthly father and mother.  In the case of some families where the mother doesn't work, she doesn't truly own anything either.  Everything is given to her by her husband.  I like to joke with my wife sometimes when she gives me a gift, wondering aloud what I got for myself this time.  Because I earn all the money,  I really bought the gift for myself, my wife just picked it out for me.  And yet, Heavenly Father gave us our talents that allow us to have those jobs and earn that money.  He gives us our health so that we can work and provide for our loved ones.  We cannot truly claim anything of ourselves except what comes from us.  We can only give back to Him our will and our gratitude.

When we confess His hand in all things and the part He plays in we gain humility and gratitude for our Heavenly Father.  Through this all important step, we overcome the Natural Man.  Only through His help can we become like He is.  And we start by recognizing all He does for us, in private, as well as publicly.  Until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

God Parts the River Jordan

Today I read Joshua 3 which contains what is, to me anyway, one of the most amazing miracles in the scriptures.  This is the scripture that gives the account of the children of Israel crossing over to the the land of Israel via the river Jordan, but on dry land.  Just like with Moses and the Red Sea, the Lord parts the river Jordan so that the Israelites can cross over on dry ground. 

I did notice something this read through that I had not before.  Many people that talk about this miracle remark how the river did not part until the priests feet touched the water.  In a way they are right, the river parted as the priests reached it, however the scriptures state that the river always overflows during that part of the year.  To me that indicates they had not quite reached the river proper just yet when it parted, however they still had to walk into the water.  Also, Joshua warned them it would be that way, that once the soles of their feet touched the water it would part.  Still, I do not want to downplay this truly amazing feat of faith on the part of those who were carrying the Ark.

I also have to wonder, as I do with the parting of the Red Sea, was the ground dry as if there had never been water?  Or was it muddy as if the water had just dried up?  It would make the most sense for it to be mud considering the fact that it had just been covered by water a few seconds ago, however that would slow down the Israelites considerably if that is the case.  I personally believe that it was dry earth but I have no proof of that other than my own belief.  I know that God is capable of anything and He is all powerful so that is what I base my beliefs on when I say that.  Chapters like this just serve to strengthen my faith and love for Heavenly Father.  Simply awesome and amazing!  Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lessons Learned from Rahab

Today I read Joshua 2 where Joshua sends in two spies to see the land of Jericho and see its defenses and what they have to deal with when they come in to destroy the city.  Once they come into the city they meet Rahab the harlot who hides them from the king and his men in exchange for safety for herself and her family.

You know, it's interesting to me that all the people condemn harlots, or prostitutes as we call them today but in the Old Testament they sure seem to be God fearing people and help out the people of God a lot.  I may be misremembering the amount of times that a harlot helps out the people of God, but for all the scorn people give them, they sure seem to be good women in the scriptures despite what they do for a living. 

Just like in the New Testament when Jesus teaches the Pharisees that despite the publicans being "sinners" they were more righteous than them.  It's all about how you try and keep the commandments and what you are trying to do that matters.  If we are striving after the things of the Lord every day and trying to improve ourselves, that is what matters.  We cannot be perfect overnight, it takes time to improve ourselves and become better than we are.  But as we live a righteous life to the best of our ability, God will bless us and help shore us up.  That is what we should strive for.  Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Joshua is Called as Prophet

Today I read Joshua 1 where the mantel of prophet of Israel falls to Joshua.  The Lord comes to him and tells him that Moses is dead and that he is now the prophet and gives him instructions.  The people then confirm that Joshua is the prophet and they will follow him, at least the Levites do.  They understand that he now wears the mantel.

The calling of a new prophet is something that is very serious.  The people need to know who to look for when their leader is gone.  The Lord wants to speak to His people but there needs to be order and a process in place so that chaos does not ensue.  Remember that God's house is a house of order.  Even in this dispensation it took some time to work out the kinks until God stepped in and put a stop to it.  But God has always had a prophet to lead His people at large.  Imagine the chaos that would ensue if we did not have a process to follow as far as who could receive revelation for the people of God!

Actually such a thing happened in the days of Joseph Smith.  Other members of the church claimed to be receiving revelation for the church members as a whole and the Lord had to teach them that only if you had stewardship for someone could you receive revelation for them.  Only the Prophet can receive revelation for the entire church body.  This is important because what if two opposing revelations were to come out?  How would you know which one is the right one?  It is the one from God, meaning the one that follows His established order.  God will not leave His people stranded and without help.  However, it is up to us to recognize what that pattern is and follow it.  He has always told us what it is so it is not that hard in that sense.  What is a challenge is the counsel usually bucks against the trend, because the natural man is an enemy to God.  That is what is hard.  Until tomorrow.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Moses is Translated

Today I read Deuteronomy 34 where Moses gets to see the land of Israel after 40 long years of wandering in the wilderness with the Israelites.  God had Moses climb a mountain that was bordering Jericho and gaze upon the land but was not allowed to enter into the land.  I suppose one day we will be told why he was not allowed to go into the land because I do not know and I am not sure anyone knows why.

This chapter makes it sound like Moses died and the Lord buried him.  Although it does state that no one could ever find his tomb.  However, we know from the New Testament that Moses was translated.  He appeared to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration and did something to Jesus.  If he had died it would have been impossible for him to lay his hands on Jesus' head because he would have been a spirit.  Jesus was the first person to be resurrected the scriptures tell us and that means that for Moses to appear and be able to do anything of substance, he did not actually die but still had his body. 

And so ends the amazing of tale of Moses.  I am not sure there is another person in all of history quite as unique as he was.  Even the scriptures state that there never was a prophet like him.  He saw God face to face and talked with Him.  He led a people that probably would have driven anyone else crazy, because let's face it, the Israelites were not an easy people to be around and keep on the straight and narrow.  He truly was a man chosen of God and the meekest of all men as the scriptures state.  It will be a joy one day to meet him and just hear him talk about his experiences.  I look forward to it.  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Moses Blesses Israel/Father's Blessings

Today I read Deuteronomy 33 where Moses blesses all the tribes of Israel individually.  It reminds me of Jacob/Israel, before he passed away and again of Lehi and his progeny.  In the Pearl of Great Price we learn that Adam did the same thing.  This is a tradition dating back to the beginning of time.  Oddly enough, it came at a time when I was just reminded of giving a Father's blessing before the start of the school year.

Having grown up in a home with the priesthood, as long as I can remember, with the exception of when I was on a mission, I was given a Father's blessing every year in August or September at the beginning of the school year.  When I was in college sometimes I would get them in December or January too.  As I got older and realized the significance of getting them, I looked forward to it each and every year.  I remember when I was 15 years old the blessing told me that I would meet a very good friend who would be an influence in my life like I would be in his.  I would like to believe he still thinks of me, but I did indeed meet a very good friend that year and throughout the years I find myself thinking about him and choices he helped me make.

When I was 26 years old, my Father's blessing told me I would meet my wife if I explored every idea and suggestion that came to me.  I ended up meeting her when I was 27, the next year, but I found her by listening to a friend who wanted to set me up with her on a blind date.  How right Heavenly Father was to tell me through my Father to listen to all suggestions!  Those are just the strongest memories of Father's blessings I have, there are dozens more with just as real experiences, if not quite as significant.

If you are a Latter-day Saint who holds the Priesthood, do you use it to give blessings for your family?  If you are a Latter-day Saint, do you seek blessings of comfort and guidance when needed?  If you answered no to either of these, you are squandering one of the most precious gifts God has ever given mankind.  It is kind of like being given a blanket and when it snows outside you refuse to open it up and cover yourself with it!  The Priesthood does no good if it is not used.  God will answer prayers through a Priesthood blessing and we are doing ourselves a disservice if we do not seek out blessings from time to time.  It is rare that God will prompt us to seek out a blessing I think, but every time we seek it out ourselves, we won't be disappointed.  Until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

God Will Never Forsake Us

Today I read Deuteronomy 32 where the Lord reminds Israel that He is their rock and their salvation and that it is through Him that they conquer.  He reminds them that with His help they conquer their enemies and overcome all obstacles because there is no other God but Him and He has chosen them to be His people.

This chapter reminds me a lot of Jesus and Heavenly Father's lament about Jerusalem and the people of the world in general.  Where they ask if they have forsaken them or where is the bill of they mother's divorcement?  God has never forsaken us and never will forsake us.  In Moroni chapter 10 he reminds us that if miracles cease it will not be because God has forsaken the world but rather it will be because there are no more righteous that God can work with and speak to.  Heavenly Father will never forsake us.

That is unconditional love at it's finest.  It is possible for an earthly parent to forsake their child.  I have heard some stories that disturb me so much that it makes me want to cry.  Things no parent should ever do to an innocent child.  But Heavenly Father is no earthly parent.  No matter what we do He is there for us with His arms open to receive us and welcome us back home.  If He has left us, in reality we have left Him.  God may give us trials that will push us to the breaking point until we feel like there is nothing left to give, but He is always there for us and with us, just like the old poem "Footprints in the Sand" tells us.  He will never forsake us.  A mother may forsake the child of her womb but God will never forsake us the scriptures tell us, and the scriptures are the transcription of the words that God has spoken to His prophets so they must come to pass.  As always, if you want to put it to the test, you have only to ask Heavenly Father and He will prove the truth of His words.  Until tomorrow.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Moses Gives the Law to the People of Israel

Today I read Deuteronomy 31 where the Lord finishes giving the law to Moses and commands him to give it to the Levites and that it be read every seven years at the feast of the tabernacle to remind the people of Israel of their laws.  Moses also tells the people in this chapter that he would not be going into the land of Israel with them but that Joshua would lead them from now on.

I feel really sorry for Moses.  He has been with these people for forty years and they have caused him a lot of trouble and sorrow.  And he has no faith in them at all.  He straight up tells them that once he is gone they will turn to their wicked ways and false gods and will abandon the Lord their God.  He tells them he knows it will happen because they have already done it when he was with them and still around.  I imagine he feels like a parent with a wayward child.  He loves them very much and wants them to do well in life and is extremely saddened by when they do poorly and make wrong choices, just like a parent would do with their children.

And he is right.  The Israelites turn from their God almost immediately.  The one consolation that Moses has is that he has done everything he can for them and like Jacob in the Book of Mormon, his garments are washed clean of their blood and sins.  You can lead a horse to water but can't make him drink.  In this life all we can do is what is required of us and to look out for the well being of those we have stewardship over.  We will be held accountable for those we were meant to help but if we have done our part, like Moses has with the children of Israel, then their sins will be upon their own heads and not their leaders.  And that is all we really can do because everyone has the ability to choose for themselves.  Until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

We Can Always Repent

Today I read Deuteronomy 30  where once again the Lord asks the people of Israel to serve Him.  The Lord basically tells them that when they do all the things in the previous chapter that would cause them to be scattered, if they will remember Him and their covenants with Him, they will be restored, which is a comforting thought.

One of the things that has always been a strong comfort to me is the fact that you can always go back.  When I was younger, my older brothers were not the best of role models.  They made lots of mistakes and got in trouble a lot.  But I learned that no matter what they did, they could always come home, and I took that to heart.  My parents loved us no matter what we did.  And as an adult, I have come to feel the same way about my daughter.  No matter how frustrated I get with her, I still love her and will always be there for her.  If I feel that way about my earthly daughter, I can only imagine how God feels about us.

We can always repent.  Got loves us so He sent His Son, the song goes.  And it's true.  He sacrificed His only flesh and blood offspring so that all His Spirit children could live again and have the opportunity to repent of their wrong doings.  It does not matter what we have done, God will take us back if we repent and ask His sincere forgiveness.  Now, there is something we can do that is unforgivable, but I believe if someone goes that far, they are not going to come back anyway.  But for the rest of us, it is nice to know that we can always "come home" no matter what we have done.  Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Choose to Serve God

Today I read Deuteronomy 29 where the Israelites promise God that they will obey His commandments and that they will not forsake Him for strange gods.  God reminds them of all He has done for them during their sojourn in the wilderness.  How their children's clothes did not wear out, how their shoes did not wear out and how they ate manna for forty years, never going hungry.  The Lord took care of them the entire time they were wandering in the wilderness.

The Lord promises destruction on them like Sodom and Gomorrah if they do not adhere to the covenant.  This may seem a little harsh at first, but when you consider what all the Lord has done for them, I can't really blame God for demanding obedience from His people.  He demands the same from us today.  The scriptures teach us that when we obey God He will bless us, but when we don't obey Him, we have no promise of blessings.  Now, God does not promise us cursings or destruction for each infraction, but the scriptures have made it very clear that those who live on the American continent will serve Him or be destroyed.

We all have our choices to make in this life.  But the most important one by far is whether we will serve God or not.  That choice above all others will have the greatest impact on our lives throughout the eternities.  When we make the choice to serve God, all other choices seem to fall into place.  When we left Him guide us and give us direction, we will never go wrong.  Make the choice to serve God and never look back.  That's my advice.  Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Do not Turn Your Back on God!

Today I read Deuteronomy 28 and I have to say, the thing that went through my mind the most while reading this chapter was, "how many different ways can you say, 'If you don't do this, you will be punished!'?".  I mean this chapter is 68 verses long and at least 48 of them is the Lord spelling out all the problems they would have, plagues He would send and all around bad things that would happen if they worship other gods and leave Him.

And there is some really bad stuff in there.  Some of which, actually probably all if I knew my history better, have already come to pass.  For example God promises them that they will become a hiss and a byword and an example to other nations.  That has certainly come to pass in a big way!  There are some other statements in there that I really hope never happened but I have a sinking feeling they did, such as mothers eating their own children for want of food during a siege.  It makes me shudder to think of such abomination, but if God said it will happen, it must have.  God cannot speak an untrue word. 

With such threats out there to remind them, it makes me wonder, why would the Israelites turn their back on God at all?  The answer, I think, is the natural man.  King Benjamin taught us that the natural man is an enemy to God and will be forever unless he/she yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.  When we think that we know better and try and do things our way, it almost always ends in disaster.  We cannot fall into the trap of thinking we know more than God does.  How incredibly arrogant to believe that we know better than God!  And yet we do it all the time.  We refuse to believe Him and follow His counsel for us.  As was promised, the Israelites have become an example of those who think they know better than God.  Do we really want to follow in their shoes and suffer all that they have suffered?  I sure don't.  Until tomorrow.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Israel Commanded to Worship

Today I read Deuteronomy 27 where the Lord commands the Israelites to worship God by building altars and performing sacrifices once they enter into Jordan.  I wonder what people think when they read passages such as these?  Do they think that Heavenly Father are like the gods of ancient Greece from mythology?  That the gods need the worship and adulation of humans to remain alive and in power?  Perhaps they do at that.  After all, the ideas the Greeks had, had to have come from somewhere, right?

I wonder just how many people understand that when God commands His people to worship Him, it is for their benefit.  We need to have God in our lives to be well balanced and upright individuals.  In order to really be growing spiritually, because remember there is no standing still in terms of Spirituality, we are either growing or digressing, we need to include regular worship of God in our daily lives.  We need to be reading the scriptures, saying meaningful prayers, attending the temple on a regular basis, and attending church meetings.  There are other things needed as well such as providing meaningful service to others, but that is the gist of it all.

In this life, in this time period, we have to be doing everything we can on our own to make sure that we are doing all the right things to stay ahead of Satan.  He wants to pull us down and do everything he can to pull us away from Heavenly Father.  And he will succeed if we are not careful.  We have to be vigilant and overcome his temptations and we are only going to do that if we all the things we outlined above.  If we do not stay on our guard 100% of the time, we will fall.  It is that cut and dry.  Our salvation is in our own hands and no one elses.  God has prepared the way, but we have to go forward in faith and do as He has outlined.  No one else will do it for us.  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Importance of Tithing

Today I read Deuteronomy 26 and the part that stood out to me the most was about tithing.  It has been on my mind for the last few days.  I sometimes wonder how people can survive without paying tithing to the Lord and receiving those blessings.  Which is humorous to me because most of the non-members probably look at me giving 10% of my income to God and wonder how I can afford to give so much.  And it's true that that money sometimes would help make ends meet or make life a little more comfortable, but I made a choice years and  years ago to always be a full tithe payer.

I have said many times already that I do not think God is short on money and could easily take care of His people any way He sees fit.  However, by having us pay tithing, it teaches us to sacrifice for the Lord.  Sometimes we have to put our faith on the line.  We have to pay tithing or pay our rent/mortgage.  But every instance that I have come across where a faithful Latter-day Saint has chosen to pay tithing has been blessed for it and the mortgage takes care of itself somehow. 

Tithing is meant to stretch us though.  It is meant to test our faith.  If it was easy to pay tithing all of the time, it would not help us grow.  I am personally glad I have always had the habit of paying tithing and have not had to learn to do it as an adult.  I think that would be a lot harder and require a lot more faith.  But I am sure that those who do learn to do it as an adult are blessed for their efforts.  All people who put their faith and trust in the Lord are rewarded for it, even if they don't see it themselves.  Until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Raising Seed to thy Brother

Today I read Deuteronomy 25 which covers one of the strangest topics in all of Israel's customs, the brother marrying his brothers widow to raise up seed to his brother.  I have personally never understood this and to my current day principles it is quite, unsettling.  I think on my own family and as much as I love my sisters-in-law, I cannot think of any of them in that way.  They are my family, my sisters, just as much as my full blood sister is.  How could the ancient Israelites even consider such a thing?

The obvious answer is because God commanded them to.  But I have a strange hunch that they followed this command with no more trouble than they did the keeping of the Sabbath day holy.  Perhaps they did not feel that a sister-in-law was a sister.  Perhaps it was always his brother's wife and that's as close as it came.  I really don't have the answer to this one.  I am extremely glad it is not a commandment today, although all of my siblings have children so it is a non-issue for me, however, even thinking about it seems strange.  I'm sure God had a reason for it and who knows?  Perhaps it was already the normal practice in Israel to begin with and they thought nothing of it when God asked them to do it.  I just don't know on this one.  I'm sure I will know some day.  Until tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Taking Care of the Strangers, Widows and Poor

Today I read Deuteronomy 24 which again covers a few different topics.  It talks about putting a wife away for divorce and lending a tool to someone who is poor.  The Lord clearly is trying to get the Israelites to have a society where they think of others more than they think of themselves.  If you need evidence of that, all you have to do is read the last few verses of this chapter.

The Lord talks about harvesting crops, grapes and olives.  He states that after the initial harvest, you should not go back and glean the fields, trees or vines again, but rather look at it as helping the needy.  He says that any that are left after the initial harvest are for the poor, widows and strangers.  As I read this, I cannot help but think about Moses 7:18 that describes Zion as being no poor among them and being one heart.

The only way to ensure that there is no poor among a society, is for the society to consciously make it that way.  Now, some might cry out citing earlier posts where I was harsh towards those that don't want to work and they would be right, and I personally feel that Zion will not work as a society if there are people who do not want to work for their living.  Zion will work when they are of one mind, meaning everyone is working towards the same goal, the key word being work.  Zion is all about the work.  In Zion, everyone is working towards the eradication of poor and inequality.  But again, it only works if everyone is committed to it.  You cannot have some people riding the coat tails of others.  This is the part about being one heart and one mind.  We are a far cry from it here in America but we will get there some day, even if only in the millennium.  Until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Help Your Neighbor

Today I read Deuteronomy 23 which contains several various instructions.  Some of the more interesting ones that I liked was not bringing the price of a prostitute into the temple to make vows with.  That would be kind of like if you were a prostitute and you paid tithing today.  The idea is really funny and a little sad.  Or perhaps a person who stars in pornographic movies paying tithing on the money earned.  In what way would you think that is ok?  Very silly indeed.

Some of the more useful, in our day at least, commandments was on which peoples to avoid and which ones to help no matter what.  It also talks about such things as not charging interest from family, it says brother, but charging it from strangers.  Likewise it states it is ok for you to glean an ear of corn or two from your neighbors field but not to harvest from their field.  To me this is shaping and molding the Israelites to share what they have with those around them, to cultivate a spirit of sharing and giving. 

In our day and age, this has not changed.  We are still to share what we have when we can.  King Benjamin reminds us that everything we have comes from the Lord and that compared to Him we are all beggars.  We rely upon Him for everything and as such, how can we in good conscience deny our abundance to those who lack?  Now, this of course can be abused such as in our day and age with the current welfare system in the United States.  People are preying upon the generosity of others while feeding their own laziness.  This is not pleasing to God and I firmly believe they will be held accountable for it some day.  This all being said, we should not impoverish ourselves to support others if they can support themselves.  The old adage states that if you give a man a fish he will eat for a day but if you teach a man to fish he will eat for a lifetime.  Like wise if we give a man a handout he will be ok for a little while, but if you give him a job, he will be able to provide for himself for years if not the rest of his life.  Self-sufficiency is pleasing to God.  But when someone truly needs help, we should be willing to help.  That's what I take away from this chapter anyway.  Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Consider Others Before Yourself

Today I read Deuteronomy 22 which is mostly about sexual sin of various kinds.  I must say that as I was reading this chapter I could not help but think to myself how if all this was practiced in this day and age how many people would need to be put to death.  For sure most of the celebrities because it states that if a a man and a woman are found in adultery they are to be put to death.  Likewise if a woman is married and found to not be a virgin, she is then to be put to death.  In this day and age that would certainly glean the population down to almost nothing!  Of course, most of this changed when Jesus came and forgave the woman taken in adultery.  And thanks to Satan and his centuries of influence we have really gotten away from what is pleasing to God.

The other part of this chapter is all about looking out for your brother.  It gives several examples such as if you see your brother's ox wandering loose, you are not to pretend you did not see it, but rather you are to go after it and get it and return it to your brother.  In answer to Cain's original question,  yes, you are your brother's keeper.  You should consider his loss as your own.  His sorrow as your own.  His joy as your own.  No man is an island the old saying goes and sure enough we need other people, our loved ones as surely as we need daily sustenance, or food.

It is very pleasing to Heavenly Father when we consider others as ourselves.  If we were to consider other people's happiness before our own, then there would be no wars, no contention.  It is the one single most important principle in a marriage.  If you keep your spouses' happiness as your primary goal there will be few arguments and no knock down drag out fights at all.  There would be no adultery.  Life would be so much happier if we would all consider others before ourselves.  Somewhere along the way we seem to have forgotten this very important principle.  We need to get back to it and our society will be wonderful because of it.  If you want to test it, just put it into practice and you will see.  Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Lord Gives Instructions

Today I read Deuteronomy 21 which has a hodgepodge of information from the Lord.  One of the main items that made me raise my eyebrows was the instruction if you have a rebellious son, he is to be stoned to death by all the people.  It is also a little strange to me that if you see a pretty woman while you are at war with her people, you can take her captive and force her to be your wife after a month.  It just doesn't seem like Heavenly Father to agree to allowing anyone to be forced into anything. 

This chapter also has some instructions for those who have multiple wives.  I won't go into the instructions because they are not important but it is interesting to me that having multiple wives was apparently a common thing among the people.  It is strange that the people of the early Americas were so opposed to the idea of multiple wives, yet supposedly read the Bible.  I can't help but relate the persecution the early Latter-day Saints suffered because of it to the modern day idea of homosexual marriage.  Of course the main difference there is that God approved of plural marriage among the Latter-day Saints and is utterly opposed to homosexual marriage.

It is never wise to go against God.  It is a little humorous to me how many homosexuals state they are Christians.  It makes me want to ask them if they have ever read the Bible.  But I personally have many friends that are with same sex partners and I enjoy their company very much.  I just disapprove of their lifestyle as does Heavenly Father.  But that does not mean I have to be unkind to them or persecute them, that is not pleasing to God at all.  We are to be kind and loving to everyone, but that does not mean we approve of their chosen lifestyle.  God will judge them when they reach the other side, not me here and now.  It is my job to love everyone and treat them with kindness and equality.  If I do not do that, I will be held accountable and judged for my lack of kindness.  No one wants that I am sure.  I know I don't.  Until tomorrow.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Remaining Faithful

Today I read Deuteronomy 20 where the Lord explains the process for selecting soldiers and warns against leaving some of the opposing cultures alive.  I have already mentioned that I used to think God was kind of harsh in asking the Israelites to utterly destroy the other cultures, but have since come to understand why it was necessary.  The people of Israel, and all peoples, are so prone to leave their God it's not even funny.  It seems at the drop of a hat they just forget everything He has done for them and go after strange gods.  Only by completely removing the temptation can they be as safe as possible. 

It is no different in our day.  People turn their backs on Heavenly Father because of sports, work, money, sex, all kinds of things.  You name it and people have abandoned God for it.  In most cases I will wager they don't even view it as having abandoned God at all.  But as surely as the Israelites left their God to go after strange gods, in our day people leave God behind to pursue other things.  It is just as real a threat today as it was back then.  The devil is just a whole lot better at disguising what he is doing these days.  We must remain vigilant if we are to overcome his evil ways and remain faithful.  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Safe Haven for Accidental Murderers

Today I read Deuteronomy 19 which I have to say is extremely interesting.  In this chapter the Lord tells Moses to establish three cities for the purpose of being safe havens for accidental murderers.  The Lord gives an example of someone going out with a friend to chop wood and while the one doing the chopping is swinging the axe, the axe head comes off, hits the other person and kills him.  Obviously in such an example there was no intent to murder.  Such a one would be able to flee to one of the three cities to live his or her life.

This is a very interesting concept indeed.  Even though I have read the Old Testament before, I do not remember this at all.  I missed it completely.  It is interesting to me that the Lord would create such a system from the beginning.  Now, of course God is all knowing so He would know that such a thing will eventually happen one way or another, but to have a system already in place is really quite amazing.  The Lord lists the reason for this system so that the family of the deceased will have time to cool off otherwise they might cause harm to the one who killed them by accident. 

This chapter is also where the Lord institutes the law of witnesses.  He states that it is not enough to just have one witness to such crimes.  You would need multiple witnesses to establish guilt.  This is because it is an eternal pattern that you have to establish truth from more than one witness.  And yet for some reason despite following this pattern with the Book of Mormon, people still doubt its authenticity.  It's very sad.  But the Lord always follows the principles that He has laid out for others.  Remember, commandments are just attributes of God in reality.  If you follow them, you can't go wrong.  Until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

How to Identify a False Prophet

Today I read Deuteronomy 18 where the Lord explains why the Israelites have a prophet.  He reminds them that they had the chance to hear God's voice themselves and they turned it down.  They did not want to involve themselves directly with God after they got scared when He tried to communicate with them on the mountain.

The last verse is the most telling to me though.  God states that you can tell a real prophet from a false one by if what he predicts comes to pass or not.  This is extremely important in our day when we have all these doom sayers and people predicting the rapture and the end of the world.  None of their predictions are coming true.  By God's own mouth, this means that they are false prophets.  You'll notice that true prophets, like Gordon B. Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson, don't make radical predictions.  They merely tell us what the Lord would have us know, things like food storage and getting out of debt. 

The Savior Himself told us to be wary of false prophets.  When someone cries lo here and lo there, we are not to believe it.  We need to take everything we hear with a grain of salt.  If it is in teaching and harmony with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we need to pray about it and make certain for ourselves that it comes from God.  If it is not in harmony with the revealed teachings of Christ, well then we don't even need to concern ourselves with asking God about it.  Like this ridiculousness about the world ending on December 21, 2012, the scripture that comes immediately to my mind is Jesus telling His disciples that no man knoweth the day or the hour of His coming.  And if the world is ending, then guess what?  He needs to come again.  The two don't jive!  The scriptures are true, if they are translated correctly.  As such, they should be our ruler on what to believe, and what not to believe.  So many people just throw their knowledge of the scriptures right out the window when these nut jobs start making predictions.  It's really sad.  We have already been told enough to judge for ourselves.  Remember what we have been told and all will be well.  Until tomorrow.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Settling Arguments

Today I read Deuteronomy 17 where the Lord gives some commandments on how to handle hard judgments between people, especially between close kin.  Now, I don't mean to make myself sound like a saint, but I have always found it so sad and strange that so many people are selfish and care about winning the argument as opposed to considering the feelings of the other person.

I remember when my wife and I first got married I had a towel, a bath towel.  It was pretty ragged, I had possessed it since college and it was very, very worn through.  I liked it though because it was really big and I didn't have to worry about it covering me.  One day my wife and I got into a big drag out fight over the towel and she was demanding that I get rid of it.  It started to get to the point of shouting and emotions were getting involved so we decided to stop and let things cool off before someone said something they would regret.  As we fixed lunch and went downstairs my wife suddenly said that I could keep the towel.  I was surprised because she had been so vehement about it.  I asked her why she had changed her mind so suddenly and she said that she really didn't care about the towel, she just wanted to win the argument and she didn't want to be that kind of wife.  I was both shocked and glad to hear this admission.  I was really shocked that my wife would try and make me get rid of something I was so attached to just to win an argument, but I was very, very glad that she was able to overcome the impulse.

In this life I think we are much too concerned with how we look to other people and how we present ourselves.  We will argue and fight sometimes just for the sake of it all.  This is not pleasing to the Lord at all.  We need to think of others before we think of ourselves.  If we put the needs of others ahead of our own, we will be creating a more perfect world.  A world where there is no crime, no hate, a world that is welcoming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We should all strive for that.  Until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Feast of the Passover

Today I read Deuteronomy 15 where the Lord outlines the expectations for the feasts that the Israelites are supposed to have.  As I was reading them I could not help but think how complicated it all was and how it had no bearing on the here and now.  But then I drew a comparison between the feast of the tabernacles and the ordinances of the Latter-day Saints.

Some who are on the outside looking in probably would think that the Latter-day Saints are pretty crazy for all that they do, including the temple.  Those who are Latter-day Saints know of course that each ordinance has a purpose and that most of them are necessary for salvation, but from the outside looking in, it probably sounds as strange as the various feasts the Israelites of old were asked to take part in.  Just like with everything, the easiest answer is that it is what God is asking of us.  There are other reasons for them and at least in the case of the Latter-day Saints they are necessary for salvation.

The ways of God are not the ways of man, that should be a given.  When God asks us to do something for Him, it most likely is not going to make sense and will seem illogical.  But it always turns out well in the end if we will trust Him and do as God asks of us.  We can never go wrong if we trust in the Lord and do what He wants.  That is the one sure fire way to stay on the path that leads to eternal joy and happiness.  If you need proof, just give it a try.  You will not be disappointed and will be pleasantly pleased at what you find!  Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Every Seventh Year, All Debts are Forgiven

Today I read Deuteronomy 15 where the Lord gives them the law of the seventh year.  The law stating that if you have loaned someone something or any money that when the seventh year comes around you forgive the debt and don't try anymore to reclaim the money or the item you have loaned them.  The Lord also forbids them from not loaning their neighbor something because the seventh year is coming up.

This of course got me thinking of our society and how life would be if we had this rule.  It would be impossible of course under our current economic stations.  Housing alone would not allow for only seven years of payments.  No one would ever be able to afford to buy a house if you had to pay it off in just seven years.  And in our greedy society no one would ever give out a loan on the sixth year knowing that there was no way they were going to get all their money back.  It just wouldn't happen. 

And yet the Jews made it work.  Josephus has plenty of writings that talk about the Jews and the seventh year, the Sabbath year if you will.  They were able to have a fully functional society and get along with each other for the more part.  Now of course the Jews had their problems just like all peoples do, but from what I have read and studied, the seventh year was not one of them.  Just imagine what life would be like in our world if everyone all over the world every seventh year would forgive all debts no matter what.  Wouldn't that be something?  Until tomorrow.