Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How To Study the Bible part 3

Final part:

III. Read and study the word not to get a mass of knowledge in the head, but a flame of love in the heart. “Knowledge puffeth up(1 Corinthians 8:1), but love buildeth up. Read it to find fuel for affection, food for reflection, direction for judgment, guidance for conscience.

Read it not that you may know, but that you may do.

IV. Follow carefully the line of thought from verse to verse and chapter to chapter. Often the first part of one chapter belongs to the last part of the preceding chapter. For instance, in the last verse of the fourth chapter of Ephesians, we read, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you,” and in the first verse of the fifth chapter we read, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.

Those two verses belong together. We are to follow God in what? Why, in the spirit of kindness and tender-heartedness and forgiveness.

Again, in John 7:53 , we read, “And every man went unto his own house,” and in 8:1, “Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives .”

These two verses belong together. Jesus had no house. Bless Him! So when they went each to his own house for the night, Jesus went to the cold, dark mount!

[Donna note: I am pretty sure that there were many who would have rejoiced to share their home with the Savior, but the point that stuck out to me was that when others went to rest in comfort, he continued in prayer and sought deeper communion.]

Finally, do not be discouraged if progress in the knowledge of the word seems slow as first. It is like learning to play an instrument or master a trade; for the first few days or weeks it appears impossible, but it is not so. Some glad day a brain-cell will expand or a veil drop from your face and scales from your eyes and you will find yourself doing the impossible with ease.

So it will be in acquainting yourself with the word of God. Keep at it, keep at it, keep at it! Cry to God with David, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law (Psalm 119:18).

Pray for an understanding heart. You will only love and understand the word as Jesus reveals it to you. So walk with Him, take up your cross and follow Him through evil as well as good report.

After His resurrection, He came to His trembling, heart-broken, disappointed disciples, and Luke tells us that “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27), and later Luke says, “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures(Luke 24:45).

There are things in the Bible hard to be understood, and we may not know them till we stand by the crystal sea, but we can learn those things that will make us meek and lowly in heart as was Jesus, watchful, patient, loving, kind, forgiving, and utterly zealous and self-sacrificing for the salvation of men.

Happy shall we be, if; like David, we can say, “thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee(Psalm 119:11).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How To Study the Bible part 2

II. Read in Acts 17:11 , what the disciples in Berea did.

They received the word with all readiness of mind.” A frank and noble mind is open to the truth, and wants it more than gold or pleasure or fame or power.

They searched the Scriptures.” They wanted to know for themselves, and not by mere hearsay. They searched. Precious things are deeply hidden. Pebbles and stones and autumn leaves abound everywhere, but gold and silver and precious stones are hidden deep in the bowels and rocky ribs of the earth; shells cover the sea-shore, but pearls are hidden in its depths. And so with truth. Some truth may lie on the surface of the Bible, but those that will altogether satisfy and distinguish us and make us wise unto salvation are found only after diligent search, even as for hid treasure. “Search the Scriptures;” said Jesus, “for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me (John 5:39). If you would know Jesus, search the Scriptures, and you will come to know Him and see His face, and be like Him.

“They searched daily.
” Daily, not spasmodically, by fits and starts, but daily, habitually, they dug into the word of God, to find out if the things Paul preached were so. And just so must you do. “Thou shalt meditate therein day and night” (Joshua 2:8), was God’s instruction to Joshua. And once this habit is formed the delight in God’s word will become unspeakable.

“Thy words were found, and I did eat them
;” said Jeremiah, “and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart” (Jeremiah 13:16). “O how love I Thy law!” cried the Psalmist. “It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).

In forming the habit of Bible study we may have to begin and follow it up for a time from a sense of duty, but once the habit is formed, if we are not only hearers but doers of the word, we shall follow it up for very joy, until we can say with Job, “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).

Monday, February 11, 2013

How To Study the Bible part 1

Thy word [is] a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105

(Of course the helps in these next three posts apply to all scriptures. So here is more from Brother Brengle.)

The other day I received a letter from a young Officer asking for a few suggestions as to how to read and study the Bible. Here they are:

I. Read and study it as two young lovers read and study each other’s letters. As soon as the mail brings a letter from his sweetheart, the young man grabs it and without waiting to see if there is not another letter for him, runs off to a corner and reads and laughs and rejoices over it and almost devours it. If he is a particularly desperate and demonstrative lover—(the Lord make us desperate and demonstrative lovers of our Lord Jesus Christ!)—he will probably kiss it and carry it next to his heart till the next one comes.

He meditates on it day and night, and reads it over again and then again. He carries it down town with him, and on the street car appears very quiet and thoughtful, till all at once a twinkle comes into his eye, out comes the letter and choice portions are read over again. He delights in that letter. If any part is hard to understand, a letter is sent off post haste for explanations, and the explanation and letter will be most carefully compared, and possibly also previous letters will be studiously compared with this one. I knew a young man whose fate was hanging in the balance. He wanted assurance, but the young woman was coy, and she veiled her true feelings and left him in uncertainty, and he studied her letters and weighed every word and phrase and brought them to me, and had me compare letter with letter, as we should compare Scripture with Scripture, in order, if possible, to discover the state of her mind and heart and his prospects. In due time he was abundantly rewarded.

Now, that is the way to read the Bible. It is God’s will and testament. It is His own carefully written instructions as to what manner of people He would have us be; as to how we shall behave ourselves; what we shall do and not do; what our rights and privileges in Jesus are; what are our peculiar dangers; how we shall know our enemies and conquer them; how we shall enter into and constantly enjoy his favor and escape Hell and get safely home to Heaven.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Freedom through Christ

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed”
(John 8:36)

Below is an excerpt from a talk given by Samuel L. Brengle who was a Salvation Army worker in 1897.

 The most startling thing about sin is its power to enslave. Jesus said, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin (John 8:34), and everyday life and experience prove the saying to be true. Let a boy or a man tell a lie and he is henceforth the servant of falsehood unless freed by a higher power. Let the bank clerk misappropriate funds, let the business man yield to a trick in trade, let the young man surrender to the clamor of lust, let the youth take an intoxicating glass, and henceforth he is a slave. The cord that holds him may be light and silken, and he may boast himself free, but he deceives himself; he is no longer free, he is a bondman.

We may choose the path in life we will take; the course of conduct; the friends with whom we will associate; the habits we will form, whether good or bad. But, having chosen the ways of sin, we are then swept on without further choice with a swiftness and certainty down to hell, just as a man who chooses to go on board a ship is surely taken to the destined harbor, however much he may wish to go elsewhere. We choose and then we are chosen. We grasp and then we are grasped by a power stronger than ourselves—like the man who takes hold of the poles of an electric battery; he grasps, but he cannot let go at his will; like the man who took the baby boa-constrictor and trained it to coil about him, but when grown it crushed him; like the lion trainer, who put his head in the lion’s mouth, but one day the lion closed its mouth and crushed his head as he might an egg-shell.

Just so the sinner is in the grasp of a higher power than his own. He chooses drink, dancing, gambling, worldly pleasure, or human wisdom and fame and power, but soon finds himself captive, only to be surely crushed and ruined for ever, unless delivered by some power outside himself. What shall he do? Is there hope? Is there a deliverer? Yes, thank God, there is. Jesus said: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Whom the Son maketh free is free indeed.

He breaks the power of  sin.

He sets the prisoner free.

This freedom is altogether complete. Jesus told the disciples to loose a colt that was tied and bring it to Him. Mark tells us that He loosed the tongue of a dumb man and he spake plain. John tells us that when Lazarus came forth from the grave he was “bound hand and foot with grave-clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44).

Now John uses exactly the same Greek word when he says of Jesus, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy (loose) the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8 ).

In other words, he whom Jesus makes free is loosed from the works of the devil—unhitched from them—as fully as was the colt from the post to which it was tied, or as was Lazarus from his grave clothes. Hallelujah! The sinner is bound to his guilty past, but Jesus forgives and forgets it, and he is no longer subject to the penalty of the broken law.

The converted man is bound to his inbred sin, Jesus looses him and he is free indeed. It is a complete deliverance, a perfect liberty, a Heavenly freedom that Jesus gives, by bringing the soul under the law of liberty, which is the law of love.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Two Christmas Carols part 2

The second Christmas song I want to speak about was written by one of American’s best-known poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His poem, “Christmas Bells”, was composed on December 25, 1864. The poem originally had 7 stanzas, two of them containing reference to the Civil War. We now sing five of the stanzas in the song, “I Heard the Bell on Christmas Day”, as rearranged in 1872 by John B. Calkin, who also wrote the memorable tune.
When Longfellow penned the words to his poem, American was still months away from the end of a bloody civil war. His words reflected the prior years of the war’s despair, while ending with a confident hope of triumphant peace.
As with any composition that touches the heart of the listener, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” flowed from Longfellow’s personal experiences.
Tragedy struck both the nation and the Longfellow family in 1861. The opening shots of the civil War were fired on April 12 and Frances – nicknamed Fanny – was fatally burned in an accident at home. The day before her accident on that hot July morning, Fanny Longfellow wrote in her journal: “We are all sighing for a good sea breeze instead of this stifling land breeze filled with dust. Poor Allegra is very droopy with heat and Edie has to get her hair in a net to free her neck from the weight.”
The next day, after trimming some of Edith’s beautiful thick curls, Fanny decided to preserve some of the clippings in an envelope sealed with wax. While melting a bar of sealing wax with a candle, a few hot drops fell unnoticed on her dress. At that same moment, the greatly desired sea breeze gusted through the window, igniting Fanny’s dress and wrapping her in flames.
In her attempt to protect Edith and Allegra, she ran to Henry’s study in the next room where Henry frantically attempted to extinguish the flames with a nearby, but undersized throw rug. The lightweight of the dress fabric coupled with the hoops allowed ample oxygen to feed the flames.
Failing to stop the fire with the rug, Henry tried to smother the flames by throwing his arms around Frances—severely burning his face, arms and hands. Fanny Longfellow died the next morning. Too ill from burns and grief, Henry did not attend her funeral. After the death of his wife, Henry was left to raise five children and manage the affairs of his home as a single parent.
The first Christmas after her death, Longfellow wrote in his journal: “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.” A year after the incident, he wrote,” I can make no record of these days. Better to leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.” Longfellow’s journal entry of December 25, 1862, reads: " ‘A Merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”
Almost a year later after that entry just weeks before Christmas, Longfellow received word that his 17 year old son had been gravely injured while fighting a battle in Virginia. Charles had run away and joined the Union cause as a soldier without his father’s blessing or permission. A bullet had passed under his shoulder blades and damaged his spine.
That Christmas of 1863 received no mention in Longfellow’s journal—an eloquent silence during this anxious period.
The death of his wife and his son’s critical injuries were not the only tragedies in Mr. Longfellow’s life. Frances was his second wife and together they had a daughter also named Frances, who died when she was 17 months old. His first wife, Mary, died just a month after she miscarried during her sixth month of pregnancy.
This was a man who had every reason to pity himself and feel cranky about his condition. No wonder he wrote:
And in despair I bowed by head,
There is no peace on earth, I said.
For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.
Longfellow’s words were a heartfelt acknowledgement of painful personal and national circumstances. Fortunately, he was able to access a greater and deeper level of truth with these words:
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.
The wrong shall fail; the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is one of my favorite carols because it is so honest and yet in the end, so full of hope.
Longfellow’s dark cloud began to lift and his personal worldview revolved from night to day when he chose to focus on the truth that God lives and is ultimately in charge.
Because of misused agency and the hearts of men grown cold, we won’t ever have the type of “peace on earth” that so many long for. There will always be challenging and even unfair circumstances. We will get sick, lose loved ones, and have disappointments regarding our friends and our families. We may have trouble at work or school or live in areas where there are wars, rumors of wars, oppressive leaders and obnoxious drivers on the freeway.
Yet none of these conditions ultimately restrict our ability to feel peace. When we learn to put our trust and faith in our Heavenly Father, we can experience peace in our hearts—the kind of deep peace that does not depend on our outward circumstances.
Longfellow found a measure of peace even in his heartbreaking condition, as he acknowledged the truth that God’s loving will would ultimately triumph.
Sweet Mary knew the history of her people and had seen God’s hand in their deliverance from distressing events. She trusted that she could rely on similar help no matter what she might be called upon to experience.
Today, above all else, I am thankful for that little baby born in Bethlehem. Because of Him, we have a Savior who looks on us with compassion for our weakness. He learned through his own suffering how to comfort all those who come to him.
He is our true peace and an unfailing source of love and blessing. The words of Philippians 4:7 express it well:
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Two Christmas Carols part 1

This is a talk I gave last Christmas and I thought I'd pass it on.

In Section 25 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord gave Emma Smith an important assignment:
And it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church
For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.
At this season of sacred music and beautiful carols, what a wonderful gift we have from these verses—to know that we can delight the soul of the Lord with the songs of our hearts and that the result of that singing will be blessings on our heads.
Today, I’d like to talk about Christmas songs. One is by a young woman who spoke according to ancient traditions. The other is by an older man who lived in our dispensation.
The song of the young woman begins with praise, yet many distressing trials were to follow in her life. The song of the older man gives praise and testimony after a very long series of painful afflictions and deep heartache.
The young girl’s words have their roots in teachings handed down faithfully from generation to generation. It was only in 1994 with the translation of the first fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls that we learned the cultural context of Mary’s song found in Luke 1:46-55. Like the Magnificat—the name given to Mary’s song of praise—the song from the scrolls at Qumran also began with the words, “my soul doth magnify the Lord.” Scholars believe that Mary’s reflections ended up as a hymn in the early church.
Mary’s poem began in a manner traditional to her faith—she wanted to honor her Heavenly Father in the eyes of others. She wanted to magnify and bring glory and credit to God with her soul, her heart, and her life. It would be a very safe guess that from his earliest childhood, Jesus would have often heard his mother say, ‘Great is the Lord!” She probably sang it as a lullaby.
In the Gospel of Luke, this desire to honor God informed Mary’s thinking even before the baby was born. Her song included many insights gleaned from a long history with the God of Israel.
Today there are al least 1,200 versions of the Magnificat written in several languages—everything from an energetic clapping and foot stomping gospel music version performed by a Japanese group to Bach with his traditional style using a full orchestra and classical choir.
On YouTube, you can find over 22,600 performances of the Magnificat. There’s something for every possible musical preference. John Rutter’s arrangement is my favorite.
Mary’s words to her cousin Elizabeth honor that God who remembers the poor, the lowly and a young innocent teenage girl from an insignificant village, and it reminds us that the proud are finally humbled and made low.
The verses in Luke are the only evidences we have of Mary’s actual thinking and thoughts. We know about some of the things she said and did, but this is the only text that reveals to us something about her innermost ponderings. Mary’s song reflects a perspective that Biblical scholars call a “reversal of fortune” pattern. As an example of this, we could say that at times, the wicked prosper, but in the end, Satan does not support those who follow him. And while the righteous may suffer for a time, through faith, the Lord will eventually restore them to great blessings.
We can listen to Mary’s words and notice this pattern of reverses. But first her praise:
Luke 1:46
My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hat rejoiced in God, my Savior
V. 48 Low estate of handmaiden (no status in society)
All generations shall call me blessed (very high station)
v. 51 He hath scattered the proud (high then reversed)
v. 52 He hath put down (humbled) the mighty and exalted them of low degree.
v. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away. (Because they are rich, they think his gifts are not needed.)
v. 54 He hath holpen (helped) his servant Israel (very unexpected for a servant to be helped by his master. But God’s ways are different from man’s ways.)
The Lord esteems the humble and lowly and remembers them—taking action to bless them. People admired in human society are not necessarily great in the eyes of God. Of course, God loves and values all people, but the characteristics he prizes are very different from those held up as desirable in our culture today. His thoughts are definitely not our thoughts.
We can hear possible echoes of Mary’s words in some of Christ’s teachings. The Beatitudes taught by Jesus reflect the same pattern spoken of in Mary’s hymn.
Blessed are the _______ and Jesus chose to fill in the blank with illustrations of people who did NOT feel blessed or happy. Blessed, he said, are the poor in spirit, the meek, and the persecuted. Blessed are the spiritually hungry and those who thirst after righteousness. All who seek him will be helped and filled with good things. Our sadness will not last forever.
Joseph Smith bore a similar testimony to his cousin, George A. Smith, who was experiencing a time of great difficulty. George said,
 “He told me I should never get discouraged, whatever difficulties might surround me. If I was sunk in the lowest pit in Nova Scotia and all the Rocky Mountains piled on top of me, I ought not to be discouraged, but hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage and I should come out on the top of the heap at last.”
Christ had learned from his mother’s example and by his own experience that there was help and consolation for all of the sorrows found in this world, and that the source of our consolation is a knowledge of our Father in Heaven and his ways (which are not man’s ways!) Jesus was willing to descend below all things in order to ascend to the Father.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

One Tiny Voice

I heard this story years ago and have been looking for it ever since. There are a few different versions of the story, but I finally found the one I was looking for in a small book at the dollar store the other day:

This is the story of a man whom perhaps you have never heard about. He was Telemachus, a fourth-century Christian monk.

He lived in a remote village in Italy, tending his garden, sharing his goods, giving his produce to others, and spending much time in prayer. One day he thought that he had heard the voice of God, or at least a strong impression that he should go to the city of Rome. He immediately obeyed, made his preparations and set out on foot. Some weary weeks later he arrived in the city at the time of one of the great festivals. Telemachus, not knowing what to do, followed the ever-increasing crowd surging down the streets and converging at the Colosseum. He watched as the gladiators stood before the Emperor saying, "We who are about to die salute you." THEN he realized these men were about to fight to the death for the entertainment of the raucous crowd that day. Telemachus shouted, "In the name of Christ, STOP!"

Nobody heard, nor did the ones near him respond. The games began, the gladiators were locked in battle. The monk pushed his way through the shouting crowd, climbed over the wall, and dropped to the dusty floor of the arena. The crowd watched in fascination as this tiny figure ran toward the gladiators, shouting, "In the name of Christ, STOP!" The crowd thought it was part of the entertainment.

The little monk continued until he was right in the middle of the gladiators who had stopped to watch this interruption. Suddenly the crowd realized it wasn't part of the show and their laughter turned to anger and shouting. As Telemachus was pleading with the gladiators to stop, he turned to the emperor to plead for this carnage to end. One of the gladiators plunged a sword into his body. He dropped to the sand. As he lay bleeding and dying, his last words were: "In the name of Christ, STOP!" The crowd was hushed, they all heard his dying plea.

Then a strange thing happened. As the gladiators looked down at the tiny, bleeding figure in the sand, the crowd was gripped by the drama. Way up in one of the upper rows, one man stood and slowly began to make his way toward the exit. Others followed his lead. And soon, in hushed, deathly silence, everyone left the Colosseum.

That year was 391 B.C. and that was the last battle to the death ever fought in the Roman Colosseum. It changed the thinking of society.

It happened because of one small voice . . . barely heard above the clamour and shouting. Only one voice . . . one unknown, a nobody. . . one life who was willing to speak the truth in the name of God!