Nothing Left to Give

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Yesterday, I went outside to the backyard to find my father-in-law and mother-in-law working in the garden, digging holes to plant tomatoes and other vegetables. As they are in their 80s and don’t get around easily, I approached them and asked if I could play. That’s how children do it, isn’t it when they visit with friends and neighbors? The just walk up and ask to join in. So I thought I’d use a little humor since they didn’t seem to be getting along at the moment. So I was given the shovel and I dug the holes and we all fell into a new formation, one of us digging holes, one of us planting, the other handing the plants and so on. When I finally planted the last squash, or maybe it was zucchini, my father-in-law had moved on to picking apricots off the lawn from under the tree. The apricots did not get big at all before they had all fallen down. So no apricots this year.

My father-in-law was using a telescoping grabber to pick them up from the ground since he can’t bend over so easily and putting them all in a plastic bag. Otherwise, left on the lawn, they would rot and make a mess. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law was now trying to work on watering all the vegetables we had just planted. So I went and connected the hose to the tap on the house and unrolled it all the way to the garden with the wand attachment and helped her get the right spray setting on the nozzle so not too much water pounded the little plants. After I reduced the spray, I handed her the wand and thought I would go back inside to tend to personal matters. I then noticed that my father-in-law was still plucking apricots off the lawn. He could only grab one at a time with his grabber and I knew he’d be out there a long time at the rate he was going. So I decided to join him. I quickly and easily bent down and grabbed a bunch in each hand and kept on grabbing more, dumping them in his bag while he continued picking up one. At. A. Time…

As I worked alongside my in-laws, the Lord taught me a profound lesson. During His mortal ministry, He taught and exemplified going the extra mile. He taught that when someone takes your coat, give him your cloak, too. When someone strikes you, turn the other cheek. When someone compels you to walk with him a mile, walk with him two. With the Law of Moses, one could potentially learn to love God. With the Law of the Gospel, however, one gets to learn to love his fellow man. Not only did Jesus teach us how to love one another, but how to love one another so utterly and completely, that nothing is left to give. While He hung on the cross after having already suffered more than any mortal could suffer without dying, He was mocked.

39 ¶ And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,
42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him…

At any point in time, Jesus could have called down legions of angels to fight for Him. He didn’t even need an army. The God of all creation, who by mere words could utter, “let there be light,” and bring forth light, or to walk on water or calm the storm or to raise the dead by merely speaking words. There was nothing to stop Him from uttering words and letting the nails simply slip out and fall to the ground while His body healed of all that had been inflicted upon Him before their very eyes. And what a glorious sight it would have been! What a terrible scene it would have been to all who mocked Him. But instead He suffered it. He endured it. He allowed it. The God of heaven and all the earth submitted to every last stripe and insult that humanity had the energy to inflict upon Him. When finally, after hanging six hours on the cross, knowing he was fully spent, and there was nothing left to give, He finally said, “it is finished.” And then He willingly gave up the ghost.

No man took it from Him. He gave it all until there was nothing left to give.

All this was spoken to my mind as I helped my father-in-law pick up all the apricots. There is a vast difference between knowing such things in my brain and having them written in my heart. And this day, it was written in my heart. When he had finished, I asked him what else he wanted to do. He said he finished and he was leaving to take care of an errand. When I was satisfied that there was nothing more I could do to help in the backyard and that my in-laws were getting along again, I went back inside to tend to personal matters.

Anyone who considers himself or herself a disciple of Jesus Christ may learn by experience to give until there is nothing left to give. If you see a homeless person on the side of the road, you can give him your spare change if that is what he is asking for. You can then go on your way or you can ask yourself if there is more you can do. You can get to know him. You can introduce yourself. Ask him if he’d like to join you and eat out together. If you think you can do more, maybe bring him home and cook a meal for him instead. If you think you can do more, let him take a bath and spend the night. Only you know if you can spare enough change, or enough time, or enough space in your home.

One day, some years ago, for example, my family and I were visiting Salt Lake City, Utah. We had pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant where a man was holding a cardboard sign asking for change for food. We had gone inside and while waiting to be served, I walked outside and sat down with the man and began chatting with him. I asked him if he was hungry and invited him to come inside for a meal. He just stared off and said all he really wanted was a cigarette. I didn’t have any cigarettes or cash so I was not able to help him further. He declined the meal and I wished him well and went back inside with my family.

Now I have been accused by people, who do not believe Jesus Christ, to be an enabler. I may have helped a bum get his latest fix or bottle of booze. But I say to them, who of us is not enabled by God every minute of every day while we go about our days walking in pride and sin? Yet God enables each breath we take, including those moments we are most carnal and sinful. Do the angels accuse God of enabling us sinners who masquerade as Christians? There are opportunities to be helpful wherever we go. We can help a little or a lot, or whenever possible, help and give until there’s nothing left to give. That is what it means to love another as Jesus loved everyone. It is to love so willingly and utterly and so completely that there is nothing left to give. That is how I wish to leave this world. I want to leave knowing I have nothing left to give.

The Vision of Isaiah

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1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.

The book of Isaiah contains a tapestry of layers upon layers of symbolism, metaphor, and imagery. Some words to consider in this brief commentary: Nourish, children, rebelled, ox, knoweth, owner, ass, master, Israel, my people. As I have studied the book of Isaiah over the last five years along with commentaries by Gileadi and others, I have found the book of Isaiah to be a rich source of both history and allegory, even a type and a shadow of events that seem to repeat themselves whenever a covenant people comes into existence. As we look back to former days, we may see a pattern of what Isaiah intended for us in the last days to learn about ourselves. Isaiah does not address Egypt or Assyria or Babylon or any heathen nation. His writings are directed squarely at the Lord’s covenant people immediately following his day and upon those of the last days. Could one replace Judah with Ephraim and Jerusalem with Salt Lake City? Is there another candidate for the Lord’s covenant people in the latter days if not Judah?

The Lord nourished His children. Throughout the book of Isaiah, some of the key words, which are meant to be linked are children, mother, woman, etc. In this case, the children of Israel who is the woman. Throughout the Old Testament, upon departing Egypt, the woman repeatedly went whoring after idols. Thus when Jesus said an adulterous generation seeks signs, one interpretation can be referring to the children of the whore represented by Israel. When Israel becomes sanctified, she will become Zion. But until then, she remains unredeemed and condemned before the Lord.

The ox knows its owner and the ass is master’s crib, but Israel does not know. The word know and knowledge are covenant terms. We read in Ether chapter 3 about the brother of Jared having faith no longer, for he KNEW the Lord, nothing doubting. The Lord defined redemption as being brought back into His presence. It happens when He removes the veil and He becomes revealed to His people (the bride). This is why it is impossible to be saved in ignorance. You cannot be saved without knowing who it is that saves you. Ether chapter 3 contains a key of knowledge, or rather, obtaining knowledge. But here Isaiah is speaking to a nation of idolaters. These are His children, His “covenant people.” Yet they do not know Him. The ox is a clean/kosher animal, which could be likened to the Israelites. The ass is an unclean animal and could be likened to all the gentiles (not of the ethnic lineage of Abraham). Both dumb animals KNOW their owners and masters. Yet the Lord’s covenant people do not KNOW Jehovah. They remained in their unredeemed state. They have not considered their relationship with the one true God.

As a side note, there is no graven image that is not a product of one’s hands. Idolatry results from consumer demand. The Hebrew word Abad means both to work and worship. People worship the work of their hands. In this world, there is no economy without an exchange of products resulting from consumer demand. You can buy anything in this world with money. Mammon is the driving force behind the world’s economy. Babylon is the archetype of this system in the book of Isaiah. On the other hand, Zion does not require money. In Zion, all things are given and received freely. The Lord gave to us this earth and all things therein to be used freely and not by extortion or excess. Extortion and excess is exactly how the world operates. They take ownership of the things God has ordained for their use freely and charge a price for them. Excess is the result of one exalting oneself above another or others, thereby creating inequality in a society driven by an economy where money is the medium of exchange. In Zion, there are no rich because there are no poor because there is no money, there being no need for money. In Babylon, however, such behavior is the iniquity of a people. Idols, idolatry and commerce (economy) are all tools of Mammon.

4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.

A sinful nation is one which has broken the law. The iniquity with which they are laden is their commerce. They have forsaken the Lord’s way, which is liberty and have made themselves captives by their economy. Pay up or be cast into prison where you cannot pay one farthing. The course of the Lord is one eternal round in which He does not vary to the right or to the left. But Israel has gone backward. They might as well have remained in Egypt as the heathens.

5 ¶ Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.

All are stricken from the laymen to the leaders, filled with all manner of sore afflictions, all self inflicted. We find the same scenarios wherever there is a covenant people. We see it in the Book of Mormon during King Noah’s reign.

10 ¶ Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?

Jehovah compares the ruling priests to Sodom and the laymen to Gomorrah. Sodom and Gomorrah set the precedent for a condemned people and so Isaiah uses it as an archetype to compare His covenant people to. They were abusers and ripe for destruction. And yet the Lord saved Lot and his family. Whenever the Lord is about to destroy a people, He tends to “gather” those few who have not forsaken Him, even by angels. Angels came to take Lot and his family out, even prodding him to leave before they destroyed the city. Likewise did the Lord bring out Lehi from Jerusalem and his family. Lot’s wife probably could not believe that her beautiful city could be destroyed. She was not attuned to the Spirit and couldn’t feel the warning to flee. Her heart was set upon the world in which she lived. So she turned around and was turned into a pillar of salt, good for nothing but to be trodden underfoot. Laman and Lemuel were the same as Lot’s wife. And so will all be whose hearts are set upon their riches–their idols.

Mountains of Ephraim

Verse 11 clarifies the hypocrisy of His people. They did not hold sacrosanct their temple or their offerings. They paid lip service only. Their hearts were not at all upon their offerings and were oblivious to or else they ignored what they typified. Their hearts were on their idols back home–their graven images, their adornments, their entertainments, their hobbies, pastimes, etc. So why did they bother to go to the temple? We read the answer in the next verse: To appear before the Lord. Isn’t that what we do when we go to the temple? In the endowment session, the entire ceremony culminates in appearing before the Lord at the veil. But do we bring all our baggage with us (idolatry/hearts and thoughts upon other things of the world)? Or do we go with our hearts intent upon seeing the Lord and nothing else? Are our hearts single to His glory or to our pastimes back home? The ancient Israelites were just like dumb animals that “tread [God’s] courts,” making a mess of things, defiling the temple with their filth and iniquity.

13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.

The Lord considered their oblations vain; worthless. An oblation is an offering. Righteous prayers are like incense to the Lord, rising sweetly to His throne. But vain repetitions offered in vain (lip service) is like putrid incense rising up to fill Jehova’s presence and is an affront to Him. The new moons and Sabbaths, assemblies–all vain and abominable. They brought their idolatrous hearts and thoughts with them to “worship.” This is why the Lord told Joseph Smith not to join any other church. They all drew near to Him with their lips (lips service) but their hearts were far from Him (being instead on their idols, hobbies, pastimes, sports programs, entertainments, etc).

D&C 59:11 Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;
12 But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
13 And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.

The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith how to worship Him on the Sabbath day. Contrast what He desires of us with why He told Joseph Smith not to join any other church. Does this apply to us today? What are our hearts and thoughts upon when we go to worship each Sabbath? Is the Lord sick and tired of us, too? Maybe some of us? A friend of mine recently quipped, “There are two ways to rebel against society – take a steaming, fetid dump all over what everyone else holds sacrosanct, or alternatively, treat as sacrosanct what everyone else pays lip service to. The first is a time-honored rite of adolescence. The second will get you cast out and possibly killed.” Do we hold sacrosanct what others pay lip service to? Are we right back where Joseph Smith started when he was confused about which church to join? Perhaps it is no wonder that Isaiah is reported to have been sawn in half. He was a “rebel” who treated sacrosanct what the “leaders of Sodom” and “people of Gomorrah” paid lip service to (at least according to apocryphal writings)!

Chapter one is quite an indictment of the filthiness of Israel. She is a harlot whoring after her lusts, forsaking her bridegroom, who is quick to forgive and mighty to save. And though, as we read later in the chapter, though her sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. But this applies only to those who turn from their adulterous (idolatrous) ways and whose hearts become single to the Lord alone.

27 Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.

Whenever the bridegroom parts the veil, He reveals Himself to His bride. When the brother of Jared, who was already favored because of his meekness, obedience and diligence in doing whatever the Lord required, when he asked Jesus to show Himself to him, Jesus granted his righteous desire. The bro of Jared’s heart was single. His prayers were sweet incense to the Lord and all his petitions were granted because “this long time have ye cried unto me.”

Ether 3:13 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.

This is the definition of redemption. It is to part the veil and behold Jesus Christ face to face as a bride beholds her husband. It is to “know” Him. To “know” is to have a covenant relationship, even a marriage covenant. The brother of Jared had faith no longer for he “knew” the Lord, nothing doubting. This is what it means to become a Zion person or a Zion people. A Zion person does not exalt himself above others or pollute himself with vain and foolish imaginations, idolatry, and all kinds of worldliness. The woman “Zion” is “Israel” redeemed. Where Israel is an unredeemed harlot, she becomes a redeemed bride, sanctified and one with Jehovah, her children living in righteousness and equity.

It is not difficult to liken Isaiah’s address to the ancient covenant people with today’s covenant people. The things, which happened then foreshadow and typify what has happened, is happening and will happen to the Lord’s latter-day covenant people. The Book of Mormon was given to us by way of the Gentile (Title Page). It is why Moroni quoted the Lord addressing the latter-day peoples to:

Ether 4:13 Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
14 Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.
15 Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.

How much longer will the latter-day covenant people remain unredeemed because of their “unbelief?” Or maybe as Moroni wrote:

Ether 12:34 And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father.
35 Wherefore, I know by this thing which thou hast said, that if the Gentiles have not charity, because of our weakness, that thou wilt prove them, and take away their talent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly.
36 And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity.
37 And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.

The talent was taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles when they rejected the mortal Messiah. Is it only a matter of time before it is taken from the Gentiles (times of the Gentiles is fulfilled) and given back to the Jews (remnant of Jacob who will be among the Gentiles as Lions who tread them down and tear to pieces and none can deliver) to carry on the work? Is the Lord delaying His coming? Time will tell.

Fast forwarding to chapter three. The first half of this chapter talks about the condition of the Lord’s covenant people–what the Lord will deprive them of when Assyria comes to sweep them off, or in other words, what will be left, which is little to nothing. Most, if not all men will be wiped out, leaving some children/youth to “rule” whatever is left of the people. So now that we have a good idea of what will befall the “rulers of Sodom” and the “people of Gomorrah” or essentially, all the men who defile the temple with their vain offerings, the Lord tells us what He thinks of the women and what He will cause to happen to them:

16 ¶ Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts.
18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon,
19 The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
21 The rings, and nose jewels,
22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils.
24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.

Here the Lord considers the women “daughters of Zion.” I find this interesting. Zion denotes an elect people. Whereas the men are fully corrupted and fit into a “Sodom and Gomorrah” category, the women are called “Zion.” The main archetypes in the book of Isaiah include “Babylon,” “Assyria,” “Israel,” and “Zion.” So it’s interesting to see the Lord address the Israelite men as “rulers of Sodom” and “people of Gomorrah” and the women as “daughters of Zion.” But the women do not escape His judgment.

Isaiah goes to an extreme length to list all the varieties of dress and accessories that the women tend to wear. It isn’t too difficult to see the same with today’s women. I can’t remember if it was a family member or a neighbor that once explained to me why women have to have so many shoes and clothes and stuff. She said that when they’re little girls they dress up all their Barbies. But when they grow up, they become Barbie. Women seem programmed from an early age to “doll up” and accessorize. I’m not sure why. They seem to have to have an outfit for everything and their clothes have to be interchangeable, and match by colors or patterns or whatever.

As for men, we tend to compete to become Alpha males in our various circles and be in charge. Even the Lord’s disciples kept bickering among themselves who should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven among them. It’s just a guy thing. We compete. I think that women are the same, but for a different reason. Women seem to tend to size each other up by how many more men they can attract than the next woman. They measure their worth by being able to attract the Alpha males and this can make them insecure and catty. I’m sure not all women are like this just like not all men have to be Alpha males. Obviously, women feel an innate need to feel beautiful and cherished and loved. It’s either that or perhaps women are just as vain as men are.

In any case, whereas the Lord will deliver the men up to be swept off by the sword, the women’s covenant curse will be baldness and rags. The ancient Israelites had no clue they were about to be destroyed and left desolate. If we apply it to today, this could be interpreted to mean a nuclear holocaust or some kind of plague or both is about to befall us. And like the ancient people, a remnant will be left. We in the US are pretty ripe to be swept off. And there are enough passages in D&C that indicate the Lord’s desolating scourge will begin first with the Lord’s house among those who profess to know the Lord’s name, but have not known Him.

D&C 112:24 Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.
25 And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
26 First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.

Perhaps in this context, the Lord is referring to “house” as His covenant people (house of Israel) and not necessarily a particular temple or building. And what other candidate is there beside the latter-day saints, being the gentiles by whom the restoration of the fullness of the gospel was made? After all:

Isaiah 2:2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

As I posed the question at the beginning of this entry, could one replace Judah with Ephraim and Jerusalem with Salt Lake City? Is there another candidate for the Lord’s covenant people in the latter days if not Judah? Who else sang joyfully, “O Babylon, O Babylon, we bid thee farewell. We’re going to the mountains of Ephraim to dwell?”

 

 

 

 

If thou wilt be perfect…

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Matthew 19:21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

I’ve heard people say it’s impossible to be perfect in this life. Yet Jesus Christ taught us precisely how we may become perfect. Like the young man who told Jesus that he kept all the statutes and commandments from his childhood up, we reason within ourselves that we are doing enough. We judge ourselves by our own standards and our own best intentions. He gave to us three parables in Matthew chapter 25 to illustrate what He meant.

  • Parable of the Ten Virgins
  • Parable of the Talents
  • Parable of the Sheep and Goats

In the parable of the virgins, the Lord uses virgins to imply a virtuous life and faithfulness to Him. After all, He is the bridegroom come to the wedding feast. But five were foolish because they had no oil in their lamps. Throughout scripture, oil has represented the Holy Spirit. Olives are pressed for their oil, which give light. As a side note, in the parable of the good Samaritan, the Samaritan (representing Jesus Christ) used oil and wine to succor the “fallen man”, the oil representing the Holy Spirit and the wine representing His blood, both symbolic of His atoning sacrifice and both of which heal us from our sins and make us whole again. The foolish virgins not wanting to miss out on the wedding feast, had to go away and find those who would provide oil for them.

So how is it that Christians miss out on filling their lamps? The answer is simple. The poor, the beggars, the downtrodden are no longer available to provide the opportunity to exchange oil for succor. In other words, each time you help someone in need, you are filled more and more with the Holy Spirit and thus are sanctified. But those who give their lives to Jesus Christ, being filled with His love, give freely to those who are in need without judgment and with no thought of reward. I know many people do not give because they rationalize that the money will be wasted away. Yet each time we beg God forgiveness of our sins, He freely forgives us, though we sin again and again every day. If God judged us the way many judge the poor, none of us would be saved. We all squander our forgiveness. And so the foolish virgins, though virtuous and faithful in keeping the Lord’s statutes and commandments, forget that they were purged of their old sins as the apostle Peter described, and showing no love to the downtrodden, miss out on the wedding feast because the door was shut.

The parable of the Talents is more obvious. There are three scenes, one of stewardship, one of accounting and one of reward. The kingdom of heaven was a man traveling to a far country. Jesus Christ was the kingdom of heaven on earth for a small period of time. He left His work in the capable hands of His servants who were expected to produce an increase of goods. This parable is about what we do with the kinds of servants we are. Some of us are very talented and capable, while some of us are limited in our abilities, but still have as much desire to serve as those who are much more gifted. And then there are those who waste their time in idleness and idolatry. In today’s world, this comes in many forms, but probably mostly entertainment, pastimes, etc. where laziness and apathy is fostered. Of course one can be highly productive, but selfish, becoming rich only to prosper alone. There is another parable that addresses this, but is not relevant to this entry. There is nothing wrong with becoming rich, though, if we use our wealth to lift others up.

The final parable is clear. Sheep know their Shepherd’s voice and follow Him. Goats have no master and do not come when called. And what is the result of one who possesses the Holy Spirit? One whose lamp is brimming with oil? One who labors not for worldly things, but for the Lord? It is to have the love of Jesus Christ in our hearts. And when one truly has this love, he or she will love all, even the least of God’s children. Or as we read in the parable:

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

It bears mentioning that Jesus Christ did not come into the world a wealthy heir of riches, finery, and palaces. He was born a nobody by worldly standards in the most impoverished circumstances. He carried no purse or scrip during His ministry and relied on the charity of those He served–everyone.

Yet He was perfect. And so he taught us how to become perfect in His sermon on the mount, which includes His admonition for us to “be ye therefore perfect…”

Maybe that young man who declined to sell all his possessions and follow Jesus gave generously to the treasury in the temple and thought himself good enough for giving abundantly. There’s a story about this.

Luke 21:1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:
For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.

This observation by the Lord to me was not so much about the widow’s extreme poverty, but an indictment of everyone else.

It is possible to be perfect as the Lord defines it, if one does perfectly what He hast taught. And then shall one have riches in heaven.

mite

The Fellowship of the Unashamed

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Despite Google and all of the research available on the internet to us today I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the story or the origin of this note. Here are two:

· Dr. Robert Morehead tells the story a young man from Rwanda, A missionary with Africa Evangelical Fellowship, who was forced by his tribe in 1980 to renounce Christ or face death. He refused to renounce Christ, and he was murdered on the spot. The night before he had written the following commitment which was found in his room:

· The following is often attributed to an anonymous source but its origin can be traced to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) retreat in Black Mountain, NC in 1966. This confession, ostensibly authored by several attendees, found wider circulation after it was found in the home of an African pastor who had been martyred for his commitment to Christ some years ago.

The author is unknown, but is believed to be a young pastor in Zimbabwe who was martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ. It was found in his study:

“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit’s power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made — I’m a disciple of his. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.”

“I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in his presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power.”

“My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifices, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.”

“I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till he comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till he stops me. And, when he comes for his own, he will have no problem recognizing me … my banner will be clear.”

A Tale of Two Comforters.

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John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

Jesus Christ promised to personally comfort any who seek to come to Him. His disciple asked how Jesus would show Himself.

21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus taught in no uncertain terms what is required.

Matthew 7:

13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

But what is this gate that leads to eternal life? Jesus answered this question when posed to Nicodemus.

John 3:Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

A prophet who descended from the tribe of Joseph wrote in his own record in plainness what this gate is, verifying Jesus’ teachings:

2 Nephi 31:16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.
17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.
18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

Nephi’s walk is illustrated in his two books. It is the overarching narrative expressed in his father’s vision of the tree of life. The world is the large and spacious field we read about in 1 Nephi chapter 8. Once one enters in at the gate, which is repentance and baptism of water, THEN comes the remission of sins.

So now Nephi has established by his own life’s experience and his father’s vision of the tree of life that entering the gate is receiving the First Comforter, even the Holy Ghost. Nephi, continues the narrative:

19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

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As we read in 1 Nephi 8, linked above, if one endures to the end of the path along the iron rod, one finally comes to the tree of life. It is the inevitable consequence of traveling a straight path between two points–between receiving the Holy Ghost and then receiving Jesus Christ. At the end of the path, the rod ends. One falls to the ground to partake of the fruit of one’s labors of pressing forward with the love of God and of ALL men. If one has the Love of God and all men (TWO greatest commandments/Golden Rule), one becomes like Christ. And what is the inevitable result of becoming like Christ?

1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Or as Jesus expressed directly to one of his disciples, as I have quoted above:

John 14: 22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

Both the Father and the Son visit him. And we see evidence of this in Nephi’s life, as expressed in the same chapter mentioned above:

2 Nephi 31:14 But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.

15 And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.

As mentioned above, if one loves God and all men, one will retain a remission of one’s sins as King Benjamin taught:

Mosiah 4:12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.
13 And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due…

He goes on to teach:

26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

Jesus gave three parables in Matthew chapter 25 about those who did and did not love all men. To summarize, He declared:

Matthew 25:

31 ¶When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Therefore as one presses forward along the straight and narrow path with the Love of God in one’s heart toward all men, being merciful as God is merciful, one inevitably, finds oneself partaking of the fruit of his labors and finds rest. Thus to partake of the fruit of the tree of life is to gain eternal salvation, which is to make one’s calling and election sure. It is to personally receive comfort from the God of all the earth, even Jesus Christ, an anchor to the soul. It is to receive the Second Comforter. It is to be sealed up by the calling of His voice. The apostle Peter said the same:

2 Peter 1:5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things,ye shall never fall

Peter acknowledges that it is the love of God and of all men, which results in knowing Jesus Christ. This doesn’t just mean knowing about Him, or reading about Him. It means actually knowing Him. Talking with Him. Seeing Him. But whoso lacks the qualities Peter lists is blind and cannot see afar off. He loses that perfect brightness of hope. He forgets that he was baptized with fire, which brings about the remission of his sins. Therefore, it is imperative to press forward to obtain the “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” as Peter taught in his epistle.

Knowledge saves. We cannot be saved in ignorance. In other words, we cannot be saved without knowing WHO it is that saves us. Knowing Jesus Christ is parting the veil, which keeps us from His presence because of unbelief. It is this veil, as Paul teaches the Corinthians in his second epistle, that is done away in Christ. It is being redeemed from the fall of Adam. It is the end result of entering in at the way, which is the gate spoken of above and pressing forward until one reaches the end. Most give up. Most wander off in unbelief. Some end up in the great and spacious building and point fingers and mock those who have pressed forward and reached the tree to partake of eternal salvation.

In summary dear reader, to be born of the Spirit occurs upon entering in at the gate, which is the beginning of the journey to come unto Christ–literally. But your journey is NOT over until you press forward to receive the greatest gift, even eternal life, which is to KNOW Jesus Christ who then makes His abode with you. When you enter in at the gate, you are blessed with the Comforter, even the Holy Ghost, being born of the Spirit. And if and when you finally arrive at the end of the straight and narrow path, you are blessed with the Second Comforter, even Jesus Christ, thus becoming fruitful in the knowledge of He who is mighty to save.

1 Corinthians 9:23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.