Institutional Foil

Sporatic Tales of My Life

I will be writing about the events which influence my life.
6/22/07

Real Men Love Jesus

 

Yesterday, during my drive home, I saw a bumpersticker that read "Real Men Love Jesus". I immediately thought that I, then, was a real man; if the sticker was correct. Because of the traffic and the long, long delays, I started think about what it means to be a real man where Christians, specifically Mormon Christians, are concerned. So this entry will be specifically directed to the men and boys who might stumble across it and read.

I was immediately reminded of a young man known as Abiathar. He was the son of Ahimelech, one of the priests murdered by Saul after he has shown kindness to David by giving him bread from the temple, to eat.

Abiathar was able to escape and took with him one of the ephods worn by one of the 100+ priests slain by Saul in his rage and jealousy.
He ran and found David. David promised he would be safe in his company.

A short time later David asked the young man to put on the ephod, which was likely very large and bulky to the boy, and seek the Lord's counsel as to what his strategy against both Saul's armies and those of the philistines. As part of the ephod, were the urim and thummim.

This young man, no doubt somewhat overwhelmed by the ephod and the responsibility of wearing it, sought God's counsel and led David's small band of rebels to both victory and safety.

This young man eventually became the High Priest of Judah, after David was on the throne and remained loyal to him until David's death.

So, we have a boy who, after watching his king slaughter his father, had the courage and the wherewithal to take the ephod with the urim and thummim and run to the camp of a rebel for safety because he knew the leader of this little band was God's anointed.

I would say that Abiathar was a real man.

Now let's look at a group of "real men" described in 1nd Chronicles 12.

This chapter lists the names and some of the deeds of the men we call David's Mighty men. The entire chapter is an exciting glance at a few real men; but I want to focus on one of the groups mentioned. The sons of Issachar in verse 32. The verse reads:

"And of the children of Issachar, [which were men] that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them [were] two hundred; and all their brethren [were] at their commandment."

I startles me to think that one of the duties of the real men of Christ, is to have an understanding of the times and to know what we, a remnant of Israel, must to and, I might add, when we must do them.

So what must real men know of our times?

The airwaves are flooded with information. There is never a minute on any day that those with access to television or radio cannot watch something deemed as "news" by those who broadcast it. I think it is not unlike the apocalyptic visions seen by Moses. Elijah and others, where all the catastrophes, both temporal and spiritual in nature are set before us with amazing speed and scope. It's enough to turn an optimist into a cynic. Yet real men in Christ are not cynical. They are hopeful and they are joyful because of what they know with respect to the eternal nature of all things even if the temporal nature is dark and dreary.

Most Christians must rely of the scriptures and the interpretation of scriptures in the form of sermons delivered by mostly well-meaning preachers. They, like us, can rely on the arm of Jehovah to guide them through these last days of trouble and gloom.

As Latter-day Saints, however, we are blessed with a deeper, more critical knowledge which places the mantle of watchmen squarely on our shoulders. Those men of other Christian sects do not hold the priesthood. We do and, in effect, carry the burden of the ephod and its attendant urim and thummim.

We need to first teach our families how to understand the times and lead them in that which they should do. We cannot do that if we are burdened with sins that repel the Spirit.

A few months ago, I sat in a stake priesthood meeting and heard two statistics. The sources of those statistics were named but I don't remember what they were. In any case they were shocking.

1. The state of Utah has more hits to porn sites on the internet, per capita, than any other state.

And:

In the Church, in the United States, one out of every three men participates in pornography at least once a week.

I don't know about you, but to me, those are stunning and tragic numbers.

How can we call ourselves real men in Christ if we are so eager to indulge our lusts? How can we look our sons in the eye and explain the value and necessity of chastity when we are participating in such vile entertainment?

I certainly don't pretend to have the solution to this problems except to suggest that anyone who might be participating in this activity, see his bishop and begin the repentance process.

Real men in Christ do not indulge in pornography.

Another startling fact in the Church surrounds the real sin of spousal and child abuse in all its ugly forms.

The priesthood gives men in the Church more responsibility, not more power over our wives. We must honor our wives, brethren, if we are to gain their respect and merit their love. We cannot honor them if we mistakenly believe we rule over them.

As for our children, can we be justified in our surprise if, after years of shouting, beating or other abuse, they leave the Church? How can we expect them to even seek a personal witness when they witness and are victims of such abuse during their childhood.

Real men in Christ do not abuse their wives or children.

There was an old story going around the Church a few years ago of a conversation between three Aaronic Priesthood boys.

"My dad always gets his Home Teaching done by the last of the month." Donny the Deacon said.

"My dad is better than yours because he always gets his done by the 15th." Tommy, the Teacher answered.

"Well," said Petey the Priest, "my dad has you both beat. He always does his the day BEFORE the first day of the month!"

Rare is the priesthood meeting in the Church where someone doesn't encourage us to do our Home Teaching. Oh, that our only encouragement would be that we do it better!

What good does understanding the times if we don't share that understanding with our friends in the Church? Are we real men in Christ if we hoard the knowledge for ourselves?

The Home Teacher represents the Elder's quorum president or the High Priest group leader, who in turn, report to the bishop. Home Teachers feed the flock, particularly that part of the flock that is wandering on strange paths or stuck alone in some corner of the meadow, alone and afraid.

Real men in Christ do their Home Teaching.

Three years ago President Hinckley issued the challenge to all members of the Church to read the Book of Mormon by the end of that year. The response of the members was overwhelming. In every corner of the world, faithful members cracked open their copies of the Book of Mormon and began reading. For many, even some who had been members their entire times, it was the first time they read the book from cover to cover. For me, the impact was stunning. During that time I saw two friends who had left the Church for various reasons, return and both are not in full fellowship and finding joy in their testimonies once again. After each session of reading, during my prayers, I would ask the Lord to help my friends remember the peace that comes to the faithful.

Certainly others were praying for these people as well, so I can't take all the credit... I really can't take any of the credit. That belongs to my two friends and to God. Still, I think there is a thin thread of a connection.

The one mentionable miracle in my personal life that came from our reading of the Book of Mormon was the closeness I felt to my wife as we read together. I would not have believed I could love her more than I had before our reading. Sharing the scriptures with her, however, made our spirits connect is a way that doesn't generally occur outside of the Celestial Room.

Real men in Christ read the scriptures regularly.

This list could go on and on and should include things like:

Real men in Christ pray always.
Real men in Christ pay a tithes and offerings.
Real men in Christ sustain their leaders.
Etc.

I want to take a different tack to conclude, however; because I want to suggest who those are who are most responsible for creating real men in Christ.

I want to honor women like Azubah, Lois and Eunice, the Ammonite mothers and our common mother, Eve.

I encourage you all to get to know the sons and grandsons of these women and then ask yourselves - you men and boys, that is - if it is possible to become a real man in Christ without having been reared by a mother in Zion.

Of Timothy's mother and grandmother, Paul wrote: "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands." (2 Timothy 1:5-6)

May all mothers have faith dwell within them so all men might learn to be real men in Christ.

 

Comments (1)

4/20/07

Come Unto Christ and Be Healed

The Healing Master

Near the end of Christ’s first ministerial tour on the Galilean area, after He had healed the madman in the synagogue and Peter’s mother-in-law of her fever, the Lord and his apostles boarded a ship and sailed from Capernaum, southeast to a place called Gennesaret or as Gaderes by Mark, in the mostly gentile region of Decapolis – meaning “The Ten Towns”. It was on this voyage that the Lord calmed the raging tempest and chastised his friends for their lack of faith. On the shores of Gennesaret, He cast the legion of devilish spirits from the madman and into the herd of swine.

After witnessing or hearing of this miracle, the pagans of the area believed Jesus to be the commander of devils and begged Him to return whence He came. As Christ headed back to the ship, the man once possessed approached and asked the Savior if he could travel with the group. The Lord, however, had another mission for this man who had been for so long tormented. He commanded that the man return to the cities and publish the truth of the miracle wrought by the Son of God. The scriptures describe the results of that mission call:

“And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all [men] did marvel.” (Mark 5:20)

This story is a great example of how one person, motivated by the spirit, can do great things to build the kingdom of heaven on earth, but it is only a preface to the text that will be the foundation of this sermon.

Upon returning to Capernaum, the Lord was immediately greeted by a Pharisee known as Jairus who fell at the Savior’s feet and begged him to heal his daughter who lay, by appearances, dead.

Christ responded by immediately walking with Jairus toward his home accompanied by a large group of people who “thronged” the Lord, or surrounded him closely, as he walked. During this journey a woman who had suffered for 12 years with an issue of blood, saw an opportunity.

She had consulted physicians who gladly took everything she had for payment while doing nothing to solve her problem. Having heard of Jesus and His miracles, the woman pressed forward and fought her way through the crowd where she touched the hem of Christ’s robe because she had sensed that by doing nothing more, she would be healed. She made the contact and she was healed. She might have simply slipped back out of the group and thanked God privately for the wonderful blessing had not the Lord turned and asked “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30)

The apostles were a little perplexed by the questions. They said, in effect, “Lord, don’t you see this huge mob of people all around you? They are all touching your clothes!” The Savior then turned and looked directly at the woman. Thinking she was in trouble and afraid, she gathered the courage to come before Him, kneel before Him and confess that she was the guilty party and why she had done it.

The Lord then taught a profound lesson. He told her that is was her faith in Him that had healed her. Not His infinite power, not the priesthood. Not even the Father, but the simple faith of a troubled woman. He then told her, in Mark’s version of the incident, to go in peace and remain whole of her plague.

This incident was also noted by both Matthew and Luke, but only Mark indicates that she was both immediately relieved of the malady because of her faith and then followed that faith healing by a permanent blessing of health by His power and priesthood.

Today I want to focus less on the miracles and more something I think might be missed by some as it was by me for years. And that is the proximity of those recipients of the miracles to the Lord.

The Gerasene demoniac was healed only after he came near the Savior, Jairus fell at the Lord’s feet and the woman made her way near enough to His that she could touch His clothes.

Too often, I think, we make the mistake of believing that faith is a feeling or even an emotion when, in fact, faith in Christ is a driving force of energy designed to not only bless the faithful but also the faithless.

The gentiles of Gennesaret who marveled at the story told by the man freed from the demons – a man they had known and cast out from their midst to living in the rocks near the shore of the sea – were blessed by the faith of one man who, even when overcome by legions of demons, ran to worship the Lord and then obediently did His bidding to return to his people and tell the miraculous story.

Can there be any doubt that the woman healed after touching the hem of the Lord’s garment, while reluctant to face Him, would have broadcast her miracle to all who would listen?

Immediately after the woman was healed and sent on her way, a servant of Jairus came and informed him that his daughter had died and that there was no longer any need to trouble the Master.

How often have many of us, during the dark times when we have lost hope, determine that there is no longer any need to trouble the Master because we are too far gone, too dead to the things of God? Worse yet, how many times have we made that judgment aloud or in our hearts about others who wander on crooked paths?

But Jairus remained at the side of Christ to hear the comforting words “Be not afraid, only believe.” (Mark 5:36)

Our Savior and our Father are both keenly aware of our human tendency toward fear and they are just as aware of how quickly simple faith can remove the fear. It is also our proximity to the Savior that strengthens faith just as our faith weakens when we distance ourselves from Him.

To a nervous Israelite army, the Lord promised: “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he [it is] that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

It was that same people who, when they were disobedient, distanced themselves from Jehovah by that disobedience and found themselves without faith and without victory. General Achan’s army is a good example of what occurs when people distance themselves from the safe harbor of obedience and faith.

The Lord had commanded Joshua to send a force of three thousand men to take the city of Ai which, of itself, was unimportant militarily but combined with the gentile armies of Bethel, it was a serious threat to Israel.

What should have been an easy victory, however, turned into a devastating defeat of Israel and this because of the actions of one man who, seeing something he wanted, took, in a previous battle, spoils of great value but things which the Lord had forbidden the army to take.

Achan was confronted by Joshua and he was forced to confess his sin. He was punished – rather severely, I might add – and Joshua, following the direction of the Lord, headed a large force himself and took the city of Ai.

As occurred with those who had followed Achan in the first battle and were killed, we too are occasionally harmed by the actions of others, for we cannot enjoy the blessings of agency while avoiding the consequences. Even in those trying times, however, if we remain proximate with the Savior, we can find peace in faith and have no fear.

King Lamoni and his brother Anti-Nephi-Lehi and all their righteous subjects had determined they would honor a covenant they had made with God to refuse to raise their arms against their brethren and they buried their weapons deep in the earth knowing a force of non-believing Lamanites, who had been stirred up by apostate Nephites, was about to attack.

In the 24th chapter of Alma we read:

“Now when the people saw that they were coming against them they went out to meet them, and prostrated themselves before them to the earth, and began to call on the name of the Lord; and thus they were in this attitude when the Lamanites began to fall upon them, and began to slay them with the sword.

And thus without meeting any resistance, they did slay a thousand and five of them; and we know that they are blessed, for they have gone to dwell with their God.” (verses 21-22)

So, the scriptures are replete with examples of the relationship between faith and both the spiritual and physical proximity to Christ; and with rare exception, the one who makes the initial step that closes the gap between him or herself and Christ, is the seeking man, woman or child. In the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord instructs:

“And again, verily I say unto you, my friends, I leave these sayings with you to ponder in your hearts, with this commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall call upon me while I am near -- Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (D&C 88:62-63)

In this revelation referred to by Joseph Smith as the "Olive Leaf… plucked from the Tree of Paradise." (DHC 1:316), the Lord recognizes the fact that far too often we only call upon the Lord when we are in dire straits, distanced from Him by our own pride and human rebellions. Thus He commands us to call upon Him while He is near. He also instructs us in the process of bringing ourselves proximate with Him.

To come unto Christ and, as Moroni says, be perfected in Him, means to move in His direction, becoming more like Him, step by step. Delaying will not lessen the vast distance to be traveled. Procrastinating will not bring the emergence of new alternatives. All the anxiety and energy expended in milling about does not move us one inch forward on the path of discipleship. Unless we remove ourselves from what the prophet Joel described as the valley of decision, we cannot hope to move toward Christ and, in turn, hope for Him to move closer to us. We must choose either to resume or begin the journey and we must take the first step. I am convinced that the steps Christ takes in response, however, are not proportional to ours. I am convinced that He stands ready to run toward those who are doing no more than inching their way in His direction. He is eager to bridge the gap which, in all cases is one that can be narrowed by our faith and works but never bridged without the merciful grace of Christ through His infinite Atonement. When those Nephites who survived the devastation at the time of the crucifixion gathered themselves together and began to discuss Christ…just discuss the signs associated with His death! – Christ bridged the gap between time and space to succor them in person. I believe He can and will do the same for each of us. I know He has for me.

Last evening I was watching a news program in which several of the victims of the tragedy at Virginia Tech were profiled. I was moved to tears and then I began sobbing almost uncontrollably. I felt deep sorrow for the pain suffered by both the killer and his victims and the families that survived them all. I wondered what possibly could have happened to the young man that would have filled him with such vile hatred for everyone and I had no answers; but I did find comfort in the Savior’s invitation to come unto Him and to take His yoke. I also remembered His profound counsel to a suffering Joseph:

“…if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.” (D&C 122:7-9 – emphasis is mine)

What a promise! What a blessing!

I pray that we may all begin to move nearer and nearer the Savior and that, as we do, we move nearer and nearer each other that together we might have God with is forever and ever.

 
2/26/07

Miracles

 
 

This morning I read the blog of a good friend and was inspired to record some of my thoughts today, on the subject of miracles.

Christ would often refer to the sinners of the world as needing a physician. He would refer to Himself as that healer. I am sure His working of healing miracles among those who suffered mortal infirmaties was one way He taught us about the healing power of the Atonement. Nowhere in scripture is this better demonstrated than in the account found in the second chapter of Mark...

"AND again he entered into Capernaum after [some] days; and it was noised that he was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive [them], no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken [it] up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." (Mark 2:1-5)

The Scribes who were witnesses to the event began to entertained angry and jealous thoughts which the Savior perceived and which He answered by testifying of His personal mission and really, to who He was:

"And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, [Thy] sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house." (Mark 2:8-11)

As this story was retold and reviewed yesterday, in Sunday School, I thought of several things but most poignantly, my heart was focused on the friends of the palsied man.

Their friend, perhaps even a family member, was sick. They had the faith necessary to bring him to the Savior to be healed and they refused to give up when faced with the crowds that were keeping them from getting near Him. I thought of the family I neglected to home teach last month.

Oh, there were several reasons why I didn't visit this family, but, as I read about these singular men who climbed on the roof with their friend in tow and tore a hole in it to lower their friend to the Savior's side, none of those reasons sounded all that good to me. I confessed my sin to the class and offered a silent prayer asking God's forgiveness for my lack of tenacity last month, which really was a lack of love for this family.

For most of the remainder of the day, yesterday, I thought about the miracles in my life.

I remembered when I was the palsied man, lowered to the feet of the Savior. I remember His healing touch as He commissioned me to repent of my sins. I remember the weight of the world being lifted from my shoulders at that moment.

I remember times before my journey adrift when I had witnessed the healing miracle of the gospel come into the lives of the most humble of mankind when I served a mission. I remembered how I felt when I was sealed to my wife forever and the dark sadness I suffered when I walked away from that miracle.

I remember feeling somewhat like Alma felt during his repentance ordeal on the day my blessings were restored and the sealing to my wife and children reestablished. My exquisite pain replaced by unspeakable joy.

Then, this morning, I read my friend's blog and remembered my joy as I witnessed his return home and thanked God for what small part I might have played.

There are few men more blessed with miracles than me. I have been forgiven by God and friends and family. I have made close friends who are great examples to me but who love me in spite of my flaws. Most of all, I have been blessed with a sense of the reality of Christ and His personal commitment to me. I love the words He uses as my advocate with the Father:

"Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life." (D&C 45:4-5)

Words cannot express my love nor my gratitude for my Advocate.

So, when the waves of life are boistrous and my faith wavers, it is comforting to know the Savior is there to keep me from drowning and that, more often than not, His lifeguards have names like Debra, Barney and Paul.

 
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