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Friday, August 5, 2016

Lectures on Faith 3, Part 1: Prepare to Hear God's Voice

Have you ever heard Christ's voice?

I'm not talking about the audible kind of hearing (although that's definitely one way to hear Him).

I'm talking about those times you heard His voice softly, gently resonate and vibrate in your heart and mind.

Maybe it was during a particular Fast and Testimony Meeting, or your mission, your marriage or the birth of a child. More than likely, it was probably as an answer to a prayer, when you sacrificed a broken heart and a contrite spirit on the altar of your life to Him, possibly punctuated with tears.

While it's true that you can find Him in the deepest, darkest moments of your life, that needn't always be the case:
"O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen." (Moroni 4:3; emphasis mine) 
"O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee, in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen." (Moroni 5:2)
How many times have you heard those prayers?

How often do you put them to the test?

Just how can you be willing to take upon yourself the name of the Son?

How do you "always remember him" and "keep his commandments which he hath given" you so can ALWAYS (my emphasis) "have his Spirit to be with" you?

Is it truly possible to ALWAYS have His spirit with you?

Is it truly possible to hear His voice even when you're not mired in the depths of despair?

YES.

Keep reading.

Before You Utter One Word


The path to clearly, undeniably hearing Christ's voice is rooted in some fundamental beliefs and behaviors (Note: I used the word "root" deliberately; for the deeper and wider these beliefs and actions are, the greater the clarity you will enjoy in your dialogues with Deity). Perhaps the highest priority is to take the Lord's words seriously:
"And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21
"If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15
"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." (John 14:21)
Re: John 14, who do you think Jesus was talking to? Ironically, he wasn't speaking to the Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees or the Chief Priests; instead, it was His Apostles and other disciples -- the very people who had been following him from village to village, listening to him teach and watching him heal the sick and open the eyes of the blind.

Note that He didn’t say "Those who follow the commands that suit their lifestyle love me." He didn’t say "Those who follow most of my commands love me." Nor did He say "Those who put man-made things at a higher priority than me love me" or "Those who follow the teachings of men, mingled with scripture, love me." No, not even close. If you truly love Christ, you could not live in direct opposition to a command that He has given you for your life. Instead, you would follow what He wants for your life.

The fact is, either He is Lord over all of your life, or He isn’t. Period.

The General Commandments


So, let's assume you are doing your level best to keep His commandments. You don't worship any other gods and don't take the Lord's name in vain. You keep the Sabbath Day holy and honor mom and dad. You haven't murdered, committed adultery or stolen anything. You don't bear false witness, nor do you covet.

But does that mean you've kept the commandments?

Nope. That's just the start. Let's dig a little deeper into your spirituality.

Go read the eight Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–12 (as well as 3 Nephi 12), which Christ gave during the Sermon on the Mount.

Are you "poor in spirit"?
Who or what do you "mourn" for?
Are you "meek"?
Do you "hunger and thirst for righteousness"?
Are you "merciful"?
Are you "pure in heart"?
Are you a "peacemaker"?
Are you "persecuted for righteousness sake"?

Just imagine being a person who sincerely, enthusiastically tries to be poor in spirit, mourning for others. One who is meek, merciful and pure in heart, who hungers and thirsts for righteousness and is a peacemaker. It's at these times when you truly have demonstrated a willingness to take upon yourself the name of the Son.

Now, God doesn't expect you to be perfect in these characteristics. Only one ever has been. But He does expect you to do your best, and when you fall short, you repent, you're forgiven, and you head back onto the playing field of life and attempt to move the ball further down the field. Repeat the repentance process when necessary.

The Two Oft-Neglected Commandments


Still, there are two commandments which are firmly within our grasp to fulfill, yet most constantly and consistently fail at them:

The Book of Mormon

The Lord has warned us to not trifle with sacred things (see D&C 6:12). Although the Book of Mormon is a sacred thing, many trifle with it. We take it lightly, and treat it as though it is of little importance.
"And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—" (D&C 84:54–57)
In October 1986, President Ezra Taft Benson reaffirmed this condemnation, which has never been rescinded.

So, how about you? Are you taking the Book of Mormon seriously? How? Is it enough to remove this condemnation from you? If so, have you asked God to remove it from you? Or do you think God would be thrilled to carry on a dialogue with you when you have neglected, and trifled, with this sacred thing which He has given you?

The Book of Isaiah

When Christ visited the Nephites, He said,
"And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.
For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles." (3 Nephi 23:1-2)
These verses were spoken by the Lord immediately after prophesying events which are extremely likely to be imminent in our lifetimes (see 3 Nephi 21 and 22)

To me the equation is simple: If you're alive, and consider yourself to be (or are) of the house of Israel and/or a Gentile, then you'd better start searching the words of Isaiah. And not just search them, but search them diligently!

So, how about you? Are you taking the Book of Isaiah seriously? How? Have you availed yourself of the many resources (here's one) to diligently study Isaiah -- quite possibly more resources than have ever existed in the history of history? Or do you think God would be thrilled to carry on a dialogue with you when you have neglected, and trifled, with this sacred thing which He has given you?

"Receive"


This post began with a discussion about hearing Christ's voice.

Christ has said that you have the capability to ALWAYS have His spirit, provided you are willing to take upon yourself His name, and always remember Him, and keep His commandments which He has given you.

Christ has given you a means whereby you can eliminate the condemnation which rests upon mankind for not taking the Book of Mormon seriously.

Christ has also said that you'd "ought to" diligently search the great words of Isaiah.

This post is one of many examining the three most basic, fundamental gifts of the Spirit which we can ask for and receive. The first of those three is faith. One of the best expositions ever written on faith is the Lectures on Faith. This post is the first of a series exploring Lecture 3, which concerns the characteristics of God.

In my book, there is one, and only one, way to effectively and satisfactorily understand and know the characteristics of God, and that's by experiential learning -- the process of learning through experience. Or, in other words, by personally experiencing God's characteristics.

And to do that, it makes sense that you can best demonstrate your seriousness to God by receiving what He's already given you so far.

"Hope"


If you feel you've failed all or part of what I've mentioned above, then welcome to the club. I fail at them every day -- and in some cases, spectacularly so. This post is as much for me as it is for you.

Yet still, I know -- firsthand -- how exuberant, how enthusiastic, Christ is to forgive us...even if we screw up again and again and again. He went through untold suffering and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane for you. And it would thrill Him to no end to see that all that pain and agony wasn't in vain and wasn't wasted.

Please. Please go to Him. Today. Tonight. Ask for His forgiveness. I can guarantee you that He will be thrilled to do so. In fact, because He overflows with mercy and charity, He may just forgive you of more things than you can recall.

That's just how He is.

Always.


Ask for His help in better obeying the commandments. Ask that He replace your pride with meekness and humility. Ask for His help in smashing down the barriers between you and Him. Ask Him to destroy the idols in your life. Ask Him to obliterate the teachings of men mingled with scripture which directly or indirectly influence you. Ask Him for opportunities to be charitable to others, and to have the discernment to recognize them. Then watch what He does, and how He does it. Be prepared to praise His name for the many, many miracles He will work in your life.

Then ask for His help in taking the Book of Mormon seriously, and diligently searching the Book of Isaiah. Don't do it superficially, either. No half-hearted attempts. Don't let Him hear you say or even think "Well, this other book is cool and was written by a fellow Mormon" or "Well, I'm on this forum for X hours a day helping people better understand the last days/spirituality." NO! FIRST seek to obtain His word! THEN shall your tongue be loosed! THEN, if you desire, you'll have His Spirit AND His word AND the power of God unto the convincing of men! (D&C 11:21)

Let your devotion to seeking His revealed words shine so brightly, that heaven has no choice but to reveal more to you.

“Why call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”

That the Lord may never, ever have need to say this to you, is my prayer, in the holy and sacred name of Yeshua -- His name, the root of which (yasha) is also the Hebrew word for deliverance, salvation, rescue and safety. Amen.

8 comments:

  1. Perfect timing. I do Love Isaiah but I also admit I have very recently been admonished to foster a new seriousness for the study of the Book of Mormon. So everything you have written is a powerful second witness, including the use of his actual/untranslated name. My heart was so happy to see you write about that too.
    Blessings to you

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  2. Wow, thanks for the Isaiah resource. It's just what I needed.

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  3. You have been such a source of light to me. Thanks for all the effort you put forth to share the gospel in this blog. I appreciate your words more than I can vocalize. Keep light and truth coming! God has certainly inpired you to share these words. Looking forward to more!

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  4. WOW!! This post is exactly what I have felt prompted to do also!! Thank you for strengthening that!! I read the scripture in the D&C on the Book of Mormon and in the Book of Mormon on Isaiah, and knew we must show the Lord that we will not take this amazing book for granted and be under condemnation, and when our Savior commands us to diligently search Isaiah, 'for great are the words of Isaiah", it is more than past time to do that!! It has been amazing!! I am reading the Book of Mormon and keeping a scripture journal on what from each chapter applies to our day, after prayer and asking the Lord. And slowly, very slowly going through Isaiah. I am using an excellent resource, "Isaiah Prophet, Seer, and Poet" by Victor Ludlow and also the one you suggested and the "Jewish Study Bible TANAKH Translation". I was wondering what you think of those resources. Thank you again!! There are many sealed parts of the scriptures that are sealed because of unbelief. Just imagine what our Father and Savior want to bless us with!!

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    Replies
    1. su,

      Thanks so much for your kind words. Yes, it floors me how much people neglect Isaiah even though the Lord has done everything but beat us over the heads with 2x4s to get us to read it.

      Scripture journal idea is fantastic!

      I haven't read the TANAKH Translation, but it's my understanding that is was produced by a committee of biblical scholars and orthodox, conservative and reform rabbis. I kind of tend to shy away from any scripture interpreted and/or written by a committee (that's one reason why the King James Bible is so confused and distorted). Also, it was published without the light of the Book of Mormon and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ -- a definite handicap in my book.

      I appreciate Victor Ludlow's book and felt he wrote it with the best of intentions. It explores Isaiah through the lenses of modern-day orthodox LDS thought. However, in my humble opinion, when researching Isaiah, you must do so with no "color in your lenses" whatsoever.

      Feel free to message me privately for some other resources you might want to check out.

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    2. About the same time I started studying Isaiah with newfound seriousness (with lots of help from the resource you mentioned, in fact), I sat through a sunday school lesson and couldn't help but shake my head. We spent the whole meeting reading scriptures from the Book of Mormon about how important it is for us to study Isaiah - but never once did we actually study Isaiah.

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    3. Joshua,

      Yep, you've got me shaking my head, too. Sadly, I've got to admit that lessons such as that are pretty typical. It kind of reminds me of the cartoon where the guy tells his doctor that he took the first step of his new diet -- he drove by the gym. Nice intentions, but we can do better.

      Luckily, Joshua, you have a far better teacher. And even more ironic: he has the same name as you do. I know Him. I know Him well. And he will teach you so simply, yet beautifully, that it will leave you shaking your head again -- this time, because he has left you so utterly and completely astounded at his depth of caring...for you.

      Keep crushing it, my man. Let the failures you see (and there will be many!) just serve to motivate you, while letting Isaiah (and he was a real guy) prepare you for greater things.

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  5. Consider isaiahexplained.com ... Ours got both written and audio resources. Avram Gileadi doors a great job of bring a clear understanding.

    Chris

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