Gratitude is Seeing the Miracle in Every Moment.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A New Book Club- Isaiah

The underlying purpose of a book club is to share with the group the things a reader found interesting or enlightening and from there adding personal wisdom or opinions which coincide with the passages found in the book's pages. Thus it shall be with the discussions on Isaiah in this blog entry.

The beginning of Isaiah's writings seem to premise the last days as well as the days in which he then lived. He tells of Israel's apostasy away from the true gospel and teachings of God, and often writes in parables to better express the emotions and views he desired to convey.

At the time of the beginning of Isaiah's writings, the people of Israel were in an extremely wicked and rebellious state. He tells of the Lord's despair at the falling away of His children from him, "I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's stall: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. 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." (Isaiah 1:2-4) Thinking of how much the Lord grieves when we fall from Him, it is a wonder why people would not be more diligent in being close to a Father who has provided, loved and given so much.

Yet still, being imperfect beings compared to God, He still supplies a more than adequate remedy for the scars of mortal imperfections. He says, "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, give a just verdict to the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be a scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." (Isaiah 1:16-20) Pretty black and white here.

Throughout the next few chapters, Isaiah continues to recount the eminent destruction of Israel should her people continue on in sin and wickedness. But a wonderful chapter to read is when Isaiah sees the Lord, in chapter 6, where again, it all comes down to the healing and cleansing powers of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in the lives of every individual that saves that soul in the eternities.

The question I pose is this: What determines the type of experience we will have when we do see him? Here stood a prophet of God, a man who one would think close to perfection, and yet he cries in agony because of unworthiness to stand in the presence of His maker. Interesting concept. Some people think that were they to stand before the God of Heaven and Earth, they would run to him in full carefree abandon and joy. Yet being the imperfect creatures mortal men and women are, would we really react in such a way? One would like to hope for such a reunion, but it is my personal opinion, that we would react similarly to how Isaiah did. He cried:

"Woe is me! For I am undone (this is Hebrew origin for saying cut off; i.e., he was overwhelmed by his consciousness of the sins of himself and his people.); because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."(Isaiah 6:5)

What is our status with the the Lord in our worthiness to see him as Isaiah and many others have? Will we actually run to him in carefree abandon as we imagine? Or will we shrink in shameful agony for our unworthiness to be in his presence?

Being the prophet he was in his greatness, Isaiah then offers a wonderful visual of how the Atonement can and does work in an individual life. He gives a beautifully depicted account in parable form of a cleansing offered only by a loving Father in Heaven through his Son, Jesus Christ. He recounts how an angel took a "live coal" from the altar of the temple and laid it upon his mouth, and said, "Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin is purged." (Isaiah 6:7)

Breaking this parable down there are a couple of things to consider... first, what entails a "live coal". We could view this as a coal that has been lit by fire, and not only lit, but vividly burning. What happens to coal when it burns in extremely hot temperatures for a long time? It turns white. So, now we can picture an angel taking this scathingly hot, white coal from off the altar and placing it in Isaiah's mouth. My first impression is OUCH!!!!

How does this apply to us? What is the underlying message or lesson to be learned? One might be: For we as sinners and imperfect children it would be awful to stand spotted and unclean in the presence of He who has no such blemishes on his person or countenance. Our souls would be in great anguish being brought before him, having a knowledge of our unworthiness to be with a perfect God. We would beg for a way out.

Because He loves us, there is a way out. Its painful.... much like a burning coal in our mouths would be but in a spiritual sense. But our sins, our faults, our imperfections, impurities, our unworthiness can be seared and cleansed and purged through the pure whiteness of the Lamb of God. His perfection in all things including love and forgiveness and taking upon us the infirmities of this sinful life is the only way we can find peace in his presense. Are we willing to take the temporary pain, enabling us to experience eternal joy and freedom from sin and filth? Will we allow Him to heal us, though painful now, painless in the life to come? May we contemplate the eternal value o f this lesson taught so artfully by the ancient prophet Isaiah in our individual process to come unto him.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Conversation with God

Everyone has at least one day where they want to stop and ask God if certain unfortunate things were really necessary to make their day regrettable and unpleasant. Today was one such day. Then I had a friend send me the following as a conversation between them and God:

Me: God? Can I ask you a question?
God: Sure.
Me: Promise you won't get mad...
God: Promise.
Me: Why did you let so much bad stuff happen to me today?
God: What do you mean?
Me: Well, I woke up late.
God: Yes.
Me: My car took forever to start.
God: Okay.
Me: At lunch they made my sandwhich wrong and I had to wait.
God: Hmmmmm
Me: On the way home, my phone went dead, just as I picked up a call.
God: All right.
Me: And on top of it all, when I got home I wanted to play my XBox, but it wouldn't work!! Nothing went right today! Why did you do that?
God: Let me see.... the angel of death was at your bed this morning and I had to send one of my angels to battle him for your life. I let you sleep through that.
Me: (humbled) Oh.
God: I didn't let your car start because there was a drunk driver on your route that would have hit you if you were on the road.
Me: (ashamed)
God: The first person who made your sandwhich was sick, and I didn't want you to catch what they have, I knew you couldn't afford to miss work.
Me: (embarrassed) Okay.
God: Your phone went dead because the person who was calling was going to give false witness about what you said on that call, so I didn't even let you talk to them so you would be covered.
Me: (softly) I see, God.
God: Oh, and the XBox, it had a shortage that was going to throw out all of the power in your house tonight. I didn't think you wanted to be in the dark.
Me: I'm sorry God.
God: Don't be sorry, just learn to trust me... in all the things; the good and the bad.
Me: I will trust you.
God: And don't doubt that my plan for you is always better than your plan.
Me: I won't God. And let me just tell you God, thank you for everything today.
God: You're welcome child. It was just another day being your God and I love looking after my children.

Obviously not everything is set up this way by God, but he ultimately does know best. And this little conversation is a helpful reminder to have us look at our situations differently; remembering something worse could be or could have happened to us, but God will watch over us always.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A New Book Club

There are faithful gatherings of men and women the world over who come together to read and discuss the wonders, enchantments, and knowledge found within the pages of the magic one refers to as a book. Books about vampires, romance, danger and strong opinions; books that would take over a millenia to find, read, and discuss. The possibilities are intensifyingly endless. With such endless years of knowledge and entertainment right at the world's fingertips it isn't surprising, that the masterpieces of written works often go un-mentioned or unread in comparison to the amateur modern works of the day.

The masterpieces worth referring to over anything else do not fall within the talents of great men and women like Aristotle, Mark Twain, or Charlotte Bronte; but rather reside with overlooked but far greater men and women of a divine nature; although possibly unlearned and untrained in the art of forming words, masters at the art of expressing truth and lessons of life in every passage.

Where else can the world find a greater analogy of how to obtain and cultivate faith than in the word of Alma living in ancient America nearly 100 B.C.? Or can it be possible to understand at any greater measure the glory of the creation of this world than by reviewing the first hand experience of the man who saw it all, even the great Moses of old? Might the world be better prepared if they dedicated themselves to studying the parables of Christ recorded by his apostles or the revelation of John the Beloved?

Having been a member of a book club for one, this enthusiastic seeker of knowledge is now initiating a weekly book-club discussion of the standard works, and will be inviting all to participate in such discussions, here online. It is my hope that we will all be able to come together, though miles apart, and further bond our relationships in strength as we read, ponder and share what we read with one another.

Seeing as "The Good Book" has a number of "sub-books" nestled within its pages and thousands of years worth of history is recorded in the first half of the Old Testament, if one hasn't reviewed the comprehensive writings of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy), or the nation of Israel's history under the leadership of Joshua, spanning to that of Hezekiah, then the words written by Isaiah will seem a bit daunting, but it is nevertheless where we will begin the book club. Feel free to catch up on your own time.

Up to this point, much has transpired. Moses has recounted the creation of the earth, moon and stars, and all that inhabits therein by God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ. His first self-written account entitled, "Genesis", meaning origin or beginning covers a period of roughly 2,500 years. It tells of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the beginnings of their posterity, starting with Cain and Abel.

Moses tells of the great flood because of man's great wickedness; the righteousness of Noah, his family and their righteousness and the re-establishment of the earth and its inhabitants. He includes an account of the Tower of Babel and the generations of Noah's son Shem which include Abraham.

All histories and lessons taught by God to man from the great high priest, Melchizedek, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Rachel and Leah and the formation of the 12 tribes of Israel from his lineage. The true stories of Joseph, Jacob and Rachel's son, and his being sold into Egypt.

The second book of Moses called "Exodus", meaning departure, recounts the children of Israel and their eventual captivity and slavery in Egypt and their being rescued from such by the power of God through his servant Moses; their wanderings in the wilderness and eventual arrival in the land of promise; the Ten Commandments, and the building of the Lord's Tabernacle.

The third book of Moses called "Leviticus", describes the priestly and religious life expected of the tribe of Levi, or the religious leaders of the time.

The fourth book of Moses, "Numbers", reviews the census and events of the children of Israel up to this point. This can be a bit newsy and leave a reader a bit on the drowsy side, but rest assured, the people were only setting a standard to hold when it came to having all things in order and keeping track of the Sheep of the Lord's fold.

The fifth book of Moses called "Deuteronomy", can be referred to as a repetition of the law. This can be viewed as a summary of Moses' writings from Genesis to this point. He graciously gives a recap of all that has befallen Israel during their forty years in the wilderness.

From the writings of Moses to the writings of Isaiah, a detailed history is also given; filled with knowledge and valuable lessons, too many to recount here. Instead, I feel much as Nephi of ancient America when he said, "Yea, and my soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah..." and his people were later taught by Christ Himself that "great are the words of Isaiah". And thus it is, that Isaiah is where this new book club will begin on a weekly basis. Discussing and reviewing the words of this great prophet, then proceeding on until the completion of The Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price.

For those of you who will be joining, I bid you welcome, and invite you to bring your thoughts and comments to this spiritual feast that has been prepared for us.