Monday, October 24, 2011

New Testament Lesson #43 "A Chosen Generation"

1 and 2 Peter; Jude

A ROYAL GENERATION

In the beloved children's book, A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the principal character, Sara Crewe, is the rich, pampered, only child of her adoring father, left at a boarding school when he goes abroad.  She is the favorite of the director, Miss Minchin, and receives special treatment, although she notices Miss Minchin does not treat all the children fairly.  When news arrives that she is now orphaned and penniless, Miss Minchin takes away all her privileges, abuses her, and relegates to her the position of a slave. 

But Sara, whether she is rich and favored or destitute and despised, teaches the others, even the servant child, that every girl is a princess.  "I am a princess," she says. "All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren't pretty, or smart, or young. They're still princesses. All of us." 

She behaves as a princess herself--not a princess who expects to be waited upon, but a princess who knows she is of value, and who serves others with kindness.  "'Whatever comes,' she said, 'cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.'"


Our then-3-year-old daughter Camille
wore this hot pink tiara every day for months.


Write "Royalty in Any Situation" on the board.

In earthly terms, what makes a prince or princess?  Inheritance. 

Write "Through the Merits of Our Father" on the board.

We also are royalty, through the merits of our Fathers:  God the Father, and Jesus Christ.  But, as in the story of Sara Crewe, that doesn't mean we get a trouble-free life of luxury.  Often our royalty is disguised behind trials, problems, weaknesses, mistreatment.  Like Sara Crewe, however, we must learn to act as royalty no matter what happens to us or how we are treated.

ANY SITUATION

"Simon Peter...was the chief apostle and equivalent of the prophet-president of the Church of Jesus Christ, though he is never called that in the New Testament...The Prophet Joseph Smith said of his predecessor, 'Peter penned the most sublime language of any of the apostles' (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 301)" (D. Kelly Ogden & Andrew C. Skinner, New Testament Apostles Testify of Christ, p. 277). 

There is a great deal of divine doctrine in the two small epistles of Peter; unfortunately, we will only touch upon part of it here.

The first letter of Peter's was written from Rome before the persecutions intensified there.  It is centered on how saints might endure trials and suffering, a warning and preparation for the tough times ahead.  "[Peter] was a man who had grown perfect through his own trials, suffering, and experiences.  Tradition has it that Peter and Paul were both executed in Rome at a time of intense persecution and paranoia in Rome owing to Nero" (Ogden/Skinner, p. 277).  (See also the Bible Dictionary.)

"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your [conduct] honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation...

"For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.  For what glory is it, if when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?  but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God" (1 Peter 2:11-12, 19-20).

Being called upon to suffer when we haven't done wrong is so unfair!  But it is following in the footsteps of Christ.  How else can we learn to act as royalty in any situation?

"For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously; who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.  For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls" (1 Peter 2:21-25).

"Jesus is our exemplar in all things.  His crown of thorns came first and then his crown of glory" (Ogden/Skinner, p. 278).


"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12-13).

As we learned in the lesson on Hebrews, the blessings God gives us are not always want we want and do not always come easily, but they always exceed our greatest imagining.  Eventually.

The great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, fell in love with an American divorcee, Joy Gresham, just as she was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer.  They were married anyway in her hospital room in March of 1957, the ceremony being performed by the Reverend Peter Bide.  She lived just three years more.  Before she died, Lewis wrote in a letter to Father Bide, "We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us: we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be" (C.S. Lewis, in a letter to Father Peter Bide, April 29, 1959, quoted in The C.S. Lewis Bible, p. 1406).

As Elder Boyd K. Packer said, "Life will teach us some things we didn't want to know" (Boyd K. Packer, 1999 BYU Education Week Devotional).

"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour...But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you" (1 Peter 5:6-10).


HOW TO BE ROYAL IN ANY SITUATION

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a [purchased, preserved] people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

"Deep down all of us know our mortal limitations.  We know we aren't wonderful--our enormous, eternal potential notwithstanding.  Inadequacy is the human condition, and unless we tap into the adequacy of our Father in Heaven, we live in a somewhat fearful state: fearful that our inadequcy will cause us to fail and will stand in the way of our being loved and valued.  Society, trying to rid us of that fear, tells us that we must feel adequate in ourselves...The belief that we must have self-esteem exacerbates the very problem it's supposed to combat: our search for self-esteem is a depressant, an anxiety producer, and a dreadful pressure" (Ester Rasband, Confronting the Myth of Self-Esteem, p. 1-2).

"There comes a still, small voice telling us that there is something we must do to relieve that anxiety.  Because we do not have a clear identification of our need, we think that we must do something to shore up our image of ourselves...That golden grain of divine discontent is not telling us that we must do something so that we can feel great about ourselves...It is there to remind us that we must do something to show our humility to our Father in Heaven, so that we can feel great about him" (Rasband, p. 17).

"You might ask...'But isn't some self-esteem necessary to achieve, to accomplish things?  Isn't self-esteem the means?' 'Not self-esteem,' I answer.  'Just love.  Love brings peace, and peace leads to confidence" (Rasband, p. 2).

"The real need of our heart is to be close to our Father in Heaven" (Rasband, p. 18).

Nephi, of all people, should have had a great self-esteem.  His father continually and publicly praised him for his righteousness, he had built a ship entirely by revelation from God which had carried his whole family safely across a huge ocean, he had a group of people calling themselves by his name--he was the prophet, for crying out loud!  And yet, it wasn't enough.  It is never enough.

"Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am!  Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.  I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.  And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins;

"Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.  My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.  He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh" (2 Nephi 4:17-21)



"That which we call self-esteem is a high-maintenance condition, and therefore a barrier to peace...

"All of us are familiar with stories of movie stars and other celebrities who outlive their spot in the public eye and turn to alcoholism or other forms of private agony.  Whatever good feelings they had about themselves...It left them with greater  needs than they would have had had they never achieved such self-gratification" (Rasband, p. 32-33). 

"For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.  The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away; but the word of the Lord endureth for ever..." (1 Peter 1:24-25).  "With the heavy rains of wintertime, grass can flourish and even spread over the barren wilderness [of the Holy Land], but it is gone with a wisp of the transitional khamsin (an Arabic word for a devastating east wind).  The blades are vivacious and vigorous one day--and vanished the next" (Ogden/Skinner, p. 279).  So it is with earthly honor and happiness.

But despite our inadequacies and the transitory nature of our existence, "we can have peace...It comes through identifying that the need of our heart is grace, and that grace comes when the motivation for our unmeasured doing is founded in love" (Rasband, p. 30).

PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE


"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust [in other words, having repented].  And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.  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" (2 Peter 1:4-8).  (Remember that "knowledge" in the Bible implies an intimate relationship, not just a theoretical understanding.)  This divine nature is not something we do or develop ourselves--we are "partakers:" we get it from elsewhere, we get it from our Fathers.

Write "divine nature" in parentheses underneath "royalty" on the board.  Then add the list:  1) faith, 2) diligence, 3) virtue, 4) knowledge, 5) temperance, 6) patience, 7) godliness, 8) brotherly kindness, 9) charity. 

Sister Camille Fronk Olson gave an excellent talk at a BYU Women's Conference on Peter's admonition to partake of the divine nature in which she illustrated how it could be viewed as steps along a pathway to perfection.  (I highly recommend listening to this 30-minute talk, which you can do by clicking on this
link, although I have given an outline here.  Unless otherwise noted, all of the following quotes in blue come from this talk.)


The first epistle of Peter warned the saints of trials to come, and instructed them in how to endure. "Therefore, recipients of [Peter's] second epistle would have been well-acquainted with trials of their faith and, having withstood the attacks, would have developed a steadfast trust in Christ."

"With faith as a foundation and diligence as our sustaining effort, divine attributes will gradually develop.  Peter taught that, 'while giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue.'  Virtue is the natural fruit of faith and diligence."  Virtue is the opposite of "the new apostacy" A. Lynn Scoresby identified.  (See a previous post.)  It is the opposite of hypocrisy.  It is knowing the truth and living it. 

"Virtue produces pure motives which, in turn, educate our actions...

"A remarkable phenomenon occurs when we make following Christ a natural part of life.  We begin to understand and make connections with gospel principles that previously seemed unrelated.  Paul identified knowledge as the addition to virtue.  When we sincerely obey the Lord, our knowledge about him and his doctrine deepens exponentially."

The next aspect of the divine nature is temperance:  self-control, the proper management of temporal things such as our time, our physical bodies, our appetites, our finances.  "When temperance is born of faith, virtue, and gospel knowledge, our ability to keep the first commandment preeminent is bolstered and enlivened...President Ezra Taft Benson taught, 'When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.  Our love of the Lord will govern our claims of affection, the demands of our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.'"

Temperance helps us develop patience.  True patience runs much deeper than gritting our teeth or counting to ten while we wait for a problem to pass.  With godly patience, "we forget about checking our preconceived agenda for life while losing ourselves in helping others progress along the trail.  This patient response grows out of a willingness to have patience first with God...We don't know all that he has in store for us, but we are at peace knowing that it will be vastly superior to our myopically designed plan.  Such patience ripens into eternal perspective."

"We do not recognize others with divine natures by their outward appearance, but by how we feel when we are around them...The Greek word for 'godliness' suggests 'reverence' as a related term."  The godly value holy things; temple worship and sacrament service are significant to them.  They respect others and desire to forgive, seeing the royalty that is in them, just as Sara Crewe saw a princess in her fellow slave girl.

At this point, we can develop brotherly kindness.  The needs of others become apparent to us, and we desire to meet them.  We follow promptings of the Spirit to bless others without a second thought."The progression from brotherly kindness to charity is not a giant leap...[But] Peter teaches us that we cannot simply jump to charity.  Charity is given only after we receive the perfecting influence from all the other virtues...Paul taught that without charity any of the other attributes can become self-serving or self-lauditory, 'as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.'  With God's gift of charity, the Lord stretches, strengthens and solidifies all the other virtues he has given to us."

"And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves:for charity preventeth a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8 JST)

"The Christian paradox is true.  Only when we lose ourselves will we find ourselves."  (Rasband, p. 37). "When we partake of the divine nature, our trust in the Lord becomes unshakeable.  We find no reason to question him, but only ways to better serve him" (Olson).  When we humble ourselves and give our whole selves to Christ, drawing his divine nature to ourselves amidst our trials, we will find that we are indeed royalty, through the merits of our Father. 

CONCLUSION

"Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God" (D&C 121:45).  We do not have to be great to be confident of success in our mortal probation; we just have to be "in the presence of God," relying on his merits, living by the Spirit, driven by charity.
We can be like the prophets of old, having peace and confidence despite our trials (and often because of them) if we strive to develop the divine nature in ourselves.

Here is a link to a really sweet and simple song written and sung by an 8-year-old girl who obviously has "confidence strong in the presence of God."  Despite of (or because of) the trial of losing her mother to death, she shows the depth of her relationship with God:  "I Thank God."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

New Testament Lesson #42 "Pure Religion"

James

INTRODUCTION

In Northern Utah, five minutes from my house, there is a beautiful canyon, Logan Canyon, and right along the road that goes through Logan Canyon there is a huge spring coming out of a cave.


Ricks Spring

In 1899, Brigham Young asked the Cache Valley saints to build a road through Logan Canyon to the Bear Lake Valley.  Thomas E. Ricks was the leader of that group, and the canyon road was built to what became known as Ricks Spring that first winter.  From its earliest discovery, Ricks Spring was very popular.  It was a great place for canyon travelers to stop and stretch and enjoy the cool air and icy water that came from the cave.  Everyone drank from the spring and people often took home jugs or bottles of the clear, cold water.  A rock and cement drinking fountain was installed next to the cave, fed by the spring water through pipes for those who didn't bring cups with them.

In the 1950s, hydrologists noticed that there seemed to be some connection between the water level at Ricks Spring and the Logan River, which winds through Logan Canyon and is filled with fish, beavers, ducks, geese, muskrats, deer and moose. 


Logan River in Logan Canyon

But it wasn't until 1972, when the Logan River froze in an unusually cold winter, water backed up above the ice, and Ricks Spring began to flow earlier than usual that the terrible discovery was made, confirmed by dye testing:  the water in Ricks Spring came from the Logan River across the road, from Tony Grove Lake a few miles away, and even from a livestock camp higher up the mountain. 

It was actually filthy water.  That would explain the digestive distress people sometimes got after a trip through the canyon.  Although there are many clear, clean springs in the Bear River Mountain range, Ricks "Spring" is not one of them.

Just for fun, you could bring a bottle of water labeled as Ricks Spring Water and ask if anyone in class wants to drink it.  Point out that it looks okay to you...

The apostle James lived in the Jordan Valley, an area with similar water purity challenges.  Being a seismic region, it contained both fresh water springs and mineral springs.  Great effort had to be taken to keep them separate and preserve clean drinking water.  (See Ogden & Skinner, New Testament Apostles Testify of Christ, p. 269).

The Jordan River

PURE WATER
"Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?  Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries?  either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.  Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation [better translation: "conduct" or "way of life"] his works with meekness of wisdom" (James 3:11-13).

Christ is the Living Water.  He teaches the ways to life and spiritual health.  His truth comes straight from the heavens as clear, clean rain or snow, (revelation, including personal revelation) or has sunk and been stored deep in the earth where all contaminants have been filtered out (scripture).

"But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not and lie not against the truth.  [Thinking yourself righteous (glorying) is a lie if you carry envy or strife.]  This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.  For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work."  (James 3:14-16).

Satan feeds us poison water that appears to be pure.  He hides the truth that his "wisdom" has come up through the ground from murky river water, fields of cowpies, and lakes full of algae and tadpoles, and is therefore filled with pollutants and disease.

"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace" (James 3:17-18).

"The wisdom that is from above" is pure religion, and is actually the topic of the entire epistle of James.

THE EPISTLE OF JAMES

The Epistle of James is one of the earliest writings in the New Testament and was written to Church members in general.  James was the half-brother of Jesus, known by the Hebrew name Jacob (James is the Greek form), and was converted after the resurrection, possibly at the ascension of his Brother into heaven.  He was probably an Apostle, was the leader of the Church in Jerusalem, and was stoned to death by the Sanhedrin in A.D. 62, about 15 years after this epistle was written.  (See Ogden and Skinner, p. 264).

Because of its emphasis on the importance of works, this epistle presents problems for those who believe that grace alone saves--Martin Luther, for example.  But the Epistle of James is a wonderful pure source of the Living Water of Christ:  A book of practical religion.

DIGGING FOR PURE WATER

Assign a chapter to each person or group in the class, to dig out some principle of pure religion.  Give each a piece of paper and a marker to write the principle on, or if it is a small class, give each a large Post-It note.  Ask them also to identify a present-day example of the principle.  As they share their ideas, you can post their papers on the board and give additional information from the comments below. 

Be sure to refer to the many JST footnotes.

Chapter One

1:2-4  "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [trials]; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."

"No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted.  It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility.  All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God" (Orson F. Whitney, quoted in Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 98).

1:5  "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him."

"This single verse of scripture has had a greater impact and more far-reaching effect upon mankind than any other single sentence ever recorded by any prophet in any age" (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:246-247).

1:27  "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the vices of the world."

Here is a simple definition of religion:  1) to serve others, and 2) to purify ourselves.  All of our righteous aims in life can be contained in these two categories. 

Why the "fatherless and widows" specifically?  They symbolize those from whom we can expect no return favor.

And how does religion purify us?  C.S. Lewis explains:  "People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, 'If you keep a lot of rules I'll reward you, and if you don't I'll do the other thing.' I do not think that is the best way of looking at it.  I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before.  And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself.  To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power.  To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness.  Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other" (C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity, quoted in The C.S. Lewis Bible, p. 1398).

Chapter 2

2:16 JST  "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth your faith profit him?"

"I am often, I believe, praying for others when I should be doing things for them.  It's so much easier to pray for a bore than to go and see him" (C.S. Lewis, from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, quoted in The C.S. Lewis Bible, p. 1397).

2:14-24  "What profit is it, my brethren, for a man to say he hath faith, and hath not works? can faith save him?  Yea, a man may say, I will show thee I have faith without works; but I say, Show me thy faith without works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.  For if a brother or sister be naked...(see above)...Even so faith, if it have not works is dead, being alone.  Therefore wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead and cannot save you?  Thou believest there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believer, and tremble; thou hast made thyself like unto them, not being justified.  Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?  Seest thou how works wrought with his faith, and by works was faith made perfect?"

"Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ.  I have no right really to speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary.  A serious moral effort is the only thing that will bring you to the point where you throw up the sponge [Americans might say "throw in the towel"].  Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair at that point: and out of that Faith in Him good actions must inevitably come" (C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity, quoted in The C.S. Lewis Bible, p. 1396).

Chapter 3

3:2-10  "For in many things we offend all.  If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able to bridle the whole body.  Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.  Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, withersoever the governor listeth.

"Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.  Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth?  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

"For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind; but the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not so to be."

"The Prophet Joseph Smith deepened our understanding of the power of speech when he taught, 'It is by words … [that] every being works when he works by faith. God said, ‘Let there be light: and there was light.’ Joshua spake, and the great lights which God had created stood still. Elijah commanded, and the heavens were stayed for the space of three years and six months, so that it did not rain. … All this was done by faith. … Faith, then, works by words; and with [words] its mightiest works have been, and will be, performed... 

"The voice that bears profound testimony, utters fervent prayer, and sings the hymns of Zion can be the same voice that berates and criticizes, embarrasses and demeans, inflicts pain and destroys the spirit of oneself and of others in the process. 'Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing,' James grieves. 'My brethren [and sisters], these things ought not so to be.'

"Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today. With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail."  (Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Tongue of Angels," April 2007 General Conference)

Chapter 4

4:3  "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts."

"It may be clear that we shouldn’t ask for the wrong things, but sometimes it is not as clear how we determine what the right things are to ask for. Asking to pass a test we didn’t study for or to win a lottery are clearly on the 'amiss' side of the equation. But what about praying for obstacles to be removed in our lives, relief from afflictions, or help in directions we want to go?

"The entry under 'prayer' in the Bible Dictionary is insightful: 'Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.'

"How is our will brought into correspondence with the will of the Father? The scriptures answer: 'He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh' (D&C 46:30). As we grow in the principle of prayer, we come to recognize that the Lord will guide our words by His Spirit, that the Holy Ghost will inspire us with what we should pray for." (Dan Skoubye, "Prayer: The Soul's Sincere Desire," Ensign, August 2002).

4:17  "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."

See "Avoiding the Faces of Apostacy" in a previous post.

Chapter 5

5:14-16  "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."

"That faith that, through Priesthood, heals, is the same faith that remits sin, or justifies: the healing power of Christ" (Ogden & Skinner, New Testament Apostles Testify of Christ, p. 270).

"Although Jesus healed many people without anointing them with oil—sometimes even healed a person without touching him or her—it was a general practice for priesthood holders in the Church to anoint the sick with oil. While performing their first missionary labors, the Twelve Apostles “anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” (Mark 6:13)
"The epistle of James records the most detailed description of priesthood administration preserved for us from ancient times: “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord...

"We apply hands and oil, the physical touch and the tangible substance, but the hands and the oil do not heal. It is faith in Jesus Christ and the power of the priesthood that heals.

"So why is olive oil used?  Anciently, oil pressed from olives was considered the cleanest, clearest, brightest-burning, longest-lasting of all animal and vegetable oils. It was also the purest of oils and was thus appropriate for holy anointings. Joseph Fielding Smith has written, 'We find through all the prophetic writings that olive trees and olive oil are emblems of sacredness and purity.' (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957–66, 1:152.)" (D. Kelly Ogden, "I Have a Question," Ensign, October 1991).

CONCLUSION

"Ye adulterers and adulteresses [people who are untrue to their union with God], know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?  whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?" (James 4:4-5).

Are we "friends with the world" or "friends with God?"  What if we examine ourselves and find "pure religion" lacking from one or another aspect of our lives?  Even one dirty corner of our lives will make us unclean.  What then?  Are we to be cast out?  Are we hopeless?  Read on!

"But he giveth more grace."  Grace is always available to us!  "Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.  Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.  Cleanse your hands, ye sinners [follow the letter of the law--keep the outer observances]; and purify your hearts, ye doubleminded [follow the spirit of the law--live in faith, hope and charity].  "Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness [suffer godly sorrow for your sins].  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he shall lift you up." (James 4:6-10).

This also is "pure truth":  That God will always give us a way out, a way up.  But we have to stop being doubleminded adulterers, wanting one foot in the world and one in heaven; a home in Zion with vacation time in Babylon; salvation on our own terms.  To become truly free, we must become willing slaves, giving every bit of ourselves to God's will.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New Testament Lesson #41 "I Have Finished My Course"

1 & 2 Timothy; Titus

ORDER OF THE EPISTLES

Just a little FYI here about why the epistles are the way they are in the Bible.  The early Christians who assembled the epistles into the New Testament did not have access to their chronology, so they ordered them in two other ways.  First,

"The arrangement [of the epistles of Paul] is neither chronological, geographical, nor alphabetical, but by length, in descending order from the longest (Romans) to the shortest (Philemon).  This is the case except with the epistle to the Hebrews, which was placed last because some have questioned whether or not it was written by Paul" (Bible Dictionary, p. 743). 

And a second theory,

"The epistles do not stand in the order in which they were written, but in the order of the importance of the audiences addressed.  Thus, Romans comes first because Rome was the capital of the empire.  Corinth was the next most important city, and so on.  Paul's epistles to individuals follow those to collective audiences...Hebrews appears last, because there is good reason to doubt whether it is by Paul.

"After Paul's epistles come the seven 'catholic,' or general, epistles--so called because they were addressed to Christians generally.  They appear roughly in the order of their length.

"Christians adopted this order of the epistle as early as the time of Eusebius in the beginning of the third century" (J.I Packer, M.C. Tenney, ed., Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 587).

(For an exhaustive article on the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews from an LDS viewpoint, please see proceedings from the 35th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, published online by BYU and accessible via this link.)

So...
  1. To congregations--Romans through 2 Thessalonians
  2. To individuals--1 Timothy through Phileman
  3. Hebrews
  4. General epistles (other than Pauline)
MATCHING GAME

Just for variety and to keep the class awake, on one side of the board, put up the scripture references below.  On the other side, in mixed-up order, put the names of a government leader, expectant or new parents in your congregation, your bishop or branch president, and a missionary from your ward or an exemplary youth.  Have the class read the scripture and match it to the person.  Then discuss the relevance of each today.
  1. 1 Tim. 2:1-2  "I exhort therefore, that, first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."  (government leader)
  2. 1 Tim. 2:15 with JST footnote  "Notwithstanding they shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."  (expectant or new parents)
  3. 1 Tim. 3:2-3  "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous."  (your bishop or branch president)
  4. 1 Tim. 4:12  "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity."  (an examplary youth)
 DISCUSSION
  1. We should pray for our political leaders, even if (or maybe especially if) we disagree with them.  We should pray at election times that those who will help us lead "a quiet and peaceable life" will be elected.
  2. How is it that we are "saved through child-bearing?"  And why did the JST change it to say "they" instead of "she"?  If we "continue" and raise (or rear) those children "in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety [modesty]," we receive excellent spiritual training ourselves.  Parenthood is the practicum for godhood.  It provides great opportunities for service and for the development of all divine characteristics, if we let it.
  3. The word bishop is from the Greek episkopos.  Epi means "over;" think of the epicenter of an earthquake.  (Is that what a bishop feels like sometimes?)  Skopos means "caretaker."  Put the two together and you have "head shepherd," or "chief slave."  (That's probably what a bishop feels like most of the time!  If so, he's doing the right things, according to the definition of the word.)  The Episcopalian denomination of Christians is so named because of the emphasis it places on pastors of congregations.
  4. There are six checkpoints noted here for believers.  Which of these could you stand a little work on this week?  We must "be an example of the believers in...
    1. Word.  Do we gossip? Are we uplifting in our speech? Do we encourage others and ourselves?
    2. Conduct (the literal meaning of the word translated in the King James Version as conversation).  Our children can see our character and faith by the way we live.  It is said that when we are under stress, we reveal the most about ourselves.  This is the condition our family members can observe more readily than anyone else.  We must conduct ourselves well in crisis, small or great, as well as in ordinary daily life.
    3. Charity.  Love must be our motivation for everything, and our solution to everything.
    4. Spirit.  Are our daily actions guided by the Spirit?
    5. Faith.  Are we easily discouraged and depressed, or do we see the Lord's hand in the details of our lives?  Do we follow through on counsel of our leaders?  Do we trust the Lord enough to obey all of His commandments as best we can?
    6. Purity.  We must be very careful of the media influences we allow in our homes.  A lack of vigilance in this area will affect all of the other areas.  (Actually, that can be said of each of these six items--they are all a part of each other.)
(Note there are many JST changes in Timothy.)

THE LAST WORDS OF PAUL

The Second Epistle to Timothy contains Paul's last words.  Paul was ill at this time, and probably on "death row."  (Note he asks for his cloke, his books, and his parchments in 4:13).  Knowing this, the two-fold theme of the epistle is especially poignant:  1) God's care despite persecution of the saints, and 2)encouragement and counsel to those who suffer trials. 

The first point can be summarized in 1:12 and 4:18.

"For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."

"And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."

The second can be summarized in 2:3,15.

"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing [meting out to others] the word of truth."

PEACE AMIDST CHAOS

How does one live in the peace of the gospel while enduring the trials of life?  The answer, and a great key to living as a Christian, is found in 1:6-7.

"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.  [What gift have all church members been asked to receive by the laying on of hands?  The Gift of the Holy Ghost.]  For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

"Fear is spoken of [in the Bible] as something unworthy of a child of God, something that 'perfect love casteth out' (1 John 4:18).  The first effect of Adam's sin was that he was afraid (Gen. 3:10).  Sin destroys that feeling of confidence God's child should feel in a loving Father, and produces instead a feeling of shame and guilt.  Ever since the Fall God has been teaching men not to fear, but with penitence to ask forgiveness in full confidence of receiving it" (Bible Dictionary, Fear, p. 672).

The word spirit in verse 7 refers to "the disposition or state of mind brought by the Holy Ghost" (Harper-Collins Study Bible, p. 2239).  Do we allow our state of mind to be influenced by the Holy Ghost?  If we do, our fears should certainly diminish.  The Holy Ghost will bring power"Faith is a principle of action and power" and is always linked with hope.  The Holy Ghost will fill us with love, which is the opposite of and antidote to fear.  And the Holy Ghost will give us a sound mind, alternatively translated as self-discipline.  Without faith, charity, or self-discipline, we cannot have peace.  But with these three, we can overcome the fears and uncertainties of the latter-days and trust in the Lord with confidence in ourselves as His servants.

Therefore, we must heed Paul's warning in chapter 3. 

AVOIDING THE FACES OF APOSTACY

In the early days of Christ's church, apostacy crept in, and eventually all believers went astray or were killed.  Now, in the days of the Restoration we have been promised that this will never happen again collectively, but it will happen individually.  We must check ourselves against these harbingers of personal apostacy:

"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent [without self-control], fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady [rash, reckless], highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (3:1-4). 

You may want to discuss as a class each one of these negative and dangerous attributes, so opposite to the Attributes of Christ in the Preach My Gospel handbook.

Brother Lynn Scoresby, a prominent LDS psychologist and family counselor and author of the blog Leading Families, identified three types of apostacy.  The First Apostacy, he said, is getting angry and leaving the Church in a huff.  The Second Apostacy is perverting the Church from within.  The Third Apostacy, or the New Apostacy, is much more subtle and very dangerous.  It's not really new, but it has experienced a resurgence in recent years.  The New Apostacy is like a virgin with not quite enough oil.  It's like a sacrifice of a lamb, but a blind one.  It's like paying 8% tithing.  It's like accepting a Church calling and never getting around to doing it.  The New Apostacy is to not do what you say you believe.  It is half-heartedness.  It is hypocrisy.  It is a lack of spiritual integrity.  If the integrity of a building is compromised, it may look fine, but in a hurricane or an earthquake, it will crumble.  So with the faith of one whose spiritual integrity is not solid.  (A. Lynn Scoresby, BYU Education Week Lecture, August 19, 1999.  For a treatise by Brother Scoresby on how to help our children avoid this apostacy, listen to his excellent lecture, "The Crisis of Unbelief", given August 17, 1999 at BYU Education Week.)

Paul warns that "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (3:12).  How do we avoid being drawn into any kind of apostacy?  The answer is immediately given by Paul in his counsel to Timothy:  "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (3:14-15).  Hooray!  We are doing the right thing in Sunday School class!

Why is studying the scriptures such an effective safeguard against evil?  Again we find the explanation given immediately by Peter:  "And all scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect [suited, ready, complete], thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (3:16-17 JST).  To summarize, scripture will do four things for us:
  1. Teach us truth (doctrine)
  2. Point out what we need to change (reproof)
  3. Put us back on course (correction)
  4. Keep us there (instruction in righteousness)
FOLLOWING PAUL WHO FOLLOWED CHRIST TO GLORY

"The Apostle Paul’s voice echoes through the centuries addressing us who are “called to be saints” in the latter days. He shares with us the joy he found in his glorious vision of the resurrected Lord, and his life stands as a witness of his testimony and as an example of overcoming adversity to preach the gospel. In his letters we can feel his passion for the gospel and his love and concern for the members of Christ’s Church. His words instruct us in the doctrines of the Atonement and inspire us to enjoy its blessings" (David Rolph Seeley and JoAnn H. Seeley, "Paul: Untiring Witness of Christ," Ensign, August 1999).

We all should keep Paul's final words before us as a goal for the end of our own lives--who knows when it will come?  Maybe tomorrow, maybe 80 years from now...

"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (4:6-8).

Friday, October 7, 2011

New Testament Lesson #40 "I Can Do All Things Through Christ"

Philippians; Colossians; Phileman

These three epistles emphasize the importance of the Atonement in our lives, that without Christ we cannot succeed, but as we follow him, we cannot only be saved in the next life, but we can achieve peace and joy in this life, regardless of circumstances.  Several key elements of happiness are found in these three small epistles.  We'll work our way backwards from the smallest to the largest.  If you are struggling with finding joy in life right now, pay close attention to see if you can find a key that you can implement in your life that may restore your happiness.

FORGIVING OTHERS
The epistle to Philemon has one object: the welfare of a runaway slave named Onesimus.  Onesimus had been Philemon's slave.  After he ran away, he found the gospel and joined the Church.  Now he desired to return to Philemon and the fellowship of the saints in his former residence, but an escaping slave who was caught and returned to his master could, by law, be put to death.  (See Bible Dictionary.)

This seems at first like such a narrow topic, one that applied to a specific individual, and has no relevance to us today.  But everything in the New Testament has relevance to us to today, we just have to look at it through another angle, and in this case, it has tremendous importance if we view Paul as playing the Savior's role, ourselves as being Philemon, and those who have sinned against us or offended us as Onesimus.  Let us read it through this lens:

"I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds, which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me...Receive him...not now as a servant [or as someone who owes you a tremendous amount, which was what often led to slavery in those days], but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh and in the Lord?  If thou count me therefore partner, receive him as myself...

"If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee [anything], put that on mine account.  I...have written it with mine own hand [think of the scars of Golgatha], I will repay it: albeit [it goes without saying] how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.  Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels [today we would say, my heart] in the Lord" (Phile. 1:10-21).

Truly, until we forgive, our peace and happiness is held hostage by the offenses committed against us.  Once we give that debt over to Christ, we are free to be happy, free to live in the present and for the future, unfettered by the damaging past.  (See also Col. 3:12-13.)

GIVING WHOLE-HEARTEDLY
In one little verse in Colossians, a great key to happiness is found:  "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ" (Col. 3:23).

My mother worked in the university library when she was attending college.  Most of the books were downstairs from the library reference desk.  If someone wanted to check out a book, they would bring the reference to my mother or one of her co-workers, and they would have to go down to the basement, look up the book, and then bring it back up to the patron.  They went down and up those stairs constantly, all day long.  They got so tired that they would just drag themselves back up.  Then they discovered an amazing thing:  If they ran down and up the stairs, they were energized, rather than exhausted!

We may experiment and find that in any endeavor in any area of our life, if we do it hesitantly, with misgivings, with resentments, holding back even a tiny bit from the Lord, we likely will get burned out.  There is too much tension in our spiritual muscles, too much earthly gravity holding us down.  But if we give it all and don't count the cost, the stress lessens, the joy increases, and we only desire to do more.

"If you are tired of walking, run!"  (Credit for that little mantra goes to my neighbor, Gail Hanson.)

LIVING IN LOVE
We don't need to worry about achieving perfection through checking off lists and meeting expectations.  We will, like the Pharisees, never succeed.  But we can achieve perfection through doing everything we do and treating everyone we meet with love.  Our goal in life should be to have love become our motivator in every instance, because charity never faileth, and charity will bring us peace. "Above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts..." (Col. 3:14).

VIEWING EVERYTHING (BUT OUR SINS) IN A POSITIVE LIGHT
In the first instance, Paul points out that everything works out, even things that appear to be negative.  "But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel" (Philip. 1:12).  Because he has been imprisoned and yet continued faithful in the preaching of Christ, other missionaries have followed his example of boldness.  And although some of those have preached with "envy and strife" and "of contention, not sincerely," hoping to make things worse for Paul, others have preached in "good will" and "love."  Either way, it brought attention to Christ (1:13-18).  "What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice" (Philip. 1:18).

TRUSTING THE FUTURE TO THE LORD
Next, Paul avers that if he continues in the faith, whatevers happens to him--death or life--will be to the glory of God.  "For I know that this shall turn to my salvation...according to my earnest expectation and my hope...Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by [my] life, or by [my] death.  For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philip. 1:19-21).  He would like to leave this life and its afflictions and join Christ "which is far better," but he realizes it may be more beneficial for the saints if his life is spared.  He feels, therefore, the inspiration that he will not be taken yet, so that their "joy of faith" may be furthered, and their "rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ" (Philip. 1:22-25).

NOT COMPLAINING
"Do all things without murmuring and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ...for the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me" (Philip. 2:14-18).

FORGIVING OURSELVES AND MOVING ON
Remember that Paul caused a great deal of damage to the early Christian church.  He caused slaughter and imprisonments, terror and scattering among the believers of Christ.  He was a Carthage mob leader, so to speak.  When Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus, Paul did something quite remarkable.  Besides having an immediate and drastic change of heart, and besides repenting and turning whole-heartedly to Christ, he did something that many of us with lesser sins find extremely difficult to do.  Although he never gloried in himself regarding the good he did for the Church afterwards, he did give himself credit for this one difficult task:  forgiving himself.  "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philip. 3:13-14).  Paul could not have pressed forward if he were always looking back with shattered confidence.

President Hinckley counseled, "To any who may be grieving over serious mistakes in their lives, I hold out the assurance, given anciently and in modern revelation, that where there is repentance there may be forgiveness. Do not dwell upon the tragic mistakes of the past. Rather “'look to God and live'” ("If Thou Art Faithful, March 1992 Liahona).

NOT STRESSING OUT
"Be careful for [our modern-day phrase would be stressed about] nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philip. 4:6-7).  No matter how perfectly reasonable our most intense worries are, if we want peace, we need to give our worries to the Lord in prayer, focusing not only on those requests but on gratitude for our blessings.  Sometimes it's not the big fears, but the daily anxieties that destroy our peace--being late, burning dinner, meeting deadlines.  It doesn't matter which: the principle is the same.  Trusting in the Lord removes our fear.  As I remember one of my teenage boys (Andrew) saying, "If it doesn't affect my eternal salvation, I'm not going to worry about it."  This is a great attitude.

BEING CONTENT
One of the truly great and uplifting scriptures we frequently quote from Philippians is "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."  We use it to encourage ourselves to meet challenges, to endure, to persevere, to achieve, to take risks, to stretch beyond what we thought were our limits.  But this sentence has additional meaning if we put in in context with the verses before.

Paul "rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last, your care of me hath flourished again" (Philip. 4:10).  The Philippians had for a while lacked opportunity to help Paul in his trials, but now they were again able.  Paul was very grateful for this, but pointed out that even if he had not received the necessities they sent, he would still have been happy because he had learned to be happy in any situation.  "Not that I speak in repect of [or, not that I give a lot of attention to] want; for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philip. 4:11-13).

Sometimes, rather than being strengthened by Christ to conquer overwhelming odds or achieve amazing goals, we must be content to accept what is, we must be okay with giving up dreams we thought were important.  In things that might be considered disappointments, we can, like Paul, learn to be content, through Christ which strengtheneth us.

SEEKING AND SPREADING GOOD CHEER
The "admonition of Paul," to use Joseph Smith's words, was to think upon things that lift our hearts, that elevate our spirits, things that are "true," "honest," "just," "pure," "of good report," "virtuous".  We should focus on and share news stories that are uplifting and encouraging.  We should actively seek to elevate those around us with our good cheer.  We should promote happiness.  We should be positive.  As President Hinckley said, "We all worry. But the Lord has told us to lift our hearts and rejoice. I see so many people, including many women, who seem never to see the sunshine, but who constantly walk with storms under cloudy skies. Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Cultivate a spirit of optimism. Walk with faith, rejoicing in the beauties of nature, in the goodness of those you love, in the testimony which you carry in your heart concerning things divine" (ibid.)

SINGING WITH GRACE IN YOUR HEARTS
Both the epistle to the Colossians and the epistle to the Philippians were based around early Christian hymns of praise to the Savior.  Paul quoted one in Philip. 2:6-11 and the other in Col. 1:15-20 (Harper-Collins Study Bible).  Then he admonished the saints to "[teach] and [admonish] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col. 3:16).  This is one way to spread the gospel, to uplift ourselves and others, and to share love. 

Charles Wesley did a great service to his fellow contemporary Christians and all those who followed in later years by the writing of inspiring lyrics for hymns of praise.  Altogether, he wrote over 8,000 hymns, 6,000 of which were published!  Six of these are found in our LDS hymnbook ("Jesus, Lover of My Soul;" "Ye Simple Souls Who Stray;" "Christ the Lord is Risen Today;" "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing;" "Come Let Us Anew Our Journey Pursue;" and "Rejoice! The Lord is King!").  We can share in that service by singing hymns written by him and many others.  "Rejoice! The Lord is King!" shares the encouraging tone Paul set in his three short epistles studied today to seek joy in this life through the knowledge of our Savior.

If you have a vocally talented class member with a strength and gusto, you may want to ask him/her in advance to prepare and sing the following hymn at a fast tempo.  If not, you may want to play a recording of the Tabernacle Choir singing it, or sing it together as a class.  An excellent video recording can be found on YouTube:  Women's Chorus at General Conference


REJOICE, THE LORD IS KING!
Charles Wesley

Rejoice, the Lord is King!
Your Lord and King adore!
Mortals, give thanks and sing and triumph evermore.

Lift up your heart!
Lift up your voice!
Rejoice,
again I say, rejoice!

The Lord, the Savior reigns,
The God of truth and love.
When he had purged our stains, he took his seat above.

Lift up your heart!
Lift up your voice!
Rejoice,
again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail;
He rules o'er earth and heav'n.
The keys of death and hell to Christ the Lord are giv'n.

Lift up your heart!
Lift up your voice!
Rejoice,
again I say, rejoice!