Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Defining Moment (part one)

A Defining Moment
(Part One)

I believe that there are moments in people’s lives that help define who they are and where they end up going. These moments are not many but few. These moments not only impact a person’s life, but help to shape that person’s life from that point on. Sometimes they are intellectual and sometimes they are physical events that occur in a person’s life. They are sometimes moments of tragedy or sometimes moments of inspiration…glimpses of a better way or insight into a deeper understanding. These moments can propel people to greater heights or send them over the cliff to destruction. When these moments come they don’t last long…they appear for your grasp and if you don’t take advantage of it you may never retrieve it to your mind again. These defining moments are not just restricted to the individual but can also be seen in the a more broader historical sense.
Throughout history one can observe moments in the history of nations that for better or worse defined that nation. Our nation’s defining moment came with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The moment those signers penned their name to that document they were labeled traitors. And though they knew this, they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Though I am sure there were many individual moments within that moment, as a nation, it defined who we were and even to this day is woven into our makeup as a culture. To the victor’s of the ‘Civil War’, the Union points to Gettysburg as their defining moment when the tide’s of war changed, yet to the Confederates, the defining point of the war came at the moment that friendly fire took out their great general and leader, Stonewall Jackson. When Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were together the Confederate Army could not be defeated. Therefore, Gettysburg was lost because Lee had to count on generals who could not match the military genius that Jackson had obtained too. American history is littered with such moments…’the day that will live in infamy’ is a quote by FDR that stimulates images of Japanese planes surprise aerial at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The ‘turning point’ in WWII can be found on the beaches of Normandy. Here thousands of U.S. soldiers stormed the beaches in a back breaking assault into the heartland of Nazi control. The ‘war on terror’ will forever have the surreal images of two planes crashing into the World Trade Center Towers as it’s defining moment. Germany is forever riddled with the image of Adolf Hitler and his campaign to conquer the world and create a super human race. The Catholic Church, though not a nation in itself will always be remembered for her leadership of the Inquisition. The blood of the martyr’s voices still testify of her quest to quiet their voices.
Israel had a few defining moments, one of the most obvious was the exodus from Egypt. With God as their head, Israel was moved by defining moments one after another. From the plagues to the Red Sea, these were forever embedded into the mindset the Israelites, which they still cling to in claiming to be special chosen people of God. What about the moment that Jesus stood before the religious order of that day and opens up the scripture of Isaiah, he finds the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (Luke 4:17-21) Wow! What a moment! This was a ‘God’ moment! One of those ‘declaration of independence’ moments, yet too Israel it was the first swing of the axe at the root of the tree.
And what of those individual’s who defining moments not only helped to shape a nation but also define who they were and forever forge their mark on the annals of time. Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death!” was an act of treason. Napoleon’s Waterloo forever vanquished him to defeat and an ultimate exile outside of his own country. The success of Jamestown owes it’s historical significance to a man by the name of Captain John Smith who abolished the communal system of taking from the haves and giving to the lazy have not’s and establishing the biblical principle of ‘if you don’t work, you don’t eat’! And what of George Washington’s amazing survival against all odds as an officer, under General Braddock in the British army. As they marched toward Ft. Duequene they were ambushed by the Indians who knew that their only way to victory to was to kill every officer. Two horses were shot out from under him and four bullet holes were found in his jacket. Fifteen years later an Indian war chief compelled George Washington to meet with him so he could meet the man that God protected. He told Washington of him personally taking seventeen shots at him and finally stopped shooting because he realized he could not kill him. Washington writes not only of this account, but of ninety seven defining moments in his life where the hand of God protected him and directed his path. King David’s life has a few moments that determined his destiny. Samuel stepping past eight of his brothers and asking David’s father if he had any other sons had to have been quite a moment. Imagine the astonished look on David’s eight brother’s faces as Samuel poured the anointing oil over their little brother’s head. An obvious one is in the Valley of Ellah. Here the young God chaser was brought face to face with the giant Phillistine, Goliath. Though Bathsheba comes too mind, David’s defining moment wasn’t really that he sinned, but was truly captured when his sin was revealed. Here is probably a universal defining moment for every inhabitant of the earth. How you respond to a preacher who tells you the truth is an eternal moment that places you at the proverbial fork in the road.
Historically, I could probably go on and on with this list of ‘defining moments’ that have transpired throughout the ages. In part two (next article) we will bring the examination of this idea to a micro level and step into the dynamics of defining moments of the ‘inner man’ in each of us. Though it is easy to look at history or the defining moments of those around us, it is a little more difficult to ’see’ how our own personal experiences have defined who we are and how they have shaped us.

Come back for part 2...

Submitted by: Elder David Green

Friday, September 20, 2013

When Will We Ever Learn?

When Will We Ever Learn?

When all the waters turned to blood and began to stink with the corruption of death, they turned to the god of Hopi and sacrificed before it’s carved image made with hands and it did not answer. When the land was overrun with frogs and began to stink with the smell of death, they turned to the god of Heka and sacrificed to the carved image of a frog made with hands and it did not answer. When out of the dust came the plague of lice, they turned to the earth god, Seb and made sacrifice to it’s carved image made of hands and it did not answer. When the land was filled with devouring flies and their crops were destroyed, they turned to an image made with hands and made sacrifice to the god of Khejra and it did not answer. When all the cattle of the field fell ill and the land was filled with a great pestilence, they turned to the god, Apis and made sacrifice to a carved image of a bull hewn with hands and it did not answer. When all manner of living things were plagued with boils and blains, they turned their hearts toward the god of Neit and made sacrifice to the image made with hands and it did not answer. When hail, fire, rain, and thunder swept across the land, they turned their hearts to the gods of Shu, Iris, and Osiris and made sacrifice to the hewn images of carved rocks made with hands and they did not answer. When a mighty swarm of locust swept across the lands making even the ground invisible to see with the eye, they turned to the carved god of Serajia and made sacrifice to this image hewn with hands and it did not answer. When the sun was blotted out and darkness engulfed the land for three days, they turned to the supreme god of Ra and made sacrifice unto an image hewn with hands, and it did not answer. When the agonizing cries of the firstborn began to spread across the land, they turned to the god of the underworld, Apophis and gave sacrifice to a piece of rock hewn with hands and it did not answer. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat . They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them. (Ps 115:4-8 KJV)
But somewhere beyond the cries of pain and death, having ears to hear and eyes to see, there sat a people in softened obedience to an Almighty God, eating a lamb under the covering of it’s blood. Patiently awaiting the passing over of a night of terror and looking toward the dawning of a new day. Ye are my witnesses , saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses , saith the LORD, that I am God. Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it? (Isa 43:10-13 KJV)
When will we ever learn? When our marriages go astray, we turn to worldly marriage counselors, and we get no answers. When our children turn their hearts toward evil, we talk lectures upon emotional ears too young to understand, and we receive no answer. When New York and Paris flood our closets with their fashions, we turn to the talking pundits of godless media, and we receive no answers. When Hollywood calls and the fads demand we march to the tune of their beat, and we receive no answers. When we burn with lusts, we surf with unfettered frenzy the world wide web of deceitful fancies and receive no answers. When anger rests in our bosom, we turn to alcohol and we receive no answers. When the wounds of the past rise up to declare their place in our lives, we turn to drugs (both street and pharmaceutical), and we receive no answers. When our nerves are shot we smoke a cigarette to soothe our tensions, and we receive no answers. When we do wrong we look at others and compare our choices, and we receive no answers.
When will we ever learn? I have heard it said and it is a true saying, that it took forty years to deliver Israel out of Egypt and then it took another forty years to get Egypt out of Israel! There is nothing new under the sun and as it was for them it is for us. Though we have been delivered by an Almighty God, we are yet consumed by the habitual habits of worship to false gods and their demands. When will we learn that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal? There is no intellectual way out of this and there is nothing that we can create ourselves that will be able to deliver us out of the hand of the fowler! There is no literal thing on this earth that we can bow down to and give obeisance and sacrifice to that can render us from the harvest of habits. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? As Naaman walked away in frustration at the simplicity of the message, we too seem to be looking for something outside that will soothe our hurts and pains. There is no doubt that Namaan, a captain of the Syrian Army was inundated with the customs of his culture. He was use to the great ceremonies given to his gods. He was used to the pageantry associated with the sacrifices around his gods. The drum beats, colors, orgies, and the sacrifice of virgins and children to the gods of Syria were elaborate displays of glory to their gods. This was Naaman’s picture he brought with him to the door of the prophet’s house. In his polluted expectation there is no doubt his mind swirled with a vaunted anticipation of what the prophet would do to bring an end to his demise as a leper. Surely, he thought, some great colorful display would take place before his eyes and the prophet would glorify his abilities as a prophet bringing the glory of his God down upon him and heal him of his leprosy. But it was not so and Naaman’s expectation was cut short and in his rage he walked away... but he was still a leper. How many times have we been entangled by our own imaginations and knowledge that exalts itself above the knowledge of God? How many times have we missed the call of God in our lives because of pride? How many times have we missed doing the will of God because of how we felt or what we thought should or should not have happened? How many services are going to go by before we allow ourselves to give God the glory and simply place our will into His hands? How many times are we going to walk away mad at the preacher, mad at a saint, and mad at God? When will we ever learn that God will not allow flesh to have any glory? Ever! That somewhere beyond the clamoring noisome pestilence of the gods of this world and the man made attempts to deliver a needed peace, there is a quiet place to simply eat the lamb under the merciful shelter of it’s blood. And it’s there... there in the faint cries of the first born... there in the meekness of a grateful heart... we can learn and find the true answer.

Submitted by: Elder David Green

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The 'Soul' Purpose of Fruit

The 'Soul' Purpose of Fruit

"To everything (turn, turn, turn)" The sixties rock group The Byrds put the words to a melody.... "There is a season (turn, turn, turn)" The Byrds memorialized the words in a song..."And a time for every purpose, under heaven." But King Solomon wrote it..."To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…a time to plant and a time to reap." Everything has a season and a purpose. Rosemary has long been a symbol of fidelity and remembrance. It was often used in the holiest of Christian ceremonies, the wedding and the funeral. From Queen Elizabeth of Hungary in the 14th century’s healing of her arthritis using Rosemary or its simple use as a diuretic, Rosemary’s sole purpose is simple and unchanging; bring forth and yield a harvest of healing to all those who look to her for help.
From our gardens to our own lives, there will always be a harvest. The law of reaping and sowing knows no boundaries. Whether the seeds sown are natural or spiritual, this law will produce only what you put into it. A farmer does not plant one kernel of corn in the ground then curse the ground for not bringing forth an abundance of corn. He understands that what he sows is what he will also reap. Sow sparingly, reap sparingly Sow bountifully, and your harvest will be bountiful. Obviously you cannot reap where you have not sown.
Soon after the War for Independence, our fledgling republic was floundering in a sea of disgruntlement.
The military was unpaid, the economy was unsound, and the enemies abroad were frothing at the mouth to once again seize the New World back into their hands. It wasn’t long before Washington’s generals were determined to crown George Washington king of the new nation. On March 10, 1783 George Washington heard, through a letter, that his generals, with or without him, were now calling for a military coup d’etat. Five days later, Washington was meeting with his fellow officers, trying desperately to change their minds. This was not what they had fought for and this was not the expected harvest of the American struggle!
His words fell upon deaf ears and sullen looks. His plea looked like it had failed. Finally, in one last attempt, Washington began to reach for a letter out of his pocket that showed support would soon be on the way from congressmen who wanted to help. As he reached and fumbled in his waistcoat pocket, he pulled something out that only his intimate friends had seen him wear. It was a pair of eye glasses. As Washington looked about the room he explained, "Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country."
Where all of his rhetoric and pleas had moments before fallen upon deaf ears, in this one moment, his fellow officers recognized the man who had led them all so far and long. Instantly, their eyes were swollen with tears. Washington finished reading the letter, walked out, mounted his horse, and rode off down the road. As his officers peered out the windows at the disappearing figure on horseback, they voted unanimously to support their leader in a peaceful approach to solving their problems. The harvest of one man’s life helped to secure the planting of an entire nation.
As I look over my herb and vegetable gardens, I cannot help but contemplate the majesty of it all. From the simple garden plot to the dynamic interactions of international affairs, the law of reaping and sowing reveals itself in history over and over again. The fruit gained from any harvest, whether the reaping be personal or national, can only be equated to the seed that has been sown. The history of the world is littered with the shadows of many a great men and women. Some of them were mere takers and gathered only from this world to fulfill their greed and power. Yet, there were some who gave back and even though they have long left this terrestrial island, the harvest of their toil is still available for all who are willing to reach up, pick, and eat.
It doesn’t seem too long ago that spring with all its promises had just arrived and we were hoeing and digging up the fallowed ground of winter’s past. But as faithful as the sun is to ascend over the eastern sky, so is the changing of the seasons. Winter turns to spring and spring turns to summer, and now we find ourselves falling into autumn.
There is a certain feeling that comes with autumn and although, I as a runner, with the southerly winds giving way to northerly gusts, can definitely feel the changing winds, this is not the feeling that I am talking about. Autumn is a time of triumph, a time of rejoicing, a time of reminiscing, and a time of thanksgiving. It is a season of looking back and enjoying the fruit of one’s labor. It is a fulfillment of a vision that poured out in drops of sweat on that first spring breaking of the ground.
I can remember tilling the ground and I could already taste the fresh mint tea that I would eventually seep in a hot cup of water in the fall or the first bite of that fresh organic tomato. Yes, way back in the spring, I already envisioned the harvest of my investment. The time, sweat, and energy would be worth it all!
Now, the season has changed. The summer has passed and the harvest is upon us. The plants have endured the rigors of the seasons. The fruit that now hangs from my plants has made it through the depths of late frosts, spring rains, and hot summer suns. From rabbits, ground hogs, deer, and insects my plants kept to their specific ‘calling’ and have now come forth to yield its fruit. Every plant has faced a myriad of adversities to produce what was long predetermined in its seed. They have finished their course and have endured all for this one moment; to be chosen so others may live. They have fulfilled their purpose.
Soon the autumn leaves will fill our gardens signaling another harvest’s past and I cannot help to wonder if this same simple principle shows up in my own life. Forty-seven years and one hundred eighty-five seasons have come and gone. If I were to be opened up like a tree, the rings around my life would show it’s share of the different seasons; pain and joy, tragedy and hope, fear and love. All wrapped up and contained within a fragile human being called me. The law of reaping and sowing has not left me behind and neither could I avoid or elude it. Another season has past, the harvest again is here and I wonder...Is there any fruit hanging from the harvest of my life that others may desire to pick, eat, and live?

Submitted by: Elder David Green