Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 11:1-4

1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.

4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a aname, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

There has been commentary about the Tower of Babel, including theories that they were trying to reach heaven to escape any future floods, or to overthrow God, or some other form of insurrection. Now which of those theories, if any, is the actual truth is not to be found in this biblical record. But the following verses do seem to suggest that there was something about their plan that incurred the disapproval of God, such that He felt a need to put a stop to it.

I do see an important allegory in these verses, one that applies to us all today. There seems to be an arrogance in these ancient people where they believe that they could build their own path to the heavens, and trying to achieve perfection by our own power has continued to be a failing of humanity ever since.

Today I see this in the notion that “we don’t need God, because we have science.” There is a belief that our own brainpower will be enough to solve all of the world’s problems and lead us into a perfect Utopia. But that is just as valid as believing that we could build a tower into the clouds and then be equals to God.

Our arrogance all manifests today when we try to earn our salvation. I have known many a Christian that was convinced that if he just tried harder he would be able to overcome his addictions, live perfectly, and make himself deserve paradise. And that is just as vain and ineffective as the Babelites stacking their stones.

We are mortals, assembled from the dust, and all our effort can never make us more than that. It is a hard thing to admit, but we are never going to be enough by ourselves. We only become enough when we are filled with Him.

Dealing With Failure- Isaiah 53:10, Psalm 55:22

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved

COMMENTARY

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed
If you’re like me, you struggled to accept the notion of God’s forgiveness being free. I wanted to pay Him back for the things I had done wrong, overcome my addictions by my own pure grit, and earn my place in salvation. After I failed to do this many times over, I finally humbled myself, and let Him win the victory for me. At long last I felt clean again.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee
And if you’re like me, once you were washed clean you went straight back to believing it was only up to you to keep yourself clean. I had accepted that I had to rely on God for the “big” stuff (forgiving serious sins and healing very deep wounds), but I was still on the hook for the “smaller” stuff (day-to-day obedience and managing stress).
But this verse in Psalms simply says to “cast thy burdens upon the Lord,” with no qualifier for only the ones of a sufficient size. Slowly I’ve been realizing that God wants me to surrender the “small” stuff too.
And I need to. Because when I rely on myself I fail at the “small” stuff all the time. I try to grip tighter and tighter, but still slip, and wonder why I can’t make myself do it right. And you know what? I don’t think that’s a question I really have to answer right now. I think right now I just need to accept the fact of it and surrender it to God.
I need to say “I really can’t make myself do it right. Simple as it seems…it’s beyond me. So I’ll stop trying to do it alone, and open up my heart to you, God, instead. Will You please come inside and win this battle for me? I will let it be Your victory now, not mine.”

A Surety of Truth- Numbers 23:19, Mark 10:18

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

COMMENTARY

God is not a man, that he should lie; hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
Previously we spoke of building ourselves on solid foundations, and yesterday we considered the folly of relying on our own self for that. We have to find external sources that we can trust, ones that we can ever be sure of for support and demonstration.
And as today’s verses illustrate, that reliable source is not found in any human. No person is a perfect foundation to build on. It is good to have friends and it is good to glean from the example of noble souls, but they cannot be the core of our faith. I have come to realize that the greatest value of mentors is simply for them to point the way to God, as He alone can provide that sure foundation.
And that applies to me, too. I am a father, and I want to always be a help and support to my children. But because I am mortal, I know that they will have needs that I cannot provide for, there will be times that I let them down, there will be examples of mine that would lead them astray, and there will be moments where my absolute best just isn’t good enough. If I want to be a good father, I must encourage them to detach their reliance on me, and put it instead on the Lord.

The Doing Muscle- 1 Corinthians 10:13, Matthew 6:33

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

COMMENTARY

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man
If there is anything that keeps us from doing the things we want to do, it probably exists under the umbrella of temptation. Temptation to go back to our old ways, temptation to procrastinate, temptation to just plain be lazy. If it weren’t for friction we would all do exactly what we intended to do, and temptation is the greatest source of friction out there.

But God is faithful, who will with the temptation also make a way to escape
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness
But fortunately for us, temptation has its cure. It’s easy to think that self-improvement can only be done by–well–the self. We assume that it is our personal cross to bear, unable to receive any outside help. However this isn’t the case. A change of heart does require effort from us, but it also requires a miracle from God.
And so the guidance in these verses is to seek the kingdom of God first. We should build up our connection to him, learn how hear His voice, learn how to invoke His blessings in our lives. If we build on that foundation first then we can work with Him on every other element of self-improvement together.

For Our Own Good- Mark 9:23-24, Ether 12:27

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

COMMENTARY

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
The father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
Yesterday we discussed how each of us is weak in our understanding of some commandments, but strong in our understanding of others. One commandment is that we should have faith, which apparently was an area where the father in this passage was weak. His reaction to this failing, however, is a wonderful example for how each of us can face our own realizations of weakness. He acknowledges what strength he does have, what strength he does not have, and then ask for help between the two.

I give unto men weakness that they may be humble, and if they humble themselves, and have faith, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
In a non-shaming way, we need to acknowledge that our inability to see the meaning in certain commandments is a weakness. But having these weaknesses is no mistake, in fact our weaknesses are given to us intentionally. Strange as it may sound, we are designed to be somewhat broken.
As we learn from this verse, though, the reason for this design is because when we heal from our brokenness we heal back stronger than if we had always been whole. If all of us had a perfect understanding and commitment to the commandments right from the get-go, we probably would live more obedient lives, but we would not develop our reliance on God and His grace, which is of even greater value.

The Family of God- Summary

While there many wonderful lessons in this study, there was one particular message that spoke to me most of all. While reviewing the scriptural verses on the Family of God, I found myself constantly drawn back to our tendency to put up barriers between ourselves and others, and the need to break them down. I guess this was the message that I needed most, and I am glad to have found it.

I don’t think any of us would deny that there is a lot of division in this world right now, and that it is holding us back as a society. We each have a vision of a united people, but we can’t seem to agree what that unity should look like. Different ideologies each come with different pros and cons, and none of them leave everyone entirely satisfied.

But this endeavor to fashion a new family structure is just us reinventing the wheel. We do not need to solve an already-answered question, the original answer is still the best. Our role as children in a divine family was chosen before we were ever born. The unity we need is God’s unity, and the path we need to follow is His.

Our Fates Are Tied Together

I do not know why we try to make reaching heaven such an isolated effort. We seem to have this idea that I am to get myself to heaven, and you are to get yourself there. We might expand it a little bit to say Jesus and I will get me to heaven, and Jesus and you will get you to heaven, but there is still no overlap between you and I.
If this was truly the model God intended for our salvation, why not just create a few billion individual worlds where He could work with us in isolation? Each of us in our own little bubble, getting saved separately one at a time.
But that isn’t the environment God chose for us. Because in the end, none of us was meant to come to heaven alone. Our very existence here mandates that we are directly tied to at least two separate human beings, and then by extension to all others. God tied us together because we are supposed to be tied together. Our salvation is not mine and yours, but ours.
Matthew 18:20- For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Malachi 2:10- Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?

There Is No Place for Contention

Because of our dependence on each other, all that is necessary for us to to fail is to see our friends as our foes. No wonder, then, that Satan prioritizes sowing discord. Once we are unable to work together it doesn’t matter how much good we try to do in isolation. He has cut us off upstream, and there is nothing to work with down below.
In his ingenuity he has taught us to be self-righteous about it, too. We tell ourselves that we cannot work with that person because they are bad. If we had some real Christians to work with that would be something else, but to associate with these would be compromising our standards!
And so we undo the ties we were literally born with, and divide the one world we were meant to share into those billions of isolated ones I mentioned above. And then, separated and alone, we are far more easily overpowered by the adversary.
Luke 22:24- And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
3 Nephi 11:29- For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

Rely on One Another’s Strengths

Now to be clear, there are certain things that we brothers and sisters can simply never do for one another. I can never atone for your sins. You cannot cleanse me from past mistakes. No brother or sister can teach us all the mysteries of heaven and earth. There are needs of ours that will only ever be answered by God, the Savior, and the Holy Ghost.
But on the other hand, there are also things that we are only going to get from each other. Not because God couldn’t directly give these things to us if He wanted, but because He doesn’t want to. Anyone who has prayed and asked for answers knows that often God insists on sending us the answer through another person.
Think of it another way. What are your personal strengths? What God-given gifts do you hold? Okay…now what are you supposed to do with them? Surely it is to help other people in some way, to do something essential for them. To fill a role in their life that only you could fill. Alright, now if you have strengths that God gave you for the express purpose of helping others, doesn’t it only stand to reason that He also gave gifts to your brothers and sisters for the express purpose of having them help you? To do something essential for you? Something that only they can?
By myself I have many weakness and many flaws. But with my brothers and sisters, I start to approach the perfection God meant for me.
Romans 12:4-6- For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.

Service to Others- Summary

This study has been extremely beneficial for me, I do hope that it has been helpful for you as well. I very much enjoyed this approach of both researching and practicing, it is something I think I would like to incorporate more in future studies.
There is a principle of the gospel that I think needs stressing at this point: understanding the reasons behind what we are taught is important, but doing the things we are taught is more so. By reading the scriptures I found things I had never considered before. By trying to act on their instructions I found even more.
I am always amazed at just how much there is to learn. You think I would be used to finding so much depth to the gospel, yet I continue to be caught by surprise. I honestly feel I could linger on this topic for twice as long and still not be finished.

We All Need to Serve

Many of us feel a twinge of guilt when we hear lessons about serving others. The fact we feel guilty, though, means we really do know in our hearts that it is a true principle. At our cores we are made to serve, it is baked into our human DNA. Most commonly we think of basic needs in the form of things that we need to receive: food, and rest, and love. But we also have a need to give, and we do not feel complete until we embrace it.
And so we want to serve, but simultaneously we do not want to. We are mixed beings, composed of both the spirit and the flesh. To ever serve, then, requires that the spiritual part overcome the carnal. If you find yourself hesitating to give freely, don’t feel ashamed, it is an entirely normal way to be. But also know that you can grow past this common weakness, and give full expression to the generosity that your spirit yearns for.
Moses 7:32- And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another.
Galatians 5:13- For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

We All Need to be Served

Service is a beautiful principle in how it meets two needs at once. For we not only need to care, we also need to be cared for. Our modern culture pressures us to be independent, to need no one. A message which can easily lead to a state of perpetual emptiness.
Now, to be fair, it is of course possible to leech off of others or become a helpless codependent. These are not the same as receiving service. To receive service is to receive that which you truly cannot give to yourself. Things like knowing you are a priority to another person, receiving their attention, their care, to have them listen to what you say. These are food for the soul.
John 13:6, 8-
Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Thou shalt never wash my feet.
Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.

Service is a Divine Act that Binds Together

The need to serve and also be served connects us to one another. It makes us form societies rather than spread out as individual hermits. It pushes us towards the better part of our natures, giving freely, acting kindly, helping our fellow man.
But the divine binding does not end here. For some of our needs to serve and be served cannot be answered in any mortal. We need to serve God, and we need to be shown tender mercies by Him. Perhaps some things were made to stand alone, but neither a man nor all mankind were. As individuals, and as a composite body we need our Father. And there is nothing shameful in that, it empowers us to be more than ourselves.
Romans 12:5- So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Galatians 6:2- Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.


Faith vs Fear- Summary

I have enjoyed each of the studies that I’ve done for this blog, but frankly this one might have been my favorite. It seemed as if each day was bringing up realizations and questions I had never considered before.
Having completed this study I definitely feel all the more firmly that fear is truly the antithesis of faith. Obviously “doubt” also comes to mind as an opposite to faith, but I feel that fear is the more active principle that serves the same function to exercise evil that faith serves to exercise good. If faith is the currency of God, fear is undoubtedly the currency of Satan.
I particularly enjoyed learning how faith does not represent just any belief or action, but only the ones that are based upon truth and performed in collaboration with God. Having realized that, I now see how much more faith I have left to exercise! I do try to do good things, but usually I’m trying to do them all by myself. That’s putting my trust in my own strength and not in God’s.
I will try to overcome that failing by implementing the lessons we have reviewed this past week. Let’s take a look at what some of the key points were.

Fear is a Tool to Cripple Others

The first step to making any change in our lives is to first realize that there is a problem that needs correcting. Because most of us live in a state of fear by default, it may take some eye-opening to realize what a crippling influence it has been in us.
Fear is a primary instinct used by the body to promote self-preservation. It has a healthy purpose in compelling us away from dangerous situations, and we even speak of the “fear of God” as a positive quality of respect for our Maker.
But to be effective, fear by necessity must be quite powerful. And being so powerful, it becomes an obvious tool for misuse and abuse. Very easily fear can be inappropriately amplified until it defines our entire decision-making process. At that point others can use targeted fears to steer us into actions that we are morally opposed to.
We might experience this abuse of fear from a person that has a position of influence in our lives. Also Satan certainly uses fear when he pressures us to sin. We even put fear on our own selves when we try to force a change of behavior through negative self-talk.
2 Corinthians 7:5- But we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.
Jeremiah 17:5- And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.

Fear Can Be Overcome Only By Deliverance

Freedom from our toxic fears is something we cannot give to ourselves. Seeing that we are mortals, all that we have power to assuage our fears with are mortal things. We therefore try to shore up against our fears by obtaining worldly powers, things like money, beauty, and influence. The problem is that each of these assurances from the world are still inseparably connected with…fear. Each of them is finite, lost in time, or taken by force. In gaining them we fear the inevitable losing of them.
To ever truly be free we need to depend on something that is not based in this corruptible world. We need to depend on a power that mortality can have no influence over. By necessity, then, our deliverance has to come from God.
1 Corinthians 2:5- That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Psalm 34:4- I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Faith is the Essence that Replaces Our Fear

This dependence on the power of God takes the form of faith. In order to increase our reliance upon our Creator we have to exercise it. He has assured us that it does not burden Him for us to rely on His power, rather it is something that He wants us to do. By exercising our faith and inviting His miracles into our lives our assurance of His reality, His kindness, and His power grows day-by-day.
Not only will our foundation shift from one of fear to faith, but our own identities will reform as well. We will be become better, happier, and more fulfilled individuals while in this life, and fully perfected souls in the next.
Malachi 3:10- Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
Psalm 56:4- In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.

Faith Accomplishes the Impossible

Our faith grows firm as we see God accomplish in us the things that were impossible by any worldly process. The miracle I have personally seen, of which I am the most amazed, is the quiet change of heart within me. I have experienced healing and restoration that I frankly deemed impossible. I deemed it impossible, because then I lived more in the fear of the world, and the world could do nothing for me.
Often an action of faith is one that takes me outside of my comfort zone, that sees me approaching those I would not approach, saying things I would not say, doing things I would not do. Thus I become the person I would not be, the miracle occurs that would not occur, and the world becomes a bit more His.
Isaiah 41:13 (NIV)- For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you
Mark 9:23- Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.