Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Gathering of Israel

I have mixed feelings today and was not quite sure what to write about. I think I will save my other topic until next week and simply talk about my Sunday School lesson today: the Gathering of Israel.

I think many misunderstand the Gathering and even associate the word Israel with the current State of Israel. I hope people can understand that the State of Israel today has nothing to do with the people of Israel mentioned in the bible, and the gathering of Israel has nothing to do with the Jews going to Palestine. 
The word Israel was given to Jacob by God. It means "Triumphant with God" It is actually a good word, even though some try to pollute it.

As I prepared the lesson today I have come to realize two main things: 
1. The house of Israel are the covenant people of God. They are those that believe in His son and make covenants with Him and keep His commandments.

2. The main reason for the gathering is to help people come unto Christ, have faith in Him and make covenants with Him. That was why the early members of the church were asked to 'gather' in the US in the early days of the church. Because it was the only place they could have a temple so they could receive ordinances and make covenants with God.

When we follow the savior and are baptized into His church we become part of the house of Israel. We become the people of God. 
The gathering happening today is a spiritual gathering...many are coming into the fold of God to be numbered among his people. In the Book of Mormon we read:
"For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel."

Some mistakenly think that the gathering of the Jews to the land of Palestine is a fulfillment of prophecies. It is not! That gathering of the Jews is not the promised gathering of the children of Israel.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: "Let there be no misunderstanding in any discerning mind on this point. This gathering of the Jews to their homeland and their organization into a nation and a kingdom is not the gathering promised by the prophets. It does not fulfill the ancient promises”

The land of Palestine was given to the 'Covenant people of God' anciently. At the time, the covenant people of God were the Jews.  God made a covenant with Abraham and told him that if his seed was faithful, they will inherit the land of Canaan. But, that is exactly what that was, A COVENANT. When we keep our end of the covenant the Lord keeps His. When we don't, we have no promise.  The children of Israel anciently broke that promise and because of that they were scattered and driven out of their land of inheritance.  

When, and only when, they come to the knowledge of their redeemer who is Christ, and follow Him, then they will be gathered and blessed. 

President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Every person who embraces the gospel becomes of the house of Israel. In other words, they become members of the chosen lineage, or Abraham’s children through Isaac and Jacob unto whom the promises were made. The great majority of those who become members of the Church are literal descendants of Abraham through Ephraim, son of Joseph. Those who are not literal descendants of Abraham and Israel must become such, and when they are baptized and confirmed they are grafted into the tree and are entitled to all the rights and privileges as heirs”  

I am proud to be of the House of Israel and a descendant of Abraham. I hope we all realize that we can have those blessings given to Abraham. We are His seed and are children of the covenant.

I am amazed at some who think that everyone must support the current State of Israel in order to be a good Christian. Like the lady I met at church one day who seemed so confused when she expressed how much she supports Israel and how we should all support them. The 8.5 million dollars Israel receives from the US EVERY DAY is used to buy weapons to kill my people, or used to build more walls and checkpoints to restrict their movement.  I don't support the State of Israel and I don't think anyone should. Not the way they are treating the Palestinians.

Sadly there are US presidential candidates who think all Palestinians are terrorists and that they need to send more weapons to Israel so they can kill us all...I am a Palestinian and I am not a terrorist and I don't appreciate being referred to as such. I wish people could be more understanding and more accepting of others.

I am impressed with the many Palestinian and Israeli women who are marching for peace. I hope we all can realize that we are all brothers and sisters. I know that we all can love one another...As we come unto Christ, and abide in His love, we can develop some of His attributes. Attributes such as forgiveness, tolerance, love, patience, sacrifice...Then will He gather us, as a chicken gathereth her chicks under her wings.

The Savior loves each and every one of us. He is the true Messiah, the one who the Jews rejected, the one who the Jews have waited for and continue to wait for. He DID come...He came to His own and His own received Him not. He was rejected, persecuted and crucified. Yet, He lives today...And He will come again in His glory. He will part the clouds and appear from the East...all will see Him, all will recognize Him, and every tongue will confess that He is the Christ...Every knee will bow before Him, who is the King of King and Lord of Lords...the Savior of the world. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ask and ye shall receive

My thoughts today are about prayer. We often pray and wonder why God is silent and would not answer us. Why He would not take away our hardships or pain...If you feel this way, then this post is for you.

I listened to a talk the other day that clarified this to me. The speaker spoke of his daughter. He said, one day when they were putting her to bed at bedtime she refused to go to bed. Even though her parents knew that her body needed sleep she did not see that. She started with certain demands, I want some water, some milk or cookies. Then other strange demands, like "I want grandma". After the demands increased, her father stopped answering her because her demands were unreasonable.

The speaker said that our Heavenly Father is the same. If our demands are strange, or if we are asking for things we want (not need) then he stops answering. 

I have had all my prayers answered. Sometimes the answer to my prayer was no. An example to that is the time that I prayed for my brother-in-law, Hazim, to be cured from cancer. I was told Hazim's death would bring blessings to my sister and her family. And even though it was hard to see how that is possible, I trusted my all-knowing Father in Heaven then. 

Sometimes the answers came months when I prayed to find a job after returning home from my mission. Heavenly Father knew where He wanted me and knew when the job would be open up and so I didn't find any other job until this one at BYU-I became available. As I prayed month after month and struggled financially I sometimes thought He was not listening. But, He was. He always listens!

Too often we kneel down and pray for our trial to be removed, and often we get discouraged when it doesn't. Isn't that what we signed up for? We knew life would be hard. Isn't that what we chose to come to earth for? We will learn and grow from our trials and become more like our Father in Heaven. Don't we all want that? Don't we want to be refined and perfected and stand spotless before Him. If so, let us not try to move the mountains from our path. Let us have the courage and faith to climb our mountains, walk our dusty, rocky roads and keep our eyes fixed on our Savior Jesus Christ. 

The Savior said: "Take my yoke upon you...for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." As we take His yoke and allow Him to walk by us sharing our burden, we will be strengthened and helped as we walk this hard path.  No, it won't be smooth full of flowers, it won't be easy, but we will make it.

Elder Holland said: 

“Jesus has chosen, even in a resurrected, otherwise perfected body, to retain for the benefit of His disciples the wounds in His hands and in His feet and in His side-signs, if you will, that painful things happen even to the pure and the perfect; signs, if you will, that pain in this world is not evidence that God doesn't love you; signs, if you will, that problems pass and happiness can be ours.”