Biblical Worldview: Gospel Eclipse Glasses prevent Eclipse of Christ in our Lives

Biblical Worldview:

Gospel Eclipse Glasses prevent Eclipse of Christ in Our Lives

Spiritual Eclipse

By Elder Gary E. Stevenson

Don’t let life’s distractions eclipse heaven’s light.

Solar Eclipse

The other rare and heavenly event occurring on the same day and captivating millions worldwide was a total solar eclipse. This was the first time such an eclipse had marched across the entire United States in 99 years.2 Have you ever seen a solar eclipse? Perhaps I could describe this in greater detail.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the earth and the sun, almost completely blocking any light from the sun’s surface.3 The fact that this can happen is a marvel to me. If you imagine the sun as the size of a common bicycle tire, the moon in comparison would scarcely be the size of a small pebble.

How is it possible that the very source of our warmth, light, and life could be so greatly obscured by something comparatively insignificant in size?

Although the sun is 400 times larger than the moon, it is also 400 times farther away from the earth.4 From earth’s perspective, this geometry makes the sun and moon appear to be the same size. When the two are aligned just right, the moon seems to obscure the entire sun. Friends and family of mine who were in the zone of total eclipse described how light was replaced by darkness, the stars appeared, and birds quit singing. The air became chilly, as temperatures in an eclipse can decrease by more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Celsius).5

They described a sense of awe, astonishment, and even anxiety, knowing an eclipse brings certain hazards. However, they all exercised care to prevent permanent eye damage or “eclipse blindness” during the eclipse event. Safety was made possible because they wore glasses equipped with special filtered lenses that protected their eyes from any potential harm.

The Analogy

In the same manner that the very small moon can block the magnificent sun, extinguishing its light and warmth, a spiritual eclipse can occur when we allow minor and troublesome obstructions—those we face in our daily lives—to get so close that they block out the magnitude, brightness, and warmth of the light of Jesus Christ and His gospel.

Neal A. Maxwell took this analogy even further when he stated: “Even something as small as a man’s thumb, when held very near the eye, can blind him to the very large sun. Yet the sun is still there. Blindness is brought upon the man by himself. When we draw other things too close, placing them first, we obscure our vision of heaven.”6

Clearly, none of us wants to purposefully obscure our vision of heaven or allow a spiritual eclipse to occur in our lives. Let me share some thoughts that may assist us in preventing spiritual eclipse from causing us permanent spiritual damage.

Gospel Glasses: Maintain a Gospel Perspective

Do you recall my description of special eyewear used to protect those viewing a solar eclipse from eye damage or even eclipse blindness? Looking at a spiritual eclipse through the protecting and softening lens of the Spirit provides a gospel perspective, thus protecting us from spiritual blindness.

Let’s consider some examples. With the words of the prophets in our hearts and the Holy Spirit as our counselor, we can gaze at partially blocked heavenly light through “gospel glasses,” avoiding the harm of a spiritual eclipse.

So how do we put on gospel glasses? Here are some examples: Our gospel glasses inform us that the Lord desires that we partake of the sacrament each week and that He desires that we study the scriptures and have daily prayer. They also inform us that Satan will tempt us not to. We know that his agenda seeks to take away our agency through distractions and worldly temptations. Even in Job’s day, perhaps there were some experiencing a spiritual eclipse, described as: “They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night.”7

Brothers and sisters, when I speak of seeing through gospel glasses, please know that I am not suggesting that we do not acknowledge or discuss the challenges we face or that we walk blissfully ignorant of the traps and evils the enemy has placed before us. I am not speaking of wearing blinders—but just the opposite. I am suggesting that we look at challenges through the lens of the gospel. Dallin H. Oaks observed that “perspective is the ability to see all relevant information in a meaningful relationship.”8 A gospel perspective expands our sight to an eternal view.

When you put on gospel glasses, you find enhanced perspective, focus, and vision in the way you think about your priorities, your problems, your temptations, and even your mistakes. You will see brighter light that you could not see without them.

Ironically, it is not only the negative that can cause spiritual eclipse in our lives. Often, admirable or positive endeavors to which we dedicate ourselves can be drawn so close that they blot out gospel light and bring darkness. These dangers or distractions could include education and prosperity, power and influence, ambition, even talents and gifts.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has taught that “any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice. … There comes a point where milestones can become millstones and ambitions, albatrosses around our necks.”9

Let me share in greater detail examples that could become catalysts for avoiding our own spiritual eclipses.

Social Media

A few months ago I spoke at BYU Women’s Conference.10 I described how technology, including social media, facilitates spreading “the knowledge of a Savior … throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.”11 These technologies include Church websites like LDS.org and Mormon.org; mobile apps such as Gospel Library, Mormon Channel, LDS Tools, and Family Tree; and social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. These modalities have generated hundreds of millions of likes, shares, views, retweets, and pins and have become very effective and efficient in sharing the gospel with family, friends, and associates.

All of the virtues and appropriate use of these technologies notwithstanding, there are risks associated with them that, when drawn too close, can put us in a spiritual eclipse and potentially block the brightness and warmth of the gospel.

The use of social media, mobile apps, and games can be inordinately time-consuming and can reduce face-to-face interaction. This loss of personal conversation can affect marriages, take the place of valuable spiritual practices, and stifle the development of social skills, especially among youth.

Two additional risks related to social media are idealized reality and debilitating comparisons.

Many (if not most) of the pictures posted on social media tend to portray life at its very best—often unrealistically. We have all seen beautiful images of home decor, wonderful vacation spots, smiling selfies, elaborate food preparation, and seemingly unattainable body images.

Here, for example, is an image that you might see on someone’s social media account. However, it doesn’t quite capture the full picture of what is actually going on in real life.

Comparing our own seemingly average existence with others’ well-edited, perfectly crafted lives as represented on social media may leave us with feelings of discouragement, envy, and even failure.

One person who has shared numerous posts of her own said, perhaps only partly in jest, “What’s the point of being happy if you’re not going to post it?”12

As Bonnie L. Oscarson reminded us this morning, success in life doesn’t come down to how many likes we get or how many social media friends or followers we have. It does, however, have something to do with meaningfully connecting with others and adding light to their lives.

Hopefully, we can learn to be more real, find more humor, and experience less discouragement when confronted with images that may portray idealized reality and that too often lead to debilitating comparisons.

Comparison apparently is not just a sign of our times but was in times past as well. The Apostle Paul warned the people of his day that “they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”13

With so many appropriate and inspired uses of technology, let us use it to teach, inspire, and lift ourselves and to encourage others to become their finest—rather than to portray our idealized virtual selves. Let us also teach and demonstrate the righteous use of technology to the rising generation and warn against the associated hazards and destructive use of it. Viewing social media through the lens of the gospel can prevent it from becoming a spiritual eclipse in our lives.

Pride

Let’s now address the age-old stumbling block of pride. Pride is the opposite of humility, which is a “willingness to submit to the will of the Lord.”14 When prideful, we tend to take honor to ourselves rather than giving it to others, including the Lord. Pride is often competitive; it is a tendency to seek to obtain more and presume we are better than others. Pride often results in feelings of anger and hatred; it causes one to hold grudges or to withhold forgiveness. Pride, however, can be swallowed in the Christlike attribute of humility.

Relationships, even with close family and loved ones, especially with close family and loved ones—even between husbands and wives—are fostered in humility and are stymied by pride.

Many years ago an executive of a large retailer called me to talk about his company, which was being bought out by one of its competitors. He and numerous other headquarters personnel were extremely anxious that they might lose their jobs. Knowing that I was well acquainted with senior management of the acquiring company, he asked if I would be willing to both introduce him and give a strong reference on his behalf, even to arrange a meeting for him. He then concluded with the following statement: “You know what they say? ‘The meek shall perish!’”

I understood his comment was more than likely intended as humor. I got the joke. But there was an important principle that I felt might ultimately be of use to him. I replied, “Actually, that isn’t what they say. In fact, it is just the opposite. ‘The meek … shall inherit the earth’15 is what they say.”

In my experience in the Church as well as throughout my professional career, some of the greatest, most effective people I have known have been among the most meek and humble.

Humility and meekness fit hand in glove. May we remember that “none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart.”16

I pray that we will strive to avoid the spiritual eclipse of pride by embracing the virtue of humility.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a solar eclipse is indeed a remarkable phenomenon of nature during which the beauty, warmth, and light of the sun can be completely covered by a comparatively insignificant object, causing darkness and chill.

A similar phenomenon can be replicated in a spiritual sense, when otherwise small and insignificant matters are drawn too close and block the beauty, warmth, and heavenly light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, replacing it with cold darkness.

Eyewear designed to protect the sight of those in the zone of a total solar eclipse can prevent permanent damage and even blindness.17 Gospel glasses comprised of a knowledge and testimony of gospel principles and ordinances provide a gospel perspective that can similarly provide greater spiritual protection and clarity for someone exposed to the hazards of a spiritual eclipse.

If you discover anything that seems to be blocking the light and joy of the gospel in your life, I invite you to place it in a gospel perspective. Look through a gospel lens and be vigilant not to allow insignificant and inconsequential matters in life to obscure your eternal view of the great plan of happiness. In short, don’t let life’s distractions eclipse heaven’s light.

I bear testimony that no matter the obstruction that may block our vision of gospel light, the light is still there. That source of warmth, truth, and brightness is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I bear testimony of a loving Heavenly Father; of His Son, Jesus Christ; and of the Son’s role as our Savior and Redeemer.

 

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Critical Thinking Definition: Church and State Issues, First Amendment Protections, Truth about Islam

Critical Thinking Definition:

Church and State Issues, First Amendment Protections, Truth about Islam

We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others. ~Doctrine and Covenants 134:4

There is no law against belief, or not believing, but if anyone murders or steals, they must be punished by the laws of the land. For example, no one has a right to control what we think, or what we speak, but if anyone steals or murders, the perpetrator is not protected under freedom of religion, and must be punished for his crime, no matter what religion he believes in, because his actions have violated life, liberty, or property of others. Murder can never be excused, even in the name of religion. (Excerpt from Birthright Covenant Series by C.A. Davidson, #1: Escape to Faith and Freedom)

First Amendment Protections for practicing Islam?

If the defense’s argument continues to be religious freedom, it may appear as though Islam is looking for special rights not available to other religions in the United States.

“No one gets a free pass to abuse children in the name of religion, and that includes parents,” ~Elizabeth Yore

“If this had happened in a church or any other religious group other than Islam, it would be Armageddon on that group, but because of the fear of Islam nobody can challenge it whatsoever,” Dr. Christian said. “When you are dealing with the First Amendment, yes we have to respect that, but at the same time, it’s not a free hand to do whatever you want to harm any human being, and we should challenge Islam on those grounds. Dr. Mark Christian

Muslim doctor accused of mutilating ‘countless’ little girls freed on $4.5 million bond

Surprise decision comes after she was arrested at airport trying to flee U.S.

Leo Hohmann

“I was there in the courtroom. I saw it all,” said Elizabeth Yore, an international child-welfare advocate and leader of the #EndFGMToday initiative.

After five months in jail, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, the Detroit-area Muslim doctor accused of mutilating the genitalia of “countless” young girls, was released on a $4.5 million unsecured property bond Tuesday.

Until Tuesday, Nagarwala had been the only one of eight defendants in the nation’s first FGM case being held without bond.

FGM has been banned by 25 states and a federal law against the procedure, called “female circumcision” in Middle Eastern cultures, has been in place since 1996. But the U.S. Department of Justice under Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama failed to prosecute a single case under the federal law, even though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that upward of 513,000 American girls and women have either had the practice done or are at risk of being mutilated by rogue doctors, nurses and midwives.

Muslim doctor who does fgm

Nagarwala is charged with conspiracy, genital mutilation, transporting minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, lying to FBI agents and obstructing an official proceeding. If convicted, she could face up to life in prison.

“When I look at this case, I see that even journalists writing about the situation are trying to paint this as a certain sect of Islam, and not a general Islamic problem, with no proof whatsoever of what they are saying,” said Dr. Mark Christian, a physician and former Sunni Muslim who practiced gynecology in Egypt but later converted to Christianity and moved to America.

“This is a very sad situation where fear of offending Islam is overriding everything among those trying to abide by what’s politically correct. I thought in America everyone had the right to voice their opinion and speak the full truth.”

Christian said that if such a barbaric practice were occurring within a sect of Christianity, the reaction from the media would be far different, and the defendant would likely not be offered bond of any amount.

“If this had happened in a church or any other religious group other than Islam, it would be Armageddon on that group, but because of the fear of Islam nobody can challenge it whatsoever,” Dr. Christian said. “When you are dealing with the First Amendment, yes we have to respect that, but at the same time, it’s not a free hand to do whatever you want to harm any human being, and we should challenge Islam on those grounds.

“We should appreciate the freedom of religion and cleanse our society of any practice that harms human beings, especially young girls who haven’t even reached puberty, denying them their identity and denying them their womanhood.”

First Amendment Protections for practicing Islam?

If the defense’s argument continues to be religious freedom, it may appear as though Islam is looking for special rights not available to other religions in the United States.

“They say they should be able to do what they want with respect to their religion,” Yore said. “Well, did we give a pass to David Koresh [of Branch Davidians], Jim Jones [of Jonestown] or Warren Jeffs [Mormon sect] to practice child abuse in the name of their region? No.

Truth about Islam

“This is like human trafficking, and unless we get victims to come forward, or start putting heat on these mosques, set up 24-hour hotlines and mandate reporting by social workers, it’s not going to break the case open,” Yore said.

She believes the government should “go right to the heart of it – the religious-freedom argument.”

“In the United States, we draw the line at children being abused,” Yore said.

“No one gets a free pass to abuse children in the name of religion, and that includes parents,” Yore said. “These prosecutors, I’m pretty impressed with how tough they are, to prosecute parents that’s pretty darn tough. I think they want to send a message that it’s not just the doctor mutilators, it’s the parents who are involved in this underground network who also are being put on notice.”

Nagarwala has been practicing for at least 12 years.

“Their pants and underwear were removed … and Dr. Nagarwala approached with a sharp tool to cut their genitals,” assistant U.S. attorney Sara Woodward said during an earlier court hearing.

“We just have to attack each one of those lies, without fear of being called a hater or Islamophobe. If we don’t draw the line at FGM, are we going to draw it at child marriages? Honor killings? Where do we draw the line that children aren’t going to be abused on the basis of religious freedom? If you want to live here, you can’t come and draw up rules for living based on ancient barbaric laws.”

Yore gives kudos to Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his tenacity on this issue.

“The Bush administration didn’t touch this, and we know the Obama administration wouldn’t touch it. They closed their eyes to it.”

History Heroes: Columbus and the Israel Connection

Dinner Topics for Columbus Day

Christopher Columbus—the History Hero who revived Judeo-Christian heritage in America

History Facts

Columbus and the Connection to house of Israel

keyLittle known is the fact that Columbus may have been a convert from Judaism to Christianity, and that he sought to gather the lost tribes of Israel to the fold of Jesus Christ.

Columbus Day, October 12, has been observed as an official U.S. holiday since 1934. The year 1992, marked the five-hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s first landfall in the New World.

columbus5Since then, many of the epic stories that make up our great American history have been purged from the schools. The rising generation is growing to adulthood with little or no knowledge of their rich heritage of liberty and their Judeo-Christian roots. October 12, if observed, no longer has much to do with the far-reaching significance of Columbus’ discovery. Like the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln, Columbus Day is being overshadowed these days by the new state religion: Islam.

Even those who did study some basic history during the 20th century, however, did not have the opportunity to know the epic hero who was Christopher Columbus. Little known is the fact that Columbus may have been a convert from Judaism to Christianity, and that he sought to gather the lost tribes of Israel to the fold of Jesus Christ. Following are excerpts from an article by Shirley Heater which documents inspiring facts about this nearly-forgotten hero. Truly this is a story to save in your personal “Treasury of Epic Stories”, to pass on to your children and grandchildren.

Christopher Columbus: Man of Vision and Faith

by Shirley R. Heater

Was the discovery made by accident, or was Columbus led by God? The Book of Mormon says he was led by the Holy Spirit, and now we have confirmation of this in Columbus’s own words, as well as additional new insights. An authentic Columbus manuscript has gone virtually unexamined until recent years. In Columbus’s Book of Prophecies, translated into English in 1991, he provides his own answers about Divine influence in his accomplishments.
Christopher Columbus, as he is known to English speakers, was born Christopher Colombo in the seaport of Genoa, Italy, in 1451.
His sailing career began when he was about 13 or 14 years old. He became a skilled seaman and navigator on merchant ships which traveled the Mediterranean Sea. In 1476, he joined his brother Bartholomew in the Portugal city of Lisbon, where they worked together on map-making. His Portuguese name was Cristovao Colom.

During his eight years in Lisbon, Columbus expanded his sailing experience into the Atlantic Ocean. He married, became the father of a son, Diego, and shortly thereafter was widowed. It was also during this period that his “vision” of sailing to new lands and saving lost souls germinated. He sought backing for his proposed venture from King John II of Portugal who turned him down.

columbusreachesamerica2Undaunted, he went to the port city of Palos de la Frontera in Spain, taking his young son with him. They were befriended by the friars of the monastery at La Rabida and then at Las Cuevas in Seville, who embraced and encouraged his ideas. His name took on the Spanish form, Cristobal Colon.

The magnitude of his intended enterprise soon opened the doors to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Their interest did not wane even though other matters kept them from following through with their approval for seven years.

During that prolonged period, he made his home in Cordoba (Cordova) where he met a young woman who became the mother of his second son, Ferdinand. [Note: He is still known throughout the Spanish-speaking world as Cristobal Colon Christopher Columbus, the English form, comes to us by way of the early colonists. Whatever the version of his name–Cristoforo, Cristovao, Cristobal or Christopher–the meaning is the same: “Christ bearer” (Sale 1990: 254n)].

Isaiah and the Isles of the Sea
 
Columbus and Nephi [from the Book of Mormon] had special regard for Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet most often quoted or referred to in both Columbus’s Book of Prophecies and the Book of Mormon. More intriguing is the fact that Nephi and Columbus selected the same portions of Isaiah and that each saw himself fulfilling those prophecies.

The Book of Mormon identifies the seed of Lehi as a remnant, a branch broken off which will be restored to the knowledge of their covenant and their Redeemer (e.g., 1 Nephi 4:15-17). Nephi and his brother, Jacob, are the only Book of Mormon writers who crossed the ocean, and they uniquely view their promised land as an island. Nephi, who delighted in the words of Isaiah (2 Nephi 11:8), “likened” them to his people (2 Nephi 8:3) in their literal fulfillment.
When Columbus was led to the “isles of the sea,” the door was opened to the lands occupied by the remnant of the Book of Mormon people. This set events in motion for the eventual restoration of the knowledge of the covenants.

columbuslandingLost Tribes and Other Sheep

Through Columbus’s writings, it is obvious that he fully expected to find the lost tribes of Israel (Wiesenthal 1973:61). He saw himself as “Christ-bearer” (the meaning of his name Christopher), God’s messenger to bring a knowledge of the Savior to the lost tribes
Particularly noteworthy is Columbus’s inclusion of John 10:16 in his Book of Prophecies: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen [fold], and I must bring them also; they will hear my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (Brigham 1991:264-265). It is with great foresight that he believed that the “flock” would not just be “Israel after the flesh” but that a “spiritual Israel” would be formed of all who would come to Christ (208-209).

When Jesus visited Lehi’s descendants, he told them that they were the other sheep of which he had spoken and that he had still other sheep (3 Nephi 7:20, 24-26). He also told them that those Gentiles who repented would also be numbered among his people (v. 37). There are specific promises in the Book of Mormon to restore the Lamanites to “the knowledge of their Redeemer, … and be numbered among his sheep” which are yet to be fulfilled (Helaman 5:104). This restoration was set in motion when Columbus was led to the New World, followed by Gentiles who brought the “record of the Jews” 0 Nephi 3:155-161). It will culminate when they receive the Book of Mormon and the two books “grow together” (2 Nephi 2:17-23).

The Jewish Connection 

columbuslandsWas Columbus Jewish? There are several proponents of Columbus’s Jewish heritage, with varying viewpoints. Some believe “What there is abundant circumstantial evidence that Columbus was of a Jewish background, at least on one side of the family” (Fuson 1987:16).
The description of Columbus in the Book of Mormon as “a man among the Gentiles” could be interpreted either as a Jew or a Gentile (1 Nephi 3:145).

Columbus is seen either as a converso, a converted Jew (Madariaga 1949:54-65,119-135), or a marrano, a professing Christian who was still a secretly-practicing Jew (Wiesenthal 1973:124-133). Whether or not he was of Jewish ancestry is an interesting proposition. Columbus’s writings are abundantly interwoven with professions of faith and belief in Jesus Christ as his Savior (Brigham 1991:179-181), and he affirms his faith in a letter to the king and queen of Spain (182-183):

Columbus’s mission was permeated with a “Jewish flavor.” Many Jews supported his venture, providing maps, instruments and finances. Many crew members are believed to have been Jewish. In anticipation of finding the lost tribes on his first voyage, Columbus took along a converso, Luis de Torres, an experienced interpreter who “knew how to speak Hebrew, Chaldean, and even some Arabic” (Fusan 1987:100-101).

columbusUpon arrival in the New World, Hebrew was probably spoken in an attempt to communicate with the natives. In the log of his first voyage, Columbus linked the beginning of his voyage to America (early morning of August 3rd) and the expulsion of all professing Jews from Spain (effective at midnight of August 2nd) (Fusan 1987:52). The Jewish people were hopeful of finding a new place of refuge (Wiesenthal 1973:88). The New World was to become a haven for Jews and a new promised land. In fact, the first refugees came in the late fifteenth century; many were marranos (Sachar 1992:10).

Columbus also desired to free Jerusalem from the Muslims and restore the Holy Land to the Church. This could only be financed by discovering new lands and gathering enough gold, silver and precious stones (Fusan 1987:34). However, he knew that his desire to bring freedom to the people of the Old Testament could ultimately come only through their conversion to Jesus Christ.

Part 2: Columbus, Prophecy, and the Holy Spirit

Judeo-Christian Culture: Bible Facts and Biblical Symbols

Judeo-Christian Culture:

Bible Facts and Biblical Symbols

The Threshing Floor

Find out what happens in this step in the harvesting process—and how it relates to the Lord’s harvest.

“I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thresh the nations by the power of my Spirit.” Doctrine and Covenants 35:13

Threshing

Threshing is the process by which the grain husks, or chaff, are loosened. It is done after the fields have been harvested and usually involves crushing the grain stalks on a flat surface, or threshing floor. Threshing is necessary before the final process of winnowing, which separates the husks from the edible grain before the grain is ground and stored.

What We Can Learn

Threshing:

Is powerful.

Just as threshing involves a strong physical act (crushing), the Lord sends forth His humble servants to “thresh the nations by the power of [His] Spirit” (D&C 35:13). Of course, the Spirit’s power isn’t violent in the same way threshing is, but its effects can be similarly impressive. Although it is still, small, and peaceful, the Spirit can penetrate to people’s hearts and help bring about great things, such as the conversion of souls and the breaking down of barriers to the Lord’s work.

Is a means of dividing.

The Spirit divides the righteous from the wicked, the Lord’s people from the world, and Satan’s lies from God’s truth. Those who hear the Lord’s voice through His servants, who have not hardened their hearts, and who choose to repent are counted among the righteous. The wicked experience the Lord’s judgments against them.

Precedes the final separation.

Threshing is a necessary step before the final winnowing. Throughout history, the Lord has at times sent His judgments against wicked people. At His Second Coming, He will separate the wicked from the righteous in preparation for His millennial reign. Before this separation, His servants and His people help prepare the world for the judgment to come by bearing witness through the power of the Spirit.

Bible Facts

Judeo-Christian Culture: Christian Art, Christian Music reach out to Secular World

Judeo-Christian Culture:

Christian Art, Christian Music reach out to Secular World

Find Solace and inspiration in Christian music. Art and music glorify God. There is little music to be found today that truly honors God. Check out the music of this Christian composer, Jordan, . With fans worldwide, Jordan is working on a double album depicting the Creation, and God’s Divine Plan. More about Jordan Music   and sign up for news and updates

Johann Bach . . . Where are you?

Stacy Long

American Family Association Journal

September 2017 – In 1970, a visiting pianist at a church was critiqued and dismissed by a pastor because something about him just didn’t quite sit right with the church congregation. That was when vocalist and pianist Byron Spradlin – who was in the congregation that day – realized something amiss.

“This pianist was from a different culture,” Spradlin noted. “We’ve got a society moving away from God, not toward Him, and people in the arts are the most powerful people.” He recognized that Christians in the creative arts have potential to connect to the larger culture.

Yet Christians too rarely find ground for a serious approach to the arts. Before the eyes of the world, if they make a claim to faith, the worth of their artistic expression is often demeaned by the secular culture.

Spradlin saw need for artistry in the church and for God in the culture, and founded Artists in Christian Testimony in 1973, an offspring of his own musically diverse career and engagement with ministries such as Campus Crusade for Christ and Jews for Jesus. With ACT International, artists are mentored for missions in the church and around the world.

Art connects
Artists are connectors who bring the essence of their faith and ideals to people at a universal level.

Christian artist, Misty Tolle Stiffler

“We have to think of being like the Levitical priests of the Bible, responsible and called out to stand before God and minister to Him and connect others to Him,” said Misty Tolle-Stiffler (left), director of worship arts at Man O’ War Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

Formerly a musician in Broadway productions, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, and director of school and family programs at Carnegie Hall, Tolle-Stiffler knows all about high standards of excellence carried over from her education at the Julliard School. Yet, she gave up the pinnacle of her career, and moved from New York City to Kentucky to learn what could be accomplished by getting on her knees before God.

When Mitchell Tolle, her dad and himself a well-known artist (See AFAJ 2/13), asked her to serve as worship leader at the church he pastors, it was something all her training had not prepared her for.

“My whole approach to being a worship leader and reintegrating classical music as a believer in Christ has been to keep prayer at the center of my life,” she told AFA Journal.

The power of her artistic leadership is that it is well done and encompasses the nonbeliever, even as it heightens the sensibilities of the worshipper.

“I’m thankful for my classical music training,” she said. I know it plays into the success of our music programs. When the world is going out to concerts and events, they encounter excellence. So we make sure that everything is top quality in our productions – and those are ways we connect to the community that wouldn’t normally step inside a church. But it’s tied to God and Him being the One exalted.”

Art exalts
The Christian’s art translates into a worldview that magnifies God, and mankind made in His image.

In Saving Leonardo, Christian apologist Nancy Pearcey chronicles how art forms have changed over history to express the dominating worldview of the time. In the past, art embodied meaning, order, and beauty, because it reflected the Christian worldview.

Now, more often, art is abandoned to dissonance, fragmentation, and absurdity, having been hijacked by philosophies that reject the worth and guiding purpose of a universe held together by God’s hand.

Pearcey quotes Dana Goia, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, a tax-funded agency most noted for funding the bizarre and the blasphemous. Goia acknowledged, “All art is a language – a language of color, sound, movement, or words. When we immerse ourselves in a work of art, we enter into the artist’s worldview. It can be an expansive and glorious worldview, or it can be [a] cramped, dehumanizing worldview.”

Thus, it is more important than ever for Christians to be propelled to the forefront in all manners of artistic expression. In this way, quality is matched with meaning for the eyes of the world.

It is because of the Christian worldview, too, that art should be encouraged by the church, Tolle-Stiffler emphasized. Art is not just worthwhile on the human level, but as a recognition of God’s glory and His handprint on each life.

“There is a part of our soul that, in the way we’re made in the image of God, has an innate need to make beautiful things,” she told AFAJ. “We need to create because in that way we are like our Creator.”

In the worldview of Christian art, both God and man are exalted by the proper expression of their nature.

Art complements


While the role of art in church for the sake of worship and community may be quickly recognized, the involvement of church in the arts is less prioritized. The arts are not just an asset to the church; they are a responsibility.

“In the times of Bach and Michelangelo, so many incredible artists were basically on retainer by churches and religious organizations,” Tolle-Stiffler said. “Part of the reason people like Bach were writing sacred music is that they were literally employed to do so by the church. You could just say, ‘Well culture has changed from a spiritual perspective,’ but part of the big shift is that the church is not investing in the arts. If we relegate all creativity to the world, we’re not able to pour Christian values into those art forms, or into our communities.”

Because art is an integral part of worship and imago dei (image of God), as well as a mode of instruction in Christian worldview, it should belong to the church to sponsor and uphold – for its own sake, and not just as a church-building tool.

Spradlin expresses in a video interview on the ACT International website, people in music and arts have more than just utilitarian capabilities but function as strategists in leadership, development, and community.

“We need to affirm these people … so they will step into what God designed them to be for the church and for humanity in general,” Spradlin says.

Pearcey echoes those thoughts in Saving Leonardo, writing, “Where are today’s counterparts to Bach? Where is the music and art that expresses biblical truths so eloquently that it invites people to embark on a search for God? Christians must go beyond criticizing the degradation of American culture, roll up their sleeves, and get to work on positive solutions … The church must once again become a place with a reputation for nurturing artists.”

Christians in the Visual Arts is a network for artists, galleries, educational facilities, and churches with the goal of creating a relationship between the arts, the church, and the secular world. One of its goals is to encourage churches to sponsor and host an art presence.

As an example of one way that can be done, Grace Point Church in Bentonville, Arkansas, has created Story: The Gallery at Grace Point, a public art gallery. The gallery hosts art camps, changing exhibitions, and opportunities for artists. Visit gracepointchurch.net/story-the-gallery-at-grace-point.

____________________
Online resources
civa.org
608-433-9339

actinternational.org
888-376-7861

mistytolle.com

mitchelltolle.com
859-986-1069

 

Christian Character, Children’s Literature, and McGuffey Readers

Dinner Topics for Tuesday

William McGuffey’s Great Educational Legacy

mcguffeyreaderParents and Homeschoolers: These wonderful books not only teach children to read, but provide classic character education as well.

key“The Christian religion, is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions.”[ “From no source has the author drawn more conspicuously than from the sacred Scriptures. From all these extracts from the Bible I make no apology.” ~William McGuffey

From Wikipedia

William Holmes McGuffey (September 23, 1800 – May 4, 1873) was an American professor and college president who is best known for writing the McGuffey Readers, one of the nation’s first and most widely used series of textbooks. It is estimated that at least 122 million copies of McGuffey Readers were sold between 1836 and 1960, placing its sales in a category with the Bible and Webster’s Dictionary.

Early years

He was born the son of Alexander and Anna (Holmes) McGuffey near Claysville in Washington County, Pennsylvania, which is 45 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. In 1802 the McGuffey family moved further out into the frontier at Tuscarawas County, Ohio. He attended country school, and after receiving special instruction at Youngstown, he attended Greersburg Academy in Darlington, Pennsylvania. Afterwards, he attended and graduated from Pennsylvania’s Washington College, where he became an instructor.

He was close friends with Washington College’s President Andrew Wylie and lived in Wylie’s house for a time; they often would walk the 3 miles to Washington College together.[1]

Professional life

McGuffey left Washington College in 1826 to become a professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. A year later in 1827, he was married to Harriet Spinning of Dayton, Ohio, with whom he had five children. In 1829, he was ordained at Bethel Chapel as a minister in the Presbyterian Church. It was in Oxford that he created the most important contribution of his life: The McGuffey Readers. His books sold over 122 million copies. He was very fond of teaching and children as he geared the books toward a younger audience.

In 1836, he left Miami to become president of Cincinnati College, where he also served as a distinguished teacher and lecturer. He left Cincinnati in 1839 to become the 4th president of Ohio University, which he left in 1843 to become president of Woodward College (really a secondary school) in Cincinnati.

In 1845, McGuffey moved to Charlottesville, Virginia where he became Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia. A year after his first wife Harriet died in 1850, he married Miss Laura Howard, daughter of Dean Howard of the University of Virginia, in 1851. McGuffey is buried in the university burial ground, in Charlottesville, Virginia. The School of Education at Miami University is housed in McGuffey Hall which is named for him and his home in Oxford is a National Historic Landmark offering tours on weekdays.

Legacy

McGuffey is credited with the following quotation:

McGuffey“The Christian religion, is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions.”[2]

The McGuffey School District in Washington County, Pennsylvania is named for William Holmes McGuffey. The industrialist Henry Ford cited McGuffey Readers as one of his most important childhood influences. In 1934 he had the log cabin where McGuffey was born moved to Greenfield Village, Ford’s museum of Americana at Dearborn, Michigan.

 More about William McGuffey in Wikipedia

 

 

Judeo-Christian Culture: Defending the Faith

Judeo-Christian Culture:

Defending the Faith

By Jörg Klebingat

The Lord needs a people willing and able to humbly yet firmly defend Christ and the kingdom of God.

War in Heaven

In the premortal existence we possessed agency, reasoning powers, and intelligence. There we were “called and prepared … according to the foreknowledge of God” and were initially “on the same standing” with our brothers and sisters (Alma 13:3, 5). Opportunities for growth and learning were widely available.

However, equal access to the teachings of a loving heavenly home did not produce a uniform desire among us—Heavenly Father’s spirit children—to listen, learn, and obey. Exercising our agency, as we do today, we listened with varying degrees of interest and intent. Some of us eagerly sought to learn and obey. With war in heaven on the horizon, we prepared for graduation from our premortal home. Truth was taught and challenged; testimonies were borne and ridiculed, with each premortal spirit making the choice to either defend or defect from the Father’s plan.

No Neutrality

Ultimately, retreating indecisively to neutral ground was not an option in this conflict. Nor is it today. Those of us armed with faith in the future Atonement of Jesus Christ, those energized by testimonies of His divine role, those possessing spiritual knowledge and the courage to use it in defense of His sacred name fought on the front lines of this war of words. John taught that those valiant spirits, and others, have overcome Lucifer “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11; emphasis added).

Yes, the promise of a Savior and of a bloodstained Gethsemane and Calvary won the premortal war. But our premortal courage and testimony, our willingness to explain, reason with, and persuade other spirits also helped stem the tide of falsehoods from spreading unopposed!

Having successfully completed a premortal tour of duty in His defense, we became witnesses of His holy name. Indeed, having proven us in battle and being thus assured of our hearts and courage, the Lord later said of us—members of the house of Israel—“Ye are my witnesses” (Isaiah 43:10). Let us ask ourselves: Is this declaration still true of us today?

Our Current Battle

A conflict for the minds, hearts, and souls of our Father’s children still rages today in anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. While many in the world are sincerely curious about the teachings of the Church, an ever-widening gulf between the wicked and the righteous separates a world in moral free fall from restored gospel truths.

“We live in a time when we are surrounded by much that is intended to entice us into paths which may lead to our destruction. To avoid such paths requires determination and courage.”

“As we go about living from day to day, it is almost inevitable that our faith will be challenged. … Do we have the moral courage to stand firm for our beliefs, even if by so doing we must stand alone?”1 ~Thomas S. Monson

Are we both willing and able to engage in polite discussion with those who have honest questions?

 “Even as we seek to be meek … , we must not compromise or dilute our commitment to the truths we understand.”3~Dallin H. Oaks

Become Valiant

How many of us are proactive, valiant defenders of the faith?

He needs a people “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh … a reason of the hope that is in [them]” (1 Peter 3:15).

You may ask, “Can someone as weak as I am be a valiant defender of Christ and His restored gospel?” Your perceived weakness can be made strong as you accept that all the Lord initially requires is “[your] heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34). Endowed with a courageous spirit, the “small and simple” of the world are His favorite recruits. Remember that by “very small means,” He delights to “confound the wise” (see Alma 37:6, 7). If you are willing to share and defend the restored gospel and its leaders and doctrines, you may consider the following suggestions.

 

  1. Know whom and what to defend.

A solid defensive strategy is the foundation for a solid offense. While you can’t effectively defend that which you know nothing or little about, you won’t defend it if you don’t deeply care. Just as a hireling, who is paid to care for the sheep, will retreat or flee at the first sign of trouble, so you will not hold your defensive lines very long unless you have a spiritual conviction that your cause is just and true.

Those who know and live the gospel are filled with both understanding and a burning conviction kindled from worthiness and personal experience.

  1. Evaluate your fortifications.

Honestly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your gospel understanding. Are you setting a good example by living a Christlike life?

Could it be that diligent study will help you gain the confidence and courage you seek?5

  1. Strengthen your fortifications.

Prayerfully read the scriptures, again and again.

“When scriptures are used as the Lord has caused them to be recorded, they have intrinsic power that is not communicated when paraphrased.”6 ~Richard G. Scott

  1. Practice!

As you become increasingly prepared, you will “wax stronger and stronger” in your confidence as a witness of Christ (see Helaman 3:35). Start with brief and simple answers. They will be adequate in most situations. But you can also strengthen your defenses even more by studying related scriptures and connecting various doctrines.

  1. Seek opportunities.

Remember, “discouragement is not the absence of adequacy but the absence of courage.”7

Stand as a Proactive Witness

Title of Liberty

by Winborg

As you continue defending the gospel of Jesus Christ, “faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify [you] for the work” (D&C 4:5). As a wicked world continues violating the moral and doctrinal standards of God, Christ depends on even the least of us to be living witnesses of His name.

Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) reminded us that

“it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something. You must contribute good to the world. The world must be a better place for your presence. … In this world so filled with problems, so constantly threatened by dark and evil challenges, you can and must rise above mediocrity, above indifference. You can become involved and speak with a strong voice for that which is right.8

May your gospel living and your defense of that same gospel be a reflection of the depth of your conversion to Jesus Christ.

Strengthen Your Family’s Faith