Month: Dec 2013

Press Toward the Mark

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Press Towards the Mark

The date is 31 December 2013. We now find ourselves enjoying the sunset of a year that will soon be past. In just a few short hours, the dawn will break, and we will see just over the horizon, the beginning of a brand new day, indeed a brand new year. With the arrival of the new year we find ourselves standing at the starting line of a brand new race to run and a victory to win. Our goal is to not necessarily to become the swiftest runner in the race, but our goal is to endure to the end. ~ Keith Lionel Brown

In just a few short hours the year 2013 will take its place among the annals of history as a brand new year dawns on the horizon. The dawning of the New Year just ahead of us opens up a new chapter in each of our lives. Once again we have been graciously given an opportunity to learn from our past – to grow spiritually and to mature – and to press forward to live our lives as pleasing unto the Lord.

How do we live a life that is pleasing unto the Lord? The Prophet Joseph Smith taught us that “If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added (TPJS, p. 256). He further taught us that we must “realize that we are not to live to ourselves, but to God; by so doing the greatest blessings will rest upon us both in time and eternity” (TPJS, 179). And, President Ezra Taft Benson taught us that “We must put God in the forefront of everything else in our lives. . . . When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives” (Ensign, Ezra Taft Benson, “The Great Commandment – Love the Lord,” May 1988, p. 4).

As we strive to live our lives as pleasing unto the Lord, we begin to grow and mature spiritually. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians, in Philippians 3:12-14 uses the analogy of an athletic race to describe the process of becoming spiritually mature. We read,

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

First, Paul teaches us that we must realize that we are not perfect. His attitude is rightly expressed in verse 12 when he exhorts,

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

Paul is no longer a self-righteous Pharisee. After 30 years of being a Christian, he still had not completely conformed to the will of God for his life, and he knew it. Furthermore, he never permitted himself to be satisfied with his spiritual attainments as a Christian, and as a missionary.

If we are to grow and mature spiritually we must beware of becoming complacent. We must never feel that we have arrived spiritually. People who become content with where they are spiritually have reached a dangerous point. One of the main reasons why we become satisfied with where we are spiritually is that we sometimes compare ourselves with others, especially with those who seem to not be making much progress. However, there is always more spiritual truth to learn as we serve in the Lord’s vineyard. We need to become a more loving, a more pure, a more gracious, and a more patient people. We never in this life reach a point where we no longer need to pray, read our scriptures, or attend church services regularly. Therefore, as long as we live in this state of mortality, we must never become satisfied that we have arrived spiritually. There will always be room for progress.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught,

The nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of this life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Master and is caught up to dwell with Him. But we consider that this is a station in which no man ever arrived in a moment.  

Second, Paul teaches us in verse 14 that we need a goal or a mark to pursue. The “mark” (Gr. skopos) is something we can see, something we can run straight at. An athlete running a race must fix his eyes on something ahead of himself. He cannot watch his feet or be distracted by watching the other runners. In like manner, we need to set our eyes upon the mark, and keep running toward the finish line with determination and focus. Here in verse 14, the Apostle Paul makes reference to the high call of God upon his life. He took God’s purpose in calling him as being his greatest objective. He had a goal that he was striving for because he knew that he had a purpose to fulfill.

What is our purpose in life? Is it just to make money, seek worldly fame, or to selfishly gratify our every want? I sincerely pray that our goals in life are a lot loftier. In Mark 4:19 Christ warned us that “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”

So, what is this mark that we should strive for? What is the goal that we should set for ourselves? According to our text, I believe it is perfectly fulfilling God’s call upon our lives. He has called each of us to become like His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Standard of Perfection that we must keep before us. In Hebrews 12:2 we are reminded that we should always be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith….” And, in Colossians 1:28 we are reminded that “we preach [Christ] warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

There are two aspects of keeping a proper focus on the proper goal and direction of our lives. First, Don’t Look Back. Paul says in the last part of verse13, “…forgetting those things which are behind….” A runner must not look back. He knows that if he does, he will lose his speed, his direction, and finally the race itself. We must refuse to dwell on our past sins and failures. Instead, we are to “forget” them. Now, the word “forget” as used here, means “no longer to be influenced by or affected by.” What Paul is essentially teaching us is that we need to stop living in the past and start living for the future. We cannot change the past, but we can change the meaning of the past. Joseph in the Old Testament book of Genesis is a good example (see Genesis 45:1-15). When he met his brothers the second time and revealed himself to them, he held no grudge against them. He saw the past from God’s point of view. He realized that God had allowed him to suffer many trials, for through them He would put him in a place to save his family from famine. And what his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good.

Second, Establish Priorities. The runner in the race should practice persistent concentration on one, and only one aim, namely to press toward the goal for the prize.

House We Are BuildingThe story is told of an elderly carpenter who was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house-building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife, enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but they could get by. The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter reluctantly said yes, but in time, it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.When the carpenter finished his work, the employer came to inspect the house. He handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.” The carpenter was shocked! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.

And so it is with us. We build our lives, one day at a time, often putting less than our best into the building. Then we realize we have to live in the house we have built. So let us build wisely while we can.

As we approach the dawn of a brand new year, let us resolve to walk in God’s ways, to keep His decrees, His laws, and His commandments, so that [we] may prosper in all that [we] do and wherever [we] may go.

Excuses, Excuses

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Stop Making Excuses There are some people who seem to have a knack for always having an excuse as to why they cannot do something, no matter how simple or difficult the task at hand may be. As someone has wisely said,

The person who really wants to do something finds a way; the other person finds an excuse.

Steven Grayhm, a Canadian actor, director, scriptwriter and producer, once said,

Excuses are the tools with which persons with no purpose in view build for themselves great monuments of nothing.

Pierre-Jules Renard, a French author and member of the Académie Goncourt, said,

The only man who is really free is the one who can turn down an invitation to dinner without giving an excuse.

And Benjamin Franklin stated,

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.

There are times when people are legitimately unable to do things because of extenuating circumstances. However, there seem to be some people who are so wrapped up in themselves and what is happening in their little world that they can never spare the time to aid someone else. For example, if you were to ask these people for a ride somewhere they will be quick to tell you that they can’t because they are not going your way when they actually have to pass right by the doors of the place where you need to go. All it would take is a few extra minutes of their precious time to drop you off and then be on their way, but obviously that must be an inconvenience to them.

How many times, even at church, have people been asked to stay behind, or to come a little early to help do something, and they never seem to be able to because they always have to be somewhere else or to do something else? Sometimes that may be the case, but not all the time. Sometimes they are just making excuses for not doing something that they did not have the desire to do in the first place. As the Yiddish proverb states,

If you don’t want to do something, one excuse is as good as another.

People who consistently make excuses to keep from doing something often deprive themselves of many wonderful blessings and opportunities. An excellent illustration of this is given in the parable of the great supper as recorded in the Luke 14:16-24:

Parable of the Great Supper

16 Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.

20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

21 So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.

22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.

23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

24 For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

The Master invites all to come and partake of the Great Supper that has been prepared, but how many will have an excuse for not accepting the invitation and will say as those in the parable, “I pray thee have me excused”? Of a surety, “none of those which were bidden shall taste of [His] supper“ (Luke 14:24). The Master expounds upon this as He further teaches in Luke 14: 26-27,

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

How sad to think of the blessings that some could have if they would but only accept the invitation that is given to “Come” instead of always making excuses not to go. Truly there are many who are called, but few will be chosen because “their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:34, 35). In all of their giving of excuses they have failed to learn that “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

When called upon to do something, do we willingly give of our time to be of assistance, or are we quick to formulate an excuse to get out of doing what has been asked of us? Can it be said of us that we are always willing to”lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Hebrews 12:12), or do people only see us as a person who always has another excuse?

 

The Father That Every Child Needs

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Father and sonI would like to be so bold as to send out a message to “fathers” everywhere. I would like to go on record as being one to set the record straight that just because a male is biologically able to play a part in the creation of a new life, that does not constitute him being a “father.” Not to be rude or crass, but animals in the wild can do as much.

Being a father is more than having the title of “father.” The title of “father” is not a God-given right, it is a title that is earned.

Being a father means more than seeing a new life come into the world, and then going happily on your way to do what you want to do, when you want to do it. The major part of being a father is BEING THERE. A father needs to be there to do his part in raising his children, and helping to guide the footsteps of those children on the path that they should go. A father sets the proper example to help his children to mature into well-behaved, respectable and responsible adults that will become viable contributions, versus menaces, to the society in which they live. He is wise enough to discern the difference between discipline and abuse, and disciplines his children in love when needed.

A father knows what he believes, and stands firm in those beliefs. He is a man of courage, a man of discipline, a man of principle, a man of moral fortitude. He is ALWAYS THERE – on the bright sun shiny days, and especially on the dark and cloudy days. He does not tuck tail and run when the storm winds are raging, but rather he stands firm and is a provider and a protector during those storms.

Blessed is the man who is a devoted husband to his wife and gives his children the best gift that he can give them – to love their mother – and whose children love him and call him “father.”

Father and son

A Sermon in a Harlem Barber Shop

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white-woman-in-black-barber-shop

On, Thursday, 26 December 2013, I posted the following comments on my Facebook page:

I will forever be grateful that my parents did not raise me in a black and white world, but a world full of color and diversity. I am glad that they taught me from an early age that no one person is better than another, but we are all different in our own way, and that is what makes each of us uniquely wonderful and special. I will always be thankful that they taught me to never let cultural differences cause a great chasm, but to use those differences as a reason to bond together and to learn from one another to help build bridges of love, hope, peace, and understanding. I am grateful that they taught me that I should never judge any man by what I see with my physical eyes, but by the content of his character. They taught me that I should try walking a mile in another man’s shoes, and seeing the world through his eyes, and then I might better understand him. I am especially grateful that they taught me that we are all God’s children and that He is no respecter of persons. He loves all of us equally and unconditionally.


It is those life lessons that have molded and shaped me into the man that I am today. And it for these moral standards of living that I will forever stand. Whether people like me, love me, or hate me is strictly their choice, but I am who I am by the love, grace, and mercy of Almighty God and I will never apologize to any man for that.

The videos above were in my email this morning and I felt inspired to share them as they go right along with the comment that I made yesterday regarding how my parents raised me.

I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I have to agree that racist remarks, racial jokes, racial slurs, racism period, equals ignorance which is something, as I grow older, that I have less and less tolerance for with each passing day. I like what my brother-in-law said in recent conversation: “Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade, and foolishness for what it is, and if a person is a foolish spade, well, God help them!”

It doesn’t matter if the comments are made by a White person against a Black person, or a Black person against a White person, or comments are made against any race, racism is wrong, and the person who incessantly makes such remarks displays his level of ignorance, not his level of intelligence. HATE only begets more HATE. We must learn to love, respect, and accept people for who and what they are. As for me and my house, we will hate no more forever, for we know of a surety that it is LOVE that conquers all.

H.U.G.S. = Helping Us Grow Spiritually

What Child Is This?

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While Shepherds Watched Their Flock By Night

Luke 2: 8-19 (KJV)

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

The year is 2013. The date is 25 December – Christmas Day. Once again, the hearts and minds of people are focused upon those wonderful events that took place in the little town of Bethlehem during the night of miracles that occurred over 2000 years ago. It was on that night of nights that a tiny baby boy was born. However, the world should carefully note that this was no ordinary baby. Little did the world know or realize that this One who was born in the City of David on that holy night would change the course of the world forever. He would heal the sick, raise the dead, cause the lame to walk, open the ears of the deaf, give sight to the blind, walk on water, perform miracles, calm the storms by speaking to them, make fishers of men, set captives free, and willing give His life as sin’s final sacrifice that all might be saved and one day return home to live with the Father.

One of the hymns that are frequently sung during this season of the year is “What Child Is This?” Wise men down through the ages have sought to find an answer to this very important question. Some people called Him the son of David. Others called Him the son of Joseph. The Scriptures call Him the son of David, the son of Mary, the son of man, the Son of God.

First, as the son of David, He was the Sovereign child. In Luke 1:31-33 we read these words,

And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

This tiny little baby who lay in the Bethlehem manger was the rightful King. He was not born to some day become the king. He was born KING! And not just an ordinary king, but, the KING of kings and the LORD of lords. President Ezra Taft Benson once stated,

Jesus Christ is the Lord God Omnipotent. (see Mosiah 3:5.) He was chosen before He was born. He was the all-powerful Creator of the heavens and the earth. He is the source of life and light to all things. His word is the law by which all things are governed in the universe. All things created and made by Him are subject to His infinite power (Ensign, November 1963, p.6).

Not only is He the rightful KING, but He is also considered by some to be the rejected KING. We read about the failed plot of Herod the king to destroy the Christ-child as recorded in Matthew 2:1-16:

Matthew 2:1-16

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, and thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, out of Egypt have I called my son. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

Throughout His humble earthly life He was despised and rejected by people from all walks of life, and He still continues to be rejected by people today. The world says that there are too many other things to be concerned with and so it tries to eliminate Christ from any aspect of daily life. Some even go so far as to say that there is no room for Christ in this modern, technological, self-sufficient, fast-paced world in which we live. Thus, they feel that we no longer need His law, His love, or His sacrifice for us. Are we among those who have no room for Him in their busy lives? Do we find ourselves not needing to stand on His promises because we feel that we are doing fairly well without Him? Do we find that there is no time to do things His way because we much prefer to do things our own way? I pray that it may never be so in any of our lives.

Not only is He the rightful King and the rejected King by some, but He is also the soon returning KING. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 we are taught,

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Second, as the son of Mary, He was the supernatural child. The birth was seemingly impossible, however, the birth of the Christ-child was the fulfillment of the prophecy given by the prophet Isaiah as we read in Isaiah 7:14-15,

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.

Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, Herod, angels, Satan, and our Heavenly father, also steadfastly investigated the birth. Without a doubt, this birth was supremely important.

Third, as the son of man, He was the servant child. The Scriptures teach us in Philippians 2:5-8,

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

As the servant child, the Lord Jesus Christ experienced the problems of the flesh. He experienced physical weariness, hunger, thirst, and physical pain. Yet, in all of this, He never sinned! In all that He did, He submitted to the will of the Father and set the example for us to follow through His obedience, patience and ministry to others.

Fourth, as the Son of God, He is the Savior child. Read and ponder the words of John 3:16-17,

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

As the Son of God He was the only sinless man who ever lived. He was the only sacrifice that could take away sins. He is the Christ – the Messiah – the Redeemer – the Savior of the world!

Concerning the Christ, President Gordon B. Hinckley stated,

How wondrous is the story of the great Creator, the mighty Jehovah, who condescended to come to the earth as the babe born in Bethlehem of Judea, who walked the dusty paths of Palestine teaching and healing and blessing, who gave His life on Calvary’s painful cross, and who rose from Joseph’s tomb, appearing to many on two continents – the resurrected Lord whom we read about in the testament of the Old World, the Bible, and in the testament of the New World, the Book of Mormon, as well as the word of modern revelation. We have read these, and the Spirit has borne witness in our hearts so that we too can testify that Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life, and that he that liveth and believeth in Him shall never die (see John 11:25-26) (Ensign, Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Empty Tomb Bore Testimony,” May 1988, p.66).

I conclude my remarks by sharing with you an essay on the Life of Jesus Christ that I came across some time ago that helps to put the period in place to all that I have endeavored to say in this treatise. The essay is entitled “One Solitary Life”:

One Solitary Life

Jesus Christ


Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself.

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Twenty long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

As we gather together with friends and loved ones during this joyous holiday season, may we be ever mindful that Christmas is not about the beautiful Christmas decorations that we see. Christmas is not even about the beautifully wrapped packages under the tree. No, Christmas is about giving thanks to our Heavenly Father for His precious gift to the world on that very first Christmas morning – the gift of His Only Begotten Son – He who was born KING – the Messiah – the Savior of the world – Jesus the Christ – THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL. May God bless us, everyone, is my humble prayer. In the Sacred name of Him of whom saints and angels sing – He who is the Life and the Light of the world – even the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Mosiah 3:5 (Book of Mormon)

For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

Discovering Our Family Roots – We Are the Chosen Ones

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In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage – to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness. — Alex Haley, Author of Roots

Roy Campanella Roy Campanella 1953

I have been assigned as the family historian and one of my responsibilities is to put together a family album that will be handed down to my 14-year-old nephew so that he will have some idea about who his family members are/were. At his young age there are so many family members that he never been able to meet or know personally. For example, all the family members on my father’s side of the family have now passed, including my father, his grandfather, who passed away on 20 November 2006, and whom he knew for only a short time. He also did not have a chance to meet my mother, his grandmother, who passed away on 12 June 1997, after losing her battle to breast cancer.

Some time ago while I was doing some research on my brother-in-law’s family line, I discovered that the famous baseball catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Roy Campanella, was one of his ancestors. I also discovered that one of his ancestors was a member of the Shawnee Indian Nation.

Thus far, I have traced my family lines as far back on my father’s side to 1792, the year that my great-great-great grandfather, James Brown, was born of a free Black woman. I have a copy of his Freedom papers. He and his sons helped found a small town called San Domingo, Maryland on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. His grave and the grave of Elizabeth Leatherbury, my great-great-great grandmother are registered with the National Historical Society of Maryland as being the oldest known marked graves of free Negroes on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My great-great-great grandfather and his two sons, Bayard and Leonard, also built the original Zion United Methodist Church in San Domingo, Maryland. The Church is now over 150 years old.

There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his. — Helen Keller

San Domingo School

San Domingo School. Photo credit: Paul Baker Touart , August 2005.

 

Where is He?

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Wise Men Follow the Star

Wise Men Still Seek Him

 

Wise men of old came from afar asking the timeless question, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2). Following the star that they had seen in the East, they were led to where the Christ Child lay. Upon their arrival they presented the new-born baby with precious gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh.

Have you ever stopped to wonder why the scriptures never tell us exactly how many wise men came to worship the new-born King? Have you ever wondered why there is no mention of their names or identities? I believe that it is because they were not the focal point of the lesson that is being taught. The lesson that is being taught is that Christ is the One upon whom our focus should be centered. Like the wise men of old, we should come near to worship Him. For truly He is worthy of all praise and adoration!

Decorated Christmas TreeAs we celebrate this joyous Christmas season, perhaps we need to pause for a moment and take a look around and ask the same question that was asked of old, “Where is He?” Among all the commercialism, parties, brightly colored lights, beautiful decorations, and the gifts that we might receive on Christmas morning, “Where is He?”

The Birth of Christ MormonWhat is our main focal point as we celebrate and reflect upon this Christmas season? Is it the merriment of the world at this season of the year that fills our hearts with joy and delight for a few brief moments of time, or are our hearts and minds focused on the One whose name is Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace – He that is the greatest gift ever given to humanity by our loving Heavenly Father Himself, wrapped in His Divine love and sealed with an Eternal Promise – He who is both the Light and the Life of the world?

The wise men came to worship the Christ Child. Who is it or what is it that we worship? The wise men presented the new-born King with precious gifts from their treasures. What would we give to Him who is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords? Would we give Him those things that matter least to us and seemingly have no real value, or would we open our hearts and give Him our best?

Beautiful Star of Bethlehem – The Special Gift That Was Given

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Star of BethlehemThe tiny babe who in Bethlehem manger lay was no ordinary child. Some people called Him the son of David. Others called Him the son of Joseph. The scriptures call Him the son of David, the son of Mary, the son of man, the Son of God. He whose name is Immanuel, meaning God is with us, was born to be the King of kings and the Lord of lords. This child was the promised Messiah – even Jesus the Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God the Eternal Father. For hundreds of years prophecies had foretold the birth of a Messiah, and on that starry night in the City of David, the One who would fulfill those prophecies was born in a humble stable with a manger as His cradle.

In the Book of Mormon, in 3 Nephi 1: 13, we read,

Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.

Whether by His own voice or by the mouth of His holy prophets, God always fulfills His promises. In the Grand Council in Heaven, our Heavenly Father promised to send a Savior who would atone for our sins so that we could live with Him again. The Apostle John testifies of this and tells us in his words as recorded in John 3:16-17,

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

How did Heavenly Father send His Son to the earth? He sent Him as a newborn baby and He allowed Him to learn and grow, just as we learn and grow. We learn in Luke 2:40 that “the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” Throughout His mortal life He did all things according to the will of His Father who had sent Him. And because of His great love for us, He would willingly give His life as a ransom for us by becoming sin’s final sacrifice. But, the Good News is that the story does not end there. Three days later He triumphantly arose from the grave and lives forever more seated at the right hand of God the Father. And because of His glorious resurrection, death has been forever conquered, and we too shall be resurrected and live again. What a wondrous blessing Jesus Christ is to mankind. Heavenly Father had promised to send a Savior, and He kept His promise.

Before His humble birth in Bethlehem, prophets of old taught about the Messiah who was soon to come, and did indeed come. Let us take a brief look at some of the things that they taught.

More than 700 years prior to the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah, as recorded in Isaiah 7:14-15 prophesied that the Messiah was to be born of a virgin. We read,

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.

The prophet Micah, as recorded in Micah 5:2, prophesied that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. We read,

But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

Among the ancient prophecies we also learn of the lineage of Jesus Christ. We learn that the Messiah was to be a descendant of Abraham. In Genesis 12:3 we read, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” The fulfillment of that prophecy is found in the genealogical family tree recorded in Matthew 1:1, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Following the line of Abraham, the Messiah was also to be a descendent of David. We read in Isaiah 9:7,

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

We find the fulfillment of that prophecy in Luke 1:31-33:

And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

We also learn of the purpose of Jesus’ birth. Recorded in the words of Isaiah the prophet, in Isaiah 61:1-3, we read these words:

1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;


2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;


3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

And in the New Testament, in the Gospel of Luke, in the fourth chapter and verses 16-21, we read about the Savior in Nazareth:

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.


17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,


18 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,


19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.


20 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.


21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.


For some people, Christmas day is nothing more than another day to have another celebration. It is a time to celebrate, however, we should be rejoicing in the fact that two thousand years ago our loving Heavenly Father gave to the world the greatest Christmas gift ever known to humanity. It was a very special gift, wrapped in the Divine love of the Father Himself. That gift was His Only Begotten Son – He who was born King – the Messiah – the Savior of the world – the Redeemer and Lover of our souls – the Hope of Israel – the Lord Jesus Christ. When asked, “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” those are the things that we should be willing to share with family, friends, and all those we come in contact with this season.

Sadly, there are those who doubt Him and say they don’t need Him. There are even those who will argue that He was just a man. Yes, He was a man, but not just an ordinary man. He was both God and man. He lived and walked among men, yet the life that He lived was not an ordinary life. His life had a major impact on the entire world. No other life can begin to compare to this One Solitary Life.

Down through the ages He has been ridiculed, despised, and rejected and yet wise men still seek Him today. Regardless of what men say about Him, it does not change the fact that He has always been and always will be the Eternal Son of the Living God. One day, as the Scriptures clearly teach us, at His name “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11). He is the One about whom the universe revolves; in whom the hopes and fears of all the years have found their joyous fulfillment. Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Lord.

I leave these thoughts with you humbly, in the name of Him whose name is indeed Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace – He who is the Light and the Life of the world, even the Lord Jesus the Christ. Amen.