30 October 2014

His Word Does Not Return Void

39 For it shall come to pass, that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled; for I will consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles unto the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel. (D&C 42)
What true prophets have spoken and written, before this passage was given in 1831, WILL be fulfilled. No one now, regardless of the claims they make, can contradict what God has declared in scripture.

We can also know by this passage that those who contradict, wrest, or transform the Holy Word of God, no matter how kind-hearted, well-intentioned, earnestly lovable, or seemingly harmless, are by God's own statement not true prophets.

Any questions?

26 October 2014

Which Wolf Are You Feeding?

A friend of mine recently wrote this, in answer to his dad's concerned question: "Which wolf are you feeding?" These two wolves are present in each and every one of us, and I loved the way he explained them both, and the opportunity to examine, in my own heart, which wolf I feed.

The first wolf in me wants the safety and comfort of belonging to the right club, the right social set, the right religion, and the right profession. It wants to believe that following the mainstream is the only safe path, and safety is most important. It prizes appearance over substance. It wants me to identify and follow great men, accepting their beliefs as authoritative and trustworthy. It wants to believe that there are men on the earth who would never be allowed to lead me astray. It wants me to pity people who don't follow those men, and who don't adhere to that true religion, and it wants me to be unable to fully empathize with their experiences. 
In that way, the first wolf wants me to see those people as less than me, or alien to me. It becomes threatened when people stop conforming to the standards of dress and behavior that serve as a shorthand for "in the group." Because it doesn't accept their full humanity, the first wolf won't let me fully love people who aren't like me. If it can apply a repulsive label to someone, it knows it will be that much easier for me to reject their ideas. Because it prizes the sense of security and safety it finds in following the right leader and belonging to the right institution, it wants me to shut my ears to truth which contradicts the false notions under-girding that sense of security. It trembles and rages if I listen to them, and doesn't like being contradicted. The same wolf wants me to rely on the security and comfort of man-made objects, buildings, economies, governments, and religions institutions. 
The second wolf knows there is only security in truth, and that ultimately it can only get that truth from God. When evaluating other's opinions, it values experience and sound reasoning over position and office. This wolf is more likely to make tentative conclusions based on ongoing learning than to take dogmatic positions based on tradition. It is never too proud to admit when it is wrong, and gratefully accepts correction. When it possesses pure knowledge, it lovingly attempts to persuade others. When it doesn't know, it doesn't need to be heard. 
This wolf is insatiably curious. It wants ugly and uncomfortable truth no less than beautiful and encouraging truth. It knows that both kinds of truth are faith-promoting. It is eager to identify and discard false traditions masquerading as truth. It is allergic to them, because they destroy faith before it can begin. It resists judging and condemning others for their perceived failings, because it knows that we all need forgiveness and grace equally. If someone says something false, it is not afraid to acknowledge that falsehood just because everyone else thinks that person couldn't be wrong. It knows the difference between speaking evil of someone and pointing out when they are mistaken. It thinks men are almost always self-important, silly, self-righteous, and vain, and he always reminds me that I am one of those men. 
I can confirm that both of those wolves are alive and well. I shared this blog post because it feeds the second and enrages the first. Of course, I could read the same article in a way that feeds the first wolf: confirming what I already believe to be true and allowing me to judge other people as ignorant and blinded by tradition. I am grateful for the reminder to always question my own motives.
Thank you, my friend, for your wisdom--and experience.

22 October 2014

How ya doin'?

"And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us." (Romans 12:1-3 NLT)
I love love love this passage of Paul's to the Romans. It contains keys of knowledge to understand how to come unto Christ (as a living and holy sacrifice), how to allow God to transform us (by listening to Him, and not following the world), and that God transforms us by changing the way we think. And lastly, I love that we can measure ourselves by our faith.

"Wait," you say. "How do we measure ourselves by our faith?"

I'm glad you asked. :o)

In order to measure ourselves by our faith, we take a good, hard look at our faith. Is it dormant? Is it expressed in the way we live and in the choices we make? Does it produce good fruit? And, most of all, do actual signs follow our belief? If there is no evidence in our behavior, no signs, no miracles, then faith is not.
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? (James 2:14-19)
James isn't saying we prove our belief by what we do. He's saying that we show what we believe by what we do. So, for example, if you actually believe in Christ, your actions will commonly include loving kindness and provision for those in need. If you deny those in need, it shows you believe in something else, for God surely has said (many, many times) that we are to care for the poor. Not just give them a handout every now and then, but to actually care for and support them. In the Doctrine and Covenants it specifically mentions the fatherless and the widow (I believe "widow" includes single mothers). And the Book of Mormon uses the phrase "no poor among them" when describing the most righteous state of followers of Christ.
And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.” (Mark 16:15-18)
I love that Jesus made it simple for us to know who actually believes in Him, and who doesn't. Along with their actions showing clearly what they believe, those that believe will have signs follow them. And in true Jesus-fashion, every one of the signs is for blessing others.

If these signs don't yet follow you, don't give up. They will.
This is what the LORD says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” (Jeremiah 29:10-14)
 We are all, spiritually, coming out of Babylon. When we pray, in these days, the Lord will listen. He will be found!
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him." (Matthew 7:7-11)
I love Luke's expanded version of Matthew's commonly-quoted verses:
Then, teaching them more about prayer, [Jesus] used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:5-13)
Our God IS the God of All Good Things. He is the God of All Supply, the God Who Heals, and the Lover of Our Souls. Trust Him. Love Him. And BELIEVE that He will do what He has said. Because He will. As soon as He possibly can, without His fiery presence consuming us entirely.

18 October 2014

Jesus' Victory: Tool or Gift?

There is, among Latter-day Saints, an ubiquitous phrase: "apply the atonement". It is used thusly:
"If we work hard to do what's right, keep the commandments, apply the atonement in our lives and endure to the end, we can be saved."
This phrase has begun to stick out like a sore thumb to me . . . I get a bit twitchy when I hear it. Not because I take issue with the idea that Jesus Christ can help us, but because of the way His Work is handled in that language. Christ won the victory.  The prize is His. It's not something that can be divorced from His existence. It is what makes Him Jesus Christ, Savior of the World. His victory is something so supernal, so limitless, so astoundingly, overpoweringly, overwhelmingly HUGE, that to me the idea of "applying" it, as one does sunscreen, or one might apply a hammer to a nail, is like saying, "Yeah, that Milky Way has a few stars in it". Or, "Let's be sure to add a little breathing into our day today, shall we?"

Jesus Christ makes our lives possible. He lends us breath, He is the very energy that sustains our lives from moment to moment.
 6 [Christ is] He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;
 7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
 8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
 9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
 10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
 11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
 12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
 13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.
 And so, when someone says, "apply the atonement", I want to cry out that Jesus' Victory--His GLORIOUS atoning sacrifice, death and resurrection, that which caused Enoch to cry "The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world," is not a tool for us to handle, nor a cosmetic to apply when our own virtues run short. Jesus's completed work, His absolute dominion and the fullness of love He offers, are not amelioratives to spruce us up that last little bit so we are saved.

No.

We receive the gift He offers, and it works upon us as we submit ourselves to Him. We do not "use" the atoning blood of the Lamb of God, as one tool amongst others. We open ourselves to it, let it wash into and through and over us, and we are born again, totally new creatures in Christ.

Jesus SAVES. His gift to us, when truly received, leaves nothing the same. No part of us untouched, no dark corner undisturbed. When you receive Christ into your soul, you know He has seen it all, every last thing you have been ashamed of, every last sin and foolishness. And He loves you anyway. It is the firsthand witness, the knowledge of that love, that full and complete acceptance, that makes us new. That is what changes us, and what allows us to receive the Holy Ghost, to be one with the mind of God, as Jesus is one with the Father.

And that's just the beginning.

06 October 2014

From Psalm 94

LORD, how long will the wicked, 
How long will the wicked triumph? 
They utter speech, and speak insolent things; 
All the workers of iniquity boast in themselves. 
They break in pieces Your people, O LORD, 
And afflict Your heritage. 
They slay the widow and the stranger, 
And murder the fatherless.

He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct, 
He who teaches man knowledge?

In the multitude of my anxieties within me, 
Your comforts delight my soul. 
Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, 
Have fellowship with You? 
They gather together against the life of the righteous, 
And condemn innocent blood. 
But the LORD has been my defense, And my God the rock of my refuge. (Psalms 94:3-6, 10, 19-22 NKJV)

Amen

05 October 2014

Wonderful Counselor

"For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."(Isaiah 9:6 NLT)

Christ IS wonderful. He is my Counselor--not just in the archaic sense of one who governs, but as the best-ever therapist, too. He knows not only the end from the beginning, but my end from my beginning. For He is my God, my everlasting Father, my Prince of Peace. 

So often I feel utterly unequipped for this life. I have a good education, come from a good family, have a husband who loves me faithfully and children who are so much more than I deserve. And, like everyone else throughout all of time, I'm still such a rookie in so much of life. And it feels like God has blessed me so abundantly with family that I'll never be equal to the task before me.

And so, I will lean on My Counselor, My Mighty God, My Everlasting Father, My Prince of Peace.

Jesus, I trust You. I am so often totally dumbfounded by Your trust in me, and am in awe of the blessings You've given, and all that lies before me. Lord, show me how to do all things that are required at Your hand. I trust and believe that I can do ALL things through You, for You are the One Who Gives Strength, The Lord God Almighty. Thank You for Who You Are, and all You continually offer to help and sustain me. And lead me, Lord, in the strait path, in the narrow way, and increase my faith as I follow You. In Your Blessed Name, Amen. 

04 October 2014

We Choose. Always.

The story of the 116 pages is not a prototype of the Lord not allowing bad things to happen because of our weaknesses. The 116 pages could have been kept, had Joseph chosen differently, and we would have had twice as much scripture as we do now in the Book of Mormon. 

God gave Joseph a choice between 1000+ pages of the Book of Mormon, or 500+ pages. Joseph chose the latter, not realizing at the time what his choice really was.  That said, God doesn't tuck a set of "small plates" into every situation in our lives. We must be able to choose darkness and damnation, and reap the consequences, else this whole world, this whole life, is a farce. Yes, we each have our small plates situations . . . but they are the exception, not the rule, and they never contradict our agency.

Agency means nothing if we cannot chose evil, and actually receive evil in return. God doesn't "give people what they want". People CHOOSE what they want. He is, as a result, either constrained or enabled in people's lives. He gives no man or woman, or group of people, anything that they do not choose. Ever. Agency is supreme. God does not coerce, compel, or anything like unto it. He offers, entreats, persuades, instructs, gives commandments . . . but in all things, we choose.

Not keeping that truth at the forefront of our minds in all things, in all of this, is one of the most damning mistakes of all. What we receive from God really IS up to us. Each one of us, all the time.

Heaven help us.

03 October 2014

Praise: Proclaiming the Obvious

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" Isa 52:7

Why on earth would Zion--those of one heart and one mind, who know the Lord already--need someone to tell her "Thy God reigneth"?

Good question.

Why say the obvious? Why repeat what has been said before in scripture so many times? Why do what is foolish in our culture, but encouraged in scripture?

All throughout scripture, people who definitely "knew better" repeat themselves at key points. (Please forgive me for not quoting them here . . . this post is being eked out in just a few spare moments today. But that gives you a chance to notice these as you study further in all of scripture.) The practice of praise (i.e. telling God what He already knows about Himself, and proclaiming it to others who mostly already know it, too) is a lost art in the LDS tradition. And yet, as I have begun to learn how to praise--how to confess God's glory, strength, majesty, mercy, grace, love, justice, abundant generosity, and a thousand other things--I have been blessed in rich ways. There is power in praise, in speaking into life within your own mind the truth that exists elsewhere, that shifts the spiritual atmosphere and opens our hearts and minds to the glory and mind of God.

So, go ahead and try it sometime. Try telling God what He already knows about Himself, and see what happens to your own heart, your own spirit. And if you have the Holy Spirit with you in power, then watch out . . . you'll feel like you can go on forever, and there are few things as beautiful or sweet to the soul.

Father in Heaven, I glory in You! For You are faithful, always; Your Son leads me through my life, teaches me Your ways, and blesses and protect me as soon as I'm willing to let Him. You work in mysterious ways, that are made plain to those who love and follow You. You are generous and kind, eager to receive us into Your presence. I praise you for Jesus, and His willing sacrifice. Jesus, you are Good, You are Love, You are Light, You are Truth! You bless me beyond all measure and understanding, and You never leave me desolate when I cry out to You. You are the God who heals, the God of Restoration, the Finder of all that is Lost, the God of All Supply. You are my hope, my strength, my joy, my forgiveness. You are Mercy, You are Joy, and You are Mine, as I am Yours. I love you, Jesus, and I love you, Father in Heaven. In Jesus' beloved name, amen!