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.

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I welcome questions and concerns--they are most often what spur us closer to the truth. I only ask that we all give everyone the most generous benefit of the doubt, assigning the best motives possible. A soft answer truly does turn away wrath, and an atmosphere of Jesus's love is the best for learning, no matter which side of a discussion you're on.

Thanks so much, and God bless you!