22 April 2015

God does not hurt His children.

I've been pondering through some Mormon Myths this week. Here are the results of said ponderings:

Myth #1) Because we suffer in this life, it's God's will that we suffer.

This LIFE is a gift from God. The horrible things that happen are a result of the Fall. Not God.

We chose to come here, shouting for joy at the chance. God did not act upon us, forcing us to come here.

When I chose to go to college, my parents made it possible for me to do so. They took me to the school to drop me off and get me settled in, they helped to support me while I was there, and allowed me to make my own choices and learn. My parents were not in any way responsible for the hard and sometimes deeply painful things I experienced while I was there--that stuff was a result of the choices of other people around me, or my own choices. My parents knew that going to college could introduce me to painful situations, but they did not create those situations, nor did they force me into them. Much to the contrary, they advised me as best they could, warning me of potential pitfalls. They are good parents, just as God is the perfect Father.

Myth #2) God is all-powerful, and so it must be His will that we suffer.

If I believe God is all-powerful, then I accept what He said in scripture, including that He is a God of truth, and cannot lie. The knowledge of those two things alone are what the Lord told Mahonri Moriancumer redeemed him from the fall, bringing him back into the Lord's presence (Ether 3:9-13).

Believing those things--and being willing to let go of everything else--was what precipitated the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost in my life.

God the Son came to this benighted place, giving up His glory in heaven, clothed in flesh, lived a life wholly submitted to His Father, committing no sin whatsoever, yet experiencing every temptation either in His life, or in Gethsemane. He triumphed over ALL sin and death, and has said repeatedly that He offers salvation to all those who come unto Him. He offered milk and honey without cost and without price, living water so we never thirst again, a yoke that is easy, and a burden that is light. Everything about Jesus Christ calls us to rise from bondage, to step out of the chains with which we are bound. There is power in the name of Jesus, because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Cor 3:17, Jeremiah 10:6)

Our God IS generosity, IS love, IS freedom, IS kindness, IS gentleness, IS patience, IS tolerance, IS healing. It is not His will that we suffer. Not ever. In D&C 19, the Lord says that He suffered for ALL, so that we don't have to, if we repent . . . and He took upon Himself our sickness and infirmities so that He would know how to succor us (Alma 7:11-12).

His calling card in His earthly ministry was healing. It was the proof of His authority and calling. His instructions to the Seventy included healing all those whose homes they stayed in. Why go through all of that additional anguish and injury and horror if He wasn't going to use it to liberate all of us, whom He so loves? Why would He suddenly become a respecter of persons, telling one here and one there that, unlike everyone else, He wills that they suffer? He knows what it is like for a child to live in a hellishly abusive home. Jesus knows what it is like to be terrified and terrorized by an abusive parent or spouse, knows what it is like to be abused emotionally and verbally, denied the very most basic human needs of love and acceptance. His entire purpose IS to heal every hurt, to give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, to fill us with His spirit.

Our illnesses, weaknesses, and sin are not something to be borne in patience, waiting for the end of our lives so we can be free of them.

We all are equal in the sight of God. All repentant souls have equal claim on His grace: we all can lay claim on ALL of it, because He has already given us all of it. That gift was complete, finished, and given to us, when His victory was complete.

This life is HARD WORK. We get hurt, we feel pain, we experience, we learn, and we draw close to God. It's like the labor pains of childbirth. I chose to bring six children into this world. Even after my first labor, which was incredibly painful and really traumatic, I chose to have more children, and I chose to endure the pain for their benefit. (Long story--no heroism here. My first baby was adversely affected by the epidural anesthesia, and I simply couldn't bring myself to put another one of my babies through that.)

1 John 4:8: "He that loves not, knows not God; for God is love."

What is love?
4 Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.
5 It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
6 It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
7 Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
8 Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8 AMP)
And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (Moroni 7:45)
The pure and perfect love of Christ, He who is the example by which we understand love, cannot be injury to someone. Love is not willing someone to suffer. Love is being willing to suffer, yourself, so another does not have to.

15 April 2015

On Gathering

Reading randomly in 3 Nephi recently, a pattern in the last part of chapter 21 leapt off of the page at me. I noticed that there were a lot of instances of "and then", and that they were laying out an ordered set of events. Check it out:
 22 But if they will repent and hearken unto my words, and harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for their inheritance; 
STEP 1: There's a repentant group of gentiles among whom Jesus Christ will establish His church. Those who repent and come unto Christ are His church (D&C 10:67). This isn't a case of "the ONE and ONLY TRUE CHURCH" being set up among this group as the only place the ONE and ONLY TRUE CHURCH exists. These verses are saying that part of the body of Christ (those who repent and come unto Christ) will be this apparently smallish group of Gentiles. Later verses show there are other gatherings and other remnants all over the nation and world. This is just an initial, preliminary gathering for those who are called to do the work laid out in step two.
23 And they shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem.
STEP 2: The remnant of Jacob and this repentant group of gentiles will build the New Jerusalem.
24 And then shall they assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem. 
STEP 3: Now that there's a place to gather, more gathering of those who Christ openly claims as His own to the New Jerusalem can happen.
25 And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in the midst.
STEP 4: "The power of heaven" is Christ, and He will come to the New Jerusalem.
26 And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem. 27 Yea, the work shall commence among all the dispersed of my people, with the Father to prepare the way whereby they may come unto me, that they may call on the Father in my name. 
STEP 5: "The work of the Father" only commences at this point, with the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is very simple: "Jesus won!!! And He can save you if you repent and call on His name!" It is nothing more, and nothing less.
28 Yea, and then shall the work commence, with the Father among all nations in preparing the way whereby his people may be gathered home to the land of their inheritance. 
STEP 6: This is when the gospel, in its simplicity, is openly preached "among all nations", so ALL who claim God as their Father can be gathered home.
29 And they shall go out from all nations; and they shall not go out in haste, nor go by flight, for I will go before them, saith the Father, and I will be their rearward. 
STEP 7: When gathered in the last and final gathering (which may very well be many years after that initial gathering to build the New Jerusalem), those gathered will not be refugees, and their way will be prepared before and sealed behind by the Father. Pretty amazingly cool, if you ask me.

I keep thinking over this chronology, and I'm just blown away. Such a beautiful, simple, pattern, and yet so considerate and well-planned. God is going to do things in wisdom and order, and we don't have to be afraid. If we're seeking Jesus Christ and following Him, then we will not be taken by surprise, and our God will make provision for those who follow Him.

Love Song of the Husband of Israel

'For this--the waters of Noah unto me,
   for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth,
   so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee.
For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed,
   but my kindness shall not depart from thee,
   neither shall the covenant of my people be removed,'
   saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
 
'O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted!
Behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors,
   and lay thy foundations with sapphires.
And I will make thy windows of agates,
   and thy gates of carbuncles,
   and all thy borders of pleasant stones.
And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
   and great shall be the peace of thy children.
In righteousness shalt thou be established;
   thou shalt be far from oppression for thou shalt not fear,
   and from terror, for it shall not come near thee.
Behold, they shall surely gather together against thee, not by me;
   whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake.
Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire,
   and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work;
   and I have created the waster to destroy.
No weapon formed against thee shall prosper;
   and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgement thou shalt condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
   and their righteousness is of me,' saith the Lord." (~3 Nephi 22:9-17)
The kindness of our Lord is eternal. His kindness IS, just as He is I AM. He has mercy on us, and promises to comfort us, provide for us, protect us, and to seat us in safety beyond the reach of our accusers.  He promises us a safe habitation, and the continuance of His care. He will not break His promises. Ever.

Father, thank You so much for Your promises. Thank You for Your perfect constancy, and for the understanding that You will NEVER fail me. Ever. In a world where all things change, where no person is perfect, You ARE. And I praise You for it, in Jesus' name. Amen.

05 April 2015

Jesus is RISEN!

As I sit here at my computer, the newly-birthed glory of this morning streams through my windows washing the blue walls, the unmade bed, and my own still-rumpled self. But I couldn't help but rise before the sun this morning for some reason. There are things on my mind, but they're not what woke me up. I awoke to the phrase "Jesus is Risen!" sounding in my heart, followed by the words of a song I've known since I was a child:
Jesus is risen,
Jesus my friend.
Joy fills my heart,
He lives again!
As I see some of the fallout of yesterday's earnest opposing vote in General Conference, see the fruit of the responses of so many to that cry for help, my heart keeps turning back to Jesus. I pray for the souls of those who are hurting, who are confused, who are looking for answers, and often whose belief in the God of Israel hangs by a thread. I pray for those who are caught in a response that comes, not from the love of Jesus Christ that called all to come unto Him so He could heal them, but in derision, offense, and simple hatred for those whom they would have been happy to call "brother" or "sister" just an hour earlier.
Jesus is risen,
Jesus my friend.
Joy fills my heart,
He lives again!!!
Our Lord is the victorious Son, seated upon His Father's throne. He is the One who heals all hurts, resolves all differences, clears all confusion and fills us with peace . . . but not peace alone: with joy and peace. He is the Lord of the empty tomb, the Lord who triumphed on the cross when He said, "It is finished". He took our shame upon Himself, nailed it to the cross with His body, then carried it to the grave and left it buried there when He arose that first Easter morn, the first morning the birds sang.

Oh those who call yourselves saints, who claim to worship Jesus Christ . . . can we not lay aside offense and see one another for who we each are? Precious, flawed, beautiful, broken, beloved, rescued, saved, redeemed! Our Lord Jesus broke the bands of death! He conquered sin so we wouldn't have to live a perfect life in order to do so, but could rely upon His merits alone. We can work and slave and check off all of the to-do's on our perceived path to salvation, and still be damned to hell if we do not find, and fall totally in love with, Jesus Christ. We have to have a personal revelation from Him . . . not that our leaders are something special, or a certain building is the only place certain work can be done. Jesus Christ must reveal Himself to us--first through His love, then through His spirit, and then in His very person. All other things are meaningless without Him literally changing our hearts, recreating us in His image, and giving us a completely new understanding of everything around us.

Do you yet respond as Enoch did, when he saw the wickedness of the world? And do you rejoice as He did when God showed him the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ?

If anyone can think of Easter without an insuppressible joy rising in their hearts, if anyone can think of Jesus Christ without feeling like they want to jump out of their seats and cheer louder than BYU fans when they beat Utah State for the Victory Bell, then I'm pleading with you to find some solitude, to still your mind and heart, and ask the Lord to help you understand the magnitude of His sacrifice, the overwhelming reality of His victory, and to fill you with the fruit of His life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus says, "Come unto Me, all ye who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

And He wasn't kidding.

Jesus says, "By this shall men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love, one to another."

He wasn't kidding.

Jesus says, "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

He wasn't kidding.

Jesus says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."

He wasn't kidding.

Jesus says, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill."

His word is eternal, just as He is. When He speaks, His words are both created, and creative. They cause things to happen, and take on life. They go on existing for all of eternity, co-existent with Him, and remain true forever.

We can TRUST HIM.

We can BELIEVE HIM.

We can KNOW HIM.

That was the whole reason He came. The whole reason He did what He did. The whole reason He descended below all things and then rose above all things.

HE LOVES US! Oh, how He LOVES US!

Lord Jesus, I'm in awe of Your majesty, Your victory, the love and total acceptance You so extravagantly lavish on me every day. You don't applaud my sin, my weakness . . . but You rejoice in them because they draw me to You and show forth Your power in my life. Whenever I venture to draw closer to You, You pour forgiveness out like many waters, and fill me completely. I'm astounded at the way You find every last possible way to tell me You are aware of me, to communicate Your love to me, if I will but make space in my heart and mind to hear You. You are never more than one breath, one ruach, away, and I rejoice . . . no, I REJOICE!!!! in You. My hope is in You, Lord. My joy is in You, and the joy of the Lord is my STRENGTH! Lord, let Your people find You. Let Your love and light be shed abroad. Lead those to You who earnestly seek You, and make a way for those who don't know You at all to stumble upon You despite their best efforts. Lord Jesus, fill the hearts of those who love You with a joy and a rejoicing so powerful they cannot restrain it, cannot contain it. Fill all of Your creation with the reality of Yourself, and with the revelation of Who You Are! And Lord, let Your testimony break forth as the morning among a people who sit in darkness, in Jesus' name, AMEN!!!!!!!