Change is the Heart of Repentance

"I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him." ~Romans 12:1-3 AMP

Here, Paul urges the Romans to offer to God the whole of themselves, to learn what He would have them do, to learn everything He has to offer, and in so doing, to allow Him to transform them into His likeness, to understand Him and His way of doing things, His reality. 

This passage has been on my mind for a long time, now. As I've mulled it over, meditating on what Paul says here, the principles of repentance keep coming to mind. There are many more things I've learned from this passage, but repentance is the topic for today.

As you may already know, the Greek word for repentance means a change of mind, a fresh new perspective which results in a change of behavior. This only comes about when we learn. Without learning, repentance cannot happen. Repentance is not just feeling really, really guilty or shameful about something, confessing, apologizing and making restitution. Shame and guilt can be taught into someone, trained into them, and then called forth on demand based on behavior, regardless of a person's understanding of right and wrong. Restitution is often not within the bounds of our mortal power to give. We cannot heal broken hearts. We cannot restore innocence lost. No. Repentance has far more to do with God, and our invitation to Him to work in our lives, than it does with any checklist.

What we want to see, when we seek repentance, is gaining understanding that reveals the truth, showing our behavior in the true light of God's teachings. We need to learn, and in learning, to change our minds. To "renew" the way we see things. Right thinking--thoughts and beliefs in alignment with God and His Truth--increase faith. Not just the trust we have in God, but the actions that must follow in order for faith to save. Learning right thinking changes our minds. And when our minds truly change, our behavior follows. Without change, no real learning has happened. Without change, no repentance has happened.

Change is the heart of repentance.

Father God, I thank You so incredibly much for the blessings in my life. For my faculties, for my education and the understanding You have given me, for my children, my husband, my family, my friends. An "abundance of counselors", indeed. Father, as I start into this next stretch of time, teach me please. Renew my mind continually with Your Knowledge and Your Wisdom. Reveal to me Your perspective in every situation, so I may walk in Your paths. Transform me into someone who can serve You, who can serve those in need and pour Your love out into them. Show me the way to walk through this life of mine, that has been turned upside down and inside out. Show me Your will in all things, Father, and show me how You would have me proceed. You are the One Who has all Wisdom, all Knowledge, all Mercy, Grace and Power, Lord. You are the source of every good thing in my life, and the comfort for every ill. You have sought me out, reclaimed me, and instructed me when I thought I had it all figured out, and I will treasure Your teachings, Your redemption, and Your insistent, persistent Love always. In Yeshua's holy name, Amen.

What really matters . . .

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 NLT)

This passage has long confused me. Jesus tells Martha that He's not going to make Mary get up and help with the housework . . . that what Mary is doing is most important. (I wish we knew what He was saying!)

Mary sat with the men, learning from Jesus. Martha stuck to her role as hostess, and saw to the housework. Martha was intent on being a "good" woman in her home for the Lord. On showing Him, with what she did that she was good. Mary was neglecting her role both as woman and kinswoman to the hostess, and sat with the disciples (who may have been mostly men). But she had tasted of the living waters, and thirsted for nothing else. I have a feeling that Jesus would have provided all the food they needed, had Martha chosen to sit at His feet and listen, as well. How often do we do that . . . work hard, distracted from the things God really wants us focused on, in an effort to please Him, when He would provide much of what we worked for if we just walked in His will?

Lord, I know you've told me (repeatedly--thank You for Your patience!) what You want me to do. Please show me how. Open my mind and heart so I can know how far to step, and in which direction, to carry out Your instructions. Increase my faith, so I can recognize Your cues, and follow You more smoothly. Please. So be it, in Jesus' name.

Nowhere to Hide

Scripture: Hebrews 4:12-13

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

Observation: God sees ALL. We really do stand naked before him: body, mind and soul; past, present, and future. 

Application: He knows it all . . . so why do we spend so much time trying to find a dark place to hide? Why do we hide things from ourselves, why do we ignore God, when all we're really doing is clamping our hands over our eyes?

Prayer: Lord, sometimes hiding is so attractive. To stop looking at the mountain of things I want so much to do for Your name's glory and the benefit of my family and loved ones. Heck, even getting the laundry done on any given day would be fantastic. I feel tired, I miss You, and I just want to find a quiet, dark place to cradle my overwhelmed heart. And then, then I remember who You really are. What You really can do. And I want to run to where You are, and let you cradle me, instead. Walk with me today, Father. Sweep away the cacophony of "should's" and "could's" and "might've's" that my training and flesh keep piling high, and let me see You. Only You. Show me the plan You have for me today. I want to receive Your grace, walk in Your will, crucifying my flesh and the philosophies of men that I have relied on in the past so I can rise in newness of life in You. Thank You so, so much for all You've done, all You do, and who You are.  And thank you for letting me write my prayers when I can't find a quiet corner to kneel. I love you.

On Sabbath Observance

A friend recently asked a question about Sabbath observance on facebook. I wanted to keep a record of my response, as I'm pretty pleased with what I learned as I wrote it. :o)

We've been reevaluating how we spend our Sabbaths, because they weren't doing our family any good. Spending time together is important, but it felt like Sundays should be more than just hanging out in our living room. It was beginning to feel like our Sundays weren't much different from the Puritan Sabbaths you read about from over a hundred years ago, where they all sat in their living room, dressed in their Sunday best, and could do nothing but read scripture or ponder or pray silently, from sun-up to sun-down. We weren't tying our children to kitchen chairs ;o), but we felt so isolated--and we knew that was doing no good for the Kingdom of God. We were put here to have relationships with each other, and with God. I've long felt a lot of pressure to feel like the company of my husband and children should be all I need . . . but really, our life as a family is SO much better when we reach out to others, and spend time with them. (Spending time as a family doesn't mean your family needs to be alone, either.) Yes, visiting the sick or elderly is part of that, but so is just spending time with other families or people we know. Wherever we go, whatever we do, the Light of Christ should shine from us, illuminating the world. We don't have to be preaching or reading scripture or cloistering ourselves in our homes to keep our modern Sabbath holy. The Sabbath is something we live, something we create in our hearts, that floods the world around us and bathes it in our Savior's love. In Christ's time, Saturdays were the Sabbath--the day of rest. Sundays were the day the believers gathered to celebrate the Victory of Christ over sin and death. It was a day to have a big'ol Resurrection Party. Building relationships is what Christ is about. (Hello, Eternal Families!) But it's not just about that kind of family. It's about loving and being kind to everyone around us--the family of God. Our modern communities are so fractured and brittle . . . and I say if you help repair that through your daughter's friendships at a birthday party, then go for it. My question, if I were in your situation, would be: How am I approaching this party? Am I going to distract myself from the fact that I'm not living every minute bathed in the love and light of Jesus Christ? Or will I shine His love into the hearts and lives of those I'll be with? I'm not saying that every Sunday should be spent at parties, or that we should never have family time. Each family is different . . . there are some Sundays, when our family has felt besieged and battered, that Vern and I gather the children around us and we all soak up one another's comforting company. Sometimes we're blessed with an unexpected visit from a friend or ward member that loves us a whole lot--those visits are especial treasures, because someone listened to the Holy Ghost and came when we were in need. But there are plenty of other days when we have an abundance of Christ's love to share, and I feel like always staying home puts that light under a bushel. (I'm wracking my brain, trying to remember where in the scriptures it says that Sundays are a family day . . . I've read it in a ton of secular books & magazines, but can't remember if/where it's in the word of God . . . ) But really, it's not about birthday parties on a certain day of the week. That's the spirit of the old law, the law of performances and ordinances that Christ fulfilled with His victory. It's about the state of our hearts, and whether or not we're living the will of our Lord. "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matt 22:36-40 KJV) If there are traditions or practices in our lives that don't support and help us fulfill those two commandments, then those traditions need close and prayerful examination to determine if they're really doing what Jesus Himself told us to do. Bottom line: if Christ is enthroned in your heart, you can listen to what it says, and know that He'll be pleased with your choice.

Grace: the Ultimate Antidote

Today, I left a comment over at The Perfect Day, in answer to a reader question.  Below is the question, and my answer.  I wanted to keep a copy of my answer, because I was reminded of some deeply important things that I had forgotten over the last couple of days.

"One of my own personal difficulties, in relating to prayer, esp. evening prayers, is that it's so hard for me to get into the frame of mind to pray in a way that I really feel close to Heavenly Father in closing out my day. I think it has to do mostly with 'well...I set out this morning with all these great ambitions and look how I didn't achieve it, again.' Is there anything you do to 'prep' yourself for prayer? I've tried reading my scriptures and singing hymns before I pray but for some reason those nightly prayers -- reporting back when I always have something that I've messed up on (even though there's good stuff in there too) -- are always harder to feel the closeness for me.

Just wondering what you think. How can I let go and prepare myself better to pray when every night I just feel disappointed in all the things I've done wrong?

Thanks,

M"

M, it sounds like you're judging your performance each evening.  But you're in luck: these are things I've struggled with, as well! ;o)  Two thoughts:

1) Christ is the only judge.  And He has told us, over and over and over in scripture, that He isn't going to condemn us.  Our God isn't one to shake His finger in our faces, or alienate us from His presence.  Judgement, consignment to a certain distance from God, doesn't happen until Judgement Day.  So you can let go of that judgemental spirit. (Or cast it out, if you prefer.)  Self-condemnation (which includes disappointment in ourselves!) is one of the adversary's biggest, beefiest, most steel-studded bludgeons . . . and we take it from him and use it on ourselves with a will, thinking we're being good Saints as we do so.  But I have GREAT news!  Anything (and I mean ANYTHING) that keeps you from drawing closer to God is NOT of Him.  And if something isn't of God, then it's either of men or of the devil.  And we all know how effective those latter two are at bringing about salvation. ;o)

2) Performance.  This is a tough one, because it's so insidious, especially if you're a Latter-day Saint, or a member of another works-focused church.  The Law of Moses was a law of performances and ordinances.  And that law was fulfilled, down to the tiniest detail, by the sacrifice Jesus made: His perfect life, His atonement, His death, and His resurrection.  He has broken the bands of death and SIN . . . and freed us from them.  Period.  End.  It is done!!!  And whenever I think of that, I want to jump and shout and sing, because I don't have to EARN my salvation.  I don't have to perform to a certain standard in order to have the help of my Savior and Friend in this life.  I have to have a willing heart, and then He will walk me through whatever comes next.  It takes NO level of righteousness to "earn" access to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Who did He hang out with, and often, during His life?  Hated tax collectors for the oppressive government.  Women who were sold to whoever wanted them. Sinners.  He let all who wanted to come unto Him to come.  He BID them come.  "Come unto Me, all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!"  And He still calls us today.  Constantly.  Every one of us. All the time.

The grace of Jesus Christ means that He will be close to us AS we mess up, fall down, bloody our knees and noses, and blunder around through this life.  He will heal our hurts, the injuries of those who we've hurt through our own actions, and help us give it another go.

The next time you feel distant from God, for whatever reason, just stop.  Stop and quiet your mind.  Even if you're in the middle of a crowd, or there's a lot of distraction going on, you can quiet the inside of your own head, making stillness there.  And listen.  Listen with your spiritual ears for the sound of your name.  Because Jesus is calling you.  He's calling me.  Every one of us, every second of every day, He's calling us back to Him.  All we have to do is answer with a willing heart, and suddenly, He will be there.  You can talk to Him, and share with Him, and He'll feel closer and closer as you continue to praise and thank Him for all you have.  Then you can talk over what you need to work on, and He will take your hand, or gather you up into His amazing arms, and love you through whatever it is that you're going through.

Don't give up.  Just listen . . . He's there, waiting for you to turn your mind to Him!!!