Baptism Day

So much JOY.

So much.

Choosing to dig into and adhere to the words of Jesus Christ is the best decision I've ever made.

There is a movement, within the membership of the LDS Church (and increasingly outside of it, as members otherwise in full good standing are excommunicated for "apostasy"), to once again rely on the scriptures as the definitive Word of God. To trust the words of Jesus Christ over anything contradictory spoken by man. Thousands have been baptized according to the Doctrine of Christ, and it's not slowing down, despite heavy-handed disciplinary actions and top-down ordered excommunications by LDS leadership, in direct contradiction to their own press releases and scripture. (There's a whole rat's nest of plausible deniability, due to Area Authority 70's not necessarily being considered "general authorities", but I won't go into that here.)

This is the stone cut out of the mountain without hands . . . all believers, everywhere, seeking God on His terms, and seeking to do His will. It is happening in all denominations, all over the world. The LDS Church is no exception.

Yesterday was an incredible day . . . and I will treat it as the celebratory occasion it was. Hallelujah for Jesus Christ, our Lord, and His wonder, glory, and love for us!

I welcome questions, concerns, and freak-outs . . . once again, this blog is a platform for open discussion, and an earnest and simple offer to seek understanding, instead of take refuge in gossip and hearsay.

Peace be to you Reader, whoever you are, in Jesus' name, so be it.

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.

Learning Wisdom

"Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." ~Proverbs 1:7 NLT
In reading this morning, I began at Proverbs 1:1 and read that verse. Then I couldn't get very much farther on without my eyes returning, almost of their own accord, to it. I didn't really grasp what it meant . . . so it surprised me that it stood out to me that much. I'd read down the column a bit, and my eyes would search back up to find and read that one over again. And again. Some questions came to my mind:

  • How can I be wise?
  • What is fear of the Lord?
I tried a few different translations to see if that would open that verse to my understanding. The Amplified version was the best:
"The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction and discipline." ~Proverbs 1:7, AMP
Revering and worshiping the Lord God of Hosts really is the beginning of godly Wisdom. If you don't accept the Lord for Who He Is, you cannot receive the full blessing of what He offers.
"He who receives and welcomes and accepts a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward, and he who receives and welcomes and accepts a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward." ~Matthew 10:41 AMP
When we honor God for who He is, and value the Wisdom He teaches us, we can receive the reward that comes from the true value of what we learn, and from our relationship with Him, from accepting God for Who He Is.

So, if reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning of godly Wisdom, what comes next?
"If you will turn (repent) and give heed to my reproof, behold, I [Wisdom] will pour out my spirit upon you, I will make my words known to you." ~Proverbs 1:23 AMP
As we position ourselves to revere and worship God as we should, we can't help but have repentant hearts, turning to Him. And what comes next is wonderful: an outpouring of the spirit of Wisdom and understanding. I could really use more of that in my life . . . how 'bout you? ;o)

In Proverbs 2, we get a step-by-step tutorial on how to understand what comes next:

  1. Receive words of wisdom and treasure up prophetic instruction. (2:1)
  2. Listen for, ponder and meditate on them. (2:2)
  3. Pray for insight and understanding. (2:3)
  4. Seek for it as you would a precious treasure. (2:4)
And here's the result:
"Then you will understand the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of [our omniscient] God." ~Proverbs 2:5
 Boom. I love it when God lays things out so simply for me.

As I walk out the things I have come to understand, the second half of verse seven comes into play:
"He is a shield to those who walk uprightly and in integrity, that He may guard the paths of justice; yes, He preserves the way of His saints." ~Proverbs 2:7
I learned, the hard way, over the last week, what it's like to fear mortals more than God. To walk outside of the guarded path, without the Lord's shielding. In my case, it was denying very clear promptings because I didn't want to cause discomfort to others. As a result, I wandered spiritually all week. I walked without the presence of God's Spirit in power, struggled with depression and all the old demons, and my family had a less than stellar week. Sunday was the worst, when I ignored two more (very clear) instructions on how God wanted me to use my time that day. That cost me sore repentance, and finally brought me down in humility, once again confessing the wisdom and love Jesus Christ has for me, if I'll but stay turned to Him and follow.

Walking without Jesus is a crushing weight. I don't ever want to do it.

It's simple craziness to ignore what He tells me, even when it doesn't seem that important, and expect to have the same deep connection as when I am walking in His will for me. One of the instructions I ignored I was able to fulfill last night . . . and it was such a sweet blessing. All of the concerns I had were totally unfounded. (Whaddya know? God knew what He was talking about! {facepalm}) As for the others, I know my Lord will give me more opportunities to obey Him. He wants to be close to me, and that requires offering me opportunities to obey Him, so I can get to know Him better, learning His ways.

I'm so. glad. He loves me so much, that when I come to Him He does not upbraid, doesn't get on my case or send me on a guilt trip. Universally, the response I receive when I've turned to Him anew after following my own will: "Oh, Annalea. I'm so glad." It's filled with love for me, and awash with a deep relief that the suffering I put myself through is over . . . even if only for a short time, until I stumble again. My goal is to continually shorten the length of that period between stumbling and returning.

Lord, I'm so grateful this morning for Your love. Your steady, patient, unfailing and overwhelming love that heals and entreats, persuades and teaches. I'm so grateful for your infinite nature that means You can lavish me with love and a fullness of Your attention in my linear, earthly existence, as if I'm Your only and most favorite daughter . . . just as You do for every other one of Your children. Thank you for the innumerable chances You've given me. Thank You for Your mercy that still offers Your sustaining love in my foolishness, and for Your amazing grace that empowers me to become more than my flesh would ever permit. I'm beginning anew, Lord. Keep leading me, please. And show me how to better accept Your grace so I can glorify Your name more, bringing more joy to You and into the life of those I love most of all. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus' name, amen.

"Chosen" gives no guarantee against falling from grace.

Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” (Luke 3:7-11 NKJV)

John is speaking against systemic pride, against the habitual citation of blessings & promises over actual righteousness. The Jews were absolutely certain they were the best, the favored, the chosen ones. And they were--right up until they chose evil over good. 

I never want to fall into that all-too-alluring trap, to ease into the seductive trance of "all is well" and "we are the chosen" that lulls the conscience to sleep. 

Father in Heaven, keep my eyes ever bright before Thee, so I might see myself as You see me, both the reality of my flaws & sins, and the covering of grace that makes me whole in Your sight. Let me walk in repentance straight for you, not turning away or tacking to and for, double-minded and miserable. I love you so, and I long for Your presence. In Jesus' glorified name, Amen.