Wednesday, August 23, 2017

You ain't never had a friend like me! -Jesus

by Hannah

As my children and I were cycling through fun renditions of classic Disney songs a jazzy version of Genie's You ain't never had a friend like me from the movie Aladdin began playing. It's a catchy tune.  To paraphrase: The Genie is elaborating about all the things he can do for Aladdin. Anything Aladdin could ever want would be available to him because he found and rubbed the Lamp and released the Genie. 

The thought came to me "I ain't never had a friend like Jesus!"  How many of us actually consider Jesus a friend? What does a friendship with Him look like?  Do we devote as much attention to developing our friendship with Jesus as we do with our Earthly relationships? 

I have a fantastic network of friends the Lord has given me.  Women I can call, talk with, lean on and learn from.  If it were added up, I likely spend spend hours a day sending messages, making calls, and emailing to nurture these relationships. Do I spend the same amount of time nurturing my relationship with the Lord?  

Consider Revelation 3:15 and 16: 
"15. I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  16. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth."

Our relationship with God isn't a casual thing.  Just as our relationships with our friends and families improve and progress with attention to detail, so does our relationship with the Lord. This is so important that He would rather us not attend to it all then to do so half-heartedly. We do so by praying when we are obligated to do so. (ie. Morning and night because it's the right thing to do or because we have been taught that's when we should pray.)  We do this when we approach scripture study as a check off of our daily task list. We do it when we see our sins or weaknesses and fail to progress in overcoming them.  We do this when we believe we have no sin or weakness, or expect that Christ doesn't care for us to overcome them and just live with it.  We do it when we fail to acknowledge the mercy and grace we are given daily as we go about our work. It's such a disheartening thing for Christ that He would rather we didn't attempt at all! 

Image result for christ knocking at the door
 3 Nephi 27:29 "Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened." 

Why does this bother Christ so?  Because He is waiting for us!  He doesn't just show up every morning at 7:45am because that's the time we set aside to pray.  He waits for us to approach Him.  He is ready to help to overcome our frustrations and anger.  He wants us to learn to be the mothers, wives and women we were designed to be.  There isn't a perfect instruction manual because Christ wants to teach us directly. 

This process begins by humbling ourselves and repenting.  We must be willing to do the work required to gain greater access to Christ. This is a painful process, but the most rewarding one.  We must turn to Him first before we seek the advice of our friends, or the comfort of a loved one.  Jesus needs to be the first person we go to. 

Once we turn to Christ, we must be willing to do whatever He asks of us.  Unlike the genie in Aladdin, there isn't a magic poof and our problems disappear. The trials we face were expertly curated to provide the perfect conditions to reveal our weakness.  Those same trials provide the perfect oppositions needed to conquer our sins. 

Increasing our intimacy with Christ will actually produce real and undeniable results. He will give us light and truth to teach us how to be better parents.  He will help us bare the burden of our work so we can experience joy and see the beauty in the hardest of work.  We can get to a point where we aren't enticed to anger ever again.  We can learn to love even the meanest of people.  We can overcome sin!  

You ain't never had a friend like Jesus.  Make Him your first phone call, text or conversation.  The Lord will always answer, and provide the instruction we need to face our challenges.  He, the true giver of peace, will be able to comfort our aching hearts and sooth our souls. The gifts He gives us as we approach Him, repent, and obey will enrich our lives in ways we can't even comprehend. 

Praise to the Glorious King

by Hannah

Praise to the glorious King,
Who on the Earth my soul did bring.
The breathe of life, to me He gave.
Then offered His, my heart to save.
The beauty of His world to behold, 
The mystery of His ways to unfold.

Praise to the marvelous King!
Who gives me hope that I may cling.
The bread of life I may partake,
As my sin, my heart will forsake.
And when I've overcome my sin,
I'll be ready to walk with Him.

Bring on the trials, bring on the rain!
I know the sun will shine again.
The King of kings will be my cover.
My soul delights in Him like no other.
In light and truth I will abide,
Til at last He'll take me for His bride!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Does Truth Threaten You?

by Nicky Smith

I always viewed myself as open to listening new ideas (regardless of whether they are true or not) and I thought I had a soft heart that was always responsive to the Spirit in knowing what was true and what was not. However, as I have sought to become sanctified, I have been shown how that was not the case and was something that I needed to change. 

As I reflected on what my reactions are when I am presented with a new idea, I could see that at times I would feel uncomfortable and other times I would feel offended. These feelings meant that I was not as open as I viewed myself and this made it hard for the Spirit to communicate truth to me when I was so wrapped up in how I felt. 

I think it is typical that we view ourselves in flattering ways. We see ourselves as open-minded and seekers of truth, but when something contradicts what we believe or how we see ourselves, we experience a negative reaction. This negative reaction can vary from person to person. Consider when a new idea is presented to you, how do you feel? Let's say someone tells you something that contradicts your beliefs (religious or not) or let's say someone tells you something about yourself, perhaps that you are dishonest or malicious? How do you feel in those situations?

  • angry
  • uncomfortable
  • hurt
  • offended
  • apathetic
  • entertained
  • defensive
  • bored
  • smug
  • upset
  • emotional
  • out of control
  • frozen
  • scared or fearful
  • prideful that you "know better"
  • threatened
  • curious
  • shocked
  • dismissive
  • sick on your stomach
  • sad
  • desire to cry or scream

As I sought to become more open to truth I could see that I was beginning to change. When someone presented something I didn't believe, I no longer felt uncomfortable or threatened by it. However, it wasn't long before the Lord showed me that I still felt hurt and offended when someone said something negative about me, such as "You are a respecter of persons!" I always wanted to cry. I want to run away and hide. When I began to see that my responses were not open, I determined to change. I decided that I would begin by not reacting to what I heard, although my heart still hurt. Over time, I could see that my heart hurt less and less. I'm still not respond perfectly but I am trying to become more objective and less emotional when I hear something that is hard to hear. 

There are many examples in the scriptures of the responses people gave when hearing truth. These truths were rarely flattering and as a result, most accounts describe people being offended because of what they were hearing. They were not open. They did not have soft hearts. 

When Stephen recounted the history of Israel and rebuked the Jews for their apostasy, they did not respond well: "When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth." (Acts 7:54) We might not gnash our teeth today, but we often still feel cut to the heart and feel offended or threatened by what we hear. 

In Matthew 15 we learn of a Canaanite woman who wanted Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus essentially called her a dog and said he wouldn't help her because of where she was from. You would think that she should have been offended by this, but she wasn't. She continued to beg Jesus for help (Matthew 15:22-28). Her humility is contrasted to the Pharisees who were deeply offended by the things Jesus taught which threatened their beliefs (Matthew 15:12).   

On the day of Pentecost when many of the followers of Jesus were baptized by fire, others watching mocked. Peter berated them and taught them about Jesus. It is interesting looking at their response: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37) They weren't offended. Instead the Spirit pierced their hearts and they were humble enough to ask what they ought to do. 

Regardless of how information (especially truth) is presented, we ought not ever be offended. There is never a reason to be offended because of the truth. The person speaking to us could seem angry and hateful, but how we respond to the message determines so much more about us than it does them. In fact, the degree of our offense reveals the amount of pride in our hearts, no matter how sharply the truth contradicts our preconceived notions. 

The closer you come to God, the more He reveals your sins and weaknesses. In the past 6 months God has told me so many things about myself of which I was completely unaware. Sometimes these things come through other people, sometimes through the whispering of the Spirit, and other times through a dream. In the end, it is God who is giving me truth to see myself as I really am. It is no wonder that Christ is called "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense" (1 Peter 2:8). God will tell us things that are very hard to hear. But, each experience I have had has provided me an opportunity to not be offended. If we become offended, God cannot continue to reveal more of our hidden sins and weaknesses. Without knowing these things, we cannot become pure in heart. Without becoming pure in heart, we cannot see God (Matthew 5:8). 

Are You Spiritually Malnourished?

by Nicky Smith

Jesus said in his sermon on the mount:
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
While righteousness means living by and obeying the will of God (as opposed to our own desires), we ought to hunger for the will of God. When we hunger and thirst to do exactly what God wants us to do, we will be filled with the Spirit, which provides more truth and more understanding of God's will for us. 

Do you hunger and thirst to know what God's will is for you? 

God's will for you (generally speaking) is to become pure and sanctified. In order to do that He will reveal very specific, individualized commandments for you to obey as well as sacrifices He requires you to make. He will reveal sins you are to repent of and attributes you are to develop. As we do his will, we walk the path that is strait and narrow back into His presence. 

However, most people are apathetic in knowing God's will for them. They live out their lives just getting by, doing what they believe they should be doing, sometimes trying to overcome sin, but not making much progress. They have no idea how spiritually starving and malnourished they really are. Perhaps because they have never really feasted?

Just as we drink and eat daily, we ought to seek for revelations from God daily, so that we understand His will for us. Without hungering and thirsting for truth, revelations come infrequently. Without daily revelation from God, our progression is slow, which may mean missing out on the blessings we seek. 

Although I've always wanted to understand God's will for me, I did not hunger and thirst after it. I'd often pray and ask Him what He wanted me to improve on and I would eventually get an answer and I would work on it. But, I did not hunger for it like I should have. I was pretty content to receive the occasional answer. However, as I realized my true state before the Lord and desired more than ever to be in His presence, I realized my progression was too slow. I realized my connection with God was not as it should be. I began seeking His will for me more and more. I then noticed that the more I received His will, the more I desired it. Over time I began to hunger for it. I wanted to know His will for me more than anything else. When I didn't know what His will was in a specific situation, it was often all I could think about. I prayed constantly. 

A few months ago as I was fasting I reflected on how we ought to desire God's will for us just as I desired food during that fast. But, few do. Recently my fasting has taken on new meaning and I love to fast. Each time I feel a hunger pang, I immediately reflect on how I want God's will for me as much as I want food. As a result of this, fasting has become a joyful time. I feel closer to God and my prayers are more intense. Consider fasting to know God's will for you. Every time you feel the rumble in your stomach, beg God for truth and understanding of His will. 

Paul berated the Hebrews on their lack of spiritual progress. They were simply obeying the performances and ordinances of the gospel, while not having higher experiences with the Lord. They were not eating the bread of life and drinking living water. They were not obtaining and obeying the will of God. Could this apply to you? 
12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5)
Paul compared drinking milk with eating meat. He explained that milk is equivalent to the first principles of the gospel and is given to those who are "unskilful in the word of righteousness" or those who are unfamiliar with receiving the word of God for themselves through revelation. People like this need someone else to teach them, just as a baby is given milk by an adult. Initially as we start our journey towards becoming more like Jesus, we need to receive truth and understanding through another. There is nothing wrong with this. While the first principles of the gospel (milk) are important and essential, knowing and understanding God's will for you daily (meat) is essential too. We have to progress from receiving truth through another to eating the real meat of the gospel, where we are connected to God and can obtain his will from Him directly.

Often though we become complacent. We don't seek truth as we should. We don't plead with God continually to know His will for us. Examining how often you pray to know God's will for you will give you an indication of whether you are hungering after righteousness.

Sometimes we trust in the arm of flesh and we rely on obtaining much of the word of God through another. Although we should never reject truth from others, our source of truth should ultimately be God. Trusting other people as our only source of truth makes it likely that we will be led astray at some point, since no one only speaks truth, even if some possess more truth than most. 
5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3)
Kneel down today and beg God for his will. Desire it like you desire food and water when you are starving. Be open to whatever He tells you. Obey immediately and continue asking for more of His will to be revealed. Just as you eat and drink daily, make this kind of connection with God a part of your daily living. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do Your Words Reflect Truth?

by Kimber Albrechtsen

Vocabulary is important. Words are powerful. We should do what we can to make sure our words reflect truth. Those destined for a telestial glory are described as "they who are liars ... and whosoever loves and makes a lie" (D&C 76:103). When we misuse words and distort God's truths, whether out of malice, willful ignorance, or complacency, we are liars. We show love for lies when we accept histories, teachings, and word usages that prop up our pride while concealing real truth.

Isaiah knew how to use words.

Jesus said, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man" (Matthew 15:11). We should use our words carefully. I realized that I had been using many words in ways that contradicted God’s truth. While the “what I used to mean” column certainly doesn’t represent everyone’s usage, I’d encourage you to honestly evaluate what you really mean when you use the same terms. I also don’t claim that my “what I mean now” column represents absolute truth. God is always refining my understanding.

What I Used to Mean

What I Mean Now
Loyalty to an organization.
Endurance through trials. Belief in God. Hope for temporal blessings.

A principle of action, focused in Christ. An assurance of things not seen.
What you really, really, really believe in.
What you know through undeniable experience.

The Spirit
Something you feel, usually “warm fuzzy.”
Something that reveals, teaches, enlightens. Is pure knowledge, not sentimentality or emotion.

Word of Wisdom
Only the no-no’s. A set of commandments from God. Important enough to affect temple worthiness.

All of D&C 89, never revealed as commandment.
President of the LDS Church.
Someone commissioned by God to deliver a specific message. Someone with the gift of prophecy.

Someone who disagrees with or is critical of church leadership.

Someone who rejects the gospel of Christ.
Feeling really bad when you do something really wrong.
Turning to God and His way. Requires forsaking sin. Involves gaining the light and knowledge necessary to overcome the sin.

A physical act that guarantees spiritual blessings.
A physical act that signifies internal commitments, and that is powerless without the ratification of heaven, as manifested through the presence of promised spiritual blessings and power.

God’s power, authority over others, restricted to men ordained to offices.
A fragile fellowship with heaven reliant upon righteousness and faith, never to be used to constrain or control others.

Ambiguous symbols of authority over murkily-defined spiritual stewardships and powers. Something that will never be taken away from LDS leadership.
Knowledge that instructs one how to qualify for and receive specific blessings. Stewardship over portions of God’s work. Something that can be lost through neglect, abuse, or disuse, regardless of any religious authority or succession claims.

Carnal security, comfort, feeling like my telestial life is in order.
A state enjoyed by the righteous who have been cleansed from sin.

A promise from God that you have secured exaltation.

Giving money to the poor, being nice.
The pure love of Christ. Cannot be feigned. Is a gift from God.

Speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed
Saying anything negative about church leadership, even if it is true.
Voicing false accusations against the Lord’s anointed (which group may be much smaller or larger than usually thought).

One of the LDS Quorum of the Twelve.
A literal witness of Christ’s resurrected body. One sent by Him to declare this witness.

People outside of church hierarchy who gain popularity and/or get paid for religious services/teachings.

Anyone who gains popularity and/or gets paid for religious services/teachings.
The Second Comforter
A literal visitation from Jesus Christ, bestowed upon all those who keep the commandments. An experience to be sought after diligently.

An ordinance in the temple that automatically binds spouses and families together forever.
Being sealed up unto God’s family, having your calling and election made sure (revealed by the voice of God) after the sacrifice of all things. Not applicable to marriage/family unless all parties have made their callings and elections sure.

An ordinance that washes away your sins.
An ordinance that symbolizes a commitment to Christ and accompanying repentance that qualifies you to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost which purges your soul of sin.

The Gift of the Holy Ghost
Something you get automatically after baptism and confirmation.
A spiritual gift/event, also described as the Baptism of Fire, qualified for by repentance and having a broken heart and contrite spirit. Followed by a marked increase in revelation, understanding, and personal righteousness. May occur before baptism, or even years afterwards.

False traditions
Something found in other cultures/religions.
False or vain religious teachings/practices that can occur in any church or culture. Consist of rules, practices, or doctrines that are the product of men, and not divine revelation.

Something inferred or alluded to by church leaders, usually about where a new temple should be built or what policy/program should be changed or implemented.
New knowledge about the work, ways, and will of God. Identified explicitly as coming directly from God, to be printed and disseminated to the church (D&C 104:58-59).

How much skin a woman covers on her body.
The practice of men and women in rejecting the practice of displaying wealth, beauty, or status for the purpose of gaining power or popularity.

Teachings of past prophets that can be contradicted or superseded by current LDS leadership. Current LDS leadership has the ultimate say on scriptural interpretation.
The words and deeds of God, as recorded by past prophets, which can never be contradicted or superseded. The Spirit has the ultimate say on scriptural interpretation.

Requirements for exaltation
Whatever is included in a temple recommend interview.
Being sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise (having your calling and election made sure, along with your spouse), membership in the Church of the Firstborn, having received the fullness of the Father (been in His presence-D&C 84:24).

Philosophies/teaching of men
Science, feminism, intellectualism, etc. that contradict the teachings of church leadership.
Any teaching that contradicts God’s words. Is especially harmful when presented as authoritative, binding, and of God in the absence of actual revelation.

Being less overtly wicked than others. Following external church rules.
Being obedient to God. Having a pure heart and clean hands.

An ordinance that involves renewing all my covenants; makes me "clean" if taken with a remorseful heart. Bread and water, partaken of by any who haven't been instructed not to by church leadership.
An ordinance that renews only the sacramental covenant. A sign that we will always remember God and keep His commandments. In return we are promised His Spirit. Should not be administered to those who have not been baptized (3 Nephi 18:5). Should be bread and wine (D&C 89:6).

Self-reliance A term that made me feel accomplished in my privileged economic circumstances and justified in judging those with less. The idea that financial prowess is valued by God. A principle that, when overemphasized, can lead to a preoccupation with worldly wealth, neglect of the poor, and pride. Can compete with the Lord’s teaching of God-reliance.
Zion Technically a future city in Independence, Missouri, but used to describe Utah, Mormondom in general, or a hypothetical state of being where everyone gets along. A city of refuge where the righteous will dwell in the last days, with no poor among them. All inhabitants will literally know the Lord, and be united in their obedience to God and love for one another.

SinBreaking a rule. Disobeying a commandment.Anything that separates us from God.

Mysteries of God
Esoteric knowledge about God that isn't relevant to salvation. Should not be sought after and can be dangerous or distracting.
Great treasures of knowledge. A blessing given to the faithful and soft-hearted (Alma 12:10). Knowledge to be sought after, vital to salvation and eternal life (D&C 6:7,11).

Good works.
Gifts of the spirit (miracles, visions, ministry of angels, prophecy, tongues, etc). True repentance.

Has God corrected the way you use any words? How do you form the definitions you ascribe to?