"There is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah"
2 Nephi 2:8 (The Book of Mormon)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Becoming Born Again

Jesus Christ teaches:
Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Born Again... An Event or A Process???

In John 3, Christ continues teaching.  
15- For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
16- For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Think on the word "believeth".  What does it mean to truly believe in him?  Is "belief" a one time proclamation, or a life long demonstration?  How does Christ distinguish between those who believe and those who don't?  Let's read on and see what He says.

17- He that believeth on him is not condemned:  but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
18- And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkeness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Here, He tells us that through our deeds, we demonstrate what it is that we love, whether it be light or darkness.

19- For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
20- But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

I love my Father and His Son with ALL of my heart.  Daily I rededicate my life to them.  Despite my best efforts, there are absolutely times which I "do, speak or think evil".  Does my lack of perfection demonstrate that indeed I don't believe in Him?  Does it mean that I am one who will be condemned?  

Let's bring this scripture into context with last week's study.  As we discussed, each of us fall overwhelmingly short of Christ's perfection.  This is why His commandment to repent is essential to our spiritual progress and rebirth.  Attempting to hide our deeds in darkness shows a lack of love, trust, and believing of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Presenting our deeds to Him in truth, both the good and the bad, allows His grace, or enabling power, to rest upon us.  As we strive to continually turn our will to His and forsake our sins, or repent, we demonstrate our trust and belief in His ability to make us whole and ultimately to save us! Thus, we progress on our path of spiritual rebirth and gradually our natures are changed.  We become more like Him and experience the "mighty change of heart".  This is ALL because of His goodness, His righteousness and His mercy!  I praise His most holy name!

For next week I invite you to study, Luke 4:14-32; 5; 6:12-16 and Matthew 10. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

Centuries before the birth of the Savior, many prophets foresaw the ministry of the one who was called to prepare the way of the Lord.  This great prophet, who we know as John the Baptist, was given the singular mission of preparing the very people who would receive the mortal Savior.  What was his message to them?

"Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand... 
Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight."
Matthew 3: 2-3

Who was John's intended audience?  Was it only those who physically would walk with the Savior?  I believe that John's message is a personal invitation to each of us individually, to receive the Lord.  He tells us, in beautiful simplicity, what we must do if we are to prepare the way of the Savior into our hearts, that we might walk with Him in His paths.

What is Repentance?

As a youth and even into my adult years, I believed repentance was for when I had done something gravely wrong.  While this is true, repentance is so much more.  As I have learned and grown in my gospel understanding, I have come to love this beautiful principle.  It is a tool the Father has blessed us with through the Atonement of the Savior.  Repentance is the process through which we follow the Savior and become like Him.

Sometimes the gap between who I am and who the Savior is can feel overwhelming.  Over the years, the spirit has taught me that as I strive to live with a repentant heart... step by step that gap can be overcome because of His goodness, His mercy and His power to carry me the distance I cannot achieve on my own.  

The Bible Dictionary defines repentance as: 
"a turning of the heart and will to God, and a 
renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined."

With this definition in mind, living in a state of constant repentance becomes a healing, peace giving gift.  For me this is a moment to moment opportunity that I am deeply and profoundly grateful for.

Following His baptism, the Savior retired to the wilderness for 40 days of fasting and prayer.  After rebuking the great tempter in every point, we read,

"From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say,
Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Matthew 4:17

Next week we will look at John 3 & 4.  I encourage you to prayerfully study these chapters  this week.  May God bless you in your efforts to draw nearer to Him!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

He That Seeks Shall Find

Thank you... Thank you SO much for all of the thoughts you have shared in your comments!  Each of the insights you have given touch my heart deeply!  Once again... I am SO grateful for your companionship on this walk and recognize that I am truly blessed by your association.  I offer you my sincere thanks and love!

Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His face continually.
1 Chronicles 16:11

Last week I promised to share a very sacred and personal experience I had about 5 years ago with hearing the voice of the Lord speak directly to me.   It was a season of my life filled with extreme pain and struggle.  It seemed at every turn another trial or burden presented itself.  I was making significant effort to seek the will of the Lord in my life... striving to know what He would have me do.  I felt guidance from time to time, but still the challenges, the pain and the despair remained.  During this period, I had made the commitment to read 25 pages of the Book of Mormon each week.  I knew that I needed the strength found in the word of God. 

It was Sunday night, the last night, of my second week of  study.  I was only on page 40 and had planned on reading the last 10 pages to meet my goal before going to bed that night.  Through a series of difficult events that evening, I came to realize that one of my children had been the victim of a horrible atrocity.  I cannot adequately express the devastation and confusion which encompassed my entire being.  I was filled with anguish and fear.  After talking things over with my husband... trying to make sense of things and come up with a game plan... I fell into bed overwhelmed in my desperation.  As my head hit the pillow, the thought occurred to me that I had yet to complete my study goal.  I pushed it aside, hoping to cry myself to sleep.  Again, the impression swept over me that I needed to get up and read the last 10 pages to meet my goal.  I consciously thought, "There is no way that I am going to get anything out of my scriptures tonight!"  My mind was unquietable.  My thoughts and emotions were swirling like a vicious storm.  I dismissed the impression once again.  At this point the spirit compelled me out of my bed and into the living room to struggle through these pages of scripture.

In this portion of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi is teaching his brothers the words of Isaiah.  There are numerous chapters which are straight quotes of the great prophet of the Old Testament.  I have yet to develop to the point in my scripture study where I comprehend much of Isaiah.  However, with significant prayer and focus there are many passages which God has begun to open up to my understanding.  Like I said though... this requires a quiet mind on my part as well as intentional focus and prayer.  On this particular night I was far beyond my own capacity to "be still".  I sobbed as I frantically read the passages.  There was no peace in my soulI was compelled to press on, despite my complete inability to absorb even one concept.  I continued to swirl through the pages, knowing that I wasn't gaining anything.  After a time however I began to feel that there was a message for me in those pages... I just needed to press through and heed the prompting of the spirit.  As I approached the 50th page... I began to KNOW that the message would be given if I would finish out the assignment.  As surely as the sun will rise in the morning... the Son will give light to those who seek!  I was within two verses of the bottom of page 49 and had still yet to receive.  Of the last eleven words on page 49, five of them read,   
"I will save your children!"

I was overcome.  I read and re-read those words.  I chuckled through my tears because of my own resistance in receiving His comfort and assurance.  I was able to go to bed... still fearful and devastated... but with the assurance that a loving Father in Heaven was mindful of me in my pain and that He would indeed save my children.  The next day I was able to move forward in faith and was guided to the right resources to bring healing into the heart of my child and in turn into mine.

I now look back on this season of my life with awe.  It really is amazing to me, just how much I was called to struggle and grow through.  During that time, which spanned over several years... I gained the priceless conviction in my testimony that God is mindful! He is there!  He waits for me to come to Him to receive of His healing, guidance and fullness!  I would not trade this conviction for anything!  I mean that literally and truly.

It has been said, 
"When we want to talk to God, we pray. 
When we want Him to talk to us, we open our scriptures." 
I know this to be true.  The scriptures aren't the only way He speaks to us... but the search and the study of them is essential in coming to know Him as well as what His voice sounds like.

Next week we will look at Matthew chapters 3 and 4; as well as John 1:35-51.  I invite you to study out these passages of scripture this week, seeking enlightenment, revelation and new understanding.  Ask the Father, each time you study, to teach you through the Holy Ghost.  Listen for the promptings that will come and then... move forward in faithMay your week be filled with His love and purpose!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

All Things Which Are Good...

This week a good friend asked me the following question,
"How can I know when I am being prompted by the Spirit?"

I feel it is important to to firmly establish this principle before moving forward into the New Testament this year.  Learning to seek, identify and heed the promptings of the Holy Ghost is foundational in the effort to draw closer to the Savior.  Developing a companionship with the Spirit is a process which take consistent, persistent effort over time.  Like anything else worth while... practice makes perfect.  The good news is that God receives us where we are and patiently and lovingly feeds us, "line upon line, precept upon precept".

I am confident that the ways that different individuals receive promptings are as numerous as the precious souls on this planet.  I will share today with you what I have learned to this point in my process.  I invite you to comment on how it works for you.

Years ago, I used to struggle with this same question... "How can I really know that the thoughts I am having are from the Spirit and not just thoughts I am making up in my mind?"  One Sunday, a leader in my church women's group answered this question.  She opened her scriptures to, Moroni 7:16.

...Every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. 

This truth sunk deep into my soul that day.  I have learned since then to identify the little ideas that pop into my mind through out the day... and even the night, which invite me to do good, as promptings from the Holy Ghost.  Frequently, as I will pray, a thought to call a neighbor... to write a thank you note... to express love to a child... will come into my mind.  For a long time, I would actually have a pencil and paper in hand while I prayed so that I could write out all of the different thoughts that would come.  I would then check each one off of the list as I followed through on the prompting.  Sometimes, to my awareness, nothing significant would result because of my action.  Often enough though, a friend would receive my act with gratitude and sometimes even words confirming that I was used to answer prayers they were offering.  This was kind of my experimental phase.  I wasn't really sure if I was interpreting His will correctly... but I was giving it my best effort.  Each time I received the fruits of my actions, either good or bad, I learned more accurately to  differentiate between His voice and my own mind and will.

When seeking guidance for my own life or for those in my family, I have similarly learned to recognize His guidance.  For me, this is how it works.  I will pray, asking openly and honestly, for light and understanding in an area of my life clouded with uncertainty or darkness.  This includes both my formal, kneeling down by the bed prayers, as well as continual prayer and effort through out my daily activities.  I strive to make these prayers conversational, where I speak and then pause to listen and then respond to my impressions and listen again.  I will open my scriptures, asking for God to teach me through the Holy Ghost, each and every time.  I will pay attention to thoughts or ideas that come, as to what the next step He would have me take might be... and then I strive to act on those.  

When I first started doing this, I would move forward not really knowing if I was being guided by Him or my imagination.  With time to experiment on... and exercise this spiritual muscle... I have come to a place where I have learned to identify His guidance with confidence and surety.

Understanding that God rarely gives big, grand or final solution answers is important.  Typically for me, He gently guides me step by step, prompting by precious prompting through a sometimes lengthy process, before bringing me to final resolution.  I have learned to cherish this process, because I recognize this is for my maximum learning, growth and development.  It is beautiful!

So here is my invitation for you.  Begin to actively seek the companionship of the Holy Ghost in your life.  Begin to act on ideas or thoughts that come to you... which invite you to do good or persuade you to believe in Christ.  Evaluate the fruits of your actions and begin to distinguish between His promptings and your own thoughts.  

This exercise is essential in developing a closer relationship with the Savior and learning to walk with Him.

Next Sunday, I will share a personal experience with you which I hold sacred in my heart.  I am so grateful for His constant reminders that He is there, mindfully and lovingly watching over me... waiting for me to reach out and take His hand.

Today Lord, I ask thee to help me identify the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  I recognize that He is the means through which I can draw near unto thee.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I Am The Truth...

All week long I have been seeking to know God's will for this blog.  I have prayed much, listened and pondered much, and today fasted for guidance to know what it is that He would have me write here.  I am grateful for the direction He has given... and here it is!  This year, we will study together, the life of the Savior using the New Testament as our primary source.  I am thrilled for the opportunity to come to know Him better with you... my friends.  Before we get started though, I want to share with you a foundational truth God reinforced in my heart today.
In Moroni 10:5, we are taught
By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

This morning before leaving for church, I sat down with my babes for a brief moment in the scriptures.  I read the above scripture and shared my testimony of the essential nature of having the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.  He is the direct line to the Father and His Son.  If I want to have God's will made manifest in my life, qualifying for the Spirit and heeding the promptings He will send are prerequisite.  With that, we had our family prayer and were off to church.

As the sacrament was being administered, I sat in quiet reflection and prayer.  The following declaration by Christ was called into my mind. 
I am the Way, the truth, and the life:  no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
John 14:6 
 I love the new layers of depth and meaning which unfold within the scriptures as I search them through out my days.  Constantly, God illuminates my mind with fresh understanding of passages of scripture I have read repeatedly over time.  Today.. a new layer of this verse was opened up to me.  

Christ is the Way.  He is the means through which salvation can be obtained.  In addition, His life serves as a pattern, or way, for us to live our lives.  

He is the truth.  Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were and as they are to come. (D&C 93:24) Truth is the light of Christ.  He is the source of all truth, which is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Christ is the life.  Not only is Christ our literal Creator, the giver of life... He is the only means through which we can obtain life eternal. 

Here is the new light the Spirit shed on my mind today.  One of the titles Christ establishes for himself is "the Truth".  Not only does all truth originate in Him but He literally is truthIt is by the power of the Holy Ghost that we come to know "truth" or to know Christ.  This means that if I want to know my Savior better... I must be sure that the mode through which I can know Him is fully functional in my life.  The mode which God has given is the Holy Ghost.  

I have come to know, with deep conviction, that the absolute, number one priority in my day to day endeavors must be qualifying for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.  EVERYTHING else which I do, is secondary to this most important task.  I can only become the woman that God wants me to be if I am receiving His guidance through the Spirit.  I can only become the wife and mother that He sent me here to be... if I heed His promptings as to how I can best support, lead and guide my babes home to Him.  I can only become the sister and friend He knows I can be as I receive His love and grace through the companionship of the Holy Ghost and in turn extend it to all with whom I associate.  I can only come to my Father through my Savior, and I can only come to know my Savior through the Holy Ghost.  

I invite you to consider ways which you can more fully access the power of the Holy Ghost in your life.  Some of the barriers to His full companionship I have identified in my own life are...
impatience, anger, critical thinking, and dishonesty.
Note how each of these can be both with myself and others.

Some of the helpful aids I have found in qualifying for His companionship are...
morning prayer and scripture study, (this sets the tone for my day)
quiet time to commune with Him which requires not only quieting external, but also internal noise.
(this is frequently done as I go about my daily responsibilities)
obedience to the promptings I receive.

Lord, I want to know thee better.  Today I ask thee to please illuminate my mind with the changes thou would have me make so that I can more fully qualify for the Holy Ghost.  Help me to move forward in thy strength and confidence.
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