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This may surprise you, but money is the primary competitor with God for our affection.  Jesus tells us we will serve–and love–one or the other…

When the Crusades were fought during the twelfth century, the Crusaders purchased the services of mercenaries to fight for them.  Because it was a religious war, the Crusaders insisted that the mercenaries be baptized before fighting.

As they were being baptized, the soldiers would take theri swords and hold them up out of the water to symbolized that Jesus Christ was not in control of their swords, that they retained the freedom to use their weapons in any way they wished.

Many people today do a similar thing.  They hold their wallet or purse out of the water, an attitude that says, ‘God, I yield control of my entire life to you except in the area of money—I am perfectly capable of handling that myself.’ And without realizing it, this attitude hinders their relationship with God and harms their finances. (Howard Dayton, Your Money Map)

I thought this quote from this Christian author was amazing and thought I’d pass it on to everyone who wants to learn to spend money the way the Lord would have us do.  People of all faiths and all countries struggle with putting money before God whether we’re rich or poor. 

What can one do in order to put the Lord before our money?  I won’t claim to be an expert, but I’ll share some things that have helped me.

  1. Acknowledge all things are Gods and I am a Steward  When you really think about it, everything we have comes from God.  The air we breathe, our families, our life, and of course our money.  We are merely stewards.  As I pray to realize and recognize this, I find that I am more careful with being frivolous with spending and have greater respect for the money God blesses me with.
  2. Be Grateful for Blessings and Tell the Lord  I’ve found that when I express gratitude to the Lord for any blessing He gives me, that my heart grows less hardened and more apt to use the blessing as He would have me do.  Regarding money, when I think about how grateful I am for the money he blesses me with and pray to use it how He would have me use it, I find myself become less attached to the money. 
  3. Pay Tithing  I’ve seen miracles by paying my tithing.  I feel the first two steps mentioned are the “mental” action steps and paying tithing is the first “physical” action step on how to spend money the way the Lord would have us do.  No matter what, pay your tithing and you’ll be blessed.  I’ve been blessed by paying my tithing because when I do, I become less attached to the money and more drawn to the Lord as I pray that the money will be spent how He would have it spent.  I also have seen physical blessings come as a result of paying tithing. 
  4. Give to the Needy  King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon talks about how we should always give to those in need.  We all see people on the streets asking for money (especially in the Seattle area where I live).  I’ve found that when I see this person if I ask him what he will do with the money I trust him if he says he’ll use it for food.  Who am I to judge?  However, some of them are honest enough to tell me they’ll spend it on drugs and beer and then I don’t give them the money.  In addition, our church (the LDS or Mormon church) has an option to pay additional funds for humanitarian causes and I pay towards that as well.  I’ve found that by doing this, I become even less attached to the money and grateful that the Lord has blessed me so abundantly and I pray the people that receive the money will feel the same way and be blessed.
  5. Pay Yourself  The next thing I do each month is pay myself in two ways.  1. Retirement funds 2. Emergency Savings
  6. Make Extra Payments Any debts I have such as student loans and car payments we pay extra money towards them.  This reduces the amount of time to be in debt as the Lord has commanded us to stay out of debt and pay our debtors.
  7. Do Not get into Credit Card Debt  I heard on the radio today the average American has $15,000 worth of credit card debt.If you have a credit card, pay it off every month.  If that is too hard, don’t use a credit card. 
  8. Avoid “Get Rich Quick” schemes I’ve been scammed a few times and it hurts.  If it sounds too good to be true it usually is.
  9. Live within Your Means My wife and I were talking yesterday about how our grandparents lived in small homes and raised big families.  Today we live in big homes and raise small families.  We need to be very honest with ourselves and really pray to see what our needs vs. wants are.  If we can afford to pay tithing, give to the needy, save money, and pay the other bills and still get a house, then get a house that is within your means.  Pay cash for purchases such as cars, furniture, etc.  If you don’t have the money, save up for it.
  10. Be Honest in Dealings  ALWAYS be honest in business dealings, on our taxes, etc.  It’s the right thing to do and keeps the Holy Spirit with us in our decisions.
  11. Pray for Strength against Pride As we give to the needy and express gratitude to the Lord, we’ll be blessed with more abundance (at least that’s what I’ve found).  When the additional blessings come, pray that you’ll stay humble and that you won’t be prideful.

These are steps that have helped me, but I’m sure there are many more and I feel like I’m learning every day about how to be a better steward.  Are there any scriptures or any other things you do to help you be a better steward over the Lord’s money?

The student of the New Testament should be primarily an historian. The centre and core of all the Bible is history. Everything else that the Bible contains is fitted into an historical framework and leads up to an historical climax. The Bible is primarily a record of events. (History and Faith by J Gresham Machen)

In the previous quote Mr Machen defines history as a main framework for building faith.  Similarly, the people over at Living Hope Ministries in Brigham City Utah feel the same way.  They recently made a video that strives to discredit the Book of Mormon due to lack of historical evidences found to support the Book vs. the Bible that has many historical evidences to support it.  

As a counter-attack, people at the FAIR LDS site have put out a video on how many things in the Bible can not be historically proven while acknowledging that most things in the Book of Mormon can not be supported historically. (As a side note, there is an interesting site called The Nephi Project where George Potter traces Lehi’s trail through the Arabian desert by using the Book of Mormon as a reference.)

The question then is: Does one need historical evidence to believe and have faith?

My initial response is that one doesn’t need to have historical evidence to believe.  The definition of faith, according to the Bible in Hebrews 11:1 is that it is the “substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”  The Bible doesn’t support history as something needed to build faith.

Secondly, I feel that Even if something can be historically proven, one still has to have the witness from the Spirit in order to believe on it.I’m reminded of the classic Book of Mormon scripture in Moroni 10 that says “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”  Therefore, it appears that a witness from the Holy Spirit is the most essential element to one’s faith. 

I’ll admit that I’ve struggled with my faith when I try to reason with both Bible and Book of Mormon stories that seem to have no “evidence.”  However, I always fall back on the witness I’ve received from the Holy Ghost that both books are true and they come from God.  I know they are both true because I’ve felt and seen the fruits of the Spirit in my life as I’ve read and applied principles found in both books.  As historical “evidences” appear they are an added bonus to my faith, but not the main source.

What has your experience been with either the Bible or the Book of Mormon?  Do you feel historical evidence is necessary to have faith?

This morning I was reading an excellent talk given by John H Groberg a few years back called “The Power of God’s Love.”  If you saw the movie “The Other Side of Heaven,” you will remember many stories he shares in this excellent talk.  I encourage you to read through it.

What impressed me today were the following phrases:

Since all love emanates from God, we are born with the capacity and the desire to love and to be loved.

Only as we feel God’s love and fill our hearts with His love can we be truly happy.

 

The more we obey God, the more we desire to help others. The more we help others, the more we love God and on and on. Conversely, the more we disobey God and the more selfish we are, the less love we feel.

 

…trying to find love without helping and sacrificing for others is like trying to live without eating—it is against the laws of nature and cannot succeed.

 

When we understand who God is, who we are, how He loves us, and what His plan is for us, fear evaporates. When we get the tiniest glimpse of these truths, our concern over worldly things vanishes.

 

I learned that just as rockets must overcome the pull of gravity to roar into space, so we must overcome the pull of the world to soar into the eternal realms of understanding and love. I realized my mortal life might end there, but there was no panic. I knew life would continue, and whether here or there didn’t really matter. What did matter was how much love I had in my heart.

 

 

 

…when we are ready, His pure love instantly moves across time and space, reaches down, and pulls us up from the depths of any tumultuous sea of darkness, sin, sorrow, death, or despair we may find ourselves in and brings us into the light and life and love of eternity.

As I read this, my mind went back to various times throughout my life that I’ve felt the Love of God so much that I knew without a doubt that there was a God and He loved me.  I remembered times in my life when all I wanted to do was help other people and had no worldly cares because of the love of God that was in me.  It’s a truly amazing experience.  But, as Groberg states, the pull of the world comes and it is easy to forget that love sometimes.

 

 

How does one bring God’s love back into life then?  Personally, I think an answer is found in the Book of Mosiah chapter 4 verses 11-12.  In verse 11, King Benjamin says (paraphrased) that if we have tasted of God’s love and want to retain it we have to do the following:

  1. Remember God
  2. Acknowledge our “nothingness” before him in humility
  3. Praise Him for his goodness
  4. Pray to Him
  5. Stand strong in the faith.

In my life I’ve found that the best way to remember God is to read the scriptures daily and start with a sincere prayer.  I pray to God (well, try to anyways) as I would another person and thank Him for his love and patience He’s had towards me throughout my life.  I pray about my family, friends, my heart to be softened so I will love all people and see them as He does.  I pray for spiritual discernement and understanding.  I try to obey His commandments as best I know how as well.  Many times I feel the love of God in my heart very strongly.  Other times I don’t.  I believe that standing strong in the faith comes into play when we aren’t feeling the love as strongly, but we continue to try to develop a relationship with God.  And conversly, when everything is going well it is important to remember to thank God and be grateful and continue on in study, prayer, and obedience.

 

 

These are a few thoughts experiences that have helped me.  What are some things that you do to retain and/or bring back the love of God into your life?

 

 

 

In the book “How Wide the Divide,” Craig Blomberg from a Denver seminary and Stephen Robinson, from BYU (both have PhD’s in religion) attempt to “bridge the gap” between Evangelicals and Mormons.  The first step is to have a correct understanding of what the other believes.  The following is an excerpt from their book:

Since very few Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals are theologically bilingual, the same misunderstandings tend to be compounded over and over, which is grist for the mills of prejudice on both sides…(How Wide the Divide, page 14)

In an attempt for both Evangelicals and LDS people to learn about each other’s beliefs, both Blomberg and Robinson share a modern-day translation of “Articles of Faith” for both religions.  I will now share their thoughts.  Feel free to share yours in your comments.

LDS Articles of Faith Translated for Christians of other Faiths

  1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.  We accept the biblical doctrine that God is three and that God is also one, but we reject the post-New Testament attempts to explain how these two truths are to be reconciled
  2. We believe that humankind fell through the transgression of Adam and Eve and that humans in their present state are subject to sin, death and corruption.  However, we believe that individuals are accountable for thier own sins, not for guilt inherited from Adam and Eve.  We accept both divine justice and human accountability, but we do not believe in original sin.
  3. We believe that through the atonement of Christ, fallen humanity may be saved by accepting and obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ.  No one is predestined either to salvation or to damnation; anyone may be saved who responds appropriately to the good news of Christ.
  4. We believe that we respond appropirately to Christ and we accept his gospel by having faith in and being faithful to Christ as Son of God and Savior, that is, by accepting him as Lord and Savior and making him Lord of and in our lives.  We cannot merit salvation of ourselves, nor is it possible to “earn” the grace by which we are saved, but the obedience of faith, a godly walk and conversation, is a necessary component of faith in Christ.  Jesus will save us from our sins but not with our sins.  Beyond having faith in Christ, we must also repent of sin, consent to baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and receive the regenerating and sanctifying gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.
  5. We believe that the Christianity of the first century, New Testament Christianity, is true Christianity.  As such, it is the only standard by which to define Chrisitanity, as opposed to defining it by post-New Testament councils and creeds.  We believe that the priesthood authority, church organization, spiritual gifts, sacraments (i.e. ordinances) and doctrines of the modern church must be as they were in the New Testament church.  This obviously includes the presence of apostles and prophets who receive direct, continuing revelation for the church in the world.
  6. We accept the Bible (the King James Version) as the inspired word of God–every book, every chapter, every verse of it–as revealed to the apostles and prophets who wrote it.  We also hold the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price to be the word of God.
  7. We believe in the divine conception, subsitutionary atonement, sacrificial death, bodily resurrection and present glory of Jesus Christ and that he will return to this earth in judgment and in his glory to cleanse it from all wickedness and to establish his personal millennial reign.  Both the saved and the lost will be resurrected, the former at Christ’s coming or during his reign, the latter at the end of th millennium.
  8. We believe that the church established by Christ in the New Testament was changed by later Chrisitan intellectuals who believed the simple New Testament proclamation to be inadequate.  Feeling the language of Scripture to be unsophisticated, incomplete, vague, ambiguous or imprecise, the second, thrud and fourth-century church sougt to “improve” the New Testament gospel by the standards of Hellenistic philosophy, but compromised it instead.
  9. We believe that the Lord in preparation for his imminent second coming has “restored” New Testament Chrisitanity in the latter days through the prophet Joseph Smith.  Nevertheless, all honest Christians of whatever deonmination, not just LDS Christians, will be among the saved at the last day…(How Wide the Divide, pgs 16-17)

Evangelical “Article of Faith” or “Confession Statement”

  1. We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
  2. We believe that there is one God eternally existent in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
  3. We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and His personal return in power and glory.
  4. We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful man regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  5. We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
  6. We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
  7. We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. (How Wide the Divide pgs 29-30)

Today in church our bishop and some of his family members shared experiences they had while visiting Uganda, Africa.  It impressed me how he shared his testimony of how the love of God is shown in all people throughout the world and how he was so grateful for his relationship with God and Jesus Christ.

His experiences and testimony reminded me of a scripture in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 26:33, which reads:

…for he (the Lord) doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he ainviteth them ball to ccome unto him and partake of his goodness; and he ddenieth none that come unto him, black and white, ebond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the fheathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

This scripture reminded me of another statement made by the Baptist Preacher who believes in the Book of Mormon, John Ridenour.  In this statement, he submits that God is non-denomonational and that God doesn’t really care about doctrine as much as he cares about how we treat each other.  A part of his statement is included below:

How does God think?

When He looks down over my city, Kansas City, Missouri, He doesn’t see Baptist churches or Lutheran churches or Catholic churches or Pentecostal churches or Mormon churches. He sees His children. That’s it. God is not “denominational.” We have over 100 denominations in our city but I submit-the Lord recognizes none of them. That is, His Church is built upon the rock of revelation that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 13). I submit-when the Lord looks down upon any city, He sees His Church-and all who have had a personal revelation that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, are members of His Church. I’m saying–I want to view His church as the Lord sees His church–based upon a revelation of His Lordship, not doctrinal agreement. Why wait ‘till we all get to heaven to think like God thinks?

I’m also saying-too often we’re divided by doctrine. That ought not be. He who has confessed Jesus Christ as Lord & Savior is my brother in the faith. Fellowship is centered around His Lordship, not doctrine. Again–all who confess Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives, regardless of creed, color, or class, are my brothers and sisters. I like the way C.S. Lewis said it in his classic book “Mere Christianity.” Lewis says, “…it’s not that we Christians disagree; it’s that we disagree on the importance of our disagreements…” How true! Example…

For some of the brethren, it’s very important that we believe in baptismal regeneration before we will fellowship; for others it’s very important that we believe in irresistible grace (the Calvinist point of view of Salvation) before we can fellowship; with others, the will of man (Armenian point of view) plays a crucial role in one’s salvation. With some of us, we embrace the “second blessing” typically known as “the deeper life experience.” Methodists call it sanctification. Others of us do not believe in the second blessing experience. Some of us believe in the “baptism or filling of the Holy Spirit” with the evidence of glossalalia; others of us don’t. Some of us are pre-millennial regarding our views on the Second Coming; some of us are post-millennial; a few of us are amillennial. A few of us think esoteric temple rites have a role to play in the afterlife.

See what I mean? Fellowship too often is based upon doctrine.

We as mortals will never come close to seeing things the way that God does, but I think that the Book of Mormon scripture along with this statement by John Ridenour are very positive steps in starting to see things the way God does.  One of the beauties and magnificence of God is that he sees all people the same whether they believe or not.  He loves unconditionally in a way that we will never comprehend and His arms are always stretched out ready to receive us.  I believe that God blesses all people, and those who take steps of faith towards Him come to know and love Him.  As a result, we come to love and appreciate all people and see them as God sees them.

Now, I’m sure most people will agree that God loves everyone and is not partial towards one group of people, as the Bible teaches, but it leaves the questions: which doctrines and religions are recognized by God? Which ones are not?  Does it even matter?

All I can speak from is personal experience, and I firmly believe the path I’m on is the correct path.  I believe that God appeared to Joseph Smith and re-established the Church of Jesus Christ.  I believe this as a result of personal study and sincere prayer and many experiences.   However, I do not believe that the LDS church has a monopoly on truth and there are many things which haven’t been revealed to us as to how heaven works. 

I know many people in other faiths who say they’ve had just as personal of experiences and a witness from God that their path is the correct path.  I don’t doubt that God has just as close of a relationship with them as He does with me.  But if we believe there is one faith, one Lord, one baptism, etc. how can we say that God is not denominational?

I’m sure most people have heard the news by now about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encouraging it’s nearly 1million members in California to do “all they can do” to support the initiative in November to over-turn the ruling supporting bay marriage. 

If you haven’t heard about this, you can read the following blogs:

California Saints To Get The Call

Envisioning a Politically Thoughtful Church Culture

California Mormons Won’t Be Cool With Acts of Protest At Their Chapels

Mormons in California Called to Defend Marriage by Top LDS Leaders

The letter from the LDS Prophet and his counselors encourages saints to do “all they can do” to support traditional marriages, especially in California during the upcoming vote in November. 

Someone told me of a friend of theirs who lives in California that contacted them and asked if they were supporting the Church’s call to “do all you can do” to support the ban on gay marriages.  When my friend told the person they were not supporting it, the individual got upset and self-righteously said “aren’t you going to support the Prophet?”  This in my mind is going too far and I feel that “doing all you can do” is objective and depends on the individual.  If certain circumstances cause someone to believe in gay marriage, yet they still are believing Latter-day Saints, maybe doing “all they can do” is different than someone on the opposite end of the spectrum. 

In addition, last December Elder Ballard said in an address to BYU students that the LDS Church takes a politically neutral stance.  Yet, of all the issues the LDS Church decided to go back on that statement and get politically involved with the ban on gay marriage.  Personally, I think it is fine if the Church encourages members to take a stand on what the Church feels is a moral issue, including gay marriage.  Whether or not I decided to vote for or against it is a personal choice and if it’s a moral issue I can take it to the Lord in prayer and see what I feel. 

Obviously, the two questions are:

1. What is your take on what it means to “do all you can do” to support the ban on gay marriage?

2. Should the church get politically involved?  If it gets involved with this, do you think the Church should get involved with other issues?  Why or why not?

 

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