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While traveling down to Portland for a business trip yesterday, I came across a good Christian radio station called Casting Crowns Radio.  The topic of discussion was ways to bring Christ back into Christmas and the traditions people and churches have in making sure Christ is the center of Christmas.

Last night was our churches Christmas party and the words of the pastor and the people who called in were fresh on my mind.  Therefore, I was particurlarly wary of if the party would center around Jesus or not.  I’m sorry to say that while the party was fun and a good social event and Santa Claus came and the food was good, etc., Jesus was an afterthought.  The only reference to Christ was one verse of Silent Night at the end of the party.

I thought about my own life and asked myself in all the hustle and bustle around Christmas time, what am I doing to ensure it is centered around Jesus and the purpose of Christmas? 

I like the idea of having a set tradition.  As the oldest of 8 children, while growing up we would usually re-enact the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth on Christmas eve.  One of the younger kids would be the baby and others would be shepherds and we would re-enact the story of Christmas to a recorded version of my dear Grandma Anderson’s reading from the Bible.  It brought the focus of Christmas on Jesus and as we did this it also strengthened our family.

My wife’s family has a fun tradition of getting together Christmas eve and having a talent show.  People will play Christmas songs on the guitar, piano, or share a little treat or do a Christmas reading.

I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions of what you do to bring Jesus into the Christmas season.  Feel free to share what you do or what you’ve seen others do.

Merry Christmas!

Author’s note on January 1, 2011:

I just came across a great article on the LDS church website that shares Christtmas traditions of the LDS leaders.  View it on this link:


Over a year ago, I wrote a post called “Why do People Leave the LDS Church?”  It has since become one of my most frequented posts and recently received a comment from a sincere seeker of Jesus who has just left the LDS church.  She has started a blog called Musings on Mormonism that shows her sincerety as a seeker of Jesus and her story of being a Mormon and chosing to leave the LDS church, yet devoting herself to following Jesus.  I respect her choice and also commend her for following her heart and pray that she brings people closer to Jesus.

Her experience was very similar to the experience the experience of Shawn McCraney’s.  Recently I read his book called “I was a Born Again Mormon.”  In this book, he describes his experience as an LDS elder and missionary and also is conversion to Christianity and leaving the LDS church.  I didn’t agree with a lot of what he wrote, but one thing I did agree with was that it is important to be born again.  His definition of what a born again Mormon is and mine are drastically different, but I do agree with him in the fact that we as Mormons (and everyone for that matter) need to be born again.

I feel that it is unfortunate that many of our fellow Christians feel that we are not truly born again and believers in Jesus.  No one is perfect, but if we are not doing things out of the love we have for Jesus, then we need to repent and become truly born again. 

In John, chapter 3,  Jesus tells Nicodemus one must be born again to see the kingdom of God.  In the Book of Mormon in Alma, chapter 7 it states we need to be born again through repentance and baptism as well.  There are many other scriptures in the Book of Mormon and Bible for those who want to study being born again.  Clearly it is something necessary and something that we as LDS should be talking about and thinking about.

In 2007, Elder Bednar, one of the Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ, gave a great sermon called “Ye Must be Born Again.”  In this sermon, he discusses the importance in being born again and accepting Jesus:

We are instructed to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness” (Moroni 10:32), to become “new creature[s]” in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), to put off “the natural man” (Mosiah 3:19), and to experience “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). Please note that the conversion described in these verses is mighty, not minor—a spiritual rebirth and fundamental change of what we feel and desire, what we think and do, and what we are. Indeed, the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through our reliance upon “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). As we choose to follow the Master, we choose to be changed—to be spiritually reborn.

I would like to share with you when I experienced a “mighty change in heart” and was born again as a new creature in Jesus.

During a proselyting mission in Frankfurt, Germany I had had many discussions with non-believers and people who challenged my faith of if there was a God and if Jesus was real.  I struggled with my faith for awhile and questioned if there was a God and if Jesus was really the Savior.

During this time, I would sometimes feel angry with myself for feeling this way and viewed myself as a hypocrite.  I concluded that if I really wanted to know Jesus I would need to immerse myself in His word and pray, which is exactly what I did.  In order to know Jesus, I decided I would read the book Jesus the Christ, by James Talmage along with the New Testament.  I studied and prayed for over 8 months and learned a lot, but never did receive a “born again” experience.  I actually wasn’t really looking for a sign and had the faith that God would reveal truth to me in His own time and way.

One morning, it happened.  As I was praying, I felt completely overcome with a love and joy for Jesus that I had never felt before.  Words to a poem, which I may share at some later point entitled “I’m With You ’til the End” came to mind and I dictated as the Spirit of God spoke to me through my writing.  As I watched the words fall onto the paper describing who Jesus is and what His mission in life was and how He’s always there to help me, I felt my heart change and my love and desire to share the good news of the gospel overcome me.  I wept in gratitude as God had answered my prayers.

That experience was more than 12 years ago now, but it is etched into my heart.  I’ve made many mistakes since then, but I am a drastically different person since becoming a new creature in Jesus than I was before.  I know that I have the opportunity to daily give my heart to Jesus and that He’ll lead me in all I do.  As I try daily to give my heart to Jesus then I notice that I gradually become more like Him in my desires to serve others and to love as He did.  Life, relationships, and everything becomes more meaningful. 

Those of us who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ should always remember that in all we do nothing matters unless we do it unto the Lord.  Our fellow Christian brothers and sisters should never feel that we as Mormons are not born again and new creatures in Jesus, for without Him, nothing else matters.

If you are a Mormon, how would you describe your “born again” experience?

Also, if you are a fellow non-LDS Christian, feel free to share your born again experience as well.

For more good posts on Mormons being born again visit:

Begging for a Remission of Sins

LDS Alive in Christ (this one is a beautifully written testimony by the author of the site of how he became born again.  Highly Recommended)

A couple months back I was reading the temple study blog and he had an excersize to find temple imagery in 2 Nephi chapter 4

Recently I was reading in Hebrews as well as in Alma in the Book of Mormon and found some significant temple imagery as well.  Here are some verses that stuck out to me:

Alma 13:11,16

Hebrews 10:15-22

These are very beautiful scriptures that are filled with temple imagery (garments washed white, the veil is represents Christ’s flesh, covenants, etc.).  In addition scriptures such as Hebrews 9:5 talk about how there are certain things they can’t talk about regarding sacred things, just as LDS are told not to disclose certain sacred things about the temple.  All throughout Hebrews is excellent temple imagery and is worth a good read.

In Hebrews chapters 6-10, Paul discusses the temple ordinances conducted in the Law of Moses and in chapter ten says that through the blood of Jesus we enter into the holiest and that the veil represents his flesh. 

In Hebrews 9:12 it states that Jesus “entered into the holy place” and therefore obtained eternal redemption for us. 

Having read this, one could argue that there isn’t a need for temple ordinances anymore because Jesus already died and this has replaced the need for a temple.  Furthermore, if it is the blood of Jesus that saves us, what need is there for temple ordinances?

What are your thoughts on this?

In college, I skimmed through the book by Victor Frankl entitled “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  Recently I decided to read it again and spend a little more time digesting the concepts. 

For those unfamiliar with this book, it is a book written by Victor Frankl about his experiences in a concentration camp.  What is so impressive with this man is that before he was sent to the concentration camp he was a doctor of psychology.  He had been working on some essays and a book that defined man’s search for meaning and happiness and what motivates man to keep trying.  In his book, he describes how he was offered a position at a college in the United States before the Nazis came into Austria, where he lived.  Had he taken this position, he would have been safe and would have never entered into the concentration camp.  However, one day when he found out his parents were going to more than likely be sent to the camps he felt torn because he felt responsibilty to care for them.  He describes how one day he read in the Bible (Frankl was Jewish) to honor your father and your mother.  He took this as an answer from God and sacrificed his trip to America.  A few months later, he was caring for his father in a concentration camp as his father passed away. 

Going back to the concentration camp experience, Frankl describes what happened when he arrived.  First, they took all of his belongings, which only consisted of a suitcase, coat, etc. and disposed of them.  Next, they stripped the prisoners down to nothing and then shaved them completely naked.  Very humiliating. 

As I was reading this I had a thought about who we as human beings really are.  How would I view myself if I had a similar situation?  If everything was taken from me…my house, money, job, clothes…hair (that’s actually on it’s way out right now: )…how would I view myself?  Would I still view myself with dignity knowing that I am a child of God?  Would I still act and think thoughts about myself as a divine being with unlimited potential? 

Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of someone who went through this when he was stripped down to nothing and whipped, beaten, and hung on the cross.  Jesus taught to love in spite of all hell coming at you and he lived the perfect example of how to do this in dignity.  He spoke with purpose.  He chose not to speak at times such as when before kings and people mocking him and showed quite dignity.  He taught to forsake all earthly posessions and to not set our hearts on riches.

Trying to love Jesus more fully and live His teachings is how we can ultimately find more meaning in our lives.  When all is said and done, we are nothing without Him. 

I encourage us all to take steps in prayer and read God’s Word so we can continually develop traits and find our ultimate meaning and purpose in life.

For those of you reading this who may not be familiar with LDS meetings, today was what we call “Fast and Testimony Meeting.”  On the first Sunday of each month (called “Fast Sunday”) members of the faith abstain from food and water (a.k.a fast) for 24 hrs. and give the money they would have used in those meals to the needy. 

Today happened to be Fast Sunday.  One thing unique about Fast Sunday is that members of the faith have an opportunity to stand up before the congregation and share their “testimony,” or witness of their faith.  I’m not the best church historian out there so I’m not sure where this concept originated from, but I think it is there to provide the opportunity for members to learn and grow together through sharing personal experiences and sharing how the Lord works in our daily lives. 

Over the years there have been some phrases that are typically repeated over and over again each fast Sunday.  Again, I’m not familiar with where these phrases originated, but some key phrases one will be guaranteed to hear each Sunday are: “I know the Church is true,” “I know the Book of Mormon is true,” “Jesus is the Christ,” “I love my family, parents, etc.”  Now, don’t get me wrong, these are all good phrases, but many times after hearing them over and over again it can be easy to drift off and think of other things.  Plus, in my opinion, one starts to get the feeling that a person is just using these phrases sometimes as a “filler” to say something to fill the space.

Throughout the years I’ve heard members of other faiths mention how this isn’t uplifting to them.  They come to church to learn and to hear a preacher educated and trained in the ways of religion.  They do not want to take the time to go to church to hear other “uneducated” people talk about the same thing over and over again. 

I’ll have to be honest, I was having similar thoughts today as people would get up and share their life history one after the other.  I started getting a tad critical, thinking to myself “they’re not even referencing any scriptures,” or “how many times will I hear I know such and such is true,” etc.  In the beginning of the meeting, the Bishop said the meeting would go as long as necessary and so people lined up one after the other.  Normally the meeting lasts about an hour.  Today at about an hour I noticed there was still a long line.  I notice my bad attitude and said a quick prayer to help me be humbled to learn what the Lord would have me learn.

About this time a sweet little elderly lady got up and shared her experiences and her testimony.  I won’t lie.  It was a long testimony.  However, something she said caught my attention.  It was simple.  She said she had 33 grandkids and went on to describe how the Lord had led her throughout her life and how grateful she was. 

A thought then came to my mind: “Whatever the Lord touches, flourishes and lives…”  Suddenly the meeting was interesting as I thought about this concept and reflected on scriptures of the Lord touching people and healing them.  I thought of people in the scriptures who looked to Him and lived.  I thought of His ministry to both the Jews and in the Book of Mormon and how people’s lives were bless simply by Him touching them.

I looked around the chapel and saw parents lovingly helping their kids and knew the Lord was pleased.  I thought about the stories that were shared during that meeting and about how they were sharing these experiences because the Lord had touched their lives.  I then considered how He had touched my life and how blessed I’ve been because of it.  More people kept coming up and sharing experiences and I focused on the experiences they were sharing about how the Lord had touched their life and they had become more alive from it. 

Almost 2 hours after the meeting began, we had said the closing prayer and were walking out of the chapel.  I looked around at everyone there and felt in a small way what it is to be a part of the body of Christ.  Jesus touches each one of us individually in the best way for us to learn and how open we are to learning. 

Although we didn’t have an experienced and educated pastor sharing a sermon today, I feel that the Holy Spirit was able to educate me in ways I never would have considered and for that I’m grateful.

After we finished excersizing today I collapsed to the floor by our bookshelves in the living room and said “Whew!  I’m going to sleep right here!”  I turned my head to the side and was about to close my eyes when I noticed one of my old German poetry books from college.  I hadn’t looked in it probably since college and so I picked it up and it opened to the following short poem by Angelus Silesius .

It Depends on You (by Angelus Silesius)

Oh, if only your heart could become a manger, God would once again become a child on earth.

The imagery and words immediately brought varying thoughts to my mind.

First, the image of a manger.  When we read in Luke chapter 2, we read of Joseph and Mary trying to find room in the busy inns.  In contrast, they find a humble location and a place in a manger.  In addition, I looked up words similar to “manger” in the thesarus and words such as “bassinet” and “cradle” are synonomous to manger.  I asked myself, is my heart like the inn or like the manger?  What can I do to clear it out and make it a place that God can rest?

The next thing I thought of was the part stating that “God would become once again as a child on earth.”  I thought of the numerous scriptures that Jesus spoke of us becoming like a child.  My favorite scripture is in Mosiah 3:19 when it talks about putting away our natural man and becoming patient, meek, humble, and willing to accept everything God gives us…the good and the not-so-good.

I’d like to hear what you thought of as you read the poem or my comments. 

How can we make room in our hearts for the Savior?

What can we do to become humble and meek like a child?

Why is it important, or is it even important to do these things? 

We had the missionaries over last night and they shared an amazing story from the May 1988 Ensign.  Below is a story given by Elder John R Lasater:

Some years ago, it was my privilege to visit the country of Morocco as part of an official United States government delegation. As part of that visit, we were invited to travel some distance into the desert to visit some ruins. Five large black limousines moved across the beautiful Moroccan countryside at considerable speed. I was riding in the third limousine, which had lagged some distance behind the second. As we topped the brow of a hill, we noticed that the limousine in front of us had pulled off to the side of the road. As we drew nearer, I sensed that an accident had occurred and suggested to my driver that we stop. The scene before us has remained with me for these many years.

An old shepherd, in the long, flowing robes of the Savior’s day, was standing near the limousine in conversation with the driver. Nearby, I noted a small flock of sheep numbering not more than fifteen or twenty. An accident had occurred. The king’s vehicle had struck and injured one of the sheep belonging to the old shepherd. The driver of the vehicle was explaining to him the law of the land. Because the king’s vehicle had injured one of the sheep belonging to the old shepherd, he was now entitled to one hundred times its value at maturity. However, under the same law, the injured sheep must be slain and the meat divided among the people. My interpreter hastily added, “But the old shepherd will not accept the money. They never do.”

Startled, I asked him why. And he added, “Because of the love he has for each of his sheep.” It was then that I noticed the old shepherd reach down, lift the injured lamb in his arms, and place it in a large pouch on the front of his robe. He kept stroking its head, repeating the same word over and over again. When I asked the meaning of the word, I was informed, “Oh, he is calling it by name. All of his sheep have a name, for he is their shepherd, and the good shepherds know each one of their sheep by name.”

It was as my driver predicted. The money was refused, and the old shepherd with his small flock of sheep, with the injured one tucked safely in the pouch on his robe, disappeared into the beautiful deserts of Morocco.

As we continued our journey toward the ruins, my interpreter shared with me more of the traditions and practices of the shepherds of that land. Each evening at sundown, for example, the shepherds bring their small flocks of sheep to a common enclosure where they are secured against the wolves that roam the deserts of Morocco. A single shepherd then is employed to guard the gate until morning. Then the shepherds come to the enclosure one by one, enter therein, and call forth their sheep—by name. The sheep will not hearken unto the voice of a stranger but will leave the enclosure only in the care of their true shepherd, confident and secure because the shepherd knows their names and they know his voice.

The words of the Master Shepherd rang loudly in my ears:

“But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

“To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

“And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

“And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:2–5).

Many thoughts come to mind.  First, I think of all the times I’ve been lost and wandering on my own way…even injured spiritualy and how the Lord has reached down and picked me up either through another person or through a miracle of a healing or other means.

Next, I think of those who I’m called to be a Shepherd over.  My family, the people I home teach, those I serve as a ward missionary, the children of God I meet on a daily basis, etc.  Do I treat them and love them as a shepherd?  If not, what can I do to improve with my interactions with those I’ve been given stewardship over? 

Finally, I thought of all the references in the scriptures on being Shepherds .  There are many refering to “shepherds in Isreal”, following the “Good Shepherd”, and probably the most touching is the one in John 10: 2, 11-12, 14, and 16 that talks about the good shepherd giving his life for the sheep and how he knows every one of his sheep.

I’m grateful for Jesus and that He is always there for me even when I stray it seems like on a daily basis.  However, He is the Good Shepherd and will always search, call, and reach out to comfort me.  All I need to do is hear his voice and obey.

I hope this helps us all strive to become more loving and more like our Savior who is the true Shepherd of us all.

Those of us in the Northwest get the benefit of some very beautiful days, and yesterday was one of them.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun reflected off the crystals in the 10 degree weather.  My wife (Becca), my friend Jeremy, and I decided we would go skiing and it was a good decision!

Becca hadn’t been skiing before so the first part of the day Jeremy hit some runs on his own as I stayed with Becca and helped her out.  She was great!  I was very impressed at how well she picked it up and that even though she was a little nervous, she stuck with it.  I’d given her instructions to keep her skis in a “pizza wedge”, slowly turn back and forth down the hill, and if she felt out of control to push on the ski facing down-hill and that she would stop.  While I watched her I noticed that if she stayed focused on the instructions she did great!  However if a skier, snow-boarder, or a tree would come into view she had the tendency at first to loose concentration and focus on the other object.  Pretty soon she would head straight for the object and she would freak out a little and fall down.  However, by the end of the day she had learned to steadily make it down the mountain and avoid the obstacles.  I was very impressed with how well she’d done at learning. 

As I watched her, I thought of how this relates to our relationship with God.  God has given us instructions and a way to make it down this mountain of life and back to Him.  Sometimes there are obstacles such as sickness, death, loss of a job…and a million other things throughout any given day that we can focus on and many times we fall.  Luckily for us, we have instructions through the scriptures.  The following scripture shows us how we can “make it down the mountain.”

“Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.” (3 Ne. 15:9.) There are many other scriptures in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants that refer to this promise as well.  You can visit them here

I would like to hear some experiences and thoughts from you…

How do you “look unto the Savior”? 

What is “enduring to the end”?  (for some good clues click here.)

What are ways you’ve used to endure? 

In the movie “End of the Spear,” christian missionaries are led by the Holy Spirit to a indiginous people in South America.  The people have a distorted concept of God and the sanctity of life.  Ultimately many of the missionaries end up sacrificing their lives in order to bring the message to this indiginous people. 

The scriptures also contain many accounts of people sacrificing their time, talents, and in many instances their lives in order to bring salvation to people.  Prophets in the Bible include: Paul, Stephen, Christ’s disciples, Jeremiah, and of course Jesus who was not just a prophet, but the Savior of the world.  Book of Mormon prophets who sacrifice include: Lehi, Alma, Abinadi, and also many more.  Of the Latter-Day Saint prophets, Joseph Smith is definitely the most recognized as sacrificing all he had for the Lord’s kingdom.  When ridiculed he wouldn’t renounce his testimony for he knew he’d seen a vision and God knew he’d seen a vision and he dared not deny it.  He was persecuted and eventually killed as a result.  Millions of other Latter-Day Saints and also Christian members of other faiths around the world today have felt the love of Jesus in their hearts and have sacrificed their time, talents, and even their lives.

What is it that moves us to action?  Why sacrifice so much for people that we don’t know in many instances?  Those of who have been moved by the Holy Spirit…in other words, born again, understand why.  Once we’ve tasted of the love of the Lord and been born again, we are willing to try to do everything we can to help the Lord and do His will. 

My message is for those who have been or want to be born again and want to continue on by building a solid foundation on Jesus that will weather any storm that may come. 

One of my favorite scriptures on building a foundation on the Lord is in Helaman 5:12.  It reads:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

We all have “mighty storms” that beat upon us and all of our experiences are different.  Sickness, depression, fears, trying to make ends meet, the list goes on and on.  The LDS priesthood manual offers 7 suggestions to help us build, strengthen, and maintain our foundation on Jesus.  These include:

1. Seek the companionship of the Holy Ghost

2. Partake of the Sacrament (Communion)

3. Pray and fast

4. Keep the Commandments

5. Study the scriptures

6. Follow the living prophet

7. Love and serve the Lord

Three additional ways that I use to strengthen my relationship with Jesus include:

8. Attend the Lord’s house (the temple)

9. Pay tithing and fast offerings

10. Share my testimony with others

I will be sharing more thoughts on each of these ways that have helped me build and maintain a strong foundation on Jesus in future posts.  I, like many of you, feel I have made a lot of progress and at times feel my foundation is sure and steady.  Many other times I’ve felt the whirlwinds of Satan hit the foundation and I’ve had to start rebuilding again. 

Many times I notice that opportunities to build my foundation are little by little on a daily basis just by doing simple things to help others, telling someone who’s down about God and prayer, praying for others, telling the truth and being honest in dealings with employers and friends, and focusing on being positive about myself and others.  My hope is that my foundation will be strong enough to be a witness for the Lord in every event just as the missionaries in the movie and the prophets mentioned. 

In conclusion, I pose some questions:

1. Has building a foundation on Jesus helped you?  If so, how has it helped you?

2. What do you do or have you done to build and maintain a firm foundation on Jesus? 

3. What does it mean to you to have a foundation built on Jesus?   

One of my friends recently posted this comment about God:

I also lived in fear of somehow distressing him (God) so much that I wouldn’t make my way into the highest of kingdoms and that I’d be a disappointment to him and all those around me. Every time I committed even the “slightest sin”, it made me depressed.

To be honest, I’ve felt this way before too and I don’t blame my friend one bit for feeling this way.  I’ve felt like I was a disappointment to God because of my many sins and weaknesses.  I believe that when we try to perfect ourselves and measure up to all of God’s commandments and try on our own without relying on the merits and mercy of Jesus we will all feel overwhelmed just as my friend and I have both felt. 

Brother Jeff Dance gave an excellent talk today and I am going to share his thoughts from the talk he gave today in church on Believing Christ.  Below is the outline from his talk:

BELIEVING CHRIST, JANUARY 12, 2008, Jeffrey Dance

My absolute favorite passage of scripture is found in 2nd Nephi Chapter 4.  It is one of the most emotional parts of the Book of Mormon; There are 7 exclamation points in this chapter that highlight Nephi’s emotions.  Nephi explains his problem and struggle w/ his errors, hints at the cause and indicates the solution.  

17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins;

   Is Nephi down on himself?  In my opinion, here is a prophet feeling a overwhelmed because of his imperfections.  How many of us can say or feel the same thing as Nephi?

    But here is the very quick switch that comes from Believing Christ: 19 cont’d… nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh. 26 O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions? 27 And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy? 28 Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.    Why should I be so hard on myself if I have the Savior?  Stop letting Satan get you down.  He continues 

30 Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.

34 O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.  PROBLEM: Its easy to get down on yourself.  Satan loves that — wants you to be miserable from the largest to smallest of sinsLIKELY CAUSE: Trusting in your own arm of flesh SOLUTION: When you get down on yourself, trust in Christ to alleviate your burden and perfect yourself in him

BENEFITS: If you truly believe, you will not only find peace, but also love and joy

PROBLEM:  Given our imperfections, Its easy to get down on yourself.   

   We are people always striving for progression and perfection.  Matthew 5:48 – “to be ye therefore perfect as your father in heaven is perfect”, a scripture referenced often by us all.  Its quite a demand we place on ourselves, trying to fast forward an eternal process. Unfortunately, we are never going to be perfect in this life.  If you were perfect, you would be unimprovable.  We can’t demand that of ourselves, our leaders, of our spouse, of our parents and yet we so often do.   

It can be a never ending spiral, the better we become, the more evil we realize we really are.  Jesus, being perfect, “knew all evil.”  You just end up working on smaller things.  Alone, in this quest for perfection, we never find rest for our souls, rather a constant recognition of faults and to dos.

We all try to do so much: getting an education, perform in our career, stay in shape, have and nurture children, giving service, leading organizations, leading families, homemaking, cooking, callings, home teaching, cleaning, temple attendance, missionary work, geneology…the list goes on

With all good works we pursue, we often feel we are never good enough because we all fall short somewhere, and many of us beat ourselves up over it with every little mistake and every little omission.

 Satan wants that: “ … he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” 

CAUSE: Trusting in our own arm

Despite our worthy efforts, our feeling of unworthiness comes from putting our trust in our own arm of flesh

   Nephi recognizes his own fault: “I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh”

   Stephen Robinson emphasizes in Believing Christ, many of us put out trust in our arm of flesh and try to work out our salvation by ourselves.  And that we don’t really believe we will be saved. 

   In our attempts to be our own Savior, we put ourselves against the demands of justice as we face a perfect God. 

The Scritpures suggest clearly that Christ alone has the saving power: 

   Mosiah says “there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, Mosiah 3:14  [ That includes yourself ]

Doing it ourselves is futile because you alone will never be good enough  

No matter how hard you work, you will never be good enough alone.  

In 2 Nephi it says, unto none else can the ends of the law be answered…that 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: 6-10 ] 

Think about it — Adam and Eve–they were booted from the Garden for 1 transgression (not even a sin), imagine how we would feel standing in front of God.  To get an idea, the prophet Moses shrank in the presence of the Lord.  Peter, after his error, plead with the Savior to depart from him. 

 These were all holy people.  How will we react in the presence of God?

   …We cannot be in the presence of God.  But do we put ourselves up to his perfection? without the Savior?  That can easily lead to feeling overwhelmed

We so desperately need an advocate, a mediator, a physician, a healer, a comforter, a savior

SOLUTION: When you do get down in the dumps, turn to Christ, trust in him, and focus on perfecting your relationships in him rather than perfecting yourself 

   Someone recently shared this story and insight:  It was asked of the congregation  if they knew of the people in the audience who would be saved?  Almost all hands went up.  Then it was asked of them if they think they would be saved, to raise their hand.  No one raised their hand. 

Perfecting our relationship in Christ is like that of any other–it requires time… as we learn of him, study the scriptures, and follow him, but it starts with believing all that he has promised.     

 Christ himself says in John: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (Jn. 6:47) 

   First principle of the gospel is faith in the lord Jesus Christ

   We know that true faith requires action (that faith without works is dead), but it is not perfection.  

   Faith is also a hope of salvation for you:

Moroni tell us: “How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?  and he asks us:  …And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise. [ Moroni 7:41 ]  

Brother Millet, from the CES, gave a talk at our Stake Center, where he said “Hope is the expectation, anticipation, and assurance of salvation, not wishing.” 

Holy Ghost is the comforter of assured salvation.  If we feel the spirit in our lives, we are on the right path…that does not mean its a perfect path.   

   Placing your trust in him means believing all that he has promised–that he will save you. 

   It takes such a burden off of us and become so  much easier to trust in the perfect one rather than the imperfect one. 

   Perhaps we need to supplicate like the father in the gospel of Mark, who said  “I Believe, help thou my unbelief…

   Once we have a relationship with Christ, we should feel the atonement, where Christ is part of us.

   Gal. 2: 20….Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 

   Jesus said: “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me”. [ John 17: 23 ] 

   Perfecting our relationship with Christ will enable us to be perfect in front of God together, not alone. 

BENEFIT: If you truly believe, you will find rest, peace,joy,and love in this life

Given our troubles [ and our getting down on ourselves ] , Christ invites us personally to recieve of rest, peace, and partake in his healing power

   In Mathew   Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  [ Matt. 11: 29 ]

   In John, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  [John 14: 27 ]

In Isaiah, Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. [  Isaiah 1: 18: ]

   But do we partake of his salvation when we partake of the sacrament…when we promise to remember all that he did for us.

A Baptist minister once said emphasized the eternal and present nature of salvation.

   I have been saved from sin through a dying Savior  

   I have been saved by a living Savior from my sin right now

   I will be saved from sin by a coming Savior.

   If we do believe him and establish a relationship with him, these scriptures further suggest the benefits from doing so:  

   1 Pet. 1: 8: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. 

   2 Tim. 1: 7: …God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

   Eph. 3: 17: That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love

And to finish off my talk, I pose a question to us all:  Do you believe Christ — do you really believe him?  Do you really believe you will be saved?  If not, we are missing out on a lot of peace, happiness, and joy. 

   We can experience happiness now.  We can feel of his love now.  We can partake of his salvation now.  We can if we believe and come unto him.  This is a plan of salvation, not a plan of perfection.  I have a personal testimony of the transforming and healing power of the Savior…from absolutely hating yourself to finding confidence and comfort through HIM.

I feel that Jeff’s talk addresses exactly why one might get down and hard on oneself.  Another brother today in church read the excerpt from our sacrament prayer that we as Latter-Day Saints hear every Sunday during sacrament (communion).  We covenant to be willing to take the name of Christ on us.  (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:77)  This means that we need to be perfect in our desires to become one with the Savior.   

One last thought I might add is in 2 Nephi 31:20 it states:

…ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and of love of God and all men.  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father, ye shall have eternal life.”

Pressing forward is progression…not perfection.  Having hope isn’t perfection…it’s hoping for it.  Enduring to the end is being patient and kind to first ourselves and our own imperfections and also to each other.  Having love of God and all men includes loving ourselves and allowing ourselves to make mistakes knowing that as long as we’re pressing forward…progressing…that Jesus will make up the difference and we won’t feel depressed.

I’m comforted to know that the Savior doesn’t expect me to be perfect all by myself in this life.  I’ll never be able to do that and when I try I get overwhelmed much like my friend did.  I’m grateful to know that I can turn to Jesus as Nephi did and receive peace and rest and hope of salvation.  I hope this post helps those who read it in perfecting their  relationship with Jesus.

Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

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