Friday, January 23, 2015

Anger, Truth, and the Little Red Hen

1 Thessalonians 3–5; 2 Thessalonians 3:1–6, 11 includes Paul's long laundry list to the Thessalonians. After all, the Church was new and this new membership required a healthy set of instructions with guiding standards and words of counsel with the promise of hope. Included in his list were things like walking blameless before God, being a clean vessel, esteeming highly those with whom you labor, studying, and holding fast to that which is good. I suppose the early Christians felt overwhelmed. How would they carry out each and every direction exactly and still feel like they were progressing?

To be honest, sometimes I feel this way, too, and I’m not an early Christian or a new member of the Church. Some days, I feel like I am doing everything I possibly can to live the gospel and keep my covenants. Then, there are other days when I feel just the opposite – completely overwhelmed at the reality that if I don’t repent, I’ll never be included in God’s kingdom. Perhaps this is why it is so important to be consistent in doing good brings. And perhaps, that was Paul’s message to the Thessalonians . . . and to me. Perfection doesn’t come all in one day. it doesn’t come with accomplishing one goal or changing one attribute for the better. Perfection comes as we recognize personal weakness and then, bit by bit, measure by measure, hold on, keep on, and above all, strive on.

Which brings me to Paul's list and the three areas in which I have made a commitment to improve:

Watch and be sober
One of the definitions listed in the 1828 Dictionary listed for “sober” is “Not mad or insane; not wild, visionary or heated with passion; having the regular exercise of cool dispassionate reason.” Earlier this week, I listened to THIS talk by Lynn G. Robbins. I listened to it because that evening, while I was saying my prayers, a distinct feeling told me I needed to apply his talk into my life. So, I was obedient, and I listened, and OUCH! But something incredible has happened in the past week as I have chosen to “watch and be sober.” The promise issued by Paul to the Thessalonians is real, for “the very God of peace [is sanctifying me] wholly” (1 Thess. 5:23).

Prove all things
I am learning the joy and the wisdom that comes for those who seek for truth. I believe that even though we can be born in the faith, each of us needs to be converted. I admit, there are some points of gospel doctrine that I don’t pretend to even understand. And there are even some that I have chosen to place upon a shelf for now. But there are points of doctrine that I have proven so far and know that they are true. My desire is to faithfully continue this process so that in time, all things will be proven before me because I have chosen to “hold fast [to] that which is good” (1 Thess 5:21).

Take a lesson from the Little Red Hen
I have always loved the story of the Little Red Hen. Not once was did she feel she was entitled to have the seeds grow without her planting; or the wheat ground without her thrashing; or the bread baked without her kneading. Just like the Little Red Hen, I have never thought to expect anything different. My desire, however, is to write the chapter for my family in which the Little Red Hen successfully teaches the dog and the cat and the pig to prepare in the planting, to help with the harvesting, to find blessings in the baking, to enjoy the eating and to give gratitude to the Giver (2 Thess 3:10).

Thank you, Paul, for your laundry list . . .now I've got things to do!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dying as a Witness

I first learned the story of Stephen during my sophomore year in high school, studying the New Testament in Seminary. His story has always captivated me.
First, because even in his last, dying breaths, he taught the doctrine of Christ.
Without fear.
Without hesitation.
And with complete assurance that the word of God was mightier than the sword . . . or the stone.

Secondly, Stephen was a witness of the Godhead.
For him the heavens were opened and he saw what others did not and could not see.
Knowing that the Holy Ghost was real, Stephen saw the Father and the Son.
A sure witness that they were and are two separate and distinct Personages, full of glory and grandeur.

Third, Stephen possessed a forgiving heart.
A heart without hate or malice or contempt.
His willingness to “stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places,  . . . even unto death” cost him his earthly life. (Alma 18:9)
But his death gave new life to one young man named Saul.

Abinadi is the Book of Mormon’s equivalent to “Stephen.”
Like Stephen, Abinadi faced his accusers without fear or hesitation as he taught the significance of the Law of Moses and prophesied of the coming a Savior.

Like Stephen, Abinadi was filled with light as he testified of truth and called the Nephites to repentance. His love for the Lord was greater than his love for himself.
Like Stephen, Abinadi was martyred.
Death by fire.
Burned at the stake.
A burnt offering of sorts, which only yielded one soul unto repentance.
And that one “Soul” changed the course of history for the Nephite people.
(Interestingly, “Alma” means “soul” in Spanish).

Recently, I read My Name Used to be Muhammad.
What shocked me most is that stories like Stephen and Alma are happening today!
Two thousand years removed from what was - is what is!
Life for those who are true disciples of Christ  will never be easy. Elder Russell M. Nelson said it quite frankly,

“Difficult days are ahead. Rarely in the future will it be easy or popular to be a faithful Latter-day Saint. Each of us will be tested. The Apostle Paul warned that in the latter days, those who diligently follow the Lord ‘shall suffer persecution.’ That very persecution can either crush you into silent weakness or motivate you to be more exemplary and courageous in your daily lives.”

How grateful I am that Stephen and Abinadi refused to be crushed into silent weakness.