Sunday, June 22, 2014

Taking Heed

Towards the end of Jesus' ministry on the Earth, He taught the Apostles about the importance of being prepared for His return. His council applies so much to us because these are the latter-days and He is at the door and will return soon.

In Matthew 24 (JST Matthew), Mark 13, and Luke 21, we can read the Savior's teachings, and one of the things that stands out is that in many instances He uses the words "take heed" and "watch" (take heed could be interpreted as "listen carefully"; watch here refers to the need to mindful, pay attention"), and following His advice, we will be better prepared to receive Him:
  • And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you.
    • If we listen and follow what the Savior is teaching, then we will not be deceived.
  • But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.
    • Be prepared to defend the gospel. Today's world mocks the teachings of Jesus Christ and the wickedness will not be going away until He returns.
  • But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.
    • Jesus has given us the tools we need to succeed and not be deceived by the adversary.
  • Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
    • If we knew exactly when the Savior would be returning, it would be easy to prepare and be ready, but since only the Father knows when that will happen, we need to always be ready. This means the scriptures are our best friends and we rely on them as if everything depended on them (everything depends on the scriptures!!!)
  • Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning:
    • This means that, again, we do not know when Jesus' return is going to happen and we have to watch our words, our actions, our thoughts, and our deeds (Mosiah 4:30).
  • And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.
    • We have to be patient and know that the Lord will return and we have to be on constant watch to make sure that we are ready for His return.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Widow's Mites

This week has been so insightful in that I have been thinking about the importance of sacrifice and giving all that we have to God and His cause. I read Matthew 19-20, Mark 10, Luke 15-16, and John 12, and what caught my attention, among other wonderful things was the story of the widow's mites as found in Mark 12:41-44, which reads:

41 ¶And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
bronze coinThere are many arguments, especially online, for the specific amount of money that the widow gave to the temple, but I personally think that more important than how much she gave, as the Savior emphasised, is the fact that she gave "even all her living", while the other people gave of their abundance. Heavenly Father does not need our money for His kingdom to go forth, similar to how He could make the rocks praise His name (Luke 19:40), yet He wants us to show our love for Him by giving all that we have to ensure that we are an integral part of the Kingdom rolling forth and filling the Earth. Today, as in ancient times, faithful members of the church give money that is used to building new church buildings, temples, print scriptures and magazines to spread the gospel, to assist the poor, to help fund the missionary effort, and other things that help ensure the work goes forward to all the Earth.

Besides giving money (which is a big deal for many, myself included), there are other ways that we can give all that we have that also help to show to the Lord that we love Him and want to contribute to the growth of His kingdom. Here is a partial list that I have come up with as I thought about ways that I need to improve in how I give of myself (in no particular order of importance):

  • Home teaching/visiting teaching
    • This is an area that I seriously lack, but that I have been working very hard to make sure that those families who have been assigned to my care are, well, taken care of, and that their needs are met. This seem to be a challenge for most members of the church, and to me, it is difficult to take time out of Sunday, time away from my family and time that I don't have during the week between school and family, Sunday seems like an awesome day to relax at home with the family, but I better than that, and that there are no commandments given without a blessing being attached to it, so I am going to continue to try and do better as a home teacher.
  • Serving in church positions
    • Church callings take a lot of time and effort, and in my case, I am the ward chorister, ward choir director, and primary teacher. The teaching is easy, but aside from enjoying singing, leading music has never been my strong point (ask the ward members as I occasionally miss the beats and lead in the wrong pattern...), but I know that the Lord asked me to use my talents to help bring the Spirit into the meetings, and it is something that I take very seriously and do my best every time.
  • Giving of our time to our family
    • This goes without saying, that our families are the most important asset we will ever possess, and I value my family more than anything I have, but it becomes easy to unknowingly neglect them at times. This morning, for example, I don't have any classes on campus and the children are home during summer vacation. My oldest son was feeling bored and frustrated for losing computer and Wii time through some poor choices. I was very busy and could have easily dismissed his feelings and frustrations so I could focus on finishing my assignments and catching up on studying, but I have been working so hard lately to give more of my time to my children (time that I don't have much of at the moment), so I closed my computer and took the time to talk to him and help him understand the importance of being obedient and how that is the only way that he can ever be happy. It was worth taking the time because I can see a difference in his attitude as I finish writing this post.
My challenge to myself and to whoever is reading this is that we find in our lives ways that we can better be like the widow, who gave what to some seemed to be insignificant, but to us and Heavenly Father, is more than we could ever give, and for that He blesses us. Elder James E. Talmadge explained it better:
“Whether it be the gift of a man or a nation, the best, if offered willingly and with pure intent, is always excellent in the sight of God, however poor by other comparison that best may be” (The House of the Lord, rev. ed. [1968], 3).

Monday, June 9, 2014

Heavenly Rewards Program

Holy insights!!!!

This week I made some changes to the way I do my studying of the scriptures, and it has been wonderful! I started using the tools offered on lds.org and finding additional resources to deepen my study has made this week's reading so much more meaningful.

Anyway, here is what I got:

On Matthew 19, we read about the young man who asked Jesus how he could obtain eternal life, to which he was told that in addition to the normal commandments he already kept he should sell all the he had and give to the poor. For the young man, this commandment was too hard for him to keep and he left, "sorrowful" because he had too many possessions and he was not willing to part with them, to which Jesus answered:
Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
It is interesting to note two things that provide another insight into the story that comes from Mark chapter 10:
  1. The young man came to Jesus running, which to me indicates that he seemed eager to meet Jesus, even excited, possibly because of what he had heard from others (verse 17) 
  2. When Jesus explained to the young man that he had to sell his property and give it to the poor, it was because He loved the young man (verse 21).
When I think of the young man running to Jesus, combined with the knowledge that he left sad, it makes me think that the young man believed that following Jesus would be easy, so his disappointment can be understood. Also, the fact that Jesus told the young man to sell his possessions was not a test of his faithfulness, but as a commandment given out of love, it was given because He knew what the young man needed and what would be best for his spiritual growth. We have moments when we are eager to follow the commandments, or "spiritual high" as I have heard before, but unlike the young man, we have to be willing to give up anything that Heavenly Father knows is going to prevent us from being able to follow Him. In fact, anything we know hinders our spiritual growth can be substituted for the word "rich" above. The entire point of the passage is to help us understand the need to put Heavenly Father first. I like what Elder Russell M. Ballard has to say about it:
video

Another highlight from my readings this week comes from Matthew 20:1-16. This is the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, and up until this week I had never understood its meaning, and after reading it, researching, and talking about it with my lovely wife, it finally makes sense. What I understood is that basically some are working in the field right now, which means some are actively partaking of the blessings of the gospel (I, for example, was born in the church and have always had the gospel in my life). Others will join the fold and partake of those blessings later in life (at the eleventh hour). In the end, when the Savior returns to the Earth, all those who are in the field will receive the same reward that is promised to the faithful. 

Those of us who have been in the field from the beginning should not be as the laborers in the parable who were upset with those who joined the work later and received the same reward. We have to be happy for them because, regardless of the timing, they received the same blessings we did and we should be happy for their happiness, just as Heavenly Father is happy when any of His children are on the path back to His presence.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Cost of Discipleship

My readings this week took me to the book of Luke, chapters 10-14, and one of the main things that caught my attention was drawn to two things: one was the principle of action and the other was the what it costs us when we decide to follow Jesus. My focus is on that so very sacred price we pay when we decide to do what is right.

As I read those chapters, I marked on my scriptures 10 different requirements of a disciple. and I will share them here


  1. Reverence to Heavenly Father
  2. Be willing to do whatever is asked of us by the Lord or His servants
  3. Repent of our sins
  4. Have no unrepentant sins
  5. Be happy with the blessings we have been blessed with
  6. Have faith in God
  7. Put the kingdom of God first
  8. Be diligent in the work of salvation (for ourselves and others)
  9. Be willing to sacrifice everything we have and be ready to do hard things
  10. (similar to number 7) Put God first
This is by no means a comprehensive list, and as we continue to study the scriptures with more purpose and with the Holy Ghost, more qualifications can certainly be found, but I feel very strongly that these qualifications will help us to gain that most precious gift that has been promised to those who faithfully overcome all things.

Out of this partial list, I feel that I need to personally work more on being more diligent and putting the kingdom first. As a busy full-time student, I know that I sometimes fall short of putting my priorities correctly and what seems important at the moment takes precedence over things that are important in the long run of things. I have tried recently to be more available to my sons and to teach them through word and example those things I know will make them happy, even if sometimes school takes a back seat and homework and studying for a difficult nursing test fall by the way side. But I know that as I put His gospel first, then the difference is made up and I am still able to be successful in school.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Little Children

The scriptures teach us that to be able to return to live in the presence of Heavenly Father once again we have to become like little children, and I would like to share the reasons why that is so. I will use my six-year-old as the example.

My son is a very strong-headed individual who sometimes has difficulty doing things that he believes get in the way of what he wants to do, and I sometimes think of him as a tough little boy. One night he was afraid of a movie he had watched and when it was bedtime and we were all ready for family prayer he had asked to say the prayer and he offered the most sincere prayer I have heard in a long time and it really touched me. I thought about how he had gone to bed confident that Heavenly Father would help him overcome his fears and he had no doubt that his prayer would be answered (which it was).

Children are so pure and innocent, even when they appear not to be (they can be stubborn, disobedient, disrespectful) but so are the rest of us. The difference is that children, especially little ones, are still learning and they are willing to learn, even more so when they are motivated by the love of parents who sincerely want to teach and help them to grow.

Heavenly Father is the exact same way. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord refers to us as little children, and that is exactly what we are: inexperience little children who are learning to follow and obey a much more experience and wise and loving Father who wants nothing for us but the best, the same way our parents did for us as we grew up.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Overcoming Our Shortcomings

This week's reading was focused on Jesus' miracle of feeding a multitude twice with very little food. On both occasions, the people had been following Him and listened to His preaching long enough that evening came and the disciples were concerned that there was not enough food to feed all those people. The Savior, knowing the circumstances and the needs of the people, asked that all the food be brought to Him. What little food was brought was enough to feed everyone and still have leftovers. Here is a table that summarizes both stories quiet nicely:


 
Matthew 14:14-21
Matthew 15:32-38
How many people were present?
5,000 men (not counting women or children)
4,000 men (not counting women or children)
What did they need?
Food
Food
What were they able to offer in an effort to meet that need?
Five loaves and two fish
Seven loaves and “a few little fishes”
What words or phrases describe the Savior’s feeling toward the multitudes in their time of need?
Compassion, “give them to eat”
“I have compassion on the multitude…[because they] have nothing to eat”
What words or phrases describe what the Savior was able to provide for the multitudes?
The multitude ate enough that they were filled. The Savior gave them even more of what they wanted.
The multitude ate enough that they were filled. The Savior gave them even more of what they wanted.

In a very short period of time the Savior fed over 7,000 with no more than 12 loaves of bread and some fish. What I like about this passage is that Jesus wanted the people to follow Him and receive the gospel, but He was also conscientious of their physical needs and He provided for them what they needed, just as He does for us today. I know that the Lord is watching over us and protecting us, and as we put our trust in Him, we will always have those things that we need and that He knows we need.

Another note I wanted to make is that when we dig through this story a little deeper, we can learn a very important concept of the gospel. The Lord expects us to do hard things, but He also promised that we would never be left alone when follow Him. Even more, He also knows that we have shortcomings and are unable to do everything that He asks of us. Because of His love for us, He is always going to make up the difference to ensure that our best effort is what He is going to accept and bless us for. Just as with the multitudes in the stories above, the people gave Him all that they had to eat and Jesus made up the difference by multiplying what little they had and they were all full! He didn't just give them enough to simply satisfy their immediate need. He gave them even more than they needed, and the same is done for us as we do our best to follow his commandments and do what is right.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Miracles!!!

This week's reading was mostly on the beatitudes, which, if you are unfamiliar, are the teachings of Jesus to his disciples early in His ministry. If you have ever heard "blessed are the..." then you know already what the beatitudes are. If you are not familiar, read Matthew 5-7. Then I read about the miracles that Jesus performed as He went about preaching the gospel. For convenience I have listed them here:

Reference
Miracles of the Lord
Who Demonstrated Faith
Matthew 8:1-4
Leprosy was cured from a man.
The leper. He approached the Savior and requested that He heal him "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean"
Matthew 8:5-13
The centurion's servant was healed from a distance.
The centurion demonstrated compassion for his servant, and he also demonstrated faith. He knew that Jesus did not even had to be present for the servant to be healed. "...but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed" 
Matthew 8:14-15
Peter's mother-in-law was healed.
The scripture does not mention much detail on this story, but it is safe to say that Peter, his wife, and his mother-in-law showed faith. Matthew does mention that after her fever left her she immediately started to minister to Jesus and those in the house. This to me shows her faith that her fever was cure because of the Savior.
Matthew 8:16



Devils were cast out, the sick were healed.
The scripture states that those who were healed were brought to the Savior to be healed. It seems that those who brought them exercised great faith by bringing them to Jesus, even if it was late in the day and they could have waited until morning, except that their faith could not let them wait any longer. 
​​Matthew 8:23-27
Jesus calmed the storm.
Jesus had faith that His power was such that he could calm the storm.
Matthew 8:28-34
More devils are cast out.
The two people possessed with devils. 
Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34


The woman with an issue of blood was healed.
This poor woman had had a health problem for the past 12 years, and when she had heard that Jesus was nearby, knew that by simply touching him that she would be healed. She sought the Savior and did the best that she could to receive the miracle she needed.
Matthew 9:27-31

Two blind men receive sight.
 The blind men sought Jesus out, which demonstrated great faith. Also, after the miracle was performed they could not help but go about and share the wonderful thing that had happened to them.
Mark 2:1-12



Jesus healed a man sick of palsy
Jesus was in a house preaching, and there were so many people wanting to hear Him that the house was full. So full that two men could not bring their sick friend in, so they climbed to the roof of the house, broke part of the ceiling, and lowered their friend to Jesus. They went to great trouble because they knew in their hearts that the Savior was able to heal their friend. 

The only way that those people could have been healed by Jesus was through their faith in Him. This means that they knew in their hearts without any doubt that the Savior would be able to heal them. The same thing will happen to us when we exercise our faith and rely on the Savior to heal us physically but most importantly, He will heal us spiritually when we come to Him and allow Him to take all of our burdens away. There is nothing that He cannot do, and the only thing that will ever limit that is our lack of faith.