Line Upon Line

We are children of God. Every single one of us. The bond and the free. The poor and the rich. The intelligent and the unlearned. The famous, the infamous, and the unknown faces. Every person that has ever lived, is living, and will ever live in this universe is a literal son or daughter of a Heavenly Father. And compared to His capacity, every one of us is indeed nothing more than a child. The most intellectual and/or spiritual person on this earth is still to God as a toddler is to its parents.

We are all learning and will still have opportunities to learn long after we pass from this mortal stage in our lives. That’s why we’re here, to learn and grow. A father or mother does not expect their child to fully understand the ways of life before they leave home and begin their own lives. The child continues to learn lessons about life as they grow older, go to school, begin careers and families, etc. Inevitably, mistakes are made along the way and the individual(s) learn how to adjust their ways so they don’t make the mistakes anymore.

Christ said to “be ye perfect,” even as our Father in Heaven is perfect. I’m sure the Savior was fully aware of this impossibility. He wasn’t referring to this life though. Indeed, we should strive to get as close to being like God as we can. Naturally, however, we are bound to epically fail at this endeavor. It’s alright. Perfection can be reached in the life to come. This life is a preparatory state, and like children, we learn how to be like God one lesson at a time.

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi expounds this idea nicely.

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. (2 Nephi 28:30)

Through humility, we can be taught by the Spirit of God and learn what God would have us learn. Just as a child must grow in education and understanding, starting in pre-school, moving on to elementary, middle, and high school, and then perhaps on to college and family life, our spiritual minds also must learn by steps and levels. God will give us what we can handle. We can take it, learn and apply it, and then move on to the next thing, or we can desire something more than we can handle and fail… epically.

Nephi’s brother, Jacob, spoke of this in regards to the Jews before and during the time of Christ.

But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble. (Jacob 4:14)

The prophets spoke plainly to the Jews. Christ spoke plainly to the Jews. Yet they rejected Him and His apostles. They spoke in their own manner of teaching, i.e., Christ often spoke of Himself as the living bread, that they who ate of His flesh would have eternal life. Such was common symbolism in the Jewish culture, yet they would not listen or understand. They hardened their hearts and instead sought for things they could not understand. We often do this, hoping that in looking beyond plainness we will not be held as accountable for our mistakes.

Well, obviously God knows this when we try and do it. There’s not much point ’cause we’re basically just setting ourselves up for failure. So don’t harden your heart against plain truth, and also don’t sell yourself short. We climb a ladder one step at a time.

 

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Nothing and Everything

At times we feel insignificant. Sometimes it happens in our own homes, among our family and friends. Take that and compare it with the community, now it may seem like we really are invisible. Then widen the perspective and look at the state, providence, or territory we live in. We’re even smaller. Keep panning out and go the country… the continent… the planet… the universe. We truly are very small when we look at life’s big picture.

Indeed, we are nothing compared to the vastness of the universe and the power of the One who organized it. Understanding this fact is what it means to be humble.

King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon stated, “...I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily…” (Mosiah 4:11)

However, we cannot fall into the trap of thinking that because we are unworthy, we are worth nothing, or capable of nothing. This is not true. There is a great potential within each of us, but God is required in order to reach that potential.

In the last LDS General Conference, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency said, “And while we may look at the vast expanse of the universe and say, “What is man in comparison to the glory of creation?” God Himself said we are the reason He created the universe! His work and glory—the purpose for this magnificent universe—is to save and exalt mankind. In other words, the vast expanse of eternity, the glories and mysteries of infinite space and time are all built for the benefit of ordinary mortals like you and me. Our Heavenly Father created the universe that we might reach our potential as His sons and daughters.

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God.

We are everything to God, and with Him can be everything. Near the conclusion of his talk, President Uchtdorf states,

Brothers and sisters, the most powerful Being in the universe is the Father of your spirit. He knows you. He loves you with a perfect love. God sees you not only as a mortal being on a small planet who lives for a brief season—He sees you as His child. He sees you as the being you are capable and designed to become. He wants you to know that you matter to Him.”

We do matter to God. His work and glory is to help us achieve eternal life. That is the reason He created this universe for us, His children. We truly and literally are children of deity, and our Father loves each of us with an incomprehensible love. We are unworthy,  yet we are of great worth. Without God we are nothing, yet with Him we are everything.

From the Ground to the Heavens

Pride is said to be the mother of all other sins. It’s true, that pretty much every kind of sin can be traced back to an issue of pride. In the book of Luke, Christ presents a parable to illustrate the seriousness of a prideful mindset.

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

This Pharisee is as prideful as any person can get. One would note that he is not a thief or an adulterer. In fact, apparently he fasts twice a week and even gives tithes of most of his possessions, which are most likely numerous. This man certainly follows the letter of the law, but he completely misses the spirit of the law. Meaning, on the outside all seems to be good. He obeys all the major commandments and makes sure his life is in accordance to the more temporal of God’s laws. However, the underlying reasons behind these commandments he has either ignored or simply missed. God’s commandments bring us closer to Christ. Obviously, this prideful Pharisee is anywhere but close to Christ. In fact, note the wording “prayed thus with himself.” He’s not even praying to God, but instead, he’s offering a narcissistic prayer to feed his ego.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:10-14)

Publicans were the tax collectors. Just like today… they were despised. So much, in fact, that they were thrown into the same category as the overall sinners, the thieves and harlots and such. “Publicans and sinners” is a common phrase in the New Testament. Now, tax collecting doesn’t make one a sinner, ’cause we’re all sinners. This humble observation is something the Pharisee missed, but the publican remembered quite well.

He acknowledged the fact that he was a sinner and asked for God’s mercy to be upon him. Although the Pharisee most likely kept the law better than him, this man’s humility and his admittance of sin justified him.

What do we learn from this parable? We are all sinners, and we all rely on God to support us. With Him we are truly nothing, capable of achieving nothing. If we boast of our own strength, we will be left to our own strength (which is nothing). But if we are humble and acknowledge our dependence upon Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, they will lift us up.

 

Surrender

purify this tainted soul

i’m tired of living life a fool

soften up this hardened clay

to be a servant, this i pray

a reflection of You, i long to be

so Your kingdom i will seek

Taken from the song “Surrender,” by Jeremy Camp.

I love that song. It’s one of my favorites from that artist. You should look it up and give it a listen. It’s a song about sacrifice, about letting go of yourself, and about allowing God to work His will into our lives. Maybe it’s just a reflection on my own part, but we as humans are… well… stubborn. We often seek our own desires first, shunning God from our lives. Deep down we often want to be more willing to sacrifice, but it’s hard to let go of what we want or already have.

Matthew 6: 33

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

If we desire to be a reflection of God, we must seek His kingdom. We must soften our hearts to allow God to mold us into who we can be. We have divine potential, but only if we let go of our own desires and seek Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in our lives, placing Them first, before all.

I know this to be true, and I know that fulfillment and happiness comes in placing God first, and seeking His kingdom first. It requires patience. It requires diligence. It’s not always easy. Actually, it’s often not easy. But… it’s worth it. It’s always worth it. I challenge all of us, myself included, to “seek ye first the kingdom of God”.

Dust to Dust

we’re all the same, made of hair and bones and water and blood cells

and we’re all to blame for spending way too much time on ourselves

ashes to ashes and dust to dust

Abracadavers“, by The Classic Crime

In regards to pride, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said:

Pride is sinful … because it breeds hatred or hostility and places us in opposition to God and our fellowmen. At its core, pride is a sin of comparison, for though it usually begins with ‘Look how wonderful I am and what great things I have done,’ it always seems to end with ‘Therefore, I am better than you.’

It is said that pride cometh before the fall. Pride is often the first sin on the road to many others. Elevating ourselves, whether individually, as groups, or as a society in general has led us to a generation of envy, greed, and hardheartedness. It has led to a society that does not believe it needs God. We often forget just who we are, that we are all alike and needful. King Benjamin advises us to retain humility and remember that we are all equal in God’s eyes.

Mosiah 4:19 reads,

For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

Everything we have belongs to God. Our materials, our strength and energy, all comes from the same Being that gave us life and continues each day to lend us breath to continue living. Ultimately, we are nothing.

Do not get me wrong though. I don’t mean to bring us down. As I talked about in a previous post, we are the children of God. We are divine. We have great potential, but it is only through God and Jesus Christ that we may attain the greatness we are capable of.

I testify that without God we are indeed nothing, and capable of achieving nothing. With God, however, we can become great. He is the source of our life and each blessing we enjoy. May we not let pride get the best of us. When we do anything, it is not by our own strength but by the strength of our God. I know this to be true.