Seeking the Arms of Love

Many people in this world lack something great. They lack the knowledge of God’s love. Many do not believe in God, and therefore by default they are numb to their Heavenly Father’s compassion, yet still others who do have a believe in God often find themselves, or feel themselves as being, beyond God’s comforting embrace.

I have felt this way at times, and I’m sure you can think about some moments, days, weeks, months, or even years in your life when the warmth of God’s love others talk about felt chilled. You might’ve been on your knees night after night, pleading to feel closer to God and to your Savior, to feel somethinganything, even if it was just a minuscule amount of compassion. Perhaps you felt that those prayers were left unanswered.

So what to do, then? Well, I can tell you right now that God is never the one that moves in a relationship. Our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ are always constant. They never stray from us.  The only person ever to experience an actual withdrawal of God’s spirit, because the Father did actually withdraw from Him, was the Savior Jesus Christ, and only to make Christ’s Atonement truly infinite, and truly complete.

So if we feel distanced from God, and God is never the one who moves, we can only conclude that we were the ones that took some backward steps. We are the ones who have slacked, or idled, or straight up rebelled. To correct this, we of course need to step forward. Here’s something I read this morning in my studies. This is revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ to Oliver Cowdery…

Behold, thou art Oliver, and I have spoken unto thee because of thy desires; therefore treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love. (Doctrine and Covenants 6:20)

I’ve read this verse many times before, and other verses like it, but it struck a different tone with me today. It’s such a simple concept. The general principle is commonly taught within most Christian denominations. To come close to God, one must make changes in his or her life, changes that are in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Namely, obey the commandments and live the higher law.

Yes, it’s true that the Spirit can comfort us even when we disobey. That comfort, however, is not for comfort in the sin. It is simply the comfort that, if spoken, could be equated to, “You did a bad thing, but you can be better and move on.” It is not abiding, but it is motivating and enforcing, directing the individual to seek the needed change so that true and lasting comfort may be found and enjoyed.

The words of the Lord to Oliver are simple, yet profound. A lot of my missionary comrades like to call them “truth bombs.” If we are obedient, then will we be able to feel God’s love in its strongest and most enduring form. It will be a “Well done, you may rest in My arms of love.” as opposed to a “I still love you, but do better.” Hope that made sense. Naturally this is all making sense in my mind.

And of course, God will show love to those that love Him. Jesus Christ said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He was of course speaking for Himself as well as the Father. Christ’s words are the Father’s words, and Christ’s commandments are the Father’s commandments.

So if you feel a bit of a disconnect between God and yourself, don’t look at God… look at yourself. He won’t forsake you, He will never do that. But He expects us to be obedient and to try our best. He loves you. He will always love you, and He loves you enough to let you have this mortal time period to learn and become like Him. It’s not meant to be easy. He can’t hold your hand the whole time, but like Christ’s parable of the prodigal son, He is always watching for us when we choose to leave Him. So when we realize our mistakes and come back to Him (obey His commandments with sincerity), He will be there to embrace us.

 

 

 

Louder Than Words

Louder Than Words

a song for Thy peace like a river does flow

my lips to the sky, Thy glory is known

yet open my eyes to see just beyond

there’s more to Thy grace than singing a song

our tongues are quick, yet our feet are slow

we say we believe, but how do we show it?

actions speak louder than words they say

so let’s drown out the world with hands we raise

not in shallow praise, but lifted for others

our sisters and brothers

to bring about change in the world today

’cause the devil dreams on an idle horse

so what could be worse than abandoning movement?

you never think that you’ll feel the remorse

a silent hearse is slowly beckoning

so shut your eyes and tell yourself

you’re singing praise, you’re safe from Hell

your hands are raised, your pastor tells

the congregation they’re saved

but last time i checked what’s contained in the word

it’s not enough to say “Lord, Lord”

but to do the will

and fulfill

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (James 1:22)

To me, worshiping God, and worshiping Jesus Christ, is more than just going to church. It’s more than just singing hymns. It’s more than raising your hands in a “Hallelujah!” or saying a memorized prayer. Worship is about who we are and what we do with ourselves, not simply what we say.

To hear the gospel of Jesus Christ is not enough. We cannot justify ourselves because we go to church every so often to sit and listen to a sermon or a lesson. We cannot justify ourselves because we sing a worship song with our hands raised over and over again. I speak as my own opinion, andinmy opinion, such so-called worship is shallow. It doesn’t amount to anything. It creates no progression within one’s soul. It does not deepen one’s understanding of God, or Jesus Christ, or the Holy Ghost. It does not help one to understand Christ’s atonement. It is not bad or evil by any means, but I feel that there is a better way.

Apply what you learn at your worship service. See how you can use it in your every day life. Make note of what you need to improve on. Pray and look for opportunities to progress as a follower of Christ and understand Him better.

As Paul states, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Romans 2:13) Receiving the gospel means nothing if we do not live the gospel, using the principles that the Savior taught. Jesus Christ died, “leaving us an example, that [we] should follow his steps,” said the apostle Peter.

When Christ visited the inhabitants of the Americas, teaching them of salvation and eternal life, He said, “Behold, I am the law, and the light. 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 Nephi 15:9)

We must endure to the end to receive eternal life.Enduringis certainly not idleness. It’s perseverance. It’s courage. It’s faith, love, and obedience. It’s awareness. It’s everything that involves a life of diligent seeking and diligent service. This life is our probationary state, as the Book of Mormon also teaches. We’re here to prepare to return to God again, so let us live our lives accordingly, not with our hands raised in idle worship, but raised in service and love.

The Poetic Corner: More Than Sparrows

More Than Sparrows

 

a look outside my window
leads to a desperate, lonely view
as the fog rolls in
emotions bend
my heart is pierced through

a step outside my front door
leads to a dark and empty road
as the cold seeps in
begins the end
my hopes become the snow

they’re frozen in place
face to face
with a world i do not know

no, i do not know
how the rising sun will show
but as i lift my head
my eyes see a light
and it says

you’re not alone
you are worth more than sparrows
and if God helps them through
then why not you?

no, i do not know
how the seeds we plant may grow
but as i look instead
to the ground around my feet
it says

you’re not alone
you are worth more than sparrows
and if God helps them through
then why not you?

we read that in the end of days
the seas will rise, the earth will quake
the hearts of men will become cold
and in the earth it will be told
there is no God, there is no light
the darkest thought you cannot fight
yet through their lies the light will pierce
the Lamb so meek, the Lion fierce
He is our Head, we are His pride
within His love we may confide
so when we’re found on empty roads
we’ll be raised up because we know

we’re not alone
we are worth more than sparrows
and if God helps them sing
and if He lifts their wings
and if He makes them free
then why not you and me?

 

A lot of people do not believe in God. A lot of people that do don’t believe He plays a large role in our lives. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our Heavenly Father is more involved in our lives than we can ever imagine. I know this to be true. One of my favorite set of verses in the New Testament is found in the book of Matthew, chapter ten, verses 29 through 31. They read,

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

I made a previous blog post about this topic a loooong time ago. If you’d like to read it quickly, here’s a link.

There always have been, always are, and always will be times in our lives when we feel completely and utterly alone. We may feel that no one in the world cares about us, or no one can understand our problems. Sometimes that second one is true. Sometimes even our family and closest friends simply do not and cannot understand our difficulties. But there are two individuals who can. Our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. They can relate to us perfectly, and with Them we are never truly alone.

Heavenly Father is the Ultimate Creator. Everything big and small in the universe moves under His watchful eye. In the verse above we read that not even a sparrow can fall without God noticing. The tiniest detail does not escape Him. The same goes for us. He always knows where we are, physically, mentally, and spiritually. We may at times feel alone, but we aren’t. God watches over the sparrows, and we, being His children, are certainly worth more than sparrows. I know this is true. If you feel alone, look up and know that your Father in Heaven loves you and watches over you.

The Poetic Corner: The Man on the Bench

The Man on the Bench

 

i sat down on a bench the other day
too tired to stand anymore
life it seemed had lost the dream
and i was losing my count of the score

then a man walking by sat next to me
and said “you look like a sight for sore eyes.”
i said “i’m sure I do and to tell the truth
i’m a bigger mess inside.”

he shook his head and smiled and told me “life is no big deal.
it’s the little things that count and build the love and hope we feel.”
i said “i haven’t any hope left and my love is thin as air.
so save your breath and take the rest of this to someone who cares.”

he just stared and said

“oh, faithless child, how often would i have helped you,
but you were busy with anything apart from the truth.
so many witnesses have shown you why you came to this Earth.
just take a notice and you’ll see what your life’s really worth.
it has worth.”

i blinked and took a breath hoping to block out what he said
but the words he spoke kept ringing notes familiar in my head
i said “i don’t know who you are but what makes you think you can change
the story of my life with just a simple word or phrase?”

he looked amazed and said

“oh, faithless child, how often would i have helped you.
i’ve been calling but the times that you’ve listened were few.
all the moments you had thought you were left to yourself,
i was holding you but you were too numb to have felt.”

my heart swelled as i closed my eyes to try and stop the tears
before me fell my life and all the wasted years
regret stung my heart
as i turned to face this Man
only to find he wasn’t near

with a bit of swallowed pride i stood up straight and realized
a newfound strength had just replaced the emptiness inside
silently i thanked the Man for giving me that day
to live my life
to be alive
to give up sight and walk by faith
to walk by faith

 

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Matthew 23:37)

From this verse, we can make a simple analogy. How often do we ignore the voice of the Good Shepherd? How often do we not hearken to the counsel of His prophets and His word in the Bible and the Book of Mormon? When life finds us in a bind, and we feel like we are far from the Savior, who do you think has moved? Certainly not Christ. His arms are always outstretched, ready to receive all who will come unto Him. As He says here, He is always willing to gather us as a hen gathers its chickens.

He is constantly supporting us from one moment to the next. In the Book of Mormon, a wise ruler named King Benjamin stated,

I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants. (Mosiah 2:21)

We live and do according to our will because Christ is our support. Even when we feel abandoned by everyone and everything, His light and life is still within us, keeping us alive and giving us breath. He is never gone, but sometimes we have been removed too far or become too numb to see the brightness and feel the warmth of His light.

Let’s shake off the numbness and draw closer to our Savior. I know He is ready to receive anyone and everyone, so long as we come unto Him with full purpose of heart, willing to obey Him and His gospel. Christ lives and loves us. No trial is too great for His power, and no darkness is too thick for His light to disperse. This is my testimony.

 

Chocolate Altoids

So, my companion and I were getting some food from a gas station because… well… it was lunch time… and we were hungry and had no food on us. After I grab my Clif bars (which, by the way, are super delicious… and good for you) I notice some altoids in the mint section, or whatever you want to call it.

Now, don’t judge me, but it has been one of many goals in life to find some chocolate covered altoids. I saw a commercial years ago and I said to myself, “I want those!”, but I have never found them… until this day in the gas station. I look and, lo!, I see some chocolate altoids. I kind of flip out a bit as I snag them and proceed to explain to my companion what you just now read. I mean… of all the places I’ve been, all the Wal-marts I’ve entered, I finally find my evasive chocolate altoids in a random gas station in Frenchtown, Montana. Who would have thought? Seriously, it baffles me.

So exactly what point am I attempting to make? I’m sure you’re wondering, and I’d be wondering too if I was reading this. Let me direct you to an experience shared by J. Devn Cornish, of the Seventy, during the most recent LDS General Conference this last October.

My route would take me past a fried chicken shop, and I felt like I would be a lot less hungry and tired if I could pause for a piece of chicken on my way home. I knew they were running a sale on thighs or drumsticks for 29 cents each, but when I checked my wallet, all I had was one nickel. As I rode along, I told the Lord my situation and asked if, in His mercy, He could let me find a quarter on the side of the road. I told Him that I didn’t need this as a sign but that I would be really grateful if He felt to grant me this kind blessing.

I began watching the ground more intently but saw nothing. Trying to maintain a faith-filled but submissive attitude as I rode, I approached the store. Then, almost exactly across the street from the chicken place, I saw a quarter on the ground. With gratitude and relief, I picked it up, bought the chicken, savored every morsel, and rode happily home.

Elder Cornish goes on to explain how, despite this piece of chicken being a very minor thing, it was important to him and therefore important to our Father in Heaven. God loves us. He wants to bless us, even in minor things. Essentially, what is important to us is important to the Lord, so long, of course, as it is within righteous boundaries. I would say that a piece of chicken, or chocolate altoids, isn’t a super righteous desire, but it’s certainly not a wicked one either.

To me, Elder Cornish’s experience as well as my own are small testimonies of the Lord’s watchful eye and His love. He is always with us, even in things that may seem insignificant to us. No detail is too small for the Lord to overlook. He does indeed know all. He knows our lives in and out. He knows every feeling we possess, from the smallest of our desires to the most fleeting of lonely thoughts. He knows every intricate detail of our lives, especially the ones that we ourselves are unaware of.

Every instant He is aware of, and every prayer He does answer.

Love: Speak No Ill

My companion and I were recently called by a sick member of The Church. He was sick and desired us to stop by and give him a priesthood blessing. Giving blessings to the sick and afflicted was a common practice in Christ’s primitive church, and it remains the same in His church that He restored in this day and age, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:14)

When we arrived at this member’s house, his wife led us to where her husband lay sick in his bed. We were surprised to see that his condition was actually quite serious. He barely possessed enough energy to speak to us, but he expressed his gratitude repeatedly. We anointed him with consecrated oil and sealed a blessing upon him using the power of the priesthood. The Spirit became strong and this gentleman pointed it out as soon as the blessing was done. He thanked us kindly for the service and testified to us of the power of the priesthood and his faith in the Lord.

He then began to explain what had happened to him. Some medication he took reacted badly and he fell. Unable to get himself back up, he called several members of the congregation in hopes that someone would be able to assist him. One member would have gladly helped, but had no gas to make it to his house. The others never returned the calls. It was his neighbor who eventually found him and was able to lift him back onto his bed. My sorrow for this man quickly turned to anger against those members, and I imagined that if I was in this man’s position I would be a pretty bitter person.

This member’s attitude was completely opposite. Rather than complaining about his unresponsive friends, he quickly praised them. With long, tired breaths, he told us what good people they are, and that they simply live busy lives. He told us that years ago, he had made a conviction to never speak ill of anyone. This man’s show of Christ-like love brought tears to my eyes, which I quickly wiped away.

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34)

This man truly understood the meaning of Christ’s commandment to love one another, and he helped me to develop a stronger testimony of this commandment. Though he was physically weak, I could feel the Spirit strongly in his words. In a way I almost felt rebuked, but I knew that my companion and I had been sent to see this man and feel of his spirit. He was content, and although he is being put through a sore trial, he is happy. This is the power of Christ-like love.

An Ever-Growing Wonder

So let us restore each other,
not with haste, but gently,
for an empty cup cannot fill another.
A blank canvas will later be priceless,
and the love that we build will be endless.
Though we all stumble, we will not fall.

“An Ever-Growing Wonder”, by We Came As Romans

God is love. So what better way to become closer to God than to show love? And who better to show love to than others, God’s own children? King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon couldn’t have stated it better when he said,

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)

Serving others is a win-win for everyone. When we serve others, we’re serving our God. When we serve others, we’re blessing their lives and making the world a better place. When we serve others, we’re building ourselves up. An empty cup cannot fill another, but service fills our cup so that we may pour our heart and soul into another.

As the Apostle Paul said,

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19)

We are all of the household of God. We are not strangers. There are no foreigners. For we are all children of the same Father in Heaven. Let us serve one another, that the love we share may be boundless. I echo King Benjamin’s words; when we are in the service of each other, we are in the service of God. Let our service for and love to each other be an ever-growing wonder in our lives.

Our Father’s Deepest Love

Through the Atonement, Jesus Christ took upon Himself every affliction the world has to offer. Whether it be the spiritual pain of sin, the physical pain of an injury, or the emotional pain of an aching heart, He has felt it all. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma explains the purpose of this in Alma 7:12,

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Succor simply means to support or to help. In this verse, Alma explains that Christ took (living before Christ’s mortal ministry, Alma speaks in future tense) upon Himself every pain and sickness so that He knows exactly how it feels, so that He knows exactly how to comfort us when we come upon those obstacles in our own lives.

Once Christ was lifted upon the Christ, He had endured everything, except one thing: complete loneliness. In order for the Atonement to be complete, Jesus Christ had to suffer the entire realm of afflictions. And so we read in Mark 15:34,

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Through all the hate and scourges, God had still been with Jesus. But now, hanging there on the cross, Christ felt His Father’s presence leave Him. Perhaps Jesus did not know that such a thing would happen, or perhaps He understood completely and still could not help but ask His Father, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”

There is no doubt in my mind that Heavenly Father was pained and grieved beyond comprehension at even the thought of having to leave His Only Begotten Son. It would not surprise me if our Father in Heaven hid himself in the deepest corner of the universe, so great was His anguish. But He knew that it had to be done. In order for the Atonement to be complete, Jesus had to experience the entire spectrum of sin and pain, which included knowing what it felt like to be completely alone, without even God at His side.

I know that this was done out of love. It was perhaps the hardest thing God has ever had to do, but He did it because He knew that it was the only way for His plan to succeed. I am grateful that my Heavenly Father let Jesus be, allowing Him to be able to succor you and me in our own afflictions no matter what they are.

 

God is Love

Why did God create us? Why did He create this earth? Why did Christ give His life for us? The purpose of this life is to return to live with God as eternal families, but again, why? The answer is profound, yet simple. Love.

Christ gave us a commandment to love one another,

John 13:34-35

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Showing love to others is how others can know that we are disciples of Christ, and that He has wrought a change in our hearts through His atoning sacrifice. So how do we show forth this love?

1 John 3:16-18 reads,

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

Showing love in word, or in tongue, is not a bad thing, but we all know that actions speak louder than words. In addition to showing our love through kind words, we show it best through our actions. In the next chapter, we read in verses 7 and 8,

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

Everything that God and Jesus Christ have done for us is out of love. We have this earth because They love us. We have family and friends because They love us. We have the Atonement because They love us. We have the opportunity to live with Them again eternally and with our families because They love us. If we desire to understand our Heavenly Father, we must first understand love.

I testify that our Father in Heaven is a God of love. I know that He loves us. I know that our Savior Jesus Christ loves us too. I know that to grow closer to God and Christ is to grow closer to each other.

Family and Friends

Proverbs 14:20

The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends.

I am truly grateful to be blessed with amazing family and friends who love and support me. I definitely would not be where I am, character-wise and literally, without the encouragement I received, and still do receive, from friends and family.

That’s… mostly it. I suppose I could go on and on about how awesome everyone is, but it would probably be somewhat repetitive. Maybe I can add some depth to this topic though. I suppose I can try…

The family is instituted of God. It is a foundation that has existed since the beginning of time. Before we came to this earth we lived together as a spiritual family, brothers and sisters, with God as our Heavenly Father. When we began our mortal lives, we were born into family units. Our Father in Heaven understands how important the family is. It is essential for spiritual, physical, and emotional development. It is essential for expanding our social qualities. In our families, we learn how to love one another. We are connected by love, by experiences, by blood, by circumstances.

And of course, the family extends to our friends, to our loved ones. When we’re not at home with our families, we’re out with our friends. They’re our family away from home. Heavenly Father also understands the importance of friendship, and beyond. Friends help us to cope; they comfort us during hard times. Friends lift us up and strengthen us. Friends are there to rejoice with us when we are happy. Friends make the bad times go quicker, and the good times to go a little bit slower. Friends can keep us moving in the right direction, or keep us steady in a secure place or state of mind.

Horrible things were happening to Latter-day Saints while the prophet Joseph Smith was a prisoner at Liberty Jail. With desperation, and in a time of seeming abandonment, the Prophet prayed to the Lord, pleading with Him and asking Him why he was allowing such suffering to happen. The Lord comforts him, telling Joseph that his suffering would be but a moment. He then brings an important fact to Joseph’s remembrance in Doctrine and Covenants 121: 9-10.

Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands. Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.

The Lord reminds him about his friends, that his friends still love and support him, and that in time he will be among them. I am grateful for my family and friends that have and will always be there for me in times of trial. I know that I can always turn to them and they will receive me with warm hearts and friendly hands. I know that our family and friends are blessings from our Heavenly Father. I love my family and I love my friends.

I know God is my Father. I know Jesus Christ is my eldest brother and my Savior and Redeemer.