I Believe…

Great blog post. In reality, we won’t be called in to die for our faith in Christ. We are, however, called on every day to live for our faith in Christ.

Welcome to my life as Ms Ari Marie

Just as Jesus Christ has died for me and my sins, I would do the same, well I would do similar: die in His name…

I was just thinking today, as I prayed to God, “Wow, you know I could never repay my debts to God. I sin every day and it hurts me to think that Jesus went through everything He did because I’m a sinner; I’m a mess up. What do I do to deserve His forgiveness and redemption?” Then another question hit me: “What if someone came after me and said ‘Renounce the name of God.'” And it was life or death? Well, my friends, I’d die in the name of Jesus Christ.  I have faith in my Lord that He will provide for me and take care of me, though. I have faith that I may never have to face that situation.

I fear God, but not…

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5 Truths we don’t want to admit about church decline

Interesting thoughts. In the LDS Church we struggle with some of these issues, while avoiding others. Some great insights!

The Millennial Pastor

Last Sunday in my sermon, I wrote about Jesus overturning the tables in the temple, and noted that much of western Christianity is waking up the day after the tables have been overturned. Our prominence at the centre of society is long gone. Now we are dealing with the reality of numerical and financial decline. These days church leaders are looking to experts, programs, and books that will help us figure out what on earth is going on, and why so many have just stopped coming to church.

As a millennial and a pastor, I regularly hear church people bemoaning the loss of young people. This is evident to me in the fact that I have been pastor to only a handful of people my age. The ‘Nones’ are the new buzz group that concerned church leaders want to reach. Church people want to understand why so many of…

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Speed is important

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12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. (Old Testament, Genesis, Genesis 39)

45 Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder. (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi, 1 Nephi 17)

25 Agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with him, lest at any time he shall get thee, and thou shalt be cast into prison. (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi, 3 Nephi 12)

This is My Body

 

 

 

In this final hours the disciples would spend with the Savior, He implemented a new way for His disciples to remember the upcoming sacrifice He would make. True to His method of teaching, He did so using powerful symbolism:

“Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (New Testament, Matthew, Matthew 26)

In reference to His upcoming atoning sacrifice, the bread and water represented His body’s flesh and blood. His disciples may have asked themselves at the time, why is He teaching us to eat his flesh and drink His blood? It may have crossed the mind that there was even a slightly morbid association in this symbolism.

Others may have glossed over this ritual as another portion of teachings that they didn’t fully yet comprehend but perhaps some day would. After all, He had already spoken of Himself as being the bread of life, the manna which came from heaven and (John 6:54) “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. ” (New Testament, John, John 6). This doctrine had been so difficult for some they lost faith in Jesus over it. Lacking the Spirit’s guidance, is it possible they too were disturbed by what they considered potentially unpleasant references to consuming his flesh and blood?

In any case, the symbolism the Savior chose here pushed the boundaries of the disciples’ comfort level at the time. Why did He teach that what we now refer to as the sacrament was eating His flesh and drinking His blood. English majors will note that He used stronger language of metaphor as opposed to less forceful simile phrasing – “this IS my flesh” rather than “this is LIKE my flesh”.

Many Christian churches reinterpret much of the bible to take events and teachings less than literal. In the competition to interpret the bible literally, the Catholic Church wins a prize in this verse. They literally believe that one is partaking of Christ’s flesh during this ordinance. Putting doctrinal disputes aside, I find it admirable that they hold so closely to the Savior’s representation in this instance.

Regardless, the Savior intended for something meaningful to be learned here. As partakers of the sacrament, we are making the Atonement part of us. We are commiting to bringing the Atoning sacrifice into our lives, internalizing it, becoming one with the Savior. The sacrament symbolism rather than being morbid, represents a deeply personal connection the Savior is offering between Himself and His followers.

In the Church we often speak of the purpose and reason the Savior taught in symbols. We know as students of His word that symbolism offers richness in meaning, depth of understanding that can be created in no other way. In the case of sacrament, this holds true. The Savior wanted His disciples to have a regular reminder of the crowning event of His life, and even of all events in earth history. This event He wanted them to internalize, even be part of in spirit. When all is said and done, if we consume the Savior’s Atonement, if we reach the spiritual plane that the fruits of the Atonement have become a core part of our identity, we can literally say we have partaken of His flesh and blood. Not in some metaphysical transformation of the atoms being passed around by the Aaronic priesthood holders, buy in a life-changing, daily-impacting sort of way.

The opportunity to partake of the sacrament is the opportunity to commune with the Savior in a deeply significant way. The Book of Mormon teaches of the infinite nature of the atonement. How profoundly fortunate we are to be offered a weekly glimpse into becoming one with the Savior and His atonement! Is there a limit to the level of meaning and richness of understanding that this ordinance can offer? In at least the my math classes I took, there was no limit to “infinite”.

Unto the end of the world

After the resurrection of Jesus, powerful and poignant encounters took place between the Savior and His disciples. The discovery of the empty tomb; the walk on the road to Emmaus; the sharing of bread; the feeling of nail prints in His resurrected body; the training to Peter to “feed my sheep”. Each of these moments brought insight, new resolve, deeper commitment to the Gospel of the Lord. One thought from the Savior in the last verse of the book of Matthew stands as His parting message, a message that undoubtedly left a powerful final impression of His unyielding support and commitment to them in the road that lay ahead.

In Matthew it reads:
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 ¶Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (New Testament, Matthew, Matthew 28)

These disciples had been through a refining process. They had now been singled out as disciples of a crucified Christ, He who the leading Jews had considered a threat and an enemy. Judas had left them, they were the committed ones remaining and would go through much more for Christ. These individuals had bone deep resolve to prosecute the cause of Christ’s kingdom on earth. They were prepared to sacrifice for Him, not just willingly, but with cheer and joy at the thought of being considered worthy to suffer for His name. They were prepared to give their lives for Him. Pondering the state of their commitment brings a peaceful spirit of sacred reverence and respect.

So what was the meaning of Christ’s reciprocating expression of commitment to them that He would be with them, “even unto the end of the world”?

Clearly at face value, this is the Savior’s promise of His presence to individuals who were committed to Him. But what’s the specific significance of His promise “unto the end of the world”?

As much signifying Christ’s commitment to them for the duration of their life, this was perhaps too signifying the depth of His commitment to them through the difficulties they would face.

Through ridicule, mocking, beatings and even death the Savior was there for them. He would be there for them more than any other source of support. More than acquaintances, more then governments or institutions, more then the hope of assistance from material wealth. More than even trusted friends and close family members. To a true disciple, which these men were to whom He spoke, the Savior’s commitment of support was powerful. What greater sense of support can one experience in this earth life than the feeling of the Savior’s presence and assurance?

Fast forward to our day. The Savior’s commitment to each of us is no less strong. Some may say, yes, but realistically it’s not the same. And admittedly, we haven’t experienced the refiner’s fire that the apostles did in that day. After all, wouldn’t it truly be glorious to feel the power of conversion and love that those disciples felt? What would it take to achieve that burning dedication, that passion for the Gospel cause? What would it take to obtain certain knowledge that the Savior was there for you “to the end of the world”? Can such a certain knowledge be obtained in a different time, setting and world circumstance? The answer is unequivocally yes!

The answer to this question can be considered in three aspects:

1. We may not be able to witness the miracles of Jesus or see him sacrifice for the sins of mankind on the cross. To witness those events undoubtedly left impressions never to be forgotten in the hearts of those that followed Him.

For us to approach a similar understanding and conversion we must go through a similar education process. To do so, rather than reliving those experiences we must demonstrate a consistent pattern of Gospel living. The Savior taught that those that believe after witnessing His resurrection were blessed. But more so were those blessed that believed without seeing. In this sense our faith has the advantage over the original disciples if we are true and faithful.

2. Spend time deeply pondering the eternal truths of the Gospel. Power and depth will only come with greater insight into the glorious truths of Christ’s Gospel.

3. Courageously defend what’s good, worthy and right, as did the disciples of old. Perhaps there was a greater risk in that day that preaching the Gospel would leave you at risk of persecution and death. But defenders of truth will always face resistance of some kind, albeit in our day perhaps it’s resistance of a social nature.

Are you on the team of disciples that were still around after the refiner’s fire was poured out? If so, the Savior is there for you:

20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (New Testament, Revelation, Revelation 3)

There is a children’s Primary song, “If the savior stood beside me”. It helps us ponder what choices we’d make if the Savior were close by. By doing so we invite His presence.

The Savior knows each of us in a personal way. He has assured us of His personal acquaintance, His awareness of our needs, and His presence in our times of need. He counseled, “I say unto you that mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me” (D&C 38:7). Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained, “The Savior is in our midst, sometimes personally, frequently through his servants, and always by his Spirit”

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