The New Testament

87614001

How exactly do you review a religious work? I mean, the New Testament is quite possibly the most influential text ever written. As far as literature goes, I would argue that it’s the best of any scripture I’ve read, because it’s in fairly chronological order and tells a full story – sort of. Except that the story gets told four times, then commented on, and then there’s a slightly related prophecy at the back.

The New Testament is one of my favorite books to read, because I’m a Christian. Reading an account of Christ brings a spirit of humility and general goodness into my daily routine, as well as providing an example of the kind of person I want to be. My faith in Christ has made me who I am, and continues to shape me into a better person. I also find it poignant that in the spiritual economy of things, God felt that my salvation was worth the life of a God. So this book influences me deeply. Still, I’m not sure I would recommend it for a book club unless your group of friends is really interested in religion.

I would, however, recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it at least once, regardless of religious beliefs. (So maybe if your book club hasn’t read it yet, you ought to give it a shot.) People talk about Jesus all the time – trust me, you’ll find opportunity to discuss it. Also, I would recommend the epistles of Paul to most of my LDS friends, because I think sometimes we get so caught up in modern scripture that we forget about them. And they’re some of the best doctrinal commentary I think I’ve ever read.

Jesus Christ is the example we’ve set most of our society on (or claimed to), and I feel like this is a must-read. It builds faith for those seeking faith, and builds understanding for those seeking to understand faith. And if you’re trying to be a good person, I think it does a good job of providing a hero to follow. The King James Version (which I read) is a little dry and Shakespearean, but if you can follow the language, it’s worth it for the poetic effect. If not, pick up a more modern translation. ♥

What Is “Real Intent”?

One of my favorite scriptures is found in the Book of Mormon, in the book called Moroni:

“But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.” – Moroni 6:8

I love this verse. It points out that as many times as we do stupid things (some of us more than others…), God will forgive us. All we have to do to “earn” forgiveness is to repent, seeking forgiveness with real intent. If we ask to be forgiven, and we have “real intent,” we’re forgiven. The question I asked myself today was, “What is ‘real intent’?”

The obvious answer to me is that I intend to do better. Real intent means I’m sorry, I ask forgiveness, and I intend to earn it as best I can. But, because I’m a visual kind of person, that wasn’t quite enough for me to wrap my head around it.

Naturally, my thoughts went next to water sports. (For those of you who thought my blog lacked decent segues, I assure you, it’s the same way inside my head.) Anyway, I thought back to my youth group going wake-boarding every summer. I biffed it a lot. I got a lot of water up my nose. But I kept trying until I could get out of the water. And every time I got in the water, my intent was to stand on the board and stay there as long as possible. It didn’t always happen that way – but that didn’t change my intent.

wake-board-80226406

Once I got pretty good at standing, I started branching out: holding the rope with one hand instead of clutching it with two, or crossing the wake, or switching the direction of my feet. I usually fell. But I always meant to stay up.

I don’t think repenting with “real intent” means that you’re only forgiven if you succeed the first time. Some sins, like bad habits or addictions, keep coming back. If I have a weakness for anger, I don’t think God will hold it over your head every time you repent. It’s not like He’s going to say, “What, so you didn’t really mean it last time, then?” He knows whether you’re still trying – and as long as you’re trying, He knows you’re still learning. ♦

Related Articles:

Celebrating Repentance

Repentance Is Real

Repentance Made Easier 

What’s So Special About Jesus, Anyway?

Happy Easter!

As a Christian, I tend to think, speak, and write a great deal about Christ. And regardless of what religion you belong to, you probably hear the name “Jesus” pretty frequently.

But I think people sometimes misunderstand His importance. They treat Him as a great teacher, a political leader, the founder of a new religion. They treat him as a philosopher or a moralist. And He certainly was all of these things – but that’s not why He has so many followers. That’s not why He changed – and still changes – lives.

Imagine that every time you do something stupid or thoughtless or undisciplined (if you’re anything like me, this should be about every twenty minutes), you got a paper-cut. Now imagine that when you did something especially wrong or shameful, the cut was deeper. Think of some of the worst things you’ve ever done, the things you wish you could forget, the things you  hope nobody will ever see. Every one of us would be covered in open wounds.

Christ is the doctor who heals these wounds.

Jesus Christ wasn’t just a teacher – He was literally the Son of God. Because Christ had divine power, He could choose to take all the mistakes, regrets, pains, sicknesses, and griefs that you will ever experience, and inflict those on Himself, simply so He could understand what it feels like to be you. He could carry your problems for you – and because He’s been exactly where you are, He also knows how to heal you. He can heal you personally, because He knows you personally, and what you’ve been through.

And, because He was divine, He had the power to live forever. But in spite of this, He chose to die for you – you will die eventually, you know – so He could understand what that experience was like. And because He was divine, He could rise from the dead – again, for you. Because if you have to go through life, you need a guide who’s already been there. And if you have to die, you need a guide who knows what it’s like. And after death, you can live again, healed from all those cuts and scars: He can show you the way back.

Because He lived perfectly, we can become clean. Because He lived again, so can we. Jesus Christ was far more than a teacher or a philosopher; He was – and is – our Savior. He saves us from everything that would hurt us. ♥

resurrection-2

Is the Devil Afraid of Me?

godvsdevil

I was reading Jesus the Christ this morning, by James E. Talmage (which is super long, and might take me a long, looong time to finish), and something struck me that I’ve never really noticed before. Talmage is talking about Jesus enduring the devil’s temptations: Satan asks Jesus to prove His Godhood by turning stones into bread or by throwing Himself off of the temple and expecting His Father (God) to rescue Him. Jesus answers “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord, thy God.” And then Satan changes tactics, and offers Jesus power and glory:

8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceedingly high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

(Matthew 4:8-10)

So Satan shows Jesus the kingdoms of the world, and promises to give them to Him in exchange for worship. Now here’s what Talmage says about it:

“The effrontery of his offer was of itself diabolical. Christ, the Creator of heaven and earth, tabernacled as He then was in mortal flesh, may not have remembered His pre-existent state, nor the part He had taken in the great council of the Gods; while Satan, an unembodied spirit – he the disinherited, the rebellious and rejected son – seeking to tempt the Being through whom the world was created by promising Him part of what was wholly His, still may have had, as indeed he may yet have, a remembrance of those primeval scenes.”

Jesus tempted

So let’s break this down, because Talmage is rather – shall we say – verbose. Jesus created the world. Then He was born, forgot everything (as mortals are wont to do), and slowly learned He was the Messiah. So Satan came to tempt Him, offering Him the worlds…that He created. It would be like somebody stealing your bike and trying to sell it back to you. But on a much, much bigger scale.

And that’s where I really started thinking. If Jesus existed before He was physically born, it stands to reason that we all did, right? And if Satan used Jesus’s strengths – the things He already had – as temptations, why wouldn’t the devil use the same tactic on me? Let’s say, for example, that I was really good at music in a previous life. Now I’m here, and I’ve forgotten how great I was at music. But I’m still the same person, so I still care about music – so Satan tries to convince me that I’ll never succeed in the music industry unless I go all Miley Cyrus about it and throw all morality to the wind.

Are you following me? We don’t remember what happened before this life – that’s why this life is such a test of character – but Satan remembers, because he rebelled and opted out of the test (or rather, dropped out of school). And now he tries to use our strengths against us.

Now, this isn’t doctrine, as far as I’m aware. I’m speculating. But let’s just pretend for a second that I’m on to something. If I’m right, what does that say about the millions of women struggling with self-image? If the devil puts dark thoughts in your head that you’ll never be pretty enough, is that because he knows exactly how beautiful you already are? If he tells you you’re untalented, does he remember how invaluable you are to those around you? If he tries to convince you you’re stupid, is that because he’s jealous of your intellect? What if he tells you that nobody cares? That you’ll always just be a mindless follower?

What does the devil know about you that you don’t? What is he trying to hide from you?

And what does God know about you – that He desperately wants to remind you – that you’re not taking the time to remember?

Jesus loves you more than you know

I believe that if anybody knows our full potential, it’s God – our Creator. He remembers who we were before this life, and He knows who we are now, better than anyone. And He knows it, free of the screaming sounds of the media telling us what we should be buying and who we should be idolizing and why we’ll never be as good as [insert fabulous celebrity here]. He knows us. And I believe He’s willing to show us who we are, if we just spend enough time talking with Him to learn. But how will we ever learn if we won’t take the time to listen?

This week, I want to spend some time on my knees, just asking questions and quietly listening. I want to know what kind of person God knows I can be – what kind of person He knows I already am. ♥

An Example of Faith

Happy New Year! I’ve been reading the Book of Mormon this morning (and by morning, I mean noon. Please. It’s a holiday, people.) Anyways, now that I’ve got you here, I’d like to talk a little bit about Enos.

Enos only wrote one chapter in the BOM, so we’ve only got about 27 verses on his life story. And he really only tells one story – the whole chapter could be summed up by saying, “Here’s a really great experience I had with prayer this one time.” (Remind me to write in my journal more often. I want more than 27 verses for my posterity.) But I digress. What impresses me is that, with only 27 verses of content, he spends a whole lot of them talking about his personal  relationship with God, and unquestioningly believes what God tells him.

At the start of the chapter, Enos introduces the chapter as a story about the “wrestle which I had before God, before  I received a remission of my sins.” He talks about the words of his father – who was a prophet – and how he (Enos) just started thinking about God one day while he was out hunting. He starts praying for his soul, implying that he’s probably not already the most spiritual guy. This is before he received a remission (or cancellation) of his sins. His personal relationship with God is probably just based on whatever his father taught him.

A few verses later, he receives an answer from God: “there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.” God sends him an answer, and forgives his sins. He (God) later explains that this is because of Enos’s faith in Christ, “whom [he has] never before heard nor seen.”

The part I think is most impressive is Enos’s reaction: He says that he “knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.” God gave him an answer, so he believes it. That’s that. He asks “how is it done?” because he’s in awe that God could take his guilt away like that, but he doesn’t just stand there and argue with God, as I tend to do. He doesn’t say, “Well, isn’t there something I’m supposed to do about this? Is that really it? Are you sure?” God says he’s clean, so he’s clean. He later says that he knows God will honor His covenants, “wherefore my soul did rest.” He takes God at His word.

I need to work on this. Faith is a belief in something or someone you can’t see – but it’s also trusting that person or thing. I believe in God, but that’s not enough if I don’t believe what He tells me. I also believe Satan’s there, even though I can’t see him, but that doesn’t mean I have any faith in him. The point of Christianity isn’t to believe in Jesus Christ, but to believe Jesus Christ, and follow His word.

I don’t have a specific goal for this yet (suggestions welcome), but I want to set a resolution this year to hold more faith in God as a Mentor, a Guide, and a Father. My prayers tend to be either complacent (a wish list) or impatient (an argument). I want my prayers to be more of a conversation. I want the Lord to call me “friend,” and I want to trust in Him like a good friend would. ♥

 

Thoughts on Courage

I’ve been studying the scriptures this morning, aided by the Preach My Gospel manual (which is awesome, by the way). Anyways, there’s a little scripture study box on page 32 with the question, “What is the nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ?” And I thought, “I know what God’s like already; I’ll skip it.” But then I didn’t. And I’m glad.

I came up with 17 adjectives – just the main ones that stuck out – that describe our Father in Heaven. I’m not going to list them all here (that can be homework, if you really want to find out) but I was struck by one I hadn’t thought of before: brave.

God is brave. Growing up, I thought of “brave” as being an absence of fear, almost a devil-may-care invincibility. Over time, I started to assume that I was a wuss, because there are a lot of things that scare me. But guess what? I just looked it up. Brave means “ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage”. Courage is defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one”. Bravery isn’t the absence of fear at all – it’s the ability to do scary things.

Now here are the scriptures that gave me that adjective.  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God knew His Son would be abused here. Jesus knew it, too. But both were willing to allow that pain, because it would allow us to have everlasting life – living with God again. 1 John 4:8-9 “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” God knew that Christ would go through hell down here: that was the point. If He went through Hell for us, He could show us the way out again.

Now, I don’t know how God felt about this. I have no doctrinal citation here, besides these scriptures. But this is His Son – and He loves His children – so I’m guessing that He was scared. But being brave doesn’t mean that you’re never scared; it means you do the right thing anyway. Father in Heaven was willing to let His Son endure pain, sickness, and all the problems of mortal life in order to give us someone to turn to when we realize we need help. That’s brave – and I’m glad. ♥

peaceful shore

Healing the Imperfect

I found today’s favorite scripture. I’ve been reading through the Old Testament – and so far, 1 and 2 Chronicles have been pretty dry. But I found this in 2 Chronicles 30:18-20. For context, Hezekiah the king just inherited a pretty wicked people from his pretty wicked father, and he’s trying to turn things around in the kingdom. So he calls all the people together, holds a special Passover celebration, and invites everybody. Most people just laugh, but some people come, even though it’s the wrong month and they haven’t had time to go through all the purification they would normally need.

“But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.”

Two things I like here: One, the people still came, even though they weren’t totally ready. I used to feel like God was unapproachable unless I was perfect – that I wasn’t worthy to pray if I felt like I had any serious problems. But these people were ready to come back to God, because they knew they needed His help to become pure. The second thing I really like is that the Lord didn’t just accept them – he healed them. He wasn’t just willing to overlook the faults of His people, He made them clean and healed their spiritual scars.

It makes me glad to remember that God will take us just as we are, and as long as we’re willing to come to Him, He’ll make us better every time. Maybe it’ll take time, but we should never be afraid to ask for His help. He always gives it – always has, and always will. ♥