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September, 2011

  1. Preparing for Eternal Life

    September 28, 2011 by Ryan

    “Remember, eternity is now, not a vague, distant future. We prepare each day, right now, for eternal life. If we are not preparing for eternal life, we are preparing for something else, perhaps something far less.”

    – Elder M. Russell Ballard, from a talk entitled “Spiritual Development

  2. Joshua 3:5 – Sanctify yourselves

    September 26, 2011 by Ryan

    “Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”

    Joshua 3:5

  3. Romans 1:22 – Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.

    September 25, 2011 by Ryan

    For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (Romans 1:20)

    “The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” (Alma 30:44)

    Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; (Romans 1:21)

    “If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.” – Thomas S. Monson, The Divine Gift of Gratitude

    but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:21)

    “And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them, that they should not do like them.” (2 Kings. 17:15)

    Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,  (Romans 1:22)

    “O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.” (2 Nephi 9:28)

    And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

  4. Valuable Merchandise

    September 20, 2011 by Ryan

    I was recently told about an article titled “Lost and Found” by Jill Carattini. She told this story:

    A nurse named Melanie was on her way to work when something in the trash bin caught her eye. She was immediately taken with the possibilities in the discarded treasure. It was a cello, slightly cracked in several places, but nonetheless a discard of great character, a piece quite charming to the eye. Her boyfriend, who is a cabinetmaker, also saw the cello’s potential. Together they thought it could be turned into a beautifully distinctive CD holder.

    At first glimpse, this story seems to evoke a mantra commonly upon artist’s and antique-hunter’s minds alike: “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”

    The discarded cello was indeed old and it in fact had really been abandoned, though authorities are not sure why or how it ended up in the trash that day. But a most shocking revelation to the nurse (and possibly to the thief as well) was the fact that it was not merely an old cello. It is a one of only 60 like it in the world, made by master craftsman Antonio Stradivari in 1684. The 320-year-old masterpiece, valued at 3.5 million dollars, was stolen from a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra just weeks before it sat rescued in Melanie’s apartment with dreams of becoming a CD holder.

    In the music world, “Stradivarius” is an untouchable description. Neither scientist nor musician understand the difference between the voice of a Stradivarius versus the voice of modern violins and cellos, but the distinction is real–and costly. They are the most sought after musical instruments in the world–works of art in their own right–coveted by collectors and players alike. To be in the presence of a Stradivarius is to be in the presence of something great–whether it is recognized or not.

    What I find so compelling about this story is that Melanie knew for sure that she had found a treasure (and there are countless people overwhelmed with thanksgiving that she felt this way). She saved a magnum opus from landing in a truck of garbage because she saw the potential in a piece of trash. But she had no idea how true her thought actually was, until reports of the missing cello transfigured the precious masterwork before her eyes.

    I’m afraid that far too many people are caught in the same trap. Like that discarded chello, we don’t often understand or appreciate our own potential.

    Living in a world of sin, we get discouraged. The confusion of voices and opinions, and especially the lies that the evil one perpetuates, would have us believe about ourselves that we are of little value. We aspire to be a CD case, when we have been offered the opportunity to be able to be a untouchable Stradivarius by comparison.

    There was One who saw that value in each of us. Jesus the Christ lived above the reproach of sin, and yet willingly took our sins upon Himself, suffering the incalculable pain that came with that. He did it in the purest of charitable love for us. He “paid the price” for our sins, making it possible for us to be justified before God in this life, and eventually to be sanctified in the next. He snatched us from the garbage can where we were found, and paid the owner for the cost of our repairs. “For ye are bought with a price,” said the Apostle Paul. “Therefore,” he advised, in appreciation you should “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

    There are a good portion in the world who have not been taught this truth. For them, they are not accountable for knowledge not given to them. Yet there are many people who do know. They often live life as if they were not aware. If they were aware, they act as if they are not concerned by it.

    Don’t be one of those people!

    Recognize your value, as one redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God. Live your life in a way that demonstrates to your Master that you appreciate and value His effort to restore you to your potential.

    Those that would have you believe that you are less than the magnum opus of a Master Craftsman capable of producing the grandest melodies in the world, would instead encourage you to hold the plastic duplication of lesser notes. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).

  5. Identity

    September 10, 2011 by Ryan

    ‎”Neither professions nor possessions should define identity or self-worth. The Savior, for example, was a humble carpenter, but that hardly defined His life.”

    – Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy, in a talk entitled “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?

  6. In a Time of Turmoil

    September 8, 2011 by Ryan

    ‎”We live in a time of turmoil. Earthquakes and tsunamis wreak devastation, governments collapse, economic stresses are severe, the family is under attack, and divorce rates are rising. We have great cause for concern. But we do not need to let our fears displace our faith. We can combat those fears by strengthening our faith.”

    – Russell M. Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Talk entitled “Face the Future with Faith

  7. An instantaneous change or a long-hard struggle?

    September 3, 2011 by Ryan

    I have often read the Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke. Luke at one time served as a missionary companion Paul. This put Luke into a good position to write about Paul’s experience, because likely he heard firsthand from Paul of his famous conversion experience.

    In Acts chapter 9, Luke records the experience. Saul (as he was known before his conversion) was journeying on the road to Damascus. There shined round about him a light from heaven, and he conversed with the Lord Jesus Christ. The experience left him blind, and he was led to a disciple named Ananias in Damascus. Ananias also received a vision, and was prepared for and expecting Paul’s arrival. Ananias blessed Paul using the authority of the priesthood of God, and Paul’s sight was restored. Luke next describes that Paul started defending the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ in Damascus, and then journeyed straight on to Jerusalem, where he met the apostles and begin his missionary work.

    It all happened in succession, one event after another, in just a part of one chapter of the Holy Scriptures.

    At least, that is what I always thought.

    Recently I saw something in Paul’s epistle to the Galations that makes me wonder if that sequence of events is exactly right?

    In Galations Chapter 1, Paul is concerned that the people are quickly turning away from the truths and polluting their religion with false ideas of men (verses 6-9). This may be an interesting topic to consider; for Saul before the conversion was concerned with changing or relaxing the Jewish laws in any way.

    He reminds them of his own conversion experience, of which he has already shared with them before (verse 13). Then he emphasizes that he learned the gospel by revelation from God.

    After the experience, “immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood” (verse 16).

    “Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles;” he says, still under the ‘immediately’ description of time, “but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus” (verse 17, italics added for emphasis by me).

    Next, Paul gives us a time reference. “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother” (verses 18 – 19, italics added for emphasis by me).

    Now, with those phrases I emphasized, let me piece together what I am seeing:

    Saul had been taught his entire life at the feet of Jewish leaders and learned men. His entire life and purpose had been devoted to learning the Jewish law. Saul was so fiercely loyal to this that he arranged to have the Christians imprisoned and Stephen killed for preaching against the law (Acts 8:1-3). Saul was a man who felt his entire life purpose was for defending the law against any other ideas that would pollute the truths he had grown up with.

    Then one day, out of the blue sky, the Lord Jesus Christ – in Saul’s mind enemy number 1 – appeared to him. It was such an abrupt occurrence, and Saul was left confused, daized, and shell-shocked. Everything he knew was instantly proven wrong; his life’s purpose and footing was like having a rug yanked out from under him.

    Jesus even told him he was receiving a new name. In Abraham and Jacob’s situation of old, it was symbolic of putting off an old life and starting a new life. Paul understood the Jewish scriptures and knew what this symbolism must mean to him, and it probably felt like another slap in the face telling him he had been wrong about everything.

    Paul was taken to Damasus and healed by by a disciple of Christ in the name and authority of Jesus. This solidified to Paul the truth, and also established that he had been so wrong.

    What was Paul to do? He was such a devoted, determined, and head strong man.

    He took some time out. He went to Arabia. He spent up to three years studying and learning everything again. He reconciled his life of learning the Jewish law with his new life and belief.

    It didn’t happen overnight for Paul. It took a long time.

    Then he “returned to Damascus,” where he defended the faith as Luke described. After that, he went to Jerusalem, as Luke described.

    It is instructive to see who Paul spent time with in Jerusalem. He visited with two key people: Peter, the apostle and eye-witness of the Lord; and James, the half-brother who had special insights knowing Jesus as He grew up. I can’t think of (and apparently Paul couldn’t either) two better men to ask questions of and clear up any misunderstandings about the life and teachings of the Lord.

    So what does this mean?

    First, the scriptures are still true. Luke had it right, but he left out a detail. No harm done – lots of details have been left out of the Holy Writ (see John 21:25). It gives us the challenge to read more carefully and to listen for the Spirit to teach us what is missing.

    Next, it gives me a better understanding that Paul a real human being – one who had weakness, and who struggled through his conversion like the rest of us must do also. He had a couple of major miracles occur in his life, but those miracles didn’t change him overnight. He still had to struggle with his past, and come to terms with his new life. He had to develop faith through the same was we do – prayer, study, communion with the Holy Ghost, etc. He had to search for a new balance in his life, between what he had been taught by the world and what he was being taught by the Holy Spirit. We all do. Paul’s experience with salvation was not cheap. A vision from God did not mean that he received a magical shortcut to gain all of those things. I imagine that in those three years, his soul was tormented with anguish, and that he spent much time in repentance, prayer, and study as he worked to reconcile himself with his Lord.

    Paul’s example gives me hope for changing and becoming better in my life too.

    And the rest of Paul’s life fell into that pattern. He had to deal with the fallout of his Jewish friends who felt he was betraying them, while righting the wrongs and earning the trust of brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Paul would later tell the Corinthian saints that no trial or temptation comes to you which is not common to man. God is faithful, and provides a way through all of these. (see 1 Corinthians 10:13)

    In all of this, I freely admit that I could be wrong about this. I have no special proof that what I am describing is how it actually happened. The pieces seem to fit together so well, and the lessons work for me, that I’ll go with this version of events for now.

    That is, until I am taught something else new later.