Google+ Followers

Saturday, July 14, 2018


In the farcical sci-fi comedy movie “Galaxy Quest” the main character, played by comedian Tim Allen, has a signature line which he repeats often throughout the show: “NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER!”

Through much of my life, I have heard and been taught such a philosophy.  Whether it was on the football gridiron back in the glory days, when our coach would holler, “Never stop blocking until the whistle blows!”  Or while running conditioning drills I would hear, “don’t loaf it in, sprint to the finish!”  Or “The game isn’t over until the last second has run off the clock.”  Even in our work, educational pursuits, or simple life challenges we often have ingrained into our brains that we need to keep persevering and never give in.

Now while there is great merit in being a hard worker who never succumbs to sloth and slacking, and the above stated movie is great for some good laughs, there is a lot of merit in never giving up in certain aspects of life, especially when things get tough.  But there is a different kind of victory which only comes with complete surrender – Spiritual Victory.

So why would it be different in spiritual matters compared to all other aspects of life?  Why would we be expected to work, strive, persist, overcome, subdue and conquer in all other life areas, but be expected to surrender when it comes to things of a spiritual nature?

We might find ourselves asking “How can this be?  In spiritual warfare against the adversary, we can "never surrender.”  And this is true.  To the adversary we should never surrender, but to the King of Kings, surrender is our only option if we want to found on His winning side of the battlefield.

The answer may be found in the following quotes and thoughts:


“He who seeketh to save his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.” – (Matthew 10:39)

“Growing closer to God is not the result of trying harder, but surrendering more fully.” - Unknown

The greatness of our spiritual strength equals the measure of our surrender.” – Anonymous

“There is only one things God wants, and that is our unconditional surrender.” – Oswald Chambers

There are a few examples in the scriptures of how this concept actually applies in real life situations.  One of them is found in Alma chapter 24 where we find the story of a group of people who had spent their lives involved in plunder and warfare against their fellow countrymen, who had converted to the Lord and his gospel.  As a sign and covenant with God, that in exchange for forgiveness of their sins, they literally dug a deep pit and buried their weapons of war and rebellion in the earth.  They surrendered their lives to Christ!

Not long after this conversion and commitment, some of their countrymen came to battle against them.  But even in this dire circumstance, “there was not one soul among all the people who had been converted unto the Lord that would take up arms against their brethren; nay, they would not even make any preparations for war; yea, and also their king commanded then that they should not.”   And when their enemies fell upon them, “they went out to meet them, and prostrated themselves before them on the earth, and began to call on the name of the Lord.”

The story continues that when their enemies fell upon them, many of them were slain, but in this act, we assume they were taken home to God in their righteous condition.  And when their enemies “saw that their brethren would not flee from the sword, neither would they turn aside to the right hand or the left, but that they would lie down and perish, and praise God in the very act of perishing under the sword… they did forbear from slaying them; and there were many whose hearts had swollen in them for those their brethren who had fallen under the sword, for they repented of the things which they had done.  And it came to pass that they threw down their weapons of war, and would not take them again…  And it came to pass that the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people, therefore we have no reason to doubt but what they were saved.”

A complete surrender, which brought salvation not only to them, but also to many of their enemies!

And of course, the ultimate example of complete surrender, which brought about total victory over both temporal and spiritual sin and death, was that of Jesus, when He humbly partook of the bitter cup and proclaimed, “Father, not my will, but thine be done!

In fact, it might be restated to say that Christ’s victory in Gethsemane, upon the cross and over the tomb was because of His total surrender to the Father’s will.

C.S. Lewis stated, “The full acting out of the self’s surrender to God, therefore, demands pain.  This action, to be perfect must be done from the pure will to obey.”

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said – “Spiritual submissiveness is not blind faith, but deliberate obedience.” (Not My Will, but Thine, pg. 108)

In today’s fast paced world, where we seem to have to fight tooth and nail in order to stay alive, relevant or to get ahead, such submission seems to fly in the face of mortal reasoning.  In fact, the voices of the world and its great and spacious building justify and proclaim that there is no harm in trying to get ahead.  “And there shall also be many which shall say; Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God – He will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.  Yea, and there shall be many which teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark.” (2 Nephi 28:8-9)

And even if our intentions are not malicious or with intent to get ahead of another, we often still tend to want to be selective in how much we surrender to the Lord.  We find it convenient and easy to surrender those parts of our lives which we don’t really like anyway, but we still want to believe and cling to other aspects of our own will and desires, instead of submitting to what God desires for us.  With pride we think that we know better in some regards, what is best for us, and only partially surrender.

This is the equivalent of being on the field of battle in a war which the Lord has already won.  But as the final skirmishes are still being fought, despite the Lord’s open invitation to come and join Him in His victorious kingdom, we decide to remain in the midst of the battlefield and submit ourselves to the flying bullets and missiles from the rebellious but already conquered forces of the adversary – and thinking that is somehow a better position of safety than coming into the protective fold of the Lord.  It makes absolutely no sense!

To these thoughts, Elder Neal A. Maxwell said – “If instead of surrendering to Him we surrender to ourselves, we are surely bowing before an unjust and unwise emperor.  There can be no conditions attached to unconditional surrender to God.  Unconditional surrender means we cannot keep our obsessions, possessions, or cheering constituencies.  Even our customized security blankets must go.  Does this sound too severe and too sacrificing?  If so, it is only until we realize that if we yield to Him, He will give us everything He has.”  (Not My Will, but Thine, pg. 99)

In my career, I have worked for the past 23 years with elderly people near the final stages of their lives.  As I visit with them and hear their life stories, I have come to realize certain truths:  Financial wealth can disappear very quickly, and even if you hold on to it through your life, you can’t take it with you when you die.   Health and vitality deteriorate and eventually end in death.   Knowledge and intellect can fail and be replaced by dementia.  In essence, all worldly accolades and achievement will fade and eventually fall by the wayside.  But our relationship with Christ will endure!

I have visited with many during their final days before passing through deaths door.  Some are filled with fears and regrets, which even if they had hidden such feelings their entire lives, when faced with death and the great unknown beyond, they worry about what their future will hold.  Yet I have met many others, who through lives of faithful obedience, submission and surrender, approach the gates of death with excitement, peace and longer for the blessings they already know await them.

So as we walk through the spiritual battlefield of life, let’s remember to take time to stop, and realize what side we are fighting for.  Because the reality is, we are always surrendering to someone or something, there is no middle ground.  We either surrender to the Christ, or we surrender to the persuasions of the adversary who wants to prevent us from giving ourselves to the Lord.

So why not surrender to Christ?  Let us submit ourselves fully and unconditionally to His royal army and kingdom.  For in that complete surrender to Him, Victory is obtained!

Thursday, June 7, 2018


Recently while making the long drive from our home in Idaho to our son's in Oregon, my wife and I were having a spiritual discussion. She was relating to me how she had been praying for increased discernment to be able to better hear the voice of the Lord and the Spirit so she would know His will and how to more effectively serve Him and others.
Just the day before she had been in a store where she encountered a woman who seemed a bit out of sorts. They began to converse and this lady began to relate a long and rather bizarre tale of woe. As they were talking, my wife said she was silently praying to know what the Lord wanted her to do to help this woman. Was her story real or was it just a ruse to con her out of some money? And what should she do to help? But the heavens were completely silent.
She ended up being moved with compassion and giving the woman the cash she had on hand which she had planned to spend on a new shirt. As my wife was relating this to me, she was feeling confused and somewhat discouraged. She wondered why after all her prayers and pleadings, the Lord wouldn't guide her or why she couldn't hear His voice. And why in general she doesn't feel like she receives divine guidance more clearly in her life?
Now I should clarify here that my wife is perhaps the most naturally charitable person I have ever met. She just simply has a loving and serving heart in ways that continue to amaze and inspire me. Yet like many, she still doubts her worth at times and feels like she doesn't receive clear spiritual guidance in her life.  She is wonderful and spiritual in so many ways, but at this moment, she was experiencing a moment of discouragement.
I tried to explain that perhaps the Lord had answered her prayers, but not in the way she was expecting. He had provided her an opportunity to serve by meeting this woman in the store, but remained silent, so that SHE could make the choice as to what should be done. It was left up to her to determine the appropriate choice of action. Sometimes the Lord does this so that we can learn to become like Him without leading us by the hand and telling us everything we should do. And in my opinion, she had passed the test with flying, straight A+, colors!
As we continued our drive, my wife was pondering on this, but in her heart was still silently lamenting and wondering why the Lord didn't speak to her more clearly in her life as an indication of His love for her.
At the very moment these thoughts of doubt about God's love were going through her mind, we came around a bend in the road and she looked up behold a giant Heart in the side of the mountain in front of her! The Spirit flooded over her and she very literally burst into tears!
I hadn't seen the heart, but felt the increased Spirit, and noticed her reaction, so wondered what had happened. She related this divine sign and we had to stop and get a picture. We marveled together at the Lord's wonderful and masterful, and uniquely personal way in which He had answered her question of His love for her! She has collected heart shaped rocks for years, and here she was with an entire mountain testifying to her in a very personal and intimate way.
We were amazed how the Lord in His perfect way could have caused, beginning many years ago, the elements to shape and change the side of that mountain to form a heart shaped anomaly, and placed it right there in that bend of the road where He knew that my wife would see it in that exact moment she was having doubts about His love for her! And He accompanied that sign with a testimony of His love with a flood of His Spirit.
Oh how amazing and perfect is our Lord and Savior! He knows us! He loves us! And He speaks to us in very personal ways which may be different than He does with others, but are just what we need in our unique circumstances!
But there can be no doubt that if we have hearts to feel and eyes to see, that we will witness the divine stamp and fingerprints of His love for us, all across the landscape of our lives... even if it takes an entire mountain to do so!

Friday, May 18, 2018



About 24 years ago, my family was enjoying a day at a popular water park in Utah.  My wife and our two young sons were relishing a day splashing in the water, going down slides and soaking up the warmth of the summer sun, as part of a much needed break from undergraduate studies and work.

One of the popular attractions was one of those artificial wave pools, which starts out very shallow and then gets progressively deeper as you get closer to the big wall where massive pump engines suck and push the water in and out to create cycles of man-made waves.  It looked like tons of fun and I had been out in the deeper areas with a float tube on previous visits and found it quite exhilarating.

But my then youngest son, Tyler, who was only 2 years old also found it interesting and kept wanted to wander over there, so while the waters were still and calm, I decided to wade out with him in my arms in the shallow area to feel the splashing waves at our legs and the cheering and screams of joy of the other occupants of the pool.  Not wanting to get into any danger I waded out about thigh-high or just below waist deep, no more than 3 or so feet, where I felt comfortable holding him in my arms.

The signal bell rang and the water began to ebb and flow.  At first it was harmless, as the small waves began to slosh back and forth around us.  But as the massive pumps began to operate at full force, I found to my dismay that I was standing in an area where the smaller waves on either side of me were converging into a large wave which was cresting right in front of where we were located.  And they kept getting bigger and bigger with each succession.  Very soon, this larger combined wave was sloshing me back and forth and I realized I needed to retreat to even shallower depth.

As I turned to work my way back to the shallows, one of the growing, cresting waves, struck me in the back and I fell forward onto my face, with my young toddler in my arms.  I panicked as the wave pushed me down onto the floor of the pool and then sucked backwards, trying to pull me back towards the depths behind me.  Realizing my young son was underwater I frantically lifted him up with my right hand in attempt to get him above water, as I scrambled to get up onto my knees and to try to stand.  But before I could get my feet underneath me, another wave hit my back and slammed me back downward again.  As several of these attempts repeated themselves, I realized to my horror that I was only getting very small moments in which I could take a brief, partial, gasping breath, before I was slammed back down and inhaling small bits of water, which made my throat spasm and want to cough.  And all of this was compounded by the fact that I was still struggling to keep my son above water as much as possible, but unsure if he was still breathing or what state he was in.

I thought about trying to scream for help when my head briefly came above water, but the entire pool was full of people screaming and yelling in delight, and no one even knew of the struggle I was experiencing.

And the waves just kept coming, and coming, and coming.  No matter how desperately I struggled with my left hand and two feet, I could not get to my knees or feet sufficiently long enough to either stand up above the waterline, or progress further toward the shallows.  And with each wave, I feared I was being pulled back into the deeper abyss.

My desperation quickly turned to panic, and then transformed into absolute terror and despair, and I became convinced that I may likely drown in a mere 3 feet of surging water.  And all the while I was terrified for the fate of my small son, who I was desperately trying to raise up above my head with one arm, but unsure if he was actually any better off than I was.

It is amazing how in such instances, time seems to change and how a thousand thoughts can compress themselves into a mere fraction of a moment.  I actually considered my options.  I could let go of my son, and use my second hand to help raise me from the bottom, and then try to locate and lift my son.  But this would consign him to dropping below the water where he would surely be washed away from me and I may not be able to retrieve him, and would increase his likelihood of drowning.  No, I could never let him go!

As I grew frantic for air and the impulse to breath was screaming for relief, I began to see sparks in my head and I realized that I would soon lose control and either impulsively take a breath and inhale water, or I may pass out and then would lose all ability to recover.  And I suddenly knew with complete certainty that I was going to die!

As I resigned myself to this fate, and accepted it, I suddenly quit thinking about myself and my own predicament.  I knew that I would die, so I instead, in one of those compressed nano-second moments, prayed silently from the depths of my soul, “If I must die, please save my son!”  I didn’t care what happened to me anymore.  I was willing to accept my fate and embrace it, and I was fine with that if it meant my son could somehow live, and so this was where all my energy and heart was pleading to the Lord to take me if He needed, but please save my son.  All of my effort was focused on keeping him above water as much as possible, so that he could breathe, so that he might somehow live.

It was in this very moment of submission and when I forgot myself and was totally focused on the welfare of my son, and all of my desire was only for his safety, that the waves began to slow and lessen in intensity.  The water receded and was suddenly able lift my head and take a gasping breath of air.  It was the breath of life!

I was finally able to get up onto my knees and raise my trunk upward and with certainty lift my son completely out of the water.  And as the water continued to calm behind and around me, I was utterly spent and exhausted.  Gasping for air and coughing and spitting water from my lungs, I heard the most joyous sound I could have heard in that moment – my son crying!

I was completely overjoyed that he was alive and breathing enough to be wailing in tears!  And as I crawled forward on my knees (because I literally didn’t have the strength to stand at that moment), I was simply overcome with gratitude.  Just being able to breathe and knowing that my son was alright was worth more than any worldly treasure or accomplishment, and I poured out silent thanks to my Father in Heaven for His mercy in delivering us from our terrible predicament.

I have to admit, that I have never once entered a wave pool again since that day.  But I have been able to draw several comparisons and insights about it and from it.  And while this list is not exhaustive, it may be informative to you as well:

1.      In life, we often think we can control our circumstances and feel we are safe to wander off the solid footing of the straight and narrow path, thinking that we can enjoy a few thrills and handle things alright without any risk.  But in reality, things can and usually do escalate quickly beyond our control when we leave spiritually solid ground behind.  We may have our moments of thrill and delight, but they come at great risk and potentially deadly cost.

2.      When the waves of life come crashing down around us, we are pretty much helpless to deliver ourselves.  We cannot stop the forces of mortality around us, and must suffer the consequences of our actions, and are powerless to change them.  We fall victim to their merciless and crushing forces… UNLESS we seek help from a Lifeguard who walks on water and has the power to calm the stormy seas around us, and is able to reach down as He did to Peter and lift him from the waves and cold depths of life’s deadly tides.

3.      I realize that my experience cannot even begin to compare in any significant degree, but I feel gained an ever-so-small, fractional experience of what kind of desperation the Savior might have suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane.   As I think of how the scriptures describe Him being sore amazed and astonished to the point He fell down upon His face (Matt. 26:36-39), I am humbled to tears to consider how the massive waves of sins, suffering and sorrows of all mankind beat down upon Him with their eternal weight for nearly 3 agonizing hours.  This was so great that even our Lord cried out, “Please, if there is any other way, please take this cup away from me!”  But He willingly submitted, accepted and partook of the bitter cup.

4.      It was when I submitted and lost all thought or concern of myself, and instead focused upon the welfare and salvation of another that relief and salvation finally came.  In similar manner, the power of the Atonement was wrought when the Savior submitted, accepted and let His will be completely swallowed up in the will of the Father that the miracle was able to be accomplished, and deliverance and salvation was finally extended to all of us.  He was willing to, and did in fact, offer Himself a sacrifice and gave up His life so that we all might live!  His love and concern for us and our eternal welfare is the definition of what Love truly is.  “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life, for my sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:25)   And “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”(John 15:13)    We too will find ourselves and the blessings we seek, when we begin to lose ourselves in the Lord’s service and in service to our fellow men and women.  CHARITY never faileth, and is the pure love of Christ, and if we want to become like Him and be worthy to dwell with Him again someday, this will be “THE” essential quality we will need to possess!

5.      When I was drowning, I could not bring myself to let my son go, and give up his life.  I was desperate to save him no matter what the cost, just so that he could live and be safe.  As I consider what our Heavenly Father must have experienced as He witnessed His “Beloved Son”, Jesus Christ, suffering, being mocked, beaten, smitten and nailed to a cross…. Somehow He was able to let His Son go, and sacrifice Him so that ALL of us could have a chance to live.

I stand all amazed at the love that They offer me!  And you!  And all of us!

The reality and amazing grace of it all, is the fact that when the storms and waves of life are beating us down, the Lord is right there in the midst of it all, with us, reaching down to lift us, if we will but turn to Him and reach up for His help.  He doesn’t cause the suffering which comes as the result of our bad choices or because of the nature of opposition this mortal life offers.  He also doesn’t cause the trauma and waves of abuse or unjust suffering and punishment that come because of the wickedness of others which affects us.  But even in these situations, which are no fault of our own, He is willing and able to help lift us above the waves, put our feet back on solid group, heal us both body and soul, and beckon us onward along the path which leads back to Him.

The waves are sure to come and beat upon us.  He mercifully grants us times of peace and placid waters to regain our bearings and make strides forward, but he also allows the waves to return so that we can remember that He is the one that allows us to stand and grants us one truly remarkable “breath of life” to the next.  These experiences serve to keep us humble and remind us to cry out to Him with greater conviction and focus and to be more grateful for the peaceful moments when they come.  And it is during those moments of desperate desire and reaching for Him, when we truly find Him.

“When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be yours. When the Savior knows you truly want to reach up to Him—when He can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life—you will be led by the Holy Ghost to know exactly what you should do.  When you spiritually stretch beyond anything you have ever done before, then His power will flow into you.” – (Pres. Russell M. Nelson, April 2017 General Conference)

As we do so, He will be there, with open arms to lift us, raise us up, heal us, restore us and bring us ever closer to Him!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Grinding Gears and the Power of Love

Grinding Gears and the Power of Love

A few month ago, the transmission in my wife’s van suddenly went out and came to a literal grinding halt!  And although paying for the repairs about threw my hip out of socket with how much money went flying out of my wallet, it caused me to ponder on the nature of gears and how they apply to our lives.

If you’ve never driven a stick shift, manual transmission in a car before, then some of what follows may not make complete sense, but I think you will get the picture.

The gears in a transmission, or about any machine for that matter, work because the gears are equipped with rows of teeth which line up with and interlace with matching teeth on an adjacent gear connected to another part of the machine.  There is a series of gears of different sizes which move back and forth depending on how fast you want to go or how much power and force you need to pull with.

The problem comes when trying to shift from one gear to another at the wrong time.  The gears then get out of sync with each other instead of fitting together the way they should, one gear is spinning and the other can’t mesh with it at the proper speed.  The result is a horrible grinding sound as the metal teeth grate across each other, creating an incredible amount of sparks, friction, loss of power, broken shards of steel and loss of propulsion (and sometimes the need to replace the whole transmission).

“So how does this apply to life?” you ask.   What a great question!  Let me share a few observations which I have pondered over in this regards.

Let’s look at the gears as a representation of a relationship between two people.  Let’s start with the example of a husband and wife.  When the teeth of the gears are aligned and in sync with each other, a lot of good can happen and progress in the relationship is wonderful, smooth and powerful to behold – as two people become like one, they make each other better and fulfill the purpose of the relationship.

But when one partner decides to do something which doesn’t align with the other’s thinking and rhythm, then grinding sparks begin to fly, friction and heat become evident, pieces of hearts, trust and confidence in each other get ground off as damage is inflicted upon each other.  And unless they can calm down, realign and get back in sync again, then extensive or permanent damage may be done to the relationship.

But let’s take this analogy to another, deeper level of meaning – that of our relationship with the Lord.

The Lord is the Perfect Master Gear with perfectly aligned teeth which are spinning at the perfect speed needed for optimal progress and performance.  If we are not engaged with Him, then no forward progress can be made.  He is Omnipotent (all powerful) and therefore the teeth on His gears are indestructible and incapable of being damaged.  He is the prototype and all other gears must come into alignment with Him if spiritual progress is to occur in our lives.  And He has provided commandments to help us keep that alignment adjusted properly.

But sometimes, we tend to think that we have a better way to make progress, and we try to do things our own way and in our own timing.  We get out of sync with God’s commandments and all of the sudden we find the friction starting to happen in our lives.  Questions, doubts, concerns, unbelief, lack of faith, discouragement, guilt and a host of other symptoms result.  In other words, our gears have become either damaged

or dirtied with filth and corrosion.

This is not because God has changed or is punishing us.  It is because WE have gotten out of sync with His perfect gear.

If we continue in our misaligned ways, spiritual parts of our soul become damaged and broken.  The longer we stay out of alignment and keep trying to force our own way against His Master Gear, the more extensive and severe the damage.
If you don’t believe me, consider what He said when He appeared to Saul, who was actively fighting against His disciples, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutes: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.  …And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.” (Acts 9:5, 9)  He was eventually only healed through repentance and a priesthood blessing.  If that’s not spiritual grinding of the gears kind of damage, I don’t know what is.

Another significant example of the results of such misalignment of gears is found in the account of Alma the Younger and his friends found in (Mosiah 27:11-19).  I will include some portions of those passages.  “…as they were going about rebelling against God, behold and angel of the Lord appeared unto them… and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder.  … and so great was their astonishment, that they fell to the earth.  (and the angel said) … why persecutest thou the Church of God?  … I am sent from God …go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, … and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.   … And now the astonishment of Alma was so great that he became dumb, that he could not open his mouth; yea, he became weak, even that he could not move his hands; therefore he was taken by those who were with him, and carried helpless, even until he was laid before his father.”  Alma too was only able to be restored through deep repentance and because of the prayers and fasting of his family and friends.

While these two examples are extreme cases, they serve to point out that whenever we continue to grind against God’s gears, especially in open rebellion, then damage of some sort is sure to occur, and it will always be beyond our ability to repair on our own.

Sometimes, of no fault of our own, another gear (not the Master Gear, but another flawed human gear) crashes into us with shattering force, such as is the case when abuse and acts of violence are committed upon the innocent.  These unplanned collisions can leave devastating injuries and broken pieces behind in their wake.  Such devastating breakdowns are not the fault of the Master, but He is still the means to healing and repentance.

But despite whatever breakdowns occur from whatever sources, that doesn’t mean that all is lost.  He is perfect and therefore provided a way to make all the repairs necessary when such damage occurs.  And the best part is – HE HAS ALREADY PAID FOR ALL THOSE NEEDED REPAIRS IN ADVANCE!

All we need to do is repent and commit ourselves to come back into alignment with Him and all can be restored to its proper order.  AND HE TOTALLY DELIGHTS IN HELPING US MAKE THOSE REPAIRS AND REALIGN WITH HIM!

But sometimes, even when we are doing our best to be as perfectly aligned with Him as we can, struggle is still evident.  In fact, even when we are serving and doing our very best, there are times when trials come.

Sometimes an increased load is placed upon us, and the Lord requires us to shift down into a simpler and lower gear.  This can be to help increase torque and build our strength and increase our pulling capacity to greater levels, and serves a very needed and important purpose at that stage of the journey which only the increased load can teach us.

At other times the increased strain comes and He makes us shift down so that we can climb up a steeper incline to reach higher ground with loftier and brighter views than the lower levels could provide.

But when those times of increased load or burden, or when the struggle to climb to higher ground occurs in the road of life, we must remember – THESE ARE NOT THE TIMES TO GET OUT OF GEAR WITH THE LORD!  Sometimes when the troubles and struggles come, we want to withdraw and pull away.  But in doing so we only serve to disconnect ourselves with the Master Gear which is providing all the power for propulsion.  If we disengage, especially during those times, momentum will quickly come to a stop and we may even find ourselves drifting backwards to lower levels.

No, those are the exact times we want to be fully engaged with the Lord’s Master Gear, because as He stated in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke (gear) upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Can you understand what He is promising us in these verses?  He is promising that instead of grinding ourselves to pieces, He is willing to actually pull the load for us if we will but just get fully aligned with Him.  The burden will still be there, but the Master Gear will be pulling its weight right alongside us!

So the next time you feel the frustrations, frictions, and burdens of life grinding on your soul, remember to take whatever steps necessary to realign yourselves with the Master Gear, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will gladly help heal you, your relationships, and pull the load with you in the perfect way to allow you to progress with increased speed and efficiency down the road of life – which eventually leads back to His presence.  For we are all broken and imperfect gears in some form or another, and cannot progress without His repairs and Him being an engaged part of our lives.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The JOYFUL King of Easter

The JOYFUL King of Easter

As we approach this coming Easter weekend, we should take pause to consider what occurred on this weekend a few millennia ago.  Our thoughts should ponder and be filled with humble gratitude as we consider our Lord’s suffering in the Garden, His persecution and rejection (even by some of His former friends), as well as the price He paid upon the cruelty of the cross.

But in addition to those considerations, there is another emotion which I believe is often overlooked, but which in reality is far more important to consider as we ponder over those sacred events and He who brought them to pass.  And that emotion is JOY!

Jesus Christ is the Lord and King of Joy!  I believe part of what got Him through those moments of agony was His vision of the Joy which awaited when He arose from the Tomb, and what that would mean for all of us!  Just think of what He accomplished!  He broke the bands of death, arose from the grave, obtained all might and glory from His Father, and was granted the power to redeem all those He loved upon condition of their repentance!  Certainly that original Easter was the time of perhaps the greatest Joy in all of eternity!  He was given the keys to “The” Kingdom and the ability to invite all of His friends to be a part of it with Him.

But a mistake I think we make is that often times as we consider His might and glory and majesty (and He most definitely is the King of all these things), is that those qualities also cause Him to be eternally distant from us, when in reality He is not distant, but rather different from us.

No don’t get me wrong!  In regards to His spiritual status compared to our fallen condition, we are vastly deficient and inadequate in every way, shape and form.  And when the moment comes that we will meet Him someday in His glory, I believe not just every knee will bow, but our entire souls and every cell of our physical and spiritual being will collapse before Him in humility, honor, worship and recognition of who He is and what He has done for us, and for the Love and forgiveness which He so freely offers us!  Every knee (and every fiber of our being) will bow and every tongue (and every molecule) confess that He is the Christ!

But that difference from us, is often misinterpreted to be that He is also vastly distant from us, which I believe is NOT true at all!   And I would go so far as to say that in many ways, He is not as different from us as we falsely assume and imagine.  He is absolutely perfect - YES, but also perfect in His humanity in every degree.  Perfect in His Joy, Perfect in His Love, Perfect in His Happiness, Perfect in His Humor… yes, I said Humor.

A few years ago, a friend introduced me to a wonderful book called, “Beautiful Outlaw” written by John Eldredge.  What I discovered in those pages was a Savior far more personal and approachable than I had ever before imagined.  His descriptions and understanding of New Testament passages opened my eyes to a Savior who was perfectly and completely focused and driven, yet also purposeful and even humorous and playful.  And while I may not agree 100% with all of the authors doctrinal views, I am grateful for the way his writing and the thoughts of my friend who suggested the book to me, have deepened and personalized my relationship with my Lord and Redeemer in ways I had not before imagined.
(If interested, the author also has a series of YouTube videos (Link to Videos here) in which he reads certain parts of the book to some of his friends.  Well worth the time to watch if you aren’t into reading, but the book goes into greater depth and expansion of many concepts not found in the videos)

I won’t go into all the personal and sometimes very intimate details in my own life of how I have come to find this to be true, but let me share just two examples:
First, I will point you back to another blog I have written previously, about how the Lord taught me a very funny and personal lesson, (Here) about how I was just like the personalities of my two dogs!

Second, I will paraphrase the account of an acquaintance of mine, who shared the following humorous account which happened to him in the temple.  He was sitting and praying in the Celestial room, and had grabbed a set of scriptures.  He prayed and asked the Lord where he should open the scriptures to, in order to learn what He wanted him to learn at that time.  He felt a divine smile and the reply, “It doesn’t matter, because you won’t understand it anyway.”  He was a bit shocked by this reply, so closed his eyes and prayed more earnestly where he should turn to learn from the Lord, and once again felt a smile and the phrase, “It doesn’t matter, because you won’t understand it anyway.”  A bit frustrated by this response, he opened his eyes and decided just to read on his own.  As he opened the scriptures and looked down, to his surprise he had grabbed a Spanish set of scriptures and couldn’t understand a single word!  At that moment he sensed a mild, divine laughter an almost began laughing out loud himself as he realized why the Lord had replied to his prayers in such a humorous way.

Now these two viewpoints of an All-powerful and a perfect Savior and a personal, fun-loving and humorous Savior seem to stand in contrast to each other.  “How can this be?” you might wonder.  "Isn’t this some form of DIVINE PARADOX?!"

Well, let me attempt to explain how both sides of the equation can be completely true, and how such an understanding can serve to deepen your relationship with the Lord in ways you may not have previously considered.

Imagine a Great and Mighty King who rules over a vast and powerful kingdom.  His subjects respect and agree to be loyal to Him and follow His rules because they know of His wisdom, and His ability to protect them from invaders.  He can also provide order and meaning in their lives as part of something bigger than their individual, personal lives can be on their own.  But most subjects in the kingdom would probably consider the King to be so different and un-relatable to them, that He would be nothing more than a distant figure head, who didn’t really know they even existed.  They would think that perhaps their little lives didn’t even matter to the King.  (I think if we have the wrong, or maybe better stated, “INCOMPLETE” view of God, then this is how we mistakenly view our relationship to Him).

Now think about one of your best and dearest of friends.  What is it about them that makes them such a dear friend to you?
If you are honest about it, a true friend is someone:
·         You can feel completely comfortable around, while being yourself
·         You can talk openly and freely to them
·         You have probably shared laughter and happiness with them
·         You know they will understand what you are feeling
·         They are able to console you in your difficulties
·         They are able to motivate you to be a better person
·         They encourage you to be yourself, but love you enough to NOT let you go down a road of self-destructive behavior
·         If you are doing wrong, they love you enough to metaphorically, and perhaps literally, smack you upside the head and tell you to shape up
·         They want you to be your best self in your own personal and unique way
·         They would continue to care for and love you even if you decided to walk away from the friendship for some reason & they would rejoice over nothing more than for you to come back into their friendship again

Now combine those two ideas into a single Individual.  Someone who is a Mighty King, but who just also happens to be your Best Friend!  If you were best friends with the King, just think of the possibilities that would open up to you!

The King would not only be able to provide you protection, wisdom and many incredible comforts to help you through your life, but would also have the power to pardon your mistakes and wipe them from the ledger books, pay your debts and even free you from prison if need be.  He could send his strongest Knights to protect you as you travel about, and let you search his libraries and be taught by the wisest teachers in His kingdom.

But more importantly, even though He was the King and had endless duties and responsibilities, He would desire your personal companionship – You are his best friend after all!  He would also take the time to sit with you, want to talk with you, and be a part of your life.  And why would the King do that?  Because His life is enriched and made better by having you as His friend!!!

Can you imagine how boring and terrible it would be to be a King, but have no one to share it with?  No, your best friend, the King would want you to be with Him in His throne room, and perhaps even invite you to come sit next to Him on His throne sometimes so you could see the splendor of the view from the castle windows which allow Him to see over all His kingdom with complete clarity, from one expanse to the other.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful?!

In reality, I believe this is EXACTLY what our Lord and King wants for us – to be His Best Friend!  He calls to each of us to “Come unto me.”  “Come be my friend!”  “Share my kingdom with me!”  “Come eat, laugh, ENJOY all that I have to offer!”

Can you see it?  Can you imagine it?  He doesn’t want us to feel distant, unrecognized, or view Him as only an un-relatable being!  He wants us to partake of all that life has to offer with Him as our best friend!  And because of His Easter Atonement and Resurrection, he has literally walked with us our entire lives and completely understands everything about us – all our emotions, trials, tears, heartaches… and yes… even our happiness and joy!

As we begin to tear down the walls of our incorrect and incomplete views of who He really is, and begin to see Him as not only the Perfect, Mighty King, but also as our greatest friend and ally, then we will begin to not only see but also EXPREIENCE the JOY He has to offer us.

We can then look at the Easter weekend for what it truly is – A time of immense trial, pain, sacrifice and redemption – which should absolutely cause us to pause and bow our heads and bend our knees before He who rose triumphant from the Garden of sorrows and from the Tomb of death.

But it should also fill us with immeasurable JOY, knowing that the King who broke the bands of death, and holds the keys of liberation from death and hell, did so because He is our best and dearest friend – and He did all those things because He loves us and wants us to share in His JOY with Him!

So I invite you to open your minds.  Open your hearts.  Open your thoughts to the possibility of the most Human of all Humans (because He experienced it ALL in the garden) – your best friend, even Jesus Christ.  And as you humbly honor Him as your King, you will also find a deeper and more personal and fun-loving, joyful Friend.  And your relationship with Him will never be the same again!

I add my personal testimony and witness to countless others that not only is He the King of all Kings, and Lord of all Lords, but also our greatest friend and advocate with the Father!

Happy Easter and I hope and pray that we will not be blinded and only see Him for half of who He truly is, for He is everything we could ever hope for in a Friend, and wants to exceed our expectation in every way imaginable as we come to know Him better.  May we see and truly recognize and sing with all who know Him - that “This is He”