The Rest of God

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“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was this gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest…. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief…. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 1-5,10-11,16).

What is the rest of the Lord? It is, in part, the glory of God. It is His power and His presence. His power and glory are restful and comforting. His glory sanctifies us, purging us of impurities and turning us into glorious beings. The rest of the Lord in this sense has nothing to do with physical activity or inactivity. It does not mean taking a break from work; it means the glory of God.

Yet, the rest of the Lord is also a break from labors: “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:10). We all need to take a break from time to time. However, oftentimes taking a break means doing a different kind of work. Work can be enjoyable. It can be fulfilling and rewarding. Work is not always tiring. This can be seen in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sundays (and other days of the week) can be busy with church service and activities. The least amount of time I spend devoted to church and church-related activities is about 7 hours per week (5 hours on Sunday – meetings plus church service – and 2 hours for youth activities during the week). Some weeks have more time requirements and infrequently, some weeks have less time requirements. There are other responsibilities but my point is that I find myself quite rested on a Sunday, even if I spend much of the day in church-related activities. This is because the work of the Lord is restful. This is why resting from our labors does not mean we are not working. It means that we turn away from our labors to the Lord’s.

God has promised that to those who labor diligently in their faith will obtain the rest of the Lord. They will obtain audience at the throne of grace and partake of the mercy of God which is in Christ. Those who receive this rest receive the glory of God, making the works of God their works forevermore.

The Gift We All Can Give This Christmas – Part 3

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This story of forgiveness reminds me of a story Truman Madsen told about George Albert Smith, who was a prophet of God. Pres. Smith was a peacemaker who sought never to “be an enemy to any living soul” (The Presidents of the Church, Madsen, p.222). The story goes as follows, “George Albert Smith had an old 1936 Ford with a very precious blanket on the front seat made by Navajo Indians; they had sewn the names of all the Twelve into the blanket, along with his own name. The car wasn’t locked because it was in a guarded Church parking lot. But the blanket was stolen anyway. George Albert walked out from his meetings and found the blanket was gone. He could have called the mayor of Salt Lake City and said, ‘What kind of city are you running? I’ll have your head if you don’t get that blanket back.’ Or he could have called the chief of police and said the same thing. Or he might have said to the guard, probably a Latter-day Saint, ‘Are you blind?’ What did he do? He said simply, ‘I wish we knew who it was so that we could give him the blanket also, for he must have been cold; and some food also, for he must have been hungry.'” (ibid., p.224). Now that is forgiveness! The situation was not as drastic as the one the Amish faced but Pres. Smith’s response showed his forgiveness and love for others, even those who wronged him – especially those who wronged him.

Forgiveness is such an important principle and commandment that when Jesus taught His disciples how to pray He included the following phrase: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). Again, the lesson is that we are required to forgive others if we want to be forgiven. That seems like a pretty good condition for forgiveness. After Jesus ended His prayer He said, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15). That seems like a strong case for the importance of forgiving others!

I have been writing about the need we have for forgiveness and to forgive others. To help me transition back to a Christmas theme, I will quote some of the lyrics from the hymn As Now We Take the Sacrament.

“As now our minds review the past,
We know we must repent;
The way to thee is righteousness—
The way thy life was spent.
Forgiveness is a gift from thee
We seek with pure intent.

With hands now pledged to do thy work,
We take the sacrament.”

“Forgiveness is a gift” from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It is Jesus’ Christmas gift to each of us as we repent. Forgiveness is the gift that each of us, no matter how rich or poor we may be, can afford to give to someone this Christmas season. What greater gift is there than the peace that comes from wrongs and trespasses forgiven? What greater gift could we give ourselves than to let go of the hurt and bitterness and pain we retain when we are unforgiving? This Christmas, give the gift of forgiveness to someone who needs yours.

The Gift We All Can Give This Christmas – Part 1

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As Christmas day approaches some of us might be worried about getting presents and gifts planned, organized, completed, purchased, packed, wrapped, and shipped. Many might wonder how they are going to pay for presents. Others simply use credit and do not worry about paying for Christmas until their bills come due later (in fact, approximately 25% of Americans, according to one survey, take one year or more to pay off their Christmas debt {source}). Whether we can afford expensive gifts or no gifts, we can all afford one gift at Christmas – the gift of forgiveness. We can forgive others for any real or perceived wrongs they did unto us or loved ones and in turn we can be forgiven by God.

Pres. Henry B. Eyring wrote,

“Many of us have lost loved ones to death. We may be surrounded by individuals who seek to destroy our faith in the gospel and the Lord’s promises of eternal life. Some of us are troubled with illness and with poverty. Others may have contention in the family or no family at all. Yet we can invite the Light of Christ to shine on us and let us see and feel some of the promised joys that lie before us.

“For instance, as we gather in that heavenly home, we will be surrounded by those who have been forgiven of all sin and who have forgiven each other. We can taste some of that joy now, especially as we remember and celebrate the Savior’s gifts to us. He came into the world to be the Lamb of God, to pay the price of all of the sins of His Father’s children in mortality so that all might be forgiven. In the Christmas season we feel a greater desire to remember and ponder the Savior’s words. He warned us that we cannot be forgiven unless we forgive others (see Matthew 6:14–15). That is often hard to do, so you will need to pray for help. This help to forgive will come most often when you are allowed to see that you have given as much or more hurt than you have received.

“When you act on that answer to your prayer for strength to forgive, you will feel a burden lifted from your shoulders. Carrying a grudge is a heavy burden. As you forgive, you will feel the joy of being forgiven. At this Christmastime you can give and receive the gift of forgiveness. The feeling of happiness that will come will be a glimpse of what we can feel at home together in the eternal home for which we yearn.” (Ensign, December 2009).

Forgiveness is precisely what Christmas is about. 2000 years ago a baby was born in humble circumstances. His birth came without much earthly adulation but the heavens were resplendent with signs and wonders for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Angels appeared to shepherds, wise men followed a gleaming star, and the righteous and wicked alike went without night in the New World. That tiny baby was the Son of God, God Himself – the creator and Lord of heaven and earth. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Isaiah, Moses, Nephi, Alma, and everyone else. He who showed his spirit body to the brother of Jared now had a body of flesh. Christ the Conquering King was yet the Babe in Bethlehem. There is little we know about His early life; we do know Jesus grew up in Nazareth – Bethlehem was merely the city of His birth. He was visited by wise men some time in his first few years of life. He grew up learning from Joseph and Mary. At age 12 He spent time teaching the priests in the temple – they marveled at His knowledge. How did a 12 year old boy know so much? At age 30 Jesus started His ministry full-time. Over the next three years He lived without a home, spending most of His time walking the dusty roads of Galilee and Jerusalem. He called men to be apostles. He taught, healed, and performed other miracles – the greatest were in forgiving sin. Jesus then instituted the sacrament, atoned for all the sins, sicknesses, and pain of humankind, stood trial, and died upon the cross. But that was not the end! On the 3rd day Jesus rose from the dead, bringing everlasting life to all people. He rose triumphant from the grave, victorious over death and hell.

Another Testament of Christ – A Video Slideshow

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In our busy lives we often find the Christmas season the most busy. There are parties and gatherings to attend. There is shopping to complete, food to make, and jobs to do. We might spend time decorating our homes with garlands, wreathes, and trees of green. We might put up colored lights and nativity scenes. We might have snow covered grounds or bright and warm sunshine.

I hope that during this time of year we take time to focus on the Savior, who is the focus of the season. Is He the focus of yours? Should you find yourself frazzled from a frenetic schedule, take time to break from your busy-ness and ponder the birth and life of Jesus Christ. Take time to read the scriptures, view art of the Savior, listen to music about Him. Here is a beautiful video with photos and video depicting the Savior’s life.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0F5QmFUgec]

Remembering the True Meaning of Christmas

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In the midst of the Civil War, following the news that his son had been injured in fighting, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the following words:

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

These words still resonate strongly today in our tumultuous world. People cry for peace but peace is rarely found. Nations strive against nations. Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers strive against one another. Hate, mistrust, abuse, and violence are rampant. It is enough to make people despair – and many do. Many feel that hope is lost; that “hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.” The answer for all this despair and darkness is not found in human philosophies. It is not found in worldly goods. The Answer once lay in a manger surrounded by animals and bathed in starlight.

In the most humble of circumstances, the Prince of Peace, the King of Heaven and Earth, was born. He came with no great fanfare, other than the witness of angels to shepherds and the witness of a star to those with eyes to see. This singular event was the start of the most important years – 33 of them – in the history of the world.

In contrast to the humble birth and life of the Savior, the Christmas season is full of frenetic shopping and greedy consumerism. However, there is much positive too; it is also a season full of giving, thanksgiving, love, family, and joy. At this Christmas time, I pray that we all might remember who Christmas really is about. The LDS Church has a webpage devoted to the True Meaning of Christmas.

Christmas should not be about getting, it should be about giving. It is a time that we celebrate the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ. He gave His life – His whole life – for us so that we could be saved. Just as wise men brought the young Jesus gifts, so too should we give gifts to others. The best gifts are not the ones that cost money. We should give of our time and our love. We should give our forgiveness unto others if we feel that they have wronged us. We should give service to those in need and even to those who do not think they are in need.

Pres. Thomas S. Monson said, “For a few moments, may we set aside the catalogs of Christmas, with their gifts of exotic description. Let’s even turn from the flowers for Mother, the special tie for Father, the cute doll, the train that whistles, the long-awaited bicycle—even the books and videos—and direct our thoughts to God-given gifts that endure” (Source).

The greatest gift we could give this Christmas time is the gift of our hearts, our souls, and our will to the Savior. We should rededicate ourselves to Him and to living His gospel. We should do the things that the Savior would do – help others, lift those who suffer, do good to those who spitefully use us, and share of our abundance (or even in our lack of abundance) with those around us.

Here is a beautiful video the LDS Church produced that explains the true meaning of Christmas.

I pray that in our world there will be peace this Christmas season. While we may not be able to bring an end to war, we can do our part in promoting peace by having peace in our families, our homes, and our hearts. May we keep the pealing of Christmas bells always in our hearts. May we always remember that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;/ The wrong shall fail, the right prevail/ With peace on earth, good will to men!”

Alma and Amulek as Types of Christ, Part 5

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After the fall of the prison many came running to see what caused the commotion. When they saw Alma and Amulek walking out unscathed and filled with the power of God they “fled from the presence of Alma and Amulek even as a goat fleeth with her young from two lions” (Alma 14:29). The righteous of the Lord who are of the House of Israel “shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest” (3 Ne. 21:12; see also Mormon 5:24 and 3 Ne. 20:16). Christ is compared to a lion in the scriptures and was born into a house of lions (see Gen. 49:9). Indeed, He is “the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David” (Rev. 5:5). Those who fled from Alma and Amulek fled as goats. Goats are often used in the scriptures as an analogy for the wicked: “And before him [the Son of Man] shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left…. Then shall he say…unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:32-33,41). The Good Shepherd calls His sheep and they follow Him. The goats, those who will not hear His voice and follow Him, flee from before His presence just as they did from before Alma and Amulek.

As we study the scriptures we can learn many things and see many parallels with the life of the Savior. We may even see some parallels in our own lives.

Alma and Amulek as Types of Christ, Part 4

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After many days Alma and Amulek were once again visited in prison by the chief judge as well as teachers and lawyers. The chief judge hit them again and taunted, “If ye have the power of God deliver yourselves from these bands, and then we will believe that the Lord will destroy this people according to your words” (Alma 14:24). Throughout his crucifixion the Savior received similar taunts (see Luke 23:35; Mark 15:31-32; Matt. 27:42). After all the people visiting Alma and Amulek in prison had hit them and taunted them, Alma cried forth saying, “How long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord? O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance” (Alma 14:26). In His infinite agony, the Savior cried similar words on the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mark 15:34; see also Matt. 27:46). After this cry, Alma and Amulek “broke the cords with which they were bound” (Alma 14:26). The Savior broke the cords of death, “And the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death” (Alma 11:42).

When Alma and Amulek broke their bonds, those who came to taunt and torment were afraid and started to flee (see Alma 14:26-27). Some (although they were not wicked), when seeing the empty tomb and hearing the angels proclaim Christ’s resurrection, had the same feeling of fear: “And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed…for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). Those who fled from Alma and Amulek were so afraid that they “fell to the earth, and did not obtain the outer door of the prison” (Alma 14:27). Just as these wicked people did not make it out of the prison, the wicked who reject Christ remain in spirit prison. The prison then fell down around Alma and Amulek, “The earth shook mightily, and the walls of the prison were rent in twain”; those who were in the prison taunting Alma and Amulek “were slain by the fall [of the prison]” (Alma 14:27). At Christ’s death there were earthquakes in the Old World as well as the New: “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Matt. 27:51; see also 3 Ne. 8). Those who reject the Lord suffer spiritual death just as those at Alma and Amulek’s prison suffered physical death.

Alma and Amulek “came forth out of the prison and they were not hurt; for the Lord had granted unto them power, according to their faith which was in Christ…[for] they were loosed from their bands; and the prison had fallen to the earth” (Alma 14:28). Christ came forth from the prison of Death through the power of God, “And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power” (1 Cor. 6:14); “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17-18). “And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins [and death]” (Hel. 5:11). Christ opened the prison doors for all that we will have power over death and be resurrected. He also opened the prison doors for others to be saved from spiritual death and hell through faith in His name.

Alma and Amulek as Types of Christ, Part 3

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Alma and Amulek, like the Savior, showed poise amid provocation, “And the Judge smote them again upon their cheeks, and asked: What say ye for yourselves?…And it came to pass that Alma and Amulek answered him nothing” (Alma 14:15,17). Before Herod, the Savior likewise said nothing, “He [Herod] questioned with him in many words; but [Jesus] answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). After Alma and Amulek’s refusal to speak, the chief judge “smote them again, and delivered them to the officers to be cast into prison” (Alma 14:17). Jesus faced a similar experience, “And when [Pilate] had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified” (Matt. 27:26). The Savior was delivered unto crucifixion and the prison of death, which prison He would overcome and destroy. “And when [Alma and Amulek] had been cast into prison three days” (Alma 14:18) their incarceration was interrupted by more questioning from lawyers, judges, and church leaders. Unlike Alma and Amulek, the Savior rose and was freed from His prison, from the grave, on the third day (John 19:40-42; 20:1,9; Luke 24:46). Alma and Amulek, again like the Savior (see Mark 15:3), did not respond to the questions of the disingenuous and wicked civic and religious leaders (see Alma 14:18-19).

Many people “came forth also, and smote them” (Alma 14:20), just as the Savior was repeatedly smitten. Again, Alma and Amulek were mocked by those asking them why they did not save themselves. Alma and Amulek were further abused, “And many such things did they say unto [Alma and Amulek], gnashing their teeth upon them, and spitting upon them, and saying: How shall we look when we are damned?” (Alma 14:21). The Savior experienced all these same abuses. “The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth [meaning that they insulted the Savior and gnashed their teeth at Him]” (Matt 27:44). The High Priest and others “spit in [Jesus’] face, and buffeted him; and other smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” (Matt. 26:67-68).

Alma and Amulek spent more days in prison suffering mocking and derision. Their captors “did withhold food from them that they might hunger, and water that they might thirst; and they also did take from them their clothes that they were naked” (Alma 14:22). The Savior suffered similar thirst, “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth” (John 19:28-29; see also Mark 15:36). [This also leads to an interesting aside about prophecies. The Savior knew the scriptures about Himself: “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psalm 69:21) and He acted upon this knowledge to fulfill this prophecy. Prophecies often require effort to be fulfilled – they are not usually independent of human action. The other thing we learn from the scripture in Psalm 69 is that the Savior also was hungry and probably was offered something very unpleasant to eat, even though it is not mentioned in the Gospels. This further strengthens the relationship between Alma and Amulek’s sufferings and the Savior’s because Alma and Amulek were denied food and drink]. Also like Alma and Amulek, the Savior was stripped of His clothing: “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part” (John 19:23). Alma and Amulek, once stripped of clothing, “were bound with strong cords, and confined in prison” (Alma 14:22). The Savior, once crucified, likewise was bound with the cords of death and confined in the prison of the grave.