Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 4: Closer to Christ

Question: Do I really love Christ?

Read: John 13:34-35  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
John 14:15  If ye love me, keep my commandments.
3 Nephi 13:20-21, 24, 33  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Ponder: Do I keep the commandments or am I guilty of "selective" obedience?  Have I put another God before Christ?

It is so easy to keep the "big" commandments.  Thou shalt not kill.  Ok, I can do that.  Thou shalt not steal.  No big deal, I can do that too.  But what about the less obvious ones?  What about the little ones that no one really sees?  Maybe sometimes the less convenient ones?  Be kind, love your neighbors, love your enemies, serve those around you...  Right is right even when no one is looking and wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.  That is hard sometimes.  It shouldn't be, but it is.  Do we just pick and choose the easy commandments for us to keep or do we try our best to keep all of them?  Sometimes loving others is the hardest thing to do.  Sometimes others aren't very lovable, but we are commanded to love them as we love ourselves.  In fact love is one of the greatest commandments!  Love of God and love of neighbors.

Years ago my mom taught at a little country school.  She had grades 1 - 5 (I believe) and then there was a kindergarten teacher in the school too.  At the beginning of the year things were fine.  The other teacher was very nice and they got along great.  A little bit into the school year the other teacher started getting really mean.  She would talk about my mom behind her back, she would yell at my mom and threaten her, she would tell lies about my mom.  There were times she even came up to my mom, scissors in hand shaking them and pointing them in my mom's face while she yelled.  My mom is a very strong willed, southern belle and she didn't particularly appreciate what this other lady was doing.  At first she let her strong southern pride stand up and fight back, but that did no good.  Then she got the idea to love her to death.  Her strong will and ability to control her emotions combined with a lot of prayer and humility, allowed her to be so sweet and so kind to this lady that the attempts to start a fight were useless.  She would come in mad and my mom would respond with a smile and a helpful attitude.  The other teacher would stand there speechless.  How can you fight against kindness?  There were days my mom would still have to come home and vent about all the attacks from the day, but she was able to continue this kindness and display of love until Christmas when the other teacher finally moved away.  Would it have been easier to continue to fight back and dish out what she was serving?  Yes!  And everyone would have thought that my mom had the right to do it too.  But she didn't.  She loved her until the day she walked out of the building and never came back.  My mom did the right even when it was hard.  She did the right even when no one was looking.  She kept that hard commandment to love our enemies and do good to them that despitefully use you.  That has been a great example to me.

Have I put another God before Christ?  What are other gods?  Money, possessions, jobs, distractions, leisure time, even relationships.  It is so easy to get caught up in all that is around us and forget our real purpose here.  Our purpose is to live our lives righteously so that we can return to our Heavenly Father and live with Him again.  That is not an automatic thing.  We don't just get to go to Heaven while we do whatever we want down here.  We don't even get to go to Heaven just for saying that we believe in Christ.  We get to Heaven by doing.  Doing what is right, following Christ's example, keeping the commandments, repenting when we fall short and then trying again, enduring to the end.  There are so many things that get in our way and if we don't do some self evaluating along the way, we will be caught up in the world before we know it. 

I have blogged before about our life in Wyoming.  Michael's job caused him to be gone from home two out of every three weeks.  I was home alone with the children, he was alone at a man camp.  The lifestyle he had to live in was horrible.  He was the only man on his crew that didn't drink and one of two or three that didn't use tobacco.  When the men were off shift they would go to the bars and strip clubs.  There were drugs and crime and all sorts of things going on.  Language was horrible.  Some men had two completely different lives - a wife and kids at home and a girlfriend and kids in North Dakota.  After all, they would see their girlfriends more than they would their wives because they were at work for 2 weeks and only home for 1.  The wives liked the money so much that they didn't care what went on as along as they got his paycheck!  Some wives would force their husbands to stay there even though they hated the job and lifestyle because the wives had gotten to accustomed to the things that they "needed" the money to keep getting the things.  It was sad and scary.  I didn't want Michael to become one of those men and I didn't want to become one of those wives.  We knew it was not good for our family relationship or our relationship with God.  We gave up the money and the ability to have more things and traded it for our family and our standing with God.  Is it hard?  In ways.  We struggle to make ends meet.  We don't get many wants, but we have most of our needs.  We don't get to do things we used to be able to afford to do.  It is hard to pay the bills and I cringe every time I go grocery shopping.  Christmas and birthdays can be depressing because of the financial situation, but we have each other and that is what is most important.  The kids have their daddy home every night.  He doesn't miss birthdays and holidays.  He can go to church with us on Sundays and be home for our family prayers each day.  We are happier because we are trying to make sure that we are putting Christ first in our lives and not letting the desire for things or "other gods" get in our way.

My feelings are that if I am doing my best to do what is right, He will take care of me.  If I put Him first in my life He will not fail me.  Will I be able to sail through life with no difficulties?  No, but I will have what I need.  One last story and then I promise I am done for the day :)  When I was a missionary in Ireland our days would be spent walking through the neighborhoods talking to people on their doorsteps or on the streets, trying to share a message of Christ.  The first month or so I would come home at nights and my feet would hurt really bad.  They would be swollen and tender.  In the morning when I would first get up and stand on them, pain would shoot through my feet and I would have to walk so carefully.  I prayed for my feet to get better.  I reminded Heavenly Father that I was there doing His work so He needed to help me.  My feet didn't get better and I was frustrated.  Then one day while saying my prayers I was overwhelmed with a feeling of peace.  I knew that He was there and He was helping me.  He didn't take the pain away, but He gave me the strength each day to get up and do my work, to take those first few painful steps every morning.  Eventually it did get better, but I will never forget that lesson I learned.  Doing the right thing doesn't guarantee a pain free, easy ride.  In fact, a lot of times it guarantees the opposite!  It does, however, guarantee His companionship and strength, His love and guidance and His promise of eternal life with Him.

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