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Thursday, April 30, 2015

11. Spiritual Ascension Step #5: Consecrate (Part 2 of 3)

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 11th examining the phrase "keepeth my commandments".

In my previous post, you read how the Lord wants you -- ALL of you! In giving your daily life to Him, by consecrating each and every day to Him, He will kill the natural man or woman and, in return, He will elevate your life in ways you had never imagined.

So, how do you do it?

Daily, Dedicated Devotion In All Things

"Thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times." (D&C 59:11).

The Start of Your Day

Talk to and learn from God when you first wake up.

"A morning prayer and an early search in the scriptures to know what we should do for the Lord can set the course of a day. We can know which task, of all those we might choose, matters most to God and therefore to us. I have learned such a prayer is always answered if we ask and ponder with childlike submission, ready to act without delay to perform even the most humble service." (Elder Henry B. Eyring, "This Day", April 2007 General Conference).

Then, as you arise from your prayer, you keep praying.

During Your Day

Admittedly, it's difficult to pray all the time. After all, let's face it -- you may have kids to get to school, work to do, errands or chores to perform, events to attend, etc. In short, you have life to live. For example, I'm pretty sure the Lord gets the fact that if you're an accountant, you can't very easily work on clients' tax forms if you're praying all the time. I'm also pretty sure it's hard for first-time mothers to enjoy the solemnities of prayer when their two year-old is throwing the biggest tantrum ever recorded in human history.

But what you can do is start whatever task you're doing with prayer. Talk to Him in the car. Say a prayer when you sit down at your desk and start working on stuff.
"But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul." (2 Nephi 32:9)
In other words, via prayer, consecrate your day.

The End of Your Day

Then, before you go to sleep every night, give an honest accounting as you Return and Report to a merciful, understanding, enthusiastic Father. OK, so you screwed up parts of your day. Maybe even the whole day. Yet to Him, the fact that you have sought out Father's assistance and advice in trying to truly consecrate your life to Christ will sometimes cause you to recollect these words:
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things." (Matthew 25:21,23)

The Blessings of Daily Consecration

"God seeks to have us become more consecrated by giving everything. Then, when we come home to Him, He will generously give us 'all that (He) hath' (D&C 84:38)." (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father", October 1995 General Conference)

As you go about your day, as you choose to serve Him in whatever you do, you pass from a spiritually infantile state to one which is mature before God.

You feel His love and appreciation. You'll come to know His voice better. You'll grow to love Him more:
"I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts...that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.
"For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?" (Mosiah 5:12-13)
You keep trying -- day after day after day.

And so what if you stumble, fall and feel humbled! I can guarantee (a word I rarely use in my blog) you that if you approach Heavenly Father in your evening prayers, as you seek His voice, His forgiveness and His advice on how to be stronger, He will tell you in your mind and in your heart that in relying upon the Atonement and by pressing forward with a steadfastness in Christ, that He is so proud of you, of who you are, and who you’re becoming.
"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." (Luke 9:24)
In my next post, we'll discuss the most profound, most important consecrating act you can ever perform in your life.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

10. Spiritual Ascension Step #5: Consecrate (Part 1 of 3)

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 10th examining the phrase "keepeth my commandments".

In my previous post, we discussed the fact that those who sought the Lord's forgiveness found that He was not only anxious to declare them clean, but He was also anxious to impart unto them greater manifestations of God. You make the first move, and He greets you "with open arms to receive you" (Mormon 6:17) into a totally higher level of spirituality and closeness to Him.

Thus, as you repent on a regular (even daily) basis, you may notice your life being blessed with greater amounts of grace! Because of that, you may also notice that you're also more willing to sacrifice your will for His.

What a wonderful feeling it is! You repent, you receive grace, you feel like giving yourself to God more, and He blesses you even more!

Elder Maxwell put it even more eloquently:
"As the sins of the telestial world are left behind, the focus falls ever more steadily upon the sins of omission, which often keep us from full consecration." (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Repentance", October 1991 General Conference)
I believe that repentance -- the giving of our burdens to Christ -- is one way you can consecrate your life to Him; for, by its very definition, consecration means to set apart or dedicate something as sacred, devoted to holy purposes.

Go Beyond Repentance! Turn Your Life -- ALL of it -- over to God

Psalm 61:3 says "For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy."

Proverbs 18:10 says "The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and are safe." 

But what does that mean? 

When you run into a tower, you disappear. When you run into the name of the Lord, it means to get inside His identity, His authority. Him. 

Rabbi Jonathan Cahn once explained that during Passover, the ancient Israelites had to get inside the house with the lamb to be safe. 

And so it is with you. Salvation means getting your life inside His life. Get your name inside His name, your weaknesses inside His strength, your unrighteousness inside His righteousness, and your sins inside His holiness. 

So, I ask you: is your life showing, or is His? 

Is your ego showing, or is He evident? 

If your life is still showing, it's not safe. Get covered. Get your life, heart, emotions, sins, fears, ego, ambition, and everything else inside the name, identity, authority and will of God. 

If you want to be safe, then disappear into Him. 

The name of the Lord is a strong tower. Run into it, and be safe.

King Benjamin -- who was no stranger to towers (Mosiah 2:7-8) -- called this "putting off the natural man", "yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit" and becoming "a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord." (Mosiah 3:19) 

Many tend to think that consecration is just a yielding up of our material possessions. 

Au contraire! Ultimate consecration is the yielding up of oneself to God -- all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind (Matthew 22:36-40). Then our performances will be fully consecrated for the lasting welfare of our souls (2 Nephi 32:9).
"True success in this life comes in consecrating our lives —- that is, our time and choices -— to God’s purposes (John 17:1,4; D&C 19:19). In so doing, we permit Him to raise us to our highest destiny." (Elder D. Todd Christofferson, "Reflections on a Consecrated Life", October 2010 General Conference)

Spiritually Growing Past Repentance

"For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day." (Exodus 32:29)

Consecration is a day-to-day process of dedication and re-dedication, probable mistakes, humility, refinement and purification.

Nobody is perfect in it. Yet every day, you pick yourself back up, immerse yourself in God's word and do your best to follow the example of the most consecrated person of all time, Jesus Christ.

"When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities." (Pres. Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1988, p. 4)

For example, this means you abandon such things as stubbornness, rebellion and rationalization and replace them with a desire for correction, by God, and acceptance of all that the Lord may require.

It means reprioritizing your life if you're more focused on sports than scriptures, finances than family, Sunday recreation time than the sacrament.

It means saying -- and meaning:

I'll go where you want me to go.
I'll do what you want me to do.
I'll be what you want me to be.

It means seeking for God's glory, the attitude of "how can I best serve?" -- wherever you go and whatever you do.

It means looking on your own time, talents, and possessions as stewardships.

It means that you recognize that nothing is your own. Everything is the Lord's.
"Christ says, Give me all of you! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU! ALL OF YOU! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self---in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart." C.S. Lewis
In my next post, we'll discuss how to actually do this -- how to consecrate your life on a daily basis, so you can reap the blessings and benefits of a truly consecrated life.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Are You Truly Giving God the BEST Part of Your Time and Devotion?

A month ago, I posted the following here:
"Ditch the smart phone and/or computer games, Netflix, watching college or pro sports for a while. In fact, show God that you place a higher priority in getting to know His son than anything the telestial world can offer you."
And then, just a few days ago, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn said:
"You've got to replace something for God. 
If you're going to give time to God, that's time that you would have been doing something else. You have to sacrifice that time in front of the television. Or sacrifice that time doing that other thing so you can give it to God. Then it's worth something. You would not accept leftovers. He would not accept leftovers to build a Tent of Meeting
You know, that is, if you wonder, what if God was that way with us, if He said, 'Well, you know, I don't have time for you now"? You're ready to worship Him and we take it for granted that He's going to be there. He doesn't have to be there. But He is there. We need to put Him the same way. We expect God to meet us at His whim, and yet, with our schedule, it revolves around us. That's not how He showed up in glory."  
"One of the signs that your life is revolving around God is that you revolve your schedule around God, not the other way around. You give the best. What's a tithe -- the tithe it's not the last part, it's the first part. You give the best part of your time. The best part of your devotion. The best part of your attention. Full attention!" 
"We are so plugged in to the world, that it's hard to be plugged in to God. We have to put things aside."  
"God required the [ancient Israelites'] tabernacle to be exactly, everything in it's place. Everything! And the thing is, if you build carelessly, if the Israelites built it carelessly, God would never show up. If they made a recommendation, if they couldn't care less, so you wonder and say 'How come I don't feel the presence of God"? Well, how much are you putting into your prayer life?"

The Presence in the Tent - April 5, 2015

I have no doubt whatsoever that God is anxious for you to enjoy a greater communion with Him. Because He won't force Himself on you, He awaits your thoughts, your acts of devotion (which includes your time) that demonstrate to Him that He's a critically important -- if not THE most important -- aspect of your life.

I invite you to repent. Replace the menial, temporal, temporary, fleeting, brief, momentary, cursory, transient, ephemeral, passing, transitory focuses of your life to a focus on Him. Put Him to the test, and see if He will fill it with more life and more light than your previous path could ever have supplied.
"And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." - Deuteronomy 6:5