Sunday, April 26, 2015

Coming to Know God

“There are musicians but most of us are not musicians, some lacking musical talent, but the majority probably lacking inclination. But of those who are musically talented none ever becomes a great musician without years of persistent, continuous work. Great performers continue long hours of practice even though their reputations may be international. … No athlete becomes outstanding, no mechanic becomes skilled, no physician becomes an expert, no orator becomes great, no lawyer becomes renowned, except by persistent practice and many, many hours of hard work. … How foolish it would be for me to close my eyes and ears and say there are no musicians because I am not talented to become a musician; that there are no Edisons because I cannot become an inventor; that there are no artists because I do not have the talents and inclinations to become an artist. Does not reason tell us it is equally foolish for a man to declare there is no God simply because he has not discovered him? …
“He who makes no effort to learn of the existence of Deity will, in this life, likely not learn there is a Deity. But his ignorance does not warrant him in declaring there is no God.” (Joseph F. Merrill, The Truth-Seeker and Mormonism, Deseret Book Co., pp. 76–77.)

I was asked to speak about knowing God, but as you see from the quote I just read, it is something that takes hours and hours, years and years. We don't get to a finish line and, "Now I know God. I'm done." It is a life-long endeavor. And yet, hours and years of practicing it? It can't happen just by reading our scriptures and praying. We have to actually go out and live our life. 

So I turned to stories in the scriptures of people who spoke to God or Christ face to face. Who had special interactions with Him, so that I could draw conclusions of how to come to know God in our daily life.

Moses and the burning bush (in nature)  Exodus 3:21  
 Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, thepriest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
 And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.

Alma 30:44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of allthese thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and allthings denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
10 Be still, and know that I am God:
I can't help thinking that if Moses had been looking at his cellphone while he was leading the flock of sheep that he would have missed the burning bush and missed God entirely. How often do we allow ourselves to connect with God through nature? To be still? To see His hand and His works. 

Mary, mother of Jesus  (in parenthood)  
 Luke 2:19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
Being a parent gives us the opportunity to understand how God feels about us and sees us. Even on my kids' worst days I still am able to see all their potential and goodness. But in addition to that, we have the opportunity to see God in our Children. They are so innocent, they are windows to the divine. Tell story about Max and crying about the beautiful flowers.

The woman who anointed Christ’s feet  (in our service)
 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
 38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed themwith the ointment.
There are lots of examples in the New Testament of people who interacted with Jesus. I chose this one because this woman truly recognized Jesus for who and what He was. Her act was one of respect and gratitude, but also service. When we serve we come to know better Christ who “went about doing good.”  By developing Christlike attributes we will come to know Him. Jane and Christmas Stockings.

Saul/Paul  (in our sins)
 13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
 14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue,Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
 15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
 16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appearedunto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and awitness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness tolight, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
God has a higher calling for us. He welcomes us under his wings even in our sins. Turn to Him. He is never too far away. What can we learn of God when He calls us back from sin. We know He is both just and merciful. He is neither a vengeful wrathful God, spurring people on to acts of terror and violence, nor a big teddy bear who expects nothing of His children. But His grace is sufficient. God saw something more in Saul of Tarsus. Even in his vast and terrible sins. The best bishop, the best YW President, best YM pres. I have ever known have all wandered but were never lost to their Father in Heaven. 

On the Road to Emmaeus  (in those around us)
 13 ¶And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem aboutthreescore furlongs.
 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
 15 And it came to pass, that, while they communedtogether and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
 16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
 17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
 18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
 19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
 20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
 21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
 22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;
 23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.
 24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
 25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart tobelieve all that the prophets have spoken:
 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
 27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, heexpounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
 28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
 29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
 30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
 31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.

I sometimes wonder what Christ would look like if He came in our day. He loked like everyone else at the time in Jerusalem. They didn't recognize Him by looks but by how He made them feel.

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faithvirtue; and to virtue knowledge;
 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperancepatience; and to patience godliness;
 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
If this is the nature of God, then I guess we know Him now, right? These are just words to me. What do they mean, really? We are all children of God. We all have part of His divine nature within us. Look around you. Do you see those who exhibit faith? Virtue? Knowledge? Patience? Study them. Watch them. Try to be like them. That is how you come to understand the nature of God. 

Mary at the Tomb   (in our sorrow)
 14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
 15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

Mary recognized the Savior not because she saw Him, but because she recognized the way He said her name. It was probably one of the greatest sorrows of her life. Here she had put her faith in someone to be a Savior and now He was gone. Not just gone, His body had been stolen and probably desecrated. But then Christ called to her and she turned and recognized Him. Tell story about being angry with God. Are we allowing our sorrows to bring us nearer to God. To converse with Him and understand?

God is all around us if we will only take the time to listen and watch and recognize Him.

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