Friday, September 24, 2010

"... things don't just happen..."

Yesterday I probably had one of the most amazing experiences I can remember in the last year, maybe even longer.  We were on exchanges, and Elder Sneed was working with me for the day.  We'd had several appointments fall through, even some that we'd set up just earlier that morning.  On our way off of campus, heading over to another appointment, we passed an old Jeep in a parking lot.  We walked past, and after we got maybe twenty yards past, the driver tried to start the car.  It was turning over, but it wouldn't fire up.

I don't know anything at all about cars, so I felt that I really couldn't do much to help with the situation.  Elder Sneed had worked at a car dealership before he came out on a mission, so he knows a little bit about cars, and decided to go back and see if we could help.

We talked to the girl who was trying to start the car, and she said that sometimes it just won't start.  They popped the hood and fiddled around with a few things (I have no idea what), and Elder Sneed tried starting the car up.  Still nothing.  So we were looking at the car, and this guy walks past, and yelled out, "I'd blame God that it's not starting!"  Tonya, the girl, was kinda confused until she looked at our tags again and realized that we were missionaries.

The guy's comment really got to Elder Sneed, though.  He climbed back in the Jeep to start it up, and as he was getting in, he said to me, "I'll show him the power of God."  He turned the keys, and it started to turn over again.  Then, all of the sudden, it fired right up!  As he was getting it started, Tonya asked me if we were students at Western, and I explained that we are full-time missionaries, and we go around and talk to people about some of life's greater questions.  This was right as it fired up, so she was very thankful about that.

Elder Sneed climbed out of the Jeep, and Tonya turned to us and said, "So, you guys would be the ones to ask questions to, right?"  And of course, we said yes.  She told us that she had been atheist for her whole life, but that there were several times where things would happen that really start to make her wonder.  "Like, for instance," she said, "you guys were right here, and were able to start my car.  Things like that don't just happen..."

I bore my testimony to her that she was right, that things like that don't just happen, but that God has a plan for each of us, and He gives us opportunities to come to know that He really is there.  The Spirit was so strong, and she said that she really wanted to find out if there was a God out there, and we were able to get her information to get a hold of her.

I don't know, maybe it's not as neat when you just read through the account.  But I felt such a strong Spirit yesterday, and I knew that God was working miracles through us to reach out to one of His children.  I know that there are no coincidences in life, but that God puts us where we need to be, if we will simply follow the promptings we receive.  Things don't just happen.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Preparations for War

This morning I was studying in the Book of Mormon, specifically the book of Alma, chapters 47-57.  These used to be the chapters that I would often skip over, because I was pretty tired of reading the book of Alma.  There's like, five hundred million chapters, or so it used to seem.  And besides, they didn't really seem to have a lot of spiritual significance to me, so I didn't pay them much attention.

These chapters are, for the most part, taken from an account written by a man named Helaman, who was a missionary, a prophet, and a leader.  The Lamanites, who were wicked, came up against the Nephites, who were righteous, with the intent of overtaking and destroying them.  The Nephites merely wanted to protect their lands, their wives, and their children, and ensure that the people would be free to believe whatever they wished to.  Many fierce battles followed, and as I read through the accounts this morning, some very interesting things kept standing out to me.

Whenever the Nephites would begin to rely on their own strength or disobey God's commandments, the Lamanites would begin to have victories over them.  This taught me that I should never start to think that I can do things on my own.  God has given me the strength and ability to do all things that He needs me to do, but I have to always remember that those absolutely come from Him.

A man named Moroni was the leader of the Nephite forces throughout the land, and he did his very best to make sure that the people were prepared to defend themselves.  He would instruct them in the ways that they should raise up fortifications around the city, and he taught them to rely upon God for their deliverance.  This is the part that really hit me pretty hard.  So often in my own life, I take a "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it" attitude, and so when difficult times or temptations cross my path, I may have to scramble or struggle to overcome those.  But when I am prepared, I never have to worry.

Preparing ourselves against temptation isn't nearly as difficult as preparing a city for war.  We do not have to build mighty walls of stone and earth, nor do we need to raise tall watchtowers to spy on the enemy.  Our preparation, rather, is that of simply reading the scriptures, praying to God for understanding and strength, and heeding the words of His servants, the prophets.  As we do those things consistently and with full purpose of heart, we will be more than prepared to face anything that comes our way.

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

What sort of things can you do in your life to fortify and prepare yourselves?  Why not get started today?

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Sabbath Day

This whole past week, I've kinda felt like things have been weighing me down, kinda like something's been on my shoulders, you know?  I would be a little grumpy and irritable for no reason at all.  I'm still not sure what caused it, but I definitely know what fixed it.

Attending church every Sunday has definitely become one of the highlights of my week now.  As a kid, I grew up going to church every week.  It was just the thing to do in my family.  I didn't really understand the importance of it, and while I learned good things, I didn't let it sink in to my heart as well as I could have.

Coming out on my own, being away from family, has really changed that.  I no longer have my parents to lean on for everything, and I've for sure realized that the world can be a cruel place at times.  We go throughout our weeks, with varying degrees of success and incredibly varying types of reactions from people.  At times it can be easy to become discouraged or downhearted, and in those times, I begin to wonder.  Doubt and fear can so easily creep into our lives, and we truly need the edification and help that attending church can bring us.

"Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God..." (Exodus 20:9-10)  I definitely know that this is true with all my heart.  Throughout the week, we so often get caught up in the things of the world that we don't pay as much attention to the things that God has for us.  We don't always completely forget Him, but I find myself at times not always remembering everything I should, and beginning to rely upon myself instead.

As I sat in Church and listened to the talks that were given on faith, and how we can increase our faith, I just felt all my worries and things that were weighing me down lifted.  I felt rejuvenated and ready to face another week of whatever the world has to throw at me, because I know that my Savior lives, and I know that through Him, we can do all things that are expedient for us to do.  My heart and soul truly were lifted, and I know that it was only done because I had taken that step of faith and attended church, and I had opened my heart to the healing power of Christ's atoning sacrifice. As it says in Mosiah 14:4, "Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows."  He knows what we are going through, and he knows exactly how to heal us, if we but let Him.

So let Him.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

" faith, not by sight."

Yesterday we had a really interesting experience.  We were out going door-to-door in an apartment complex here in Kalamazoo, and we ran into this really neat guy.  He was super friendly, and very open to discussing his beliefs with us and all that.  So we sat and chatted with him for a while about the things we share with people.  It was going pretty well, and it seemed like things might be making sense to him.  But at one point in time, he stopped us, and asked, "How do you guys know those things are true?  A lot of those things you are talking about happened hundreds of years ago.  You weren't there to see them, I wasn't there to see them.  Who's to say that they aren't just stories that are passed on from generation to generation?"

We tried to help him understand that faith has to play a huge part in coming to believe in things.  I was that way for a while as well.  I wasn't really to sure what all was true.  I'd grown up going to church, and being told all the stories and everything, but it got to a point where I had to find out for myself.  I really had to study the scriptural stories, and the accounts of the life of our Savior Jesus Christ and come to find out for myself if it was true or not.  And because the Holy Ghost has testified to me of the truthfulness of those things, in my mind and in my heart, I don't have to see everything to believe.

Certainly, I think it would be amazing to see the Red Sea parted and the children of Israel walk through on dry ground, or to see Lazarus raised from the dead.  But the testimony I have is founded upon faith, upon just believing that those things are true.

In the Book of Mormon, it talks about how we can exercise our faith to come to know if something is true or right in our lives.  The prophet Alma is preaching to the people, and they are wondering how they can know if God is there, and how they can build their faith in Him.  Alma tells them that "faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if you have faith you hope for things which are not seen, which are true."  He goes on to explain that as we exercise our faith and test the word to see if it is true, we can find out for ourselves that it is true.  And then we can know that the things we are learning or feeling are good, because they begin to enlighten our minds and enlarge our souls.  As we come to know these things, then we no longer have to wonder if the stories we read or hear about from the scriptures are true, but we can know, not because we've seen them, but because we've felt that they are true and right.