Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Earnest Money

from a symposium paper on Covenant Renewal by Matthew Clayton:

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul uses a unique Greek word (see 2 Corinthians 1:22) to describe our state in Christ. He says that we have been “given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” The word translated as “earnest” comes from the Greek word arrabon, which in modern Greek means “engagement ring.” When a young man places a ring on his sweetheart’s hand, their relationship changes. She is now promised to him. Likewise, when a follower of Christ is baptized, confirmed, and then receives the Holy Ghost, he or she is the Lord’s. The Spirit is a sign in the present of what is sure to come in the future. Explaining this very same Pauline concept, Brother Millet taught that
the same Holy Spirit of Promise that searches the hearts of men and women, that ratifies and approves and seals ordinances and lives, that same Holy Spirit serves, as Paul indicates, as the “earnest of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14). The Lord’s “earnest money” on us, his down payment, his indication to us that he fully intends to save us, is the Holy Spirit. We know that we are on course when the Spirit is with us. We know that our lives are approved of God when the Spirit is with us. We know that we are in Christ, in covenant, when the Spirit is with us. And we know that we are saved when the Spirit is with us. If we live in such a way that we can partake of the sacrament worthily, hold and use a current temple recommend, and maintain the gift and gifts of the Spirit, then we are in the line of our duty; we are approved of [in] the heavens, and if we were to die
 suddenly, we would go into paradise and eventually into the celestial kingdom.[17]
Paul is teaching that God has invested in us. He has put earnest money down for us as a goodwill gesture to show that he is serious about making the purchase (i.e., saving us). If we worthily partake of the sacrament, we can have the Spirit with us. If we feel that Spirit comforting, directing, and enlightening our lives, we can know with surety that we are receiving God’s seal, his affirmation that we are on track.
Image result for last supper prints lds walter rane
In Remembrance of Me by Walter Rane
It is interesting that from Adam to Christ, sacrifice pointed toward the Atonement. When Jesus prepared the Last Supper for his disciples, the bread, representing his flesh, was blessed and then broken (see Matthew 26:26) to symbolize the fact that for millennia people had looked forwardto this time. But since that time the sacrament replaced sacrifice, and people have looked back to remember his sacrifice. This is evidenced in the Book of Mormon: in a setting after Christ’s Atonement had been made, Jesus broke the bread first and then blessed it (see 3 Nephi 18:3). That sequence, which continues today, indicates that although the sacrifice was already offered, it is made holy for us again.

Having the Spirit in this life is the best indicator of our eternal destination. Seeking to keep the companionship of the Holy Spirit is the most important thing we do, thus we meet each week to remember him (see 3 Nephi 18:7). The repetition of this ordinance weekly is vital for us. As we return faithfully each week to humbly take the sacrament we will have the peace borne of the Spirit. The grand secret is that if we have the Spirit, all of our covenants and their blessings are in force. We must be careful not to skip over that vital step in the process. I believe we as a people habitually neglect the Spirit. We neglect not only his influence, but we downplay his role in the process of salvation. In John 6:54 Jesus specifically included eternal life as one of the blessings made available via the sacrament. If this is true, and it is, then why would anyone ever miss a sacrament meeting? This is why it is so crucial for us to seek and retain the Spirit in our life.

President Joseph Fielding Smith, put the relationship between the sacrament and the Spirit into proper context when he taught,
No member of the Church who refuses to observe this sacred ordinance can retain the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Ghost. . . . When we eat the bread and drink the water, we covenant that we will eat and drink in remembrance of the sacrifice which he made for us in the breaking of his body and the shedding of his blood; that we are willing to take upon us the name of the Son; that we will always remember him; that we will always keep his commandments which he has given us. In this act we witness to the Father, by solemn covenant in the name of the Son, that we will do all of these things. Through our faithfulness to these covenants, we are promised that we will always have the Spirit of the Lord to be with us in all truth and righteousness . . . . This covenant we are called upon to renew each week, and we cannot retain the Spirit of the Lord if we do not consistently comply with this commandment.[30]

President Spencer W. Kimball taught us, “Remembering covenants prevents apostasy. That is the real purpose of the sacrament, to keep us from forgetting [what we have] . . . covenanted at the water’s edge or at the sacrament table and in the temple.”

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Oh, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Nativity Countdown #24

I started writing this post a few years ago. I imagine it comes from a little program I have in my files which I wanted to put in digital form. We've used it in the past for a family home evening lesson, but it would also make a great Christmas Eve family program, and is similar to what we did last year with our good friends and their children. Children bring such innocence and enthusiasm to sharing the Christmas story. Every single rendition is beautiful and awesome! And that reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas books - The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I think it's time to read it again!

The ancient prophet Isiah wrote the following:
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

"Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful"

Luke 2:1-5

Luke 2:6-7

"Away in a Manger"

Luke 2:8-14

"Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains"

Luke 2:15-20

"Joy to the World"

Matthew 2:1-6

"We Three Kings of Orient Are" or "With Wondering Awe"

Matthew 2:7-12

"Silent Night"

Friday, December 23, 2016

Nativity Countdown #23

Speaking of little children, I love the Precious Moments figurines, but since they're porcelain, I'm not going to let little kids play with them! This set reminds me of my childhood, and particularly my youngest sister.

I considered pontificating more on light and goodness and the blessings of the Christmas season, but I've run out of time and now my kids are here and it's time to start celebrating. Enjoy your family and friends, and thanks for letting me share my nativities with you.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Nativity Countdown #22

This set we've had for many, many years, and if I recall correctly it was a gift from my parents. I love that it's not breakable! This is the set I've taken to Primary to use as a visual aid for music and/or sharing time, or in class. We never did have a Fisher Price Little People nativity set, but we didn't need one! While that is a terrific set, and maybe someday we'll get one, I like that this one is more realistic and yet is suitable for children.

So, this set reminds me of the importance of music, and of using it to praise and worship God. What Christmas hymns are you getting ready to sing this weekend?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Nativity Countdown #21

Not all of our nativity reminders are three dimensional. Over the years we've had many, many two dimensional ones. Maybe they're a bit more disposable, but they're also more interactive. When we're coloring, we have an opportunity to really think about our Savior and what he means to us.

I'm reminded of one year when I bought some 'color your own nativity" gift bags from Oriental Trading. The idea was to have a "crafternoon" one day in early December, and then use them for Christmas presents. I don't think I ever followed through on the art day, but we did use the bags for several years. And it was a good reminder on Christmas morning of the real meaning of Christmas.

I also remember a two dimensional nativity that turned into a three dimensional one from my Primary days. Wow! I haven't thought of that in decades, but I loved sharing it with my family. And thanks to Google I found a picture of one!

Last year's issue of the December Friend had several little articles dealing with the symbolism of the nativity. It's a great review, for young and old alike.

We can be like Mary and Joseph by doing what God wants us to do.

We can be like the shepherds and Wise Men by following Jesus Christ.

We can be like the angels by telling others the real story of Christmas.

And we can be like Jesus by following His example!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Nativity Countdown #20

This is another more traditional set that I picked up one year after Christmas. I liked it because it came with a stable, and at the time not many of my sets did. However, today I want to focus on the shepherd. There's so much that could be said, but right now they remind me that the Savior is also known as the Good Shepherd, and that reminds me of the seven "I am" statements we just studied in seminary.

"I am the bread of life." John 6:35
"I am the light of the world." John 8:12
"I am the door of the sheep." John 10:7
"I am the good shepherd." John 10:11
"I am the resurrection, and the life." John 11:25
"I am the way, the truth, and the life." John 14:6
"I am the true vine." John 15:1

Jesus Christ provides light and life to all of us. He is there to protect us, to show us the way home to Heavenly Father, and to be our advocate and redeemer. I am so grateful for him!

Here are a couple of magazine articles if you want to learn a bit more about shepherds - from the Ensign and from the Friend.