Saturday, November 29, 2014

But If Not

What is your faith based on?

You might say, "I have faith that God will bless me if I follow the commandments." Or perhaps, "I have faith in good times to come," or, "I have faith that God will deliver me from my troubles."

Well, that sounds great. But what if you don't feel like you are being blessed? What if good times don't come? What if trials and tribulations follow you around your whole life, and no matter how hard you try, you can't be rid of them? 

What then? Is your faith going to disappear the moment your life takes a turn for the worst and you feel like God has stopped blessing you and answering your prayers?

Consider the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. They were told that if they would not bow down and worship Nebuchadnezzar's idol, they would be thrown in the fire to die. They responded by saying:
17 - If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
18 - But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3)

What do you think these men based their faith on? Signs, miracles, and God-given perfect lives? Do you think they expected things of God like some people do today (and surely also did back then)? No, I think their faith was based on something higher - trust in God, His plan, and His timing. God would rescue them from the fire, but if not - if that wasn't His will - then they would worship and trust in Him still. 

Friends, life doesn't always go as planned. Sometimes we are asked to endure a very hard trial, and no matter how often or how hard we pray, sometimes things don't get any easier. 

Why? Well, sometimes we are asked to endure trials because they strengthen us. We learn to trust in God and we gain perspective when we experience challenges. That's how it should work, anyways, but some people don't let themselves be strengthened. They choose to give up on God and let go of their faith. 

Will this be you? Are you going to hold on to faith as long as things go your way - but let go as soon as God's will doesn't line up with yours? Or are you willing to trust that God is all-knowing, infinitely loving, and always has a plan? 

He does always have a plan. He is always looking out for you. He is forever waiting for you to stretch out your hand and commit to follow Him no matter what. 

I will choose to follow the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. 
Because I know that God can take away my sorrow and heartache - but if not;
I know that God can give me a successful and full life - but if not;
I know that God will deliver me from financial woes - but if not;
I know that God will bless me with a healthy body - but if not;

If not, I will trust in Him still. I will not succumb, I will not let go of my faith. Because my faith isn't founded on a perfect life. It isn't founded on the belief that God will always fulfill my wishes. My faith is built on something higher. My faith is in God's will, God's plan, and God's timing, not my own.

Let us all choose to follow the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego and have faith in God no matter what He has planned for us.


Monday, November 24, 2014

because I have been given much

Hello all!

With Thanksgiving and the holiday season coming up, I've been thinking about living with gratitude and serving others. I found this video today and I really liked it because it reminded me to hold dear everything God has given me.

I know that I am so blessed and have so much to be grateful for. This video reminded me that I need to be expressing my gratitude more often. I want God to know every day how grateful I am. I don't want to wait until a really hard challenge comes my way before I start praising God and showing thankfulness.

This video also reminded me of a verse I read a couple weeks ago that I really liked:
D&C 42:30 - And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken. 

Consecrate means "to make or declare sacred; set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity." So what does it mean to consecrate of your properties for the support of the poor? I liked what the man in this video said - "live simply so other people can simply live." 

What this verse taught me is that I should dedicate everything God has given me to the service of others. I have been blessed so abundantly, and I know that Heavenly Father wants me to use the resources I've been given to improve the lives of others. What an amazing calling - to be able to show your gratitude by dedicating all that you have to the service of others and therefore to the service of God.

I am so grateful for this time of year because the holiday season fills our hearts with the spirit of gratitude, love, and service. Let us be grateful servants all the year round. Decide now to dedicate all that you have to the service of God. 

Have a great Thanksgiving! 

Love, Haley. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

living higher

What does it mean to live higher?

To me, it's about progress. It's about perspective and purpose. It's about getting outside yourself and serving God and your fellow man.

But wait - when I have so much going on in my own life, how can I possibly worry about purpose?! I'm barely able to even keep up on my homework every day!

It can be hard to make time for meaningful service and devotion to God. But here is what I have learned: you will find the time if you look for it. I definitely believe that God will help you make the time you need to serve Him if you are willing to make the effort.

I really admire the fact that this woman spends so much time working on a project that isn't easy - but one that helps so many people. She sacrifices her time and energy working on these dresses not because she gets recognition from man, but because she knows it is the right thing to do and it gives her purpose.

What a wonderful thing it is to live higher, to live for more. 

My very favorite scripture of ALL TIME can be found in the Doctrine and Covenants and this is how it reads:
D&C 25:10 - And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.

Friends, there is a better world out there. There is a better world that we should be preparing for. When I die and meet God, I want to be comfortable where He is. I want to live my life in a way that prepares me to dwell with God. It is my belief that I can do that by living a life full of service and purpose. I want to spend my entire life reaching higher and striving to be better than I was yesterday. 

It isn't easy. It takes work. But I know that the more I work hard to improve, the more I serve God's children, the more purposeful my life becomes, the closer I will be to God and the more prepared I will be to stand in His presence. I know that I am already blessed for my efforts now, but how much more will I be blessed when I choose to mold myself into something more, something worthy of a kingdom higher than this one?

My prayer is that we can all strive to carve for ourselves lives of purpose, and it is my sincerest hope that God feels like I am reaching higher. 

Have a great Sunday,

P.S. Totally got a kick out of the "I'm certainly ready to go anytime He wants me."

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Standing with Confidence

Today in Sunday School, my teacher asked, "how many of you could stand with true confidence before God?"
We all just sorta sat there, none of us knowing how to answer. All of us were afraid to say, "ooooh!! ME!! Me, I definitely could!"
How could any of us truly feel that way?!

Well, after thinking about it for a second, you know what I think?

I think Christ is more understanding than we could ever imagine. He knows our doubts. He knows our insecurities. He understands how hard life is because He has felt everything we have. He knows pain. He knows fear.

He knows you individually. He knows of your sins. He knows of your sorrow. But most importantly, Christ knows your heart, and He loves you.

He loves you because you try. He loves you because you love Him. Actually, even if you don't try, even if you don't love Him, He loves you anyways. He loves you because you are you. He doesn't need any other reason to love you than that. You can never escape Christ's love. Ever.

How cool is that!?

So many of us feel weighed down by sin.
We feel like we aren't committed enough or we feel that we don't accept Christ enough. We feel like we don't have the Spirit enough, like we don't help enough, like we don't pray enough, or like we don't repent enough.
Or maybe you do repent enough. But maybe you still constantly feel worthless and guilty. You are constantly praying for forgiveness, and yet you aren't willing to accept it when Christ offers it to you.

I feel that sometimes. I feel and do all of these things all the time.

But I shouldn't! And you shouldn't either!

My friends, Christ loves you for you. I love the above video because the woman came to Him a sinner. She came to Him in her imperfections. She came to Him feeling guilty and unworthy. She looked at the ground when He spoke to her, and I'm sure she didn't feel confident.
But what happened? Did Christ yell at her? Denounce her in her wickedness? Did she spontaneously burst into flames? No! "Neither do I condemn thee," He said, "go and sin no more."

Don't let sin weigh you down. Christ performed the Atonement so that you could overcome sin. So let Christ's grace into your life! Utilize the Atonement and accept the love and forgiveness always available to you.
I am not saying that it is okay to sin. Living a righteous life shows Christ that you honor Him and are respectful of Him and want to draw close to Him. The less you sin, the happier you will be, and certainly the more confident you will be.

What I'm trying to say is, you will never be perfect. Don't let minor imperfections make you feel worthless and thoroughly unconfident.
Christ loves you for trying. He loves you even if you sin. So make a choice to start feeling confident and proud of your efforts.
Never stop trying to be better, but also don't spend your entire life thinking, "hopefully when I'm 80 I'll get it. I'll be perfect then." Friends, you will feel the same way at eighty as you do now. Learn to love yourself and be proud of your efforts now. 

So could I stand before the Lord in confidence? I think so. Not because I'm perfect, but because I know that He is. I would stand before Him imperfect. I would stand before Him a sinner. But I would stand before Him in love and submission.
I know that He loves me for me and He loves me because I try and I strive hard to be the person He would want me to be.

So I'll keep pressing forward. I'll keep begging for forgiveness. I'll keep trying to be better.
And I'm going to be happy with that. I'm going to choose to live with trust, with gratitude, and with confidence.

Love, Haley


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