Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Christ Centered Life

By Michelle Sim
The Savior Serves Us

Jesus Christ is the Son of God our Savior and Redeemer who died so that we may live again.
Let us not forget that Jesus Christ not only died for us but he LIVED! - For us- to serve us, to love us, to teach us.
What would Christ’s redemption be without an example to follow?
The scriptures say Jesus “grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him."
President Monson described the way he lived best and said:
Baptized of John in the river known as Jordan, [Jesus Christ] commenced His official ministry to men. To the sophistry of Satan, Jesus turned His back. To the duty designated by His Father, He turned His face, pledged His heart, and gave His life. And what a sinless, selfless, noble, and divine life it was. Jesus labored. Jesus loved. Jesus served. Jesus testified. What finer example could we strive to emulate? Let us begin now… to do so. Cast off forever will be the old self and with it defeat, despair, doubt, and disbelief. To a newness of life we come—a life of faith, hope, courage, and joy. No task looms too large; no responsibility weighs too heavily; no duty is a burden. All things become possible.
John 10:10 reads “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”
Jesus Christ has given us a path through his example and when we follow this path we can live life more abundantly and find the true beauty, joy, and blessings of life on this earth.
Although Jesus is not on the earth now he has given us the Holy Ghost to guide us in his teachings:
 Again in John we read “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26), and “he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

Following the Savior

Little Mitt Neilson in his Primary talk last week said the Wise Men followed a star to Jesus.  A star is like a light and if we follow the light of Jesus we will never be lost.

The most joyous times in my life are when I follow the Savior.  I have realized that the principles we call small and simple such as reading the scriptures, praying daily and serving others are truly the great and mighty principles that if followed regularly will bless our lives beyond measure.  These principles allow the spirit to dwell in our hearts giving us constant guidance, support and love.

Elder L Tom Perry shares an experience he had right after the peace treaty was signed for World War 2 he was among the first wave of marines to go ashore in Japan as occupation troops.  Seeing the destruction of the city was one of the saddest times of his life as part of the city was completely gone and some of the dead had not yet been buried.  This gave Elder Perry and some of his companions the desire to do more.  During their time off he and the other soldiers helped rebuild some of the Christian churches so that they may hold Christian services again.  They found the ministers and encouraged them to return to their pulpits.  Elder Perry Continues “We had a tremendous experience with these people as they again experienced the freedom to practice their Christian beliefs.  An event occurred as we were leaving Nagasaki to return home.  All the marines were ready to board the train that would take them to their ships to return home.  Some of the marines started to tease my companions and I, these marines had their girlfriends and were saying their goodbyes- they laughed at us saying we had missed the fun and wasted our time laboring and plastering walls.  Just as they were at the height of their teasing up over a little rise from the train station came about 200 of these great Japanese Christians from the churches we had repaired, singing Onward Christian Soldiers.  They came down and showered us with gifts then they all lined up along the railroad tracks and as the train just started to pull away we reached out and touched the tips of their fingers as we left.  We couldn’t speak, our emotions were too strong but we were grateful that we could help in some small way in reestablishing Christianity in a nation after a war.” 

This story touched me deeply as Elder Perry and some of his marine companions saw a need and took action to fill it.  They sought nothing for themselves, only for the people of the community and had faith that by rebuilding these churches it would help bring people unto Christ again.  And what greater reward can we receive from service than heartfelt gratitude by those we have served.  When Elder Perry spoke of the marines teasing them at the train station it made me think about the times in our lives where maybe we have been teased or made fun of for doing what we feel is right or good.  Maybe we have even felt embarrassed at times for believing in God and hesitant to show our devotion to his teachings.  This reminded me of a talk President Monson gave last year called Stand in Holy Places (and this is a fantastic talk I wish I could read the whole thing) he says:

It may appear to you at times that those out in the world are having much more fun than you are. Some of you may feel restricted by the code of conduct to which we in the Church adhere. My brothers and sisters, I declare to you, however, that there is nothing which can bring more joy into our lives or more peace to our souls than the Spirit which can come to us as we follow the Savior and keep the commandments. That Spirit cannot be present at the kinds of activities in which so much of the world participates. The Apostle Paul declared the truth: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”4 The term natural man can refer to any of us if we allow ourselves to be so.

I know that there is no greater peace or comfort that can come over us than when we are following the Savior and what better time to begin or to do better than this Christmas season.

Continuing another talk Pres. Monson gave at the Christmas Devotional last year he says
(President Thomas S. Monson, 2011 First Presidency Christmas Devotional):
“When we keep the spirit of Christmas, we keep the Spirit of Christ, for the Christmas spirit is the Christ Spirit. It will block out all the distractions around us which can diminish Christmas and swallow up its true meaning.
 “There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus Christ.
“Because He came to earth, we have a perfect example to follow. As we strive to become more like Him, we will have joy and happiness in our lives and peace each day of the year. It is His example which, if followed, stirs within us more kindness and love, more respect and concern for others.
“Because He came, there is meaning to our mortal existence.
“Because He came, we know how to reach out to those in trouble or distress, wherever they may be.”

 As Jesus taught the people of Israel and all around he found there were so many to teach that he, even being Jesus Christ, could not teach all of them and so he appointed some of his most faithful disciples as apostles to spread his work and glory.  Today we too are like the Disciples of Christ in his day.  There are so many who have yet to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and feel his spirit.  President Spencer W. Kimball with the Doctrine and Covenants says “We are ‘to warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite [others] to come unto Christ’ (D&C 20:59), as the Lord said in his revelations.  Your testimony is a terrific medium.”  As we testify of Christ and his gospel we will find a closer connection to our father in Heaven along with those we have shared the gospel with.

The Savior Knows Us

Brothers and Sisters I would like to testify to you today that our Savior knows each and every one of us.  There are those who may feel abandoned by their family or friends maybe because of religion, lifestyle choices, hard heartedness and the like but as Our Savior said:
“For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee…I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands…1Ne 21:15
The Lord knows each of us.  He has proven this to many of us even when maybe we weren’t looking for him.  I have shared this story with some of you and it is a very personal experience I had but I felt inspired to share it with you today. 
  A little over four years ago I was pregnant with our 4th and likely last child.  We were excited to go to the ultrasound as we already had 3 beautiful and healthy girls and thought maybe this one would be a little boy.  My husband is the last living male in his family and we had hopes of carrying on his name (and let’s face it he needs someone to wrestle with too).  As you probably know we found out at the ultrasound we were having a healthy little girl.  We didn’t say much and went on our way home.  I did not call my family to tell them the joyous news of our healthy baby instead I stayed in feeling sad and in a way that I had let my husband down. 
  The next day my dad called me and asked how I was.  I said I am doing better today.  He said Oh, I am sorry I didn’t know you were not doing well.  I hear you are having a baby!  He said.  I started to cry a bit and said yes a girl.  He said I need to tell you something.  Last night I had a vision, a premonition if you will.  I saw your baby girl and she is amazing.  The Lord chose her for your family and she’s very excited to come but she needs to know she is loved because she can feel that, she is very choice and is like to our family as Nephi was to his family.  You must teach her to pray so that she will know and remember her Father in Heaven and her purpose.  She is a great spirit.  I just cried the whole time and thanked him greatly for sharing that with me.  My dad said he has never had a feeling like that about a grandchild before, and knows she is of great importance.  With that I got over myself and was ready for the baby to come. 
  I gained a great testimony of many things from that experience.  One of which was that God knows me and my child coming to this earth.  God did not have to share those things with my dad and with me, I obviously wasn’t asking for it, he just did it and this testified to me that God knows us loves us and has nothing but the greatest desire for us to be happy.  I may have been human for a moment and forgot the importance of all his children, but he did not forget.  And now I will never forget.

Lucy Mack Smith said “We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instruction that we may all sit down in heaven together.”
The Holy Ghost is sent to you and to those you care for. You will be strengthened and yet inspired to know the limits and extent of your ability to serve. The Spirit will comfort you when you may wonder, “Did I do enough?”
What greater example did Christ show us than that of service?
I love Christmas stories and a few years ago some good friends gave our family a Christmas story that I would like to share with you.  It is called “Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect”
They say that deep in the forest the evergreen trees whisper to one another the older ones telling the younger ones why they will never be perfect.  They will always have a bent branch here a gap there.  But long ago evergreen trees were perfect.  Each one took special pride in branches that sloped smoothly down from pointed top to evenly shaped skirt.  This was especially true in a small kingdom far away.  Here the evergreen trees were the most beautiful of all.  Each year as Christmas approached, the Queen’s woodsmen would search the royal evergreen forest for the most perfect, most beautiful tree.  The one chosen would be cut and set up in the center of the great hall and there it reigned in honor for all the Christmas celebrations. 
Out in the hushed forest every evergreen hoped for this honor.  Each tree tried to grow its branches and needles to perfection and strained to have the best form and appearance.  One tree, Small Pine, promised to be the most beautiful of all and as a seedling had listened careful to the older trees who knew what was best for young saplings.  Everything about Small Pine, from its deep sea green color to the curling tip of its evenly spaced branches was perfect.  There were even jealous whispers from the other trees.  Small Pine paid them no mind, it knew that if one did one’s very best, what anyone else said didn’t matter.
One cold night, a little gray rabbit came hopping as fast as he could through the snow into the grove of evergreens.  The rabbit’s furry sides heaved in panic frantically searching for cover from the howling wild dogs that were quickly approaching.  The dark, cold trees lifted their branches from the snow and frowned.  They did not like this interruption of their quiet evening when growing was at its best.  The rabbit circled again frantically and then Small Pine’s heart shuddered.  When the terrified rabbit ran near, Small Pine dipped its lower branches down, down, down to the snow.  And in that instant before the wild dogs broke into the grove, the rabbit slipped under Small Pine’s evergreen screen.  He huddled safely among the comforting branches while the dogs galloped by and disappeared into the forest.
In the morning the rabbit went home to his burrow, and Small Pine tried to lift its lower branches back up to their proper height.  The branches had been pressed down too long through the night.  Oh well, Small Pine thought, no matter.  Perhaps the woodsmen wouldn’t notice a few uneven branches near the ground in a tree so beautiful.
Several days later a terrible blizzard lashed the land.  A brown mother wren had become lost in the storm.  With feathers so wet she could barely fly, she went from one large evergreen to another looking for a shelter.  But each tree she approached feared the wren would ruin its perfect shape and clenched its branches tight, like a fist.  Finally, the exhausted wren fluttered toward Small Pine.  Once more Small Pine’s heart opened and so did its branches.  The mother wren nestled on a branch near the top, secure at last.  But when the storm ended and the bird had flown away, Small Pine could not move its top branches back into their perfect shape.  In them would be a gap evermore.
Days passed and winter deepened.  The deer in the forest could not reach the tender ground moss, which they ate to survive.  One little fawn had wandered away from his mother.  Now he was starving.  
He inched into the pine grove and noticed the soft, tender evergreen tips.  He tried to nibble on them, but every tree quickly withdrew its needles so the tiny deer teeth couldn’t chew them.  Thin and weak, he staggered against Small Pine.  Pity filled the tree’s heart and it stretched out its soft needles for the starving fawn to eat.  But alas, when the deer was strong enough to scamper away, Small Pine’s branches looked very ragged. 
Small Pine wilted in sorrow.  It could hear what the larger, still-perfect trees were saying about how bad it looked.  Small Pine knew it could never hope for the honor of being the Queen’s Christmas tree.
Soon the good Queen came with the woodsmen into the forest to choose the finest tree for their Christmas celebration.  As the royal sleigh drawn by two white horses slowly passed through the forest, her careful eye scanned the evergreens.  Each one was hoping to be the royal choice.
When the Queen saw Small Pine, a flush of anger filled her.  How could such and ugly tree with so many drooping branches and gaps be allowed in the royal forest?  She decided to have a woodsman cut it to throw away and nodded for the sleigh to drive on.
But then….she raised her hand for the sleigh to stop and glanced back at the forlorn little pine.
She noticed the tracks of small animals under its uneven needles.  She saw a wren’s feather caught in its branches.  And, as she studied the gaping hole in its side and its ragged shape, understanding filled her heart.
“This is the One” she said, and pointed to small Pine.  The woodsmen gasped, but they did as the Queen directed.
To the astonishment of all the evergreens in the forest, Small Pine was carried away to the great hall in the castle.  There it was decorated with shimmering, silver stars and golden angels, which sparkled and flashed in the light of thousands of glowing candles.  The Queen’s family and all the villagers danced and sang together around Small Pine.  And everyone who danced and sang around it said that Small Pine was the finest Christmas tree yet.  For in looking at its drooping, nibbled branches, they saw the protecting arm of their father or the comforting lap of a mother.  And some, like the wise Queen, saw the love of Christ expressed on earth. 
So if you walk among evergreens today, you will find, along with rabbits, birds, and other happy living things, many trees like Small Pine.  You will see a drooping limb, which gives cover, a gap offering a warm resting place, or branches ragged from feeding hungry animals.
For, as have many of us, the trees have learned that living for the sake of others makes us most beautiful in the eyes of God.
(The end)

Jesus Christ saw the beauty, joy, and satisfaction in living for others.  I am grateful for my Savior not only for his redemption but for his life.  I testify that our Savior lived for us, he knows us, and there is no fuller life we can live than that of following our Savior.

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