Day 15: Born Again Because of Him

John 3:

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
14 ¶ And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 ¶ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

I am so grateful for Nicodemus and his courage to go against the traditions and feelings of the other Pharisees and seek Jesus out.  I am so grateful for all the beautiful truths we learn from this conversation he had with the Savior.  Just like Nicodemus, sometimes we do need to be chastened a little to recognize where we are falling short and where we need to put some additional effort into our studies and our self improvement efforts.  We learn from this conversation that it is not enough just to follow the traditions we were born into, but it is necessary for each of us to be converted to the Lord as individuals, to truly be born again.

I grew up believing in Christ and feeling very comfortable with His teachings and doctrine, but I know my own conversion didn’t come until I had children of my own.  They were very young when my husband decided he no longer wanted to be an active member of our church.  It was at that point where the road forked for me.  I knew that if I were to stay an active member it would be very difficult.  I would be taking two small children to church by myself every week.  I would have to be respectful for our different priorities as husband and wife.  I would have to ignore the judgments of others (or my own perception of these judgments) when I was not part of the traditional couple or family.  As I pondered on these obstacles I decided I really needed to be clear on what I believed.  I needed to be fully committed to the Gospel.  I needed to believe it so strongly it would be worth the sacrifices I would be required to make.  My praying became more sincere and my study of God’s word more intense.  I sought out help from other resources that held uplifting messages and counsel.  As I did this, I felt my relationship with the Lord change and my heart become soft and receptive.  I was given some very strong reassurances from the Spirit that the Gospel was true and that I was strong enough to take this path without my husband, and that I would never be alone.  Though at the time this felt like the biggest trial of my life because it was so unexpected, as I look back now I am so glad that I got the push that I needed to find my own conversion, to genuinely be born again.  My relationship with my Father and His Son are mine.  I know them personally and I feel their presence in my life.  I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer.  It is because of Him that I can do hard things.  It is because of Him that I can continually grown closer to Him and become more like Him as He helps me overcome my insecurities and weaknesses.  He is ALWAYS there and yearns for each of us to be born again, to seek a personal relationship with Him.  But He will honor our agency and wait for us to make the first step.

Song:

Born Again

Talk/Article:

Born Again

https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/1989/07/born-of-god

Soul Searching Question:
What can you do to become more converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Day 14: He Knows Us Personally

Mark 5:

24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.
25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
26 And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
31 And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
32 And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.
33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

This story has always been one I could vividly visualize!  Even in my minimal struggles, I know the toll that physical afflictions can take on a body and finances.  It can be so overwhelming!  I can imagine myself as this woman, physically afflicted and yearning for healing.  Wanting healing so badly that I would crawl through a crowd of people to Jesus.  Her faith was so great!  She was so certain if she could just His clothes, she would be healed.  It must have taken immense effort.  She had so much hope in the reaching out.  And immediately when she touched the hem of his clothing, she could feel the change come over her.  She knew the effort had been worth it!

I can only imagine the fear that came over her when Jesus stopped and asked who had touched Him.  I imagine she suddenly had a knot in the pit of her stomach wondering if she had done something wrong, if He would be mad at her.  I admire her so much for her courage to speak up and take ownership of her actions, especially not knowing how tender His response would be.

I admit I giggle a little each time I read the very confused response of Christ’s disciples when He asks who touched Him.  The saw the size of the crowd.  There were being pressed on every side by it.  They probably were feeling very lucky not to lose the Savior amongst the mess of people.  But Christ’s alertness and sensitivity is so profound to me.  He knew someone had reached out to Him with intent.  He knew that His power had healed someone.  I am absolutely certain that He knew exactly who it was as well.  But He gave her the opportunity to connect with Him.  He allowed her the precious knowledge that what she had done would have been freely given to her.  She never needed to feel guilty about the power she had tapped into.  He knew her.  He knew her struggles. He knew her yearnings.  He knew her faith.  And He blessed her for these things, for her efforts.  It is such a witness to me that He knows the same things about us and that He also wants to offer us His power and His blessings.  We just have to make the effort to reach out!

Song:

Known

Talk:

One Among the Crowd

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/one-among-the-crowd?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question: What can you do to reach out to the Lord? How can you show faith that He knows you individually and desires to help you?

Day 13: He Can Make Us Whole

Luke 17:

11 ¶ And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Matthew 9:

22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
Mark 10:

52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

There are so many stories in the scriptures of Jesus healing people. The phrase “made whole” has always struck a chord with me. Especially reading the first story I shared here. When I would read about how 10 lepers were healed and only one went back to show gratitude, I always wondered why Jesus would tell him that his faith had made him whole. He had healed all 10 of them, so how was this grateful leper’s blessing any greater? For a while I thought maybe it was because he was given the knowledge of how he was healed. Then I had an experience that taught me for myself that there actually was a difference between being healed and being made whole.

In 2011 I unexplainably started losing my vision. It affected both eyes, but my right eye more dramatically. I went to many doctors and no one could ever explain why my retina suddenly started to become defective. My blood vessels were leaking and I was losing my color and central vision. The first year was incredibly hard, especially because they could not identify the cause and therefore could not tell me how it would progress or whether it would spread to other systems. It was a time of great loss and much fear for me.

In my religion we believe in the power of healing blessings through God’s power. I received many blessings of healing over this time. I struggled because I had faith that God could heal me, but for some reason felt that He did not want to. After nearly 2 years of working through things, turning to God for strength and answers, seeking the best medical help, sharing my feelings and fears with my friends and family, I got another blessing. After that blessing I had the strangest calm come over me. And in that calm I distinctly felt a lesson being taught to me. The anguish and uncertainty that had been so prevalent in my life for almost two years was gone. I felt peace. I could look back and see times of comfort, tender mercies of love, and so much I had gained… empathy for others, gratitude for the blessings in my life, an increased closeness to my family, and a better relationship with my God. I had received the miracle of one eye being healed and the other eye was being left with me the way it was, maybe as a reminder of those lessons. Maybe to keep me humble. Maybe so I would remember to testify of God’s mercy in the other things I had learned. But at that point, it didn’t matter. Even though I had not been physically healed in that eye, I had through God’s power, my faith, my positive attitude, my searching for lessons in the trial, and my patience over that time been made whole.

Through that experience I was able to understand the story of the lepers. All were healed, but only that grateful leper was healed from his mental, emotional, and spiritual scars that had stemmed from his affliction. He was made whole because he turned back to the Savior. Though we may not be healed physically in this life, we can ALL be made whole emotionally and spiritually by doing exactly as the leper in this story did, we can turn to the Lord. And as we do this, He will help us start that journey of healing.

Song:

Made New

Talk:

Wilt Thou Be Made Whole

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2018/10/wilt-thou-be-made-whole?lang=eng

Thought by Merrill J. Bateman:

(He was listening to a woman who had been paralyzed in a car accidentally bear witness to Good having healed her on the inside.)

“As I listened, the Spirit bore witness of the great miracles of the Atonement and the Savior’s power to mend broken hearts, to heal from within. The Savior’s parable of the ten lepers took on new meaning. Luke describes Jesus meeting ten lepers. Upon seeing the Savior, they cried, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus responded: “Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” As they went their way, they were cleansed. One returned, fell on his face at the Master’s feet, and gave thanks. Jesus said, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” And then the Lord said to the one who returned, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (see Luke 17:12–19). In becoming a whole person, the grateful leper was healed inside as well as on the outside. That day nine lepers were healed skin deep, but only one had the faith to be made whole. The tenth leper and Sister Hee were changed eternally by their faith in the Savior and the healing power of his atonement.
The Savior’s atonement in the garden and on the cross is intimate as well as infinite. Infinite in that it spans the eternities. Intimate in that the Savior felt each person’s pains, sufferings, and sicknesses. Consequently, he knows how to carry our sorrows and relieve our burdens that we might be healed from within, made whole persons, and receive everlasting joy in his kingdom. May our faith in the Father and the Son help each of us to become whole.

Soul Searching Question:

How can you show faith and allow God to make you whole in one area of your life today?

Day 12: He Restores Vision

John 9:

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

39 ¶ And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.

When I went blind in my right eye 8 years ago, stories about Jesus healing the blind really began to resonate with me.  I understood the fear and the yearning that comes with this particular impairment.  One of the wonderful things I learned from this trial  is how much more I appreciate Spiritual vision and alertness.  Having a loss like this and feeling a great need to turn to the Lord for help brought so much depth and fulfillment to my life that I didn’t even realize I had been missing.  As much as I would love to have my full vision restored to me, I would not trade it for the Spiritual sight I gained!

Though many may never struggle with the trial of losing physical vision, I think we all from time to time lose our spiritual vision.  It is so important for us to be doing the primary things to seek a personal relationship with the Lord so that He can keep our vision healthy and clear.  It is so important that we spend regular time seeking increased learning and growth.  Through these efforts He can teach us and guide us even when we sometimes walk in the dark.

Song:

Open the Eyes of My Heart

Talk:

For I Was Blind but Now I See

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1999/04/for-i-was-blind-but-now-i-see?lang=eng

Thought by Mathias Held:

“In addition to our rational minds, another dimension to gaining knowledge can give us guidance and understanding. It is the still and soft voice of His Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts and also to our minds.
I like to compare this principle with our visual capacity. Our Father in Heaven has given us not only one but two physical eyes. We can see adequately with only one eye, but the second eye provides us with another perspective. When both perspectives are put together in our brains, they produce a three-dimensional image of our surroundings.
Likewise, we have been given two sources of information, through our physical and spiritual capacities. Our mind produces one perception through our physical senses and through our reasoning. But through the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Father has also provided us with a second perspective, which is really the most important and true one because it comes directly from Him. But since the whisperings of the Spirit are often so subtle, many people are not consciously aware of that additional source.
When these two perspectives are then combined in our souls, one complete picture shows the reality of things as they truly are. In fact, through the additional perspective of the Holy Ghost, certain “realities,” as pictured exclusively through our mental understanding, can be exposed as deceiving or plainly wrong. Remember the words of Moroni: “By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
In my 31 years as a member of the Church, I have experienced many times that if we rely only on our rational mind and deny or neglect the spiritual understanding we can receive through the whisperings and impressions of the Holy Ghost, it is as if we were going through life with only one eye. But figurately speaking, we have actually been given two eyes. Only the combination of both views can give us the true and complete picture of all truths and of everything we experience in our lives, as well as of the whole and profound understanding of our identity and purpose as children of a living Heavenly Father.

Soul Searching Question:

How can you choose to see the Savior’s hand more clearly in your life?  Where can you increase your investment of time or energy to help your vision become more clear?

Day 10: He Ate with Publicans and Sinners

Matthew 9:

9 ¶ And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.
10 ¶ And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Matthew, also known as Levi, was a publican. Publicans were detested by the Jews at that time because they were the tax collectors and had a reputation of adding their own greedy motives to the amount they collected. They also worked with the Romans, who the Jews looked at as their oppressors.

What I love about Matthew is that, just like the fishermen, as soon as Jesus called for him to follow, he left everything and went with the Master. I love that the Lord looks on our hearts and does not judge us by what the rest of the world thinks of us. Christ loved and extended a merciful hand to EVERYONE! Some accepted His offer and followed Him and others didn’t, but He offered it freely to all. He never shied away from someone because the rest of the world saw them as unworthy.

Song:

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Article:

The largest demographic in the area where I live is the one mentioned in this article. But I believe her words apply to every one of us no matter where we live or what groups we may belong to.

http://www.ldsliving.com/A-Letter-to-Mormons-Mom-of-Another-Faith-Shares-Powerful-Message-to-Members/s/86092?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=social_button

I’m grateful for this woman’s courage and hope her message touches many hearts!!
I want to follow the doctrine of the Church I belong to, which tells me to be inclusive and loving to ALL God’s children! It is tradition and fear that separates us, not God or His teachings. I think we could all put more effort into awareness of those around us and the abundance they have to offer or lives!

Talk/Video:

Judging Others? Stop It!

https://www.lds.org/youth/video/stop-judging-others?lang=eng

How can you do better at not allowing other people’s opinions or your own fears to influence the way you treat people in your life? How can you follow Christ’s example and offer love instead of judgment?

Day 9: He Cleanses and Reclaims Holy Places

John 2:

13 ¶ And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;
16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

Matthew 21:

13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

I never really understood or fully appreciated this story until I understood how the temple in Jerusalem was set up.  The inner part of the temple was only entered by the priests.  Then there was a court outside of that where the Israelite men could go.  The next court was for Israelite men and women.  And the outer court, or the court of the gentiles, was a place where anyone could go to worship.  It was the only place in the temple where those who were not Israelites could go to pray and commune with God. No wonder Christ was so upset that the marketplace and corrupt practices had taken over the space.  His temple was supposed to be a place for ALL God’s children to go to connect with Him.

As I contemplated these places of worship and how important they were to Christ, so much that He would act boldly to retake them, I thought about how the scriptures tell us that we are each a temple of God.  I thought about how there is always a fight between good and evil for our souls.  Satan would love for us as a temple of God to become corrupt and unwilling to be sanctified by the Lord. I know that I sometimes allow the dirt of the world to creep into parts of me that make me feel unholy and unclean.  These things can cause me to be distracted from my relationship with God.  They can keep me from being able to connect with Him and commune with Him, just as the moneychangers and animal sales did for the people in the court of the gentiles.  But just like Christ came in and cleansed the temple removing these distractions, He can and wants to do the same thing for us in our lives.  As we intentionally and conscientiously put on the Armor of God we are inviting Him into our own personal temple and asking for His help in keeping it clean and holy and reclaiming those parts we may have momentarily lost.

Song:

Grace Wins Every Time

Article:

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/jesus-cleanses-temple/

Talk:

Be Strong in the Lord

https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/2004/07/be-strong-in-the-lord

Day 8: He Calms the Storm

Mark 4:

37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Every one of us has trials and adversity in our lives. And I would venture that most if not all of us have at one time looked at the storm raging around us, feeling its destructive velocity, and wondered why the Lord seemed unaware or unaffected by our terror. I think a common thought in these circumstances would be the exact phrase the disciples voiced to Christ, “Carest thou not that we perish?” Most of us recognize His incredible power and ability to change our circumstances. It would be so easy for the Master of Miracles to calm the storms of our lives! Then why doesn’t He?

Well, sometimes He does, but many times He chooses not. I don’t know all the reasons He does not, but I know in my own life that it is much easier to see His reasons in hindsight. When I look back on my biggest storms, the ones in which I plead desperately for relief, I can see how much learning and growing was done for me in these moments that seemed to stretch on for eternity when I was going through them. Sometimes there were lessons I needed to learn about me and about my relationship with God that could have been learned in no other way. Sometimes there were things others around me needed from these heavy sacrificial moments that I would have gladly given if I’d recognized the need at the time. Sometimes what felt like the worst thing actually opened doors that led to amazing things. I think the most important thing I have learned through my own un-calmed storms is that my perspective and understanding is so limited. God sees the bigger picture and what is going to be most beneficial to me in the long run, rather than what would bring me momentary relief and a sense of instant gratification. I am learning to have faith in Him, rather than faith in outcomes.

The other amazing thing I have learned from the storms in my life is that even when He often chooses not to calm the storm, He will ALWAYS calm me. He has an ability to help me find what I now call the eye of the storm. When I go to Him in prayer now I rarely ask for Him to change my circumstances and rather I ask for peace in the moment. I have learned that even though I may have to go through the circumstances I don’t have to go through them alone and I don’t have to go through them in anguish. I can find rest in Him. I can almost tangibly feel heavenly arms around me. Sometimes this comes as I am on my knees. Sometimes it comes when I am reading His word or listening to uplifting music. Sometimes it comes when I open my heart to a friend or family member and allow them to see my vulnerability and pain. The peace and the comfort come in many different forms, but they come. And I recognize the source as the Master who has the ability to calm the storm in me.

As Cicero said, “He who commands the sea has command of everything.”

Song:

Sometimes He Calms the Storm

Talk:

Master the Tempest is Raging

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1984/10/master-the-tempest-is-raging?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:

What is a storm in your life you will allow Christ to calm?