Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Invitation

With Valentines Day approaching, I couldn’t help but think of relationships and this thing called love. Who doesn’t love a good Valentines day done right? A note from your sweetheart, a little chocolate and a night out….and of course there will be money spent. Total  US spending on Valentines day is predicted to reach over 18 billion  this year. For such a day, someone might put a lot of effort into the preparation. The right outfit, the right hair do, getting all cleaned up and maybe even prepping some mental notes for a stimulating conversation.…. of course with all this preparation, expectations are high. Hoping and waiting for that assurance that you are valued, that you belong to someone, that you are loved, that’s a lot to put on one little day. Though Valentines day and relationships in general can feel a little risky, there is one relationship, one true love we can always count on to fill all of our needs. A relationship in which we will never be stood up, forgotten, misunderstood or left broken hearted. We can find the invitation for a love relationship like this, in the scriptures. It is a simple 3 word phrase, “Come unto Christ”

Come unto Christ is a phrase that is mentioned 287 times in some form in the scriptures.
Come unto Christ and partake, come unto christ and lay hold upon every good gift, come unto christ and be perfected and be saved. Indeed the very purpose of the Book of Mormon is to bring souls unto Christ. To bring your soul, to bring my soul, to bring any soul willing to Christ.
Come unto Christ. This phrase is powerful and it’s promise sure, but it gets better. See this sure invitation isn’s just a third party offering, it comes directly from Christ. “Come unto me” he says. And with that, he triples the number of times that that phrase is mentioned in the scriptures to over 1000 and the invitation suddenly becomes a very personal and intimate one, and one only we can only personally accept. This invitation to come is definitely one to be shared, but more than that, it is a very personal invitation from the Savior himself. 

Come unto me. Each year, each month, each day, each moment he is continually extending his love invitation to come. 

We have a date with Christ every day and he doesn’t care if we show up with bed head and morning breath, he doesn’t care if we showered and shaved, or when we last flossed…

He just wants us to show up. To bring our disappointments and day old make up, our mismatched clothes and our misunderstandings and show up. To walk with him. To covenant with him to share his easy yoke and His light burden. And in a strange change of culture norms, he actually helps us prepare for the date. In fact, he does it all.

In 2Nephi 31 it says ….for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Relying wholly….He does it all. ……. This may seem like a very one sided relationship, but that is just the beginning.  the cool thing is that this invitation Christ extends to come unto him is not a one time event, he continues to invite us to come closer and to participate more fully in the relationship.

“Come unto me and be baptized in my name”  he says, enter into a covenant relationship with me, he says. You’ve seen what I can do on my own, now lets see what we can do together… learn of me, walk with me, come unto me, covenant with me, take my name and my power will cover you….and with this he invites us to come closer.

When we are buried in trials and afflictions and the experiences of daily life he continues to invite each one of us personally with….

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

The idea of a yoke might seem restrictive at first. Holding us back, restraining our movements, limiting our freedoms. I imagine a yoke of oxen plodding across the plains, day after day pulling a heavy wagon, never free to explore or frolic in the grass. What I overlook sometimes is that it’s not a matter of yoke or no yoke, it’s a matter of which yoke we choose.   It really is one or the other…bondage or freedom. This is not a yoke that shackles us, but one we willingly choose by obeying God’s commandments. This yoke doesn’t steal your identity, but enhances it, bringing you closer to your divine potential. This yoke doesn’t limit you, it gives you the structure or focus to build bigger, go farther and love deeper.  Christ indeed showed us the way though his strict obedience to the father, which resulted in his soul saving atonement.
 We all have a wagon to pull in life and to pull it alone is unbearable,  so which yoke would you choose? …..and with this choice he invites us to come closer.

Ether 12:27 reads:  And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. At first glance this may feel like an invitation you’d rather decline. I have a pretty clear view of my weaknesses from right here, thank you very much. But this invite, though it may seem harsh at first, comes with promises that are pretty hard to resist. casey peterson, byu associate dean of students in a 2015 devotional said this, and I quote,

 “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble. Notice that the scripture refers to weakness—a singular term. In the presence of God, I imagine I would recognize many areas of improvement that I would need to make. Yet this scripture states that in His presence it is our weakness that we are shown. I believe this weakness refers to our relationship with God. If we come to Him, we see the infinite and perfect love that He has for us. Yet we also see the weakness in our relationship with Him and the many ways in which we are lax and lazy in how we honor Him, pray to Him, and show our love to Him. That is very humbling. But if we are humble and actively come to Him, the scripture goes on to say, “If they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things [plural] become strong unto them.” If we strengthen our relationship with the Savior, the many weaknesses we have are made strong. It is not merely us that changes.” End quote.

All my weak things….they are many, but to be honest, most of them don’t matter; the few that do have to do with the relationships I have. Relationships that I want to span eternity.  For this promise of his to make my weaknesses strong, I will run toward Christ with my whole heart.
As we come to Christ, we come closer to our friends, our kids and our spouse. If you want to improve or deepen a relationship in your life, start by coming closer to Christ and see what happens to those relationships around you. I remember a quote hung in my parents kitchen that said, “The secret in a successful marriage is not in two people finding each other…it is in two people finding Christ together. He make you one.”  Through strengthening these relationships he invites us still to come closer.

These words he continues to utter…Come unto me… are an invitation to partake of his love, power and eternal blessings in a way that not only saves us, but protects those around us. If that is true, then with out a doubt, this very invite is one Satan constantly and ferociously tries to intercept.  What are some of Satan’s interception strategies or tricks he uses to keep us from accepting or keeping our date with Christ?

There is a blog post on written by Celeste Davis titled, “The biggest barrier to our connection to God” She says,

“Satan knows just where to hit us to keep us from connecting with God, and distrusting we are worthy to connect with Him and be called His children is one of his most powerful tools.
Don’t fall for it.” End quote.

To those who have sinned….all of us… he says, “Come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal you” (3Nephi 18:32)

Our sins don’t make us unworthy to come to christ, but are the very reason he sends out the invitation in the first place.

In3 Ne 17:7 He says:  Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.

This is what Christ does, this is who he is. If you’re lost, he comes looking, what you break, he helps you fix, what you lack he makes up the difference. Every. time. we. come.

Sister Davis continues:

“You are a child of God. You can’t ever become more child of God by your merits, and you can't ever become less child of God by your imperfections. Trusting deep down that you are loved by an eternal father is also the key to believing you are worthy of connecting with Him all the time, even when you mess up.
So connect with Him. You are worthy to do so.” 

Another tactic Satan uses to intercept Christ’s invitation is Distraction…

Christ says, come unto me and feel and see… Well, and feeling seeing are part of my 5 senses, I’m pretty sure I can do that with our without Christ. but of course, he isn’t just talking about our physical senses. Leading up to this invitations to first FEEL then SEE is a clarifying scripture,  

Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him.”

So what is Satan’s tactic here? If Christ says to watch and pray, Satan would try to distract us from our vigilance. There are many ways he does this, but I’ll briefly hit on the obvious, our electronic devices. We all have them, depend on them and use and abuse them. For good and bad they are here to stay. But as we accept these tools into our lives, we must be vigilant, we must stay aware.

Rachel Macy Stafford author of Hand’s Free Life offers this advice:
She writes,
“Awareness … you see, awareness changes everything. Awareness is your weapon against the hidden influences and damaging behaviors. While you are online, your mind, your thoughts, your core values are drifting to wherever tech companies want you to go. The remedy is to limit the time you spend drifting in the online world and tether yourself to real life. 
Tether yourself
To real people, real conversations, and real scenery.
Tether yourself
To furry animals, interesting books, good music, the great outdoors.
Tether yourself
To spatulas, hammers, cameras, paintbrushes, and yoga mats.
When your worth is in question … when you feel lost and alone … when you feel sad and can’t explain why, tether yourself to real life. Tether yourself to real people. Tether yourself to real love.” End quote

Christ is the founder and giver of that real love in all it’s forms.

Now, the irony is not lost on me, I am fully aware that I heavily used all my electronic devices to prepare this talk and even find the previous quote. I believe the difference is between drifting and directed…and if directed, what are you directed towards…..Because there is more to this scripture…Christ says, come unto me, that ye might first FEEL  and then SEE and then..” ; even so shall ye do; and whosoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation.  The opposite of distraction is connection and there is no better way to feel connected than to serve. Elder Eyring says this:
“Many of you have loved ones who are wandering off the path to eternal life. You wonder what more you can do to bring them back. You can depend on the Lord to draw closer to them as you serve Him in faith.

My promise to you who pray and serve the Lord cannot be that you will have every blessing you may wish for yourself and your family. But I can promise you that the Savior will draw close to you and bless you and your family with what is best. You will have the comfort of His love and feel the answer of His drawing closer as you reach out your arms in giving service to others. As you bind up the wounds of those in need and offer the cleansing of His Atonement to those who sorrow in sin, the Lord’s power will sustain you. His arms are outstretched with yours to succor and bless the children of our Heavenly Father, including those in your family.

In closing, it may be interesting to note that the majority of the scriptures that contain this personal invitation are when Christ is already in the very presence of those he is inviting. Teaching in Jeurealsm or at the temple with the Nephites. Yes, his invitations spans time, but at the moment, He was inviting those who were right there in front of him to come unto him…to come closer…to take his name, to share his yoke, to symbolically take his flesh, his blood and make it a part of theirs….to be one with him through the power of his atonement…even as he is one with our father in heaven. Many of us, as we sit here today, have christ in our lives to some extent. We have a knowledge of his life and his commandments and with this he invites us to come closer. Come unto Chirst, it’s not a one time event or a destination to arrive at it is a daily choice, even an every moment choice, to choose him over instant gratification, to choose him instead of disconnecting, to choose his way instead of our best laid plans, and as we do He continues to wrap his arms around us and bring us closer.

Come unto me for my arm is lengthened out all the day long

Come unto me I have a place prepared for you in the mansions of my father.

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