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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Missing Christmas

We all know the stories of the angels, shepherds and wise men celebrating the First Christmas with Mary, Joseph and Christ.

But do you recall ... who missed the First Christmas?

After all the years waiting and hearing of prophesies about Christ's birth ... the following still missed that First Christmas.

THE INN KEEPER
Speaking of Mary it says; "And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloth and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7) The inn keeper missed Christmas.  He was face-to-face with a young pregnant woman and husband ready to give birth to the Son of God. He shut the door. He had a busy Inn to care for. Christmas was right in front of him, but he missed it.

The inn keeper didn't recognize Christ or the occasion.

THE KING
Unlike the Inn Keeper, King Herod knew who Jesus was and what He would become.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Jud├Ža in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:1-3)
Why was King Herod "troubled"?

He was the King of the Jews.  There was no room for two kings in Jerusalem.  He was threatened. That First Christmas Eve King Herod remained in his mansion plotting Jesus' death.  The birth place of the new "King of the Jews" was only a short walk away.

King Herod was more interested in glory and power.

THE SANHEDRIN
The chief priests, scribes, and wise men were the religious leaders at the time. They obeyed "the Law." They knew all the scriptures. They went to church every week. That's why King Herod sent for them -  "Then Herod when he had privly called the wise men and inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared and he sent them to Bethlehem..." (Matthew 2:7) They quoted Micah 5:2 to King Herod. The Sanhedrin knew about Jesus- who He was and the impact he would have on the world. They, like King Herod, never took the short 3 or 4 mile walk to Bethlehem. Having the Messiah was no big deal to them. They were already righteous -All is well in Zion.

The Sanhedrin was indifferent-Christ's birth didn't really matter.
 

Look at your own life.
Are you going to miss this Christmas? 

The Nativity is one of my favorite Christmas videos. Press David Bowman's newest piece of art "Love" to watch this short video.

http://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2012-11-2500-the-nativity?lang=eng

CHALLENGE

May we all make the journey to Bethlehem
in spirit, taking with us a tender, caring
heart as our gift to the Savior.
(Thomas S. Monson "The Real Joy of Christmas" 2013 Christmas Broadcast)

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Worth vs. Worthiness

I'm asked regularly questions like:
"dr rick, how can you even stand to be in the same room with that guy...
...who just killed the bank teller,
...who just molested the neighbor girls,
...who just kidnapped and raped the store clerk?"
I explain the difference between "worth" and "worthiness."


One day ... Joe staggered to Church.
Joe had been a client for several months. However, recently he had been homeless. His parents and siblings were active in the Church. They never missed a meeting and always sat on the front row. Joe began drinking in his early teens and began drifting away from the Church. By 17 he was addicted to cigarettes and alcohol.  Joe wanted nothing to do with the Church. He always smelled like cigarettes.  His parents like the parents of Alma, prayed for their son to return to church. Several years later, one Fast Sunday he came back. A younger sibling nudged dad to look at Joe who just walked into the back of he chapel. Dad and Mom smiled with contentment at one another. Later in the testimony meeting Joe began walking towards the pulpit. The parents noticed he was staggering. Their heart sunk in despair. He reached the pulpit. His slurred words ended as he passed out! He was drunk. He fell to the floor at the foot of the Bishop. 

Joe's sins stunk.

One day ... Brigham drove his chopper to Church.
Brigham was a young adult I met while doing a Fireside on addiction up in the Tri-City area of Washington. He sat in the back. He stood out because of his long shoulder length hair- with a strand of purple. His ears were gauged and face had several piercings. And believe me, no one could miss his tattoos. Brigham's dad was in the Stake Presidency.  After the fireside, I met Brigham in the parking lot. His forearm had a very noticeable tattoo of a naked lady. He expressed a desire to return to church activity. After we visited he put on his Nazi helmet and leathers and rode off on his chopper motorcycle.

Brigham's sins were an eyesore.

One day ... The Smith Family drove their Dodge Caravan to Church.
The two younger boys were dressed in suits and carried their personal triple combinations- interesting enough the youngest boy was obviously too young to even read. The two girls were beautifully dressed in home made dresses and hair bows.  Mom looked like she stepped out of LDSModestDress.com (I made that up.) and Dad like he was ready to talk at General Conference. Surely the Smith Family kept all the commandments all the time. (Of course there is no such family as the Smiths-I made them up too! But many Mormons really believe they exist, figure that out.)

Smith family had no sins.

WHAT'S YOUR LIMIT IN JUDGING ANOTHER'S "WORTH"?
At what behavior do you judge another?
Is it cigarettes, alcohol, tattoos, piercings, dropping the F-bomb, etc etc.
Could I wear, say or do something that could stop you from treating me with respect? Make you avoid me? Keep you from loving me?

The answer is probably YES.

What if like -they (the Joes and Brighams of the world) really did come back to church- as Thomas S. Monson has requested:
Come back and feast at the table of the Lord, and taste again the sweet and satisfying fruits of fellowship with the Saints...." (Looking Back and Moving Forward, Ensign, April 2008)
Let's assume that once again
... Joe staggered
... Brigham rode his chopper
and
... The Smith Family drove their Dodge Caravan
to church.

And YOU happened to be ALONE in the foyer as they walked up the sidewalk to the church.  No one around. No one watching. (No one would know.) How would you feel? What would you do? How would you treat each of them? Would you treat them differently?

DON'T CONFUSE "WORTH" WITH "WORTHINESS"
Well, the question of worthiness is easy... If we used the analogy "the price of gold" to represent worthiness the Smith Family would be worth $1400 an ounce! (Assuming they even existed.) On the other hand, Joe and Brigham's worthiness would be much less - NO Temple Recommend for them! They need some serious repenting. Worthiness has to do with SIN. Worthiness is not a gift. We must earn it. Worthiness changes based on our behavior. If we are “good” we receive blessings; if we are not, we don’t. 

Back to our church...
What are you thinking...as you smell Joe's cigarettes and alcohol and see Brigham's piercings and naked lady tattoo- approach you? I'm not asking you to evaluate how many temple recommend questions they flunk... (There certainly is a time and place for the worthiness interview. But this isn't it.)

I'm just asking how would you treat them?
(Hint: John 8:3-11; Matt 25:34-40)

WORTH
Ahhh, now we have to think... What is the worth of a soul? Any soul?

But what if their sins stink?
"...Their souls are precious..." Alma 31:35

But what if theirs sins are an eyesore?
"...Their souls are precious..." D&C 109:43

But Joe and Brigham are real losers!
The answer is the same for murders, bishops, rapists, relief society presidents, child molesters, prophets ...Joe and Brigham and even the Smith Family.
"Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. D&C 18:10

There is no less worth of a soul-because of a tattoo, a body piercing, being drunk, having a temple recommend, etc etc.

"GOLD"
If we used the analogy of "gold" again...
the Smith Family, Joe, and Brigham- each are 24 K gold. Worth is inherent in each of us - a gift- because we are a son or daughter of God with a "divine nature and identity." (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).

Our worth -being 24 K gold -remains the same-
... Joe for example unprocessed 24 K gold,
... Brigham for example a 24 K gold nugget,
... and The Smith Family a 24 K gold coin.

To be Christ-like we must learn to see like Christ.

The Prophet Samuel choosing David to be king taught us- "The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." 1 Samuel 16:6-8. Jesus is capable of seeing the 24K Gold in each of us- regardless of our condition or worthiness.

 
Worth has to do with the SINNER. Though lives and circumstances may change, an individual's worth CANNOT! 

... You cannot sin enough to change your WORTH in the sight of God!

So,
when I'm sitting across from a murder,
spending hours with a rapist,
asking hundreds of questions to a child molester...
I'm trying my best to treat them for what they are Worth.
The judge makes the judgment of Worthiness...
and typically sends "these children of God" to jail and prison.
(Which by the way I support.
There is a time and place where judgment is the right thing to do.
But going to prison doesn't change an individual's WORTH.)
 
 
As Victor Hugo says in Les Miserables
-To love another person is to see the face of God-
Each of us are "children of God." Each of us have some of that "Godly DNA" inside.

Sometimes, it is a challenge to see God's face in some of His children.

CHALLENGE:
Learn the difference between acknowledging another's worthiness and their worth.
“I have in my heart a love for all of God’s children. I have no ill feeling toward any human being. With you, I hate sin, but I love the sinner. We all have need to repent." ( Ezra Taft Benson, "The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson" (1988), 75)
The truth shall make you free.

Read:  God Loves You THIS MUCH!

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