Saturday, April 22, 2017

Messages From Heaven

I have always loved the ocean and everything that comes with it. 

From the sound of the waves crashing on the beach, to the lighthouses setting atop the shore. The ocean, to me, is a place of peace.

As a child, one of the unique things that I loved about the ocean is the idea of messages in a bottle. I dreamed that one day, I would visit the beach and find my very own message in a bottle. But finding a message in a bottle is about as common as being stranded on a desert island and sending one. I expect that in my lifetime, neither one of those things is actually going to happen.

I think that sometimes in our lives, we think that messages from heaven are like these messages in a bottle; few and far between, and never really meant for us. 

I would like to persuade my readers differently. Because although I have never found a message in a bottle, my life has been filled with messages from heaven.

As a kid, I talked to God often. Although it probably looked to others as if I was talking to myself, I knew  God was listening. God knew I was talking to Him, so it didn't really matter what other people thought and if they asked me, I would tell them, "I'm just talking to Heavenly Father." Most people would look at me funny and move on, but sometimes, I would get this question, "Well, is God talking to you?"

My answer as a child was always no, but I still knew God was listening. It wasn't until I became an adult that I realized God absolutely is talking to me. He is leading me and giving me direction every minute of every day. The question should not be, "Is God talking to you," but, "Are you listening to what God is trying to say?"

If we take the time to be still and listen, we can hear and feel that gentle voice of our Father in Heaven giving us the comfort and direction we need. 

So many times, we fail to recognize that voice because it comes more as a feeling or a thought, rather than the voice of our Father. Often, it's in our own voice and we disregard it, believing it was not a message from heaven, but rather something created by our own mind.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband said, "My experience has been that the Spirit most often communicates as a feeling. You feel it in words that are familiar to you, that make sense to you, that prompt you... Sometimes we rationalize: we wonder if we are feeling a spiritual impression or if it is just our own thoughts. When we begin to second-guess, even third-guess, our feelings -and we all have- we are dismissing the Spirit: we are questioning divine counsel. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that if you will listen to the first promptings, you will get it right nine times out of ten."

If we truly understood how messages from heaven distilled upon us, we would realize that anything that provides goodness to our life, or the life of another, is a message from heaven. 

These messages are given directly to you and I to help us share God's light with the world. Every thought, every action, every idea that leads you to do good was given to you from God to bless your life and the lives of His children.

We must be confident in those thoughts we receive that lead us to do good, for they truly are messages from heaven. They come to us as often as we are willing to listen and act on them.

Next time you have an impression to do something good, do it, and consider it a message from Heaven.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The War in Heaven and How we Fight it on Earth

Before we came to earth, we fought a war in heaven between good and evil and it still rages on today.

If you are not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) then this may sound unfamiliar to you, so let me explain.

We believe that we all lived in Heaven before we were born with our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. God wanted us to learn and grow, so He created a plan that would allow us to come to Earth, gain a body, and learn from experience. Agency was a vital part of God's plan for His children. Satan opposed God's plan of agency. Instead, he wanted to compel all men to do what was right so that they would all return home after their mortal probation. He promised that not one soul would be lost and desired that all the glory of this plan should go to him.

Jesus Christ, on the other hand, understood the importance of agency. He knew that if people were compelled to do what's right, their heart would never truly be in it. He told Father that He would help to fulfill God's plan by becoming a Savior for God's children. He vowed that He would take upon Him the sins and sorrows of the world, so that man could repent of their poor choices, become cleansed through the atonement, and thereby be allowed to once again enter into God's presence. This way, all God's children who wanted to return home, had a way prepared for them to do so. Repentance is the key and Christ's atonement is the way.

Satan became angry that his plan was not accepted and led a third of the hosts of heaven in a battle against those who followed Father. Satan lost the war in heaven and was cast down to the earth where he has been allowed to tempt man ever since.

The war in heaven continues today. Satan knows he cannot win, so his tactic is to try to lead away as many of God's children that will follow him before Christ comes again and Satan is bound for a thousand years during the Millenium.

It is important we understand this, so that we can know exactly how to fight the Devil. 

Before any war is won, we first must know our enemy.

Satan has been around for thousands of years, and he knows that we are nearing the time when he will be bound, so he has called an all out war on God's children. As God's children, we must learn how to fight our enemy.

One of the greatest maneuvers we can do is begin each day by sending the Devil away. This is exactly what Jesus did when Satan came tempting Him. 

If we don't send Satan away, he hangs out with us throughout the day, filling our minds with negative, unclean, and unkind thoughts about ourselves or those we are supposed to love. He causes us to have harsh judgements on strangers or lash out on social media. He whispers to us doubts and fears. He does all he can to steer us away from God's light and plunge us into the darkness.

When I explain this to my children, I use the illustration of shoulder angels and shoulder devils. It is true that Satan stays with us until we tell him to leave. His plan was and still is a plan of force. and he will stay as long as we let him. His greatest strength is his anonymity. If we pretend he isn't there, he can truly hangout and create havoc in our lives. 

Before I learned this concept, I thought I was doing great. I read my scriptures regularly, went to church every week, had daily family and personal prayer, paid tithing and served faithfully in my calling. Yet, I still struggled with negative thoughts, with depression, with the the belief that I was not doing enough, that I was not good enough, and that there was no way I would make it to heaven despite everything I was doing.

When I realized where these thoughts were coming from, and that they were not my thoughts, but the thoughts of a cunning devil striving mercilessly to bring me down, I told Satan to leave. In the name of Jesus Christ, I commanded him to depart, and it has made all the difference. I now ask daily in my morning and evening prayers for God to send angels to escort Satan out of my home and for God's angels to surround us throughout the day in order to live in a place of light. It is amazing how much easier it is to listen to my shoulder angel when the devil is no longer allowed a place. 

But just telling the devil to leave isn't enough to win the war. We must increase our light so that he is uncomfortable staying with us, and eventually, can never come back. For light truly does dispel darkness. Again, we can learn how to do this by following the Savior's example.

Not only did Christ command Satan to leave, but He then quoted scripture afterwards, thereby raising His level of light and increasing His power to resist temptation.

To quote an LDS primary song, "Scripture power, keeps me safe from sin. Scripture power is the power to win."

Even Jesus knew that scripture power is the power to win, and He used it to strengthen His ability to overcome. Scriptures are filled with God's light and the more we memorize and apply them to our lives, the more weapons we have in our arsenal to fight Satan and win. For the war is not won with guns and swords, but with words and ideas, just as it was won in heaven.

Just as scriptures are a source of light, so is the power of prayer. 

Through prayer, we can ask God for divine help to assist us. For we are surrounded by concourses of angels, as far as our eyes can see who are waiting for us to ask for their assistance. These angels of light add their power and light to our own and help us to stand in holy places. Just as angels came to assist the Savior, they too can be sent to assist us when we ask for them in faith. They will come to fight the battle for us and guard us with great care.

Hymns also bring light to where you stand and give you power to fight Satan. 

We learn in the Bible Dictionary that David's Psalms are the highest form of prayer. A song of the righteous is a prayer to Father and will be answered with a blessing on our head. Those blessings are many, including a greater increase in light, divine protection, comfort, and inspiration. As we sing hymns of praise, we will fight the darkness with powerful light.

The war in heaven continues to rage here on earth. Once we begin to understand that the war is raging, we can fight on a higher battle ground. We can send Satan away and increase the light where we stand. "For while virtue, by choice, will not associate with filth, evil cannot tolerate the presence of light," -Boyd K. Packer

I encourage all who read this to start now and send Satan away today. Don't just send him away, but stop listening to him when he comes. Fill your life with light, love and goodness. Live in the light and every day will be filled with sunshine, regardless of the weather around you.

It is when we stop listening to the devil, and no longer allow him a place on our shoulder, that we have finally won the war.