For Our Own Good- Matthew 13:44-46

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

COMMENTARY

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure in a field
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant seeking goodly pearls

I concluded my last post with a casual reference to the parable of the pearl of great price. The more I think about it, the more that parable is really quite fitting for this topic of dealing with commandments that we don’t understand.
The merchant finding the pearl of great price is us discovering the true value of the gospel. It is the moment where it really clicks in us, where ideas like grace and healing go from just being words to being very real hopes and needs.

Which when a man hath found, he selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field
Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it
And when that message does click in our hearts, then suddenly we will surrender every other ideology or philosophy we held previous to that moment, if it means that we can obtain the promises of the gospel.
Perhaps we had certain ideas of the way the world worked, ideas that were not compatible with the principles of the gospel. We let them go, it just doesn’t matter. Perhaps we scoffed at certain commandments, perhaps we still don’t understand them in their entirety. We adopt them anyway, it just doesn’t matter.
Because like the man buying the field and the merchant purchasing the pearl, once we feel that need for God in our lives, we’ll do whatever it takes to be near Him.

Seeking Spiritual Witnesses- Matthew 9:20-22

And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:
For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.
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.

COMMENTARY

For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole
Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole
The woman with the issue of blood being healed is further evidence that we can seek specific blessings and witnesses from God. She felt in her heart what she needed to do to receive from God, she acted on that knowledge, and her faith was rewarded.
When I was young, I would try to ask for things of God, and I would pile upon the request every ounce of believing that I could muster. Then, if I did not receive, I felt convinced that I had not possessed enough faith. In my childhood mind, faith was a sort of currency, and if one just had enough of it they could get whatever they wanted.
I do not believe that God is opposed to us asking Him for our wants, but we should understand that His answer might be yes or no. In fact His answer might be nothing at all, simply to let the matter unfold naturally without any intervention.
But sometimes it isn’t just a want. Sometimes we know in our bones that there is something our soul needs. And we know that it isn’t only something that we want for ourselves, but that God wants for us, too. I suspect that the woman with the issue of blood might have known, as in really known, that God wanted her to be healed, and that touching Jesus’s garment would effect that. In my life I have really known that God was ready to heal me of my shame and addictions, and I knew what actions I needed to take to receive that blessing. I did not wonder in those moments whether God would meet my reaching. I had the reassuring confidence that if I would act, then my faith would be rewarded. And it was.

Making Time for God- Luke 10:38-42, Matthew 4:4

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

COMMENTARY

But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things
Sometimes it is “good” things that are taking our time away from the sublime. A father might stay late at work to provide, but miss out on being with his family. A wife might tirelessly serve her community, but never have time to connect with God. A youth might strive for a good grade, but be distracted from hearing her higher calling.
We can do these “good” things and by worldly terms have a “good life.” On the exterior we might appear entirely accomplished and complete. But then, we so very often see just these sorts of accomplished, successful people implode. Why? Because “good” is simply not “good enough.”

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God
A life full of “good” things is incomplete, because the world’s “good” leaves the spirit starved. We are inseparably tied to an eternal soul, and that part will settle for nothing less than the sublime.
No career achievement, no worldly fame, no admiration of others is going to be able to fill that hole in us. No amount of worldly bread or social duty is enough to feed the soul. That is the truth that Jesus asserted both when rejecting Satan’s temptation and correcting Martha’s priorities.

Personal Promises- Summary

Many believe in God, but true spiritual vocation does not begin until one knows Him personally. I wanted to use this study to explain why this is the case, and to convince any reader that they can and must seek this personal relationship with God.

We are immensely aided in this quest by the fact that the greatest being in the universe has this exact intention for us as well. It’s not like we have to convince God to be our friend. And if there are obstacles that are preventing Him from coming into our lives, He will work tirelessly to bring them down.

This is why people so many say that coming to know God was simply being a process of tearing down their walls and letting in the light. It’s already there reaching out for us, we only have to receive it.

No Person Can Replace the Need For God

My wife and I are expecting our second child, and I have had some concerns for how this will affect my relationship with our son. I do not doubt that my capacity for love and devotion to him will remain intact, even while cultivating the same for the new child. But there is simply no getting around the fact that my time for him will diminish.
We are finite beings with limited physical resources. When new dependencies are added, all others must necessarily receive less of those resources. That is just the way of the world.
Already I am incapable of meeting my son’s every need, and as my resources stretch thinner and his needs grow deeper, I will only become more so. Any person who has had any position of authority is well acquainted with this inadequacy, and they will realize that their real duty is simply to point their followers to the true source. Like Jairus, we must bring the Lord to our children, so that He can do for them all the things that we cannot.
Exodus 18:17-18- And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.

We All Need God in Different Ways

We may try to chart our own course, following general guidelines and generic rules, but that will only take us so far. Eventually we all run into very personal, and very specific spiritual needs. And even if our highly specific need is already answered in the scriptures, we will still need a personal touch just to show us where it is!
Even outside of receiving guidance, we also need to be seen and heard. Yes, knowing God’s will is important, but we also need to know His love. We need to feel the reality of being His child. Being told by a preacher that we are His child is not enough, we need Him to tell us that we are.
In short there is not a single one of us that does not need God to come personally in our hearts. We were never meant to follow His shadow, or to only hear secondhand the wonders that He has done. He wishes to reveal Himself to us directly.
Psalm 102:1- Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee.
Matthew 11:28-29- Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Scriptural Stories Give Us Hope For Connection

The presence of God was never meant to be limited to the prophets of ancient times. The miracles of God were never meant to cease with the Kingdom of Israel. The scriptures and the accounts of the miracles in them were not given to tell us what God theoretically could do. We have those records to give us confidence that He will do the same for us.
We often say that we are inspired by the stories of Jesus healing the sick. But “inspired” does not mean just to be made to feel good, it means to be motivated, to be stimulated, to be given a vision to reach for. We should read about the blind seeing and the lame walking and say “well then why not me, too?”
Counting on God to show up for us can be a frightful thing to do. The fact is, if we vulnerably reach out and find nothing there, that would be a very crushing experience. There’s no shame in admitting that.
But the stories in the scriptures tell us that we should dare to hope. Yes it would be crushing to learn that no one was there to meet us. But there was someone there for Bartimaeus. And for Jairus’s daughter. And for the man sick with palsy. And for Mary Magdalene. And for the widow with the cruse of oil. And for Daniel in the lion’s den. And for the army of Gideon. And for the Israelites fleeing across the Red Sea. And for so many others. He will be there for you, too.
Malachi 3:10- Prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Knit Our Hearts- Summary

This study has been a very good place for my mind to dwell. Personal relationships with others is an element of my discipleship that has been lacking, and through this study I have been able to identify the reasons why. And knowing them, I have been able to choose practices that I believe will help me to improve.

Specifically I have committed to reaching out to neighbors around me on a weekly basis, whether to serve them or to just to share in a positive experience. Also I have begun a daily “forgiveness” meditation, where I reflect on the day’s frustrations, acknowledge those negative feelings, and then vocally forgive the perpetrator. Including when that perpetrator is myself.

If while reading through my study notes you had ideas and behaviors come to your mind as well, then I would encourage you to take those seriously. Perhaps God is speaking to you through these verses just as He has to me. Here are the core concepts that stood out to me from this study.

We are made for companionship

John Donne was correct when he penned the words “no man is an island.” We are designed to be social, to be connected to one another. I sincerely believe one of the greatest blights in our world today is how isolated so many of us are. And merely being in public places or attending group gatherings is not the same as having social connection.
All of us require personal, one-to-one companionship with others. We need someone to know us by name, by face, by heart. We are incomplete beings after all, there is no getting around that. It will never work to try and fill all those holes with by sheer force of will. Sooner or later we need to let another person complete us instead.
Genesis 2:18- And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
Proverbs 27:17- Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Relationships Are Built On Sharing

Being lonely is unpleasant, and those in that state of being will surely try to escape it. But how exactly to do so can be a mystery. One might master the art of telling jokes and stories, go to a social gathering, be incredibly entertaining the entire evening, and all the while still feel hollow inside.
Having good manners and knowing how to “get along well” with others are good things, but they are not the things that real connections are made of. Vulnerability, shared experiences, working together for a common cause; these are the things that form true bonds between people. Each of them is uncomfortable or difficult in its own way, and everyone is tempted to find an easier path. In the end, though, how can we hope to have a meaningful relationship, if not by meaningful effort?
Amos 3:3- Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

Closing the Rifts That Grow Between

Whenever we succeed in establishing a meaningful relationship with another, there will always arise an opportunity to end it. Whether one intentionally wrongs the other, or there is a misunderstanding, or even just a gradual drifting apart. Each of these situations sets a trajectory, one set upon dividing the two permanently; and unless that force is intentionally curtailed it will succeed. There must be a moment of turning back together.
We all know that we must repent of our sins and seek forgiveness from God, but every human relationship requires reconciliation as well. If we never learn how to both forgive and seek forgiveness, then we will never learn how to make anything that lasts. And isn’t that one of our great purposes here in life? To make bonds that hold through all things?
James 5:16- Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.
Matthew 18:15- Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault…if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

The Family of God- Summary

While there many wonderful lessons in this study, there was one particular message that spoke to me most of all. While reviewing the scriptural verses on the Family of God, I found myself constantly drawn back to our tendency to put up barriers between ourselves and others, and the need to break them down. I guess this was the message that I needed most, and I am glad to have found it.

I don’t think any of us would deny that there is a lot of division in this world right now, and that it is holding us back as a society. We each have a vision of a united people, but we can’t seem to agree what that unity should look like. Different ideologies each come with different pros and cons, and none of them leave everyone entirely satisfied.

But this endeavor to fashion a new family structure is just us reinventing the wheel. We do not need to solve an already-answered question, the original answer is still the best. Our role as children in a divine family was chosen before we were ever born. The unity we need is God’s unity, and the path we need to follow is His.

Our Fates Are Tied Together

I do not know why we try to make reaching heaven such an isolated effort. We seem to have this idea that I am to get myself to heaven, and you are to get yourself there. We might expand it a little bit to say Jesus and I will get me to heaven, and Jesus and you will get you to heaven, but there is still no overlap between you and I.
If this was truly the model God intended for our salvation, why not just create a few billion individual worlds where He could work with us in isolation? Each of us in our own little bubble, getting saved separately one at a time.
But that isn’t the environment God chose for us. Because in the end, none of us was meant to come to heaven alone. Our very existence here mandates that we are directly tied to at least two separate human beings, and then by extension to all others. God tied us together because we are supposed to be tied together. Our salvation is not mine and yours, but ours.
Matthew 18:20- For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Malachi 2:10- Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?

There Is No Place for Contention

Because of our dependence on each other, all that is necessary for us to to fail is to see our friends as our foes. No wonder, then, that Satan prioritizes sowing discord. Once we are unable to work together it doesn’t matter how much good we try to do in isolation. He has cut us off upstream, and there is nothing to work with down below.
In his ingenuity he has taught us to be self-righteous about it, too. We tell ourselves that we cannot work with that person because they are bad. If we had some real Christians to work with that would be something else, but to associate with these would be compromising our standards!
And so we undo the ties we were literally born with, and divide the one world we were meant to share into those billions of isolated ones I mentioned above. And then, separated and alone, we are far more easily overpowered by the adversary.
Luke 22:24- And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
3 Nephi 11:29- For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

Rely on One Another’s Strengths

Now to be clear, there are certain things that we brothers and sisters can simply never do for one another. I can never atone for your sins. You cannot cleanse me from past mistakes. No brother or sister can teach us all the mysteries of heaven and earth. There are needs of ours that will only ever be answered by God, the Savior, and the Holy Ghost.
But on the other hand, there are also things that we are only going to get from each other. Not because God couldn’t directly give these things to us if He wanted, but because He doesn’t want to. Anyone who has prayed and asked for answers knows that often God insists on sending us the answer through another person.
Think of it another way. What are your personal strengths? What God-given gifts do you hold? Okay…now what are you supposed to do with them? Surely it is to help other people in some way, to do something essential for them. To fill a role in their life that only you could fill. Alright, now if you have strengths that God gave you for the express purpose of helping others, doesn’t it only stand to reason that He also gave gifts to your brothers and sisters for the express purpose of having them help you? To do something essential for you? Something that only they can?
By myself I have many weakness and many flaws. But with my brothers and sisters, I start to approach the perfection God meant for me.
Romans 12:4-6- For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.

Service to Others- Summary

This study has been extremely beneficial for me, I do hope that it has been helpful for you as well. I very much enjoyed this approach of both researching and practicing, it is something I think I would like to incorporate more in future studies.
There is a principle of the gospel that I think needs stressing at this point: understanding the reasons behind what we are taught is important, but doing the things we are taught is more so. By reading the scriptures I found things I had never considered before. By trying to act on their instructions I found even more.
I am always amazed at just how much there is to learn. You think I would be used to finding so much depth to the gospel, yet I continue to be caught by surprise. I honestly feel I could linger on this topic for twice as long and still not be finished.

We All Need to Serve

Many of us feel a twinge of guilt when we hear lessons about serving others. The fact we feel guilty, though, means we really do know in our hearts that it is a true principle. At our cores we are made to serve, it is baked into our human DNA. Most commonly we think of basic needs in the form of things that we need to receive: food, and rest, and love. But we also have a need to give, and we do not feel complete until we embrace it.
And so we want to serve, but simultaneously we do not want to. We are mixed beings, composed of both the spirit and the flesh. To ever serve, then, requires that the spiritual part overcome the carnal. If you find yourself hesitating to give freely, don’t feel ashamed, it is an entirely normal way to be. But also know that you can grow past this common weakness, and give full expression to the generosity that your spirit yearns for.
Moses 7:32- And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another.
Galatians 5:13- For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

We All Need to be Served

Service is a beautiful principle in how it meets two needs at once. For we not only need to care, we also need to be cared for. Our modern culture pressures us to be independent, to need no one. A message which can easily lead to a state of perpetual emptiness.
Now, to be fair, it is of course possible to leech off of others or become a helpless codependent. These are not the same as receiving service. To receive service is to receive that which you truly cannot give to yourself. Things like knowing you are a priority to another person, receiving their attention, their care, to have them listen to what you say. These are food for the soul.
John 13:6, 8-
Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Thou shalt never wash my feet.
Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.

Service is a Divine Act that Binds Together

The need to serve and also be served connects us to one another. It makes us form societies rather than spread out as individual hermits. It pushes us towards the better part of our natures, giving freely, acting kindly, helping our fellow man.
But the divine binding does not end here. For some of our needs to serve and be served cannot be answered in any mortal. We need to serve God, and we need to be shown tender mercies by Him. Perhaps some things were made to stand alone, but neither a man nor all mankind were. As individuals, and as a composite body we need our Father. And there is nothing shameful in that, it empowers us to be more than ourselves.
Romans 12:5- So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Galatians 6:2- Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.