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Getting Stoned For Christ!

TheDiscipleMD

More often than not, a story is told, and repeated, about an individual who stands for the right, and is blessed for that decision. The scriptures are full of them. Daniel is a perfect example. It’s the wonderful story of a young man who sticks to his principles, gets thrown in the lions den for such a decision, and prevails when the Lord intervenes by shutting the mouths of the lions. I believe in these kinds of stories and have had personal experience with such. However, I think it is important to remember others stories that are equally uplifting, yet the end of the story is…well…not so fairytale-ish! Often those who choose the right end up like, Stephen of the New Testament, and get stoned to death for their beliefs.

As a young man I held firm in my belief to honor the Sabbath by choosing to not play organized baseball on that day. As I graduated from High School I was approached by the best team in the area if I would play for them. I told them I was hesitant because I knew they played some games on Sunday and I would not play on that day. The coach invited me to play anyway and I had a wonderful experience playing on that team without having to break my Sabbath. Like Daniel, I had held my principles, yet the mouths of the lions had been shut, and I had an outstanding season playing baseball that summer.

When I later became the father of four sons the same issue came up often. My oldest played on a team with the understanding that he would not play on Sunday. When I actually enforced that, the coach became disenchanted, and when my son tried out for that same team the next year he was promptly cut. Another father said to me, “I heard him say that he didn’t need any ‘part-time’ players like your son. It was difficult to explain to my then 12 year old son that sticking with the principle cost him a position on the team. Like Stephen, he had been stoned!

I have learned a valuable lesson over the years. Be it over small things like the one above, or standing for something much bigger, often when you do what is right, the lions mouths will be shut. But there are times when the sting of rocks thrown will bruise and tear at the skin. The question we need to ask is if we are willing to accept ‘come what may’ over our principles. And if we do, we will better be able to deal with the outcome and consequences of our decisions and understand that being ‘stoned’ for Christ, is not necessarily a bad thing.

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God Bless ‘The Strong One’

TheDiscipleMD

There are roles that are being played out behind closed doors in many households that go largely unnoticed by the outside world. One of those is the challenging role of being “The strong one” when it comes to the emotional, spiritual, and temporal nature of a family. In my experience, this role can fall upon the mother or the father of a family, or in some instances, even a child. It is a very challenging role because it requires strength of character and determination to endure to the end. Ideally, this role should be shared, particularly between a husband and wife and, in some families, it is. However, often it is not.

“The Strong One” can’t become discouraged because if they do, there will be no one left who isn’t! They must not allow despair to enter their heart and they always need to keep an optimistic outlook on the tasks at hand. They need to have a soft shoulder and it is often used to comfort the needs of their loved ones. They find joy and happiness in the small things of life because sometimes the small things are all they have. I have spoken and shared thoughts with many of “the strong ones” whose courage goes unnoticed by the world and, many times, by their own loved ones. They are the forgotten heroes of the world whose strength of character holds together families, which are the backbone of our society. They make sacrifices on a daily basis in giving support and encouragement to family members while placing their own needs on the back-burner for yet another day.

Some years ago I was impressed by a snippet of dialogue from a movie called “The Bucket List.” The two main characters were both men in the hospital trying to recover from diseases that would eventually take their lives. They were men with families, one rich and powerful, married four times and estranged from his only daughter. The other was just a common working family man. The rich man seemed to be surprised by the intelligence of the “common” man. I was impressed by this exchange.

CARTER (The family man)

I wanted to be a history professor.

EDWARD (The Rich Man)

Nobody’s perfect.

CARTER

Made it through two months of City College before Virginia gave me the news… Young, black and broke with a baby on the way, you take the first job they offer you. I always meant to go back. But…Forty-five years goes by pretty fast!

The reason this small exchange impressed me was because Carter spent those forty-five years in a job that he really didn’t want to do because he needed to support his wife and children. So this intelligent, wanna-be professor did what he had to do in order to raise a successful family. It would have been so much easier to pursue his own dreams and place himself at the front of the list. There are thousands of men and women who are living the same “strong” lives.

One thing I think you will find in common with “the strong ones” is their deep and abiding faith in a higher power. Since they have no one to lean on, they have learned that the best way to rejuvenate their strength is through faith. For many here in the United States that faith is based in the Lord Jesus Christ. The key for them in staying strong is having trust in the promises of the Lord as found in the scriptures and in the words of modern prophets and apostles. They find strength in obedience to the gospel principles as taught by Christ.

So to all you “strong ones” out there, continue to have faith in the promises of the Lord, and he will continue to sustain you through your life by giving you the strength to carry on. Unfortunately, “the strong ones” will not always be around. They are called home like everyone else. When that day comes, life’s situation will call upon others to step up and take upon them that role. We never know when that role may be cast upon us. Ideally all of us should be strong but many of us are not there yet.  But, let us prepare ourselves in taking on the  role of “the strong one” by fortifying our testimonies of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the grand plan of salvation! May we take the time, today, to learn of His word and gain the strength that comes to those who are the partakers of His goodness! And God bless those “strong ones” who continue to bless the lives of all those they come in contact with! Your reward will be eternal life with our Father!

 

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When We Stand With Honor, We Never Stand Alone!

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In my Senior year of High School an incident happened that I have never forgotten. Because of the shortage of fields the football team and the soccer team, of which I was captain, had to share the usage of the football field from time to time. On this particular day we had been scheduled to use the football field and because of rain, the others fields were un-usable. The football team had no place to practice so the head coach of the football team asked our coach if they could use about twenty yards of the field to run football plays. Our coach consented so we set up a makeshift goal on that end. It consisted of several gym bags stacked on the ground as goal markers. Things went well for a short time and then, while running a pass pattern, one of the football players tripped over the gym bags that lay on the ground. In his anger he heaved the bag about twenty yards onto where we were playing and started to scream at the soccer team. Soon the entire football team was yelling obscenities at us and surprisingly the adult coaches joined in! Now under a barrage of screams and taunts our coach called for us to leave the field. I was on the far side of the field away from the taunting. Everyone of the soccer players exited the field as requested but I was so incensed about what I was watching that I refused to leave. Something came over me and instead I started a slow walk towards the football players, many of whom were friends of mine for years. I stopped about twenty yards from the football team with my hands on my hips and stared them down. Slowly the obscenities and jeers quieted down and total silence took over the field. It was clear in my mind that emotion had overtaken my friends and in the heat of the moment they had lost their heads. I could also see they recognized their error and were ashamed about how they had acted. I slowly walked off the field and as a team we terminated our practice for the day.

The next day the football coach asked for a meeting with our team and issued an apology. To show his sincerity he had the entire football team in the stands that day to watch us play a home game. What a wonderful show of humility by the coach and the players. I have never forgotten their gesture of recompense!

Thomas Monson declared in a meeting, “The call for courage comes constantly to each of us—the courage to stand firm for our convictions, the courage to fulfill our responsibilities, the courage to honor our priesthood.” In 2004 he said in another conference address; “Life’s journey is not traveled on a freeway devoid of obstacles, pitfalls, and snares. Rather, it is a pathway marked by forks and turnings. Decisions are constantly before us. To make them wisely, courage is needed: the courage to say, “No,” the courage to say, “Yes.” Decisions do determine destiny. The call for courage comes constantly to each of us. It has ever been so, and so shall it ever be.”

I am reminded of the story of Elisha found in 2 Kings. With the enemy at the gates and when fear had fallen on the people, a servant approaches Elisha with distressing news. He reports:

“…the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (Chapter 6, vs. 15-17)

When we stand with honor, we never stand alone!

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The Family Pot Roast

TheDiscipleMD

There is a old story told about a young woman who, in fixing her first Sunday dinner for her new husband, cut the ends off of a pot roast, and threw the perfectly good meat into the garbage. Her husband asked her why she was throwing the good meat away.

She stared at him for a minute, and then shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know. It’s something my mother always did.”

Her husband scratched his head and said it didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to him.

So the young lady made a call to her mother. Her mother said, “I don’t know, honey. I always cut the ends off because I saw my mother do it.”

So then a call was placed to grandma, who was able to clarify things. “Sweetie, your mother saw me cut off the ends of a pot roast one Sunday because it was too big to fit in the roasting pan. I had to cut those ends off just because it wouldn’t have otherwise fit. I had no idea she was even watching me!”

“Well, Grandma,” the young woman said, “Mom has tossed out a lot of good meat through the years. But we won’t do it anymore!”

Lorenzo Snow once made a beautiful observation about the influence of our example:

You exert a certain degree of influence, and be it ever so small, it affects some person or persons, and for the results of the influence you exert you are held accountable. You, therefore, whether you acknowledge it or not, have assumed an importance before God and man that cannot be overlooked. (Journal of Discourses, 18:299.)

People do watch what we do and listen to what we say. They also draw conclusions from our actions regarding our family, our faith and our character. May we always remember to honor our family name and most importantly our membership in the church of Christ. May we also remember to be slow to judge others as we often do not know the facts regarding the examples they have been given during their lifetime.

The next time we sit down for our with our family for the Sunday Pot Roast, may we be reminded that everything we do and say is influencing others whether we like it or not.

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