Monday, August 25, 2014

There is Power, Power, Wonder-Working Power

Well, folks, it has been a couple weeks since the last great and grand update, so here be another one. :) JB is going great--it's certainly the most sketch of my areas, but that's okee-dokee. Today, I wanted to share a quick thought with you from my Personal Study yesterday: I was reading Alma 43, right at the beginning of the war chapters (my favorite part of the Book of Mormon! :) ). As I was reading, I noticed something cool in Alma 43:38. It mentions that every now and then a Nephite soldier would fall due to the "loss of blood". They were shielded and protected, but every once in a while during this great war that was raging they would fall because they'd lost too much blood.
I racked my brains, trying to figure out a good way to apply the scripture to me personally. This chapter has so many great parallels to the spiritual war that we find ourselves in at this time. The thought leapt to my mind of Exodus12:13--"And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt." 
What can kill us spiritually? What can separate us from the presence of God? A loss of blood--but whose blood? This is just the ramblings of a redhead, but it brought me comfort as I thought about it. The precious blood of our Savior and Redeemer, even Jesus Christ, was shed for each and every one of us. It was commemorated by the ancient Israelites as they smeared lamb's blood over the lintels and doorposts of Goshen; it is remembered by modern-day descendants of Abraham as we partake of the Sacrament and renew our covenants with God. The ATONEMENT--the heart and core of the message of the Gospel. When we suffer from a "loss of blood"--in other words, when we are without the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ in our lives, when we literally have a loss of His blood to atone for our unrepented sins--then we become spiritually wounded. Then we face the terrible possibility of separation from our Father and from our Elder Brother.
But the marvelous Plan of Salvation has been laid, from before the foundations of the world, to ensure that if and when we sin, that atoning blood will wash us clean. It is our choice--we must exhibit faith (in other words, an abiding belief and action to back up that belief) and repent of our wrongdoings, and then, in the words of Amulek, "immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto [us]" (Alma 34:31; emphasis added). 
I invite and encourage each of us to remember to always apply that atoning blood in our lives. Let us not take the Atonement for granted. Let it not only heal us, but let it ENABLE us to become more and more like its Author, even our Captain, and King--Jesus Christ, the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Savior and Redeemer of the New.
I love you all and hope that you have a marvelous week! Keep on keeping on!
Mai Zhanglao

Monday, August 11, 2014

Into the West (Malaysia, That Is)

To all friends, family, poisonous reptiles:
Well, this here be the last dispatch from Kuching. I got the call this morning--I'm off to West Malaysia! Johor Bahru, to be precise :) I'm really excited for it, but I'm sad to say good-bye to all of the people that I love so much here in Kuching. The past six months have FLOWN by! I can't believe how fast it's been! I could stay here for the rest of my mission and not feel bad about it; but the Lord would like me to go elsewhere for now. I'm so excited to see what JB's got in store.
This past week the Lord taught me a really cool lesson that I'd like to share with you:
One Wednesday afternoon, as me and Elder Chong are biking along, I notice that there's something shining on my tire. We pull over, and it's a thumbtack in my tire! Nice, silver, and stuck quite fast. We tried to take it out, but the protesting squeak as air started to rush out of the tire prompted us to just leave it where it was. With the tack still in the tire, we pedaled our way to an appointment about 30 minutes away. The tire held air till there, and for another 30 minutes afterwards before it started to leak again. The tack was what was holding the air in the tire; if we'd taken it out, we would've had a flat tire on our hands.
As I sat later, pondering on that experience, I got the distinct impression that God was trying to teach me something with it. Here's the answer that I feel I was supposed to receive: Although that occurence was a miracle (it really was! :) ), I was meant to learn that good will always be good, and bad will always be bad. One of my favorite scriptures in Moroni 7:13, and its principle was demonstrated with this experience. Although the thumbtack was nice, shiny, and acted as a really pretty bike tire ornament for a while, it was still a THUMBTACK. Its identity never changed. Although God blessed that bike with the miracle of keeping from going flat for a little while, the tack was still the cause of a flat tire. The tack was still something detrimental to the bike.
No matter how appealing sin may look, no matter what "upfront benefits" it promises, no matter how attractive or nice evil's appearance may be--it will always be just that, evil. Wicked. Bad. On the flip side, no matter how dull or dim or unattractive or boring or strange good may be, no matter how old it is, no matter who it's coming from--good will always be just that, good. Happiness. Righteousness. Clarity of conscience. Peace of mind.
I know that we have a Savior--even Jesus Christ, the Son of God--who is the Fountain of all righteousness, the Author of all good things. I know that He lives and that He loves us, and that He is our greatest Ally, our best Friend, our Elder Brother, our Captain, our King.
I love you all, and hope you have a magnificent week! Catch ya later from the wilds of JB! :)
Mai Zhanglao