Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Parsing Corinthians Chapter 5

This is a chapter where Paul talks about how radically different your outlook on life and your priorities become when you convert to Christ. 

He says that such conversion transforms what we hope for and yearn for.  We begin to yearn to be part of heaven here; to become one with God in his work.

And that transformation is effectuated by God as we experience the influence of the Holy Ghost.  (Paul likens our experience with the Holy Ghost to "earnest" money--money given to show one's sincere determination to give all that was promised in a contract.  Our experience with the Holy Ghost can be seen as receiving an "earnest" outlay and taste of the light and power of God, the clear reality of God, God's work, and all that is promised and intended for his children, both now and in the future, by the Father and the Son.)

The "selfsame thing" refers to our yearning to live a holy, heaven directed life.

Just as we are more inclined to move forward with faith in a legal contract with another person when that person has given us earnest money, which money indicates full intent to give the whole sum which we have not yet had presented to us, so we move forward with faith in a covenant with God having experienced the "earnest" he presents to us; the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Thus the verse in this chapter:   "we walk by faith" (having received a taste of what it is like to be fully connected with God and having faith that a complete connection is possible), "not by sight" (not yet having seen or received the fullness of what is promised).

Previously to this our focus was on ourselves and working on our own behalf ("live unto themselves") but that changes and we become more interested in working for and with God the Father and his son Jesus Christ.

Thus we become a new person "in Christ", becoming "a new creature", born again and also reconciled to God because we have begun to understand and embrace Christ's atonement (his taking on our sins and paying the price for them so that we may hope to be one with Him and holy and love-filled too).

And, says, Paul, that gift of the atonement, that "reconciliation" is a thing that is not only given, but also must be actively welcomed and received in order for our transformation to begin as well as to come to full fruition.

"We pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.  For he that made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

Thursday, June 09, 2016

A Very Big Puddle. One for the grandkids.

About this time of year the rainy season starts.  So we try to remember to take our umbrella with us when we go out, even if it doesn't look like it will rain.  Rain can start an any time.  And it can quickly go from light drizzle to downpour in a very short time.

The rain does clear the air nicely.

This is the street our apartment building is on.  You can see the stream bed across the street.  






                                      
Usually when it rains the streets get wet and somewhat puddly and then they dry up again:




But a few weeks ago we got quite a bit of rain.
                                                 Displaying IMG_20160609_063349790_HDR.jpg 
                



And the stream bed overflowed.

A lot!





The streets around our building turned into a very, very big puddle.
 People tried to drive in the middle of the road where the water was lowest so that their motorcycles and cars would not get their engines full of water and stop.  





If you look carefully in this picture you might see some of the motorcycle riders wading in the water. They are pushing their motorcycles because the water was so deep that the motorcycles stopped.  The water is up to their knees.


Some motorcyclists and drivers stopped in the middle of the intersection and huddled together where street was still bare.



Soon the huddle was a very, very big huddle.


A very big huddle in a very big puddle.

Fortunately, eventually the rain stopped and the water went down, and by the next day there were 
only little puddles left.


We have had a lot of rain since then.  And we still always bring our umbrella when we go out.  But we have not had another day with that much rain since then.  And we have never had a puddle as big as the one that we had that day.

Monday, June 06, 2016

I Have Found That Being Willing to Carefully Review My Own Assumptions....

“If during the course of my investigation, I run across something that I did not expect, what happens if I then pause to reflect and ask, ‘What should I expect?'....
“I learned that I could not trust the institutional arms of the Church to provide me with all the information I might need. If I wanted to know, to be prepared, I had to take personal responsibility. In retrospect, my program involved three elements. Keep my eyes open. Give things time. And re-examine my own assumptions now and then. The alternative is to not pay attention. Insist on final answers now. And never re-examine my own assumptions. Either choice on these three points has consequences in life.”
~Kevin Christensen, "Eye of the Beholder, Law of the Harvest"


Thursday, June 02, 2016

"Oh that I were an angel, and could whack them upside the head"

When I first heard the song "Oh That I Were an Angel" it was sung by a lyric soprano in a missionary meeting almost forty years ago.
The soprano sounded something like these three ladies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfE1eGj0w24

The melody makes it sound like a sort of "oh, wouldn't it be lovely if I could just float around and unmistakably spread this sweet, lovely, good, profound message of God to everyone".



Except that the lyrics to this song are from the first verse of chapter 29 of the book of Alma.  And Alma isn't talking about just general spreading of the good news to your average, usual, somewhat sinful people in your average everyday city or town.

Rather, HE HAS JUST WITNESSED THE WORST SLAUGHTER OF HUMAN BEINGS UP TO THAT TIME IN HIS SOCIETY (Alma 28)
"A tremendous slaughter"..."even such an one as never had been known among all the people in the land from the time Lehi left Jerusalem,"
tens of thousands of people slain in a single battle,
tens of thousands of families dealing with deep grief,
and the fighting continuing for FIFTEEN years.
which fifteen years of horrible stuff he attributes to "the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men."

He has witnessed people fully embracing hate and evil, doing horrible things and causing devastating grief and pain because of it.  And not stopping.

And...  If you think about it...

What kind of angel has Alma encountered before?

The kind that has a voice and a demeanor that rattles you through and through, dumps you on the ground, shakes the earth, and leaves you comatose, harrowed up by your sins and finally able to realize how horrible you've been.  (Mosiah 27)

This is not "oh, wouldn't it be lovely if I could just be a glorious angel and go about clearly and loudly and sweetly declaring glad tidings."

This is "God, what is happening here is HORRIBLE. And I really, really, REALLY want to be able to WHACK these people upside the head the way I was whacked."

I think we need a composer to come up with a different melody.

Also, understanding where he is coming from and what he has witnessed makes the verses that follow (29:2-9) a pretty powerful statement about humility, justice, agency and trust in God when in a situation such as his.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Thinking about Limhi's description of his situation. Mosiah 7:24-33

And thinking about Germany and France 77 years ago.
What do you do when the people in your country are smitten with sore afflictions and in bondage, and finding that their ways are hedged up and that their work is just creating stumbling blocks, and they are "reaping the chaff of filthiness as in a whirlwind, and the 'east wind' which brings destruction" because of the wicked decisions and action of rulers, authority figures and of "the voice of the people"...how do you maintain hope?
"But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage."
In other words, you do whatever you can to support those who understand what is righteousness and what is wickedness and who will not be deceived.
You become determined to be, as much as possible, a source of hope and help for the innocent men, women and especially the children who suffer the consequences of the devastating decisions of others.
You grab hold of God's grace with all you've got for the strength and vision required to heal and bless.
You may not live to see the society that you are part of experience the deliverance the Lord may provide, or live to see the healing from the horrendous damage that comes from socially or politically powerful people embracing decisions that bring horribly destructive consequences but you can be a part of the efforts to prepare for that healing and ever seek to lay foundations for it.
People have done so before.
Le Chambon, France
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/167405.Lest_Innocent_Blood_Be_Shed

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Prudence

"...I have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made...for I rule in the heavens above and the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence..."

A glimpse at the etymology and history of "prudence":

mid 14th century meaning intelligence, discretion, foresight, wisdom to see what is suitable or helpful.

Thomas Aquinas listed it as the first of the four cardinal virtues, defining it as: "wisdom to see what is virtuous"



13th century, from Old French "prudence"

and directly from Latin "prudentia", a forseeing, forsight, sagacity, or practical judgment.

Plato listed it as a cardinal virtue in "Republic". Aristotle defined prudence as recta ratio agibilium, "right reason applied to practice, a phrase Thomas Aquinas used as well..  

Aquinas elaborated further, writing that prudence functions as a principle virtue on which a variety of other excellences hinge. Those excellences include: memory, intelligence, docility, shrewdness, reason, foresight, circumspection, and caution (ST IIaIIae 49.1-8).

It is interesting to contemplate God as the epitome of prudence as well as of wisdom.  And how that should translate into my discipleship is, I think, worth my taking some time to consider.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Rephrasing 1st Peter, chapter 1 and a bit of chapter 2

Dear far away, as yet unmet, friends who have come to recognize and be changed by the Spirit of the Lord such that you have embraced repentance and discipleship. I wish you much grace and peace.

Thanks be to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ whose abundant mercy has enabled you to be born again to new hope, which hope in you upon started upon learning of Jesus' resurrection,

You rejoice greatly in this, even during the times when temptations come and your faith is tried. Your faith in the Lord is more precious than gold, but that does not mean it will not be tried to the extreme. There is reason to rejoice, even through those fiery trials of faith, for trials of faith can, if you continue in faith, prepare you for experiences full of praise, honor and glory when you meet Jesus Christ again.

You have not met Him, but you love Him. And even though you have not met Him or seen Him, you believe and experience the joy and rejoicing and sense of glory that comes from that decision to believe Him. And that, you will find, fills you with a sense of what will be the ultimate result of your faith: the salvation of your soul: the ability to stand, blameless and free and full of love, in the presence of God.

For centuries prophets prophesied of the wonderful gift of daily grace from God that you would experience, and asked and diligently searched to find out when the suffering and atonement of Christ would happen and when the particularly glorious hope that would follow that would begin.

It was revealed to them that it would not happen during their lifetimes, but, nonetheless, they did teach and testify of it coming. And you have experienced the arrival of that wonderful gift as you listened to those who have preached the gospel to you and taught with the Spirit of the Lord. Angels in heaven love watching that happen.

So, set your mind to be faithful, brave, and ready to do God's work. Be sober. Continue hopeful and continue living expecting the amazing grace that is to be

You are called to be obedient children of God, not just people following our appetites or passions as you were before you understood. Be holy in your conversations. The scriptures have taught us that, as followers of the Holy One, he has called us to be holy.

You know that you were not redeemed with money. Payment for sin is not made with physical things. You were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. The old way of making a sacrifice with an unblemished lamb was a foretelling of this ultimate sacrifice for your redemption.

Christ was appointed to this work of redemption before the world was created but He carried it out during your current time. You believe in God, the Father. And it was God, the Father, who raised Him from the dead and gave him glory so that you might have this faith and hope in God that you have now.

You have been obeying truth as the Spirit teaches it to you in such a way that you have learned to honestly love those who have taught you. In that same manner you must also learn to love one another purely and fully. You can do that because you have been born again through your embracing of the living and eternal word of God and his grace in your life.

So, humbly and soberly call upon God, the Father, who does not play favorites, but judges and knows you, and everyone else, fairly and completely. ( a sobering thought)


We are mortals with mortal bodies and mortal ideas. Mortal bodies and ideas and their accompanying mortal glory, like grass and flowers, eventually wither. But the word of the Lord endures forever. And this enduring word of the Lord is what has directed the teaching of the gospel to you.

So lay aside all malice, any wishing of harm to others, any desire to deceive others, and all hypocrisy, envying or speaking ill of others.  Instead, humble yourself; hunger and thirst after the word of the Lord.  The word of the Lord is as essential to our spiritual growth and our living in grace as milk is to a baby's physical growth and health.  We thirst must for it. We cannot grow or thrive in grace or understanding without it.