Saturday, February 17, 2018

Moroni 7: Characteristics of actual faith

“Wherefore...[a man] cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek and lowly of heart.  If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God save the meek and lowly in heart;

In the New Testament, when Jesus says that he is meek and lowly, the words there are  “πραΰς” (praus) andταπεινὸς”  (tapeinos)  Which translate as “gentle” and “lowly”.

I think that means that there is no room for assumption or cockiness in the kind of faith and hope that God desires.  I think that means that whenever our faith becomes focused on achieving certain, hoped for outcomes or recognition of the rightness or our desires, to the detriment of our gentle awareness and treatment of others, our faith is not of God.  And whenever our faith fails to include humility and a willingness to receive, graciously, something that is given that is not what we wished for, we’ve got some learning to do.

Positive mental attitudes and focused confidence on desired outcomes, can be helpful sometimes to some people.  
But they are not faith.

I believe that you can save yourself a lot of confusion if you understand that.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

When help is offered

Every offer or attempt I make to assist Christ with his work here is intrinsically inadequate or flawed or unnecessary when compared to what he can and does do.
Yet He graciously accepts it and consciously appreciates whatever is good about my offer or efforts even though He has already got everything and all eventualities planned for and covered.

Such is a model of gracious appreciation that I should follow more carefully.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Grace for grace

Grace is sometimes defined as the power beyond our own that God gives us. But that is not grace. That power given is the result of his grace. Grace is an attribute of God's character; his ready, open-hearted willingness to assist.

Webster’s 1828 dictionary points to the understanding of the word “grace” nearly 200 years ago.  In that dictionary the following definitions are found.
1. Favor; good will; kindness; disposition to oblige [willingly assist]; as a grant made as an act of
2. The free unmerited love and favor of God
3. Favorable influence of God; divine influence or the influence of the spirit, in renewing the heart
and restraining from sin
4. Virtuous or religious affection or disposition, as a liberal [generous] disposition, faith meekness,
humility, patience, etc. proceeding from divine influence
5. Favor, mercy, pardon

God is full of grace (that generous good will, kindness and desire to assist etc) . When grace is presentin a being who is omnipotent and omniscient as well as fully good, the result in your life when you are a recipient of his willingly given help can be powerful and wise and good beyond comprehension.  (for a prime example: the Atonement on our behalf performed by Jesus Christ; a nearly incomprehensible act of love which he did for us due to his grace)

Understanding this definition of grace helps me to understand a phrase that shows up in scripture: "grace for grace"

For example:  "Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved.  And may God grant, in his great fulness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works.

The above scripture we are called upon to repent, and turn to the voice of the Lord, which repentance changes the way we behave, becoming more involved in "good works". (Good works are "charitable acts").  In other words, as people repent they become more like God, more open-hearted, more loving, more willing to assist, ie. more full of grace. They change how they treat others, are more often aware of others’ needs, and are more often, therefore, in a place where they are consciously trying to help and bless others. They have incorporated grace (generous good will, kindness, desire to assist) more fully in their lives.  The grace that they have incorporated into their lives and into their responses to others puts them in a position where they respond to others more like God does.

This can become a continuing pattern: repentance (changing the desires of your heart so that they more closely align with God) leads to more communion with Him which leads us to respond to others with grace, which leads to our receiving greater divine understanding and assistance (grace) from Him and further repentance and communion and engagement with God, which increases our capacity to respond and act with grace, etc….

So, as we turn to God, repent and increase our commitment to acting in grace (ready, willing to wisely respond and act towards others with love) that, in turn, causes us to be in a position to receive and recognize and put to good employ the blessings that he, with great grace gives us to assist us in that work.  His grace becomes manifest in is his ready willingness to wisely and lovingly respond and help us with our efforts to, readily and willingly and wisely and lovingly respond to others.

It is a continual pattern:  God, who is full of grace, freely gives us greater capacity for grace in our own character and interactions with others as we welcome the invitation and seek to respond with grace to others in a manner that is similar to the way He responds to them, and to us.

We receive grace for grace.

Try reading these verses of scripture with this definition for the word “grace” inserted for clarity.


32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall
deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, [a life of
repentance] then is his ready, wise, open-hearted willingness to assist (his grace) sufficient for you, that by his ready, open-hearted willingness to assist (his grace) ye may be perfect in Christ; and if due to God’s ready, wise, open-hearted willingness to assist (his grace), ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
16 And of his fulness have all we received, [His powerful] ready, wise, open-hearted willingness to assist (grace) for [our imperfect] ready, wise, open-hearted willingness to assist.
17 For the law was given by Moses, but divine ready, wise, open-hearted willingness to assist (grace), and truth, came by Jesus Christ.

(If I think about the change in understanding from the Mosaic law which people tended to interpret as
the law of a God focused on justice and performance, which was the understanding when John the
Baptist said the above, and contrast it with the message of Christ’s forthcoming gift to all of amazing atonement which is an epitome of willingness to assist, this passage is profound to me.)

9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the
church of God.
10 But through God’s powerful ready, wise, open-hearted willingness to assist (grace) I am what I am: and his ready, wise, open-hearted willingness to assist (grace), which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the ready, wise, open-hearted assistance (grace) of God which was with me.
Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth ready, wise, powerful open-hearted assistance (grace) unto the humble.

So now try reading these two with that understanding of what grace is.  What do you think they teach us about the meaning and purpose of grace?

29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

11. And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
12 And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;
13 And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace , until he received a fulness;

In that last one I  think that John is trying to describe Jesus' early life, a process, as he learned about the Father and His ways, of experiencing, learning from, and choosing to live a life that was epitomized by choosing to have grace be the essence of his interactions with others, and in that process, receiving willingly given and powerful divine assistance and increased comprehension (a gift of grace) from the Father as he did so.

I believe that such is the kind of life that we are also called to choose.

Friday, December 29, 2017

One thing I know.

This one thing I know: Great love or respect in a marriage or in a family is not anchored in seeking to create a standard of high performance in a mutually agreed upon worthy endeavor. That is not what ultimately makes that relationship become all that it can be. Rather great love is fostered and grows when there is “an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion”* combined with a deep, true and unwavering mutual appreciation and gratitude for all that is good in the other, regardless of challenges, or weakness, or “level of performance” as we seek, as individuals or as a couple, to simply do the good we can. 
A love thus fostered is the kind of love that will endure, with peace, to the end, long past the time when we are “performing at peak capacity” and far beyond the time in life when an elusive ideal of perfect seamlesss synchronization seemed mentally or physcially possible. It is a love that frees us to become, together, a union that is far beyond the measure of performance and rests simply and wholly in the realm of pure and heaven orchestrated charity. I choose that kind of love. I choose a love that simply is. I do not do it perfectly. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I fail. But it is what I choose. That is one wall upon which I choose to lean my life’s ladder.
“Great beyond comprehension is the love of God. He is our loving Eternal Father. Out of His love for us, He has given an eternal plan which, when followed, leads to exaltation in His kingdom. Out of His love for us, He sent His Firstborn into the world, who, out of His own divine love, gave Himself as a sacrifice for each of us. His was an incomparable gift of love to a world that largely spurned Him. He is our great exemplar. We should let love become the lodestar of our lives…Let that divine love, shed on us, be reflected from our lives onto others of our Father’s children.” ~ Gordon B. Hinckley, April 1989
*G. B. Hinckley, “What God Hath Joined Together”, April 1991

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The basics: The Sermon on the Mount

Sermon the Mount. Making it more accessible. Here's the first draft for the first chapter, Matthew 5, starting with verse 16:
When you know a good and right way to live, live that way. That helps other people to see goodness and recognize the goodness of God.
You may get angry sometimes and that anger may make you want to do stupid or bad things. Anger can cause you to make very bad choices Be very wise. Be sure your reasons for anger are good ones. And no matter how much anger you feel, do good things because of it, not bad things. And certainly do not ever let your anger cause you to put down other people, no matter who they are.
Just don't make fun of other people, period.
So...instead....when you have a disagreement with someone or you are mad at them, work hard to find a solution that works for both of you. Working on that will make it much easier for you to hear and understand God's words when you worship at church.
Keep your thoughts focused on what is good, not on what feels exciting and pleasurable, because your thoughts are important as well as your actions.
Speak the truth plainly.
Don't swear.
Don't try to make things right by getting even.
When someone makes you give away something or to do extra work, be nice about it and generous too.
Love your neighbor.
Love your enemy.
Be good to people even if they are nasty to you.
Pray for people who are mean.
Do your good deeds quietly. Don't feel like you need to get other people to praise you for doing good things.
Pray privately.
When you pray, say what you think and be respectful.
Be thankful.
Ask Heavenly Father for help and for forgiveness and for the things you need.
Forgive others.
When you fast, don't complain and groan about it.
Be focused on being and doing good, not on getting stuff.
See life clearly and recognize goodness.
Put God ahead of money in your heart.
Be merciful.
Don't judge unkindly.
Worry about your own sins, not other people's sins.
Treat sacred things with respect and share them wisely and with wise restraint.
When you need God's help, ask for it, seek it. You will find it.
Treat others the way you like to be treated.
Seek to live the way God wants you to live and to do what he wants you to do. Doing that leads to eternal life.
Watch what happens when other people make choices and do stuff. That will help you to tell whether or not they are honest and true and good and whether or not their ideas can be trusted.
Be sure that when you are doing something in Jesus' name that it really is what he wants you to be doing.
When you learn Jesus' teachings don't just listen to them, actually do what he teaches.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

So, what brings miracles to pass?

Miracles are things that happen when God's power creates a good event that we could not have created by ourselves with our current knowledge and understanding.  Some are big and some are small.  Each one is good.

So, is exact obedience really the thing that brings miracles?

I studied in order to find out what the scriptures say are the things that make a miracle possible.

This is what I found.

Real miracles are possible 
  • When God commands them to happen.  (1 Nephi 17:50-51, Mormon 9:16-31))
  • According to our faith in Christ (2 Nephi 26:13 and Mosiah 8:18, Alma 57:26, Helaman 4:25, Mormon 9:16-31, Ether 12:8-22, Morni 7:33-42)
  • By the power of God (Alma 23:6, Alma 57:26, Helaman 4:25, Mormon 9:16-31)
  • When the one who performs the miracle is repentant (3 Nephi 8:1)
  • When our hearts are open to understand the Lord's words and we desire to communicate with Him (3 Nephi 19:24-35, Mormon 9:16-31)
  • When they are done in the name of Jesus, among a group of peaceful, just, and generous people (4 Nephi 1:25)
And finally (and I think this is important) being able to perform miracles is a gift.  We do not earn the ability to do them.  They are a divine gift.  (Moroni 10:12)

So, no, it seems that exact obedience does not earn or bring miracles.   But God can command them to happen.  And our faith in Christ and his teachings, and our willingness to work with him with a repentant heart helps.

So, once again, we are back to the basics: 
God's divine power 
Faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ (not faith in a specific wished for miracle), 
Continuing repentance, 
Honest and willing hearts engaged in communication with God
Continuing to learn about, and live, a Christlike life 

Those bring miracles: events (both large and small) where you see the help or influence of God creating good situations or events that you cannot do yourself.  

Actually, that makes a lot of sense to me. 

3 days ago

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Obedience brings what?

So what do the scriptures say are, in reality, the anticipated results of obedience to the commandments of God?

It’s interesting how catchy sentences are so easy to remember.  But there is one problem with catchy phrases in the gospel.  They can oversimplify things.  

I have been thinking about this sentence that was put together by a young missionary several years ago.  So I went to the scriptures to find out what the scriptures really say can be the blessings that come from obedience.

Of course, none of us are perfect in obeying commandments of God, but happily, He does not require perfection before we start seeing some of the results. He freely gives to his children who are trying to do good.  And I think you are. 

Here are a few things I found:

Obedience is sometimes referred to as being “faithful and diligent”. (Doctrine and Covenants 59:3)

Obedience (being faithful and diligent) to God’s commandments helps us
to know whether or not the commandments are from God (John 7:17)
to abide in Jesus’ love (John 15:10)
to love our brothers and sisters with true charity (1st Peter 1:22)
to become worthy to enter heaven (Matthew 7:21)
to be unshakeable in times of trouble (Mathew 7:24-25)
to be prepared for celestial glory (Doctrine and Covenants 88)
to experience "blessedness" (the happiness that comes to those who find their purpose and fulfillment in God. (Luke 11:28)
to receive the good things of the earth, good harvest, blessings from above, and more commandments and revelations (Doctrine and Covenants 59:3-4)

That’s an interesting list of specific blessings to consider.

So, being obedient, if it’s done wisely, doesn’t necessarily result in you getting what you want, or being “successful” in your current work.  Instead, it can result in some different distinct blessings that are pretty amazing.

Something to consider: As we look at that list, do we recognize some of those blessings and results unfolding in our lives as we are faithful and diligent? Or are we so focused on other blessings that we want, and that we think we can “earn” with obedience, that we miss the blessings that he so freely gives?

They are amazing.