Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year. Renewed life? Day 1

Today is December 31. (Yes, I know the date above says December 30, but my blog is set to the day it is in my hometown, but right now I am on the other side of the world.)  So here, tomorrow starts a new year.  Impressed by the thoughts I encountered as part of one church’s formal commitment to 5 days of repentance and renewal I am borrowing and adapting from their thoughts and writing on that topic and hope to spend time over the next 5 days starting my New Year with new focus.  Since I am looking forward to finding it helpful, I am sharing it.  

The following is adapted from their plans for  Day 1: Integrity in Attitude and Focus

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my concerns. 
See if there is any offensive way in me;
lead me in the everlasting way.
Psalm 139:23-24

Prayerfully work through the following reflective questions. After each of the following questions, pause and allow God to speak to you.

Questions for reflection: (a) Do I tend to think more about worldly things than spiritual? ___ (b) Does the focus of my thoughts often indicate a lack of remembering and loving others and loving to do good? ___ (c)What is the ratio of the amount of time I spend on hobbies, sports or recreation to the amount of time I spend in study of scripture and in prayer? ___ (d) Do I have any patterns of unclean or lustful thoughts? ___ (e) Have I opened the door to destructive self-indulgence or objectification of others by anything I view online or in other media? ___ (f) Do I frequently have thoughts that are envious or jealous? ___ (g) Am I overly competitive and self-exalting? ___ (h) Am I interested in serving God only if I can have a preeminent role? ___ (i) Am I determined to get my way? ___ (j) Am I overly interested in being noticed? ___ (k) Do I often have thoughts that are angry or resentful? ___ (l) Am I frequently dominated by thoughts of doubt in God’s power  instead of trust in his love and power? ___ (m) Do I consistently harbor thoughts of bitterness and unforgiveness of others?  Of myself? ___ (n) Do I  brood about harsh things I would like to say to certain people or groups? 

Helaman 3:35:  The process of moving towards joy and consolation through  yielding your heart to God and embracing light and goodness.

Suggested course of action:   For prayer and repentance, review what you know about repentance.  Seek to learn more. Resolve now to put off sinful thoughts and ally yourself with Christ by faith. Be willing to be specific in what you confess and forsake. Place strong focus on identifying the specific righteous thoughts that will replace those that are wrong. List some of your key points for change.

Pause in prayer and trust God to empower you to, with the Holy Spirit, to change.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

To Be Trusted and Also to Love

I hear a quote cited every once in a while.  David O. McKay once cited it in a talk he gave.  It was written by the theologian George MacDonald and appears in his book, The Marquis of Lossie.

I think it is often misunderstood.  I'll have to read the book in order to be sure, but from the writings of his that I have read, I think that MacDonald is thinking about reassurance to those who have made decisions that have been based upon their commitment to love of God and to their covenants with  Him (including love of neighbor) and who, when they made those decision, have been condemned by others who are important to them.   And I think he was also writing to those who are facing the dilemma of having to choose between keeping their covenants, with love, and pleasing or having their actions understood someone whose love is conditioned upon their choosing to be or do something different.

Unfortunately, I hear this quote sometimes used to justify hard-hearted covenant keeping; the kind that causes one to think, consciously or unconsciously, "I will do A, being trustworthy to what I think God requires, and everyone who wants me do differently than A be damned.  I will choose to do this noble thing and who cares about those who do not agree."

And they miss the whole point that the first two things that God trusts us to do are his first two commandments; love God and love others.

I think it is human nature, when one is condemned or grossly misunderstood for doing what one thinks is right, to harden your heart towards the person who objects in order to lesson the pain of that condemnation and accusation.  But that is not what Christ expects of us.

And so one of the ways I can watch over my own discipleship is by watching not only whether God can trust me to keep my covenants of ministry, charity, repentance, faith, fidelity, sacrifice, diligence and consecration, but also, at the same time, whether He can trust me to keep my heart loving wisely with to patience, non-judgmentalism, love and forgiveness in my interactions with others, particularly those who disagree with, misunderstand or condemn me for my ideas, opinions or choices.

Not perfect at it.  But that's what I hope.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

"...but that the world, through him, might be saved"

"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world, through him might be saved."   John 3:17

"To condemn the world gives to the English reader a stronger impression than that of the original Greek. The word (κρίνω, krino, the Latin c(k)erno, and the English dis-cern) means originally to separate, and in the moral sense to separate good from evil. "  ~ Charles John Ellicott, English theologian, 1819-1905,  Elllicott's Commentary for English Readers

God did not send his son to separate the world, but to save the world.  Spiritual death is separation from God.  Spiritual life is being fully with Him.  

Jesus came to connect us with God, totally, completely, freely.  He came to open the way for our return, for our ability to not only choose to be and change into a fully good, honest, wise, love and light-filled individual, but also to open the door for our healing, and to fully undo the damage we have caused, since none of us would otherwise be able to stand in God's presence for long, so fully aware of the difference between us and how far from what God is we are in Goodness, Truth, Love and Light.

None of us are there yet.  But He he came to open that door, and shepherd us through if we are willing, whether we recognize His hand in it or not.

Saving is what he offers.  Salvation is a word that means many different things to different people, all of them dealing with good things.  And it is a word that incorporates amazing principles and realities.

I like this attempt at defining it, from The Pulpit Commentary, first published in 1909:

"Through him the world may be saved from its ruin, by reason of individuals accepting his grace. The saving of humanity as a whole issues from the believing and living of men. God's love of the world and his sending of his Son aim at the saving of the world as their Divine end. Salvation (σωτηρία) is the largest of all the famous biblical terms which denote the restoration and blessedness of man. It means all that is elsewhere denoted by "justification," but much more than that. It connotes all that is included in "regeneration" and "sanctification," but more than these terms taken by themselves. It includes all that is involved in "redemption" and "adoption" and the "full assurance," and also the conditions of "appropriation" - the subjective states which are the human antecedents of grace received, such as "faith" and "repentance," with all the "fruits of the Spirit." These Divine blessings originated in the bosom of the Father, where the only begotten Son forevermore abides, and they are all poured forth through the Son upon the world in the coming of the Christ. He was sent to save."

God rest ye merry, gentlmen.
Let nothing you dismay.
Remember, Christ, our Savior, 
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan's power 
When we have gone astray.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!