Sunday, April 5, 2015

Habakkuk 1-3

(April 5, 2015)
                I admit to understanding somewhat how Habakkuk feels about the wicked destroying the righteous and his confusion as to how the Lord allows it.  I am in a situation right now where my life is still being turned upside down by the wicked actions of another (whether brought about by genuine evil or mental illness, the results are the same).  I continue to remain in a position of stasis – unable to move forward in the way that I want (and I view my desires as righteous), because of the remnants of previous lies and deceptions.

                But the reality is that those who seek to hurt us can’t – none of them can.  The Chaldeans cannot hurt Israel, and those (both those working against me and those who are doing their best but are misled by the deception) who impact my life cannot hurt me, either.  The reality is that the Chaldeans only could destroy Israel because the Lord loved Israel and wanted Israel destroyed.  Likewise, those in my life only have power to hurt me because the Lord gives them that power, and only because the Lord loves me.

                I may not have been guilty of the things that I have been accused of falsely, but I have certainly made enough mistakes in my life to deserve the chastening of the Lord in whatever way He chooses to give it to me.  To quote Micah again, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against hi, until he plead my cause.”  I can bear any indignation because though I might not be guilty of what I am accused of I have still sinned against God, and if I bear patiently He will ultimately plead my cause and if “he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness” then it all certainly will be worthwhile.  I am not oppressed by others any more than Israel was conquered by the Chaldeans.  The Lord chastened Israel, and he is chastening me, and I am grateful for it.

Alma 24

(April 5, 2015)
                For some reason, a large number of thoughts came to me as I was reading this chapter today.  The first was the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, and how their behavior and decisions were a good template for repentance.  Sometimes in my life there is the desire to repent, but I likewise want to just take a step or two back from the behavior I was previously engaged in. To use a fictitious example, it is as if I want to repent of eating donuts but I still want to spend may days eating scones…or tiptoeing up to donut-holes.

                But rather than stepping back gradually, I have learned that repentance works best when I step completely back.  If I want to repent of eating donuts, I forego donuts, donut-holes, scones, bear claws, √©clairs, and on and on.  Rather than identifying the law and getting close to the edge, I have to identify the principle and move far from the edge.  That is the only way that I have discovered that repentance works for me.  When I do that, the Lord seems to accept my offering and frees me from my sins.

                The second thought was the faith involved in praising God in the very act of perishing under the sword.  I think we would all like to believe that we could do that, but I fear how I would respond under similar circumstances.  We need only look at the butchery of those killed by the Islamofascist terrorists to understand the fear and pain of those going through such and experience.  What this shows me, though, is what sort of conversion is possible if we fully and completely give ourselves to the Lord – I may not be there yet, but it is possible to be there.

                My third thought was on the reasons why those once enlightened by the Spirit become more hardened when they turn away from it.  We each have weaknesses and fail on a regular basis to follow the Lord as we should.  But there seems to be a difference in how the Lord treats weakness and how He treats rebellion.  Two sinners engaged in the same actions can be treated remarkably different (and I base this solely on my experiences of committing the same sins under different circumstances).  When the sinner wants to keep the commandments and fails, the Lord seems to pour out His Spirit more abundantly to reinforce and strengthen the sinner.  When the sinner openly rebels against God, the Spirit withdraws.  The sinner is more hardened because they know what they are choosing against.

Nahum 1-3

(April 4, 2015)
                One of the things that I learned to do with the Book of Mormon was to view the various cities during the war chapters as symbols of the aspects of our character.  The Lamanites made a useful symbol for sin, and the Nephites for righteousness (though the reality wasn’t as clear-cut, as the text makes obvious).  By viewing it in this way, the whole conflict becomes a useful symbol for the battle for each of our souls, with the ebbs and flows and the importance of defending our weaknesses and relying on the Lord and so forth.

                Surprisingly, I cannot recall having ever done the same thing with the Bible.  But these chapters truly seem to lend themselves to that reading.  If we take Ninevah as a symbol of our weakness and sinful nature, then the entire reading takes on a new perspective, as we see that not only will the return of Christ bring about political liberation, but it will also result in the healing of our wounds (self-inflicted and otherwise) and the destruction of those aspects of our lives that are contrary to God’s will (if we so choose).

Alma 23

(April 24, 2015)
                For all of the talk about the intimidation and persecution supposedly brought about by those who believe (and, in Utah, it is centered on ex-Mormons or NOMs attacking the faithful), the pattern that exists in this chapter holds true throughout the scriptures and most of modern history (with, admittedly, a few egregious counterexamples).  Those who believe accept that those who do not believe must have the freedom to choose their way.  All the believers request, when they are ascendant politically, is that they have the freedom to share the Gospel.  Others can believe the way that they choose.

                When those who have rejected the Gospel are ascendant (as we are beginning to see now), it isn’t enough to have a fair and level playing field – they seek to actively hamper the sharing of the Gospel message.  They seek to use whatever mechanisms of force are available (the sword in the time of Ammon, the power of the State to close down florists who won’t provide flowers for a gay wedding today) to destroy those who believe.

                Those antagonistic to the faith will argue that this is the same thing that believers have historically done with laws against abortion or homosexuality or even prohibition.  They don’t recognize that the laws passed by the believers are focused on actions and consequences – people actually getting hurt (in almost every case children, even though that is clich√©).  Meanwhile a florist who does not provide flowers for a gay wedding provides nearly no injury at all (especially since a dozen other businesses stand ready to perform the same services).  It isn’t about getting what you need in their case, it is about destroying those who disagree with you.

                I think this must ultimately come down to the confidence they have in their own position – they are barely able to quiet the voice of their own conscience and cannot abide any external voices that reinforce the voice inside them telling them their behavior is sinful.  Ironically we all are sinful, but that goes from a part of the human condition to a fatal flaw when we cease to recognize that the problem is with us and begin to feel the problem is with the law.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Micah 6-7

(April 3, 2015)
                There were two thoughts that struck me powerfully as I read through this section.  The first was on Micah’s words as to what the Lord requires of us.  If we do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly, that would be enough.  Put in another set of words (paraphrasing Nibley), the things we can do which angels envy is to repent (do justly) and forgive (love mercy).  Then, when we repent and forgive, we can choose to give our will over to God and allow Him to make of us what He will.

                The second thought was just how wonderful the conclusion of Micah was.  The promises made, that the Lord would not cast us off, and the understanding that Micah evidences are powerful.  Micah understands that whatever bad happens to us, we cannot be hostile to God as a result because we have all sinned before Him (the distinction is not between those who sin and those who do not, but rather between those who repent and those who do not).  He knows that it is the Lord who can make him both clean and whole, and knows that He will do so in His own time.  The conclusion of this book was simply powerful.

Alma 22

(April 3, 2015)
                I think I might be repeating myself, but I have always been struck by the language of King Lamoni here about rooting the wicked spirit out of his breast.  I have, from time to time, fought with warts, and that is what my thoughts always come back to when I read this plea.  Warts are something that you can cut out, freeze off, burn off, electrocute, take acid to, or just about anything else and they still end up staring you in the face.

                You see, you can pull out, destroy, or cut away the visible issue but what you don’t address is the virus that is at the heart of the wart.  Likewise, we can fight our habits, our sins, our behaviors, and so forth but ultimately the same problems tend to recur because we aren’t dealing with the true issue – our rebellious heart.

                Just as our blood must fight the virus for our warts to finally go away, His blood must fight our nature for our sins to go away.  We cannot win this battle on our own, because we end up playing spiritual “Whack-a-Mole” – knocking down one vice only to have another rear its ugly head.  Now this is a good fight to have, and we must keep fighting our sins and weaknesses in order to get the Lord’s help, but these fights aren’t what win the battle.  We fight, but it is the Lord that grants us victory.  Only He can root out the wicked spirit from our breasts and make us whole once more.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Micah 1-5

(April 2, 2015)
                It is tempting to excuse our imaginations, under the theory that what we imagine has no bearing on what we actually do.  But this couldn’t be further from the truth…a point driven home by the Lord when He warned against those who devised iniquity and worked evil upon their beds.  The Lord’s caution is a caution to all of us who refuse to control our imaginations – what we imagine in our heart is ultimately what we do in our lives.

                One of my favorite books is the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The One Ring of Power is a template for our thoughts – it has the power for the wielder to do what they want without fear of consequence.  That was the corrupting influence of the ring.  Likewise, in our thoughts we have the capacity to do whatever we want without fear of consequence or respect for the agency of others.  In a very real way, what we imagine in our hearts is a more accurate reflection of who we are than what we actually do in our lives.  What we do might be constrained by possibility or consequence or similar external concerns.  The only constraint on what we think is ourselves.

                The Father wants to give us all that He hath, but how can He possibly give that to someone who cannot control their thoughts – because when someone has all that the Father hath, that person will be freed of consequence or external concerns and only the internal limitations will have the capacity to control.  If we cannot control our thoughts, we will not be worthy of what the Lord has in store for us.