Tuesday, August 26, 2014

1 Chronicles 13-15

(August 26, 2014)
                There were two thoughts that I had as I read through these chapters.  The first was on David’s efforts to seek out the Lord’s will constantly – even when doing things that should appear to be well within his temporal stewardship.  As a king, it was his obligation to protect his subjects, and the decision of war and peace (and tactics) were his to make.  And yet twice he took the matter to the Lord, and did so in a way that demonstrated his willingness to obey the Lord regardless (‘shall I go against the Philistines?’).

                Likewise, I think I make the mistake of believing that there are some elements of my life too temporal to take before the Lord.  But this ought not be the case.  I should be willing to take the matters to the Lord and ask Him, ‘shall I go against Dr. Such-and-such’ in litigation, for example.  And I should be prepared to modify my tactics or strategies based upon the answers that I receive from the Lord.

                The other thought that I had was on Michal.  I have been struggling to come to some understandings between what the world wants and what the Lord wants.  It seems that effectiveness in the world (including, ironically, effectiveness in presenting the Gospel) seems at times to require actions contrary to the Lord’s will.  I look at my life and see changes that I could easily make that would improve my circumstances, but they seem inappropriate to do even though the consequences would all be positive.  I am pushed at times to priorities ends over means.

                But I see in this a lesson to be learned.  David was correct to rejoice in the Lord (he had not yet fallen from Grace).  Michal, on the other hand, was embarrassed and ashamed at David’s actions.  This was not a problem with David, it was a problem with Michal.  And David was correct to rejoice in the Lord – even though that brought Michal to despise him.


                It is fine to be aware of the world, but when we are placed in a position of prioritizing following the Lord’s will or improving the reactions of others (even to things that we think are very, very important) we must always put the Lord first.  He is able to make up the difference.  This has been a struggle for me to reconcile my mind to lately – I have seen an easy path to something important, but I have not been willing to take it because while it is easy it is also wrong.  This has left me feeling very conflicted because of the pain this also causes others.  But reading this, I realize that the important thing is to be right with the Lord and if that isn’t enough for others, then they can despise me or not as they choose and I will rely on the Lord to make up the difference.

Mosiah 5-6

(August 26, 2014)
                I am convinced that one of the greatest difficulties we will face in mortality is learning to “hear and know the voice” of the Lord.  He speaks to us, pulling us towards Him with a gentle pull that is ever so easy to ignore or mistake.  We must learn to accept this pull – setting aside our own wills, because our will can easily overpower the gentle whisperings by which He leads us.

                C. S. Lewis, in Experiment in Criticism, spoke of the first rule of encountering art – setting aside our own preconceptions so that we can receive the art as it was rather than using the art for what we would use it for.  Likewise, the first rule of revelation is setting aside ourselves, our own wills, and those things that we desire.  There have been times when I have received what I thought were revelations that were ultimately nothing more than the subconscious expression of my desires.  That is a constant danger when the voice of the Spirit is at times maddeningly still and frustratingly small.

                But it is there.  And those few experiences when I have unquestionably been blessed with the Lord’s Spirit have helped me to recognize the ‘flavor’ of the Spirit.  I find myself more cautious than I once was – less willing to declare something inspiration quickly, more prone to patience in trying to fully understand the Lord’s instructions for me.  I find that the Lord is understanding of this, so long as I make clear that when I am sure of my marching orders I will carry them out.  When I make that commitment, I find the Lord is patient with me and will gently pull me in the direction He wants me to go until such time as I truly understand His will and feel empowered to follow it.


                It is a consistent challenge, but one that I am resolved to work on.

Monday, August 25, 2014

1 Chronicles 12

(August 25, 2014)

                If there is a trait that we have lost in our modern society, and which causes us damage, it is the idea that we should seek to follow worthy leaders.  In the days of David, the strong and the righteous sought out the best leaders they could and they followed them.  Now, we have become a culture of weak and unrighteous who run from any leadership that seeks to improve us.  In this, we need to become like the strong and the righteous of old – turning away from the false ideas of the present, swimming against the tide of culture, and finding and following righteous leaders where they may be found.  This determination to follow is not a weakness, but a strength.

Mosiah 4

(August 25, 2014)
                In reading this chapter today I was struck by King Benjamin’s words on the importance of remembering that the Lord created all things.  Why should this be important enough for Benjamin to cite?  But as I thought about it, I began to realize the implications of just what it meant when we say that the Lord created all things.

                One of the big issues that philosophy had with religion was the argument of evil.  Why, if God is omnipotent and all loving, should evil exist? Why couldn’t He simply end evil through Divine fiat?  Many of the answers to this deal with respecting agency, and these can be persuasive.  But the better argument to me seems to be the one that there are certain things that we can only learn through encountering evil and through suffering.

                Viewed in this light, it becomes clear why it is so vital that we remember that God created all things – both Heavenly and earthly.  If we see the others’ behavior causing us pain, we may be tempted to condemn or blame others.  But if we understand that all things that happen (both good and bad) happen because of Divine will, and if we likewise remember how much God loves us, then we are capable of shouldering the load placed upon us and carrying it – learning the lessons the adversity has to teach us without becoming bitter or angry.  For all eternity, assuming that we live such that we are able to participate with God in bringing to pass immortality and eternal life, we will be dealing with those who make decisions that are wrong and which hurt us deeply.  If we do not show a willingness now to develop the character that will learn from such experiences (rather than condemning the perpetrator), how can we hope to be chosen to help in such circumstances in the future?


                The second thought I had was on us being beggars.  It is surprising to me a bit that my mind didn’t make this connection before, but when we judge a beggar because they placed themselves in the position they were in (even if we are correct in that estimation), we likewise condemn ourselves.  Not only will we be beggars to the Lord, but we will be beggars to Him precisely because we placed ourselves in that position because of our failures and weaknesses.  If we turn down a beggar because they don’t deserve our help, what does that do for our opportunity to claim similar blessings from the Lord when we beg Him for aid?

1 Chronicles 10-11

(August 24, 2014)
                Is there a more tragic reality than the fact that Uriah the Hittite was a valiant servant of David, a loyal confident, and trusted friend?  It is bad enough that David sent a man to die in order to hide his sin, or that he committed adultery with Bathsheba, but that the woman he committed adultery with was the wife of a friend and that man he condemned was a loyal and longtime friend makes the whole sordid affair that much worse.


                Of course, the scriptures aren’t for us to read and imagine to ourselves how much better we are – rather, they are for us to read and apply the lessons to our own lives and identify shared weaknesses and the ways we likewise fail.  Perhaps we might not be willing to condemn our friends to death (or steal their spouses), but do we take advantage of their friendships?  Do we fail to properly respect their thoughts and feelings – considering that they, as friends, should ‘accept us as we are’ (a phrase often used to justify disrespectful and selfish behavior, as often as not)?

Mosiah 3

(August 24, 2014)
                There are those, even within the Church, who believe in a sort of ‘universalism,’ or the idea that all paths lead back to God.  In one way, that is true – we know that each nation is given prophets to speak to it according to their own language and understanding.  But the conclusion drawn from this idea (that all paths are equally beneficial to man) are tragic for those who believe them.

                King Benjamin’s words were unambiguous.  There is no other name nor means by which we can be save except for Christ.  Perhaps it is true that being a good, say, Hindu can prepare you for being a good follower of Christ (and I don’t doubt that is true), but it is also true that striving to follow Christ now will better prepare us for becoming what we need to become than being a good Hindu would.

                The flaw in thinking arrives when we take the truth that the Lord teaching all men in their language and understanding and erroneously extrapolate from that to the idea that any path is equally effective and bringing us back to God.  Only one path takes us back to God – that is the path of Christ.  Many paths lead to that, shall we say, strait and narrow gate but once we are through that gate there is only one path.  While we can take comfort that many who wander and taking paths that will eventually lead them back to that gate, these paths are in no way better than actually spending time on that path to begin with.

1 Chronicles 9

(August 23, 2014)
                There are those who claim atheism, but who see their attempts at immortality to be achieved through the arts, or science, or some other manner.  But immortality – at least in a worldly sense – is fairly easy to achieve.  Have children.  Reading the huge genealogical lists demonstrates that.

                If I were an atheist, it would be clear that the only thing that would really matter was the ‘stuff’ I was made of (and I have heard reductive materialists say this).  If I had three children that survived me, that would mean there would be 3 x ½ or 150% more of me in the world, even after my death.  If they each had 3 children of their own, that would mean that there would be 9 x ¼ or 225% more of me than when I was alive.  It is fairly easy to establish a genetic lineage that exceeds your 100% that you have at your birth, assuming you survive long enough to reproduce.


                Of course the irony is that no atheist actually believes in achieving immortality in this way – as evidenced by the fact that atheists have fewer children than believers.  But having had four children, there is twice as much of me outside of me than in me, and if they each have large families of their own it will only grow and increase.  The other irony – the positive irony – of this situation is that those who are the least in need of temporal immortality (those with firm hope of spiritual immortality) are those very people most likely to live in such a way as to achieve that temporal immortality.