Monday, May 18, 2015

Luke 3-4

(May 18, 2015)
                Christ makes an intriguing point that we as members of the Lord’s Church should carefully consider.  Why was it that the leper that was healed was from outside of Israel, or the widow from outside Jerusalem?  What does that indicate for us?  I don’t think that it indicates that a particular curse exists for those who are part of the Lord’s Church, but rather that there is a defect that we must be cautious about when interacting with the Lord’s Church.

                In my opinion, I think I know what that is.  We who have the Church in our everyday lives begin to believe that this is an everyday Church.  It is easy to forget that this is a Church of miracles.  In my life, there have been perhaps a half-dozen true miracles (as the word is used today) – which, as I take stock of my life, seems to be a very high number (and I still don’t know why the Lord has blessed me with so many miracles of this type).  But even still, that averages out to one miracle every seven years or so.

                Now of course this doesn’t include the tender mercies that the Lord sees fit to give me on an ongoing basis, but I know that I struggle when I am in a difficult situation to expect the miracle when the miracle is needed.  I have been blessed by these miracles, but there have been other times when I haven’t seen the miracles when I thought they were necessary.  And when I have seen the miracles, they have been great distances in time apart.

                I worry in my own life that I can forget that we are a Church of miracles – even though I have seen so many in my life.  So, too, those of us who are in the Church can see the Church as a social group or a teaching group or anything other than the Kingdom of God on Earth.  And, by so doing, we have less faith than the outsider coming to the Lord fully expecting the miracle because that is the way God manifests Himself.

Helaman 14

(May 18, 2015)
                There is a powerful truth contained in this chapter – whenever we do iniquity, we do it to ourselves.  We don’t hurt others through our unrighteousness – even though it may seem that they are hurt by our actions.  Our unrighteousness hurts ourselves, and their reaction to our unrighteousness either hurts them or builds them.

                This is why hatred and revenge are so foolish as motivations (and I am speaking to myself as much as anyone, here).  We do not hurt others when we choose to hate or be offended or engage in self-pity.  We may throw additional challenges before others by our actions, but they will rise or fall based upon what they do (and not what we do).  We may, through our efforts at revenge, give them the blessing they need to walk closer to the Lord and at the same time bring damnation to our souls.

                Right now, though, the contrary corollary is what brings me comfort.  Other’s iniquity cannot bring destruction to me.  That is not God’s program.  If others choose to engage in unrighteous behavior in order to hurt me, then that can bring me sorrow (because of the destruction they bring to themselves) but ultimately the Lord will not allow it to destroy me if I do all I can to walk with Him and surrender to Him.  This is a great comfort.

Luke 2

(May 17, 2015)
                I have taken a new appreciation of the final verse of this chapter.  We know so little about the Savior’s childhood – much of what records we have are so clearly false as to be absurd (for these very reasons, these records were not included in the New Testament).  But in this final verse, we have four key areas of Christ’s development.

                Christ grew in wisdom (intellectual development) and stature (physical development), and in praise of God (spiritual development) and men (social development).  Four aspects, and He knew in His mission He would need development in all of those areas.

                I have, from time to time, been tempted to abandon one or more of those aspects of life as I have felt they were irrelevant or unimportant.  I have thought that spirituality was the most important, and thus neglected physical or social development (or, at times, both).  I have stayed interested in intellectual development, but threatened to abandon those two.

                When I have done this, though, it has always had negative consequences.  The Lord does not want disciples who are incapable of carrying out the service that He wants us to render – either because we are physically incapable or socially inept.  We must increase our capacity in those areas to better be able to carry out His work.  Ultimately there is really only one type of important development (our relation to God), but if we abandon the others we abandon this one as well.

Helaman 13

(May 17, 2015)
                No one hides their treasures to the Lord save the righteous – that language is unambiguous.  But what does it mean, and how do we apply it in our lives today, seeing as how we aren’t likely to go around digging holes and burying treasure on a regular basis in our modern society.

                I think it is still very relevant, because our treasure is whatever we desire or want in our lives.  If we want something for the Glory of God (or, at a minimum, are willing to dedicate those things we want for the Glory of God), we put things in the proper perspective and priority.

                So if I want to enjoy a movie, that is fine.  That is a treasure.  But if I place the Lord first – hide that treasure to the Lord (make sure that there is nothing He wants me doing instead, make sure that the Lord is alright with me watching that movie, and so forth), then blessings can come from watching that movie.  After all, President Monson loves the movie “What About Bob?” so movies aren’t bad by their nature – they are only bad if they are higher on our list of priorities than the Lord is.

                It is very similar, in my mind, to our responsibility to pray to the Lord before doing anything to consecrate our efforts to our gain.  This is true for whatever we do in our lives, and if we keep that in mind He will be able to guide us continually.

Luke 1

(May 16, 2015)
                It would be such a blessing to be able to serve God without fear.  Right now, fear truly dominates more of my life than I want it to.  I struggle with fear throughout various aspects of my life.  I want to serve God, but that exposes me to contempt, ridicule, and threats (even from some who I would expect to be advocating my continued service of God).  I struggle to continue to serve, but I know that (at least in a temporal sense) my service will not be rewarded.

                It shouldn’t be a surprise – we are here to be tested and our service must always be found at odds with the world around us in order for that service to be willingly given.  We occupy hostile territory, after all – we serve the Lord at high cost, and always will so long as Satan holds sway over this world.  But what a blessing it will be when the day arrives when we can give ourselves totally and completely to the Lord and serve Him without fear.

                I speak not of the afterlife, of course, but rather when our lives and hearts are so changed that we no longer feel such fear when we choose to serve Him.  It is us that needs to change, not the world around us.  It is I that need to become a better man so that I can serve God without fear – and I hope that I am able to do that.

Helaman 12

(May 16, 2015)
                In this Church, we have made certain covenants.  These covenants are not between us and the Church, but between us and God.  The Church (particularly the Priesthood authority found in the Church) exists to facilitated those covenants being made.

                When Samuel the Lamanite stood on the wall and criticized the Nephites for not allowing God to guide them, he was speaking to all of us.  Ultimately, God will teach us what we are to do, and it will be our obligation to follow whatever He tells us.  The Church can aid us in that process, but the Church cannot replace the Lord in that process.

Mark 16

(May 15, 2015)
                I go back to this truth in my own life, even as I see it in the lives of the Disciples – we all have trouble believing in the latest miracle.  After all Peter had seen, yet he struggled to believe in a risen Christ.  He knew who Christ was, he had seen Jesus raise others from the dead, he had walked on the water, and more miracles than these he had seen.  Yet when it came to the resurrection, he struggled to believe.

                So, too, in my life.  I haven’t seen all of the miracles that Peter has seen but I have seen enough that there is not really any more room for rational doubt.  And yet irrational doubt continues to creep in.  I face a situation now in my life where I fear the wrong thing will happen and I will be very badly hurt by this.  Yet there have been enough instances of the Lord’s intercession on my behalf that I should (if I am being reasonable) trust that He will intervene to fix this or if not it is because He will allow it to happen to bless my life.  Yet I still struggle.