Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Psalms 29-31

(October 26, 2016)
                It is quite remarkable to me how different our approaches can be to the same scriptures read at different times in our lives.  For the bulk of my life, I read through Psalms with very little understanding or emotion.  It was, if I can put a blunt description on it, boring to me.

                Then my life turned upside down.  Suddenly I understand what it means to be surrounded by my enemies.  I knew how it felt to have lying tongues laying wait to defame and snares being set secretly to destroy.  I understood the pain that came from struggling to live the Gospel when confronted not only by your own weaknesses (which certainly exist), but by the actions of others.

                Then, and only then, did I begin to understand Psalms.  It was only after passing through this stage of my life that I could empathize with David’s pleas (both for freedom from his own sins and the damage caused by others).  This is interesting in its own right, but even more important as a reminder of why we can’t read the scriptures only once or only occasionally – after all, as we change, our challenges change, and our perspective changes, the Lord stands ready to teach us new things through the same scriptures.

Alma 51

(October 26, 2016)
                It is vitally important that we, as Christians, understand that we are playing the long game.  There is a strong pull (I feel it myself in the political arena) to find certain battles as existential crises, but that truly isn’t the case.  If the Kingmen had prevailed, it would have been a tragedy, but we see from the Gadianton Robbers taking over later that it isn’t the end of everything.  We must always remember that Christ wins.  We know the ending.

                That doesn’t mean that we ignore the short-term, of course.  Moroni defended the freedom of the people, and we should consider the short-term political effects of our decisions today.  But we cannot either become depressed or disengaged because the world is trending in a manner opposed to our beliefs (really, is that a surprise?).  Likewise, we cannot make our decisions only based upon short-term considerations.  If we aren’t making personal and political decisions based upon how they will affect our eternity, then our thinking is short term.  If our decisions bring a 100 years of misery followed by an eternity of the fullness of joy (to engage in a little hyperbole – I don’t think such a decision situation faces us now), we should gratefully take such a deal.  To select a decade or a century of a positive result at the expense of a lost relationship with Christ is not a good trade to make.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Psalms 19-24

(October 24, 2016)
                In our modern society, so many things are outside of our control – likely more is out of our control than at any point in human history.  Basic human needs – food, shelter, water, for example – are provided to us via means that we don’t fully understand and which we certainly cannot control.

                This absence of control is disquieting at times, but it also is a pervasive reminder to us of our utter dependence upon God.  Whereas the Psalmist saw the need for deliverance from his enemies, we may perhaps have different needs for deliverance.  We may be tempted to seek out protection through self-reliance, through political intervention, or any of a number of ways.  But ultimately we cannot find safety in any manner other than through the protection of the Lord.

                We are in the midst of what could at best be considered a tumultuous political season.  And yet, ultimately, whomever is elected our hope lies not in the ballot box but at the Sacrament Table, not in standing up for our rights but kneeling before our God.  He and He alone can fix everything.  Hoping for any other solution is foolish and, ultimately, idolatry.

Alma 49

(October 24, 2016)
                Knowing what to do with those who stand against us when we are trying to do the right thing can be very difficult.  On the one hand, we are taught to love our enemies.  And our enemies are often more misled than evil (although some, admittedly, are evil).  For example, many Lamanites came to battle but did so because of the pressure from their unrighteous king.  And those who fought against the city of Noah did so because of the oaths of their chief captains (a poor decision, mind one, but one that shows that even they respected their oaths even though it meant their death).

                And there is the likely approach.  We don’t need to judge those who stand opposed to us when we are trying to serve the Lord.  We can love our enemies, and try to see their good points.  But just as the Nephites were obligated to stand against the Lamanites in the defense of their families, their land, and their rights of worship so too are we called upon to stand in defiance of those who would work against our efforts to build the Kingdom of God.  Yes, we need not make conclusive judgments of their worthiness, and yes, we should love them, but neither obligation requires us to open our doors to the Lamanites of our day and allow them to destroy us.  Perhaps it would be better if we did (Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s, for example), but it is not required of us.