Monday, October 27, 2014

Grace Needed in the Kitchen

In this post:  kids cleaning the kitchen, Parable of the Talents, saved by grace 

Imagine yourself as a parent…
You have assigned your child to clean the kitchen.  Either your child cleans the kitchen diligently; washing dishes, wiping counters, taking out the trash and mopping the floor or not.
Me making a pie in a clean-enough kitchen
Say you’ve got two children and one is diligent and one is not.  The one who is a bit lazier, washes most of the dishes but leaves the pots.  Say he wipes the counters but doesn’t fully clear them so the wiped part is irregular.  Say he takes out the trash but neglects to clean the floor.  When you ask him or her why, the excuse is that he is "not perfect."  

As a parent, you know that even your diligent child will not clean the kitchen perfectly.  You know they will miss wiping behind the faucet.  You know they won’t get the crumb under the toaster.  You know that they won’t clean the spill in the oven but you are pleased with their efforts and willing to do those things for them while they are learning.

However, your other child has excused himself or herself from doing an excellent job.  He assumes you will finish what was left undone.  Depending on age and ability, you may do so.  However, there comes a point when your child grows up and their ability clearly is equal to doing an excellent job.  Do you accept the excuse and allow them to remain weak or do you demonstrate the difficult skills and expect them to act responsibly?

When we talk about grace, we sometimes say, in essence, that there is no point to diligent works because God will make up the difference.  I wonder if God makes up the difference willingly for diligent children. However, when he sees a child choosing to remain weak, He must, by nature, expect them to grow into the difficult skills when their ability is clearly there.

Clearly neither child will be perfect.  Clearly grace will be given to both children.  It seems irrelevant to me if the child who is diligent expects to be rewarded for his efforts.  Only the parent can determine whether a reward is merited.  It seems irrelevant to me what reward the child thinks he or she will get.  It only matters what the child’s intention is toward the tasks assigned as to whether they are meeting expectations.  The parent decides what expectations are reasonable based on the ability of the child.  Maybe its unfair that there are expectations.  I can’t say what God expects of me only that I think he knows my ability.

So when we talk about being saved in God’s heavenly kingdom, it doesn’t matter what we expect to receive for our efforts here on Earth.  God will justly reward those who meet expectations.  I like the parable about the 10 talents when it comes to expectations.  The servant who was given 5 talents was rewarded for doubling his talents.  The same with the servant who was given 2 talents. The one with 1 talent who buried it did not meet expectations.  The diligent child may be striving for perfection but only God knows whether he doubled his talents.  The diligent child can fall short of expectations just as easily as his sibling.  It’s relative to expectations.  So why do we care so much about whether someone thinks they’ll be saved by grace or saved by works?  It doesn’t matter what we think.  It only matters what God thinks.

If you liked this post you might like: Grace or Welfare  If you did not like this post, that's ok with me.  I don't expect you to agree with all my beliefs but I encourage you to think about what specifically you didn't like and figure out why you didn't like it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Power or Influence

“It is the nature of men (and women) as soon as they get a little authority to immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” (D&C 121:39)  They cover their weakness by a false front of strength and authority.  But in ordering others around, they lose the Spirit of the Lord, and end up shooting past the mark.  The only real authority to direct sons and daughters of God is God’s authority.

God parents us based on “principles of righteousness.”  He has the power to control us but he cannot “exercise unrighteous dominion” as a perfect being.  His guiding hand we cannot always see but we can study the life of his Son to understand the principles by which he governs.

I’d like to discuss a few of the  principles of righteousness we should use as parents with our children, as managers with our employees, and as teachers with our students.  I will use this scripture as a reference:

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained…only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge…reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love towards him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.  Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men…”  (D&C 121:41-45)

The fable of the sun which gently convinced the man to take off his coat when the wind couldn’t do anything with all his bluff and bluster is an example of these principles.

Most of us respond with gentleness and kindness.  Some of us respond to a sharp reproof and some of us don’t.  I have a brother that will only respond to a reproof if he accepts you as a legitimate authority and now that he’s an adult the only authority he accepts is God himself.  Me, all you have to do is give me a dirty look and I collapse in a puddle of tears.  One of my kids has to be able to try it himself and if that is dangerous than I have to redirect his energy.  He wants to see the physical manifestation of the consequences.  

This week, my son with all the energy needed some reproof.  I gave him five tasks instead of lecturing him.  I told him to wash the car and I went out and helped him.  He had to climb up on top of the car to wash the top and I let him even though it is slightly dangerous.  I told him to catch 100 spiders under my bed and I offered to pay him a penny for each one.  I helped him move the items under the bed and look for the spiders.  We caught five and he earned a nickel.  I kept him busy all day.  He loved it!  Unfortunately my good behavior is an anomaly.

Usually I just yell and tell my kids to stop fighting.  Often I assign them chores to do as a consequence but I don’t help them with them and I don’t show an increase of love so that they don’t think of me as the enemy.  I’ve got the compulsion method down — it’s the meek method that I’m working on developing.

God knows me.  He knows that I am emotional and fly off the handle occasionally.  It says in Hebrews 2, “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.”  He is long-suffering with me even as I am exercising unrighteous dominion and he persuades me to try his way instead.

Friday, October 17, 2014

If Jonah Were a Scientist

In this post:  Jonah, Ninevah, the Scientific Method and the patterns that point to destruction

Jonah, the Old Testament prophet, got swallowed by a whale before visiting Ninevah with God's message of destruction.  His story is mocked by the world, quoted by Jesus, and retold by motivational speakers because of it's epic quality.

Jonah responds to the call to go to Ninevah with fear.  He is emotional rather than logical.  After the whale swallows him, he has a change of heart.  He submits to God and takes the message.  But what if Jonah had been logical rather than emotional?  What if he had used the Scientific Method to tackle the problem of warning Ninevah?

Jonah by Gustave Dore

The first thing the Scientific Method relies on is a problem.  Jonah's problem was given to him -- the impending destruction of Ninevah.  A scientist takes the problem and begins to gather observations.  What if Jonah had collected statistics on the decadence in Ninevah?  I know what statistics he needed...the divorce rate, the poverty rate, the religious views, the violence per capita, the wealth to poverty ratio, the tax rate, the political corruption, the GDP.  Say he gets all that, and from the data he predicts that if he does nothing the city's social fabric will decay.  Maybe he sees enough corruption to predict political instability.  Certainly there are obvious patterns.  

Jonah decides to test his hypothesis that doom is imminent if he doesn't take God's message of warning.  He concludes that the benefits of warning the city outweigh the personal risks he must take including damage to his reputation, bodily harm, and even death.  He courageously completes the test.

Scientists are careful counters.  Jonah counts the people who repented.  Since the majority of people living in Ninevah repent in sackcloth and ashes, they avoid destruction.  His results are duplicated by and independent group of Assyrian scientists.  

Since Jonah is also a prophet, he reports back to God on the call he was given and asks if there is anything else God wants him to say or do.

But then again, since Jonah took the fear route, he got to study the inside of a whale for three days -- something any scientist would find fascinating!

Which route do you take in life?  Fear, Logical Analysis or Submission to God's Will -- or all three?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Economics x Spirituality

In this post:  economics, leisure time, spirituality, "Come follow me"

If the government “creates” jobs by subsidizing one sector of the economy aren’t they taking tax dollars away from another sector?  Tax dollars are allocated to support building roads or paying farmers to grow corn.  If support is added to the Pre-K education movement, then less tax dollars will be available for roads or farmers.  The Pre-K movement is seen and the fewer jobs in road construction is that which is not seen.

If the average American spends 2.8 hours per day watching television (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics), then that is what is seen (no pun intended).  What is unseen is the place where the time was not allocated such as reading to a child, meditating, exercise, or prayer.  When I emphasize leisure time, I take away emphasis from spirituality or service or whatever.  I don’t know anyone who gets to the end of the day and has accomplished everything on their list.  I have to prioritize spirituality above other good things in order to have it in my life.

This scripture clearly states the principle of seen and unseen costs.
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  Matt 6:24

Spirituality is allocating resources to the strengthening of faith, hope and love.  It is placing a high priority on communicating with God and implementing into my life his teachings.  Spirituality is intentional.  Spirituality brings peace into my highly chaotic life.

“As I [have] turned to the scriptures for inspiration, a particular word [has] stood out time and time again. The word [is] ‘come.’ The Lord said, ‘Come unto me.’ He said, ‘Come learn of me.’ He also said, ‘Come, follow me.’ I like that word, come.” - Thomas S Monson

Come is an invitation.  I choose where I will allocate my time and spare brain cycles.  I choose to come to Christ every time that I pray, read the Bible or other scriptures, or spend time meditating on God’s purpose for my life.

Challenge:  Consider where you allocate your extra time and adjust it, if necessary, to bring more peace into your life.

This essay is based on the ideas of seen and unseen costs explained by Frederic Bastiat in his essay entitled That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Faith Workout

In this post:  working body, mind and soul and faith, hope, love and gratitude

We all know we should exercise our bodies.  Some of us have accounts on Lumosity to exercise our minds.  But what about our souls?  Shouldn’t we be doing some kind of faith workout to keep our souls vibrant and alive?  Just like a muscle, the soul will atrophy if ignored.  I have seen significant spiritual degeneration in people who neglect their soul’s health.

Female sailors workout aboard the USS Green Bay - Image Courtesy US Navy

So here’s a workout of sorts that takes less than 30 minutes.  

  • 3 minutes - Start the flow of spiritual thoughts and questions by praying
  • 2 minutes - Focus on the path of life by reading a Psalm like 16:11 or 17:5 or 18:32
  • 5 minutes - Imagine the faith needed to move forward
  • 10 minutes - Read and study Jesus’ teachings
  • 5 minutes - Put hope in a better tomorrow and thank God for all that you have right now
  • 2 minutes - Imagine love for family, friends, neighbors and then enemies
  • 1 minute - Pray for guidance to make it through today

To read more on imagining love for others check out the book Love 2.0 which talks about that type of meditation in detail.

I think a serious study of the Bible is the task of a lifetime.  I like to spend my study time taking notes, underlining themes that seem to run throughout a chapter or book, and connecting ideas in one part of the Bible with similar ideas elsewhere.  After all these years, I am still discovering new meaning and depth in that beautiful book.

Faith, hope, love, gratitude and prayer are all aspects of spirituality that can be strengthened daily.  So set aside some time, banish distractions, and burn off some of those extra calories in a new kind of workout!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Grace or Welfare

In this post Grace for mortals, Grace for the dead, and how Grace is applied to believers

Three examples of how God dished out His grace…

Moses can’t speak so God provides a mouthpiece for him, Aaron, so that he can still do his job.
- Grace didn’t give Aaron the job of prophet
- Grace gave Moses, whose speaking problems were legitimate, a workaround 
- Grace is not an exemption from duty

John the Baptist’s mother Elisabeth can’t have children so God overrides her infertility but he makes Zacharias dumb for needing a sign to believe. 
- Grace can override laws of nature 
- And Zacharias, a believer, didn’t get grace for temporary unbelief

The people of Ninevah, gentiles, are about to be destroyed but God’s grace provides a warning in Jonah and a stay when they repent.
- Grace can work for unbelievers too, if they repent

Grace dished in the next life
Most people think of grace as a gift for the next life.  I agree that it is grace that makes imperfection tolerable in God’s eyes because His Son makes up the difference.  My question to you is will grace be dished out differently at the judgement bar than it was dished out here on Earth?

At the judgement bar, if I say, I didn’t do my duty because of my problems, will grace give us an exemption?  Or will God say, what did you do with the workarounds I provided you?

At the judgement bar, if I am a believer but there were times when I didn’t believe, do I get grace for those times?  I would think so, if, like Ninevah, I repented.

What about the example of Paul.  He was a believer, fighting against Jesus’ kingdom.  He was stopped by an angel, he repented and he was given a second chance in life.  He spent the rest of his life fighting for Jesus’ kingdom.  So my question is, at the judgement bar, will grace give sincere, but misdirected people a second chance?

Will grace give the Pharisees who knew about Jesus and chose to fight him a second chance at the judgement day?  There’s a fine line between a Pharisee and a misdirected believer.  How does grace get dished out at the judgement in these scenarios?  I don’t know but it’s worth thinking about.

And what will grace do for the rich young man in Mark 10:17-22 who was a believer but chose not to repent?

Now lets talk about welfare...
It’s free, it’s need-based, it is available to all who qualify. It also stops most recipients from working to support themselves.

Grace is free, it’s need-based, it’s available to all who believe.  Some people assume that because of grace they can now stop working in a spiritual sense.  And that is what Romans 6 seems to speak to from the outset, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” (v.1)

How can a believer do whatever they please and still qualify for grace?  Zacharias couldn’t temporarily stop believing without a consequence.  It’s the grace for the believers that I’m thinking about.  What kind of believer do I have to be to qualify for grace?  I think not a sinful one (Romans 6:15-16).

Challenge:  Choose one thing in your life to repent of and show God that you are a real believer.

All images used with permission