Friday, August 31, 2007

Grace's Baptism

Last weekend, my Aunt Grace was baptized into the LDS church. My family of course wanted me there, so Steve and I dressed up and came. It was nice to see our family all dressed up together - especially little Paul wearing his little clip on tie and shiny loafers. He was so handsome and adorable.

Some family from Idaho came down for the baptism, including my cousin who just returned from serving an "honorable two year mission".

Above is his family (from left to right) - my cousin Crissy, my Uncle Bert (who performed the baptism), Papau, Elder Wray (my cousin Jeremy), and my Aunt Connie.

Steve and I were curious how we would feel about the baptism now being out of the LDS church. I was excited to attend because (adult) LDS baptisms are very intimate and reverent events. I personally have always loved them. True to form, it was a small gathering, we sang two hymns (one was my favorite - "I Need Thee Every Hour"), there were two talks given. One by my Papau about baptism and conversion and another about the Holy Ghost by Elder Wray (it is so weird to say "Elder" to my cousin).

Have you ever taken a communications or speaking class? After class, suddenly you hear every, "um" and "uh" and "like" someone says? That's how I felt while listening to the talks and testimonies during the baptism service. It was as if whenever they would say something (Biblically) untrue it would stick out so obviously in my mind. Like the "ums" and "uhs".

It was a beautiful baptism gathering - but afterwards Steve asked me, "Did you feel the Spirit?" I couldn't say yes. He shared that he did not feel it there either, but it was very obvious that those in attendance really believed what was going on and did believe they felt it. It seemed like out of all the women there, I was the only one who didn't cry. And I usually ALWAYS cry at LDS baptisms.

It is customary (atleast in the LDS church) to give a small gift or card when someone is baptized. Usually the first gift to be given is a quad (Holy Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) and then perhaps new member books explaining the culture of Mormonism. As I tried to think of something to give her, everything seemed to have something in it that might hinder her from truely knowing God in the fullest. Finally, I settled on Stormie Omartin's "The Prayer that changes everything" that discusses how to be intimate with God through prayer. I gave her a New Testament study book and this month's copy of the Ensign along with a card that congratulated her on her choice to follow Christ. I didn't want to congratulate her on joining the LDS church - but rather on taking, what she saw as, a step in following the Savior.

It'll be interesting to watch her development in the LDS church. Her husband is sort of a "jack-Mormon" - holds the priesthood, been to the temple - but drinks alcohol and coffee. I think he's started attending block meetings again, but not entirely sure. However, perhaps with the recent heart attacks only months apart, he's been faced with his own mortality and is ready to seek God.


In my Patriarchal Blessing, I was told that I would serve many missions and share the gospel with those in places where I labored. Now, this was a bit confusing because in the LDS church, adults can only really serve two missions. One before they are married and are young (men 19, women 21 - of course they can be older, but these are the minimum ages) and again when their children are grown and out of the house and then they are called "Sr. Missionaries". Since Steve and I came to the LDS church after we were married, we would then have to wait until the kids were grown before we could serve.

Last night, while driving home from work, I began pondering again about the whole idea of Bible schools and/or seminary. At that point I remembered my blessing and the call to "several missions". Now, I really wanted to serve an 18 month mission and personally I cannot think of anything better than telling people about God and His grace and love full time - but at the same time, the idea of missions make me a bit queasy. At the same time, I want to serve the Lord and go and do whatever He calls and asks of me - but man, I cannot imagine what it means to be a Christian missionary and how they operate.

But at the same time - what am I doing with Ron? What do I hope to do with pregnant teens? When the Lord told me to think about the forgotten and remember them, what exactly did I think He meant by that? What are we, Christians, except missionaries?

I've learned that spiritual maturity is not about head knowledge - but rather obediance. I know I want to attend school and prefer it were in theology since I love studying, reading, and learning overall and this would be so incredibly fulfilling. However, if it's just my flesh desire and not God's will, then I'm not maturing at all, but taking a step back.

Of course, it's so much easier to acknowledge this than to obey.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Personal Dream

For about two years or so now, I've had a little secret dream that really only a few people knew about. Steve brought it up a little while ago, and we were talking a bit about it last night.

I've wanted to attend some sort of proper education in regards to religious studies for awhile now. When I first wanted to attend, I started dreaming about BYU - where many LDS apologetics have studied and Stephen Robinson is a professor. But having two small children, my only options were to wait or long distance education. I decided I would wait until the kids started school then look into it again.

School is only two years off for Paul and I want to be able to return to some sort of work when Anya enters school - so a degree has been back on my mind recently. I always enjoyed college and learning so I'd be super excited to get to return and finish my degree.

I've started Googling seminaries here in Vegas - so far I've only found Fuller Theological Seminary who has a branch here. I'd prefer to get my Bachelor's degree in a theological school or at least in that area of study in a public school. However, I'm beginning to think I'm going to have to simply finish up at UNLV. Which isn't horrible - the campus is nice, there are classes at all times and it's an affordable school. The hard question is - what to major in?

When Steve and I met we were both in college. I had a different plan then - I was a Political Science major with a plan to attend Law School (I was such a nerd - the summer between graduation and my freshman year I read the sample LSAT questions on UNLV's Law School page).

Now, a political science major isn't going to help me any in the area I want to study in. Further, I am interested in getting a degree in Biblical studies - but honestly, if I got one in that area what would I do with it? After browsing some of the areas of study on Fuller's site, I believe I could be interested in a Youth, Family, and Culture study. And I could simply try to fill up my electives with courses on more in depth Biblical study right? I don't know anything about seminaries (outside of lunch time/before school one hour with the LDS missionaries at LVA) so I'm not even sure how this would work.

Add to this, I've never believed women should be in ministry and am slowing moving out of this idea but still limiting what I believe women should do in ministry. While I am passionate about learning, and really want to attend a seminary - again, practically, what on Earth would I do with such a degree?

I suppose I could always get a degree in some sort of social science at UNLV - this might be helpful if I wanted to get a master's in families and culture.

In the end, I guess I'll just have to pray, pray, and pray some more. If it's God's will, then it'll happen. If it isn't then it won't. But it'd sure be nice if it did. :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

We teach them how...

"Are we like sheep...
Are we like sheep!
Have gone astray..."
-Handel's Messiah-

For three years, every Christmas I had the blessing of performing Handel's Messiah with the rest of LVA's choir. It was hard work, almost two months of rehearsals, but so rewarding in the end.

There is one song, it echoes in part scripture. The four parts all go their own ways singing the lines quoted above. When the parts come back together, solemnly they sing, "For the Lord hath laid upon Him, hath laid on Him.... The inequity of us all..."

Even while an agnostic - terribly angry at God - this song always choked me up. Recently, I checked out an ex-Mormon support group and the one reoccurring theme I've found within their folds - next to anger - is the inability to believe again. They mostly believe in a Creator but are terrified of being "duped" or "hoodwinked" again. I can most certainly understand these feelings. But with one member there seems to be this almost rage against any and all leaders of any organized religion. It made me ponder Handel's song - how we are all sheep and we are without a Shepherd or anyone to guide or lead us.

While watching the movie, Serenity there is a conversation between River and her "teacher". Another student asks, "Why wouldn't anyone want to be civilized?"

River answers, "Because we meddle. Telling them what to do... inside their minds..."

Smiling the teacher answers, "No River. We don't tell them what to think, we teach them how."

I think this teacher's comment sums up LDS teachings as a whole. They don't tell us what to think - they simply teach us how to think. Don't think about sin - or pray about it - because then it can lead you deeper into sin (ex: masturbation - young men are encouraged not to pray over this matter). Don't associate with those who are sinful, they will bring you down to their level. Don't enter unholy places - you will loose the companionship of the Holy Spirit. And on it goes.

Therefor, I understand why these ex-Mormons are fearfully angry about possibly becoming a sheep blindly following the devil in a new suit - a pastor, preacher, and so forth. Yet, I know that with Jesus - this isn't the case. We're not following a man - we're following God. Within the body, there are certain gifts - Pastors being one. And yes, to a point we must trust them and have faith. Yet, we are never ever to believe upon their words as scripture instead of God's Word.

"When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan-it is God's plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God." - Improvement Era 1945

When a Pastor speaks - one doesn't have to fall in line with him/her. When a teacher speaks, the same applies. That isn't to say that we should not heed leaders' advice or always be skeptical about them, but if we are seeking the Lord daily then we should trust Him to lead us always. I'm not one to really talk since I did wholeheartedly follow and believe the LDS church and it's teachings and doctrines. But I just have to have faith that the Lord will lead me and keep me from danger and/or false teachers or doctrines.

The Trinity was incredibly hard for me to accept. I didn't want to blindly follow just because everyone thought it was right. Everyone I knew and was close to, just knew that Joseph Smith was a Prophet and the LDS church was the one and only true church on this Earth. During a small group discussing the Trinity, when someone asked why everyone didn't believe in it (paraphrasing since this was more than a month ago now) Steve blurted out what we were both thinking, you can't just blindly follow - the Trinity (for example) isn't crystal clear for everyone - and yet to many Christians, it seems that it is. But if you've been "taught how to think" and part of that is the Trinity is a vulgar manmade false doctrine - then letting go of that can be incredibly hard.

"Fool me once, shame on you - fool me twice, shame on me." Perhaps all of us ex-Mormons carry this mentality - whether consciously or not - along with us. Something we have to eventually face and let go of - but we don't want to be fooled again. I have learned to be grateful for those around me who have had patience with me - with my challenge or relearning how to think so to speak.

The Lord Jesus came and healed people - it doesn't say SOME illnesses - but all. This doesn't just mean being physically sick, but mentally and emotionally unwell too. For those of us who carry a "chip on the shoulder" or however you think of it, Jesus can heal it. I'm not saying it's easy - we have to truely give these things over to Jesus and I don't know how to do that. My will is always something I struggle to overcome - but then there are clear moments, the sunlight streaming through the clouds, where I can clearly see God healing me - bit by bit. I just have to look.

In the midst of the storm, do I see Jesus? Or do I, like the apostles, see only the winds and the rain? I'm learning how to see God in the midst of everything, but it's hard. I've been sick for almost a week now - but I only caught on recently that the Lord was using this sickness to help me strengthen me in an area I was previously drowning in. He had heard my prayers and was answering them.

Am I afraid that I'll get duped again? That I've simply gone, "from the frying pan into the fire" as a few ex-Mormons have stated? Sure. But in the end, the only real question I have to ask myself is, how much do I trust Jesus and then go forward.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Nucleus Upload

I haven't blogged in awhile - partly because my husband has been sick going on three weeks now. When Steve's sick - it always seems it's for the long haul. So while I've had things on my mind, I haven't felt up to blogging in a bit.

Next weekend I have a family member who is getting baptized into the LDS church. I haven't a clue what to get her - whether I should give her something written by and/or for LDS or perhaps a a good Bible study to encourage her to get into the Bible. Or how to react. My parents, still in the dark regarding my "apostasy" fully expect me to be there showing support and perhaps bearing my testimony (at LDS baptisms, while the person being baptized changes from the wet baptism clothes - white coveralls - to dry clothes, members usually take turns sharing their testimonies).

Also during the past few weeks, I've been feeling a call to repentance and forgiveness. While reading in my "Intimate Issues" book, I've been reading about people who realized they had unrepented sins or had feelings of anger or unforgiveness towards others. I know that I've longed battled with unforgiveness towards my mother and a few others. However, how to resolve these things? Prayer.

And recently I just have had a hard time praying - whether it be telling the Lord about my day or just praying with real belief. I feel like I'm in a slump and the only way out is where I'm having the most trouble.

Yesterday, I briefly spoke with Steve about this pulling still left in the LDS church. It seems the more I understand how false it is on almost every level - the more pull I feel back towards it. It's very bothering but right now - with the slump I feel trapped in - I'm not sure how to shake it.
The missionaries dropped by a few nights ago - and even though Steve was sick - he talked with them. To him, the conversation was so easy - "Elders, I don't believe the Book of Mormon is false."

"Well Brother Hommel, there is no gray area. It's either true or false."

"I know. I believe it's false."

I was very proud of him for being able to speak the truth and yet still be friendly with the missionaries. My cousin just returned from his mission in Germany and I just hate the thought of anyone being rude to him simply because he was a missionary for the LDS church. Hopefully, I will become as balanced and able to speak the truth as he has.

Small groups start soon at GP and I'm looking forward to getting plugged into an intimate fellowship with other believers. The small group we've been attending for almost a year now has become a second family to us and I really hope Steve and I can fellowship with others at GP the same way. Steve's planning a "guy's night" with the movie "300" (ughh....) so it'll be interesting to see who all he invites.

Finally, I'm on some kind of cleaning obessesion. And not just like, cleaning with mops and brooms and vinegar - but cleaning out my house. Today I spent four hours organizing the kids' toys and sifting through what could be thrown away, given away, or sold in a garage sale. I've cleaned out almost all of my LDS stuff (but as always - I'm just always surprised how much I have of it and where all it is). Which, is harder than I thought. There are still a few items which I do NOT want to get rid of. Including my "Work and the Glory" trilogy that I own. Ah! I love those movies, but they glorify Joseph Smith and possibly twist LDS history so much, I don't know if it's wise to keep them. But ah! I love those movies so much! And they are impossible to find at Blockbuster so it's not like I could get a "fix" anytime. I just feel so much more in control and secure with keeping a few selected items. Yet it seems, each time I riffle through each item, I find atleast one little thing that is just entireally unBiblical or refers back to something unBiblical. And of course, there are our temple recommends. Tempty little devils. :P Anya dunked them in the toliet and I still cannot throw them away. Ah!

Okay, enough self indulgence. Back to cleaning for me.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Blunt Honesty

This blog is going to be uncomfortably honest - for me and possibly for you as well. However, I'm learning through the Word, that I must be honest with myself and others. When I began blogging about leaving the LDS church, I promised myself I would be honest and not hold anything back. I haven't done this very well because I was ashamed of my own shortcomings.

The past few days, I've been receiving various messages - possibly of assurance - about mercy. God's mercy for us. With this comes acknowledging that I need mercy and so does everyone else. What comes with mercy? Repentance and forgiveness. There are areas in my life that while I've gone through the motions of forgiveness, I have never completely forgiven these people - from my abusive biological mother to the family I babysit for. As God's child, this hinders me from the "abundant spirit filled life God has planned" for me. Acknowledging my areas of bondage is not easy or comfortable.

I'm going to give a quick background of what has been really plagueing me the past week, something I've been truly consumed and almost drowing in but haven't really told anyone - not even my husband about fully. I have been considering returning to the LDS church. Yikes, I know. I didn't have some sort of revelation, but rather, unknowingly was having spiritual pangs for God's truth. Beth Moore parrallels this to our physical body, when we are hungry how do we know? My stomache growls and aches. The same with our spirits. When they are hungry and thirsty for the Living Water and Bread of Life - they begin to manifest themselves in physical ways. I sort of knew this already, but as I pondered how my spirit manifests itself, the Lord began to free me with truth.

Even though I accepted Him as Lord and Savior years ago, I have not experienced true satisfaction with Him. How horrible I felt when I realized this. I've felt momentary joy, overwhelming at times, but never lasting satisfaction. I've lusted after the things of this world which has led me step by step into deeper more devastating sins in my life. Even as a Christian I have done this. Thought to myself all the things wrong with me (per Earthly standards and spiritual ones) and nag myself about it, obsesses about it, and finally after torment take action - just not godly ones.

This past January I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar II disorder as well as Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (this is slightly different than OCD because I don't feel the need to do things a certain number of times - what I experience is once I have something in my mind, I am without peace until I fulfill those thoughts). This is something only very close family and friends know. In fact, my parents simply think my migraines are acting up again and this is why I was on medicine and acting differently. I was quite relieved and ashamed at the same time when I found out that I had BPII and OCPD. Part of me felt that I finally knew what was wrong with me these past few years and another part was deeply ashamed. Steve's company recently switched Healthcare providers and with it, they no longer cover the medications that I was taking for these conditions.

As a Latter Day Saint, I was always under such rules and regulations, my life was pretty much in control. Granted, I did have some downward spirals that I personally am convicted came because I did not have any real satisfaction in Christ, not because of my disorder. However, since these little slips came in I felt so ashamed before my God because I did not measure up to those around me, those in the scriptures, and so forth. I was painfully aware of my shortcoming, yet enslaved to them and unable to withdraw.

The month of July has been a draining, crazy, exciting, emotional, and unstable ride. We've been constantly busy and collapsing in exhaustion by 5 pm Sunday evening. I've found myself unable to get excited by the Word, yet whenever I sit down and study it I am so renewed. This past week, I found myself hitting rock bottom lows. I realized all my shortcomings as a mother and even began comparing myself to my own mother asking myself how low she had to hit before she became what she is now or it was always that way. I'm not happy as a mother - and I know that's wrong. Yet, I am happy as a mother and cannot find peace in that. While I deeply love my children, enjoy playing with them, spending time with them, and just watching them take in the world - I just don't feel like I am enough. And so, at times, regret being a mother to such wonderful children who deserve so much more. I look around at other people and wish I could give my children more - emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I have no satisfaction in being a wife - I love my husband deeply and passionately, but again just don't feel that I measure up. He doesn't arrive home to a hot meal, clean house and children, and beautiful wife in the full getup of makeup and clean clothes. C'mon now - I've got two toddlers who change clothes three times a day, wreck the house, and barely give me enough time to shower ALONE in peace every couple of days, let alone do my hair, makeup, and make everyone and thing look amazing for his return home. I read the Proverbs 31 woman and instead of inspired, am depressed. I then realize that the example my children are seeing now is what will be in their little minds into adulthood as what a marriage, mother, and wife should look like and the depression amazingly gets deeper. I obesse about every little thing I am doing wrong, but cannot will myself to overcome.

So this past week while dwelling upon my long list of shortcomings, I began thinking about the LDS church. In the church, in social circles and talks by leadership one always hears - atleast once in their adult lives - about how a family left the church and their lives fell apart, went totally to hell. During my lows this week I began to wonder, "Oh my gosh is my life on the freeway to hell?" Which of course brought in doubt that I understood the Lord's answer to my prayers months ago, which then began to find the tiniest parrallel with LDS doctrine in the Bible and this little voice in my head would shout, "See!!!" Needless to say, the migrianes have increased a notch this past week as well. Misery - so this is what it feels like.

Last Friday I resumed my garments before bed - something I haven't done in awhile and began to ponder my covenants (don't worry part two of that blog is coming) and felt so overwhelmed by my depression to hit my knees and renew them. It was as if I could not breathe. All I could think about was returning to the temple, calling out to God, and begging His mercy. I even considered donning my Temple costume right there in my little prayer room and going through the "correct order of prayer" (no worry my LDS friends - read back in the JoD I believe it is, you'll see members have been encouraged to do this in the privacy of their own homes since the temples were erected). Yet, something stopped me. Even the next morning I felt a intense powerful urge to attend the temple.

Sunday's message was about the mercy we all need, and in turn the Savior provides. In Beth Moore's study today, she explained the lack of satisfaction we have in the Lord. As I read the scriptures and her commentary it suddenly hit me. I wasn't longing for the LDS church for truth, I was longing for comfort, security, and to return to an easier time in my life. I've been way outside my comfort zone. And do not allow myself to find nourishment in the Word every time I read from it. I can read through my 15 minutes of daily reading and at times walk away the same as before I read it. Yet, when I sit down and study it, giving God my full attention, I walk away more informed, at peace, and understanding what is going on in my life.

Right now, I need to find my nourishment in that which satisfies - which is not the world. Only Jesus. No wonder I feel like I've been constantly falling down, I am not meditating on that which is important - Jesus, the Word, God. All of it. Instead I am making it about me and how I don't measure up. Well that's a given, but it's not an eternal hole I'm stuck in if I do not want to be. I CAN get out of this hole. Not by myself, but by Jesus. Last night I learned that Jesus is in each believer and through this God's glory is accomplished. It's not an overnight transformation, but rather a daily journey.

I can day by day, glorify God. I only need to open myself to Him and trust Him. It's easy to trust Him on some things, but others I don't want to let go of and it's hard. Or I'm scared that He won't come through. Silly I know - but these are real hurdles for me. The Lord took days to assure and comfort me that I did not need to return to a false church for hope and security but rather allow Him to hold me. There is no better place to be than my Savior's warm embrace. I just need to open the door and let Him hold me.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Causing Another to Stumble

Tonight I had a very interesting conversation with our neighbor, Becca. She's a total sweetheart, has five amazing kids whom my kids love, and is a very compassionate and loving person. In short, we enjoy her family's company. Lately, I've been taking some quiet time on our front porch to do some reading. When I saw her out, I asked how she'd been feeling (she's had some really bad allergies as of late) and if her allergies had improved. We began chatting and I soon found that we had several things in common. We were both raised in religious home, both suffered from migraines (although she is much more informed and educated about hers than I am), both are former strippers, and both have been seriously affected by Christian hypocricy.

Personally, I believe the Bible teaches us how to conduct ourselves and how we should be set apart from this world and it's standards, teaching, and behavior. However, this discussion can easily become a grace versuses works conversation so I steer clear from these unless the other person I'm talking with fully understands the importance of both and the eternal reflections of both (ie - grace alone saves not works, however we will stand accountable for our works before the Father).

As we were saying good-night, I casually invited her to church. They know we were LDS and left, they know that we actively attend our current church's services, and they know I am working with the homeless. So they know, from their point of view, that we are religious. Our church, from our perspective, is liberal. Not in their secular or political stances - but rather how they approach the gospel. In comparison to other churches and Christians I've seen or met - they understand that the gospel is for everyone, not just a pre-conceived notion of what a Christian looks like. They try to be sensitive to those who are not believers - which is awesome, and show them - through service - the love of Christ.

When I asked her to services, I also mentioned that Steve had told me that they weren't religious so I understood if they didn't want to attend. She shared with me that she was a Pastor's kid and that it had tainted her. That she knew many other leaders in various churches and that they talked one way and walked another. Including her parents. After she moved out, because of this knowledge, she just couldn't attend church. She didn't see Christians being Christians. They were what are commonly known as, Sunday Christians. I shared this with her as well. I shared my own story - briefly - with her about my teen pregnancy and how the "Christians" treated me in my Southern Bible belt town.

After saying good-night, I was strongly reminded about how our actions strongly affect those around us. If we, as Christians, walk in direct contradiction to the Lord, His walk, His Word - then of course, people will see us as hyprocrites and take the message we have - of Christ - less seriously as well.

"Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God" - 1 Cor. 10:32

Friday, August 3, 2007

Covenants - Pt 1

During my reading today in "Intimate Issues", I read about the coveniance of the world and it's lack of being able to keep covenants they have made. This chapter, while in reference to marital covenants brought me back to something I have wrestled with since before we left the LDS church.

Am I to keep the covenants I made within the temple?

Numbers 30:1-2 NIV
1 Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: "This is what the LORD commands: 2 When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.

So tonight, I took a more in depth look at the covenants I made within the temple than I have before.

The Law of Obedience:
I couldn't find anything under "Law of Obedience" but since the (pre-recorded) voice also uses the term, "Law of the Lord", I thought I'd search under that as well. The term "Law of the Lord" is used by LDS leaders to reference back to the Law that Moses gave to the people.

Elder L. Tom Perry, We Believe All That God Has Revealed, Ensign (CR), November 2003, p.85
Thus, the Ten Commandments were given to mankind to follow and use throughout their lives. Obedience finally brought the law of the Lord to the children of Israel. Disobedience only delayed the progress of the children of Israel towards their promised land. They had to be worthy to receive the law of the Lord.

The end of Elder Perry's statement, caught my eye. "They had to be worthy to receive the law of the Lord." Yet, the Bible states that none of us are worthy. According to MSN Encarta Dictionary, "worthy" means:

1. deserving: fully deserving something, usually as a suitable reward for merit or importance
That remark is not worthy of a reply.

2. respectable: morally upright, good, and deserving respect
a worthy person

3. good but dull: having good qualities, good intentions, or the best of motives, but being boring and pedestrian

In the New Testament, a statement with the same implications as the statement Elder Perry makes, is made, "With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith." (2 Thes. 1:11). The word use of worthy here is from the Greek verb, "axioo" and means, "to think meet, fit, right, to judge worthy, deem, deserving." It would seem that here, the word worthy would mean - that the Lord has seen a person ready, able, and right to fulfill His calling on that person's life. Just as Elder Perry states that it was only when the children of Israel were ready, right, and deserving of the law. Only after they had proven themselves - deserving.

Paul, who was schooled in the Jewish law and traditions, makes the following statement, "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: " (Romans 3:10) - when we see the words, "As it is written" we know that the Old Testament is being quoted. Here, it appears that Paul is quoting Psalm 14:3 in which the Lord in His omniscience looks down upon the world and sees not one who is good - not even David, the man and king after His own heart. For they have "together become corrupt" (Ps. 14:3a). The Lord knew and shares with us - no one is ever deserving of His grace or mercy. We know that the Law of the Lord was a mercy because we later learn that, "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24, NIV) The law was there so we might realize our shortcomings and come to Christ. It also testifies of the One - Jesus Christ - who would come and grant us mercy, grace, and through His blood - give us justification before the Father.

Paul also instructs us, "know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Gal 2:16, NIV)

I most certainly believe, that as a sincere follower of Christ, as one who wishes to be a disciple of Christ - meaning to be a student, to become like the teacher - that it is wise for me to follow God's laws. However, I can fully see that the Bible instructs us - from the Old Testament to the New, that we were never meant to be justified by the law - but by Jesus Christ and Him alone. We were never meant to achieve and deserve grace by the law. Noah, the only man that the Lord saved from the flood did not deserve to be saved, instead it states, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD" (Gen 6:8, KJV). He found - not deserved - grace from the Lord.

I have done nothing that is deserving of grace from God - yet through Jesus Christ, I am justified. Jesus' perfect blood and work from the garden, to the cross, to the empty tomb - did all the work I could never do. And He freely gives it to us because God, is and always has been a giver.

I do not have to work for my salvation.

The Law of Sacrifice:

Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander makes a beautiful comment about sacrifice, "Sacrifice sanctifies the sacred.". Beautiful.

In another statement, the Law of Sacrifice is explained in detail, "Sacrifice, the willingness to sacrifice for this the Lord’s work—and inherent in that law of sacrifice is the very essence of the Atonement. … Consecration, which is associated with it, a willingness to give everything, if need be, to help in the on-rolling of this great work. And a covenant of love and loyalty one to another in the bonds of marriage, fidelity, chastity, morality." (Bishop Keith B. McMullin, An Invitation with Promise, Ensign (CR), May 2001, p.61)

Sacrifice goes hand in hand with the Law of Consecration - meaning giving everything if called, to the work of the Lord. Specifically, the LDS church.

I actually wish that believers still heeded to the New Testament model shown in Acts when all the believers sold all they had and shared it with one another and lived in, "singleness of heart, ". They were one. I do believe sacrifice is often - well sacrificed for convenience or shortcuts. I do believe the Lord calls us to sacrifice so that we may mature in Him. However, I cannot see that sacrifice is a pre-req to entrance into heaven or the Father's presence.

Paul (my favorite apostle) states Biblical sacrifice best (in application to Christian living), "present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." (Romans 12:1b, NIV). While presenting our bodies as those living sacrifices (taking up the new man, shedding the old; taking up our crosses, dying to self or flesh, and so forth) may also have us sacrifice other items in our lives, again, I don't believe I can simply sacrifice all that I have and that I will earn or deserve God's grace more than another person.

It's getting late and I'm getting a bit tired, so I'll pick up the other covenants, The Law of the Gospel; The Law of Chastity, and The Law of Consecration.

After researching these various laws, I do believe they are wise goals to live by and only something one can live by when guided by the Spirit, however, I don't believe adherence to any of these laws will grant me more favor with the Lord than if I did not adhere to them. The Lord loves me the same no matter my actions.

What I am pondering is - regardless that I unknowingly made these covenants under the pretense of falsehood, should I still continue to adhere to them (for joy and love of the Lord not for fear of punishment) to show the Lord, that I am faithful to the promises I make to Him? Or, by doing these things, am I holding myself in captivity and hindering myself from living an "abundent life that the Lord planned" for me?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Judging Another Man's Servant

I've been a little behind in my One Year Bible because of my other studies in Beth Moore's workbook and trying to clean out my house. So yesterday's reading, took me a little off guard:

Romans 14

Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike.Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11for it is written,

"As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God."

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Do Not Cause Another to Stumble
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

As if that were not enough to get a message through to me, the Psalm reading for yesterday was:

Psalm 24

Of David. A psalm.
1 The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;

2 for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.

3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ?
Who may stand in his holy place?

4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.

5 He will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God his Savior.

6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

I feel convicted about something but I am not a hundred percent sure After reading these two excerpts - I wonder if we as Christians treat others - whom we deem as different wrongly. What laid on my heart was not only my - but in general Christians - interactions with Mormons. This could be because of my own past experiences having not only been LDS but also a defender of the faith. However, oddly enough - Seventh Day Adventists came to mind as well - but that was because Steve has mentioned them just a little earlier.

After wrestling over these passages, I'm going to try to really articulate my thoughts - but as jumbled as they feel, I pray that I do an okay job.

Steve has been studying Greek as of late and (unknown to me) began trying to translate Romans 14 from this Greek New Testament our Pastor had loaned him. In verse 4 the word "man's" comes from the Greek word, "allotrios" which means "belonging to another" or "foriegn, strange, not of one's own family, alien, an enemy" and the word "judge" right before it is the Greek word, "krino" meaning, "to seperate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose". When he translated this, he got from it "judge a servant from another household". An example came to mind this morning while I was thinking more about these passages.

This past year, on the National Day of Prayer - chaired by Shirley Dobson - blatantly excluded Mormons from leading any prayers, and even in Utah flat out refused to invite any congregations to attend. It is supposed to be open to anyone - but in pratice isn't. You can read articles about it here and here.

As Trinity believing Christians - who are we to judge another servant or slave? Who are we to stumble the faith of another? This question really bothers me because on one hand, we have Biblical examples of the apostles - the most prominent being Paul - correcting false doctrine. Yet, at the same time I don't recall any Biblical examples (after Christ came) that definativly show that those who are different should be excluded. Quite the opposite. Paul confonted the legalism in Jewish converts who continued to attempt to put Gentile converts under the Mosaic law, even correcting Peter for playing this "game". Peter though, still ate at the same tables as those who were being corrected. These Jewish converts were putting themselves under a false doctrine - that the Jewish law came before the cross of Christ - yet Peter still ate at their tables. To eat with someone during this period was a very intimate action. It wasn't taken lightly as it might be today.

So if Peter, the leader of the apostles, was intimate with those putting themselves under false doctrines - what should our actions two thousand years later be? Should it be to exclude people because we don't agree with their doctrines? Is it to show less grace and composure to them because we believe they are under the yoke of imprisionment from Satan? What are our actions supposed to be and who are they to reflect? Our flesh or our God?

When Steve and I first looked at Grace Point - as a place to visit and check out but not to ever leave the LDS church and begin attending - one statement stood out to us in their statement of faith:

"We believe too many churches are divided over nonessential issues and focus on issues that do not matter in eternity.

At the heart of our beliefs stand what Jesus refers to as the greatest of the commands: love God and love others (Matthew 22:34-40). We believe a church should be known not only by what it believes but primarily by what it does. Beliefs become stagnant and void if they are not translated into actions. We want Grace Point to be known primarily by its love for God and its love for people. We want to be known for what we do and not necessarily for what we stand against." Our Beliefs - Our Purpose

This caught our attention because this was so unlike Christian churches. I've heard Pastor Hudson mention a few times that it is truely sad that Christians are known for what they stand against but not what they stand for. This is a sad state of affairs.

I'm a member of a few discussion groups and boards regarding Mormonism - most if not all, are from when I was a Mormon defending the faith. I didn't later join these groups to slam on Mormons or show them where they were in error. I see so many posters there acting so disrespectfully, crass, and rude to Latter Day Saints simply because they are LDS and have the "gall" to defend their "heretical beliefs and insulting Jesus". When asked why they can act so rudely towards LDS - they always sum it up by stating they (LDS) are not Christians.

Yet, Romans 14:4 tells us we are not to "judge another man's servant" we do not know a Latter Day Saint, SDA, Jehovah Wittness', and so on - we do not know their walk with the Lord. How are we to call out their walk and call them unsaved? Is one yolk of slavery worse than another? For the man who is enslaved to pornography, the mother who is enslaved to sloth, and the person enslaved to a loose tounge - are these less damning than those who try to walk humbly before the Lord and come unto Him?

In Romans 14 it lays out some of the non-essential doctrines that divide the body - food, drink, which day to consider holy, and so forth. While I do believe it is essential to know God and therefor know His character and nature - I do not believe we should exclude anyone who seeks God, seeks His will, or His face from ourselves. I do not believe we should allow ourselves to treat anyone differently than we would treat our fellow believers and most importantly, our Lord and Savior. Jesus points out that those we did not feed, those we did not visit in prision, and so forth - that they were He and how we treated the "least" is how we treated Him also. What is the least?

In Matt 25:40, when the King says, "least" is comes from the Greek word, "elachistos" which means, "smallest least, whether in size; in amount: of management of affairs; in importance: what is the least moment; in authority: of commandments; in the estimation of men: of persons; in rank and excellence: of persons". How many "Christian apologetics" consider - even if they will not admitt it - Mormons and other "cultists" (that word makes me ill ) to be "in the estimation of men: of persons" the least?

I'm not sure what exactly I am supposed to do with this yet, however I do know I should always be aware. Whether or not another person and I know Jesus the same way is not the issue - in Psalm 24:1 we learn that ALL in the Earth is the Lord's because He created it. In verses 3 and 4 it states, "Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false." And in verse 6, "Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.Selah"

This totally reminded me that while I may not agree with the character and nature of God in the same manner percieved and understood by a Jehovah's Wittness or a Latter Day Saint - I they are still God's creation, they still strive to have clean hands and a pure heart, and most importantly - in this generation are those who seek Him. James 4:8 PROMISES that those who draw near to God, He will draw near to them. We have to have faith and trust that the Lord will do what He promises. That He will lead His creations to Him. We cannot comprimise ourselves simply to "save" every person in the world. If we are cruel simply to pressure another into our way of thinking, who are we truely serving? Is it the Lord or is the god of this world?

"But Jesus beheld [them], and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." Matt 19:26