Monday, July 7, 2014

Week Fifty-three

WEEK FIFTY-THREE   July 7, 2014

What a week! At our district meeting the beginning of the week the theme “all in” was introduced. At our suggestion they agreed to include as a measurable goal and daily discussion by each companionship concerning being “all in” as a companionship and individually. As we reflected throughout the week on the theme ourselves we noticed a wide gulf between being all in as a young missionary fifty-three years ago and serving today with my eternal companion. As a young missionary I immediately forgot about my siblings and family other than writing them weekly and fully immersed myself in the work. Such is not the case as a parent and grandparent. Those concerns and daily prayers in their behalf are constant. I successfully ignored the physical complaints of the body as a young missionary and not able to do that today. We had three consecutive nights where we got to bed just before mid-night and found ourselves running out of gas the next couple of days. So we have concluded things are different but the intent, the feeling, the desire is still “all in.”

I shared at ward council with the Lake Forest ward that our missionary efforts had been so outstanding that brother Forty-two has accepted a pastorship with the Church of God in Queens, New York—which elicited a chuckle from everyone. He made his presentation on Daniel 9, using and eliminating such verses as necessary to form a mathematical formula for interpreting the book of Revelation. Whereas we see chapters 4-22 as being in the future for John because of his interpretation of Daniel 9 he sees everything in that chapter still as being future including Satan being asset out of heaven with one-third of the hosts. The most impressive part of the presentation was the facility with which he could use or discard verses, phrases, or statements as being meaningless to construct his argument. Thinking it was our final visit with him as he leaves next Wednesday morning for New York we bore our testimonies, showed a different interpretation that used all the scriptures in a harmonized fashion. But as we were leaving he asked if we could come by the next day. He wanted to “finish” his presentation. I consented provided we each had one-half the time, to which he agreed.

The next day he basically reviewed exactly what he had presented the preceding day with no variation whatsoever, as he began to infringe on my time I interrupted. But I had barely gotten a few words out when he wanted to discuss our “differences.” As to Revelation 1-3 we are in agreement, but as to 4-22 he sees only future and we see future for John and some past as well as some past for us. I suggested that differentiation re timing was not critical but rather the themes of Revelation were critical element, suggesting I saw three. He said he only saw two and asked me for mine. I suggested Revelation seeks to teach that everything centers in and revolves around Christ, that he along brings the peace and blessings of eternity. Secondly, when he appears only those who have come unto him will remain. Thirdly, that the kingdom of God will be established upon the earth by Christ. He agreed seeing 2 and 3 as combined. I said, “Since we see the same themes why does a difference in timing matter?” He assured me that it did, but could not offer any reasons therefore.

He then rattled off a number of differences he saw. Said he, “I believe Jesus has been God from all eternity to all eternity, that he is not the Son of God, and any references to that are metaphorical.” Then he said, “I don’t understand your focus on temple work. It is one and done in this life. You either accept Christ or burn in hell eternally.” When questioned about the majority of persons on this earth never having heard of Christ and how God could turn his back on them he replied, “They don’t matter to God. They are not his children. They were created from the dust of the earth. As Paul says there is a species of God, a species of angels and a species of man. They cannot change from one to another. Man was created from the dust of the earth and will return to the dust of the earth.” I asked how he can worship a God who so cavalierly dismisses the majority of mankind. “That’s just the way it is.” When asked what he is going to teach to his congregation he said, “I am going to teach the book of Daniel, chapters 9-12, the book of Revelation and five of the epistles of Paul.” But not the gospels? “No.” He also said he does not believe baptism means anything to do with water, “but rather a symbol of confession and we are immersed in the spirit.” He was not overjoyed when I pointed out that apparently we read the Bible more literally than he does. So I was surprised when he added, “I would like to fly back once a month to talk with you. You are a good man.” As you can imagine this discussion provided a lot of fodder for our other discussions throughout the week.

As we came home I wrote him the following which I was to mail, but we received a call for one last visit, next Tuesday before he leaves Wednesday morning. We have been meeting twice a week for five months since he entered the mission office when we were there and asked for someone to teach him about the restoration—

Feeling great love for you, I want to put on paper some of my feelings as they relate to things we have discussed these past five months.

In John 3:3-5, our Savior declared “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” signifying to me a spiritual rebirth involving both the ordinance of baptism (“born of water”) and a mighty change of heart through the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost (“born … of the Spirit”) and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. The later, this spiritual rebirth, being for most of us a process rather than an event.

King Benjamin described our spiritual rebirth coming as we yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).

I believe that it is God who initiates this spiritual rebirth in us, as Alma stated, “Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them. (Alma 5:7.)

Mormon describes the spiritual rebirth in words that resonate personally with me. Speaking of the spiritual rebirth of King Lamoni, he says, “the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God—“(Alma 19:6).

To me being born again, or enjoying the spiritual rebirth, is a process beginning with desire and belief, ripening into faith and repentance, made sure and certain through the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost as the Lord himself ordained, and blossoming fully in the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost as we allow the grace of Christ to enter and change us fully and completely, making each of us His own.

I feel as did Paul who exclaimed, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, [the law to them being the Law of Moses, of course] then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:20-21).

Thus I see baptism as only a preparatory cleansing, entering in at the gate as it were, but one necessary to receiving the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost which cleanses my inner man, purifies thoughts and desires, and makes me a “new creature” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I have noticed that for some this spiritual rebirth comes in dramatic ways (see Saul-Paul or the day of Pentecost as examples), for others it comes less visibly, and for most a gradual process of transformation rather than a singular event. In any event, to be spiritual reborn we must be quickened in the inner man or woman. We must die as pertaining of unrighteousness. Thus for most of us who are born again, we receive our spiritual rebirth by degrees. There is no qualitative difference attached to spiritual rebirth being sudden or gradual.

Leaving aside the necessary ordinances for a moment, being born again comes as our hearts are changed through faith on Christ, receiving remission of our sins, disposing of our desires to do evil, and continually pressing forward in this mortal journey with a steadfastness in Christ, a love of God and or all men, and a brightness of hope.

I accept fully and literally the Lord’s repeated declarations that He is the Son of God; that Christ was “raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Romans 6:4); that as I submit to baptism by the proper authority I witness my willingness to put on Christ and to become an heir according to the Abrahamic promise (Galatians 3:37, 29). For me redemption cometh only in and through the Holy Messiah there is no other means or way under heaven; He alone is full of grace and truth; through baptism I demonstrate to God my individual commitment to join the fold of Christ to become His son and to take upon me His name, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments; the ordinance of baptism and confirmation being an outward manifestation of a sincere inner commitment I have made.

Lastly, our God is a God of mercy and love and as the author of the plan of salvation, the very plan of happiness, He provided means for all His children, even those who died in their sins without a knowledge of the truth, to vicariously, should they so choose, receive the necessary ordinances and blessings of eternity along with those who receive and accept Christ in their mortal sojourn.

I feel to exclaim as did Ammon, “Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.” (Alma 26:16.)

Had a good meeting with Brother Two earlier in the week to resolve some questions raised by co-workers about the “Mormons.” A few nights later we were invited to have dinner with them to expand for the family on our conversations and to answer some questions on using and FamilySearch. Their son shared his first backpack experience through some slot canyons in southern Utah. Quite an adventure for him.

Our Bible Study class was held at another home this week on 1 Corinthians 15 with a very sweet spirit present and a lively discussion. The spirit impressed upon those present a profound feeling of love and understanding. One of the sisters mentioned our “all in” unknowingly when she said, “Every time I think of baptism, I’m reminded that not a waft of hair or even a toe can be exposed. We have to be all in for Christ.”

The mission had his first year anniversary party from 3:30-9:30 p.m. on 4 July but we were with two investigator couples, the Six and Thirty families, for a pleasant BBQ and light discussion. It felt right to us to be there even if we missed all the festivities, after all that is what we are on a mission in the first place. Perhaps there was some good come of it too. For on Sunday when we met with the Six family what had been a stilted discussion the preceding week with his adult daughter’s addition, was very cordial and warm indicating to us some great hope for the future.

There was an early morning flag ceremony and pancake breakfast at the Lake Forest Ward that we slept in and missed after our late night adventures. Even that turned out well as two of the families we have been meeting with, The One and the Six families ended up sitting beside one another and with their commonality of the Haddock’s had an enjoyable time together from what I gather entirely as our expense.

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