Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Romans 11:4-5

"But what saith the answer of God unto him?  I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace."
Romans 11:4-5

This is another scriptural selection from Jeff W of Davenport, IA.  There is a lot of interesting stuff going on here.  One point is that things are never quite as scary as they seem. :)  Elijah thought that he was alone, and that everyone else was against him... and he found out that there were still 7 thousand people that were doing pretty well. :)  The other part is that no matter where we are in life, God is watching out for us, aware of things like whether we are worshipping Baal or not. :)  If we haven't sold our souls to Baal yet, then there is still some hope.  It's that whole sinner's anonymous thing that we have talked about before.  God came to call sinners to repentance... he walks out to find the one.  Church isn't a private club for the extra-righteous--it is a twelve-step program for recovering sinners.  There are people all around us who have amazingly brilliant potential... who are good and strong and righteous at the core, but who have gotten a little muddy along the way, so the shininess of that light within is kind of hard to see.  But God knows who still has a spark and who doesn't... (hopefully there are very very few of those).  And this world is full of people who are trying to clean the mud off the spotlight of their souls... I'd venture to say that we are *all* doing that to some extent.  Just because it is taking a while doesn't mean that we should give up on the people around us.  God knows who they are, and that they haven't gone Baal-worshipping lately.  That matters.
So, today... let's remember that we are important to God, no matter where we are in life.  Let that light seep through.  And let's also remember that the Lord has plans for the people around us... they have light within too, just like we do.  Let's not give up on them.  (Oh, and let's not go worshipping Baal today either.)

Monday, July 30, 2001

1 Peter 5:7

"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."
1 Peter 5:7

Today's scripture was submitted by Jeff W. of Davenport, IA, who mentions that it seems to be telling us to "let go and let God" ... which is a very hard thing to do.  We get caught up in the cares of the world sometimes.  Worrying about getting a job, or getting the air conditioning fixed, or how exactly to say something that is hard to say... there are thousands of things that we get caught up in like that... and we worry so much about those things that there isn't any room to notice the beautiful things that God places in our path.  We get so worried about what comes next, that we don't take time to enjoy the present.  And we've talked before about the scripture that tells us "he that is happy shall be happy still, and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still."  I don't know about you, but I don't really want to be unhappy forever... so I should probably start working on getting happy now. :)  God doesn't want us to be stressed and worried about whatever it is that is occupying us... he wants to take those burdens and help us find joy and peace and all of the interesting and beautiful parts of life. So, you know... today, let's try casting our cares on the Lord. :)  Instead of worrying about things (and notice that this scripture says ALL care, not just the care that you can't solve yourself)... let's invite God into our lives.  We'll still have to make decisions and think about things sometimes, of course... but if we can focus on living in the present instead of worrying about all of the horrible things that *might* happen... if we can learn to trust God instead of trusting in ourselves... if we can stop and ponder the beauty of the day and the incredible gifts that we have been given in our lives... maybe now will become happier, and we'll smile a little more. :)

Thursday, July 26, 2001

Doctrine and Covenants 84:85

"Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man."
Doctrine and Covenants 84:85

Do you ever find yourself planning what to say ahead of time?  :)  God says, don't bother. :)  This is really cool, actually... and it has worked for me very often in my life.  I remember when I was on my mission... It seemed as though God was having people ask me questions that *directly* related to the passage of scripture that I had read that morning... and I was just reading the scriptures page by page, not skipping around at all.  We spend a lot of mental energy planning and worrying about what to say or how to act in this or that situation... and if we just soak up the scriptures, and the words of the prophets, then we will have those things automatically brought to our minds when we need them.  God always knows what to say... and we can tap into that. :)  One of the great things about the Holy Ghost is, if we are living worthy to have him around, that he "will bring all things to our remembrance."  ... so, we can soak up knowledge and trust God to help us to access it when we need it. :)  This works well in tests... I have personal knowledge. :)  It also works well when the only thing that you can think of beforehand is something like... "supercalifragilisticexpialadocious."  (yeah, how do you spell that anyway?)  ... I have had that a time or two as well.  No matter how much I read and thought about a lesson, I had no idea what to say or how to lead into a discussion... but I was doing my best, and I had the Spirit... and, trusting that, I went up to the front of the room anyway.  And, *every time* God comes through (as usual).
So, today... let's treasure up the words of life.  Drink in the Spirit... learn everything we can about God... ponder the words of the prophets. :)  And, in the exact hour we need any of that knowledge and strength, it will be there for us. :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Moroni 10:33

"And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot."
Moroni 10:33

This morning right as I was waking up I thought of my mountain bike out there lonely on the back porch with all the pigeons, who unfortunately think that I am invading their territory.  So, I went out and rescued it from them and brought it into my kitchen.  ... and somehow, that whole experience brings this "without spot" thing a lot closer to home. :)  I think that sometimes in our lives we get just as filthy as this mountain bike is... and whether is is because we sit still and get hit by the bombers from above... or whether we jump in head-first, the result is the same... (although that mental image of a swimming pool filled with... ugh.) So, I look at this mountain bike and I think... what an amazing thing it is that God offers us. The opportunity, despite all of our mistakes and sins, to become perfect... through the atonement of Christ.  To be washed clean... wholly without spot, and holy, without spot. :)  I know that in my life I sometimes get as horribly caked with sin as this mountain bike is caked with pigeon droppings... and it is just as disgusting and offensive.  Underneath all of that, we are beautiful, spiritual creatures... created in the image of God. But we cover it all up with our chosen uglinesses of addiction or cruelty or indulgence.
Today... don't let yourself get covered in filth.  Remember that someone is watching over you who is a lot better than I am to my mountain bike.  He offers you that  amazingly great feeling of being 100% clean.  We can repent, we can change.  We can become anything that we and God can dream. ... no matter how filthy we are right now, if we look to Christ, focus on him... he will help us do what it takes in our lives to take advantage of his atonement... and every single spot of filthiness will disappear, and we will be standing bright and spotless before him at the last day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Matthew 5:27-28

"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."
Matthew 5:27-28

This is a really interesting scripture about actions and desires.  I think that we worry a lot about the actions part... don't kill, don't steal, don't commit adultery... but we don't worry as much about the other side of it... the desires.  For instance, we can avoid stealing, and fulfil that action... but if we want something so much that we are tempted to steal it, then we are crossing over in covetousness anyway, right?  So, it isn't enough to just go to church... we have to want to. :)  We have to throw ourselves into being there.... we have to feel the spirit, or what is the point?  We can pay our tithing, but if we resent every minute of it, and complain about the loss of "our" money all the time... then we're giving gifts without full intent of heart.. which, it tells us in the scriptures, is the same as having retained the gift.  It seems that God places an awful lot of value on sincerity... on being who you appear to be, and on doing the things that you believe in doing.  Authenticity matters. :)  ... and incidentally, God knows that we can't be 100% there all the time.  Sometimes we have to start with either actions OR desires, and work our way to both... We just have to be sincerely trying to get there. :)  So, today... let's not just go through the motions... let's throw ourselves into what we care about, and serve God not just through our actions, but through our thoughts and desires as well. :)

Monday, July 23, 2001

Words of Mormon 1:7

"And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me.  And now I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will."
Words of Mormon 1:7

This is cool.  It reminds me of Adam (Moses 5:6) when he was asked why he was offering sacrifices, and he said that he didn't know, except that God had told him to.  The same thing is happening here with Mormon.  He really has no idea why he including this particular selection of writings with his work, except that he knows God wants him to... and therefore, it is the wise thing to do. :)  That is having faith like a child... trusting that what your dad says is absolutely right, even though you really don't understand the reasons.  I would like to have a touch of that in my life.  I think that I (and perhaps all of us) get too cynical sometimes, and demand reasons for everything... when, sometimes, there is just no way to know, or understand, until we have lived a little longer, and learned a little more.  It is frequently that way with the challenges in life.  While they are happening we rarely understand, and almost never appreciate them... but afterwards, sometimes years afterward, we understand why we needed to go through whatever it was, and see what it was preparing us for.  God knows what he is doing... I mean, he is GOD, after all.  Unfortunately, I think I tend to forget that readily apparent truth, all too often.
So, today... let's remember that he does know what he is doing, and even if we don't understand it completely at present... let's follow him anyway. :)

Sunday, July 22, 2001

Revelation 13:16-17

"And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
And that no man might buy or sell, save he had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."
Revelation 13:16-17

Yikes. :)  so, back on the end-of-the-world theme (I am sure you are all ecstatic), this is very interesting.  If you have ever heard of the number of the beast, it comes from the verse directly following this.  And, so... as we live in the last days, I suppose we can expect someone to try to put marks in our foreheads at some point. :)  My suggestion is... don't do it. :)  (Revelation 14:9-11 if you want to see why, exactly.) :)
You know, I was watching a Veggie Tales video the other day, where these vegetables were supposed to sing the bunny song, or get burned in the furnace (the vegetable interpretation of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego) and I was thinking to myself that we rarely have to worship something other than God or face death anymore... It happened a lot in the Bible, occasionally in the Book of Mormon, and there are several pioneer stories about it... but, you know, nothing too recent.  ...but here it is, in Revelation, predicting it in our future.  I think that it is an interesting test... easy to fail.  Especially in this context, where it isn't really even threatening immediate death, but only the ability to buy and sell... which, you know, could mean *eventual* death, but nothing that is in-your-face, hold a gun to your head threatening.  So... if it meant being able to buy some food for your family, you might justify it and get a little devil tattooed on your forehead.  Ugly, yes... but livable.  However, it is a huge test of the very first commandment.  And, of course, of the power of our personal principles.  I wonder sometimes if I would be able to handle the pioneer stuff... if someone rode up on a horse, pointed a gun at me, and asked if I was a Mormon... could I be as brave as some of the pioneers and say yes?  And, then... in the challenge that is reserved for us... will I be able to refuse the label, the mark, that represents things that I definitely don't believe in... if it means that I can't buy food, or books? :)  I am babbling... but something to think about on this fine day.

Saturday, July 21, 2001

Luke 19:10

"For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."Luke 19:10

I really like this scripture.  It reminds me of the story of the Prodigal Son.  Christ came to bring people back into the fold... to go out and find that one lost sheep, not to sit and hang out with the ninety and nine. :)  Not that he doesn't love the ninety and nine... but it is the one who really needs his help.  It is interesting to me that Christ suffered the atonement for sinners. :)  If you haven't sinned, the atonement doesn't really apply to you. :)  (of course, if you haven't sinned... well, then, congratulations... you are amazing.) :)  I think sometimes we tend to think of ourselves as part of the ninety and nine and start actively avoiding the one.  Not a good thing... when we start getting clubbish about being good little sheep, then we basically lose our "good" label with the very same choice. :)  The gospel should be about Inclusion... not Exclusion.  I wonder sometimes how the one got lost in the first place.  I sure hope it wasn't because the ninety and nine were ostracizing him.  Today... let's make sure we are looking for the one... and doing all we can to bring him back into the fold.  Not necessarily even in a gospel sense... but in a community sense. :)

Friday, July 20, 2001

Mosiah 16:5

"But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him.  Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil an enemy to God."
Mosiah 16:5

This struck me pretty hard this morning.  I think it is scary to think that you could invalidate the atonement in your life.  That is the hugest (most huge?) gift... and by choosing incorrectly, we can nullify it in our own lives.  The part about being an enemy to God is pretty scary as well... I mean, of all people in the universe... God is probably the very *last* one we want as our enemy.  (Not that I am suggesting we become motivated by fear... just stressing that being God's enemy is a very bad idea.) :)  Okay, and how about the part that says that the devil has all power over us if we get to this point--?  Can you say yikes?  It is pretty silly for us to think that we can reject God, and not be choosing Satan.  We don't have the option of sitting on the fence, or being our own boss.  We don't know enough, we're still little children.  Either we have God protecting us from Satan, or we don't.  God is the only one who allows us free will... and if we reject God, we also reject that gift pretty thoroughly.  Scary thoughts on this fine day.  We really do need God in our lives... so, today... let's talk to him.  Invite him to breakfast with us. :)  It could turn into a really good, and fascinating, friendship. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2001

1 Peter 4:6

"For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit."
1 Peter 4:6

A friend of mine who is investigating the church found this scripture and sent it to me... she was having a hard time understanding baptism for the dead, and this helped her out.  God is cool like that.  When we really want to know, he is always there to help us learn. :)  I think that God is amazing... I guess that is pretty inherent in the fact that he is God... but it's awesome to me that he doesn't leave anyone out, ever.  He gives us all the light that we need to be able to see our choices clearly, and the essential ordinances are done for those people who need them, even if they can't do them themselves.  That's a lot better than thinking that a bunch of people are going straight to hell because they didn't know about the church or didn't have a chance to be baptized.  ... What an awful thought.  Anyway, today, let's remember that God is cool to everyone, living and dead. :)  Our community extends a lot further than we sometimes think. :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Zechariah 14:16

"And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles."
Zechariah 14:16

This is interesting.  I'm not sure if i have ever noticed this before.  This chapter is talking about the second coming, and it tells us that in the last days, the people left alive (at least the ones who fought against God) will be keeping the feast of tabernacles.  Incidentally, the Bible dictionary says that it was kept on the 15th to 21st days of the seventh month... which, at least in our calenderic measurements, puts us right in the middle of it. :)  It also says that the characteristic rite was dwelling in booths made of the boughs of trees... so, guess we should get chopping. :)  Seriously though... or at least more seriously, it is interesting to see some of the things that the Lord requires of us that are symbolic.  And, that that teaching method will continue even after the Second Coming.  It is a remarkable teaching method, and there are so many layers of meaning when you get into really deeply symbolic things... analogies can teach us an awful lot.  After all, the whole point of an analogy is to relate something that you *are* familiar with to something that you aren't.  And, let me tell you... there are a lot of things that God is familiar with that we aren't, so that is a pretty great method. :)  For instance... prayer.  There are many people who are unfamiliar and somewhat uncomfortable with prayer... but if you relate it to a familiar thing... a phone call or a conversation with a friend... then it becomes more real and easier to personalize.  So, if you get a chance today... read up on the Feast of Tabernacles.  And, even if you don't... think about the symbolic lessons that God blesses us with in our lives... you never know, when you start thinking about things like that, what new facet of meaning you might find. :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Doctrine and Covenants 136:31

"My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom."
Doctrine and Covenants 136:31   

This scripture seems a little harsh at first, at least to me... but, you know, it makes a lot of sense.  As we grow and learn... in our lives and in the gospel (which hopefully have some relation to one another)... we have to accept the lessons that come, and recognize our mistakes, and learn from them.  If we don't, we are doomed to repeat them, and remain stagnant... or even regress.  Look at yourself in your life right now, and ask yourself... "Do I want to remain this way forever?"  Hopefully, for each of our sakes, the answer is no.  None of us are perfect.  We each are learning and growing every day... or at least we have, daily, that opportunity.  Sometimes we need to be chastised, and listen to God's instructions about how to handle things better. :)  It's hard, I know... we want to be loved, and we want to be accepted... and when the chastisement comes, it is hard to feel that. Nevertheless, it is well worth it... to be stronger and better than we were before.  And God does love us, even at our worst.  There never was a better Father... when we go astray, he does everything he can to find us and bring us back... if we feel hated and rejected by him, that is always a lie of Satan.  God never stops loving us, and he will lead us into better paths if we allow him to.  Chastisement only comes from love.  Anyone who approves everything we do, without exception, doesn't love us... only those who help us to improve.

Monday, July 16, 2001

Matthew 27:50-54

"Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake and the rocks rent;
And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things which were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God."
Matthew 27:50-54

This was interesting to me this morning.  Yesterday in Relief Society we had a lesson about being Sons and Daughters of God.  And in this scripture the Centurion sees God's pain at the death of his Son, and comprehends that Christ was truly what he claimed to be.  Do we realize, I wonder, who we are?  Christ went through those things for us... not because we are some divine experiment or plaything... but because we, also, are the sons and daughters of God.  We go through life sometimes, wondering what to do, where to go... why we should get out of bed in the morning... and the answer lies exactly here.  We are children of God.  Just as children in this world grow up to resemble their parents, we too can grow to resemble our heavenly parents... and become like God.  Our potential extends far, far beyond any mortal possibilities... we are the heirs of the universe.  If that isn't a reason to get up in the morning, I don't know what is. :)
You are child of deity... with the blood of the Gods flowing in your veins.  Hercules and all the rest have nothing on you.  Today, remember who you are... do something amazing. :)  And smile... God is watching your back. :)

Sunday, July 15, 2001

2 Peter 3:11-14

"Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."
2 Peter 3:11-14

This is an excellent question.  … since we know that the earth is going to melt away (basically... not trying to be negative or anything)  ... what manner of people should we be?  What should we be focusing on?  Probably not the melted pieces.  Perhaps the few things that last after this life is over, after this earth is gone... building healthy relationships with people.  Learning all that we can.  Happiness, peace.  ... as Tracy Chapman says, "All you have is your soul."  Instead of focusing on earthly rewards... which are apparently going to be liquefied... we can focus on things that won't melt. :)  Of course... that doesn't mean that we can encourage the melt-down.  We have to do all that we can to build other people up, to respect them, to love them.  No flame-throwers.  I think God can handle that part all by himself.  But we *should* take some time and put earthly things into perspective.  Melted stuff just, frankly, isn’t as cool as God’s stuff.  The last part I think is where we can do some work.  Let’s be diligent today, to be at peace, to be without spot… to be blameless.  As we go through the refiner’s fire, let’s make sure that something inside of us is heat-resistant… pure enough to last, even after everything else has been burned away.  And then we can look forward to the “new heavens and a new earth” … where righteousness dwells.  I don’t really know if I am going to like the “be dissolved” part, but the dwelling together in righteousness part sounds pretty great. :)

Saturday, July 7, 2001

1 Nephi 11:21-23

"And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul."
1 Nephi 11:21-23

Thinking about this this morning... it is pretty amazing that God tells us clearly what the most desirable thing in the world is... and as an added bonus, it is also the most joyous to the soul.  :)  And, it makes sense to me.  Love is a powerful thing... both the presence of it, and the absence of it.  People do crazy things to try to capture it, and desperate things to try and keep it.  Perhaps it is the primary need of a human being. :)  So, along with that... the two great commandments fall into place.  If love from God is the most desirable thing, and love is our primary need... then Loving God and loving other people are the most important things that we can do. :) Even the scripture "if ye have not charity ye are nothing" becomes clearer. And, I submit, even when we feel like nothing... God's love is what keeps us going.  His love is what can fill those empty places in our souls.  No matter how we keep trying to fill the emptiness with other things, his love is the only thing, in the end, that will ever work.
So, today... let's focus on the *most* desirable thing, and the most joyous to the soul... and seek the love of God by reading, praying, and learning of him.  The scriptures don't lie.  :)

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