Thursday, October 31, 2002

2 Nephi 29:11

"For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I shall speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written."
2 Nephi 29:11

You know I used to think about this scripture and figure that I'd better be careful what I wrote. :)  ... Today though, I think I see a more interesting, if not better, meaning. :)  This verse seems to tell me that the Lord is nothing if not absolutely up front with us.  He isn't going to judge us by looking at us and saying... "hmm, well... you have good attendance, so I'll let you slide with an A- rather than a B."  He's actually going to judge us by specific standards that he has already laid out clearly in the book that is readily available to each of us.  He's going to compare our actions to the actions that he talks about in the book.  And perhaps each person will be compared against the book(s) that he or she knows about from his or her own nation...  Good deal... and very fair. :)  The thing is, we might want to start reading the book(s) a *little* more often...

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

2 Corinthians 4:3

"But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost."
2 Corinthians 4:3

This is really interesting... it's like we're tourists going to a new country... and we're supposed to find this city (Zion?) on the map, where our friends live or where we're meeting the tour group or whatever, and we search and search for it for a couple of minutes, and then we give up and say, "whoops... must not exist" and go somewhere else instead.  We have the weirdest tendency to think if we can't find the gospel, or God, after looking sporadically and incompletely, and while our attention is elsewhere... then it and he must not be there.  We get lost in other things, in addictions or distractions of whatever kind, and we can't see the path, let alone the end goal.  The thing is, though... God is never lost.  The gospel isn't something that God has ever tried to hide.  It is only hidden to us when we choose to close our eyes to the beauty and the wonder of the world around us.  When we're driving blindfolded... not looking at the highway signs or the billboards, or anything.  If we're sincere about looking, God is always there, right at the other end of a prayer, ready to answer our questions or help us get through the next stage of our lives.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Isaiah 44:18-20

"They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.
And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?
He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?"
Isaiah 44:18-20

This is talking about idolatry, and how we make gods of a piece of tree and think that they have power. :)  ... I think that, although it might be hard to relate to this particular example, that we still practice idolatry.  We worship people... loved ones, or even just a boss, a politician, or a sports figure.  ... They become the center of our attention, and everything we do is with them in mind.  ... adoration, loyalty... all of these, but too often we put someone else before God.  We can't go to church because of someone else... we can't read our scriptures because we are too occupied with the other.  Maybe it isn't a person.  Maybe it really is more like a tree... a car, a house, a place ... and all of these are cool things.  I have favorites of my own.  But the problem comes when we are consumed with that person or that thing above all else.  When there is no room for other things in our lives.  When we choose whatever it is over God.  And God *is* there.  And he is the only one who can save us from ourselves. :)  Who can forgive us, give us another chance... who can cleanse us and save our souls.  Today, let's take some time off from our personal obsessions and read our scriptures, pray to God... make sure we are putting the REAL God first in our lives... we don't lose anything by loving God.  Let's not lose God by loving something else.

Monday, October 28, 2002

2 Kings 1:12-13

"And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down out of heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty.  And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty.  And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight."
2 Kings 1:12-13

This is interesting... not just as an illustration of the power of God through his prophets, but as an illustration of humility.  The king in this story somewhat reminds me of Pharaoh.  He saw what God could do, and went on anyway, trying to get his way.  When the first captain of fifty and the fifty men under him were sent to get the prophet, and summarily consumed by fire from heaven... he didn't get it.  What?  Fluke firestorm?  Some weird group spontaneous combustion?  And so he sent another fifty.  You'd think all of the "accidental death" answers would be nullified when the same thing happened to them... but no, the king decided to send yet another fifty.  This could have gone on for a long time, but at least the captain of this fifty got it.  Instead of coming to the prophet and telling him to do what the king said... he realized that he had been sent on a suicide mission, and begged the prophet for his life and the lives of his fifty men.  ... and they were spared.  It still didn't change the prophecy of the king's death or alter God's will concerning that kingdom... but it saved that captain and the men he was responsible for.  In our lives, probably the dangers aren't quite as dramatic as the firestorms from heaven... but they might be, I suppose.  In any case, the signs are clear.  If we have gotten badly burned a couple of times by walking in one direction... if we get flattened every time we jump off the cliff... we might want to stop jumping off.  We could try a new approach to the problem.  Find a new direction... a new attitude.   Recognizing that God is running the show, and that we aren't going to get our way by bull-headed force is always a good first step. :)
... and, you know, if we find ourselves in the middle of the fire zone... we might want to beg God for our lives, and the lives of those we are responsible for.   Seems to work pretty well. :)

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Luke 8:11-15

"Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience."
Luke 8:11-15

This is an explanation of the parable of the sower.  The text of the parable is in verses 5-8 if you want to look it up.  These are all things that can happen to us as we listen to God.  Sometimes we love Satan more than God, and we let him take the truth away from us... it's often easier to live without God when you pretend that he isn't there in the first place.  Sometimes we believe fervently, but don't let it penetrate into the deepest part of our souls.  So when deep questions come up or something comes up that we'd rather do than read or study, or go to church... then we're out of there.  It doesn't matter to us beyond that first thrill of truth.  Sometimes we do believe deeply, but we let other things block out that commitment.  Worry about work, school, health... riches... or pleasures of this life... these things build up in our minds and hearts until they obscure the truth, until those worries, riches, or pleasures are more important to us than the truth is, and even though both fight for our attention, God never wins, so we end up accomplishing nothing except those things that are at the forefront of our minds.  And the last verse... sometimes we hear the word, and plant it deeply in ourselves, and live it, and change our lives and others' lives because of it.
I don't think that this parable is about categories.  We can't point to one person and say... well, he is one of those "way side" types, and this other person... she is one of the "thorn" types... and me, I think I'm kind of a "rock" type.  We can see ourselves in one category or another perhaps... but that isn't who we are.  We go through all of these pitfalls in our lives... Satan tries to get us any way he can.  Perhaps when we are young in the gospel he finds it easy to remove the truth from our hearts.  later, we're too excited about it for that to work, but if he can throw in a good temptation, then he has us.  Even later, when we know that the truth is undeniable and we've learned how much it is a part of who we are, he can still come in and block out the truth with other things that we also care about deeply.  And then, when we've finally realized that the cares of this life are nothing compared to eternity... and that the riches and pleasures of this life are fleeting at best... then perhaps we have learned to have an honest and good heart, and we become the people who keep the word and who have learned some patience. :)  No matter where we are now, we can still learn a new way of dealing with God's word... and we can change ourselves and, in the process, the world around us.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Luke 8:18

"Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have."
Luke 8:18

This is amazingly interesting.  Take heed how ye hear... :)  Wow.  To me, this whole thing seems to be warning us of the difference between reality and our dream lives. :)  We invent these lives where rationalization is okay, where being a little bit bad is fine... and on that shaky foundation we continue to build.  At the end of the verse it says "that which he seemeth to have" and isn't that what we end up at when we try to live in a false dream?  We end up with all these great things that don't exist.  Imaginary accomplishments, imaginary friends... imaginary purpose for our lives.  It's the reality that God cares about... and if we get even a little of the "real" in our lives, then it will be added to and reinforced in our lives... like the story of the olive trees.  Where God goes around and strengthens and helps the natural branches and plucks off the wild ones.  If we can find that spirit and power within us, then we're in touch with what is real and we won't be pruned away.  ... We just have to take heed how we listen.  So that we're listening to God and not our own desires.  So that we're following God's instructions and not Satan's deceptions.  Today, let's find some reality to hold on to, and to build upon.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Ezekiel 33:14-16

"Again. when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right;
If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live."
Ezekiel 33:14-16

Sometimes in this life there are things that it seems like you just can't get over... you screw up somewhere along the line and -BAM- you suffer for it for life.  Say the wrong thing to a loved one... get a bad GPA in college... I have a student in one of my classes who went through 5 surgeries, 2 comas, and suffered brain damage because he chose not to wear his bike helmet one day.  Because life can be so unforgiving at times, it is easy to picture God as one of those severe high school teachers... mess up once, and you've had it.  Hellfire and brimstone is the best you can look forward to. :)  ... Fortunately, this is not the case.  God does care about our futures, and he has laws and guidelines that we have to adhere to... but as this scripture says, we have more than one chance.  We can turn from our death sentence and follow the path of life instead.  The part I like the most is "none of his sins . . . shall be mentioned unto him."  Isn't that amazing?  No guilt-trips in heaven.  If you change, you are accepted as you are, and no one reminds you of who you once were.  With God, when we are forgiven, then everyone lets go of the past sin. :)  ... even us. :)

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Acts 1:1-3

"The former treatise I have made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandment unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God."
Acts 1:1-3

It seems amazing to me that Christ walked and talked with these men for forty days after he had died and was risen.  What an amazing proof of resurrection, and of divinity.  We're fascinated by the thought of eternity and living forever... and here is Christ, who lived it, and made it possible for each of us.  Death isn't the end, and never has been... and it seems remarkable to be able to pass those boundaries and to be able to communicate between them.  I wish we could have the perspective that death is not the end all the time... we make a lot of mistakes when we think that life is short, and that relationships are temporary.  I wonder what kinds of things we would change if we knew that everything we do affects that eternity... oh, wait... we DO know that. :)  So, what changes do we need to make today, that will help us in the eternities? :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

John 15:9-12 -- On Continuing in Love

"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.
These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you."
John 15:9-12

We often hear the last verse of this group quoted in lessons or talks, and I even wrote a scripture of the day about that verse only the first year that I did the scripture of the day.  Today, though, it seems impossible to pull it out of context.  Christ asks us to continue in his love, and then he tells us how... keep his commandments.  And then he tells us that the reason he is asking us to do these things is so that we can retain his joy, and be full of joy... and then he tells us that his commandment is to love each other... the way that he loves us. 

All of the scriptures together seem to paint a different picture than taking any of the verses alone.  Together, they seem to say that the whole point of obedience and commandments is so that we can be filled with love and joy.  I like that image. :)  And the commandment that will lead to these things is to love each other, not the way we usually love each other, which is sporadic, inconsistent, and incredibly biased... but the way *he* loves us, which is always, consistent, and all-encompassing.  Today, let's try to continue in God's love by loving each other. :)

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Psalms 40:1-3

"I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my foot upon a rock, and established my goings.
And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord."
Psalms 40:1-3

There are many things that I like about this scripture.  One of them is the reference to patience.  Not that I am any good at patience, but I like the mention of it because it reminds me that God isn't some spiritual ATM where we go and punch in the right numbers and the spirit wafts out.  God is real, and we have to have a personal relationship with him, talk to him, work with him... always remembering that he has perfect timing and we do not.    And sometimes that means waiting ... patiently... for the Lord. The other part of this set of verses that I like is the "new song" part.  I like that we learn to appreciate the Lord, and it also reminds me...  one of my friends and I always used to talk about the background music that was playing in our lives... like there was a movie soundtrack going.  And sometimes I think we get stuck with some "highly anxious moment" music going for months on end... or the "imminent danger" music.  We get our stories stuck where the hero is almost dead and sing that to ourselves all day long, and never progress to the point of the surprising rescue and eventual triumph.  So, God comes along and he changes the background music, so we know that this is the part where the surprising rescue comes, and then we can move on to the triumph and the happily ever after part.  And, since we have a new song to sing... it also helps to remind the people around us to transition their stories as well.  None of us, because of God, have to live with the soundtrack of a horror film.  we're free to move on to romantic comedy, or whatever we choose. :)

Monday, October 21, 2002

Luke 6:36-38

"Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.  For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured unto you again."
Luke 6:36-38

This is such an amazing group of verses. the part that really gets to me is the culmination of the three... when it says that if we give, we'll get back... but not just get back, it will be packed in so tightly that there won't be room for any more, and still it will come. We'll get so much that we're wallowing in the blessings. :) That actually sounds like a delightful prospect. Like being so happy you don't know if you can survive another minute. :) ... to me, I think that heaven will be like that. there will be so much positive that it will occupy all of our senses. :) ... and maybe that is exactly what this scripture is saying. If we do good to other people, if we are merciful and forgiving, then that comes back to us, and round and round until there is no room for condemnation or pettiness, and we all love each other and treat each other well... and more and more until we're ready to live in heaven ourselves. Because we're already like that. Giving... loving... accepting... all the things that we want from other people. And all we have to do is give those things and we'll get them back. Direct promise from God, written down right here in the scriptures. Can't doubt that. :) And, you know... it is a pretty remarkable deal that God is offering us. All we have to do is benefit the world, and we will receive benefit ourselves. It's not just a win-win situation, it is like twenty-five wins all lined up, and then the last one just tags the first one and they start all over again. :)

Sunday, October 20, 2002

Job 13:15

"Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him."
Job 13:15

I think that often we try to make our relationships with God dependent on something... like "if you give me this, God, then I'll do whatever you say." or we expect God to give us only blessings and not trials... and when we get trials, then we start to doubt.  How could God, who is good and perfect, want to make us sad and unhappy?  ... Things like that.  What we don't understand... and what Job apparently *did* understand... is that no matter what God does, he is still God. :)  He still loves us and cares about us, and wants the best for us, and works toward our happiness.  He does things that we don't understand sometimes, but the failure there is ours, not his.  We can't comprehend why, but if we truly know God, we still know... even if he decides that today is the day to die... that he is doing what is best for us.  "How could *this* possibly be the best thing for us" we wonder... and often it takes the perspective of many years to be able to look back and understand.  Sometimes we don't understand even then... but God isn't bound by time, and he definitely has a larger perspective than we possibly can here on earth.  He sees the good that he is doing, and that is why Job said "though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."  Hopefully we will learn the courage and the faith to be able to do the same.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Acts 7:3-5

"And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Charan: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.
And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child."
Acts 7:3-5

This scripture is about Abraham, and the things that God told him.  ... I was reading this and thinking about what amazing faith Abraham must have had to believe some of the things that God told him... they must have seemed, in the context of his life, preposterous.  God promised him land that belonged to other people... he promised him an abundant posterity when he had no family.  And as I was thinking about Abraham, it occurred to me that we're in the same situation.  God promises us so many things that we can't see, and can't even understand how they could work out or become possible.  He asks us to leave the known and venture into the unknown, and we have to trust him when he tells us that it will be better there, since we've never been there and have no idea what it will be like.
... and, like Abraham, we will get everything we're promised.  God is faithful, and even though sometimes we get impatient with God's timing, if we stick with him, we'll have everything that we've ever been promised and more.  Sometimes it is hard to believe... I mean, how was Abraham supposed to conquer all that land, and how was he supposed to have all those children?  ... how are we supposed to face the trials that we have today, let alone the ones next week and next year?  Luckily, we have Abraham's story to read and see how those things happened... and Nephi, and Moses, and all the stories of people who believed God's promises.  They have happy endings... and that is a good thing to expect for our own lives, if we trust God and listen to his advice. :)

Friday, October 18, 2002

1 Timothy 1:19

"Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck."
1 Timothy 1:19

What an utterly appropriate analogy for what we do with our lives sometimes... we shipwreck them.  Run them up onto the rocks instead of keeping them in water that is deep enough... we're out there searching for the promised land and instead of waiting for perfection we get bored and settle for the first biggish rock we see... ending up shipwrecking ourselves on a desert island, or even worse, in the middle of the ocean, no land in sight.  the other part of the scripture is basically how to avoid shipwreck... holding faith and a good conscience.  These are tests for each of our days.  Do we still have faith in God, in a good future... in that promised land?  How is our conscience?  Are we doing things that are making us feel bad about ourselves?  If we check our faith and conscience everyday... then we'll know when we're headed for the rocks, and have time to steer clear.  And, you know... if we're already shipwrecked... God has this unlimited supply of ships.  We just have the faith to get back out there, and try again.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

2 Nephi 23:12

"I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir."
2 Nephi 23:12

You know, I have no idea what the golden wedge of Ophir is, but I think that I get the idea of the scripture... God will make man more valuable than anything that has immense monetary value.  This chapter is talking about the last days, the destructions, etc. at the second coming (comparing it to the fall of Babylon...), and what really got to me this morning as I was reading this verse is the fact that a man isn't more valuable than that already.  I edited a paper the other day that was arguing that money is the most important thing, and if we want to get along in this world then we should just get used to it.  Several of my students wrote about abortion in their final papers and I remember one in particular used financial reasons as one of his arguments to justify his pro-abortion stance.  Another student wrote that we should outlaw panhandling, since the people are just con artists there to steal our money.  In court people argue about what the specific monetary value of a life is, so that they can charge the tobacco companies or whoever else has contributed to a death... it gets mind-boggling when you think about this scripture and realize that money, to many, is more important than life.  ... It becomes particularly upsetting when you realize how many people dedicate most of their lives to something they dislike, just to get money... but we won't go that far. :)  The only point I wanted to make is at the very core of the issue here... are we valuing money over life in our walk through this world?  When we have those opportunities to choose between the two, are we making the right choice?  An interesting thing to think about... I know I will today.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

1 Peter 1:6-9

"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."
1 Peter 1:6-9

This scripture is one that I just opened up to this morning, kind of randomly, but it hit really close to home.  I think sometimes I get frustrated with not being able to see what "the end of [my] faith" is... and this scripture makes it pretty clear. :)  And it helps to know that the heaviness and fire that we go through now matters... because it is part of working towards a specific goal: the salvation of our souls.  It isn't random and pointless, as we sometimes think in those paranoid moments... rather, it is precious.  It is more important to us than the million dollars we dream of. :)  Way, way more.  Because it is those temptations and trials that refine us, purify us, and make us into who we can become.  It is through the hardships of our lives that we achieve the salvation of our souls... and really, in the end, that is what will be more precious to us than anything else.  Achieving salvation.  Not easy, certainly... but within reach.

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