Thursday, March 30, 2006

Deuteronomy 8:5-6

"Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee.
Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him."
Deuteronomy 8:5-6

I think this is a really good thing--really important thing--to remember.  Sometimes we are tempted to believe in an image of a God without any sharp edges.   Pure, perfect, beautiful, and always sweet... up there in Heaven just pouring down goodness all the time, to everyone indiscriminately... trying to overwhelm the evil in the world with good.  Almost like a woman trying to cure her son of a murderous rage by kissing him. ... And the thing about that is that it is one of the best lies (or most deceiving), because it is so close to the truth.   God *is* pure, perfect, and beautiful... he also always loves us, and always wants the best for us, no matter what we do.  But the lie we so easily believe is that he has the same weaknesses that we do.  We believe that his love makes him weak, and that he won't chastise anyone because he loves us too much.   God's love is more powerful than that.  He loves us MORE than if he were paralyzed by love.  He loves us so much that, despite the pain to us, and despite the pain to himself watching us suffer... he will still correct us, instruct us, and lead us to be better than we are.  As long as there is any tiny, microscopic fragment of hope left, he is there: pleading, cajoling... drawing us out, reminding us of who we are (HIS children), and of our potential.   But not only pleading. There are definite huge, physical, painful lessons that we have to learn sometimes.   We have to learn to deal with grief.  We have to learn to deal with pain, with heartbreak, with desolation.   He loves us too much to spare us those lessons.  He knows that we will be stronger and better afterward.  He allows us to suffer the consequences of our actions... to start to learn the end from the beginning.  This life is a test, not a picnic.   Let's remember that we have non-picnic lives... then it will be easier to remember that God loves us, even when the bad things happen.  We won't start doubting him the minute the pain starts.  Instead, we can learn to understand love on a deeper level... a level that looks past the pain, to the lesson, and to the people that we can become... better than we have ever dreamed, and *definitely* better than we would be if we were spared our lessons.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Deuteronomy 5:29

"O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!"
Deuteronomy 5:29

This just seems amazing to me... it is God speaking, and wishing that we would be good, so that everything would go okay for us.   It just seems to exude love. :)   Or maybe not exude... radiate, broadcast... God just wants us to be okay. :)  I love that.  
Interesting too that he mentions the heart.  The Book of Mormon talks about a change of heart, and a broken heart and a contrite spirit... seems like we need to get our hearts in line.  It makes sense to me.  Usually, when I make a bad choice, it seems to be because I love something or someone more than I love God.  When I get my heart straight, then those things aren't challenging anymore... or at least a LOT less challenging.
The fear part is interesting too.   The context is that God appeared in the fire and cloud to the Israelites, and they heard his voice speaking to them, and they were afraid, in the sense that they were afraid that they would die if they endured too much of his glory.  They could see how powerful and ... uh, god-like... God was. :)   I don't think it was about being horrified or scared of him, but fearing in the sense of respecting his greater ability, intelligence, etc.   And in that sense, I think that we need to fear him a lot more.   We are nothing compared to God... we reason on a amazingly lower level.  We can't see what is ahead.  If we don't do the work that it takes to keep God in our lives, then we're only hurting ourselves.  And, in this verse, God wishes that we wouldn't hurt ourselves so much.   He truly, deeply loves us.   Let's remember to keep him in our lives today. :)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Deuteronomy 4:29-31 -- On Seeking the Lord

"But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
(For the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them."
Deuteronomy 4:29-31

Moses is talking to the Children of Israel here: warning them of what will happen in the future… that they will give themselves to idols again, and be scattered and afflicted.  I think it is important to remember that *we* are the people he is speaking to.  He says “in the latter days” … and that is us. :)
One of the things I like here is that Moses is telling them they are going to be in a very bad situation… “but if from thence thou shalt seek…” … and that applies to us directly, in whatever situation we are in. As followers of Christ, we’re part of the scattered tribes, whether by blood or adoption, and this promise is directly to us.   Wherever we have been scattered to, whatever idols we have worshipped… if from here we shall seek the Lord our God, we will find him.  We have to seek with everything we have… but if we do, then God offers us what he offered our ancestors long ago… which were amazing things.  Plus, specifically in these verses he promises to not forsake us or destroy us… and those are pretty cool as well, especially to me the not forsake us part.  When I try to function without God in my life, I stall a lot.  My mind is dark, so I can’t even think… nothing works.  I become this walking, talking zombie… no mind, no heart… no soul.  It stinks. On one hand, though, it has a purpose… it is amazingly good for me to remember that I desperately need God in my life.  And when he is here, with us, let’s not take that for granted.   We need to work to keep that relationship every day… seek him with all of our hearts and all of our souls, as the verses indicate. :)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Numbers 15:38-40

"Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:
And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:
That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God."
Numbers 15:38-40

I like this... God cares about us so much. He's always giving us things to help us remember.  It seems ironic in a way, because the whole challenge of this life is that we *don't* remember our past selves.  We can't remember the premortal existence, or anything that came before... so, we read, we pray, we listen... and we try to remember what we're taught.  I think that anything that helps us remember is helpful.  Pictures, scripture quotes... fringes. :)  Whatever it is, it is a reminder of God, and keeping him in our minds and in our hearts all the time is the goal. ... Let's surround ourselves with reminders, and not forget the ones that already surround us... the sunrise... the trees... there are so many things that point directly to God, if we stop and consider them.  Today, let's remember.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Leviticus 26:43-45

"The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes.
And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the Lord their God.
But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the Lord."
Leviticus 26:43-45

I think this is interesting. God is talking in this chapter about his people going astray, and that if they are humble, admit their faults, and accept their punishment, that he will remember them.  I find it interesting, because most of the time I think of repentance as a free ride. :) ... It is definitely hard to repent, but then, once it is done, it's over... free ticket to the rest of your life.  But here God talks about accepting punishment for iniquity, because in the past his people (we) have despised his laws. ... And it's true.  We have to accept punishments, sometimes just in the form of natural consequences for our actions, but sometimes perhaps more. ... If you conceive a child out of wedlock, for example, even if you repent immediately and never return to your sin... and no matter what your decisions about the child are... there are still consequences for your actions that you will have to deal with for a long time.  I think that this is true for all sin, to a greater or lesser degree.  When we commit sin, we've gotten our priorities wrong... and even if we say sorry immediately, never do it again... we still have to correct that mental/emotional balance... change our minds and our hearts, before we are going to be able to be "back to normal."
These verses talk about God remembering us, despite everything, when we are in the land of our enemies... and at least in a symbolic sense, don't we place ourselves in the land of our enemy when we commit sin? ... And God will remember us, and show mercy to us, even in the worst circumstances imaginable... but we have to do our part as well.  We have to do the work... spiritual, mental, emotional, AND physical sometimes, in order to get ourselves back on the path.  That requires suffering sometimes, and sacrifice.   God doesn't want us to be in pain... I don't think he ever wants that, but if we don't heed his warnings to avoid sin in the first place (and unfortunately none of us are perfect in that regard), then there IS pain, and there are other consequences.   Let's work on being humble enough to accept the burdens that we've brought upon ourselves, and once we've accepted them... it becomes so much easier to bear them cheerfully, and to eventually rid ourselves of them. :)   God is always there to help us along the way.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Leviticus 24:22

"Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the Lord your God."
Leviticus 24:22

This struck me today as a good "unity" scripture.  Even though the Lord made a b'zillion promises to the children of Israel, and set them apart from other people... he also made sure to tell them that their law wasn't only for themselves, it was for their interactions with others (outsiders/strangers) as well.  I think that this helps when we are tempted to just "take care of our own" ... not that it is a bad thing to take care of each other within the church, or our families or social groups, but we need to help other people too.  We can't get caught up in the idea of the church as a social club, or look at the gospel with any kind of exclusivity.   The law, and the promises, are for everyone, and for our interactions with everyone.   We can't love our friends and cheat strangers... the gospel has to permeate every aspect of our lives, or we're not quite getting it. :)

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