Friday, November 28, 2008

1 Peter 2:20 -- On Being Extraordinary

"For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God."
1 Peter 2:20

I love that God doesn't expect us to be typical, but extraordinary.  Sometimes when we are doing fantastically in our lives, Satan turns up the heat, and things get a lot harder.  Sometimes we have the energy to just take one step towards God, and Satan tries to sabotage us.  It isn't really about suffering for our mistakes, but just about learning and growth.  God is not trying to create martyrs, but to train Gods.
Not, of course, that we should give up on patience in other circumstances.  Patience is also needed when the suffering is well-deserved. :)  Perhaps though it is more needed when we are wrongfully accused, or persecuted for being truthful and just.  It is easy to become resentful and bitter when we pass through trials that we don't think are "deserved."  But it is always good to remember... life is a test.  Some parts of the test are harder than others, but we are learning incredible things.  So, today... let's be patient.  Sometimes we will suffer for well-doing.  Let's just smile, and keep doing well.  Christ suffered more than we ever will... and he never did anything to deserve it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ephesians 5:20 -- On Thanks and Always

"Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;"
Ephesians 5:20

I like the words "always" and "all" here. There are times to stay away from words like these.  We hear "never say never" a lot, and can think of exceptions to almost any rule, and doubt most expressions and protestations from other people when they include all-inclusive words like this.
One thing I like about God is that you can use some of these words, because you *can* have absolute confidence in him... there is no need for doubt, or for words that illustrate a lesser stance or commitment.  We can always be thankful to God, because there is always something to thank him for. All things that we experience point our way and prepare us to return to him.  He gave us our families, our friends, and even our jobs and toys. :) We become more than we are by looking to him, and even when he chastises us or allows us to endure hardship, every second of it is because he loves us, and wants us to grow into our true selves and help us find happiness and fulfillment... far beyond what we could do on our own.
Today, let's give thanks to him... always :) ...for everything. :)  Can you imagine? If we spent the entire day giving thanks... *still* we would need to continue... to thank him for expanding our hearts, for a greater capacity to love, for blessings beyond our ability to enumerate. ... :) So, let's get started.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Doctrine and Covenants 11:8

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be done unto you; and, if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation."
D&C 11:8

This is fascinating. And true, of course. :) Whatever we are looking for, we'll find.  It's like anytime you move to a new place.  You find what you are looking for.  If we are looking for a grocery store, we'll find one... but even if we pass a pet store on the way, we ignore it... until it's time to go fish shopping. :) If we are looking for a bar, we'll find one.  If we are looking for a church, we'll find one. No matter where it is, we can find good or bad, depending on what we are concentrating on in our lives.  And God will be in our lives to the extent that we desire him to be.  If we keep saying, hey, come over and listen to this... and hey... come over and let me tell you how cool my day was, and hey... come over, and let me read you this story I wrote... then he'll come, and listen, and hang out with us. And when we ask him about life and ideas, he'll talk to us about them.  But if we keep saying... hey, thanks for the offer, but I have other plans... and you know, that sounds like good advice, but I think I can handle it... then he'll wait until we invite him in.  He's not going to break into our living rooms and try to talk to us while we turn up the TV and studiously try to ignore him.  He'll keep knocking until we let him in.  If we desire almost anything, we'll get it. But we'll never find lasting happiness anywhere but with God.
It's kind of funny when people complain that God never lets them have any fun... and sometimes it is us saying that, and we believe it.  We seriously believe sometimes that sin is fun or happy... when it is neither.  It can imitate fun and happiness for a while... but underneath is misery and boredom when the thrills don't last.  God can show us fun, and happiness, and a better time than we can find anywhere else.  Man is that he might have JOY... joy--real joy, not harp-playing boredom.  If we desire to be the means of doing much good, we will be, and if we desire to have loads of fun, we will. Today, perhaps we should ask God to show us the fun and the joy and the good that is all around us... and, as long as we are seriously open to it... let's prepare to be amazed. :)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Luke 17:32

"Remember Lot's wife."
Luke 17:32

This is one of my favorite scriptures, one I have to remember.  If you guys don't know the story of Lot... he was living with his wife and family in a very wicked city that the Lord decided to destroy.  He told them to leave the city, and to not turn around and try to go back, or even to look back... and so they were leaving, and Lot's wife turned around to see.  She was turned into a pillar of salt.
It's like in our lives, when we leave old habits or addictions behind... or when we decide we need to omit something from our lives in order to be healthy... we have to stick with those decisions, and never look back.  If we do, then we have to suffer the separation over and over again... we have to re-live those hellish decisions again and again... and if we can never walk away, but keep returning, then we might as well be spiritual pillars of salt, because we're never going to let ourselves escape. 
So many times we cast our burdens on the Lord, as we should... but then demand them back when we aren't in control anymore.  Let's let them go... learn the lesson, and then go on to the next page, the next chapter, instead of re-reading the same verse over and over and over again.  We sometimes act like our whole lives are one phrase, and that's all that matters.  It isn't... there are so many more things to learn, to love, to become... and if we insist on focusing obsessively on one topic or one person... at least let's choose God.  He's like the Table of Contents... :)  He'll at least guide us to the rest of the book. :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ezekiel 34:3-4,12

"Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.
The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.
As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day."
Ezekiel 34:3-4,12

Another last days scripture... this whole chapter is awesome, really interesting.  This talks about the shepherds that are taking care of the sheep now, probably talking about teaching and leadership... and how in our world, in our country, and even probably in our individual congregations, we don't do enough to take care of the people around us.  Too many people slip through the cracks.  The first couple of verses are pretty harsh, talking about how so many times leaders will make use of subjects, or citizens, to gain power and prestige, use the people, but not take care of them.  The last verse is the Lord's answer to that... when he rules on the earth, he won't do any of those awful things; He won't neglect or forget any of us. 
I think, especially in the last days that we are in, it is very cloudy, and very dark... and it is very hard not to get lost.  But God will come and find us, and take care of us, and help us.  As shepherds, and as sheep, God leads us and loves us, and even when he is criticizing the way things are, he doesn't just throw up his hands and say, what can be done? ... He shows us how he does things, and gives us hope that things will be better and that the little that we do will make a difference.  Someday the day will not be cloudy and dark, but bright and perfect, and all of the sheep will be fed, and healed, and cared for.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

John 9:25

"He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see."
John 9:25

This is interesting to me this morning... in a way, this is what Christ gives us all: sight, out of our state of natural blindness.  We can see eternity rather than just the next 2 minutes. We don't always have an equal testimony of every part of God's plan... but there are those things in our lives that we can't deny, and that hold us to the whole of the gospel. One of them is, whereas we were blind, now we see. We were broken and were made whole. God heals us, and helps us learn to see the obstacles in our path, so that we don't get hurt again. And even when we have lost our hope, God grants us a glimpse of eternity, to help us to regain our perspective, and continue our journey. Eternity is worth any mortal effort... and God makes us equal to any challenge we face.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Acts 2:44

"And all that believed were together, and had all things common;"
Acts 2:44

I love the idea of having all things common. I know that in actual practice that it would probably be really hard to do, and that we probably aren't ready for it, or we would be going there... but as an
ideal, it seems so cool.  The whole group supporting each other thing, taken farther.  Where you are willing to give everything, and so is everyone else, and then you live as a group, supporting the whole.  I think I would like to try it, although I predict that it would be hard with some things.  I'm kind of attached to my computer for instance, and what if I had to ... *share* it?! :)  Maybe the reason that we aren't ready for it is that we are attached to some of our stuff too much, and not attached enough to the people around us.  Today, let's think about what things we couldn't bear to give up, and start preparing our hearts to live as a Zion people.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Doctrine and Covenants 133:62

"And unto him that repenteth and sanctifieth himself before the Lord shall be given eternal life."
Doctrine and Covenants 133:62

I like this... very simple and straightforward. We have to repent, which is get rid of our bad actions, and sanctify ourselves, which is get rid of the bad parts of ourselves inside... so purify ourselves, in body and in spirit.  Not so simple and straightforward when you are trying to do it, of course, but a nicely balanced way to think about it.  Repentance is the first step... not doing what we shouldn't.  Sometimes this can just be a matter of willpower, but as we move on to Sanctification, we see that we have to go beyond that, into not *wanting* to sin, even more than just not acting upon those desires.  Thus, we truly become "new" ... I mean, same soul, same body, same quirky sense of humor... but new in the sense that we truly want what God wants, and we no longer find it desirable to go in a different direction... which is huge, and which changes us thoroughly.  Christ gave us that gift, the space to change ourselves that incredibly, with his help. ... to learn and grow and become new.  Today, let's work on those changes... the external ones *and* the internal ones.

Monday, November 17, 2008

2 Nephi 18:12-13

"Say ye not, A confederacy, to all to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread."
2 Nephi 18:12-13

I think this scripture goes beyond saying something like we should be afraid of God. I think that it points out the difference between what matters and what doesn't.  If God is central to our lives, then we don't have to fear anything except his will.  And sometimes his will and ours don't mesh, and it IS rather frightening to try to reconcile ourselves to that.  But the things that "everyone" fears won't be able to touch us with even a hint of fear, if we are focused on God and an eternal perspective.  Death can't hurt us.  Pain is temporary.  Injustice will ALL be righted in the end.  Today can be enjoyed without guilt or regret.... if we only do what we should.  Instead of fearing those things that can't do any permanent (read: eternal) damage, maybe we should take all of that energy we are throwing into fear, and focus it on God.  We can fear offending him, and worry about making sure we are ready to do as he asks.  I suppose if there is anything that we really should fear, it's being forever separated from God.  Today, let's work on making sure that doesn't happen. :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

1 John 1:5-7

"This then is the message we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."
1 John 1:5-7

I love this... "in him is no darkness at all."  Sometimes I feel like I have darkness inside me, and I know that with God's help, I can get rid of the dark parts until one day I am like him... no darkness at all.  To walk with him, we have to have the spirit, and to have the spirit, we have to do the right things.  When we do things wrong, or make the choice against what God wanted, we somehow just end up not getting anywhere that day.  We have to get back on track, and get the Spirit into our lives, or we just wander around, and don't make any headway in that quest to lose the dark and keep the light.  And the third verse here is the icing on the cake... when we do those things, we not only get the blessings of calmness and accomplishment and all the rest of the things that walking with God automatically gives us, but we also get fellowship with other people who are ... light. :)  God cleanses us from the darkness that is in us all, so we can be pure light as well.  Let's do our best to get rid of our darkness today, and walk with God in the light. :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Jeremiah 1:5

"Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations."
Jeremiah 1:5

Scriptures that make reference to our lives before birth are fascinating to me... I think that it gives me this overwhelming desire to be true to my former self... although sometimes I feel like I know very little about who I am now, and discovering who I was before this life is an even larger blank.  Luckily (okay, more than luck), we have God there to help us understand a little of what it was like... or at least who we were and where we stood on some of the major issues. :)
I've heard people ask life can be fair if God already knows everything about us... asking "what if I was a fence-sitter in the War in Heaven?"  How do I even have a chance to come out okay in this life?" ... although I think the question itself is flawed.  It's asked, assuming that God is out to get us, that he is as biased as we ourselves are.  I think that is untrue, and I also think that none of us were fence-sitters.  I think that is what scares me a little... not wondering if I wasn't quite all on God's side before, but having an absolute conviction that I *was* completely on his side, and wondering why I choose fear and resistance sometimes, now.
We have a relationship with God that stretches well beyond the boundaries of our current consciousness.  This is one reason that God knows us better than we know ourselves, and we can trust that the things he asks us to do are things that will help us become who we wanted to be.  Even though we can't see everything clearly, God can.

Friday, November 14, 2008

1 Corinthians 6:7 -- On Taking Wrong

"Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?"
1 Corinthians 6:7

Wow, this scripture is so interesting.  One of the worst things for me is if I feel like someone is taking advantage of my ignorance.  Like buying car things... I don't know that much, and so I usually trust the guy and buy the tires or the part.  Or when one cab driver charges me $65 for the same trip another cab driver charged me $30 for a week before.  Or, this moving company that never came, but kept my several-hundred-dollar deposit.  You start feeling "ripped off."  And the first thing I want to do when I find out that I've been ripped off is get them back!  It makes me mad that people do that to other people.  That they bold-face lie and cheat and then get away with it.  I agree that our courts are overcrowded, and people sue each other over tiny things.  I think that there are times when it is legitimate to go to court for the good of all, and to prevent others from being defrauded... but in general it is done way too much.  The question in the end is, are we supposed to let people get away with ripping us off?  ... This scripture seems to be saying yes.

In thinking about it, I don't think this means "stick around and let people abuse you."  We can get out of bad situations and stop shopping at a place with much higher prices.  I think it just means, if someone does cheat you, often it is better to just let it go than to let your heart sicken with anger and resentment.  Think about what our doubt and fear of others does to *us* ... it makes us mistrustful of others, and it encourages us to assume people are guilty until proven innocent.  For example, if you hear about an "honest" mechanic, it might surprise you... that's an oxymoron in our society.  These resentments throw us into "us against them" mode... assuming that all politicians are crooked, all car salesmen are liars... we could go farther into ethnic slurs and gender assumptions.  Perhaps it is better to be vulnerable to some lying, some cheating, some theft... so that we can see people in the best light.  When we come across people who take advantage of this, in many cases, we could let it go... and even pray for them.  They are going to have to deal with God too, and I think they could use all the help they can get.

Also, as we strive to build Zion, I think we have to realize that even people who cheat us are our brothers and sisters.  If my brother stole money from me, I'd let him have it... he probably needs it. :) And I'd pray for him, that he would just ask for it the next time, and not feel like he needs to take.  But if a guy on the street took the same amount of money, what would I do?  Would I do differently?  He is my brother too.  Maybe we need more realization that we aren't separate from "those people" ... that every time we interact with anyone, that person is a member of our family, and should be treated as such.  I obviously don't know all the answers, but something to think about today.

Monday, November 10, 2008

2 Nephi 15:20-21 -- On Choosing Door #1

"Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Wo unto the wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight!"
2 Nephi 15:20-21

This scripture is interesting because I think we do this all the time... we embrace the bitter and reject the sweet... walk into the darkness and shun the light... and we try to say to ourselves that it's good and right... that it will make us happy... when it obviously won't.  It's tough to do things God's way sometimes... hard to see what he has in store.  And it's hard to trade something real and in  front of us for something uncertain... like that old game show "Let's Make a Deal," except what we don't realize is that we are keeping the random farm animal that was given us as the sucker prize, even though God keeps telling us and telling us that the fulfillment of our dreams and deepest hopes is right there, in living color, behind door #1.  We keep trying to make the random farm animal suffice, because we can't *see* what else is there.  And even though the random farm animal causes us a vague sense of uneasiness, it's familiar, and we aren't willing to have nothing for the few minutes between giving it up and seeing what is behind door #1.  We aren't willing to make the effort to turn the knob... fearing that whatever it is might be *worse* than what we have... we gave up this cool goat for a dumb old chicken... or, we hear the unmistakable sounds of a *bigger* random farm animal behind curtain 2, and so we give up the chicken or the goat for the cow... never believing that sometimes life is better than farm animals.  Anyway, the scripture says basically that we shouldn't call God a liar.  We shouldn't fool ourselves into believing that he is offering us anything even *slightly* less than what we have now.  We shouldn't try to twist the world to fit our personal torment, or convince ourselves that all our lives we've really wanted that farm animal, and nothing is going to take it from us.  We need to let go of the known and have the faith to take the step into the unknown that God has promised us... it *is* better, and not worse. Good, and not evil, sweet and not bitter.
We aren't wise or prudent, compared to God... and anytime we think so, we need to re-evaluate.  Life should be much, much better than the random things we often hang onto.  Let's trust God, and open the door.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Helaman 5:40-41

"And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us? And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you."
Helaman 5:40-41

These Lamanites were in prison and had a physical cloud of darkness over them... but I figure that sometimes we have the same thing going on spiritually. First we have to recognize it, and then we have to work to get rid of it... and the same things will work to get us out of our spiritual darkness that worked for these people with their physical darkness. :)  The steps are simple, and although the actual implementation can take a lot of effort... when the darkness is gone, and we can see clearly again, we realize that unrestricted vision is worth all of the work, and more, that it took to get there.  So, the steps... repent, pray, faith.  And prayer *precedes* the faith in this case... actually in a lot of cases.  Even if we don't know for sure if anyone is listening, having the faith to get on our knees and find out... to talk to God and see if he answers us... that is a big step.  Sometimes it takes a lot of practice to hear what God has to say... but it's worth it.  And really... to have the darkness out of our lives?  That's worth an experiment in prayer, isn't it?  Today, let's get on our knees and talk to the Lord about removing the darkness from our lives, and then let's do what it takes to walk in the light.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

John 14:18

"I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you."
John 14:18

A good thing to remember today: no matter how bad things get, or even what we have done wrong, God never leaves us without comfort and healing within reach.  And not even just *our* reach... he will come to *us*; that is an amazing promise.  We never have to be alone, or in pain, when God is there.  I think it is important to remember too, that he won't *leave* us comfortless.  We might get there, and feel that, but God's promise is that it will end... that there is hope, that he will be there when he is needed.  No matter where we are on the path of life, if we have gone 300 miles an hour away from God for years... we aren't far enough away for his comfort not to reach us.  And we don't have to hike all the way back alone.  God overcomes time, and space, and distance.  All that is required of us is to look: turn around and look in the right direction, toward the correct goal.  And his love and peace and comfort are there.  Even when we are hopelessly lost... God always knows the way.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Helaman 5:12

"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."
Helaman 5:12

This is good... I like the double remember... don't just remember, but remember REMEMBER... that we need Christ in our lives more than anything... remember REMEMBER that he is the meaning and purpose behind all the rest of it... he is the foundation to build everything else on.  Relationships that have their foundations in him can be built strong and high.  All others will eventually fall.  Everything in our lives that is dedicated and built in his name can stand, and stand well... everything else is doomed. 
It isn't that God wants everything to fail, and it isn't that he is selfish like that... it is only that he gives us a chance to save *something* in our stormy lives.  Satan doesn't care what or who he destroys... that's what he wants.  And when we don't have Christ around, Satan's mighty storm *does* have power to drag us down to the gulf of misery... things go wrong, and everything starts falling apart, and we try so hard to hold things together... but we can't... it's impossible.  When we do have God around though, and things go wrong, and we know we can't hold things together... if they are good things, founded in Christ... he holds them together *for* us.  The tornado comes through (and it always, always will eventually) and all the stuff we were keeping in the lean-to and the shack and the mobile home are wiped out... and if that's all we had, that is devastating.  But if we are building on God's land, with Christ as our foundation... then we can listen to the storm in front of the fireplace, and know that things are going to be fine. 
The other interesting thing about this scripture is the end of it... it says "whereon if men build they cannot fall" ... cannot.  Not will not or might not... like it has anything to do with fate or personal choice.  It says if we build ourselves on the foundation of Christ, we can *never* fall.  His foundation is sure, incredibly strong, and better than any building material we can find, anywhere.  No more searching around for the heart that was stepped on and flung to the ground... no more searching for arms and legs we lost during a personal melt-down.  We're whole, and we stay that way, whatever temporary structures the storm destroys.

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