Monday, December 22, 2008

Titus 2:14 -- On Being Saved From Our Mistakes

"Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
Titus 2:14


I love this: "redeem us from all iniquity." ... It's an interesting way to talk about the atonement, and very cool because it shows us a little bit of why. We have to be saved from our own mistakes. We make them all the time. Probably every day... I am sure it is possible to make it through a mistake-free day, but I'm not sure I personally have ever done it. There seems to always be more I should have done, or if I would have just kept my mouth shut, or been nicer, or stopped to help... or something, it would have been better. As we keep the spirit with us, we can get better at it... but we still make mistakes. Christ saves us from those mistakes, and from our sins as we repent and change ourselves (with his help) for the better.
Eventually, as we and God work on it together, we will become pure, and "zealous of good works." ... Doing the right thing, every time. :) I would like to get there. And because Christ suffered for me, I have that chance. Today, let's work on becoming better at perfection and better at purity. God knows we can't do it all at once, which is why he is there to help us with even our smallest attempts. :)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Joel 2:13 -- On Broken Hearts

"And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil."
Joel 2:13


In Old Testament times it was common to tear your clothes if something really bad happened... it showed people how upset you were. :)  Here, God tells us to tear our hearts, not our clothes... sort of like telling us to offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit, but this way seems a little more active.  God asking us to break our own hearts. :)
And why would we do that?  Having a broken heart is a very painful thing.  Choosing that kind of pain is difficult.  I think what God is saying here makes a lot of sense though.  Crying and tearing our clothes and saying how awful it is isn't going to change anything... if we are sincerely upset by events that happen, the best thing to do is to change ourselves, since that is the only thing that we have control of.  As we adjust our hearts and minds, God will withdraw whatever it is that caused us horror in the first place... or we will have already sacrificed whatever it was in the process. 
Yes, it is a very painful choice ... but it is also the only one where something actually changes.  Standing in the street, tearing our clothes and crying about how awful and unfair it all is won't make a difference.  Instead, let's break open our hearts, feel the pain of change, and become newer and better, with God's help.  Then we won't have anything to complain about, and whenever our hearts gets broken, it will be our own wise choices that do it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ether 8:26 -- On Continual Good

"Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have no power among the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved."
Ether 8:26


This scripture is interesting to me because it seems like such a huge thing to do... "that evil may be done away."  But Moroni here has *absolute* faith that his words will help that to happen. This chapter talks about the secret combinations and murders that were going on at the time of the Jaredites... and warns us that they are going on now, in our day.  They seem to be pretty permanent as well... but Moroni says here that evil will be done away, and that we can be persuaded to do good continually. :)
That statement brings hope in the midst of the evil that surrounds us in life... and is something to work for.  If we work at being good and eradicating evil from ourselves, then we'll be ready to join in a community effort to do the same thing on a larger scale.  And I am not talking about some "don't let your kids play with those other kids" idea because their parents are different than we are... I think that could be part of the problem, not part of the solution.  I'm talking about seriously learning to love our neighbors... educating each other so that we can see the best in ourselves and in others... and getting rid of the hatred that fills our society.
Moroni talks about Satan having no power among us... and how better to take away that power than by taking the commandment to love people seriously?  Zion begins with the individual. As we become Zion individuals, then we will build a Zion community, and a Zion nation... and a Zion world, and the prophecy of Moroni will be fulfilled.  Let's start. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Moses 1:4 -- On Endless Words

"And behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease."
Moses 1:4


The whole concept of eternity can be hard to grasp (at least for me)... and so everything like this I think is amazing.  That God's work could go on without end.  I think here on earth we grow up with almost a sense of helplessness, knowing that nothing ever lasts... that you can build and build, but there will come a time when you can build no more, and so achievements and dreams are limited to the span of a lifetime.  With God, and with ourselves too, although it is harder to see, there are no boundaries to dreams and achievements.
God showed Moses only a portion of his work, not because he was hiding anything, but just because you can only see a snapshot of God's creations, because they continue and are infinite.  Words too... which is strange and fascinating at the same time.  Strange because I get this mental picture of this dictionary that just keeps growing and growing until it is the size of a planet... the language expanding.  But perhaps we shouldn't go that far, and just see that God's communication with his children never ends.  Cool because we keep learning and learning and growing ... and God keeps talking. :)  If we ever think that we have enough revelation or knowledge, we're crazy, because as long as God keeps saying words, there is more to be had... and as it says, they never cease. :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nahum 1:7

"The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him."
Nahum 1:7

This is kind of cool.  The Lord is something to hold onto in the day of trouble.  The immovable permanence that we seek. 
I think there is something compelling about permanence.  Something that doesn't change no matter what hits it, something that is unbreakable, that can't be taken away... a connection that cannot be severed. That is the kind of solidity that God offers us... both in himself, and his relationship with us, but also in the opportunity that he gives us to be sealed to one another... so that we are all bound together as families, but families that all interconnect somewhere, so as a community as well.  Nothing can take that away... and sometimes when things seem very impermanent and ethereal, it is good to know that there is solidity and permanence somewhere. :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hebrews 1:9

"Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows."
Hebrews 1:9


I think we all want to be happy... happier than we are.  And right here is how.  Righteousness is directly connected to happiness.  Loving righteousness and rejecting iniquity will help us become happier.  Now, I don't think that this means that we will have fewer trials or less opposition.  In fact, trials and opposition could possibly be more frequent with people who are doing well and learning quickly.  This life is a test... we can't get away from that basic fact.  But we can be happy in the midst of the test, partially because we have been prepared for it by our teacher, and partially because we know that he would never test us on something that we couldn't handle.  God is in control. We look for happiness and peace in so many places, but we will never find what we are really searching for until we look for it through God.

Friday, December 12, 2008

2 Nephi 26:23-24

"For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness.
He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation."
2 Nephi 26:23-24


I think of God not working in darkness like someone who is not ashamed of anything he does... there isn't anything that he would ever need to hide.  Many of us, if not all, have things that we hide when we are trying to make a good impression... maybe things that we hide almost all the time.  Instead of hiding though, God welcomes examination.
He is completely in the spotlight, asking anyone who will listen to take a look, and see if what he says isn't true... to take a look and see if he does *anything* that isn't for the benefit of his children.  He welcomes people in, and asks them to trust him, because he doesn't have anything to hide.  Because he is working for all of us, because he loves us.  Completely open, completely honest... offering explanation to anyone who takes the time and the thought to ask, and who is open to the answer.  The same God, all the time... consistent.
In this life we are asked to follow in his footsteps, to become like God, and to walk in the light. :)  As we endeavor to get to that point, we learn what shames us... what we are afraid of revealing to the world... what we are hiding in the dark.  Sometimes we are ashamed of God, unwilling to admit to others that we believe.  Sometimes we are ashamed of other things that take us farther from him, and eventually we have to learn who we are: to become one person who doesn't hide from what he or she believes, and who lives in the light.
And remember... God knows what we are thinking.  If we all become like him, there won't be any shadows left to hide in.  Today, let's work towards a future where that won't be a personal tragedy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

2 Nephi 21:9

"They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
2 Nephi 21:9


I really like this vision of the future. During the Millenium, people won't be harming each other... but even more than that, animals won't be harming each other, and animals and people are going to get along. :) And why will they refrain from harm? Because of the knowledge of the Lord. :) Think about the last simile: "as the waters cover the sea." ... It doesn't sound like there are going to be any dissenters standing on the bottom of the ocean, completely dry. :) I love the idea of knowledge being as deep and wide as the ocean and covering us so that it would take a concerted effort to surface and *not* know. :)
Perhaps we can embrace this ideal, and work on getting all the knowledge of the Lord that we can, today. Maybe we won't get to the sea level. Maybe we'll only get a pond, or a shower... or a few drops to drink. ... But even a sea has to start somewhere. ;)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mark 5:25-29 -- On Touching Christ

"And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague."
Mark 5:25-29


I love this story. Although this woman had a physical ailment, and the woman taken in adultery had a spiritual ailment, I think in a lot of ways they teach the same thing. These women show us that God can help us when no one else can. You can look to the law, you can look to the doctors, you can talk to all the experts... and when none of it works, Christ will still heal us.
Imagine this woman's faith... it says that she spent everything she had on doctors.... and they couldn't make it better, but it actually was getting worse. For twelve *years* she suffered through all of this... and had *every* reason to doubt that anything could be done... and yet, she believed.  And she came to Christ, and initiated the healing by touching his clothing. Powerful faith, and a powerful woman, to draw upon Christ's power like that. Thousands of people touched him that day... but her touch was different.
I think it is the same in our lives. Christ is there; we have access to him. And zillions of people are praying to him, touching him in many ways... but we can do more than just make contact. We can be healed of our ailments... physical, mental, spiritual... if we draw upon the power that he offers us. There are many ailments in our lives, many things that we can't figure out... and God has the power to teach us and to heal us, if we will only draw upon his power, we can use it to become whole in our own lives... and to make a positive difference in the lives of the people around us.
So many of us suffer as this woman did... maybe not for exactly the same thing, or for exactly the same amount of time,… but we are all trying to get healing from someplace. We look to whatever "experts" there are, or sometimes we think that we can heal ourselves, but we continue to suffer. God offers peace, and wholeness. He cures physical and mental illnesses, addictions, mental blocks, and every sort of spiritual dilemma that we can be faced with. We can ask God for the strength and the power to overcome the obstacles in our lives.
The answers might not always come the way we want them, but if we persist in our faith as this woman did, and go to God with our problems… he has promised us that our weaknesses will be made strengths. Today, let's take him up on the offer.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Proverbs 17:17-18 -- On Friendship

"A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend."
Proverbs 17:17-18


This scripture is awesome in portraying how we can offer confidence and solidity to people.  Treating people like they are cool... (which they ARE, by the way...) helps them to relax and be genuine.  Even when our friends are going through tough things, or when they make mistakes, we love them for who they are, and who they are capable of becoming.  We do all that we can to help them see that vision and reach for it... and they do the same for us.  And hopefully, we are expanding our circle and listening to the spirit, so that we see more and more people as friends… eventually everyone.
Often, we look at our choices and choose either independence or dependence.  We need to learn both.  We need to learn who we are and how much power we have within ourselves, and learn to trust ourselves to figure things out and to live by what we believe.  We need to learn how utterly dependent we are upon God.  But sometimes we mix up the two and go dependent on other people and independent of God… and we also miss learning interdependence, which is another good option.
We are all dependent upon each other for so many things... and other people are dependent upon us.  This world is a system that we are a part of... and we are never completely alone or out of the system.
Everything that we do and say and think makes a difference to the whole.  Loving each other and lifting each other matters... and it matters a lot more than how much money we are making, or whether we get to that appointment on time today.  Other people are part of that system, and therefore part of who we are.  We affect each other immeasurably.  Today, let's remember how much confidence and power we offer to people, and how we need each other, and behave accordingly.

Monday, December 8, 2008

1 Peter 1:13 -- On Hoping to the End

"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
1 Peter 1:13


I think we all feel overwhelmed sometimes, and think that we can't face whatever the day has in store... feel some mental exhaustion. :)  But, we still have to face the tasks of the day, whatever they are... work, school, kids, cellmates... (ha ha), and we have to work at being positive and cheerful, even when we feel like that.  Perhaps what we need in those circumstances is to "gird up the loins" of our minds and hope, which I think is the whole point of the girding up process. :)  We can't allow darkness to dominate our thoughts.  Instead, to get through the day, we have to sweep all that dust out of the way, and bask in the light of hope that is always shining in, as long as we open the shutters. :)
Today, let's work to inspire our minds to hope, and with the "be sober" part, make sure that we aren't getting drunk on cynicism. :)  I think the verse has an excellent point, that we are hoping for grace, and other things that Christ offers us.  Perhaps if we can get our minds out of that gutter of despair, and actually look up, towards our goal and our God, we won't be overwhelmed... except maybe in a good way. ;)  Let's hope to the end, and never give up.

Friday, December 5, 2008

2 Nephi 23:3 -- On Comparison and Community

"I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones, for mine anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness."
2 Nephi 23:3


I think that this is interesting. We focus on comparison a lot in this beloved world of ours... judging ourselves by how the next guy is doing.  We're rich if we notice the homeless guy down the street, and poor if we drive by a twelve-room house with the perfectly manicured lawn and the iron bars keeping us out.  We decide what is fair by whether it is happening to us, or to someone else.  Sometimes we fall into this game with God.  And it is an easy game to play... somehow we seem to feel better about our position when we mock the people on a higher rung, or the people on a lower… all from comparison of things that seem to represent success to us.  When we are worried about our relationship with God, sometimes we try to mock him too... saying that he doesn't care, or that the people who say they follow him are all hypocrites... or that heaven is boring.  Anything to make ourselves feel better.  We focus on habits instead of people... labeling this person this, and that person that, so that we can feel better with the labels that we attach to ourselves. ...Imagining that one irritating (to us) habit devalues the good that we see in a person, and we think that the good that we know is within ourselves makes up for irritating habits of our own.
We suspend this kind of judgement rarely. Sometimes we manage it to a limited degree with our children... we have the ability to be happy when they achieve more than we have (as measured by our automatic comparison)... and sometimes, albeit rarely, we have a significant person in our lives who we share success and failure with, not casting blame or claiming victory, except as a plurality.  We could probably sum up the goal of our earthly existence by saying that we were sent here to extend that plurality.  God wants us to discover a true sense of community... a Zion... where we stand or fall as a unit, helping each other, and rejoicing in each other's success.  Our task, then, is recognizing that anyone's success is something that builds each of us... lifting each other up from failure to try again. And, as expressed in this scripture... we reach the pinnacle of that sense of community when we extend our plurality to God.  When we realize that we are one with him, as well as with the people around us... when we can rejoice in his highness, even as we are aware of our own comparative "lowness."  We recognize that his highness helps us all to climb higher, and we are in there helping each other climb.  Today, let's rejoice in community, and help each other rather than mocking or judging others to make ourselves feel better. :)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Colossians 3:12-13 -- On Three-way Peace

"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."
Colossians 3:12-13


I think these two verses are leading up to verse 15 in the same chapter, which says "let the peace of God rule in your hearts" and "be ye thankful." ... I think the verses work together.  In order to get that peace, we have to do these things, but also, in order to do these things, we have to let the peace of God rule us.  It is easy in our daily lives to forget these things... mercy, humility, kindness, meekness (patience, gentleness, submissiveness), and it is easy to jump to conclusions, to judge people and leave no room for change.  It is easy to hold grudges, and we have a thousand ways to justify them to ourselves. But here it is... God is asking us not to do that.
And, you know, in the end, I don't even think that he is asking that for the benefit of those other people that we judge, or who are hurt because of our non-kindness, or our non-patience.  I think he asks those things mostly for us. We can't be at peace when we are treating other people disrespectfully, no matter what the reason is.  I think it is part of that change of heart that we need to keep working at. :)  Loving everyone is difficult sometimes, but it gets easier as we let go of resentments and things that can keep the spirit away.  Today, let's remember this scripture... let's let go of quarrels and things that are causing strife, and try to be at peace.  Within ourselves, with others, and with God.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

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 melting part, but the dwelling together in righteousness part sounds pretty great. :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

James 1:5

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
James 1:5


This is a great scripture. Not only because it was the inspiration for Joseph Smith to actually go out and ask God what was up with all the different churches... but also because we can find wisdom in our own lives.  No matter how brilliant or well-organized we are, we all lack wisdom. We all have a little in different areas... but compared to God, we lack a lot. :)  And so, going to God to ask for some more is a great idea. :)  It is cool that he offers wisdom to everyone, without rebuking or chastising us.  The scripture goes on to say that we need to have faith as we are asking.  Believe that God wants us to have wisdom, and that he will help us get it.  That might be the trickiest part,… but God really does want us to know and learn and understand.  We can't do it all at once, but as we ask for understanding and wisdom, he will teach us.
So, today, let's try it... when we're stuck and need some wisdom... let's take it to God.  He will answer us.  It might be in an unexpected way, or require a little bit of patience (oh no!!!) but the answer will definitely come. :)

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