Thursday, April 30, 2009

1 Nephi 12:5

"And it came to pass after I saw these things, I saw the vapor of darkness, that it passed from off the face of the earth; and behold, I saw multitudes that had not fallen because of the great and terrible judgments of the Lord."
1 Nephi 12:5

I know that a lot of bad things are going on in this chapter, and if I were there I probably wouldn’t be enjoying it… cities destroyed in so many ways, and being left in utter darkness and the fear of destruction for what would feel like a very long time… but reading this verse this morning, it struck me like pure hope. Pure joy. After all of the bad things, the light returns, and the people realize that they are okay… they are alive. They have a chance to grow and learn and live… and more than that for these people… they are the ones that are prepared to see the Lord. They are the ones who in the midst of all the trials, didn’t lose faith. They came through the darkness and they are going on to amazing things. They aren’t looking around and grumbling about trying to rebuild… they are kissing the ground, and praying to God… so incredibly grateful to be alive. … And hey, I figure that is a pretty good attitude. We all have to go through similar times of darkness and fear in all of our lives. Instead of grumbling about it, let’s try to be thankful God that we are still here, and that we have a chance to thrive and live and learn and move forward, and draw into the presence of God.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Luke 6:45-49

"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great."
Luke 6:45-49

This is interesting... we basically do what is in our hearts to do. Righteousness happens in a lot of ways... it can start with feelings... a desire to know something, or feeling the spirit... or it can start with knowledge... we know right from wrong, we intellectually know that Christ lives, that he died for us... or it can start with actions... we try to do the things that other people say are right, test the theory. Any of these can work, if we are open to the other ones as well. Even just robotic obedience can eventually lead to spiritual awareness if we are giving it a real chance... but if one of these things is blocked, we don't get there. We could do right actions all day... the Pharisees at the time of Christ are an example of that. Action was everything to them, but love of God and his children and knowledge of his ways was missing... or we could feel God there, spend our lives as hermits, feeling close to God's creation, or loving people... and never apply it to our lives. How much good does love or devotion do, unexpressed... unrealized? Or we could know absolutely without doubt that God lives, and tell everyone we met... but still be miserable, because it never touches our souls or reaches beyond our tongues. All of these things are good starts, if they are starts... but if they are the way that we live our lives, they are deceptions. The reality is that they all fit together, and are all essential in the end. If we think that we know and feel God there, and find ourselves doing evil things... the truth is, the inside is affected (infected?) as well. We can fake it to a point, but eventually... we're the same inside and outside, and if we don't change our actions, how can we ever change our hearts? If we don't change our hearts, how can we ever change our minds? If we don’t change our minds, how can we ever translate that into action? … it has to start somewhere. And perhaps, left up to us, it might never happen. Fortunately, God can change our hearts. He can overcome the bizarre internal standoff that we have going sometimes… which is why we need to trust him and do the things that he says. God doesn’t give busywork assignments... ever. His commandments are always designed to make us into who we can be... unlimited by our small minds. If we hear him... which takes emotional effort... then we need to follow him... which takes mental and physical effort. That way, when the storm comes, we might get wet and scratched up... but we won't be obliterated.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Daniel 3:9

"They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live forever."
Daniel 3:9

Isn't it interesting how many books and movies are based on the idea of immortality? Here in Nebuchadnezzar's court it was one of the respectful things you said to the king, because immortality was so highly valued as a concept. Today as well... I will spare you the list, but there are many, many books that toy with the subject, and almost as many movies. Several books that claim, whether accurately or inaccurately, to have hints about what is beyond the grave have been selling well for years. I think it is a human obsession. And the coolest part of it is that it is a reality. We are all immortal, eternal beings with similarly staggering potential. And unlike many of the books and movies, there is no price to pay for immortality. It is ours, and has been ours, always. Some part of us has always existed, and will always exist. Even if we turn out rotten, we still have our immortality. :) I think the challenge is to think like an immortal being. We have become acclimated to the temporary nature of the world we live in, and we have a hard time getting our minds to reach beyond the limited scope that we have been taught. The question is not where do we want to be a week from now, a month from now... a year, five years, ten years from now... it is where we want to be for all eternity. We *are* going to live forever... so what do we want to do with that? What choices should we make with that in mind? Where do we want to be for eternity? Who do we want to spend eternity with? Christ overcame physical death for us, so we'll even have our bodies back. I'm not sure if there are racquetball courts in heaven, but I hope there are. :) The intriguing thing is that Christ also overcame spiritual death, which is separation from God (since he is the source of life, being separated from him is like death. The closest analogy I can think of is breaking up with someone that you love more than breathing.). And because Christ overcame that death as well, we not only get to be immortal, but we also have the opportunity to return to God's presence, talk to him, and learn what it is like to be him. :) That's probably another human obsession. :) And, we can do all of it. I think that is amazing. Live forever. :)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Daniel 3:27

"And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them."
Daniel 3:27

God is very thorough. :) Shadrach and the others were protected not only from dying in the flames, but from even the scent of fire on their clothes and in their hair. there was no evidence that they had even passed through the furnace. I think that the Lord does the same for us very often. We go through trials that stretch the limits of who we are, and then come back in time for lunch. :) I'm sure that the experience changed them, but God made sure that they suffered absolutely no harm. It doesn’t happen with all trials… I think that there are times when we need the smell of smoke in our hair... to remind us that we don't want to jump back into the flames. Some of us are that crazy. :) But God has the power to protect us from anything. These men did what God told them even when the consequence was the fire, and God protected them... and he will protect us just as thoroughly as we do the same.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Doctrine and Covenants 88:38-40

"And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.
All beings who abide not in these conditions are not justified.
For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:38-40

It is so interesting to me how any limits we have are almost always self-imposed. We’re not in a public school system which goes at the pace of the slowest student. Our lessons are self-paced, and received as soon as we have mastered previous ones. If we get stuck, it isn't because the teacher or the other students are holding us back... it is only because we haven't yet mastered the lesson.
In talking about this in the past with non-Mormons, I’ve heard things like "I just don't understand why me and Hitler will be in the same place" or "I don’t get why God sends people to Hell for a few mistakes." And I try to explain the whole kingdom system that it talks about right here in D&C 88. :) I like these scriptures that clarify these things for us, showing the wisdom of the plan... but also how responsible we are for where we end up. Kind of like a relationship... the things that we look for in other people... are they the things that are in us? We can hope our whole lives to be able to reach heaven and hang out with all the people that are cooler than we are... but it will never happen. We are going to go to the other side and hang out with the people who are at the same level of coolness. :) And, think about it... do you want to hang out with people like you are right now, forever? If so, then I think that you have little to worry about. Personally, I don't think that I would. I am not satisfied with where I am, not satisfied with who I am at this moment. I need to become better, learn more... and I want to hang out with people who are better than I currently am. So, I have a lot of work to do. What we get out of this life... and where we are after this life, depends on what we put into it. It depends on our choices, our intelligence, truth, virtue, wisdom, justice, mercy... and the grace of God. It doesn't depend on our social status, our job, or anything else. Wherever we are, whoever we are, we will end up in a place where everyone shines as brightly as we do. I'm sure that the conversations within that community will be fascinating. :) Today though... let’s rise above who *we* think we are, and listen to what God says that we can become. Wouldn't it be cool to get to hang out with _God_ for eternity?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Luke 6:27-28 -- On Using Our Power for Good

"But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you."
Luke 6:27-28

This is hard. :) But I thought it would be a good scripture of the day, so that we can remember and try to learn. God expects us to be amazing... not average. Often we excuse ourselves because a lot of people do the same thing, or we're only human... but you know, we are not “only human.” We’re children of God. We’re incredibly powerful beings, growing into our power. :)  God expects us to learn to do these hard things, so that he knows that we won't abuse that power, and hurt others indiscriminately. Too often, we do hurt others, and then we need to use our power to heal. So, this scripture is about that: loving our enemies. Using our power for good in the lives of all people, especially them. Teaching them (by example) to love, and to return good for evil. Blessing people who are cruel to us, and praying for them... helping them to become better people as well.
And, sincerely... we *are* those people sometimes. Wouldn't it be nice if someone, somewhere was cool to us when we were awful to them? It works wonders… stops you in your tracks, when someone smiles and is nice to you even when you are being obviously rude. Good things can happen; lives can be changed. Let’s try it. Let’s see how we can use our power for good today. We can let go of the anger, the bitterness, or whatever emotion we’re tempted to act on, and see if we can think of something nice to do, and something nice to think... for someone we can't currently relate to.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

1 Nephi 10:20

"Therefore remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into judgment."
1 Nephi 10:20

This makes me want to be very careful in what I do... if all my actions are going to be examined and judged. ... and apparently they are. :) And maybe we need a little more of that attitude of being very aware and deliberate in our actions, since we're going to be judged according to them. Not saying that we can't do anything spontaneously... but even then, if we have a habit of making sure we aren't offending God, then we'll do safe spontaneous things. :) Kind of sounds stuffy in some ways, but as the verse says... it is about remembering that our actions have consequences, and that they affect more than just ourselves. Remembering those things, and staying in contact with God, can keep us out of a lot of trouble, and very hard repentance. There are still so many good, fun things to do... if we don't have our minds set on the bad.

Monday, April 20, 2009

2 Peter 1:19

"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts."
2 Peter 1:19

This is kind of cool. It seems to me like it is talking about *why* we follow prophets... why we listen to God. Because in the darkness and blindness of our lives, with the veil drawn... it is hard to see our way. So, take heed, follow the light, until the day comes with brilliant and glorious light, and we have light within ourselves. How amazing will that be? I mean, it might take a second for our eyes to adjust... but being able to SEE.... wow. No more blindness, no more darkness... just new things everywhere. Something to look forward to. :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

1 John 3:6

"Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him."
1 John 3:6

I think this is interesting, and gives us something to strive for. It's telling us that if we sin, we don't really know God. Something about knowing him, walking with him, seeing him... (not necessarily physically for any of those) something there inspires you to change, to be better... to know that sin is unacceptable. So, if we're still sinning, a big part of the problem is that we don't know God well enough. We get to know him through the scriptures, and through prayer. Perhaps today, if we are still struggling with sin and haven't perfected ourselves yet... :) ... Perhaps we should get on our knees and talk to him about it. Maybe we should sit down with the scriptures and read about him. I kind of like that idea of learning making you sin-resistant. Today, instead of obsessing about what we've done wrong, let's read about the perfect example, and try to get in tune with it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

2 Samuel 22:29

"For thou art my lamp, O Lord: and the Lord will lighten my darkness."
2 Samuel 22:29

I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel like I have a lot of darkness. Not always sure if it is in me or around me so much as I know that it is there. And so this verse is a good reminder that God can bring light into even the darkest places, and make things clear and purposeful even when they seem the opposite. Sometimes the darkness is internal, and if we turn to God, he will help us see our darkness and purify ourselves in the light. When the darkness is external, it is harder for us to directly do anything about it, but the light *always* comes; we just have to be patient through the dark times and trust that God's light will chase away the shadows. No matter what brand of darkness you encounter… it can’t cope with God’s light.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Exodus 33:11

"And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle."
Exodus 33:11

I like the way that this scripture compares our relationship with God to the relationship that we have with our friends. Moses and God talked to each other... not stiffly or militarily... but as friends. I think that is a good thing to remember as we go throughout our lives. We can talk to God as a friend... we can tell him everything that is going on, and admit that we don't always know what to do about it. We can ask him for advice, or just keep a running commentary of our lives going. :) We can laugh with him. Even though the veil is drawn and we can't always see him with our physical eyes, God is there. He is as close to us as any of our friends... and closer than most. :) Today, we should take advantage of the most rewarding of all relationships, and communicate with him... we'll never have a more loyal and good friend than God.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Romans 14:10-13

"But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way."
Romans 14:10-13

I like this scripture. :) It talks about judging, but instead of just saying "don't," it helps us to know what we should do instead. :) It seems to me basically to be saying... why are you working against each other when you should be helping each other? We're all in the test together, and we're all going to be evaluated in the end. Does it make sense then, to try to sabotage each other? The test is open book, we are allowed to collaborate... let's do it. In the end, we'll all get our own grade... but if we study together, maybe we'll do better.
Each of us will have to face God, our instructor, in the end... and instead of getting so concerned about who WE think should pass or fail... why don't we just help each other pass? Instead of judging other people, let us judge instead whether we are helping or hindering the progress of the people around us. When someone comes to you for help you can either tell them the wrong answer, that you don't know the answer, or help them find the right answer. Other people's success IS our success... and inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these... we need to lift people up in order to become a Zion community, in order to be saved as a people. Let's heal instead of hurt, help instead of hinder... and we'll all make it through, even the roughest times. :)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Romans 14:16

"Let not then your good be evil spoken of."
Romans 14:16

I like this scripture. a few verses earlier it tells us that we will all give account of ourselves before God. That should be interesting. Can you imagine? Just the thought of having to do that makes me want to do everything perfectly so that I won't be trying to crawl away. Reminds me of "Till We Have Faces" by C. S. Lewis... a trial about who you are. Anyway... I only mention the prior verse to put in a little perspective. People see things differently... I'm sure that we have all noticed. :) And sometimes, doing exactly the right thing in your eyes, you are going to offend someone who interprets it differently. I don't think that this scripture means you have to shut people up... I think it means that we need to *communicate,* especially when there is a possibility of misinterpretation. Help people to know that you aren't attacking them, and why you do what you do (and if you ARE attacking them, you might want to stop) :) Don't offend people if you can help it. Sometimes you can't. Sometimes, no matter what, they are going to be offended. But try... Explain your side. Listen to their side. If you listen to anything besides the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Sunday... some people will be offended. Talk to them instead of just turning on the "other" music full blast. Too often, we are learning the same lessons in life, but because we aren't learning them the same way, we think that we are on different sides. Communication can help that... building on common beliefs. Doing our best to not offend other people whose interpretations are different from our own. Don't just sneer... listen. :)
And the second way I see this scripture I think is just as important. Besides communicating with people and not condemning each other... I think we need to seriously focus on not condemning ourselves. This might take some self-communication, like writing in a journal... or it might take some huge effort on our part to get out of the habit. But, we are good... we should let ourselves speak evil of that. Seriously. Ezra Taft Benson said "Never demean yourself" and I think this scripture is along the same lines. You are a child of God... the cool, incredible, majestic, miraculous one... you know? And therefore, you are cool, incredible, majestic, and miraculous. Your spirit is eternal, you will live forever... you have the power and potential to do anything that God can do. Why disrespect that by criticizing yourself? You are beautiful. You are pure. You are filled with light. All of us need to weed our souls whenever thistles pop up, and let that light and goodness pour through more bountifully... but there is NOTHING wrong with who you are. Don't let anyone, including yourself, speak evil about something that is so good.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Zephaniah 1:17

"And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung."
Zephaniah 1:17

This is interesting, and something that I think I have seen in myself, and perhaps others. It seems that when we do the right things that our minds are clearer. I know that I don't get unduly concerned about small things, and I am a lot more calm. It seems as though I can see my path better. When I am failing to do the right things however, my path is obscured and I walk as though I were blind... and perhaps I am, spiritually. It seems as though something similar happens to others... It's almost as though when we aren't in contact with God that we lose contact with part of ourselves as well... parts of our brain shut down. I know I feel foggy a lot of the time if I haven't been staying on track. I have access to less information (probably because the Holy Ghost brings things to our remembrance, and without him, I can't get at the files). :) We might get depressed and feel lost a lot more easily as well. It seems like the relation between sinning and walking like blind men in this scripture is startlingly true. Today, let’s try to remember what it takes to enlighten our minds and our souls... as we come unto him, God gives sight to our blindness.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mosiah 7:12

"And now, when Ammon saw that he was permitted to speak, he went forth and bowed himself before the king; and rising again he said: O king, I am very thankful before God this day that I am yet alive, and am permitted to speak; and I will endeavor to speak with boldness;"
Mosiah 7:12

I think that Ammon is amazing here. As a little bit of background, a small group had left the Nephites to go find the land of their ancestors, and hadn't been heard from again, and Ammon was part of a group out trying to find them. They did find them, and without being able to explain who they were, they were thrown in prison for days, basically waiting to die... until the king called for them to answer some questions, and finally in this verse they are permitted to speak. Ammon's words and actions might not seem that amazing to us until we think of what else he could have done. ... He could have been irate. He could have demanded an apology or respect. He'd been thrown in jail for days for doing nothing wrong. Instead, he bowed. He expressed thanks. He demanded nothing. He assumed goodness on the part of the King. So many things could have gone wrong here... and probably Ammon considered none of them, because he had the spirit with him, to help him and guide him in what to say, what to do, and was putting God first. :) ... Let's try to follow his example today. Let's not react with pride when we're treated badly. Let's work on keeping the spirit with us to remind us and help us know how to react with love and an assumption of goodness.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

1 John 3:14

"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death."
1 John 3:14

This is an interesting, and strong, analogy... basically saying that if we love, we live and have life, and if we hate, or don't love, that we are walking dead... zombies, basically. ;) I think of all the times in our lives where someone offends us or says something thoughtless... and even when people persecute you on purpose. I think it happens to everyone at some point in life. And if we start hating those people, *they* don't become zombies. *We* do. Just doesn't seem like it fits into the horror-movie code. But it does fit into God's code. Love *is* life, and hatred is death. And for us to live eternally, we need to learn to love eternally... to bless and pray for even those who hurt us or who cruelly use us. It isn't about fair. It isn't about winning or losing... it is only about us, learning what we need to learn to become like God. And he does love... even when we turn our backs on him. Even when we treat others cruelly. Let's take that special treatment that we receive from God and offer it to other people... and who knows. If we start being nicer and really trying to love them, they might turn around a little. But even if they don't... this is about learning to love... not learning to love people who adore us... anyone can do that. But learning to love people, even when they are intent on our death... as Christ did. Let's try that harder lesson today, and be the first to apologize... the first to back down. Let's find ways to love even those people who don't agree with us... without sarcasm or reservation.

Friday, April 3, 2009

James 5:7-8

"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."
James 5:7-8

I like where it says that the husbandman “hath long patience” … and, if we go with a common analogy in the scripture, the Lord is the husbandman, and we are the precious fruit, and he hath long patience, waiting for us to grow up well… it takes us a while to get it right sometimes. :)
Long patience is something that it is hard to have. Especially in our earthly lives, immediacy seems to be a high priority… we want things NOW, and sometimes a few years, or even a few hours, seems like a lifetime. In the second verse, it advises us to also be patient, and to stablish our hearts… I think the two are related. We’re working toward a solid base of being, where we don’t allow our hearts to go after whims, and we actually think and plan and listen and wait before taking action. It is hard to get there, because it is easy to fall in love with the newest computer, or the newest shoes, or the newest person… and it is hard to get our timing down. Often we respond too quickly, when if we had really thought and considered, we wouldn’t have spoken at all. Someone says something and we immediately react… defensively, or aggressively, or however, and then we find out later, that our reaction was inappropriate… a little thought and patience could have gone a long way. Today, let’s work on our patience. Not saying it is easy… but it is necessary if we want to get to that place where we’re calm and collected, and allowing the spirit to work with us.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

John 8:47 -- On Hearing God's Words

"He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because you are not of God."
John 8:47

This is interesting.  It is tempting to look at something like this and think... well, can't hear him, guess I'm not of God, and give up. :)  I think it is more complex than that though... and none of us are cemented permanently into a state of hearing or not hearing.  It, like most other things in our lives, is a matter of choice.  So, how do we choose to hear God's words?  Part of it is seeking him out and wanting that in our lives.  If we don't want God in our lives, it is very unlikely that we will be listening for his voice.  I think that it goes along with feeling the Spirit.  The more we want to be close to God, and the more we seek to be close to him, the more attuned we will be to his spirit, and be able to hear what he has to say... and the same goes the other way.  The less we want and work at being close to God, the less sensitized we will be, until we can hear nothing except ourselves.
Walking away from God in order to figure out how we feel about him, and how dedicated we are to him is massively counterproductive for these same reasons.  If we are trying to figure out our relationship with God by not hanging out with him... that is like trying to overcome an argument with a friend by ceasing all communication.  It will probably work, but only in one way... loss of the friendship.  If we want to be "of God," and therefore able to hear his voice, we have to work at that relationship.  We have to want to hear what he has to say.  Some indicators of that desire and faith might be reading our scriptures and praying... studying the words of the prophets, and being willing to give God's plan a try rather than striking off on our own.
Today, let's listen.  Let's seek.  Let's do everything we can to be "of God," and able to hear when God speaks to us.  Because he *always* will.  Let's not choose self-imposed deafness.

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