Wednesday, July 29, 2009

1 John 5:14-15 -- On Asking

"And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."
1 John 5:14-15

This is really cool. It takes a little bit of faith, but it really works. Asking according to God's will guarantees an answer. :) Now, God's timing might be different from ours, and the amount of effort that we, personally, have to put in might be perceived a little differently by God... but he will answer us. The thing is to ask for things that we know that he wants to give us.  Faith... Love... Forgiveness... Mercy... Truth. Probably not new cars we don’t need, or gold-plated Monopoly sets. But friends... yes. Opportunities to share the gospel... opportunities to repent, to heal wounds and rifts, to bless other people's lives. :) Now, these things might seem impossible to us, the wounds too deep, the rifts too wide, the friends too remote. Everyone around us might belong to some anti-Mormon hate group, and so we might wonder how all these things will come to pass... but they will. When we ask for things that God wants to give us, he'll find a way to bless our lives with those things. In his time, and in his way... but it will definitely happen. Let's gather our faith today, and ask God for something that we know he wants us to have... and then work for the results. :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

3 Nephi 14:12

"Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets."
3 Nephi 14:12

Sometimes we get overwhelmed with all the different things that we have to do to be "obedient" and good... :) so sometimes God reminds us that actually, if we could just get the basics down, then everything else would fall into place. This is one of those scriptures. If we could just master treating other people as we would like to be treated... forgiving people as we would like to be forgiven... spending time with people as we would like people to spend time with us; talk to people as we would like them to talk to us... love people as we would like to be loved... if we could just do this one thing, loving our neighbors... then all the rest of it would just happen as a natural result. And what a difference in the world. Who would go hungry if we were seriously feeding others as we would like to be fed? Who would be alone if we were welcoming others into our lives the way that we would like them to welcome us into their lives? Let's just try to work on this one thing today. :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

3 Nephi 12:19-20

"And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the law is fulfilled.
Therefore come unto me and be ye saved; for verily I say unto you, that except ye shall keep my commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."
3 Nephi 12:19-20

I think sometimes that we forget our obligations to God. Not always consciously, but we can get into this mindset where we think that God loves us and he’ll let us get away with anything. The cool thing is… He definitely does love us, and God *can* save us from the consequences of our actions sometimes… but we have to put in some effort, and we have to work on changing ourselves so that we won’t want to do those same things again. We have to not want to break God’s law… part of being contrite and repenting is working to get to that point. I think it is interesting that he asks for a “broken heart” as well. I’m not sure this means broken heart like it has been shattered and is lying in pieces… I think it might be broken, as in house broken or breaking a horse. The focus is on taming, or teaching our hearts to do the right things, not on destroying them. We have to remember that God’s laws are there to help us become the people that we need to be to enter back into God’s presence. God isn’t arbitrary, and he doesn’t ask for anything that we don’t actually need… all of these things teach us and help us become who we need to become in order to return to him. Today, let’s remember that we cannot get into the kingdom of heaven without keeping God’s commandments. Let’s work on keeping them, and remember that they are designed to help us change ourselves into better people… people who are prepared to live in heaven, and to see God.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Jacob 3:1

"But behold, I, Jacob would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction."
Jacob 3:1

I like this scripture, because the message seems to be... hey, hang in there, and trust me (God), because I am on your side. :) I like that idea of God consoling us and pleading our cause... it is a very comforting thought, and quiets those nerves that you get when you feel like the world is conspiring against you, or you're stuck with no way out. ... Of course, to get these promises, we have to be pure in heart. We have to be firm in mind, and pray with exceeding faith. I think that those are pretty fair requests for such an amazing promise. :) Today, let's work on making our hearts pure... get rid of those irritating impurities that make us paranoid or jealous or insensitive to someone else's situation. Let's work on being firm in mind... not letting those stray thoughts of disobedience take root. And let's pray with exceeding faith, trusting that God will stand with us... always.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Alma 1:26-27

"And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.
And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely."
Alma 1:26-27

I think this is great, talking about how the teachers and the learners were equal. I like the idea of leaving work in the middle of the day and having gospel discussions too. Cool. I think that adds a whole other level to education, when you feel like you are contributing as an equal, rather than just getting a lecture from someone who isn’t also listening to you. Probably important to remember, even just as we go through our normal day. It is really hard to teach people if you aren’t connecting with them as an equal… and it is really hard to learn when you feel you aren’t understood or valued.
Some of this reminds me of my classes in Education. Did you know that the biggest gaps in student test scores come if you divide the scores by income level? It’s a bigger gap than dividing them by ethnicity, which is second highest. That is scary.... and it's a huge gap, not just a few points. And I think that the second verse illustrates that they were equal in a lot of other ways too. They were working to be a Zion people, and closing those gaps. I think to achieve equality, the second verse is just as important as the first. We have to share what we have with others. if we are supposed to be one, and we are only attempting to be one with people of the same ethnic and socio-economic background, I think we are missing the point. :) Today, let’s remember to learn while we teach, and teach while we learn… and also remember that our goal is unity with the people around us… all working toward the same goal, and the same truth. :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

2 Nephi 2:15-16

"And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.
Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other."
2 Nephi 2:15-16

I think it is interesting that in the garden of Eden, the tree that provided you with eternal life produced bitter fruit and the one that you were forbidden to eat of was sweet... maybe choosing the bad thing has always had better immediate benefits. :) Which is all part of the plan, right? In the second verse it tells us that we wouldn't be able to act for ourselves unless both were enticing. If God put bad stuff down here in crappy packaging, where would the choice be? We'd just go... the good, of course... duh. So, God allows it to be glamorized, to appear romantic or sometimes better than we ever dreamed anything could be... so that it is a real choice. So that we really have to learn why good is good and bad is bad on a deeper level than the packaging. It has to be tempting to us on some level, or we wouldn't have true choice at all. Sometimes the best thing is bitter to us at first, the taste... the choice... because we see what we aren't choosing, as well as what we are. But the good things really are good underneath, and the bad things are … bad. Like delicious frosting on a moldy, year-old donut. All the packaging in the world can't change the true nature of our choices. We just have to look very carefully, and listen to God, who is wiser than we are.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hebrews 11:32-34

"And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens."
Hebrews 11:32-34

Faith is an amazing thing. It can do miraculous things, including holding off invading aliens. :) Very cool. Sincerely though, I think it is interesting that it says that time would fail me to tell all of these things... because it would. There is so much evidence of faith, and of God's hand in our lives, and in the lives of all people, that it is just overwhelming to think of telling it all. Isn't it just pure insanity to seek for a sign or proof of God's presence when signs and evidences are absolutely everywhere around us? So often, we seek more faith-building stories when we haven't really read the ones that we have, and we want more miracles when our lives are filled with them. Instead of waiting for more, today let's go out and make them happen. Let's do some of the things that it says here... let's build some righteousness. Let's obtain promises. Let's be made strong out of our weaknesses. If we need some more evidence, let's make some happen. And, you know, it never hurts to be ready for those alien armies. :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2 Samuel 24:24 -- On Meaningful Sacrifice

"And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver."
2 Samuel 24:24

Interesting. Araunah offered David everything that he needed to make the appropriate sacrifice... but David wouldn't do it. Seems that even back then, a sacrifice meant more than just a burnt offering. And today... I wonder if we try to offer things at times that don't mean much to us. We are hyper-obedient about things that are easy for us, and we think that we are sacrificing. :) Sacrifice means a lot more than that. It is a very real commitment, made because we love. Think about the person that you love most in the world. If you were going to surprise that person on a special occasion, what would you do? I know that if it were me, I would make sure it was perfect. Front-row seats, a favorite meal... the perfect gift... whatever it took to make it the perfect day. it wouldn't matter what it cost me, in time or money, if I could coax a smile. I think that is what sacrifice is about. Not about being a martyr, or cutting out part of yourself for someone else... it's about real caring, and doing anything you can to create that perfect moment. David couldn't honor his God with a sacrifice that cost him nothing; it wasn't a gift that he was giving that way. The same for us. The broken heart and the contrite spirit that we offer to God has to be real... sincere. It has to cost us something. Not monetarily, and it doesn't have to bring us pain... but it has to be valuable to us. The commitment that we make has to be deep and true. We can't just give God the leftovers... the excess emotion that we have left over after doting on our loved ones and friends... the extra cash we have after we have paid all of our bills... the few minutes we have to communicate after we've talked to everyone on earth that we know. :) If God matters to us, then we have to offer him time, and space in our lives. When we offer him our broken hearts, he returns them to us whole. When we offer him our contrite spirit, he strengthens us and gives us confidence. ... He loves us too. :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Alma 22:18

"O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead."
Alma 22:18

King Lamoni’s father in this verse starts a prayer to God, not knowing for sure that he is there, but wanting to believe, hoping for an answer. I like that willingness to experiment upon the word. We don’t always know for ourselves initially when we learn new things about God or the gospel… but we can go directly to God to find out. Another amazing thing here is that he is willing to give up all his sins to know God. Totally worth it, but not something we usually offer. We often try to hold something back when we go to God… willing to change this or that thing, but not everything. And I think that, to have the kind of relationship that we want to have, with no barriers between us, we really have to be willing to give up all of it… even the tiniest, favorite sins. As C. S. Lewis says... if we want Heaven, we have to give up even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. Today, let’s work on trying the experiment, and going to God… and if we’re already communicating, then let’s start throwing away anything that doesn’t fit with that relationship. Some souvenirs we get really attached to… the mini-snowscape titled "a cold day in Hell" and the T-shirt that says "Tourist from Hell" … the doubts and beliefs that it is much easier to live with than to overcome. Some of them are very hard to part with. But if we’re serious about wanting what is asked for in this verse, we need to get rid of the clutter that interferes with our commitment to a better place. I can’t imagine what souvenirs they have in the Celestial Kingdom… can only imagine that they are infinitely better. Let’s make sure we’re in a position to find out.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Alma 19:33

"And it came to pass that when Ammon arose he also administered unto them, and also did all the servants of Lamoni; and they did all declare unto the people the self-same thing--that their hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil."
Alma 19:33

Sometimes we think of life as this never-ending struggle… with temptation, with obstacles, with just those internal struggles we go through sometimes, trying to do the right thing, but sometimes wanting something else… and I love this scripture because it is one of the ones that tells us that the struggles aren’t never-ending… aren’t eternal. They have limits, and one of the limits is described right here… through the spirit, through conversion, the Lamanites hearts were changed, and they didn’t even desire to do evil anymore… not just a change in action, but a change that went all the way down to the core of who they were. Evil wasn’t in style anymore… so last season, so yesterday. :) They wanted something better. And we can get there too. By reading and praying and keeping God in our hearts and minds, those evil thoughts can’t exist in the same space. We stop wanting bad things when our minds and hearts are occupied with Good… with God. And not just a displacement, with the evil waiting in the background… but we start seeing things differently, and get a whole new perspective. God helps us to glimpse something better for ourselves and the people around us, and we start seeing what is possible, and what will bring lasting happiness, rather than what will give us that temporary relief from despair. It’s a good change, and something to think on today. Have our hearts been changed? And, in the spirit of Alma 5:26 (another good verse), are they still changed? Can we feel that desire for good today? If not, let’s talk to God about it and try to recapture that hope… that unity of self… no more internal struggle. And if we *can* feel that desire to do good… let’s talk to God as well, and thank him for it. :) Because, seriously… how incredible, to be so changed, and so new, and so ready to face the world. True conversion is undeniable like that... looking up at God one day and realizing that it isn't a struggle anymore... what he says makes a lot of sense. :)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hebrews 3:12-14

"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end."
Hebrews 3:12-14

This is a good scripture... so often we see others, or ourselves, challenging boundaries or losing the spirit... and this encourages us to exhort one another daily. I don't think it means “condemn” … just exhort. :) The first verse talks about being aware of your own spirituality, and where your heart is... is it embracing God, or is there something that is in the way? Doubts, fears, obstacles...? I think that is an introspective deal, and then the next verse... encourage each other to righteousness. It helps if we know how each other's souls are doing. :) It is easy to get hardened. We have moments of incredible clarity in our lives, and usually much longer moments of trial. We don't know the state of anyone else's soul... but if we talk about the gospel, if we encourage them in doing good, in being filled with light... then we are doing what we need to do. Some days I have a really hard time even remembering that God is there, and I feel really black... and someone comes along, reminding me that Satan’s reality isn't the only one to consider. We need to do that for each other sometimes. Sin is deceitful. It makes us think that reality is one way, all of it, everywhere... when what we see is just a tiny speck of reality. A quote I read when I was doing research on rural education says that when people get isolated and lonely sometimes they are "forced to seek safety rather than satisfaction" despite the fact that they claim the opposite. I thought that was interesting... that they feel the need to make a choice between those two things. Sometimes when we are feeling black, and get hardened and insensitive to the spirit... we feel like we have to make choices... either safety or satisfaction, either happiness or a clear conscience... so many hellish choices. But if we can shake of the blackness for a few hours, we see that we can have safety AND satisfaction... happiness AND a clear conscience. God isn't the one asking us to make those choices.... Satan is. Let's remind each other not to be deceived. And the last verse... consistency. :) That’s what it is all about, right? Getting the clarity every day... living well all the time... having confidence in God today, and tomorrow, and always. And I think that if we take this verse without the other two, it can seem overwhelming... I think it is impossible to have this confidence all the time, by ourselves. That’s why we have each other... as a reminder. We need each other to strengthen our confidence... to remind us of who we are, and how amazingly cool God is... that he deserves every bit of our confidence... because he is always there, always loving us, always working for our good... always listening, always answering. Always.

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