Monday, November 30, 2009

Revelation 22:11-12

"He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be."
Revelation 22:11-12

This is interesting stuff. Scary in some ways, because I think that we sometimes imagine heaven as a place where things are suddenly perfect, and want things to be that way… someday, no matter what, to have everything changed so that it is idyllic and beautiful, and we are suddenly much better than we now are. And don’t get me wrong… I think that the afterlife will move us to a whole new level and we’ll understand and see things that are way beyond what we’ve seen here. But some things won’t change… just like Mormon 9:14 and Alma 41:13-15… this scripture tells us that what we are—what we have learned to be in this life—is what will be restored to us. That every man will receive, afterward in the next life, “according as his work shall be” in this life. Unfortunately, we won’t suddenly be happy if we’ve been unhappy all our lives. And we won’t be suddenly clean if we’ve remained in our sins and never repented all our lives. Being happy and clean… and just, and holy… and all that we are inside… those are things we have to learn here. And it does take some effort and time to learn to choose our emotions… to find joy in the midst of pain… to be just and kind to people who have been unjust and unkind to us… so many things to learn. And so perhaps, today, one of the things that we should be thankful for is being here and having the chance to keep learning and growing and finding ways to improve ourselves. So that when our bodies are restored to us in the resurrection… suddenly perfect and free of all blemish… that we’ll have souls to match. Let’s work today on being clean, and on being good to the people around us. Having clean goodness restored to us sounds pretty good. :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Zechariah 14:8

"And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be."
Zechariah 14:8

This is interesting. In the scriptures there are many references to living water(s), and most of them seem to be figurative--symbolic of the love of God, or the phrase seems to be sometimes actually synonymous with Christ (Jeremiah 17:3 for instance). Only a couple of verses seem to be literal, like this one. And it still could be symbolic... Christ's love flowing out in all directions, in all seasons... or perhaps the spread of the gospel. Which is very cool, of course. :) This just seems to refer to something literal happening, with the use of "sea" and "half" ... how do you split the love of God, or Christ, in half? Could be missionary work perhaps... but it could also mean more things than the love of God, like any good literature with many meanings bound up in a phrase, and new things to learn at every reading. And perhaps the love of God can be something tangible. The other verses about living water are interesting in that respect as well. ... I kind of like the idea of love being tangible. I think it sometimes feels like that. Something that you can drink in, bask in. Something you can feel palpably flowing, as water. I think we feel the spirit that way sometimes... feels as though we can breathe it in and let it fill us up. I don't know the answer to this verse about the last days, and I'm sure that the answer is just a curiosity, and we'll all find out in the end... but perhaps the idea of God's love being something tangible that we can feel in more ways than one is a good one to take with us today. We feel more confident and solid, and it is much easier to treat others with love and kindness when we ourselves feel loved. Let's talk to God today and let his love envelop us physically. And then let's share the peace and confidence that brings us with others in the way we treat them.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jeremiah 31:33-34

"But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Jeremiah 31:33-34

This is amazing stuff. I love Jeremiah because he wrote so long ago, but he wrote about our day... and it is amazing to hear these prophecies in Old Testament language, about us, and about things that are happening now. These verses are cool because it talks about a time that is yet to come when God will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and our knowledge of God will be first hand, and internalized to such an extent that we won't have to teach each other... because it will be so clear and so obvious to us all. I think that is amazing... can you imagine living in a community like that? Where God and his laws are a given... I imagine how much more we can learn when we're no longer arguing about those basics. And how amazing it would be to live among people who follow God's laws as part of themselves... who never think of cheating you or harming you... where people truly love each other consistently. :) I look forward to that day, and perhaps we can work on having a little bit of it today, by internalizing our relationship with God... including him in everything we do today. If we keep it up enough, it will become second nature to us, and God will be the first person we think of and the first person we go to when *anything* happens. Let's try it, and get a glimpse of perfection. :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Micah 3:6

"Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them."
Micah 3:6

This scripture is to the prophets and priests that are teaching and predicting the future for money... and it struck me today because of the extreme bleakness of the whole thing. "night shall be unto you" is pretty stark. And God is basically saying... I won't talk to you. The heavens will be closed. You won't see or predict a thing, because you'll be in the dark, and unable to see anything, let alone the future... because you're doing all of this for money or for power rather than for me. ... definitely some mistakes I don't want to make, and anything that brings a scripture like this down on my head I would prefer to stay far away from. But even for those of us who aren't priests or prophets, I think it still applies in a way. I think it reminds us how careful we need to be with the power and the authority that God has given us... and we all have some, maybe a little, or maybe a lot. But when any of us misuse that power that he grants us and start using it for selfish gain rather than genuinely helping the people around us... then it shall be dark unto us as well. Night shall be unto us... unless we walk in the light, in the day, and do what we can to fulfill our responsibilities and use our blessings for good. :) God won't allow us to use his gifts for evil for very long, and our lives will get darker and darker. ... So today, let's remember to avoid the shadows, and walk in the light... helping other people and keeping our souls out of the darkness. :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Doctrine and Covenants 101:4

"Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son."
Doctrine and Covenants 101:4

This reminds me of something that Joseph Smith once said... "from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things" (Lectures on Faith 6:7). It seems that sacrifice is a part of learning who we are. Abraham faced a horrible choice... between his God and his son. Not that any of us really want to be torn like that... but until we face a similar choice, will we really know where our priorities are? until we face *and* overcome such a choice, will we ever learn confidence in the presence of God? We all have something in our lives that is so important to us that it rivals God in our affections... and facing a choice between severing our connection with God and severing our connection with that most important thing is difficult... more difficult than anything else we have yet experienced. Part of building our relationship with God is putting him first, recognizing and respecting his proper place in our lives. As we do this, we improve ourselves, and our confidence and ability in choosing good. God sent Abraham a ram to sacrifice instead of his son, showing us that it is the priority and the willingness to put God first that matters. If our other affections are bad for us... addictions, obsessions, whatever, then no ram will appear. Some things need to fall out of our lives. And the good things we are meant to have will fall into their proper places, after God. ... Even when no ram appears, it doesn't mean that God is trying to remove all joy from our lives. Only that God knows best, and doing it his way will work out better in the end than the way we wanted it to work out. When we lose something good sometimes we don't understand why until much, much later... but I suppose that is part of the point. God knows why, and part of learning to sacrifice is learning to trust that. Things will be well in the end, if we can learn to love and trust him and do as he asks.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

2 Peter 2:19

"While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage."
2 Peter 2:19

The scriptures relate sin and slavery to one another frequently, and I think that it is interesting, since we so often look at obedience to God as limiting, or as bondage. Interesting to think about... that obedience brings freedom and rebellion brings slavery. :)
I think it is kind of like taking a class. We enroll in American Literature 101 and find it stifling. We hate the books that we are assigned to read and hate attending class and listening to the boring lectures. We have freedom... we can skip class, read comic books instead of the assigned reading, and eat pizza with our friends when the rest of the class is having a study group. Absolute freedom... except, if we are English majors, all that freedom has gotten us into a lot of trouble. To have the freedom to graduate, we have to pass the class. We have the freedom to choose a different major... but eventually, to graduate, we will have to attend classes, participate in discussions, and pass classes. To have the freedom of taking graduate courses, we first have to get an undergraduate degree. To learn Shakespeare, we have to actually read it. If we reject all of our options in college, pretty soon we have limited choices. If we've always wanted to be professors, we probably won't enjoy our options at this point. It's like slavery... we are tied to a future that we don't want. And the only way back to our ideal future is to re-enroll and take the classes. When we are dead-set on hating college, then this scenario seems desperate and hopeless... but what we sometimes fail to realize is that we also have the freedom to choose to love the journey. The classes can be intriguing, despite the instructor. We can find joy in what we are studying, and learning can be exciting... and when we do pass the classes and get the degree, then there are so many more possibilities open to us than there were before. We have gained freedom that we never would have had otherwise... freedom to be what we have always dreamed of being. Life is like that... and although I know that we don't all want to be English professors, what we DO want to be can be found through God. He can make us more than we could ever be otherwise... and he teaches us more and more, and with every lesson, we gain new freedoms... new possibilities. When we reject God, or reject learning the lessons that he offers us, then we are effectively limiting our choices.... limiting who we can become and what we can do with our lives... and eternities. When we are in the middle of a desert we have freedom to walk in any direction at all... but if we don't walk towards the oasis, then eventually we will run out of choices. God is that oasis... water to soothe our parched throats, and to fill us to overflowing so that we can complete our journey. Let us remember today where freedom lies, and not go wandering out in the desert just because the oasis is so limiting.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2 Kings 6:15-17 -- On Seeing the Hope

"And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."
2 Kings 6:15-17

The servant in this scripture was understandably worried when he saw an army surrounding them, and no way out... but he couldn't see the whole picture, and that God was protecting them and fighting for them in unseen ways.

I believe the same to be true for us. We have a hard time seeing the invisible, but very tangible, hope because we are focused on the hordes of difficulties that surround us and that are quite apparent. But, just like the servant, we aren't seeing the whole picture, and we have to rely on God's knowledge and his strength in order to continue to have hope and to triumph against (seemingly) impossible odds.

Today, let's remember that God is on our side, and even if we can't see it, there is *always* a way to overcome our problems and triumph over despair.

Monday, November 2, 2009

John 10:33-36 -- On Being the Children of God

"The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?"
John 10:33-36

I think that this doctrine is amazing. We are children of God, and we have the potential to be like him. Not the guarantee, since we can always rebel and destroy ourselves. We have that option as well, but we are seeds of the divine, and we can grow up into that divine potential, just like any other child can become like his father. Not anything that we can accomplish in this life, of course.  It will probably be eons before we are even out of figurative kindergarten, but even so, it is hard for many to accept. I had a student come and tell me this fact about Mormonism once... he thought I probably didn't know, and wanted to save me from the secrets of the leaders of the church. But it isn't secret, it is all through the scriptures. I think it makes the world make a lot more sense... and shows us one of the reasons that we are here in this life.

God loves us and has our best interests at heart, always. God wants to save even the people who have become so steeped in sin that they can't remember what purity is. God loves us all, equally. ...Why? Because he is our Father. Our symbolic *and* literal Father, and we are here to learn and to grow and to discover things about ourselves that we couldn't if we didn't have the opportunities that we have here. We are worthwhile, and have goodness in us, even when we make bad choices. ...Why? Because we are His children, and we are here to learn what it is to be mortal, to have a body, to learn to love others even when it is difficult.

ALL of us are God's children, not just our friends or the people we like, or the people in one church... everyone. Let's remember that today. Remember the divine potential in ourselves, and that we can triumph over any test we're given in this life... and also that the people around us have that divine potential too, and our our brothers and sisters. Let's strive to treat them that way. :)

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