Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Abraham 2:8

"My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee."
Abraham 2:8

This seems cool and comforting to me this morning... in mortality, we're stuck seeing things pretty much linearly, and it is hard to see why the NOW options are less good than the eternal options sometimes. We work on our perspective, remembering at least short term that getting into an argument might be satisfying and not hurt us today, but it will down the line if we want to have a good relationship with this friend, family member, or coworker... and so many other now/later choices. But no matter how much we get that perspective down, and remember to focus on the long-term, we're very limited in what we can discern. We're still in the middle chapters of our story, and it is hard to see the ending... but God knows the end from the beginning. He knows exactly how things turn out, and what will happen, and with that perspective, he can help us through even the darkest nights, the toughest challenges, and the seemingly hopeless obstacles that we run into during the current chapter. He knows already how we eventually break those bonds, or escape the prison, or defeat the monster. And he can help us now, when we don't see any way out of the chains. Today, even if life seems hopeless and impossible in some way, let's remember that our sight is limited, and God will always give us a way to find the answers. He loves us and wants us to triumph in our story.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

1 John 4:20-21 -- On Learning to Love

"If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also."
1 John 4:20-21

This scripture makes a good point. We strive to understand and love God through reading the scriptures, praying, going to church... we have to put forth effort to get to know him in this life, and to love him. Like any relationship. And that's good, and so important to everything... knowing him, and understanding his will in our lives. But sometimes we claim to love God without understanding what that means, and part of what is means is that we have to love each other... our brothers and sisters. And by brothers and sisters, not just our immediate families, but brothers and sisters in the sense of all of God's children.

As we strive to love God... to understand the immensity of that... we can't be satisfied with only loving our significant others, or our best friends. We can't be satisfied with only loving the people that are similar to us... those that share our faith, our race, or our nationality. All of the people on this Earth are our brothers and sisters. It's an immense concept, but an important one. How can we understand and love God without attempting to learn to love as he does? And he loves every single person on this earth. Even the ones we hate... or fear... or dismiss... or that annoy us in traffic. :) The ones who cheat us, or break laws. The ones that 'steal' our jobs, or who are on the other side of a war. God loves them. That person at work. That one relative... He loves them too. The people that we're scared of mugging us, or corrupting our children. The politicians, the used-car salesmen.

Today, let's try to expand our hearts a little, and to learn to love the people that we have a hard time loving. We're all sinners... we all fall short. And we all desperately need God's help. We've got that in common, if nothing else. :) Let's build on it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

3 Nephi 30:2

"Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel."
3 Nephi 30:2

You know, it is cool to me that God asks us to repent. He could just sit up there and let us end up wherever we wanted, and he knows that even the lower kingdoms are still going to be nice places to live... but for us, he wants more. He wants us to succeed more than we want to succeed. He wants us to rise beyond all of our mistakes and weaknesses, and become perfect... not a crazy dream, but an attainable goal, because God made it possible for us. Because of him, we can become better than we ever dreamed of becoming... because of him the sins in our pasts and even in our presents *don't* chain us to a less-than-perfect future. No matter what the score has been up to this point, we can still get an A out of life... still succeed, still grasp the ideal. And God wants us to... so no matter how dark it seems, or how unlikely it is that we will change for the better... we can, and will, if we let God into our lives. Our income and social status don't confine us. Our past doesn't define who we are. We are children of God, and he loves us and is working every second to save us from ourselves, and bring us home. Let’s accept his help. Believe in him, even when we can't believe in ourselves. Today, let’s retain some hope, and move forward. :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

2 Peter 1:9

"But he that lacketh these things in blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins."
2 Peter 1:9

So, this is a really interesting scripture. The part I find the most interesting today is the forgetting part. I think that we get down on ourselves sometimes because we look back on everything we've ever done wrong... and the older we get, the longer the list is. And once we have that list in front of us, it starts looking like we're not that great of people... in fact, reading the list, we might not even want to be friends with ourselves. Our standards are higher than that. :) The thing is, though, that we *have* been purged from our old sins. We've gone through the repentance process, we've renewed our covenants each week taking the sacrament. The old stuff is gone. If we have any new or unresolved stuff, okay... but let's throw that old list of everything we've ever done wrong away. God isn't judging us that way, and that isn't the way we should judge ourselves. Instead, let's focus on the things that we might be lacking (from previous verses): faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity.

It's possible... there is hope. Today is a new day, and even yesterday's list doesn't have to change who we are right now. If you were completely clean and a new person, what would you do today? ... Because guess what? We *are* new, and we get to choose who to be today all over again, no matter who we have been in the past. So people have expectations... by making new choices, we'll convince them to change those. Today, let's be great. :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Alma 38:14 -- On Comparison

"Do not say: O God, I thank thee that we are better than our brethren; but rather say: O Lord, forgive my unworthiness, and remember my brethren in mercy--yea, acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times."
Alma 38:14

This is tough. It is easy in our lives to compare... we want to see how we're doing, so we start comparing ourselves to others. In one area we might think, hey, we're not doing very well, and we need to do better, and in another we might think... wow. I am SO much better it isn't even funny. And maybe that's natural, but we could be missing the mark.

We aren't commanded to be better than the people around us... we're asked to be perfect: to emulate God. And by that measure, we're just not going to measure up... no matter how great we're doing. That is the point... and it isn't so that we can feel bad about ourselves at all. It is so that we can keep growing and progressing and not alienating other people that we could be helping, and that could be helping us. Even if we're ten times better than someone else in one area or in obeying one commandment, the likelihood is that the other person is at least 10 times better than we are in a different area or at obeying a different commandment.

We're in this together, and we're asked to become a Zion people, which isn't about competition, but about cooperation, and helping each other reach perfection. Together, we can work on becoming more like God when sometimes, individually, we're just not going to overcome that glaring flaw alone.

Today, let's work on not thinking that we're better than others, but on remembering how much work we have to do to become like God. ... And let's pray for others, and ask for their help, and help each other become better and reach farther than we can alone.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Romans 12:17

"Recompense no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men."
Romans 12:17

This seems difficult to me. When someone is treating you in a non-ideal way, it is hard not to return the favor. ... but I guess that is the thing. If we don’t try, then where does the cycle end? If we return evil for evil, then evil never stops. We have to be the barrier to evil, by taking it and letting it die right there. And I think that we would all like to be people who can choose to be kind and solve problems in a good way, no matter what external challenges we face. Christ always seemed to be able to do that. People would try to manipulate him into anger or saying something wrong, and no matter how they twisted things, he always knew the right thing to say, that would be not only be good, but that would help to teach the people around him as well. Perhaps it is the straight and narrow path ... in speech as with everything else. There is always something good to say, if we can only find it. :) There is always a way to respond to evil with good... somehow. God wouldn't give us this advice otherwise. :) The task is to find that one path amongst the other tempting paths of emotional, mental, or physical “revenge,” and to be able to be calm enough to control ourselves when we are tempted to respond in an evil way. The other part of the verse says to provide things honest in the sight of all men. To me that seems to take the principle a little further… offering not only a kind answer, but a kind self… a life that is free from secret resentments and bias… to not only act nice, but be nice, down deep, so you don't have to hide anything from anyone. Even if the media tried to dig up something on you, they wouldn't be able to find it. :) Wouldn't that feel good? To feel so clean and have such a clear conscience that no one anywhere could give you a guilt trip about anything? A difficult task, but a worthy goal. :) Though we might not be able to get there immediately, the more honestly we live, and the more we return kindness to everyone, no matter what they present us with, the closer we will be to that ideal… and to God. Today, despite the challenge, let’s work on taking whatever we are given and returning kindness, understanding, and love for all of it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

2 Nephi 31:20 -- On Hope

"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life."
2 Nephi 31:20

This is a great verse. Steadfastness in Christ, perfect brightness of hope, love of God and everyone, feasting upon the word, enduring to the end. These seem in this verse to be the ingredients for eternal life. Today the “perfect brightness of hope” stands out the most to me… not that the other ones aren’t part of the recipe, but just that one seems tough. Sometimes I think that we get caught up in the world and we see lots of the bad stuff that is going on and impacting us, but it is hard to see the good… it is hard to hope. A friend posted a quote the other day that said “It will all work out okay in the end. If it isn’t okay, it isn’t the end.” And that is pretty much true. God guarantees a good, happy ending to our story. Not to give too many spoilers, but … it is tough, and in some chapters you wonder if it will work out, but the hero overcomes all the obstacles, and prevails. So, let’s get back to our heroic quests. Let’s press forward, believing that Christ offers us a happy ending… and take him up on the offer, feasting upon the words of life. The only way to lose is to lose faith in the characters and stop turning the pages. Let’s endure to that happy ending.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Alma 36:9

"And he said unto me: If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God."
Alma 36:9

I think this shows how serious God is about our free agency in our own lives. The angel, instead of commanding Alma to repent, basically says, it is your choice... you can choose whatever you want for yourself, but you need to stop attacking the church. I'm not here to save you necessarily, but I am here to save them from you. ... and what a scary message that is. To go around dismissing and then actually warring against what your father has taught you all his life, and then one day to be reminded in an incredibly dramatic way that he has been right all along, and also that you're not in a very good position. It's a lot to take in all at once. ... and although seeing an angel is huge, maybe this kind of revelation happens to us as well, although in a smaller way. God shows us *all* where the lines are very clearly, and gives us a chance to turn around and change ourselves... to stop fighting against him, to stop the pointless and petty rebellions, or the outright defiance... to humble ourselves and start working to heal the wounds and the rifts that we've created. And it isn't very fun. Just as it wasn't fun for Alma to get struck down for three days, unable to talk or move. But even though it isn't fun... what an incredible blessing to him, and to each of us, that God cares about us enough to give us those serious warnings and reminders of who we need to be. Today, let's heed the warnings, and humble ourselves. Stop fighting against so many things, and accept God's will. It probably won't be fun, especially at first... but it will make an incredible difference in our lives, our relationships with the people around us, and in our relationship with God. And it will be fun, and happy, eventually. We just have to get over ourselves first. :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

3 Nephi 24:10

"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house; and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it."
3 Nephi 24:10

This is an amazing promise… for a direct and clear action, a blessing so immense that we won’t be able to soak it all up, because we just don’t have the capacity. And the Lord asks us to prove him in this… wow. Plus, isn’t it cool when we have a commandment that we can obey perfectly, and so clearly? We have so many other commandments where it is much harder to know when you’re doing them well, and that are harder to do in the first place. Today, let’s do it. Let’s prove the Lord. Let’s figure out our finances, write the check. Pay our tithing, and see what happens. I have absolutely no doubt that he will fulfill all his words, in this and everything else. And we can have the satisfaction of living one commandment perfectly… as well as anticipating a blessing that will be overwhelmingly good. :)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Matthew 6:24

"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
Matthew 6:24

Sometimes I think we try to live two lives… or more. Trying to put God at the center of our lives occasionally, and at other times switching something else in at the center… a person, a job, an addiction. Of course it helps our sanity to just be the one person, with one thing at our core. And God realizes that we try to split ourselves a lot, and that it is tearing us into pieces, and I think that is why he offers this verse, explaining that no matter how hard we struggle at it, we’re not going to be able to make it work. We can’t serve God and at the same time try to serve another overriding goal or agenda, or give in to Satan to any degree. God has to come first, and then things that fit in with God will come naturally (verse 33). Not because God is trying to be cruel or unfair… but just like the law of gravity… because that is the way it works. No other way... Nothing can take God’s place in our lives. Today, let’s look at our lives and see how many masters we are trying to serve. Maybe we can readjust our priorities today and keep God firmly at the center of our lives even when we would normally call in someone else. If the things that we let go are good for us, then they’ll be back in our new God-centric lives, even if they are a lesser priority. And if they aren’t good for us, then they’ll fall out of our lives. ...It’s scary, and risky emotionally, to let go of the other things that we want to hold onto that tightly. But it’s also a good way to not tear ourselves apart.

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