Tuesday, July 27, 2010

1 Nephi 15:24 -- On Avoiding Blindness

"And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction."
1 Nephi 15:24

I've read this verse many times, but it never really stood out to me before. This is Nephi explaining to his brothers the meaning of their father's (Lehi's) dream, specifically what the rod of iron means. The part I find the most fascinating here is "overpower them unto blindness." ... It's so interesting to think of what Satan does as that. An attempt to blind us... and blind us to what? Reality. He wants to draw us into his perspective, to see the world from a competitive point of view. To choose the great and spacious building over the tree of life, mockery over love. And he tries to get us to see things that way... to label or exclude people because of belief or bias... to see ourselves as somehow better than others. It's a big temptation... but the verse says that the word of God can save us from those temptations... those fiery darts, and that blindness that will lead us to destruction. And also that if we hold on to the rod we'll never perish... I'm guessing spiritually. Today, maybe we can work on holding fast to that idea... reading and absorbing the words of God, and remembering that God wants us to love, not mock. To build Zion... that perfect society where there is no poverty, no inequality, no exclusion... we're going to have to learn how God loves, and a whole new way of seeing people. We can only get that from the fruit of the tree, from learning love, not mockery. :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2 Nephi 29:7

"Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?"
2 Nephi 29:7

This is a good reminder today that God cares about everyone, not just the people in one country or on one continent. It's a verse leading into a discussion of why it makes sense for there to be more writings than just the Bible and why God continues to talk to us. Which is a good point. :) God wants everyone to know what he has to say, because he loves us all. I think that helps us remember not just that God talks to all of us, but that we are still brothers and sisters across the continents. We aren't "stealing" jobs from each other, or better or worse than one another, or more or less worthy of compassion. There are an awful lot of people on this earth, and we're *all* part of building an ideal society, not just the people in one area or racial or ethnic or gender or even religious group. We need one another. Zion isn't about building walls to keep out the "undesirables"... it's about inclusion and acceptance, and finding a place for everyone. Taking care of each other. It's tough sometimes, because it is hard to understand people who are different than we are in fundamental ways... if they believe differently, or live differently, or if they don't share some of our core values. Today, let's look around us, and inside ourselves, for those barriers we have to other people, and try to reach beyond them. Let's pray, and learn, and find out why God loves that person, and we'll be at least halfway to experiencing that love ourselves.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Matthew 14:28-31 -- On Doubt and Sustained Effort

"And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"
Matthew 14:28-31

In reading this story, I think that we all have a little Peter in us. We see something new and amazing and we want to be able to do it as well. And so we ask, and we try, and we get a taste of success. And that is *amazing* and *stupendous* ... and proves that we can really be in tune with God and participate in miraculous things. ...But then we stop. We look around, and realize that what we're doing is impossible, or difficult, or that it has to be sustained, and we can't just get the trophy and sit back on that high for the rest of our lives. It's basically the same story as Lehi's dream, or the story of Oliver trying to translate the plates. We start to do something cool, we start going in the right direction, and prove we can do it... but then we stop and realize that it's tough. That we have to follow through. And, like in Lehi's dream, a lot of us are tempted to wander off into easier paths... even after we've tasted of that perfection. It's probably about some more mundane miracles as well. Prayer. Actually feeling a connection and communication with God... that is amazing and SO important and impactful in our lives. ... and yet, we let that slide sometimes, and can even regress to the point of wondering if scripture study and prayer are doing any good. :) So like Peter. Starting out strong, believing, experiencing... seeing the *proof* ... and then wimping out. Not that Peter was a wimp. He was probably the only one with strong enough faith to climb out of the boat. Just that we so often reach the incredible and then turn back to the mundane... the safe. Where we don't have to stretch ourselves or work harder to become more and more. We get to a point and say, there, whew. I'm good enough. ... but that is never true. We can't stop praying, or reading our scriptures, or living. :) Today, let's tune in to God, rekindle that faith, and continue the good, amazing things that we've started.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ezekiel 14:22-23

"Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it.
And they shall comfort you, when ye see their ways and their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord God."
Ezekiel 14:22-23

I like these verses because it is often hard to see the reasons. Why does God allow Jerusalem to be destroyed is the question that is being addressed here, but it applies to the questions that we have about a lot of the things that go on around us... why does anything bad happen? Why do corrupt and cruel people seem to prosper... how can the bad guys be allowed to triumph over the innocent? And it is true that this life is a test... that we need to have freedom of choice which means being confronted by good *and* evil choices... a world where evil gets wiped out immediately wouldn't really offer that. But I think that these verses go further. God is saying in essence, wait and look at the results of this destruction. Look at who is left, and their ways and their doings... you will be comforted and you will notice that there is a reason. Maybe it is because these people that are left are the ones who will build a better world. Maybe it's the same reason that Laban had to die. He wasn't going to build up a new people and share the records with them, and Nephi was. Or the parable of the olive trees... sometimes the Lord of the Vineyard has to cut away old corrupt branches to allow the new to grow, but slowly, so the tree isn't destroyed and the roots lost. ... God can see so much more than we can. So much farther. And yes, in the near-term single-perspective vision that we find ourselves peering out from a lot, things look really really bad sometimes, and cruel, and we almost want to give up on humanity and the world completely. And I'm not saying things aren't bad... but perhaps there is more hope there then we know. God is in charge, and even though he doesn't work on our personal timetable, and we don't always see the reasons right away... there are reasons, and there is hope. Today, let's work on seeing the hope and the possibilities... to find the way to effect change in the world around us rather than just giving in to despair.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

1 John 2:9-11

"He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes."
1 John 2:9-11

I think that this is a really good example of how we blind ourselves sometimes. We can be praying, reading our scriptures... attending church... and think that we are doing pretty well. And maybe we love people a lot… the people in our families, the people we go to church with… the people that agree with us about things. :) And maybe some of those “other” people really annoy us. Maybe they aren’t from our country, or race, or religion… maybe they are sinning in a way that we would never be tempted to sin. Maybe they just don’t agree with us about this or that political issue. Whoever “they” are, and whatever their actions or our beliefs about them, if we have hatred in our hearts, then we're really sabotaging our own efforts to walk in the light. And, really... we aren't seeing reality. If we could see into the souls of the people we dislike, do you think that any of them would be unlovable? Every person on this earth has something good inside. Something good to offer. And everyone (even us) has something bad inside too... something they need to clean out of themselves. If we focus on the bad parts, then we'll never have good relationships with anyone we place in that “other” category. If we focus on the good parts, then we can learn from anyone, and help them as well. Today, maybe we can catch ourselves when we’re saying anything negative about anyone, and try to remember that even THAT person, in whatever group or country, is worth something to God. We’re brothers and sisters… even with that person we can’t stand, or that group we’re fighting against philosophically. We're all in this together... this test of life. If we help each other, maybe we'll do better on the test then we could do individually. And... maybe it is *part* of the test. :) So, let’s not darken ourselves with hatred, and stumble... but see clearly in the light of love.

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