Thursday, August 25, 2011

3 Nephi 6:15

"Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world."
3 Nephi 6:15

I think this verse struck me today because it seems like a verse that could easily have been written about our day, rather than almost 2000 years ago. And kind of cool in a way to feel that connection to people in the past... that even though the world changes a lot, human frailties remain remarkably similar. This verse talks about one of the downfalls of an amazing society, and in order to prevent a similar downfall in our personal lives, this is a great warning. It is so easy to get prideful, to think that we're better than the next person... smarter, more talented, more funny, better looking, or better educated. Or maybe just more wealthy and powerful. Maybe we have more social influence, or maybe we're WAY better at Scrabble. :) And you know what... maybe we are better at some things than other people. But pride isn't really the ideal mental place to go when thinking about things like that. The fact that we all have different strengths and weaknesses gives us an amazing opportunity to share burdens in a better way, and also to help and teach each other. It is also good to remember that power, authority, and riches shouldn't be the focus of our lives. If we have those things more than other people, again, probably not an ideal pride situation. Better to take those things as an opportunity to help other people, to support them, and lift them, and protect them... rather than thinking that any of the differences in our lives are our due, or that we're naturally better than anyone else. Good to remember that we all have different weaknesses as well. Maybe we don't have as strong of a testimony, or maybe its hard to pay tithing or to fulfill our callings. Maybe we are really bad in social situations, or maybe we have addictions or desires that pull us away from the church. Perhaps we need those same people that we can beat at Scrabble to balance out some of our weaknesses with their strengths... to help us see where to step when our own weaknesses are blinding us. Today, let's work on being humble, and on learning together as a society, and avoiding stratification, exclusion, and pride.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Philippians 3:7-11 -- On Losing and Being Found

"But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
Philippians 3:7-11

Paul is amazing. Here he's talking about losing and winning, and how he lost everything that he thought he had at one point, because of Christ. I think this happens to us as well. God gives us challenges that seem amazingly devastating... like we're losing everything we care about, or part of our core being. And it is painful, and hard to understand. ... But perhaps, like Paul, when we are able to see the bigger picture, we'll see how worthless that lost path in life was to us, because we gained so much more than we ever lost.
I know I've experienced that in my life... and I love that Paul says that all of those things that he lost were "but dung," because compared to winning Christ, losing anything else pretty much seems that way. He's so hopeful here... showing all the amazing stuff that he has gained instead. ... Knowing someday even the parts of himself he's lost will be found in Christ, and knowing Christ personally... which makes up for all the things that we thought we knew before. :)
Because Paul was willing to lose everything for Christ, he actually gained everything... and looks forward to that resurrection day when we'll literally get our lives back. :)  I hope that we can feel the same way.  It's hard sometimes... losing things. Friends, houses, jobs, freedom, loved ones, futures that we were pretty much planning on... our sense of self, our mental capacity, our health, or hair, or eyesight... so many things that we don't want to give up or lose.  Let's remember today that all of it, every drop, is dung compared to what Christ will give us... just compared to knowing him.  Every choice we make that brings us closer to him is an overall gain, no matter what it feels like we've lost. It's definitely not always fun... but as we focus on Christ, and talk to him about our lives, we'll learn more, and understand more, and be able to overcome even the greatest challenges.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

3 Nephi 26:19

"And they taught, and did minister one to another; and they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly, one with another."
3 Nephi 26:19

I love third Nephi. :) It is so good to read about some people who actually triumphed over their obstacles and got it right... who were able to live in an ideal society for a while. :) Makes me think that maybe we can too... we can become people like this and work towards keeping it, like Enoch and his people did. And maybe this verse, which gives a little insight into how they lived, will help. I really love that they were teaching each other, and ministering to each other. It seems like a very equal society where people just pitched in to help each other and lift each other up. It doesn't say this specifically, but to me it feels like a really joyful place as well. Today, let's try this... let's try lifting up the people around us and putting smiles on their faces. Giving them as much joy as they can handle... helping each other, and living as though we'd met Christ in person, and thought he was a cool guy. :) These people did, and we have met him too, although we get more of the email experience rather than the face-to-face. It's still powerful, and it still matters just as much. :) Let's share that joy and that confidence in the future with other people.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Proverbs 27:6 -- On Being the Friend

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful."
Proverbs 27:6

This verse is interesting on several levels. I like the idea of friends supporting us and telling us the truth even when it hurts and helping us to be better people... of course, sometimes we enable the bad habits rather than encouraging the good, but it is a good ideal to work for, as we all learn together. :) And the other side seems true as well. Slimy is slimy, even when it seems really nice on the surface. And maybe that is what the verse is saying... the surface is only one level of love. Underneath, real love isn't about never hurting the other person or always being a certain definition of nice. It can't be. That deep love is about helping people to be better than they are... encouraging them to overcome problems and fulfill their potential. That's why God is our best friend in the universe... because he is here, every day, every minute, helping us to be better. When we get upset at him because he isn't granting us peace and contentment every minute, then we're the ones who are wrong, not him. We need that help in order to change.
On the other side, we need to work on all the levels of love, making sure that we are friends and not enemies. Sometimes it is hard, because actions and feelings don't always match up immediately even though we're working on it, and sometimes we're trying to act nice when we don't feel nice, or we're trying to be polite, but frustration leaks out and it doesn't come across in a good way at all. But I think that is what the second part of the verse is for... to give a limit. We shouldn't use this scripture as an excuse to wound someone, or we start being the enemy, not the friend. Anytime we intentionally go to hurt someone, I think we've gone over to the dark side, and we've gotten our good and evil out of balance too far to the dark. When we get into a situation where we can't tell whether we're the friend or the enemy, maybe we need to stop saying anything until we purify our motivations. God loves us perfectly, and we can feel that even when things are horrible... and for us, it needs to be the same with other people. Today, let's work on showing love to other people, and being friends and not enemies. :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

John 6:21

"Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went."
John 6:21

In the verses leading up to this, the disciples start across the sea toward Capernaum, and they get 25 or 30 furlongs out, and they see Christ walking on the sea, coming to meet them. Then this verse, which seems to make the miracle even more huge. They *immediately* were at the land where they were going. Not just walking on water, but seemingly... teleportation. And I think of this, and of Luke 25-26 which talks about making yourself taller, and how easy Christ says it is... and of Mount Zerin, and of the Three Nephites, who had their bodies changed to an immortal state where they wouldn't feel pain or even sorrow (3 Nephi 28)... and so so many other miracles we see in the Scriptures, and I wonder sometimes how we forget and think that anything in our lives is really an obstacle to God. Everything that he has in store for us... even only seen through these small glimpses in the scriptures... is amazing. Beyond amazing. Things that we only dream of and write stories about. Things that seem superhuman, but which are waiting for *us* someday... and I'm wondering if today we can remember that someday we are going be able to teleport... and walk on water, and be immortal... and buckle down and learn our lessons so we can GET THERE. :) It is all waiting for us, but we get stuck in some huge mental holes sometimes where we can't see it, or we imagine that heaven is going to be *boring* or that we don't want it or something. How crazy is that? I don't know about you, but I'm *totally* going to sign up for teleportation the first day. I guess I might have to take some prerequisites, like making myself taller and all, but still. :) ... In all seriousness though, today, let's take the black contacts out of our eyes and SEE what God has planned for our happiness. Let's try to take care of the things that are keeping us from that future... and keep turning pages towards the incredibly happy and cool life that is there waiting for us.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Romans 12:21

"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
Romans 12:21

This is great advice from God. Amazingly hard sometimes, but I think it changes the world... and ourselves... when we can do this. Sometimes it's like we're wearing blinders and we can only see one perspective. Someone says something snarky or downright mean to us, or something political, tempting us to jump into the political quagmire at school or work, or within our families, and that's all we can see. And even though we don't really like swimming in the quagmire, since it's all oily and icky and gross... we do it anyway, and we get in there and mudwrestle until we think we've made our point. Unfortunately, at that point, we're just as dirty as the next guy, and almost never have we accomplished anything except the expectation of another fight in the future. Here, God tells us basically not to jump in at all. Four verses before this he says "Recompense to no man evil for evil," and here he tells us the alternative. Instead of returning evil for evil, we can overcome evil with good. And it turns out so much better that way. Think about times when we've complained about something and instead of having a complaining session, someone has diverted it with a joke, or a positive comment about the same thing... helping us to see a different way of looking at it, or offering another, funnier thing to talk about. We can choose to take off those blinders and see another way. If there is a way to solve it, then we can choose that... and if there isn't, then we can accept God's will and try to learn something from the situation, even when it is just patience or how to see past whatever we're obsessing over. We can be kind in the face of cruelty, and we can be hopeful in the face of despair. Today, let's avoid the quagmire... and where possible, help other people see a less smelly and muddy way as well. :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

3 Nephi 18:25 -- On Commanding that None Should Go Away

"And ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me, that ye might feel and see; even so shall ye do unto the world; and whosoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation."
3 Nephi 18:25

This verse is from Christ's visit to the Nephites, and it struck me today I think because my mind is still on the whole Zion ideal. We're often way too exclusive in the way we treat people. We choose certain people to hang out with or to be our friends, and others we don't really care about... and sometimes, unfortunately, even though someone really wants to be around us, we drive them away, not wanting their company, or not valuing their friendship.

We don't just do this as individuals... we do it as institutions and as countries and as societies, deciding who is good enough and who isn't. And Christ is saying here that we shouldn't be like that. We should be inclusive, welcoming people, helping them, teaching them: giving people space to repent, helping them to find a good way.

As we build a Zion society, we can't afford to leave anyone behind. We're all part of it, and all types and kinds of people will be there. Today, let's reach inside and switch our social selves from exclusivity to inclusivity. Let's give time to people that we normally wouldn't. Let's worry less about our time and our minor-stress levels and more about how we're affecting other people. Who knows... maybe we'll learn something and stretch our comfort zones and our souls a little. :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Acts 11:18

"When they had heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."
Acts 11:18

I really like this verse. In this chapter and the one before, Peter is shown in a vision that he should help non-Jews to find the truth and baptize them into the church as well. When he comes back from converting a man called Cornelius, the other people in the church question him about Jewish traditions... why did you eat and hang out with those people when we shouldn't be doing things like that? And Peter rehearses what led him there... that Cornelius saw an angel, that a vision from God had told him specifically to do these things, etc. And this verse is where it is amazing. Instead of causing a rift in the church and causing people to doubt or leave... when they heard, they were happy about it, and glorified God, thankful that he was inviting not just them, but the entire world, to know the truth and work toward eternal life. ... I guess the reason that it hit me is that it seems like so often we *aren't* happy about things like that. We want to be special, and exclusive, and better... instead of welcoming everyone else in. It impresses me that these people saw the truth and the incredible goodness of God here rather than arguing and dissembling. I wonder if we can do the same. Today, let's do our best to be inclusive... to invite *everyone* to share the goodness and the blessings that we have. Let's help people reach towards God instead of deciding that some people aren't good enough, or don't deserve it. :)

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