Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Isaiah 61:3

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified."
Isaiah 61:3

This is another verse that shows how cool the Second Coming will be, rather than showing the destruction beforehand. So many times we worry in this life about injustice and unfairness and so many things that are just wrong with the world... people starving to death, people accused and punished for things they didn't do... murder, theft, sexual violence... poverty, homelessness. So many things that we live with as a society because we don't know or agree on how to stop them or fight them effectively. And here the Lord is basically saying that he will solve all of it... plus more. He's going to save us from the things that we did that were actually our fault as well. :) I love the "beauty for ashes" line. I imagine someone with nothing left, sitting in the ashes of something that she loved, or more symbolically her own ashes, and suddenly, like the phoenix, not only being made whole and able to survive, but also amazingly, stunningly beautiful. ... I think that is what the Lord does for all of us, and will do in the Last Days. Where we were just struggling for bare existence, the Lord will make us glorious. Trees of righteousness... :) Tall and strong and utterly good, belonging to the grove of God. Awesome symbolism here. Today, let's do everything we can to be those trees now. Let's repent, raise ourselves from the ashes of our sins... root ourselves in the Gospel, and raise our hearts and our whole selves to grow up to God.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Isaiah 55:12

"For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all of the trees of the field shall clap their hands."
Isaiah 55:12

Sometimes we get worried about the last days because of the war, destruction, and sorrow prophesied. Verses like this, though, help us remember that Christ's return comes to fix those things. :) The imagery here is amazing. Mountains and hills ... singing. :) Can you imagine? Awesome bass voices on those mountains, I'm certain. :) And trees, cheering for us. :) All this time, just watching, but then, in our day of triumph, clapping. :) I think it gives us a taste of what the whole world will be like at that point... happy... exultant. Maybe we get a taste of what it will be like in 3rd Nephi where things were bad, but then they suddenly get absolutely perfect, for generations. :) Today, let's not be scared of what God is planning. Things might get bad for a while, mostly because of the craziness that mankind rains down on itself. ... But in the end, God's plan for us is all about joy, and peace, and everything good. Let's stick to the plan, and look forward to the happy ending... with singing mountains. Awesome. :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Isaiah 51:12-13

"I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;
And forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?"
Isaiah 51:12-13

I think that we often put people before God. The things that we think about during the day, the things that keep us up at night... the things that preoccupy our minds when we're trying to do other things... people. :) And caring about other people is important... but letting them take over our minds might not be. :) It makes sense why... we're interacting with them all the time, sharing experiences, whether good or bad, and so they are things that we think about. But what if we interacted with God more often? Would he pop into our heads more often? Would we be able to feel the spirit rather than worry sometimes, or sleep through the night rather than staying awake worrying about an argument with a friend? We might be getting things backwards... the first commandment is to love God, and the *second* is to love other people as we love ourselves. :) God cares about us and has done so much for us... plus, all those things that we're worrying about? He can help us with them. Today, let's not let the fury of the oppressor into our hearts and minds by allowing ourselves to be distracted from God. Let's interact with God through prayer and through scripture study. If we're going to be preoccupied, let's be preoccupied with God... then all our other worries will be manageable. :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Philippians 4:11-13

"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
Philippians 4:11-13

Things come up in life that throw us for a loop sometimes... sometimes expected or anticipated changes, and sometimes out-of-the-blue changes. Both can be difficult, and here Paul tells us here that he has learned to be content through it all. :) Amazing. :)
I love the contrasts in the second verse ... basically saying, I'm okay no matter what happens. :) When things are going well, I know how to share my success with others, and when things are going badly, I know how to get help and still be able to serve others. I know how to be happy with my life the way it is, but also to plan improvements in myself and my life. I know how to have peace inside when things are crazy outside, and how to work towards a goal even when things seem stagnant. Basically, I can deal with anything... I'm a superhero. :)
And then in the last verse, he tells us how. He can do ANYTHING, because Christ is the one helping him, teaching him, and showing him that the vicissitudes of this life are not what matters... it is that inner happiness and peace we get from understanding God's plan, and learning to love God and other people. Today, let's learn from Paul--and from God. Let's learn to be superheroes as well. Let's work on the inner calm, and then we can start working on the flying around and saving people part. ;)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Isaiah 46:3-4 -- On Returning to God

"Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb:
And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you."
Isaiah 46:3-4

We are dependent upon God. I think that we so often mentally struggle with that concept... wanting to be super independent, thinking we can go it alone, or do fine making the choices that WE want to make, etc. And it is only in looking back that we realize how, even then, when we weren't listening to God, that he was still helping us out, trying to keep us going and in a position to be able to be saved from our often abysmally bad choices. It's kind of like many Earthly parents.  They let us have our little rebellions when we threaten to run away, and they wait and still help us out when we utterly fail and come back for a sandwich. :)

Of course, with God it is all on a grander scale, but running away accomplishes just about as much. We need God... and all those things that we want when we run away... things like freedom, happiness, peace... those are things that we can only get in any real quantities through God. Today, let's stop running away. Let's tell God what we really want, the reasons that we were looking elsewhere, and work it out with him. He wants so, so much for us to be happy, and he'll help us to get there. We can't always have the exact things, jobs, people, places, riches, or internet speeds that we want, but whatever God offers will lead us to greater peace, happiness, *and* freedom. It doesn't matter how long we've been gone. If we come home and ask for a sandwich, God will give us one. :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Isaiah 33:5-7

"The Lord is exalted; for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness.
And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure.
Behold, their valiant ones shall cry without: the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly."
Isaiah 33:5-7

These verses from Isaiah are talking about the last days, as Isaiah does a lot. I like the image here of wisdom and knowledge being central, and the source of stability. So many things happen, and so many things will happen, always, that we're tempted to react dramatically to... to panic, or stress, or worry, or something else extreme in our adrenaline-junkie lives. And God's answers are very very rarely laced with that kind of season-finale drama. In real life, staying calm is often our salvation, and keeping our heads and making wise long-term choices is going to be more and more important as the world becomes more and more short-sighted and interested only in the now. I include the last verse to show the difference of the way the world reacts. Even when the valiant ones and the ambassadors of peace weep, and possibly lose hope, the fear of the Lord should be our treasure. And God can be scary, and the things that will happen will be frightening, but I think when Isaiah talks about the fear of the Lord, he probably means healthy respect and faith, knowing that God is in charge... and fearing and respecting God more than we fear the choices that people are making. Today, let's take this lesson to heart, and keep our heads, and let wisdom and knowledge guide us. rather than fear. And whenever we do fear, let's turn that to God rather than overreacting to outside events. He's the one who can help.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Alma 24:30

"And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things."
Alma 24:30

This makes sense to me, but seems very sad. It makes sense because once you have known God, and have shut him out and chosen to walk away from him, it is very much easier to do the same in the future. You've found a way to deny or ignore the sun shining in your own soul... compartmentalized yourself somehow, so that you can do this thing that you want, while shutting down that part of yourself that is saying NO, please don't destroy yourself further. I think that all of us recognize that a little bit, since we're all reformed sinners to some extent, and have to keep watching ourselves and not slipping back into that chosen blindness. The sad part is that it makes us, when we're walking away from God, very much worse than people who've never known him. This verse in the Book of Mormon comes after the Sons of Mosiah convert a lot of Lamanites back to the light, and the non-believers come to kill them. ... And the Lamanites stop the slaughter when they see that they refuse to fight back... but the former Nephites, who had the truth and rejected it--in doing so also blocked off part of themselves that was able to show compassion or mercy on some level... and they continue to slaughter these hundreds of people who are just kneeling and praying, and not fighting back at all. It's also scary to think that anyone that has known what we know, and has known God through the scriptures and through prayer and had so many amazing experiences with Him... could walk away from that. That we could walk away and blind ourselves. Probably all of us have seen it happen. People who have had a testimony, who have told us spiritual stories... maybe even been on a mission... and then they fall away and seem to forget so much of what they once knew, and were certain of. Maybe it has even happened to us to some extent in the past. ... Today, let's make sure that isn't us. If there is any distance growing between ourselves and God, let's cross it and reconnect with God. Let's read the scriptures. Let's get on our knees and remember clearly all that the Lord has done for us. Let's take the time to listen to his pleas for our return, and do whatever it takes in our lives to come back to him.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1 Corinthians 7:22-23

"For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant.
Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men."
1 Corinthians 7:22-23

I like the juxtaposition here of freedom and bondage, and that we're all sort of both. Even if we're burdened with overwhelming obligations in this life, or limited or controlled in some way by others, we still serve the Lord through our own choice, and are never forced or coerced by God. At the same time, even if we have perfect freedom in this life and the resources to do whatever we want... we still have an obligation to God, who gave his life for us and made it possible for us to obtain eternal life and happiness. ... The cool thing about it all is that all he asks in return is for us to do the things in our lives that will allow us to take advantage of his gift... to learn how to be eternal, happy beings. :) Today, let's remember our freedom, and exercise it to the benefit of others. And let's also remember the price that Christ paid for our sins, and honor that by learning about him and doing his will.

Monday, January 9, 2012

1 Nephi 4:3

"Now behold ye know that this is true; and ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt? Let us go up; the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians."
1 Nephi 4:3

This is from the very beginning of the Book of Mormon where Lehi tells his sons to go back to Jerusalem and obtain the brass plates that God has told them to obtain for their journey. And they've already talked to Laban and offered a lot of gold and silver and other expensive items to Laban in return, and Laban has stolen all of their stuff and tried to kill them. And at this point, Laman and Lemuel are ready to go back to their father. They think that if they keep trying that Laban will succeed in killing them. When reading the story I think it is easy to see both sides. Afraid of being killed, and confident that God will make it happen since he asked them to do it. And in our lives I think that we often vacillate between these viewpoints as well: being afraid and being faithful.
Things don't always work out the way we want them to... maybe someone isn't trying to kill us, but we still wonder why there are so many obstacles in our way and why God isn't stepping in to make things better or easier. Just like Laman and Lemuel doubting even after they had seen an angel, we all have experiences in our lives where we absolutely know that God is there... and we gloss over those just as they did, when we're worried and scared.
Today, let's choose faithfulness over fear. We're all going to have challenges, and things aren't going to come easily. But God is still there, wanting us to learn and to succeed. Instead of doubting, let's remember Nephi, and keep trying to do God's will, even when it seems impossible.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Alma 17:2

"Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God."
Alma 17:2

I love this. Alma and the sons of Mosiah had been friends most of their lives. They started going around to destroy the church together, and then they were converted together. And Alma would have been happy to see them even if they had gone back to their old ways, but it added to his joy that they were still his brethren in the Lord... that they were doing so much good work for God, just as he was, dedicating himself to helping people change and come to God. And they could interact on a whole other level because they'd all been learning and studying and growing in the same direction. ... I think it is the same for us at different times in our lives, and probably will be in the afterlife. Being dedicated to God and the gospel opens us up to a whole level of happiness. :) Today, let's work towards that happiness, and those ultimate joyful reunions by learning more and opening ourselves up to the Scriptures and to our Heavenly Father. :) So much to learn... so much to enjoy. :)

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