Monday, March 26, 2012

Matthew 10:34

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword."
Matthew 10:34

This is interesting. I like how Christ addresses here what we probably all really want. Some peace. Less conflict and fewer obstacles to us seems to equal more happiness. But here it seems to say that Christ came to add more obstacles to our lives. How could that be? Doesn't he want us to be happy?
... And of course the answer is yes. He wants so much for us to be happy. I remember when I was in about third grade. I had to learn the multiplication tables, and I hated it. I could do the math... I just didn't do it well when pressured by time. I thought it was the stupidest thing ever, and I wanted to give up. Now if God, or even my mother, had decided to grant me peace right then, and saved me from timed multiplication skill tests, I would have accepted gratefully and happily never learned to do it. ... But they didn't grant me peace. Why? Because they loved me, and knew that I would need knowledge of how to succeed under pressure in the future.
It may seem like a silly comparison, but I think we are probably even a little less than third grade compared to God most of the time, and we often want peace for the same reasons... we want the obstacle gone so we don't have to learn hard things. And God, who loves us so much, allows the obstacles to remain because he knows that in order to become the people we have the potential to be... we need to learn these lessons. Today, let's not expect immediate peace or release from all the things that perplex us... let's get in there and learn all we can.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 100:15-16

"Therefore, let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly, and to the sanctification of the church.
For I will raise up unto myself a pure people, that will serve me in righteousness."
Doctrine and Covenants 100:15-16

I like that God comforts us. Life is difficult to deal with sometimes... for everyone, whatever our circumstances. God is there with us, comforting us even when we're upset about things that are probably very minor compared to things that some people have to suffer. It's cool that he can know us all, and have time for us all individually even in the middle of a world afflicted with starvation, natural disasters, and hatred.
In this verse, one of the ways that he is comforting us is reminding us that all things will work together for good... to the benefit of people who are walking with God, and to the benefit of God's kingdom. ... Important to clarify here that "good" doesn't always mean that we're going to be happy every moment, or that we're going to like or understand everything that happens. Just that, whatever it is, it is working together with everything else for our ultimate benefit. Looking back on our lives we can often see the reasons for things that we experienced as impediments or obstacles... those things worked together to bring us to a new place, or helped us find a new path. And it works now too, even though we don't have the perspective to look back on it yet. Whatever we're going through right now... that will help us, eventually.
Life is a purifying process for all of us, and we slowly, bit by bit, get rid of the bad parts of ourselves. Today, let's not despair if we hit an obstacle or life takes an unexpected turn. Let's keep level heads as best we can, and remember this is part of the process. God is helping us to improve, and banish the darkness from our lives.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hosea 6:1

"Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up."
Hosea 6:1

This verse in the scriptures is in a place where God is talking about Israel going astray, and how he isn't going to listen to them anymore... but eventually, when they repent, he will gather them. This applies to us for a lot of reasons. First, because we're children of Israel... either by blood or adoption when we accept the gospel. Second, because it isn't just the story of all of us as a people. It is the story of our individual lives. We all go astray and sin and make mistakes. We all have to at least occasionally apologize and do what we can to undo the harm that we've done. It's part of life. We're imperfect, and even though we typically don't walk into situations trying to tear them apart, sometimes we end up doing it anyway. And here, Hosea is encouraging all of us to return to the Lord... to listen to him, and to stay near him, and to undo that damage, and to change our ways. Stop lashing out in anger. Stop being rude just because it is easy or we're in a bad mood. We suffer for our mistakes... sometimes terribly, but the Lord will bind our wounds and help us start again.
I also love this verse because it shows us yet again God as a tender parent. Sometimes parents have to punish us in order to teach us... we have to suffer consequences in order to learn what it is okay to do and what isn't. But there is still deep love there, even during the punishment... parents don't give up their children for spilling the milk or punching a sibling. And it is the same with God. He loves us more than we can comprehend, and he knows us on an individual level. And although God knows that we need to suffer consequences in order to learn sometimes... he doesn't joy in our grief or our pain. He loves us, and wants us to learn the lesson and move on. Today... let us return to the Lord. We've suffered, but God will heal us. Better than we were before. :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

2 Nephi 32:9 -- On Praying Always

"But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul."
2 Nephi 32:9

This is cool, and I think it really shows us how much more we could be dedicating our lives to the Lord. It is easy to get into a separation of spiritual and "normal" life. We pray at home or at church, and then the rest of the time, we kind of shift all of that to the back of our minds... trying to remember and get that feeling back again later. In this verse though, God is showing us that we never have to lose that feeling. This is how we keep him with us always... by always talking to him. By having him be the first one we go to about everything. The first one that pops into our mind to talk to about whatever it is during our days. 

Can you imagine the difference in our lives if we actually did this? Prayed about *everything* that we did... dedicated our entire lives to the Lord with this level of detail? ... It would be amazing, and we would be better people. Maybe we can't get there overnight, but we can start. Let's take prayer more seriously today. Let's think of prayer before we talk it through with other people. Let's include God in everything we do today... and see if our days are more or less amazing than usual. :) I'm predicting more.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Daniel 3:15

"Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?"
Daniel 3:15

This is King Nebuchadnezzar speaking to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. And in this verse he's angry, and when he asks "who is that God that shall deliver you" he just means to say... I have the power to destroy you, so why would you choose to die by defying me? Luckily, later he has a change of heart when his question is answered, and he finds out what God will deliver them. I think that, like Nebuchadnezzar, we get kind of full of ourselves sometimes and think that we're more powerful than God. Or smarter than him, or whatever it is. We think that our ideas or our way of living our lives is better than his ideas or the way that he asks us to live. We think that there are times when it is okay to ignore what God says, or that he loves us enough to ignore the things that we are doing that are bad... so much justification and hedging. So much effort and blustering... and really, what we are saying is exactly what the king said. "Who is that God..." that will do anything to stop us? So, here's the deal. He won't stop us. Life isn't for the purpose of pleasing God, and he isn't going to use us like puppets and stand us up to bow to him, although I'm sure he could. Life is a blessing granted to *us* so that we have a chance to become more than we are... to grow and learn and find happiness. Happiness can't be forced. He will remind us, and talk to us, and help us. But we have to see it, and we have to want to change before he will help us do so... he's really big into that free agency stuff. :) Today, let's have the same change of heart that Nebuchadnezzar had... let's realize that God's way isn't something we want to fight against, but something that is there to save us. If we take God's hand, he will help us survive the fiery furnaces of our lives, and come out the other end better and happier.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Alma 33:4-9

"For he said: Thou art merciful, O God, for thou hast heard my prayer, even when I was in the wilderness; yea, thou wast merciful when I prayed concerning those who were mine enemies, and thou didst turn them to me.
Yea, O God, and thou wast merciful unto me when I did cry unto thee in my field; when I did cry unto thee in my prayer, and thou didst hear me.
And again, O God, when I did turn to my house thou didst hear me in my prayer.
And when I did turn unto my closet, O Lord, and prayed unto thee, thou didst hear me.
Yea, thou art merciful unto thy children when they cry unto thee, to be heard of thee and not of men, and thou wilt hear them.
Yea, O God, thou hast been merciful unto me, and heard my cries in the midst of thy congregations."
Alma 33:4-9

In these verses, Alma is talking to a group of people who are poor and have been cast out of their synagogues/churches because of their poverty. They say they can't worship God because of this... so he's quoting Zenos, and telling them that they can worship God wherever they are. I think this is a good lesson for us as well. Not to get us to skip church and think that is okay... but sometimes it is good to remember that God should be included in *every* day, not just once a week. And actually, not just included... but the center of our lives. When we're in the wilderness, when we're in our houses, when we're in our closets/tiny studio apartments, when we're in the middle of a crowd. ... We can always talk to God, and he will hear us. Prayer isn't just one-way... not just telling God the laundry list of things that we want. First of all, there is a lot more to say than that... but also, if we're in tune with the Spirit, we'll often get another side of the conversation. God wants to be included in our lives, and he wants to help us... but we have to put forth the effort in faith and take the time to pray. He won't force us. Today, let's include God in our lives, and work at putting him at the center of all that we do.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Isaiah 1:16-17 -- On Making a Difference

"Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."
Isaiah 1:16-17

God is amazing. :) At the beginning of the chapter he says "I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me." He knows that we've done evil things, and that we've suffered because of it... and then he asks "Why should you be stricken any more?" He's watched us suffer for our choices, but we just keep doing bad stuff, over and over again. And then this. God is truly our father, and he doesn't want to give up on us, despite our continual rebellion. He pleads with us to change, to do better... to not bring upon ourselves the natural consequences of evil actions. Throughout the scriptures, even when people get amazingly evil and they are just going to teach generations and generations to do more evil... he tries to save some. Noah from the flood... Lot from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah... Lehi, Mulek... always a remnant of people to try to build up a good people and a safe place to send more of his children... like the parable of the olive trees. And it applies not just to the whole earth, but to each of us as individuals. He pleads with us to be the people who stand up and make a difference... to be the few in the city of many who are still dedicated to him, who will be willing to change our ways and become better people. He loves us, and wants to spare us suffering. He wants to lead us to good, to joy... to better futures than we could imagine for ourselves. Today, let's be clean. Let's put away the evil in our lives and learn to do well. Let's be compassionate and help other people that need justice, mercy, support, guidance, and love. Let's be the people that make the difference for good.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ezekiel 18:25-27

"Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?
When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.
Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive."
Ezekiel 18:25-27

It is easy to think that God's ways are unfair or unequal... we're all different, and in this chapter, and sometimes in life, it can seem like we are suffering for someone else's mistakes. Or it can seem like we're suffering while trying to do good, and someone else is doing bad and is perfectly happy. And maybe we are, and they are. But as God mentions here, we're the ones who are unequal. :) God, in the end, is perfectly balanced... giving everyone a chance, and allowing people to make new choices and turn around. We're the ones who are often too quick to judgement, who compare our weaknesses to others' strengths, or laugh at others' weaknesses because of our strengths. God, who can see the whole picture, with a much better perspective than any of us can have even on our best days, will in the end, judge us all fairly, and we will see the justice and the mercy in it clearly. But in the meantime, we can't expect things to always be balanced while we're acting unbalanced. In general, life isn't fair... it isn't supposed to be. Part of the test is seeing what we can do with what we have, instead of waiting around for the wealth or the weaknesses or the tragedies to be redistributed. Will we be generous with what we have? That is a pertinent question no matter what else other people are doing with what they have. Will we love other people and help them out? That is important, no matter how other people are treating us. Let's trust God to make things right in the end... and today, let's stop worrying about whether God is unjust or unequal, and start focusing on how we're treating the people around us. :) Let's be nicer, and kinder, and more generous... and perhaps in the end, we'll become better able to stand in the day when we experience true equality.

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