Monday, April 30, 2012

Malachi 3:13-16

"Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?
Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?
And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.
Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name."
Malachi 3:13-16

This is interesting, and a common complaint I think.  As we live good lives, we start expecting blessings, and when we get more trials instead, or see people who aren't trying as hard as we are doing just as well, or much, much better, one one level it can be hard to understand why we're doing what we're doing.  And in these verses God hears and responds to those types of complaints.  In the end, the difference between the righteous and the wicked will be very clear.
On another level, of course, trials are what build us and help us... so trials are a kind of blessing, even though it is hard to see it that way while we're in it.  And God loves that other person who seems to be prospering just as well as he loves us.  Learning to be happy for other people rather than jealous and covetous is probably an important thing that we all need to learn.  We can't see into other people's lives from the outside.  We don't know what they are going through or what they are working on.  All tough things.
I think the biggest thing that I got out of this verse this morning was pride... we call the proud happy.  In the next chapter God reinforces these verses by saying "all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble."  It is an awesome thing to be confident in the blessings that God has waiting for the righteous.  ... But let's also make sure that we aren't the proud ones that he is talking about. :)  Today, let's be humble.  Let's accept what God has in store for us, and what he has in store for other people.  And as we learn to accept and learn from our trials, then we'll grow more confident in future promised blessings.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Malachi 2:9-10

"Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as you have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.
Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?"
Malachi 2:9-10

This is interesting, and something that I think that we do a lot.  We are partial in the way that we interpret God's laws.  Often we forget that everyone in the world is part of the plan, and a child of God.  We read or watch news stories which are obviously biased against one group or another, and everyone accepts it because it's okay to hate "those people" that are nothing like us.  ... Except of course, it isn't okay at all.  Maybe they are in a different country, and not saying patriotism is bad... it is good to be dedicated to where we live and try to make it better.  But if we let nationalism blind us to the unity of all people, then we're losing part of what God is trying to say.  Similarly, people of other religions, people of other races, and people who sin in specific ways that we don't like... even those people are our brothers and sisters, and part of God's plan and laws.  When God asks us to love our neighbors, we're tempted to interpret as just our families, or just our next-door neighbors, but God teaches us very clearly that he means everyone.
Today, let's work on being impartial.  It's tough.  We're all bad at it in different ways... but perhaps we can look at the news story a little differently today.  We can look at the people we interact with a little differently.  If we think of a group today that we "just hate" ... maybe we can work on trying to understand their challenges a little better and imagine how God would help them if he were here.  He loves us all... let's work on loving each other, no matter how disparate.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Zechariah 9:12 -- On Prisoners of Hope

"Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee;"
Zechariah 9:12

"Prisoners of hope" is a cool and interesting line.  I was trying to figure it out this morning, and I am thinking that we become prisoners of hope sometimes when we are hoping for something that doesn't happen for a very long time.  Being a prisoner to something isn't necessarily bad here... I think it might just mean that it rules our lives, and we live by it.  ... Which is good.  If we're slaves or prisoners of anyone, we are of God... but by choice, not compulsion.

This verse is in a long series of verses talking about the coming of the Messiah, so the word hope here seems attached to that... hope in God, that he will come and fulfill all his promises.  He has fulfilled some, and will fulfill the rest... basically granting us all that we have hoped for.  Meanwhile we wait.  And sometimes waiting is hard.  We see wickedness around us, and injustice, and so many things that are wrong, and we wonder how long God will let it happen, waiting for that day when God will make everything right.  And it isn't bad at all to hope for that, but if we really are prisoners of hope, then let's act like it... let's live by that hope, and help it come to pass.  Let's make the world better, and serve that hope every day until we are blessed to see its fulfillment. 

Today, let's be prisoners of hope, trapped in looking forward to that love and peace and world-uniting influence that Christ will bring.  And maybe while we're waiting, we could do some uniting of our own.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Omni 1:26

"And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption.  Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved."
Omni 1:26

Sometimes we think that we can't be saved.  That we haven't done enough... that we aren't good enough.  That what God asks is beyond our abilities.  And it is.  But we forget that God makes up for our imperfections... that he fills in the blank space between what we are and what we should be.  That he blesses us with ability and strength to accomplish whatever he asks in this life.  This doesn't mean that we can stop trying and God will automatically make everything perfect.  We'll still be eternally who we've learned to be on Earth.  But it does mean that if we give what we have, it will be enough.  In this verse Amaleki tells us to offer our whole souls to God.  And reading that can be overwhelming too... we have to give up our souls?  But it's actually just what I've been saying.  If we give everything we have, God makes up the difference.  And we aren't selling our souls and becoming scary evil automatons... we're basically laying down our wills to God and telling him that we know he is wiser than we are, and that we know that living by what he asks us to do will be better for us than living the way we often prefer over him.  Which we already know... which is everywhere else in the gospel. :)  I guess we could look at it another way too.  What would we give for eternal salvation?  Anything?  Everything?  If so, then let's live up to that.  Today, let's tell God that we're willing to do his will and let go of our own.  And let's remember to have hope.  Salvation is still possible for us all, no matter where we are right now.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Enos 1:27

"And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest. And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father. Amen."
Enos 1:27

Enos, here, is talking about getting old and dying soon.  And today it struck me as such a peaceful and almost triumphant time for him, when for us, standing on the other side and watching someone die, it seems like such a tragedy.  And maybe it is sometimes, in some ways... but the idea of death being an entrance into another life, into rest and reunion with God... and looking forward to the judgement day rather than fearing it... I read this from Enos, and I know that I want my death to be like that.  So, how do we live today so that at the end of our lives we can feel like that?  In the verse previous to this, part of what Enos says is that he has rejoiced in the truth that is in Christ above that of the world.  I love that... and I wonder how often we rejoice in, or even present that truth to other people.  Is God enough a part of us that the people around us know who we are in relation to him?  Is our religion part of who we are?  Is it the most important part?  Do we put God off because we are busy with other things, or do we put other things off because we are busy with God?  Today, let's work on making God our top priority in life... and maybe we'll be able to look forward to the same amazing entrance to the afterlife that Enos had. :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Zechariah 7:9-10 -- On True Judgment

"Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:
And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart."
Zechariah 7:9-10

I love "true judgment" in the first verse.  Usually when we judge, we do it pretty selfishly.  We label someone or decide that people aren't worth our time because of something about them or something they've done, or often just because they aren't like we are in some way. 

I don't think that true judgment is like that.  True judgment probably takes into account ourselves and other people's circumstances, and sees us as we actually all are: Imperfect, and in need of help from each other.  Part of that true judgment is to show mercy and compassion to the people around us, to not oppress people who already are oppressed by circumstance, and to never imagine evil against others.  Sounds like it makes sense, right?  But how often do we actually live up to that?

Individually, we probably need to watch our thoughts more, and make sure they are loving and not revenge fantasies. :)  But also, we can help strangers, the poor, widows, and the fatherless when we encounter them.  We can also do more as members of our society to contribute less to the oppression or suppression of others. Today, let's remember that compassion is part of true judgment, and work at showing it to others.  And, on the other side, let's make sure we aren't participating in the oppression of anyone.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jacob 6:12

"O be wise; what can I say more?"
Jacob 6:12

Sometimes you come across verses where so much is packed into one statement.  Things that the Savior said while on the earth are often like that.  There are books full of scriptures to read, but he just sums it up with one statement. :)  Here, it is similar.  Even though Jacob does go on explaining after this, I come away with the feeling that if we would just wake up and see things as they really are, we could extrapolate the rest.  And I think a lot of the gospel is like that... obvious, and logical... but we don't always see it clearly, so we need some extra instructions.  I think it would be awesome if we all could function with the short version.  The 10 commandments instead of the detailed process of living every day.  The "Love thy neighbor" and the "Do unto others" instead of us trying to justify how those don't apply to this or that person or in this or that circumstance.  Of course, we're still children in the gospel, and sometimes we need help learning to love, learning to be kind, and learning to just do the basics.  It's okay that we're not superheroes of the gospel yet... but today, let's try to lift ourselves a little higher anyway.  Let's work on being wise, making good choices, and listening to the spirit.  Definitely a good start. :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mormon 9:13-14

"And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall come forth, both small and great, and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from this eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death.
And then cometh the judgment of the Holy One upon them; and then cometh the time that he that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still."
Mormon 9:13-14

These verses are talking about resurrection and judgement.  I think the whole idea of resurrection is awesome... that we'll all live again, and we don't have to be frightened of an endless nothingness after this life.  It also seems like a great equalizer.  No matter who you were in this life, you stand before God with everyone else.  Then, interestingly, the judgment, which seems to reflect what we have become.  If we've been filthy, we'll still be filthy.  If we've been happy, we'll still be happy.  Which is so foreign to the way that we live life sometimes.  Often we look forward to whatever it is that we want and we think... hey, if I get that, then I'll be happy.  Or, if this happens, then things will be good.  Or we think of heaven as a place where everything will be washed away and we'll suddenly be clean and good and perfect, even if we haven't been before.  I think that this verse tells us that we have to focus a little more, because God isn't going to make us into something we've never been and never wanted to be.  If we want to be happy after the judgement, we need to learn how to be happy now.  If we want to be clean and pure in eternity, we need to learn how to get there the way our lives are now.  ... It's scary in some ways, because there are a lot of things that we don't want to have to deal with, and it is easier to think that God will wave his magic wand and make us into something we're not.  And I wouldn't discount that entirely.  It might not be a wand, but God will help us... he can assist us and change our hearts, and grant us some motivation, and help us through the hard parts.  What he won't do is do all of it for us... because then we'll never learn to do it on our own... which we're going to apparently need later. :)  Today, let's all imagine that we're wearing ETERNITY IS NOW T-shirts, and act accordingly. :)  What we learn now will stick with us... so let's learn to be who we want to be forever.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

1 John 2:10-11

"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 2:10-11

A good thing to remember today.  When we hate other people, we darken ourselves.  We remove ourselves from God's influence, and we get lost and don't know where we're going.  Other people are part of our salvation... part of our success.  It isn't always easy to be patient and kind with people... to see people as our neighbors rather than rivals or enemies... to include people rather than excluding them, but part of our task in this life is to learn to love as God does... and he loves everyone.  The immensity of everyone is something to consider.  Even that "one" person that is always mean to us, or to someone we care about.  Even that foreign person, that immigrant, or that person that is ruining something for us.  Even that person that we just can't relate to or understand.  Let's think about it today... when God asks us to love our neighbors, there are no exceptions.
Today, as we navigate the relationships and attendant politics of whatever life has thrown at us, let's work on remembering that the most important thing is love.  Let's try to love, no matter whether other people are trying to love us or not.  Let's behave towards everyone as though we were encountering or communicating with Christ... that's how he wants us to live, and how he wants us to treat people.  Let's find a way.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Jonah 4:3-4

"Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for is it better for me to die than to live.
Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry?"
Jonah 4:3-4

Jonah went through a lot to come to this city and tell them that it would be destroyed, and he was pretty upset. He left his home and his country, almost died in a storm, and then spent three days in the "belly of hell" as he called it. ... Then he traveled for three days (not by car) to come here. It's easy to think of Jonah as a drama queen at this point, but I think, to him, it probably seemed like God made everything that he did and worked for, and all he had suffered to come to this point, worthless... and Jonah is so upset at how things are going that he asks God to die.
I think this happens to us too. Not that we're always suicidal, but whether we get to that point or not, sometimes in the moment things seem wrong, or unfair, or like nothing we've done has accomplished anything and our presence on the earth is utterly pointless. We're angry or frustrated or overwhelmed or hurt or confused or lost... to the point that we want to give up and stop trying. We've had enough, and we're done. And this is the point where God steps in and says "Doest thou well to be _____?" ... and it isn't always anger, but there is always something there that we feel so strongly about that it makes us want to walk away from trying... from the church, or from life, from a job or school or family, or even from God.
Like Jonah, we've all gone through a lot, and suffered more than we want to. But also like Jonah, we need to take a step back and remember the purpose of it all. When things happen that we don't expect or that we don't want or understand... it doesn't mean that everything we've been working for is pointless or worthless. It only means that this wasn't the ultimate goal. It's another lesson in becoming more like God... in learning to be better than we are and more refined. And if we can see it for what it is, hang in there and come through the trial, we'll be better people... and whatever it is that we lost will either be restored to us, or something better will be. I don't think that it means that we can't have our Jonah moment and sit in the dust and wish we could quit... that happens. ... But it does mean that we need to get back up, brush off our attitude a little, and try again. Today, let's work on taking the long view: see past our current circumstances at what God is trying to make us into, and remember not to be angry when God is working to save the city... and us. :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Jonah 1:6

"So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not." Jonah 1:6 In this part of Jonah's story, he is trying to run away from God. I am not sure how you do that, but I think that we all try it some time in our lives. God asked him to do something really hard... preach to a huge city and tell them that they needed to repent. I think if God asked me to go stand in Times Square and tell everyone to repent, I would be terrified as well. At this point in the story, Jonah is in a ship, trying to escape. And a great storm comes up and the people in the ship think that they are going to die. So, the captain wakes him up and asks him to pray. I think at this point, waking up, is when Jonah realizes that it is impossible to avoid God. It probably would have been just as easy for God to just let Jonah go, and called someone else to do what he asked. But he cared about Jonah enough to remind him that they needed to talk it out... not to bully him into doing something he didn't want to do, but to teach him perhaps that you can't just run away from your problems, and show him that God always knows what he is talking about. We often act as Jonah did. We physically run away from God by walking away from a situation where we know he wants us to do something. We mentally try to escape by busying ourselves with other things and trying to ignore God waiting patiently there in the background. Sometimes we can block him out temporarily, and with a concerted effort we can probably deaden our own senses enough that we stop hearing anything spiritual at all... but all to our own detriment, and pretty pointlessly as well, since no matter how much we desensitize ourselves, we still know that God is there, waiting for us to accept his invitation to talk about it. Today... let's stop running and listen. It's better to talk it out and ask God to help us overcome our fears than it is to try to block out the sun.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Galatians 5:22-26

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another."
Galatians 5:22-26

The spirit is so important for us to have in our daily lives, and these verses tell us a little about what we will be like when we have the spirit. We'll be good, we'll be patient. We'll be happy and at peace. We'll be gentle, and willing to suffer whatever it is our lot to suffer. We will love the people around us and treat them (and ourselves) with gentleness. We won't let our lusts or affections rule us, and we won't seek glory. We won't provoke or envy. We'll have faith that God is doing what he needs to, and we don't have to control it. :)
Some of these things are hard. Today I am thinking especially of love and envy. As we go throughout our days, do we love people? I think we love certain people, but do we love people in general? The other people we encounter during a commute? The people we deal with when buying something? The waiter? Our coworkers? Our classmates? Salespeople? Politicians? The opposing team? :) ... I think it is pretty tough to love everyone, and some of it is pride, because we think that we are better... and some of it is envy, because we think that at least on some level, THEY are better. I'm wondering if today we can try to let go of competition and comparison entirely. If we need to be better than someone today, let's be better than we have been in the past. If we need something to aim for, let's try to measure up to what God expects of us. Just for one day, can we let go of the need to compare and criticize... to prove our worth by being superior to someone else? Let's try. Let's be the best people we can be, improving on who we are, and celebrating other people's progress as well. Let's love, and help everyone come closer to God.

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