Friday, June 29, 2012

2 Nephi 18:12-13

"Say ye not, A confederacy, to all to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread."
2 Nephi 18:12-13

One definition of confederacy is conspiracy or combination... which makes me think of secret combinations and conspiracy theories.  We know from the scriptures that there are secret combinations out there, and how much damage they can do to a society, but here, God tells us not to spread the rumors or to be afraid of things like that.  Instead of spending that kind of obsessive attention on other things, we can use it to reverence God and set him apart as the focus of our attention.  Instead of fearing a group of men, let's fear God.  I don't think that God is asking us to cringe before him and feel terrorized... it's more like changing our focus from what the world can do to us to what God can do to/for us.  ... He can do a lot, lot worse, but he can also do a lot, lot better.  Plus, he's our dad and he loves us, so even though he could destroy the world with his little finger I'm sure... he chooses to help us and teach us instead.  Kind of like Yoda.  Way better to learn from him than to fight him.  Unimaginably powerful, yet cuddly. :)
Today, no matter how many conspiracies there seem to be, or how powerful they seem, let's work on looking to God instead of to men.  Let's trust in that power, and that love.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 93:36-37

"The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
Light and truth forsake the evil one."
Doctrine and Covenants 93:36-37

This is fascinating stuff.  I love the idea of God as the smartest guy in the room... or universe, or cosmos, or whatever word encompasses absolutely everything.  Too often I think we look at him as a bully or a tyrant, and seeing him as smarter and able to see more than we can I think is an important reality of getting to know him.  The imagery of light and truth being the ideals is also cool... making knowledge and learning (at least learning true things) something that enhances our ... glory.  Interesting that majesty and splendor would be related to intelligence, light, and truth.  Usually we think of those things as related to power, or money.  I also love the second verse where it talks about how light and truth forsake the evil one.  That as things are more clear and discernible (which seems to be what light does), and as we know them better, the farther we get away from evil, which is mostly just the opposite of this... darkness and lies.  So, basically, the more we learn, the cooler we are, and the farther away we get from evil. :)  That is so amazing.  And not that there aren't a lot of scary lies out there to learn, and not that there aren't some "truths" that can seem dark... but if we use both of those as our guides... light AND truth, and stick with God, then everything we learn will help us.  ... Not just intellectual things, but social things and physical things and spiritual things.  Today, let's get out there and learn... and stay far away from evil. :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Matthew 18:1-4

"At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 18:1-4

I love this.  Seems like so often we're like the disciples here, and we want to know who is the best... we want to know our score compared to the people around us.  If we could just get a handle on the particular scoring system, then we could do better, and come out on top.  Unfortunately, even thinking about Life or Heaven that way means that we're probably on the wrong track.  Christ's answer is interesting... be converted, and become as little children.  Humility makes you great.  What a thing to hear when you are trying to compete. :)  Trying to top someone in humility... yeah, just not going to work.
In becoming like a little child, I think that we have to realize who we are in relation to God.  Not as a harsh lesson, but just seeing reality.  He's God.  He is approximately 900 b'zillion times smarter and wiser than we are.  We're really amazing at inflating our egos, but we're talking about God here.  In relationship to him, we're lucky to call him Father.  We are very small children, just learning to walk... if we're really advanced, we might be up to Kindergarten compared to him.  Unfortunately, we act more like teenagers.  Maybe we should stop thinking that we know everything, and stop trying to make deals to get our way, and start soaking up knowledge, and asking more questions. :)  Our biggest task in this life is to grow up... that's what becoming more like God is.  Growing and learning and becoming... mastering tying our shoes and learning to ride a bike.  Learning to love people and to be less selfish.  Learning to share and to help.  Today, let's let go of how important we want to be, and start letting our Father teach us the lessons we need to learn.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hosea 2:16

"And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali."
Hosea 2:16

In this chapter the Lord is talking about us using the analogy of God as the faithful husband and his people as an adulterous wife.  The wife gets bored and decides to leave the marriage because she remembers other men who used to give her food and expensive things... and then, after leaving, she realizes that things aren't as good as she expected them to be with her new-found freedom, and that things were much better with her husband.  She goes back, and although for a while her husband is angry, he still loves her and eventually takes her back.  In this verse, "Ishi" means husband, and "Baali" means master.  I think that the change here is indicative of a change that we probably all need to undergo at some point in our relationship with God.  In the story, the woman needed to learn that her husband wasn't trying to control her; he was trying to take care of her... and she didn't realize how good she had it until she left that situation.  A similar thing happens to us sometimes.  We often look at God as a restrictive, oppressive force... keeping us back from truly enjoying ourselves or getting what we want.  Doing as God asks rubs us the wrong way, and we want to rebel... escape... get away from this horrible taskmaster who is burdening our lives with such pointless rules.  ... And then, as in the story, we might leave and run after those things that we used to have or think that we want... some situation that is better than this oppression and control.  And we keep looking, and it is never there, and we realize that our lives were so much better with God.  That we've made a mess of things, and we want to go back.  But it's hard, after storming away like that... after feeling that way about someone, or telling everyone mean things about him.  Takes some humility, and we're very, very afraid of rejection... after rejecting him in the first place.  And we start realizing that none of God's laws or requirements are about control or oppression at all.  We realize that He loves us and he wants to protect us from the bad things, and all the rules are to keep us safe and to help us become so much better.  ... and then, as in the story and in this verse, we stop thinking of God as a master or a tyrant, and we see how deeply and consistently he loves us, and how much he continues to give, for us.  Today, let's examine our resentments against God, and try to see past them, so that we don't make the mistake of looking elsewhere for something that is right in front of us, waiting for us to see it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 -- On Focusing on the Eternal

"For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

This is great: "we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things that are not seen."  It sounds so cool and deep and mysterious... and then when you think about it in relation to the gospel, also so true.  If we're focusing on God and having his spirit with us, we're focusing on and looking at the unseen... and the seen completely pales in comparison.  That's why in the first verse we can be renewed, even when perishing.  We can weather any storm of life because we aren't looking at the scary visible things threatening to tear us apart with their claws... we don't have to be threatened by those silly temporal monsters anymore.  We see, and know, and feel the spiritual reality, and that we're absolutely safe if we stick with God.  The things that we suffer or are afflicted by in the seen world look scary with our eyes, but they are light in comparison with what they are teaching us and all we are becoming in an eternal sense.  Today, let's focus on the eternal things which are not seen, and worry a little less about the silly visible monsters. :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Helaman 11:7

"And it came to pass that the people saw that they were about to perish by famine, and they began to remember the Lord their God; and they began to remember the words of Nephi."
Helaman 11:7

Why does it take looking into the face of death to pull us out of our complacency sometimes?  In this chapter, because of the famine and the fear of death, the people remember God, and they repent... but then close to the end of the chapter, many of them put themselves back in the exact same position, turning really wicked, robbing and plundering by day and defying all attempts by the government to stop it because there were so many that had joined with them.  And although hopefully none of us are as bad off as those robbers were... I think that in our lives there is a similar pattern.  It often takes something dramatic to get us to remember God, and then as soon as we feel safe again, we let ourselves forget.  Truthfully, we can't afford that kind of foul-weather friendship with God.  God does love us, and he won't turn us away in times of trouble if we come unto him sincerely, but to develop a good relationship with him, we need to dedicate a little more time... and put some effort into it, just like other relationships that we want to maintain.  Instead of imagining that we're going to die in a week and putting ourselves in drama mode in order to remember him... let's try to escape that cycle, and go to him today in our regular everyday mode.  Let's talk to him as we would to a friend, and tell him what is up with us... what we've been thinking about... what we feel like we need to change in our lives.  If we get used to talking to him when things aren't so dramatic, maybe they will get that way less often, because we won't need such a big reminder. :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Job 32:8

"But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding."
Job 32:8

I like the idea that God blesses us with understanding, and inspires our spirits.  Just the idea of being able to tap into God's wisdom... wow.  It makes everything seem just a little bit more hopeful. :)  And I think that we can, though it takes practice and patience to get some consistent communication going.  We have to be free from distractions (internal and external), we have to be sincere and unwavering, and we have to believe that God is there and willing to bless us.  Sometimes even those basics are huge hurdles in our busy lives in the midst of a skeptical world.  Today, let's find some inner calm and tell God what we need help with.  And then let's pay close attention to how we are answered.  Whether it is a an extra dose of confidence, an idea, or being blessed to know what to say during a tricky situation... God is always there to help us through the things that are hard for us.  And the more we try it, the more it will become apparent that talking with God makes every day go better, and getting through life with God's help is so much better than trying to make it through alone.  Today, let's live the way we should, so that there are no impediments to connecting with God, and when we get that connection, let's work on strengthening it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

2 Corinthians 8:9 -- On Giving

"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."
2 Corinthians 8:9

Christ gave everything that he had, for us.  And yet, in doing so, he gained everything.  A footnote to this verse is 2 Corinthians 6:10: "... as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."  I love that idea... of giving all that we have, and being refilled over and over by God.  And I think that is what happens.  I'm definitely not saying to go into debt or not to provide for our families, but I wonder if we worry too much about what is left over, that we could be sharing with other people, and helping them. 

Later in this chapter it says  "I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want."  Which is a good clarification... it isn't about suffering intense hardship ourselves so that we can lift up others.  It's about becoming more equal.  God offers us everything that he has... to become like him.  If we similarly offer what we have to other people, and help them to grow and achieve, then we're making a richer society, where everyone has a chance to develop their talents and become more than they are... and again, we share those developed gifts with each other and continue that cycle. 

I think that we make the mistake a lot of blaming people for poverty, or hating people for unshared wealth.  We don't know anyone's circumstances, what tragedies they have suffered, or the mistakes they've made in their lives, and whatever they are, I really don't think that we can say we're any better.  What we can do is what Christ did... he gave of himself to others.  Wherever we are, whatever we have... money, talents, knowledge, compassion, etc... we can follow his example and make the world better.  Today, let's do what we can to enrich the lives of others. :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 76:89-92

"And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding;
And no man knows it except him to whom God has revealed it.
And thus we saw the glory of the terrestrial which excels in all things the glory of the telestial, even in glory, and in power, and in might, and in dominion.
And thus we saw the glory of the celestial, which excels in all things--where God, even the Father, reigns upon his throne forever and ever;"
Doctrine and Covenants 76:89-92

This is cool for a lot of reasons, but the one that struck me this morning is that the glory of the telestial, which as explained earlier in this chapter is basically the same as hell (see verse 84), surpasses all understanding.  ... That almost everyone will be so much better off after this life than they are now.  Even the ones going to hell. :)  (Outer darkness is a whole other matter of course, but hopefully that will be very very few people.)  I think it is really cool that almost everyone is going to be better off for having lived.  Obviously, I am not saying that we should give up and settle for the telestial... the verses also show that the terrestrial and celestial are way cooler, and personally, I really want to be able to hang out with God, where he lives.  But I think that it is really amazing of God to provide such a mind-blowingly cool place in the eternities even for the baddies.  And if he is so loving and forgiving and good, how much more should we be generous and kind to our brothers and sisters who might be making bad choices?  Learning to love as God does goes way beyond the people we agree with, or the people who like us.  Today, let's work on loving the people around us... even the ones who are hard to love, or who we completely disagree with.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hebrews 12:22-29 -- On Shakeproofing our Lives

"But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:
Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
For our God is a consuming fire."
Hebrews 12:22-29

Wow.  This whole chapter is incredible.  Just before this in the chapter it is talking about how we really need to repent, seek peace, and walk in straight paths.  To emphasize this, it explains that we aren't approaching the mount where Moses went, which scared people with how holy it was... this is more.  We are attempting to approach Zion... the city of God, and angels, and perfected people. :)  ... which means that we really need to work on that perfection stuff ourselves.  And why?  Because anything that can be shaken is going to be gone.  The plus side to that is that we know when we get to Zion, we won't have to worry about any earthquakes or natural disasters. :)  On the other hand, we have to be pretty solid ourselves in order to make it there.  Which is why God is warning us.  Not to scare us into submission... but to help us realize who we need to be to live there.  We need to work at building things that can't be shaken, and refining ourselves so that the refiner's fire only finds purity, not bad stuff to burn off.  Today, let's work on ourselves... getting rid of the bad parts that will crumple or burn, and strengthening and purifying the parts that will last.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Isaiah 1:16-18

"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.
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
Isaiah 1:16-18

I like this because it seems like the Lord is sitting in front of us, saying this to us in person:  ... I know that your life is sort of messed up.  Let me help you get back on track.  We can get you back to feeling clean and good and confident.  Here's how. :)  And then he gives us some awesome fatherly advice about how he will help us do all of that.  First, we need to clean up our acts.  We need to be clean inside and out and stop doing things that make us feel filthy.  ... After we stop doing the bad stuff, we need to start learning to do the good stuff.  Replace our bad actions with some good ones. :)  And some advice on good things to do. :)  And the final verse... no matter how bad you feel or what you've done, let's work on it.  Though it seems impossible to change, if we work on it together, we can make it happen.
Today, let's sit down with God and work on our lives.  No matter where we are, we can improve our happiness and satisfaction with life as we work with him on improving ourselves.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Articles of Faith 1:9

"We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."
Articles of Faith 1:9

This struck me today because I think it matters so much.  Too often I think that we assume that we have all the information, and that we're brilliant to be making decisions based on what we now know.  And hey, it isn't a horrible idea to make the best decisions we can, of course.  But, especially in spiritual matters, we need to take into account that there are a lot of things that we still don't know, and include God in our plans and consult him when making decisions.  Usually, if we're being somewhat wise, we'll go forward, but it is always good to give God the chance to veto something if he feels the need.
At times, it can be hard to talk to God.  Some people in the world have gone so far as to say that God is dead... that he is silent and not involved with his children's lives anymore.  But the truth is that God is not silent, and never will be.  He continues to talk to his children.  Our task is to find a way to tune in to the messages that he continues to send out.  Kind of like the SETI program, which searches the universe for messages instead of expecting Aliens to come land on the White House lawn... we need to be constantly listening to God if we want his influence in our lives.  There are several ways to listen.  Through scripture study, through listening to the prophets, and directly through prayer.  Even when we make the effort to do those things, sometimes it seems like we aren't getting through.  It is easy to get impatient and assume that God doesn't want to talk to us, but as we continue to try and repeat our efforts in sincerity, we will find our way past any impediments and feel his spirit.  Today, let's make the effort to tune in to God's messages.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Alma 5:14

"And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God?  Have ye received his image in your countenances?  Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?"
Alma 5:14

This is such an important question.  I think most of us can look back on our lives and remember times when we felt really close to God.  When we've prayed and felt God answering us, or when we've been reading the scriptures and felt God was saying this verse specifically to us.  Maybe that is a good place to start.  Praying and reading our scriptures help us to get into those spiritual places more often, and feel that way more.  But I think this is asking about something more than that.  Have we had this heart-changing experience that is like being re-born?  Instead of going through the motions, have we reached a point where we are really in it because we are converted all the way through, internally and externally?  King Benjamin's people in Mosiah 5 described it like this: "the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent . . . has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually."  And it seems like it is a physical change, at least a little, as well, because of the "have ye received his image in your countenances?"  ... Maybe it is just being happy, or maybe it is more, but I have had people I know ask if everyone in my church is beautiful... because they see something different there.  Maybe it is easier for us to find the positive, or to trust God when things are hard... but somehow, it shows through.
And maybe many of us reading this have gotten there at some point.  Later in this chapter, in verse 26, is a good follow up question... if you *have* felt all of this, "can ye feel so now?"
Whether we've felt that before in our lives or not, it's something we need to work on each day, so that we can retain that feeling and that spirit in our lives.  Each day, are we facing the world with a changed heart, or with our old worn-out, sometimes cynical ones?  I know that I sometimes revert to the old.  And those days are much worse than the ones where I feel renewed and close to God.  Today, let's work on being reborn... or staying reborn.  Let's be more like God, inside and outside.  Diving into the scriptures is a good place to start. :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 56:16-17

"Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!
Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men's goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!"
Doctrine and Covenants 56:16-17

I like these verses because they show clearly that it isn't inherently evil to be rich or inherently good to be poor... but as with all things, it depends on how we act towards our fellow human beings.  And we're all rich *and* poor in different ways, I think.  Even if we aren't hoarding money, we sometimes hoard knowledge, or kindness, or trust... only doling out tiny amounts to those that we feel are worthy.  And even if we aren't financially poor, sometimes we expect others to give us other things without working for them... like trust, or a promotion, or a place in line.
I think it is hard on both sides... hard to be generous when you know some people will take advantage of it, and hard to not take advantage when it will get you a better situation without all that hard work.  But let's try to learn from these verses today.  Let's be generous with our riches, whether they are monetary or otherwise.  And let's also try not to take advantage of other people, and expect things without working for them, monetary or otherwise.  Building a Zion society requires us all to trust each other to do the right things, wherever we are.  Today, let's be trusting, and trustworthy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

3 John 1:2

"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth."
3 John 1:2

This is cool.  I wonder how many of us really wish good for someone else "above all things."  Like in a story, a genie, dragon, or someone with unlimited power comes and offers you one wish, and you use it to heal someone else rather than asking for a b'zillion dollars for yourself.  That would be incredible, but reading the story we might think that character was crazy.  A wish... that's huge.  Couldn't you get a castle or a unicorn or a huge pile of money and just call the doctor? :)
And then let's think about it seriously.  What does God offer us?  He says "ask, and it shall be given you."  He has the power to grant wishes.  So, what, really, do we value most?  What is our most important wish?  Because, in general, we get what we seek after... sometimes that is good, and sometimes it isn't, but either way it is huge.  We have the power to change people's lives for the better, through our actions, through our prayers, and through our faith.  Today, let's use our powers for good, and grant the good wishes of the people around us, just as God so often does for us.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

John 15:14-15

"Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."
John 15:14-15

This is interesting stuff.  To me, the first verse sounds kind of harsh out of context... like, "I will only love you if you do what I say."  ... and if it weren't God speaking here, it might be a really bad thing.  Us choosing to befriend only those who obey us or agree with us in everything would be pretty scary and limiting.  I think the difference here is shown in the last verse.  God is telling us the whole plan.  He lets us know who he is, who we are, and all the things that we need to know in order to achieve exaltation.  He walked the path before us as an example and a leader, and now, as our guide, he is telling us where to go and how to navigate through the darkness.  And although we know the way, and we have the map... this is a journey that we can't make it through without help.  Like climbing Mount Everest perhaps, or diving the Titanic.  There are some trips that it is unwise to attempt alone.  God is there, offering to help, and we're his friends if we take him up on that offer, and are wise enough to listen to him, because he knows so much more than we do about how to accomplish this task successfully.  It isn't God that will retract his friendship if we choose not to obey him... it is us retracting our friendship from him when we choose not to trust him and follow him.  Life is not a cakewalk.  It is an extremely dangerous journey at times, and when we intentionally ignore God and decide to go our own way, we're endangering not only our own lives/souls, but those of the people around us who might follow us rather than the guide.  Today, let's learn all we can about our path, and listen to and follow God, who is our guide.  Let's be his friends by trusting him and staying safe on the path.  The path isn't less exciting.  Just less deadly.

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