Monday, December 31, 2012

Helaman 12:1-3

"And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.
Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity.
And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him."
Helaman 12:1-3

This seems a little depressing. We want great blessings from the Lord, but when we get them, we forget him and stop listening to him, and so we have to have bad things happen just to remind us sometimes... that we aren't supermen and doing this all for ourselves. We *need* God.
What strikes me today though is that it doesn't have to be depressing. We can change. We don't need to be the people described in these verses. We can be the exceptions... the exceptional.
The scriptures are in front of us, and at least one of the reasons that they are is to show us that there are and were people, throughout the history of the world, that lived a different way... and that we can too. We can be the people that set the example. That remember God always, in the good times and the bad times. The people who never blame him for the bad things while congratulating ourselves for the good things. The people who never forget him. Today, let's take this warning to heart, and let's remember God today, and include him in our lives. Let's trust God and live lives consistently dedicated to him... thanking him for his infinite goodness, and never forgetting him, in good times or bad.

Sunday, December 30, 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

These are some interesting verses, and in reading them today, they seem to comment specifically about life. :) ... This is the goal, right?--to be content and capable, no matter what. i think we're pretty good at being content when things are going well. And we're probably fairly good at being full, and at abounding, when we are lucky enough to be at those points in our lives. I'm guessing, though, that we are not quite as good at being abased, or being hungry, or suffering need. Now, to be clear, I am not saying that we've never experienced the bad parts of life... only that we don't always handle them very well. We usually only want the luxurious parts, and we get whiny and grumpy when things aren't as nice and comfortable. ... But, like Paul, we probably need to learn how to be good, Christlike people even when the bad parts come... to be our best selves, even when we're having a "bad day." I definitely need to work on this, and today, I invite you to join me in working on being content and consistently good people, no matter how crazy the things around us get. I know that Christ will strengthen us and help us to handle any challenge we face.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Luke 14:26-28

"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?"
Luke 14:26-28

Out of context, this first verse seems to say that it is okay to hate people... and yet, in context, it teaches a really important lesson.  Dedication to God requires *everything.*  We can't do it halfway.  We can't hold anything back.  There can't be anything that could ever happen that would make us give up on God.  And in that context, Christ says here, basically, that we can't put our families or our own lives before him.  We have to be willing to do as he did, and sacrifice ourselves, and everything that we love.  As we make that decision to dedicate ourselves to God and follow him, he tells us the cost up front.  This will cost us everything that we have and everything that we are.  Are we still willing to do it?  To give up who we are, and be new people?  That's a big question.  And it is one that we need to understand and answer for ourselves before we go forward, promising our lives to the Lord.  ... God doesn't always test us the way that he did Job, by taking everything away.  And sometimes, in his infinite grace, he give us many things that add comfort and meaning.  But no matter what our blessings, we have to be willing to let them go for God, and if there is anything in our lives that we find more important than God, we're going to have to face that choice before our test of life is over... like Abraham, being asked to sacrifice his son.  God sent him a ram instead, and he often blesses us abundantly after the test, but Abraham had to know what God was requiring of him, and how important that choice was.  Just as we do.
God asks a lot, but in the end, he will also give us all that he has... and he has everything.  But to get there, we have to be willing to "take up our cross" and sacrifice even our own lives if it is asked of us.  Otherwise, nothing else will work, because our whole heart isn't there.  If we'll only worship whoever does what we want, or lets us keep our stuff, or our favorite addiction, then we will be worshipping someone else entirely.  If we can't dedicate our hearts and minds to God, then we *cannot* reach our potential.  It isn't about slavery, or God wanting puppet people, but about learning this lesson of life and becoming perfect.  No one can learn that lesson while holding anything back.
If we were going to build a tower, we would sit down first and make sure that we could handle the payments, and that we had the financing to accomplish the task.  Today, let's do the same with our dedication to God.  Let's understand that it could cost everything that we have and are... and make sure that we are willing to follow this commitment through to the end. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 109:7

"And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning by study and also by faith."
Doctrine and Covenants 109:7

I like how this verse starts.  It makes me think.  If everyone had faith, would we need to teach each other, or need to study?  Because we don't all have faith, we definitely need these things, but it is interesting to think about not needing them. :)  This verse seems to be very clear that learning can be accomplished in at least two ways... by study, which we are pretty familiar with, and also by faith.  And perhaps we are familiar with this as well, but don't think about it in exactly this way.  When we trust God, and take what he says as a given, and then build upon that, that's at least partly faith.  When we pray, and learn things that way, that is also faith.  It might not be walking on water or moving mountain faith... but it's some of the first steps on the way. :)  I think studying the scriptures and learning from them is probably both.  We have to have faith that what we are reading is true... and actually what God wants us to do.  And then, we also have to study it and figure out how to fit it into our lives... or how to build our lives around it.  Today, let's work on learning by study and also by faith... and let's teach each other so we can all improve together.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 105:6

"And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer."
Doctrine and Covenants 105:6

I think sometimes when things seem stressful or hard in our lives, that we wonder why God isn't stepping in and making it all better.  "Men are that they might have joy," and "all things work together for good to them that love God," etc.  So, why do things go wrong?  I think that this verse tells us part of why.  It isn't always chastening, but sometimes it is.  We are here on this earth to learn, and we have *so* much to learn. :)  This is a good thing... we need to learn and grow and become so much more than we are in order to live up to our potential.  And God, as a tender parent, needs to let us learn our lessons sometimes rather than stepping in and doing it for us.  We can get angry about God not helping us, but until we realize that we're just children throwing a temper tantrum, we aren't grasping the essentials that we need to get beyond this most basic lesson.  When we're young it is hard to see the wisdom that our parents have in teaching us things that we don't think that we need to know, but eventually we realize that we need those skills to get along as adults.  With God it is the same, but we are usually much slower to learn the spiritual side of things than we were learning to tie our shoes or memorize multiplication tables.  ... and the other verses are still true, even when things are tough.  Often, even at the worst times, all it takes is to be humble instead of angry, and to get on our knees and talk to our heavenly father and ask him what to do, and he will grant us peace, and joy, and comfort... helping us work through whatever it is that we face.
Today, whatever we're going through, let's try to learn the lesson instead of raging against it.  Let's go to God in prayer and find out what we need to learn, and then do everything we can to see past the suffering and learn the lesson.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Proverbs 28:26

"He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered."
Proverbs 28:26

This verse is a stark contrast to what we learn through television shows and movies in our society. :)  In most of those scripts, if you just love each other enough, then everything will work out in your relationship.  It's an interesting twisting of reality, because God is love, and love is massively important in our lives.  ... But so are wisdom, knowledge, obedience, and priorities.  And a lot of the time what we call love is just selfishness and lust.  Because we want to believe in that ideal love that we see in the movies, we often make bad choices and justify our less than stellar priorities.  And this verse puts it very bluntly... when we do things like that, we are fools.
It's not easy to consistently make good choices and put wisdom before our personal desires, but as we ask for God's help in doing so, our lives will turn out better than they ever could have, had we chosen our heart's desire over God's will.  Definitely not easy, especially right in the moment of choice... it's always hard to trade the immediate for the long term.  But even when it feels good to put someone "in their place" or criticize... even when we really want to find out where the attraction goes outside God's law of chastity... even when it feels better to walk away from a responsibility, almost always those are really, really bad choices.  And until we learn the difference between what we want and what the spirit is telling us to do, and are very clear on that distinction, then we can't risk believing that what we want is an exception, and we need to always make the choice that goes along with God's laws... or we foolishly complicate and harm our own lives.
Today, let's talk to God and tell him our dilemmas, and then listen to God and not our own desires as we work to make correct choices.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Malachi 3:5-6

"And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.
For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."
Malachi 3:5-6

This is talking about the time of the second coming, and how God will sit in judgment and make things better.  The part that I really liked today is in the second verse.  "I am the Lord, I change not."  That's actually really amazing.  While we're going through this mortal experience, *everything* around us is changeable.  And we change all the time.  Our bodies are changing as we age, our minds change back and forth while we're vacillating over a decision, we change our emotions towards people, loving someone we once didn't like, or hating someone we once loved more than life.  We change the way we tell stories or events from our lives depending on who is listening.  Some of it is in our control... we can change for the better, we can overcome addictions, and we can learn. :)  Other things aren't as much.  Our bodies wear out, we might lose a job or belongings that we didn't want to lose, with no control over the outcome.  And in the midst of this crazy whirlwind of change stands God.  His hair stays still as though there were no whirlwind, and his voice is calm.  ... Talk about consistency.  Where else can we get even a drop of the stuff?  It's rare.  God is our solidity, our anchor in the middle of the raging insanity. :)  It is interesting if you look at the list of the things that he condemns in the first verse of the selection... we could make an argument that all of those things result from being changeable... treating the world unequally.  And we need a change, to save us from who we are and help us get to who we need to be.  But that "mighty change" can't come only from us, or anyone else that is so malleable.  It has to come, at least partly, as we are willing to accept it, from God.  In Mosiah 5:2, the Lord changes a group of people and they say "we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually."  ... What a change, eh?  Today, let's work on not doing the bad things on God's list.  Let's work on being more consistent, and on inviting God to change our hearts and helping us to become more like him.  Consistently good, consistently trustworthy, and consistently loving and helping the people around us.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Proverbs 24:13-16

"My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste:
So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off.
Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place:
For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief."
Proverbs 24:13-16

I was reading several scriptures this morning about knowledge and wisdom, and how important they are.  I really liked this one because of the comparison with honey.  Sometimes we crave something sweet, and we eat it and it follows through on our expectations... it is sweet, and the taste of it is the reward we are after.  Yum. :)  And I think that God is saying here that knowledge and wisdom are similar... they carry their reward with them, and they fill us with a sweetness that we crave.  The second part of this selection of verses seems to depart a lot from that idea, but I also liked this part... even when we're trying to be good, we stumble sometimes.  And what is the difference between the just and the wicked in this case?  Not that they never stumble or fall... but that they continue to get up, to trust in God, to crave that knowledge and wisdom, and try to make themselves better.  They never give up and decide that they can't do it, because they know that, with God, they can.  Today, let's learn all we can... and stand up, and try again.  The trials will continue to come, but if we are wise, we will learn from them and grow stronger rather than letting them get in the way of our soul's progress.

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