Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ezekiel 36:25-28

"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God."
Ezekiel 36:25-28

This is a scripture about the last days, so probably something that we can still look forward to.  And I think about this, and how awesome it would be to to be the perfect people that are described here.  I love the idea, but sometimes it seems so far away.  It's hard to be as clean as I would like to be, or to have my heart without any amount of stone in it.  I think maybe a lot of us are dirty or desensitized in different ways.  And I know that God would never touch our free agency... which is awesome... but it seems like here, for people who want it, there is hope for that kind of perfection. :)  I love that last verse, "and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God."  ... It is what we should always be, and what he always is, but just saying it like this brings the idea to us... everyone, as a people, being God's, and him being ours... that's Zion, right?  What else are we looking for besides that?  We come with everything that we can, but we always, always fall short... and in the end, God is the one that will cleanse us and perfect us, and make us into the people that we need to be, and he will be with us.
Today, instead of being discouraged or overwhelmed, let's trust that God will make up for the gap between who we are working to be and the ideal.  In the end, if we are on the path, he will lead us the rest of the way to Zion. :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Alma 37:7-8

"And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.
And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways, and brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls."
Alma 37:7-8

These verses are talking about the scriptures, and I really like this idea... that God works with us in small and subtle ways.  So often we expect, or want, big lightning bolts or drama in our lives to show us the way, and we're looking in exactly the wrong direction.  The ways to access God's wisdom and guidance are right in front of us, and have been all along.  The scriptures are free and available to everyone (  And prayer doesn't even require a book or an internet connection. :)  No one can ever take that connection with God away from us.  I also like the idea that the Scriptures enlarge our memory.  They do.  In our mortal lives it is hard to remember ourselves as individuals when we were young, or remember our ancestors after only a couple of generations... let alone our life before this world.  The Scriptures allow us a glimpse into the past, helping us retain a spiritual memory as a people.  Giving us examples of others who have gone before us and overcome their obstacles and succeeded in having a good relationship with God in this world.  People who have consistently made good choices despite the challenges inherent in mortality.  It's hope and a taste of who we could become.
Today, let's take advantage of the simple, yet significant, opportunities that God has placed in our lives.  Let's read and pray, and draw closer to our father without needing or expecting drama. :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Abraham 4:26

"And the Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness; and we will give them dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."
Abraham 4:26

What I really like about this version of the creation story is the plural "Gods."  I like the idea that there was discussion about it, that people were working together to think about these things... that they were sharing it with each other.  I imagine a really cool meeting where people are smiling and coming up with interesting and awesome ideas.  How cool would it be to be included in ... creation?  Amazing.
I don't hate the idea of a singular God, who loves us and knows us perfectly.  He is there, and I appreciate that.  But I think I like it even more that he isn't alone... and that he includes other people in his process.  I like to think that someday I could be in one of those meetings, talking about how it all works... what it takes to actually do those creation tasks.  That's amazing... and I think it puts this life into perspective all the more.  We're here to learn, and we are learning on such a smaller scale. :)  Getting distracted by office politics or the latest online thing seems so silly in comparison to having the opportunity to growing into the kind of person who could actually ... participate in creation.  That's mind-bogglingly cool. :)  Today, let's reduce the distractions in our lives, and focus on learning to come closer to God, and learning from him the things that he knows. :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

1 Nephi 9:15-18

"Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name.
I came unto my own, and my own received me not. And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled.
And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled.
I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end."
1 Nephi 9:15-18

We've heard things like this before... all through the scriptures.  Today, though, let's imagine that we are in the situation of the people in this chapter.  There is massive destruction going on around, and it seems like the end of the world.  Cities have been sunk, and burned, and the whole face of the land is changed... it is really scary, and we can't see because of the palpable darkness that is all around us.  ... and then, after hours of darkness, we hear a voice, speaking to us out of Heaven.  Wow.  That's going to make an impact.  That isn't just the same thing that we've read a million times.  This is Jesus Christ, introducing himself, and teaching us personally.  After hearing Sunday School lessons about him, it is all now very very real.  Power to become the sons of God?  And the light of the world, when you are in thick darkness that seems like it will never disperse?  I think that this is someone we want to listen to. :)  Today, even though we aren't in the same physical darkness, let's remember the power of Jesus Christ to save us from any kind of darkness in our lives.  To restore peace and hope... to help us become more than we could ever become on our own.  Let's listen to his voice, and allow ourselves to be enlightened. :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Omni 1:25-26 -- On Total Commitment

"And it came to pass that I began to be old; and, having no seed, and knowing king Benjamin to be a just man before the Lord, wherefore, I shall deliver up these plates unto him, exhorting all men to come unto God, the Holy One of Israel, and believe in prophesying, and in revelations, and in the ministering of angels, and in the gift of speaking with tongues, and in the gift of interpreting languages, and in all things which are good; for there is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord; and that which is evil cometh from the devil.
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 1:25-26

I like how he encourages us to come unto God and believe in so many things that are hard for us sometimes... and why?  Because they are good.  I like the idea of everything Good coming from God and everything evil coming from someplace else.  It makes things so clear, like taking a windshield wiper to the conscience.  Oh... yes, now I see. :)

I also like the second verse where, we get all good things from God, and in return, we offer what?  Our whole souls.  And continue fasting and praying and endure to the end... but the bit about our SOULS.  Seems big. :)  And I think both of these concepts are huge for us to really grasp in a real, tangible way.  God is the source of *everything* good.  *Everything* good in our lives... even that.  Yeah, that's God.  And our commitment to him?  Our need for him?  Yeah, that's everything that we are... down to soul level.  The core of our existence.  

So often in our lives we think we can get by with going through the motions or partial commitment or belief with a few reservations.  And those are all good ways to *begin* ... but none of them will sustain us unless we become fully, completely converted... no reservations, no partial commitment.  And in return, as if there were any comparison, we get... EVERYTHING good.  Eternal life, joy, rest, peace, eternal progression as we learn everything God has to teach us.  Eternal families, eternal friendships.

Today, let's do as Omni suggests, and come unto God with everything that we are.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 9:7

"Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me."
Doctrine and Covenants 9:7

I've been thinking about this scripture over the weekend, and it seems to apply to so many things in life.  We ask God for a lot, and sometimes are frustrated or sad when we don't get what we want.  But most things don't come that easily... or, they could, but God wants us to learn, not just think that he is granting us unlimited wishes. :)  Remember the Brother of Jared after he had completed the barges?  He had more than one question... and God gave him the answer to one of his questions, and then asked him to think of a way to solve the other one.  Or Nephi, in retrieving the brass plates.  They worked at it ahead of time, and tried everything they could think of.  We also need to set our minds, actions, and hearts to our own problems.  God isn't at all unwilling to help... but we need to learn, and work, and figure out our own lives along the way.  The choices that we make and the people we become are the results of the effort that we make every day to grow and change and become.  We aren't striving to be couch potatoes with God as our errand boy. :)  Today, as we go throughout the day, let's definitely talk to God about our challenges and the problems that we need to solve together.  But let's also make a real effort to figure out the answers and solve things as much as we can on our own... growing and learning to be more like God in the process.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jude 1:20-22

"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
And of some have compassion, making a difference:"
Jude 1:20-22

Jude's epistle is interesting.  He talks about people that are corrupt, trying to twist the gospel into something bad, and that there would be lots of mockers in the last days, and so many bad things that were happening.  ... and then he says "But ye, beloved,"  ... the people who are listening to him, the people who still care about God and the gospel, the people who continue to exercise faith and pray with the spirit.  Those people are the exceptions.  And so are we, even listening to him today, so many years later.  And what he asked the people back then, he asks of us as well.  First... he wants us to keep ourselves in the love of God, working towards eternal life.  So, keeping ourselves safe from the corruption and mockery in the world.  Not joining with it. :)  And secondly, he wants us to have compassion on other people, making a difference.  We have the power to make a difference in the lives of others.  Showing compassion, doing things for them that they can't do for themselves.  Setting an example for people who are wondering which way to go.  Today, let's listen, and go out there and make a difference.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Alma 34:15-18

"And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.
Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;
Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save."
Alma 34:15-18

The idea of God is scary sometimes... I guess just like your dad can be scary if you are worried about telling him you crashed his car. :)  We worry about not living up to what God expects of us, and it is completely overwhelming sometimes to think that he expects perfection... and how are we ever going to get there?  And then, when we've done something really bad, we're worried about what he might do, or say, or think of us.  Luckily, there is a way out of that anger or disappointment that we fear.  Repentance.  God's plan provides for justice *and* mercy, but the mercy comes through us changing our ways.  We can't just insincerely say "whoops," and stroll into heaven. :)  We have to change ourselves.  Just like our real fathers would be angry if we were cruel to a brother or sister, or cheated or beat up the neighbor boy... it isn't solved just by saying oops.  We have to make it right.  We have to change ourselves, and grow out of doing those immature and destructive things.
Today, let's talk to our father and work on our faith... our faith to change ourselves into people that are nicer and better.  Perfection is a process, and repentance is a daily thing.  Let's keep learning and growing, and take advantage of the chance that God gives us to escape justice and become something more with Christ than we could ever be without that sacrifice.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Proverbs 14:8-10

"The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.
Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.
The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy."
Proverbs 14:8-10

Really interesting stuff.  Not sure I get it all.  I need to think about it more, but I like what I understand so far.  The first verse seems to illustrate the gap in our lives between real and fake that we so often cross.  Part of wisdom is just understanding ourselves and why we do what we do... figuring ourselves out, and being real.  And the sad thing about lying to others is that we so often lie to ourselves as well.  When we're honest with ourselves, not trying to justify things to ourselves or others... then we've grasped wisdom rather than foolishness. :)
The rest of it is hard, but what I am getting out of it is the idea that lots of times people will laugh at us for our choices... to avoid things that we see as sin, and they just like.  But we're okay anyway.  We know our own hearts, and what hurts them... and no one else, even with their mockery, can touch the the joy that we gain from being as righteous as we know that we need to be, for ourselves.  We avoid sin so that we don't hurt our hearts. :)  How can anyone laughing at us touch that? :)  ... Today, let's work on being honest with ourselves.  On protecting ourselves and our hearts from sin.  And let's check in with God.  He can help... and he misses talking to us. :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Alma 41:12-15

"And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?
O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.
Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.
For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all."
Alma 41:12-15

I think sometimes we get caught up in the world's visions of God, which are many, but a couple of the main ones are either slightly-less-evil power hungry all-powerful puppetmaster, or mostly-clueless Santa Claus.  On one hand he doesn't care and manipulates us, or on the other hand he gives us toys, and even though he keeps a naughty list, he doesn't really enforce it all that often.  I think the scriptures help us to realize that God isn't either of those things.  Specifically, these verses explain that our rewards in heaven aren't going to be arbitrary, but very tailored to us as individuals.  Whatever we do to other people, that is what we will get in return.  Pretty hard to argue that we don't deserve that kind of justice.  ... or mercy. :)  Today, let's read and learn more about the nature of God, and get to know him a little better.  And let's also be kind, and good, and patient with others.  And whatever else we'd like to see in return.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Isaiah 48:16-18

"Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me.
Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.
O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:"
Isaiah 48:16-18

I love Isaiah.  It's like Shakespeare, but better, with layers of meaning and extra flavor everywhere. :)  This is a message to Israel, but it is also a message to each of us.  God invites us to come near, he wants to get to know us.  He tells us who he is, and how he can help.  And he wants so much to bless us with peace and to see us standing tall and bright, as better people than we have been thus far.  And he tells us how to gain that peace and to be those people as well.  Today, let's go near to God and listen to what he has to say.  He offers something that we want at our very core, and he can show us how to get it.  What God has is more important than anything else, and will bring us more happiness and peace than we can imagine.  Let's talk to him about it and find out how to get that kind of priceless, supernal happiness (and coolness) in our lives.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ether 12:5-6

"And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not.
And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith."
Ether 12:5-6

It's hard sometimes to trust God.  We've grown up in this world that generally teaches us that if you can't prove it, it isn't true, and which ignores so much proof that is all around us.  It's easy to blow off things that we can't see or touch.  I think that this is one of the reasons that we have the scriptures.  With them, we can read and remember how it was for other people throughout history,  how they relied on God, and how they used faith to accomplish great things.  With all of the good examples in the scriptures, we feel less isolated and can know that we are in very good company as we strive to be people of faith.
There is a lot of power in faith.  ... after these verses, the chapter goes into a lot of things that were accomplished through faith.  Amazingly cool things, like the brother of Jared moving mount Zerin.  God performs miracles in our lives because we have faith in him (Ether 12:12).  We have the ability to change our lives and our perspectives even at the worst moments of life, if we have faith.  It is hard sometimes.  Hard to maintain faith in something that is taking an awfully long time to happen.  Hard to have faith that changing our lives for God is going to make things better when it doesn't feel like it right away.  Hard to believe that we can crawl out of the hole again after falling/jumping into it for the nth time.  Today, let's not dispute God's word because we can't *see* it.  Let's believe him anyway... and let that believe move us to action.  Let's have faith that we can be better people, that God can do what he say he will, and that the happy ending that has always been there will come eventually.  Let us be confident in the Lord as we live through the chapters leading up to it. :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Alma 42:26-27

"And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes, which were prepared from the foundation of the world.  And thus cometh about the salvation and the redemption of men, and also their destruction and misery.
Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds."
Alma 42:26-27

As I read this, what strikes me the most heavily is free agency.  God doesn't arbitrarily assign some people punishment and some people reward.  It is all before us, and we choose exactly what our reward will be in the end.  Salvation or misery.  It explains in a previous verse that mercy cannot rob justice... which makes sense.  It would be an insane universe if people who have worked their whole lives to help others received the same reward as serial killers.  But then, if we are tending towards the bad side of the spectrum, it looks pretty bad for us if we're going to be rewarded according to our deeds... which is why mercy exists.  Repentance saves the day... if we are sincere and actually willing to change our lives in a permanent way.
I really like the second verse in this selection.  Anyone can come and partake of the waters of life.  It isn't an exclusive club.  It isn't reserved for a special subset of the population.  Anyone can come and partake.  But God will force no one.  I think sometimes we wish he would compel us, because it is hard to bend our own wills and get ourselves to live the right way.  Reeks of effort. :)  But if we threw free agency out the door, then the whole plan would fall apart too.  We wouldn't have the same potential to become so much more than we are.  It's hard sometimes, yes.  But overwhelmingly worth it in the end.  Today, let's choose redemption over destruction and  long-term happiness over long-term misery.  Let's choose to partake of the waters of life.  Let's talk to God about our lives... we can repent and get our lives on track.  Let's stop doing bad deeds, and do more good deeds.  It's hard, but never impossible, with God's help.

Monday, January 7, 2013

2 Peter 2:19-22 -- On Hope and the Bondage of Sin

"While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage.
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."
2 Peter 2:19-22

I guess I was thinking of New Year's resolutions when I was reading this. :)  So often, we want to make a new start in our lives, and we're going along great, but then suddenly screw it up, even this soon after New Year's. :)  And there is a lot of warning in these verses, but I think also some hope.  The verses explain how bad it is to get caught up in sin, *especially* after we've escaped it once.  When we listen to the world telling us that our sin is okay, we make ourselves slaves... slaves to the sin or addiction, and slaves to the opinion of the world.  It's like embracing Satan, and how awkward/painful would *that* be?  Not sure we want to go there.

The hope here is in a lot of places, but firstly in the fact that there is a warning at all.  What would be the point in warning us if it were hopeless?  I also like the "entangled therein, and overcome" bit.  If Christ has helped us escape our sins, and we get entangled again, yikes... but if we stand up again and work at it, we don't have to be completely overcome.  We don't have to give up.  Christ helped us the first time, and he will help us again.  Sometimes, especially with addictions, it can seem hopeless.  It doesn't look like there is a way out and we feel like we've used up our last chance long ago.  But with God's help, we don't have to be the dog or the pig described in the final verse.  With Christ, we can change.  We can walk away from the vomit and the mud and whatever else we keep returning to. 

Today, if we do nothing else, let's get on our knees and talk to our Father about the state of our souls.  Whether we're doing well on our resolutions or have already given up on them, that consistent communication with our Father is what can help us, guide us, and save us from being overcome by anything... even our own desires.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Luke 6:46-49

"And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great."
Luke 6:46-49

The first verse in this selection, by itself, is very thought-provoking. Why do we call on the Lord, ask for his advice and help, and then not accept it when it is offered to us? Sometimes I think we get the crazy notion in our heads that talking to God is like magic, and that he's going to wave his magic wand and solve everything without any effort on our parts at all. And not that he probably couldn't... but that isn't usually the way that he works. Lasting change doesn't come through magic, but through us making different choices and investing the time necessary to change ourselves. Just like we have to follow up most times we ask for a doctor's help, we also have to follow the Lord's instructions if we want to be Spiritually well.
The next few verses are a great illustration of how God's help sustains us in times of need. As we learn to incorporate God's advice into our lives, our foundation of faith and peace and endurance (and so much more) grows stronger, and we're changed enough that we can weather the storms of life. God doesn't knock down the house on us because he's mad that we're not listening. :) Just... if we don't follow God's advice, we won't be as strong as we need to be to make it through the tough times. Today, let's accept God's help, and strengthen ourselves so we can weather the storms of life.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Luke 6:31-35

"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil."
Luke 6:31-35

This one is still challenging, no matter how many times we hear it. It's so easy to get into a mindset where we treat the people that we have to interact with a lot kindly, and everyone else is fair game for criticism or mockery. And then, people who act unkindly towards us are even harder. We so often dismiss them or mirror whatever unkindness we've felt from those sources. The idea here, though, is an amazing one... something that is worth the difficulty of overcoming our pride and our fears to actually work on this. Can you imagine how different our lives would be if everyone responded positively to us, no matter whether we were negative or not? I think that would change us significantly, and make our lives markedly better. And doing that for other people can make that same kind of miraculous change in their lives... giving them a free pass for a bad mood instead of punishing them for it... offering others that same opportunity to respond positively, even if they started out negative. Today, let's work on being more like God: treating people well, no matter how they treat us, and giving to others without expecting something in return.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2 Corinthians 8:8-15

"I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.
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.
And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago.
Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.
For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.
For 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: that there may be equality:
As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack."
2 Corinthians 8:8-15

I really liked this, thinking about the new year/new start theme. The third verse in the selection suggests that we shouldn't just begin, but follow through... that we should be better than we were a year ago. Are we?
The giving/sharing theme here makes some good points. I like that at the beginning of the verses Paul mentions that he isn't asking this as a commandment, but that it is more about proving the sincerity of our love. That makes sense to me. Generosity doesn't seem like something that we can be forced into. It has to come from the heart. That goes along with the "willing mind" line. We don't have to be rich to be able to help the others around us... we just have to be willing to help, and God will show us ways we can do that. I also really liked "I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened." ... We don't have to jump into a vow of poverty in order to start giving to others. We can just give what we have that is extra, so that everyone is helping everyone else.
I definitely don't think this is only about money either. The money part is an important lesson for us, but beyond that, we all have an abundance of something. Sometimes it is money, but sometimes people need other things from us. Love. Wisdom. Faith. Trust. We have talents that we can share to enrich the lives of each other. And that's Zion... a society where everyone is giving to everyone else. Freely, willingly... because we love each other and want each other to succeed.
No matter where we stand today in relation to a year ago, today, let's focus on this year. Let's be better than we ever have been. Let's love the people around us, and give from our abundance generously and freely, lifting each other up and making this world a better place to be. Let's take our next step towards Zion.

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