Sunday, June 30, 2013

Genesis 18:23-25

"And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
Genesis 18:23-25

This is interesting stuff.  First of all, Abraham was BRAVE. :)  Confronting God like this would be pretty scary I think... but I love that he does.  I love that he had the kind of relationship with God where he could talk to him about things like this, and I love that he cares enough about the destruction that is going to happen and the possibility that good people will be hurt... that he feels passionately enough about the principle of the whole thing to challenge God.  ... And I love also that God agrees with Abraham here, just after these verses, and says basically, okay, Abraham... good point.  If I find fifty righteous people, I won't destroy the city.  And then Abraham proceeds to talk God down to ten people. :)
I think that this is something that isn't just a one-time conversation between Abraham and God.  In this case, God warns Lot and his family to flee the city, and in the scriptures, God has warned other people to leave before he destroys a city, and saved other people from similar large-scale destruction.  And I think that he cares, every time, about saving as many as he can... without letting the world turn into a cesspool where there is no room for righteousness at all.
What's the lesson here?  Probably a lot of things.  One is that God only destroys when we've REALLY gone bad, and almost everyone is corrupt.  Another is that we need to be righteous, and help other people to feel confident enough to stand up and be righteous as well.  If we just give up because "everyone is doing it," then we might tip the scale over to the ripe for destruction line.  Instead, we need to be the forces for good.  In the scriptures, all societies don't end up getting destroyed.  Some of them get righteous instead.  Let's try to tip the scale that way. :)  And maybe another lesson is, let's look around us for the good.  Let's be like Abraham, and plead with God not to destroy other people... let's do everything that we can to save them.  Let's respect people, and love them, and not give up on them.  All of us need the support of other people in order to change and grow and let go of evil.  Together, let's work on building Zion rather than merely averting destruction. :)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ether 12:32-33

"And I also remember that thou hast said that thou hast prepared a house for man, yea, even among the mansions of thy Father, in which man might have a more excellent hope; wherefore man must hope, or he cannot receive an inheritance in the place which thou hast prepared.
And again, I remember that thou hast said that thou hast loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world, that thou mightest take it again to prepare a place for the children of men."
Ether 12:32-33

You know, each time the scriptures give insight into why God does what he does, it amazes me how pure his motives are.  I guess that makes sense.  It's God after all.  But I think that in this world it is easy to get cynical, thinking that power equals corruption, and that you can't get to be a great person without sacrificing pure motives for more complex admixtures with some kind of evil.  God, however, *is* pure, and powerful, and his work, his goal, all that he does on this earth is for us.  To help us, to give us hope in something better... to help us become better, purer... more like our Father.  And God prepares the future before us, helping us all to have joy and someplace to go after this life.  Granting us bodies, helping us learn to understand them and meld them with our spirits.
And, if we don't want to have all of that... everything amazing that he has promised.  If we don't want to share in all that he has, then he loves us enough to allow us to walk away.  To choose something else, to learn independence and self-determination.  And yet he hopes, and loves, and wishes for us to return, because he knows that what he has in store for us is so much better than what we will find on our own.
Today, no matter what we've been choosing, today let's remember God's love for us.  His sacrifice for us... and let's talk to him in prayer about keeping that relationship going.  At least listening when he gives us advice, and getting to know who he is a little bit more.  Let's give God a chance to show us a better way... a more excellent hope. :)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Jacob 4:6

"Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea."
Jacob 4:6

Interesting chapter.  What stood out to me as I was reading it this morning is the faith that it talks about here.  Throughout the scriptures we learn of faith, and the power that it has, but how often do we see it or exercise it in our lives?  Jacob says here that if our faith is unshaken that trees, mountains, and waves will obey us.  And the brother of Jared actually moved Mount Zerin.  Peter walked on water for a few steps.  Faith, right?  So, why can't we just walk down the street cleaning up the trash as we go by telling it to go collect itself in the trash bins... or turning it into bakery-fresh steaming hot bread when we encounter a homeless and hungry person?  Why can't we by faith tell the tornado or tsunami to calm down when it is threatening a town, or coax our wireless signal to be more stable when we're watching conference?  Is it because God doesn't wish those things to happen, or is it because we don't believe that they can? ... or both?
If Faith were an easy thing we probably wouldn't learn a lot.  We'd solve all of our problems by commanding nature, rather than learning how to work and to prosper in the midst of adversity.  Our trials make us stronger.  Our weaknesses allow us to learn how to solve things in different ways.  Why does God make bad things so easy and good things so hard?  Maybe, like the trees in the Garden of Eden, the sweet and bitter in opposition allow us to see past the taste of things to how good they are for us underneath.  We see how easy it is to make bad choices and how hard it is often to make good choices, and it shows us the value of what we strive for... it might be a struggle or a sacrifice at first, but the end result is much better than taking the easy way.
And maybe in the end, most of our limitations are internal.  Things are probably much easier once we learn to see past the wrapping to the real life inside.  Jacob gives us lots of good guidelines here, but the very first one is "search the prophets."  Today, let's work on that step.  Let's really search.  Let's make this particular difficult choice over some other easier ones.  And when we get this down, then we'll build on it.  Maybe we'll get to commanding nature once we get the knack of commanding ourselves. :)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mosiah 15:25

"And little children also have eternal life."
Mosiah 15:25

In this chapter Abinadi is preaching to King Noah and his wicked entourage, including Alma, who in a later chapter pleads for Abinadi's life, writes his words, and starts a whole religious movement among his people.  And that makes all of it worth it, but at this point Abinadi probably knows that the king and his priests are going to have him put to death as soon as he finishes speaking.  And he's teaching the gospel to all of these people who are trying to find a reason to put him to death... and only one of them is really listening.  That had to have been hard.  I have been there just teaching writing classes, with no death threat over my head, and it was hard.  But Abinadi doesn't falter, and he stops and adds this verse that isn't calling any of these wicked men to repentance.  No mothers or children are in the room.  Only one person is listening to him.  Why say it?  Because it is part of the gospel, and he was inspired and thorough when teaching it, despite the fact that he was going to be shortly put to death.  God knew that it would matter, later, and Abinadi was listening to God.
This statement of simple truth matters to so many people who have experienced the loss of a child in their lives, and all the things that Abinadi said, even though only one person was listening to him at the time... they impacted generations of people, and changed so many lives.  They are changing lives still.
Sometimes we are in situations ourselves that seem pointless or meaningless.  We feel like things that we say or do can't possibly make any difference.  No one is listening, and all of our efforts are only bringing us closer to our own inevitable mortality.  What are we really accomplishing?  But like Abinadi, nothing we do that is good is meaningless.  We don't know who is listening to us, or how our words will impact people in the future.  God knows how each of our lives work into the tapestry of life, beautifying the whole, and each of us are needed.  Today, let's remember Abinadi.  Let's do the right thing, and work to help the people around us whether or not we feel like we are having any impact.  God has the future under control.  All we have to worry about is doing the right thing today. :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Luke 6:45

"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh."
Luke 6:45

This is true, and instructive, and a little scary.  How often do we say things that aren't nice, or kind, or motivated by good?  Does that mean that we are evil?  At least partly, right?  If we were all good, we'd speak all good.  And what does this mean?  That we really have to work to get *ourselves* under control.  That we need to spend some time worried about our own evil before we worry about anyone else's evil.  And also that a pretty good measure of our level of evil at any time is what comes out of our mouths. 
Today, let's be very aware of what is in our hearts, and what, from that source, gets filtered out into the world.  How are we talking about other people?  How are we talking about God?  I think it is kind of scary, personally, that whatever comes out of our mouths is a product of what is in our hearts... not that I don't see the truth in that.  It is just scary because I think we have a lot of work to do to cleanse our hearts, and to retrain ourselves if we are still thinking that we say bad things because someone ELSE is bad... when it is actually ourselves and our hearts that we need to worry about.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Alma 32:26-27

"Now, as I said concerning faith--that it was not a perfect knowledge--even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.
But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words."
Alma 32:26-27

This is a great lesson from Alma.  The "even if you can no more than desire to believe" part always reminds me of the poster in Fox Mulder's office on the X-Files that said "I want to believe."  I think that most of us don't want to believe blindly in something.  We want to figure it out... find out whether we trust it, whether we think it is true or not before giving ourselves to any belief or cause wholeheartedly.  And Alma understands that desire... I think God understands that desire.  Alma offers us an experiment.  Even if we can only desire to believe, then let that work in us enough that we can listen.  In later verses, he talks a little bit more about the experiment and how we would know whether it is working or not.
I think this is so important.  Sometimes it feels easy to sit on the fence... hey, we aren't sure if God is real, so unless he proves it, we'll just stay here.  Unfortunately, we're all moving closer to God or away from him.  Fence-sitting doesn't work... it's kind of a default choice that moves us slowly away from him unless we make some sort of effort to find out.  And there are lots of ways to find out, but sometimes we need some help, to know how to listen to the answers.  To know how God speaks to us.  Luckily, we have Alma to help us out.  And the missionaries, and each other. :)  Today, whether we've tried the experiment or not, at whatever point we are in our relationship with God... let's take another step.  Let's get to know him more deeply, and trust him wholeheartedly. :)

Monday, June 24, 2013

1 Corinthians 10:13

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
1 Corinthians 10:13

The whole idea that God won't give us anything that we can't handle is purely amazing.  And of course when I say "handle" I don't mean that we can control everything.  Huge things happen that are bigger than we are.  Earthquakes, Tsunamis, giant other disasters.  We can't control everything that happens to us in life... but what we can do, what God has promised us, is that we'll be able to bear our temptations (as it says above), and that we'll be able to do as he asks when he gives us a commandment (1 Nephi 3:7).  Those are amazing promises... ones that I don't think that we always believe.  I don't think that we always *want* to believe it. :)  We sometimes want to give up, say it is too strong for us, and feel like that responsibility to resist the temptation or to follow the commandment isn't there anymore.
I think it is really empowering though, if we can get past that "poor me" stage, to think about the fact that we have a way to deal with every temptation and every thing that God asks... and what God asks is pretty much all of life, right?  God has prepared a way for us to succeed.  To accomplish all of it.  Nothing is impossible that God has asked us to do.  Even the "be ye therefore perfect" part.
This doesn't mean that we can deal with every situation immediately, or in the same way.  Some temptations we can't face very well, and so God's way out in that instance isn't to stand there and take it, but to get out... run away.  And that isn't anything to be ashamed of.  Joseph did exactly the same thing with Potiphar's wife.  The same thing with keeping the commandments.  Sometimes we're not very good at it, and the reason that we are able to do it is because someone else is supporting us a lot, and sometimes we fail a lot at first and only get it down after numerous attempts.  And that isn't necessarily anything to be ashamed of either.  Remember Nephi and his brothers and the multiple attempts they made to get the plates from Laban.  The amazing thing is that there is always a way to do the right thing, if we just keep trying.  Today, let's find the temptation escape route.  Let's stay far away from the things that tempt us to betray God.  And let's not despair or give up in looking for the way to do as God asks.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

3 Nephi 28:6-7

"And he said unto them: Behold, I know your thoughts, and ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me.
Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven."
3 Nephi 28:6-7

I think about the story of the three Nephites from time to time.  Christ asked his Nephite disciples what they desired of him because he was about to leave, and nine of them asked to immediately be returned to his presence after they had reached old age and accomplished their missions. :)  Which is a cool thing.  Definitely want to hang out with God.  Seems like a great reward.  And the other three didn't want to voice what they wanted, but as noted in the verses above, Christ knew anyway.  After he grants the desires of the first nine, he says "blessed are ye."  And here, to the three, he says "more blessed are ye."  So, it seems like it is a cooler or better reward at least in some way... although of course, all of them got what they really desired.  Anyway, so I think about it sometimes and about what I would choose.  Would I take the return to God's presence, or would I take the living all the way till the Second Coming, no matter how long it was?  Most of the time I think I would go with the nine... let it be over.  But sometimes, including today, I like the idea of going with the three. :)  Of course, we have the benefit of these verses, plus the following ones that describe what their lives will be like a little.  Things like no sorrow except for the sins of the world... and above, knowing that you won't taste of death, so not worrying about being killed by people or disease.  Pretty cool stuff. :)
At the core though, it is an interesting choice, and saying one is more blessed makes me think that it is something that maybe we should work towards.  Not doing it necessarily, unless Christ offers, but wanting it.  Caring about our neighbors and about *everybody* enough that we want to live, not to finish a novel or get another degree or have more time with family... but to live longer solely in order to go on a lot more than five-year mission... to talk to people, help them, and bring them to Christ.  ... And maybe that is what a Zion society is, after all.  Knowing on the very deepest level that even random person #47 in another country is a child of God... is a part of us, and loved, and needed... and doing as much for them in terms of bringing them to Christ as you would do for your sibling, your spouse, your best friend, or your own child.  I want to be like that... to care that much.  Today, let's remember the three, and try to love others as much as they do.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

1 Corinthians 10:23-24

"All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth."
1 Corinthians 10:23-24

This is interesting because it emphasizes freedom, which God has given us, but shows us how to focus our choices.  Even if we are within the bounds of societal law, and God's law, we still have a lot of freedom... but things to think about include whether our choices are edifying, whether they are expedient, and whether they are being used for the benefit of others and not ourselves.  Those are really good guidelines. :)  If we stop thinking about ourselves, our choices become SO different.  Let's take a stab at that today... seeking other people's wealth and happiness rather than our own.  Making choices that are expedient and which edify.  Should be interesting, and enlightening. :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Psalms 94:17-19 -- On Souls in Silence

"Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence.
When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.
In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul."
Psalms 94:17-19

I wonder if it is possible to measure the value of being able to not be alone, even in our thoughts.  When no one else can be there, when we feel desolate or when something is going wrong and nobody can help... God still can.

I love the imagery here.  How often do our souls dwell in silence... do we really connect with other people on that level most of the time?  Occasionally I think, which is probably where the "almost" comes from, but it is really rare.  Even with people that are really close to us, it's difficult to communicate soul to soul.  We rely on God a lot to turn our inner monologues into dialogues, and to comfort our souls.  I think it is really cool that God can be with us on that level, because we're often alone internally, and sometimes really need a friend.

Today, let's invite God into our thoughts, into our prayers, and into our lives even more.  Let's not allow our souls to dwell in silence.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

1 Samuel 16:7

"But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."
1 Samuel 16:7

God doesn't see in the same way that we do.  He isn't caught up in our societal addiction to external beauty.  He loves us because of who we are, not what we look like.  I like that confidence that God will never discriminate against us because we aren't beautiful enough... that he isn't upset or uncomfortable around us because of the zit, or the nose, or the weight, or whatever else it is.
In life we all have to set priorities for ourselves.  We have to value this above that, in order to decide how to spend our time.  And we take shortcuts sometimes to make things quicker.  We judge people by external appearance, or first impressions... but God never does.  He knows us all the way through, and he loves us anyway. :)  Weird, I know.  But infinitely cool.  And maybe this verse is helping us to realize that we need to stop using convenient shortcuts... or just that we need to change our priorities.  With ourselves, and with others, maybe we need to back off a little bit from our obsessive focus on the physical, and focus instead on the spiritual... the mental, the emotional.  Get to know people on the inside.  Stop hating our bodies and start beautifying our hearts. :)  ... Today, let's see past the external to who the people really are around us.  Let's move past the external as individuals and show and exercise the depth of our characters. :)  Let's clean out the cobwebs in our internal space, and start focusing on what is most important to God.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Luke 17:20-21

"And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you."
Luke 17:20-21

This is interesting... I think we naturally ask the same question as the Pharisees sometimes.  We want to know when God's kingdom is going to come on the earth.  But our answer would probably be the same: the kingdom of God doesn't happen externally as we watch for it.  It is something we ARE, that we BECOME.  In one way, it is already here, and we're part of it, working to expand it and tell people about it, but in another way if we are talking about a perfect society... we're still becoming that.  We're not there yet.  But either way, it is never something that we could say, oh, yeah... we'll be perfect on July 9th, 2062.  It doesn't work that way. :)  We have to be perfecting ourselves... and how long does it take to perfect ourselves?  Who knows.  Longer than a lifetime, for most of us.  And as a society?  Longer than that.  We can look back in history and see progress.  You don't see much human sacrifice anymore, for instance.  Less slavery, but we still need to work on that.  And we've introduced other bad things.  It's going to take us a while.  But that definitely isn't a reason to give up.  It just means that we get more time to work on it.  And we can probably use all the time we can get. :)  Today, let's make sure we're at least a little bit better than we were yesterday.  Let's continue to improve with all the time we have.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

2 Timothy 4:7-8

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
2 Timothy 4:7-8

What a difference between this and being scared of death and judgment, eh?  At the end of my life, I totally want to feel like this.
I think it is so easy to get wrapped up in the temporary earth-life-only perspective, and to think of death or calamities as the worst things that could ever happen.  And I am not saying they aren't bad, but from a larger perspective, they aren't the worst thing that could happen, for sure.  The other day we were talking in Sunday School about some of the stuff that is going to happen before the Second Coming, and it sounded scary... but also, at the same time, cool.  Because some of those things have to happen for us to get to the Millennium part, which is beyond cool. :)  And I guess the whole thing is that it all fits together in the plan.  God tells us that even the hairs on our head are numbered... and he won't lose any of it.  So, death is only temporary.  He can bring us all back in the resurrection.  And calamities are terrifying, but also they cause a lot of change... hopefully good change.  Things that lead us closer to where God is leading the whole earth.
The really terrifying thing is to not be able to say this in the end.  To say instead something like... "well, I wasted my life pretty much, but we'll see."  And to then have to wonder what life will be like later... or even worse, to be really evil and to be scared that God will judge us for what we've done.
Today, let's live our lives so that we can someday say this.  So that we can stand before God with confidence, knowing that we did what we could.  Is that easy?  No way.  But how cool would it be?  Amazingly cool... so let's try. :)  We'll screw up along the way, guaranteed.  But as long as we don't give up, and we don't lose heart... as long as we keep repenting and working to do better, to learn, to become more than we are... we'll all be able to meet together at that day and rejoice, rather than fearing any of it. :)

Monday, June 17, 2013

1 John 5:2

"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments."
1 John 5:2

This is interesting.  I think I was expecting the opposite... that we prove our love for God by loving his children.  And, in fact, there are scriptures that suggest that as well (1 John 4:7 or 4:20 for instance).  So, the whole thing is kind of circular.  Loving God helps us to love others.  And loving others helps us to love God.  Loving God might be the right place to start, as Christ said it was the first and great commandment (Matthew 22:38), but loving others is the second, and they can't really be separated from each other, since they work together.
Even though it is easy to think that we can love one person and hate another, and keep those totally separate, hate bleeds into everything else.  We can't love God unreservedly when we hate someone else... and we can't love someone else unreservedly when we hate God.  Parts of ourselves are still swallowed up in the hate.  Hate hurts us; it poisons who we are.
The verse mentions keeping God's commandments as well, and at first we might think... why?  What do rules have to do with love?  But the cool thing about God, and his rules, is that all of it is designed to teach us love.  Everything God does is designed to bring us all together in unity, truly caring for and helping each other to be happy.  Today, let's show our love for others by loving God, and keeping his commandments.  And that, in turn, will enlarge our capacity to love others, and God, and so on, as we get closer to Zion and perfect love.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Matthew 22:37

"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind."
Matthew 22:37

I've read and heard this verse so many times, and even talked about it before (February 7, 2000 and July 3, 2012 if anyone wants to go through the archives), with other verses.  But today, it struck me in a different way.  I think what I am feeling is the idea of all-encompassing completeness... that every part of us needs to be engaged in this love.  It isn't just heart OR soul OR mind, but all of them together.  ... And don't we always leave something out, even when we love regular humans?  I love my job, truly I do... but not like that.  I love Doctor Who a LOT... but not like that.  There are still places left over where I can fit in my other favorites.  LEGOs, family, scriptures, books, games, mmmmm... love them all.  But none of those loves are all-encompassing.  None of them involve my entire being.  And so that is the trick, right?  Loving God with everything we are.  Not holding back anything.  Loving him more than we love anything else, loving him without any mental reservation.
Coincidentally, that is also how we accomplish every other thing that we ever have to do... because, as Ezra Taft Benson said, "When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives."  If we have God in our lives to that degree, the spirit guides our steps, the Lord leads us, and we won't lose the path.
Today, let's not get overwhelmed with everything there is to do or think or be.  Let's work on this ONE thing... loving God with every particle of ourselves.  If we get that right, all else works.  And even if we don't perfect it right away, our lives will get better the more we work on it.  And it will make all the other commandments easier too. :)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Galatians 5:16-17

"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."
Galatians 5:16-17

This is one of our biggest challenges.  The juxtaposition in our own beings of spirit and flesh, and the quest for dominance of one over the other.  After these verses it lists some of the works of the flesh, including hatred, variance, drunkenness, revellings, and other things that we associate more commonly with sin.  Then it lists some of the fruits of the spirit, including joy, peace, and gentleness.  And it's hard... really hard.  If we want the spirit to win, which we presumably do in order to follow God, then we can't always do the things that we want to do.  Part of us wants the other... the wrath, the change, the enjoyment of the moment without thinking about consequences.  But when we make those sorts of choices we leave behind other things that are essential to us... peace, love, gentleness.  Things that are essential to our wholeness and well-being.
Our flesh, of course, is also essential to us and one of the main reasons that we came to earth.  But flesh has to be secondary to spirit.  We have to find righteous ways to fulfil our desires where possible, and as the verse says, sometimes we just "cannot do the things" that we want to do.  It makes sense.  As children, we had to learn that we couldn't light the dog on fire, or tear up all the books, or play all day instead of going to school.  And as adults, even though we get to make a lot more choices for ourselves, we still need to learn and practice some of those basics... if we didn't have any self-discipline we wouldn't be able to hold down a job, go out in public, or have any successful relationships.
To be able to grow into our fullest potential, God knows that Spirit has to win the internal war.  If we walk in the spirit, then we won't be fulfilling the lust of the flesh... flesh will stay in its proper place, bringing us joy but not being out of control, and we'll be able to grow beyond the internal war into unified wholeness, and have successful relationships with ourselves, each other, and with God.
Today, let's pray, and walk in the spirit.

Friday, June 14, 2013

1 Kings 18:21-24

"And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken."
1 Kings 18:21-24

I wonder how often we're like these people.  The prophet is saying, just make a choice.  Follow God, or go after whatever else you choose... idol, obsession, whatever it is that you put before God.  And yet, we keep trying to have both.  We like the idea of God, but mostly only when he agrees with us and we don't have to work too hard.  When we feel some disapproval coming on, then we tend to wander away, trying to find some other "god" that will tell us that we're still golden and shiny, and we don't need to change.
Elijah presses the issue here.  He sets up a demonstration.  Baal's prophets, who are basically just yes-men for the king, get a chance to intreat their god to consume a sacrifice, and then Elijah gets a chance to do the same with the Lord.  And in the end it is a pretty clear demonstration, and the people agree that God is the real God. :) 
I guess though, what difference did it make in their lives?  Did it change them to see this?  God *has* shown us in our lives that he is the real thing. :)  We set up tests like this in our lives all the time... every time we knowingly choose to disobey the Lord.  And how has that worked out?  ...It blows up, every time.  It doesn't make us happy.  And then, even in the midst of confusion and the disaster we've made of our lives, if we turn to God... even then in that ruin, HE does make us happy... he can restore hope and help us know that it is possible to climb out of the ruin and rebuild something worthwhile.  We feel that it is right, that we're returning to where we should be. 
Today, let's work on letting the evidence make a difference in our lives.  Let's not just turn back around and leave God again because we want to hear that everything we do is okay.  Let's remember how much of a mess we've made in the past.  Let's remember that we need guidance and help.  Let's make a choice... God, or something else, and stop trying to play both sides.

(Hint: God is the better choice.  And this now reminds me of election season and those "I voted" stickers. ... Let's stand up for God.  Maybe we should campaign for him, and hand out T-shirts and buttons with the little checkmark beside the word "God." :)  Anything else is a pretty poor choice in comparison.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Psalms 30:2-5

"O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.
O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
Psalms 30:2-5

This is awesome. :)  The first verses of the selection remind us that God is there to help us heal... physically and spiritually... as we ask for his help.  And the last verses very appropriately praise God for helping us so much with things that we couldn't do for ourselves. :)  Sometimes yes, we incur his wrath, or we are inconsolable over our sins or a tragic accident.  But always, if we look to God, things get better.  He favors us when we work at coming back and continuing to learn; he wipes away our tears, and brings us joy.  He loves us so much.  Today, let's praise him and thank him, and ask for his healing.  And let's remember always that no matter how bad it seems to get, God is still in control... and joy will come to us, if we stick with God.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Deuteronomy 4:39-40 -- On God and None Else

"Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.
Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever."
Deuteronomy 4:39-40

The part of these verses that stands out to me the most is "there is none else."  I think we forget that sometimes... if not intellectually, then at least emotionally.  We allow ourselves to play with the idea of other options, or pretend that God isn't quite who he is... that he is a lot more relaxed about sinning or whatever. :)  We can lull ourselves into thinking that which religion we are doesn't really matter, or if we don't commit to God fully in this life it won't really matter... he'll understand.
And, of course, God does understand... but he understands more than that.  He understands when we are avoiding the issue, or placing other priorities before him as well.  He understands when we are justifying ourselves to try to avoid having to change or repent.
There is just one God and one plan of happiness to choose.  Although we often try to make up our own, we don't have the authority or the power to make it stick, and our petty philosophizing isn't going to change that.  If we reject God's plan, then we are by default choosing to walk away from him, and toward Satan... who loves to tell us lies and help us deceive ourselves into thinking that we can find a middle ground, or that God isn't really God... he's just like a big teddy bear grandpa who will accept anything we choose to do, and let us have our way.  No real consequences, no worries.
But there is a God, and if we want to become like him and participate in his plan which offers us all that he has, then it's a little harder than that.  We have to actually work, and try, and sacrifice, and build a relationship with him, and learn to be sensitive to the spirit.  Not because God hates who we are, but because he knows that we need to change in order to get better and to reach our potential.  If we stay the way we are and put little effort into it, then we'll get that kind of a reward.  And if we throw ourselves into it and do everything we can for God, then we'll get that kind of a reward.  Today, let's keep God's statutes and commandments.  Let's choose God, and stop trying to find some other alternative.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Revelation 7:9,13-14 -- On a Glimpse of the Future

"After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
Revelation 7:9,13-14

I like this glimpse of the numberless multitude that succeed in this life in becoming the people that they need to be, and are able to take advantage of the atonement of Christ and make themselves clean and pure.  I love the fact that they are from ALL nations and people and tongues, and that we can be part of that.  It's kind of like a glimpse forward in time, saying... look, it's not impossible. :)  You can do it.  We can do it together. :)  And, as a bonus, after these verses it tells us that this group doesn't feel hunger or thirst, and that "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."  That's pretty massively cool as well.
Today, no matter how overwhelmed we might feel, or how impossible it seems to overcome our personal obstacles and trials... let's take comfort in this glimpse of the future.  Let's remember that we're not alone in trying, and that success is waiting for us, just a few chapters ahead.  We can be there.  We can help each other through these in between parts, and be there together.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 45:56-58

"And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins.
For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived--verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.
And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong, and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation."
Doctrine and Covenants 45:56-58

This is pretty cool.  I like when there is follow-up on the parables, giving us additional information.  (The original parable is in Matthew 25:1-13, if you want to read it.)  In the original parable, the virgins were waiting for the bridegroom, and it was taking a long time, so the lamps, which only burned for a few hours without being refilled, were starting to go out.  The foolish virgins asked the wise virgins to share their extra oil, and the wise virgins told them they couldn't, or else they wouldn't have enough for themselves to last until the bridegroom came.  So, the foolish ones went to buy extra oil, and after they left to do that, the bridegroom came, they all went into the wedding, and the doors were shut (presumably coming late they wouldn't be allowed back inside).  And here it talks about the same parable, and how if we are wise and receive the truth, and have the Holy Spirit to guide us, that we'll survive Christ's second coming.  So, in relating it back to the original parable, perhaps truth and the guidance of the spirit are the oil in our lamps... so testimony and dedication to God.  And those are things that you can share in a way when you share the gospel, but in another way they can't really be shared in that we can't rely on someone else's testimony when Christ comes.  Everyone will have to know for him or herself.
Today, let's work on our testimonies, and our dedication to God.  Let's make sure we're keeping the spirit with us as a constant companion.  If we work on it now, hopefully we'll have enough oil in our lamps when the time comes.  That last part about children growing up without sin unto salvation... wow.  I want to live in a place like that.  Let's prepare, so that we can.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

2 Nephi 2:22-25

"And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy."
2 Nephi 2:22-25

This really shows the dedication that God has to our education, and also to our free agency.  God could have left us in a state of innocence, but he designed something better.  He gave us bad choices that tasted good and good choices that tasted bad... he challenged us, taught us, and led us into something better.  Where we *can* know joy, and goodness, and appreciate the blessings that they are, because we know the difference between good and evil and can see both sides.  And although I am sure that on our bad days we might wish that we could crawl back into the cocoon and not be aware of any of it... the people that we can be, even though it takes some effort, are so much better than being unaware of it all.  We think if it as blissful ignorance, but it couldn't be blissful, since there was nothing to compare it to.  It was just... there.  Kind of like when we're young and we say that we're bored... not understanding at all how utterly sweet it is to have a few hours to yourself when you are older and have so many more things pulling on your time.
God, who is wise and knows all things, put us here for a reason.  We can't go back to the Garden of Eden and not know the difference between good and evil again.  But because we know the difference, we can grow to be so much more than the Garden would ever have allowed.  We can choose so much, and create so much... make our own gardens, and our own lives, and experience joy beyond anything we can imagine.  *Because* God wanted us to be people, not pets.
Today, let's rejoice in our opportunity to make choices and to reach our limitless potential.  We know the difference between Good and Evil.  Let's get out there and choose some good. :)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 101:37

"Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul."
Doctrine and Covenants 101:37

This is a good scripture about priorities.  So much of our lives are wrapped up in worrying about our bodies.  We need to eat, and sleep, and walk, and function. :)  We worry about dieting, about depression, about sickness, about satisfying desires of many kinds, and we worry about death.  I think if we sat down and figured it out, we would find that worrying about our bodies consumes a large part of our time.  And, in part, this is a good thing.  We're here on earth to learn how to function with bodies, and bodies bring us a lot of joy.  We need to value the gift of our bodies and take care of them.  But when our bodies get in the way of our focus on God, just like with anything else, we need to rethink our priorities.
Our desires are not more important than God.  Our sicknesses are not more important than God.  Our deaths are not more important than God.  ... Can you imagine if we as a society spent even a fraction of the time that we spend dieting on God instead?  Not that dieting is bad... being healthy is a good thing. :)  But God is more important.
Our *souls* need some help.  We need to be spiritually clean much more than we need to be physically clean.  Today, let's go on a spiritual diet.  We aren't getting enough of the spirit in our lives... we need a much higher dose.  Let's get more scripture study, let's get more prayer.  Let's attend church for that extra kick. :)  Let's worry less about our bodies... what they look like, and as long as they are functional, let's worry less about what they want.  Let's put God at the very top of our priority list... and I promise, we'll have less to worry about overall.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Ether 3:12

"And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie."
Ether 3:12

A fundamental part of who God is is about truth and honesty.  I think that is a huge thing to remember as we are striving to become like God... that lying isn't cool.  We shouldn't be deceiving other people, promising things that we never intend to give, etc.  I like that God "canst not lie."  ... It's just so against who he is, because he IS truth and love and all of those things.  He wouldn't do that to us.  One thing I love about God's truthful nature/dedication is that it isn't like the dystopias of worlds without fiction.  Christ spoke in parables, and God teaches us through symbolic representation all the time in allegory, and throughout the scriptures.  A world without deception is not a world without stories.  God's stories often teach us truth as well... in a deeper way, where we have to really study it, and it is more valuable to us because of that... we rarely listed when the truth is handed to us, but when we work to find it out, and realize it on our own, we have done the work to realize it on a different level.
Today, let's remember that God wants us to learn truth.  Both to glean it from the world around us, and to also share it with others.  Let's not deceive anyone today.  And for those of us that are writers and storytellers, let's also remember that fiction and deception are different things in this context.  Even in our fiction, let's champion the truth.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Proverbs 21:13

"Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard."
Proverbs 21:13

This is interesting, and a little scary.  If we don't hear the cries of the poor, and I'm assuming we also have to take action to assuage their concerns, then we won't be heard when we cry.  This is an integral part of building Zion, because in Zion there *are* no poor.  And this applies to almost everyone, and probably to everyone reading this, because no matter how hard things are for us, there is usually someone who is poor in comparison.
So, how do we respond to the cries of the poor?  C.S. Lewis says this "I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare." Which reminds me of the widow's mite (Here's a video of the story, in case anyone doesn't know it:
Today, let's hear the cries of the poor.  And let's think about Zion and how we can get there... and then let's do something about it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mormon 8:12

"And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. Behold, I am Moroni; and were it possible, I would make all things known unto you."
Mormon 8:12

There are a couple of things in this verse that are having an impact on me today.  One of them is the idea of knowing "greater things than these."  And whether that is referring specifically to the previous verses talking about the three Nephites, or whether it means what is contained in the entire record of the Book of Mormon, it is still impressive.  I think about who we have to be to not condemn a record for imperfections, and it seems like we just need to be open, humble... willing to take Moroni at his word.  Sure, he was a human, and the people who kept the records and worked on them, and translated them... they were human as well.  But if we can reach beyond our naturally doubting ways and give his words a chance, pray about them... talk to God about them... then God will have a chance to show us not only this, but greater things, because we'll be listening and open to it.
The other thing that strikes me is the sincerity of Moroni, and how much he cares about us even though we are so far removed from each other in history.  He is alone, in fear of his life, and all he has is us.  His hope for us, his belief that someday we would read his words and that he would have an impact on our lives.  ... And he does. :)  Today, let's listen to him... and God of course, and give the Book of Mormon a chance to change our hearts, and give God a chance to show us so much more than this. :)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Matthew 13:40-43 -- On Being the Wheat

"As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."
Matthew 13:40-43

All the scriptures that say things like "who hath ears to hear, let him hear" make me think that there is something important in there that we just aren't getting most of the time.  And I don't know if I get the deep message here.  But let's see what we can find.

This selection starts off referring to the parable of the wheat and the tares.  If you remember, in the parable wheat was planted, and then an enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat... and you can't tell the difference until they are ripe.  And this was likened to the world... the children of God and the children of "the wicked one."

The part where the angels gather out all the things that offend, and people that do iniquity is both scary and hopeful I think.  Scary in that we never enjoy seeing anyone lost, and many will be.  And scary in thinking that we could be among them, and be lost ourselves, if we aren't following God's path.  It is also really hopeful because every day in this world that we live in we see similar tragedy... people dying and lost without hope, but perhaps worse, people harmed and dying because of the evil choices of others.  We see corruption and war and starvation and gross inequities....  And if the angels are going to get rid of some of that, and clear the way for more good, then that will make a better world.  It reminds me of the parable of the olive trees, where the evil branches are removed as the good grow... so the more good, then the less evil.  If eventually only the righteous remain, then we have a basis for learning to be Zion that is a lot closer than now.

In the end, I love the part where the righteous "shine forth as the sun."  Maybe the wheat can shine more as the tares are removed.  And maybe they just shine because they do... but it is easier to notice with less darkness. :)

Today, let's be the wheat. :)  Let's work really hard to not be one of the tares.  Let's be shiny, in the sun, and not be part of any works of darkness.  Even though the allegorical plants can't choose to change their nature... we CAN, with God's help.  Even if we think we're growing up to be a Tare, only God can make that distinction until we are fully ripe.  And he knows us better than we know ourselves.  Let's get back on track.  Let's be the good guys today, no matter what it takes.

Monday, June 3, 2013

1 Corinthians 6:18-19

"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"
1 Corinthians 6:18-19

I think it is hard for us to see how we are hurting ourselves sometimes.  With some things it is more clear... cutting yourself is obviously harmful.  Smoking and drinking less obviously so, but lung cancer and vehicular homicide are pretty bad, and we can usually connect the dots and avoid the risk.  Other actions have less evidence of immediate harm.  With fornication, we think of the risk of pregnancy or the heartbreak of a broken intimate relationship, and those things are big consequences, for sure... but are they as bad as cancer or slicing ourselves?  We usually think not... that we're doing nothing bad to our bodies, and perhaps we even think that we are doing them good.
I think to understand what Paul (and God) are getting at here we have to think of fornication in comparison to something else that can be righteous and good... that is not inherently evil, as sex is not.  It's more like a food addiction perhaps.  It isn't bad to eat. :)  Eating sustains life.  But when we become overly obsessed with the process, we can harm ourselves... binging and purging, or teaching our bodies that eating is the way to solve our problems or fill our emotional needs.  Instead of eating to take care of our bodies, food can become the central focus of our existence, and we harm ourselves and others by obsessing over it, making it the focus of all of our social interaction, and dreaming about it or looking at pictures of it even when we are not eating.  We harm ourselves by not teaching our bodies limits and connecting all kinds of emotions and thoughts and our whole lives sometimes to this one thing, which should have a place, but not above God or our well-being.  We harm ourselves by thinking of food in a different way than God has intended, and convince ourselves that it is okay, since eating isn't inherently evil, after all.
There are, of course, differences.  I think that God designed sex to be attached to affection and emotion naturally, and it forges a deep connection.  But when we treat it frivolously then we harm ourselves by making deep connections with people that we don't intend to be connected with at all.  This breaks us, inside.  The wounds aren't more than God can heal, of course, but it isn't any better than cutting ourselves.
And last of all, of course, we are not our own.  When we do anything outside of God's rules, we are saying that we know better than he does.  That we can make it on our own, we're happy to do the whole life thing ourselves, etc.  And we forget, or ignore, that the only reason that we have any chance at all in this life is that Christ paid the price for our sins.  We're placing something in our lives above him, and saying, this is more important than God... and thus it becomes an idol of sorts.  It might be food, it might be sex... it might be anything.  But whenever we do that, we harm ourselves immeasurably, because not only do we lose the spirit, but we teach ourselves that we can do whatever the crap we want... whatever feels good at the time.  And then, later, if we want to repent or change, our bodies are like no... indulge me.  And it is hard to break out of that self-taught lesson... both mentally and physically.  We hurt ourselves with almost all sin by training ourselves to ignore God.
Today, let's not harm ourselves.  Let's undo whatever harm we can, and make our bodies and minds more welcoming to Christ.  Let's invite the spirit in and not drive it away.  It's much harder to repent of things where we've trained ourselves to ignore the spirit and dismiss God from our lives and thoughts... but we *can* still do it... and God will help us change our hearts, if we are willing to ask.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

2 Corinthians 13:3-5

"Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.
For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"
2 Corinthians 13:3-5

Interesting verses.  We often seek "proof" of God.  A sign... something overpowering that would show us for certain that God is who he says he is.  For God to talk back to us and show us that he is there.  And then something happens in our lives that seems miraculous, or we feel the spirit strongly, and know in that moment that all of it is true... but then after, we again doubt, or explain it away, and start seeking more proof.
Paul, here, asks us to examine ourselves to find that proof that we keep seeking.  Christ could be crucified because he had a weak, mortal body... but he rose, and lives now, because of a greater power.  And the same is true in us, albeit to a lesser extent.  Our bodies are weak, and we know our limitations.  And yet, we are able to go beyond them because of a greater power than our own.  If we look back on our lives can any of us say that we made it through alone?  There are times in all of our lives when we've drawn on the power of God in order to make the effort, overcome the challenge, accomplish the thing, or pull ourselves out of the mess that we made of our own lives.  Unless we're reprobates (probably meaning people who would lie to themselves and others about it, or refuse to feel or understand it), we can't look at our own lives and see no evidence of God.
Today, let's work on not being reprobates. :)  Let's examine our own lives and see the evidence of God.  And when we do, let's write it down, so that in the future when we doubt, we can look back and remember our own testimony of feeling and knowing the truth of God in our lives.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Ephesians 4:31-32

"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
Ephesians 4:31-32

This is awesome.  And difficult, of course.  But think... if we could do it, what the world would be like.  No malice.  No bitterness.  Kindness to EVERYONE, forgiveness to everyone.  ... And how important the part that says "even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."  We are forgiven.  We know what it is like to need forgiveness, to look to God, fearing rejection, and finding forgiveness and love, and a chance to change and start again.  And if we've experienced that in our lives, let's do everything in our power to share that same love and forgiveness with others.  Let's lose the wrath and clamor and find ways to be more tender to to the people around us.  Even as God does for us. :)

Total Pageviews