Thursday, February 28, 2013

Alma 7:23-24 -- On Always Abounding

"And now I would that ye should be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.
And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works."
Alma 7:23-24


I want to always abound in good works, don't you?  It sounds so simple sometimes... and yet, all of these things require us to overcome ourselves to a certain extent.  To choose our desires and our emotions more carefully, rather than just letting them happen.  We have to work on our relationship with God, every day... we can't ever just let it coast.  And I think that it gets easier as we practice sublimating our surface emotions and desires and bringing out our truer, deeper selves that are better and more refined by God... but it certainly isn't something we can accomplish overnight. :) 

Today, let's not be overwhelmed with all the improvements we need to make, and let's not try to be perfect at everything on the list... let's just work on maintaining the good that we have, and pick one thing on the list to try to do better.  Maybe being submissive if we have a problem with being deferential to a leader or a boss.  Maybe gentle if we've been getting angry too much lately.  Whatever we choose, let's also include God in our attempt.  Ask him to help, thank him for blessing us with so much.  And, as we learn, we'll start abounding in good works more and more.  Maybe we won't get to "always" today... but if we're working on it, we'll get closer rather than further away.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Isaiah 58:13

"If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:"
Isaiah 58:13


This was really interesting to me today as I was reading.  I've always thought about the sabbath as a day of rest, and of focusing on God.  Going to church, taking time to worship, pray, think on the things of God.  And so it is... but to me this verse takes it deeper.  It's more of an absence of self thing, where we practice just doing God's will.  Which is kind of what we should be doing all the time, but setting the sabbath aside specifically that way helps us to get it right.  I like the "nor speaking thine own words" part... can you imagine?  Saying only what God would say?  That's hard, and crazy... and really, really cool. :)  We could arm ourselves with some good scriptures that say normal things... like "All hail" in Matthew 28:9, or 2 Kings 4:26 has "Is it well with thee?" so we can make small talk. :)  But harder to do larger conversations. :)  So, I guess the only way to do it would be to really have the spirit with us, to know from that what God would say, and what he wants us to say. :)  I wonder though if we can remove ourselves from our own conversation that much... if we can really focus on other people and on what they need and want, and what we can do for them.  The more I think about it, the more I see that that is what God is really about.  His focus is all on us.  Everything he does is for us, teaching us and helping us.  Today, let's remove ourselves from the equation as much as we can.  Let's see what happens when we focus totally outward, not doing anything for ourselves, but everything for God.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Luke 14:33

"So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."
Luke 14:33


This seems like a pretty harsh scripture, standing all alone and out of context like that.  I think though, that it makes a statement that we would do well to consider.  So often in our lives we think of discipleship as kind of a side project that we can take on as soon as we get all of our stuff done, or our lives in order, or whatever it is that we need to do first. :)  And we are willing to give our wills to God, except we'll give up this one habit last, or we'll keep this one desire for sin... won't do it, of course, but who can't be faulted for *wanting* it?  ... and so on.
As C. S. Lewis said, "If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell."  ... I think that is what we do a lot of the time... try to keep souvenirs of Hell. :)  And this verse is telling us that we just can't.  We have to give everything... change every part of us.  Become WHOLLY converted, every tiny bit of us, or we can't be God's disciples.  Not that it all has to be all done at once, but in the end, it all goes.  ... Yes, even that. :)  Because we're becoming new creatures.  Because our commitment to God has to reach all the way to the center of our souls.  Because there is no way we will ever get there unless we are willing to give everything for Him.  Today, let's work on deepening and strengthening our commitment to God.  Let's throw out those dusty souvenirs, and get past our reservations, and be God's people... one hundred percent.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Exodus 2:2-3

"And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.
And when she could no longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink."
Exodus 2:2-3


We've probably all heard this story.  At this time in Egypt there was a decree from Pharaoh that all the Hebrews could keep their children if they were daughters, but if they were sons, they were supposed to cast them into the river.  ... He saw a potential problem with all the Hebrew people outnumbering the Egyptian people, and decided to solve it.  We hear in the scriptures about the killing of children a lot.  It seems to be indicative of a corrupt society, along with the original discrimination again someone because of his genealogical background.  I can't even imagine how hard this was, for Moses' mother, to first be in the situation where she felt like she had to hide her son in order to not be forced into killing him... and then after three months, to decide to cast him in the river, as the "law" required, with the only chance she could think of to save him alive.  And, even then, a few verses later, to give him up to be someone else's son.  I think of all that pain that she went through, just because she wasn't an Egyptian.  Wasn't a member of the ruling party... wasn't the type of person that "they" wanted to have any power.  And I wonder how much we hurt each other in similar ways.  Today, let's think really hard about how we treat people that are different than we are... people that we don't think belong.  People that we don't want to be in positions of power.  Becoming like Pharaoh is not the answer. :)  Let's look to God and find a different path.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mosiah 3:19-21

"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
And moreover, I say unto you, that the time shall come when the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.
And behold, when that time cometh, none shall be found blameless before God, except it be little children, only through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord God Omnipotent."
Mosiah 3:19-21


There are a lot of scriptural verses that encourage us to be more like children.  And some others that encourage us to grow up a little. :)  And they are both true.  Got to love the scriptures. :)  We need to do a lot of growing up.  We need to learn more, and be less helpless.  We need to take responsibility for our lives, and for our choices.  And at the same time, we need to protect the really good things about ourselves that have been present since childhood.  Our abilities to trust, to submit, to share, to love without holding anything back.  We need to learn the good things, and rid ourselves of some of the bad lessons and desensitization that we learn as we grow up.  And really, that is what repentance and faith are for.  To build on that really good core that we had, and to restore its purity when we inevitably tarnish it.  God gives us second chances... and zillionth chances when we need them.  And, as his children, we need to have the same faith in him that children often have in their parents... believing and trusting even when they don't understand fully.  We need to know that everything God does is designed for our betterment and our happiness.  Even when we have to go through a tough experience or emotional upheaval, God never hurts us out of spite or pride or takes pleasure in our pain.  He is only helping us to learn the lessons that we have to learn in our lives, to become everything we can be.  Today, let's make sure that we aren't losing our inner goodness as we grow and learn.  Let's trust God and hold tight to his hand, even while we learn to face the dangers of the world and grow taller spiritually.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Joshua 24:15

"And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Joshua 24:15


I think it is interesting that it always comes down to this.  We have to choose between God and... anything else.  Doesn't really matter what else it is.  If it isn't God, then it's always the wrong choice of the two.  And the fact that God allows us the choice, and protects our choices from being taken away from us, shows us the depth of his love for us.  He doesn't want us to be automatons or yes-men pressured into obedience through fear.  He wants us to really find out the truth for ourselves.  To find out what makes us the happiest, to find out what helps people rather than hurts them, to discover for ourselves that we need God.  That we want him in our lives... that hanging out with God is better than any other activity we could have chosen.
God wants us to have that opportunity to be like him.  If we stray and stop and choose something less, then we'll get whatever lesser "reward" that we choose.  But by offering us choice, God allows us the chance to become as he is... if we choose to continue, to progress, to learn more and more until we graduate into that kind of perfection. :)
Today, let's use our power of choice wisely.  Let's remember that our circumstances don't choose for us.  We still have the power to make the choices that we need to make... and no matter how bad things are, we always have the choice to talk to God, and to learn more from him.  Let's exercise that choice, and continue following God's path.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Luke 6:35

"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 to the unthankful and to the evil."
Luke 6:35


I really like this.  It is really hard to love your enemies... you know, because the "enemy" part already means you kind of don't like them.  And doing good and lending without expecting anything in return is also hard.  It's deep and true love to help and love your enemies, knowing that they don't give a crap about you in return, and aren't going to be nice back, and they'll never return what they borrowed.  It's the kind of love that God has, and the kind that we need to learn.  Not that learning to love anyone is a cakewalk, of course, but it is significantly easier when you get cooperation from the other side.  When they like you back, at least a little... at least sometimes.  When they don't, and never will... that is when we have a true test.  Can we still love?  Can we still be Christlike, facing those people who will never accept us or even be polite to us?  Can we love the guy on the sidewalk that smells and insults us?  Can we love the boss that passes us over for a raise?  Can we love the people who are breaking the law of the land, or God's laws?  Tough, and other circumstances equally so or harder.  But it is what God asks of us.  Why?  To torture us?  To drive us to the dust in humility?  I don't think that is the point.  I think the point is to learn to be like our father.  And our father loves us... all of us... even when we are unthankful and evil.  Even when we screw everything up.  Even when we are insulting and smelly.  Even when we make bad calls.  Even when we are intentionally cruel.  Even when we aren't doing as he asks.  He loves us.  And he wants us to love each other i the same way... not for the torture value, but because he want us to grow up to be like he is, and to have all that he has.  Today, let's work on being kind and good, whether or not we get kindness or goodness in return.

Friday, February 15, 2013

3 Nephi 16:1-3

"And verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep, which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister.
For they of whom I speak are they who have not as yet heard my voice; neither have I at any time manifested myself unto them.
But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore I go to show myself unto them."
3 Nephi 16:1-3


I think it is so cool that God wanted to make sure that everyone got the truth of the gospel.  He didn't just appear in one place and expect the word to spread worldwide... he appeared after his resurrection in two very geographically diverse places that we know of, and according to these verses, he went at least one more place. :)  Where that place is, I have no idea, but I think it is something cool to look forward to and realize that we'll probably have another record of Christ visiting his people someday.  It would be so cool to read that account.  So new, yet so familiar.  God, confirming his truth and his gospel from yet another direction. :)  New scripture stories. :)  ... I hope that we will be ready for it.  Today, let's remember that there are things that God still has to show us. :)  Let's keep our minds and our hearts open to him, and learn all we can.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Romans 14:12-13

"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way."
Romans 14:12-13


This is interesting.  We're all going to have to face God at some point and be accountable for the lives that we've lived.  That's pretty huge, and something that we can leave to God.  Instead of judging each other, what we should be focusing on is not making it harder for each other.  Which is a big challenge. :)  It is easy to complain about others, or get in their way in conversation, in a job, in education, in a family... to make anyone's life worse instead of better, even in small ways.  To make decisions harder, or block opportunities.  Today, maybe we should focus on getting out of the way. :)  Let's give everyone around us room to grow, and support their efforts to become better people. Let's be a force for good, with *everyone* ... and never a force for evil in even the smallest way.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 50:22-24

"Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.
And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.
That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day."
Doctrine and Covenants 50:22-24


This is from a section where some people were "speaking in tongues" that nobody could understand, and God is explaining that the spirit they were experiencing during that wasn't of him... he's about truth and clarity, and not confusion and secrecy.  We can't handle knowing everything that God knows (just like children have to be taught little by little), but as we are able to understand it, he helps us grasp it.  He wants EVERYONE to know, to understand, and to be edified and happy. :)  The light/dark thing is cool.  Sometimes it is hard to see or find our way in the dark, and as we gain more and more light, we are able to see more and more clearly.  Sometimes I think that this whole world is kind of shadowy and unclear, and as we learn and grow and get more and more light, we'll be able to see better our purpose here, and how little some things matter.
I also absolutely love the idea of a perfect day. :)  That someday we'll be there, and everything will be perfect.  Really looking forward to that one. :)  Let's all have a party that day, okay?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Exodus 32:15-16

"And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.
And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables."
Exodus 32:15-16


I was reading this today and thinking how amazing it would be to see the direct work of God... the handwriting of God, and to see his words.  How supernal to be in his presence and read what he had to say.  And then, of course, I realized that although we don't have every part of that experience, what we do have is remarkably close.  We might not be talking to God "face to face," as he talked with Moses, but we still have the opportunity to talk to him as a friend and listen to his wisdom.  It's true that we don't have his handwriting in front of us, but we do have his words, and we can still read them and learn from them, every day.  Today, let's not let the power to communicate with and learn from God be any less because for us it is normal.  We still have a chance to know God's thoughts. :)  A chance to learn from him directly.  The tablets mentioned in these verses were broken by Moses when he saw the wickedness of the people.  Let's not make the same mistakes and lose the same enlightenment... let's read and pray, and see those actions as the miraculous opportunities that they are. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

2 Nephi 26:32-33

"And again, the Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal; that they should not take the name of the Lord their God in vain; that they should not envy; that they should not have malice; that they should not contend one with another; that they should not commit whoredoms; and that they should do none of these things; for whoso doeth them shall perish.
For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."
2 Nephi 26:32-33



It's good sometimes to remember just how far from the basics we are.  Often we think that we have the gospel down, that we know all the Sunday School answers, and listening to it all again isn't really doing much.  However, just in some of the basic commandments... how many of us can say without justification that we haven't lied, or envied, or felt malice?  Do we swear, or contend, or consider unchaste things?  If we can say that we don't, or haven't, awesome... and if we can't, it isn't the end of hope.  But in either case, focusing on the basics and continuing to call upon God, every day, is a good pattern to keep to.  The gospel isn't something where we can skim, or coast.  It's the rebuilding of self, the change in the deepest parts of ourselves that matters here... going through the motions is an okay way to start, but it isn't enough by itself.  God's way is good with no aftertaste, and he *wants* us to understand it all.  If we come unto him, he will teach us, without condemning us for who we are at all.  All are alike unto God in terms of acceptance... without making any of us less unique, or less chosen.
There is a scripture in D&C 4:3 that says "if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work."  ... I think it is the same way with being chosen.  If we have desires to come to God, and to be his people, then we *are* chosen, and we are called to build Zion.
Today, let's work on the basics, and come unto God... who would never deny us, and who is inviting us personally.  There is a place for us... for me, and for you.  Let's find it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 19:28

"And again, I command thee that thou shalt pray vocally as well as in thy heart; yea, before the world as well as in secret, in public as well as in private."
Doctrine and Covenants 19:28


This is interesting, thinking about private and public personas.  We all play different roles, and act differently for different audiences... and I think here, God is asking us to make sure that he is included in all of them.  I don't think that God is necessarily saying to flaunt or show off our status as believers.  It isn't about pride, being better than anyone else, or preaching damnation to the unbelievers. :)  It is about being dedicated to God all the time.  We can't just believe on Sundays, or hide who we are from colleagues, or coworkers, or whoever we don't tell because it makes those conversations easier, or different, or whatever.  If we really believe, and we really are dedicated to God, then we need to be dedicated to him publicly and privately... to every audience.  It's probably also about being examples. In Matthew 5:14, God tells us that we are the light of the world.  We can't be that light if we are shining as little as possible. :)
Today, let's allow our dedication to God to touch every aspect of our lives.  Let's be God's people in public as well as in private.  Let's pray, and build Zion, and not worry about what other people might think.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

2 Nephi 9:41-42

"O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.
And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them."
2 Nephi 9:41-42


In some ways these verses sound like they are knocking education, which can't be the case.  In other scripture God tells us how much he values intelligence, wisdom, and knowledge.  He wants us to learn.  So, knowing that, a better interpretation here is that it is only when we lose humility that we're in trouble.  That's also a hard one.  God wants us to understand our individual worth, but we need to beware of pride.  I think the distinction here is an important one.  Learning and self-esteem are not the bad guys here.  The problem comes when we let anything... learning, riches, any talent or attribute we have... get in the way of our relationships with God and other people.  The second we start imagining that we are better than other people... or that we don't need God's guidance and direction in our lives is when we slip. 
We *are* cool... unbelievably so.  We're golden... children of God with infinite potential.  But we're not better than random person #4.  Random person #4 is ALSO golden, and beloved, and has all the potential we do.  And when we don't understand that (which happens fairly frequently with all of us, I think), then we're the ones with a learning problem, and we need some remedial education.  It's hard to think of ourselves as fools... we've learned so much, and come so far when we think back over our lives.  But remember, fools *before God.* ... We're always, always that.  God has so much to teach us, and often, at least with our weaknesses, we don't learn very quickly.
Today, even though it is hard, let's work on our humility.  Let's really try to see every person around us as an equal, and treat them accordingly.  Let's be golden in the way that we treat people rather than our intellectual prowess.

Monday, February 4, 2013

1 Thessalonians 5:14-15

"Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men."
1 Thessalonians 5:14-15


All of this is good, but one part that I like in the first verse is "be patient toward all men."  I think that is really tough, but significantly, I don't think that it depends on the person that we encounter as much as it depends on us.  We have the ability to be patient with anyone, if we are good with God and we have that internal core of peace that grows stronger the longer we keep the spirit with us.  When we lose our cool, we can't blame it on random annoying person #3, no matter how annoying that particular specimen is. :)  We are in control of our cool, our emotions, and all of our reactions.  Not saying that it is always easy to control ourselves, but even when it is most difficult, God still grants us the power and the choice, and it is on us when we lash out... not on random annoying person #3.
In the second verse I really like "see that none render evil for evil."  I think this also really drives home the lesson of personal responsibility.  Revenge isn't ever the answer, even though it often is in popular media.  If someone cheated or hurt us, it isn't right to hurt them back or cheat someone else to make up for it.  If our boss pisses us off, it isn't right to kick the dog (OR the boss). :)  We need to follow good, no matter what we get, from the boss, or random cruel person #9.  We still need to be the good guys.  And remember, the ultimate Good Guy, Christ.  He was more powerful than every person there, and he still didn't release himself from the cross and hurt the people that were hurting him and his friends.  He finished his work.  When he was resurrected, he didn't go back and take revenge on anyone.  He stayed good.  Today, let's try to avoid the media-tinted urge for retribution, and instead follow Christ.  Let's do everything good that we can, and make the world a better place with kindness and gentle goodness, rather than attempting it with revenge and cruelty.

Friday, February 1, 2013

2 Corinthians 10:3-6

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled."
2 Corinthians 10:3-6


This is interesting.  The war that we fight for God is not a physical war.  It is a mental and spiritual war... and most of it is being fought within ourselves, not between ourselves.  Our first victory, and many continued victories, are about mastery of self, not of others.  So often we endanger ourselves with our minds.  And I am not saying at all that we shouldn't be open minded and really examine our faith, because we should.  I am saying that often we imagine that God doesn't matter, even after learning and knowing that he does... that we can't live without him.  We imagine something in our lives and hearts that is more important to us than God, which always, always hurts us in the end, because we must realize that is not true, and the learning of that lesson is painful.  We imagine that we can stand alone, and although we learn lessons from that, we have to learn that we stand with God or stand with Satan.  There is no independence or fence-sitting in that battle for our souls.
This challenge then, in our minds, is to really overhaul ourselves on a mental level to get where we need to be.  Are we still at the point where we are being obedient on the outside but rebellious on the inside?  Do we love God, but really, really want something that we know would harm that relationship?  Those are okay places to be as we work our way towards God, but there are still battles to be won.  We won't get to heaven standing in those places.  We have to change inside as well as outside.  We have to want obedience and understand why it is the best choice.  We have to not want to rebel against the only thing that can save us.  We have to love God more than anything else that exists.  We have to understand and embrace the sacrifice of serving God so much that it becomes to us a joy, and not so much a sacrifice... because those things that we are giving up?  Turns out, they don't matter.
Today, let's work on winning the internal battle, or at least recognizing that it needs to be fought.  True conversion goes all the way down.  We can hold nothing back, if we want to be the people that God can make us. :)  No leftover disobedience.  No souvenirs of Hell.

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