Sunday, November 30, 2014

John 10:16 -- On Becoming One Fold

"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."
John 10:16

Here, Christ is talking about visiting other nations of the earth after his death and resurrection.  He says something very similar in 3 Nephi 16:1, there clarifying that the other sheep aren't any of the places that he has been so far.  So, at least three groups got personal appearances from Christ.  That's amazing, and sort of mysterious too, since we only know about two of those groups.  The whole idea is really cool though, and I think that it really makes sense that God would want to spread the word as far as possible, and for those places that couldn't get the news because they were across an ocean or otherwise geographically inaccessible, it is cool that he chose to go in person. :)
I like the idea here that even though the sheep are not of the same fold at the time of the statements, that there eventually will only be one fold.  That we will all join together as children of God, and be united.  Maybe today we can get a head start on that, and start thinking more inclusively about people outside our nation or culture.  We're all God's people.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mark 4:39 -- On Faith and Storms

"And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm."
Mark 4:39

It is amazing that God can command the wind and the sea to obey him, and they do.  That's off the charts on the in-tune with nature scale.  How could that possibly work?--It seems like all of creation has to be tied together somehow, and malleable in a different way than we usually imagine.  It makes me think a little of the way the city of Enoch was and the Millennial Zion will be... the people are united and of one heart and mind.  In a society based on God's laws and striving to become like him, maybe we would also be able to find unity with the world around us as well.  Christ learned to walk on water, and here to control the weather.  It's incredible... something we can't fully understand, but something that we know God can do.  How much more could we do... how much more could we *be* if we believed and had faith?  Can we shake off the limitations that we are taught by the world, and realize that with faith and obedience, we can weather every storm, and solve *every* problem that comes along?  That we can change from who we are into who we want to be... and even more than that, who God knows we can be?
I know that God can calm the figurative storms in our individual lives just as he calmed the literal storm for his disciples.  Today, let's work on learning to trust God, and have faith in his ability to save us, and to help us start learning how to live by the spirit, in tune with other people, with nature, and with God.

Friday, November 28, 2014

1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 -- On Following Good and Rejoicing

"See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
1 Thessalonians 5:15-18

Good advice. :)  It is hard not to render evil for evil.  When people hurt us, we often want to hurt them back, but being capital-G Good and following God, we have to figure out a way to let go of those urges for revenge or retribution, and let God worry about the eternal balance. :)  After all, we probably don't want all of the evil we have sent out to return to us.  ... Which is why it is a really good thing that God is in charge, and can relieve some of that balance for us, so we don't have to suffer.  Let's try not to make anyone else suffer either.  If we follow and focus on the good, maybe the bad will have less control over our actions.
Rejoice evermore.  Love that. :)  Great idea.  Not always easy, but awesome to remember that this, also, is a commandment.  Let's find the reasons to rejoice in our lives rather than focusing on the imperfection and the injustice.  And let's bring reasons to rejoice into the lives of others as well. :)
Pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks. :)  Two things that go together well, and something that can really assist us in our efforts to see the positive around us.  Let's start thanking God for things, and getting into that mindset of remembering our incredible and multitudinous blessings. :)  And hey, if we're thankful, and praying, and rejoicing, it will be a lot easier to return some good rather than some evil, no matter what we're getting from others. :)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Psalms 100:3-4 -- On Being Thankful

"Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name."
Psalms 100:3-4

I like the simplicity of these verses.  It is important to remember the basics sometimes.  God made us; we didn't make ourselves.  That one fact I think helps to put things into perspective sometimes.  If we step back and remember that, maybe we won't be so quick to doubt or demand with God, but instead to listen and learn.  We are his people, and his sheep.  He will take care of us if we listen to him and obey him.  ... Sometimes we think even that is too much, but he isn't an ogre, asking us to do unreasonable things.  He is a parent, asking us not to touch the hot stove, and to not play in the street when there is heavy traffic.  He can't always stop us if we choose to jump off a cliff, but he will always warn us not to up front, and help us to learn to walk again after we break our legs when we do it anyway.  Despite all of our rebellion, he is still there to gather us in and to help and heal anytime we turn into his arms.
God made us.  He cares for us, he provides for us, and he just asks us to stay away from things that are going to harm us long term.  Today, let's remember him and his efforts on our behalf, and be thankful for his love: for all that we are, and all that he provides.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 -- On Liberty and Mirrors

"Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
2 Corinthians 3:17-18

 I love the idea of the Spirit making us free... granting us liberty.  And you know, it isn't at all the way that some people interpret "the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32), although I of course believe that it will.  But we so often use that phrase to justify selfishness.  Like, I have discovered this thing about myself, which gives me the permission/freedom from God to bail on all of my responsibilities and pursue that one thing exclusively.  We use it as an excuse to give in to lust or other addictive desires.  Which is, of course, taking it completely out of context, because Christ made it clear that we would learn the truth through *obedience.*
These verses are essentially saying the same thing that it says in John, but they provide a little bit more clarification so that we don't misuse the statement. :)  If we have the spirit, then we are free.  If we are walking with God, then we are free.
And what freedom are we granted?  The freedom to sin without immediate consequences?  No.  That's just another way to enslave ourselves.  I think the second verse of the selection here really shows us what true freedom offers.  To look into the mirror and see the glory of God in our countenances.  To see ourselves becoming like him, day after day.  To walk with God is to be lifted so far above our limitations and faults that we can overcome and transcend them, and learn to walk as Christ walked, and to love as he loved.  As we learn to do as he did, and listen to his guidance, then we can have that spirit, and that experience of looking in the mirror and seeing ourselves becoming more like him.  Today, let's seek that kind of liberty. :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

3 Nephi 28:36-38 -- On Hope and Washing away Mortality

"And now behold, as I spake concerning those whom the Lord hath chosen, yea, even three who were caught up into the heavens, that I knew not whether they were cleansed from mortality to immortality—
But behold, since I wrote, I have inquired of the Lord, and he hath made it manifest unto me that there must needs be a change wrought upon their bodies, or else it needs be that they must taste of death;
Therefore, that they might not taste of death there was a change wrought upon their bodies, that they might not suffer pain nor sorrow save it were for the sins of the world."
3 Nephi 28:36-38

This is amazing in so many ways.  This is talking about 3 of Christ's disciples that expressed their desire to live until Christ returned, and to continue to bring souls to him.  The thought of not having to "taste" death is mighty cool all by itself, but there are plenty of other things here.  I like the idea that mortality is "cleansed" from us.  That all the death and sorrow stuff is just like a stain, and if we wash it off, then we're all good. :)  I like the idea that our bodies are changed... but we're still the same people.  It's like becoming the bionic man, but way better. :)  And I really, really like the part about no pain or sorrow except for the sins of the world.  That seems so nice.  Not to have to worry about our health at all?  That's unbelievably amazing.
Not to dismiss sorrow for the sins of the world.  Anyone who has had a close friend or loved one leave the church or choose to walk away from God will understand how devastating that can be.  And, of course, we all live here in the world and we see the sin and the corruption all around us.  It's hard... and it's also why Christ suffered and was crucified.  To atone for the sins of the world (D&C 54:1).  Because the sins of the world are huge and prevalent, and we need to be saved from them.  Mormon and Moroni lived most of their lives in sorrow for the sins of the world, and I think that in our normal lives, even if all of our health problems were removed, we'd probably have some sorrow left, for the choices that people make that lead to sadness or evil, rather than happiness and good... especially when they are *our* choices.
Despite the sorrow for the sins of the world, though, Mormon said "nevertheless, I know that I shall be lifted up at the last day" (Mormon 2:19) ... and I think that the same thing can be true for us.  Even in the midst of sorrow and disappointment, we can choose to see the good: to know that God is willing to save everyone who comes to him, including us. :)  To know that someday we'll be resurrected and have perfect health. :)  To know that God will right all the wrongs, and build a Zion of people who love each other and who are generous and giving and loving, even when we are having a hard time being that, or knowing how to promote it.
Today, even if we are failing on a personal level, let's remember that God gives us hope of a glorious, better-than-bionic future. :)  Because he suffered for the sins of the world, we can repent.  We can wash away our sin, and know that someday God will wash away our mortality.  And we can also hope for others.  Because we can all turn around, and learn, and grow, and overcome our faults.  Today, let's work on that, and focus on the positive things. :)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Philippians 2:20-21 -- On Thinking Outside the Mental Box

"For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.
For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s."
Philippians 2:20-21

This is an interesting side comment by Paul about the selfishness of humanity in general.  What I like about it is how our selfishness is juxtaposed with Christ.  That seeking Christ is the opposite of selfishness.  Not that we aren't also encircled in that love, but that it is a generous and open love without walls or exclusivity.  God welcomes in anyone who will accept him, and teaches us a better way... a way to escape our own pettiness.  A way to think outside the box of our own heads, and open up and truly care about others.
Today, even though we naturally seek our own, let's work on opening up and caring... seeking the things which are Jesus Christ's.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

James 4:4-7 -- On Submitting and Resisting

"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
James 4:4-7

Whether or not we have committed the specific sin of adultery, this still applies to us.  Partly because God uses adultery as a symbolic representation of our disloyalty to him elsewhere in the scriptures, and partly because we are all subject to lust and envy, whether or not we act on it.
It is interesting that we aren't supposed to be friends with the world. :)  I think that is not because there is not good in the world, but because if we get too used to the bad and too comfortable with all the corruption and evil, then we won't work to further God's improvement plan and make a better world. :)  The world isn't all bad, and WE aren't all bad.  There are just things about the world, and about us, that need to be improved, and we need to remember that, always, and work on making those changes.  Some of those things are lust and envy... we are going to feel those things.  How we deal with that and respond to that will either make us more likely to give in or more likely to build up a resistance.  We often hear "the devil made me do it," but the devil can't *make* us do anything.  We are tempted, but we *choose* whether to give into that temptation or not.  If we resist him, the temptation won't last forever... the devil will flee.
Today, let's submit to God's will and not the devil's.  Let's put up some resistance when temptations come along, and remember to choose the right. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mark 13:33-35 -- On Watching, and Being Ready

"Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:"
Mark 13:33-35

This is an interesting analogy, that God has left us in charge of our individual tasks, but will be coming back.  And so, in this analogy, and in life, it is going to matter a lot how much we can accept some individual responsibility... Will we slack off until we hear him coming back, and then act busy, hoping he won't notice our long absence from work?  Or will we learn and grow and find better ways of doing things and make more of what we have and what we are?  In so many ways, we *are* the kingdom of God, and he is depending on us to improve ourselves and build the kingdom.  We are the tools in the hand of God that he uses to help and bless the lives of others.  And it isn't that God's kingdom will fail without us, but that it could be so much better with us... with all of us.  Whoever is willing to help becomes part of the solution... part of the kingdom of God.
Today, let's jump in and build the kingdom.  Let's improve everything we touch, and encourage and lift and bring happiness as we go.  Let's watch, and be aware, and when God returns to see how we've done, let's have something to show him.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Jeremiah 13:15 -- On Pride and Value

"Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken."
Jeremiah 13:15

Pretty clear, right?   But I was listening to Elmo's World today (my niece got to choose the show), and he was singing about being proud, and a little kid being proud of himself isn't bad, is it?  So what is the difference?  I think we get this mixed up sometimes and think of pride as the same thing as self-esteem.  And if we do that, then we can fall into traps like thinking that we have to hate ourselves or suffer in order to please God.
God isn't looking for us to grovel.  We do have to go through tribulation and sometimes sacrifice what we want for what God wants in life, but that's so we can learn from our experiences, and learn over time that God's will always turns out better than ours.  It isn't about beating us down and making us feel worthless.  Even when we talk about being less than the dust of the earth, it isn't about our value as beings.  It is, again, about obedience, because the dust does whatever God asks.  It takes us much longer to get that down.
The way we use the word pride in our society is tough.  I think in the way that it means self-esteem, thinking that we are okay, and we can work to be better... or being proud of someone else for choosing the right, it's okay.  But as soon as it becomes a comparison or a contest, that's when it starts being a sin.  When we start thinking that we are better or smarter than other people or God.  When we think we can stop growing because we're the best, or what we value our own works over the works or requests of God, then we've lost sight of who we are, rather than just recognized that we're worthwhile.
As for being worthwhile: we all are.  It doesn't matter what we've done or how far we have to go. God still cares about us, and if we have the desire to change, God will help us to come back to him.  As long as we are alive and have the ability to make choices, we can choose to turn around and do good.  Not saying it is easy.  Sometimes, far down that path, it is really, really hard.  But it *is* possible, and we ARE worth the time and effort of saving.  Christ died to give us that chance, because we are each worth it, and God wants to be reunited with us and rejoice in our success.
Today, let's remember that we are valuable.  We matter, and whatever effort it takes to clean up our lives is worth it.  Let's just not take it too far, and think that our value makes us the boss of everyone else. :)  God's will should always come first.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ezekiel 28:4-9 -- On Being Cool But Not God

"With thy wisdom and with thine understanding thou hast gotten thee riches, and hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures:
By thy great wisdom and by thy traffick hast thou increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches:
Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God;
Behold, therefore I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations: and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness.
They shall bring thee down to the pit, and thou shalt die the deaths of them that are slain in the midst of the seas.
Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God? but thou shalt be a man, and no God, in the hand of him that slayeth thee."
Ezekiel 28:4-9

This is a message from God to the prince of Tyrus, and it sounds like the prince had a lot of things going for him.  In the verse before this selection it says that he was wiser than Daniel.  High praise. :)  And yet, sometimes that is the hardest position to be in when it comes to living in the gospel.  We're used to thinking that we are pretty cool and able to do things that others can't, and we start running into pride problems.  Daniel had other things going for him besides his wisdom... significantly humility, and a healthy respect for God's position.  It's just a plain fact that God knows more than all of us, and that he can see farther ahead on the road than we can, no matter how far we've planned ahead.
Today, let's work on not imagining that our hearts are as the heart of God.  Let's recognize that we have a lot to learn.  Let's use our talents to make the world better, but not believe that they make us better than each other, or better than God.  It's okay to be cool... let's just help others be cool and share in the fun, right? :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ether 6:4 -- On Preparation and Faith

"And it came to pass that when they had prepared all manner of food, that thereby they might subsist upon the water, and also food for their flocks and herds, and whatsoever beast or animal or fowl that they should carry with them—and it came to pass that when they had done all these things they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God."
Ether 6:4

This verse is talking about Jared and his brother getting ready to travel to the promised land.  It seems to me that it applies to each of our lives as we travel to our own individual promised lands.  They aren't always the same, but we are all travelling towards what God has promised us, and it requires the same kind of faith. 
A couple of things stand out here to me.  They worked really hard to prepare for their journey.  They prepared, and when they had done "all" the things they needed to do to prepare, then they commended themselves to God.  Sometimes we miss part of this.  We sometimes prepare and leave out the part about commending ourselves to God, and sometimes the opposite: we commend ourselves to God, but leave out the preparation.
As we travel towards the promised land today, let's remember to prepare extensively and make sure we are ready for whatever comes.  And for the things that we can't possibly prepare for, let's commend ourselves to God, and trust ourselves to his care.  If we remember to do both parts, then we can have confidence that we will reach our destination... we've done our part and God will do his.
These people had no idea where the promised land was or how long it would take to get there... and often, neither do we.  God's promises come to us on his timeline, not ours.  But if we prepare and trust in him, we will get there, and it will be glorious.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Moses 1:9 -- On Consistent Dedication

"And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth."
Moses 1:9

This is  a good reminder.  When we try to accomplish things without God, we usually fall to the earth.  He is the one that helps us rise above it.
It is so easy to fall away from him.  Our pride gets in the way and we want to try to do things our way.  We don't like what he has to say.  I was reading in Jeremiah today and Jeremiah kept telling everyone that the city would be destroyed and how to make it better, but everyone wanted to believe the false prophets that were lying to them instead.  We do the same things in our lives.  We pick and choose the answers we want from the people around us, often dismissing God's advice because it isn't what we want to hear.  It takes dedication to stick with God, even when the lies sound better.
Unfortunately, life can't always be good news, or we wouldn't learn anything, and we wouldn't really have a good relationship with God (or anyone else) if we only got along when things were going well.  Today, let's work on keeping the spirit with us, whether things are going the way we want or not.  Let's listen to God and follow him, no matter what.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Romans 5:3-4 -- On Tribulation and Hope

"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:"
Romans 5:3-4

I like the idea here... that tribulation leads to hope. :)  It might need to go through patience and experience first, but the path is clear, and it is a reason to rejoice.  I think just that idea brings me some hope.  I get frustrated by temporary roadblocks, but the world, society, and our individual circumstances don't change quickly.  It takes planning and determination and sustained effort, and we so often, perhaps me more than most, want things to change just because they *should* rather than having to work for it. :)  But that's part of what we are learning here, and from God in general... how to work, how to be consistent, how to dedicate ourselves to righteous change.  We learn part of that just through overcoming our own sins and faults.  There is a lot of dedication and work required for lasting repentance.  And we learn even more as we try to apply the same lessons outside of ourselves, when we encounter differing opinions, attitudes, and desires.  None of us are going to get to a Zion society by snapping our fingers.  We have to learn to work with others, to share, to balance the needs of the many against the needs of the one.  In the city of Enoch there were no poor among them.  And it wasn't because they kicked the poor people out. :)  How do we get there?  Where we aren't selfish or worried about power and titles and who is better than who?  It's a huge job, and a huge change in the way that we live and the way we think.
I think that these verses help us with the first steps.  Maybe we need to go through some tribulation and unlearn a few things first. :)  Maybe we have to consider the things that we are doing wrong, and that the way we think about ownership or titles or social stratification might need some modification.  It's a slow process, learning how to be Zion people, but it teaches us patience, and we gain experience as we try out new ideas and practice new ways of interacting with people.  And, as we gain that experience, hopefully we also gain some hope, and see that it *is* possible.  We can change.  We can learn, and unlearn, important lessons as we approach God and build Zion.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

D&C 14:4-6 -- On Asking and Seeking

"Yea, whosoever will thrust in his sickle and reap, the same is called of God.
Therefore, if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you will knock it shall be opened unto you.
Seek to bring forth and establish my Zion. Keep my commandments in all things."
Doctrine and Covenants 14:4-6

I like this message.  If we start working for God, then we are called.  God grants us the authority and power to accomplish things in his name as we *do* them.  We don't have to wait for a divine decree.  God accepts whoever is willing to jump in and help.  God wants us to take some initiative. :)
Today, let's ask, and knock, and seek, and work.  All we have to do is look around to see the needs of others, and ways we can help.  Let's keep the commandments and make thing happen.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Amos 5:7-8 -- On Seeking the Lord

"Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth,
Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name:"
Amos 5:7-8

We don't like thinking of ourselves as the objects of scriptures like this.  We prefer thinking that God is talking to other people, and that we are the righteous ones.  We get someone else in our minds and think... "oh yeah, [that person] should totally read this" or "boy, this sounds just like [whoever]!"  But the Lord says "ye," and I think to get the most out of this scripture, and perhaps all scriptures, we should think about how they apply to us.
Do we turn judgment to wormwood?  Do we leave off righteousness?  Probably yes, right?  Not always, and maybe we're working on it, but this message is still for us.  The message is: Seek the Lord.
In an earlier verse God tells us to seek him and we'll live.  That probably also makes the alternative clear... but I think it's something we already knew.  Sin is killing us, little by little.
God illustrates his power here not only to tell us to shape up, which is important, but also to offer hope.  He didn't just make the stars.  He can turn the shadow of death into the morning. :)  Surely he can save us from our sins as well.  Today, let's seek him, and ask for his help in changing our ways.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ezekiel 34:18-19 -- On Not Fouling the Water

"Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet?
And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet."Ezekiel 34:18-19

This is an interesting comparison of ourselves and our society to cattle.  Not only do we get the best pasture and watering, but we want to ruin it for all the rest of the cattle.  It sound like another problem that the Lord mentions in other scriptures... that we persist in thinking that we are better than one another.  We love it when we get the best, but we feel like it isn't as good if everyone gets the best.  It has to be exclusive.
I wonder what the solution is to that.  Obviously part of it is learning to love, changing our attitudes, etc., but it seems really firmly engrained.  We have a hard time rejoicing with other people sometimes, and the farther they are from our inner circle, the harder it seems to be for us.  We have ideas of who fits and who doesn't, and who is part of our circle and who is outside it.  And at some level of distance, we so often talk ourselves into not feeling compassion or not identifying with those others.  Maybe it is people outside our families, or wards, or countries, or religion, or lifestyle preference, or societal level.  But whatever it is, maybe we need to think about our similarity to these cattle, and how we can foul the waters for other people.   And try not to, right?
Today, let's work on being inclusive and welcoming, and loving, and on doing whatever we can to share our bounty.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 -- On Overcoming Division

"And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"
1 Corinthians 3:1-3

This is an interesting reminder that we still have a lot to learn in the Gospel.  No matter how often we have read the scriptures, or whether we always have the right answers in Sunday School, Paul points out very clearly here that if we were ready for the more advanced parts of the gospel, there wouldn't be any envy, strife, or division among us... and which of us can say that?  It's a long road building a Zion society, and we need to learn to overcome those feelings before we will be ready for the "meat" of the gospel.
In some ways, this can seem discouraging, that we haven't progressed further.  But I think that as long as we are working on these things, and we keep apologizing when we make mistakes, and keep repenting, that we are moving forward and not backward.  As a society, Christ judged us ready to move beyond the Law of Moses, and if we keep working at it, eventually we'll be ready as a people for further progression.  And that is part of the challenge, right?  We have to get there together, not in competition. :)  Today, let's work on letting go of envy, strife, and division, and do everything we can to promote goodness and unity.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Psalms 37:7-9 -- On Fretting Not

"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth."
Psalms 37:7-9

I like the message that we shouldn't fret or worry, but rest in the Lord and be patient.  That's a hard thing to remember sometimes, because lots of things are going on, and we feel a lot of time sensitivity in the things that we do.  But the Lord's timing is much better than ours, and if something falls through, God always has something better in store for us.
God tells us specifically here not to worry because of people who prosper because of evil.  He will take care of that.  If we get angry about it and let it bother us, then we're getting into the dangerous position of being tempted to do evil ourselves.  If we can be patient and wait for the Lord to balance things, then we stay firmly on God's side.
Today, let's allow ourselves to de-stress and rest in the Lord... instead of fretting over the injustices of the world, let's allow the Lord to deal with them in his own time.  We have enough to do, learning and doing good, and making sure we aren't part of the problem. :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Revelation 1:8 -- On Endings, Beginnings, and Eternity

"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty."
Revelation 1:8

God here tries to express to us a little bit of what he is.  Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.  He is the beginning and the end... of the alphabet, of language, of all that we are.  He was there in the beginning; he created us and gave us life, and he will be there in the end when we die, and are resurrected.
Sometimes people say that God created all of this and then left, or that God is dead, and verses like this make it clear that that isn't, and was never the plan.  He is, and was, and is to come.  Which is to say, eternal.  And always there, concerned with us.
It's hard for us to grasp the idea of this kind of continuity, because in our lives we begin things and never finish them.  Things fall apart that we wanted to last a lifetime... or longer.  We are well-acquainted with endings.  But God is Almighty. :)  He doesn't have to end because the beginning and the ending are self-contained.  He can start again, and will always be.  Past, present, future.  I think some part of us yearns for that... for someone that will never go away, that will always be there for us, that we can always depend on.  And God fills that role perfectly and completely.  If we seek him, he will always be there.
Today, let's remember who God is... the beginning, the ending, the present, the past, the future.  The Almighty, with the power to save us, and to grant us new beginnings as well.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Acts 8:38-39 -- On Being Led by the Spirit

"And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing."
Acts 8:38-39

Before these verses, an Angel tells Philip to go to a certain place, and then the Spirit tells him to catch up with a certain chariot, all in order to talk to this particular man and be able to convert him.  And then, as soon as he had baptized him and they were coming back, the Spirit whisked him off somewhere else.  Very cool story, and I love the idea of God leading us from one place to another where we can do the most good.
My question about these particular verses though is, if the Spirit could take Philip anywhere, why do it at the end of this story and not the beginning?  Couldn't the spirit have just taken him directly to the chariot... or outside the chariot, if that would have startled people too much? :)  ... And I have no idea whether Philip needed instruction or not, but even if he didn't, perhaps his experience is instructive for us.  We have a hard time hearing God sometimes, and trusting him.  God was more obvious with Philip at first, and led him to specific places, without telling him the ultimate destination or the reason.  Perhaps this helped Philip trust God more, knowing that if he just listened and acted on God's instructions, that opportunities would present themselves.  For us, there are probably many more steps that come before even the Angel stage.  Perhaps we have to learn at some point even that God is there, and know him a little before we'll even believe in an Angel sent from God.
Another thing I love about this story is how much effort God had Philip put into talking to this one person.  Maybe it was a strategic conversion in some way that would lead to many other people considering the gospel, but I appreciate also that God really did want to answer this man's questions and save *him* as an individual.  The same is true for us.  When we read the scriptures and we don't get it, or when we have questions about the gospel, God will send people into our lives, through miraculous or mundane means, who can help us.
Today, let's be open to the guidance that God sends into our lives, whether it is the spirit or another person.  Let's open our hearts to God's truth and learn all we can, and ask more questions.  Let's grow in the gospel so that we can be like Philip, led by the Spirit to help others, and like the man in the chariot, led by the spirit to take necessary steps for our own salvation.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

1 Peter 1:3-6 -- On Hope and Horror Movies

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:"
1 Peter 1:3-6

This is cool.  I think that it places the heaviness and temptations in the proper context, almost as an afterthought. :)  Because yeah, sometimes things are tough, but that is *never* the point, right?  Never the focus, or what we should be looking at or worrying about.  The point is that God has so much in store, that he sent his son to give us hope, that we have a perfect inheritance waiting for us, and joy beyond imagining.  So, yeah, maybe we're in chapter 7 where things seem dark for a while.  But it's just chapter seven.  We *know* that with God the happy ending is there, waiting for us.  We just have to keep reading God's book, and sticking to his plot, rather than going it alone and twisting the novel into a horror movie. :)  Today, let's remember that the bad, stressful times are temporary, and not the point of it all.  Let's keep in touch with God, and let him guide us out of chapter 7 and into the happy ending he has promised.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Helaman 12:13 -- On Moving the Earth

"Yea, and if he say unto the earth—Move—it is moved."
Helaman 12:13

Probably because I am in the process of packing and moving, this just seems extra super plus astounding to me.  It is anyway, of course, but even more so right now.  And maybe there is a lesson here as well.  It's important to be able to think of God as a personal God, but sometimes we go a little bit too far and think of him as possessing human weakness and fallibility.  And if we start thinking that he can make mistakes, then we can get completely off track, thinking that he might not know what he is doing, that we can't really trust him, and on down the slippery slope. :)
Today, let's remember that God can do anything.  He can move the earth.  He can walk on water.  He is *God* ... and we can trust him and know that if we stick with him, the happy ending will come.  Everything will eventually work out.  During the stressful moments in our lives, let's rely on him and know that he will move the earth to help us, literally. :)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Isaiah 64:6-8 -- On Hope and Clay

"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.
But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand."
Isaiah 64:6-8

This seems pretty harsh as a self-assessment of all of us... but I think we can all, at some point in our lives or another, relate.  We know we could be more, and do more, but we choose not to.  We don't call upon God, we try to do it all on our own, and we screw it up.  We feel like nothing... "less than the dust of the earth" (Helaman 12:7).  And there is a lot of truth to that.  We *are* unclean, and even our righteousness is like filthy rags compared to God.  There is a huge gap there that we never live up to.  But what interests me about this selection is that it doesn't stop there... just like we never should.
It's okay to see our faults and to realize that we need to change.  We need to realize that if we are going to become better.  But we can't just realize that and wallow in it, or give up.  We have to go past that to doing something about it.  In these verses, the hope is in the Lord.  He is our father, and we are the clay in his hand.  Even if we can't do anything with ourselves, we know that if we trust him, we can become something useful and beautiful.
Today, as we realize our faults and mistakes, let's also remember the other side of the equation: "the worth of souls is great in the sight of God" (D&C 18:10).  He knows that we are filthy rags, but with his help we can wash up pretty well.  We can become our best selves as we trust his power to mold us into something better than we now are, and participate in the process.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

D&C 64:22 -- On Spiritual Requirements

"And after that day, I, the Lord, will not hold any guilty that shall go with an open heart up to the land of Zion; for I, the Lord, require the hearts of the children of men."
Doctrine and Covenants 64:22

This verse was from a time in Church history where God asked some people to stay and not sell their homes or stores yet, so they could help equip others.  He asked them to stay for five years.  Seems like a long time to us mortals, especially if we are excited about something and already making plans to move.  But then he says that they are free after that to go... and I really like the part at the end, where they are going with an open heart, and the Lord requires our hearts.  Not in some creepy horror-movie way, but I think more in a classroom teacher way.  Hearts are a required part of the course. :) 
We aren't really used to that, because in our daily lives, no one can really know what is in our hearts.  They can ask certain behaviors of us, but they can't require us to be true believers or to be all-in emotionally.  We can often still feel/see the difference between people who are just going through the motions and people who are really learning it internally, and we know that people who are internally motivated do better at everything, but it is really hard to screen for, and not something you can put on a syllabus or get from a resume.  We try sometimes, and we call it loyalty or attitude and find mostly inaccurate ways to measure it, but with God, he *knows* what is in our hearts, and he also knows that to truly reach our potential, we need to be all-in spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. 
I think that a lot of our lives we live in a state of halfway, sort-of motivation that doesn't often get us anywhere, but which seems safe, so we don't have to overcommit or work too hard. :) Today, though, let's remember that our hearts are required for salvation.  Let's not hold anything back as we learn and grow and serve the Lord.  Let's learn how powerful we can become when we are on the same page with God and have our whole selves committed and pointed in the same direction.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Galatians 6:2-5 -- On the Bearing of Burdens

"Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
For every man shall bear his own burden."
Galatians 6:2-5

There is an interesting juxtaposition here between bearing each other's burdens and bearing our own burdens.  There are several similar contrasts in scripture, but usually not this close together.  For instance, if we look up "resist evil" we find two verses seemingly in disagreement.  One says "ye shall not resist evil" (3 Nephi 12:39) and the other says "let us resist evil" (Alma 61:14).  The answer, as we delve further in the scriptures, is that God prefers that we suffer wrong rather than trying for revenge... but that sometimes it is appropriate to fight and defend ourselves.  Finding the right line to walk between those two paths is part of the challenge of the gospel.  And so it is with many things, including these verses. 
We are commanded to bear one another's burdens, but also that every man should bear his own burden.  To me, it sounds a lot like what you learn as a manager, and perhaps as a parent: to provide support and assistance without removing responsibility or accountability.  Sometimes if we took over someone else's job, it would get done better and faster, but that almost never means that we should.  We can accomplish more together, but only if we all contribute to the whole.  So perhaps the answer here is that we should always be willing to help and lift others, but we should never expect to be carried.  We need to learn to "prove our own work," and learn to take responsibility, but we all get into jams sometimes, and need some help.  And that's okay, as long as we get back up and walk when we are able.
Today, let's remember that we are nothing without God, and that we all have a responsibility to work for God and to keep the commandments.  And let's also remember to reach out to others who are struggling, to lighten their loads, and help them to get back on their feet. :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Jeremiah 17:9-10 -- On Hearts and Non-Fiction

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings."Jeremiah 17:9-10

Our society is really into the heart.  We watch movies where people are seemingly unable to overrule the judgement of their own hearts, even if they are going to ruin their lives, end up in hell, lose their souls and turn into vampires, etc. :)  And despite our affection for the idea of perfect, unchosen romance or the idea that our desires can't lead us astray and will always end up as the best choice, perhaps it does us a disservice to think that these fictional ideals hold up in real life.  One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is that our hearts are a good guide, and that we should trust them above all else.
The Lord asks us to come before him with a broken heart.  Alma talks about "the mighty change of heart."  Ezekiel talks about replacing our stony hearts with new hearts.  The whole idea of being baptized and born again is the idea of coming to God and allowing him to change us into new creatures... including our hearts, which, despite the media hype, aren't all that great at making good decisions.
Still, the idea of being able to trust our hearts is compelling.  We don't want to take the Vulcan "pure logic" path.  We want that unity between thought and emotion.  By definition, we want what we desire.  ... And that trust and that unity are, in fact possible.  But to get that unity we have to do one of two things.  We either have to change our minds, or we have to change our hearts.  The only one that leads to a happy ending *outside* the movie theatre is to change our hearts.  Once we have dedicated our hearts to God, then we can be united, heart and mind, to learning from him and reaching our potential.  Eventually, we can get to the point where we don't even desire sin anymore; we just want to help and lift and to choose the good.  I'm not trying to sell you another media lie.  It takes a lot of work to get to that point, and a lot of hard choices.  But God is offering real miracles, not fictional ones.  Today, let's follow God rather than our hearts when they differ, and get on the path to the non-fictional happy ending.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Jeremiah 9:23-24 -- On Pride and Glory

"Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord."
Jeremiah 9:23-24

I like that this scripture not only tells us what not to glory in, but actually goes on to tell us things that it is okay to glory in. :)  The first verse tells us basically that we shouldn't glory in our strengths.  This is a common message in the scriptures, and one that we forget often.  We get lifted up in pride and start thinking that we are better than each other, because of this or that strength.  Perhaps a better way to look at it is that we have something to learn from everyone around us, and we have something to offer everyone around us as well.  Only through sharing our strengths with each other--being learners *and* teachers--will we get the benefit of being around each other and being "each other’s clinical material" as Neal A. Maxwell said here
If we're going to glory, God gives us some things to glory in. :)  We can glory in understanding and knowing God.  And we can glory in the Lord, who does amazing things in the earth.  Perhaps to see those things we need to break out a little from our societal obsession with tragedy and be able to see the good things that are also happening.  Evidence of God's hand is there all around us, waiting to be seen.
Today, let's see and glory in the evidence of God's love and kindness.  Let's rejoice that we understand him and know him enough to communicate.  Let's see God's hand in the judgment and the righteousness that makes this world work.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Jeremiah 1:10 -- On Moving Beyond Destruction

"See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant."
Jeremiah 1:10

God is talking to Jeremiah here about what his calling or his mission is.  I think it is interesting that a lot of it is about denunciation and destruction, but then at the end it also says "to build, and to plant."  The idea that I get from this is that God is never about destruction for its own sake.  Although part of it, of course, could be about restoring justice, I think mainly the reason that God destroys is so that he can build and plant.  It reminds me of the parable of the olive trees and how the Lord of the vineyard had to clear ground and prune sometimes, but always to make the whole better.
I think this is true on an individual level as well.  Sometimes our aspirations or our hopes are destroyed.  And even when it is a little bit about justice where we've done something wrong that needed to be righted... even then, it is *also* about building and planting.  God asks us to come before him with a broken heart.  And that heart, and the contrite spirit that go with it... those parts of ourselves aren't broken because God likes to see us humiliated and suffering.  Sometimes we need to be broken, or pruned, or refined, so that we can be healed and built and become brighter and stronger and better.  Cutting out the disease isn't ever going to be the fun part, but being cured is worth it.  And that is God's goal... his purpose.  To heal us and perfect us.  To help us to grow into who we can be.  And if we listen to him, and work with him, then our potential is infinite.
Today, let's remember that God is about building and planting.  When we feel like we're being destroyed instead, let's look around for the seeds of what else God has in store for us.  It won't always be what we are looking for at the moment, but it will always be better than we could have dreamed for ourselves.  In the end, we will go farther following God than we ever will by ourselves.  Let's partner with him and become what he knows we can be.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Psalms 118:28 -- On Our God

"Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee."
Psalms 118:28

What strikes me about this verse is something that we see in a lot of verses, but which struck me specifically in this one.  I like the fact that it illustrates the personalization of our relationship with deity by saying *my* God.  And I think that maybe that is what is missing in our dedication sometimes.  We often think of God as impersonal and generic... kind of a Wizard of Oz floating head instead of someone more personal, who makes a difference in our lives every day.  God is the most personal being in the universe, because he has an infinite capacity to understand and deal with us individually, but since no one here on earth has that same capacity, it is hard for us to grasp.  I think though, it is an important breakthrough in our relationship with God to get to this point, and understand, and *choose* him individually as our own personal God.
Today, let's make sure that we are choosing God, and praising and exalting him as ours.  When we make that choice, I think we move into a place where we feel some ownership responsibility in that relationship, and it makes a massive difference in allowing us to feel a greater love for a relationship that we have chosen rather than one we feel forced into.

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