Wednesday, December 31, 2014

John 7:37 -- On Staying Spiritually Hydrated

"In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink."
John 7:37

It is clear that Christ is not just talking about physical thirst, but what is he talking about?  Do we have a spiritual thirst?  I think we do, but sometimes it is hard to recognize.  When we contemplate church, we don't always feel it.  Sometimes church can seem boring or repetitive, as can the scriptures.  Sometimes we don't seem to have a thirst for any of it.  ... I think, though, that other times we feel it more clearly.  We are around people or in an environment that might make us feel uncomfortable, or in a situation that feels unsafe or sketchy, and suddenly we feel extra alone, and we need some back up or a way out.  In our extremities, we often feel that thirst.  A need for solidity, for trust, or for safety that we just can't get on our own, so we turn to God.  And it makes sense to turn to God when we can't handle things ourselves, but it is also a little sad of we're only missing him, or feeling that spiritual thirst, when things are going badly.  It's like only talking to your family if you're having a bad day. :)  Not sure they are going to appreciate that. :)
Maybe the point here is that we always have that need.  We have to drink water every day to stay alive physically, and spiritually it is much the same.  We're wandering around in a virtual desert here, and even going one day without water can sometimes mess us up.  Even if we don't feel parched, water is still essential to life.  And even if we get so used to having God around that we start to take advantage of it by not appreciating church or the scriptures or the gospel as much as we should all the time, it doesn't mean that we don't need God anymore or that we've suddenly become spiritually self-reliant. :)  If we drink regularly in a spiritual sense, then we might be able to avoid those crisis moments where we wonder how we got here and feel completely alone and wonder if we will ever get back to being okay.  We can add a lot of peace and contentment to our lives if we just keep well hydrated. :)
Today, even if we aren't having one of those black-hole days where God's absence is palpable, let's remember that our spirits still thirst.  Let's do the things that will keep us spiritually healthy.  Let's try not to take our blessings for granted, and let's get down on our knees, renew that connection with God, and pray sincerely that God will help us never forget our need for him.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mormon 4:5 -- On Resisting Bloodshed

"But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed."
Mormon 4:5

This chapter is mostly about war, and in the middle of describing some of it is this.  Neither side is presented as being justified or in the right... women and children were being sacrificed to idols, and both sides were clearly not being obedient to God.  And whether the war was about rights or land or differences in belief... doesn't even matter, as I think this verse makes clear.  The idea of wanting to kill someone else has evil at its core.  God's way is always love, no matter what has gone on before.
Today, let's break the cycle of hatred.  Let's not be the wicked in punishing *or* being punished.  Let's be the righteous and the good, and find another way to solve our problems without harming each other.

Monday, December 29, 2014

1 Peter 4:1-2 -- On the Usefulness of Suffering

"Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God."
1 Peter 4:1-2

The whole idea of suffering being valuable is a hard one to grasp sometimes.  Pain never seems like a good thing... and being hurt "for your own good" seems like an empty thing people say to justify overly harsh treatment.  However, thinking about Christ's suffering, for us, I think I can see that as a positive thing overall, although of course I wish there had been another way.  But it was a choice.  He chose to suffer, and he chose to do that for us.  It wasn't an empty pain, and it wasn't an unwilling torture.  And thinking about that, I think... wow.  An external observer looking at Christ's life without any context would of *course* say that a lot of it was done *to* him, rather than Christ choosing it, and that the injustice of the system was to blame, and so many things that were only choices because we know that Christ knew that they were coming, and he had the power to walk away at any time.
Instead of being mad that he was chosen to suffer, mad that he had to do it, or depressed that he could see the inevitable coming and couldn't walk away without hurting all of us, Christ chose it, freely.  He owned his suffering.  And maybe that is what "arming ourselves likewise with the same mind" means here.  Suffering, when we own it, when we accept it and use it, can be a tool.  Not a fun tool.  I don't think Christ was enjoying the cross.  But a tool nevertheless.  One that can help us to rise above the physical and attach ourselves firmly to the spiritual.
At the beginning of my mission, I felt like I was at my limit.  I was stressed, tired, and overwhelmed, physically and emotionally.  I remember feeling like my body wasn't keeping me going anymore, but the spirit kept me functional.  I don't know how much of that was reality, but to me, it seems similar to what these verses are saying.  Owning the physical and emotional hardships, and finding a way, with God, to continue anyway, and even to rise above my personal limitations.  One invaluable lesson I learned on my mission was that I could rely on God even when I had no other support structure.  And that lesson was worth every bit and more of what I went through to learn it. 
And Maybe that is what suffering allows us to learn, and to do, if we accept it and use it, rather than just trying to avoid it.  Some suffering is inevitable.  Other kinds are important, even though we probably could avoid them and learn a lot less.  Today, no matter whether our suffering is avoidable or not, let's own it.  Let's choose it even if it isn't really optional.  Let's choose to do it for others where that is possible, and for God where it isn't.  Let's take the pain and turn it into something we can use to rise above ourselves and become more.  Let's learn to rely on God and his strength, even after ours has failed.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Haggai 1:6-9 -- On Considering Our Ways

"Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.
Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord.
Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house."
Haggai 1:6-9

In this scripture, God through the prophet Haggai is telling people that they need to build a temple.  They don't think that it is important, but God explains that they need to consider their actions a little more.  God is the one that can help their goals work out, if they make his temple a priority.
The same is true for us, whether it is contributing to building  a temple, or taking the time to do other things for God.  If we take the time for him, and make his goals a priority, then he will take the time for us and help our good actions prosper.
Today, let's remember that when we start thinking that something else is more important than God... no matter what it is, it will go better with God than without him.  If we realize that God is the top priority, and keep him there, everything else will go better.  Today, let's try to rearrange our priorities so that God comes first and not last.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Abraham 3:24-25 -- On Being Proven

"And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;"
Abraham 3:24-25

It is so interesting to get a glimpse into what God was thinking as he created the earth.  It seems so simple in some ways... let's take some materials and build an earth, let's see how these people behave in that environment.  And yet... wow.  If it were clay or tinker toys, maybe yeah, but build an earth?  I can't really wrap my head around how to even start that, or how anyone would work with "materials" on that scale. :)  And then getting into the why, of proving or testing us, that's even bigger in some ways.  This earth is a proving ground for us... maybe like a coming-of-age ritual or going off to college.  Growing up, we're in the environment of our parents, and until we get our on our own, we don't even know who we are yet.  In some areas, we don't even develop our own opinions until we have to confront our own decisions about those things, away from a more controlled environment.  Maybe we start second guessing our politics or our choice of major.  We learn independence and maybe we like it, or maybe we're afraid of it, or both.  Do our reading, viewing, and listening choices change when we're the only one around?  Do we lose dedication to things that our parents believed in, or do we reaffirm previous choices and find that they matter to us on a deep, personal level?
I think earth life is similar.  Who are we when we are separated from God?  When we have enough room to disagree with him, do we?  Or do we learn that what he is teaching really matters to us?  This life is a chance for God to see who we are and what we choose when we are away from him and are learning to be independent.  And it teaches us a lot too, about who we are and what we want most in life... what we value, and who we want to be.  And based on our choices, we'll reach an eternity that reflects who we are striving to become.
Today, let's remember that this life is about who we want to be forever.  Let's make better choices that reflect what we want long term, not just temporary diversions.  Let's listen to God, and allow him to help us find our way back to him.

Friday, December 26, 2014

D&C 101: 30-31 -- On Glorious Rest

"In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree;
And when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious."
Doctrine and Covenants 101: 30-31

I like this idea of glorious rest.  We don't usually think of death that way.  Occasionally as rest, but almost never as glorious.  And yet, here, when it is talking about the Millennium, that is how it is. :)  I like the "changed in the twinkling of an eye" part.  No pain or suffering.  Just instant resurrection: mortal to immortal in a snap. :)  Doesn't it make you want to live there, with your loved ones, in that time, where death is glorious, and probably not uncertain or unwelcome?
Today, let's remember that the future will be glorious, no matter what things are like now.  God has amazing things in store for us, and we have a future that goes beyond death.  Christ gave us that.  And whether we die through more conventional means, or we are translated from mortal to immortal instantly, we all have an eternity of glorious rest to look forward to. :)  Not saying that our problems aren't tough.  Just that they all pale in comparison with that. :)  So, let's remember to focus on the good that waits in store for us. :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Zechariah 2:6-7 -- On Delivering Ourselves

"Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the Lord.
Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon."
Zechariah 2:6-7

These verses are talking about the last days and the gathering to Jerusalem and some of the lost ten tribes coming out of the north.  There are lots of interesting things here, but what strikes me today is the command to deliver ourselves.  As is typical in much of the scriptures, here Zion is symbolic of the good and ideal, and Babylon symbolic of the worldly and evil.  And God tells Zion to deliver herself... in a later verse he continues and says that he will come and dwell with the daughter of Zion.  Overall, it reminds me of the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13)... God doesn't want to pull the tares (bad) out of the field because he would harm the wheat (good) in the process.  And this is interesting in that context, also similar to 2 Corinthians 6:17: "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord."  We have to learn to separate ourselves from the evil.
Don't get me wrong... I don't think that this means we stop talking to anyone who isn't an angel, or of our particular religion, or stop our children from playing with them.  We are supposed to be out there as examples, and friends, and good influences.  I don't really think it is mostly about people, although I am sure in some cases we do need to choose better friends if we are influenced to do bad things and make poor decisions when we are around them.  I think it is mostly about removing ourselves from idols in our own lives... whatever gets between us and God.  Are we influencing our surroundings to be better, or are they influencing us to be worse?  Part of delivering ourselves might just be changing the direction of that influence if it is going in the wrong direction... choosing to stand up for God, rather than letting ourselves be pulled away from him.  It isn't so much about our surroundings as about our foundation.  The storms will come no matter what--the question is whether we will be destroyed in them or not.  And if our foundation is in Christ, then we will be delivered, even in the midst of tare-filled Babylon. :)
Today, even if it isn't a physical separation at all, let's gather with the believers and flee from idols.  Let's make sure that we are influencing others for good and not allowing ourselves to be influenced for evil.  Let's strengthen our foundations, and with God's help, deliver ourselves.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

D&C 133:23-24 -- On Unity

"He shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land;
And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided."
Doctrine and Covenants 133:23-24

I like the idea of the land being restored to the way it was "before it was divided," presumably prior to the Tower of Babel, right?  One land, one language?  It got us into a lot of trouble back then, but think of the difference it would make in our current world to go back to our Pangea roots. :)  No more claiming that one land or country is better than another, or that some race or nationality is superior.  We would finally see, in a very real, physical way, that we are all one... part of each other.  I like the idea of unity... spiritual unity, for sure, but the earth achieving physical unity as well is also an awesome idea.
Today, let's work on imagining this, and try to live as though the land was united, along with our hearts and our languages. Maybe if we start now, we'll be ready when it happens. :)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Philippians 4:8-9 -- On Positivity and Peace

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."
Philippians 4:8-9

I think this is a perfect recipe for peace.  Truth, honesty, justice, purity, beauty, goodness, virtue, praise.  Paul is telling us to think about the positive, and focus on the good.  And sometimes we think that is naive or simple, but maybe it is actually wise.  We let ourselves get distracted and overwhelmed with the negative sometimes, and we can rarely actually do something about it.  Often it is just worry about the unknown.  There is always hope in the midst of despair and beauty ready to rise from the ashes.  Sometimes we just have to remove the distractions and calm our worries, and there it is, waiting for us, right in front of us.  God had the power to calm the storm when his disciples thought they were going to perish, and he has that same power over the storms of worry and heartache in our lives.  If we do as he asks, and focus on the good, and the beautiful, and the pure, not only will we see amazing things, and welcome God into our lives, but we will find that elusive peace that we want so much.
Today, let's remember to look for and think about the good parts of life, and let's seek the peace that God offers us.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

D&C 64:32-33 -- On Becoming Great

"But all things must come to pass in their time.
Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great."
Doctrine and Covenants 64:32-33

Even though we can't always see it, these verses remind us that the little good things that we do every day add up into a gigantic good to the world.  Sometimes we look at our lives and it doesn't seem like we are accomplishing a lot, or making a difference.  But as long as we are doing as God asks, even the tiniest things matter.  We're building God's kingdom, and even if it is a couple of inches at a time, what we are building will never fall, and God will see it through to the end on his timeline.  And those things matter to our lives too.  They make us better, and they impact the people around us.  If we are practicing setting a good example, the day that someone observes us, it will make a difference.  And so it is with everything good.  They are small, but the impact is huge.
Today, let's remember the little things.  Prayer, scripture study, kindness, generosity, etc.  Let's remember that the good things we do for God and for others make a big difference when spread over a lifetime.  Let's keep doing the small things so that we can become great. :)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

John 11:1-3 -- On Being the Friend of God

"Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)
Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick."
John 11:1-3

This is at the beginning of the story of raising Lazarus from the dead.  What strikes me today is all that seems to be underneath the surface here.  Mary was the same woman who had anointed him with oil, and washed his feet with her tears, who is mentioned in Luke 7:37-38.  At the end of that chapter, he forgives her sins and tells her to go in peace, but apparently he meets her family, and grows to love them.  I really like that part... that Christ didn't just encounter people once and touch their lives.  If that is all it was, it would have been enough, of course, but thinking of him following up with these people and developing friendships... for me, that makes Christ more personal, and less distanced and administrative.  The woman who he met in Luke 7 was a sinner, but he didn't stop and worry about her past.  He not only forgave her sins; he became her friend, and friends with her whole family.  I like the idea that even though God is far above us in so many ways, that he when he is among us, he doesn't even separate himself what we would think would be a normal amount in our society.  He doesn't act like he is the CEO and we are the workers.  He doesn't think that he would sully himself by interacting with people who have sinned, or brush people off because he is popular now. :)   Instead, he sits down with them, and loves them, and gets to know them.
I think sometimes when we think of God we think of him as some sterile administrator, looking down and judging us from above, completely inaccessible to the average person.  But God isn't like that even as much as *we* act like that.  God is here, with us, willing to talk all of it out, to listen to the smallest details of our lives, and he doesn't act bored or tune us out because he *isn't* bored, and he really wants to know.  He loves us, on the most personal level, and he wants to be our friends.
The miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead is a great and amazing one, but for me, it pales beside the opportunity we have to be the friend of God.  Today, let's open our minds and our hearts to him, and choose to accept that amazing friendship that we are offered.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Luke 14:16-24 -- On Committing to God's Supper

"Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:
And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.
And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.
And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.
And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.
And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.
And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper."
Luke 14:16-24

This is an interesting parable, and on the surface, it is kind of hard to understand.  The excuses seem to be good ones, and it is just a dinner party, right?  But this particular dinner party is symbolic of God's kingdom, and our commitment to it.
We come up with a lot of excuses to not serve God after we have already committed to do so.  Things come up, stuff happens, and we need to do this or that instead, right?  Except, God comes FIRST.  Sometimes we think family comes first, and of course we shouldn't use God as an excuse to shirk our responsibilities in other areas, and we shouldn't over-commit ourselves to church things in order to avoid other parts of life... but when there are sincere and serious conflicts, God comes first, before parents, siblings, romantic relationships, school, work, hobbies... sleep. :)  Nothing else can come first, and if we commit to go to his supper, we need to show up, whether we bought oxen or got married, or anything else at all.  Our commitment to God can't be casual or light.  We can't think "well, we can skip it if something comes up."  Something will always come up.  There will always be an excuse.  But God matters more than all of them.
Today, when we are tempted to bail on our commitment to God for whatever reason, let's remember that there IS no reason good enough.  God is at the top of the priority list, ahead of all else.  Let's make sure that he stays that way in our minds and hearts and actions.  The Supper will be worth it, but we can't realize that until we show up.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Luke 9:23 -- On Following Christ

"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."
Luke 9:23

Sometimes we think that following God should guarantee a good life... a peaceful life, free of searing pain or desperate need.  We think that if God truly loved us, he wouldn't let bad things happen to us.  And yet, Christ is talking about us coming after him... following him.  He lived a perfect life, and it certainly wasn't without pain or grief.  We're asked to deny ourselves, to take up our cross.  That doesn't sound like the cushy life of luxury I was hoping for.
And yet, it is a life of meaning, of learning, of selflessness that we also claim to want, and God definitely offers us that.  If some of it we can't learn another way than grief, or pain, then maybe those are things that we need to go through.  Certainly in hindsight we see how much we have gained through our experiences.  It is just frequently hard to see during them.
Today, let's remember that the life the Lord offers us is always a good one... just not a pain-free one.  Let's be willing to deny ourselves.  Let's be willing to take up our cross.  Let's be willing to follow Christ.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

3 Nephi 18:22-23 -- On Inclusion

"And behold, ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not;
But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name."
3 Nephi 18:22-23

I really like this... basically a commandment to be inclusive.  I love the idea that you don't ever have to worry about being accepted in the midst of God's people.  They will pray for you and help you, and never cast you out.  Isn't that the way we all want to be treated?  Like there is a group of friends for us wherever we go.  A place where we won't be treated like outsiders?
If we want that, surely we should take God's advice here and be those kinds of people.  Let's be inclusive with people who want to meet with us, and pray for them.  As we move closer to a Zion society, we're going to have to learn to love a diverse array of people.  Let's practice now. :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ecclesiastes 2:18-20 -- On Fighting Against Despair

"Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.
And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.
Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun."
Ecclesiastes 2:18-20

In our lives we are tempted to despair quite often.  Maybe for the reason listed here... that our time on earth is limited, and that we can't always finish what we start... and who knows if anyone else will finish it for us.  There are plenty of other reasons as well.  We work and work, and sometimes we have nothing tactile to show for it, and it is hard to measure the things that we learned along the way.  Maybe a relationship that we have invested ourselves in for years crumbles, or a dear loved one dies, and everything we knew and counted on suddenly seems in doubt.  And thinking about this stuff is us, going about and causing our hearts to despair of everything we have done, because it can seem trivial and worthless in comparison to some of these gigantic things that happen to us.
It takes a while for Ecclesiastes to get around to reminding us of hope, so let's skip up to a quicker reminder: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair" (2 Corinthians 4:8).  The temptation to despair is around us, maybe even more so during the holidays when we feel our responsibilities and limitations so keenly.  But, with God, we can feel trouble, we can be perplexed, and we can go through the vagaries of life, but we can retain hope, and resist despair.  We can remember that God always provides.  That prayer works, that even the worst darkness is followed by a glorious dawn.  Today, let's resist despair and remember God, who can bring light to our darkness.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Psalms 78:6-8 -- On Long Term Hope

"That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:
That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:
And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God."
Psalms 78:6-8

This is interesting to me, that we are supposed to teach our children about God, and pass everything along.  I think that it makes a lot of sense to bring hope to the rising generation of course, but it also strikes me as being a really long term plan of God's.  We don't learn very quickly or very well sometimes, but when he has generations to work with us, then he can do more. :)  Maybe that's one of the reasons that we got the New Testament... maybe, we as the people of earth and all the societies thereof, were finally ready for it.  It wasn't a different gospel, just a new level of it.  Like moving from first grade to second grade. :)  We made it.  We graduated. :)  But we sure didn't do it as individuals.  We did it as a whole world.  Learning, albeit really slowly, to do a little bit better, to be a little bit better.  And we still screw up, and we definitely still as a world have a long way to go... there is a lot of good, but also a lot of bad.  But that's the hope, right?  That we are part of the good, and we keep teaching it and passing it on, hoping for a better world.  It's a really slow process, because we are slow to change.  It takes us generations sometimes to adapt to a new idea or a new way of doing things.  But there is hope... in God.  That those we teach will build on what we already knew, and learn more.  That someday we as a people will be ready for a Zion society like Enoch's, where there were no poor among them.  God has so much more to teach us. :)  Let's remember that today, and work on mastering what we already know, and making sure we pass it on. :)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Alma 47:36 -- On Staying Close to God

"Now these dissenters, having the same instruction and the same information of the Nephites, yea, having been instructed in the same knowledge of the Lord, nevertheless, it is strange to relate, not long after their dissensions they became more hardened and impenitent, and more wild, wicked and ferocious than the Lamanites—drinking in with the traditions of the Lamanites; giving way to indolence, and all manner of lasciviousness; yea, entirely forgetting the Lord their God."
Alma 47:36

This is a good warning for us.  As disciples of Christ, we have a greater responsibility than people who don't  know the Lord... and if we walk away from God, we become "more hardened" against the spirit than they are.  Because we know what we are walking away from, and choosing that is worse than not knowing.
It is scary how fast we forget spiritual things if we aren't renewing our relationship with God daily.  Daily prayer and scripture study seem such small parts of the day, and at first we don't think it is a big deal to let them go now and then... but at that very moment when we do, the justification and the forgetting start.  We find it easier to let it go in the future.  We forget how important it is, how necessary it is to our lives and to our sanity. :)  We start trying to go it alone, without God, and we wonder why things start to fall apart.  But it is just us, forgetting God... forgetting our focus and the solidity beneath everything that we are.
Today, let's try not to be the wild dissenters.  Let's work on maintaining our relationship with God.  Let's read and pray.  Let's talk to God about it if there is an issue in our lives, and get it taken care of.  Let's remember that God is the most important thing, and that everything else in our lives comes through him.  Staying close to him brings us peace, even in the midst of the storm.  Let's not wander out there alone.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

2 Nephi 4:35 -- On Asking Wisely

"Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen."
2 Nephi 4:35

The first thing that struck me about this today were the words "if I ask not amiss."  To me, that seems like the factor that we are missing most of the time.  It's kind of like us as children when we asked our parents if we could keep the random wild animal that we ran across.  We really, really wanted it, but our parents knew that if we kept it, it would end up dying.  So, they said no, and tried to explain.  And still, even as adults, we ask for things that we shouldn't have.  Things that we can't possibly handle.  Sometimes things that will hurt us, or other people.  And God loves us infinitely... but love doesn't mean giving someone whatever they want.  Sometimes, even though God is listening, and does care, he has to say no.
Today, let's ask God for things that will improve us and improve the world around us.  Let's be careful to not ask for things that will harm us or hurt others.  God will give us liberally.  He will bless us with good things.  With wisdom, light, patience, gratitude, generosity... so many, many things in great abundance.  Let's find some of those perfect gifts and continue to lift up our voices to God to ask for them.

Friday, December 12, 2014

D&C 88:86-87 -- On Repentance and Freedom

"Abide ye in the liberty wherewith ye are made free; entangle not yourselves in sin, but let your hands be clean, until the Lord comes.
For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig tree."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:86-87

I like this idea of sin as the opposite of liberty.  The symbol of clean hands makes me think of a surgeon.  They have to clean their hands very thoroughly before doing their job... it isn't a useless restriction, but instead a necessity if they want to have the best chance of their patients living.  It offers freedom to them and to others when they abide by the guidelines.  A cleanroom requires similar limits.  The workers may, at times, feel that their clothing is a restriction, but without ensuring cleanliness in that environment, many tiny electronic components just wouldn't work.
Sin is similar.  If we are clean, then we have opportunities that we wouldn't have otherwise.  Sin is what binds us and limits us.  Some of the consequences it binds us to are those in the second verse, but we know others from personal experience.  Repentance really is having a burden lifted, because God frees us from the consequences of our sin... not so we can turn around and do it again, of course, but as we repent and clean up our lives.
Today, let's remember to value our freedom.  Let's clean up our lives and unburden ourselves of the consequences of sin, with God's help.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Malachi 3:2 -- On Becoming through Hardship

"But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:"
Malachi 3:2

This is interesting, because I think it explains why we have to go through hard things sometimes.  Like metal or cloth in its raw form, we are also raw, and we need to go through a process to become clean and pure.  As in a refinery, that might require burning out the impurities in the ore so that we are pure metal, free from dirt and rock and grime, and ready to be made into something strong and lasting.  Fullers in Old Testament times were people who cleaned and thickened freshly-woven cloth, making sure that it was consistent and clean.  As with that process, that might involve pounding and stretching, bleaching, and harsh soap to get out the grime and the imperfections, so that we as the cloth could be made into something pure and beautiful.
And aren't we like that?  Sometimes we like to think that we are finished products and that we don't need to change... but that's usually wishful thinking. :)  We all need to revise and rethink and reform sometimes.  We stay busy throughout our lives altering our perspectives, finding the gaps between what we are and what we want to be--and even between what we want and what God wants for us--and then altering again.  It definitely isn't always a fun process.  Sometimes we worked hard on that stain, and we kind of want to keep it.  Or we wanted some rock, and not to be pure metal.  But in order to become what we truly can become in the master's hand, we have to allow the purification process to go deep.  God knows better than we do what is needed, and what we can become.  Let's not cry that we can't remain ore, or wool.  Let's rejoice that we can become something better, with the Lord's guidance.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Psalms 30:5 -- On Joy following Sorrow

"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 30:5

I love the idea that joy comes in the morning.  And technically maybe it isn't always in the morning... but the idea that suffering is limited, that joy always follows sorrow... that is a powerful idea, and really seems to sum up a lot of what God is.  He is the joy that ends every sentence, no matter how filled with pain.  His anger is short-lived because he is our father and his goal is to teach and raise us to be better people, not to rub our faces in the dirt.  When we progress, his favor is obvious, and as we learn to walk with him, and more in tune to the spirit, it becomes clearer and clearer that with him, life is good and positive and full of hope, even when something happens that causes us sorrow.
Today, no matter where we are or how bad things seem, let's remember God's message of hope.  No matter what we are suffering, it will end, and as we seek it, God's joy is what we have to look forward to for an eternity of mornings.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Luke 3:9-11 -- On Avoiding the Axe

"And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise."
Luke 3:9-11

In the first verse of this selection God compares us to trees.  This is done elsewhere in the scriptures as well, basically saying that by the fruits of the tree (our actions), we can know whether we are good or bad.  Even if we have good roots (good intentions or good upbringing), if what is in our hearts doesn't actually make it into our actions, then our fruit is still bitter, and as in this selection, we are in danger of getting cut down.
Luckily, these verses offer additional insight into how to avoid the axe.  What actions should we be doing?  We should be sharing our abundance with people in need.  Today, let's make sure our good intentions make it outside our brains and into our actions.  Let's share what we have and enrich the lives of others. :)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Matthew 7:5-7 -- On Not Trampling the Gospel

"Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:"
Matthew 7:5-7

I was wondering today what exactly it is that we aren't supposed to give to "the dogs," since it can't really be the gospel.  That's for everyone.  And in the footnote I found a link to the Joseph Smith translation, which made me think of it differently.  I think it's good to remember that *we* can be the dogs, and the swine, whenever we treat holy things lightly, or dismiss them as unimportant.  That's kind of why I put these verse together as a selection.  I think that the ideas carry across the scriptural paragraphs.  We shouldn't be worrying about other people's problems.  We have enough of our own... and until we are perfect... or at least a lot better than we are... maybe it is best not to nitpick other people's spirituality.  I think that casting pearls before swine is when we stop doing this... for others or for ourselves.  We misjudge our audience, and expect them to be more perfect than they are.  We might jump into complex doctrines or start trying to figure out just how big our mansions in heaven will be, when we haven't even mastered some of the basics, like prayer or repentance.  When we do that, it is like we are trying to jump ourselves or others from 3rd grade up to graduate studies... and instead of trying to do that, we should focus first on the basic step and master that firm foundation, so that when we build on it, it will stay steady.  That's why several times in the scriptures we are told to preach nothing but repentance.  ... Because that is the beginning.  That's getting the beam out of our own eyes.  That's what we have to do for ourselves before we graduate from being dogs or swine, and are ready for the pearls of holiness. :)  And when we are ready, all we have to do is ask, seek, and knock.  God will be waiting... waiting for us to be ready, because he is anxious to teach us.  We just have to get ourselves to a point where we can open our hearts and our minds and take serious things seriously.  And repentance is the first step.  Today, let's work on those beams.  Let's repent, and pray, and read... let's master the basics of the Gospel, so that in God's time, we will be ready for more, and we won't trample it.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Hebrews 8:12 -- On Mercy and Love

"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."
Hebrews 8:12

We read so often about becoming better and better and striving toward perfection that sometimes we gloss over the sin, and the miracle of forgiveness.  We sometimes feel stuck--unable to change, unable to become who we want to be.  And without God, we would be stuck... unable to rise above our mistakes.  But God is merciful to us, and despite the pain he bore for us, he lets it go and doesn't remember it to hold it against us.  He wants us to be free.  Free to change, to improve, and to become who we can be.  He loves us and wants us to be with him, and so if we are willing to change, he is willing to let us, and rejoices to welcome us home.
Today, let's take advantage of the mercy God offers us, and let's change.  Let's repent and become better, and willing to be encircled in the arms of God's love.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Isaiah 61:11 -- On Being Part of the Hope

"For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations."
Isaiah 61:11

Lots of the second coming scriptures seem a little scary, but underneath there is always this consistent thread of love and hope.  This one stood out to me I think because I can sometimes get cynical about our society pulling itself out of some of our self-inflicted problems.  But it seems that, whether we do or not, God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before us all.  And I think at that point maybe all the things that I worry about won't matter anymore, because God isn't confined to our context.  He's way beyond it.  And someday, we're going to realize that it is God's context that is real, and the other rating systems that we judge ourselves by won't matter at all.  Maybe when we see that righteousness and praise spring forth, we'll join it.  Or maybe we can start early, and be part of the hope, even now. :)

Friday, December 5, 2014

2 Nephi 4:34 -- On Trust

"O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm."
2 Nephi 4:34

Nephi says this really confidently, but I think he understood the challenge here, which is why he also said what he would *not* do... it's like he is clarifying it for himself, and reinforcing that reminder that God is the one to trust, and not ourselves, and not other people before God either.
I think that we have all learned to trust God to some extent, in some limited time frame or amount.  But here is the challenge... to trust in him consistently, forever.  ... That's huge.  But it doesn't have to be overwhelming.  As we learn to trust God, we can work up to that. :)  Today, let's commit ourselves to trusting God more.  It is hard sometimes, and we start freaking out when things feel like they are falling apart.  Let's firmly commit to doing good and trusting God, and then let's try not to panic or overreact.  Let's work on being calm and working on that consistency... remembering that God will act on his own timing, not in response to our impatience.  Let's trust that his timing is better than ours, and trust him before trusting our own anxiety. :)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

D&C 104:11-14 -- On Stewardships and Sharing

"It is wisdom in me; therefore, a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall organize yourselves and appoint every man his stewardship;
That every man may give an account unto me of the stewardship which is appointed unto him.
For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures.
I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine."
Doctrine and Covenants 104:11-14

Here, God is talking about our responsibility to care for one another, specifically the poor.  Leading up to that are these verses, talking about stewardship and how each of us has to account for what we are given, since everything is the Lord's, and we are basically taking care of it for him.  The church had recently been told not to own everything in common anymore, because people weren't being obedient.  And I think that this is interesting as the back up.  If we can't pool our resources and provide for everyone, then things need to be split up.  However, we are individually responsible for how we balance things ourselves, and if we don't share, we're condemned.  If we do, then we're blessed.  Kind of like the parable of the talents, but with providing for others specifically thrown in.  It's a big responsibility to have--to make sure we share with everyone, not just our favorites. :)  Today, let's ponder our stewardship and think about how we can better help others.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Genesis 45:4-5 -- On God's Plan

"And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.
Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life."
Genesis 45:4-5

This is always a good story.  Here, I like the part where Joseph tells them not to be upset that they sold him into slavery.  ... And given, he is in a great situation now, but I think it is amazing that there is no lingering bitterness against them.  It is cool that he can see God's hand in what happened, even though I am sure it was terrifying and tragic at the time.  ... And maybe the same goes for many things in our lives, right?  We endure things that are terrifying to us, and that are tragic or incomprehensible to us at the time, but later, as we learn and grow, we can look back and see God's hand.  We have to go through hard things in order to learn, gain compassion, and become better.  And it is hard to see anything past the pain as we are going through it, but there is a reason.  I like that part... from God's perspective, all of this makes sense and fits into the plan, no matter how confusing it seems.  Our experiences and the people we meet and interact with--they all add up to the whole of who we are, and God is behind it, leading us to each lesson as we are prepared for it.  Today, even if we can't see it at all, let's remember there is a reason, and try not to freak out so much. :)  Instead, let's work on learning the lesson, and growing into better versions of ourselves. :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

D&C 9:6-7 -- On Asking plus Effort

"Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.
Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me."
Doctrine and Covenants 9:6-7

This is God speaking to Oliver Cowdery, but seems applicable to about everyone, right?  We often murmur when things don't work out the way we want them to, or when something that we were trying to accomplish doesn't work out.  And, like Oliver, we often don't understand why.  We ask for something, and then we expect to get it.  God notes here that we often have to do something more than ask though.  We might have to put forth some effort, and actually improve ourselves and develop some skills. :)  Sounds tough, right?  But life is unfortunately often like that, where we can't just have everything handed to us. :)  We have to learn, and grow, and really study things out sometimes, before we will understand or be able to be who we want to be and do what we want to do.
Today, let's keep asking and seeking, but let's also remember that we need to put some effort in as well.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Luke 6:37 -- On Floating and Forgiving

"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:"
Luke 6:37

Reading this today, it seems so simple and basic, and yet I know that it can be incredibly hard.  So hard that people in the scriptures, and we often in real life, choose to be judged, condemned, and unforgiven, because we make the choice to do that to someone else.  But maybe reading this today, we can see the simplicity and the incredible promise here.
God promises us that if we forgive others that he will forgive *us* ... that if we don't judge and condemn, that he won't do those things to us either.  It's really a win-win all around, except perhaps our egos.  We want so much to be *right* or better or more righteous or justified whatever, that sometimes we can't, or won't, just let things go.  Sometimes I feel like we're in a sea of self-doubt, and we start to panic and start to drown, and like many drowning people, we drown whoever is coming to save us.  We try to elevate ourselves by pulling others down, when if we could instead relax, we could float and actually help ourselves to be rescued.
Today, let's get out of panic mode.  Let's open up our hearts and our minds, and relax.  Let's remember that, despite appearances, this life is not a big game of king of the mountain.  We don't have to pull anyone else down in order to elevate ourselves.  With God, we can ALL win, if we work together and bless each other's lives.

Total Pageviews