Wednesday, April 30, 2014

1 Corinthians 15:20-22 -- On Living Forever

"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."
1 Corinthians 15:20-22


This is utterly amazing, and I think that we don't remember quite how amazing very often.  Maybe it isn't immediate enough for us or something. :)  Nevertheless, this is one of the biggest things that has ever happened in the history of the world, and it directly affects each one of us.  Because Christ overcame death, all of us, every single person on the earth, no matter their point on the good-bad spectrum, will be resurrected and live forever with perfect bodies.  No more sickness.  No more aches and pains.  That's amazing.  Overwhelmingly cool.  How many people have searched for or written about eternal life?  Or work towards extending the lifespan, or saving life, or just want more time to enjoy life?  And we get it.  It isn't Science Fiction or advanced genetics ... it is God.  And it is for everyone here.  We're here on earth because we kept our first estate, and thus passed the first "test" ... and everyone who passed the first test gets resurrection and a perfect body after this.  The only question is *where* we will live for eternity... and that will be determined by this mortal test of life that we are in right now.  We should work on that, for sure.  Today, let's see the miracle that is eternal life, and let's work on adjusting our perspective to look beyond the current moment.  Let's accept our existence as eternal beings, and work on things that will make the world better and not just benefit us in the short term.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Doctrine and Covenants 101:36-38 -- On Perspective

"Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.
Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul.
And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life."
Doctrine and Covenants 101:36-38


Eternal perspective is challenging.  We're here on this earth without a memory of who we were before this life.  We are surrounded by the corruptible and the short-term.  Nothing seems to last, and there are a lot of things that make life in the moment seem good... instant payoffs in terms of relaxation or enjoyment rather than stress or work.  Of course, just to accomplish normal earthly things we have to think a little bit longer term.  To save money, to maintain employment, or to get a degree, we have to look past the now and see the longer-term possibilities.  We have to choose the job over sleep or television or reading.  To maintain relationships we have to choose the good of the relationship over our own short-term happiness sometimes.  Choose to take out the trash or wash the dishes rather than television.  Choose to work through a problem rather than ignoring it at letting it fester.  Choose compromise rather than what we want in the moment.  We have to think further ahead than the emotion of the moment in order to have what we want long-term.
With God, we can learn to think even further.  In the verses above God tells us that our joy can't be full in the world, but that through him, it can be.  And even though it is hard for us to process as mortal beings that we shouldn't be afraid of death, I think we can grasp the fact that our souls are much more important.  Because it is hard to see beyond death, God encourages us to seek his face always.  He is the one that can teach us to see longer term, and to be patient in our temporary trials.  Beyond this life is eternal life.  That doesn't mean we should risk our lives unnecessarily or desire death... but it does mean that we should value the things that will matter for eternity over the things that only matter now.  Just like working for a degree that will help us in the future, we should work for our salvation and the salvation of those around us.  Today, let's seek God, and be patient with temporary things.  Let's seek eternal things: knowledge, friendships, and always God.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Psalms 41:1 -- On Considering the Poor

"Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble."
Psalms 41:1


This is an excellent reminder for us about something that God wants us to consider.  He isn't telling us specifically what to do in this verse, although there are many others on the subject.  He is, though, asking us to think about the topic seriously, and I think suggesting that we go further and do something about it.
God isn't about force or coercion.  He isn't going to force us to give to others, or step in as our supreme leader and enact laws that share everything equally.  All he will ever do is ask... ask us to think about it.  Ask us to take those thoughts and make them into actions.  Ask us to make the world a better place, and find a way to provide for people who don't have enough.  In the City of Enoch, there were "no poor among them" (Moses 7:18).  That's why God called them Zion, and that is where we need to get if we want to become a Zion people as well.
Today, let's not dismiss the poor as being someone else's responsibility.  Let's take them time to consider them, and take whatever action we can take to make things better... whether it is giving money, or food, or time, or finding a charity that provides water or microloans or a goat or a chicken or a cow.  We *can* make a difference as individuals... even if it is in just one person's life.  Let's consider it.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Psalms 100:1-5 -- On Serving with Gladness

"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
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.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations."
Psalms 100:1-5


Before I went on my mission, my grandfather gave a talk offering me some specific points of advice, and even though he didn't say them in this order, I remember them in this order because they spell COPE: Confidence, Obedience, Purpose, and Enthusiasm.  I found the advice very valuable in helping me "cope" on my mission, but I'm not sure if I have paid that same advice enough attention outside my mission. :)  I think that these verses illustrate some appropriate enthusiasm for God and his gospel.
It is so easy to get into a place in our lives where we react with skepticism to new ideas.  We can even slip into bitterness, thinking that we're going to be stuck in the same rut that we've been in for ... well, maybe forever.  And it isn't until some awful comparison hits us... something goes really wrong in our lives, or in the lives of people we know... that we realize how really good we have it, and how many opportunities that we *choose* to let pass us by because we want to be in this rut, or we would have gotten ourselves out of it long ago. :)  We get confused and think that life is about what we can get, rather than what we can give.
We take a lot of things for granted in our lives... people, jobs, belongings, health, opportunities, etc.  Sometimes when we take things for granted and we don't appreciate and value what we have, it is easy to lose it.  And the *last* thing that we want to lose in our lives is God.  One of the ways to ensure that we don't is to adjust our attitudes a little bit, and remember how much the Lord gives us.  Maybe it would be good to give something back, even if it is just appreciation and showing him how glad we are that He is in our lives.  That works for other relationships, so why not God? :)  Let's not think of service and thankfulness as a burden... but like we do often with a friend, as an opportunity to rejoice and celebrate, or make someone smile.
Today, let's work on being enthusiastic about the good things in our lives.  Instead of thinking about what the universe is going to provide for us, let's think about what we can offer the universe... in every aspect of our lives, but especially with God.  What can we do for him?  How can we show how much we appreciate his presence in our lives and the hope that he gives us?  Is it so much to ask for a song or a prayer? :)  Let's thank God for his incredible goodness, and then let's also remember to think about what we can give and how we can be more appreciative in other areas of our lives as well.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Doctrine and Covenants 88:77-80 -- On Teaching and Learning

"And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:77-80


In this selection, God commands some of the early saints to teach each other the doctrine of the kingdom.  And this same commandment applies to us as well.  He goes on to explain why, which is really interesting.  The reason is "that you may be instructed more perfectly."  We teach, so that we will be taught. :)  Seems simple, but it feels like there is so much behind that... a principle that works for a Zion society.  We do things for each other.  I teach for the good of all, and so that at some point I will be taught as well... so we all teach, and thus we all learn together.  And one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it, so just doing the teaching helps us learn as well. :)
Another thing that I love here is that after God tells us to teach one another doctrine, he starts listing things that pertain to the kingdom of God... and he basically includes everything.  Things in heaven and earth, and under the earth.  Things which have been, and are, and will be.  Really, what else IS there?  And I love that it is all the doctrine and the gospel and that ALL of it pertains to the kingdom of God.  God commands us to learn, and learn, and keep learning... and to teach it to each other, so that we will be prepared in all things.  Everything that we are about here on Earth (and heaven and under the earth) is about education... about teaching, about learning, and about being prepared.  We can basically set out to learn or teach almost anything and still be following this commandment... the sole exception being making sure it isn't something that offends the spirit.  So, today, an easy admonition: teach something that has to do with God. :)  And once we accomplish that, let's not stop there.  Let's keep teaching things every day (and thereby learning them as well), and let's learn all we can, and be prepared for wherever God wants to send us, to do whatever the Lord wants us to do.  And if we have some down time between tasks or missions, then this is always a commandment we can fall back on.  Teach.  Learn.  Prepare.  And as we teach each other and learn together, all of us will become more prepared, and more capable, until the perfect day. :)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Isaiah 28:9-13 -- On Learning

"Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.
To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.
But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken."
Isaiah 28:9-13


This is interesting.  I think that it shows a lot about how God has to deal with us sometimes.  On one hand, God wants us to learn... learn all that we can learn.  Become all that we can become.  And on the other hand, he knows that some people are going to at least try to use the knowledge they gain for evil purposes (some examples are given elsewhere in the chapter).  It is possible that there are quicker ways to learn.  Isaiah talks here about God speaking with stuttering lips and another tongue... things that slow down learning by a lot.  So maybe someday, when we've learned to communicate with him better, he'll speak to us normally, and our acquisition of knowledge will be super fast. :)  But, at least for now, God has set up a system for us that protects us in a lot of ways.  We have to learn foundational principles, and master those, before we can continue and learn something beyond that.  And then all the rest of the lessons are broken down into tiny little chunks as well.  In other words, we need to go through steps 1 through 4 in learning faith for instance before we jump to step 5.  And just like we were learning another language, we aren't going to be able to jump right into the graduate level classes without taking the prerequisites.  And with spiritual learning, when we don't have the spirit, we're most likely to start not being able to remember some of those steps, and we won't have that foundation to build on anymore.  Thus, we can't use spiritual knowledge for evil, and unless we are moving forward and learning more, we can start falling backward.
Today, let's hear the Lord and learn from him.  He is telling us all the time how to make life better... how to cope with it, how to recharge our spiritual batteries, how to be happy.  But usually, we aren't listening.  Today, let's take the time to be still, and patient, and to listen.  And until we get a faster way to learn, let's keep building on our current knowledge, step by step, carefully learning each lesson, so that we can keep the foundation solid and learn more and more.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Moroni 7:13 -- On Inviting Good

"But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God."
Moroni 7:13


In a confusing world, this seems really clear and helpful.  Everything which invites us to do good and love God is inspired by him... and things that pull us away from God or invite us to do evil are not.  Seems like this can be helpful in sorting out not only our habits and activities, but also our emotions, conversations, and even sometimes friends in extreme cases.  Not that we shouldn't love everyone, of course.  We should.  But we don't have to hang out with everyone, or invite everyone's influence into our lives.  If we're being influenced for evil rather than us influencing others for good, then maybe the situation isn't safe for us.
The idea of inviting good is a powerful one.  Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where there doesn't seem to be a good answer.  In those cases, maybe inviting good in is the answer.  Finding a way to infuse it into the situation.  Praying for help in finding the good solution, wherever it is.
Today, let's make some good choices and make sure that we are not only surrounding ourselves with good, but that we are encouraging good in others.  It's easy to sometimes slip into encouraging tension or conflict.  It's easy to want to get our own way, to be the winner and the other person the loser.  Let's find ways to encourage peace and love and unity.  Let's rethink some of our interpersonal conflicts and talk about them with God.  Let's find ways to be good and to invite others to good.  Let's invite good and be inspired. :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

2 Nephi 29:11-14 -- On God's Word

"For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.
And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.
And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever."
2 Nephi 29:11-14


It is interesting that everyone is commanded to write the words that God speaks.  That means that every time in the history of the world that there has been a prophecy or revelation, that there should also be a recording of it... and it isn't a burden type thing, because it is supposed to help us when we are judged.  Maybe a good reason to keep a journal, if only of spiritual things. :)
The second verse in the selection is intriguing because it seems apparent that we have the Bible as the record of the Jews and the Book of Mormon as the record of the Nephites, but that we are still missing some major work or works of scripture.  And, as it says as the selections continue, we will all have each others' scriptures.  I like the part that says "my word also shall be gathered in one."  It is a cool idea that the scriptures from disparate groups will be gathered together in one volume.  It is kind of a hope that we all as separate branches of the house of Israel, or adoptees into that house through accepting the gospel, can be united as well.  It also brings home the idea that is presented in the first verse of the selection... God talks to everyone who will listen, everywhere.  The same commandments are presented to us all.  God has promised specific things to the house of Israel, and through those promises the whole world can be blessed.  God never tells anyone to go away, but always invites us to join him and become a part of those promises, and build on the faith of those who have gone before.
Today, let's read and learn from the records of those who had dealings with God... and instead of reinventing the wheel and trying to make it alone, let's build on that knowledge, and welcome God into our lives too, and learn more and become more, and write it down for those who will come after... so that as a people and a world, we will grow closer and closer to Zion, and unity.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

James 3:14-18 -- On Making Peace

"But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace."
James 3:14-18


It's easy in life, I think, to get into a place where we feel envy or strife.  Just going into a meeting, thinking about a job interview, seeing pictures on Facebook and comparing ourselves to those people... all of these things and many many more, everywhere we are, can trigger envy or lead to strife.  And it is even easy to justify to ourselves.  In a society where there are wide gaps between classes, genders, races, political parties, titles, and more, it is hard to feel "at one."  God asks us here, though, despite the lack of oneness of our society, not to glory in envy and strife, and not to lie to ourselves about how justified it is, or how it will build a better world.  Envy and strife only lead to confusion and evil... they don't solve problems.
God's wisdom, as opposed to society's wisdom or even our own, is pure.  It promotes peace, and is not partial or hypocritical.  He asks us to look at others with gentleness, to give willingly when asked, to be kind and merciful and do good works to the people around us.  The last verse to me is the most interesting one here.  The way that we get to righteousness is by planting peace... righteousness grows *from* that.  And instead of just waiting around for God to grant us peace, we can be *making* it.
Today, let's avoid envy and strife, and start planting the seeds of peace everywhere.  Let's ignore the societal gaps all around us and start treating people like people, rather than labeling them as better or worse or above or below ourselves.  Let's never use an advantageous gap to promote our own power or superiority, but only to help people and lift them up.  Let's plant peace in our own hearts and grow some righteousness.  Let's make peace as we live, and love, and serve others... helping to close the gaps between people and take down the walls that separate us from each other, rather than strengthening them.  Let's stop fighting, and start solving the problem. :)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Joel 2:31-32 -- On Calling Upon God

"The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call."
Joel 2:31-32


This chapter and the one after it are full of great and interesting information about the last days and the second coming, but this set of verses is what struck me today.  A lot of things are going to happen... good and bad.  The sun turned to darkness?  That seems pretty scary.  Without the sun, no life on Earth, right?  We need it for heat, not just for light.  And the moon to blood?  If the sun is darkness, I wonder what it would be reflecting at that point.  My dad took some pictures of a red moon just recently... luckily it wasn't paired with the sun disappearing, or most of the other things it talks about in these chapters, so we're probably okay. :)  Anyway, so yeah, lots of signs before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes... but after all this scary stuff it says "whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered."  ... That's pretty amazing, and pretty clear.  The Lord provides us a way of escape, just as he has done in the past throughout the scriptures.  And sometimes in those other stories people didn't do it, or didn't believe they could be saved because of something so simple.  Let's not make that mistake.  Today, let's call upon God, and keep calling on him until it is as natural to us as breathing.  And then, when we need to be delivered--from this scariness or any other--we'll be ready.  Not only because we will have learned to go to the Lord in our distress, but because we'll have learned to listen to his warnings and to talk to him even when we just want to thank him for our happiness.  He'll know us when we call to him, and he will deliver us, and help us, and we will never be alone.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Roman 15:4-7 -- On Hope Through Christ

"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God."
Roman 15:4-7


This is great stuff today.  Everything that was written for us in the scriptures is to help us learn, so that we can see the lessons that others learned, and through them learn patience and feel comfort and hope in our own lives.  That's part of the power of the scriptures, and of communication and fellowship and reading and language in general.  We don't have to learn everything by living through it ourselves.  We can build on the knowledge and wisdom of others.  We can learn from their examples, and be better because they lived.  And in no case is this more true than in the case of Christ, who lived and died and lives again, for us--for our learning, and patience, and comfort, and hope.
Today, let's trust God and learn the lessons that he offers us in this easier way... through reading and studying.  Let's not be stubborn enough to have to learn them all the hard way.  Some we will of course, but as many as we can, let's delve into the scriptures and ponder and pray and do the spiritual work that might save us a little pain in having to go through it ourselves.  And let's pray to learn the lesson mentioned here... to be likeminded toward one another.  To receive each other, as Christ received us.  Today, let's glorify our Father in Heaven, and rejoice in his Son's example and everlasting life, that through him we might be saved and also live forever with him.  Let's hold on to that hope, let's read and pray and study and learn, and accept and love each other and help each other to heaven as well.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Joshua 1:7-9 -- On Being Strong Enough to Obey God

"Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
Joshua 1:7-9


This is part of the conversation the Lord had with Joshua after Moses died, and I really like the emphasis here.  He tells Joshua several times to be strong and courageous... but not so he can beat people up or win a war.  Here it say it is so that he will be able to obey God's law.  Obedience will help him prosper and have success.  But for Joshua it took strength and courage to fulfil the law, and he needed to study the law and think about and ponder it in order to accomplish what he was asked.  God tells him not to be afraid or dismayed, and basically promises him some back up.  That he will always be there to help.
I think that our lives can also benefit from this advice given to Joshua.  It does take strength and courage to stand up for God's law, and to stay obedient to it... or to repent and return to obedience.  It takes guts and bravery and it can be scary and overwhelming sometimes to do as God asks, and to risk being mocked, or to take the step based on faith and not sight.  But, as God promised Joshua, so he has promised each of us.  As we draw near to God, he will draw near to us.  He will help us with anything we face, and all things will work together for our good as we are righteous.
Today, let us be strong and very courageous, that we may act on what God asks of us.  That we will be true to God's values.  That we will put his will first in our lives.  Let's study the law, and think about and ponder it.  And let's listen to God and let him in when he wants to hang out with us.  Let's be worthy of that blessing.

Friday, April 18, 2014

John 9:39-41 -- On Seeing

"And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth."
John 9:39-41


I'm not sure that the Pharisees actually meant it here, but it seems like they are asking the right question.  Are we blind also?  At the beginning of this chapter, Christ heals someone that was born blind, but many people criticized him because it was done on the Sabbath day.  Other people asked, how could a sinner do miracles like this, and they believed him.  The man who was born blind was cast out because he chose to follow Christ.  And in this context Christ says the first verse of the selection above.  In some ways it seems confusing... why would God want anyone to be blind?  I don't really think that he does, but this is symbolic of Christ's mission to illustrate and exemplify the triumph of the spiritual over the physical.  We live in a world where many people claim that the only things that are real are the things that we can physically sense, and where spiritual senses are often ignored, denied, or underdeveloped.  But Christ came and lived a life filled with things that our physical senses can't fully explain.  Our spiritual senses are needed to understand, and to follow.  And even the blind, physically, can learn to see spiritually, and those who rely wholly upon physical sight are made quite blind to spiritual things... not because God wants them to be blind, but because we all blind ourselves when we ignore our spiritual senses.
The Pharisees here ask, perhaps snarkily, whether they are blind also... in in a spiritual sense they were, but instead of saying so, Christ teaches us another lesson.  He says that if we were really spiritually blind that we wouldn't have any sin, because we wouldn't be able to tell what was right and what was wrong... but because we *choose* our own spiritual blindness and ignore our spiritual senses even when they are telling us that we are screwing up, that we are still responsible for the choices we make that go against our own consciences and offend the spirit.  Today, let's listen to God.  Let's work on developing our spiritual senses so that we aren't spiritually blind.  Let's stop ignoring everything we can't see or taste or smell, and open ourselves up to what God has to teach us about so much more we can see.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

3 Nephi 22:10-13 -- On Happy Endings

"For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted! Behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.
And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.
And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children."
3 Nephi 22:10-13


Kind of puts things in perspective when the mountains and hills are going away.  God's kindness and peace make up for even that large of a loss. :)  And the fact that God is trying to comfort us here, even as he talks about the last days, shows that he does care, even about the mortal things that won't matter eventually.  He cares because he knows that we do, and we need to live through these things.  Even though he is God, he has perfect compassion for us, because he suffered for us during the atonement.  There is no pain that he doesn't understand.  And he wants us to know, despite the pain, that things will be okay.  That they are going to get better... much, much better.  Having our children taught by God?  That is amazingly cool.  Definitely not only bad things to look forward to.  No matter what happens, God makes the happy ending possible.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ezekiel 14:1-3 -- On Becoming Able to Listen

"Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me.
And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?"
Ezekiel 14:1-3


Normally this would be a good thing, right?  Going to the prophet, acknowledging the authority of God, etc.  Usually a good thing to do, and a way to get guidance and help with problems that are bigger than we are.  Except in this case, the people who came to ask weren't prepared.  Their hearts were full of other things that they worshipped instead of God, and they were unrepentant sinners, which is a huge impediment to trying to talk to God.  So, instead of getting the answers that they were seeking from the prophet, God just told him to tell them to repent.  And although that is a message that we often need to hear, it is a hard one for us to accept.
We come before God often, just as these men did, unworthily.  We plead with him to help us or answer our questions... but the message we often get, first, is to repent.  And often it makes us feel lost or angry or rebellious when God tells us this because we feel like we're desperately in trouble and we really need help instantly.  I think what we miss though is that if we don't remove those impediments to communication with God that we won't be able to hear, understand, or act on anything that God tells us.  The reason that we can't get an answer isn't because God hates us.  It is because we have made *ourselves* unable to listen.  We need to make room for God in our hearts, and repent of the things in our lives that are barriers to communication whether through guilt or distraction or just generally deadening our spiritual senses.
Today, let's take a look at our lives and what stands between ourselves and God.  Let's remove the barriers.  Let's clean up our lives.  If we go to God and we are told to repent, instead of feeling lost or angry or unwanted, let's realize that God is trying to help us and answer us.  It's like a phone conversation where our speaker is broken, or a text message that gets lost because our phone hasn't been updated forever.  It isn't about the other person not talking to us.  First we need to fix our phone, and then we can communicate.  And that is what God is telling us... asking us to regain a place in our lives where we spiritually aware enough to listen, and then we can talk.  Sometimes that just takes some serious thought and sincerity in coming back to God and acknowledging our mistakes.  Other times, depending on how deep a hole we have dug for ourselves, it might require a little bit more extraction.  But as soon as we are pointed in the right direction again... as soon as we have removed the impediments in our hearts and made him our top priority again, we will be able to hear God well enough to get his help with the extraction process, and once again start the process of building that relationship and having access to more and more guidance, as we become able to listen.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Acts 7:48-51 -- On Building a House for God

"Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?
Hath not my hand made all these things?
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye."
Acts 7:48-51


God tells us here that he doesn't dwell in temples made with hands, and then he asks a couple of questions that seem rhetorical, but maybe they aren't.  What house will be build him, and what is the place of God's rest?  I think the clue to that is the last verse.  We resist the Holy Ghost, which is where the Lord *wants* to live... with us, every minute of every day, conferring and teaching and assisting us.  And yet, we are stiffnecked, and not unlike our fathers, who (as it explains in a large part of this chapter) persecuted the prophets, worshipped idols, and betrayed Christ.  We have a whole world's history of resisting God, with only a few notable exceptions which we usually call prophets.
1 Corinthians 3:16 tells us "ye are the temple of God" and "the spirit of God dwelleth in you."  It mentions this elsewhere in the scriptures as well.  I don't think that this means that God has no use for actual buildings that are temples... on the contrary.  I think they are important, and are the model for the behavior that is being taught here.  *We* need to be temples.  We need to be beautiful, and clean, and set aside for a holy purpose.  We need to invite the Holy Ghost in, and be pure enough that God can hang out with us and not be offended by the contents of our minds or what we are doing with our bodies.
Today, let's try to learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before us.  Let's learn from our own past mistakes too. :)  Let's do some internal cleaning.  Let's let go of our rebellion and our persecution and out idol worship, and everything else that gets in the way of our relationship with God.  Let's make sure our minds and hearts are open and welcoming, and let's invite God in.  And let's see how long we can go without offending him.  If we do, then let's clean up and try again, repenting and apologizing to God where necessary.  It's not an easy thing to keep the Holy Ghost with us all the time... but that is what God wants.  He wants us to be pouring effort into this rather than into rebellion and questioning and refusing to listen.  He knows that life is hard for us, and that it is easy to get overwhelmed... but he wants to be there with us, talking it through and making it better instead of being rejected and ignored.  Let's build a house for God today, where he, and we, can rest.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Luke 9:57-62 -- On Committing to Christ

"And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
Luke 9:57-62


Some of this seems confusing on first consideration.  Why did Christ mention that he was essentially homeless, and why wouldn't he let people take care of things before following him?  To us it can definitely seem less than compassionate.  I think though, that these verses are compassionate and explanatory.  God is explaining the commitment that is required in order to follow him.
To me, these verses seem similar to the parable of the Great Supper or the parable of the Tower both in Luke 14, and perhaps this is a similar lesson.  There is always going to be something in the way of doing as God asks.  There will always be a reason to beg off or get out of a commitment... but before we make a commitment to God, we need to see the cost up front.  And "whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).  Commitment to God costs everything.  And I think that is what Christ is saying here, to the people who are going to follow him.  They care about different things... and all of those things are normal and understandable to care about.  The first I'm guessing is worried about having shelter.  Christ tells him that if he follows him, he won't always have shelter.  The second wants to bury his father, and Christ tells him, I need you to put what I am asking you first.  You won't always be able to say goodbye.  That's the commitment.  And the third, similarly, wants to say goodbye to his family.  And Jesus tells him that he just tried to make a commitment without being ready for it.  He said "I will follow thee, but...." and there is no room for buts or exceptions when we commit to God.
This isn't to say, of course, that we need to leave our families and abandon our children or elderly relatives in order to follow Christ.  Quite often, our commitment to God and our commitment to our families coincide, and we can fulfil both because it is what God wants.  In this case though, God was calling people to preach the gospel... basically sending them on missions.  That still happens, and often it is hard to do.  Hard to leave our comfort zones.  Hard to let go of the people we love and walk out into the unknown and serve God.  But it is necessary and important, not only for God, but for ourselves.  Leaving that support structure and relying on God teaches us a lot more about that relationship and builds that trust with God more than anything else could.  We have to be able to let go sometimes.
This isn't only about missions though; I don't want to water down the lesson here.  God is all about families, but they do not come first.  He commands us to honor our fathers and mothers, but he also says "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."  The first commandment is love God, and after that comes everyone else, including families, and including ourselves. :)  To really commit to God, that has to be the order.  And if it is, then in all likelihood both commitments will be fine.  But we can't give up on God because something bad happens to our family, or question his wisdom because our house was foreclosed on and we no longer have that shelter.  God is still God when bad things happen, and he still loves us and is able to guide us and teach us even when we're scared about the future.  Trusting him and committing to him come first.
Today, let's commit to follow Christ.  And let's understand what that means up front.  Our commitment to him supersedes all else.  Our trust in him needs to be deeper than anything else, so that it can never be shaken.  If it can... if it is based on someone else or on comfort or convenience, then it will be tested.  Today, let's make our commitment deeper and safer, and get our priorities in order.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Abraham 3:24-26 -- On Testing, Change, and Beauty

"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;
And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.
And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him."
Abraham 3:24-28


This is interesting stuff.  We have access to many versions of the creation story, and they all add different things to our understanding.  This particular one helps us understand several things.  That more than one person was involved in the creation of the Earth is clear by the "we," but even clearer in later chapters.  The idea of our lives as a "proving ground" for mortality is clear.  Of particular interest is the reference to this life as our "second estate" and this perspective of the "war in heaven" referred to in Revelation 12:7.
I had a roommate in college at one point who believed that she was a "fence-sitter" in that war, and thus that she didn't have much of a chance in the Gospel, with God's foreknowledge of her probable failure.  And maybe we all think similar things when we are down on ourselves... worried that we aren't as good as other people: that we are less strong, less valiant, less responsible.  But we all have the ability to make it.  First of all, God's knowledge of us isn't forcing us into anything.  He just knows us that well... knows everything that well.  Even we can start to predict how our best friends or family will react in certain ways, and since God's knowledge of everyone, and the earth itself, is perfect, he can predict *everything.*  His knowledge definitely doesn't remove our choice... that is something that he protects and cherishes.  He wants us to be individuals, not automatons.  Further, *none* of us were fence-sitters during the war in heaven.  We weren't part of the many who followed after Satan... or we wouldn't be here (see Jude 1:6 for what happened to the people who didn't keep their first estate).  Only the people who kept the first estate, or passed the first test, if you will, made it to the second stage.  And we are here.  Which means we all made it, and agreed with God's plan, and helped make it a reality.  So, that should be kind of a relief, right?  We're already way more than halfway through the test, and we know we aced the first part. :)  We all have it within us to ace the second part as well, and keep our second estate.
Today, let's remember that life is a test.  It is designed to help us learn and grow and become.  And it is open book.  The scriptures are laid before us, and we are *invited* to use them to solve our problems.  Our teacher and Lord and Father, God, is also available to go to for advice and help *anytime* we need it.  Let's take advantage of our many resources.  Let's stop resenting it and start learning it... and become the amazing people that we can be, not because we just instantly are those people, but because *through* the test we change and refine ourselves... chipping off the rough spots, polishing up the goodness, and becoming more and more beautiful until we shine like the sun.  Today, let's live and learn and never give up on the opportunity we have to improve and grow into perfection.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Alma 41:9-14 -- On Seeking Happiness and Becoming Good

"And now behold, my son, do not risk one more offense against your God upon those points of doctrine, which ye have hitherto risked to commit sin.
Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.
And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.
And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?
O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.
Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again."
Alma 41:9-14


This is Alma talking to his son Corianton, which he does for several chapters right in here.  And it is great stuff, because he lays it all out so clearly, trying to get his son to listen and understand.  The statement "wickedness never was happiness" we can compare with Mormon 2:13 which says "the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin."  Sometimes we feel a temporary sort of happiness or excitement at sin... but it isn't something that lasts.  Once we are away from the drug or the person or whatever the obsession of the moment is, the euphoria disappears.  It is never the type of thing that brings lasting peace and satisfaction... that kind of happiness that reaches all the way down to your toes and makes you happier and more patient with the whole world.  There is no way to turn sin into happiness... it is just an illusion, and the more we reach for it, the farther away it seems.
Alma continues, telling his son that iniquity is contrary to happiness, and talking about restoration. He explains that we can't be restored to something that is contrary to our nature.  We can only be restored to what we are.  If we are merciful, we will be restored to mercy.  If we are good, we will be rewarded with good.  I like his explanation here because it makes it very clear that we have to really change our natures.  Our reference here can come from earlier in this same chapter, Alma 41:5: "The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil." We have to change ourselves inside and out... desires and actions and thoughts and very nature, because whatever we *are* is what we will be restored to and rewarded with.  This doesn't mean that we aren't ourselves, or that we become automatons... at all.  That's Satan's plan. :)  God's plan retains our individuality, our choice of who we want to be.  If we don't truly want to be good, God won't force us into it... but we won't be rewarded with good either.  We get what we are, and what we hand out to others.  But part of us wanted to be good and wanted this plan, or we wouldn't be here in the first place... and I think down deep no matter what we've layered on top of it, is a really good soul, trying to be heard.  Today, let's listen... to our own goodness, and to God, and let's walk the path of happiness.  The one where we become who we truly want to be.  The best version of ourselves.  Let's listen to this advice given to a wayward son, and remember that it is also for us, from God.  Let's be good and do good, and have confidence, knowing that good will be restored to us.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Revelation 22:5, 11-15 -- On the City of God

"And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
...
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie."
Revelation 22:5, 11-15


I threw verse 5 in here because it shows a little bit of how cool the city is that is referred to later.  "There shall be no night there."  Wow.  And then we don't need candles or the sun, because God gives us light.  We need the sun for more than just light... and the fact that God can make up for all of that, in himself, is a pretty incredible thought, not just because that makes God more amazing in a certain way, but also because we are his children with the potential to become like him.
The next verses in the selection is interesting.  The first is similar to Mormon 9:14 ("he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still") in telling us that we will continue to be whatever we are.  We need to do the work to become who we want to be now... because we aren't going to escape it in the afterlife.  I think sometimes we get confused on that subject, and we think that we're totally going to change our minds and our hearts in an instant once we get on the other side... once we really see the truth, or have proof, or are relieved of a certain burden, or whatever it is that we are waiting for.  But in reality, we won't be able to change instantaneously like that.  This life is where we need to learn to change... with the burdens, with the questions... with the limitations.  Because those questions and imperfections are what give us the true freedom to change and to choose.
And lastly, we go back to the idea of God's city, and that we can only get there by doing the work, and by keeping his commandments.  Having the right to the tree of life is a reference back to verse 2 of the chapter, where it talks about it being there and that it is used for healing the nations.  The last verse talks about what it is like outside the city, and helps us to realize that we would much rather be inside.  (I don't think that this means that all dogs are bad.  I think it is symbolic and means the more wild, people-attacking types of dogs.)  I think it also shows us some of the things that we need to avoid, so we don't get caught on the wrong side of the gate.
Today, let's work on getting to God's city.  Let's make the changes that we need to make in ourselves.  Let's repent and grow and improve.  Let's pray and learn from God.  Let's get to the place where there is no darkness, and be able to walk through the gate.  Let's be the people that eat from the tree of life, and stay happy forever.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Psalms 30:3-5 -- On Ephemeral Robots

"O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
Psalms 30:3-5


The Lord does bring up our souls from the grave.  He heals us: body, mind, and spirit.  He gives us time and space to repent, is quickly willing to forgive, and the bad things never last.  I love the "joy cometh in the morning" part. :)  Because it does.  As we learn to repent and let go of our pains, God will heal them.
These verses help me remember the transitory nature of this life.  We can feel trapped or lost or broken, but those things are never actual reality.  They feel overwhelming and all-encompassing, but they are ephemeral, and at God's touch, they can disappear as though they never were.  And I am not trying to discount our feelings in the moment.  They matter a lot to us, and we do suffer and endure pain because of them.  They matter, and we need to learn about how and why we feel and so much about ourselves.  We can't just ignore emotions like they don't exist.  I'm just saying, let's remember how temporary they are, so that we don't make eternally bad decisions based on transitory emotions.
Today, let's remember that whatever dark cloud or giant, scary, robotic intelligence that we are facing... all of it is temporary.  The clouds will part, our robotic enemies will be vanquished or reprogrammed to adore us, and things will get better.  With God, it always, always will.  We just have to hang on and not die in the first 15 minutes of the film. :)  And prayer will help too. ;)  God wants us to be happy.  We want to be happy.  Let's be patient, and repentant, and we'll all be rejoicing during the final credits.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

James 5:8-12 -- On Patience and Swearing Not

"Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation."
James 5:8-12


This is a good lesson in patience.  We shouldn't hold grudges, we should be willing to suffer some affliction and have patience rather than lashing out.  Enduring some affliction doesn't make us doormats... in the end, it makes us happy.  Happier than we would be if we took it out on someone, or lost control of our emotions.  Like he did for Job, God will reward patient endurance.
I think it is interesting that it says "above all things" that we should swear not.  This is one of those things that God asks that we probably take way too lightly... because how often can we get through a day without listening to swearing, or doing it ourselves in some way?  Right now I live in New York City and I ride the subway, so perhaps my experience is skewed a little bit.  But it isn't just on the street.  It is on television, online, and so often in person, or we even find it in our own minds or coming from our own mouths.  God asks us to let our yea be yea and our nay nay... and so often our agreements and denials become interspersed with expletives.  We throw drama into everything rather than just expressing yes or no.  I think, like the verses that precede it, this last verse is also about patience.  If we could be patient and calm, then we wouldn't swear.  We wouldn't risk offending people... even when we are calling the complaint line.  Those people just work there.  They haven't wronged us.
I think we have a skewed view of our own suffering.  We always paint it bigger than it is.  We call it overwhelming and unendurable and we get histrionic about how we've suffered for so long, and God shouldn't expect this of us, and we might as well give up... and sometimes we do.  But our sufferings are all things that are common to man.  They are not unendurable... they are just painful.  Christ suffered for us so that they *wouldn't* be beyond our capacity.  God offers to make our burdens light.  He offers to helps us find the happiness in even the darkest moments.  He stands between our painful experiences and the point where they would break us permanently and offers help.  And although some of our suffering can be intense, temporarily, in the end he heals all of our pain... spiritually and physically.
Today, let's step back from being drama queens and complaining and swearing about all of our problems.  Let's take our verbal expressions down a notch, and let our yes just be yes, and our no simply no.  Let's remember what the prophets, and Christ, and so many other people have suffered, and not rate our suffering as somehow more or think that somehow God has singled us out of the universe for specific and unusual torture.  When things get bad, let's turn to God and ask for help, rather than cursing him.  As it says in the next verse, "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray."  Prayer before swear. :)  Let's remember.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Luke 13:23-27 -- On Getting to Know God

"Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:
Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.
But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity."
Luke 13:23-27


This seems kind of scary.  Imagining God telling me that he doesn't know me, or know where I'm coming from makes me feel a little bit panicked and makes me wonder... how can I make sure the Lord knows me, and knows where I am coming from?
In this particular story, I think that maybe the trick is to get there before God shuts the door.  Kind of like the parable of the ten virgins.  Symbolically, that probably means being prepared for God now, and not waiting to find out about, accept, or communicate with him until we're "certain" or we've seen a sign, or after death.  It means not glorying in our sins now and then attempting some insincere deathbed repentance right at the end.  And in these verses it says "depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity," so avoiding iniquity would probably also be a good technique to use. :)
For me, and perhaps for many of us, I think it means that we need to accept God completely... not just the parts that we like.  Some of what God asks us to do, or some of the things that he says in the scriptures maybe we don't understand yet.  But talking to God about those things, and being willing to figure them out in the context of being sure that God knows what he is doing is very different from taking those things as evidence that God is out of touch or that he might not be real.  Just like in a regular relationship, we don't get to carve out a person that is exactly what we want and leave all the parts we don't like behind.  And with God, even more so... because he is perfect, and he has a reason... and we're abundantly blessed that he is answering the door and considering allowing us entrance.  If we get there and we say, well, we'll come in if you stop asking us to do such and such, or if you allow such and such... then yeah, we probably don't know each other.  We need to figure out those things now, and decide for ourselves what we are doing.  If we're not going to try to get in, that's an unfortunate choice... but a lot more realistic that expecting God to let us in while we're still carrying around and defending sin.
Today, let's stop working iniquity.  And let's remember that *we* are the ones requesting entrance from God, not the other way around.  Let's start making sure that we communicate with and get to know God now, and work out and repent of our sins, so that someday when we get to his door, we will know him, and he will know us, and we will gain entrance.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hebrews 11:6-8 -- On Faith To Take the Next Step

"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went."
Hebrews 11:6-8


These are some great examples of faith.  It takes a lot of faith to get a specific message from God in the first place about a future event... and then to act on it and build a boat on dry ground, where people could mock it and ridicule your belief... probably very hard.  Abraham picked up and moved for God, leaving civilization behind, not knowing where he was going.  Just went.  That's hard.  Similar things happened to Lehi, Nephi, and many other people we read about in the scriptures.
The act of faith can sometimes be challenging and uncomfortable.  If we *truly* do not know whether God is there, it is tough just to get on our knees and ask.  It's tough to be open to something that other people scorn... to find our for ourselves rather than relying on popular opinion.  And as we continue down God's path, the more it diverges in some ways from popular opinion.  And the more we seem to be walking into the unknown or doing things that don't make sense out of context.  And yet, with God they do make sense, and they fit logically into a world and a life where God exists.  And he *does.*  As we learn more about God, and communicate with him, the more our relationship with God will allow us to see beyond the limits of conventional wisdom.  We'll do things that look to others like blind obedience.  We'll trust God and walk into situations that we can't possibly plan ahead for... because God has planned ahead for us.
Today, let's remember that faith does not equal foolishness.  The wisdom of God trumps all the wisdom of man.  Let's not be swayed by popular opinion or people who think that they know better than God.  Let's look to God, and listen to his warnings.  Let's follow him and do his will, even if we don't always know where the next step will take us.  God is trustworthy, and he loves us, and he will never lead us astray.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Numbers 11:27-29 -- On All People as Prophets

"And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.
And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!"
Numbers 11:27-29


This is an interesting story of Moses.  The Lord was sharing his spirit with more than one person, and others were prophesying, and it wasn't what they were used to, and weren't sure what to do, so Joshua asked Moses to stop it.  And, if they had been trying to take Moses' place and lead the people or if they had been falsely prophesying, perhaps he would have.  But God was really speaking to them, and Moses wished that it could happen to everyone.
What a wish, right?  Imagine a world where everyone had that kind of access to God.  It could be a world of peace, a world where we all learned directly from the Almighty.  A world where we didn't wander so much, where we spoke the same spiritual language, and a world where we could learn so much more than the basics.  A world of better choices and much more happiness.
Except, wait.  I think we've forgotten that we *do* have this kind of access to God, if we want it and we work for it.  It is available to all.  We can all receive revelation, and God *wants* us to be that close to him.  ... Of course we can't all lead the church.  That would be very confusing. :)  But we *can* all have that gift of prophecy and revelation for our own lives.  Moses wanted everyone to have it, God wants everyone to have it... so why aren't we there?  Why haven't we accepted that gift; why don't we have the spirit of prophecy and revelation guiding us all the time?
It takes dedication and devotion to have the spirit consistently in our lives.  Alma 17:3 tells us that we have to dedicate ourselves to "much prayer, and fasting" in order to have this gift.  But as we see in the scriptures from the examples of Moses and Nephi and Jonah and many others, perfection is not required to call upon God or to receive his spirit in our lives.  We only have to have faith... we have to dedicate ourselves to act on our desire, and talk to God about it.  We have to work to be the kinds of people that the Lord can trust.  We have to *listen* to him, and act on the messages that he gives us.  Many of us have probably felt inspiration in our lives from God.  At those times, if we have faith, if we act, if we learn to recognize those promptings, then they grow stronger and we are better able to recognize and act on them the next time.  We build trust with the Lord that we'll listen and do as he asks.  And all of us can have that guidance and that closeness and that love in our lives.  Today, let's remember all that God wants to bless us with, and live our lives closer to the spirit.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Genesis 45:4-8 -- On Letting Go of the Past

"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.
For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.
And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt."
Genesis 45:4-8


The reunion scene between Joseph and his brothers is always amazing.  They talked about killing him, and they *did* sell him into slavery... and here Joseph tells them not to worry about it or to feel guilt over it, because it was God's plan.  Given, it has been many years and everyone has had a chance to adjust to life and to feel guilt and regret past choices, but still... that seems like a huge thing that he forgives them for.  And you can see and feel the hand of God in all of it... not only restoring Joseph to his family and fulfilling his visions of him ruling over his brothers, but saving his brothers as well, and giving them a chance at a life not always overshadowed by an unbelievably bad choice in the past.  God's resolutions are the best resolutions, because they cover everything and make everything work together again.
Of course, this doesn't make human trafficking okay, or mean that all of our sibling rivalry is inspired of God.  It almost definitely isn't.  But what it does mean is that we can all overcome the giant things in our pasts that weigh on our minds most heavily.  Whether we were the ones that were hurt or sold, or we were doing the hurting or selling... God has a resolution for us.  A happy ending.  A way for us to all be okay, and forgiven, and able to live with and love each other.  And if we work with God, we can at least get the forgiveness and love parts started.  The part where we're able to rejoice together is dependent on more than one person's free will... but if we get to the point where we can forgive and be forgiven, then we'll be ready if other people make the same choice.
Our pasts don't have to control or poison our present.  We're different.  We've all changed and hopefully improved.  Who we are *now* absolutely matters.  It doesn't absolve us of past actions... we still have to repent.  But the fact that we can do that means that those things can be taken out of the equation... that when we're ready, we can let them go, and just be who we are now.  And who we are now, and our current choices... that is what God looks at. He loves us, and wants to help us overcome not just our past mistakes, but our current ones.  Today, let's be like Joseph... willing to forgive, and to see God's hand in our lives.  No matter what the past was, let's repent and move on and care about each other now.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mormon 9:14-15 -- On Being Happy Now

"And then cometh the judgment of the Holy One upon them; and then cometh the time that he that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still.
And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles."
Mormon 9:14-15


The idea that we are judged based on who we are is fascinating, and I think that it shows us so much more what our goals are in this life.  The idea isn't just to get to the finish line with a heartbeat... although it is a great image of perseverance, still crawling though beaten and scarred and half dead. :)  Too often I think we consider "endure to the end" to be that sort of a thing.  We can make it beaten and bloody and worn out... in pain all the way, and finally get to rest.  And I am not saying that God will not grant us rest.  I think he will... but the idea in these verses is a little bit different than the scenario pictured.  Here we learn that if we are dirty or righteous or happy or unhappy in the end, we will *still* be those things after the judgement.  So, we can't reach the end crawling through the mud and in pain, or theoretically, we're going to be in pain and muddy for a while. :)  In one way, this seems like an additional burden... "What?  I don't just have to get there and collapse?  I have to do more than that?"  But in another way, it is so much more hopeful.  "Oh... this life *isn't* just here for us to suffer through.  I get to be happy now?"
And I think that is God's message for us.  We get to be happy NOW.  Today, in this life.  Man is that he might have joy, and we don't have to wait until the afterlife for that happiness.  The judgement restores to us the things that we have learned to be.  And so, with everything that we are, we should be striving for exactly the same things that we want in eternity.  The idea of painful suffering and crawling with the last of our strength to the end of our lives is a popular one, but also a dangerous lie.  It gives us the totally wrong idea about what life is, and we can start believing that only actions matter.  That our inner turmoil and suffering will just go away on its own, as long as we force ourselves to crawl to that finish line.  And then somehow we think it is all over and we get to finally rest on a fluffy cloud forever as our reward for suffering.  But that isn't what life is about, and God doesn't want us to suffer.  He wants us to overcome suffering and find happiness.  He wants us to take all of that stuff that makes us unhappy and instead of crawling through it for a lifetime, he wants us to kick it to the curb and find better stuff to do with our lives.  Actions do matter, of course, but so do our inner attitudes and our emotional choices.  We have to find a way to be happy... now.  In this life.  And instead of looking at that as an additional burden, let's move on to the next verse.  Sometimes we imagine God to be just a cheerleader... flipping a few pom poms and encouraging us as we crawl to the finish line.  But he is more than that.  He can change our hearts, if we allow him to.  He can help us to learn inner happiness.  He can take away the pain and help us to learn how to win those internal wars that we sometimes believe we will have eternally.  God can teach us to be happy.  He is a God of miracles.  No matter how long we have suffered, how long we believe we should suffer, or how torn and broken inside we are... he can help us overcome on the inside and not just the outside.
Today, let's stop crawling through our own blood to the finish line.  Let's get up, take a shower, and start thinking about who we want to be eternally.  And then let's start losing the defeatist attitude.  Let's throw away the stuff that is dragging us down.  Let's not believe that we have to suffer for a lifetime, and start believing instead that we can change... change anything, and become NOW who we want to be then.  We don't have to accept all of these limitations and challenges or all of this pain and suffering in this life.  We can overcome it.  Let's learn to be happy... now, today.  And as we are able to do that, then we will be learning that for the future too.  Let's put on our superhero capes and stop believing that we're merely mortal.  With God, we can do anything and be anything.  Let's throw away the kryptonite and move on with our lives, happy and clean and ready for eternity.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Isaiah 29:15 -- On Letting the Light In

"Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?"
Isaiah 29:15


Sometimes we get ourselves so far into the dark that we think it is the natural state of being, and that everyone else, including God, lives there too.  But God is light... everything about him clarifies and reveals rather than obscures and hides.  He teaches us truth as fast as we are able to learn it.  Trying to hide from God is just as silly now as when Adam and Eve tried it in the Garden of Eden.  God knows us, and he knows where we are and everything we are doing.  Our prayers can reach him even from the dank basements of the saddest chapters of our lives... he can still hear us, and know us, and help us move on to some of the happier chapters, if we will allow his light into our lives and counsel with him and learn from him.  The answer to the questions in this verse are both "God."  He sees us.  He knows us.  Let's let go of the pointlessness of trying to hide from him, and from ourselves... and let's make the effort to change so that we can be free of stress and guilt and darkness instead of trying to run from the light.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mark 14:13-15 -- On Complex Answers

"And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.
And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?
And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us."
Mark 14:13-15


This is great stuff.  There are several stories like this from Christ's ministry, and it makes me wonder how much our lives could be guided, if we were really willing to trust God.  If we needed something, do we have the kind of faith where God could tell us to do something this complex, and we would listen, or would we just think "yeah, right," and walk away?  I know that I have gotten complex messages similar to this in my life--not often, but I think that shows that we all have the potential for this kind of guidance if we listen to God.  Perhaps, if we were more in tune, we could be guided so much more directly, and know so much more.  Today, let's have faith in God that he will guide us to the things that we need.  The more we listen and learn to recognize the Spirit in our lives, the more complex messages we will be able to receive.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ecclesiastes 5:1-5 -- On Keeping Our Word

"Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.
When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.
Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay."
Ecclesiastes 5:1-5


I think that we get overly dramatic with God sometimes.  We get ourselves into a jam, or something is about to happen that we really, really don't want to happen and instead of listening to God and trying to understand his will in the matter, we just jump in and promise him *anything* if we can just have our way.  If, please, he can get us out of this jam, or save us from whatever is going to happen that we don't want to happen, or whatever it is.  And we make promises that are pretty extreme, like we'll never do anything bad ever again, or we'll quit whatever we're addicted to, or other extreme things that are almost impossible to accomplish all at once like that.  ... I think that those kinds of promises might be what "the sacrifice of fools" is referring to here.  In the moment, we really mean them.  We want whatever it is enough that we feel that we will do anything to get it.  But then if we do get it, we think, oh, I was just panicked for no reason.  I don't have to keep that promise.  ... We don't consider that we are doing evil by making those promises and then bailing on them.  And if we don't value our commitments, then our words and promises mean nothing, in any of our relationships.
When we talk to God, it really matters what we say, and what we do.  Our relationship with God is built, like other relationships, on trust and love and time spent in communication.  ... I don't think that means that we can't tell God what is going on with us all the time, and include him in our lives.  Those are great things.  But if we promise him something, we need to be willing to do it.  It's better not to promise those dramatic things than to promise them and then just walk away from that commitment.
Today, let's think about what we are saying to God.  Let's listen and learn more than we ask or demand.  Let's put his will first and not make promises that we can't keep.  And, if we are going to make a promise to God, or to anyone, let's make sure that it is one we are ready to take seriously and live with.  Let's make sure that our word means something.

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