Saturday, January 31, 2015

Mosiah 15:8 -- On Why

"And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—"
Mosiah 15:8

Right before this, the chapter is talking about the suffering and crucifixion of Christ, and this is the verse that talks about the point of all of that... *why* Christ suffered.  It was to break the bands of death and gain the power to save us.  And reading this, I think... wow.  How unselfish and amazing is it for him to sacrifice for all of us, because we are unable to save ourselves.  Sometimes we think of God as this powerful and greedy tyrant, randomly tossing out justice or injustice without concern for how it affects us.  But God has never been like that.  This world, our existence as mortals, Christ's entire life, every one of God's decisions and actions... none of it is arbitrary or tyrannical.  All of it is about us--for us.  He created spirits and bodies for us.  He made a world for us.  Everything he does is for us, including the crucifixion and the atonement.  He's about saving us and teaching us.  And when we think of him as a tyrant rather than as a father, we really wrong him and do ourselves a disservice by not understanding what we worship.  I think on some level maybe we want it all to be arbitrary so that we don't have a responsibility to do anything about it. :)  But it makes sense, and there is a plan, and if we follow it, God can save us.  Today, let's remember how amazing it is to be able to follow Christ and to know that death is just a temporary obstacle, because he overcame it.  We will all live again, and have a chance to progress well beyond our mortal limits, as we follow God's path.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Genesis 41:15-16 -- On Resilient Obedience

"And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it.
And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace."
Genesis 41:15-16

Reading Joseph's story this morning impressed me with Joseph's resilience.  First he is sold into slavery by his own family, then after he adjusts to his new life and even prospers in it, he is unjustly imprisoned for many years.  A lot of people at this point would probably be bitter and hopeless, maybe even cursing God for their lot in life.  But Joseph stays true, and stays hopeful with God's help.  The man who comes before Pharaoh isn't manipulative and desperate.  He gives God all the glory for his ability to interpret dreams, and he doesn't hold his freedom as a condition of his compliance, or even ask for it.  He just helps. 
I think that Joseph's story is a good lesson for all of us, not in the follow-God-and-you-will-become-rich-and-powerful way, because that definitely isn't what is best for all of us.  But following God will help things work out in the end.  It doesn't happen quickly.  And sometimes bad things happen and we don't know why.  I am sure that Joseph was confused when he was sold as a slave AND when he was thrown into prison, not knowing why these things were happening to him.  And similar things may happen to us, and we won't be able to see ahead and know why.  But God *is* watching, and he does have a plan for each of us.  And if we stay true through all of it as Joseph did, then things will work together for our good.  Maybe it won't be riches or power.  Maybe it will just be "an answer of peace" like the one Pharaoh needed after his dream.  But whatever it is, it will be worth the in between steps, and it will be good for us as individuals.  God knows us, and loves us, and even though he can't save us from life and experiencing some ups and downs as we learn and grow, he will make sure that we get the happy ending that we deserve.  Today, let's follow Joseph's example, and be worthy of a similar reward.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

1 Nephi 3:7-8 -- On Being Willing to Try

"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
And it came to pass that when my father had heard these words he was exceedingly glad, for he knew that I had been blessed of the Lord."
1 Nephi 3:7-8

Lehi tells his sons that they have to go back to Jerusalem to get the records, because God commanded it.  They have no idea how they are going to get something so important and valued from a prominent man, and Nephi's brothers pretty much think it is impossible.  But Nephi says yes.  Why?  Not because he has a plan or any good way to do what God asked... just because he knows that it is God asking.  And he trusts that if God asks it, then he will provide a way for it to happen.
This is a lesson that we often need a reminder of in our lives.  We read the scriptures or hear the prophets say something, and too often we look at our lives and think... wow, that just isn't going to work.  Maybe for some really good reasons.  Nephi had some really good reasons for believing this task impossible as well.  But instead of giving up without trying, he agreed.  He tried.  He failed a few times even... but he kept trying until he accomplished the task.  And we too, can do the same.  No matter the obstacles.  No matter the challenges.  No matter if we are scared and don't even want to be who God asks us to be.  If we are willing to put God first, and try, and are open and willing to change, God will help us triumph.  He will bless us with success, he will change our hearts, and he will enable us to do the impossible.
Today, let's be like Nephi in our willingness to trust God to see us through anything at all he asks us to do.  Let's be willing to try, to change, and to put God first.  If we do out part, God will always do his.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

John 18:20 -- On the Open Access Gospel

"Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing."
John 18:20

This is after Christ's betrayal by Judas, when he was sent to Caiaphas the high priest, before being delivered to Pilate.  The high priest asks him of his doctrine, and this is how Jesus answers him.  In some ways, I think that it's Jesus saying "you already know; let's just get this pretense over with."  I like though the idea here of open access... that God doesn't have anything to hide.  Not saying that I want to see videos of our personal lives broadcast on the jumbotron... private and secret are different things.  But I think Christ was making the point that God's truth is for the whole world, not just a few.  He wants everyone to know his word and his gospel.  We still have to take the 101 classes and work our way up before we can understand the graduate material, but the textbooks are available to all, and admission is free.  Can you imagine being one of those people sitting in the synagogue listening to him in person?  Or seeing him in the temple, and having him take the time to guide and help us?
Today, let's take advantage of the fact that the gospel is available to all, and let's learn all we can.  Let's study and search the scriptures as our textbooks.  Let's go to church and attend the temple as our institutions of learning.  Let's learn all we can and help each other.  And let's talk to God in prayer and accept him in our lives as a teacher... someone who knows more than we do about all of this, and who is willing to take time for us all, individually.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

1 Nephi 2:15-16 -- On Tents

"And my father dwelt in a tent.
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers."
1 Nephi 2:15-16

God warned Lehi to leave Jerusalem, and so he did, leaving behind his house and his land and his friends and his significant worldly possessions to live in a tent.  Today, most people would call that crazy.  Back then too; a lot of his family thought he was insane and wanted to go back.  But Nephi prayed and talked to God about it instead, and God softened his heart, and let him know that his father, instead of being crazy, was actually saving their lives.  God was leading them to a promised land.
In our time, a lot of things are dismissed as crazy or unreasonable too.  Not drinking or smoking or watching R-rated movies.  Paying tithing.  Avoiding premarital sex.  Praying, believing in God, temple work, the Book of Mormon, modern revelation.  So many things that we do for God are seen as insane to others.  And unfortunately, we often see things that God asks as insane as well.  As with most people, we find sanity only in people who agree with us. 
Today, instead of looking around at the crazy world and judging things by our opinions, let's learn a lesson from Nephi.  Let's commune with God and start learning what *he* values, and what *he* feels is important.  Let's listen to his judgement and allow ourselves to be swayed by his desires.  We can't yet see all that he sees, or know all that he knows.  Sometimes it is right to walk away from the gold and silver and luxury to live in a tent.  Sometimes it is right to hope in the midst of apparent defeat.  If we stick with God, things will work out.  We don't have to see how right now.  We just have to believe and trust, and do as he asks.  Even if it is a tent in the middle of nowhere.  It is on the way to the promised land.

Monday, January 26, 2015

2 Kings 6:16-17 -- On Opening our Eyes

"And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."
2 Kings 6:16-17

Elisha's servant was really worried because the situation looked dire, and it seemed that they were outnumbered.  But when God opened his eyes, he saw the angelic army.  He knew that God was protecting his servant, and victory was assured.  I think this is something good to remember in our own lives as well.  It's easy to feel overwhelmed and lose hope.  Sometimes the odds seem stacked against us, and we don't see any possibility of a way out.  How can we overcome our own weaknesses, let alone the rest of the obstacles and influences and plain evil in the world?  But, like Elisha's servant, we can't always see everything that we have going for us.  If we dedicate ourselves to God, no matter what is in our way, God can overcome it.  He will give us strength, and fight the battles that we are unable to fight.  Even if our backup is sometimes invisible, and thus somewhat less intimidating to our enemies, it is always there.  As we stay in touch with God, he will uphold us and protect us, and help us change ourselves so we can even overcome our own weaknesses.
Today, even though we can't see it, let's remember that God's support surrounds the righteous.  God's forces are always stronger, and even when it looks bad on the surface, Evil can never triumph.  Let's do good, be good, and seek good, and allow God to open our eyes and our hearts.  With God, we will win.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

1 Nephi 1:20 -- On Being Mighty

"And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away. But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance."
1 Nephi 1:20

I really like this verse.  Not necessarily the part where our ancestors kill the prophets.  Hopefully we as a society and a world will learn better than that.  The part that I really like is the idea that God will make us mighty unto the power of deliverance.   Sometimes we are pretty passive about the gospel and about tribulation.  We pray sometimes, but then a lot of the time we kind of sit on our hands, expecting God to show up in a fiery chariot and pull us out of the hole.  And not saying it doesn't happen that way sometimes... but much more often, the way that God delivers us is to make us equal to the challenge.  He teaches us and strengthens us and gives us enough power to deliver ourselves.  Obviously, we still couldn't do it without God, and he is an integral part of the process... but God works through us, and through other people most of the time, helping us save ourselves and each other.  He keeps the angels and the fiery chariots for special occasions. :)
Today, let's work with God and find the strength that he has given us. Let's be mighty unto the power of deliverance.  With God, we can handle whatever life throws at us, and we can be okay... even happy. :)  We just have to trust God, and learn to trust ourselves as well, knowing that God is backing us up as we have faith and make good choices.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Psalms 32:11 -- On Gladness

"Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart."
Psalms 32:11

I like the idea that we are commanded to be glad.  That joy and happiness are part of the plan.  We're not meant to merely suffer or barely make it through life bearing our heavy burdens.  No matter how heavy, we're meant to learn strength not only to to bear our load, but to rise above it and learn how to find joy and peace.
I like also that it says glad "in the Lord."  That is a good message, leading us to where our burdens can be lightened and lifted.  God gives us a reason to shout for joy, and he leads us to everlasting peace and happiness as we choose to follow him and seek it.
Today, let's remember to rejoice, and also remember who offers us happiness even when it seems we'll never find it again.  Let's be upright in heart and be glad.

Friday, January 23, 2015

1 Nephi 1:11-12 -- On God's Books

"And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read.
And it came to pass that as he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord."
1 Nephi 1:11-12

I find it interesting that a heavenly messenger would give someone a book. :)  He was in the middle of a vision already... why not the equivalent of a movie instead?  And there are actually quite a few times in the scriptures that books appear in visions or held by angels.  In our advanced technological world, maybe sometimes we would prefer a digital copy, or the audiobook, or we would like God to give us his email address or have an angel deliver a URL where we could find a chart outlining everything that will happen in the last days, arranged by date.  In fact, if we could get some time travel to watch it in person, or a direct download to the brain, that would be even better: faster, less effort, awesome.  Except maybe that is the point sometimes.  We want the fastest and easiest, but sometimes a little bit slower and a little bit more effort are important in learning.  I'm not knocking technology at all.  I love it, and there are an amazing amount of great resources centered on God that are available to us now that would have been difficult for people to access at all not so long ago.  I'm just wondering why God, who can do anything at all, would give someone a book in the middle of a vision.  And I think maybe it is because we need to take time to ponder and incorporate as we ingest information.  We need to be able to look back to a previous paragraph or write questions in the margin.  We need to see that other people have recorded their stories, and learn to record our own for people who will come later... we don't need a machine to share them with others.  Learning isn't a plug-in-and-download sort of a thing... not if we want to do it right. :)  Reading changes us, because we recognize ourselves in the stories and the lessons.  We internalize it, and remember the words when we encounter a similar situation.  I think that other learning methods can do similar things, and maybe Lehi was given a book in his vision just because that is the way he learned best, and it was more familiar to him.  I like though, the idea that God has a library.  That maybe someday we can wander through it and learn what God knows, because he records all of it, and wants to share it with us, as he shared with Lehi.  Today, let's read God's word in the books that we have been given, and maybe look forward to reading more someday. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

1 John 1:5 -- On Letting Go of the Darkness

"This then is the message we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."
1 John 1:5

Life is complicated.  Sometimes we look at the story and we can't always tell the good guys from the bad guys.  We don't always even know what side we ourselves are on all the time.  We get caught up in the gray area, not sure what direction we are facing.  And I am not saying... God is not saying... that the world is black and white and that all decisions are clear and easy to make.  But I think the point is, here and elsewhere in the scriptures, that *we* need to make things clearer.  We need to take a stand for the right.  We need to wear the white hats all the time.  We need to walk in the light, and let go of ALL of our darkness.  We can't embrace the gospel only on Sundays, or worship God only when it is convenient.  We can't get as close to the line between evil and good as possible and say that we are still dedicating our lives to the Lord.  God's message and example are clear.  In him is no darkness at all.
Today, let's uncomplicate our lives a little and work on making it clear whose side we are on.  We're the good guys.  We're making things better, not worse.  We're about love, and good, rather then hate and evil.  And if that isn't clear, and if it is more complicated than that, then maybe we need to take a step back and let go of some of the darkness.  We are supposed to be lights to the world.  Let's follow God's example.  Let's dump the dark, and stand up and shine.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

1 Nephi 1:1 -- On Afflictions and Favor

"I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days."
1 Nephi 1:1

This is the first verse in the Book of Mormon.  Usually I kind of gloss over this one.  It's the first, after all, and you kind of just read it in a rush to start, to get to the next one and "accomplish" something. :)  But as I was reading it yesterday, I was thinking about the relationship between afflictions and blessings.  Nephi was blessed... highly favored, great knowledge of God, led to the promised land, prophet... so many things.  He was what a lot of us want to be.  A hero.  One of those people you look at and think, wow.  That person is perfect.  They can handle everything.  They have it all together.  I will NEVER be able to live up to that.  ... Except we know more about Nephi than that.  He was shiny and cool and strong and faithful and good.  But he also had fears and relationship problems with his family.  He technically could have been called a thief, a kidnapper, or even a murderer.  He suffered a lot, and he had to deal with situations that seemed impossible.  His brothers tried to kill him multiple times.  He was unable to avert a feud that lasted hundreds of years.  ... And I guess that is my point.  Nephi was a real person, going through real things.  We look at others and we think that they have everything together or that they know exactly what they are doing, but usually, just like us, they are just doing the best they can. 
Our afflictions and trials never mean that we are not favored.  Like Nephi, they often mean just the opposite.  God had something in store for Nephi, and he had to go through a lot to learn to be the person that could handle that calling, and to gain knowledge.  It is the same for us.  Our afflictions teach us, and can help us gain knowledge and become good as we face them with God at our side.  Today, let's remember that bad things happen even to the coolest people, and it's okay.  Problems polish us up and make us shinier.  Being highly favored is something we earn over time, it isn't something that happens mysteriously because God likes some people more than others.  Let's face our fears and our insecurities today.  Let's triumph despite our trials, and let's learn what God has in store for us as we follow his gospel.  Nephi made it, even through all his afflictions, and we can too.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

D&C 93:28 -- On Taking the Time for Truth

"He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things."
Doctrine and Covenants 93:28

The gospel takes practice and persistence.  Sometimes I think we come to it, thinking that we need to be perfect all at once... that it is even possible to be perfect all at once.  But even Christ, our perfect example, learned progressively, a little at a time.  And that is the way it is with everything.  We can't get it all at once.  We get part of it, and we have to build on that a little at a time, until as it says in this verse, we know everything.  That is an amazing promise, but as with many other blessings, it too comes a little at a time, as we can process it, as we are ready for it.
The key here is keeping God's commandments.  Sometimes the rules seem to grate against us if we haven't learned the whys behind them yet, or even if we know why but we still want something else, necessarily far inferior to what God offers us.  It takes time to learn the whys.  It takes time to change our hearts to love God more than whatever other thing seems shiny at the time.  And it's okay.  We have time to learn, as long as we have the desire to change and are making the effort, and continuing little by little.  The way we progress is by following God.  By doing as he asks.  We're human, and it is natural to want shortcuts, but there aren't any.  We all have to walk the same road, and obedience is part of it.  When we learn other things we have to follow rules too.  We have to study and learn the material.  We have to practice, and memorize.  We have to internalize the lessons so that they stick with us, and aren't just short-term memories that we can deliver for a test and then forget.
Today, let's remember that we have time to learn, as long as we are progressing.  Let's listen to God, and add to our light and our truth daily.  Let's let go of our rebellion, our pride, and all the other things that darken our lives, and let's keep turning to the light, and continuing to learn the lessons that will eventually bring us to being "glorified in truth" and perfect knowledge through God. :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

3 Nephi 14:7-8 -- On Knocking on God's Door

"Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened."
3 Nephi 14:7-8

These verses also appear in Luke 11 and Matthew 7.  Seems like a message that God would like us to hear.  And I think that much of that message is that we have to be active with God, and not passive.  We can't just wait around for a lightning bolt or an angel to come show us what to do.  We have to be engaged in our lives, actively working them out, considering, thinking, learning.  God is there to help, but not in a Stepford Wives sort of a way, programming us to be the "ideal," submissive servants.  God is trying to teach us some independence, some initiative... some self-reliance.  We can't possibly learn those things through programming or brainwashing, and that isn't the way that God works.  Instead, he uses the power of our own curiosity, our own needs and desires, to give us the impetus to ask, to want to learn and find out.  To realize that we need to change and grow and become better than we are.
Inquiry-based learning is a powerful motivator.  It lets the student drive the learning, and learn what they want to learn... and isn't that what God is telling us here?  God will answer our questions.  He will help us find what we seek.  He will open the doors where we request entry.  But we have to do those things.  We have to knock, ask, and seek.  And truthfully, we probably wouldn't value it if we didn't have to work for it some... if he just dropped it in our laps, we would rebel or ignore it... which we know from the way that we treat all the scriptures and prophetic insights that we already have.  We have all of these resources, but most of the time it doesn't touch us until it coincides with what we want to know right now.  Today, let's try this.  Let's ask God some specific questions.  Let's look for the answers.  Let's knock on God's door, and never give up.  He will answer.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Matthew 25:7-9 -- On Wisdom and Testimony

"Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves."
Matthew 25:7-9

 This is part of the parable of the ten virgins.  It is an interesting one.  To me, it seems to reflect how both sides feel.  From the perspective of the five foolish virgins, we wonder... why can't those "wise guys" just *share*?  What is the big deal?  We were here, on time, waiting, ready, and if they would just share a little, then everything would be fine.  And from the perspective of the wise virgins, we wonder why the "fools" couldn't just be prepared for a long wait.  We can't really share, not knowing how long it will be, or everyone will be left in the dark.
Maybe we've all been wise and foolish in the past.  We seem to have those kinds of cycles in our lives. :)  Sometimes we're prepared, and sometimes we aren't, and sometimes others can save us from the consequences and sometimes they can't.  Life, hopefully, teaches us to be more and more prepared as time goes on, because we learn that we go through hardship when we aren't.   And if we just learn to think ahead a little more, that is a good lesson by itself.  The specific idea in this parable though is preparation for the bridegroom, symbolically Christ's Second Coming.  And in *that* case, the oil that we're talking about is our testimonies and our commitment to the gospel. 
If we knew absolutely that Christ were coming back tomorrow, I don't think any of us would have a problem spending today getting our lives in order and putting God first.  But because, as in the parable, it takes a lot of waiting to get there, we sometimes start turning a little foolish, and letting our testimonies run down.  We stop doing the things that shore them up... stop reading the scriptures, stop praying, stop trusting God to answer our questions.  And if, in the waiting in between time, before Christ comes, we find ourselves out of testimony, then we won't be prepared when he does.
Just like a lamp, our testimony and our faith and our belief need to be refilled.  We need a regular influx of the spirit to keep remembering God, to keep putting him first, and to grow and expand our testimonies and become stronger in the gospel.  If we stop doing the things that bring us closer to God, then we get further away.  There is no standing still with God.  Only going forward and going backward, and belief and commitment can't really be borrowed from others.  We *must* find out for ourselves, and refill our own lamps.
Today, let's do the things that it takes to renew our testimonies and feel the spirit.  Let's attend church.  Let's pray.  Let's read and ponder God's word.  Let's make time for God in our lives, and make him our top priority.  Let's be wise, and know that we will be prepared when he comes again.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2 Timothy 3:10-12 -- On Persecution and Deliverance

"But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,

Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
2 Timothy 3:10-12

There are some good reminders here.  Some of them are about how to "live godly."  We need to have purpose and faith and charity and patience, among other things. :)  List verses are always good because it helps us go down the checklist and think about how we are doing on some of that.  The part that struck me the most today though was the reminder that anyone who is trying to live the way that God asks is going to encounter persecution.
We sometimes think when persecution and other negative things happening to us that it is a sign that we are going in the wrong direction.  We think life is supposed to be easy, and the path of least resistance must be the right way.  But we are reminded here that often the correct path is a difficult one.  This life isn't just to coast through.  We're supposed to learn something... and learning takes practice, and study, and effort, and sometimes involves hardship, and pain.  Sounds tough, but let's also remember at the end of that first verse.  "But out of them all the Lord delivered me."  ... Delivering doesn't mean doing it for us, or saving us from having to learn, but it does mean that God is there to support us when we are trying to live the right way, and that he will help us through.
Today, let's remember that persecution is part of the package.  And so is deliverance. :)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Alma 17:1-2 -- On Reunions

"And now it came to pass that as Alma was journeying from the land of Gideon southward, away to the land of Manti, behold, to his astonishment, he met with the sons of Mosiah journeying towards the land of Zarahemla.
Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God."
Alma 17:1-2

The background of this story is that Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah used to be the bad guys.  They were the children of the leaders of the community, and did what most of us do at one time or another, and they rebelled.  This was in a big way though, and they were actively fighting against the church and against God's purposes.  And one day, due to the prayers of Alma's father and lots of people in the church, an angel appeared to them, and convinced them that even if they didn't want to believe, that they had to stop hurting other people.  ... Definitely not the first time bad guys were visited by an angel.  But in this case, they all turned their lives around completely, and started working for God just as hard as they had been working against him.  They became the good guys, and fourteen years later, in these verses, Alma runs into his old gang again, and it added a lot of joy to the reunion that they were still brethren in the Lord.  They had all stayed faithful.
Maybe we can relate.  Maybe we have been bad guys in the past, and maybe we all have people in our lives that we wish we hadn't lost touch with.   I think in a lot of ways we can relate to the idea of this kind of joyful reunion.  On a little bit more abstract level, we have friends and family that we meet again after this life as well.  And whether in this life or the next, these kinds of reunions are going to happen to all of us.  Today, maybe we should think about who we want to be when we meet everyone again.  I think some of the suggestions here are good ones.  They waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth, gained a sound understanding, searched the scriptures diligently, and sought the word of God.  I want to be like that.  Whether it is meeting old friends in this life, loved ones that I will see again after this life, or the ultimate... seeing God again, and being reunited with him in person... I want it to be a happy thing, where we are all the people that we wanted to be, and the people that God helped us become.  Today, let's do our part to be the good guys.  And then, when these reunions happen... when you and I meet, and when we meet our Saviour, we can rejoice without regrets. :)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Jeremiah 13:15-17 -- On Pride and Glory

"Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken.
Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.
But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock is carried away captive."
Jeremiah 13:15-17

This is the prophet Jeremiah encouraging people, long ago, to listen to God rather than accept the negative consequences of not listening.  Unfortunately, in this case they didn't really listen, and the consequences came... but I think the point of the scriptures, and perhaps of all human history, is that God keeps speaking, and we still have an opportunity to listen.
So, the message we are being asked to listen to?  "Be not proud."  "Give glory to the Lord."  ... Those seem deceptively simple, but as we can see with the people in Jeremiah's day, and often with our own efforts, it can be very hard.  Hard to not take ourselves too seriously, or think that what we want is more important than what everyone else wants, and especially what God wants.  It can be a daily struggle.  We think, on a small scale, that it doesn't really matter.  We can do our thing instead of God's thing for an hour, or just this time, and we'll choose God first when things are bigger or longer... but it doesn't work out that way.  Usually, those small choices, made every day, turn into what we value the most, and what we *always* put first.  We think that it's okay if we fight to get our way and maybe offend someone or overlook their needs... just this once, or they'll get over it, and this makes us happier.  But it is the same.  Once we start putting ourselves first, we usually continue to do so, never stopping or taking the time to consider others, especially God.
Today, let's take the time to consider our pride.  Let's work on not thinking that we are better or on putting ourselves first.  Let's try to consider other perspectives, and put the happiness of others and God's will before our own, and make sure we give him the credit and glory for all that he does.  Interestingly, this is one of those cases where the "last shall be first" and the "first shall be last."  If we put ourselves first, we're going to end up last in the end, with some of that captivity and "gross darkness" mentioned above.  But if we put ourselves last, and learn to care for and love others, making them our priority and purpose, then in the end, we'll be some of the first, rejoicing in the perfect day.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Luke 1:45 -- On Believing God's Promises

"And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord."
Luke 1:45

This verse is in the context of Mary and Elisabeth meeting, while they are both pregnant with Jesus and John respectively.  Elisabeth recognizes Mary as the mother of the Savior, and says this.
Believing is pretty much the key.  It was the key then, for Mary and also for Elisabeth, but it is also the key for us today.  We can learn the gospel really well, and we can even get down on our knees in front of the Lord, but if we don't believe, then all of it remains on the outside, and none of it touches us or has the power to convert us or change us.  In order to reach the blessings of the gospel, to make contact with God, or to become more than that outward shell, we have to believe what God promises.
Faith is really when those two things, belief and action, come together.  We can't just go through the motions our whole lives, and we can't just believe but never do anything about it... either way is empty.  When we're living right though, as Mary and Elisabeth were, and when we believe, as they did, then we have the winning combination... the formula that allows us to really connect with God, and to have the certainty that what he promises, whether through angels or prophets, will really happen.  Sometimes we need God's help in believing, or in acting, and that's okay.  He wants to help.
Today, let's work for the confidence in God that Mary and Elisabeth had.  Let's believe, and have faith that God will keep every promise.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Jeremiah 5:30-31 -- On Avoiding the Bad End Thereof

"A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land;
The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?"
Jeremiah 5:30-31

The "people love to have it so" reminds me of how we bring so much bad on ourselves through our unwise choices.  There is so much evil that could be averted if we didn't want it so much.  ... And it is a tough thing, overcoming our desires for evil and learning to choose good.  But it helps to remember that we have a desire for good within us as well, and God on our side helping us to learn and to be strong enough to make the hard choices.
Although we like to blame things on others or on circumstances, so many of the things that happen to us in our lives respond to choices.  They are things that we can draw closer to or run away from... things that we can affect by how we behave.  Today, let's take the opportunity to make some wise choices.  Let's not love the falseness and the evil, or accept it because "everyone else" does.  Let's learn to love and choose the good:  To become better people and make a better world by the choices that we make every day.  Then maybe we won't have to worry about what happens at the end of the evil cycle, because we'll be looking forward to the end of the good cycle. :)

Monday, January 12, 2015

D&C 18:15 -- On Finding the Path to Joy

"And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!"
Doctrine and Covenants 18:15

There is some great stuff in this section.  Right before this, God reminds us that the worth of souls is great, and that Christ suffered and died for us so that we could repent.  Repentance is a huge gift, which is highlighted in this verse.  Even if we spent our whole lives just trying to help one person, and we were successful in helping them to repent... even for that one, our lives would have been well spent, and we would have great reason to rejoice.
Sometimes I think that we really forget how important we are to God... and how important other people are too.  God didn't die for all of us for fun.  He went through all of that for a reason... because he loves us and wants us to return to him, and to have all the joy that he can offer us there.  Nothing else can compare.  Nothing we can reward ourselves; nothing that anyone else can offer.  Only God.  And he loves us and doesn't want anyone to be left out.
Today, let's remember how worth it it is to help others, and to make the effort ourselves, to return to God.  Our whole lives would not be wasted if all we ever did was inch our way to him, or help one person turn in his direction.  Let's work towards that kind of joy, and engage in that kind of effort... the kind that is never pointless, that can never be wasted or worthless.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

John 8:12 -- On Light and Goodness

"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
John 8:12

The symbolism of light and darkness is always an interesting one.  Often, it is a division between good and evil.  The dark side of the force is bad, and the cowboys (or hackers) who wear the white hats are supposed to be the good ones.  And in Christ's case this is part of the symbolism too... indeed, perhaps all the rest of the symbolism stems from the symbolism of God as light. :)  There is another side too though, the actual illumination/ability to see side of light.  In the dark it is easy to get lost, and we are *so* often in the dark compared to God.  He not only sees so much more, but he illuminates our lives and minds as well, so we can see more and know more.  Without him, it is hard to know what to do or where to go.  Not having God around and being left to ourselves is like the dark and dreary waste of Lehi's dream.  We all go through times like that, and we feel lost, and we don't know where to turn.  We feel like the darkness is getting inside, and we need help.  God is our light and our help in times of trouble... and always.
Today, let's invite God and his light into our lives.  Let's let go of our darkness, and allow God to drive it away.  Let's be the good guys. :)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

1 Corinthians 3:9-10 -- On Building

"For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon."
1 Corinthians 3:9-10

This is interesting talking about us as God's building and that we need to be careful how we build.  Christ is our foundation, and if we forget that, or try to build something that isn't in harmony with his teachings,  we're setting ourselves up for failure.  Today, let's consider what we are building on his foundation.  Is is a shack or just a sleeping bag on top of a professionally built foundation?  If so, let's take a step back and plan better.  With some planning, we can find the good in anything that we are asked to do, and our buildings can be as beautiful as the foundation.

2 Samuel 23:4 -- On Sunrises

"And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain."
2 Samuel 23:4

I like the image of the sunrise here, and the idea of spring and renewal as the image of God.  I think we sometimes get into our minds that God is somehow old... that eternal life could possibly be boring or make God into a worn out old man.  But in truth God is about newness, renewal... and eternity is about eternal perfection with no sickness or death involved at all.  And it's also what we can strive to be.  New, clean, and unstained or affected by sin or past mistakes.  Reborn in God into a beginning, not an ending.
Today, let's never mistake God for worn out, or ourselves for used up.  Let's walk in newness of life and worship the God of light and morning and beginnings.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Moroni 7:17 -- On Good Persuasion

"But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him."
Moroni 7:17

I like this insight because it helps us remove some of the obscuring mist that we sometimes manufacture in order to justify bad choices.  God makes it more clear, and simple in some ways.  If something persuades us to do good, and serve God, then we know it is good.  And if something persuades us to do evil, and not serve God, then we know it is bad.  And we can even look at ourselves this way, right?  If we are trying to talk people out of attending church or praying or reading the scriptures, then we're doing bad stuff.  And if we are helping them to go to church, or pray, or read the scriptures more often, then we're doing good stuff.  There are other things, but those are some basics.  And sometimes it is good to look at things in the most simple way, because then we realize... oh, wait.  I wasn't supportive of church, or tithing, or following the prophet, or of standing up for Christ in that situation.  I was going to the dark side. :)  And if we realize that, maybe we can rethink our choices, and turn around, and do better.  Because it almost always is this simple.
Today, let's not assume that we are exceptions to God's rules.  Let's assume they apply to us, and look at our lives this simply.  Let's see where we are persuading to do good and where we aren't... and let's adjust our actions to be more in accordance with believing in God and serving him.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Proverbs 6:27-28 -- On Not Burning

"Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?
Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?"
Proverbs 6:27-28

These verses are in the context of talking specifically about adultery, but perhaps this is also applicable to most sin.  We think that we can do bad things and that it won't affect us.  We often think this with smaller things before larger.  Maybe we can watch this movie or read this book without being affected.  Perhaps we tell ourselves that we can withstand this much temptation and it is okay, as long as we don't cross some specific line, but we can get really, really close.  But God here is telling us, wait.  We are missing the point.  Why *try* to get closer and closer to something bad?  We're burning ourselves, and harming our souls by even wanting bad things.  Instead, we should see the danger, and stay far away.  Not burning ourselves or even warming ourselves at the fire of sin.  We should seek happiness elsewhere... and it IS found elsewhere.  It's not easy to change our desires or our hearts, but God helps us with that... to want the good as well as helping us with good actions, if we see the danger and go to him for help.  Today, let's not be drawn to the flame only to find out that it is really a bug-zapper.  Let's turn to God instead.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Hosea 13:9 -- On God's Help

"O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help."
Hosea 13:9

Reading this today reminded me of how much we trouble we heap on our own heads.  We like to blame things on circumstance or fate or say "the devil made me do it" or whatever, and certainly there are things that happen that we have no say in.  However, the vast majority of our problems seem to be self-inflicted at least to some extent.  We make a mistake, we realize it, sometimes we know ahead of time that it is a mistake and walk into it.  And then we keep making it, or make a similar one, and somehow we wonder why our lives seem to be going wrong. :)
In this chapter, God is talking to Israel, which is pretty much all of us, because we are adopted into that line as we become the sons and daughters of God by joining his church and following the gospel.  And we have destroyed ourselves, both collectively and individually, in many symbolic ways such as sinning and rejecting God in our lives.  But despite that, God tells us to turn to him, because in him is our help.  Even after our rebellion and sin, God stands ready to forgive us and help us and take us back, if we will humble ourselves and return, and work to change our ways.
Today, let's remember where our help is, and let's turn away from our self-destruction and accept it.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Psalms 139:7-10 -- On God's Ability to Reach Us

"Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me."
Psalms 139:7-10

I really like this reminder that there is no place we can go where God cannot reach us and help us.  We are never so far lost that God cannot lead us to safety and peace.  Today, let's reach out for God and know that, wherever we are, he can still help us.  I also suggest not sleeping in hell.  Sounds kind of scary and burny.  But, you know, if we end up spending the night, let's remember that God can still get us out, if we're smart enough to call on him for help.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Proverbs 20:9 -- On Spiritual Showers

"Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?"
Proverbs 20:9

This is a good question, and I was thinking that we take showers fairly frequently so that we don't stink or feel grimy, but that we ignore the spiritual stink and grime too often.  We allow sin to make us unclean, and we can let it go, sometimes for years, and become used to it, or even wallow in the filthiness of it.  And then something happens that causes us to look at ourselves a different way, and we realize how sullied we are, and wonder if there is any way to be clean again after so long.  And there is.  There always is, with God, who gives us the opportunity to repent and become clean and pure again.  Even better of course, if we don't let it get that bad, and we repent a lot more frequently. :)
Today, let's answer this question for ourselves.  Let's be the people that can say this.  Even if it takes time and effort, let's get there... and then let's  work with God, and keep it up, so that we never go that long without a spiritual shower again. :)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

1 John 2:9 -- On Avoiding Darkness

"He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now."
1 John 2:9

This is a good reminder.  Sometimes we get into conflict with other people for one reason or another.  And when they aren't close to us and we likely aren't going to see them again, sometimes we can be tempted to think it is okay, or when people are far away from anything we know, or members of some group that we think is a threat or something we disagree with, we can justify labeling or hating members of that group.  But hating anyone, as it says, takes us into darkness.  It's true that people participate in actions and have beliefs that we can't agree with.  And many people sin seemingly without remorse.  But hatred, even of people that have specifically harmed us or our loved ones, still leads only to darkness.  God doesn't want us to welcome abusive relationships, or embrace the idea of terrorism, for sure, but if we hate even abusers or terrorists, we endanger our own souls.
So, how do we let go of that emotion, especially when it is very personal, and very strong?  Not saying I have all the answers, but I know that with God, it can be done.  He *is* love, and he can teach it to us, and change our hearts, if we pray and are willing to work to change.  Today, let's work to stay in the light, and resist letting hatred taint our hearts.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Mark 7:14-16 -- On Not Defiling Ourselves

"And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear."
Mark 7:14-16

This is an interesting selection.  The context is that some people were criticizing Christ's disciples for not washing their hands before eating, which is a tradition that had grown up from some of the statements in the Law of Moses.  Christ explained that it was just a tradition and not part of the actual law, and then he said this.  I think it is interesting because we sometimes think of things that are outside of us as corrupting influences, right?  Like drugs or pornography.  Definitely don't get me wrong... I agree that those things are bad, and that lives are improved by avoiding those things.  But I like the statement that they don't defile us.  We defile ourselves with how we behave and how we react to things, rather than those things defiling us.  It is a really good sign as far as repentance goes.  If we've done something wrong, those things that we might have taken into our bodies... they didn't defile us.  It is our actions which defiled us, and if we *change* those actions, and behave differently, changing our minds and our hearts, then we can be clean.  Not saying it is easy.  We can get physically or emotionally or mentally addicted to things, and it is hard to come out of that.  But it *is* possible with God's help.  External things can't touch us, unless we let them.  Unless we invite them in, and change our good actions into bad ones because of them.  First line of defense, don't let them in at all. :)  But if we do... if we have, second line of defense is to clean house, and kick all of that bad stuff to the curb.  Today, let's make sure that our minds and hearts are clean, so that we aren't defiling ourselves by our actions.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Genesis 8:11-13 -- On a Fresh Start

"And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.
And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more.
And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry."
Genesis 8:11-13

This is part of the story of Noah and the Ark, where Noah sees the flood waters abate and the earth dry, and he is ready to start again.  And I think symbolically today is that kind of a day for all of us.  A day to let go of the tragedies of the past, and a day to start over with hope for the future and a renewed thankfulness to God.  Today, let's remove the covering from our arks.  Let's stop hunkering down and trying to ride out the storm, and let's see the good around us, and start anew.

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