Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Psalms 111:10 -- On Progression and Praise

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever."
Psalms 111:10

This seems like a progression.  The fear of the Lord is the *beginning* of wisdom... how we first learn to respect God, and obey him.  He's bigger, he knows more, he is stronger than we are... kind of like when we are little kids and subject to our parents.  We have to be.  They are big and we are little.  But of course that doesn't mean that they don't love us or that we can't develop that relationship into something more.  Later in the progression seems to be the good understanding... when we get to that point, then we do the commandments because we understand how commandments bring blessings and the whole idea of consequences, and wanting better ones.  And I think that the last phrase is another step.  We learn respect, we learn obedience, and then we learn praise... because at that level of understanding we realize all that God does for us, that everything he does is out of love for us, and that our whole lives are designed to bring us love and happiness and unity and peace.  And when you realize that, how can you not praise, and rejoice, and love God, who made it all possible?
Of course, in our imperfection, we sometimes backslide and forget things that we have learned before.  Perhaps we have tasted of God's praise and felt to rejoice in his goodness, but then doubts and fears crept in, or we started to doubt because God didn't give us everything we wanted. :)  That's why in Alma 5:26  we are asked "And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?" ... We have to maintain our knowledge and testimony and keep moving closer to God, and avoid sliding backwards.  We have to "endure to the end" ... which always sounds like suffering, but it is really just remembering, and not losing what we have gained.  It's kind of like how in many professions we have to take classes from time to time to make sure we are still current on the latest in our fields.  We have to do that with God too.  Many of our basic lessons can be learned on a higher level once our understanding has progressed.  We can't just read the scriptures once and check the box. :)  We keep reading them, and learn new things every time.  We can't just attend church once and call it good.  We keep going, and keep learning.
Today, wherever in our progression we are, let's keep going.  Let's keep learning and moving forward.  Let's remember to refresh and renew our knowledge and testimonies, to continue to respect and obey and praise God, and to feel again what we have felt before as we allow God to change our hearts and to teach us each day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Luke 17:5-9 -- On Beyond Obedience

"And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not."
Luke 17:5-9

Right before this, Christ is talking about forgiveness, and perhaps because of that discussion, the apostles ask him to increase their faith... so this is necessarily a faith-stretching lesson.  If we had enough faith, trees would do as we ask, but then Christ starts talking about people.  If we have servants that do as we ask, do we thank them for doing their jobs?  "I trow not" is the New Testament version of "I think not." :)  He continues after this to explain that if we only do what we are commanded that we are also unprofitable servants.  And this can seem harsh if we look at it only from our side, but God, by explaining it from the master's perspective is asking us to look at the other side. If we had employees, or children, or students, or even a spouse perhaps... and they did everything we asked them to do, that would be great... right?  But not really if that is all they do.  If one of my employees has to be asked to do everything, and I give her a minimum amount to do, and she does it every time, but never more, even when she gets it done quickly, that is not a reason for extra thanks.  It is the employee that goes above and beyond that I want to thank.  The one who blows past the minimums.  The one who comes up with her own ways of improving things and making things better.  The one who excels.  And with children and spouses, we don't just want automatons that obey every command, do we?  We want independent thinkers we have their own projects and who bring life to whatever they do.  Who enjoy being there, who want to do it right, and who get up when they fall and keep trying.  And if *we* want that, why do we ever think that God only wants obedience?  He wants so much more than that.  He wants us to love our work, to love the people around us, to go above and beyond the things that he asks, and to make our lives and the world so much better.  And he stands ready to assist us with even the smallest ideas and projects to do so.
We aren't ready for the sycamine tree yet because we are still stuck on the obedience level. :)  We have the power within us to do ANYTHING, but until we can get past the idea of employment as a burden, or everything else we do as a burden and start thinking of it as an opportunity and a chance to jump in and do something creative to make things better, then we're not going to develop that kind of increased faith.
Today, before we ask the people around us to be more than they are, let's focus on being more than we are.  Let's be obedient as a minimum, and let's blow past that... let's go way further in finding ways to make the world around us a better, kinder, happier place.  Instead of worrying about working for money, or affection, or whatever it is that is burdening us, let's work for God.  Let's be his best employees, and let's make this world, and ourselves, better.  Then, we will not only deserve to be called "profitable" servants, but realize the truth of being his sons and his daughters... happy to be in the family, and finding our own projects to improve and bring life to everything we touch.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Jeremiah 7:23-24 -- On Forwards and not Backwards

"But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.
But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward."
Jeremiah 7:23-24

It seems like a simple deal that God is offering us... if we listen to him and do as he says, he will be our God and guide us to better things than we could ever even imagine for ourselves.  But we refuse him, again and again, preferring our own evil imaginations over the love and purity and incredible beauty that God promises.
Sure, we have excuses not to take the deal.  Tons of them... and it is our choice.  But moving forward means taking the deal.  It's required in order to progress... to become more than we are now... to transcend our weaknesses and insecurities and become strong, and capable, and everything that we can be.
Just like the people in Jeremiah's day, we get to choose, but let's humble ourselves and seek to choose more wisely.  God promises us everything: perfection, joy, eternal life, creativity, purpose, vision, meaning... and so much more, as we progress and become prepared for it.  Surely trading backwards for forwards doesn't make sense. Let's do as Luke asks and "Remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32). Let's move forward, overcoming and changing, and not attempt to crawl back to old habits and sin.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Job 12:22 -- On Light in the Darkness

"He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death."
Job 12:22

This makes me wonder how much of our fear is based in the unknown.  When God brings everything to light, and we really understand it, will we still be afraid?  Maybe some, but it seems like to me that all the things that we are afraid of are so much worse because they are unknown... and in the light, they will seem a lot less scary.
We talk ourselves into fear a lot.  An unknown sound, or an unfamiliar situation can throw us off, just like me going down to the basement in my childhood home.  If the switch wasn't turned the right way, you would have to walk in the dark down the hall till you got to the other light switch, and sometimes it freaked me out.  I remember one night hearing something that I somehow just knew wasn't normal, and feeling frozen there in the dark, unable to move or proceed for a very long time... just standing there, petrified.  All because it was dark and I couldn't see what was making the noise.  A little light would have make all the difference.  And so it is in life I think.  Maybe we grow out of some of that fear, but we still worry about the unknown.  We don't know what is going to happen, and we certainly can't control it, and sometimes that can freak us out.  We don't understand why things happen the way they do, and it feels like we're in the dark, afraid of something unspeakable in the dark.  Later, sometimes, we find out why.  Why the warning, or the delay, or the loss of the job, or the failure of the relationship.  We find out that God had something else in store... something better that helped someone else, or put us in a position to progress further on our journey.  The light comes on, and we're no longer afraid.
Still, though, there are times that we are trapped there in the darkness for a long time, paralyzed and afraid.  Even if we know that someday we won't be there anymore, it is still a hard place to be while it is happening.  And if we're in one of those spots, let's try to remember the Lord.  God can bring light anywhere... the deepest, blackest hole, and he can even shed light on the shadow of death... making it no longer scary.  Let's turn to God in our fear and our darkness and pray for light.  Literally or figuratively, God will be there for us, to brighten our path and to lead us out of fear and confusion and pain into understanding, acceptance, and peace.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Luke 2:46 -- On Questions

"And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions."
Luke 2:46

This story from Christ's life has always been interesting to me.  Jesus doesn't follow his parents back home after their trip to Jerusalem, but instead stays behind in the temple, conversing about the gospel. And I can't help but wonder, what were the questions that he was asking?  Sometimes the questions that we are asked in life are the reason that we learn.  We don't know the answer and so we dive in, realizing that it is important to us, that we really want to know.  Questions can be life-changing.  I imagine that the questions that Christ was asking were that sort.  The ones that make you think, and change, and act, and become more than you have been.  Questions like "who am I," "what is my purpose in life," "Who is God," "What is Faith," and so many others that, in pondering, we can learn so much.  And I imagine the questions that Christ was asking were much better than mine... tailored to the individual, helping people realize or understand things that they had been pondering for a long time.  As the Joseph Smith translation mentions, they were also asking him questions.  Even at such a young age, Christ's divinity was changing lives.
Today, let's think and ponder... let's not just consider questions that matter philosophically, but also the ones that have deep meaning to us as individuals.  Like the doctors, we can ask God our questions through prayer, and like them, we can also be questioned.  The questions that come into our hearts today... let's think about them, and what we can learn from them.  As the different sessions of General Conference approach, let's think about the questions that the speakers pose out loud, and the ones that occur to us as we listen.  Let's let the spirit of the Lord in, and by pondering and acting on these questions, allow it to change our lives for the better.  Let's not stand still.  Let's determine now to find the answers and to be different and better because of the questions we encounter.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mark 13:34-37 -- On Watching for the Lord

"For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:
Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch."
Mark 13:34-37

This is an interesting analogy here... that Christ's coming is like a man taking a distant journey who left his servants in charge and told them to be ready for his return.  It reinforces the idea that we are doing all of this for God, which I think is important, since the pride that leaks in when we think that we are in charge often gets us into trouble.  It also emphasizes the fact that we don't have a specific timeline.  We don't know that Christ is coming in exactly 15 years, 3 months, and 2 days.  If we did, we'd probably slack off for at least the 15 years, and then try to cram all our repentance and preparation into those 3 months and 2 days.  This way, we need to always be ready, waiting and watching for our Lord's return... and even though that means we don't have a set time to be lazy, which in a way is a drag, it also means that our lives will be infinitely better.  If the Lord does come tomorrow, will be ready?  Maybe not, but we can start now, and get ready as fast as we can, hoping that we have the time... and that we aren't caught too late like 5 of the ten virgins, who didn't worry about preparations until it was too late.  If we get ready, and stay ready, than we'll have the spirit with us more strongly, we'll be more compassionate, more righteous, more prepared, more humble, faithful, repentant... and all of these things will help us face whatever comes.  If the Lord comes, we'll be ready for that because we're watching for the signs.  And if something else happens instead, we'll be ready for that too.  Food storage can help us through disasters of all kinds.  Knowing the gospel can help us overcome whatever obstacle.  If we're ready for God, we're ready for anything. :)
Today, let's watch.  And let's be prepared.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Proverbs 14:22-23 -- On Plans and Taking Action

"Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.
In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury."
Proverbs 14:22-23

Some good advice.  We make a lot of plans in life.  Sometimes big plans that never happen, but still plans, and sometimes our big plans are great.  They are all about helping the world or building God's kingdom.  And sometimes they aren't so great.  Maybe getting revenge on someone or coming up with the perfect crime.  So, the first lesson here: devise good.  Let's make positive plans rather than negative ones.  Let's not plan revenge, or crime.  Let's not find ways to disobey God without getting caught.  Let's spend our time coming up with plans that will help others and help the world, not one that help us get away with something.  In return, mercy and truth.  Nice. :)
Second lesson... work for it rather than talk about it.  I am totally not saying it is bad to dream.  It's great, and imagination is a wonderful tool that can help us in life a lot.  But when we plan something good, let's do the work to make it happen.  Let's research and figure out what it is going to take.  Let's make an outline and plan out the plot.  Let's jump in there and do what we can to make it happen, rather than just talking about it.  Penury is extreme poverty, and that's what tends to happen when all of our plans remain just plans, and we don't do something about them.  But if we are doing something, and working towards a goal, God can step in and help, and guide our direction and show us things along the way.  Really hard to get that kind of guidance when we are just standing still.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

D&C 82:18-19 -- On Using our Talents for the Good of All

"And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord's storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church--
Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God."
Doctrine and Covenants 82:18-19

I like the idea that our talents are common property, and should be used in the interest of our neighbors and the community.  That sounds very Zion. :)  That sounds like something we can think about... how to help others with our talents.  I am also kind of happy about the whole "hundred fold" talents that we can get.  I need to jump in and start working my way up. :)
I think that when we really do have an eye single to the glory of God, and we are putting him first, that everything else works so much better.  That's when we realize that we have other talents.  That's when we are open to the needs of others, and see how we can help.  Today, let's develop our talents, and use them to seek the interests of our neighbors. :)  Let's focus on God's will and be open to his influence and his love, so we can become more than we are, as individuals, and as a community and a world.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Matthew 10:32-33 -- On Confessing or Denying Christ

"Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."
Matthew 10:32-33

This is a little scary, in different ways.  First, the confess part is scary because wow... how often do we think God and leave it unsaid?  This happens for me a lot at work, because I am answering questions most of the day, and some of them are hard.  The answer is not always something that is straightforward and amenable to research.  Sometimes the answer is pray.  And I start typing something, trying to make sure the answer is inoffensive, and I'm often unsure about how far to go, or what to say that will help and not drive people away. :)  And how often do we do that with friends or even family, if we think (or know) that they won't be open to the spiritual answer?  One thing that I try sometimes is saying, well, for me the answer is prayer, but there is probably something equivalent that you do that helps you in a similar way... which sometimes opens up a good conversation, and sometimes falls flat.  And the truth is, we've all probably had times where someone telling us the obvious answer angers us, and it makes sense because some part of us *knows* the answer... we just aren't ready to hear it until we calm down and get ourselves into a better place.
The deny part seems scary on a whole different level.  It's one thing to leave God out.  Definitely not good, but something that we can work on incorporating into our lives and our conversations and our selves over time.  But the denial of God... that seems more serious, more permanent--like we are building a wall between us, and we either really don't believe, or we're so hurt or angry that we're rejecting the obvious proofs around us.  Unfortunately, way more often the latter.
I know that when I stand before God, I would prefer not be be denied.  And I can only hope to be worthy of the introduction of a friend.  ... And if we all feel that way, let's make sure that we are doing that same favor for God in our lives.  Introducing him to others as a friend, and never talking bad about him or denying our friendship.  If we make that relationship the primary focus of our lives, and talk about God like we talk about our favorite people... I think that not only will our lives be filled with great goodness and positive conversation, but we'll learn to know God better, and be closer to him and learning from him more and more as we take the time to build that relationship.  Today, let's not hide our friendship or keep it a secret.  When it comes up naturally, let's be true to our best friend, God, and never be ashamed of making him the center of our lives.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Proverbs 22:24-25 -- On the Influence of Anger

"Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:
Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul."
Proverbs 22:24-25

God doesn't usually tell us not to be friends with people, so I thought this was interesting.  I don't think that it invalidates the whole love your neighbors thing at all, but it is something to think about.  Maybe sometimes we need to love at a distance.  It doesn't say to hate angry people or not to have compassion on them, of course, but it does say not to hang out with them in case we start adopting their attitude.
The interesting thing to me about all of this is that we all get angry sometimes, and so we all could fall under this warning at different times... so I think that it is a good warning from both sides.  It tells us that anger is not a good thing to use in friendship-building.  Maybe shared anger or hatred isn't enough to forge something good or lasting... we need more, and we need to get our heads on straight so that we don't influence other people negatively.
Today, let's be careful of anger, both from other people and from ourselves.  Let's take some time and figure things out and cool down before we interact with or influence other people under the influence of that emotion.  If it is the kind of anger that sticks around and doesn't evaporate quickly, let's take it to the Lord and ask him to help us find a way to let it go.  Not saying it is easy... but it is important that we clear that negative influence out of our hearts and minds.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Proverbs 28:25-26 -- On Walking Wisely

"He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat.
He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered."
Proverbs 28:25-26

It's interesting to hear that trusting in our own hearts is a bad idea, since that's what popular media tells us all the time... trust our hearts, love justifies bad decisions, etc.  And, of course, if we can't trust our own hearts, we feel sort of lost, since that's really most of what we have to go on... our personal considered judgement.  I think what we have to remember here is that in terms of eternity, we're still toddlers.  And, with toddlers, all of this makes perfect sense.  If we're thinking that we're cooler than our brothers and sisters and that we should get the toys and mine mine mine and think that our decisions are more important than what our parents tell us to do... that makes sense.  At the toddler stage we haven't learned better, and we need our parents to protect us from the world until we can learn the ropes and understand enough about ourselves to make better decisions.  (Incidentally, "made fat" is a positive thing here, not a negative one.  It means God will provide for us.)  At the toddler stage, if we realize that we are there, it is also easier to be a little humble and accept God's help.  Today, let's work on that humility, and on walking wisely.  Let's realize that we need God's help in our lives, and not start thinking that we know better than he does.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Mosiah 18:3 -- On Acceptance and Rejection and Choosing the Right

"And as many as would hear his word he did teach. And he taught them privately, that it might not come to the knowledge of the king. And many did believe his words."
Mosiah 18:3

It varies a lot depending on our circumstances as to whether the gospel is accepted or scorned by the people around us.  We may live with a family or in a circumstance where the gospel is cherished, or in a situation where the gospel is despised.  In Mosiah's situation, it was risking your life to preach anything against the King.  And yet, as Mosiah realized after listening to Abinadi, the truth is still there, whether it is popular or forbidden, and so he taught secretly, spreading God's word to his people.  And he ended up doing so much good.  He may have been the only person that actually believed Abinadi and learned from his instruction and prophecy, but because he did, he spread the message to many others, and made a huge difference to an entire society.
As followers of Christ, we have to be willing to follow the gospel whether it is rebellion or conformity as defined by our societal, or even familial, context.  And that can be hard.  Some of us want to rebel, and some of us want to fit in, and sometimes we switch depending on the circumstances.  With God though, even if we start out learning for rebellion or conformity, we have to take it to another level, as Mosiah did.  He realized the truth of Abinadi's words, and he acted on it.  He tried at the last minute to save Abinadi, and he made the choice to stand up for what was right, even though he knew he could lose everything.  And in our lives we are going to have similar challenges.  People accuse religious people both of being blind followers and cunning deceivers.  Following the commandments is cast either as  not being true to ourselves, or as being too selfish and not loving enough.  No matter what we do, we're going to be criticized.  It's not a fun position to be in, of course, but perhaps it is one that helps us to see that it isn't society that makes things right or wrong.  It isn't whether our neighbors agree with us or not.  God is right, regardless of our opinions.  And whether we gain favor or ridicule by following him, his commandment to follow him remains the same.
Sometimes our reaction to the situation is complex as well.  Sometimes we want to stand up for God so much that we fight for him and reject other people.  On a psychological level, if we reject them, it is easier to take that societal rejection.  We cling to the people who agree with us, and dismiss the ones who don't. :)  It's a very common coping mechanism, and it makes sense on that level.  But we also have to realize that, spiritually, we can't fight rejection with rejection... that way lies madness, right?  The end result would be the whole world flying apart.  And we're trying to build Zion.  Unity, community, togetherness.  Just as God commands us to love our enemies, I think he also encourages us to accept people who reject us.  Maybe religion isn't a good topic to start out with, but we *can* have pleasant, non-confrontational conversations and learn about people that we don't agree with.
Today, let's work on meeting hatred and discrimination with love.  And as we do, maybe we'll learn that in some cases, we're way more alike than we thought we were, and we'll develop some really good friendships. :)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Joel 2:12 -- On Turning Completely

"Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:"
'Joel 2:12

I don't necessarily think that God wants us to be sad a lot, but I like the idea that emotion is part of the package.  Another reminder that we have to be all in with God.  We can't be dedicated to him halfway. Today, let's turn to the Lord... Not just a little bit so we can still turn around and go back to Satan if we feel like it... All the way.  With our hearts and emotions too, not as a distraction, but as part of the total package of our broken hearts, contrite spirits, and our whole souls. :)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Acts 2:38-39 -- On Gifts and Promises

"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Acts 2:38-39

Sometimes we have the attitude that we're doing God a favor by listening to him... that he somehow needs us to believe in him or that we can use our obedience as leverage or as a basis for making bargains with him.  And God definitely wants us to live the gospel, but he wants it for *our* sake, not his.  When we try to use our obedience as a barganing chip, it's kind of like a teenager saying to his or her parents "if you really loved me you'd let me do whatever I want."  That kind of emotional blackmail might work sometimes on fallible Earthly parents, but it doesn't work on God.
As Peter says in these verses, the gospel is a gift and a promise.  It's the hope and the light that God blesses us with to counteract the darkness and bleakness we so often encounter in life.  It's a way that he can help us find happiness and true purpose.  Today, let's remember that God loves us and wants to see us learn and grow and become competent adults, spiritually, even if we already are physically.  Let's stop thinking that getting our way is the ultimate goal in life, and realize that God, being all-knowing and stuff, might actually have a better plan for us.  Let's accept his gift, and his promise, and do what it takes to choose that better way.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

2 Corinthians 1:24 -- On Faith and the Power to Change

"Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand."
2 Corinthians 1:24

We've talked a little bit about how unbelief can block our progress, which it talks about a little as well in one of the cross-references to this verse (Romans 11:20), but I liked this verse because it takes the same concept and looks at the positive side of it.  It is our belief, and faith (basically applied belief... belief that compels us to action) that is behind all that we do.  Because faith is at the core of not only the gospel but ... well, still definitely the gospel, but gospel in a much larger sense that encompasses all of life and God's creation.  If we don't believe in miracles and behave in our lives as though they can and will happen, then we lose access to that power.  Not that we have to be perfect at it.  Mark 9:23-24 illustrates this nicely: 
"Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."
It's definitely a process, and we have to practice faith to learn more confidence and trust in the Lord, and part of that practice is trusting the commandments and living the gospel... as Paul explains, it isn't about dominion.  It is about helping to increase everyone's joy. :)  
I saw something on Facebook today that was saying, to paraphrase, that life isn't about needing to change who you are, but instead accepting yourself as you are.  And I think that statements like that are such a tool of Satan.  It's partial, but slightly twisted, truth mixed with pernicious and damaging falsehood.  Obviously and clearly there is truth in the fact that we shouldn't hate ourselves and feel like we need to change ourselves to fit in with the cool kids, or give up on life because we feel alone and unaccepted.  But it is a total and complete lie to think that everything we are is golden and we don't need to change anything as well.  We all have to grow and learn and become.  We change in our lives... getting better or worse, not just standing still and learning to accept that stagnation.  We don't just learn to accept the fact that we're barely literate in kindergarten.  We learn.  If we just learned to accept our social knowledge and behavior at 13, we'd have some social issues into adulthood.  Instead, we learn, we grow.  We become.  If we have a tendency to lie or steal as kids, we learn the consequences and we almost always choose to change and grow into better, more trustworthy people.  Learning to accept that behavior from ourselves would be doing ourselves a disservice.
Today, let's allow God and the gospel to help our joy.  Let's have faith in God, and in repentance, and in our ability to change into better people with God's help.  We should of course remember that we are children of God and that we are of infinite worth.  God loves us, and he loves us enough to help us learn and grow and grow up.  He won't leave us in kindergarten forever.  Let's trust and believe and have faith in something greater than this... something better than we could ever be alone.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Alma 34:33-34 -- On Procrastination and Repentance

"And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world."
Alma 34:33-34

We get so busy with life sometimes that we put things off.  Sometimes the things don't matter, and sometimes they do... and sometimes they don't seem to matter until we hit a crisis.  For instance, all that laundry procrastination seems minor until we hit the "no clean underwear" crisis... and then, it has to be time to solve the problem.  Putting it off just one more time isn't going to work anymore.
We do this, unfortunately, with sin as well.  We know we need to clean up our lives, but we're busy, and there is so much else, and it seems minor.  We're sure we'll have the time and motivation to take care of it later.  But what we don't realize, or try to block out, is that every decision we make not only reinforces and exacerbates the problem (the pile of laundry gets bigger and bigger), but it also slowly turns us into people who don't really want to clean up our lives anymore.  And so when the crisis comes, as it always does, it can turn out to be too late.  We've broken the washer, transportation is nil, and we don't have time anymore to have new clothes shipped.  We're stuck with who we've chosen to become, and honestly, it's pretty smelly.
Before we get to that point, let's take some forethought.  Let's remember that the crisis will come if we don't do something about it.  Let's clean up our lives... not just washing the clothes and avoiding becoming smelly, but let's wash ourselves from sin through taking advantage of Christ's atonement and learning to repent.  Not just once on our deathbeds, but continually so that we keep improving, avoiding past mistakes, and preparing for eternity.  Let's procrastinate less, especially spiritually, and become more than we are... while we still have the opportunity.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Acts 2:44-45 -- On Togetherness and Giving

"And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need."
Acts 2:44-45

We aren't commanded to live this way now, but it is certainly presented in the scriptures as an ideal, and maybe it is even the natural result of living the commandments and truly loving our neighbors.  I imagine that we'll live this way again as we get closer to being a Zion community.  We learn in Moses 7:18 that "the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them."  I don't see any way of getting to that "no poor" ideal without learning to live these verses, and finding out how to overcome our grabby "mine, mine, mine" inclinations, and learn to share on a deep level--not just with our families and people we like, but as it says above, with "all men," as they have need.
Maybe there are things we can do now to get ready for the Zion ideal.  Being more generous perhaps: simplifying our lives, accumulating less and giving more.  Focusing on the people around us, rather than exclusively on the profit potential.  Finding out how to help the people around us, in whatever ways we can.  Learning to understand and love a wider variety of people, so that giving doesn't feel like an obligation or a duty, but is truly an outpouring of love.  And as we become closer to the ideal, the more we will see God's hand in our lives, blessing our efforts and helping us in our dedication to becoming part of his community.  His on a very real level, because in Zion "the Lord came and dwelt with his people" (Moses 7:16). Today, let's work for that ideal.  Let's love, and serve, and work on someday having a cool enough society that God will feel comfortable moving in to the neighborhood. :)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Mosiah 26:3 -- On the Obstacle of Unbelief

"And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened."
Mosiah 26:3

This is a fascinating verse because of the relationship that it shows between belief and understanding.  Usually we approach things the other way around.  We want to understand things fully, weigh the pros and cons, and eventually decide whether to commit ourselves or not... preferably even then with an escape clause.  And that's a good choice for most things in our world, but spiritual knowledge requires a different kind of confidence.  It isn't something that we can learn on our own.  We need God's help.  It's not because we're dumb or that God can't trust us with the truth.  It's that, in a spiritual way, we're still little kids, and it's like we're learning to cross the street and tie our shoes all over again.  We have to learn to use new senses and detect new dangers, and our spiritual armor is a little trickier than physical sneakers.  God wants to tell us the reasons for all of it, but we have to have a foundation before understanding the grad school lecture on nuclear physics.  This is one of the very first lessons, and a great version of it is also in Alma 32, starting in verse 28.  To paraphrase, it says that if we compare the gospel to a seed, that we can know whether it is a true or good seed by how it affects us... enlarging our understandings, if we plant it and don't cast it out through unbelief.  Ether 12:6 also advises us that we "receive no witness until after the trial of [our] faith."
This seems unfair sometimes.  Sometimes we want to wait until we know for certain before taking any action.  We want to test every piece of purported truth, look at it with a magnifying glass, and only accept the parts that pass our tests.  As I said, with most things in this world, that's a good option.  But let's think about some things that are exceptions already.  People, for one.  If we required background checks and perfection from our family and friends and double-checked everything they said against other sources, we might make ourselves a little safer from error, but very few relationships would survive the scrutiny.  Trust and vulnerability are part of almost all kinds of love... to love people, we have to leave ourselves open to possible pain.  Trust is also required in school and at work.  In order to function, we have to trust the information that people are giving us, at least to some extent, in order to learn new skills and explore new ideas.  We don't have the time to become experts in every field and cross-check everything that we come across, so we learn more about who to trust and when to check through trial and error mostly.  Come to think of it, the only time we check absolutely everything is when we're scared.  Scared of making a commitment, scared of taking a huge step.  Scared that someone will take advantage of us.  And that makes sense too.  Life is scary.  Even God can be scary, with all of the hellfire and damnation stuff and the fact that he is God, after all... all powerful, all-knowing.  But as with so many scary things, they become less scary when we get to know them.  And that's the key... the key to this verse, but also the key to everything... we have to take that leap of faith.  We have to believe and hope and trust just enough to try it.  To plant the seed in our hearts.  To get on our knees and sincerely talk to God and start getting to know him.  And once we know he's there, we have to trust him enough to take the next step rather than doubting all over again and going back to square one.  To progress, we have to keep trusting enough to keep walking forward.
This doesn't mean, of course, that we don't have questions, or that we should never think or ponder or look things up.  We should.  It only means that if we let doubts and fears stop us, we stop progressing, and often, like Peter, we start to sink.  God gives us the reasons and the explanations along the way, when we have a foundation.... but we have to take that first step, and keep taking steps because we have learned to trust God, not because we know everything and have cross-checked his inexhaustible knowledge.  Otherwise, we'll never even learn the first lessons about spirituality... we'll be stuck in unbelief.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Moses 6:64-65 -- On Baptism and Quickening

"And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water.
And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man."
Moses 6:64-65

This is a record of Adam's baptism, and what strikes me about is the idea of spiritual birth.  We think of the symbolism of baptism a lot, but usually as the death/washing away of sin, and a resurrection/cleansing to a new life and a new chance to get it right.  And so it is, definitely.  But it's also more than that.  I love this idea of being "quickened in the inner man."  I think what that means is that the ordinance of baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost gives life to/wakes up a part of ourselves that wasn't present before, and we gain new insights and a new and better connection with God that begins at that moment.  Baptism is necessary and important, but it isn't the pinnacle of our dedication to the gospel. Instead it is the very beginning of a whole new spiritual life.
Today, let's ponder the meaning of baptism, and pay attention to our spiritual needs as well as our physical.  Let's learn and grow and progress spiritually as we grow physically, and be aware of and listen to our new connection with God.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Leviticus 19:33-34 -- On the Vexation of Strangers

"And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."
Leviticus 19:33-34

God tells us in verse 18 of this chapter to love our neighbors as ourselves, just as he asks in the New Testament (Matthew 19:19 , Luke 10:27, etc.).  And then later, these verses, clarifying for us that our neighbors aren't just next door.  Strangers are also our neighbors.  People from other lands are our neighbors, and we are asked to treat them as if they had been born among us.  Considering some of the major issues in our society today, this seems like a very applicable clarification for us as well.
Christ taught a similar lesson in the story of the Good Samaritan.  In the society Christ lived in, Samaritans were unwanted strangers, to be avoided, but he taught that they also could be good people, and that being a neighbor  requires engagement and action, not just an abstract feeling of general good will for the world.
Today, let's work on not vexing strangers.  And if we can get that first step down, let's move on to treating them exactly as we would non-strangers.  And if we can get there, then let's move on to some active love.  After all, we're *all* strangers to someone.  We all are parts of a group that someone else hates, avoids, or dismisses.  Hatred and intolerance are not okay.  Let's learn more about each other.  Let's see if we can understand each other and find common ground... but even if we can't, let's respect each other as human beings, and as the children of God.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Matthew 5:19 -- On Doing and Teaching

"Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:19

The thing that strikes me about this verse is the phrase "and shall teach men so."  I don't think that we always realize what we are teaching others.  Teaching doesn't only happen in a formal classroom setting.  It is the example we set and the things that we do every day.  And when we break a commandment, even a small one, we justify it to ourselves... but we're also teaching the people around us that there are exceptions to God's laws under certain circumstances, and that it is okay to justify to get out of a responsibility.  This is a dangerous thing to believe, and to teach... not the part about there being exceptions, but the part where we assume that we are one.  God gets to make exceptions when necessary, as he did in the case of Nephi and Laban for instance, but we don't get to decide that we are exempt from God's commandments whenever they are inconvenient, or pick and choose which ones apply to us.  God's commandments apply to us all by default. :)
Today, let's consider what our actions and our lives are teaching the people around us.  Especially in formal classroom settings, let's make sure we have our facts straight about the gospel and that we aren't just teaching opinion.  If we aren't obeying some commandments, let's revisit those areas with God and be willing to do as he asks.  Let's not accidentally teach others to disrespect God or that the gospel is unimportant.  Let's show them how important it is by the way we live our lives.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Galatians 5:19-23 -- On Lists and Inheritance

"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
Galatians 5:19-23

I love scriptural lists.  I think they help us to take a step back and check our lives against something specific, which helps a lot when we are trying to fulfill commandments like "be ye therefore perfect" (Matthew 5:48).  And on these specific lists there are some old favorites that are fairly clear, like adultery, fornication, and murder, but also some others that might need more thought or explanation.
Variance and emulations are interesting ones on the bad list.  These words both have definitions that are different from the way that we usually use them.  Variance isn't just change... It can also be the idea of disagreeing or rebelling against something, or even permission to ignore the rules.  Similarly, emulation isn't just trying to be like someone else.  It can also mean the ambition or envy that is needed to be super competitive and pass other people up.  Witchcraft is another interesting word on the bad list.  When we see the word we might think of Harry Potter and friends. :) However, the word can also mean a negative and uncontrollable obsession, and communication with the devil.  The idea of witchcraft in a scriptural sense always has something to do with evil spirits, not the more recent idea of magical power from an unbiased source. :)
On the good list temperance is interesting.  Some people are only familiar with the word with relation to alcohol specially, but temperance in a more general sense is the idea of always keeping our actions, thoughts, and feelings in control and acceptable.  Kind of like moderation in all things... never letting ourselves get out of control, or past the line into too much drama, which is probably the problem with many of the things on the bad list.  Things like drunkenness, wrath, hatred,  heresy, and even revellings can push us out of control, or just be the indicator that we have crossed the line.
The cool thing about these lists is that if we choose some of the good things, that idea of there being no law against them means that we have some areas where we know we're not going to go wrong... We can learn about faith for years, for instance, and never worry that we will have too much.  So unless we're neglecting other things by studying too much, or putting our faith in something other than God, we don't have to worry about limits.
God is a cool parent.  He never just says no.  He offers us other options, and his options are always going to be better for us in the long run... but also can be good now.  I mean, joy and peace are both on the good list here.  Who doesn't want those?  Today, let's focus on the good list, and working for those things.  Let's let go of things we're holding onto from the bad list.  Let's not get in our own way as we strive to inherit the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Alma 6:5-6 -- On Knowing God

"Now I would that ye should understand that the word of God was liberal unto all, that none were deprived of the privilege of assembling themselves together to hear the word of God.
Nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God."
Alma 6:5-6

This is interesting.  I really like the focus on knowing God, because that is so amazingly important... That personal relationship with God is of singular and primary importance.  As we pray and listen, we understand the primacy of that relationship and how important it is for all of us.
 I also like the idea that we meet together in unity in order to bless the lives of others... That it is about all of us as a community of God's children and less about each of us individually.  Often, when we focus on ourselves, even if it is something good like our own salvation, we can lose sight of other people and how we all fit together.  It is really easy to get selfish, to focus on our own suffering, our own problems, our own insecurities, and we forget what other people are facing and how we can help.  On the other hand of course, there is the whole mote-beam idea.  When we are thinking of sin and perfection, we often turn to look at faults in others rather than noticing them in ourselves first.  So, there is a balance... focusing on improving ourselves, and focusing on serving and helping others in a non-judgmental way.  Maybe, if today we take this advice to focus on our relationships with God, and fast and pray for others, especially those that know not God, we'll come up with the right balance.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mosiah 18:21-22 -- On Unity and the Children of God

"And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.
And thus he commanded them to preach. And thus they became the children of God."
Mosiah 18:21-22

The idea of unity and zero contention is an interesting one.  And it leads to becoming the children of God.  Thinking about how that works, I wonder if we get it wrong sometimes.  We approach unity through trying to agree with each other, arguing and compromising, when instead we should all be trying to unite with God's spirit, who is always feeding us the right answer. :)  Not saying that compromise and consensus aren't good things in general... definitely better than fighting.  But the true ideal, whenever possible, is unanimity... uniting with the spirit of God, and all reaching the same answer individually.  I think that is why becoming one makes us the children of God.  It unites us all with him, helping us understand and join in his purposes.
Today, let's work on being one... not just with each other, but with the spirit of God, becoming his children, looking forward to the happy ending, together. :)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

2 Corinthians 4:15-16 -- On Overwhelming Good

"For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day."
2 Corinthians 4:15-16

So, this basically says, we do everything we can for you, in order to please God, and God, in turn, blesses us and keeps us going.  I love this idea... The whole circle of goodness.  We live and share the gospel and serve others, which leads to other people living and sharing the gospel and serving others, which leads to praising God, which leads to blessings, which leads to all of us living and sharing the gospel and praising God, which leads to more blessing, and on and on.  So often we instead get caught in circles of badness where we sin, and forget God, and lose spirituality, until we're in a death spiral.  But it doesn't have to be that way at all.  We can opt in to the life spiral instead, which I guess you could also call a tornado of peace.  It doesn't destroy... Just overwhelms you with goodness so much that you can't hold it in. :)  That's what life should be, and what it CAN be, with God.
Today, let's start working on pleasing God rather than pleasing ourselves.  Let's bless the lives of the people around us however we can.  Let's opt in to some life and peace and turn those self-inflicted catastrophes into Tsunamis of goodness, washing over us and filling us with the spirit... turning our vocabulary of disaster into a way to express the unutterable peace and goodness of God.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Luke 4:3 -- On Bread and Stones

"And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread."
Luke 4:3

This temptation of the devil seems to be designed to appeal to Christ's pride.  It didn't work, of course, but I wonder if talking about some of the ways that Christ was tempted can help us see how we are also tempted.  This is a good example.  We all want to matter as individuals.  We want to be strong and good and right.  Unfortunately sometimes this blinds us to our own faults, because we want to be right more than we want to be open to the truth.  We want to be seen as strong more than we want to flee from evil.  Sometimes we want to be more important than God, both to our loved ones, and to God himself when we demand things from him rather than accepting his superior timing.  We even sometimes criticize others, claiming that we can get close to the cliffs of sin without falling over, and if they can't, it must just be a character flaw.  Which is just us trying to justify our own actions.  In truth, strong or weak, we should not be walking dangerous cliff paths to prove we can.  We should flee from sin, and stay as far away from the cliff as we can.  Why knowingly put our souls in jeopardy?
Today, let's work to follow the example of Christ.  Let's not give in to the temptation to place our wills in front of God's, even in extreme circumstances.  Let's look to God in all that we do, and not take shortcuts or try to force our stones into bread.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Proverbs 18:13 -- On Not Skipping to the Answer

"He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him."
Proverbs 18:13

This verse tells us that we have to listen and understand before making decisions.  We probably already know this on some level, but I also think that we often gloss over this thought, thinking that we know better... kind of like when you are doing a crossword and you keep skipping to the answer in the back, rather than even thinking about the clues.  Makes the whole thing kind of pointless to not leave room for engagement and discovery.
The same thing goes for other things in life too.  If we take the time to listen and study and learn, even if we think it is redundant, about the things that we are seeing, and the issues we are deciding, we might discover something new.  Today, let's be a little bit more patient, and give ourselves time for enjoyment and consideration.  Let's listen to the people around us and give them a chance to make their case, really considering their words rather than deciding beforehand.  Let's get the right answer instead of the fast one.  Let's allow ourselves to consider new ways and new ideas, no matter where they come from.  Let's not lose the truth because it comes in an ugly package.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Proverbs 28:19-20 -- On Patience and Risk

"He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.
A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent."
Proverbs 28:19-20

These verses are emphasizing patience, which is something we are not often good at.  Also, I think God is saying that there is a right way and a wrong way to get things, and when we try to take shortcuts it usually lands us in trouble.
If we want bread, there are ways to get it legitimately, without stealing or trying to get handouts.  We work to get it.  And if we don't go about it the right way, we risk poverty, as the natural consequence.
If we want blessings, including riches, there is a way to get those too... through obedience: working for it, albeit sometimes in a more spiritual way than for bread.  If we try to cut corners there, we're risking our innocence, which I take to mean that we will have to sin to get there.
Today, let's not risk poverty or sin in trying to get what we want.  Let's talk to the Lord about our desires, and seek them in the way that he has prepared for us.  Let's work on having patience and work on having what we need in the long term rather than trying to take shortcuts and risking the future on our desire for immediacy.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Mark 12:30-31 -- On Specifics and Priorities

"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."
Mark 12:30-31

In these verses Christ is talking to a scribe, who asks him a sincere question.  The verses after this are the scribe agreeing with him, and paraphrasing this, which is cool too.  For instance Christ says here that we should love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The heart, understanding, soul, and strength.  Different order, slightly different wording, but the same truth.  I think that is one of the reasons that we go to church and that we study the gospel... so we can get different perspectives on the gospel, and hear different stories and sometimes different words, all of them agreeing about the gospel and the truth.  The reason that this struck me today I think is that the lesson was repeated twice with slightly different words, and it made me consider it in a different way.  Not just the generic "love God with everything you are," which is of course a good lesson, but love him in some specific ways.
Loving God with our hearts gives our love a physical aspect... a beating heart seems to be symbolic of living our lives for him, every moment, every heartbeat.
Loving God with our souls gives our love a spiritual and emotional aspect.  We love him even subconsciously, in the way that we feel about things and well beyond words.
Loving God with our minds shows that we should be mentally engaged with the Gospel, learning to understand and embrace the meaning and symbolism and depth of the scriptures and the gospel, never fearful that God won't stand up to scrutiny, but enjoying the discovery of how well God has put the universe together. :)
Loving God with all of our strength is physical too, but more externally than the heart... showing that all of our actions can be devoted to God, and that we will love God with the last of our strength, and uphold his purposes always.
The first commandment is first for a reason.  We get mixed up sometimes and we think that we've outlasted God or something.  We start thinking, well, if God isn't going to help me after all this time, or if he can tolerate this much suffering, or God would never allow this level of... whatever.  And we place limits on it, like God is only true up to this point, but if it goes over he suddenly isn't.  If I'm not married by 30, or if my husband cheats on me, or if he allowed my family member to die, or if God could allow mass murder or rape or child molestation ... or if God didn't appear to me and prove himself by this point... and thousands upon thousands of other things.  And I'll tell you right now, God doesn't enjoy bad things happening to us, and he's not trying to torture us.  But this is the world, and free agency, and our classroom.  We can't put limits about what we will and will not tolerate on God.  Instead, *we* agree to tolerate whatever comes in his name.  First, and always, we love God.  Secondly, we love other people and ourselves.  And if we can get those two down, it encompasses all the rest.  God is the teacher and the leader and the light and our Savior.  He's the coach and the parent and the hero.  He is everything that we can look up to and everything that makes live better and more joyful.  Let's get our priorities straight, so that he can help us overcome ourselves and our weaknesses, and learn to be better and more loving and accepting and good to others as well.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hosea 3:1 -- On Love and Adultery

"Then said the Lord unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine."
Hosea 3:1

This is an interesting scripture.  God is comparing an adulterous woman to the children of Israel, basically saying that his people have cheated on him.  And yet, he loves them (us), just as he tells the prophet to love the adulterous woman.  It's an interesting analogy, and perhaps one that deserves some contemplation.  When we put other things before God in our lives, do we realize how serious that is?  Here, God is comparing idolatry to sexual immorality.  Sounds pretty serious.
I also like the fact that God mentions that this woman is beloved of her friend.  I think here he is pointing out that even in our sins we are not unworthy of love.  God knows that we have cheated on him, that we have put other things in his place in our lives, and yet he still loves us, and he still wants us back.
The other thing this makes me think of is "love one another; as I have loved you" (John 13:34).  When he says "as I have loved you," do we realize that it is like this... as one cheated on and scorned, and yet willing to love and forgive us and restore us to a place of honor in his family?  That makes our commandment to love others a lot stronger I think.  God loves us and helps us even when we betray him in the worst way possible.  Can we love others like *that*?
Today, let's love the people around us, no matter what.  And let's love God even more, knowing how deeply and permanently he loves us, and is willing to forgive.

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