Monday, February 29, 2016

D&C 84:96-98 -- On the Choir at the End of the World

"For I, the Almighty, have laid my hands upon the nations, to scourge them for their wickedness.
And plagues shall go forth, and they shall not be taken from the earth until I have completed my work, which shall be cut short in righteousness—
Until all shall know me, who remain, even from the least unto the greatest, and shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, and shall see eye to eye, and shall lift up their voice, and with the voice together sing this new song, saying:"
Doctrine and Covenants 84:96-98

This is an interesting mix of sad and awesome.  We know already that the world is going to go through a scary time before the second coming, and that part is sad and scary... reminding us that we need to get our lives right, because we don't know what will happen or when, and we need to be ready.  The use of the word "until" makes it sound less like the flood in Noah's time (in terms of mass destruction), and more like the pruning of the vineyard that it talks about in Jacob 5.  Pruning the bad branches away as the good ones grow, to make room.

On the good side, the idea of a world where *everyone* knows God, and where we are all on the same page... that's amazing.  Being filled with the knowledge of the Lord sounds awesome as well.  I would like to live in a world where we can sing about the establishment of Zion as something that has already happened. :)  (That is mentioned in the verses right after this... it isn't just saying a new song, but it actually gives the words.  So cool.  Now we just need the music that goes along with it.)

It's hard to measure destruction and say, this destruction was worth this peace... and as mere humans, that's an impossible call to make.  But our true natures are immortal, rather than mortal, and God knows the timing best, and he is able to give all of us a real chance to be part of his happy ending.  Let's do what it takes in our lives, today, to make sure that we aren't the bad branches that need to be pruned away because they are harming the good branches.  Let's make the world better, and influence each other for good, and be there on that great day when we get to sing together about the redemption of the world, and know that we were part of it.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Luke 11:9-10 -- On Learning to Ask Wisely

"And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given 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."
Luke 11:9-10

Sometimes this sort of thing can be hard to believe.  We think, wait... just ask for something and get it?  That isn't how life works.  If I ask for a million bucks, it doesn't just rain from the sky.  So, there are obviously some limitations. :)

Maybe it should be how life works though. :)  It's definitely how God *wants* to work with us.  To get there, we have to develop our relationship with God, and we have to learn to match our true desires to what we ask, and we sometimes have to learn more about our desires too.  In a later verse God talks about giving "good gifts."  If we ask God if we can play in the street, he's going to say no.  He doesn't want to give us bad gifts, or things that can harm us... we'll get plenty of that in life already from making poor choices and just because this world is not a temptation-free zone. :)

A lot of it is faith too, and that's part of getting to know God.  We have to talk to him and understand him pretty well before we're going to trust him on that deep level that it takes to ask for something and know that he will grant it to you.  Part of it is becoming more like God and wanting what he wants, making his goals our own... like both wanting us to be better, and to help others, and to build up the church and his kingdom.

Another part is also in the way we ask.  Sometimes we go to God and we think that we have everything worked out... just give us the million dollars and everything will be fine.  But we forget that throwing money at something is often the worst way to solve a problem.  God can see what caused the problem in the first place, and he can see what we're going to learn along the way.  Raining money down on us is just going to teach us to pay people to do things... instead of us actually learning those things ourselves, or learning how to develop ideas, gather resources, and work as a community towards something.  Instead of going to God and telling him how to solve the problem, let's try asking him to help us solve the problem, and letting him work out how.  I think we'll get much better results. :)  Not that we shouldn't study things out and work on solutions... just that we need to remember that God often has a better way.

Today, let's ask and knock.  And let's remember not to play in the street. :)  Let's work on being the type of people that God can trust with the things we ask for. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Revelation 21:22-23 -- On the Literal Light of Christ

"And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."
Revelation 21:22-23

This chapter is talking about the renewal of the earth and the future time when there will no more death, sorrow, or pain.  There are several surprising things in the chapter.  I picked these ones because I love the ideas behind them.

The idea of a city without a temple is a sad one now, perhaps, but this one doesn't need one because God lives there, and people see him every day.  Temples bless our lives so much, but being able to see God in person every day... that pretty much surpasses everything. :)

And then, something that is probably even more surprising for us, though definitely not more cool, we won't need the sun or the moon anymore, because God provides all that we could need.  From a scientific standpoint we say wait, what?  The Sun is essential to life on Earth for a lot of reasons... so imagine that. God provides everything that the sun provides... everything that is essential to our lives.  It's a big concept, but I think it is only hard to get our heads around because we're so used to the Sun being there.  We know that God provided that as well, but we don't really think about it every day.  We also know that God is essential to our lives in so many other ways, but we don't usually think about physical light and heat.  We usually take all the light scriptures as more symbolic. :)

Today, let's remember all that God does for us, and what he will do.  Let's remember that he is the author and the creator of all that we know, and let's try to trust him more and give him more credit.  Let's not relegate him to some symbolic corner of our minds, but rather rely on his help in the real universe... knowing that he will help us even *after* the sun goes out. :)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Psalms 107:29 -- On Calming Our Storms

"He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still."
Psalms 107:29

God can not only do this with actual storms, but with the mental and emotional storms we encounter in life as well.  The principle is the same.  We call out him in our distress, and he brings peace.

It doesn't mean that we won't encounter other storms, of course, or even that we don't have to face this one and learn to ride it out or calm it ourselves eventually... but God offers us peace in the midst of tribulation, and calm from all the storms of life.  A pause, so we can regroup and figure things out. :)

Today, let's be thankful for his calming influence in our lives, and for always being there in our greatest need.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Proverbs 14:15-17 -- On Taking God's Advice

"The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.
A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.
He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated."
Proverbs 14:15-17

Some good advice from God today.  We should think about what people say, and examine our path.  We should avoid overconfidence, and remember that we need the Lord... losing the spirit and having to face life without God's advice and assistance is scary, not because God will beat us up otherwise, but only because we just tend to do so poorly without a lot of help.  We need his help, and his patient guidance as we learn to overcome our weaknesses.  And when we get angry we make bad decisions and destroy relationships.

Today, let's work on taking some advice from God.  Let's think about where we are headed, and try to cut down on the overconfidence and the foolishness that we all engage in from time to time.  Let's reach out to God and trust in his advice and guidance, keeping our eyes open, and learning as God gives us directions on how to get back on the right path.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

2 Nephi 2:8-10 -- On God Judging Us Happy

"Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.
And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement—"
2 Nephi 2:8-10

This is a good reminder of the importance of the atonement... that without the Messiah, we would be forever separated from God.  And that is the definition of spiritual death... permanent separation from God.  I think sometimes we don't realize how immensely, unimaginably horrible that would be.  We often push God to the back of our minds or take it for granted that the spirit will be there when we get around to praying... we unfortunately treat our relationship with God lightly, not really worried that it will be gone or out of reach.  And on one hand, it is good that we know that the Lord is always reaching out for us, but on the other, the more we forget God, the more we deaden our own spiritual senses and make it more and more possible that we will forget, or block the spirit, and walk away entirely.

It is more than abundantly clear to anyone who has the spirit that life with God is much better than life without.  Trying to stumble through alone is frightening and lonely, and we realize how small and weak we are trying to face the world.  God gives us grace and confidence and hope.  We know that we can do better, and learn, and that navigating and mastering all of the things in front of us is possible, with patience and faith.  Without the spirit, we start to forget, and it is far too easy to lose ourselves in misery or hopelessness.

The part where God judges us "according to the truth and holiness which is in him" is cool... although it is good that Christ makes intercession for us there as well, because none of us would be able to stand up to that measure--being compared to the truth and holiness of God.  We're learning, but we are a long way from there.  I also think that the opposites being stated as punishment and happiness are interesting.  Is punishment sadness and happiness reward, as the more traditional opposites, or something else?

After this verse the chapter goes on to explain why there has to be opposition in all things, but this part seems interesting because of the whole "men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25) thing.  When we are judged, do we receive happiness, or was it a product of what we were doing all along, as Mormon 9:14 ("he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still") seems to suggest?  I really like the idea of everything leading to happiness... the happy ending that I refer to often.  But that also means that we need to work hard for that happy ending as well.  All of life was designed to get us there... we have to work through these in between chapters, conquer the dragons, save the town, endure the betrayal, rescue the princess, and perhaps unfortunately all of the non-dramatic parts too. :)  We have to find our way through the plot so that when we stand before God in all of his holy shininess, that we will be ready for what he has to offer.  Today, let's build that relationship with God, so we can stick with him through all of the ups and downs and plot twists to reach the happy ending.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Alma 20:24-26 -- On Mercy and Instruction

"Now when Ammon saw that he had wrought upon the old king according to his desire, he said unto him: If thou wilt grant that my brethren may be cast out of prison, and also that Lamoni may retain his kingdom, and that ye be not displeased with him, but grant that he may do according to his own desires in whatsoever thing he thinketh, then will I spare thee; otherwise I will smite thee to the earth.
Now when Ammon had said these words, the king began to rejoice because of his life.
And when he saw that Ammon had no desire to destroy him, and when he also saw the great love he had for his son Lamoni, he was astonished exceedingly, and said: Because this is all that thou hast desired, that I would release thy brethren, and suffer that my son Lamoni should retain his kingdom, behold, I will grant unto you that my son may retain his kingdom from this time and forever; and I will govern him no more—"
Alma 20:24-26

Earlier in this story, Ammon went on a mission to the Lamanites and taught Lamoni the gospel.  At this point, Lamoni's father (the high king) has just tried to kill his own son for being disloyal and joining with the Nephites, and Ammon defended him, and when the king begs for his life and promises him half his kingdom, this is what he asks instead.  And you know, to me this whole thing seems so symbolic of what the gospel is all about.  Even when God has us over a barrel, as it were, he is never trying to harm us... only teach us and convince us of the truth.  He's God.  He could at any time force us to do anything, but he doesn't want us to be automatons.  He wants us to be ourselves, with our personalities, and our freedom.  He doesn't want insincere followers, or mindless servants.  He wants us to think, and understand.  He cares about us, and he wants us to know that all of this life stuff is FOR us.  It's hard, yes, but it is all to help us and teach us.
Today, like Lamoni's Father, let's realize that the gospel is no threat to us.  Let's grant the little that the Lord asks, and find out what he is offering.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Proverbs 22:22-23 -- On Oppression and Spoil

"Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:
For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them."
Proverbs 22:22-23

I really like this because it reminds us that even when we think that no one is watching out for us, God is.  He's pleading our cause, and punishing people who take advantage of us when we are in bad situations.  I also really like it because I think it means that we don't have to live with hatred and resentment for "the system" or "the man" or whoever.  God is taking care of it.  Not, of course, that we shouldn't jump in and change the system for the better if we have the opportunity.  Only that, even if it stays the same, God is still fighting for us.
Today, let's leave the revenge to God, and let's also make sure that on our daily walk we aren't becoming the oppressors or the spoilers.  Let's give, and love, and lift, making sure that we are helping God rather than hindering his work.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Psalms 31:24 -- On a Strong Heart

"Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord."
Psalms 31:24

This is a good thing to remember when we feel overwhelmed.  I really like the "strengthen your heart" part.  ... When we think that our hearts are breaking, we can be of good courage, and he strengthens them.  It also seems like a strong heart would be one that could love others so much more as well. :)
Today, let's have courage as we face the adversities of life. Let's be strong of heart, both in being able to get through difficulties, and also in being open, caring, and kind to others.  Let's be generous with our praise and our respect, and continue to hope in the Lord.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

D&C 19:15-16 -- On Choosing Not to Suffer

"Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;"
Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-16

Sometimes we get miffed about the whole repentance thing... the need for it, the fact that we can't just do whatever we want, the whole actions have consequences hang-up.  It's a drag.  And a lot of the time when we get negative about things, we are in rebellious mode, wondering why people have to put so many restrictions on us and they can't just let us be.  Sounds kind of like probably all of us in the early teenage years, right?  And in that context, I think that these verses are speaking directly to our rebellious sides.  Like good earthly parents do, our Heavenly Father has to sometimes restrict us in order to protect us.  And what is he protecting us from?  Suffering and pain.
God suffered all of these pains... every one of them in our lives, the cost of the consequences, the guilt, the burden of sin and darkness, the frustration and hopelessness of not knowing how to get back on track... and so much more.  Everything.  And so he knows the exact extent of what is hurting us, and why.  He's the one that knows how to help, because he actually *has* been in our shoes.  God isn't going to force us to accept his atonement and repent.  He values our ability to make free choice very highly.  But he offers it to us.  Repentance.  Sometimes made possible only by his taking on our burdens.
The scripture also talks about rods, and wrath, and anger.  I don't think those are too out of place with the parental analogy.  Anger and punishment aren't out of place in parent-child relationships, as long as it isn't abusive, and it about learning a lesson.  You can't let a little kid hurt another little kid and just let it go.  You have to get across the message that you are not okay with that, and impose a consequence, or they won't learn not to do it again.
Today let's remember how much suffering we can avoid for ourselves by making good choices.  Let's work towards the good consequences eternally rather than the bad ones.  And above all, let's be grateful for, and apply in our lives, the loving sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ, who suffered for us and gave us the precious opportunity to repent and save ourselves from the kinds of consequences that can make God shudder.

Friday, February 19, 2016

D&C 121:25 -- On Time and Works

"For there is a time appointed for every man, according as his works shall be."
Doctrine and Covenants 121:25

Before this in this section, it is talking about the judgment, emphasizing that murderers aren't going to get off easily.  One of the footnotes also references D&C 122:9, which says in part "Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less."
Sometimes when we think of an appointed time, or knowing our days and years ahead of time we think that things are just fated to be a certain way, and that free will isn't really free, because it's already established and we can't break out of it.  There are some pretty circular mental arguments along those lines, and they can sound pretty convincing.  Let's remember a few things though, before we give up on trying to be good. :)  First of all, "all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men" (Alma 40:8).  We're probably not going to understand the lack of time completely until after this life, because it is really hard to imagine when everything we do is riddled with it. :)  However, it's still true, and it means that God can allow us to have free agency, but still know what we're going to choose... because he can see all of it at the same time.  It doesn't mean that he is forcing/causing us to make whatever choices that we make.  It only means that he knows about them.
The other thing that I think we should remember is that knowing the future is definitely not something that has to be viewed with negativity.  Even if we somehow were locked into our choices, who is to say that they aren't awesome and great ones?  There is no reason to assume that we got stuck in a rut and never got out or made anything of ourselves.  (We're not locked in, by the way, but just saying.) :)  One great thing about God knowing the future is that he knows how the story ends.  ... And as I may have mentioned before (spoilers), it is a happy ending. :)  We're on our way to joy and a fabulous future... it can be whatever we want to make it, and we'll have God's help in getting there.  Just a few things to learn along the way.  Patience..., and other stuff, you know. ;)
Today, let's not fear the judgment.  Let's work for it.  Let's learn and grow and make a difference.  And then we can be confident in the outcome, whatever our time is.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

1 Nephi 15:8 -- On Inquiring of the Lord

"And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?"
1 Nephi 15:8

Background-wise, this is Nephi talking to his brothers.  They tell him that they can't understand something that their father taught to all of them, and when Nephi asks this they say, basically, that God won't give them an answer, so there is no point in asking.  And, seriously, how often do we do this same thing?  We just assume that God doesn't want us to know, or that there isn't an explanation, or that only important, prophetic people get revelation, or that we're incapable of understanding, or b'jillions of other excuses.
The thing is, how do prophets become prophets?  It isn't because they just sat around and waited for God to come knock on the door.  They were seeking something.  They were invested.  They prayed.  They ASKED.  God promises us many times in many places in the scriptures that he will answer us.  For instance Matthew 7:8: "For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."
Revelation isn't restricted from anyone.  Yeah, our revelations won't apply to the leadership of the whole world, unless we happen to get called to that world-leader position, but they will apply to our individual lives and anything we need to do.  When Joseph Smith wasn't sure what church to join, he read in 1 Peter a scripture that promised wisdom to those that ask.  Before this verse, Nephi was confused in a similar manner to his brothers, but he acted differently.  He went to the Lord.  He asked the Lord to teach him and help him understand.
Sometimes we do pray, and we quite incorrectly think that God isn't answering our prayers.  Often it is because we aren't listening.  If we want to be able to hear God's still, small voice, we need to take time to study things out and set aside time for prayer and meditation.  Other times it is because we're not willing to accept the answer.  God knows better than we do, and we're likely not going to get the million bucks or the new car that we've been dreaming about.  Things aren't always going to happen exactly the way we want them to, even if we ask for that.  But God is still listening, helping us get the things we ask for when they are good and the timing is right, and when we don't understand, he will always help us learn more until we can.  The lessons aren't always fun, but they are always available.
Today, let's not assume that God won't answer us, or that he doesn't want us to know.  Let's be willing to go to God and ask him about anything we don't understand and let's listen and read and study and be open to his answers.  Let's be like Nephi and inquire of the Lord.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Isaiah 61:3-4 -- On Beauty for Ashes

"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.
And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations."
Isaiah 61:3-4

God knows that our lives aren't always going to go well.  He knows that we're going to be disappointed, sad, angry, depressed, frustrated, and even hopeless sometimes.  He knows that we're all going to suffer and have to face some really hard challenges and tough decisions.  He knows that we're going to face weaknesses and mistakes and infirmities that aren't easy to overcome, that are going to be part of our lives for a long time, and that we have to learn to work around.  I imagine that it is hard for him to see us suffering or in pain.  But, just like our earthly parents, our Heavenly Father knows that we need to go through all of this in order to grow up and become like him.  He is here with us to support us through it all, if we allow him to be a part of our lives.  And in the end, he knows that life isn't only about pain or uncertainty or problems.  It is also about love, and joy, and peace.  That we can learn to focus on the good and learn happiness and confidence even in the midst of chaos.
Part of that good is discussed in these verses, talking about the last days, and what God will do for his people.  He will give us good instead of bad... and in a permanent way.  Beauty for ashes seems symbolic of a fire in reverse, right?  Instead of destruction, it is creation, newness... and not just a lump of dirt newness, but a beautiful creation.  Oil of joy, to be used again and again.  A garment of praise, which we never have to take off. :)  I really like trees of righteousness too.  Standing tall and straight, and basically forever, strong in our faith and dedication. :)  And we will make all this symbolism come true for others as well, because we will build the wastes, restoring and repairing.  Making all things new. :)
Today, let's remember that there is a purpose to all of it, and a creator behind it.  Let's not worry about the current destruction or ashes of our lives, because through God we will be able to exchange them for beauty, and joy, and praise, and glorious newness of life.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Alma 21:5-6 -- On Questions and Answers from God

"Therefore, as Aaron entered into one of their synagogues to preach unto the people, and as he was speaking unto them, behold there arose an Amalekite and began to contend with him, saying: What is that thou hast testified? Hast thou seen an angel? Why do not angels appear unto us? Behold are not this people as good as thy people?
Thou also sayest, except we repent we shall perish. How knowest thou the thought and intent of our hearts? How knowest thou that we have cause to repent? How knowest thou that we are not a righteous people? Behold, we have built sanctuaries, and we do assemble ourselves together to worship God. We do believe that God will save all men."
Alma 21:5-6

This is an interesting one, and I think maybe a hard one because it sounds so rational.  It gets us because we know that there are inequities in the world, and we don't want to add to them, and we really don't know what is in other people's hearts.  We don't know how righteous other people are, and we know that there are people with some seriously sincere belief and love for God that aren't in our own church.  So, it's good to take questions like this seriously.  But let's also take a step back and look at the core of what this guy is saying.  He's questioning that angels exist, because he hasn't seen one, and trying to pass that off as some sort of Godly discrimination.  He's claiming that maybe they don't need to repent, when God has made it clear that we *all* need repentance.  He's saying that going to church makes you righteous, when it clearly takes more effort than that (although, definitely a good sign), and he says that God will save everyone... which kind of negates free will.  God can only save us if we are willing to be saved and we do the things that it takes.  And, overall, he is claiming that missionaries and prophets aren't needed because they don't know anything... even though we know that they are in communication with God, and that God helps them to do as he asks them to.
Today, let's not be distracted by the little twists and lies and justifications of the devil.  Let's never deviate from the truth just because something sounds convincing.  Let's make sure we're doing God's will, and carrying the spirit with us so that we can't be led astray by even the most compelling of false arguments.  Let's listen to God, and let him help us find the answers when we run into hard questions.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Alma 37:38-40 -- On Miracles

"And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.
And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.
And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day."
Alma 37:38-40

Sometimes we read things like this and we think, darn.  Why can't we have something cool like that?  I mean, think of all of those cool scriptural items... the actual brass plates, or the golden plates, or Laban's sword, or the Liahona, or the Ark of the Covenant, or the tablets that the 10 Commandments were written on, or Moses' staff, or one of the trumpets from knocking down Jericho... so many things.  We want that tactile reassurance.  We want to see them in a museum... to be *certain* about all of this.  And you know, I was thinking wow, how cool would that be to have a Liahona as I was reading this.  But in many ways, don't we already?  Yes, very true, we don't have the tactile item.  But we have God's guidance and his communication, and that does, and *always* has worked according to our faith in God, and the heed that we give to him.  ... It would be remarkably cool to also have the technological item, and while we're at it, maybe we could just get an app where God sends us advice from time to time.  ... But truthfully, we have that too.  It's just the scripture app, and it works when we choose to use it.  So, today, let's have faith anyway.  Let's the faith to make the device work, to read the writing, to move the spindle, to blow the trumpet, to read the tablets, to keep the covenant, to serve the Lord.  Let's remember that the proof doesn't come before the faith.  Let's remember that we can't see everything that God can see, and let's work with the miracles we already have.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

4 Nephi 1:15-16 -- On the Love of God

"And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God."
4 Nephi 1:15-16

These verses illustrate the real, permanent change that can happen if we truly love other people... not just the ones close to us, but everyone.  Nothing bad went on *because* of that love of God that people had invited into their hearts.  We're obviously not there as a society, as these people were, but we can get closer individually, and as we learn to love, we influence the people around us and make it easier for them to learn the same things as well.  Today, let's pray for God's love, and work on applying it to everyone, everywhere.  Let's try to see things from other people's perspectives, and truly work on understanding and loving the people we come into contact with, and even the people we don't.  When we find ourselves criticizing others... anyone, anywhere, let's stop and take a minute to try to understand them better.  A moment to try to learn to love, even people vastly different from ourselves.  As we get better at it, we'll start building the kind of society that it talks about in these verses.  One where there is no envying or strife, and one that is filled with love.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Psalms 68:3 -- On Rejoicing

"But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice."
Psalms 68:3

I like this, and I actually think that rejoicing is the natural consequence of righteousness.  It doesn't mean that nothing will go wrong, that we won't have obstacles, hardships, sickness, even experience the death of loved ones.  What it does mean though, is that through it all we can have confidence that things will get better, that God is working with us, that there is a point to all of it, and that God plan will work, and our happy ending will come... gloriously happier than any fairy tale ever was.  Let's work on our righteousness today, trust in God, and be glad in whatever circumstances we are in.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Isaiah 55:10-13 -- On God's Word and Trees for Weeds

"For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."
Isaiah 55:10-13

This whole chapter is great, but I really, really love these verses.  God compares his word to the rain, that comes down, waters the earth, and gives life to things.  He says his word will do what he wants it to do.  ... And then, in one of the coolest explanations ever, he tells us what he wants it to do... help us.  Like the rain helps the earth, his word helps us, and brings us joy and peace, and the whole earth and all of nature is helping us and happy for us.  Can you imagine the mountains singing for us, and the trees clapping their hands? :)
The last verse is awesome too.  The symbolism here is almost exactly opposite from when Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden of Eden.  Then, they were told that instead of everything growing spontaneously, they would have to deal with weeds, among other challenges.  Here, instead of weeds we get trees... and since it is an everlasting sign, I think going weed-free is going to be permanent.  And whether all of this is literal or figurative or both... it's amazing.  Because God is all about helping us, even to the extent that the mountains sing and the weeds turn into trees.  That's all us getting to the point, and listening to God's word enough that he can really bless us like he has wanted to all along, pouring out blessings until we're so filled with them that we can't take anymore... and then more come anyway.  That's what he has always wanted for us... if we can only be open to his word and his love, and walk in the way he has lovingly prepared for us.  Today, let's work on opening our hearts and minds to the Lord, and being willing to do something about it.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Zechariah 7:8-13 -- On Opening our Ears and our Hearts

"And the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, saying,
Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:
And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.
But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.
Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts.
Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts:"
Zechariah 7:8-13

This is an interesting reminder that we need to listen to the prophets.  In the first verse, God speaks to Zechariah, telling him the message that he wants to give everyone.  And so, Zechariah gives that message.  But the people refuse to listen, and do everything they can to ignore that he is even speaking.  The outcome is that God withdraws from them as they withdrew from him.
Sometimes we think that ignoring the prophet isn't the same as ignoring God, and we justify ourselves saying, of course, if God himself told us what to do, we would do it immediately.  I think what we're missing sometimes is that God *is* speaking to us, through the prophet.  God works through the scriptures and through his prophets, and through other people.  Although God does speak to us directly sometimes, we have to be in a spiritual place to be able to hear him... which requires listening and being open to messages from God in many ways, like through the scriptures and the prophets.
Today, let's open our ears and our hearts and work on listening to God, in whatever way he is speaking to us.  Let's not focus on the frailties and imperfections of men or translations.  Let's not justify to ourselves that God isn't actually the one sending us a message... because that isn't true.  God works with imperfect men and imperfect words.  Otherwise he wouldn't be working with us at all, would he?  And still, through his spirit, God's message always comes through perfectly clear, if we are in tune and listening.  Let's not close our ears or our hearts or our minds to God's message.  Today, let's listen to the Lord, and in turn have the magnificent blessing of his listening to us.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

D&C 136:42 -- On the Inner Rebellious Child

"Be diligent in keeping all my commandments, lest judgments come upon you, and your faith fail you, and your enemies triumph over you. So no more at present. Amen and Amen."
Doctrine and Covenants 136:42

I know that scriptures like this can sometimes seem like threats or scare tactics when we read them with a touch of cynicism.  I've done it.  Maybe we all have.  But today I was reading this and thinking... that sounds just like a parent, doesn't it?  They tell us the bad things that could happen, not as threats, but so that we will listen, and not play in the street, or with the stove, or with the cleaning supplies.  And God, here, isn't trying to scare us.  He's just pleading with us to be careful.  Keeping his commandments is what keeps us safe, and he doesn't want us to have to go through more hardship than is already necessary in order to grow up.  Today, let's try to overcome our inner rebellious child, and listen. :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Genesis 35:10 -- On Names and Labels

"And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel."
Genesis 35:10

Names are often a big deal in the scriptures.  Saul became Paul, Simon became Peter, Abram became Abraham, and here Jacob becomes Israel.  Jesus Christ has many names, as does God the Father.  In Ruth 1:20, Naomi calls herself Mara because of the unfortunate things that had led her back to Bethlehem.  In Hosea 2:16 God tells us that in the last days that symbolically instead of calling him master, we will call him husband.  In John 15:15, Christ calls us friends rather than servants.  In the sacrament prayers every week we promise to take upon ourselves the name of Christ.
The names and labels that God offer us matter.  No matter how small the name change, the symbolism is large. For Jacob to be Israel changed his whole life, and the history of the world.  God being symbolically the husband of the church rather than the master of it shows us the mercy and the love that he will show us in the last days.  Promising to take upon ourselves Christ's name is a giant symbolic promise, to show his works in our lives and to be representatives of him.  Likewise, the names and symbols that we choose for ourselves matter as well.  Naomi chose Mara because it meant "bitter" rather than the meaning of Naomi, which was "pleasant."  It showed a change in her outlook, and in the way that she thought about herself.
Sometimes I think that we choose labels for ourselves, or accept labels from society, that trap us rather than freeing us.  The labels and names that we accept change the way that we think about ourselves.  Some labels can help us, and some can hurt us.  Christ called us friends rather than servants because servants don't know what their Lord is doing... and he wants us to know, and be part of it.  Labels like "Democrat," "Republican," "Ex-Con," "Minority," "Immigrant," "Homosexual," "Adulterer," "CEO," "Single," "Dumb," "Thoughtless," "Lazy," "Disorganized," "Rude," and so many others ... all the ones that get laid on us or that we lay on others might be true to a certain extent, or be things that are chosen, or be ways that we think about ourselves... but when they come up against the labels that God offers us, do they still have power?  Should they?  Does it matter what others think of us, or how we think about others, or about life, or even how we think about ourselves, when Christ offers us his own name, and calls us friends?
Today, like Jacob, let's cast off our old names and our old labels.  Let's bend or break the boundaries of our old identities and make room for God.  Let's move forward, new people in Christ.  Let's accept his name, and his friendship, and let's do things the Lord's way, not society's way.  Let's make a difference for good in this world, unfettered by the boundaries of what anyone besides God thinks or feels about how we should act or behave or be.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Isaiah 30:15-18 -- On Waiting

"For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.
But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.
One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill.
And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him."
Isaiah 30:15-18

This chapter is another one talking about the time leading up to the second coming, and something that we can apply to our lives.  In the first verse, God says basically that we should calm down.  If we just keep doing the right things, things will work out.  But do we listen?  Typically, no.  We get freaked out, and we want to do something dramatic in order to feel better, so instead of sticking it out, staying quiet and confident, we run.  It reminds me of Matthew 23:37 (and similar verses in 3 Nephi 10 and elsewhere): "how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"  God keeps trying to gather us and calm us down, but instead we freak out and scatter.
"Therefore will the Lord wait."  I think that part helps us because, unlike us, God is patient, and he can wait until we realize that we need to come back.  It also helps because if he didn't wait, and he judged us now, in our freaked out and running state, we wouldn't have learned very much.  God wants to wait, and do everything that he does so that he can have mercy on us.  And we're blessed if we learn to calm down a little, and wait for him.  It's again about being patient, and trusting that he will do as he says.  Can we see our trials as necessary learning experiences--as the middle of the story--and still trust that things will work out in the end?  Or do we get scared and think that each of them is the end of the world and that we can't go on?  Can we trust God and gather to him instead of scattering at the first breath of opposition?  Can we wait with confidence for his return?  Today, let's work on it.  Let's believe in and trust God, and wait for him as he waits patiently for us to figure it out and do the right thing.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Isaiah 25:8 -- On Trusting and Trying

"He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it."
Isaiah 25:8

This chapter is talking about the Second Coming, but I think we can benefit from it now.  It's God, telling us that at the end of the world, death will be swallowed up in victory, that tears and rebuke will be no more... basically that all of it will have been worth it.  Often we try to stand aside, weighing the personal "cost" of religion or obedience to God, weighing it in the balance like it is just another choice... a job or an education, or a new toy.  And sometimes we decide it isn't worth it to us, because the cost is "too high" ... but what we mean is that we would actually have to work, or re-evaluate our priorities, or humble ourselves, or change our habits, or repent... or some other thing that we love *more* than God and that we are unwilling to let go of.  We even try, sometimes, to say that heaven will be boring so we don't want to go there.
Here is God's promise, that the ending is happy, that it is all worth it.  As for boring, that's just ludicrous.  Walking on water or creating a universe is _boring_?  Being able to learn everything there is to know is boring?  Do we think that eternity is going to be spent on the couch trying to find something new on Netflix?  Today, let's trust God, not only that he will do as he says and help us find eternal life, but let's stop diminishing God's promises by making them sounds dull or pointless.  If we stick with God, our future is going to be better than we can possibly imagine... WE are going to be better than we could ever become on our own.  Let's stop trying to talk ourselves out of it because it reeks of effort, and let's start making some changes, and act a little more like we care what happens to us.  Let's have some hope in the future, and start spreading that hope around instead of crushing even our own dreams before they have a chance.  We *can* be more than this.  We *will* be more than this, better and greater and happier and brighter.  Yeah, it takes some effort, but nothing that won't be made up for 7 billion times over in goodness and in what we become.  Let's trust God and try.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Isaiah 14:32 -- On Preparing to be Zion People

"What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it."
Isaiah 14:32

This chapter is talking about the Millennium,when the city of Zion will be restored, and in Zion there are no poor, so a good thing for the poor to trust in.  Also a good thing for us to think of in our lives too... Zion is both symbolic of the Lord's kingdom and literal, a city that will be restored to the earth during the Millennium.  Either way, it's a message about trusting God and being faithful to his commandments and his plan.  Zion, established by God, cannot fail.  People can fail, and we often do, and sometimes we think we are Zion, and then Zion looks bad when we fail.  But it works the other way around.  We are trying to aspire to Zion, and when we fail, we fall short of that goal... the goal never becomes tainted because we are reaching for it.
God's plan will work, with our help or without it, so we can *always* trust it... but it is our privilege to be part of it, to work for God, to be a part of making things better and learning to be Zion people ourselves.  We don't know how to live in a society with no poor, because our society is much different.  How do we have to change ourselves, and the way that we treat others, to be ready for that?  ... Let's think about it, and start getting ahead of the game by making some of those changes now.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Proverbs 29:25-26 -- On Fear and Trust

"The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.
Many seek the ruler’s favour; but every man’s judgment cometh from the Lord."
Proverbs 29:25-26

This is a good reminder about our priorities.  It's really easy to get into people-pleasing, trying to get your boss or teacher or director or friend or whoever to notice you, or praise you, or think you're cool.  And it isn't that we shouldn't be friendly and care about others.  We should love others and build friendships and be awesome to each other... but sometimes it goes over the line, just like wanting something turns into coveting.  If we fear what someone else things more than we care what God thinks... or if we want someone else to be pleased with us more than we desire to please God, then we've gotten things out of balance.
Actually, I like the first verse because unlike the way I just compared things, the scriptures don't compare what people think to what God thinks.  They compare fear to trust.  Do we fear man more than we trust God?  And in the second verse, why are we working so hard to please someone besides God, who in in charge of *all* of it?  I think that's kind of the crux of the whole thing.  God is in charge, and he has things under control, and anytime we fear, we are essentially doubting him.  Doubting his plan.  Doesn't mean it isn't natural or understandable.  We run into scary things a lot.  But maybe if we remember that fear is doubt, we can bounce back faster, remembering that God will get us through this chapter just like all the others.  Things will be okay.
Today, let's work on letting go of our fear, and on trusting God.  Let's stop worrying so much about what people can do to us, or what they think.  Let's love them, of course, cooperate, and enjoy our time together, but if we need someone's approval, let's turn to the Lord, and trust his plan.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Joel 3:15-16 -- On Hope in the End

"The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.
The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel."
Joel 3:15-16

This verse is talking about a time when the second coming is imminent.  Sun, Moon, and all stars dark.  Sounds incredibly scary, actually.  We're used to a little darkness, but look forward to the light returning consistently.  And it talks about the Lord roaring, which sounds kind of scary as well, even though we love him.  And then an ... well, I was going to say earthquake, but this is the heavens *and* the Earth, so... erm... universequake?  That's scarier than I can imagine, frankly.
And just like in our lives, all this bad stuff seems to pile up; actually, our problems seem pretty silly compared to this, but still.  Stuff piles up, and we complain about how it seems to all compound, but no matter what, and no matter how bad, the Lord will be the hope of his people.  And he will also be our strength.  We are his, and he will come in the worst chapter to deliver us.  Even from a universequake. :)   Let's never doubt that he can save us from lesser things as well, and that the happy ending is there, always waiting for us.  Let's make good decisions in our lives, and ensure that we are his people, dedicated to him.  As we do so, we will grow to know him, and increase our faith and trust, and confidence that everything will be okay in the end.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Romans 8:24-26 -- On Hope and the Recipe for Salvation

"For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."
Romans 8:24-26

We are saved by hope. :)  I like that, and how true does that feel?  Whenever we lose hope, we feel lost.  But with God there is *always* hope.
While I was reading this morning I came across two other scripture statements that are interesting in relation to this one: From Moroni 7:40: "How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?" And from Moroni 7:42: "Without faith there cannot be any hope."  The first one basically says that you can't get faith without hope, and the second one that you can't have hope without faith.  This, on the surface, seems kind of contradictory, but I think that it just means that faith and hope are interdependent... we have to learn both of them together.  We can't learn one without the other.  The next verse in Moroni even takes it further, explaining that we can't have either one without some humility.  All all of these, mixed together, are the beginning of our recipe for being saved.
We return to the scripture above for the rest of the recipe.  We take all of these ingredients and we look for salvation, but it's not something that we can see.  You can't pour it in a cake pan or take it out of the oven to add icing.  We pour these things into ourselves, and we are the oven, and we are the icing.  We add patience to the mix, knowing that being saved doesn't happen in an instant, but over the process of our lives.  And we have to have the spirit there as well, to supply the rest of the requirements, because we sometimes don't even know what those are.  So, as we do everything we *can* do, God steps in and makes up the difference for the missing ingredients and the things that we just don't have yet.  The recipe continues a little bit in Romans, but basically when we have all of those things in us, then "all things work together for good" (Romans 8:28).
Today, let's remember that hope saves us, and that it is mixed in with all the rest of the recipe.  Let's not leave it out, or think that we can get along without it.  There is hope for us all, through God's love and infinite mercy.  Let's follow his recipe for salvation.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Romans 15:4 -- On Scriptural Hope

"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."
Romans 15:4

At the beginning of this chapter Paul says that "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak," and he quotes scripture to make his point.  And then he mentions this, helping us understand why.  The answer isn't "because God said so," although that isn't necessarily a bad reason, since he does know more and see farther than we do.  The answer instead, is that God gives us all of these things so that we can have hope.
I really like the phrase "comfort of the scriptures."  I don't think that is the way we usually think of the scriptures.  Often it is rather as an obligation of the scriptures or a confusion of the scriptures.  I think comfort fits though... no matter what we're going through in life, there is a scripture for it.  No matter what happens, God has prepared something... already... to help.  He has seen this moment, and he knows exactly what to say and how to help, and so much of that is right here, in these verses.  In the words of the prophets and everything that God has inspired us to write, throughout history.  It's true that we have to also have some patience, and that's sometimes hard, especially in the worst moments.  But another way to interpret that sentence is "patience (and comfort) of the scriptures."  Maybe some, or a lot, of that patience that we need is in there as well.
Today, no matter what is going on or what we need, let's look for it in the scriptures.  God will help us, with patience, and comfort, and hope.  He loves us more than we can imagine, and his words are waiting to help us, if we will only trust him enough to reach into the scriptures and find them.

Monday, February 1, 2016

2 Kings 5:10-14 -- On Taking God's Advice

"And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?
Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean."
2 Kings 5:10-14

The story of Naaman is interesting because he wanted drama.  He traveled from a different country to come see the prophet, and he was a powerful man, and he expected some big showy miracle.  Instead, the prophet didn't even come out to see him, and just sent a messenger to tell him what to do.  He felt slighted and belittled.  But when his servants talked him into a little humility, he tried doing what the prophet said, and it worked.
I think that we're a lot like Naaman sometimes.  We hear the words of the prophets with skepticism, and we often aren't even willing to try what they suggest.  We think things like: "Prayer?  Scripture study?  Those won't work.  I'm in serious trouble here, and some smarmy Sunday School answer isn't going to cut it."  Except, maybe we can learn from the story of Naaman, humble ourselves a little bit, and try.  God's advice does work, if we are willing to give it the chance it deserves.  Part of that is having a little faith, and trusting that God not only has the power to help us, but that he wants to.  It's also being willing to put in the sincerity and real sustained effort that it takes to put God's advice into practice in our lives.
We can't just get on our knees, say a 30-second prayer, and expect a winning lottery ticket in the mail from heaven.  Even prayer takes effort, just as maintaining relationships with other people does.  And we have to realize that God almost never works through the lottery, since gambling is one of the things he asks us not to do. :)  Instead, he often delivers us by teaching us how to deliver ourselves.  Other times, when we can't do anything about it ourselves, he does deliver us in more dramatic ways... but that isn't the typical answer, and, like Naaman, it isn't what we should be expecting.  Today, even if God asks us to do something simple and that we are certain won't work, let's stop and consider the story of Naaman, and then let's humble ourselves, let go of our pride, and try it anyway.

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