Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Jacob 6:12-13 -- On Wisdom and Perspective

"O be wise; what can I say more?
Finally, I bid you farewell, until I shall meet you before the pleasing bar of God, which bar striketh the wicked with awful dread and fear. Amen."
Jacob 6:12-13

I like how Jacob here gives his last piece of advice, wondering what else he can say, but then he does think of something.  His advice to us, to be wise, is extremely good advice.  If we try to do the wise thing, we usually end up making a good choice, and even more so if we have the spirit with us to guide us.  Our problems usually come when we think we can do something unwise and still be okay, or we try to talk ourselves into believing that unwise doesn't really equal stupid in this instance.

The thing that I found compelling about this last verse is that the judgment bar of God is both pleasing and dread-producing, depending on who is standing there.  Judgment can be pleasing if we are restored to goodness and love, and relieved of suffering.  And it can be scary if we're going to be restored to evil and lose our temporary satisfaction in an addiction or earthly reward that we can't take with us.

And isn't that the way of things in so many other instances as well?  We can take the same opportunities and events in life and look at them with joy or dread, depending on our perspective.  In a way, the gospel is all about gaining a touch of God's perspective, and seeing the truth of the joy and goodness all around us, after being blinded by sin and only seeing darkness.

Today, let's work at gaining perspective, and seeing the good in the world around us.  Let's be wise, not only in seeing better, but in making wiser choices, in concert with God, so that when we do get to the bar of God, it will be pleasing from our perspective rather than scary.

Monday, May 30, 2016

1 Corinthians 10:13-14 -- On Idolatry and Escape Hatches

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry."
1 Corinthians 10:13-14

Although I know it often doesn't feel like it, the part about our temptations being "common to man" I think is a good thing to remember.  It is easy to slip into feeling sorry for ourselves and thinking that the challenges we face are somehow worse than anyone else's... that we're unique in the world for having to face these things, and that we're the exception to the rule.

God always gives us a way out.  That doesn't mean we can't get ourselves in too deep, but that's after walking past the escape hatch.  And even then, God provides a way to turn around and change, and repent.  Not saying it is easy, or that the path is short.  But if we're trying to do what God asks, he will always help us on our way back.

The last verse talks about idolatry, and I was wondering what that had to do with the verse before, and then I thought... wow, pretty much every temptation that comes along has something to do with idolatry, because when we are tempted to sin, we're basically being tempted to put something before God.  And when we sin, we're taking whatever that sin is, and putting it as a higher priority than God in our lives.  That's the very definition of idolatry... trusting something else to bring us joy and happiness or satisfaction in our lives and not trusting God.  Looking for answers in lifeless objects, or extremely imperfect mortal beings.

Today, dearly beloved friends... let's flee from idolatry.  Let's remember that our temptations are normal, and that God knows how to help us through our challenges.  Let's trust him above all else, and find the escape hatch. :)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Psalms 57:7 -- On Fixed Hearts

"My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise."
Psalms 57:7

This is a great verse.  I think that the original intention was probably the sense of fixed, meaning immovable... focused on God.  And that is really important.  Putting God first means making sure our hearts aren't tossed around with the wind and waves of emotion.  We need to make a serious commitment and not think about backing out of it anytime things get hard.

As I was reading this today, I also considered another definition of fixed, as in repaired.  And I love that interpretation as well... because God *does* fix our hearts when we reach out to him and ask.  They need some repair sometimes, and we need help with the other kind of fixing too--learning how to have that "mighty change" of heart (Alma 5:12-14) that accompanies spiritual rebirth.

Today, let's look to God and keep our hearts fixed on him.  Let's also look to him for help fixing our hearts when they are broken.  Both kinds of fixing will make us better, and more whole.  I think that is an excellent reason to sing and give praise. :)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Mosiah 26:23-26 -- On Knowing Christ and Choosing Redemption

"For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them; and it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand.
For behold, in my name are they called; and if they know me they shall come forth, and shall have a place eternally at my right hand.
And it shall come to pass that when the second trump shall sound then shall they that never knew me come forth and shall stand before me.
And then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, that I am their Redeemer; but they would not be redeemed."
Mosiah 26:23-26

This is a good reminder of how important it is to have a relationship with Christ... not only to get to know God, but so that He can know us on another level: know how it is to work with us, to struggle with us through our challenges. To be a team with him.  If we don't know God on an intimate friendship level, then how can he claim that he knows us when judgement day comes?  How can we take upon us the name of Christ if we know nothing about him or how he works?

Today, let's be willing to be redeemed.  I know that takes some humility... to admit that we need help, and it is a struggle to submit sometimes, even to an authority as perfect and legitimate as God.  We have pretty big stubborn streaks sometimes.  Let's get to know Christ, and I think that will not only help us at the judgement day, but it will help us to trust God a lot more.  We'll realize how much he loves us and wants the best for us... how he can magnify our efforts, and how he can help.  As we get to know him, I think that all of that stubborn will melt a little, and we'll realize that this is someone that we are safe with, and that we can trust to make more of our lives, and to advocate more for us than we can alone.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Revelation 6:15-17 -- On Standing in the Presence of God

"And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?"
Revelation 6:15-17

This is talking about some of the consequences of opening the sixth seal of the book of God (Revelation 5:1).  As soon as it is opened, an earthquake happens, and the sun, moon, and heavens are changed.  Apparently, the changes make it clear to everyone that God exists, and isn't very happy with the way things have been going, because it seems like everyone wants to hide.  The question "who shall be able to stand?" could be rhetorical, the idea being that no one can stand before the wrath of God... and maybe that is true.  It was interesting thinking about it this morning as though maybe someone could though, and I found a few scriptures that talk about standing in the presence of God.  Moses was able to (Moses 1:31), and Gabriel did (Luke 1:19).  Alma was frightened by the possibility (Alma 36:15) because he didn't want to be judged for his evil deeds.

Maybe the reason people are scared here is the same reason that Alma was scared.  Because they'd done wrong, and were frightened of being judged fairly for their actions.  Which perhaps offers some hope that, if anyone can stand (or kneel) in that day, it will be people who don't fear that judgement.  And I think the only way to be one of *those* people is to do exactly what Alma did.  He repented of his sins, was converted to the Lord, and he turned his life around completely.  If we clear up our sins now, and keep clearing them up as we go, we won't need to fear God noticing us... because he already has, and we've worked through it and gotten on the same page. :)

Today, let's work on our relationship with God... on making things right between us.  As we do, we'll stop being afraid, and be able to be filled with his love, and know how much he wants to help us, not scare us.  Let's work on that until someday maybe we'll be confident enough to stand in the presence of God, knowing that he wants us there to help him with his work.  Let's be the people who make the world better and who don't have so much guilt that we start asking mountains to crush us.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

D&C 64:23-25 On Tithing and Today

"Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.
For after today cometh the burning—this is speaking after the manner of the Lord—for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.
Wherefore, if ye believe me, ye will labor while it is called today."
Doctrine and Covenants 64:23-25

Clearly, the Lord's time and our time are measured differently. :)  Once we get used to the way God is using today and tomorrow here though, it's clear that he is warning us about and suggesting some specific things.  First, sacrifice and fasting... and saying that tithing basically makes us fireproof.  Pretty cool, and in a completely serious way, a really good lesson.  I don't think that God ever asks us to give up things just to ... not have them.  It's so that we can learn some good lessons about giving to others, and empathy, and compassion, and that giving of ourselves to others through self-sacrifice teaches us to be disciples of Christ, who gave himself for us all.  Tithing is a good example, because it helps us feel like we're contributing to the Lord's work.  It gives us the opportunity to be part of that, and to give back to God, even though it is only a portion of what he has given to us.  It's a chance to outwardly show obedience... and it is one of the few commandments that we can live perfectly, so it is a nice chance to feel like we're on the right track.

Tomorrow, it appears that there is going to be a lot of burning.  It's interesting that it mentions Babylon.  It seems to be what is talked about in Revelation 18:2-4... that we should go out from Babylon, because it is so wicked.  Part of that might be literal, in that we might have to physically leave a wicked place before it is destroyed, as Lot was commanded to do at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  I think that there is a lot of symbolism here as well, part of which is tithing... as we dedicate ourselves, and who we are and what we have, to the Lord, the more we leave a Spiritual Babylon behind and start building Zion instead.

Today (in our time as well as God's time), let's believe God, and do the things that he asks, so that we'll be ready and be able to withstand the Second Coming.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

John 1:40-45 -- On Finding the Messiah

"One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.
Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
John 1:40-45

As I was reading this morning, these verses struck me because the first thing that these men did when they found Jesus was go and tell their families and friends about him, and ask them to come and find out for themselves. :)  I think sometimes in the Modern world we get so tied up with whether people are going to be offended that we don't do the obvious and basic thing that we *always* do when we find something cool... show it to others.  We see this in children when they come in yelling about a cool rock or a cool bug.  We do this as adults when we see a good movie, play a cool game, find a good price, or even read a good post on social media. :)  And sincerely, of all the ultra amazing things IN life, what is more amazing than finding the Messiah?  Let's never, ever be ashamed of that.

Now, I'm not saying that we have to go out of our way to push religion at people who don't want to hear it... not at all.  What I am saying is that we shouldn't be ashamed of God or who we are, and when people ask about our lives, or we're sharing something about our personal lives, we should share reality without editing out the part about religion and God.  If they want to know more, they will ask, and if they don't, that's okay.  They're still our friends, and we can rejoice in one another's happiness.  Can you imagine if these men had found out about Christ and then kept it to themselves?  They wouldn't have been very good disciples at that point.  ... Nor are we, if we hide who we are, and act like we're ashamed of the gospel.

It's quite true that religious discrimination is alive and well in our society.  Some of us even contribute to it by treating members of other religions with disdain or intolerance, or telling other people that their values and beliefs are worthless. Maybe if we show our religion openly, we'll lose an opportunity or experience persecution.  On the other hand, if we talk about the gospel as something that brings us joy, and not use it as an excuse to attack someone else's beliefs or pursue an argument, maybe we'll bring someone to Christ and they will discover the truth of the gospel from him.  Isn't the second possibility more than worth the first?  And isn't God more important than what we might lose?  God asks us to be a light to the world, to let others see our good works, and to set a good example (Matthew 5:16).  Sometimes doing that is hard, but standing up for God in a loving and positive way is always the right thing.

Today, as we discover and rejoice in the gospel, let's share that excitement.  Let's be ourselves, and not hide the spiritual aspect of our lives.  Let's be amazed still at the fact that we've found the Messiah, and invite people to come and see.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

D&C 130:20-21 -- On Effort and Obedience

"There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated."
Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21

This is a good thing to remember.  Often in this life we want something for nothing.  We want our parents, or the government, or our employers, or our spouses to do more for us, and take care of us in a more luxurious way, while requiring minimal effort... preferably none. ;)  And we want the same thing from God.  I mean, why not just have someone drop a winning lottery ticket on the sidewalk in front of us?  A new house or a new car or free LEGOs.  You know, whatever it takes. :)  He's all-powerful, right?

We forget sometimes that instead of being an IOU, a game, or an all-you-can-indulge cornucopia of plenty, this life is actually a school, or testing ground.  And we get out of it in direct relation to what we put into it... magnified by the Lord, of course, but it still requires effort to learn.  We can't sit back and learn everything by osmosis.  We have to actively engage, overcome roadblocks, search our hearts, develop relationships, and--kind of the point of these verses--learn to obey.  That doesn't mean that we're dogs, or that the Lord is teaching us to beg on command.  What it does mean is that many lessons and almost all success requires disciplined effort.  We don't just slouch into the Olympics, or wander into a PhD.

Obedience to God's laws is like practicing.  Over time, as we get better and better, we'll be able to do more amazing things, seemingly effortlessly, because of that investment over time.  Being able to think of scriptures and know the scripture story applicable to the situation doesn't just happen.  It's that reading and studying every day that gets us there, and helps us to know God's word.  As we pray each day, we slowly get to know God better, and that relationship becomes more and more a part of our daily lives, and we learn faith and hope and trust that we can rely on that spirit and relationship in times of need.

Today, let's remember that in order to receive blessings, we need to start putting some effort into our lives.  As we do better, and live better, God will magnify our efforts, and help us succeed.  But if we're just sitting there (literally or figuratively), it's pretty hard to magnify that into anything.  Let's commit to whatever good change in our lives that we've been thinking about.  Let's do something about it.  And let's turn to the Lord, to learn from, and to get assistance in our efforts.

Monday, May 23, 2016

2 Nephi 28:24-27 -- On Needing God to Avoid Wo

"Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!
Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!
Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!
Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!"
2 Nephi 28:24-27

Sometimes it is confusing when we hear all of this Wo-ing, because we're supposed to be positive and be building Zion, right?  It's good to look on the bright side... to have hope, to be optimistic.  We even have a hymn that says "all is well" a lot... which really is okay to sing. :)  So if those things are good, then what is God trying to tell us here when he says that we shouldn't be at ease or think that all is well?

One thing I think he is saying is that we can't be complacent.  It's good not to hate ourselves or be self-destructive of course, but neither should we be satisfied with our current progression and think that we're perfect as is.  We all have problems, and areas to improve.  It's a lifetime pursuit.

Another thing is that we need to remember other people who are struggling.  Whatever the reason for their struggling, and whether or not part of it is self-imposed, God loves those other people just like he loves us.  He wants us to help each other and lift each other up.

Too often we think that we have life figured out, and that logic and science are going to explain everything.  And I'm not saying that the gospel doesn't make sense, or that science isn't real... but I think we forget the brother of Jared's stones, and Mount Zerin, Jonah, Daniel, the Liahona, so many more miracles in the scriptures, and even sometimes miracles that we have personally witnessed.  We don't, and can't understand everything... at least not yet.  We can't trust only in the precepts of men, because they clearly don't explain everything.  The money in the mouth of the fish, practically everything Moses did, the walls of Jericho... these aren't things that just happen to anyone in the normal course of a day.  Even if we come up with scientific explanations about how it could happen, how do we explain someone predicting it all so accurately, or actually causing such unlikely things to happen?  God is the one that can do that, and not only then, but now, in our world and in our lives.

We need God.  We need his help and his miracles, so that we can learn, and grow, and change, and become more than we are.  Today, let's remember that there is still a long way to go, and that it is all possible because of God. :)  Let's be open to whatever God grants us, and never think that we're done with his love and parenting. :)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Zephaniah 3:11-13 -- On Trust and Lies and Making Good Decisions

"In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain.
I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.
The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid."
Zephaniah 3:11-13

These verses are talking about things that will happen at the Second Coming.  What strikes me about these verses today is that it is talking about a remnant, meaning that a lot of the people will be gone... only a part of them left.  And the part that are left are interesting.  It says that they are afflicted, and poor, that they trust the Lord, that they don't do iniquity, that they don't tell lies and aren't deceitful (probably mentioning both because you can lead people astray while carefully choosing which truths to tell).

Now, who knows whether any of us will be here to witness the Second Coming.  That's a total unknown.  But, whether or not we are, by mentioning the qualities of this remnant, I think God is passing on to us the knowledge of some desirable traits to have... ones that might save us from many kinds of destruction, not just the ones at the Second Coming.  Maybe it helps us to know some things to focus on.  Maybe being free from affliction isn't our first priority... or being rich.  Maybe learning to trust God should move up the list.  I also think that our ideas about honesty might need an overhaul.  Our society doesn't really value it, and sometimes that makes it difficult for us to see how important it is.  Maybe working at not being at all deceitful is something we should think about... why that might be important.

Some of these ideas aren't popular... who wants to be afflicted, poor, and scrupulously honest?  It's way easier to live a life that avoids affliction, embraces wealth, and bends the truth a little when it gets in the way. But as Thomas S. Monson asks us, "May we ever choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong."  Sometimes choosing affliction over comfort is the right thing to do, if that choice asks us to deny God or do something contrary to his will.  Sometimes choosing to be poorer than we want to be in order to help others is the right thing to do.  And honesty is more important that what we can gain by deceit.  After all, we trust God because he loves us and doesn't lie to us.  Let's honor that by not betraying others.

God promises to help us, forgive us, and not hold our transgressions against us... but our side of the deal is to start doing things his way, and putting him first.  Today, let's work at being those kind of people... avoiding iniquity, and making the world better through good decisions. :)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Jeremiah 30:12-17 -- On Curing the Incurable

"For thus saith the Lord, Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous.
There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up: thou hast no healing medicines.
All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased.
Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee.
Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey.
For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after."
Jeremiah 30:12-17

It's hard to pick a selection of verses sometimes because pulling things out of context loses some of the beauty of the whole.  I felt like that with this chapter.  The whole thing is talking to Judah and Israel (spoken to as separate and distinct groups), saying that in the last days they will be restored to their own lands, and ruled by their own people.  Lots of fascinating stuff in here.

This selection seems to be kind of contradictory at first.  God says that our wounds are incurable, then we find out that our wounds are actually chastisement for sins.  Then our sorrow is also incurable, because of sin.  But then it turns around, and goes back to reaffirming messages from earlier in the chapter about saving his people.

My favorite part is that although our wounds are incurable, and they are natural consequences of our own actions... despite all of that, God will restore us and heal us anyway.  As it says several verses later, we will be restored to being his people, and he will be our God.

I think the somewhat contradictory nature of these verses reflects the contradictory nature of our lives to a large degree.  We lose ourselves, and lose our way.  We wound ourselves badly, and we have no way out, or back, or any way to stop the bleeding.  We're doomed.  And yet, despite our obviously fatal mistakes and the death sentence that we've given ourselves, nothing is incurable to God.  And, if we are willing, God gives us that way back... a way back to life, a way home, a way to even be something greater than we are, part of something more.

One of the messages of the gospel is that we're never so lost that God can't find us, and we're never so trapped or doomed or hopeless that God can't save us. As we turn to him, he will heal our self-inflicted fatal injuries, and make us new people... more than we are, and ones that can be worthy of Zion.

Friday, May 20, 2016

3 Nephi 13:33 -- On Our One Job

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
3 Nephi 13:33

This is one of my favorite scriptures.  One of the reasons that I like it is that it makes things pretty simple.  We have one job: put the Lord first.  If we can do that one job, then everything else works.  It all falls into place.  We don't have to worry about details and complications, or a rating scale of 1-10, or being graded on a curve, or how many good things make up for one bad thing. :)  The only thing that matters is putting God first.

Now, of course, putting God first shows in our lives in a lot of different ways.  When we put God first, we obey his commandments, which includes loving other people, attending church, reading our scriptures, praying, setting an example for others, etc.  It's good to remember that Putting God first doesn't mean quitting our jobs or school or leaving our families and disowning the world.  God leads us to serve others, to do well at our jobs, to develop good relationships with others.  But really, if we're really focusing on God and what he wants, all of the rest will come.

Today, let's work on our one job.  Let's have the faith to put God first, before everything and everyone else.  As we do, we'll be blessed, we'll learn to listen to and trust God more, and everything else will work out.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Philippians 4:5-6 -- On Staying Calm and Asking God

"Let your moderation be known unto all men.  The Lord is at hand.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."
Philippians 4:5-6

We overreact sometimes, when things matter to us a lot.  We imagine worst-case scenarios, and our minds jump to some all-or-nothing thinking.  We cry, or yell, or scream, or curse, or get angry.  And God, here, advises against that.  It isn't that he wants us to do away with emotion and become Vulcan logic-only machines, but he wants us to be able to learn to control our emotions to the extent that we can always retain an inner peace.

"Be careful for nothing" could be translated as "Don't be unduly concerned about anything," or in other words--don't overreact.  Being calm and able to talk rationally about things helps us to be able to communicate with others.  When we let emotion take over, then we often say things that we don't mean, or that we will regret later.

Again, emotion is not a bad thing, and it isn't wrong to care.  It's good that we do.  That kind of investment in our lives makes us better students, employees, family members, and friends.  This isn't about learning to be robots.  Instead, it is about learning two other things: moderation and self-control, and faith and trust in the Lord.  We should be in control of ourselves enough that we never say things that we don't mean, and we don't harm the people around us, even through unkindness.  And we should always trust God that things will work out the way that he wants them to.  That's what Paul is referring to when he writes that we should pray and make requests to God.  If things are going wrong, we should turn to God for the solution.  We don't know what his goals are, and a roadblock now might mean that he is guiding us in another direction, or helping us learn something.  Whatever it is, we can take it, and God is still, and always, in control.  If he wants something, it will happen.  So, let's ask for and work for positive goals, but if something else happens, then let's get busy figuring out how to deal with the current reality, instead of raging against the change.

Today, let's make the world better and not worse.  Let's keep our cool and our inner peace.  Let's trust God, and adapt, finding ways to make the current reality better and more positive, rather than complaining that it *is* reality.  And let's go to God in sincere and fervent prayer about the things that upset us, and let him know our needs and desires.  He loves us, and he will help us, either to make a change, or to be at peace.  He's cool like that. :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Moroni 7:11 -- On Following

"For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil."
Moroni 7:11

In several places in the scriptures it tells us that we have to make a choice about whether we are going to follow or serve God.  In Matthew 6:24 we're told that "no man can serve two masters," and Joshua 24:15 says "choose you this day" referring to choosing between God or idols.  Elijah asks us "How long halt ye between two opinions?" (1 Kings 18:21) and tells us to make a choice and follow it.

We think sometimes that we can get through life without making a choice, or that the choices aren't clear and until they are we have no responsibility.  But it isn't that easy, or lazy.  It's like choosing a major in college.  We can wait to declare and just take general education classes in the beginning, and we can try out classes from different majors.  We can even declare a major and then change our minds to something else.  But if we don't eventually choose permanently, we're never going to graduate and get that degree.  And it is on *us* to do the research and make the choice.  All of the information that we need is there, all around us.  And we can try different things, and experiment, and make many choices before we commit.  But no one can tell us what we want to be, and who we are going to become.  We have to figure that out on our own.

It's similar with God.  We have the information that we need, and we can research and pray and compare living with God in our lives to living without God in our lives.  We can toy with the ideas and resources and attend different churches and wonder if they are really "us" all we want, but eventually we have to figure it out and choose, and choose permanently, or we'll never be able to build on that choice and move from spiritual kindergarten up to the bigger lessons that lead to salvation.  God is always there to help us, as are the scriptures and the spirit.  We have what we need to make a decision and a commitment.

The choice isn't just between God and coasting or not choosing.  As these verses point out, our choice really is between God and Satan.  Anything that we choose that is *not* God is serving Satan, and promoting his agenda.  Unfortunately in spiritual life there is no neutrality; no playing Switzerland.  We're progressing and moving forward or we're regressing and slipping back.  Fencesitting is just the first step to Hell. :)  We have to follow something... good or bad.  And we get to choose that for ourselves.

Today, let's choose good, and choose God.  Let's bring forth good water, and stay out of Satan's clutches.  Even if we're in a time of transition or waiting in our lives, that doesn't mean standing still spiritually.  We can always learn more and be more.  We can be better and kinder, to ourselves and to others, and there is always something good and worthy to discover.  If we don't know what to do, let's go to God in prayer, let's make that contact, and once we do, let's honor it by choosing to serve God, and formalize the arrangement with a covenant, whether it is by being baptized and agreeing to follow God and always remember Christ that first time, or whether it is renewing that covenant with the sacrament.  As we dedicate our lives to God, we will be blessed, and we'll feel the positive effects of growing closer and closer to God and all good and leaving the influence of Satan behind. :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Mosiah 3:17-19 -- On Powerlessness and Submission

"And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.
For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.
For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father."
Mosiah 3:17-19

There are lots of interesting ideas here, but the one I was thinking about today is the idea of humility and submission.  These verses address those topics well. First, it says that salvation only comes through Christ, so we are in that way dependent on him.  Then, we have to humble ourselves and become as little children, or we'll drink damnation to our own souls... this shows us that we can't just rely on ourselves, or we're really in trouble.  Then, the final verse emphasizes that by telling us that we have to listen to and yield to God.  We have to be submissive and meek and humble... willing to submit to ALL things.

I think some of this is hard for us to hear.  We don't want to just stand still while anyone "inflicts" things upon us.  We really, really want to have our own way and be strong and independent... and pigheaded and rebellious. :)  It's that whole "natural man" nature of ours. :)  I think what we have to just realize is that *none* of us can make it without God.

They have 12-step programs set up for many addictions, and even though they vary, one commonality is that the first step is admitting that we're powerless... not about everything necessarily, but about whatever that big addiction or obstacle in our lives is.  And I think that maybe that's something that we all have to face in life as well.  We're addicted to sin.  Different kinds, yeah... but we're addicted to it.  Rebellion, or selfishness, or power, or greed, or vanity, or almost anything... we know a lot of varieties.  And we let those things get in the way of our lives, and get between us and God... us and salvation.  Those words... humble, yield, submit... they scare us.  We're like, wait wait... we've got this.  We can handle it now.  It was tough, but we want to do it ourselves, we're BIG. :)  And really, spiritually, we're just little kids, and we need to understand that, because we *must* rely on God and have his help to get through this test.

Today, let's try to let go of that need to rebel.  Let's admit that we're powerless over our sin addiction, and that we need God to help us.  Let's be willing to submit to what the Lord has in store for us, and be eager to learn the lessons that he is teaching.  As we do, we really will grow up spiritually, into strong, capable, loving, and pure people, still working with and dependent on the Lord for salvation... but able to handle more and more every day, and working to help others too.  Let's accept God's help and love as we go. :)

Monday, May 16, 2016

D&C 5:34-35 -- On Waiting

"Yea, for this cause I have said: Stop, and stand still until I command thee, and I will provide means whereby thou mayest accomplish the thing which I have commanded thee.
And if thou art faithful in keeping my commandments, thou shalt be lifted up at the last day. Amen."
Doctrine and Covenants 5:34-35

Sometimes the job and commandment that God has for us is to wait.  This requires some patience and some faith.  Often we want things now, now, now.  And waiting seems horrible... we're running out of life, or an opportunity will pass us by, or things won't be the same if we wait, and what if we never get this chance again?  When opportunities come along, sometimes we feel good about it and God encourages us to go for it.  Other times, he doesn't.  He says no, or wait, or do this other thing.  And in that moment, it's really tough.  It isn't what we were planning on, and it's the opposite of what we think that we want.

If we think about some of the things that have happened in the scriptures, sometimes it helps.  God asked Joseph to stop translating the plates here.  It may have seemed like an unnecessary delay to Joseph, who wanted to move the work forward, but as the story went, it was an important thing to do.  Abraham waited a very long time for a son, Moses had to wait through a lot of plagues to be able to do as God asked, and then waited on a whole different scale in the wilderness, just outside the promised land.  If we look back at our own lives too, I think we can clearly see that waiting is sometimes the most important thing we can do.

Today, let's remember to do as God asks, whether he asks us to move forward with faith, or to wait with faith. :)  God's timing is always perfect.  He knows the opportunities that we need, and the timing and the patience we need. :)  Let's keep the commandments, and look forward to God providing the means and the power that we can accomplish anything he asks.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Enos 1:3 -- On Remembering and Pondering

"Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart."
Enos 1:3

As I was reading this today, it struck me how often spiritual experiences, both in the scriptures and in my own life, happen because of something we're reading about or just thinking about in the gospel.  Here, the purpose of Enos' trip wasn't to go out and have a spiritual experience.  He was just living his life.  But as he was living his life, he was thinking about the gospel, and because he was, he had an amazing experience that changed his life.

Today, and every day, let's remember to read and think about the gospel.  That simple thing is the key to not only big spiritual experiences, but the everyday companionship of the spirit and friendship with God.  And we need that.  It makes life better, and helps us not get distracted by so many less important things. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Philippians 4:11-13 -- On Being Content in All Things

"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
Philippians 4:11-13

We often talk about how a person or an event in our lives has made us feel, or even act.  It's an interesting way to talk about things, because the phraseology, whether we mean it that way or not, clearly casts the blame for our actions on some external thing--The election made me mad; The car accident ruined my life; I hit him because he was asking for it.  We blame things on environment, society, genetics, and the devil.  Apparently even pastries are to blame, because we "couldn't resist." :)

In these verses, Paul is telling us about something that he learned that is different from that way of looking at things.  He tells us that he's learned to be content, no matter what.  He's learned how to get through the low points and the high points of life, whether it's hard or easy, fun or painful... basically how to be content through everything.  Then he says "I can do all things through Christ."  Both learning how to do all these things and be content and being able to do anything through Christ are distinctively active, taking responsibility for his own choices and reactions rather than passively blaming something else.

Today, let's try to learn some of these lessons that Paul is telling us about.  Let's learn that we can be content whether we're full or hungry, in need or blessed with an abundance.  Let's remember that we can do anything and overcome anything through Christ.  Let's take action, and be in control of our lives rather than letting external forces dictate how we think, feel, and act.  As we learn to do so, relying on Christ, we'll learn more and more of the Lessons that Paul learned, and also be able to be content in any situation.  Let's ask God to teach us how to trust him, and how to make good decisions.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Matthew 27:51-54 -- On Drama and Focus

"And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God."
Matthew 27:51-54

An earthquake, and the dead coming to life.  (Not in a zombie apocalypse way, but actually being brought back to life with perfect, non-rotting bodies.)  Seems pretty dramatic, and I think at the time it was a clear and obvious sign.  Probably one of the reasons they felt the need to seal Christ's grave and post guards.  I was reading this today and wondering why we don't hear more about this resurrection part... I mean, wow. That's huge.  People coming back to life, and appearing to many.  I think the fact that it says many means that it was well-known at the time.  But you know, I think in context that Matthew got it right.  The story he was telling wasn't the story of the resurrection of all of those people, or a major earthquake.  The story he was telling was the story of Christ, and he kept the focus there, just mentioning these contemporary events because they were more clear signs of Christ's divinity.

Maybe sometimes we focus on the wrong drama as well.  We feel the earthquake and we see the dead coming to life, and we forget that the most important thing here is still (and always) Christ.  He's the reason for everything else, and because of him we have the chance to live and learn and become, and every other verb you can think of.  We have choice because of him.  We have the chance to change because of him.  He is the source of our hope.

Today, despite all the peripheral drama in the world, let's focus on what matters: Christ, who lived and died and lives again, for us.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Articles of Faith 1:10 -- On A Personal Reign

 "We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory."
Articles of Faith 1:10

The tenth article of faith has a lot of interesting things to say.  I like the clarification that the gathering of Israel is literal, that we need to build Zion, and that the earth will be renewed.  All fascinating ideas and seeds for further discussion.  The idea that struck me as I read this today and that I want to talk about is the idea of Christ reigning personally on the earth.

Often in our culture we think of heaven as far away... not just figurativally, but literally.  We think of heavan as some other place that we're goong to go... so the idea of Christ coming here to reign instead of us going there seems a little foreign.  Also really cool though.  I like that the earth will become a paradise rather than us just continuing to harm her/our environment until there is nothing left.

The greatest thing though is that chance to live with God--our savior--forever.  Can you imagine having the opportuity to learn the intricacies of the gospel from Christ himself?  To have a government not just loosely based on moral ideals, but led by God himself (here it might be good to temember that he is eternally loving and incorruptible)?  I love the idea of the whole thing.

Today, let's live so that someday we can see it all happen, and be here, with God. :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

D&C 101:44-47 -- On Trusting and Building

"A certain nobleman had a spot of land, very choice; and he said unto his servants: Go ye unto my vineyard, even upon this very choice piece of land, and plant twelve olive trees;
And set watchmen round about them, and build a tower, that one may overlook the land round about, to be a watchman upon the tower, that mine olive trees may not be broken down when the enemy shall come to spoil and take upon themselves the fruit of my vineyard.
Now, the servants of the nobleman went and did as their lord commanded them, and planted the olive trees, and built a hedge round about, and set watchmen, and began to build a tower.
And while they were yet laying the foundation thereof, they began to say among themselves: And what need hath my lord of this tower?"
Doctrine and Covenants 101:44-47

This is the beginning of the parable of the nobleman and the olive trees.  I think this last verse is the point in the parable at which we should realize something is wrong... whenever we start double-thinking what God asks of us.  Just like the servants in the parable, there is no way for us to know for certain the reason that the Lord asks what he does.  Noah building an ark on dry ground probably seemed insane too, just like in these verses building a tower to watch over some olive trees may have seemed pointless to these servants.  Maybe that is part of our humility lesson today... to realize that God can see farther and better than we can.  Reconsidering his commandments is never going to come out in our favor.  The Lord knows what is coming, and how we need to prepare.  He builds his lessons into our lives, preparing us in advance to be able to face the things that we need to face.  When we ignore him or think that we have a better plan, we're not seeing the whole picture.  He *always* is.

Today, if God asks us to build a tower, let's build it.  And whatever else he asks us, let's do it.  Let's stop wondering what good it is going to do and trust God that it *will* do some good.  We can't always see the details of God's plan, but as we have faith, everything will work together for good.

Monday, May 9, 2016

D&C 124:45-48 -- On Choosing Blessings or Cursings

"And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place.
But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest, because they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them.
And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord.
For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practice before me, saith the Lord."
D&C 124:45-48

I was reading this today and seeing some parallels to Moses and the children of Israel, which we talked about a few days ago (here).  We like to think that we've move past some of the rebellion of our past, but it's interesting to see some of this in a more contemporary setting.  Here God warns us that even if we go through the motions of doing as he asks (in this case, building a temple), if we're not actively listening to him and to the prophets that we are bringing, by our own works, cursings upon ourselves rather than blessings.  If we do the things that we should, then God won't let anyone move us.

Today, let's learn from the past.  Let's make sure that we're listening *and* doing the right.  Let's hearken to the Lord's prophet and not think that we can do without that kind of revelation and guidance in our lives... or think that because it comes from God's servant and not God's actual mouth that we can discount it as no better than our own ideas.  Let's break out of the rebellious pattern of the past and look to God in all that we do.  Let's try obedience instead of resistance.  It's a hard lesson.  We aren't often eager to learn humility and patience and faith.  But God's yoke is easy, and his burden much, much lighter than the burdens we lay on ourselves by not listening, and falling into pits that we've dug for ourselves by sinning.  Let's keep our side of the oaths and promises mentioned.  If we do, God will never fail to keep his. :)

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Alma 56:45-48 -- On Courage and Faith and Mothers

"And now I say unto you, my beloved brother Moroni, that never had I seen so great courage, nay, not amongst all the Nephites.
For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus.
Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it."
Alma 56:45-48

This is part of the story of the 2000 stripling warriors.  I really like this part because these kids who had never fought were brave, willing to fight to protect their lands, people, and faith, and trusted that they would be okay, because their mothers had taught them faith.  And in the ensuing battle, that faith sustained them.  While many, many people died, not one of these 2000 died.  It was a miracle that can be attributed not only to God, but to their incredibly faithful mothers who taught them not to doubt.

I think that our faith can similarly sustain us.  We might not be in a battle or have to defend our homes against an army... but sometimes we do have to defend our homes against the pervasive influence of the world. :)  And maybe our faith isn't going to guarantee that we escape death in battle, but it can guarantee that we survive the challenges and trials of life, and come out okay.  We can know, and trust in God, that no matter what comes, we will be okay, and able to handle it.  Even in the worst times, we can have that assurance that God will never abandon us.  Today, let's believe this message, often delivered by our mothers... and let's pass it on to others, including our children.  If we do not doubt, God will deliver us.  Faith, and courage, and "on, on to the victory!" (D&C 128:22).

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Psalms 147:4-5 -- On God and Numbering the Stars

"He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.
Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite."
Psalms 147:4-5

Sometimes, do we forget the utter, magnificent, overwhelming glory and power and majesty and brilliance of God?  He knows the number of the stars.  He knows their names.  His understanding is infinite.  I don't think we can even imagine the power and intelligence of God, but as our father, he works at teaching us, and slowly showing us more and more of him and the world and the universe as we are able to comprehend.  So, today, let's not forget what we already know.  Let's remember that glory and majesty and tender love that we have already experienced, and let's build on it, and get to know God better and better.  Someday, maybe we'll be able to hang out with him in person, and he can start teaching us to number the stars. :) 

Friday, May 6, 2016

2 Nephi 4:27-28 -- On Waking Up and Rejoicing

"And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?
Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul."
2 Nephi 4:27-28

I think we all wonder why we do what we do sometimes.  Looking back, it's hard to believe that we made such poor choices.  Nephi in these verses is going through that a little bit, and what I like about his wondering is that he points out some of the bad things that he has caused by making poor choices.  When he gives in to sin, he lets evil into his heart, which destroys his peace and causes guilt and suffering.  Anger does the same thing.  And so when he tells himself to wake up and get back on track, he mentions specifically rejoicing, which leaves no room for the enemy.  Lots of interesting ideas here.

When we sin, we open ourselves up to evil in a way that makes it easier to sin again, and we also lose the ability to feel perfectly content with our lives.  Anger disrupts peace.  The cool thing in the second verse here is that a couple of things can counteract that.  First, waking up... the whole "droop in sin" thing seems to be symbolic of sleep.  Sinning buries our souls under blankets, trying to smother and silence our consciences, and we need to wake up from that drowsy, permissive state and get back on track.  The other thing is rejoicing.  Sin likes to make us think that things are all bad, all the time, and that we need to escape from the badness through addiction or other temporary highs.  But if we wake up and take off the blinders of sin, we see that there is a lot of good in the world too, and we can add to it.  We're able to tap into the atonement, and forgiveness, and be our best selves again.  We can get our peace back.

Today, let's wake up and rejoice. :)  Let's remember God and how hard he works to help us, every day.  Let's work to help him as well, in adding to the good in the world.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Numbers 14:39-42 -- On Listening to and Following God

"And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly.
And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the Lord hath promised: for we have sinned.
And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the Lord? but it shall not prosper.
Go not up, for the Lord is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies."
Numbers 14:39-42

This is near the end of an interesting story.  The Israelites had finally gotten to the promised land from Egypt, and they sent scouts out to observe and see the land the Lord had promised them.  When the scouts came back, all of them save two (Joshua and Caleb) complained about it, saying that there were scary giants and that they would never be able to take it over, etc.  Moses and the other scouts told the people not to worry, because the Lord was with them, had promised it to them, and he would come through... but despite the reassurance, the people decided that they just wanted to go back to Egypt and resume being slaves.  Because of that, God said, okay, not happening.  Go back into the wilderness and live there for 40 years, until everyone who still wants to rebel and go back has died.  Your children will inherit the promised land instead of you.  And then these verses.

Knowing the greater story as we do, lots of the things that the Israelites did seem insane to us.  How could they dismiss all the miracles that had gotten them this far?  How could they want to go back into slavery?  Why couldn't they trust God after all of the proofs that they had already seen?  And yet, I think if we look at our own lives, it is easier to understand.  It's hard to get ourselves out of a rut.  It is hard to work rather than being taken care of, even if we have to give up some freedom for it.  It's hard to trust God that things will work out, no matter what miracles we've seen in our lives, because we still fear the future, and wonder what is in store.  We often want our version of the future and not God's... where things are easier, and we don't have to face the giant scary things.

In these verses, the Israelites try to solve the problem the wrong way.  They get up an army, and they say, okay, we screwed up, but now we are ready to do what God wants... we're going to go take over the land he promised us.  And Moses says, sorry guys, too late.  God has now asked that you return to the wilderness.  Are you going to disobey him yet again?  And instead of learning their lesson and really being repentant like they were pretending to be, we find out that they are again just trying to get things their way.  They go and try to fight the giants without the strength of the Lord, and they get beaten.

We try to solve our problems the wrong way as well.  We want to do things our way until it gets to the point where we make everything fall apart... and then when we go to the Lord for help, instead of doing as he asks, we often try acting like we never rebelled at all, and want to put our lives back the way they were before we munched them... again, not listening to God.  The lesson in these verses, and really throughout the scriptures is that we need to listen to God.  Hopefully we start learning to listen the first time, and if so... awesome.  God will help us fight our battles and we will enter the promised land.  But if not, then we still have to learn to listen the second time.  We wait, and teach our children to appreciate the promised land more than we did, and make the wilderness work. :)  Listening, even then, has rewards, both for our children, and for us in an eternal sense.  We are learning to be those Zion people, and helping others to be so as well.  But if we instead continue not to listen, demanding a future that we previously rejected, then we're still putting ourselves before God.

We're not the ancient Israelites, but we are their descendants, physically or spiritually.  As followers of God, we need to learn to... you guessed it, follow.  It doesn't necessarily mean that we'll miss the promised land.  God is incredibly merciful, and I think all of us find our way to promised blessings greater than we can imagine, if we're willing to trust God... even the 2nd, 4th, or 92nd time.  But let's learn from this story of our rebellious forebears.  Instead of being willing to endure slavery for three square meals, and wanting to run away from something harder to achieve, but better long-term... let's be bold and strong, and stand up, willing to face the scary giants, knowing that God is on our side.  Let's listen, and face our fears, or wait, as the Lord asks.  If we learn to put the Lord first, and stop fighting against him, he will be able to lead us to places we could never go alone.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

D&C 128:22 -- On Going Forward and Not Backward

"Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free."
Doctrine and Covenants 128:22

This is a good reminder of just how great (in many senses) the gospel is.  It's huge, it's awesome, it transcends mortal understanding at times.  It's bigger than we are, and yet, we have access to all of it as we grow and learn with God's assistance.  It's worthy of our praise, and the praise of the Earth and the dead.  (Although, they are really just spirits waiting for resurrection.  Calling them the dead is a little too zombie-ish for me.)

Today, let's remember that the gospel isn't just a little game that we can walk away from when we get tired of playing.  It's the underlying structure of the universe, of all of our lives, of hope, of salvation.  Instead of giving up, let's take Joseph Smith's advice here, and take courage.  Let's go forward in this great cause.  Let's see it through, and stick with God through the tough times, so we can learn and help and become more than we have ever imagined.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Philippians 2:5-9 -- On Thinking Like Jesus

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:"
Philippians 2:5-9

I like the ideas in these verses.  One of them is the idea of aspiring to something better, and that our aspirations don't have to diminish others.  Christ could see that trying to be like God didn't take anything away from God, but instead brought him fulfillment.  As our Father, God wants us to grow up to be like him.  It doesn't make him any less. :)

Another idea here is that aspiring to great heights doesn't mean pride and boasting and just being *that* good in order to get there.  It means humility, recognizing that we need to learn from others (especially God), obey rules and social guidelines in order to develop relationships (especially with God).  Part of becoming more than we are involves learning about others and how we can assist and help them.

These verses instruct us to think the way that Christ thought ("let this mind be in you..."), and so these ideas matter to us.  The idea that we can walk as Christ did, follow his example, and become more and more like God is not a fable or an impossibility.  It's the reality of life, and God is here telling us that it is something that we should aspire to... to someday grow up and be like our Father. :)  Aim high.  And then realize that aiming high doesn't mean thinking or acting like we're better than anyone else.  Aiming that high means being realistic about how we're going to get there.  We need help from others, and we need help from God... and we need to provide assistance to others as well.  This isn't something that any of us can do alone.

As we work to understand, love, and follow God, we'll all be blessed.  Blessed with the natural consequences of seeking God, as well as individual strength and blessings that we need on the journey.  As we humble ourselves and assist others, we'l develop friendships and learn more about how everything works.  We'll find out more about God by interacting with his creations.  Today, let's think like Christ, and let's remember that humility and love will help us climb higher and learn more.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Psalms 14:2 -- On Understanding and Seeking God

"The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God."
Psalms 14:2

I like the clear connection here between understanding and seeking God.  I think that is a very real connection in our lives.  The more we learn and understand about life, if we truly understand it on the deepest level, the more we will seek God.

We, of course, are often tempted to do the opposite.  We learn more, and unfortunately can start thinking that we are super cool and know it all, and start listening to God less.  Extra knowledge is a good thing, but pride isn't, and thinking that we're cooler and smarter than other people, and especially thinking that we're cooler and smarter than God... that's pride.  Pride gets in the way of almost anything, but it especially gets in the way of understanding and perspective.  We let our heads get so big that we can't see the reality in front of us.

Today, as we learn, let's remember that understanding goes hand in hand with seeking God.  If we think that our education is leading us in other direction, let's inject ourselves with a little humility, and get down on our knees and talk to God about it.  Obviously, we have choices to make and consequences to deal with in our lives, and God will never take that freedom away from us.  But before we walk away, let's kneel.  Let's remember to put God first, let's let go of our pride, and let's make sure we truly understand on the deepest level.  If we do, we'll never walk away from God, who is the source of all light and truth.  We'll instead walk towards him, seeking him with all of our hearts.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Psalms 81:1 -- On Remembering to Rejoice

"Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob."
Psalms 81:1

I like this thought.  Sometimes we get kind of down about God and the gospel.  We think that it is just too hard, involves too much work, and we start avoiding it because we feel overwhelmed or stressed about God's requirements.  I think that is definitely easy to do, but at the same time, thinking that way means that our focus is off.  God isn't our employer.  He isn't dumping piles of stuff on us and saying "Get it done, or you're fired."  Instead, he's our Father.  He gives us stuff to learn so that we'll be ready for things to come.  And there isn't a rule anywhere that we're forbidden to manage our stress levels, or say no sometimes.  As our father, God wants us to learn basic things like prioritizing and managing our lives.  The purpose of all of it is to learn joy.  We don't suffer through this life so that someday in a few eons we can have a happy eternity.  God is trying to teach us to be happy right now, in the middle of anything else that is going on.  He's trying to show us that with him around, we are *always* going to be okay.

Today, let's work on doing what we can, and then trusting God to help things work out.  Let's try not to overload ourselves, or get ourselves into holes that we can't dig our way out of.  Instead, let's take a step back and remember to sing, and to be joyful.  Let's rejoice in all that God does for us, and thank him.  I'm not saying that we should drop everything in the dust and neglect our responsibilities.  I'm saying, let's remember that joy *is* a priority, and let's build it into the things that we need to do, either by making the task itself fun, or by setting aside some time to notice the beauty in the world and be thankful for it.  Let's remember to rejoice. :)

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