Sunday, December 31, 2017

Revelation 3:19-20 -- On Opening the Door to God

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."
Revelation 3:19-20


Another good reminder that God doesn't chasten us out of anger or hatred, but because he truly wants to help us to be better.  He isn't like our earthly associates that sometimes want or expect more than they should, or want us to be someone that is beyond our capacity, or someone who it is actually impossible to be.  God takes our abilities into account, and just expects improvement and change.  He wants us to come unto him and to stop walking away and following things that will only harm us. 

If we let God into our lives by living in a way that allows us to hear his voice and have a relationship with him, then he will help us to become more than we are, and more than we thought we could be.  He's never going to force us, but walking away from that relationship has its own inherent consequences, like any relationship I suppose.  If we sever that connection, it isn't there when we want to fall back on it later.

Today, let's work on letting God into our lives, and on opening ourselves up to that relationship and that possibility, of not just self-improvement, but world-improvement.  Let's answer the door and have dinner with out Savior.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

D&C 101:5 -- On Chastening

"For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified."
Doctrine and Covenants 101:5


This is a hard one, because I don't think that anyone enjoys chastening.  I suppose though, that having faith that God knows what he is doing includes the good times and the bad times, and the times when we are doing right and the times when we are doing wrong.  If we don't listen to and allow God to correct us, then there is no way for him to help us improve.  Plus, it has to work both individually and collectively since we are part of each other and in many ways we stand or fall together.  We can't get farther by throwing others under the bus.

Today, let's work on enduring chastening, and instead of being angry that we have to change, let's try to be grateful that God is showing us ways to become better people, and a better society.  Let's listen and work on it rather than blowing it off or figuring someone else needs the lesson more than we do. :)

Friday, December 29, 2017

Galatians 3:28 -- On Being One in Christ

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."
Galatians 3:28


I like the idea here of being one in Christ.  He suffered for all of us, and gave us all a gift, and when we insist on believing that one group is better than another (usually our own group), we are disrespecting that gift, not to mention engaging in some pride.  Today, let's work on seeing other people as part of our own group... part of us, all partakers of God's gift, and his hope of salvation.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

D&C 23:1 -- On Sin Prevention

"Behold, I speak unto you, Oliver, a few words. Behold, thou art blessed, and art under no condemnation. But beware of pride, lest thou shouldst enter into temptation."
D&C 23:1


I like that God warns us about things even when we aren't doing anything wrong.  The idea of preventing sin rather than just treating it after it happens is something that can help us avoid a lot of pain and heartache.  ... If we listen of course.  Today, perhaps we should try to get ahead of the game and beware of pride (and other sins).  Let's try to be in tune with God and avoid those sin pitfalls before they happen. :)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Mormon 7:3 -- On Repentance

"Know ye that ye must come unto repentance, or ye cannot be saved."
Mormon 7:3


We hear about repentance a lot, but I think we also push it to the background and normally we don't really want to think about it.  It's effort, and hard for us to face the need to change.  Repentance is the way to salvation though, so it's good to hear the reminder that we need to make that effort.

Part of the problem is in the way that we think about it.  Repentance is scary because it is hard to change, and we think that we are losing part of ourselves.  Today, let's acknowledge the connection between repentance and salvation... and let's remember that it isn't about losing ourselves, but about finding, and saving, ourselves, through God's gift of repentance and the ability to change and improve.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Proverbs 3:19-23 -- On Wisdom and Safety

"The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.
By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.
My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:
So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.
Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble."
Proverbs 3:19-23


This is a good reminder that wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and discretion are all good things to learn.  I like the idea of boosting life, grace, safety, and protection, although I'm not sure if my neck necessarily needs to be involved. :)  I also love the idea that everything that God does, he does by knowledge, because that idea makes so many things seem possible... if we could just learn enough, we could get there someday. :)

Today, let's get some wisdom and safety, and knowledge and life, etc., with God's help, improve our lives and avoid some stumbling. :)

Monday, December 25, 2017

Psalms 35:9 --- On Rejoicing in Salvation

"And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord: it shall rejoice in his salvation."
Psalms 35:9


Joy and rejoicing in the salvation of the Lord seems like a really good focus.  We have so many reasons to be happy, and specifically to be happy about God.  Today, let's take time to be joyful and to consider our salvation... making sure that we are on track and taking advantage of God's amazing gifts to us, and qualifying for his blessings.  There are so many messages in the scriptures about joy... perhaps we should tap into a little of that. :)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

2 Nephi 25:26 -- On Rejoicng in Christ

"And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins."
2 Nephi 25:26


I love the idea here of rejoicing in Christ.  And it seems like that is what Christmas is really for--to rejoice in Christ, and to share that joy with others, including children. :)  Sometimes we get distracted from that central message, and it's okay to have joy in other things like gifts and family, etc. ... No Christmas guilt trips, I promise.  But even more so, I think it is important to realize that all of our joy comes in some way from God, and sharing that knowledge with others can bring joy into their lives as well. :)  Merry Christmas. :)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Philippians 4:7-8 -- On Thinking Good Thoughts

"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Philippians 4:7-8


Reading this today, I am wondering if part of the peace of God comes when we follow the instructions in the following verse.  Finding and seeing the good in the world is sometimes challenging, especially when we are used to focusing on the negative, but I also think that it lifts a lot of stress and mental exhaustion off of our shoulders, which helps to bring us peace.

Today, let's look to God and do things his way, so that we can participate in his peace.  And as part of that, let's try to focus on the good things around us and making things better.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Job 23:10 -- On Becoming Golden

"But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
Job 23:10


This is another powerful idea, and reminder... the idea that God makes us golden.  It isn't something that we can do by ourselves, because alone, we fall into trouble and temptation... but with God, we have the opportunity to get back up and try again, and *keep* trying until we make it.  It's kind of like going to the Olympics with unlimited time and unlimited tries.  We can keep practicing until we get good enough to win that gold medal... and the only way to lose is to stop, or settle for less.  I know, the analogy is flawed, especially because life isn't a competition, but I think it illustrates the fact that we still have to work at it to win, but it is God that gives us that extra time and those extra chances.

I love the fact that God knows our way so well that he can help us to succeed and to excel.  Perhaps a positive spin on the Midas touch. :)  Today, let's keep trying, with God's help, until we come forth as gold.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Psalms 18:35 -- On Gentleness and Greatness

"Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great."
Psalms 18:35


I love the idea of God's gentleness making us great... and thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense.  When we're chastised or criticized, often we react by becoming more reluctant to try new things, or start thinking that we're bad at stuff.  But gentleness, especially in correction, helps us to keep trying, and to learn and grow without feeling completely horrible or incompetent (even when we are), which gives us that chance to learn not to be. :)

Today let's be thankful for God's protection, and especially for his gentleness with us.  Let's try to take advantage of it and grow into our greatness. :)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Psalms 6:9 -- On Supplications and Answers

"The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer."
Psalms 6:9


This is a good reminder that we can have confidence that God hears our prayers.  It is tempting to stop praying sometimes as we experience doubts or fears about the reality of God, or about our own worthiness, thinking that God might not listen to us.  He always hears us.  I think that he also answers every prayer, though I knew that sometimes it doesn't see so.  Sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes the answer is that we need to study it out in our own minds.  Sometimes the answer is yes, but not now.

Let's try not to get into a genie mentality where we think that God just passes out wishes to us all, giving whether or not it is wise or destructive.  He is our parent, and his answers are designed to help us learn as well as grow and serve and love.  Let's realize that God will answer in many ways, and let's keep in contact with him, having confidence that, whatever we are, God will hear us.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Joshua 23:10-11 -- On Love and Participation

"One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.
Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God."
Joshua 23:10-11


On the surface this sounds almost like a threat, but of course it's actually a good reminder and warning to take heed, not because God will abandon us, but because we will abandon him.  It's like a radio station in a way.  God is *always* broadcasting, trying to contact us, and help us.  But we have to be willing to receive, and too often we fuzz him out, falling out of tune with the spirit and losing the signal entirely.  God is still there, and he still loves us, but we can't hear him or always feel that because we stop listening, and when we stop showing our love to him by tuning him out, we also can't take advantage of his blessings in our lives.

Sometimes we think that the fact that blessings are conditional makes God a bad guy, or that it means that he doesn't love us.  But blessings are set up as conditional for a reason... so they can help us be motivated to be better.  Just like a driver's license, or a license to practice medicine or law.  Those are blessings that require effort... not just to get them in the first place, but also to maintain them.  If we stop doing things the right way, then our licenses can be revoked.  They aren't revoked because someone hates us; they are revoked because we broke the rules, and we are endangering others or not meeting the minimum standard required in order to help them.  Blessings are similar.  They are based on laws, and obedience to the law grants blessings (D&C 130:20-21).  This verse is just explaining that the reverse is also true: disobedience revokes blessings.

God loves us and is willing to fight our battles.  He wants to have a relationship with us, and he wants us to have all the good blessings in our lives and for us to be happy.  He knew though, when he set up the world that we needed some structure and some rules so that we would work at getting better and not just blow everything off... or up.  So he set it up in a way where we had to keep doing the things that would eventually make us happy so that we could get blessings, and if we stayed on that track, it would lead to salvation.  And if we don't, we get some pretty immediate feedback that we are wandering off track, since we can't seem to tune into God anymore, and things that seemed easy seem hard all of a sudden. 

Today, let's remember our role in God's plan.  Let's not imagine that God will save us without our participation. :)

Monday, December 18, 2017

Proverbs 15:22 -- On Counsel

"Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established."
Proverbs 15:22


This is a good reminder that we shouldn't trust only in our own wisdom, but that we need help, sometimes from other people, but more especially from God.  It's hard, of course, because we want so badly to be independent and brilliant and perfect, but good to realize we aren't, especially *before* we do something crazy. :)

Today, let's counsel with the Lord in whatever we do, and make sure that we are making the best choices rather than just winging it.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Matthew 12:35-37 -- On Hearts and Words and Condemnation

"A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."
Matthew 12:35-37


This is interesting as contrasted with the Lord talking to the woman taken in adultery and saying to her "neither do I condemn thee."  He paid for our sins, and he is our judge, and yet he refrained from condemnation.  Indeed, as it says in John 3:17, "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."  God's work is a work of salvation and mercy, and although judgement will still come, any suffering at that day will not be because God does not love us, or because he lacked anything in working to help us and provide us with opportunities to repent and change.  It will only be because we didn't take him up on his offer of mercy and salvation and tutoring to know how to change our hearts.

Today, let's remember that our own hearts and words are our eventual condemnation, unless we learn to purify them.  And let's work for justification rather than condemnation by taking advantage of Christ's gift to us of that space between sin and condemnation--the space that gives us hope and a chance to change. :)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Psalms 109:26 -- On Asking for Help

"Help me, O Lord my God: O save me according to thy mercy:"
Psalms 109:26


 It is hard to ask for help sometimes.  We want to prove we can do it ourselves, or we don't want to admit our weaknesses or lack of knowledge.  Sometimes we think that asking for help equals failure.  And yet, being willing to admit that we need help actually proves to be our greatest strength sometimes... we still need to be willing to do whatever we can ourselves, but only God can step in and make that enough.

Today, let's not be afraid to ask for help from the only person who always has the power to deliver us.  We might not always get exactly the relief that we wanted, but we will always get help from God, if we are willing to believe and accept his presence in our lives.  Let's turn to the Lord in our need.

Friday, December 15, 2017

1 Samuel 30:8 -- On Inquiring of the Lord

"And David inquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all."
1 Samuel 30:8


Depending the context of our lives, God and war/destruction can seem quite foreign to each other, since God asks us to love our enemies and to turn the other cheek, right?  But as it says in D&C 6:36 "Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not."  War and battle are not exceptions, nor is anything else.  If we're trying to do the right thing and protect rather than conquer or enslave, we can still have the spirit and seek God's aid.  Here, David went to the Lord and asked if he should go after the people who burned the city and kidnapped his wives, and God told him to go.

I think that is the point here.  We can't assume that God's will is the same as our own, and that we know what the best outcome is.  David didn't know if he should pursue the army or whether he would ever see his wives again, but he was willing to ask God, and be open to his answer (rather than just pursuing without asking).  As we follow this example of David in our lives, we won't always get what we want, but we will be giving God a greater opportunity to guide us as we are open to his advice, and as we follow the advice we are given, our lives will be better than we could make them alone.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Psalms 78:5-7 -- On Law, Children, and Hope

"For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:
That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:
That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:"
Psalms 78:5-7


We were talking the other day about how the law pointed to Christ, and in that context I thought these verses were  interesting.  These verses have the idea that the law is there to bring hope to the next generation, and I think the ideas go together really well, because in many ways we are the children that need the hope and memory and obedience that we can learn from the law.  And of course, in other ways, the children that come after us need our examples and our lessons to help them know the law, and know *why* the law is there.

Today, let's set our hope in God, and not forget his works, and keep his commandments.  And as we do, and as we learn why all of that is not only the best thing to do, but also what we *want* to do, and how the gospel is really an expression of love between God and all of us, let's share those things that we learn with others who don't know and who need that infusion of hope in their lives. :)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

2 Chronicles 6:29-30 -- On Improving our Ways

"Then what prayer or what supplication soever shall be made of any man, or of all thy people Israel, when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief, and shall spread forth his hands in this house:
Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men:)"
2 Chronicles 6:29-30


This is part of the prayer Solomon said when he was dedicating the temple.  I like the part where he asks God to "render unto every man according unto all his ways."  I don't think that is often the way we pray, because we usually want our blessings no matter whether we're blessing others.  However, maybe it is something to think about.  We do know our own illnesses and sorrows, and God know them as well... along with the sickness and sorrow of everyone else.  He is uniquely qualified, even more than we are, to know how to bless and help us, and how the needs of all humanity intersect. 

Learning to understand others as God does isn't something that we can probably accomplish in this life, at least in exactly the same way... but we can at least take steps in that direction, and help others and amend our ways.  As we do, God can bless us for our obedience, and as we learn with his help to change our hearts and become more like him, the more our hearts will be in tune with his, and we'll begin to want what God wants, rather than yuckier things. :)

Today, let's thank God for his love and forgiveness, and let's improve our ways.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

D&C 84:43-44 -- On the Words of Eternal Life

"And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life.
For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God."
Doctrine and Covenants 84:43-44


This is a good reminder and guideline. :)  Sometimes we want to listen to certain commandments but not others.  These verses remind us that God's words are the words of eternal life, and if we want to keep the spirit with us, and live in ways that are consistent with our connection with God, then we need to live by every word. :)

Today, let's beware concerning ourselves, and learn to love and embrace the words of God.  Because how cool is that, anyway, right?  The words of eternal life?  That's a life quest right there, and God is offering them to us free of charge. :)  Let's recognize how valuable the words of God truly are.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Hebrews 7:19 -- On Law and Hope and Christ

"For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God."
Hebrews 7:19


This is from a chapter talking about Christ and the priesthood, and this part is saying something interesting... that God's law, specifically referring to the Law of Moses, made nothing perfect.  And that's a pretty strong thing to say, because isn't that the whole point?  God's law is supposed to bring us to him.  And yet, it is the hope provided by Christ that actually allows perfection.

Alma 34:14 puts it much better than I can: "this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God."  God's law leads us to Christ, and *Christ* saves us, by giving us the chance to keep working and learning even after we made mistakes, so that we can overcome those mistakes and still become (eventually) perfect.  He is the hope that allows us to reach for perfection. :)

This doesn't mean that we don't have to listen to God's law, of course, especially the law that Christ gave us after he fulfilled the law of Moses, but still, the law is there to point us to Christ.  That is its function... to bring us closer to God, to help us build that relationship and latch onto that hope.  Today, let's work on drawing nigh to God, and as we obey the law, let's look forward to the purpose and focus of that obedience--to bring us to Christ, and the hope that only he can offer us.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Proverbs 3:6 -- On Acknowledging God

"In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
Proverbs 3:6


The verse before this asks us to trust the Lord, so the pronouns here are clearly referring to the Lord.  I like this verse because it goes a little bit beyond the trust asked for in the previous verse.  Trust, and also incorporate into your life. :)  *Really* trust, like someone that you would give the keys to your apartment to, or let read your journal. :)

It's not God craving recognition, but we that need to learn to see God in everything that we do. Today, let's acknowledge God's hand in every part of our lives, and in return be richly blessed by his guidance in every area we think to look for him. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

D&C 110:10-11 -- On Humilty and Unity

"Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.
I know thy heart, and have heard thy prayers concerning thy brethren. Be not partial towards them in love above many others, but let thy love be for them as for thyself; and let thy love abound unto all men, and unto all who love my name."
Doctrine and Covenants 110:10-11


Christ tells us in the New Testament that he sends us forth as sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16), and also that we should be wise, yet harmless.  He doesn't want us to be the wolves or the serpents in the world... to kill or to deceive or manipulate.  Instead, he asks us to be humble.  In the view of the world this might seem like crazy talk, because being like wolves and serpents is how you get ahead.  Instead though. God asks us to be the sheep, and acts as our shepherd.

If we listen to his voice, God will lead us, and answer our prayers.  He gathers us as a group, helping us to learn from and help each other, rather than competing with and taking from each other.  It's a hard thing to grasp sometimes in our society because it is a completely different world view, except perhaps among our closest friends or family.

Humility is not weakness, and unity is not naive.  We don't have to step on each other to get ahead in the world.  We don't have to hate each other because we are different from each other, or factionalize and despise people that are different than we are, or even those with different values and priorities.  It's what God is saying about not being partial to our brethren... we have to learn how to be sheep and not wolves.  To be wise, but still harmless.  We have to learn what humility is *about.*  It isn't just not bragging. :)  It's seriously thinking that other people are cool.  ... And not just some of them.  It's knowing that we have things to learn from each other, and not deciding that one person is good and another is bad because of gender or race or religion or political or national affiliation... or anything else.  It's realizing that we're a flock, and allowing the Lord to lead us and answer our prayers.  It's learning to work together to make a better world.  Today, let's join together in working toward that.

Luke 6:21 -- On Hunger, Weeping, and Weakness

"Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh."
Luke 6:21


This is an interesting verse, especially as it contrasts with a later verse, Luke 6:25, which says "Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep."  To me, this seems like the warning that we shouldn't claim that all is well in Zion (2 Nephi 28:21)... because all is not well, and we need to recognize our shortcomings, and continue to improve. 

If we see the lack in our lives, then we can work at it, and look forward to the day when every emptiness will be filled.  But if we assume that we are complete, that we've reached the ideal or the pinnacle of our self-development, then we have reason to mourn, because we will eventually realize that unfortunately we aren't in fact all that, and realize (perhaps too late) that we are incomplete.

Today, let's recognize our imperfection, as individuals, as families, as groups, and as society as a whole... and let's not mourn because of our weaknesses.  Let's rejoice that God has shown us our weaknesses so that we can work on them and overcome them, because that is much, much better than thinking that we have none. :)

Let's look to God, and allow him to help us learn to be filled and whole, and to be strong and happy... not because we are ignoring our problems, but because we have learned to solve them.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Psalms 41:4 -- On Sin and Healing

"I said, Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee."
Psalms 41:4


This scripture is interesting I think because it shows us some different ways of looking at sin all in the same verse.  One way to look at it is an offense against God, and another is a wound to our own souls.  These things seem almost opposite, but in reality, they are both happening when we sin.  We are sinning against God's law, but in doing so, we hurt ourselves, not him.  His law is there specifically to protect and guide and teach *us* how to become better and happier and to grow into our potential, and so when we sin against God, we're really just destroying ourselves.

Thus, we really need what this verse has to offer.  Today, let's plead with the Lord to show us mercy, and to heal our souls because we have sinned against him.  Let's work at undoing the damage we have caused and on getting back on God's path--on being a force for good and mending and healing rather than evil and breaking and harming.  God's way *is* our way as well, and exactly what the deepest part of us has always wanted.  We just have to let God open our eyes so that we can see it.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Psalms 5:3 -- On Looking Up

"My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up."
Psalms 5:3


I like the idea of here of looking up.  Looking up is looking toward God, but it is also being aware, and seeing the bright side... not ignoring the darkness, but not being swallowed by it either.  Darkness exists, but God's light overpowers it, and allows us to see the joy in the world around us even through the dark times.  Optimism isn't a naive viewpoint when it is centered in God--it is faith in action, put to the test and applied to our lives, no matter our struggles.  Knowing God *is* joy, and love, and hope.

Let's look up to God, and raise our voices to him in the morning and at all times, seeing (and being) the good in the world around us, and nurturing it wherever we find it.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Luke 19:34 -- On Deferring to the Lord

"And they said, The Lord hath need of him."
Luke 19:34


This is from a story about Christ's disciples losing  a colt.  The owners asked why they were doing that, and this was the answer.  The owners apparently, once they knew that, said nothing additional, deferring to the Lord's need.

To me, this seems really cool... both to have the spirit close so that we can know what God wants, and also to understand that even when things get taken away from us, that it is all part of God's will, and it will work out in the end.

Today, let's trust and know that the Lord is in charge.  He has need of the things that we lose, and he is the reason behind all of our blessings.  Let's defer to his need, and trust that the things that happen are for a reason, and that God will make everything right in the end.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Psalms 37:4 -- On Delighting in the Lord

"Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart."
Psalms 37:4


I like this scripture... it is a cool message on the surface, telling us that as we learn to delight in the Lord, we will be blessed.  And on a deeper level I think that it is kind of a reward spiral, because if we "delight" in the Lord, that has to mean that God *is* one of the desires of our hearts, right?  So... as we learn more and more to *want* God in our lives, the more he will be there, in our lives, and it is kind of a self-rewarding action. :)  I know for sure that there are more rewards promised than just that, but even all by itself, it seems glorious.  That relationship with God is the most precious, and joyful, thing that we can develop in our lives.  Today, let's focus on it and get some delight into our lives. :)

Moses 6:34 -- On Learning to Walk with God

"Behold my Spirit is upon you, wherefore all thy words will I justify; and the mountains shall flee before you, and the rivers shall turn from their course; and thou shalt abide in me, and I in you; therefore walk with me."
Moses 6:34


I like this message from God, asking Enoch to walk with him.  These are some amazing things that Enoch is promised because God's spirit is upon him, and to me the important thing here is that we also have this potential.  Enoch didn't walk with God because God singled him out and blessed him more than anyone else.  He chose to follow God first, and gained his spirit as a constant companion... and then all of the blessings followed. 

It's true in the world that we have to work with different circumstances and obstacles in our lives, and sometimes it seems that a lot of people have shortcuts to different kinds of success (although of course we can't know without knowing about individual circumstance).  With God though, there are no shortcuts.  The prophets, and even Jesus Christ himself, had to follow the straight and narrow path, and learn precept upon precept, learning the basics before being able to learn anything more complex.  And the first step is always asking God... talking to him, getting to know him, and including him in our decisions and our priorities.  As we learn to do this, we begin our walk with God, and we have his spirit... which is the same way we need to go for miracles and salvation. :)  Today, let's start (or continue) down the path, learning a little bit more, so that someday we can be like Enoch, and be part of building a community like the one that he led.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Psalms 86:11-12 -- On United Hearts

"Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.
I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore."
Psalms 86:11-12


I like how the first verse pleads for God to help "unite my heart."  It certainly feels like our hearts are fractured sometimes, doesn't it?  Not necessarily  in a romantic sense, as when our teenage crush asks someone else out, but because our hearts are all over the place, wanting so many different things, only part of which is God.  When our hearts are united, looking to God in every thought, we're better, less fractured people, and all of those other things that we desire are either enhanced because God is included in that love, or dismissed, because they are not compatible with his love, in which case it is better not to have them in our lives.

Today, let's work on having united hearts, with God's help, so that when we come before the Lord to praise him we can do it with all of our hearts, and hold nothing back.

Friday, December 1, 2017

1 Timothy 2:8 -- On Prayer Everywhere

"I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting."
1 Timothy 2:8


Being asked to pray always is a common request in the scriptures, and it kind of goes along with praying everywhere.  Closets are mentioned in the scriptures specifically a few times as symbolic of private prayer versus public prayer, but I don't think that it actually has to be a closet. :)  I used to have some great conversations with God in my car.  I couldn't close my eyes for those, of course, but communication with God comes in many forms (including raising up holy hands), and since we need to pray always, and everywhere, it's okay to adapt sometimes.  (Though taking time when we can for more formal prayers where we kneel and bow our heads and pray in the manner that he asks shows additional respect to our Father.)

I like the "without wrath and doubting" part here as well.  It's not good to pray angry, just like it isn't good to have a discussion with anyone when we are angry.  In order to let the spirit in, we have to let the negativity out.  As for doubt, that's going to happen, but lots of times in the scriptures God asks us to doubt not, and overcoming our doubts is just as important as believing.  We need to be perfect in both things.  Of course, just like belief, we don't have to do it all at once.  It is a process, as we learn to have more faith and less doubt each day.  Doubting doesn't equal failure.  The very process of prayer is an exercise in belief though, and as we do the best we can when we pray to suspend our disbelief (and our anger), the easier it will be to hear God and feel the spirit over our own emotional static.  God asks us to overcome these things for ourselves, so we can hear him, not because he is afraid of our wrath. :)

Today, let's do our best to pray everywhere and always in whatever places we are, without anger and doubt.  As we are mindful of God in our everyday lives, we will be able to feel his mindfulness of us, and that will help us have his spirit with us everywhere we go as well.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

2 Nephi 24:7 -- On The Earth at Rest

"The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet; they break forth into singing."
2 Nephi 24:7


This verse is talking about the Millennium, and I love the idea of the earth being at rest.  The word unrest is one that we use a lot about so many things in the world, sometimes it is hard to even imagine what peace would look like.  I also love that the quiet changes so quickly into singing.  I think that is a clear sign that the quiet referred to isn't a quiet of desolation or post-apocalyptic mourning.  Instead it is the welcome silence of serenity, internal and external.

Today though, let's try visualizing some goals. :)  Let's imagine what peace would look and feel like in the world, and in our own homes.  And then, let's work to make it happen.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Jeremiah 7:23 -- On Being Well

"But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you."
Jeremiah 7:23


I really like this verse... the whole idea of the gospel is narrowed down here to God essentially saying that he wants us to be well.  That's really the whole point of all of it--if we stick with God, things will be well. 

What a great deal, right? :)  We get to be his people, and he gets to be our God.  Both sides benefit, because God *wants* us to be well, and this way he can help.

Today, let's accept God's deal in our own lives, and let's allow him to help us to be well. :)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

2 Nephi 9:48 -- On Holiness and Expectations of Amazing

"Behold, if ye were holy I would speak unto you of holiness; but as ye are not holy, and ye look upon me as a teacher, it must needs be expedient that I teach you the consequences of sin."
2 Nephi 9:48


This is Jacob speaking to the people of Nephi (the very beginning of the people who became the nation of the Nephites), and his words are interesting.  "If ye were holy I would speak unto you of holiness." ... And today it makes me think of all that we probably miss out on because we *aren't* holy.  Not just the imaginary sermon of Jacob that would be different here if he were speaking to a different audience, but the very different conversations and lessons that we could be sharing with God, if we were ready for them.  ... The opportunity cost of sin seems huge in that context.

So often we want something amazing from God... and what if the one and only reason that we can't have it is that we aren't ready?  ... Depending on what it is that we want that may or may not be true of course, but the idea of it is huge.  We have *so* much to gain by shaping up and being prepared for that next lesson.  God will teach us as fast as we are ready to learn... so today, let's focus on getting ready, and when we are, we can expect the amazing. :)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Galatians 6:7 -- On Sowing, Reaping, and Becoming

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
 Galatians 6:7


I think that we deceive ourselves, often, with the thought that we can somehow "get away with" something... anything.  We think that God is either unobservant or a pushover, or else that his punishment will be light and he'll let us sneak by with an A- or even a B+.

Whether it is Satan or our own justification though, it is assuredly deception.  God isn't grading on a curve, or even with generous letter grades and lots of make up extra credit.  This is all individualized education, and there can be no cheating or skating through based on the expectation of others.  What we often fail to remember is that we *are* the result of everything that we have sown in life.  It shines through in everything that we do and say and in the way we look at, and interact with, the world. 

Repentance is real, but it takes work, because it is ourselves we have to change... into a person who would not make that choice again.  We can't share or borrow talents or oil at the last day because these things take time.  Becoming who we are takes a lot of effort, and that is how we will be judged... not by some random essay question or a final exam with a number 2 pencil after cramming all night.  Our lessons have to be in our long-term memory, and our minds, and our hearts... written in our souls.  That's why God truly can't be mocked for incomplete justice or for failing to keep his word.  It might not happen on our personal preferred timetable, because God gives us all space to change and repent... but justice is *always* going to be paid. 

What about Mercy you ask?  Christ's mercy is also real and powerful, and none of us could be saved without it.  But Mercy doesn't rob justice.  It doesn't take me and say, oh, that's okay, you were doing F work, but you can pass the class anyway, and throw me unprepared into the next stage of my education.  Christ's mercy, instead, is a personal tutor, coming in and helping us to be better students, to learn the material anyway, and to become someone who *can* pass the class.  And of course, if the reason that we have been getting an F is that we've been skipping and focusing on bad things instead, well obviously we have to change that and come back to class before we can progress.

Does that mean we have to be perfect?  ... Well, yes.  But only eventually, not immediately... not even in this life.  There will be time to get there.  We just have to be on the path, working towards that day.  Today, let's do that.  Let's make sure we are sowing good in our lives... treating others as we want to be treated, and forgiving others as we would like to be forgiven.  Good things can come back into our lives too.  We just have to choose to do them, and to live them, and to become them.  Let's work on it.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Isaiah 1:4-6 -- On Spiritual Healing

"Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment."
Isaiah 1:4-6


The symbolism here of spiritual sickness being like physical sickness is a strong one, and quite appropriate.  I think we might take spiritual sickness less seriously *because* we don't see these physical manifestations... the putrifying sores, open wounds, serious bruises... but our spiritual wounds are not less ugly, or deadly, because we don't see them with our physical eyes. 

When we get physically wounded or sick, we typically don't just lie there and bleed or puke all over the rug.  We do something about it.  We take some vitamin C, or some cough syrup.  We get stitches or we go see the doctor.  We stay home to recover, or we alter our lives in other ways so that we can rest and feel better.

We don't *have* to suffer our spiritual illnesses either, and just lie there letting our souls shrivel up.  Just as we treat a physical sickness, we can also treat a spiritual one.  Turning to the Lord, reading our scriptures, saying our prayers, attending church, going to the temple, feeling the spirit in our lives.  These are all balms for our spiritual wounds.  Today, let's turn to the Lord for help with our spiritual ailments.  As we do, he will bind up our spiritual wounds and help us heal and grown stronger.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Mark 6:2-6 -- On Faith and Assumptions

"And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.
And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.
And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching."
Mark 6:2-6


This is an interesting story that teaches us a lesson about assumptions and preconceived notions, and also perhaps something about the nature of faith.  Christ, the savior of the world, went to his hometown and was extremely limited in what he could do because the people didn't believe in him. 

One lesson here is definitely that we need to allow people to change and grow and become, not ascribing evil intentions or childish limitations to them, even if they or their families have proven to be evil or limited in the past.  People grow up... and we ourselves would like God, and others, to recognize the changes we make in our lives--to let us edit out the bad and focus on the good person we are working to become.  And God does that for us.  He refuses to remember our sins when we change.  Unfortunately, we all too often remember and remind people of their past shortcomings.

Another lesson here is the overarching power of faith in our lives.  Faith isn't just believing that God exists.  It is believing that God has the power and the ability to do what he says he will do... and that he WILL.  It's hoping and loving and yearning for that perfect day.  It's cultivating happiness and joy, and helping people around us to be happy as well.  In the gospel, as with so many other things, attitude matters.  If we think that the world will be bleak, it probably will be, and unfortunately, if we expect others to be petty and to fail us, they probably will as well.  We of course all have our agency, but what we think of each other and expect of each other shapes how we act, how we feel about ourselves, and how others react to us.  If a teacher expects one student to do well and another poorly, it almost always happens *in spite of* actual ability.  We perform better at work if we like our bosses.  ... So many things in life are tied to how we think of and treat others, and faith is tied into that web.  If we don't believe in God, it doesn't at all mean that God doesn't exist, but it *does* mean that God isn't going to be able to work with us in our lives.  If we don't believe in and follow the prophets, it doesn't invalidate their power or their prophecies, but it definitely makes us unable to tap into that power.

I imagine that God is still trying to do mighty works in our lives, and marveling at our unbelief.  Today, let's work on turning that around.  Let's take the steps that we need to in our lives to go to God and to be reconciled to him.  Even if we can only desire to believe, let's jump in and read Alma 32, and start working on that experiment in our lives.  Let's work on believing in God and each other--allowing people space to grow and allowing God to exercise his power in our lives.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Psalms 136:1 -- On Love and Mercy

"O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever."
Psalms 136:1


There are 26 verses in this particular Psalm, and every single one of them ends with "for his mercy endureth for ever."  At first that made me laugh, but in thinking about it a little bit more, maybe this is just the appropriate number of times that we need reminding. :)  ... That God watches out for us, that he has saved us in the past, is saving us now, and that he will save us in the future.  Our ancestors and our descendants, and right now, this minute.

It reminds me of Romans 8:39: "Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  His mercy endureth forever, and no one can stop us from tapping in to that.  We just have to get on our knees and choose him over other distractions.  Today, let's do that, and thank him, and choose him.  As we put him first and learn to keep his spirit in our lives, we tap into that love... and that mercy that endureth for ever. :)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Genesis 21:15-19 -- On Opening our Eyes to Hope

"And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.
And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink."
Genesis 21:15-19


This is kind of a sad side-story about a woman and her son that were cast out and left to fend for themselves.  Hagar used up the resources that she had, and had no idea where to find more, and gave up hope.  ... Then God intervened and saved her and her son by opening her eyes.

I think that a lot of us get to a similar point in our lives... we're out of resources, and we can't see how to continue.  I don't think that Hagar was stupid to cry in that situation, and I don't think that we are either.  It's hard, and it's understandable to feel lost and to be sad in difficult situations.

These verses offer some hope though.  ... Just as God opened Hagar's eyes and showed her that there was hope, he can open ours as well.  The hope that he offered Hagar was not a hope that God created on the spot, but a hope that existed and was there, but she just hadn't seen it.  So it is with us.  We get so tied up in our own despair that we often don't see the hope that is there for us.  God can remind us.  Today, let's lift up our voices to the Lord, whether to cry or to thank or to ask or to beg... let's focus on that communication and tell the Lord how we feel and what we need.  And let's be willing to have our eyes opened to possibilities and solutions that we hadn't considered.  Let's make room for hope.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 -- On Editing and Becoming New

"Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
2 Corinthians 5:16-17


These are some interesting verses warning us of the perils of assuming that we know someone's story, just from things of the flesh.  What we observe or experience we often take as the full measure of a person, but we can't possibly take into account the spiritual aspect.

The absolutely amazingly cool thing here is that God allows us to effectively edit our stories as we go along... and that changes them, and changes who we are.  We can't know the ending, or even have a full understanding of every chapter until the story is all written and our lives are over.  That's the effective publish date.  Until then, we can and do change, if we are repenting and looking to God.

Doctrine and Covenants 58:42 is an incredible verse that fits with these ones.  It says "Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more."  The idea of God *forgetting* something seems kind of insane.  I mean, we KNOW that he is all-knowing... how could he not know our sins?  ... And that's the miraculous part of all of it, right?  This life is an in-between part in the midst of our eternity with specific parameters and rules, and it is set up *expressly* so that we can learn who we are and choose who we want to be.  The whole idea of it is choice and decision-making--composition and editing if you will.  We don't die after our first sin because God didn't want us to have to live forever with that first draft.  We get to learn better how to write, how to put out beauty into words... how to help and develop other characters and side plots.  If we get to chapter five and the hero is irredeemably lost already, we get to throw that chapter away and effectively start again... because God can help us figure out how to redeem the character anyway.  We don't have to rely only on our own wisdom and knowledge of how to construct a plot, because he is there, our eternally wise co-author, helping us to learn the craft.

That's why he doesn't remember our sins... because we rewrite ourselves, and we change, and we are different now.  We don't have to be those people anymore once we learn to be better.... just like people hopefully forget our scary selfishness as children as we grow into adults.  Today, let's remember to edit, and repent, and become better.  Let's take the opportunity that Christ has given us to become new.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

D&C 88:4 -- On the Promise of Eternal Life

"This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;"
Doctrine and Covenants 88:4


I really like the idea of a comforter.  Not the blanket kind (well, *also* the blanket kind), but the holy ghost that comforts us, and the promises of God which also comfort us.  It's a crazy world, and I think that we often need a little comfort.  Here, God helps us understand the confidence, assurance, and even power that we can have in our lives if we believe his promise, trust that we will have eternal life, and prepare for it, living in a manner befitting eternal beings. :)

Today, let's trust in God's word and in the promise of an eternity of life and happiness ahead.  Let's follow the gospel and do what we need to do to get there, accepting Jesus Christ's atonement in our lives, repenting, and keeping the spirit with us.  Let's read and pray and attend church, and walk God's path, having confidences not only in the existence of the promised blessings, but in our ability to achieve them, with God's help.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Luke 19:15 -- On Trading and God's Economics

"And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading."
Luke 19:15


This is part of the parable of the pounds, which is almost identical to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.  What struck me today about this is the idea of trading or bartering.  I think a lot of times I think of financial things as one way transactions, even though by their very nature they are two way.  Maybe just the mindset or something... buying things always makes me think that I will be inevitably cheated, and given something of little worth in return for something that it took a long time for me to earn.  (Likely selfish and paranoid; not saying this is a healthy outlook.)

The word trade here though sends my mind in a different direction... I think of bartering, of people sharing what they have, and everyone benefiting rather than it being one-sided.  Everything seems a little bit more Zion-like, with no one trying to squeeze extra profit out of me. :)  And, when I think of God granting us talents/abilities/strengths, which is what the money is symbolic of here, I wonder... why did he give us different things?  Why am I strong in some things and weak in others, while someone else might be the opposite?  Why do we have different numbers of talents?  The answer, as usual, is so that we could learn... but I think it is *also* so that we could trade.  I don't think that God has ever truly wanted us to be unequal, but his plan for helping us to be equal is giving us things to share with each other... and if we do, then we are all rich.  ... Maybe that isn't a sound economic principle, but in God's accounting, it works well.

To get to that point, we (I) have to stop thinking about other people as though they were always trying to take advantage, and instead think of them as part of our own group or family... people that we want to share with and help to be successful.  If we can catch that vision, then we'll never be resentful of what we barter with each other... whatever we have, we will gain more, and whatever they have, they will gain more.  The only way to lose (opposite from the lesson that War Games taught us) is not to play--to bury our talent, or lay our pound up in a napkin, never sharing it.

Today, let's think of each other as brothers and sisters, as we truly are, and let's reach out and share and trade and give and learn and work with each other so that we can all be rich, in many ways, and so that we can build Zion together.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

2 Nephi 4:15 -- On the Things of the Soul

"And upon these I write the things of my soul, and many of the scriptures which are engraven upon the plates of brass. For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children."
2 Nephi 4:15


In this verse, Nephi is in the middle of talking a little bit about why he is writing this record (this part of the Book of Mormon).  There are other records where he has written down the history of his people, but on these plates, he writes the more spiritual things, to help his children (and all of us) learn and grow in the gospel.

I love Nephi saying that his "soul delighteth in the scriptures."  That seems like something that all of us should probably do a lot more of.  The more we ponder and delight in God's word, the more it will become a part of us, and be there whenever we need advice or comfort.  Since the spirit can bring all things to our remembrance, if we have God's words inside us, the Lord can use them to speak to us, reminding us of the scriptures that are particularly applicable to our current circumstances.

Today, let's read and learn to delight in the scriptures.  There are so many layers of meaning and there is so much to learn--even after reading them many, many times, God still has much to say to us within them, if we will continue to study and ponder and pray about what we read.  Let's jump in and learn, and let's also do as Nephi did and write down the things that we learn, and the things of the soul, so that other people can benefit from our experiences as well.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Proverbs 15:28 -- On Answering Well

"The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things."
Proverbs 15:28


This is a good reminder that we need to think and study before we answer.  I know that I to often open my mouth without thinking or looking things up first and just spout out something I may have half-heard once... and then I'm wrong, and that's never good. :)

Even when it isn't a specific question that we are responding to, that space between prompt and response can help us a lot.  It can be the space that allows us to be more kind, more accurate, and less offensive.

Today, though we hear it a lot, let's take the advice to think before we speak (or type).  Let's stop ourselves when we are about to be cruel or unkind.  Let's stop ourselves before we say something inaccurate or offensive.  Let's leave that space open so that we can listen to God and take the time to improve our thoughts and actions. :)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Psalms 95:6-8 -- On Hearing God's Voice

"O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,
Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:"
Psalms 95:6-8


This is a good reminder that in order to hear God's voice, we need to be humble and soften our hearts.  It is so easy to get out of tune with God, and be getting static on all of our spiritual channels.  ... And too often we think that God isn't broadcasting to us for some reason.  But the truth is that his voice is always there, clear and sweet.  We just have to make sure that we are tuned in correctly... and these verses are about that... how to listen and be prepared to hear.

Today, let's kneel in prayer before God, and open our hearts to listen to his voice.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Alma 5:7-8 -- On Heart Changing

"Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.
And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, they were not."
Alma 5:7-8


Speaking of good things happening to bad people, these verses are amazing.  We're all bad people on some level at some time, right?  Sinners.  And to return to God, we have to be pure and clean and holy, and free of sin... but we're sort of bad, and we *wanted* to sin.  ... That's why we did it.  Part of repentance is not just changing our actions, but changing our thoughts and our *desires* ... our very natures sometimes.  And that is tough.  Because, yeah... the natural man *is* born that way sometimes.  We do want things that are contrary to God's plan.  And this verse gives us hope that we can find our way out of that cycle.  How?  God can *change* our hearts.  ... Not by force, of course.  That would invalidate everything that he stands for.  But he can change us, if we ask him to, and if want to be with him more than we want our sins... our souvenirs of Hell. :)

God offers us not only freedom from death and pain and suffering, but freedom from our own inborn limitations and sinful proclivities.  We don't have to just accept the bad parts of ourselves.  We can continue to learn and grow and eventually overcome them... whatever is getting in between us and God can be overcome, with his help.  And really, not just the sinful ones, but any limitations.  Maybe we aren't good at math.  God can change that too.  ... But whatever it is, obsession or mental block or lack, we have to work at it, and want our relationship with God more than we want it.  That's one reason that God is always asking him to put him first... because that's what it takes to get rid of the bad stuff.  If we want the sin more than we want God's help in overcoming it, he's not going to violate our free agency and force us.

Today, let's follow God's path as so many before us in the scriptures have done.  Let's pray to God and ask him to change our hearts.  Let's do our part and work to change our actions and our minds, and trust that God will help with our hearts as we put him first and want to change.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Alma 26:17-19 -- On Why Good things Happen to Bad People

"Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, and polluted state?
Behold, we went forth even in wrath, with mighty threatenings to destroy his church.
Oh then, why did he not consign us to an awful destruction, yea, why did he not let the sword of his justice fall upon us, and doom us to eternal despair?"
Alma 26:17-19


I've heard a lot of discussion about, and have discussed here, the question of "Why do bad things happen to good people?"  That's an important question, and something that it is important to know as we immerse ourselves in the gospel and a relationship with God.  We have to know why we are here, and what to expect.  The question posed in these verses I think is just as important, but something that we discuss less often... and that question is "Why do good things happen to bad people?"

These verses are referring to a time in the lives of the men talking where they were trying to destroy the church, and at the time of these verses they have changed their ways and gone on missions to try to make things right with God.  They turned their lives around, and they worked hard to become better men than they had been before, and make up for the evil they had done.

So, the answer to both question is really the same, right?  None of us is all bad or all good yet.  God gives us a lifetime to prepare to meet him.  He gives us space and time to repent and change.  That not only means that we are going to do bad things in our lives, and hopefully also good things as we learn and repent and grow, but that other people in the world with us are going to experience those bad things when we do them.  In order to give us space to repent, other people sometimes have to suffer.  And in order for other people to have space to repent, sometimes we have to suffer.  (And of course we learn a lot through trials too, so it is part of the plan.)

I'm not saying that I understand all of the suffering in the world and why God stops some things and not others, or saves one person and not another, etc.  But I do know that it all works out in the end, and that our blessings and joy in eternity will swallow up any level of pain and suffering in this life.  God *will* make things right, for everyone.

Today, instead of worrying about why God allows our suffering, let's switch up our perspective, and think about why he doesn't punish our sins.  ... Eventually, all of us are going to firm up into the good and bad camps.  (Hint: choose the good side.)  ... Judgment day will come, but first God allows us all some time to learn, to repent, and to try, try again.  Let's take full advantage of that opportunity, and let's get in there and learn to become better and kinder and closer to God.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Hebrews 4:14-16 -- On Boldness, Humility, and Grace

"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Hebrews 4:14-16


I love the idea of coming boldly to the throne of grace... and I think that we can.  It requires sincerity and repentance of course, and humility.  I don't think that boldness and humility are mutually exclusive.  I think that humility here is recognizing how much we need God, and not just assuming that we "deserve" God's grace in our lives, but the boldness is having a close relationship with God and knowing that if we love him and he loves us that it's okay to ask... just like I could ask my sister for money, or a big favor, or a kidney.  It wouldn't be done lightly, but if I needed something that she could provide without harming others, she would do so... I know that because we have a relationship, and I love her, and she loves me.  We can have a relationship with Christ that is like that--because he loves us and we love him, we know that he will help us obtain mercy and grace to overcome our sins, and he knows that we will repent and work to change and do better.

Today, let's look to Christ and remember that he *does* know what it is like to be in our shoes.  In all points he was tempted as we are.  Let's develop that relationship with him that we can because of his great compassion and love and understanding of what it is like to be who we are--and let's do our part as well, to change and grow and make his sacrifice and suffering worthwhile in our individual case.  He did what he did to make a difference in our lives, as individuals.  Let's accept his help and find our way back to God--asking boldly for the help that we need, and being humble and repentant in order to be worthy of his kindness and grace.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Abraham 3:25 -- On the Classroom of Life

"And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;"
Abraham 3:25


The idea of life being a test was well established before it actually had people on it at all.  I think that is an important thing to know and remember because it helps us to remember that this whole life thing isn't just an accident or a side effect of some other purpose.  We were the central purpose, and the design of the world is meant to measure us.

Today, let's not use this fact to give ourselves a super-powered case of test anxiety, but let's take the purpose of the world seriously and think about what it means to be here, and what we need to learn from God in order to progress further.  God isn't testing us for fun, but for our benefit, so that we can learn to be more like he is, and get that foundation that we need before moving on to more advanced topics. :)  Let's remember, honor, and love God, our true teacher, and do as he asks.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

D&C 1:32-33 -- On Casual Disobedience

"Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven;
And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts."
Doctrine and Covenants 1:32-33


Following God's commandments and repenting is sometimes hard.  It's hard to get our bodies, minds, spirits, emotions, etc. all working together toward the same goal.  Quite often in life we feel pulled in a lot of different directions.  And so sometimes we go the wrong direction, or intentionally choose something wrong.  It's scary to think of losing the light that we already have because of that.

This is a *super* important warning for exactly that reason though... because our dedication to God and what he is helping us become is too casual, and we forget that we can lose that... that we will eventually drive God's spirit completely away.  It's especially serious because it is a natural consequence--the dimming is never God pulling away from us.  It is us pulling away from God.  When we do, of course our lives are going to be darker.

Today, let's take a good look at our lives, and think about what we really want.  If we want light and clarity, then the sometimes-hard work of obedience and repentance is worth the effort.  It is the way to peace and comfort in Christ.  It is the way to feel good about ourselves and also the way to being filled with the love of God for everything and everyone else. :)  Let's choose God, and stop being casual about disobedience before we lose everything.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Jacob 6:6 -- On Not Dying

"Yea, today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts; for why will ye die?"
Jacob 6:6


Having death listed as the consequence for not listening to God might seem kind of "fire and brimstone" extreme.  After all, if we do something wrong, it isn't like we immediately drop dead.  I think that this is important though, perhaps because we don't take the consequences of our actions very seriously sometimes.

The verse, of course, is talking about spiritual death rather than physical death... but just like a slow, lingering disease, our progressive alienation from the Spirit of God can destroy us.  Conversion to God's gospel isn't something that we can do once and be saved forever.  It is a change in ourselves that has to be nurtured and sustained and accomplished over time, as we grow into better people, closer to our potential.

Like bad physical habits that make us unhealthy, bad spiritual habits can hurt us severely over time.  Not saying our prayers, or not going to church, or not reading our scriptures (for instance) are things that can starve us spiritually.

Today, let's choose not to die.  Let's soften our hearts, turn away from our wickedness, and live (Ezekiel 18:27-28).  Let's retune our spiritual senses so that we can once again hear the Lord, and grow in knowledge, understanding, and goodness with the Lord's help.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Habakkuk 2:9-12 -- On Doing things the Right Way

"Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil!
Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against thy soul.
For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.
Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity!"
Habakkuk 2:9-12


These verses are about doing things the wrong way.  It isn't bad to want to be delivered from evil, to build a town, or to establish a city.  But someone who accomplishes these things in an evil way is under condemnation.  It's a further reminder from God that the ends do not justify the means. :)

I think that this lesson applies to everything that we do.  If we aren't doing things the right way, then we are sinning against our own souls, and our iniquity will be as obvious as though the walls and structure of our houses were testifying against us.

Today, let's take this lesson to heart.  Let's only set our nests as high as we can set them righteously. :)  Let's establish communities that don't have to be supported by iniquity or blood.  In our everyday lives, let's not be willing to sin to look better or to "get ahead."  Let's look unto God in all that we do, and do things the right way: the Lord's way.  It might not be as fast or as exciting or profitable, but it will always, always, always be better for our souls and our ability to communicate with God, and our ability to help the people around us.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Romans 8:16 -- On Being Children of God

"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:"
Romans 8:16


The statement that we are the children of God is a powerful idea in terms of our potential.  Lorenzo Snow often said "As man now is, God once was," which is intriguing by itself, that God could progress from our level to his.  But he went further and added "As God now is, man may be.”  The idea that we, as children, have the potential to grow up to become like God, and that it wasn't just a one-time miraculous thing that God did because he is, after all, God... that's amazing.  It makes sense on a lot of levels, because we know that Jesus Christ lived on Earth as we do, though he is a God, but it is also very humbling, because let's face it... we are totally not even close to being in his league.

That's why Christ did what he did though, right?  To give us time and space to work up to his level.  To repent and improve, so that someday in the eternities we *will* be able to be like him.  Only he could live a perfect life, but because of him, all of us still have a chance to become perfect.  (Don't worry... not soon.  Just someday.)

Today, let's remember our divine potential, and let's not give up or throw it away.  Let's work on being better than we are, getting closer and closer to who we truly want to be, with God's help.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Matthew 20:15 -- On God's Wages

"Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?"
Matthew 20:15


This verse is part of the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, and it is interesting because the ideas here are at odds with the world in some big ways.

In the story, the owner of the vineyard (symbolic of God) goes out to hire people really early in the morning, and agrees to pay them a certain amount.  Basically a day's wages.  Then, a few hours later he goes back to hire other people, and several more times he goes back, promising all the new workers that he will pay them "whatsoever is right" (verses 4 and 7).  The last workers only worked for an hour.  At the end of the day, everyone lines up to be paid, and the owner pays the people who only worked for an hour a full day's wage.  The other people in line, presumably, all perk up at that, thinking wow.  If those guys got so much, then I must be getting a lot. :)  But the owner pays everyone the same amount.  ... So the people who worked the whole day start grumbling, saying "These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us" (verse 12).

Living in the world, the story can seem pretty unfair.  We're kind of programmed to think that more work = more money, right?  And if some of those people only worked an hour, then they should only get an hour's worth of the daily wage.  Or, if the guy wanted to be generous, then the people who worked all day should get a lot more.  And I think that the parable is meant to challenge exactly these beliefs.

What it makes me think of today is the Israelites gathering manna in the wilderness. They could only gather as much as they could eat in a day.  If they gathered more (except before the sabbath), it would rot.  Everyone was given what they needed to live, and no one got extra.  I think there might be a similar message here--that God is willing to provide for all of us, but that he *wants* us to be equal.

There are a lot of variables in this story that might make us feel better about it.  Why wasn't everyone ready to be hired at the beginning of the day?  If it's just laziness then we want to complain about the unfairness, but if they were really trying their best, and no one was willing to hire them, then what?  What if they were family?  What if the guys who only worked half the day were unable to work because of illness or because they had to attend a funeral?  What if without a full day's wage people would suffer and starve?  And, perhaps biggest of all, what if *we* were not the ones who worked the whole day, but the ones that only worked an hour?  In a spiritual sense, are any of us really the people who worked the whole day?  Don't we all need some mercy?

In the end, it is God's decision about what to do with his "wages," and if those wages are salvation or eternal life or even just blessings, do we really want to deny others those things because it isn't "fair"? Today, let's make sure our eyes are not evil because God is good.  Let's work on adjusting our perspectives, and try to rejoice in other's people's happiness and good fortune.  Things aren't often going to be fair in life, but as we help and lift each other, we can make things better, and share what we have so that others don't have to suffer or starve.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

2 Thessalonians 1:4 -- On Patience and Faith

"So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:"
2 Thessalonians 1:4


This verse (and several other verses throughout the scriptures) mentions patience and faith, and it seems important that we consider those two ideals together.  Sometimes we think of faith as a kind of "if you build it, he will come" sort of a thing... if we believe hard enough, it will happen.  But I don't think it *is* that.  In life, if we clap really hard, sometimes tinkerbell still dies, and that's hard to accept as we grow up.  It's why we often prefer fantasy, because there the endings are almost always happy, and when they aren't, it is happening to someone else and we don't have to necessarily address it.  It's a story that we can learn from without losing our perspective by the all-too-personal devastation of things happening that we didn't want to happen, and we don't feel obliged to solve the problem, or feel guilty for not doing so.

First I think we have to realize that God isn't a fairy tale, but then we have to learn to balance that with the bleakness of non-fiction.  And I think *that* is where faith comes in.  It's that trust / hope / confidence that God makes possible: the idea that reality can actually be good... that "facing the truth" doesn't have to mean cynicism.  That things will get better, and that they will work out in the end.  And that belief that there is good at the core of the universe, and that its name is God, is what gets us through the rest of the scarier non-fiction times.  It's what helps us endure persecutions and tribulations, and unfairness and things happening totally not the way that we wanted them to.  Because we know that the whole universe is working for our good, even when we can't exactly see how.  We know that God loves us and that things are going to be okay... somehow, somewhere, we don't know how, but we know they WILL.  Because God.

Today, let's tap into that faith that includes patience.  Let's remember to put God first, and let the hope that he offers rise to the top of everything, overwhelming our cynicism and doubt.  Let's do things his way, knowing that he is leading us to Good, and away from all of this bad stuff.  Let's trust in that non-fiction happy ending that we can't quite see yet, and keep moving toward it.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Matthew 25:16 -- On Talents, Unity, and Improvement

"Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents."
Matthew 25:16


I like the word "traded" here, because it reminds me of the whole idea of unity.  Learning talents from each other, sharing, and inspiring each other to be better and to become closer to God, that's the whole idea of the gospel and the Zion ideal of creating a perfect society with "no poor among them" (Moses 7:18).

The guy who buries his talent seems today like the isolationist type who isn't willing to engage in the community or become part of it.  ... And that's a tough one for me, personally, because I kind of like the hermit life. :)  It's a good thing to remember that we need each other, and that we are all brothers and sisters and part of something bigger than ourselves.

Today, let's be willing to be open with other people, to trade and share and love and give.  Let's be examples of good disciples of Christ by showing our love for others and learning from God and from each other, as we continually strive to improve and embrace the gospel more fully.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Exodus 29:45-46 -- On Hanging Out With God

"And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.
And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God."
Exodus 29:45-46


The second verse seems to say here that one of the reasons that God brought his people out of Egypt and helped them is so that he could dwell among them.  ... Which I think is remarkably cool.  God wants to hang out with us.  He loves us that much.  He knows we are imperfect; he knows we're flawed.  He loves us anyway, and he wants to help us work our way up to the perfection thing.  He wants to help us lose the flaws that trouble us and cause us pain.  ... So that we can hang out with him.

Today, let's remember that God loves us, and he wants us all to be able to spend time (and eternity) together.  Let's do the work now to communicate with God, keep his spirit with us, and clean up our lives, so that we can become better and live that dream.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

D&C 3:1 -- On The Designs of God in Our Lives

"The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught."
Doctrine and Covenants 3:1


I really like this.  It is good to know that God's words and plans are sure.  I think this is obvious to us sometimes, because after all, God knows everything, past present future... all of it, and so everything is already taken into account.  Perhaps the biggest place where we sometimes doubt is with regard to ourselves.  We think that God's plan for *us* can be frustrated... which is a scary thought sometimes.  We think that we've screwed up enough that God can't save us, or that we've already lost heaven, so really, why try anymore?

And yet, God's plans cannot be frustrated.  They are still there, firm and steadfast.  God won't force us to accept his mercy and salvation.  We can choose to walk away from him and deny him.  But if we ever turn around, he's still there, and our mercy and salvation are *still there,* waiting patiently for us to realize how desperately we need them. 

It's not easy to walk back, mostly because it forces us to change our hearts and our minds, and that's painful, and often requires God's help in some big ways... but hard as it is, the way back is never barred to us, as long as we can muster up the emotional and spiritual courage to turn around and accept the love and God is offering us.  ... And it's not only hard.  It's also joyful and hopeful and blessed and freeing and filling.  It's wholeness to fill our holes, and balm to soothe every pain.  We *are* salvageable, and worth saving, and God pleads with us to accept his help.  Today, let's allow God's purposes and designs into our lives, and start freeing ourselves to become so much more than we have been, walking in God's eternal, unchanging, and non-frustrated paths. :)

Friday, November 3, 2017

D&C 101:4-5 -- On Accepting God and Chastening

"Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son.
For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified."
Doctrine and Covenants 101:4-5


Chastening isn't something that we typically look forward to, or really ever want to see.  And yet, it is an essential and necessary part of God's plan.  We're imperfect, and in order to overcome that little snag, we have to learn a lot and change a lot, so that someday we *can* be cool and perfect versions of ourselves rather than the less cool and at least slightly corrupt versions that we are now. :)

Abraham's trial struck right to the core of who he was, and challenges all of the things that he valued.  He had to learn in that trial to choose God over ALL else... even his core believe that human sacrifice was wrong, having had a very personal and life-changing experience with that himself.  Even his son, that he has waited and prayed for, and who was a miracle in his life.

Sometimes there are things that we want to hold back from God.  Habits, or people, or toys, or desires, or things that seem tied to our very sense of self.  And we too have to figure out in our lives whether we are willing to put the Lord before all else.

It's not easy or fair in the short term, and it really isn't supposed to be.  What it *is* supposed to do is show us what we value, and once we've seen that clearly, to give us the opportunity to switch our first loyalty over to God where it belongs.  ... God doesn't force us to do so, still.  He just asks us if we will.  It's the long term that God is looking at, on our behalf, and *that* will be much better if we learn to put the Lord first.

Sanctification is the process of becoming (or being made) holy.  That can't happen without some chastening, and some good decisions on our part to accept God as our top priority and to follow his plan of happiness.  Today, let's work on readjusting our priorities, and making sure that nothing at all in our lives is getting in between us and God.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

D&C 138:50-52 -- On Overcoming the Bondage of Death

"For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.
These the Lord taught, and gave them power to come forth, after his resurrection from the dead, to enter into his Father’s kingdom, there to be crowned with immortality and eternal life,
And continue thenceforth their labor as had been promised by the Lord, and be partakers of all blessings which were held in reserve for them that love him."
Doctrine and Covenants 138:50-52


I really like the phrase "continue thenceforth their labor."  Death seems like such an end sometimes... insurmountable obstacle.  And yet, because of Christ's suffering and resurrection, we will be able to see out spirits and bodies reunite, never to be divided again, and we will be able to continue our labor.  ... Such a cool phrase, making it seem like we just pick up where we left off, continuing our journey.  I find that comforting... maybe because I still feel so unfinished. :)  I have a lot of work to do.

Today, let's thank God for the atonement, and Christ's victory over death on our behalf.  Let's look forward to the resurrection day when we will return to ourselves, and continue our work.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Ephesians 6:10-12 -- Combating Spiritual Wickedness in High Places

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
Ephesians 6:10-12


This is some good stuff. :)  Scary too.  It is a great reminder that even after all we can personally do, we need the extra strength and protection of God, as our armor, protecting us from so many things that we could never face alone.

I think that is why God asks us to put him first, and to learn to love other people as the commandments that stand above all others... because we need God and each other to stand up to forces beyond our control, and without that armor, we make ourselves vulnerable to Satan's tricks and traps, designed perfectly to play on our individual weaknesses.  God teaches us how to withstand those things, and he helps us to stay strong and stand firm, even against the pervasive evils all around us.

Today, let's be strong in the Lord, and help others connect to the Lord, and find that same strength, as well.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

2 Nephi 3:2 -- On Blessings and Regular Maintenance

"And may the Lord consecrate also unto thee this land, which is a most precious land, for thine inheritance and the inheritance of thy seed with thy brethren, for thy security forever, if it so be that ye shall keep the commandments of the Holy One of Israel."
2 Nephi 3:2


The dependency here "if it so be that ye shall keep the commandments" is worth noting, not just in the context of this particular blessing, but also in the context of almost all blessings from the Lord.  God gives us free blessings all the time... life itself, the beauty around us, friends and family, etc., but even those blessings have to be noticed, cultivated, and appreciated to really impact our lives.  Many other blessings are like this... dependent upon our obedience.  Like the parable of the talents, it takes effort to maintain the gifts that God gives us, or we lose them.

Today, let's be willing to put forth the effort to maintain and develop the gifts that God gives us.  If we can, let's take it even further and work for some new ones too. :)  ... And help others recognize and develop their own gifts, talents, and blessings.  Let's remember that this is a participatory gospel, and that all that we are is not static.  We can improve and progress... or devolve and regress, at least spiritually. :)  Let's stick with the Lord, improve our relationship with him, and keep preparing for that perfect day. :)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Philippians 3:8 -- Christ versus Everything Else

"Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ."
Philippians 3:8


This reminds me of King Lamoni's father who said to God "I will give away all my sins to know thee" (Alma 22:18).  I think the point of both verses is that whatever we give up or lose for God is worth it.

We have a hard time learning that lesson I think... the very first lesson.  Commandment #1.  Put. God. First. ... Right?  And yet... we so often think that God should bend his will to *ours* rather than the other way around.  We think that he should accept us as we are, instead of changing ourselves to become worthy of heaven.  We somehow think that God is expecting too much of us, or that he should let our sins (or weaknesses, or preferences) slide because that's who we are, and he made us that way.  ... And yet, God gave us weaknesses not so we could hold onto them with all of our hearts, but so that we could learn to overcome, to triumph, to turn our weaknesses into strengths.

Trying to beg God to let us into heaven as we are is kind of like begging someone for a job as a rocket scientist when the only thing we know about rockets is a model that we started to put together and then gave up on back in 3rd grade.  ... Being prevented from having the job is basically irrelevant, because even if we had it, we wouldn't have any idea what to do with it.  In order to get or keep that job, the preparation for it would still *have* to happen.

Preparation for heaven has to happen too.  No matter how loving and kind God is, we still *must* get ready for it.  Today, let's stop begging God to let us bury our talents or let us walk into heaven dirty and imperfect.  Instead, let's let God teach us and help us to learn and grow and prepare.  Let's choose to accept him and put him first in our lives.  Let's allow him to change our hearts and make us worthy.  Let's give away our sins, and let go of the things that stand in the way of that total commitment to God.  Whatever we lose, no matter how central to our lives it seems, is worth it.  As the verse says, it's all basically dung compared to winning Christ in our lives.  *He* is what matters, and every single thing that we lose will be made up for many, many times over by that relationship with God.  ... Let's try to remember this time. ;)

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