Tuesday, January 31, 2017

James 2:17 -- On Bringing Faith to Life

"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."
James 2:17

Dead faith seems like a really bad thing, doesn't it?  All the more so because it seems from this verse that it died of loneliness.  I think it is a good reminder that faith can't stand alone, or be one sided.  God is not a genie, and we don't pray to get our wishes granted.  We are part of the equation.  We not only have to ask, and believe, but we also have to do.  We have to examine, study, figure out, and put in the time.  Too often we ask for things that we aren't willing to invest in or do anything about.  We pray for good grades but don't study, or we might pray for money, but not be willing to work for it.

I'm not saying that belief or faith is pointless by itself.  I think sometimes we need a place to start.  We can start out with belief, or start out with actions, and those are both good things.  Alone, they are dead, but I don't think that it is the old, shriveled and used up type of dead.  I think it is more the seed type of dead.  You're never going to grow a plant with a seed sitting on a shelf... but once you unite it with something else, so it isn't alone anymore, and you *do* something with it... work at planting it, watering it, and helping it to thrive... then it can live.  And our faith is like that sometimes.  It's dead and dormant within us, but still valuable because of the potential there.  We just have to put it into practice... plant it and let it grow, kind of like Alma 32:28: "Now, we will compare the word unto a seed."

Today, let's take our dormant faith and plant it and help it to grow.  Let's act on our beliefs, and work with God to fulfil our potential and help others to do so as well.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Psalms 51:17 -- On Being Humble Enough to Ask for Help

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
Psalms 51:17

I think we get ahead of ourselves a lot and we think that we know what God wants, or we think we know the way the world should be, or other people should act, or sometimes we assume that we are the exception to some commandment or guideline that God has given us.  And I'm not saying here that those things are unknowable, or that there aren't exceptions, or any of that.  I do think though that there are fewer exceptions than we assume for ourselves, and I think we err quite often on the side of thinking we know more than we do, especially when it comes to God.  Sacrificing that pride and self-assurance in order to ask God for help is often a big hurdle to overcome.

A testimony of, and faith in, God is largely our accumulated knowledge that God is right.  There is more to it of course, but that is a large part.  We have faith in his perfection, in his ability and commitment to keep his word, and in his love and mercy.  We trust that we should do as God asks because he's all-wise and knows what he is talking about. :)  And, at least we think, so do we.  And maybe that is where we go wrong.  Instead of studying it out in our minds and then asking God if it is right (D&C 9:8), we too often just assume that we already know.

God will tell us what he thinks about things if we ask him, but in order to do so and get answers, we have to do the work of studying, searching, preparing, and having an open mind so that we can accept whatever answer we get.  We sometimes pray for an answer, but are unwilling to hear anything other than what we already think... and when we ask in that way, we're already preventing ourselves from being willing to hear the answer.

As we study things out, we have to examine all sides, not just read opinions that agree with our own.  We need to read the scriptures on the subject, and we need to have some patience as well.  Sometimes we're asking the wrong questions, and it takes time for God to show us that.  God told Joseph Smith that none of the churches were right, and similarly, I doubt if he is going to tell us which political party is correct. :)  The whole idea is for all of us to learn to be on God's side, not for him to take sides in political turmoil where we are largely "all wrong together" (Joseph Smith--History 1:10).  His opinion is the one that matters.

It's not easy to admit that we don't know the answers.  It's hard to humble ourselves and ask God for help.  I definitely have a hard time with it, and I often worry that I am writing what I think rather than what God wants.  It takes study and effort and time if I want to make sure that God and I are anywhere near the same page, and I don't always take enough time.  Perhaps it is the same with all of us on some level.  If we stop just blustering through and we take the time to pause and study and learn, we'll get closer to the real truth--no matter what truth we are wondering about.  I think a lot of the things that we say, and think, and believe would change, or at least be modified, by a good conversation with God on the topic.  God is the *source* of all truth, and he doesn't vacillate like we do.

Today, let's work on having broken and contrite hearts.  It doesn't mean that we have to sob all day... only that we need to recognize that we really don't know what we're doing most of the time, and that we desperately need God's help to avoid the pitfalls that we keep walking into, often on purpose.  Let's not assume that God agrees with us, or that we know what God wants or thinks, no matter how well we know the scriptures.  ... Instead, let's work on studying all sides of the issues, comparing all of that to scripture, and drawing some conclusions for ourselves about which parts seem to be in harmony with God's will.  Then, when we've done all we can to figure it out, let's ask God if we're right.  He'll help us know that, and when we have that kind of open minds and hearts, he'll help us understand where other people are coming from that much more clearly as well.  Knowing God's will might not help us choose a side politically, since there is likely to be good and bad on both sides in almost any issue, but at least it will help us make personal decisions about what causes to stand up for, and how to do God's work in the world.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Leviticus 19:34 -- On Strangers

"But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."
Leviticus 19:34

Although God gives us the main commandments, to love God and to love others, sometimes he has to clarify, because we don't always get it at first.  This is a good reminder and clarification for us, that when God tells us to love our neighbors, he really means all of them. :)  It's similar to the story of the Good Samaritan.  In that story someone was in need, and no matter how otherwise cool/socially acceptable the people who walked by were, it was the foreigner/stranger that actually helped him (Samaritans at the time were in a next-door nation and practiced a somewhat different religion that emphasized different things and that was looked at as corrupt.  They were looked down on and ostracized.), and that was the person that Christ pointed out as being the neighbor (Luke 10:36-37). Christ taught us that when we choose to love and care for people, that is when we are following his commandments.

In this verse it mentions that we were strangers in Egypt.  That was a long time ago, and perhaps we don't remember it so well in our collective memory, or we have a hard time applying it to our personal lives.  I think though that we all can relate because we all have some experience with being strangers, whether positive or negative.  In Egypt at first, Joseph was a great leader and well loved, as were his family and people.  But when later leaders came that didn't remember Joseph, things got a lot worse.  We've all had experiences like that, where we suddenly aren't as welcome as we used to be, or we don't have the same influence or position of authority, or we are discriminated against because we are not part of the "in" group, for whatever reason.  And God is basically saying, listen... you know what this feels like.  Don't put others through that.

The stranger that dwells with us is mentioned here, but God still means everyone.  He is even more clear in Deuteronomy 10:17-19, telling us that God doesn't regard one person as better than another, and that he loves strangers.  He asks us specifically to "Love ye therefore the stranger."  He mentions in Numbers 9:14 that we should "have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land."  He is referring to the ordinance of the passover, but I'm guessing that it applies more generally as well--that's he's essentially asking us not to discriminate.  In Malachi 3:5 and 3 Nephi 24:5, God says that he will witness against people who "turn aside the stranger," among a list of several other things that are bad to do.

And if we still try to justify "who is my neighbour?" (Luke 10:29), perhaps the strongest message that Christ taught us about strangers is when he tells us that at the second coming he will have different things to say to the blessed and the cursed.  To the blessed he says, among other things, "I was a stranger, and ye took me in," whereas to the cursed he says "I was a stranger, and ye took me not in," with the general lesson for both cases being "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" and "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me" (Matthew 25:31-46).  In other words, whatever we do, or avoid doing, to our friends and neighbors (including strangers) is counted as though we did it, or avoiding doing it, for God.

Sometimes we resist loving strangers because we are afraid.  We're often taught when we're young of "stranger danger" in an effort to keep us safe.  And being safe is important, but perhaps we sometimes go too far in trying to protect ourselves that we forget to love.  God reminds us also that "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear" (1 John 4:18).  We also might miss out on some amazing experiences: "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2).

Today, let's be mindful of strangers.  And let's remember that they are our brothers and sisters, beloved of God.  Let's be kind, and loving, and remember that we are strangers to others.  If we can treat each other well, despite our individual strangeness, perhaps we can break the cycle of hatred that sometimes seems to be all around us.  

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Luke 14:28-30 -- On Towers

"For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish."
Luke 14:28-30

This is an interesting analogy that Christ used to explain what is required when we commit to the gospel.  Before this he says that we have to value the gospel before family, before our own lives, and that we have to be willing to suffer sometimes (Luke 14:26-27).  After this, he explains that we have to be willing to give up everything (Luke 14:33).  The analogy here, and the one that comes after it about a kind needing to know how to follow through on plans of war, explains why this level of commitment is needed.  It isn't because God is trying to scare us, or that the gospel is about torture, or that getting baptized into the church is being like thrown in a dungeon.  It's because commitment to God is serious.  We can't be fair-weather friends to God, and expect that to matter.  It's the lack of commitment that erodes our faith... but if we are all in with God, then we have the faith and confidence to spiritually succeed, and to make a difference in others' lives as well.

God compares the church to a bride and himself to a bridegroom in many places in the scriptures (Matthew 25, John 3, Revelation 19, D&C 33, etc.), and I think that, to me, that is the kind of commitment that God requires.  Hopefully, when we are planning to get married, we don't make that decision lightly.  We agree that we are going to stick with it, no matter what... good, bad, etc.  ... Of course, with the divorce rate unfortunately being what it is, perhaps that is why Christ used the example of a building instead. :)  We can't build a skyscraper if we only have enough money to build the first floor.  We have to know how to finish, and be committed all the way. :)

Today, let's renew our commitment to the gospel, remembering that we have to be all in, not ready to bail whenever anything goes wrong.  If we stick with God, everything will work out.  If we keep running away and giving up when things are hard, hopefully the tower mockers won't come to laugh at us, but still... we are unlikely to get very far.  

Friday, January 27, 2017

Exodus 31:17 -- On Resting and Refreshing

"It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed."
Exodus 31:17

This is talking about the Sabbath day, and it goes a little bit further than the Genesis account of the creation, adding that the Lord rested, and was refreshed.  Maybe that is a small difference, but when I noticed it today, it kind of made me look at the whole thing in a different way.

Resting in my mind is more associated with physical things... sleeping, resting your muscles after a hard day, etc.  Refreshing though seems like more of a mental/emotional/spiritual thing.  My brain gets tired and I need to escape from reality for a while, or my spiritual reserves seem low and I recharge my batteries at church each week, or I feel down and kind of hopeless and so I pray, and God helps me see the hope in the world again.  To me, that's more what the word "refreshed" says to me... that renewal, or restart, that we all need so that we can start fresh again, with more motivation to try and more energy and confidence to do well.

I really like this verse because it reminds me that the Sabbath is about not only physical rest, but also all the other kinds as well.  God wants us to take the time and make sure that we're filling up on all the different kinds of energy rather than depleting ourselves further.  Like the woman at the well, he says to us "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: / But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst" (John 4:13-14).  We might be able to tap other, temporary kinds of energy reserves throughout the week, but God can refresh us in every way as we keep his Sabbath and let him into our lives to lift and bless us with his love and comfort.

Today, let's prepare for the Sabbath day by getting our work done and making sure that God's day will be different.  Let's plan to attend church, to read our scriptures and pray, and to serve others as we are prompted.  Let's fill ourselves with light and truth and the living water that God offers us.  And on the Sabbath, let's relax and allow God to refresh us, taking our minds off the worries and stresses of our everyday lives, and instead thinking of God and putting him first in our thoughts and actions.  Let's take the time to recharge and refill so that we can face the vagaries of life with renewed confidence and hope.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

1 Timothy 2:3-4 -- On Spiritual Search and Rescue

"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."
1 Timothy 2:3-4

The "this" referred to here is the exhortation to pray for all men.  I really like that idea, and even more the idea here in the last verse that God wants *all* people saved.  I think we often read the scriptures or go through our lives interacting with different groups, even our own, and get the idea that God is only for the "chosen" few... that religion is somehow a private club, and we are better than everyone else because we have the truth... the golden ticket that is going to let us into heaven while everyone else suffers.  Interestingly, there was a group in the Book of Mormon that thought something similar: the Zoramites.  "Thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell" was part of the scary prayer they prayed upon the Rameumptom (Alma 31:13-21).

We are part of God's chosen people if we *follow* his teachings, not because he is playing favorites.  He wants everyone to be saved and come back to him, because we are his children, and he cares about us all.  That's why people who have God in their lives are asked to share the gospel.  It's like lifeboats.  If we are saved, we need to turn around and save others... all we can.  And, unlike the Titanic, there are enough lifeboats for everyone.  We just have to keep helping people who are drowning and looking for safety.  ... And of course not capsize our own ship. :)

Today, let's pray for everyone.  Even the ones we don't really like.  We all need help in our lives.  Let's remember that we are all God's children, and he desires us all to return to him safely.  Let's make sure that we are safe, and then let's go out and help God save others as well, in whatever way or measure that they are willing to accept God and his teachings in their lives.  It doesn't have to be high pressure or scary, or even more than regular conversation or kindness.  God will help us find people that are drowning, and help us know what to say and do to help them.  Let's pray for his help, and that we can help him through serving and assisting others.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

1 Samuel 17:43-45 -- On Faith and Confidence

"And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.
Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied."
1 Samuel 17:43-45

This is a selection from the story of David and Goliath.  I think we probably all know how the story ends, but I really like this part in the middle because it shows David's supreme confidence in God. He wasn't afraid of the amazingly huge guy who just said he was going to kill him, because he knew that God was helping him.

I wonder what things we would do differently in our lives, if we had this same supreme confidence in God.  Hopefully, most of the time death is not the answer, but even without the battle context, what could we not face?  What could we not change for the better?

Today, let's think about our faith and how we are applying it in our lives.  And let's take a page from David's book, and maybe step up our game a little bit, remembering that God is with us in all things, and that he is open to our prayers and our efforts to do good, and is totally willing to help us do miraculously good things.  Even when it feels like we're not strong enough, and we are facing a Goliath, when we stand up for God, we can prevail.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

3 Nephi 28:38-39 -- On Immortality

"Therefore, that they might not taste of death there was a change wrought upon their bodies, that they might not suffer pain nor sorrow save it were for the sins of the world.
Now this change was not equal to that which shall take place at the last day; but there was a change wrought upon them, insomuch that Satan could have no power over them, that he could not tempt them; and they were sanctified in the flesh, that they were holy, and that the powers of the earth could not hold them."
3 Nephi 28:38-39

The whole idea of not tasting death is cool (probably tastes really bad).  And interesting to learn that our physical selves, our bodies, can become so much more, just like our spiritual selves can.  I find even more interesting the idea that is suggested here that a change in our physical bodies can make us immune not only to pain, sorrow, disease, etc... but even *temptation.*  That's really interesting and cool, and what it emphasizes for me is the very temporary nature of our test in this life.  None of these struggles that we are going through will last in the resurrection.  Our very natures will be beyond all of this.  Not only will we have the veil lifted and be privy to so much more spiritual knowledge than we had in our lives, we will also be changed physically, and have none of the problems that we had here related to mortality.

Can you imagine us all being lifted to a state where "the powers of the earth could not hold" us?  That's the kind of transcendence that we sometimes dream about... and it's real.  It will happen.  Today, let's think about the great things that the Lord has in store for us, and the extremely temporary nature of this life.  Perhaps that perspective will help us make better choices and bear our burdens with more patience and joy, as we look forward with faith, and prepare ourselves to return to God.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Philippians 2:14-15 -- On Murmuring and Light

"Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;"
Philippians 2:14-15

What a different world it would be if we all did what we do without murmuring or disputing.  It would be awesome, but also almost unimaginable.  Can you imagine Star Wars without Luke whining that he wanted to go to Tosche station to pick up some power converters?  Our own murmurings are, unfortunately, often equally predictable.  It's definitely not an easy path to walk to overcome our own complaining natures, as we sometimes struggle to learn peace and hope and faith, and how to choose happiness.

The idea of us as lights in the world is a marvelous one, and it feels good that we could be lighting the way or lifting the darkness even a little bit for others.  To do that though, we have to make sure that we have some of that light within us, or else we are going to darken people's lives instead.  The source of our light is God, and the less we murmur, the more we can listen.  The less we dispute, the more we can learn.  God doesn't take away our light for disobedience... we lose it because we get in our own way, not being able to learn or grow or shine because we're busy complaining instead.

Today, let's focus on not getting in our own way.  Let's listen to God and work on doing as he asks instead of inventing reasons why not, or going on a rant about Tosche station, or wherever else we might rather be.  Let's embrace the present, and accept the reality in front of us, and do everything we can to make it better, and bring light even to the darkest spaces.  Let's be blameless by making sure we always heal rather than harm, and maybe working a little more on the murmuring. :)  Let's be the light in the world.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Luke 19:2-7 -- On Small Miracles

"And, behold, there was a man named Zacchæus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.
And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchæus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.
And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner."
Luke 19:2-7

This is a great story.  Zacchaeus wants to see Christ, and he climbs a tree because he is too short to see him through the crowd.  But when Jesus gets near to where he is, in the tree, he tells him that he has to stay at his house, and Zacchaeus is happy to have him.

It's sad that after this happened, everyone is weirded out because they think Zacchaeus is a sinner.  There is so much more here that is way more interesting than that.  For instance, even though Zacchaeus didn't know who Jesus was, and wanted to see him, how did Jesus know who he was and know him on sight, or even know that anyone was up in the tree, or that the strange person in the tree would have a house that would be perfect to stay at?  It is another clear indication of Christ's divinity, or at least his close relationship with God, but no one in the crowd is concerned with that part... only that Jesus might be staying with a sinner.

We similarly focus on the totally wrong things sometimes, don't we?  We worry about whether or not other people are bad or good rather than focusing on Christ.  We don't always see the long series of small miracles in our lives, because we are too caught up in our own biases or judgments, looking for the wrong things.

Today, let's be as excited to see and welcome Christ into our homes as Zacchaeus was.  And let's focus on the good, as Christ did.  Let's stop being part of the murmuring crowd, and instead work on seeing the miracles all around us.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Proverbs 17:22 -- On Merry Hearts

"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones."
Proverbs 17:22

I love this scripture. Sometimes the worst thing that we can forget is happiness. God tells us that "men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). That means that joy is the very reason for our existence. It's what God is working for, and what we are working for with him. Loving God and loving our neighbors, the two great commandments--that's supposed to help us all have joy.

I think the whole "let your light so shine" (Matthew 5:16) idea is also part of this. Good works are part of it, but how can we be an awesome example for others if we are always sad and complainy? We set a much better example, and show people that God brings happiness when we look for, and promote, the good in the world around us. This scripture shows a little of that idea: "Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord" (Psalms 144:15).

I'm not saying that it is always easy to feel or show happiness, or even that sorrow in itself is a bad thing. We all cry sometimes, and that emotional release isn't a reason to feel guilty. But unless we have some serious clinical depression, we don't need to stay sad except in the short-term. Even in the midst of sorrow, God can lift up our hearts, and hope and joy is a choice that we can make, if we put in the effort. As Russel M. Nelson said, "the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives" (from his talk "Joy and Spiritual Survival"). That idea is echoed in the scriptures as well. For instance, one of my faves is 2 Corinthians 4:8-9: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; / Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." Everything can be melting down in our lives, and yet we can still choose happiness, and have faith in the Lord that everything will be okay.

Sometimes we think that everything in the gospel has to be deadly serious, and there is some merit in that.  I do think that we need to treat sacred things with respect and avoid being obnoxious or mocking and scorning.  However, I also think that there is a lot of room for enjoyment in addition to being serious.  I love this quotation from Gordon B. Hinckley: "Let there be something of a light tone in your life.  Let there be fun and happiness, a sense of humor, the capacity to laugh occasionally at things that are funny.  Today, let's work on having merry hearts.  It will do us good. :)  

Friday, January 20, 2017

Deuteronomy 32:18 -- On Remembering God

"Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee."
Deuteronomy 32:18

This is a good reminder of how important it is to always remember God.  It is something that we promise to do as we take the sacrament each week, and our remembrance is also a gift from God that protects us.

It's really easy to start to slack off... not saying our prayers, not reading our scriptures, not doing the tiny things that we can do every day to keep God at the forefront of our minds, and as the first priority in our lives.  But if we do that, we start little by little losing the companionship of the Spirit, and are less and less able to hear God's voice and remember him in our lives.

Of course, we don't think of it that way at first.  Usually we think "oh, one day won't hurt" ... and, you know, maybe it won't in the greater scheme of things, but the problem with that one day or one time or I'm too sleepy or whatever it is, is that we make it so much easier the next time, to use the same excuse, to fall further away from the spirit, and we forget just a little bit more.  Big spiritual problems always start as small ones, and big sins almost always result from a series of tiny little temptations, and not remembering who we are, and what we can become with God's help.

Today, let's remember that putting God first in our lives isn't about God's ego.  It is about our spiritual safety, and it is the path to comfort and peace and joy.  Let's remember him and go to him in prayer, getting back on the right track, going in the right direction. :)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Judges 6:36-40 -- On Sign Seeking

"And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,
Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.
And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.
And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.
And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground."
Judges 6:36-40

This story is so cool in some ways and so sad in others.  It is amazing, isn't it, that God is so patient with us when we doubt him? He works to help us understand and confirm our knowledge of him when we really need that confidence. And yet, we know that sign seeking in general isn't a very good thing (D&C 63:7-10, Mark 8:11, Luke 11:29, etc.).  Signs often backfire to the detriment of the seeker as well; one clear example is Korihor in Alma 30, who demands a sign, and who is struck dumb as the proof that he sought. There are also signs that God offers to us, such as Moroni 10:4-5 when we are promised that God will manifest the truth unto us, about the Book of Mormon, and about the truth of all things.  Those kinds of signs often aren't showy enough for us though, and we want something more dramatic.

Now, I can't tell you for sure why Gideon sought a sign.  It seems like he firmly believed in God, but perhaps he doubted himself, and his ability to do what the Lord had asked.  We do that a lot too.  And certainly, Gideon wasn't just asking for nothing.  He was willing to do God's will, and he was indeed convinced at some point and accepted God's word rather than asking over and over every day for new signs and proofs, which is better than we sometimes do. :)  One thing we can work on is being more like Gideon than like Korihor... in trying to confirm and follow God's word than in denying and trying to tear it down, and in recognizing a sign when we see one, and accepting it (at least on the second try) rather than seeking them over and over in every decision or new circumstance.  But it seems like there is progression even beyond this.  The difference might be what it talks about in D&C 63:12: "Wherefore, I, the Lord, am not pleased with those among you who have sought after signs and wonders for faith, and not for the good of men unto my glory."  Ideally, God wants his power (and the signs thereof) to be used for good... to help others, to help the world, rather than just to bolster our faith.

Today, let's try to bolster our own faith so that we can move past sign-seeking for the wrong reasons. If we can't move past it, and we need to do it, let's try to be as pure about our motives as Gideon, so that we build our testimonies and hopefully end up doing some good rather than ending up like Korihor.  But if we can go further, let's remember all of the goodness and mercy that the Lord has shown to us, and to humanity, throughout our lives and throughout history.  And let's think about that before we go on to ask for further proof.  Let's pray and listen, and learn from our everyday communication with God rather than asking for something mega-miraculous with extra drama sauce.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Proverbs 14:6 -- On Scorn and Understanding

"A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth."
Proverbs 14:6

This made me think about what about scorn prevents learning wisdom, and to me it seems like it is overlooking the wisdom and light that we can learn from others.  No matter who it is that we choose to scorn, or for what reason, when we do, we miss out on what we could be learning instead.  We're assuming that we are in a superior position from which we can judge... and that also inhibits learning, because it prevents us from seeing reality, and encourages us to base many of our assumptions upon this false foundation.

On the other hand, when we truly understand the relationship between ourselves and other people, and our relationship with God, then it is much easier to understand how everything else fits into this whole, and it allows us to learn from others, from God, and to build our knowledge on a solid foundation that can't just be washed away when we find out we aren't exactly as cool as we thought we were.

Today, let's work on getting ourselves out of the habit of scorning others... no matter what the reason.  Let's instead recognize that we are all sons and daughters of God... brothers and sisters to each other.  Let's learn from one another, and work together to make a better world, based on God's foundation of gospel truth.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Haggai 1:9 -- On Working for God

"Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house."
Haggai 1:9

This is a verse that is specifically talking about building a temple to God, and because the people weren't making that a priority, God withheld his help in making them prosper.  And I'm thinking that perhaps this can also be applied to other aspects of God's will besides just temple building (though I am sure it still applies to that as well).  As we work for God, he works to help us.

When we put God first in our lives, and we do as he asks, making building his kingdom and doing his will a priority, then God blesses us and helps us to prosper.  I think sometimes we forget that there is a cause and effect relationship there, or we just think that it is random.  And I'm not saying that there is a specific ratio here, where if we show love to 4 people, we'll be blessed with 4% more financially... there is no specific ratio, and really, if we start trying to love people out of greed for monetary blessings, we're kind of going backwards. :)  But there *is* a relationship here.  Obedience brings blessings, and often getting out of a slump in our lives means paying more attention to God's commandments and focusing on his will rather than our own.  God knows we aren't perfect, and he isn't going to make us homeless overnight for forgetting our prayers.  But he is willing to help us more the more we help others, and the more we work on making things better in this world, through keeping his commandments.

Today, as we pray and ask for blessings from God, let's also consider what we can do better in our lives for him.  As we work harder for God, and draw nearer to him through listening to his spirit, he will draw nearer to us (D&C 88:63), and he will bless us abundantly.

Monday, January 16, 2017

1 Kings 17:12 -- On Hoping Anyway

"And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die."
1 Kings 17:12

This woman didn't have a lot of hope.  She had enough to cook the last of her food for herself and her son... enough to get out of bed and actually try, but she didn't really know how she was going to live another day.  So, she's gathering sticks for the last meal, and Elijah asks her for a drink of water. Instead of ignoring him in her sorrow, she starts to go and get him some water.  Then, as she is going, he asks for some bread as well, and that's where this verse comes in.

After she says all this, Elijah tells her not to worry, but to make him a cake first, and then to cook for herself and her son, and he promises her that she won't run out of food until the rains return.  She believes him, and,she doesn't run out of food.  So, happy ending, right?  Except then her son gets so sick that he stops breathing.  Another hopeless situation.  But she had enough hope to go to Elijah and ask him what's up... did he save them just to punish them later?  And Elijah brings her son back to life.  The woman was in crazy sad situations, but she hoped anyway.  And she had enough hope to get her to the next step, where God could take over and help.

I think that the lesson here is that there is always hope, even when everything is going wrong and we're staring death in the face.  God is clearly stronger than starvation, and stronger than death... and he's also stronger than whatever is causing *our* hopelessness.  We talk ourselves into boxes sometimes... convince ourselves that we are trapped with only horrible choices, or too far gone, and that we're going to die, or we might as well die, or whatever it is.  But the truth is, things are never as bleak as we think they are, because God is always there, willing to help, willing to give us hope when we can't see a reason to hope.  Today, let's turn to him, knowing that he loves us and will always be there for us, even when things are at their worst, and hope doesn't seem to make sense.  Let's hope anyway.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2 Kings 4:42-44 -- On Loaves

"And there came a man from Baal-shalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat.
And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the Lord, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof.
So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the Lord."
2 Kings 4:42-44

This is an interesting story about Elisha.  The story is very similar to some stories where Christ fed the multitudes, once with five loaves and two fishes (Mark 6:41), or, when nothing at all had been brought (3 Nephi 20:6).  It's also similar to the story of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:14) where Elijah promised that her food would not run out until the rain returned.

These stories make me question the whole idea of scarcity.  The idea that we don't have enough.  Enough food, but other things as well.  Perhaps money, time, patience, willpower, love, forgiveness, talent, intelligence, determination, etc.  Perhaps we can't snap our fingers and conjure bread out of thin air... but apparently Christ could, and his prophets could do similarly in his name.  So when we think of limitations... internal *or* external, we have to wonder how real they are, if God could take 20 loaves, or 5 loaves, or no loaves at all, and still provide bread to everyone.  And if we are to walk in his path, perhaps we shouldn't let the idea of scarcity stop us so easily.  Thinking that we don't have the time or the money or the energy or the patience might be self-limiting, when we actually have access to much more than we imagine.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't manage our own anxiety levels, or take on more when we are already overwhelmed.  I don't want anyone to have a heart attack. :)  We should take care of ourselves and be kind to ourselves as well, and we should certainly budget our money and not expect to win the lottery.  ... I'm just saying that we should question the limitations that we lay on ourselves as well.  Just like they encourage students to add "yet" to the end of the statement when a kid says they aren't good at something... so should we.  And when we don't have time, maybe we should stop and think about where we could make some time.  When we can't do something by ourselves, as happens often because we are only mortal after all, we should also consider that *God* can help us do anything.  He is a God of miracles, after all.  Today, if there is something worth doing, instead of coming up with reasons why we can't, let's reject that idea of scarcity.  Let's find the miracle, do the impossible... let's go to God and tell him that we don't know how to do it, how to fit it in, how to make it happen, but it's worth doing, and we want to do it.  And maybe sometimes the Lord will show us why it is a bad idea.  That happens.  But other times, he'll be glad that we are willing to do it, and he'll give us the means and the chance to truly try.  Let's do good, and be the miracle in other people's lives today, with God's help.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

James 3:16-18 -- On Making Peace

"For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace."
James 3:16-18

I like the idea here at the end of the selection of sowing peace, and making peace.  Envy, strife, confusion, and evil are set up as enemies or opposites of that peace, and wisdom, purity, gentleness, mercy, impartiality, etc., its allies.

Usually when I think of peace-making, I think of avoiding arguments, or turning a tense moment into a hilarious one with well-timed wit.  And perhaps it is those things in a very minute measure.  But these verses show that it is so much more.  The actual growing of and the creation of peace isn't just a calm disposition or a talent of deflection.  It's a long-term commitment to developing and cultivating good--schooling ourselves to do the right thing even when strife or proving ourselves right is more tempting.  It's truly believing that God's way is the better way and living it, even when we see that others do not, and when God's way seems a disadvantage in a corrupt world.  It is bringing peace to every situation that we are in, even when strife is expected, or even encouraged.

Today, let's not allow ourselves to react with anger or malice.  Let's take peace more seriously, and seek it in all that we do.  Perhaps we can invest more time and commitment to peace in our homes, jobs, relationships, and overall lives.  Let's remember Christ's reminder: "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matthew 5:9).  Let's seek God's will, and *make* his peace, in ourselves, for our neighbor and communities, and for our society and world.

Friday, January 13, 2017

John 1:14 -- On Dreams and Doing

"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."
John 1:14

I talk about ideas a lot... how this or that idea in the scriptures is powerful, and something we should think about and incorporate into our lives.  And it's true... the ideas and scriptural stories that God blesses us with are awesome, and can help us understand and better sort out all of the things that we encounter in our daily lives.  But here's the hard part: we actually have to make that transition from idea to reality.  It's so, so tempting to live in that world of ideas, to contemplate what a Zion society would be like, to dream of heaven, to look forward to the resurrection of immortality and perfect health.  Those things are good.  But we also have to go farther, as God illustrates here.  We can't just read the story of the way things can and should be.  We have to do as God did, and make the word flesh--real.  It all has to be more than an idea... it has to come alive, and be part of the way we breathe and eat and live.  Christ made the idea of a Savior come to life, and saved us all, which he couldn't have done in the idea stage.  He had to *do* it.

God makes his ideas and his words come alive every day.  He is dedicated to it.  He fulfils all the prophecies.  He carries out his intentions, and brings to pass his plans for the world, for our happiness and salvation.  He reinforces the truth of everything in the scriptures and prophecies by what he actually does in our lives.  He doesn't just say "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you" (John 14:18), he does it.  And isn't that one of the vast differences between God and man?  With God there are no empty words.  Today, perhaps we can work on following in his footsteps... on living our ideals, on following through on our intentions.  On doing what we dream.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

D&C 105:14 -- On Battles and Balance

"For behold, I do not require at their hands to fight the battles of Zion; for, as I said in a former commandment, even so will I fulfil—I will fight your battles."
Doctrine and Covenants 105:14

I like the idea that God fights our battles for us.  That probably doesn't mean all battles, and it definitely doesn't mean that we won't have to deal with challenges in our lives.  We have to learn, after all.  But the idea that God will fight our battles gives us that other option every time we get into battle mode.

There is always space to not fight, of course, and avoiding a fight is often a good choice.  But even if some kind of struggle or conflict is the best choice, it isn't always something that we individually need to do.  we can also talk to God about it, and see if this is one that he is going to fight for us.  I think even when it is on us, he strengthens and helps us, but sometimes it is something that we can lay on his shoulders.  I think this is especially true with things that seem overwhelming or impossible.  Those kinds of things just freak us out sometimes, and we think... wow, I'm trying my best, and I just can't do it, or I don't see a positive way out of this situation. Whether is is being worried about health or school or work or a family member, or overcoming a sin or finding our way home, or whatever, it is those really tough times when we feel so burdened that we might break that we can call upon God to fight our battles and bear our burdens for a while, because only he can help us through or find a way out.

Today, let's consider the option of God fighting our battles.  Let's remember that God doesn't give us things that we can't handle... but that includes us allowing him to handle some things, so that we can find that balance in our lives between learning all we can and helping others all we can, and still having happiness and peace and time to breathe.  It isn't always easy to let things go, but as we turn to God and work with him, he will help us to know what we should carry and what we should relinquish on our path to better balance.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Psalms 31:23-24 -- On Loving and Hoping in the Lord

"O love the Lord, all ye his saints: for the Lord preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer.
Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord."
Psalms 31:23-24

I think in this case "proud" doesn't mean the put-yourself-before-God kind of pride, but rather the happy-you-have-accomplished-something-important type of pride.  The same kind we mean when we tell a kid who has just learned something new "I'm proud of you."  And, in that way, it's good to sometimes feel proud of ourselves, or have a little triumph moment when we do something positive that we were scared of doing, or obeying God and resisting temptation even when it is a really difficult situation.  Obviously, we should also acknowledge God's hand in helping, teaching, and supporting us, and give thanks, or we risk crossing over into the bad sort of pride, where we think we can do it all on our own. :)  If we get the right balance there though, it is a really cool idea that as far as good, righteous actions go, when we learn something new and follow through with it, that God is also proud of us, and rewards us plentifully.

I also love the part about having courage and hope, and that if we do, God will strengthen our hearts.  That seems so important to me.  Sometimes we kind of go out on an emotional limb with our hope, doing everything we can to trust and have faith, but we're just a little bit scared and shaky... and I feel like this is God backing us up as we plead "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (Mark 9:24).  He knows we are doing all that we can, and he steps in and strengthens us, reassuring our fears and confirming our hopes.

Today, let's love the Lord for how amazing, kind, gentle, and good he is to us... and for his love and presence in our lives, and for teaching us and helping us through everything that we ever have done or will do.  Let's hope in his mercy, and look forward to so, so much more that he has in store for us. :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

D&C 88:108-109 -- On Heralds and Hidden History

"And then shall the first angel again sound his trump in the ears of all living, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the mighty works of God in the first thousand years.
And then shall the second angel sound his trump, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the thoughts and intents of their hearts, and the mighty works of God in the second thousand years—"
Doctrine and Covenants 88:108-109

There is a lot more interesting stuff in this section too, but I liked this part especially because it talks about kind of a history lesson that we are going to get at the second coming, going through all of history a thousand years or so at a time and relating what happened, hidden or not.  I assume that's when we'll find out the truth about all of the conspiracy theories of the past. :)  I think it sounds fascinating, and I also really like the idea of nothing being hidden anymore.  Not that I don't like privacy as an ideal in this world, where we cheat and steal and might look at others sideways if they aren't exactly like us, but imagining a world where we don't *need* to hide anything, because we're all on board with loving each other and forgiving each other and never harming or cheating each other... I really want to be able to be a person that can live like that where there is no need to hide or have things hidden from me.

Today, let's prepare for the Lord's second coming by cleaning out our symbolic cellars, and bringing the hidden things to light.  Not in a harmful way if we can help it of course, and not just for the sake of shocking people, but in the spirit of love and openness and unity.  Let's live in a way so that we won't be worried when all the secrets come out. :)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Matthew 10:30 -- On Hair and Detail and Light

"But the very hairs of your head are all numbered."
Matthew 10:30

Sometimes we get so caught up in the world trying to tell us how bad things are and how hopeless it all is that we don't stop and consider where our hope comes from.  All the things that we might be influenced to see that are conspiring against us, or against the world working right, are more than countered by God, and "all things" (D&C 88:13; 41; Moses 6:61) working together for our good (Romans 8:28; D&C 90:24; 98:3; 100:15; 105:40).

The hair on our heads, individually, is beyond counting.  Not that it doesn't have a number, but like the sand or the stars, the number is so great, and so difficult to ascertain, that we don't try.  It's like Genesis 41:49 when Joseph was trying to count the corn that he was storing, but gave up and just said it was without number.  Or the thoughts of God in Psalms 139:17-18.  And yet God cares enough to number them.  It shows the level of detail and caring that he has for us, not just our hair of course, but how he cares for all of us on an incredibly detailed level.  We know that he knows the "thoughts and the intents" of our hearts (D&C 6:16), and he also, through the atonement, has felt every pain and sickness and trial that we suffer.

The truth is that nothing the world can bring can possibly even begin to compare to what God has planned, and already moving forward.  His plan, and his love, are more detailed and complete and perfect than anything we can imagine, and no offense or catastrophe or loss or world-wide problem is big enough to shake anything that God builds.  So, today, let's listen to God, and be willing to be anchored in him.  Let's look to him when we have any worries or doubts, because he is bigger and stronger and better than any darkness or fear.  Let's look for the hope that is all around us, because of him, and not be blinded by the clouds that are trying to hide his glory and brightness.  If we look, it will shine through everywhere, including in us, and the people around us.  Let's hope, and trust, and love, and give, and serve, because we don't need to fear.  We have the very God who can number the hair on the head of every person who has ever lived on earth on our side.  Do we think that he is going to forget any detail, or let anything fall through the cracks?  He never will.  As we look to him and have faith in his goodness, we will have hope and joy and be able to see his shining light in the darkness that the world often tries to impose.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

D&C 84:119 -- On God Reigning With His People

"For I, the Lord, have put forth my hand to exert the powers of heaven; ye cannot see it now, yet a little while and ye shall see it, and know that I am, and that I will come and reign with my people."
D&C 84:119

I like the phrase "reign with my people" ... the word "with" seems to say it so much better than say, the word "over."  It expresses the idea that we and God are part of each other, working together, rather than in isolation.  And although I'm not sure that we are very good at collaborating with God now... yet... it will be true by that time, as we learn to make better and better choices regarding God and our fellow men, and become more and more worthy of being people that could be part of his community.

We can't see everything that God has in store for us, and we might not be able to visualize the idea of a perfect, Zion society... a place where there are no poor, and where everyone works together, but God promises that in "a little while" we will be able to see his hand, and the beginning of that vision. But just because we can't see it doesn't mean that we can't believe in it and work for it, even now.

Today, let's make choices that show our love for God and our love for our fellow men.  Let's stop and think how to do better when we catch ourselves making selfish choices.  Let's pray and ask God to teach us how to love better, to serve better, and to learn to be people who could live in God's community, with him.  It's a long way for all of us, I think, before we could feel comfortable in God's presence even for a little while, let alone seeing him every day.  I think though, that prayer is practice, and as we pray, and learn from scriptures and prophets and spiritual promptings, we learn to be comfortable with God in our lives.  So, let's pray, and start our path to this cool vision of the future.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

1 Peter 1:3-6 -- On Heaviness and Hope

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:"
1 Peter 1:3-6

I love the phrase "lively hope" and the idea that through faith, we can greatly rejoice in salvation, whether or not that salvation is clear to us now, or we are waiting for it in the future.

I think sometimes we let ourselves be dragged down by the "heaviness" that it talks about here, thinking that the temptations and trials and obstacles in our lives mean that God doesn't care, or that the very existence of those things force our lives to be bad, or sad, or intolerable in some way.  And I'm not saying it doesn't feel that way sometimes, or that it is easy to maintain perspective.  I think that the problem is that sometimes we think that circumstances and challenges *force* us to be unhappy... that we have no other choices.  But we do.  Because of Jesus Christ, we can have this "lively hope" that allows us to see beyond our current circumstances, and past our failures and limitations.  We have the ability to rejoice now, even in the middle of our heaviness... even "greatly rejoice" while we have temptation in our lives.

How?  Through the atonement of Christ and the promise that God gives us that we will be saved.  Our future is bright, the happy ending is coming.  We just have to look up and see past the heaviness to the light that is God.

Friday, January 6, 2017

D&C 122:2 -- On the Source of Our Blessings

"While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand."
D&C 122:2

Most verses of scripture are understood best in the context of the other verses around them, and our understanding is benefited by the historical background about when they were given.  In this case though, I found that the verse struck me as significant precisely because I found it while doing a search, and reading it alone made it stand out, when I had always glossed over it before because of the distraction of the context.

The "thy" here is referring to Joseph Smith, but in a gospel sense I think it also refers to all prophets as well as God himself.  As we seek purity, wisdom, true nobility (in the sense of being highly principled, not inheriting power), and virtue, we will seek counsel from God's word through his prophets, through the scriptures, and through prayer.  Authority and blessings flow from him, and God blesses those that diligently seek him.  Today, let's do so.  Let's work on being pure and wise, and let's turn to God, who is the source of all the good that we seek.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Job 17:9 -- On Being Clean and Superheroic

"The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger."
Job 17:9

Sometimes we get it into our heads that sin and bad stuff is more exciting or cool than being good, and that good is just holding us back.  Truth is, though, just like this verse implies, when we are clean and righteous, that's the beginning of our superpowers, and the more we stay clean, and stick to God's path, the stronger we get.  Sin is our kryptonite, messing us up, making us weak and unable to think clearly.  It turns us into something less than we are meant to be.

Today, let's remember that good is much more cool and interesting than bad, if we stick with it.  Developing our spiritual senses and identities might not seem superheroish at first, but the more we learn from God, the more possible it is to become like him, and God is the ultimate, matchless superhero.  Our job, should we choose to accept it, is to go out and help save the world, save the mayor, save the princess, and everyone else.  God is there to help us, granting us the power and the possibility--teaching us to live up to our super, divine, potential.  We won't get there quickly, but as we listen and learn and stay clean and worthy of the companionship of the spirit, we will gain strength, learn more, and become powerful enough to change the world and make a difference for good in the lives of others.  We will be able to become everything good that we've dreamed of.  We just have to hold on our way: keep learning and growing and staying clean.  Then we will become the superheroes that we have the potential to be.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Mosiah 2:17 -- On Love and Service

"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."
Mosiah 2:17

The idea of serving God *through* service to our fellow men is a very frequent one in the scriptures, and I like that it is referred to as wisdom here. ;)  Perhaps that makes it a good theme for today.  The two concepts can't be extricated from each other.  God commanded us first to love him and then to love our neighbors, and loving our neighbors is a *way* of loving and serving him, so all of it is intertwined.  Sometimes people are hard to love, and we often need space and independence... and those things are okay, but we have to also remember that we can't just give up on people and all become hermits. :)  God asks us to serve him by serving others, so sitting on the top of a mountain and praying all day is cool, but it falls short.  We do have to find ways to interact with others, to show love to them, and to serve them patiently and kindly.

Sometimes we're tempted to blow people off because they've messed up their own lives, or they don't treat us well, or any other fill-in-the-blank reason.  But when we do that, we are missing the point I think.  God asks us to learn to love as he loves, and he wants to bless the lives of others through us. God loves us *despite* our sins and limitations and bad choices and rudeness, and all the rest.  He doesn't disown us when we screw up, and he is always willing to welcome us back if we turn around and ask forgiveness.  Today, let's try to do the same for others.  Let's love as God loves, and serve others in his service.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Deuteronomy 28:6 -- On Listening to God

"And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God."
Deuteronomy 28:6

A good reminder that our blessings are based on us listening to the Lord and taking his advice.  Just like a road map (or GPS device) doesn't do us any good if we don't actually refer to it or follow its directions, God's plan for our salvation and happiness won't do us any good if we don't follow it.  And yet, so often, we think we can figure the way out ourselves, or that knowing the plan is enough, and following it is optional.  We get caught in the pride trap, thinking that we are above all of this obedience stuff, when actually we're like children trying to run away from home with no inkling of how things really work, or how dangerous things could be for us.

Today, let's remember that our blessings are predicated on listening to and following the Lord, and let's try to take that seriously.  God really does know how things work so much better than we do, and listening to his advice can only help us.  He is trying to save us from the trouble and pain we will experience if we strike out without considering his suggestions.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Proverbs 27:19 -- On Reflections

"As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man."
Proverbs 27:19

Interesting idea.  Seeing our hearts in one another might be a way of saying that we look for our own weaknesses in other people, or expect from other people what we would do in a similar circumstance.  And so if we expect treachery or dishonesty, it might be a clue that we need to look at ourselves and ask why.  Do we have treachery and dishonesty in our hearts?  On the other hand, if we expect good from people, perhaps that reflects our hearts as well.

Either way, it seems that the way to solve the whole world's problems is to start improving our reflections, eh?  Today, let's make sure we work on ourselves and our perceptions, motivations, and expectations.   As we do, hopefully we will improve our outlook and expect better from the world, which will improve our reflections.  And if we expect good from each other, often we'll live up to that expectation, so we will be helping each other become better and building a Zion community. :)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Proverbs 31:30-31 -- On Rewards and Freedom

"Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates."
Proverbs 31:30-31

I like the idea of the fear of (respect for) the Lord being more important than favor/popularity or beauty.  Our society often teaches us to see in a fairly opposing way, so it doesn't make it easy to see things that way, but it is an excellent goal.  I also really, really like the idea in the second verse because it isn't exactly what we usually want.  We definitely want rewards and praise, but by specifying that the reward *is* the fruit of our hands, and that our works *are* our praise, it points to the fact that we have to choose and work for them.  The rewards are still also from God, and magnified by him, because he is definitely "a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6), and he encourages us in, and makes possible, all of the good that we do.  But they do also involve choice and work on our part, and in that way, we are rewarding ourselves, by becoming (with the help of God) who we have always wanted to be. 

The greatest gift that God could make possible for us is our ability to choose this... to reach those heights, and to have that much joy, is the greatest gift that he could give us--the gift of potential, personal freedom, allowing us to grow beyond our training wheels and strike out on our own, and fulfill our divine potential, even though God knows that we can get hurt, and make poor choices when he gives us that freedom.  It's like our earthly parents who would probably prefer to wrap us in bubble wrap and keep us at home to protect us from the sharp edges of the world, but instead they know that we need to learn and grow and become more.  God knows that our potential stretches far beyond this world, and more than our earthly parents, he both wants to protect us and grant us the freedom to become what we can be, and to find our ultimate joy in that becoming.

Today, let's make sure that the fruit of our hands and our own works are things that we really want... and if they aren't, let's work on that.  Let's learn to reward ourselves better, as we serve others and build better selves, which leads to a better world.

Total Pageviews