Thursday, August 31, 2017

D&C 45:57 -- On Abiding the Day

"For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day."
Doctrine and Covenants 45:57

Malachi 3:2 contains an important question.  Speaking of Christ, it asks: "But who may abide the day of his coming?"  This verse seems to be at least a partial answer.  If we are wise, receive the truth, and take the Holy Spirit for our guide, then we will be able to abide the day.

Wisdom is a common theme in the scriptures.  Jacob 6:12 says "O be wise; what can I say more?" ... Clearly, however, the wisdom that will allow us to abide the day is not the wisdom of the world.  Nor is the truth here the twisted self-deception that often gets labeled truth by the world, and often by us as we accept and embrace the world.  In order to have the wisdom and the truth that this verse talks about, we need to be listening to the Lord and heeding his counsel, which means taking the Holy Spirit for our guide.

Learning to listen to the Holy Ghost and really allow God to guide us is sometimes hard.  We can get confused about what thoughts and inspiration is coming from our own brains, and what is being given to us by God.  It takes faith, prayer, and some action and experimentation.  Since we know that the Spirit only leads us to do good though, we're safe to start out by going with any thoughts or promptings that encourage us to do good.  If it was our own spontaneous thought, great... it's never going to be a bad thing to take the time to do something good.  And as we act on good thoughts and promptings, the Lord has more opportunities to guide us and teach us to recognize his voice.

Today, let's work on tuning in to God's wisdom and truth, and on following the Spirit.  Those are good preparation not only for abiding the day of his coming, but any day, including right now. :)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

John 5:8 -- On Rising, Walking, and Making things Better

"Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk."
John 5:8

This statement by the Savior is directed to a man who "had an infirmity thirty and eight years" (verse 5), and who was waiting by the pool of Bethesda, hoping to find some way to be healed, even after all that time.

To me, taking up the bed shows us a couple of things.  First, it illustrates that the man still had hope and faith.  The scripture records no hesitation or doubt... just that immediately he was healed and took up his bed and walked.  Indeed, he likely was initially unable to fulfil such a commandment, but the Lord gave him the power to fulfil it, and he was willing, and did so as soon as it was possible.

The other thing that I see here is a lesson about healing.  Like so many other things in life, sometimes we think that healing is the end of all of our struggles.  If we could just be whole, physically, mentally, spiritually..., then everything would be okay.  What we don't realize until later is that healing is the beginning of the journey, not the end.  We get so used to hiding behind our weaknesses that even when they aren't there anymore, sometimes we try to hide in them anyway, and don't do the work that it takes to actually more forward and improve.

Today, as God heals us, of sin, of doubt, of fear, and so many other things, let's take up our beds symbolically and walk--becoming more than we are.  Let's take the gifts that the Lord has given us and expand and even multiply them, taking the baseline that God has given us and making everything better. :)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

3 Nephi 22:4,10 -- On Shame and Kindness

"Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed; neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame; for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.
For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee."
3 Nephi 22:4,10

Reading this chapter today made me think that these two verses seem to go together in a lot of ways, even though there are 5 other verses between them.

These verses are about the last days, and the Lord telling us that there is no reason to fear, because all of the stupid things that we did when we were young are going to be wiped off the slate.  We won't remember the bad things, or guilt-trip ourselves with replays of the scene in our minds.

And why is the Lord protecting us from shame and reproach like this?  Because even when the hills disappear, God is there.  Because his kindness is eternal, and he is promising (and delivering) kindness.  He promises us Mercy, and God doesn't break his promises.

Today, let's work on not being afraid of earthly shames.  Let's move on and repent and change, knowing that God can help us forget the bad things, and that he loves us, and will never leave us without kindness, and will always be leading us towards peace.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Alma 37:35 -- On Learning Wisdom in Our Youth

"O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God."
Alma 37:35

What struck me about this today is the thought of learning in our youth.  As we get older I think that we probably all collect some regrets, and one of the general things that we regret is the way that we spent our time, or missed opportunities.  Learning to keep the commandments of God is a *great* way to prevent some serious regret when it comes to God.

That doesn't mean that repentance is pointless at all.  Repentance is a real and beautiful gift, and it can restore us to perfect cleanliness and hope.  It unfortunately won't give us back years of our lives or let us live them over again, making better choices.  And *that* is why we should probably learn some wisdom as quick as we can. :)

Today, let's start learning (or continue learning) to keep the commandments of God.  Once we get that touch of wisdom we can see so clearly that God isn't restricting us.  Rather, he is protecting us and helping us avoid the huge pitfalls of life.  The more we listen to him, the less painful it has to be.  ... And that's some wisdom right there.  Let's try to listen and learn and love, and limit the damage from our rebelliousness as much as possible. :)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Alma 4:3 -- On Learning from Affiction

"And so great were their afflictions that every soul had cause to mourn; and they believed that it was the judgments of God sent upon them because of their wickedness and their abominations; therefore they were awakened to a remembrance of their duty."
Alma 4:3

None of us enjoy afflictions, but I like the fact that they are useful and not pointless.  God tells us that he will "consecrate [our] afflictions for [our] gain" (2 Nephi 2:2), which I think means that God can use even the bad things in life to help us to learn, grow, and find joy.

In this verse, their afflictions caused them to remember God, and their duty to him.  I think that is a common side effect of afflictions, for example this verse: "In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me." (D&C 101:8).  Sometimes it takes something negative happening to kind of wake us up and remind us that we need God.  ... Now, I definitely think it would be better if we could remember God *before* something bad happens, and not saying that I love afflictions either, but perhaps we need them sometimes, at least until we learn a little better. :)

Today, let's remember that there is a purpose for afflictions too.  We don't have to think that they are fun, but perhaps we should be open to the lessons that we can learn from them when they do come.  Let's remember our duty to God, and look to him as he promises us that "all things wherewith [we] have been afflicted shall work together for [our] good" (D&C 98:3).

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Alma 13:13 -- On Entering Into God's Rest

"And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest."
Alma 13:13

This chapter is talking about people in the scriptures and how they obtained God's rest, and here Alma calls us to repentance and asks us to do as they did, so that we can also enter.

Doesn't rest sound awesome?  I think of God's rest as way better than sleep or a day off, but really a time/place where there aren't any anxieties anymore.  Nothing that you have to worry about or stress over.  Just time to focus on good things.  I could be way off of course, but if it's God's rest, you know it has to be pure good. :)

A lot of times I think that we look at calls to repentance as guilt-trips or a form of dislike and condemnation.  And perhaps, from people, that is an unfortunate aspect of condemnation or judgement.  But when God asks us to repent, it isn't about making us feel bad, and it isn't about hatred or intolerance.  It's because he sees that we're on a road that doesn't lead to happiness and he wants to save us, and get us back on the right road--the one that leads to him.

Today, let's do as Alma (and God) suggest, and repent so that we can enter into the rest of the Lord.

Friday, August 25, 2017

2 Nephi 2:14 -- On Acting

"And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon."
2 Nephi 2:14

Some good things to remember, that God exists and that he created all things.  By themselves those are huge, incredible truths that we often overlook or take for granted.  But I love the extra bonus part at the end of this verse--"things to act and things to be acted upon."  It makes me think of our own free agency, and how sometimes we sit around like lumps, waiting to be acted upon, when maybe we should be up and acting instead.

Today, let's remember the huge truths of God's existence and creation... and then let's do something about it.  Not saying that rest isn't good sometimes, because it totally is.  But today let's remember that sometimes we need to act, and not just wait to be acted upon. :)  Let's have faith, and start doing good and learning and growing without having to be prompted. :)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Galatians 3:10-11 -- On Living By Faith

"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith."
Galatians 3:10-11

These are some interesting verses talking about law, justice, and faith.  We often think of laws as protective, and thus they usually are, but here they are also talked about as a curse.  In this case, I think, because none of us can actually fulfil the requirements of the law... we become, in a way, cursed, because of our own failure and sin.  Because none of us can fulfil those requirements, none of us are justified.

Instead, we rely on our faith in and the mercy of Jesus Christ, who faced the law for us, and paid the price that we owed, and who asks in return only that we continue to strive and to repent and change.

Today, let's repent and change, and keep working on our own worthiness.  Let's trust God to help us through the demands of justice, and live by that faith--knowing that God will help us succeed.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 -- On Life with God

"For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him."
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

I love the hopefulness here.  In the verse previous to this, it asks us to have hope, and these are the reasons.  Because God hasn't decided to hate us and he doesn't want us to suffer.  What he *has* planned for is our salvation.  And Christ died, not so that he could guilt-trip us into doing things his way... but because we really needed it.  It was our only chance of being able to live with him forever... and he *wants* that.  He wants to live with *us.*  Which seems crazy sometimes when we think of our little selves compared to everyone and the universe... but it is absolutely true.  He loves us, individually, more than we can even imagine, and he wants a personal relationship with us all, and for us all to come back home after this life.

We yearn so much for God, but I don't think that we really realize and understand how much he yearns for us as well.  All of this--creation, life, everything--is for us... so that we can learn and grow and become the people we hoped to be, and prepared ourselves for an afterlife where we can be together, reunited, and find joy with him... all of his children restored to him, and joined together as a gigantic family. :)

Another super cool thing here is the phrase "wake or sleep," meaning, I think, in life or in death.  That means that we don't have to wait.  Unity with God is something we look forward to after this life, but it is also something that we can work for, and have, in this life, if we strive for it.

Today, let's strive. :)  Let's love God as much as he loves us.  Let's do everything we can to learn and to be able to return to him again.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

John 14:1-2 -- On Believing and Getting There

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."
John 14:1-2

These are really comforting verses, and I really love the idea of God caring about us so much that he worries about us being troubled.  I mean, he knows things are going to be awesome in the end and that joy and peace are waiting for us--but he still doesn't dismiss our temporary worries as faithless and meaningless.  Instead, he encourages us and comforts us.

Christ encourages us to believe in him, and in his father.  Those are the things that we need to do in order to be prepared and to triumph.  I also love the mansions part.  I have no idea if we are going to get literal mansions, but even if it is just the symbolic idea of a mansion... a place where you feel safe, and where you have everything you need all the time... I think it will be amazing either way.

Today, let's work on not letting our hearts be troubled.  Let's believe in Christ, and trust that he is preparing a place for us.  Let's trust him, and work with him, and get there. :)

Monday, August 21, 2017

3 Nephi 24:2 -- On Abiding the Day

"But who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap."
3 Nephi 24:2

This verse (and the almost identical verse in Malachi) is about the second coming of Christ.  The way that it is written it sounds kind of like a rhetorical question.  Who will be able to stand?  Obviously no one.  A refiner's fire is incredibly hot, to separate the pure, precious metal from the lead and dross, and to burn away other impurities, and fuller's soap is incredibly harsh, but it gets out the dirt and the oils so that the fabric is perfectly clean and white.

On one level that sounds super scary and feels like if we aren't perfect, we won't make it through that process.  On the other hand though, I think it is hopeful.  Comparing Christ's coming to refiners and fullers means that we're still at the potential stage.  Both of these processes are things that you do to prepare things... to make them better and get them ready for something great later.  If the analogy were to hospice care or layoffs, then I'd be a little scared.

I think the idea here is that we have to be willing to let go of the dirt and oil and lead and imperfection within ourselves--and that's who will abide, and who will be able to stand.  People who have already allowed God to change them into shiny, pure, clean potential. :)  Today, let's talk to God and let him work on us, and cleanse us.  Let's be willing to let go of the bad parts of ourselves, and become prepared, so that maybe we can enjoy the second coming instead of being scared.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Psalms 94:16-18 -- On Standing Against Iniquity

"Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?
Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence.
When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up."
Psalms 94:16-18

It's hard to stand up to iniquity, and we often wish for someone else to intervene and save us. Sometimes the Lord does stand up for us, but much more often, he strengthens us so that *we* can stand up.  Without that help, our souls might remain silent and just go along with whatever it is.

Sometimes our feet start to slip when we are standing against iniquity as well.  We want to believe that standing up is enough, and that is all there is to the struggle.  But when we start to get tired and worry that we are going to go down and fall off the path, God is merciful and he helps us, and gives us something to hold on to.

Today, let's partner with God to give voice to our souls, and to establish a firm foundation for our feet.  Let's hold to the iron rod of his gospel, and always be willing to stand against iniquity, and instead choose love, and hope, and goodness.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Proverbs 1:10 -- On Not Consenting to Sin

"My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not."
Proverbs 1:10

Simple, right?  When we think of sinners enticing us, we often think of kids or teens, because that's when peer pressure hits us hard, and we are hyper-concerned about what other people think, and even when we're out on our own for the first time and are trying to figure out our own way.

Unfortunately, we are enticed even as we age, sometimes from areas we wouldn't expect.  We face ethical challenges at home, in the workplace, in social situations, and even sometimes at church.  It's hard to stand up for what we believe when no one else is standing with us.  It's hard to be in situations where we feel mocked or looked down on for trying to live the right way.

Another thing that is difficult is making sure *we* aren't part of that group that is doing the enticing, either by accidentally triggering others' weaknesses or just through inaction.  It isn't easy to stand up, or stand out, but often when we do, we help other people who are also uncomfortable with the situation.

Bottom line, the verse says it all. We need to make sure that we aren't consenting to bad things.  Today, let's walk away from those sinners.  Especially the ones inside ourselves. :)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Hebrews 4:1 -- On Fear and Respect and Preparation

"Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it."
Hebrews 4:1

Fear is an interesting idea in the scriptures that is often hard to understand.  We're asked to love God, and read that "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment" (1 John 4:18), and yet we also read "Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13), and lest we ascribe the idea of fearing God to the fulfilled Mosaic law, here it is in our scripture for today: "Let us therefore fear."  ... Yikes, right?  Why would we want to fear, or have fear in our lives?

Most of the time in the scriptures when we're told to fear God, it means respect.  No one should attempt to climb Mount Everest without a healthy fear of death for instance.  You have to respect the mountain, or it *will* crush you.  Not because the mountain hates you, but because you weren't prepared for the challenge.  And life is like that too.  It's a challenge that we need to respect and plan for.   D&C 38:30: "if ye are prepared ye shall not fear."

This verse is about fear, but not fear of God.  More a fear of failure.  Not the immobilizing, overwhelming kind, but again, the respect kind.  We need to respect the challenge before us.  If we're going to be able to accept what God offers, it's going to take some effort and some work to become the kind of people that can stand in his presence.

Today, let's take hold of God's promise of rest, and let's be prepared for it.  Let's have a healthy fear of becoming worse than we are, and turn that into motivation to become better.  

Thursday, August 17, 2017

1 Nephi 18:11 -- On Rope from God

"And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel did take me and bind me with cords, and they did treat me with much harshness; nevertheless, the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word which he had spoken concerning the wicked."
1 Nephi 18:11

Sometimes we wonder why God allows bad things to happen to good people.  The very wonder, of course, kind of slides around the fact that we are all bad sometimes.  It's still a good question though.  The problem of evil, and why God allows it.  Philosophers have a field day with this one.

Nephi addresses one reason here.  God gives us the rope, and allows us to hang ourselves.  If we choose bad, he doesn't stop us immediately and force us to be good.  He lets it happen, but he gives us a conscience and lets us think about it, and we dig ourselves in deeper if that is what we choose to do.  On the other hand, this brings up a second reason that Nephi doesn't mention...that same time and situation, where the Lord is letting the evil happen and watching us do it, is the very chance that all of us have to stop ourselves, to arrest our descent into Hell, and to repent.  God isn't just giving us the rope to hang ourselves--it's also the rope that we can use to pull ourselves out of the pit.

The space between action and judgement is both our condemnation and our salvation, and it is up to us to choose which one is going to hold sway in our lives.  In this case, Laman and Lemuel waited for four days and had to be threatened (by God) with death by storm before they let Nephi go.  The Lord gave them four days, not to make Nephi suffer, but to give Laman and Lemuel a chance to change and rethink... which they eventually did.  That was a hard thing for Nephi, but on the other hand, it was important for Laman and Lemuel that they get that chance to realize that God was in charge and how much they needed Nephi.  ... The change didn't last of course, but this event made a difference to all of their lives, and probably affected events later on in their story.

In the end, "God shall wipe away all tears from [our] eyes" (Revelation 21:4) and "swallow up death in victory" (Isaiah 25:8).  Every wrong will be made right, even if that currently seems impossible.  With God, and a life after death, nothing is impossible.  I'm not saying that bad things are easy... far from it.  They are hard by definition.  Today, though, let's try to be patient as God throws other people a rope... and when he throws one to us, let's be really, really careful not to tie it into a noose for our own necks.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

James 3:9-10 -- On Blessing and Cursing

"Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be."
James 3:9-10

James is talking here about how we communicate.  He points out that we often worship God with our mouths, and then turn around and think that it is okay to curse his children.  "These things ought not so to be."  God loves all of his children, and he is the judge.  He asks us to love our enemies, so it's pretty clear that he is asking us to love even the people that most seem like exceptions to this rule, no matter how bad.

Today, let's remember that God wants us to love, not to hate or criticize or mock.   Let's work on seeing the good in others, and on being the kind of people that we want to be... kind, loving, helpful... and honoring others as God's precious children.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Psalms 119:2-3 -- On Seeking with the Whole Heart

"Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.
They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways."
Psalms 119:2-3

I really like the idea that we need to seek God with our whole heart.  ... I also think that is a really hard thing to do.  We so often have divided hearts when we approach God.  We hold things back, and we want things that we can't have.  We have so many things fighting for our attention that we rarely stop to remember God, let alone seeking him with all that we are.

Today, let's work on seeking him with our whole hearts.  And if that's really far away, let's try at least more of our hearts than yesterday.  Let's walk in his ways, and avoid iniquity.  Let's not go chasing off after distractions, but make sure that we are always looking to the source of hope. :)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Alma 20:17 -- On Avoiding Anger and Rash Decisions

"But Ammon stood forth and said unto him: Behold, thou shalt not slay thy son; nevertheless, it were better that he should fall than thee, for behold, he has repented of his sins; but if thou shouldst fall at this time, in thine anger, thy soul could not be saved."
Alma 20:17

This is from a really cool story about Ammon and King Lamoni, and the person that Ammon is talking to here is King Lamoni's father.  In this story, King Lamoni's father didn't set out trying to be actively evil.  He believed the lies that he was raised on, and thinks that Ammon is one of the bad guys.  We know better, because we have a narrator, but he didn't, and so when he finds that his son is talking to, and has been "corrupted" by a Nephite, he's angry.  The problem is that he is *so* angry that he is about to kill his own son, until Ammon stops him.

Things work out in the end... don't worry.  This verse though warns us of the dangers, both of blindly believing that we are right, and of excessive anger.  No matter how cool we think we are, running things by the Lord (who asks us to look unto him in every thought anyway--D&C 6:36) is always the best choice.  Hasty and rash choices tend to not be very great ones.  And excessive anger can cause us some serious regret.

Today, let's choose to chill out a little bit.  Let's listen to others, and especially to God, allowing that we might not always be 100% right about everything.  Let's not allow others to enrage us or to control our fears or our actions.  And let's work on our tempers, since anger can put our souls in jeopardy.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

D&C 128:15 -- On Being Made Perfect

"And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect."
Doctrine and Covenants 128:15

I love the idea that we, as a whole human family, need each other.  It's also a challenging idea on one level, because: how?, right?  We've got enough problems just maintaining our own faith and developing our own relationships with God.  It feels sort of overwhelming to be responsible for everyone else too.

Luckily, this is where God comes in.  Just like he will never force us to do anything, he won't force anyone else either.  All we are required to do is try... to be the means that God uses to help people know the truth and to give people a choice.  As far as missionary work goes, we are God's servants in this, and if people want to know more, we should be ready always to tell them about the hope that is us (1 Peter 3:15).  And as far as making sure *everyone* has a chance, there is also genealogy and temple work.  As we do this work (which was referred to 1 Corinthians 15:29), we help God in his work to save us all together, so we can all be made perfect.

Today, let's remember that we are in it together.  Let's trust God, and be willing to open our mouths when he has a message to share.  Let's do temple work to help people who can't help themselves.  And let's love and be kind to each other.  We need each other.  We can't make ourselves perfect, but if we work together, and with God, he can make us perfect and whole and complete in him.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

2 Corinthians 8:3-5 -- On Giving Beyond our Power

"For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God."
2 Corinthians 8:3-5

This is Paul, talking about the people in Macedonia and how they were incredibly generous even though they were suffering.  I love the idea of them being willing to give "beyond their power" and that even though Paul and the rest had hoped they wouldn't, they were willing to sacrifice for them.

I like the phrase "Gave their own selves to the Lord," and the implication there that the reason they were able to give beyond their power is because they gave themselves to the Lord first, and then they were able to help others, by the will of God.

This can work in our lives as well.  With God, no matter what circumstances we are in, we can be okay, and be able to help and serve others.  As we give ourselves to the Lord, he will give us enough, and more than enough so that we can also provide for others.  It doesn't mean that we shouldn't be planning ahead and learning the lessons of self-sufficiency, but it does mean that miracles can happen even when it looks like on paper that it won't work out.

Today, let's give ourselves to God and have faith in him, and work to do his will.  As we do, God will help us be able to make a difference beyond our own power in the lives of others.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 -- On the Conclusion

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

I like scriptures that try to sum up the gospel.  They *should* work, right?  Things like "O be wise; what can I say more" (Jacob 6:12), or "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matthew 7:12)... those should be daily mantras for us, summing up the whole gospel.  And yet we resist.  We nit pick, we justify, we ask for specifics so that we can work around them. :)  Instead of 10 Commandments, we need hundreds or thousands.

This scripture sums up the gospel by instructing us to show reverence to God (which is what "fear" usually means in the scriptures), and to keep his commandments.  Simple, right?  And it even gives a reason, which is a huge bonus.  The reason is that everything gets judged in the end, and we're going to end up on one side or the other... good or evil.  So, basically: pick God's side. :)

Today, let's try to take some of the simple summary advice of the gospel seriously.  Let's work on showing reverence to God, and on doing as he asks.  We could get into the deep, awesome reasons why, but today let's not question.  Let's just do it, and see how the conclusion works out. :)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

John 11:35 -- On Weeping

"Jesus wept."
John 11:35

This is a very short but interesting verse.  Christ cries at the death of Lazarus.  For a regular person this seems normal, but for Jesus, knowing he was about to bring him back from the dead, it maybe seems a little bit off.  And it's kind of like that with God in general, right?  He's got this perfect perspective, and he can see, and control, anything he wants to, and still he's emotionally involved?  It's hard for us to see, and we often think that he is detached, playing games with us, and not crying over us because we feel distant and we have a hard time understanding or relating to God.

I guess on one level we can relate because we've probably all been emotionally involved in movies or books before, even when we knew how they ended.  We still cared, and were invested enough in the characters to feel for them.  Of course, Christ is like 30 billion times more invested in us (low estimate), because through the atonement he suffered our pains and sicknesses and for our sins, which is a very intimate look into each of us.  We don't think people understand because they haven't walked in our shoes, but He *has.*

I think this verse is amazing because it shows us very clearly that God cares.  He cares about what we are going through, because we care.  Even when he knows it will shortly turn around or be okay, he cares about us in that moment, and doesn't dismiss our emotion as pointless or counterproductive. :)  He feels it with us, and he can help us to stand and become stronger because he knows how it feels, and *also* for bonus points, knows how to help us deal with it, and learn from it.

Today, let's recognize how much God cares for us, and let's learn to trust him and his perspective. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Proverbs 23:23 -- On Buying the Truth

"Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding."
Proverbs 23:23

This reminded me of "Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy " (2 Nephi 9:51).  I think it is an important, perhaps even essential reminder for us all.  We should be using our physical and spiritual resources to accomplish our goals, and becoming who we want to be.  It doesn't work to try to separate the two, because all of it is part of God's plan, and kingdom, and we are partially both as well.

Buying the truth is much more important than investing in other things.  Today, let's invest with God. :)  Let's work on buying the truth, and wisdom, instruction, and understanding, and converting our whole selves to God, not just a little part. :)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Alma 12:3-5 -- On Thoughts, Lies, and Enemies

"Now Zeezrom, seeing that thou hast been taken in thy lying and craftiness, for thou hast not lied unto men only but thou hast lied unto God; for behold, he knows all thy thoughts, and thou seest that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit;
And thou seest that we know that thy plan was a very subtle plan, as to the subtlety of the devil, for to lie and to deceive this people that thou mightest set them against us, to revile us and to cast us out—
Now this was a plan of thine adversary, and he hath exercised his power in thee. Now I would that ye should remember that what I say unto thee I say unto all."
Alma 12:3-5

This is part of the story of Zeezrom, who goes from being a bad guy to a good guy.  Awesome story.  These verses have some interesting points:
  • Lying to others seems to equate to lying to God.  This kind of makes sense if we think of the scriptures that explain "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40) and "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me" (Matthew 25:45).  Our interactions with each other are specifically called out as being equivalent to treating the Lord that way.
  • God knows our thoughts.  This is throughout the scriptures, but it's a good reminder.  God knows what we want and need before we express it, and there is no way to lie to him even when we are lying to ourselves, which we do a lot and should probably be wary of. :)  Being absolutely honest with God is a prerequisite to sincere prayer and a stronger relationship with God.
  • Lying and deceiving are provinces of the Devil.  When we do those things, we are following *his* plan, not the Lord's plan.
  • The Devil is our enemy, even when we allow him to use us.  Doing Satan's will is always going to result in our misery.  That is the ultimate end of serving him, just as joy is the ultimate end of serving God.  God is our friend, Satan is our enemy.  We need to sear that into our brains somehow, because way too often we follow Satan like a kid blindly trusting the kidnapper offering them some candy.  Let's recognize that Satan is trying to poison and kill us, and *stop* listening to him.
This lesson for Zeezrom is for all of us, so that we, like Zeezrom, can learn to be good guys, no matter how bad we have been in the past.  Today, let's listen to and learn from the Spirit, and do as God asks.

Monday, August 7, 2017

1 Nephi 22:3 -- On Temporal and Spiritual Lessons

"Wherefore, the things of which I have read are things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual; for it appears that the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations."
1 Nephi 22:3

Nephi is explaining a prophecy of Isaiah here, and the part that caught my eye today is after his brothers ask if the words are to be interpreted spiritually.  ... Kind of like we do a lot too, especially with Isaiah... wonder how to interpret it, and whether it is literal or figurative.  Nephi's answer is interesting because he doesn't take one of the obvious choices, but instead confirms that the choices themselves are suspect.

God's lessons are almost always , as Nephi instructs, both temporal and spiritual. We can't only learn one side and not the other... much like the purpose of life (or one of them).  We got a body, and we're here to learn about it and use it.  Not just as a temporary, disposable caravan for the soul, but as part of the new whole we are becoming... spirit and body united and inseparable.  Not to trap us, but to enhance us, and increase our capacity for joy.

Today, let's remember that God's lessons are for every part of life, not just things that we should think about on the Sabbath.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Micah 2:10 -- On Arising and Departing

"Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction."
Micah 2:10

The phrase "this is not your rest" is a phrase that God speaks to us often I think.  We're not so much into the "Endure to the End" thing.  We'd rather be "One and Done" when it comes to the gospel.  Get baptized, profess our faith, read the scriptures, and then go home and do other things and pursue other interests.

That's not the gospel though, and that isn't God.  They aren't human-sized books to read or goals to accomplish.  They are perspectives, ways of life, relationships... things that grow, and things that we become, rather than something we can just do and be done.  And so we get trapped in ruts, thinking that we're done.  That we've changed enough, or grown enough, or suffered enough.  We put limits on God and we say, I'll follow you so far, but not beyond, because that's just crazy.  But God sees what we're doing--those kinds of statements don't limit *him,* they limit *us.*

Rest belongs to a God-sized story that we have barely begun, no matter our age.  When we look for limits, in essence we're saying, okay, I read the prologue, and I'm done.  Or ... cool, I think I'll stop in chapter 5.  It's just getting good and I want it to stay in this kind of anticipatory limbo forever.

When we live the gospel and endure to the end, we find that blowing past those limits doesn't just open us up to the suffering we predicted in chapter six, but also the understanding and acceptance.  We would also have missed the exciting bits in chapters seven through twelve, the eventual triumph in chapter 48, and turning the pages also allows the possibility of the happy ending and the true rest at the end of the book much, much farther along... one of many that we will read in God's eternal library.

Today, let's arise and depart the rut that we are stuck in.  Let's listen to God, and be willing to make him a part of our lives every day, not just once.  Let's keep reading to find the happy ending, and our true rest--this is not it.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

D&C 65:2 -- On Keys and Stones

The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.
Doctrine and Covenants 65:2

Interesting imagery here.  The key thing is cool, but it kind of reminds me of asking your parents for the car keys.  ... It involves a lot of trust and responsibility.  God is giving us the keys to his kingdom, not for the proverbial joyride, but because he trusts us to further his purposes... or at least trusts us enough to give us the responsibility and let us learn to handle it.

The idea of the stone cut from the mountain without hands that rolls until it fills the whole earth is another interesting idea.  The stone represents Christ and the gospel, and the fact that it is cut out of the mountain without hands might carry the idea that miracles from God are involved here: people couldn't do what Christ can do, and his gospel will roll forth.

Then, the two ideas of keys and stones are kind of strange together.  If God's kingdom is rolling forth without "hands," then why commit the keys of the gospel into hands?  And I suppose that kind of speaks to both the fact that the gospel will move forward with or without us individually, and also to the fact that God *wants* us to be a part of it.

Today, let's choose to be a part of the gospel, and work with God to move it forward.  Let's work on being part of the miracle, and worthy of God's trust.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Ecclesiastes 5:10 -- On Satisfaction and Joy

"He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity."
Ecclesiastes 5:10

This is something that we probably need to remember.  We so often dictate our actions by our desires, forgetting God's admonition to bridle our passions.  Why should we bridle our passions? ... Because, among other things, this verse.  Nothing that we desire is ever going to be enough.  If we get silver, we just want more, and if we want more toys and we get some, we'll just think that we need even more.  When we chase our desires, they just grow.

If however, we bridle them and tame them, as the analogy goes, then we can enjoy them, when and where appropriate according to God, and still have everything else that God has promised.  As we learn to do things God's way, we actually get way more satisfaction and enjoyment out of life because we don't have the desire --> sin --> guilt progression going on.  Instead, we let go of the obsession with more more more and we can focus on better, happier progressions. :)

Today, let's look to God and seek him before we look to satisfy our latest desire.  As we do this, we'll trade some false joy in for the real thing. :)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

1 John 4:4 -- On Children of God

"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world."
1 John 4:4

I really like several things about this first.  First of all, the lesson that we are little children of God.  Being of God is critical to remembering how awesome we can become, and that we are connected to God in real ways, not playthings or afterthoughts.  And being children, although it almost seems opposed to that, is actually complementary, helping us understand that we need to be humble and open to learning.  We are the seeds of greatness, but we haven't really stretched our branches yet, and we need to learn to weather the storms so that we can endure and grow up tall and strong and good.

I also like the idea of overcoming the evil in the world and the trials of life because God is greater than anything that could stand against us, and he is in us... part of us... because we are of God.

Today, let's remember to seek the Spirit and to pray and to maintain our connection to God carefully.  With it, life is much better than without.  Doesn't mean the storms won't come, but it does help us weather them, and learn from our experiences rather than growing bitter.  Let's remember God is with us if we repent and do well and welcome him into our lives.  Let's stick with him, and overcome the world.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Mosiah 2:38 -- On Repentance and Guilt

"Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever."
Mosiah 2:38

This is kind of scary, but it struck me as a good contrast to the idea of awakening to God.  This verse is about rebelling against God, and says that if we don't repent during our lives that we will basically awake to our own guilt.  I think this is what happened to Alma the Younger and also to Zeezrom, just a little ahead of time.  And this, rather than being a punishment from God, is actually a punishment from *ourselves* when we have to finally face the truth--we awaken to guilt because of a contrast within ourselves between who we are and who we think we should be.

That kind of awakening is a scary prospect, probably for all of us.  I think that the way to ensure that we don't awaken to guilt rather than awaken to God is to live what we truly believe.  It's so easy to get away from that, and to justify "small" transgressions, or to delay repentance further and further.  Even during this life though, the more we reconcile what we believe and what we actually do, the more we will be at peace... and, ideally, if we deal with it now, we'll never have to awaken to our own guilt later.  Today, let's work on that reconciliation.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Alma 5:7 -- On Awaking Unto God

"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."
Alma 5:7

The "their" in the first statement is referring to ancestors, specifically in reference to their ancestors as written about in the scriptures.  I really like the images here of God changing our hearts and awakening us out of sleep.  We so often don't really have a good handle on what we're missing with reference to God.  We're in darkness, and encircled by the bands of death and the chains of hell and we don't even realize it.  Until we really connect with God, we think it's just life... it kind of stinks in spots, but that is the way it is.

With God though, *everything* changes.  The possibilities multiply.  Hope blossoms.  If we can't seem to learn to love, or overcome a challenge, God will help us.  Even during the low points, God is there to strengthen us and teach us. He shows us the light in the darkness and changes our hearts for us, if we are willing to let him shape us.

Now that we know about God, let's not walk blindly into that everlasting destruction.  Let's awake unto God.  Let's allow him to show us the hope and the light and the endless possibilities that we could never otherwise see.

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