Tuesday, October 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Philippians 3:8 -- Christ versus Everything Else

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Proverbs 25:28 -- On Weathering the Spiritual Storms

"He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls."
Proverbs 25:28

This is interesting, talking about how when we can't control ourselves we are vulnerable to destruction.  Anyone can push our buttons.  Anyone can control us, if we can't control ourselves.  ... And, you know, I think we wander around in that state a lot more than we should in life.  We react to everything... instead of standing up to the constant barrage around us and acting to make it better, we allow ourselves to be acted upon.

And yeah, sometimes it is easier to just take life as it comes and react to it, but God gave us free agency for a reason.  We need to learn this stuff. :)  And we need to remember that God gives us the power to make a difference.

Today, let's work on learning to control ourselves, and as we do, let's reach out to affect our environment as well.  Let's work to make the world a better place, to do good and to love and serve others and set a good example for our fellow beings. :)  As we do, our spiritual walls and foundations will grow strong, and we'll be able to weather the storms of life rather than getting caught up in every symbolic tsunami we happen across.  As we establish that anchor in the storm, we'll also be able to share some stability with others, grounded in the Gospel, anchored in Christ.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Philippians 4:19 -- On Trusting God

"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19

The most challenging thing about this verse I think is just believing it.  ... Believing it in not just a theoretical, abstract way, but in a very direct and personal way.  We've all seen miracles in our lives.  Can we finally accept on the deepest level that God *is* there, constantly helping us, and trying to guide us in wisdom's paths? :)

Let's try.  Let's start by acting like things are going to be okay... that things will work out, that we don't have to freak out about the current situation because it is going to be okay. :)  Just that small attitude shift from "Oh no!" and worry to calm acceptance and a focus on the future.  Just that change would change our lives significantly, would it not?

Today, let's try trusting God a little more, and see how it transforms our lives.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Proverbs 25:16 -- On Too Much Honey

"Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it."
Proverbs 25:16

We had a little Halloween party today where we handed out a LOT of candy, so when I ran across this today it made me laugh.  In thinking about it further though, I think there is a lot more here than just a laugh, and maybe it is something that we should all think about.

We all find honey in our lives.  Maybe it isn't literally honey... it could be some other kind of food that we really like, or something else totally unrelated to food.  But whatever it is, we like it a lot, and we're very tempted to have way more of it than is merely "sufficient."  We want ALL the toys, not just one.  And tasting honey can be addictive... we want more and more of it.

God gives us boundaries and guidelines to protect us.  If we partake of good things in our lives within the guidelines that he teaches us, then our lives, our relationships, and our health (mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical) will be better.  We'll be happier and more hopeful.

Today, whatever that honey is in our lives, let's find healthy and positive ways to have the good part of it in our lives, within the bounds the Lord has set, and anything outside those bounds... the part that tempts us to go too far and to have too much... let's be careful to let go of.  God isn't trying to punish us with these rules... he's trying to help us not get sick and vomit (figuratively and symbolically as well as literally).  There can, indeed, be too much of a good thing... and when we overdo it, it turns it bad.  So let's enjoy the honey, but not make ourselves sick.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Galatians 4:16 -- On Accepting and Remembering the Truth

"Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?"
Galatians 4:16

Paul, here, is trying to get the Galatians to come back to the gospel after going astray.  In the chapter he asks why they went back to their old habits, and reminds them of when he visited them.  He asks them if they have suddenly become enemies because he is (still) speaking the truth.

I think God sometimes has a similar question for us.  We too often kind of slip away from the gospel... maybe thinking that is okay because it isn't too far, but when the time comes, there we are, still trapped.  God invites us to return, and remember.

Today, let's not be an enemy of the truth.  Let's remember our faith and our commitment, and not let anything at all stand in the way of our dedication to God and his gospel.  So many things compete for our attention... let's make sure God and Truth (which are synonymous; never at odds) always come first.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Joseph Smith History 1:10-11 -- On Finding the Answers

"In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?
While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
Joseph Smith History 1:10-11

Don't we all feel like this sometimes?  Listen to the arguments and issues in the world and wonder just what the real truth is underneath it all?  It seems to me that this isn't just a story about what happened to Joseph Smith, but also an example of what we can *all* do when we have questions in our lives that really matter to us, and that we need help with.  Nephi has a similar experience when his father told the family about a dream he had, and Nephi really wanted to know what it meant.  He went to the Lord, and he found out.

All of us can take the advice that Joseph Smith found in the book of James, and follow the example of Nephi and other prophets in seeking answers from the Lord.  Today, when we lack wisdom about something, as we all do, let's not just Google it or ask random acquaintances.  It's good to study it out in our minds, of course--but then let's go to the source of all truth.  Let's ask God what to do, because he always knows, even when the situation seems impossible to us.  God *wants* to give liberally to us, and he won't criticize us for asking.  Let's trust in him, and tap into that infinite wisdom to help us make better decisions. :)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Revelation 18:4 -- On Staying Safe

"And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."
Revelation 18:4

This is a good reminder that although we are trying to make the world around us better, we also need to not get too entangled in it.  God asks us to be separate, to stay away from evil, and not to embrace it.  That, of course, doesn't mean that we can't have friends who make some poor choices, or do things that we don't agree with.  Loving people is a good idea.  It does mean though that we shouldn't ever join others in sin, or get to the point where we love our surroundings so much that we are unwilling to put God first and let them go.  We don't want to turn into a modern version of Lot's Wife, after all. :)

Today, let's remember to not partake of sin, even though we are friends with sinners.  Let's always remember to put God first, and walk away from anything if he asks it.  It isn't, clearly, because God wants to isolate us and have us all to himself. :)  It is because we need to "receive not" of the plagues... literal or spiritual... that threaten us when we get too close.  Let's stay safe, and stick with God. :)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Proverbs 6:6-8 -- On Not Being Sluggards

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest."
Proverbs 6:6-8

The scriptures don't usually call us sluggards, and I don't think that God is trying to insult us at all.  This is a pretty good reminder that we need to avoid the whole laziness thing though.  Ants don't have to be told to prepare for the winter or to provide for themselves.  Sometimes, unfortunately, we do.  We forget that the point of life is to work and learn, and start thinking that it is binge watching our favorite show, or playing with toys or whatever.  And there is a place for enjoying ourselves, certainly.  But as always, we have to make sure that we get our priorities straight, making sure that we are prepared, and that we've done the things that we need to do to stay on top of our jobs and finances or school or kids or callings or friendships, and definitely making sure that we take time for God, and talk to him and include him in our lives.

Today, let's try not to be sluggards. :)  Let's do what we know we need to do without being told.  Let's prepare and be ready... and then we won't have those guilt pangs while we're doing other things that we enjoy more. :) ... And we won't forget God or fall away from his path, which, you know, is super ultra important as well. :) 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Exodus 24:9-10 -- On Remembering

"Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:
And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness."
Exodus 24:9-10

There are several scriptures that talk about seeing God, and it is always an amazing thing.  This one struck me today because two verses before this they promise God that they will be obedient... I've read it before and I know that about a month after this (while they are still waiting for Moses to come back) the people give up on the Lord and ask Aaron for a golden calf.  And Aaron makes them one... after having seen the Lord.

I obviously don't know any additional context outside the verses themselves, but that seems like a pretty short time to be willing to give up on the Lord after having actually *seen* him, and having that certain knowledge.  And you have to wonder, don't you, if someone could let go of this kind of a proof so quickly, how easily we could find reasons to fall away as well.

So, how do we guard against that?  How do we ensure that we aren't going to backslide into being who we used to be rather than continuing to follow God and becoming who we *want* to be?  And I think the answer is that we need a lot of reminders. :)  I think that is one reason that we go to church each week: to remember.  It's the reason that we pray as often as possible--to keep in touch with the Lord.  It's why we learn scriptures and hymns and put pictures of the temple up in our homes.  All of that, and much more, to remind ourselves every day of who we want to be, and how to find the path to joy.  All of this so that we don't forget, and start wandering off after some random golden calf, that no matter how shiny, IS NOT GOD.

Today, let's wait on the Lord, and continue to do as he asks, no matter how long it takes.  Let's remember the knowledge and the joy and the spirit that has filled our hearts, and not walk away if we don't feel that way 100% of the time.  Instead, if we miss it, let's get closer to the spirit.  Let's listed to a conference talk, or get on our knees and pray.  Let's do whatever it takes to stay on the path.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

3 Nephi 3:11 -- On Wronging Ourselves

"And now it came to pass when Lachoneus received this epistle he was exceedingly astonished, because of the boldness of Giddianhi demanding the possession of the land of the Nephites, and also of threatening the people and avenging the wrongs of those that had received no wrong, save it were they had wronged themselves by dissenting away unto those wicked and abominable robbers."
3 Nephi 3:11

This is part of a story where the bad-guy Gadianton robbers are demanding that the good-guy Nephites surrender and give up everything they have and are.  It's an interesting read, but what struck me about it this time is the statement here "avenging the wrongs of those who had received no wrong, save it were they had wronged themselves."  This strikes me as applying to *so* much more than just this story.  ... So often, don't we blame the bad things in our lives on external influences, when, if we're being honest with ourselves, *we* are actually the ones who caused them?

My purpose here is of course not to make us feel horrible about ourselves.  It's a good reminder though that the source of hope and joy in our lives is never finding vengeance or stomping on others.  It is rather cleaning up our lives, improving, helping others, and following God's path. :)

Today, let's be sure not to wrong ourselves.  Let's admit our own weaknesses and mistakes, and make the effort to go before God and repent, and ask him to help us change, rather than hardening our hearts and trying to blame other people or circumstances.  Even when bad things happen that we can't do anything about, going to God about it always a better option than becoming a bad guy in someone else's life.  Let's stay the good guys that we should be.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Psalms 107:8-9 -- Only Staying Hungry for Goodness

"Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness."
Psalms 107:8-9

This is a great scripture about the goodness of God and his mercy towards us when we are in need.  ... And maybe it is also a good scripture that can remind us to never stop being hungry for the gospel.  In a spiritual sense, it is a good idea to always keep longing for more, so that we keep learning and never stop thinking that we need God, and need to keep learning and growing.

Today, let's stay hungry for goodness. :)  And let's remember and praise the Lord for his wonderful works.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

John 14:4-6 -- On Knowing The Way

"And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
John 14:4-6

This is an interesting passage in the New Testament where Christ is talking about his coming death, but as with most things that he taught there were layered meanings--part literal, and part symbolic and spiritual.  This particular passage stood out to me because I think that it echoes something that we experience frequently.  We read a statement from God that we know something or have the knowledge or ability to make the right choices (for instance when the scriptures say that the spirit of Christ is given to every man and that we know the way to judge, or when God asks us to follow *any* of the commandments, and tells us that we can, or when God helped Nephi to know that the Lord doesn't give us commandments without providing a way for us to follow them), and our immediate gut response (here played by Thomas) to deny that, and say "Wait, wait... no we don't.  What?"

Here, Christ tells his disciples that they know where he is going, and how to get there.  And Thomas is like "Um... no."  And Christ, gently, reminds him of what all of this is about, subtly reminding him that he needs to think about it more, and not just assume that he doesn't have enough information.  He was going to the Father, and he had taught his disciples to follow him so that they could also return.

Today, I think the lesson to learn is perhaps to take a step back and think about it when God tells us something or tells us that we have some ability or power that we don't feel or understand.  Just like Elisha's servant could not see the Chariots of Fire, we can't always even see the reality of our own goodness and spiritual power.  God gives us many unseen gifts, and we have to trust him, and have faith in his word to us, that we *are* powerful enough to face and overcome the challenges before us--not just in external things, but in internal things as well.  We have to have faith that when he tells us that we know, that we *do* know the way, and how to accomplish what he asks.  It might take some work, and some study, and starting slowly.  Maybe we only know how to begin... but God *always* gives us the way to get there--to work our way back to him.  Let's trust God, and exercise our power to be good and to do good.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 -- On the More Excellent Way

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
1 Corinthians 13:1-3

In the last chapter, Paul talked about amazing gifts (prophecy, miracles, etc.) and how we should seek them in our lives.  Then he said that there was a more excellent way.  This is what he says is the more excellent way.

The way we use the word charity in our modern world is a little bit different than Paul intends here, which we can see in the third verse.  Charity isn't bestowing all our goods to feed the poor, although that is a good thing, among all the other good things that Paul mentions, like prophecy, knowledge, faith, sacrifice.  And these are amazing things, as are the things that he mentioned in the last chapter.  What could possibly nullify all of these and make them "nothing"?

The answer is, which we also read about elsewhere in the scriptures, is that "charity is the pure love of Christ" (Moroni 7:47).  It is the lack of that pure love that can make all of those amazing and miraculous other things (that we *should* seek) seem to be nothing.  ... And that's a huge challenge sometimes.  It's not even always easy to love those closest to us, let alone love our enemies, as Christ asks.  And yet, without learning that love, the rest of our work on our other amazing talents profits us nothing.

This, of course, doesn't mean that all is lost if we are used to being generally grumpy or insular, or if we yell at other people in traffic. :)  We have time and space to learn these things... that's what life is for.  But, eventually, we need to learn to have out "hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another" (Mosiah 18:21).  And, you know, just in case we don't have a 300 year lifespan ahead of us, we should probably get started now.  Maybe the first step is just being polite to a telemarketer, or smiling at the person checking out our groceries.  We can graduate to more advanced things when we're ready. :)

Today, let's work on learning to love the people around us.  Let's develop our desire for unity, and work on being kind, even to people that don't agree with us, politically, religiously, or otherwise.  As we do so, all of those other cool talents we have will mean much more, and we'll be learning what Lehi called the greatest of all gifts, and partaking of God's love in our own lives and sharing it with others.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

1 Corinthians 12:29-31 -- On Cultivating our Gifts

"Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way."
1 Corinthians 12:29-31

Previously in the chapter, Paul was talking about how we are all needed, just like all the parts of the body are very different, but still absolutely needed.  Then, here, he mentions some specific things that are needed. Paul talks about gifts here, but not just any gifts... specifically some of the "best" ones.  Ones that we should want to have.

Moses said "would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!" (Numbers 11:29).  The gifts of apostles and prophets aren't things that we are restricted from seeking, nor are they impossible to achieve.  Of course, obviously, God keeps his house in order and we can't all be overlapping with each other in terms of being the spokesperson for God with the authority to administer his kingdom on the earth.  So what does seeking these types of gifts mean?  ... I think it is the idea of receiving revelation, and having that close relationship with God.  Nephi's father was a prophet, but Nephi wanted to see what his father had seen for himself.  And he prayed and asked for it, and God showed him.  If we all did have that close relationship with God, and were obedient to God so that we could retain that level of spirituality, it would surely make the world a better place.

Teaching is a gift dear to my heart, and miracles, healing, tongues, and interpretation are all excellent gifts as well... things that we can all have, as needed in doing God's work.  But we probably don't all need them at the same time, and the fact that we have different gifts helps us to be humble and learn to be unified with others, because we need them to help us out sometimes.  We're all awesome in different ways... none of which are unimportant or worthless.  We can develop whatever gifts we have, and then work on some new ones... hopefully getting better and better as we progress, and also helping others to do the same.

And then the clincher at the end.  All of this is super-important, but Paul is going to show us something even more excellent. :)  We'll talk about the "more excellent way" tomorrow. :)

Monday, October 16, 2017

1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 -- On Rejoicing and Prayer

"Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

This is great stuff.  The advice to "rejoice evermore" seems to indicate that always rejoicing is possible, and even essential.  I think that we often don't realize that, or we forget.  We think that life has ups and downs, and too often we think that we get stuck in the down part.  But just like Mormon 9:14, learning to be happy now is a choice.  Our external circumstances might not be that great, but we still get to choose how we react to things, and whether or not to abide in Faith.  That doesn't mean that the down times aren't going to come, but it does mean that we can learn to weather the storm and find joy even in the hardest times.

The second verse I think is inseparable from the first.  In order to get that spirit of rejoicing into our lives, we need to be praying, all the time.  We need that relationship with God, and we need to trust him even (or perhaps especially) during difficult challenges... because he can help us, and get us through it all.

Today, let's rejoice, and let's pray, and maybe even both at the same time. :)  With God, life can be good all the time.  Not saying it is easy, or that we can get there quickly or without a lot of work... but it is possible, and an amazing goal to work toward.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Psalms 36:9 -- On Light and Darkness

"For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light."
Psalms 36:9

The phrasing here is interesting "in thy light shall we see light."  Thinking about it physically it seems sort of weird.  Darkness is what allows you to detect light more clearly... isn't it?  If you have light, it might be harder to see more light, because they just blend together and maybe get brighter.  If we think of it symbolically though, then I think it becomes clear.

If we have God's light in our lives... his influence, his guidance and clarity, then it becomes easier to see the light around us... the light of goodness in the people around us, the light of hope shining to guide our way out of the darkness of sin or despair.  God's fountain of life offers life to any who drink from it. :)

Today, let's invite God's light into our lives, and let it banish our darkness.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Alma 11:22 -- On Faith before Fear

"And Amulek said unto him: Yea, if it be according to the Spirit of the Lord, which is in me; for I shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord. And Zeezrom said unto him: Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being."
Alma 11:22

This verse intrigues me because I wonder why someone would try this.  Why does it matter so much to anyone else if someone believes in Christ?   And of course the overall question when it comes to things like this is " I think sometimes we do things like that when we're overconfident in our own opinions and we want to prove someone else wrong, or corrupt, or prove that they aren't better and definitely don't know more than we do.

Zeezrom turns into a good guy later in the story, but right here when he is in bad guy mode, he seems to just be focused on tripping up the good guys... catching them in a lie, showing the people that they aren't really sincere, or whatever.

In Moroni 1:2-3, Moroni is talking about the people who will put anyone to death that isn't willing to deny Christ.  I think that is the other factor here... why doesn't it matter so much that we *don't * deny God?  Why not get rich here (6 onties was a lot of money), or live among other (Moroni), or save yourself from the Fiery Furnace (Shadrach Meshach and Abednego), etc.?

I think the ultimate answer here is that it matters because part of what we have to learn in life is putting faith before fear.  We have to learn to trust God, no matter what.  If we deny him because of fear, or greed, or loneliness, or whatever other reason, then we're getting our priorities mixed up.  We're forgetting the lessons of the scriptures... that those that stand with God are more numerous and powerful than those that stand against him, even if we can't see it.

Today, let's remember to place God first in our priorities, and worry about *his* will before anyone else's, including our own.  As we put him first, everything else in our lives will work better, and we'll be focusing on things that lead to happiness and peace.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Helaman 15:3-4 -- On Being Chosen and Chastened and Loved

"Yea, wo unto this people who are called the people of Nephi except they shall repent, when they shall see all these signs and wonders which shall be showed unto them; for behold, they have been a chosen people of the Lord; yea, the people of Nephi hath he loved, and also hath he chastened them; yea, in the days of their iniquities hath he chastened them because he loveth them.
But behold my brethren, the Lamanites hath he hated because their deeds have been evil continually, and this because of the iniquity of the tradition of their fathers. But behold, salvation hath come unto them through the preaching of the Nephites; and for this intent hath the Lord prolonged their days."
Helaman 15:3-4

I like how these verses show the love of God for all of his children, whether obedient or not.  Even though it uses the word hated, it is clear that God hates sin and not the people committing the sin.  Instead of just favoring one group over another, God consistently blesses the obedient, and shows mercy on the disobedient, giving them time and space, even through generations, to realize their errors and find repentance.  The obedient would not learn if he didn't chasten and try them, and so he does so... not as a punishment, but as a refinement.  God is always helping us to learn and to become our best selves... if we're chosen, we have to remain chosen.  And if we've been led astray by incorrect or evil traditions, God shows us the way back, not just dismissing us as bad guys, but as also worthy of his attention and help.

Today, let's remember God's blessings and mercy, and let's thank God for the extra time he gives us to learn and to repent.  We've all been good guys and bad guys, and I think one of the most reassuring blessings that we have is exactly what these verses show us... that we are *always* loved, and looked after.  God is always looking to teach us and help us, and gives us space to repent and change.  Let's do so.  Let's realize the great love that God has for us and get to know him better... today, and always. :)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

2 Kings 1:9-13 -- On Respect and Humility

"Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down.
And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly.
And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight."
2 Kings 1:9-13

This is an interesting story that seems kind of scary.  The king sends a detachment of the army off to the prophet to get him.  The prophet defeats the army.  ... It happens again.  And then, the third time, the king sends the army off to get the prophet.  The king hasn't changed at this point, but something else has: respect.  The third man is still fulfilling his mission to the king by going, but instead of commanding the prophet, he now understands where the real power lies, and he begs for his life and the lives of his men.

This kind of echoes the way that we deal with God.  We start out by attempting to command him.  We tell him to prove himself to us, or to solve a problem for us.  And we wonder why our commands are going up in smoke. :)  ... We don't really get anywhere with God until we approach him on our knees and sincerely ask for his help.

Today, let's learn from the lesson of Elijah and the King.  Let's not attempt to command God, or ask anyone to do anything contrary to his will.  ... That's just a death sentence... if not literally, then still figuratively.  Let's instead go to God with humility and plead for his help in saving us and the people around us.  As we do, God will preserve us, and help us to learn and grow and become our best selves, and powerful influences for good in the world.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

2 Corinthians 2:14 -- On Triumph in Christ

"Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place."
2 Corinthians 2:14

I love the idea here of triumphing in Christ.  Looking at our lives, and considering the fallen state of man, I think we often realize how difficult it can be to survive, continue, and finish the race, let alone thinking about any kind of triumph.  And yet, with Christ, it is possible to do so much more than survive.  We can enjoy--fly--dance--soar.  We aren't bound to a plodding pace, or restricted by our weaknesses anymore.  He can make us strong, and able, and powerful enough to overcome any trial.

Today, let's team up with Christ, whose team *always* triumphs.  Let's savor our knowledge of God, and look to him for solutions rather than trying to go it alone.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Romans 4:20-21 -- On Staggering Not

"He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform."
Romans 4:20-21

I wonder sometimes how many miracles we miss, just because we are rolling our eyes and thinking "yeah, right" instead of going to work and making it happen.  ... This is God promising a child to parents that were clearly unable to have one.  That's a leap of faith.  ... and think of the Brother of Jared, and Noah, and Nephi, all asked to build ships.  If God asked me to build a ship, I might briefly toy with the idea of buying a LEGO ship, but other than that, probably something I'm not likely to consider.  ... And maybe that's okay, where God doesn't really need us to build ships, but more figuratively, how often does he ask us to do something that does make sense and that we can easily do, and we don't do it because it is inconvenient or uncomfortable?  Let alone the harder, more miraculous things?

Today, let's stagger not at the promises of God, no matter how unlikely they seem.  Let's jump in and do the things that we know that God wants us to do, because those things lead us to, and prepare us for, the greater miracles that God has in store for us.  Let's be ready, and fully persuaded, that God can perform every promise.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Proverbs 23:3-4 -- On Deceitful Meat and Trusting God

"Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.
Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom."
Proverbs 23:3-4

These verses are at the end of a little aside about sitting down to dinner with a rich man... don't desire the super-cool and expensive stuff that he has to eat, because it is "deceitful meat."  That phrase seemed kind of weird to me, and what it made me think of is liver.  When liver is cooking, it smells really good, but then if you eat it, it tastes totally different than it smells.  A similar thing happens sometimes when a store freezes nectarines before selling them, in order to keep them "fresh."  Typically, it leaches out all of the flavor, so the nectarine looks awesome on the outside, but the flesh when you bite into it has become pretty tasteless.  That's my interpretation of "deceitful meat." :) 

I think that is the same sort of thing that God is warning us against here.  He asks us not to get caught up in what *looks* like what we want, because it isn't really as good as it looks, or smells. :)  He needs us to look deeper, and not only that, but not to trust out own wisdom... the wisdom that tells us to work at being rich, because that is what is going to matter.  God's wisdom is what matters, and whether it seems like the coolest thing or not... God's way is ALWAYS the best, and it always leads to the most joy and peace.

Today, let's talk to God about where our own wisdom and his wisdom diverge, and then let's work on getting ours more in line with God's, because after all, he's God, and loads wiser than we are. :)  He doesn't get fooled by the alluring look or smell or taste of something.  He knows whether it is good or bad, no matter the outward properties.  Let's learn to trust him over our own judgment, and try to do as he asks, even when something shiny tempts us in another direction.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

D&C 56:14-17 -- On Counseling the Lord's Way

"Behold, thus saith the Lord unto my people—you have many things to do and to repent of; for behold, your sins have come up unto me, and are not pardoned, because you seek to counsel in your own ways.
And your hearts are not satisfied. And ye obey not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness.
Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!
Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!"
D&C 56:14-17

This is some good advice from God.  I think we counsel in our own ways a lot... but God clearly prefers that we counsel with him and adopt *his* ways.  The rest of these verses seem to be examples of counseling in our own ways.

It is interesting and cool that he addresses both the rich and the poor here, rather than only one side or the other, emphasizing generosity and service to others, and work and self-reliance.  Both groups of people, although seemingly opposite, were "having pleasure in unrighteousness" even though they could have satisfied their hearts with the truth of God.

Today, let's specifically seek God's counsel, and work to adopt his will into our lives.  Let's focus on living the gospel, no matter what circumstances or labels the world throws at us.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Helaman 14:31 -- Having Our Actions Restored to Us

"He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you."
Helaman 14:31

When I was reading this today I had just been watching one of those television courtroom-drama shows, and I was thinking that we so often want other people to pay.  We often think "he totally deserved it" when bad things happen on shows, instead of "Wow, what a shame," or "Oh, how sad." ... and unfortunately, sometimes we carry this over even into the real world, having a retribution mindset, thinking that people deserve to have bad things happen to them if they are mean, etc.

The problem with that thinking, of course, is that *we* are the mean people sometimes.  We are the ones yelling at someone in traffic, or upset that someone is being idiotic, and determined to point it out.  Retribution seems like a really good idea until we're looking at getting the things that *we* do returned on our own heads.  Then it seems kind of scary.

Today, let's remember that everyone needs space to repent.  Instead of judging people and hoping for immediate condemnation, let's do what we can to help people grow and change.  Let's support that possibility and stop to think before we do things, and maybe not do them if we don't want them coming back to us someday.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Psalms 108:12-13 -- On The Help of Men and the Help of God

"Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.
Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies."
Psalms 108:12-13

We often try to give things or other people a central place in our lives instead of God, and I think that is the context of "vain is the help of man."  Certainly, people around us can help us in certain ways, and we can, and should, help others.  But the only one that can save us in gospel terms, and grant us salvation, is Christ.  No one else can step into that spot for us, and no one can replace a relationship with God in our lives.  Indeed, if we try to put a person in that spot in out lives it can actually be quite toxic to our relationship, because we are expecting more than a regular person can give, or be,

Today, when we need help from our troubles that we can't handle alone or with human help, let's call upon God, who hears and answers prayers.  People can't do that, but let's also listen to God's promptings and be willing to act on his promptings to be God's answer to prayers as needed.  Let's be careful to make sure that God is at the center of our lives, and at the top of our priority list.  Let's not confuse what people can do versus what God can do.  Hopefully with God's love in our hearts we won't have any enemies that need treading down, but if we ever do... it belongs in his hands, not in ours, or in any regular person's.  Through God we can do valiantly. :)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Isaiah 30:18 -- On Waiting, and Waiting

"And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him."
Isaiah 30:18

This is an interesting verse.  Sometimes we wonder why the Lord delays his coming, or why he waits to administer justice to the evil... to clear the bad our of the way so that the good can grow.  I think that this verse addresses that.  God waits so that he can be gracious to us.  He delays judgment so that we can take the time to repent, and have that chance to not be on the evil list.  The judgment will come, but he gives us a chance to avoid it.

And we, in turn, wait for him *because* he is waiting for us.  If we were all perfect it would go much faster both ways, but because we are not, God gives us the space to learn and to change.

It's kind of weird to think about the reason for evil in the world is mercy, but it seems kind of baked into the whole *idea* of the world, not only to delay judgment.  In order to bring us through the plan of joy, God had to grant us free agency, which means being able to choose either way.  If he only allowed good, or immediately punished bad, then that would pretty much negate any choice we made, and we'd end up just doing what God said all of the time.  Instead, God wanted us to grow and become independent thinkers... to learn the differences between different choices and to have a chance to choose to be who *we* wanted to be.  And here we are. :)

Today, let's choose to be good, and learn to love the good. :)  Let's patiently wait on the Lord, as he kindly waits for us.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

2 Nephi 2:2 -- On Afflictions and Opposition Leading to Gain

"And now, Jacob, I speak unto you: Thou art my firstborn in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness. And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.
Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain."
2 Nephi 2:2

This is Lehi, talking to his sons before his death, both individually and collectively I think, since although he is addressing Jacob here, later in the chapter he teaches many gospel lessons and addresses his sons in the plural.  He mentions the afflictions and sorrow that Jacob has suffered at the hands of his brothers (if they are also present during this blessing, this is probably a reminder to them as well), and then Lehi tells Jacob that God will "consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain."  I think this whole idea is amazing.  It is similar to the make weak things strong idea.  God makes our trials into blessings, and through hardship and pain, we become glorious.  And that's all of life, right?Instead of the unchanging Garden of Eden where they stayed as they were, we are in a world where change and growth became possible.  It's hard and painful to do those things, and so we often shy away and wish we could go back to the garden, but we're here for a reason... a good one. :)  So we can grow and learn and become more than we were before.

I think that we can learn in other ways than pain, but there is opposition tied to all of it (see verse 11).  We don't have to feel pain to study and pray or work hard at something... but we still have to fight against our own inertia and distractability.  We have to start a project and follow through with it, for a loooooong time sometimes, not just jump ship when we get a little impatient.  That's tough too.  I think most of all though, this is cool because God really does care, and he makes every second of every moment  of our lives MORE than worth it, no matter what we go through.  He makes it count for something... something amazing and something that gets us to change and be better, and if we follow through and never give up, something that qualifies us (with his help) for heaven. :)

Proverbs 31:30-31 -- On Restoration and Behavior Modification

"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

This is part of a series of verses that describes a "virtuous woman," and it seems to echo a lot of verses that have to do with restoration.  The ideal woman here isn't promised eternal life and exaltation, though she will surely get those as well, but the reward she is promised is the fruit of her hands, and the praise of her own works.  This seems to go back to some of the basics we learn elsewhere, like "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matthew 7:12).

Perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves is something like "What reward would we receive if we had our actions returned to us?"  Likely it would be an extremely mixed bag, with some kindness mixed in with lots of snarkiness and perhaps some outright rudeness (remember this includes what we say to other drivers and telemarketers). :)  ... I don't know about you, but if I am going to get back what I am putting out there, I definitely need to improve.

Today, let's work on not focusing on favor or beauty, but on respecting the Lord and his commandments, and treating others with wisdom and kindness (see verse 26).  Let's not treat anyone in a way that we wouldn't want to come right back at us.  Let's do better, and be more loving, caring, and inclusive.

Monday, October 2, 2017

3 Nephi 10:4-6 -- On Gathering Chickens

"O ye people of these great cities which have fallen, who are descendants of Jacob, yea, who are of the house of Israel, how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you.
And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.
O ye house of Israel whom I have spared, how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart."
3 Nephi 10:4-6

This is just after some terrible destruction, and right before some amazing blessings.  ... Which, come to think of it, is a place where we often find ourselves in life.  Sometimes we allow the past destruction or hardship to harden us, looking for and expecting only the bad, but God has amazing things in store.

Speaking to the people who have suffered terrible loss and probably a lot of fear, God first reminds them that he has often gathered them to nourish and care for them.  He then says that he would have done even more of that, if they would have allowed it.  And the, last of all, he says that he yet *will* gather them (and us), if we will repent and return to him with "full purpose of heart."

The theme of God's consistent and always present love for us comes through strongly here.  He wants to always gather us and protect us, but so often we refuse.  Even so, if we turn around and change our minds (and hearts), he will still gather us.

Today, let's remember that destruction isn't all there is, and find hope in God.  Let's look to him and be humble and faithful enough to allow him to gather us and care for us.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Daniel 3:15-18 -- On Faith and Consequences: "But If Not"

"Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
Daniel 3:15-18

There are some great things here.  In the first verse the king asks "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?"  He asks it rhetorically, as though there were no answer, because there was no God that could save them from him.  And yet....

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are amazing here as well.  The king just told them that if they don't worship the idol that he has offered that they'll be killed.  Pretty extreme consequences.  They could just have played along, pretending to go along, gone through the motions, kept their faith quiet.  Instead, they answered the king boldly, and told him basically that his question was *not* merely rhetorical, but that their God was certainly able to deliver them.

And then, the clincher: "But if not" ... Basically, they knew that God had the ability to save them, but even if he chose not to, for whatever wise, godly reason, they trusted in him, and they weren't going to worship any other God.  ... In the end, God did save them, and even the kind said "there is no other God that can deliver after this sort" (verse 29).  It's a story about the amazingness of God. :)  But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego didn't know for sure that it would work out like that.  They had faith anyway, no matter what God chose to do.

I think that it is often hard for us to have that kind of faith.  When we're faced with symbolic furnaces in our lives, we sometimes agree to do whatever the king/authority figure wants.  We have a hard time standing up for God and what we believe when it looks like it is going to cost us something. That of course doesn't mean that we shouldn't love or work with people that don't believe the same things.  We should love everyone, and we can unite in many common purposes with people not of our faith.   When it comes to doing as God asks though, that requires some faith and effort on our part in order to be true to God.  Today let's work on that.  Let's stand strong for God, and not cave when anyone asks to compromise our obedience.  Let's remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and have faith that God can deliver us... but if not, let's still do exactly as he asks, no matter the consequences.

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