Thursday, November 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Jeremiah 7:23 -- On Being Well

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Isaiah 1:4-6 -- On Spiritual Healing

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 24, 2017

Psalms 136:1 -- On Love and Mercy

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

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

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Proverbs 15:28 -- On Answering Well

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Alma 5:7-8 -- On Heart Changing

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

Abraham 3:25 -- On the Classroom of Life

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

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

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Jacob 6:6 -- On Not Dying

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Romans 8:16 -- On Being Children of God

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Matthew 20:15 -- On God's Wages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

2 Thessalonians 1:4 -- On Patience and Faith

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 4, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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