Saturday, March 31, 2018

Titus 3:1-5 -- On Better Answers and Spiritual Regeneration

"Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;"
Titus 3:1-5

I like the ideas here of how to live righteously and things to keep in mind in order to come to God.  I think I especially like it because it isn't the typical Sunday School answers of read scriptures, pray, and come to church.  Not that those aren't legitimately good answers, because they are--they are essential, core things that we need in our lives, and the basics that will always help us keep in contact with God.  They aren't the only things though, and I really enjoy this list.

  • Being subject to anything isn't always easy, but I think it helps us to learn humility and meekness and how to show respect for our fellow beings.
  • Obeying magistrates is a good idea legally, but it also helps us learn respect.
  • Being ready to every good work is a great one, and I think it helps us learn to say yes when people ask for help, rather than turning away and focusing on our own stuff... and turning outward and being other-focused helps us to learn love and service.
  • Speaking evil of no one is awesome, and really hard to do, but wow... what we learn from trying to do and think in that way.  Amazing.
  • Not brawling is important in terms of learning how to avoid fights and choose something else.
  • Gentleness and meekness really go together and I think show us what the "something else" is that we should be choosing.  Learning to put away our pride and focus on how we are treating others, no matter how they are treating us, is an essential step in learning to be Christlike.
The rest of this group of verses is pretty much explaining why we should do these things--why be gentle, kind, other-focused, and ready to serve rather than ready to fight?  Because we have been there.  We have been those foolish, disobedient, lustful, mean jerks that we run into, and if we appreciate kindness and respect as we learn to choose differently, so will others.  If God showed us kindness, love, and mercy when we were awful (as he did), then we should do the same for others.

God gave us the chance to regenerate spiritually--to be clean and to live a new life.  He renewed us through the Spirit.  Let's give others the same chance to be new and clean and to feel that truth and love from God.  Let's never say that anyone "deserves" unkindness or cruelty when we have been saved from what we ourselves at least used to deserve.  Let's instead emulate the kindness and gentleness of our Savior and try to add this list to our arsenal of answers to the questions of life. :)

Friday, March 30, 2018

1 Nephi 6:4-5 -- On Choosing God over the World

"For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.
Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world."
1 Nephi 6:4-5

These verses seem to indicate that we can't have it both ways.  We can't please the world and also please God.  We have to choose.

I think we spend a lot of time juggling, trying to please everyone, and eventually one or the other is going to be lost, as we continue to make decisions of importance.  Let's just make sure when that time comes that we put God first.  Getting closer to God and doing things pleasing to him is what truly matters.  If other priorities have to bend or break in order to serve God, then maybe they aren't things that we truly need in our lives, but we always, always need God.

Today, let's put God first, and help others to do so as well, by setting a good example and being Christlike people.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Genesis 41:1 -- On Patience and Faith

"And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river."
Genesis 41:1

This verse is from the story of Joseph, and the "two full years" are significant here because Joseph spent them in prison.  He had been wrongly accused, thrown in jail, and then interpreted a dream for Pharaoh's butler, but it took two years for Pharaoh's butler to remember what he had done and put in a good word for him.  Significantly, the day that he did is the day that Joseph went from being an inmate to a powerful ruler in Egypt.

The lesson that we can take away from all of this I think is one of faith.  If we do as God asks and put our trust in him, then we will be delivered out of our "trials, and [our] troubles, and [our] afflictions" (Alma 38:5). However, the delivery, as in Joseph's case, might not be immediate.  Patience is required, because God's timing is perfect, and doesn't always conform to our ideas of how long something is tolerable.  Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers and gone through a lot before he ended up being in jail at the perfect time for all of this to happen.  To any external observer, his life didn't look like he was on the way up.  And yet, God's plan worked (as it always does), and Joseph became what God had prepared him to be.

Today, let's have faith that we too will be delivered as we put our trust in God... but let's also have patience, because it's going to happen on God's schedule and not ours.  That's actually good, and makes everything better, but it is hard to wait for sometimes.  In the meantime, let's do as Joseph did and make the world around us better, no matter where we are.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

James 4:1-4 -- On Lust and War and Unity

"From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."
James 4:1-4

Some of the ideas here are that lust causes a lot of problems, that we need to ask God for what we want, that we shouldn't ask to fulfill our lusts, and that trying to embrace both the world and God is not going to work.  What this reminds me of is the scriptural idea of the "natural man" which we read about in 1 Corinthians 2:14 and Mosiah 3:19, or the idea of the natural body vs the spiritual body in 1 Corinthians 15:44.

The main idea in all of these things I think is that there is war in all of us... the "lusts that war in your members" as it talks about here.  Not just something that causes war and fighting externally, but something that is born of an internal struggle... the natural versus the spiritual self.  Or, earthly lust versus spiritual desire.  Maybe even Id and Ego. :)  This struggle is basic to our mortality: we came to earth in part to gain physical bodies, and those bodies have "natural" lusts in addition to the spiritual desires that our spirits/souls had before we were placed in bodies.  This causes inherent internal conflict, and this is the core of God's plan for us.  He helps us to resolve this war, taming our bodies (or bridling our passions (Alma 38:12)) and allowing our spirits to have control.  The world encourages something very different--allowing our spirits to succumb to our animal instincts, and in essence giving in to our lusts.

What we are taught very clearly here is that we can't have it both ways.  We can't allow our bodies to have whatever they want and also fulfil our spiritual needs.  We have to follow God's plan and learn to place our spiritual needs above our physical desires.  This is a fundamental task in learning to resist sin and embrace God.  Also, tellingly, it doesn't make what we choose less "us" or cause us to lose ourselves (except maybe in the sense of Matthew 16:24-26).  It only emphasizes the spiritual part over the physical.  It is still all us, and we still have the joy of our bodies and our senses and so much more... only within the bounds that the Lord has set.

Today, let's ask and trust and work to put the Lord and our spiritual desires first, not killing or abandoning or hating our physical selves, but learning to control them and make sure that they serve us, rather than the other way around.  Let's be the friends of God and not of the world, and in so doing, be blessed with the wholeness that God promises us, when we are one with him, and there is no more internal war, but we have learned and are filled with unity and peace.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Ezekiel 18:31 -- On Choosing a New Heart and Spirit

"Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"
Ezekiel 18:31

The wording here seems to emphasize the rebirth and change involved in turning our lives towards God and embracing the gospel.  The idea of making a new heart and a new spirit is powerful, and I think helps us to understand that we aren't tied to anything that we don't want to be--that no matter what kind of "wicked spirit" needs to be "rooted out"of our breasts (Alma 22:15), it is *our* choice, and not chance, or birth, that chooses for us.

We are not trapped by evolution or genetics into anything that God cannot help us change.  Today, let's listen to God's pleadings and choose to live rather than to die.  We do that by turning to God, by letting go of, and casting away, our sins and transgressions.  Let's choose to have hearts and spirits that love the Lord, and that live.  God doesn't want us to be dead (verse 32) (or miserable).  He gives us the choice.  Let's take it, and choose to be new and alive and to rejoice in what we want to be, not what we think was chosen for us. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Psalms 119:71 -- On Appreciating Affliction

"It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes."
Psalms 119:71

This is a hard thing to agree with sometimes I think.  I think that when we really look back and examine our lives, it is absolutely true, but it is still hard to admit, because we don't typically want to encourage affliction or experience more of it.  Paul in the New Testament was able to learn to glory in his infirmities (2 Corinthians 12:9). but it was a hard lesson, as it is for each of us.

To me, the real point here is the lesson.  Learning God's statues is basically learning the gospel and learning the gospel is really what we are constantly wanting to know from the Lord:  Why?  Why the world, why suffering, why is my life the way it is? ... all the whys, end to end, wrapped around the earth as many times as it takes to satisfy us, and they are all answered in this way, because as we grow and experience new and harder things in life, we learn.  We learn to understand the gospel.  We learn why God does what he does, and asks what he asks.  We learn why obedience is wise, and why shortsightedness and questionable motivations are questionable. :)

I think that the scriptures are one of the biggest blessings that we have, because they give us the chance to learn from the lives and sufferings of other people rather than learning those same lessons first hand.  They can spare us first-hand suffering, if we are willing to learn from them.  Not that mortality is ever going to be completely pain free, but the more we learn and trust things God has already said, the less we have to have first hand lessons about understanding that the ten commandments are some really good ideas. :)

Today, let's remember to learn from our afflictions and understand the why of all of it rather than just suffering.  Let's learn from God's word and trust that what he is teaching us is true.  Let's apply the lessons that we learn to our lives and let them change us, so that we don't have to keep learning the same lessons over and over again.  Let's take advantage of God's love for us and his kindness in teaching us, and let's learn to be kinder and more loving and less in need of the hard lessons about our own weaknesses... and when we learn to be the better, kinder, and more loving people that God is forging, let us be amazingly grateful for the afflictions that taught us how to be the better people that we are.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Mosiah 28:2 -- On Curing Hatred and Embracing Idealism

"That perhaps they might bring them to the knowledge of the Lord their God, and convince them of the iniquity of their fathers; and that perhaps they might cure them of their hatred towards the Nephites, that they might also be brought to rejoice in the Lord their God, that they might become friendly to one another, and that there should be no more contentions in all the land which the Lord their God had given them."
Mosiah 28:2

This is a verse talking about the Sons of Mosiah asking to go on a mission to the Lamanites.  The phrase I really like here is "cure them of their hatred."  The idea of hatred as a disease seems like a good one, perhaps because I like to believe that most of our hatred comes from misinformation and misunderstandings, as the hatred of the Lamanites did.  There may be a stronger hatred, of course, when we understand someone or something fully and hate it anyway, but hopefully most hatred is the curable kind. :)

The mission of the Sons of Mosiah seems so idealistic and unlikely, and yet, they truly cared about the people they intended to serve, and God was with them, and they were able to have much success.  I wonder how often we give up before beginning on things that seem unlikely, when, if we could have more faith, we could cure a lot of hatred, and work towards the "no more contentions" goal that these men believed in.

Today, let's be a little bit more idealistic and faithful, believing that, with God, we can make a difference in the world for good, and trusting in the Lord's help.  And then let's follow up on that faith and do something about it.  Let's work to internalize and to share God's message of love, curing hatred wherever we find it, especially in ourselves.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Colossians 3:23-25 -- On Working for God

"And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons."
Colossians 3:23-25

The message here is basically that everything we do, we do for God.  It's kind of hard to get our heads around sometimes because there are other people and organizations involved.  We have employers that we represent, or families, or schools, or other things that we are a part of.  We interact with people and if it isn't in some official capacity through our work, then we think of it as just between us.  ... And I think the message here is that there is always more going on.  On some level, we are always working for God, and representing him in what we do.

Instead of blowing off interactions that don't seem to matter, remembering that we are serving God in everything perhaps can help us to be more present even in the moments that don't seem to matter as much, and we can pay attention and really care about and do what we can for the people around us... even the ones we only see in passing.  We can be "hearty" and involved, serving God with a smile or just learning someone's name... doing what Christ would do, and noticing and caring, wherever we go.

The last verse is also a good warning for us... if we do wrong, we're going to have to face that and repent for it, or get wrong restored to us.  The good in the rest of our lives doesn't make up for the wrong, no matter who we are or how cool we have been.  It doesn't "balance out."   It's never going to be okay to just do a little wrong.  We have to face it, and heal it, and change ourselves so that we clean the wrong and the desire to do wrong out of our lives.

Today, let's clean up our lives, and even in the little things, let's remember that we work for God.  Let's work on truly representing him and doing as he would do, showing kindness and care for the people around us, and working on becoming truly good, inside and out.

Friday, March 23, 2018

1 Nephi 11:1 -- On Believing and Asking

"For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot."
1 Nephi 11:1

In this verse, Nephi desires to see what his father saw, and as he is pondering, his vision begins.  The contrast with his brothers here is stark.  After seeing what God has to show him, he encounters his brothers who are arguing about their father's vision, and he asks them if they have asked the Lord about all of this and they say "We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us" (1 Nephi 15:9).  Many people with the same question, but very different approaches to their lack of knowledge.

I think it is easy to assume that God won't show us visions or explain himself.  That's what we are taught by the world around us, and it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If we think that God won't speak to us, then we don't have the faith for it to actually happen.  On the other hand, in a world filled with doubt, we *have* seen miracles, and we have felt the hand of God in our lives, otherwise why are we here reading these words right now?

Today, let's not allow the world to crawl into our minds and start doubting all the good that God grants us.  Let's have hope and faith and go to God in prayer when we have questions, trusting that he *will* answer us and help us and guide our lives, rather than assuming that he has nothing to say to us. :)  As we do, we will gain answers and see miraculous things.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Matthew 19:20 -- On Finding Out What We're Missing

"The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?"
Matthew 19:20

 This is from a story where a young man asks Christ how to gain eternal life, and Christ explains the commandments to him.  Then he says this.  After this, Christ tells him that if he wants to be perfect he will sell what he has, give it to the poor, and come and follow him.  What happens next is an interesting lesson... he sorrows because he is rich and losing his worldly goods would be really hard for him.  But before that, right here, I think is the best question of all.  "What lack I yet?"

It's not necessarily a great question if we're already feeling down on ourselves.  If we know plenty of things that we need to work on, let's go to it.  No need to ask for more.  I was thinking more on our over confident days, or in areas where we might think we're pretty darn perfect already.  In those cases it is a very good question, because it helps us to remember that there are always things to do better, and helps us remember to go to God for the answers.  I don't think that God is always going to give the same answer to everyone that he gave to this young man, because we all lack different things, and need to learn different lessons, but it is an important lesson to ask in all of our lives, not so much as 'where am I not perfect,' but more as 'what should I work on next?'

Today, let's go to God and ask him to help us know what we need to learn next to progress on our journey towards him.  Let's be willing to change and become better as we learn more about God and his gospel, work to serve our fellow beings, and make the world a better place.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Isaiah 60:19 -- On Stretching Our Imaginations

"The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory."
Isaiah 60:19

This verse is talking about the last days, when at some point apparently we won't really need the sun or the moon anymore to provide light, since we will have God to provide that for us instead.  I think that is such an interesting, and kind of stunning, thought. 

Even though on some level we believe that God can do anything and that he created the universe, the whole "not needing the sun" thing still has the power to make us wonder just how amazing God is.  It's hard to imagine something that makes the sun obsolete.  But that is *exactly* how cool God is, and not so much of a big deal in terms of his power.

Today, let's stretch our faith and our imaginations a little bit more when we think about God and the possibilities of eternity.  I don't think that we are even close yet to imagining all the wonders and blessings that the Lord has in store for us.  Let's listen to, learn from, and love the Lord.  In so doing, perhaps someday we will begin to grasp his great plan of happiness a little bit better. :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Proverbs 26:20 -- On Letting the Fire Go Out

"Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth."
Proverbs 26:20

What this reminds me of is having something happen to us, and then immediately going to our friends and talking about it, saying something like "You'll never believe what happened to me" ... and in that moment we're upset and we want to get it out and for other people to tell us that we're right.

The problem with this is that, often, we're not right at all, and it would be easier to admit that and to get over it if we didn't talk about it, because then we have that additional hurdle of not wanting to look bad to our friends, and we don't want to admit that it was in any part our fault even if we realize that, so then if they ask about it we start making stuff up.  And even if we were wholly in the right, now someone else is angry for our sakes, and an offense that we could have forgiven, they won't, and it escalates rather than dissipates. 

I'm not saying that we can't talk to our friends. :)  I'm just saying maybe this verse is good advice, and we should pick other things to talk about than spreading the tales of strife.  Even when we aren't involved, telling the story of a wrong over and over escalates it beyond the immediate truth of the situation, and we start getting angry about things that we can't control or even adequately understand, because we weren't there. 

I'm not saying that we shouldn't strive to correct the injustices of our society either, but a lot of what we talk about probably isn't about that at all.  Maybe it's a good idea to let some tales die, rather than staying angry all the time.

Today, let's consider the wisdom of not passing strife along, and letting the fire of our anger go out.  It might be a way to find more peace.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Proverbs 27:14 -- On Avoidance and Ulterior Motives

"He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him."
Proverbs 27:14

This is a hilarious verse.  I do think that there is a good lesson here beyond the humor though.  Sometimes we do good things for the wrong reasons.  For instance, how many of us have gotten a sudden urge to clean the house when we are trying to avoid doing something else, or facing something that is uncomfortable?  That happens to me sometimes, and although cleaning is a totally good thing, it isn't good if we're using it to avoid something more important.

Similarly, in this verse blessing a friend is awesome.  However, if our ulterior motive is to wake him up... not so good.  Work, school, and church are great things, but if we are using them to escape from important relationships, also probably not great.

I'm not saying that any of this is easy.  I definitely haven't mastered it, and it is a tough call sometimes which things are better than others, and I don't think that God always needs us to agonize over the best use of our time every second of the day, because he wants us to be able to relax and have fun sometimes too.  But maybe today we can think about our motivations, and do good things because they are truly good, not because we are trying to avoid or accomplish something else.  Let's really consider other people's feelings and work to be considerate and kind as well as being good. :)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Luke 6:31 -- On Desiring Love and Erasing Hatred

"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise."
Luke 6:31

We hear this a lot I think, but perhaps it deserves more consideration.  In asking us to do this, I think Christ is asking us not only to really consider how we wish to be treated, but also asking us to consider the perspective of others.  As we connect those dots and realize that other people feel what we feel and have similar wants and needs and ... confusion, and frailty, and so many other things that get in the way of us being perfect, it helps us to feel compassion.  It helps us to humanize other people and to think about them as people rather than labels or objects.

It's easy to assume evil intention in others, but I think that it actually exists far less often than we assume.  Usually, people aren't out to get us, but are instead, like us, doing the best they can with the knowledge and experience they have.  We learn different things at different times, and we ourselves have all done bad things in the past, have we not?  We know that we either regret that, or were grumpy that day, or didn't really mean it for some other reason.  Because we can understand that sort of situation, let us then work to assume the best rather than the worst, trying to de-escalate conflict, being as kind as possible, and giving people a chance to respond positively even if they started out negatively.

Do we ever desire to be yelled at?  Do we ever desire to be treated with disdain or mockery or to have people promote violence against us?  If not, perhaps we should back off from those things, and others that no one would want to experience, and really think carefully both about how we desire to be treated, and about how we treat others, and the gap between those two things.

Today, let's follow God's commandment and try to lessen that gap, and learn to treat ourselves and others with compassion and kindness, giving each other room to grow and learn and become closer to God.  As we desire to be loved, let us offer love to others, making the world around us better rather than worse, and working to erase the hatred we find in our own hearts.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Ezekiel 13:22 -- On Misrepresenting God

"Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life:"
Ezekiel 13:22

This chapter is directed to false prophets--people who "prophesy out of their own hearts" (verse 2).   Hopefully we aren't posing as prophets and claiming that God has said things that he hasn't, but I think that this is also a good reminder to us all about justifying our own actions or own opinions to make God's word sound more or less than it is.

We can contribute to making the righteous sad if we claim that God requires more of them than he does, or enforce our personal opinions of obedience.  We can also harm people by telling them that they don't need to repent or that some commandment isn't really that big of a deal to God.  We don't typically mean to harm people by saying things like that, but sometimes in our desire to appear awesome, or to provide comfort, we suggest that God expects much more or much less than he does.

Today, let's be careful not to misrepresent the Lord or his gospel.  Let's not lie to people to make them feel better, or to make ourselves feel better.  Let's try to share our stories without enforcing our own opinions, and encourage each other to grow closer to God. :)

Friday, March 16, 2018

3 Nephi 27:26 -- On The Books that Shall Be Written

"And behold, all things are written by the Father; therefore out of the books which shall be written shall the world be judged."
3 Nephi 27:26

I like the idea of God as literally the author of the universe, writing us this amazing story.  I also think this is a good scripture to remember as we are working to be honest in our lives.  If we remember that God already knows everything, and that eventually it will all be revealed, it can make it easier to let go of the things that we try to hide, not only from others, but from ourselves.  Twain wrote that you can't pray a lie, and I think that is true.  God is the source of truth, and talking to him about things helps us to understand the truth better.

Writing also helps.  Sometimes just writing down all the stuff that we are thinking and feeling helps us to make sense of it... like prayer, but on paper and in a form that we can actually go back and see how our thinking evolved.

Today, let's make sure God is writing a good story about our lives.  Let's live better, and get on the same page with God... and maybe even write some of it ourselves, so that we understand the truth of all of it a little better as well.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Alma 41:6-9 -- On Choosing Our Own Destiny

"And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.
These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.
Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.
And now behold, my son, do not risk one more offense against your God upon those points of doctrine, which ye have hitherto risked to commit sin."
Alma 41:6-9

I like the idea that we are our "own judges" as these verses say and that we have our destiny in our own hands.  God prepares the way, and we choose whether to walk in it.  ... And I believe strongly that the way is prepared for each of us as individuals, not just some generic heavenly assessment test that some people will obviously do better on than others.  God loves us all, and wants us all to succeed, and he will give us every chance.

There are a couple of large things standing in the way of our awesome destiny though, and both of them are within us.  The first is pride.  We want to be better and cooler than others, and we want to fit in. We want our opinions and our countries to win, and it's fun to mock things that we don't like.  We *want* the world to revolve around us, and we don't really care about that guy who cut us off in traffic.  Bad day or not, he was being a jerk, right?

Except, of course, that those things aren't compatible with the gospel.  To really embrace God's plan and repent, and understand on some level how to love others, we have to be humble.  We have to admit our mistakes.  We have to be willing to change.  Which brings us to the second impediment.  We have to learn to *want* to do the good things, not just do them.  That's huge, and hard.  It isn't just resisting saying what we really mean to that guy that cut us off, it is actually not thinking that thing in the first place.  Learning to not be angry.  Learning to want to be kind, even in stressful situations.  How is that even possible?  Often it seems that it is all we can do to resist temptation.  How do we take it off the table entirely?

Not saying it is easy, or that we need to overcome either of these impediments quickly.  These are lessons that we learn over time, sometimes painfully.  I, personally, cringe if my prayers get around to humility... it's tough to anticipate ego-deflation, even when it is entirely necessary.  Not fun, but I think it is a lot of the answer.  When we run into things that seem to be a part of who we are and we keep running into them over and over again because they are between us and God, they need to go.  The way is prayer, and hope, and trust, and faith.  We are asked in Alma 5 "have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?"

God *can* help us change our hearts, but we have to ask.  Today, let's ask, and maybe also ask God to teach us a little at a time so that it isn't as painful as it was for Alma's father. :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Genesis 11:5-6 -- On Good and Bad Unity

"And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do."
Genesis 11:5-6

These verses are talking about the Tower of Babel story.  It was interesting to me today because one of the things that we are counseled about in the scriptures is to learn to be more unified... to become one.  Unfortunately in this case humanity was uniting to do evil.  It's fascinating to think of cultural diversity as essentially the result of breaking up a gang. :)  Only God could come up with something so interesting and valuable as both a punishment and an eventual great blessing in so many ways.

We know from Jaredite records that not everyone was evil (which makes it a lot better than the Noah story), and that God allowed some people at this time to choose who they wanted with them when they were scattered, so I wonder how many of the people had a similar experience, and if it was a very slow scattering (the Jaredites were instructed on how to build barges to travel rather than being teleported or something), and if the culture and language differences happened naturally after the groups were divided.

Jacob 5 represents the world as gardening, planting trees in different areas, and grafting branches onto other trees in different areas to try to preserve the good fruit.  I think that allegory along with verses like this help us to picture the incredible patience and gigantic work of God in parenting and leading and teaching all of us--giving us all every chance possible, and doing everything he can to help us without taking away our choice.

Today, let's work to be unified in good rather than in evil, so the Lord won't have to restrain us or scatter us. :)  Let's make sure that unity with God is our priority, and then our unity with others will help us all towards good rather than evil.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Isaiah 63:8 -- On Children that Will Not Lie

"For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour."
Isaiah 63:8

This verse is talking about the Lord's relationship with the Children of Israel, and the interesting thing to me here is that it specifically calls out lying, as though that was the pivotal difference between them and other people... and maybe it was.  It's an interesting thought, at least, and makes sense to me because of the whole idea of God = truth that we read about elsewhere in the scriptures.  In fact, the Holy Ghost seems to often be referred to as the "Spirit of Truth."  So, anything untruthful likely drives away that spirit, and thus drives us away from God.

This idea seems to be very much at odds with our modern world though.  We basically eat lies for breakfast.  Immense, destructive lies are excused as normal, and people who don't lie are often looked at as aberrant.  No wonder, then, that God thinks that honesty is such a big deal--that he would choose a people that would not lie.

Today, let's work on being the people that God still chooses.  Let's be a force for good in the world by always telling the truth--not in a hurtful way, or as an excuse for bad behavior, but kindly and openly learning to be the kind of people that don't *need* to lie, because we don't talk about people in an unkind way, or make choices where a lie would make or break a relationship.  Let's learn to be real with other people and not pretend always to be perfect... but let's honestly "speak one with another concerning the welfare of [our] souls" (Moroni 6:5).  Let's embrace the truth of God, and choose him as our Savior.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Alma 22:12-13 -- On Signs and Scriptures

"And it came to pass that when Aaron saw that the king would believe his words, he began from the creation of Adam, reading the scriptures unto the king—how God created man after his own image, and that God gave him commandments, and that because of transgression, man had fallen.
And Aaron did expound unto him the scriptures from the creation of Adam, laying the fall of man before him, and their carnal state and also the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name."
Alma 22:12-13

We often want a sign from heaven to convince us that God is there, and that his gospel is true.  It is interesting and cool in these verses how Aaron, instead of trying to impress the king with a sign or a miracle, reads the scriptures to him, explaining as he goes and helping him to understand.  To me, that seems to illustrate the accessibility of the gospel.  It is in the scriptures, available to everyone.  We don't need signs or miracles to learn it; we just need to read (or listen). 

We would believe God if he came down and told us this stuff, right?  I think what we forget sometimes is that he has done that, and we have those records.  We just need to remember and take advantage of what he has given us already.  That doesn't mean of course that we shouldn't pray or look to God to help us, because he wants us to pray, and he offers us help.  Only that we don't need to feel like we can't know his word or will now.  The scriptures are basically the instruction book that God left us to help us figure out life. :)

Today, let's read our scriptures, pray for understanding, and help other people to understand them as well.  Let's give thanks for the access that we have to God's word, and let's take advantage of that access, and learn the truth of the gospel.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Psalms 119:145-146 -- On Saving and Obeying

"I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord: I will keep thy statutes.
I cried unto thee; save me, and I shall keep thy testimonies."
Psalms 119:145-146

Sometimes we think it is unfair of God to ask for obedience.  Why can't he just save us, even if we have no intention of following his commandments?  Doesn't he love us?

I think there are several things at work here that it is good to remember.  First, if we believe that love doesn't mean doing everything someone else wants just because they want it, that has to work both ways.  God isn't forcing or compelling us to follow him, and we can't force or compel him to do things for us.  That kind of manipulation, either way, isn't love.   God's love is always there, but (as with any parent), that doesn't mean that he is going to give in to every tantrum, or buy us every toy.  He's trying to teach us to grow past the toddler stage and learn and understand a lot more about ourselves.  He's a good parent.  He isn't going to protect us from learning the things that we need to learn.  Instead, he is going to help us learn them.

The second thing it might be good to remember here is that obedience is for our benefit.  Obedience isn't some bizarre ritual that feeds our power to God, keeping him powerful.  Obedience is only following the rules that God has laid out both to help us stay safe and to give us the best chance to learn... again, like any good parent.  In these verses, we are effectively saying "Save me and I will do my best not to put myself into this situation again." or "Save me, and I'll do my best to stay saved."

Today, let's try not to discount obedience, or to think that God loves us less when we are disobedient.  Let's be obedient because that is the only way to become what we can be, and to stay safe when God pulls us out of the next hole.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Psalms 89:15-16 -- On Knowing the Joyful Sound

"Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.
In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted."
Psalms 89:15-16

I like this idea of knowing the joyful sound.  In one way it seems like knowing as in having heard it before, and in another way it seems like knowing as in understanding that what we hear is joyful.  I think that is what the gospel is like for us somehow.  We have to get over the hearing it at all hurdle, of course... being exposed to the gospel so that we can choose to accept it or not.  But well past that point is the other hurdle--the hurdle of understanding that the gospel is pure joy, to us and to everyone that hears it.

We don't always understand that at first, or even later, mostly because I think we often hear the music of the gospel when our lives are out of tune with it, and so our lives don't seem to mesh with it very well.  Luckily, we begin to understand when we first hear it, but it takes time and work to tune up our lives and get that harmony right, in order to really understand the full extent of that incredible joy that the gospel is always playing, for anyone to hear. 

Today, let's know and share the joyful sound, and let's also work on getting our own lives in tune so that we can recognize and feel the joy that the music brings.  Let's walk in the light of God's countenance and bask in his love, and let's rejoice "all the day" in his name.  Let's joy in his gospel and righteousness: in the music that exalts, both literally and figuratively.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Colossians 2:6-7 -- On Walking and Abounding

"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving."
Colossians 2:6-7

I like the idea of being rooted, built, and established in Christ, and the idea of abounding with thanksgiving is also really cool.  Later in the chapter it takes it even farther and says "ye are complete in him" (verse 10).

I think that most of these things are about incorporating God further into our lives, and the natural results of so doing.  Receiving him is a good thing, but there is so much more that we can do and become if we take the relationship further.  *Walking* in Christ is the next step.  Living the gospel that he offers roots us in that good soil and builds us up.  We grow in the gospel, becoming established and solid in our faith.

As we are established and solid in the gospel, then we can abound... finding more and more joy in the gospel, and blessing other people's lives as well.  We have so many more reasons to give thanks.  And finally, we become complete in Christ, having gone through our entire gospel growth cycle and being whole and complete--understanding fully, but also being overwhelmingly filled with his love.  Even when things seem bleak, we have that certainty in our path, knowing that God will never abandon us.

Today, let's live these verses, walking, establishing, and abounding in thanksgiving and faith wherever we are... moving closer to the day when we become complete in him.  And if we already are there, then let's strengthen the people around us with that certainty that we have gained. :)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Job 40:2 -- On Contending with Perfection

"Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it."
Job 40:2

God and Job are having an interesting conversation here.  Later, God asks if Job can do the things that God can, like clothing himself in glory (verse 10) or judging the wicked (verse 12).  If he can, says God, "Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee." (verse 14). 

Ouch, right?  But completely appropriate to the ludicrous suggestion that we have the right to reprove God.  Unfortunately, we too often feel that we do have the right to tell God where he went wrong, or think that he can't see the pain and the suffering that we claim he is causing.

The truth is that God's thoughts are beyond us, so far above our thoughts that we can't grasp them at all.  God can see eternity, and he knows *exactly* what he is doing, and his plan is perfect.  It doesn't save us from suffering, but then again, what would we learn in a world with no suffering?  We need God's plan, trials and pain included, in order to learn the peace and joy.  Today, let's remember that we can't save ourselves.  We need God, and he is perfect and trustworthy.  Let's turn to him in our need, rather than thinking that we can do it all alone, or that he is doing it wrong.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

1st Nephi 3:6 -- On Sticking with God

"Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured."
1st Nephi 3:6

This struck me today because I think that we don't always realize that we're getting ourselves into trouble.  In the scriptures, especially this story about Nephi and his brothers, it is more clear... the doubt and murmuring leading to truly rejecting the gospel and rebelling against God... but it took a long time and a lot of temporary bouts of repentance to get there.

We can fall into that same trap that Laman and Lemuel fell into... doubting prophecy, losing faith in God's ability to answer prayers or solve problems, not being willing to endure hardship... all of these are small things by themselves.  No large dramatic stalking out and slamming the door and calling God names, but we see that with Laman and Lemuel all of these small frustrations and lapses led to a huge rift and the apostasy of a whole society.

Hopefully our own lives won't lead to something similarly dramatic in a bad way, but let's do more than hope.  Let's cling to God, and trust him and the servants that he has provided for us.  Let's follow the prophets and be willing to endure hardship in order to follow God.

Life is assuredly not always easy, but God makes everything better, and he will make everything all right in the end.  We just have to stick with him.  Let's do so, today and always.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

3 Nephi 24:18 -- On Long-Term Thinking

"Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not."
3 Nephi 24:18

This is Christ telling the Nephites what was revealed to Malachi.  Earlier in this chapter God says "Your words have been stout against me" (verse 13) and explains that we often think that "it is vain to serve God" (verse 14) because we see wicked people who are happy, and he explains that this is only temporary, and that in the end it will be very clear.

Sometimes that patience while we're waiting is tough.  We have to learn to trust God without any immediate proof that we'll be better off this way.  But that is what faith *is,* right?  How could we even learn faith if all of our rewards were immediate?  No one would choose anything else if prayer was followed by money falling from the sky or immediate answers to all of our prayers and requests.

It's part of the test of earth life to learn to control our desires, to learn to not expect immediate pay offs, to learn to actually think through things and decide what is best in the long term instead of whatever pays off the most in the short term.  Today, let's work on having that faith, and looking forward to that eternal reward that we're working toward, not because it is immediate, but because it is good and right, helps the most people, and is the best choice in the end, even if things are harder or more painful temporarily.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Exodus 20:17 -- On Being Happy for Others

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s."
Exodus 20:17

We often think of coveting as wanting more than we have, and so it may be, but today as I was reading this I was thinking that it is also wanting something *different* than we have.  Even if we have our own gifts and talents, sometimes we covet the gift or talent of someone else.  Even if we are rich and surrounded with toys, sometimes we covet what someone else owns.  Like a toddler, sometimes we want *that* toy just because someone else is playing with it.

I think it is often hard for us to be happy for other people, rather than resentful that the good thing didn't happen to us instead.  The more we love people, the easier it is to be happy for them... and so maybe that is the solution to all of this.  To learn to love more, and better, and to truly treat others as though they were us... we'd be happy for ourselves, right? :)

It's a tough thing to learn that we can't always get what we want, and that other people can.  It feels unfair.  With God though, we know that the things that are truly most important are always available to us, and monetarily free.  It still takes time and effort to reach for what God offers, but it is never out of reach or reserved only for the privileged.  We can all earn salvation.  Today, let's focus on that most important of prizes, and let go of our jealousy and inordinate desire for other people's stuff.  Let's learn to love others, and be happy for them... as we work to make the world a better place for all of us.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Proverbs 21:3 -- On Moving Beyond Sacrifice

"To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice."
Proverbs 21:3

Sometimes I think we focus too much on what we are giving up or sacrificing for the Lord, somehow thinking that the more we suffer, the holier we are. :)  There are many worthy sacrifices in life.  However, sacrifices are a step towards filling those lost spaces with other, better things.  God doesn't want us to be suffering.  He truly desires our happiness, and living our lives for him, showing everyone our example of how *good* the gospel is will help him more than broadcasting our pain. :)

I'm not saying that we need to be fake.  Far from it.  We go through hard things, and sometimes we feel sorrow.  That's not bad or wrong.  It just shouldn't be our permanent setting.  Mormon 9:14 teaches us that we should learn to be happy in our lives now.  There are always good things that we can focus on, and God to reach out to, even in the midst of our trials.  Not saying it is easy; only that it is worth the effort.  How much better, even for our own lives, is it to focus on life and happiness rather than sorrow and suffering?

... Let's make that effort and learn to find the happiness that God offers.  Not after we suffer for years and finally make it to heaven, but now.  And when we find it, then let's live it, making good choices, doing justice and judgment, and setting an example of the love and the peace that God offers to his children.  Not because we have fewer trials, but because we have learned to choose happiness anyway.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Psalms 112:5-7 -- On Evil Tidings and Fixed Hearts

"A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.
Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.
He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord."
Psalms 112:5-7

These are some cool verses explaining what a good man is. :)  My favorite part here is the idea of being fixed and unable to be moved.  That idea of faith and solidity is compelling.  Not easy, but important.

Often "evil tidings" get to us, don't they?  We hear some bad news and we immediately are in a bad mood, or worse.  I love the idea of being able to be above that because of our trust in the Lord.  To not fall apart when things go wrong, but to be able to be strong because we know that God will sustain us.

Today, let's have that solid anchor of trust in the Lord.  Let's not allow our hearts to be moved by evil tidings.  Let's be faithful to God, and fixed in our faith, knowing that God is in charge and that things will work out as they should--no matter what comes.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Psalms 20:7 -- On Trust and Possibility

"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God."
Psalms 20:7

 This is a good reminder of something that it is easy to forget--that God is more trustworthy than anything else.  We often fall into the trap of only being able to trust in things that we can see or touch, but when we do so, we are missing out on a whole world beyond our very limited senses. 

Today, let's go to the Lord and talk with him.  Let's reach out and open ourselves to the possibilities that God can show us that are beyond anything that we could accomplish or be without him.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Deuteronomy 4:23 -- On Taking Heed

"Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the Lord thy God hath forbidden thee."
Deuteronomy 4:23

The idea of forgetting the promises that we make to God and that he makes back to us is sort of a scary one, since they are so central to our lives.  Our covenant with God basically just formalizes reality.  We agree to accept God as who he is and to take his advice and counsel, and he agrees to be our God and to help and protect us.  If we forget the importance of that relationship, then we're not accomplishing anything by rebelling against God other than removing our own safety and protection, perhaps forgetting in the moment that things *can* be much, much worse than they are, if we have to face them without God.

Today, let's take heed (listen and follow) and not forget our covenant with the Lord.  Let's avoid not only graven images but breaking all the other commandments as well... to make sure that we don't lose that connection to God that makes everything in life better and more bearable.

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