Monday, December 31, 2018

Moroni 9:25 -- On Darkness and Hope

"My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever."
Moroni 9:25

This struck me today for a couple of reasons.  First because there was a lot of stuff in this chapter that *was* really, really depressing.  And second because of the time of year.  This letter from Mormon to his son Moroni is kind of like the end of one year and the beginning of another, symbolically.  These men were watching their society and their people self-destruct.  There were very bad things happening, a lot of them by their own people, not even by the enemy, and yet, as Mormon counsels his son, there are always positive things to focus on and hope in our lives as long as we have Christ.

Our lives are likely not as dark as the things that Mormon and Moroni were facing, but the things that we face are hard for us to deal with as well.  But here is God saying, don't dwell on those things and get weighted down, but allow Christ to lift thee up--let him show up the hope around us, and the possibilities and potential that is there because of him.  Like this father and son team, we can be lights in a sometimes-dark world.  We know that God has a happy ending in store for us, and all we have to do is not give up on the story.  Trust in God as the author and making the effort to keep turning the pages to get there. :)

Today, let's be the light in the darkness, and as we move forward to the new year, let's make a better world.  Let's be the difference in other people's lives.  Let's repent as needed, and cast off the darkness for ourselves and for others, letting God's hope shine in us and through us.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Alma 34:40-41 -- On Bearing Afflictions

"And now my beloved brethren, I would exhort you to have patience, and that ye bear with all manner of afflictions; that ye do not revile against those who do cast you out because of your exceeding poverty, lest ye become sinners like unto them;
But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions."
Alma 34:40-41

This is part of the story of the Zoramites, some of whom were very poor and excluded from their places of worship because they didn't dress better.  I'm not going to tell that whole story, but feel free to jump in and read more if you are interested. :)

What struck me in these verses was the idea of being patient and dealing with our afflictions.  This is not a popular idea.  It is often anathema to us because the idea of letting someone else get away with treating us (or anyone) badly seems horrible, right?  It offends our internal sense of justice, and some part of us cries out for vengeance.  And yet God asks us to have patience and hope, and bear them.

All that crying out for justice stuff is true, and the demands of justice will be met.  But the whole point of Christ's atonement was to introduce the concept of mercy into the equation.  To provide a space *between* action and justice, to give all of us a chance to change and to repent.  We cry for justice against people who wrong us, but we desperately need mercy when we are the ones doing the wronging.  So God asks us to allow him to make the final judgements.  Justice will be done, but mercy will also be granted, to allow people the chance to change and become better--so that as we gain wisdom and change into better people, we don't have to suffer for the sins of our younger, unwise selves. (Of course the oldsters get to repent as well; that was just an example.)  He pays the price that justice sets, and in turn, he offers us mercy and a chance to have the time we need to qualify for heaven even after failing many times.

So, today, let's get out of whatever situation it is that is harming us if we can.  There isn't a commandment that says "thou shalt suffer."  But if we have to deal with exclusion or other harm that we can't escape, then let's work on bearing our afflictions with patience and not lash out--not because people have the right to abuse us, or because we deserve the pain of our situations at all, but because God asks us to turn justice over to him and allow it to be delayed so that he can grant mercy to us all.  He will make everything right in the end, and he can help us find the joy wherever we are.  Let's have the faith to turn to him and the patience trust him rather than becoming unkind and cruel.  God has a happy ending in store for us.  We just have to keep our hope alive, and make it a few more chapters. :)

Saturday, December 29, 2018

D&C 9:6-7 -- On Active Asking and Better Resolutions

"Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.
Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me."
Doctrine and Covenants 9:6-7

As the new year approaches and we begin thinking of resolutions this seems appropriate.  Often when we think of changing our lives or doing better we turn to the Lord, but unfortunately we stop there and don't do anything more than ask.  It's totally easy to think that is the way that things work.  Oliver (who is the person God is talking to in these verses) probably thought that was the right thing to do.  He asked God for a talent that he had seen someone else use, and it probably seemed effortless.  Like so many things that we want to change in our own lives though, it wasn't, and things rarely are.  God probably could have teleported Nephi and his family to the promised land, or levitated the Israelites over the Red Sea, but active participation in our own miracles helps us to learn faith and trust and patience and effort and tons of other things that God wants us to learn so that we are active participants in the world rather than just sitting back and waiting for someone to feed us.

God wants to help us grow and improve, but if we don't put forth some effort, God might tell us to move on to something else, as he did with Oliver.  It's kind of like a child, right?  You can't help him learn to tie his shoes or ride a bike if there is no effort on the child's part.  A bike can't ride itself, and although you can tie a kid's shoes *for* him, that isn't the same as him learning it, at all.  It's the same with us.  God can help us learn and show us how and even knock down some obstacles in the way of our learning, but he's not going to just do it for us.  Even self-driving cars require you to open the door and get in and out, bare minimum. :)  So, as we consider what we want to change in our lives, let's consider also what we are actually going to put some effort into learning and changing.  Those are the things that God can help us with, and if they are good changes, he can help us overcome seemingly insurmountable barriers (even ones we may have contributed to ourselves such as addictions and toxic self-perceptions).  His help is truly miraculous, but it still has to be fueled by a little bit of hope and faith and effort so that *we* learn it, and can hold on to the lesson even after God takes off the training wheels.

Today, let's think about the things that we are asking God for, and consider what effort we can put into those requests.  There are probably some requests where there isn't anything we can currently do, and it truly is all in the Lord's hands, and that's okay... but very often, there is something we can do, or a way to more actively participate, and there is almost always something we can learn.  When there is, let's study it out in our minds, and do whatever research or take whatever action is needed.  As we practice this active type of asking, and make even the tiniest effort, God will bless us, and we will find our way forward, however slowly, to our righteous goals.

Alma 5:11-14 -- On Hearts and Mighty Changes

"Behold, I can tell you—did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?
And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.
And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.
And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?"
Alma 5:11-14

I think it is interesting that Alma was asking this to members of Christ's church.  Clearly, whether we come from a religious tradition or not, or any outward appearance, we have internal differences in testimony and dedication.  Alma knew this about his people, and he resigned as Chief Judge and went out to preach, because he was worried about the souls of the people that he was responsible for.  And this is Alma the younger, the one that initially rebelled against his father and sought to destroy the church.  He knows the temptation and the heartbreak of sin, and he honestly wants to save people from suffering.  And fortunately, despite the tendency that we all have to tune out people who are trying to "save" us from our mistakes, he was able to get through to many people.

The core of these verses is the question "Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?"  Alma felt it when he encountered an angel and knew that what his father had been saying all those years was absolutely true.  It cost him a lot to change his life and become a new person, but he did it.  Sometimes we feel like we need an angel as well in order to change, but remember that Laman and Lemuel saw an angel several times, and they chose not to change.  It isn't the angel that makes the difference.  It is our willingness to be humble and accept God and his truth... to be open to the difficult changes in our lives that the truth demands.

Once our hearts are changed, then the rest will come.  God has something to work with, and with some humility and effort on our parts, everything else can be sorted.  It's the beginning... the spiritually being born of God part that we desperately need in order to get past our own resistance and rebellion, and into believing in and trusting God to do as he promises.  As Alma 32 tells us, even if we can only start with the desire to believe, if we let that desire grow in us, then God will help us, and will help us change.

And if we have gotten to that point and then have drifted, Alma has another question for us in verse 26: "... if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?"

Today, if we haven't felt it, let's open our hearts and humble ourselves before God and invite him into our lives.  Let's work on having that mighty change happen in our lives.  He can change our hearts if we invite him in... even when we can't imagine changing our minds.  … And if we have felt it before but can't now, then let's go back to square one and rededicate ourselves, and get that feeling back.  We don't have to live without God, ever.  We can repent and have that comfort again. Let's work with God and make the change. 

Friday, December 28, 2018

Alma 11:40-43 -- On Eternal Quality of Life

"And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.
Therefore the wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death; for behold, the day cometh that all shall rise from the dead and stand before God, and be judged according to their works.
Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.
The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt."
Alma 11:40-43

I think the fact that everyone will be resurrected seems super cool, so it is interesting to read this--in the second verse it says "except it be the loosing of the bands of death" sort of like it is no big deal.  And I guess the last verse here explains why it might seem that way, since having "a bright recollection of all our guilt" might make the whole living forever in perfect bodies thing less fun.

There is a clear difference between what it talks about as "eternal life" and merely being resurrected, since there are requirements for one and not the other.  Verse 44 immediately after this selection lays out who will be resurrected, and it doesn't leave out anyone.  Everyone gets resurrected, but eternal life / salvation we learn in the first verse requires belief in Christ, and also repentance (because that is how we apply the atonement to our lives... Christ gives us the chance to change and make up for our mistakes, but we have to take it, and make the changes).

It talks about temporal death here, meaning the death of the body, which everyone will overcome, and then in the next chapter (verse 16) it starts talking about spiritual death, which helps us clear up the whole confusion.  Christ offers us salvation from both temporal and spiritual death.  Resurrection overcomes temporal death, and nothing is required of us for that to happen.  Everyone is restored to their bodies and our new bodies and perfect and incorruptible.  Nice. :)  Spiritual death though is different... that's the part where we choose, and our choices are restored to us.  Here it seems sort of tame.  I mean bright recollection of guilt is scary, sure, but in the next chapter it compares it to the whole "lake of fire and brimstone" thing, which I know is still symbolic, but seems way worse.  In other places in the scriptures spiritual death refers to separation from God, and that is another thing that seems just sort of scary now, but I think when we are restored to a full knowledge of him and then have to live without him... that could very well feel like torment, especially if we haven't really realized in this life how much we depend on him every day for protection and guidance.  There is absolutely nothing more lonely and isolated than being without God.

When the first verse talks about eternal life, it means a state where we have overcome temporal *and* spiritual death through Christ, and are reunited with God, to live in his presence eternally.  So, today, let's remember that there is more to redemption and salvation than just resurrection... which is admittedly cool, but not enough by itself.  We know we are going to be resurrected, so let's focus on quality of life beyond the grave, which is what God has been preparing us for this whole time.  Let's think about whether we are ready to meet God and account for our lives.  If we are worried about that, then let's address it and change.  Are we ready to live in an at least near-perfect society?  If not, let's work on it, and learn how to be nicer and kinder to others.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Alma 42:26-29 -- On Salvation, Destruction, and Change

"And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes, which were prepared from the foundation of the world. And thus cometh about the salvation and the redemption of men, and also their destruction and misery.
Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds.
If he has desired to do evil, and has not repented in his days, behold, evil shall be done unto him, according to the restoration of God.
And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance."
Alma 42:26-29

This is towards the end of some chapters where Alma is talking to his wayward son, Corianton, explaining the answers to some of his questions about the gospel.  The first verse of this selection seems a little weird, since we are talking about salvation and destruction in the same breath.  The next verse though explains that we're talking about restoration.  Salvation and destruction are all part of the plan, because the plan is about restoring to us what we give out... kind of a giant, eternal law of karma, but with a repentance escape clause that was granted us by Christ.  We can escape our own mistakes and the very just punishment of restoration that is coming to us, if we do the work and change our lives.

Changing our lives is more than we usually consider it to be though.  True repentance isn't just changing our actions (though that is often a good place to start).  To really tap into the power of the atonement, we have to change who we *are* … becoming a person that wouldn't have made that choice.  Not just changing our actions, but also our minds and our hearts.  Seems practically impossible, but with God's help it is within our reach.  If we truly desire to change, he can help us.

I don't know about you, but I can think of plenty of things from my past that I would rather not have returned to me at the last day.  Today, let's take some of Alma's advice and stop worrying about things that we can't change, and focus on the things that we can.  Let's worry about the state of our own souls, and work with God on that issue.  No matter how addicted to sin we are, if we go to God sincerely and ask him to change our hearts, he will hear us and help us.  As we change and grow, we will learn how not to be those people we have been in the past.  We'll learn to be better and kinder and closer to God... and so much happier.  Some good ideas as we move towards the new year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Psalms 13:6 -- On Singing Unto the Lord

"I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me."
Psalms 13:6

I like this, not because it is always the way it feels, but because it is always the way it really is, no matter how it feels.  And when we get to the point where we feel it enough to sing it, we are definitely on the right track. :)

We get twisted around sometimes and start blaming God for things or expecting God to fix things, and it is really either ourselves that we are mad at, down deep, because we got ourselves into a huge mess, or it is the world itself that we are angry with and want God to make things better for us without considering what is best for everyone else.

The world is definitely not always fun.  Because God allows us our free agency, some people abuse that power and harm others.  The answer to that though is not to force everyone to do the right thing.  God can't withdraw free agency for some people and allow it for others and still have a balanced world with real choice between good and evil.  Sometimes we want God to "fix" the world to make everything perfect, forgetting that the "fix" would also take away our own choices, and our divine potential.

The real fix I think is outlined in Jacob 5 and the parable of the Olive Trees: "wherefore ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow."  And since we are the trees in that parable, that means that evil will be taken out of the world as *we* bring more good into it.  There is a solution, but it is one that we have to work for... as really is proper, since we are here to learn to choose good and to explore our infinite potential.  Sitting back and expecting God to solve everything isn't going to work.  God, assuredly, will fight some of our battles--but only those ones that we can't fight ourselves, and until we try, we won't know which those ones are.

Learning is often hard.  I'm not saying it isn't.  I'm only saying that we keep wanting things to be other than they really are, and for things to be super easy, so we can basically skate through life with no effort.  And things aren't that way, and the sooner we face that, the sooner we will be able to learn how God's plan really works, and allow our perspective to change, and we will be able to see the bounty that the Lord has really blessed us with, more abundantly than we could ever have reasonably expected.  God knows that it is hard for us, and he is there for us, holding our hands through most of it, encouraging us to walk a few steps without support when we seem steady enough... keeping an eye on us through the toddler stage, so that we don't fall into the fire.  Wanting God to make things easy is pretty much like saying that we never want to be potty trained or learn to walk, because those things are too hard.  … And they *are* hard, but also necessary for us to grow and progress.

Today, let's talk to God and ask him to help us see things from his perspective a little more.  It's okay also to ask for a little comfort and peace when we're overwhelmed, but then let's get back up and try again.  Let's try to be less resentful, and work at learning and becoming more than we are, and start to realize how much the Lord loves us, and how bountifully he blesses us, every day.  And if we get to that point where we can feel it, then it's okay to break into song about it. :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Philippians 2:21 -- On Seeking Christ

"For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s."
Philippians 2:21

This verse is sadly true, and something that we should probably work on, because seeking the things that are Christ's are exactly the things that will make us better people--kinder, more compassionate, more confident and bold, whole and satisfied, more peaceful and happy... and so much more.

Christ leads us to everything good, and is the way that we become who we want to be.  He can help us overcome even our own weaknesses and mental blocks.

Today, let's consider doing things God's way and walking in the path of Christ.  He will help us look outward and build community--to care for the people around us, and get outside ourselves more.  As we do, we will learn what it takes to be happy, and practice and get better at love and service.  Let's look beyond ourselves for the answers.  Let's look to God, who will help us see ourselves, and every other person and thing, from a better perspective.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Daniel 12:2 -- On Awaking to Life and Avoiding Shame

"And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."
Daniel 12:2

This chapter is Daniel talking about things that will happen in the last days, which in general is our time, but since it is stuff that we haven't seen yet, it is closer to the very last days than we are. :)  Here, Daniel is talking about people being resurrected, and the distinction between two results of resurrection is pretty stark.  Awaking to life or awaking to shame... eternal life doesn't sound as good if it is accompanied by shame or everlasting contempt (likely self-contempt here).

So, with this glimpse of the future that Daniel has given us, how do we avoid the bad future, and choose life rather than shame? I think that the core of it is to recognize the things that we don't like about ourselves right now, and seriously buckle down and work to change them.  It seems impossible sometimes, I know, but it isn't by a long shot, and the reason it isn't impossible is that we have God to help us, and if we are willing to accept his help to change and improve, he can heal us... even from bad habits and desires that feel inseparable from the rest of ourselves.  We can repent and change.  With God's help we can not only learn not to *do* evil, but to not even want evil.

It takes time and effort, but God can help us even with motivation and laziness. :)  He loves us, and the last thing that he wants is for us to spend eternity in self-contempt.  If we have regrets and if we don't like ourselves, then let's take advantage of Christ's gift to us, and apply the atonement to our lives.  It is that sacrifice that can give us the power and the will and the ability to change, even if we feel like we are stuck in the darkness.  God can shine his light and help us back to the light.

Today, let's take the first step towards waking to life rather than shame.  Let's do good and nothing that we could possibly be ashamed of for eternity.  And tomorrow, maybe let's do more of that.  Good and not bad… and it will get easier and easier to be good and to stick with God as we learn more about him and get more of his help. :) 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Mosiah 28:6-7 -- On Inquiring of and Including God

"And king Mosiah went and inquired of the Lord if he should let his sons go up among the Lamanites to preach the word.
And the Lord said unto Mosiah: Let them go up, for many shall believe on their words, and they shall have eternal life; and I will deliver thy sons out of the hands of the Lamanites."
Mosiah 28:6-7

In the verse before this, Mosiah's sons ask to go on a mission to the Lamanites, and in the verse after this, he allows it.  These two verses in between are important exactly because Mosiah included the Lord in his decision-making process.  This gave him confidence in his decision, and also comfort as the Lord promised that he would deliver his sons, which is almost certainly the reason that he hadn't given permission to them already.  He was worried that they would be killed.

Since we're supposed to pray always and look unto the Lord with every thought, including God in the processes of our lives makes sense, but often we forget just because we're not used to it.  We are used to input coming in and automatically reacting.

Let's take the time to consult the Lord before acting.  This doesn't mean stopping our work or refusing to act without God's approval of every detail of our lives, because sometimes God needs us to take the initiative and do good things without being prompted.  It does mean though that we should always give the Lord the chance to add comments as needed. :)  If the circumstances only allow a 5 second prayer rather than a 5-minute one, then let's still take the opportunity to include God however we can.

Today, let's be like Mosiah and inquire of the Lord.  Let's include him in our lives.  At worst, we will end up thinking of God more often during the day, which is definitely a net positive, and at best, we stop a bad reaction before it starts, or allow God to change our minds or comfort us about something important.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

2 Nephi 7:10 -- On Darkness and Finding Our Way

"Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light?"
2 Nephi 7:10

The answer to this question is no one, at least permanently, but it doesn't always feel that way.  When we get to points in our lives when we feel the darkness seeping in, there are several things to try, but the top two are probably these:

1. Step up our obedience level

Sometimes we slack off on doing what we should, including the really important things like prayer and scripture study.  This can erode our connection with the spirit, and let the darkness in almost imperceptibly at first, but over time, we get farther and farther from where we need to be.  Prayer and scripture study and church attendance and all of those little things really do matter, because they can drive the darkness back, and help us reconnect with God.

2. Keep moving forward

There are times in *every* life that are going to be dark, but with God, darkness is always temporary. Storms and trials are going to come, but if we have faith and trust that the light will return, we will be okay.  It's like in Lehi's dream.  When sight was gone, the people could hold to the iron rod, and so can we.  Satan can work to darken our lives in one way or another, but God will always leave us a way to connect with him and let the light back in.  We just have to trust him and keep doing the right things, and the light will return.

Today, let's stick with God.  Let's never give up or accept that darkness is a permanent part of our lives.  Let's trust God and step up our game if needed, and keep moving forward along God's path.  He is the light that we need in our lives, and if we work on that connection, we can always find our way.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Exodus 12:40-41 -- On Trusting in the Destination

"Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.
And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt."
Exodus 12:40-41

These verses struck me today because I was thinking about the children of Israel and how hard it was for them to adjust to the hardships of their journey and to life outside Egypt, and these verses seemed to actually explain it all.  None of them knew, except in stories passed down to them, what any other life was really like.  Even though life was not good for them as a slave class, they only had stories and dreams of freedom, and it was hard for them to trust in the unknown and unseen destination rather than wanting to turn back to what they knew.  We think of the plagues of Egypt as punishment of Pharaoh and his people, but in retrospect wasn't it perhaps also the only way to get all of the Israelites committed to leaving, and to discourage them from returning even later when they really wanted to?

I think our lives are like this as well sometimes.  Even though we plead to God for relief, we don't always know how hard deliverance will be.  God saved Abraham's life and Lehi's life, and the lives of many others throughout the scriptures, by telling them to flee and that he would bring them to a promised land.  The children of Israel is the same story.  But leaving is *hard.*  Change is hard.  It is hard to go into the wilderness, even the proverbial, symbolic kind.  Part of it is that even though we don't want the slavery, we often do want the simplicity of many of the things associated with that lifestyle.  For instance, we don't want people ordering us around, but we love the free food. :)

I think maybe we should change our expectations of what God offers us.  We ask God for deliverance and we subconsciously expect something easy.  Maybe an angelic chauffer will come and drive us to the freedom of a mansion, or to the dock or the heliport to get to our yacht or private island.  We want freedom and familiarity.  Freedom and free wi-fi, at least. :)  Unfortunately, the easy things and the good things aren't often the same.  Life requires us to stretch and grow and expand our comfort zones.  We have to be willing to trust in the destination that God plans for us and accept the answers to our prayers, even when the way is more difficult that we expected it to be.

Today, let's continue to reach for freedom and deliverance and everything good, but let's also recognize that those things are going to be hard work and that they are going to stretch us and teach us.  We want God and his goodness, but we've been away from him so long that we don't always understand the personal change that heaven requires.  The promised land is always worth it, but it can be uncomfortable and taxing as we adjust.  Let's do it anyway, and keep following and stay faithful, trusting in God that where we are going is infinitely better than where we have been.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Moroni 6:5 -- On Church Attendance and Social Salvation

"And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls."
Moroni 6:5

God cares that we go to church. Although sometimes we would like to believe that he is okay with everyone worshipping in his or her own way, that isn't the case. He wants us to be there, and although God might have more reasons, some good ones are right here in this verse.

God wants us to attend church because meeting together often is something that helps us, and helps others. When we meet other people who are also followers of God, we can learn from each other and help each other in the gospel. Part of it is the Sinners Anonymous idea--we support each other in rejecting sin, allowing God to change us, and working hard on being better people.

God wants us to attend church to fast and to pray. Fasting is about focus, and God should be our focus, *especially* on his day. We can of course feel the spirit outside of church, but the idea of focused attention and doing something for God really helps, in addition to the multiplicative effect of meeting together in his name.  Prayer is definitely effective as a solo activity, but it gets better and invites the spirit more strongly when many people pray together in unity. Life isn't here just for our solitary salvation, but to build a celestial community. If we think about the ten commandments, or really anything that God asks us, very little of it is only about ourselves, but instead about how we treat each other and learn to live together. As Neal A Maxwell said, "we serve as each other’s clinical material" (April 2000).

Speaking one with another concerning the welfare of our souls is also part of that "social salvation" that God is striving for.  As we help each other with our lives, we become more like God, whose work and glory is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39).  Just as he works to help us, the reward that he offers is to become like him, part of which is to join in his work, to learn to love each other as he loves us all, and to achieve a sort of social salvation by being able to live with him and with each other for eternity... to rejoice in good company and good work.

Today, let's think about some of the reasons that God wants us to go to church, and let's resolve to do as God asks, and attend consistently.  Let's build good relationships with God and with others so that heaven will be a place filled with our friends and exactly where we want to go. :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Ezekiel 13:22 -- On Truth and Turning

"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

Before this, God condemns people who prophesy according to their own imaginations, and this verse is part of why.  God doesn't promise something he can't deliver, but when we trust in fortune-telling or even the generic "arm of flesh" we are going to be disappointed.  Not necessarily because anyone intended harm, but simply because we believed in a promise that couldn't be kept, or a false idea that was never going to lead us to happiness.

God promises the righteous happiness and warns the wicked of the consequences of their unrighteous actions.  He's telling us what will actually happen in the end.  When other things distort that message of actual reality, then we can get way off track hoping for things that can never happen, like sin making us happy or learning to achieve our potential by overindulging our physical appetites.

Today, let's listen to God rather than to our own or others' imaginations about what can or will be.  God doesn't always tell us what we want to hear, but he always tells us what we *need* to hear, because he wants the best for us, and telling us that we can have everything we want by doing anything we want is simply a lie.  Let's make sure we aren't making others sad with lies either--let's tune into the spirit of truth, and turn from our wicked ways.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Job 38:1-4 -- On Perspective and Choice

"Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding."
Job 38:1-4

The story of Job is a good one for helping us understand some of the differences between God's perspective and our own... which I think is a key principle of maintaining our sanity and sense of humor as we go through life.

The story is long, and my brief retelling will definitely not do it justice, but basically there was this super-righteous, super-rich guy named Job.  Job goes to present himself to the Lord, and Satan also shows up.  God tells Satan about Job, who is pretty great and always does what he should.  Satan tells God that it is only because he has an easy life, and if God would let down his protection, that Satan could make him curse God.

So, God lets Satan affect the things around him, just tells him not to harm the man himself.  Job loses literally everything all in the same day, but he stays true.  So, then Satan says well, you're still protecting him... if you let me affect him physically, THEN he will curse you.  So, God allows it.  Job's wife even tells him to curse God and die.  He doesn't, but he wishes he had never been born.  Job's friends come and they have a really long conversation about life and God, part of which addresses whether Job did something evil to bring all of this upon himself.  Job says that even if God kills him, he'll still trust him, but he does complain a lot about what he is going through and asks God why he is alive, etc.  God doesn't kill him, but he does appear to Job and his friends and has some things to say about their conversation and questioning his wisdom.

Job, still righteous, is immediately humble and repentant, and pleads for his friends, and God forgives everyone, and then blesses Job with double what he had before, and Job has a really long life full of happiness and satisfaction (or at least as happy as you could be back then without sliced bread and indoor plumbing... just saying.).

These verses are from when God talks to Job about his conversation with his friends, and he asks Job why he is talking about things that he doesn't understand, and asks him this question and later a lot of follow up questions, showing him how little he understands.  He doesn't do this to ridicule him, but to illustrate the distance between their two levels of understanding and perspective.  The whole thing also seems very symbolic of what earth life is for all of us.  We're in the middle of the same conflict that we experienced in the premortal existence... the question of free agency.  Satan thinks that if he manipulates our circumstances that he can get us all to curse God.  God is betting on us, giving us a chance to succeed and become much more than we could ever be if Satan had his way.  He protects us and sets limits on how Satan can affect us, so that we have a real chance to choose for ourselves rather than being manipulated.

Today, let's do our best to be as faithful as Job--to trust in God no matter what happens, and to know that God will make it all okay in the end.  Let's not give in to Satan's messages of despair or complacency, but keep working and striving for all that God promises us... which is no less than sharing in all that he has.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Psalms 130:3-5 -- On Hope and Obstacle Removal

"If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope."
Psalms 130:3-5

The first verse here asks a really good question.  If we are judged for our iniquities, who will be able to endure that judgement?  The answer is none of us. 

Lest we lose hope though, the second verse has the answer to this.  God provides for repentance, which requires more of us than an extra life on a video game, but which is similarly helpful and allows us to let go of our sins and put them behind us.

How is all this possible?  Through Jesus Christ, who brings hope back to us through his sacrifice.  His word and life bring hope back to us.

Sometimes we feel like the atonement isn't enough for us because we're too far gone and sometimes we don't even want to come back and try again.  God has hope for us even in the middle of our despair however.  God can not only erase our sins, but if we are willing he can also change our hearts.  If we want to be kinder or more devoted but we just don't feel it, God can help us there too.  *Anything* that is holding us back God can help with.  As long as we're working with God, things can never be hopeless.

Today, let's go to God with whatever is getting in our way.  Let's work with him to remove the things that are preventing us from progressing.  Even if it is our own stubbornness... if we pray about it, and ask God to help us to change, he WILL.  Not saying it will always be fun, but he can solve any problem we take to him.  We just have to be willing to change, and put in the effort when God shows us what we need to do.  Let's cling to hope, wait upon God to answer our prayers, and be willing to follow through.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Psalms 119:71-72 -- On Afflictions

"It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver."
Psalms 119:71-72

It's hard to look at affliction as a good thing.  It doesn't really feel like a good thing when we're going through it.  I think it is one of those things that we only fully realize after the fact.  When some time has passed, we can look back and see that the things that we went through helped us to learn, grow, and improve.  Affliction often teaches us humility, and helps us learn to love others.  We learn why God's laws are there, and how they can protect us, even from ourselves.

I don't want to diminish the pain of what we go through at all.  Afflictions can test us to the core and by definition are things that hurt us and wear us down.  However, God can make all things work together for our good, and that includes the difficult and the devastating things.

Today, let's look back at some afflictions that are far enough in the past to not cause us fresh pain, and focus on what we learned from those experiences.  Perhaps we will have new insights, or at least reminders of why we are on our current path, and see God's hand in our lives, in a good way.  I don't think we have to ask for afflictions in our lives, since they will just naturally come to us all, but when they do, let's make sure we are focusing on what the Lord is teaching us, and how we can use the experience to improve ourselves and the lives of others.  At worst, it might distract us from the pain a little, and at best maybe we'll be able to tap into God's perspective, and see that in an eternal sense, all that we go through will be worth it, and more than that... made up for so much so that we will eventually be swallowed up by joy that exceeds our pain many times over.  God *will* make everything right in the end.  Until then, let's learn what we can, and maybe even learn a little bit more compassion for what Christ suffered on our behalf.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Luke 11:9-10 -- On Getting What We Ask For

"And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."
Luke 11:9-10

Sometimes we read this promise and we are doubtful.  Maybe we've tried asking and we didn't get exactly what we wanted in the way that we wanted it.  God's promise is, of course, true, but digging in a little bit deeper will perhaps help us to understand it better.

One clarification is in Doctrine and Covenants 9:7 where God says to Oliver Cowdery "Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me."  ... So, clearly, we have to do more than ask.

In Doctrine and Covenants 8:10 God says "Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not ask for that which you ought not."  We learn here that faith is an integral part of the promise.    Faith is the willingness and confidence to *act* on things that we can't see, but that we still know.  For instance, if we really want a certain job, it isn't enough to see the posting and to then pray.  I'm not saying that God is *unable* to have the hiring manager call us out of the blue and offer the job, but I think God is much less likely to help us if we don't act in faith.  In this case, it would be  a good idea to actually apply for the job, put forth the effort to write a good resume and prepare ourselves for that sort of a job, and maybe even prep for the interview.

James 4:3 clarifies the part about asking for things that we shouldn't: "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts."  Back to the job.  If we're asking for it because it is what we want to do, and we feel like we would be able to help the company a lot and be of service, that's one thing.  What if we want the job because it will make us rich or powerful or because it would be easy to slack off or maybe even steal from the company?  Probably not a very good reason, right?  And yet, very often, we ask for things from God that aren't good for us, or others, or the world.  We want things that will hurt us, and hurt other people.

God wants to bless our lives, but so often we ask him to hurt us by desiring the totally wrong things.  God's promise to us works if we're living right.  If we aren't, we need some clarification and probably a little bit more purity.  Let's work on that today... on being good, and asking for good things.  As we do, we'll be blessed more and more to know what to ask for that will help both ourselves and others, and be granted what we ask.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Deuteronomy 32:29 -- On Long-term and Short-term Thinking

"O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!"
Deuteronomy 32:29

This is God, seemingly frustrated that people won't consider "their latter end," which I think means in essence that he would like us to consider long-term thinking.  Of course, God also tells us in Matthew 6:34 "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."  So, perhaps sometimes we need to think long-term and sometimes not? :)

This chapter is about life... where we came from (premortal life) and where we are going (life after death), and how this life affects that process, so the long-term thinking is about obedience, and listening to God's guidance as he tries to help us find the happiest future / eternity possible.  The chapter in Matthew is about focusing on an individual day rather than on everything so that we don't get overwhelmed with needing to solve everything... we only have to solve one day's worth of problems at a time. :)  Both pieces of advice are good, and they don't contradict each other.  Just different parts of the same whole, where we make God the center of our lives and follow him, planning ahead and looking to prepare for eternity, but still not letting ourselves get overwhelmed.

Today, let's make sure that we consider where we are going after this life, and bake that into our actions and our decisions.  But let's also not let eternity scare us or overwhelm us.  Let's do what we can do today, and try to get better each day, but let's not give up when we make mistakes.  Let's just repent and keep trying.  It isn't impossible if we just focus on doing what we can today, and aiming at improvement over the long term. :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Alma 13:27 -- On Procrastination and Repentance

"And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance;"
Alma 13:27

We procrastinate our repentance a lot, and we rarely feel a lot of anxiety over it, at least in the day to day living part of things--we push it off even when it bothers us and kind of build up a tolerance by kind of desensitizing ourselves to the messages from the spirit.  It's understandable that we don't want to feel guilty all the time, of course, but a better way to solve that problem would be repentance.  Numbing ourselves to God's influence can harm us a lot and distance us from help that we may later find very necessary to our well-being.

Alma here feels "great anxiety," not for himself, but for the well-being of his people, and that is an extension of how God feels.  He knows that these things *are* urgent and time-sensitive in our lives, because if we put them off then we tend to keep putting them off, over and over again until it is too late.  If we stop listening to God, we become less and less able to tune in and hear him, and the more we forget the messages that we have already heard from him.

Today, let's work on tuning into God and feeling that urgency in cleaning up our lives and getting back on track.  That way, instead of getting more and more lost, we suddenly have a foundation to build on and we can accomplish so much more--learning to get to know God, and improving things rather than wandering around in the dark.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Exodus 16:28-30 -- On the Bread of Two Days

"And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?
See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.
So the people rested on the seventh day."
Exodus 16:28-30

This is part of the story of getting manna from heaven.  The Lord, through Moses, told the people to gather the bread of two days (twice as much) on the day before the Sabbath and that it wouldn't get gross and wormy like it usually did if you kept it for a day.  But (as is usual with us) the people didn't listen and went out to gather, and none was there.  So, in a way, the people didn't have any reason to work on the Sabbath, which probably helped with the observance.

In our day I think that we do similarly... we automatically go into the mode that is normal for every day, and pick up where we left off yesterday.  But the whole idea of the Sabbath is to make a *difference* between that and normal life.  To take a step back from mundane things and to focus on the Lord, and how we can improve our lives and come closer to him.  This Sabbath, let's make sure that we do things differently.  Let's gather the bread of two days before the Sabbath so that we are prepared to focus.  Let's remember that the Sabbath is the Lord's, and that we should be engaged in activities that would please him rather than just doing whatever it is that we do every other day and pleasing ourselves.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Luke 11:33-36 -- On Internal Light and Darkness

"No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.
The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.
Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.
If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light."
Luke 11:33-36

I like this discussion of light and darkness and I think that there is a lot of symbolism here that is interesting.  The first verse seems to be talking about how we sometimes hide the light within us, or hide the gospel in our lives, either by not exercising our talents or serving others in the unique ways that we can, but also that we sometimes seem to be embarrassed of God, and hide the fact that we are members of his church from our friends or family rather than being happy and open about that part of our lives.

The other verses seem symbolically to be making commentary on how we perceive things and also what we allow in our lives.  Our eyes being evil could be looking at the world and expecting bad and evil things... and so that is what we see and what we find in the world around us, whereas if we look for the good, we will find it, and the world around us will seem much better.   The part about taking heed that our light isn't dark could also be about that, but I think it also adds the idea that C.S. Lewis expressed well in this quotation: "If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell."

Today, let's embrace the light--glorifying and acknowledging God in our lives, and also looking for the good.  Let's let go of the souvenirs of hell that we've picked up along the way.  Let's banish the darkness from our lives by going all in with God and filling ourselves 100% with light.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

D&C 93:29 -- On Beginnings and Futures

"Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be."
Doctrine and Covenants 93:29

I love the simple statement here that we were in the beginning with God.  That simple thing means so much... it helps us know that our brief time on earth isn't all we have.  We existed before, we are going to exist after.  We don't have to be scared or desperate about death or limitations because all of that is just temporary.  I think that is part of what God has been trying to teach us all along.  We are on a long-term quest to make some decisions about who we want to be.  That's something that we shouldn't throw away or brush off in any one moment, but instead something we should be working on as we go.  We have opportunities to learn and to help and to change--ourselves and the world.

Our relationship with God extends beyond this life as well, and renewing and reinforcing that relationship can make a huge difference in our lives now, because God knows us better than we know ourselves, and he can help us live up to our potential and become everything we've ever wanted to be... and more.  All of us were there, not just one or a few.  We were all there together, and he can help us learn to love each other now as we did then, and help each other to rejoin that community, now as well as later.

Today, let's realize a little bit of who we are, and our relationship with God, both of which started well before our current lives.  Let's connect with God and ask him to help us do more and be more... and help more, and connect more.  Let's help the people around us realize that they also know God from way back, and that some part of us all *remembers* him, and knows him.  And let's allow that to make a difference in our lives, and not limit ourselves to short-term answers, but let's invest in God and in the future that he promises us.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Ezekiel 33:7-9 -- On Warnings and Watchmen

"So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.
When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul."
Ezekiel 33:7-9

This is an interesting scripture that the Lord revealed to Ezekiel.  It is about his responsibility as a prophet, assigned to be a watchman, but I think also about our responsibility as a community to watch out for and warn and help each other.  Not sitting in judgement and condemning, but more like we are all in a Sinners Anonymous meeting together, reminding and helping each other with our own experiences and examples, knowing how dangerous the addiction to sin can be.

A few verses after this God explains that he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and asks "why will ye die?"  ... I think that makes it clear that God is trying to help us, getting us to warn and assist each other.  He is assigning people (and in some measure, all of us) to this work, and doing everything that he can, but often we insist on continuing and dying in our iniquities.  Sometimes, instead of helping, we draw others after us into sin, endangering their souls as well as our own.

Today, let's think about our responsibility as members of a community and a family--our responsibility to each other, to help rather than hinder.  To heal rather than hurt.  Let's do what we can to watch out for and warn and help each other and be careful with the souls that we touch.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Jacob 7:19 — On Confession

“And he said: I fear lest I have committed the unpardonable sin, for I have lied unto God; for I denied the Christ, and said that I believed the scriptures; and they truly testify of him. And because I have thus lied unto God I greatly fear lest my case shall be awful; but I confess unto God.”
Jacob 7:19

Confession is an interesting component of repentance.  God already knows what we did, right?   So maybe confession to a person that we wronged makes sense, but why God?  I think this verse might have the core of the answer—it’s about honesty.

Mark Twain famously had one of his main characters state “you can’t pray a lie,” which is a reflection of the very nature of God and of our relationship with him.  Deception is the antithesis of all that he is.  On some level, if we’re trying to deceive God we’re also deceiving ourselves into thinking that’s even possible.  Confession isn’t about giving God new information.  It is about facing up to our failures, figuring out how to change, and then committing to it.  Doing that in front of God and other people helps us both face it and have other people who will hold us responsible for that change.

Today, let’s be honest with ourselves and with God.  If there is something that we need to change in our lives, let’s step up and commit to it.  Let’s stop trying to live or pray a lie, and be our true selves... because no matter how bad those selves are, we’re never going to improve until we face the truth. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Mosiah 2:9 — On Hearkening

“And these are the words which he spake and caused to be written, saying: My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.”
Mosiah 2:9

I like the clarity here when he asks them to hearken to his words, mentioning that they should open their ears, and their hearts, and their minds.  I think we very rarely listen quite that well, to our detriment.

Sometimes when we feel disconnected, we look for that magic combination that will ensure that we connect with God and can actually feel and understand what he has to say, and I think this actually might be it.  The trick is that we really have to be listening in a lot of ways, totally there and open, and very often we close ourselves off in one or more ways, which blocks the still, small voice of the Spirit.

In order to hearken in all of these ways, we have to clear mental, emotional, and physical impediments to communication.  This might require apologizing to someone when an argument is preoccupying our thoughts, mentally releasing a sin that we don’t want to let go of, or finding a physically less distracting place to pray.  And then after the obstructions are gone, we still have to work on being open to something new.  Sometimes we don’t want to listen to God not because of a sin or anything negative, but because he is asking us to do something that is hard for us, like moving to a new place or ending a relationship with an employer.

Today, as we pray and seek God’s guidance, let’s hearken with our ears, hearts, and minds, and be totally open to what God has to say.  As we move towards that ideal, God’s messages will be able to get through our interference more and more clearly, and we will learn better and better how to tune in and feel the love of God and get his help in our lives.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Mosiah 3:25 — On Drinking Damnation

“And if they be evil they are consigned to an awful view of their own guilt and abominations, which doth cause them to shrink from the presence of the Lord into a state of misery and endless torment, from whence they can no more return; therefore they have drunk damnation to their own souls.”
Mosiah 3:25

Drinking damnation sounds really vile... probably something we should avoid.  Beyond that though, I think the idea here is that, in essence, damnation is a self-knowledge of our own evil.  And if that is true, perhaps exaltation is the same.  2 Nephi 14 talks about having a “perfect knowledge” of enjoyment and righteousness, which seems to go along with this idea.  In that respect, we really are setting up our own rewards throughout our lives by the choices we make... deciding whether to go to heaven or hell based on how we feel about ourselves.  Kind of a frightening prospect actually, but something that I think fits with the scriptures really well.  God is working to save us from the natural outcome of our own actions, and to do that, he has to get us to change our choices... there is no other way to get us to feel good about our own righteousness than to actually learn to be righteous.

Today, perhaps we should think a little about how we feel about ourselves, and how that might change in the presence of God and the restoration of our premortal memories.  And if we want to be better than we are now, let’s jump in and get it done.  Eternity sounds like a very long time to regret something.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Romans 12:2-5 -- On Conforming versus Transforming

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."
Romans 12:2-5

I like the conformed/transformed dichotomy in the first verse, telling us not to "just fit in" with the world, but to be changed, renewed... and into what is answered in the following verses.  We shouldn't join with the world in thinking that we are better than we are, but to try to see the reality (that we have room for improvement, that we need help, etc.).

As part of that seeing ourselves a little more clearly, he asks us to recognize that we are a community, and part of a whole, needing other people the way we need members of our family, because we are--joined together through God, not just as members of a church, but larger than that: society, humanity.  We're part of God's family, and though we are "unprofitable servants" (Luke 17:10, Mosiah 2:21) in a sense, because we can't pay God back for what he gives to us, all he asks us, because we are his family, is to keep his commandments.  Not for his sake, but for ours, because his commandments are designed for our happiness, and to help us return to him.

Today, let's stop trying to conform, and choose instead to transform... to become more like God and to stop trying to be like the rest of the world.  Let's try not to focus on ourselves and how cool we are, but to step it down a little and see ourselves in the context of a society and work on helping and serving others, as we all work to get back to our Father in Heaven.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

2 Corinthians 12:7 -- On Thorns and Thankfulness

"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure."
2 Corinthians 12:7

This is Paul writing to the Corinthians, referring to a weakness that God gave him and which God chose not to take away when asked.  From that experience, Paul goes on to say that he learned to glory in infirmities (verse 9).  I'm not sure I am there yet, but it's still a good reminder that God gives us everything for a reason, even our weaknesses.  In some cases maybe it is meant to help us to be humble, as it sounds like it at least partially was with Paul.  Other times maybe it is an obstacle that makes us stronger as we learn to overcome it.  Perhaps these things teach us faith, and patience, and understanding... and many more options, and sometimes all of the above.  Even though our thorns are difficult to endure, they are important, and they help us become better, more capable people.

Honestly, I know that hearing something is good for you when it is weighing you down and filling your life with anxiety is not often comforting.  Like so many other things in life, sometimes it just takes time and distance to regain some perspective, and that's okay... *if* we can hold on enough to not give up.  God includes the amazing things in our lives for a purpose as well.  Sometimes as a rest break from the difficult things.  Sometimes to help us see beyond our own needs, but always because he loves us.  He knows our limits better than we do, and he will never leave us comfortless (John 14:18).  Even if we burn all the bridges we can find, we can't burn that connection, and if we are willing to reach out to God for help to change out lives and in times of need, God will hear us, and help and comfort us.

Today, if we can, let's be like Paul and be thankful for the gift of thorns that teach us.  And if we aren't ready to be thankful for thorns, then let's turn to God for help, and work on just being grateful for a Heavenly Father who can help us get through anything, and who will always be there for us if we are willing to go to him.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Jeremiah 7:5-7 -- On Choosing Wisely

"For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour;
If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt:
Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever."
Jeremiah 7:5-7

This is a good reminder to repent, and it is also an interesting thing that we see in the scriptures a lot where God offers an either-or prophecy.  If we behave one way, then we are going to bring on some bad consequences, and if we behave another way, there will be good consequences.  This seems a little bit strange when we consider that God knows everything, and that he likely knows what the choice will be.

This specific prophecy is interesting as well because Jeremiah and Lehi lived during the same time period.  God knew that the people here wouldn't listen, and warned Lehi to leave.  I like that he knows they will choose poorly, but he still warns them...  God knows us perfectly, but he always wants us to know that we do have a choice.  God offered the same choice to Ninevah, and they did repent.

We have a similar choice, and even though God knows how we will choose, we still need to make that choice.  Let's make sure we choose wisely, accepting God's very generous offer of repentance and mercy, rather than continuing in poor choices which will eventually bring the natural consequences of our actions down on our heads. :)

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