Saturday, July 20, 2019

Amos 7:14-15 -- On Being More than We Expected

"Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:
And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel."
Amos 7:14-15

This is an interesting excerpt about how Amos was called to be a prophet.  I think it is interesting because it is clear that it wasn't the future that Amos was expecting or planning for, and maybe one that he didn't even want at the time.  Being a prophet is hard work, especially when people try to kill you, which seems to happen to prophets a lot.

I wonder how often calls us and we're not listening/answering, because it isn't something that we expect or maybe even want.  We often *think* we want to hear the voice of the Lord, but when he does speak and asks us to do something, we often cringe away, as Amulek explains that he did "I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know" (Alma 10:6).

How do we think of ourselves?  Amos says here "I was no prophet" ... it isn't something that he identified with, or thought of himself as.  And yet, God called him.  In Numbers 11:29, Moses expresses a wish that everyone had the experience of being a prophet... maybe because it was hard for him and he wanted other to relate, maybe because then people would understand what God wanted them to do, or maybe just because then his job wouldn't be so hard, because everyone would be listening to the Lord. :)  And we definitely can't all be *the* prophet that speaks for God and his church, but we *can* all receive inspiration/revelation from God for ourselves and our responsibilities, which is also a prophetic thing.  Maybe we need to let go of the "that's not who I am or what I want" thing, like Amos had to, in order to really hear what God has to say, and also in order to be who we really can be.

Today, no matter how much we just want to pick sycomore fruit, let's be open to doing, and being, more than we expected.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Joel 2:14-16 -- On the Valley of Decision

"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.
The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.
The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel."
Joel 2:14-16

These verses are talking about a time right before/at the Second Coming, and as this chapter shows there will be a lot going on, and all nations will be gathered for war.  And it seems like it is going to be a very black day, with no sun, moon, or stars to help lighten things.

But, as he did in third Nephi, the Lord will speak from the darkness and destruction and be, as it says, the "hope of his people."

Since we know the outcome, the meaning of "the valley of decision" seems a little bit unclear.  It clearly isn't deciding a war, for we know that God will end one right here.  Instead I think, perhaps it will a time for all of the nations to make a decision about what they are going to do about the reality of God in front of them.

Likewise perhaps, all of us need to make a similar decision.  At some point, if we haven't already, we are going to come face to face with the reality of God.  And at that time, we too are in the valley of decision.  Are we going to take that knowledge and make a covenant with God, and work with him to make everything better, or are we going to retreat from that knowledge, trying to deny his shining reality, and continue in our own ways?

Today let's recognize the truth, and instead of putting ourselves first and holding on desperately to our sins, let's covenant with God, and work with him to free ourselves from everything that is holding us back.  Let's allow him to help us become what we have always been meant to be, and better than we can imagine.  Let's lift and help the people around us, and be the good and the Lord's hand in changing things for the better.  Let's make our decision now.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Alma 37:7-8 -- On Small Means and Enlarged Memories

"And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.
And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways, and brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls."
Alma 37:7-8

We need a lot of reminders about this idea I think, because we tend to want something big and showy and dramatic ... a gigantic neon sign that says in a deep, booming voice "Yes, that's the right decision" or "No, don't take that job" or whatever it is. :)  But God sees all of it and he works the tapestry, pulling on a thread here and there, and we don't see the dramatic changes until much later, because all the changes leading there were incremental.

Interestingly though, there are occasionally some dramatic moments and they are captured in the scriptures.  Parting the sea, walking on the water, being swallowed by a giant fish... and that is part of what it is talking about here when it says that the scriptures have "enlarged the memory of this people."  That's one of the reasons that we read the scriptures, so that we can know how God works with us, and recognize his hand in our lives.  Sometimes there are dramatic moments in our own lives, but they aren't always reconizably dramatic to others, because they were hard or impossible for *us.*

Today, let's be sensitive to the big *and* small means that God is using to work with us in our lives.  Let's listen as he works to convince us of our errors, and helps us to learn about him and partake of his salvation.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

3 Nephi 1:14 -- On Spirit, Body, and Internal Unity

"Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given."
3 Nephi 1:14

The phrase here "of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh" is an interesting one, perhaps showing that Christ, at this point, right before he is born into mortality, hasn't unified those parts of himself... or even just as an explanation to us about where any other will comes from.

We are spirit and body, and our spirits, before we came here, were already united with Heavenly Father's will.  We wanted this chance, and looked forward to getting bodies and learning to use them.  But, as Christ mentions, having "flesh" gives us additional urges and desires that we didn't have as Spirits.  That's what the scriptures call "the natural man" in some places (1 Corinthians 2:14, Mosiah 3:19), and that's why we're sometimes torn apart internally... one part of us going in one direction and the other part wanting to go a different way.  One part of us always wants what God wants, because that is what we wanted before this life, and the other part has new needs, which we have to decide how to satisfy.  A large part of life is just choosing whether to let our spirits lead or our bodies, and who we choose to become as this new melded being... how we decide to reconcile those different parts of our new whole selves.

Another thing that Christ says here is that he is going to do the will of BOTH.  And that's the trick, right?  We need to learn to be unified within ourselves the same way that Christ did the will of his Father *and* himself.  The scriptures give us hints about bridling our passions and *all* of the commandments are to help us learn in this new situation, to listen to the voice of the Spirit, to treat our bodies well and respectfully... just showing us how to get used to having bodies and how to get back home after we're done with that task. :)

Today, let's work on unifying ourselves, being less torn apart internally and less at odd with God, because being at odds with God is *also* being at odds with part of ourselves.  Once we get on the same page internally, it will be a lot easier to influence the world in a good way. :)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

3 Nephi 22:4 -- On Being Free From Shame

"Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed; neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame; for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more."
3 Nephi 22:4

After this verse the Lord says "For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee" (verse 7).  And that is important to remember as we discuss this, because it helps us understand that none of our trials or afflictions are forever.  Here though, I wanted to focus on this idea that we don't have to always bear the shame of our failures and inadequacies.  We don't have to worry about the things that we've lost or that we don't have or that we ever did wrong, as long as we are changing and growing and repenting and becoming better.  God isn't going to throw our sins and mistakes back in our faces, because we're moving past those things, and we're becoming better than that.

To be clear, we *do* have to worry if we refuse to change and we get stuck in a rut and stop progressing.  If we choose to be a person that embraces a certain type of sin, and we choose not to change that, then those are the things that are going to stand between us and God at the last day.  God can't help us if we aren't willing to be helped.  But we don't have to have anything impeding that relationship if we don't want to.  Even if it is just in tiny ways, as long as we are really making an effort to change and grow, God will help us along.

Today, let's take advantage of the limited time 100% Zero Shame deal that the Lord is offering us.  Let's talk to him about the things that we are ashamed of, even if we don't know how to change, and he will help us to repent and change and be free of that burden.  Let's act now. ;)

Monday, July 15, 2019

Hebrews 12:25-29 -- On Becoming Unshakable

"See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:
Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
For our God is a consuming fire."
Hebrews 12:25-29

This is interesting because it shows at least partially what God is helping us become... eternal beings, that cannot be shaken, destroyed, or consumed in a fire.  He wants us to be able to stand with him.  Now, of course, right now we aren't even close to that.  We're weakling mortals, and we are pretty messed up most of the time.  But he's asking us to see beyond our current weaknesses, to act beyond them, and to have faith in him and in what we can become.  Over time, working with God, no matter how weak we are now, we *can* become solid and unshakable, and it is God's chosen work to help us to become so.

We hear in other scriptures about the refiner's fire, and I think that is what the consuming fire is here... it consumes and basically obliterates anything that can't endure the heat, but the things that can are purified, as the fire removes everything else.  God makes us able to endure, and we are purified by his fire.

Refusing God is like refusing treatment for a deadly disease.  I mean, worse than that, but partially that.  It's self-condemnation, giving up hope and choosing death.  I think we can take these verses to heart, not in a way that causes us to think of God as frightening, although he can certainly seem that way, but in a way that helps us to understand that God is preparing us for an eternity where no corruption or imperfection will be able to survive. 

We're seriously on our way to the kind of place where there aren't any white lies or criticisms or justifications... or any sin at all.  And if we want that... if we want heaven... then we need to learn how to be that type of person, and live in that type of society.  ... Not all at once.  God will teach us and help us, and we will be able to accomplish it in time if we want to... but we have to want to, and be committed.  God won't force us. 

Today, let's choose to learn and to grow and to become people who cannot be shaken.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Alma 38:12 -- On Love, Respect, and Self-Control

"Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness."
Alma 38:12

I like the bold but not overbearing idea... that we should have opinions and express them, and work for what we think is right, but that there are limits, and we shouldn't be talking over other people or not listening to them, and we shouldn't step on others when we express ourselves.

That idea of there being limits to our self-expression carries over into the next idea, that of bridling our passions.  Emotions aren't inherently bad, but they can get bad quickly if we let them control us, rather than us controlling them.  It's interesting to say that we have to control our passions in order to be filled with love, because we often see love and passion portayed as the same thing... but restraint and self control are *essential* to real love.  Only when we have the ability to respect someone else and control ourselves around them can we understand what loving them really means.  Just like the first idea... if we always talk over them asserting that our opinions are superior, then we have no idea who they are, because we haven't stopped to listen and to find out.  We can't love people if we assume they are stupid or that their opinions don't matter.

Refraining from idleness at first seems like the outlier here, but here too is the idea of restraint.  God gave us a day of rest.  He knows that we need to take time away, and control our anxiety levels.  Here though, he says that rest doesn't mean the same thing as idleness.  Resting shouldn't be the main part of our lives, but instead it should be the necessary downtime from our more important pursuits.

Today, let's consider the idea of self restraint.  Let's be bold, and passionate about the things that matter to us, and let's take time to rest and recharge.  But let's not take any of these things (or anything else) too far.  Let's respect God and respect the people around us by learning moderation and keeping ourselves in check.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

D&C 19:41 -- On Meekness

"Or canst thou be humble and meek, and conduct thyself wisely before me? Yea, come unto me thy Savior. Amen."
Doctrine and Covenants 19:41

Another good reminder, and one that I think is especially hard for us to incorporate into our lives because it is basically the opposite of what the world teaches us.  We learn a lot about getting what we want and standing up for ourselves, but precious little about healthy relationships, working in a community, and becoming united.

Today, let's take some time to learn about things that might not be all about us, and let's reach out to God for help.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Alma 42:29 -- On the Right Kind of Trouble

"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 42:29

This is a good reminder that if we're going to worry, we should focus on the worry that can do some good and help us change... our sins.  We stress about so many things, but the most important is overcoming the sins in our lives, and being free of them.

Today, let's be troubled with only the right kind of trouble. Let's worry about our sins and not other things that we can't control.  And because we are going to need help, let's turn to the Lord and accept his guidance in freeing ourselves from those burdens and impediments in our progression.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Deuteronomy 12:8 -- On Choices and Covenants

"Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes."
Deuteronomy 12:8

I like God's instructions to the Israelites after they left Egypt and before they get to the promised land.  There are a bunch of commandments and very detailed instructions, and although Christ gave us a higher law, that doesn't mean that the Mosaic law doesn't have value, or that all that the prophets said back then is worthless.  Every prophecy will be fulfilled, and the laws are super instructive because they help us understand on a beginner level what devotion to God means... and we are definitely all beginners sometimes.

I like this verse because it is really basic but also *super* important.  When we covenant with God (which is what baptism or joining his church or following him necessitates... an agreement between ourselves and God), God promises us a lot of things... to watch out for us, to take care of us, to be our God, etc.  But we are also making promises to him.  We promise to not be ashamed of him, to follow him, to remember him, to take his name upon ourselves, etc.  And the one in this verse: to do things HIS way, not our own way.

There are probably gospel principles more important than this, but this is wrapped up in all of them, and was really the pinnacle of the atonement, when Christ said "not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42).  That's the deal.  And if we want God to be on our side, then we need to do things his way.  ... That doesn't mean giving up our personalities and becoming robots or anything.  God loves us individually, and loves who we are... but it also doesn't mean that, as the verse says, we can go do whatever we want.  God can do more for us than we ever could for ourselves, if we can trust him and learn his ways. 

Doing his will is not like being forced to work in the mines and getting lung cancer or something, but like taking an art class because our teacher recommended it, and suddenly discovering we have a talent and a love for it, which we would never have known otherwise.  I mean, we're free, and obviously we can look at it as a bad thing... but then why make the agreement in the first place?  If we are going to have God in our lives, we need to go all in.  Trying to call on him when we are desperate and do whatever the crap we want the rest of the time is the cause of an awful lot of our problems, and excessive debts of regret and payments of impatience tax.

Today, let's work on learning this basic lesson... if we want God in our lives, we need to learn to do things his way.  His way is also a cool and awesome and happy way that will help us to be our best selves, but the road is not without pain or difficulty.  Let's stick with it anyway, and with our covenant with God.  We will always get the better end of that deal.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Isaiah 30:15 -- On Seeing the Pattern

"For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not."
Isaiah 30:15

I think sometimes we miss the hand of God in our lives because we are expecting some earth-shattering, ground-breaking event, and we fail to notice the calm, quiet miracles that happen around us.  We chalk up so much to coincidence that we make no room for God, and yet God *is* every coincidence, and actually is *all* things working together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Instead of waiting for a lightning strike or some other dramatic singular event, today let's take a step back and see the whole tapestry of our lives, woven together by God to lift us and help us, and put us in each other's lives.  God's work is bigger than we can see, and also the smallest things that we don't see are included in it.

Let's return to and rest in God, and take strength from our quiet confidence and faithfulness to him.  The steady light of faith and patience will reveal God's plan to us much more clearly than any lightning bolt, no matter how bright. :)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Psalms 77:9-11 -- On Patterns and Patience

"Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.
And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.
I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old."
Psalms 77:9-11

I like this passage because I feel like it is something we all go through at some point.  When things go wrong, we wonder what is up... has God abandoned us?  Have we gone too far this time, and he's given up on us?

That is never the case though, and we can stop and remember that whatever we're going through right now is a challenging trial, but it doesn't mean that God doesn't care.  We can remember how many times he has saved us in the past, and helped us through the hardest things.

We can also go to the scriptures and remember God's pattern with all of his children, consistently saving them and us, and doing wonders among us, helping us to become people of faith, and a happy and joyful, unified people as well.

Today, when we start wondering about our current trials and where God's graciousness is, let's take a step back and remember his pattern in our lives and in the scriptures, and then let's shore up our faith and our patience, and press on, trusting that the Lord still cares, and will still, and always, deliver us as we work to walk in his path.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Isaiah 50:7-8 -- On Standing with Christ

"For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me."
Isaiah 50:7-8

Isaiah here is speaking as though he were Christ, and expressing his feelings.  This insight into Christ's emotions touches me, I think because as God our Savior seems a little distant from our lives, at least on paper.  And needing help and being even a little bit worried about being ashamed or confounded seems very human.  Setting his face as a flint so that no one gets to him with the "shame and spitting" of the previous verse also seems kind of like us, right?  And so, knowing that he was like us in so many ways, and yet, he didn't *have* to suffer any of it, and that he had the power to walk away, I think makes the next verse more powerful.

Christ talks about the people who want to contend with him, who choose to be his adversaries, and he invites them to come to him, to stand with him... he went through all of it to save whoever he could get through to, and he works so hard to get through to all of us, even when we want to fight him.  He understands what we suffer and he feels just as we do.  He's ignoring our cruelty and our bad behavior and is determined to love us anyway.

Today, let's respond to his kindness and his love with humility and obedience.  Let's realize that his whole work is to save us, and every single thing that he does is for our good.  He gives us chance after chance, and all will be forgiven, if we can just change.... if we just realize how much we need him and let him *help* us to be better and stronger and everything that we have the potential to be with his unlimited wisdom and power.  Let's love him back, with everything that we are.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

JST Matthew 16:25-26 -- On Taking Up Our Crosses

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.
And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments."
JST Matthew 16:25-26

The clarification here from the Joseph Smith Translation lets us know specifically what God asks us to do when he tells us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses.  It's what Christ did in allowing himself to be lifted up on the cross... he did the father's will even though it wasn't his own will.  He has the power to safe himself, but he chose to stick to the Lord's plan and let go of his own wishes.

Sometimes we think that what we want is somehow owed to us, no matter what it is, no matter how bad our lives would end up if we got it, and we complain loudly when we get something else instead.  Here, God is actually telling us that we can't always have what we want, and that sometimes we need to sacrifice our own desires and do what God asks instead.  To clarify God's position, later in this chapter it says "Break not my commandments for to save your lives" (verse 27) and "forsake the world, and save your souls" (verse 29).  His plan will save us.  Our own will definitely not.

Today, let's think about what taking up our crosses means, and let's be willing to sacrifice what we want for what God wants.  ... In the end, what he wants is going to be far superior than anything we could come up with, and better for everyone.  Let's have faith in that, and work on letting go of things that are contrary to his will, no matter how invested we are.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Psalms 79:9 -- On Strength and Seeking Help

"Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake."
Psalms 79:9

It is good to remember that we need help.  Perhaps it makes us look weak, or we feel that we *are* weak if we need help.  Those are lessons of the world however, and not the lessons of God.

God teaches us to ask for help, *every* time we are in need.  He doesn't teach us that we shouldn't need him, and he doesn't teach us that we need to buck up and deal with things alone.  He wants us to ask, and he wants to help.

Today, let's not listen to the lessons of the world, but instead listen to the lessons of God.  Let's not be ashamed of asking for help, or talking to a friend when we are in need.  Let's not see seeking assistance as weakness, for it is actually entirely the opposite.  Learning to seek assistance from God is spiritual strength.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Hebrews 13:5 -- On Trust and Discontent

"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
Hebrews 13:5

This was interesting to me because I think sometimes that idea of not letting covetousness or envy seep into our conversation, and just the idea of being wholly content with what we have is probably a rare thing, and sometimes hard, even if you are consciously working on it.  Daydreaming about what you would do with a raise or a windfall of some kind, and wanting your neighbor's ice cream bar, or cake, or pie, or whatever other amazing things that your neighbor has... those seem like pretty average desires.

Not that we should be average, of course.  And learning to rise above our own lust, greed, and bitterness because they stopped making Jell-o Pudding Pops is just something that we have to face in life.  And I think that the core of *how* to get there is within this same verse... because God will never leave us or forsake us.

If we have God, we don't need to pursue things that belong to someone else, and we don't need to constantly seek for more and more and more, because we already have God, who is the source of everything we could ever want or need.  If we trust him, we will follow his commandments and learn to be happy with whatsoever state we are in (Philippians 4:11), and we will also know that God will bless us according to our good desires.  So, happiness and being blessed... that's always going to be enough.  It might not always feel like enough if our neighbor taunts us with how he has ice cream and we do not, but it's good to remember that God is the source of all good, and if he wants us to have some ice cream, he will provide. :) 

I jest, but honestly... I think that is the core of all of this.  God will provide.  God will watch out for us and protect us and help us, if we walk in his ways, and the more we believe that and *do* it, the more true it becomes, until we and God are completely on the same page and working without any disharmony in the way we want to do things differently... because they are already perfect, and our individual needs and personalities have already been provided for.  God doesn't bless everyone the same way because we're not all the same... and if we can trust him, we can let go of covetousness and discontent, because everything will be awesome.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Alma 23:14 -- On Being the One

"And the Amalekites were not converted, save only one; neither were any of the Amulonites; but they did harden their hearts, and also the hearts of the Lamanites in that part of the land wheresoever they dwelt, yea, and all their villages and all their cities."
Alma 23:14

In this chapter it talks about whole lands and cities where the people were converted, but when it gets to this point, talking about these lands and cities, it mentions that only one person was converted out of all of those people.  The difference between the Lamanites who were converted and the Amalekites and Amulonites who weren't is that those two groups had previously known the gospel, and chose to walk away from it in the past.  The next chapter concludes "And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things" (Alma 24:30).

I think we see that and understand that in our own lives, that acting against God or choosing something else other than him causes us to throw up walls ... of justification or whatever that make it easier to choose similarly in the future.  It's kind of a self-protection from guilt, but the end result is the above, where it really, seriously affects our ability to go back and make a different decision in the future.  And so today, I want to celebrate the person referred to in this verse as the "only one" who was in that situation and chose to convert anyway.  It is super hard to let go of our objections, to lower our walls, to admit that we were wrong, and to allow God back into our lives when we have intentionally walked away from him in the past.  It takes strength to break through our own objections, and integrity to challenge our own assumptions to be open enough to find God again after refusing his invitation.

Today, let's be as amazing as that one person was.  Let's be willing to stand out from the crowd and to be the exception.  Let's be like that single, amazing Amalekite--willing to open up to God, even though we have closed our hearts and our minds in the past.  Let's rise above our former bad choices and be willing to change, and really seek God.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Acts 2:37-38 -- On What To Do

"Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Acts 2:37-38

I like this verse because the idea of being "pricked in their heart" is basically realizing that we did something wrong, or maybe failed to do something right... and here, they are feeling not just guilt or remorse, but they take it beyond that to desiring to do something *about* it, and determining that they will change.  This same feeling is discussed in Jarom 1:12: "they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up unto repentance."  The feeling and the action go together, otherwise we're just wallowing.

We don't have to wallow in sin, or feel bad every day because of who we are or what we've done.  God offers us newness of life and freedom from that dark and draining despair.  Let's listen to God as in these verses he helps us know what to do when we feel like that.

Today, let's *do* something about those pricks in our hearts where we realize that we need to be better than we are.  Let's hold to God, and his word, and repent.  If we haven't been baptized yet, then let's do that, in Christ's name, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost that can guide us thereafter.  And if we have been baptized, then let's keep those covenants that we made with God, and always remember him.  Let's remember what to do, and turn to God.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

2 Chronicles 9:29 -- On Lost Scriptures and the Record of Heaven

"Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, first and last, are they not written in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer against Jeroboam the son of Nebat?"
2 Chronicles 9:29

The book of Nathan the prophet is one of several books of "lost scripture."  These are books of scripture that we don't have by prophets we know of, or in some cases, prophets that are referred to in existing scripture, but that we don't know of otherwise because we don't have their writings.

It's actually a really understandable thing, working with scriptures that were compiled by so many people, from so many sources, but I love hearing them referred to because I hope there is a giant library somewhere in Heaven where we can go read about them, and maybe meet them someday as well.

In Moses 6:61 the Holy Ghost is referred to as the "record of heaven," which is interesting, and might give us a clue about the nature and source of the giant library I was hoping for. :)  And really, that means that there aren't just records of a few prophets whose names are still extant in our version of the scriptures, but that means that there is a source that contains everything, from everyone, right?

The scriptures speak of the books written in heaven and in some cases using those books to judge us (D&C 128:7), and although of course that means that we should probably get our lives in order, I don't see the idea as being about fear, but more about... amazing resources.  Nothing is ever lost unless God chooses to lose it (for instance when he tells us that he won't remember our sins when we repent).  Those near-death experiences where people's lives flash before their eyes are probably tapping into that same source, and getting some important reminders.

Today, let's definitely get our lives in order, but let's also take some times to think about the incredible stories of our lives, and the ways that we have seen the hand of God working with us... and let's write those things down, so that we can leave a record for the people who come after us, so they can know us, and know of our testimonies, and maybe get some strength, just as we do when we read about these others.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Psalms 37:5 -- On Committing and Getting Our Way

"Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."
Psalms 37:5

There is a lot of good advice in this Psalm, and this isn't even the best of it, but this verse struck me today because I think we have a lot of internal struggle between what we want and what God wants, and those conflicts sometimes cause us massive stress and even despair,  because we feel that we are being torn in half, having to choose between two things that we want very badly, perhaps more than life itself.  And only one of those things is God.

So, first of all, that kind of being torn in half is the very definition of idolatry.  When we want anything so much that we are comparing our love of it to the love of God, then that is an idol in our lives.  And we do have to make a choice between God and... not God, which is basically (and literally) hell.

Without choosing to reject God (which is always the very, very worst option), there are two ways to get through these conflicts without tearing ourselves apart.  The first is to get God's help to change our hearts and our minds.  This is an utterly valid approach, and it can work.  Using adultery as an example, if we are drawn to someone outside the bounds of a marriage relationship approved by God, then, no matter how strong that desire is or how much it feels to us like exactly what we want or need, choosing that over God is choosing an idol in our lives.  It isn't easy, especially if we have let it go on for too long or gotten too deep into that mindset, but if we go to God for help, he can teach us and help us to not want that anymore, and to desire something better.  It might take years, but it is possible.

The other way through is to ask God to help us to find a righteous way to fulfil our needs and good desires.  Often, even the worst desires are just twisted versions of valid needs or righteous desires that we didn't know how to fulfil... sometimes we only perceive the hole in our hearts and we honestly don't know how to fill it, and we try in the wrong way, and when it helps relieve the ache even for a few seconds, we think... oh, this must be the right track, I just need more and more and more of this thing.  And part of what we aren't seeing is that the hole in our hearts is exactly God-sized, and he is always the answer. :)  But the other part is that there are other things that God wants us to have as well, and that aren't bad things at all.  Maybe that desire that is drawing us towards adultery is just a righteous desire that we need to re-route in a righteous direction.  Maybe it is hard to find the righteous desire underneath the sin, but that's another thing that God can help us with.  He loves us and he wants us to find ways to fulfil our righteous desires.

The same goes with things that aren't sins, but that we might feel like we have to give up to become "adults" in our society.  Creativity and imagination and our artistic sides might not be the most lucrative choices in life, but if we go to God and we trust him with our heart's desire and ask him to help us find us a righteous way to work it into our lives, I guarantee you that God will help us find a righteous place for that desire if it is possible, and if it isn't, he will help us understand why it has to go.  Either way, God will find a way to heal our hearts, and help us to be happy with our choices.  We won't have to feel torn apart forever if we turn to the Lord.

Today, let's commit to the Lord.  Let's trust him with our direction and our righteous desires.  Let's get help from him to change our hearts when we want bad things, and let him help us figure out how to fit the good things in.  As we trust him, and commit "our way" to him, he *will* bring it to pass. :)  ...

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Isaiah 41:13 -- On Holding God's Hand

"For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee."
Isaiah 41:13

God seems to tell/ask/command us not to fear in a lot of places in the scriptures.  I think it is similar to asking us about our faith, but also wrapped up in the spirit.  We read in the New Testament that "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear:" (1 John 4:18).  It seems pretty clear that when we are in tune with God, and feeling his spirit, we won't be afraid... likely of anything.

I don't think that any of us are there yet, or at least not consistently, so how do we pull that confidence and trust that God inspires in us into our daily lives more fully?  And I think part of it is exactly what this verse says... holding God's hand.  For me, that brings up memories of having to hold someone's hand to cross a street, or getting help to stand back up again.  And God does those things for us, protecting us from danger and assisting us as we do pretty much anything, but to get there, we have to welcome God into our lives.  We have to reach out to him and not run away and hide.  We have to be willing to share the journey rather than going into hermit mode. :)

God is powerful and can be intimidating, but he doesn't want us, his children, to be afraid of him, or anything else.  Today, let's be willing to hold his hand and get his help in facing the challenges of life with confidence and faith.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Psalms 17:5 -- On Help With Walking

"Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not."
Psalms 17:5

Reading this today reminded me that we need a lot of help.  Not that I don't know that intellectually of course, but I think sometimes I get overwhelmed because I think the burden is all on me to be perfect, and ... I am just not, no matter how hard I try.

The awesome thing about God, or well, of course, one of the infinite amount of awesome things, is that he knows we need help, and he is always willing to offer it.  If we're honestly willing to try, then he will teach and guide and help and lift and stengthen us, and whatever else we need to move in the right direction.  It's not an excuse to give up and not try, but it is amazing mercy and support to help us to learn small step by small step how to make it back to God and to get closer and closer to our ideal selves.

Today, let's not give in to the temptation to stray from the path or to give up.  With God's help, every one of us can make it back to his presence.  We just have to keep trying, keep working, and continue to make those incremental improvements that mean we haven't given up on life or on ourselves.  Let's find the faith to move forward, and as we go, God will hold us up and help us not to slip.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Genesis 3:22-24 -- On Innocence and Immortality

"And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."
Genesis 3:22-24

Reading this part of the story of the Garden of Eden, it is easy to get the impression that God took the possibility of immortality/the tree of life away from Adam and Eve as a punishment for eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and essentially gaining a conscience.

It's an interesting situation, because it is hard to imagine a pair of adult people completely innocent and without the basic knowledge that the first tree offered.  They knew what God told them, and they knew the consequence, which probably sounded bad, but in such an innocent state, did they understand what death would mean, or what kind of death was even being talked about?  Part of the lie that the serpent told them is that they wouldn't die, but spiritual and physical death are complex things, especially to someone who has never experienced or witnessed either one.  Although it was a lie either way, the only immediate death was spiritual, because they were cast out of the presence of God.  Physical death came later (and after they learned how to repent and that spiritual death could be overcome).

Alma 12:26 clarifies for us that "if it were possible that our first parents could have gone forth and partaken of the tree of life they would have been forever miserable, having no preparatory state."  Basically, if they had eaten of the tree of life right then, they would never have learned about repentance and been able to be purified through Christ.  (People who lived before Christ looking forward to the atonement, just as we look back to it, and it applies eternally to us all.)  Death was necessary to the plan... Adam and Eve's "fall" made them mortal, subject to death, and thus granted us a time (this life) to work out our salvation and prepare to meet God.

God grants us all physical immortality after this life.  Mortality is not a punishment, but rather a gift that we have been given that we can use to also overcome our separation from God, as we learn and grow and repent and work our way through human desires, learn self control, and find our way back to God.  We don't have to worry about being denied immortality in the garden.  It will be ours, no matter what, when we are all resurrected.  The only thing we have to worry about is the quality of that immortality.  God prevented Adam and Eve from eating of the Tree of Life at that time so that they would not be forever miserable, and we need to watch out for the same thing.

Mormon 9:14 talks about the final judgement/restoration of all things, and it tells us specifically that whether we are filthy, righteous, happy, or unhappy, we will remain so at that time.  We're going to be restored  to what we have learned and how we have chosen to live.  Today, let's be grateful that God gave us all some time between spiritual death and physical death--before we have to face that judgement... time to overcome spiritual death through Christ's gift of repentance, to change, to work on things, to figure ourselves out, and time to prepare for that meeting with God.  Let's dive in and find the happiness that God has in store for us.

2 Corinthians 5:7 -- On Walking by Faith

"(For we walk by faith, not by sight)"
2 Corinthians 5:7

This parenthetical statement is kind of a clarification not just for this letter, but for all of life.  We trust so much, and are taught to trust, in our physical senses, that we neglect our spiritual senses.  Abraham, the Brother of Jared, Lehi and Nephi, and so many other prophets and people, were led, as we in our individual lives are led, to leave support systems and the known to go into the unknown.  God doesn't leave us in a safe, known space because he wants us to learn to discover and explore and change the world.  So, we go out and we make a new space for ourselves, and for others, repeating the pattern as we grow and learn and help God build up and transform the world and everyone in it.

Today, let's think and pray about this idea of walking by faith and not by sight.  What does it mean in our lives, and how can we follow God confidently even when we can't see the future clearly... or when our physical sight sees scary obstacles in the path?  Let's have the strength to move forward with faith, keeping our eyes focused on the Lord rather than our anxieties. :)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Abraham 2:3 -- On God's Sight

"Now the Lord had said unto me: Abraham, get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee."
Abraham 2:3

In reading this about Abraham we already know that Abraham was wildly successful in establishing himself in a new land, and his posterity and memory are ensured.  However, when the Lord asks us to do similar things, we don't have the same benefit of hindsight.  What we do have is God, and our faith in HIS sight.  He knows absolutely how to help us and teach us to be better than we are, just like he knew for Abraham.  If we follow his path, we will find everything we could ever want, and more.

That isn't to say that it will be easy.  Abraham was asked to leave what he knew and everything he was familiar with, and go out into the unknown without knowing where he was going to stay or how he was going to survive.  He trusted God... and so can we.

Today, let's remember that God sees more, and farther, than we can.  *He* knows the way to happiness and peace better than we do.  Let's trust that, even when it leads us to hard things, and look forward to the glorious future that God will help us to claim.

Mosiah 24:15-16 -- On Patience and Faith

"And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage."
Mosiah 24:15-16

I like this story because it illustrates the idea that the more faith and trust we put in God, the more he helps us.  It is super clear that God doesn't prevent bad things from happening to those that believe in him, because although these people who had joined together in a covenant to serve God were spared some hard wars by being forced to flee from their homes, they still ended up in slavery.

We know it was super hard for them because earlier in the chapter it says "And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God" (verse 10). Unfortunately that just brings down more affliction, because their captors decide to kill anyone who they find praying.  So they have to stealth-pray: "Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts" (verse 12).

Now, to be clear, these people are the good guys, right?  They joined together because they believed the words of the prophet Abinadi, spoken to them by Alma, and they wanted to be good.  And because of that they got death threats, lost their homes, had to flee into the wilderness, were found and lied to by the Lamanites (who they helped in an agreement, but then the Lamanites didn't hold up their end), and then were made slaves.  I mean, the story so far is pretty much reinforcing the world's idea that good guys finish last, right?

So, here they are in slavery, crying to the Lord in their hearts because if they speak their prayers they will be killed, and the Lord doesn't deliver them yet, even so.  He allows them to be treated like beasts of burden for the Lamanites, and instead of deliverance, they are made able to bear their burdens more easily.  So, still slavery, but cheerful slavery. :)

Then, finally, they are so faithful and patient that the Lord delivers them miraculously.  ... And I think that most of the time this is also the pattern of our lives, except we often give up way too soon.  We know that our faith and our patience are going to be tried in life, but even so, we too often start doubting our faith and doubting God's love the minute something hard blocks our way.  We think, well, maybe we should go a different direction.  But that isn't what God is telling us when there are obstacles to our progress (or at least usually... we obviously have to listen to the spirit for what God desires of us).  Typically, obstacles are there to teach us how to deal with obstacles. :)  How to tear them down or get around them or how to endure them.  And that's okay.  It doesn't mean that God doesn't love us, just like it doesn't mean that our parents don't love us when they force us to learn how to sit still, or tie our shoes, or learn our multiplication tables.  Those hard things are going to help us in the future, and making us do it is actually showing that we are loved.

Today, let's work on our faith and our patience.  Let's be willing to endure and learn the hard lessons that are preparing us for the future.  Let's pray to God always, with our voices and in our hearts.  He will hear our prayers and lighten our burdens, and always eventually deliver us, as we learn patience and faith. :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

2 Nephi 16:5-7 -- On Dramatic Cleanliness

"Then said I: Wo is unto me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.
Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar;
And he laid it upon my mouth, and said: Lo, this has touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged."
2 Nephi 16:5-7

The symbolism of repenting is often pretty extreme.  For instance, "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched" (Mark 9:43).  Similarly, today's verses seems like a really good way to burn our lips off.  I think though, that the drama has value, and represents a truth that we might not always face.

First I think we have to consider the situation that Isaiah is in in these verses (which can also be found in Isaiah 6).  He is actually seeing the Lord.  I mean, can you imagine?  I'm thinking this is already a super dramatic situation, even before we get to the live coal part. :)  Isaiah is super worried about his worthiness to be in the presence of the Lord, so in the symbolism we have this painful thing also tied up with a strong sense of mercy and comfort... helping Isaiah to not only *be* clean, but to feel comfortable enough in God's presence to speak up, which he does a couple of verses later.

1 Peter 1:7 is one of the places that God mentions that our faith is to be tried in the fire, like precious metals, thus purging our impurities and making us more precious and pure.  I think we need dramatic symbolism like this because first of all, the kind of clean we need to be isn't just a rinse-off-your-hands type of clean.  Malachi 3:2 talks not only about "refiner's fire" but also about "fullers’ soap," which is highly abrasive, and takes a lot of scrubbing.  In other words, the kind of clean we are talking about isn't an easy clean, but a deep, intense clean that washes the soul, not just the skin.

It's important to know this, not to scare us about the process, but because we are all going to feel like Isaiah--unworthy to stand before the Lord.  But he tells each of us, it is okay.  I can *make* you clean.  It might be really uncomfortable and painful temporarily, but it will work... you don't have to stand guilty before me.  You can feel cleansed and comfortable, and overwhelmingly loved, in my presence. 

It's also important I think because we sometimes need something dramatic in our lives to commit to as we repent.  It's kind of a Flannery O'Connor type of idea... that faith and repentance and commitment to God are just words until we are faced with our worst fears... then we know what we really believe, because it is tested.  And when we come through that "fiery trial" (1 Peter 4:12), We see more clearly who we are, and our distance from who we want to be.

Today, let's endure the pain of trials and repentance, knowing that the Lord is helping us to feel comfortable in his presence, so that we someday can be.  Let's remember our faith when we are faced with hard things, and trust God above all else, and we'll come through all of this, not only alive, but truly, deeply *clean.*

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Mosiah 28:5-8 -- On Persistence and Inquiring of the Lord

"And it came to pass that they did plead with their father many days that they might go up to the land of Nephi.
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.
And it came to pass that Mosiah granted that they might go and do according to their request."
Mosiah 28:5-8

This is kind of a cool pattern that we can follow (from both sides) when we run up against hard things in life.  For the sons of Mosiah, the hard thing was their father the king.  He didn't really want to risk their lives by letting them go as missionaries to the land of their traditional enemies.  However, they felt God calling them to do that, so they were persistent.

The hard thing for the king was his sons, who kept asking every day to go on this mission... and obviously he was reluctant, or they wouldn't have kept asking.  He realized that they weren't going to stop until he had something definitive, so he went to the Lord.  He was humble enough to ask, even though he didn't want to let them go, and the Lord in his mercy and compassion promised him not only that they would have some success, but also that he would deliver them.

So, the overall lesson here is to seek the Lord's will and to not give up, but interlaced in there is a lot of love and kindness from the Lord as well.  He wants us to think things through.  He doesn't want us to give up the first time we run into a problem... he wants us to learn to face tough things and to keep going forward anyway.  He wants us to learn to see people who we might have thought of as enemies as our brothers and sisters.

Today, let's inquire of the Lord about whatever worries we face in life, and then let's walk his path, seeking his help to overcome whatever obstacles we encounter as we move forward in faith.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Romans 6:3-7 -- On Death and Life

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
For he that is dead is freed from sin."
Romans 6:3-7

I think a lot of us want kind of video game lives, where we have extra lives and we can just replay a level if we make a mistake.  And, sadly, life doesn't work that way, but in God's mercy and grace, Christ has granted us the closest thing there is, and that is repentance and change.

Paul talks in these verses about the symbolism of baptism and repentance, the idea of dying freeing us from our old sins and our old selves, and then living again, and how that relates to the actual death and resurrection of Christ.  Through him we can truly start again fresh... almost that dream where we get to retain our current knowledge, but live over again with a clean slate, but God's way is better in the end because honestly, who wants to go through all of that again?  It isn't quite eternal youth, but in the resurrection we will get perfect bodies, which is pretty much what we wanted anyway, so no loss. :)

Sometimes it is hard to convince ourselves and others of our inherent newness, which is why the symbolism I think.  Thinking of death and birth adds enough drama to the idea so that we are thinking of it as a permanent change, not just another unfinished project. God honestly and freely offers us complete forgiveness if we are willing to turn away from our sins and start over.

Even cooler, this *isn't* only confined to a one-time-offer at baptism.  We learn in the Book of Mormon that if we look to Christ and live his gospel, maintaining our dedication to God and our relationship with him, we can retain that remission of sins throughout our lives (Mosiah 4:12, Alma 4:14).  Repentance is always there, and if we honestly commit to God, he will be there for us, welcoming us back into his fold and helping us to find a way forward.

Today, let's turn to the Lord, letting go of lives we don't want and people we don't want to be.  Let's let those things die, and be reborn in God, fully clean and committed to a glorious future. :)

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Alma 32:40 -- On Nourishing the Word

"And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life."
Alma 32:40

This is another interesting scripture about the tree of life, in yet another context.  This time, we're with Alma as he is teaching the poor in the land of the Zoramites.  He uses the analogy of a seed, saying that we need to plant God's word in our hearts to see if it will grow.  If it does, this gives us a testimony because as we feel it growing and changing us for the better, and we know that the seed is good.  However, we can't stop there.  As we learn that God's word is good, then we have to keep nurturing it, so that it doesn't wither within us.

It's tempting to believe in a one-time conversion.  We read about dramatic conversions that happened to people in the scriptures and we might think... there, that's what I want, a big dramatic answer like that.  Even in cases like that though, nourishment is necessary.  Remember, Laman and Lemuel *also* saw an angel, more than once, but they only changed their behavior temporarily.

True conversion is a process, whether or not it begins with a dramatic event. :)  Planting the seed is the beginning, but what we do with our new knowledge and our budding faith in God will make all the difference.  Today, let's continue the process and nourish the word within us, and have faith in God, staying the course and step after step working towards the tree of life, and all that God has promised. :)

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Moses 4:17 -- On Knowing and Listening

"And I, the Lord God, said unto Adam: Who told thee thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, if so thou shouldst surely die?"
Moses 4:17

This is an interesting verse because it tells us something about our mortal condition.  We have an inherent knowledge of the difference between good and evil.  We traditionally call this a conscience.  It is explained further in Moroni 7: "the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. / But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil" (Moroni 7:16-17).

We often wonder how to make choices in life, and feel like we are stumbling around in the dark, but there is a way.  Eve's choice in the garden, and God's overall plan, gave us a gift that we can use to make those choices and find our way.  We're taught in the scriptures how to listen to that voice, but too often we refuse to pay attention to it, dismiss it as irrationality, or brush it off as old fashioned prudishness, even sometimes feeling accomplished when we are able to set that inner voice aside, feeling that it was something that was holding us back rather than a gift given to us to help us and keep us safe.

Today, let's tune into our consciences rather than trying to overcome them because they seem restrictive or inconvenient.  Let's even pray and ask God to strengthen those feelings so that we know which way to go.  Let's listen for that "still small voice" (1 Nephi 17:45) that means God is speaking to us, and guiding us along the path that leads to life and salvation.  The more we tune into that voice and follow God's instructions, the more guidance we can get... but if we don't listen and we drown out that voice with other things, then we will only be able to hear it when we get the very loudest emergency warnings... and sometimes not even then, because we're so used to smothering the voice as soon as we hear it.

God wants to help us.  Let's let him. :)

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Proverbs 15:1-2 -- On Soft Answers and the Use of Knowledge

"A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness."
Proverbs 15:1-2

The idea here of a soft answer is such a wise thing, but often really hard to do.  Can you imagine if we always had a soft answer everytime we faced wrath?

Part of my job is exactly this... deflecting anger.  In online communities there are always going to be people that are upset with someone, but often if you respond to their anger with kindness, and have a level head when they don't, they calm right down and are able to cope with the situation better.  In a past job I would often have people who wrote into the site cursing about something, and was often able to get them turned around 100% and willing to join in and participate in the site, just based on how I reacted to them.

This of course doesn't always turn people around, and I'm definitely not immune to anger.  I sometimes react badly too, especially when I don't have that helpful distance of being able to type instead of speak.  It's always harder when it is personal, or when we are scared or otherwise emotional.  When something happens in traffic, we often want to vent our fear and frustration by blaming whatever happened on someone else and yelling at them, when actually if we stopped to think about it, maybe we're just scared and a little impatient, and going a little bit more slowly or leaving more distance between ourselves and the next car would help a lot more than yelling. :)

That's where I think using "knowledge aright" comes in.  The way that we speak to people affects them.  And not just our speech, but really everything that we do, every way we react, and even just how we use what we know.  Just like almost everything else in life, knowledge can be used for good or evil.  For instance, we could use scientific expertise to design a drug to cure or relieve the symptoms of a deadly disease, or we could use the same knowledge to design an addictive and harmful new drug.  Even in the case of the good drug we could use our knowledge of the people who need the drug to inform production and pricing in several ways, making it more accessible and perhaps less profitable, or the other way around.  We can do the same type of things in our daily lives--online, in traffic, or even in the gospel.  We can use our knowledge of God's laws to change our behavior and our hearts, or we can use it to condemn others.

Today, perhaps we should get some practice in with soft answers and using knowledge aright.  We aren't always going to make the best choices at first, but the more we practice being kind and calm in the face of wrath, and using knowledge in positive ways rather than negative ways, the more we'll get the hang of it, and the better we'll do.  Let's look to God for help with being calm and positive. :)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

1 Nephi 8:26-27 -- On Trees and Buildings

"And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.
And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit."
1 Nephi 8:26-27

This is part of Lehi's dream where it is talking about the people in the great and spacious building and mocking and pointing their fingers at others.

As I was reading this today I was thinking that it would be really horrible to realize that is the part you were playing in the symbolism of the dream.  Symbolically, I of course want to be Lehi, solidly at the tree and encouraging others to come.  The idea of helping others is awesome.  It's kind of opposite the idea of a Great-and-Spacious Buildingite. :)

Why?  Because if you refuse to go to the tree or you get lost, maybe you still have a chance to turn around and change, and come back, but the people in the building aren't just resisting the tree... they are actively fighting against it, and tearing down other people who are on the right path.  It is the type of thing that scares me most of all about life... making our own bad choices is one thing, but it seems so much worse when we spread those bad choices to other people, helping them to feel justified in sin or encouraging them to choose the wrong.

Of course, choosing to limit our bad choices to ourselves isn't that easy.  We affect the people around us, and that includes our feelings of guilt or self-hatred when we choose bad things, and even when bad choices don't make us irritable, they often prevent us from participating in positive interactions with others or noticing others' needs.  ... Probably better if we just go all the way good. :)

Today, let's work on being good tree-of-life type people and keeping the spirit with us, so that we can be calm and kind to others.  Let's work really hard at not mocking or otherwise hurting others, and if we've already signed up for a spot in the Great and Spacious building, let's break the lease now, and move into one of God's "many mansions" (John 14:2) instead. :)

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Romans 12:1-2 -- On Living Sacrifices

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
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."
Romans 12:1-2

The idea of a living sacrifice is interesting, and I feel like the idea is, instead of sacrificing everything, to stay within the boundaries that the Lord has set.  This is sometimes a huge sacrifice, when our personal desires fall outside those boundaries, as they have a tendency to do.  God can help us change those desires, but it is hard, and until it becomes what we truly want, it is going to continue to be difficult.

God gives us some hints about how to do it here though.  We can't listen to the world or conform to it.  We have to be different.  We have to transform by the renewing of our minds, which to me seems like we need to change our minds as well as our hearts, and let God renew us... showing us how things really work, and what is really important, which is so different from what the world sees as important.

Today, let's explore the idea of a living sacrifice.  What does it mean to dedicate ourselves to God, and how will that change us?  As we think about that, let's talk with God about it and ask him what the first step is.  He will help us know how to move forward, and I am certain that if we work at it, it will always change us for the better, because God is the source of all Good. :)

Monday, June 17, 2019

Mosiah 23:10 -- On After Much Tribulation

"Nevertheless, after much tribulation, the Lord did hear my cries, and did answer my prayers, and has made me an instrument in his hands in bringing so many of you to a knowledge of his truth."
Mosiah 23:10

The words "after much tribulation" are really important here.  The Lord does hear our cries, and answer our prayers, and miraculous things *will* happen in our lives, but that payoff comes after some significant effort and experiencing some hard things.  Just as the people struggling towards the tree of life in Lehi's dream had to go through a mist of darkness which represented temptation, and Nephi and his family suffered severe physical hardships, or like the Israelites had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, or the many Pioneers who had to struggle crossing the plains... so too do we have to wade through hardships and tribulation on our way to the promised land and to receiving the promised blessings of God.

Today, let's not pay the impatience tax which can steal so much from us.  Let's calmly move forward along the path, knowing that obstacles and darkness will sometimes come.  Let's learn to navigate towards God *anyway* and to conquer our fears and retain our integrity.  Let's be faithful, trusting God's timing rather than our own desires to have everything work out quickly and painlessly.  God helps some things work out that way, but if everything did, we would likely learn very little.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Psalms 31:7 -- On Considering Our Trouble

"I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities;"
Psalms 31:7

I like the idea of the Lord considering our trouble.  Sometimes we're worried about things that other people wouldn't be, and lots of people might dismiss our particular troubles as silly or small because our troubles aren't theirs.  The Lord though is able to understand things from our perspective, and while he doesn't always agree with the way we see things, he helps us with *our* troubles because they are troubles to us.

Today, let's trust the Lord, who considers us personally and knows our souls in our adversities.  He understands, even when no one else can, and he can help us if we go to him in prayer and ask him.  And let's also work on being more compassionate to others.  God will teach us all how to have more faith and to handle difficult things, but we aren't all learning the same things at the same time.  Even if we don't understand other's troubles, perhaps we should consider that we are all facing things that are hard for us, and we know what that feels like.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Isaiah 41:10-13 -- On Fear and Faith

"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.
Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.
For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee."
Isaiah 41:10-13

I love the message here which is basically saying that most of the things that we worry about are illusory... we build up a lot of fear about things that really are nothing, or that are temporarily scary.  If we have faith and stick with the Lord, he will get us through all of it.  Our challenge is believing that wholly on this side of the challenge, before we get through it, rather than only afterward when we are through and safe.

Today, let's really work on believing God when he says that he will help us, and on not being afraid of whatever comes, because God can and will handle it, as long as we stick with him and trust him enough to follow his directions.  Let's have faith when facing the storm that it will pass, as they always do, with God's help.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Psalms 27:8-11 -- On the Lord Taking Us Up

"When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.
Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.
Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies."
Psalms 27:8-11

I love the idea here that when even your closest family abandons you, God will not.  The first verse illustrates the fact that there is something within us that is drawn to the Lord, that loves him already, represented here by the heart.  The Lord says elsewhere that he requires "the heart and a willing mind" (D&C 64:34), and if we grant him those things, then he can help us with the rest. :)

Today, let's be willing, like the psalmist, to have God teach us his ways and lead us.  Let's allow the good, trusting, devoted part of ourselves to be in charge, and seek God's help in training and controlling the wilder parts of ourselves.  Our bodies are a priceless asset to us, but like so many other things, if we let them rule our lives, then we become lost, and fall away from the true path.  When and if we are lost, let's trust in God, and turn back to his path and his will, and with his help, regain control over our own lives.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Mosiah 14:10 -- On Temporary Bruising vs Permanent Peace

"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand."
Mosiah 14:10

This is a verse that appears in Isaiah (53:10) as well, because here Abinadi is quoting Isaiah.  The thing that strikes me about this verse is the phrase "it pleased the Lord to bruise him" because that just seems kind of wrong.  I mean, why would God take pleasure in giving or watching his son experience that kind of pain.  By worldly standards, we might think that someone like that needed some psychological help.

However, on some level, pain is good for us because it teaches us things to avoid as well as helping us learn to appreciate the opposite.  If a kid skins his knee and gets up to try again, then he is learning endurance and perseverance and that pain can't conquer him.  ... Note that this does not mean that we should intentionally cause our children pain.  From God's perspective though, there is no other choice.  For us, if we refrain from causing pain, the pain will happen anyway in one way or another.  We don't need to add to it.  But God, who is capable of stopping it and not allowing one person to feel any pain at all, on some level by not preventing it, is technically responsible for the bruising, not because he directly caused it to happen in that moment, but because he is the creator, and he caused EVERYTHING to happen... but he also takes our pain away through Christ's atonement, and that atonement is the bruising that pleases him.  He is pleased that Christ suffered in order to save us all, because that was God's plan from the beginning, and it is working out perfectly. :)

Today, let's remember that bruising is an essential part of learning to navigate our lives.  God doesn't want us to be in pain, but he also knows that some temporary pain in our lives is necessary.  Let's look forward, as He does, to the day when there will be no more pain, and he will wipe away all of our tears (Revelation 21:14).

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Hosea 10:12-13 -- On Growing Goodness

"Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men."
Hosea 10:12-13

I love the image of the Lord raining righteousness upon us. :)  Awesome.  And it goes along with the idea of planting righteousness, reaping with mercy, and in general preparing ourselves to grow goodness and to be productive and wholesome.  It reminds me of the tree of life from Lehi's dream or the good fruit from the allegory of the olive trees in Jacob 5... so much goodness to be had, but so easy (if we aren't focused on what matters) to wander from the good fruit, and to find forbidden paths or produce evil fruit.

The contrast with this second verse helps us to see part of why the first verse is so amazing.  When we trust the Lord, we can be "like a watered garden" (Isaiah 58:11).  But when we discard the advice of the Lord and try to make our own way, then wickedness, iniquity, and lies are the fruits that we will gather.  Even when it looks like the odds are against God's way, they never really are.  We just have to see past the temptations and the mists of darkness and focus on God, because that is always the true and certain thing.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Ezekiel 13:22 -- On Happy Endings

"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 is an interesting verse because I think it shows the problems inherent in even the simple deceptions that we tell ourselves, trying to believe that little sins are okay, or that "every man fare[s] in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prosper[s] according to his genius, and that every man conquer[s] according to his strength; and whatsoever a man [does] [is] no crime" (Alma 30:17).  Even the little deceptions or the one that make sense in a lot of ways, but are just a little twisted to leave God out of the equation, those are harmful to us... and to everyone.

It sort of reminds me of a lecture I attended at BYU many years ago by a popular author.  One of the comments that she made kind of floored me because I hadn't really considered it before.  I won't get what she said exactly right because it was so long ago, but she basically said that writing endings where evil wins is a deception, and that it leads people to believe that evil is stronger than it is... that it has a chance against God, when it doesn't.  Happy endings are essential if you are trying to be honest with your audience.  ... And I mean, she writes fiction.  The idea that letting evil win, even in a made-up story, is a bad thing has stuck with me, and I think that I have grown to believe it more and more.  Evil winning and sad endings *isn't* "reality" the way we so often say it is.  It's just ending the story in a sad chapter and never really getting to the ending.

God doesn't write sad stories... and we are ALL in his story.  He wants us to understand that there are real consequences to our wickedness, so that we can improve and be happier.  If we stick with the plot and keep doing the work to progress in the story, we are on our way to a happy ending.  But when people say, oh, no... Satan's is a better author because he is more edgy and depressing... well, we need to be warned about that, and really think about whether that is what we are looking for in life.  Christ is the only way to the happy endings, and through him, all of our endings will be exactly as happy as possible, based on our own choices and who we desire to become.

Today, let's make sure that we aren't telling ourselves or each other lies that make sinning more palatable, or that make following Christ's path seem like a sad thing.  Let's trust in God's happy ending, and work with him to be the heroes that we were meant to be. :)

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Matthew 7:9-11 -- On Gifts and Blessings

"Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
Matthew 7:9-11

These verses remind me of Christmas.  Can you imagine as a child, waking up on Christmas morning having asked for that specific game or set or toy that you wanted, and getting coal instead?  Or telling your parents what kind of cake or meal you want for your birthday, and when you get home there is just a rock with a bow on it?  ... I mean, perhaps it it had cool googly eyes it would be cool, but you know, overall kinda disappointing.

God loves us just as much as we love the children in our lives, and he wants us to have the things that we ask for.  He doesn't give the same gifts to everyone because we all want different things.  Our relationship with God and the blessings we receive are customized to us personally.  Although we learn many of the same lessons in life like faith, reliance of the Lord, hope, etc, we often learn them in different orders and to different degrees at different times in our lives.  Additionally, what we typically ask for or want is not something that can be delivered by Santa or Amazon, and often a lesson is necessary before we are ready for a certain gift.  For instance, the pony we asked for might not be appropriate until we get some riding and grooming lessons, and the promotion we asked for might not be a good idea until we learn some lessons about service or management.

Another thing that I think is important to remember here is to really work on figuring out what we want.  We often ask for things and then when we get them we're like... uh, well, maybe I don't want this after all.  That doesn't really go over well on Christmas morning or in life.  Not that we don't have to learn those types of things sometimes, but we could probably save ourselves a lot of grief if we thought things through a little better ahead of time.  Another thing that would save us some grief is to trust God and do as he asks.  He knows not just what we have asked for, but the deepest desires of our hearts, and if we follow his instructions, we'll be ready for the big blessings when they come along, and get gifts that maybe we didn't even realize we wanted.

Today, let's figure out what we want, talk to God about it, and follow God's program so that we can learn where to go from there... whether to prepare for it, or maybe even to get help changing our minds and hearts to seek something better.  Let's talk to God and stick with him, remembering how much he loves us, and trusting him to know the correct timing and content of our gifts and blessings.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Psalms 78:20 -- On Faith and Thankfulness

"Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?"
Psalms 78:20

This psalm talks extensively about how the Children of Israel forgot God or were disobedient, and this example struck me because it felt pretty accurate for the modern day as well.  How often do we question and doubt God in some new circumstance when we have seen his hand clearly in a different area?  It's like we have to build up our faith from scratch... and as this verse points out, it really shouldn't be.  If God can do one miraculous thing, he can certainly do another.

Another aspect of this particular request is that they asked him to satisfy their lust (see verse 18).  God was already feeding them every day with Manna (Numbers11:4-6), but they missed the meat that had been easily available when they were slaves.  And that sounds sort of like us as well, always wanting more even when we are blessed abundantly, and valuing the freedom that God grants us very little.

Today, let's work on being a little bit less like ancient Israel at their worst, and more like them at their best... faithful and believing and triumphing through faith and obedience.  Let's be thankful and satisfied with the blessings that the Lord grants us, and look forward with an eye of faith, knowing that God can help us with whatever task faces us today just as he has helped us in the past.  Let's look to God to help us, not when we are dissatisfied with the taste of our daily bread, but instead when we truly don't know how to overcome a problem, and let's ask in faith, not doubting whether he can help in any particular circumstance, but with confidence, knowing that he can help us in any circumstance, and trusting in whatever solution he deems best.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Proverbs 11:7 -- On Expectation and Hope

"When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth."
Proverbs 11:7

I like this, not because it warns us not to be bad, though it does a good job of that, but because of what it means on the positive side.  If a wicked man's expectation shall perish, that probably means that a righteous persons's expectation will not.  And if the hope of the unjust perishes, then hopefully the hope of the just will last.  By telling us what the wicked won't have, God is also telling us what the rest of us can have, if we avoid becoming wicked or repent of our wickedness.

I like the idea of having our expectation.  I mean, to have that we have to have righteous expectations, but I think that God has amazing, miraculous things in store for us, so as long as we stay centered on the Lord I'm not sure we can dream too large.  Everything that is virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy, right? :)

Today, let's have righteous expectations, and let's stay focused on the Lord and be good and just so that those things don't perish in us.  Let's work out our salvation with God and have hope in Christ, looking forward to am amazing future in this life and an even better eternity.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Job 8:21 -- On Long-Term Happiness

"Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing."
Job 8:21

This is a good reminder today that God isn't done helping us until we're happy.  That doesn't mean we can set artificial bars to our happiness and extort blessing from him, but it does mean that God *wants* to do everything he can to bring to pass our overall, lasting happiness.  That doesn't mean a winning lottery ticket in most cases, and sometimes it means chastisement and correction.  Those are things that help us with our long-term happiness and not our immediate happiness.  As always, God takes the long view, and because he does, we can be sure that Eternity will be amazingly awesome. :)

Today, let's remember that God is all about our happiness, and if we can tune into his spirit in our lives, we can feel of his love and learn from him how to be happier.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Hosea 14:1-4 -- On Returning to the Lord

"O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.
Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him."
Hosea 14:1-4

There are some interesting and cool things in here.  First, I like the statement in the first verse "thou hast fallen by thine iniquity."  God is basically telling us, guys, you screwed up.  Your life is in shambles.  Come back, make it right.

In the second verse "take with you words" and "render the calves of our lips" are referencing prayer I think... turning to the Lord, apologizing to him that we messed up so badly when he warned us ahead of time.  Instead of sacrificing the burnt sacrifice of a calf to the Lord, we need to make the sacrifice of humility in prayer, or as stated elsewhere, a broken heart and a contrite spirit).  If we ask the Lord to take away our iniquity, and we are truly repentant and trying to change, he will.

The third verse emphasizes repentance and not letting things come before God or get in the way of that relationship.  We too often let earthly things take precedence in our lives, when only the things of God carry that eternal weight of importance.  I like also the comment that God helps the fatherless.  God is always watching over people who are truly in need, even when we as a society fail them.  God connects with us individually, and doesn't let anyone "fall through the cracks."

The last verse is amazing, because even though we totally screwed up, as noted in the first verse, God isn't angry anymore.  He loves us and just wants us to come home... and he will "heal [our] backsliding."  That is the coolest part because sometimes when we screw up we just have no idea how to get ourselves out of the pit we just dug for ourselves.  God however, knows how to heal *everything,* including self-induced falls, and if we turn to him he will make things okay again.

Today, let's return to the Lord.  Let's go to him in prayer.  Let's make sure he comes first, and let's listen and work and let his healing happen in our lives.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Jacob 4:10 -- On Desires and Counsel

"Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works."
Jacob 4:10

This is a good reminder.  Sometimes we talk to God about what *we* want, even to the point of demanding things from him, or accusing him of disinterest if he doesn't cater to our desires.  And, you know, sometimes that kind of manipulation works on regular people, but this is God we're talking about.  We could be learning so much about *his* will, and the miracles and wonders thereof instead of wasting time and energy trying to get our way.

We run up against our own wills over and over again in life.  Sometimes we're trying to figure out what we want, and other times we know, and we're trying to get it.  I think that the real stretching comes though when we know what we want and we also know it isn't a good idea.  Those are the conflicts that are going to define us by how we handle them.  We can either walk away from what we know is right, or we can learn to change our hearts through Christ... and that is the exact difference it is talking about in this verse.  We can either counsel God, letting him know that this is what we want, and we are going to go after it with or without him, or we can ask for his help because we know that we are drawn to some things that are going to mess up our lives, and we need his help to avoid making those choices, and to learn not to want them anymore.

Today, let's remember that we can choose who we are. We don't have to chase our desires, and we don't have to keep being who we are now. If we know what we want, then we still have a choice whether to go after it or not.  Our hearts are NOT always right.  In fact, as we learn in Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." When we feel that inner conflict, let's side with the Lord, and learn to take counsel rather than chasing our desires into places that will destroy us.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Colossians 2:8-10 -- On Perspective and Completeness

"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:"
Colossians 2:8-10

There are some good warnings in here about the traditions of men.  I think that our minds are so much in the world that it is really difficult to see the true reality of God, because we judge everything that we hear by our worldly perspective.  I think the comparison of the world and Christ makes it clear that one of the ways to overcome that worldly perspective is to focus on Christ (which reminds me of Lehi's dream and the Iron Rod... that is how we stay focused and make it through the mists of darkness).

The other thing that I love about this selection is the idea that we are "complete in him" ... that Christ fills our emptiness perfectly and that when we feel empty and lost, *he* is what we are missing.

Today, let's stop seeking the world and interpreting everything by the philosophies thereof.  Ideas are awesome, but unless they are rooted in God they are missing some essential reality. 

Along those same lines, let's remember that Christ is what makes us complete, and not to look for that wholeness elsewhere in quick-fix ways that will never bring lasting relief from the emptiness or be enough for us long term.  This is true even with other people (although they are awesome and totally not knocking them).  Only God can fulfil that core need for us.  He is the tree at the center of Lehi's dream.  Our families can be there with us if they are willing, but they are not the source of that eternal, essential love.

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