Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Genesis 1:1-5 -- On the First Day

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day."
Genesis 1:1-5

It's kind of mind-boggling to imagine the earth "without form, and void" or a time before the heavens, but trying I think helps us learn a healthy respect for God, whose creations are innumerable, and whose power is beyond our imagination.  Thankfully, he is also our Father, and loves us equally immeasurably, so that we have support and love and guidance as we strive to live up to our potential.

Today, maybe we should think on the first day of all days and start our own first day similarly, for "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5).  Let's fill our hearts and our lives with the spiritual light of God this year, whether night or day, or struggling through mists of darkness.  He not only has vast powers of creation, but he also "has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance" (Alma 12:15).

Monday, December 30, 2019

Nehemiah 1:8-9 -- On Scattering and Gathering

"Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:
But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there."
Nehemiah 1:8-9

I like the whole scatter-gather idea here.  It reminds me of the Tower of Babel as well, people being divided and scattered, but if people stayed dedicated to God like the Brother of Jared and his family, then they stayed together.  Perhaps even internally we can be a lot more scattered when we don't have God's spirit to help us focus. :)

Today, let's remember that we are more united and together when we stick with God, and that everything is better with him than without him.  So many things in the world try to distract and divide us, but God is the unifying force resisting all of that.  If we turn to him, we will be able to stand together and prevail.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

2 Nephi 6:16-17 -- On Deliverance

"For shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?
But thus saith the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people. For thus saith the Lord: I will contend with them that contendeth with thee"
2 Nephi 6:16-17

I was thinking of this first sentence and what it is asking, and I imagine that the question is being asked because these are cases where no mere human can do anything.  When the captivity is legal or the person being persecuted or picked on is up against someone too powerful to oppose.  And God is saying, yes, I will save my people even from legal and powerful captivity, because I'm here to save everyone who believes on me, no exceptions.

I think that part of this at least requires a necessary mental shift when we are thinking about God.  Sometimes we worry about conflicts between God's laws and man's laws.  Normally, they don't come into conflict, because God tells us specifically to obey the law of the land.  However, just as Nephi was prompted to do something very much not legal for God's purposes, so God himself is above the law.  This of course doesn't mean that we should break the law willy-nilly, or start praying for God to let us rob a bank, or anything else that is illegal, but it does set some mental priorities.  God comes first, even before power and legality.  And what is interesting about that is that those are things that we have learned to respect in this life... how much more should we respect God?

Today, let's have faith that God will save us even from things that seem impossible to escape.  The more we turn to him, the more he will help and deliver us (D&C 88:63).  Let's look to him no matter the situation or the other considerations.  He is always the most important factor.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Psalms 60:11 -- On Help

"Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man."
Psalms 60:11

Sometimes I think we want other people's advice not because it is good advice, but because other people are imperfect as well, and we feel uneasy about a decision and want some external reinforcement.  Truly, compared to God, other people's advice is vain.

I'm not saying that people are worthless... in fact, we should often listen to them, especially our parents as they are trying to raise us righteously, or when we need help from doctors, counselors, church leaders, etc.  God frequently works through others, and if they are listening to the spirit then it could be the hand of God working through them.  Other times though, we listen to other people *because* we know that God won't approve, and that whole situation is vain. :)

Today, let's seek help from the Lord, and recognize his hand in our lives even when he works through others.  Let's try not to look to others just to justify ourselves or stroke our egos... as it says, human help is pretty pointless without God in the mix.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Revelation 20:12-13 -- On Prepping for Judgement Day

"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works."
Revelation 20:12-13

I wonder what is written in those books.  Probably our whole lives, but I wonder (and hope) whether some things get erased if we repent.  Not that God doesn't already know us, and all of our faults, but it would be really difficult to stand before him feeling ashamed of past sins.  Which is one reason that repentance is such a valuable gift.  If we do it right, repentance can free us from the guilt and pain of past sins.

Today, let's look forward to the future judgement day and make sure that we are doing good and becoming better, and filling those books with good things.  Then we won't have to worry about anything that happens, because if we're ready for judgement day, we're ready for anything. :)

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Exodus 7:23 -- On Keeping our Hearts Open to God's Influence

"And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also."
Exodus 7:23

The scriptures are filled with examples of people not listening to the prophets, or hardening their hearts to the Spirit, so they can't feel God's influence.  As in this story, it never turns out well.

So, how do we avoid the same fate?  I think that it takes some specific thought about how to do what God has asked us through his prophets... studying their words and thinking about how to apply them to our lives.  Also, prayer and specifically acting when we feel prompted by God to do something good.  The more we act on those promptings, the easier it will be to recognize and act on them in the future... and if we don't listen, then it will get easier to ignore them or harden our hearts to them.

Today, let's avoid becoming like Pharaoh and walking away from God.  Let's listen to and learn from the Lord, even when it isn't exactly what we wanted to hear in that moment.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Proverbs 11:27 -- On Finding What We Seek

"He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him."
Proverbs 11:27

I like the idea here of diligently seeking good.  That search isn't something that can remain casual in our lives if we truly wish to find what we seek.  I also like the idea of getting what we seek for, even if it is mischief, although of course that idea is a little scary since we probably too often seek for things that we don't necessarily want long-term.

Today, let's be diligent in seeking good.  Let's not get off track and seek other things instead, because whatever it is that we are really trying to find is what we are going to find.  Seems simple, but often it is much more difficult to apply in our lives and to keep in mind during those seemingly minor everyday choices, so let's stay vigilant. :)

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Luke 2:11 -- On Jesus Christ the Son of God

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:11

This is the event that earlier scripture pointed towards and later scripture refers back to... the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Today, let's reach beyond the simple story of his birth and find out more about him, why his life matters, and how it applies to us on a personal level.  More than anything else, this matters.  Let's dig deeper and find out why for ourselves, because as much as reading about him in other places can inspire us, nothing compares to the personal experience of going to him and talking with him ourselves with sincerity and hope.  That's what can fill our emptiness and overflow our happiness.

Monday, December 23, 2019

1 Corinthians 9:9-10 -- On Partaking of God's Hope

"For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope."
1 Corinthians 9:9-10

I think God probably does take care for oxen, but Paul's point is still an important one.  God wants us to work in hope and then be able to partake of the fruits of those labors.  … And truth is, that isn't always how earth life works out.  Sometimes we work really hard for something and then things fall apart.  What God promises, and will without fail deliver, however, isn't a hope that can be destroyed by the circumstances of life.  God's hope is sure and certain and will survive all heartache and disappointment, and triumph over all despair, because the Lord will surely save his people.

Today, in the midst of the disappointments and anxieties of life, let's trust in the hope of God, and partake in *his* hope, which can never be taken away from us.  Let's choose to be his people, and to hope in him, no matter what else happens.  He loves us, and if we work for him, he will make sure that we are able to enjoy the rewards of our effort, and much more. :)

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Joel 2:10-13 -- On Turning to the Lord

"The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:
And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?
Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil."
Joel 2:10-13

This is talking about a time preceding the Second Coming, which it mentions is "A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness" (verse 2).  It talks about all of the things that are coming, including this part in the first part of the selection with quaking and trembling and darkness.  But even then in the midst of it all, God asks us to turn to him, explaining later in the chapter that "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered" (verse 32).

I think the "rend your heart and not your garments" part means that God doesn't care about an outward sign of our repentance, but a real inward change.  He needs to cleanse the world, but not us if we choose to cleanse ourselves, with his help. :)

Luckily, we aren't going through the "great and very terrible" accelerated turmoil and destruction that precedes the Second Coming.  We can stay ahead of the game and turn to the Lord now, before things get that bad. :)  Today, let's turn to the Lord and remember that God can help us with our current problems, even as he can help us in darker circumstances.  And let's turn to him and be willing to sincerely offer our hearts and our brokenness to him for healing.  We can be more than we are, through him.  Let's be willing to work for that.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Genesis 9:8-12 -- On Creatures and Covenants

"And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,
And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;
And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.
And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:"
Genesis 9:8-12

I like the idea here that the covenant extended to beasts as well as people.  Come to think of it, a lot more beasts were saved than people at the time of the flood, and they probably had a really hard time living in a boat for so long.  I think of God opening the mouth of Balaam's ass, and she asks him "What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?" (Numbers 22:28).  I wonder what other animals would say if God opened their mouths.

Today, in addition to trying to be a little better each day so that God sees that we are making progress and doesn't want to flood us all out, let's also remember that we're not the only ones on the earth, and treat others with kindness (including animals).  If they are worthy of a covenant with God, then they are likely worthy of our respect as well.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Psalms 147:15-18 -- On Words and Weather

"He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly.
He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes.
He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold?
He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow."
Psalms 147:15-18

This is an interesting set of verses discussing God's word and his weather. :)  The coolest part I think is the interaction between them.  We know that Christ calmed the wind and the waves, but this talks about the weather obeying God's commandments, sending out snow and ice and cold, and his word also melts them, and the juxtaposition of his word running swiftly and the waters flowing I think makes the idea hit home that maybe on some level we don't always get, these aren't really separate things.  God's word is everything around us... giving life and light and power to all of it.  It is nature and weather, and all the rest... not something standing apart from it, but all is one in God.

It's hard to feel that unity of all things even though God tells us that all things will work together for the good of those that love God... we just kind of blow that off and think that we'll lead charmed lives if we're good.  But it isn't just the "good" things that work together... it's things that we sometimes see as bad, like death... and snow. :)  We're individuals, and God is too.  But he is part of everything in a way that we can't fully grasp, except maybe on a Star Wars "force" level. :)  And all of those things together make up what God knows and are part of him, as he is a part of everything.

Today, let's work on faith in God's will and his timing.  We can't do words *or* weather like God can.  Let's reach out to him... surely he can help us with what we are going through as well. :)

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Deuteronomy 4:30-31 -- On Tribulation and Turning

"When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
(For the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them."
Deuteronomy 4:30-31

I like this promise for us in the latter days.  No matter what happened in the past, God promises us that he will help us, and make good on the covenants of the past if we choose to be obedient and honor them.  God doesn't want us to fail because of our environment or our upbringing or anything that happened before.  He's willing to let the bad things go and hold on to the good things and give us a chance to see who we want to be and choose for ourselves.

Today, let's turn unto the Lord in our tribulation.  He will be with us, and help us to prosper, and give us every opportunity to succeed.  He truly loves us as we are, and will help us to become more of what we want to be. :)  Sticking with him is the best of all possible worlds. :)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Alma 22:16-18 -- On Prayer and Hope

"But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.
And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:
O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead."
Alma 22:16-18

I love this conversion story.  (Don't worry, he wakes up.)  In the verse previous, the king asks Aaron how to root the wicked spirit out of his heart... and maybe we don't always know that is possible, but Aaron tells him (and us) how to have hope... hope that we can change.  Hope in a better future.  And it was there for the king, and it is there for us, if we can only trust God enough to bow down before him and seek his help.

Today, let's pray, and be willing to give away our sins to know God. :)  As we do, we will also receive the hope that we are seeking. :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Matthew 5:16 -- On Good Works and Glorifying God

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Matthew 5:16

I was thinking about this verse today, and usually I look at it just as an admonition to set a good example for people, but today I saw it a little bit differently.  The "glorify your father in heaven" is a huge part of it, and inherent in the task.  This *isn't* just telling us to set a good example.  It is telling us to do good in God's name, being certain that the credit goes to him.

That seems like a very different task than the one that I have always associated this verse with... it is still doing good, but to do it in a way that glorifies God and not ourselves changes the whole thing around in my mind, bumping humility up to the top, and also making sure that we aren't doing anything that would be remotely questionable because we are not just living for ourselves, but representing the Lord.

Today, let's think about that example that we are setting out in the world, and make sure that our actions are encouraging people to glorify God. :)

Monday, December 16, 2019

Moses 4:30 -- On Words

"For as I, the Lord God, liveth, even so my words cannot return void, for as they go forth out of my mouth they must be fulfilled."
Moses 4:30

This verse places a really high importance on God's words or statements.  To us, I think that seems a little bit strange, perhaps because we are so used to living in this world where verbal agreements are relatively worthless.  For God, it is clearly different.  What he says has power, and not just a CEO-type power where other people do what he says, but as we see with Jesus in the New Testament, "even the wind and the sea obey him" (Mark 4:41).

This verse reminds me of John 1 where it tells us "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1), and then later that "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).  The word in these verses is symbolic of Christ, but I'm guessing that words are the symbol for a reason... probably the idea of creation--that by saying something or expressing an intention, and then following through with it, something is brought to life.  And the thing is, God doesn't even have that following through step because there is no question as there is with us.  He says it, and it happens.

It's a good thing that in so many of God's statements there are exceptions and if clauses, giving us space to change... and space for God to be merciful. :)  Something to think on though, is the power of the word, whether it is God's spoken word, his gospel and his scriptures, or whether it is personified in Jesus Christ.  Perhaps today we can look at the way that we use words, and the impact they can have on the world around us, especially with belief and faith behind them, as it always is with God.  Let's work on being true to our word, and "the" word, especially in our dealings with God.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Proverbs 9:8-10 -- On Reproof, Respect. and Repentance

"Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding."
Proverbs 9:8-10

I think that we are often resistant to instruction because we look at it in terms of ego, thinking that correction/instruction is a form of disrespect, as though there was anyone wise enough not to need some help. :)  So, these verses could be hard to read because we don't so much want to be okay with rebuke.  ... But that right there is perhaps the lesson we need to learn from the scriptures today.  When we hear something that sounds like criticism to us, perhaps we need to take a step back and think about it, and acknowledge the fact that we might need course corrections.

This isn't to say of course that everyone that tries to instruct us, or those that we try to instruct, are always right, or even unmotivated by pride.  We sometimes like to correct others so we can feel superior.  However, with God we know that there is no such motivation, which is why a healthy respect for God is the beginning of our path to wisdom.  As we learn to accept instruction from the Lord, who we can trust completely, that will help us learn how to evaluate the advice we get from other sources, at least by comparison. :)

Today, let's think really hard about it before we rebuke or try to correct anyone.  Let's make sure that our motivations are not self-serving.  And as we ourselves are rebuked and corrected in turn, let's take the time to consider repentance, evaluating the message without automatically rejecting it as an attack.  Let's do our best to listen, learn, and change the things that need to be changed, with the Lord's help.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Revelation 7:13-17 -- On Wiping Away Tears

"And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
Revelation 7:13-17

I like this preview into what God has in store for the faithful.  It says that all of these went through great tribulation, and God intends to dwell among them, which in amazing all by itself, but the addition of no hunger or thirst and not having to worry about temperature or sustenance is cool... and perhaps the coolest part of all is that God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.  He is going to make everything okay.  Maybe in this Earth life that isn't possible for everything, but then, there, with him... there isn't anything that he can't heal.

Today as we go through the tribulations of our own lives, let's remember and look forward to God's promises.  Let's cling to his hope and move forward along the path that leads to this perfect day. :)

Friday, December 13, 2019

Judges 21:25 -- On Perspective and Choices

"In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."
Judges 21:25

This chapter goes through a lot of questionable (to us) things that the other tribes did to find wives for the tribe of Benjamin, and then ends with this verse... maybe to explain what was going on, maybe as a side comment.  I'm not sure.  What I get from it though is how much we really need God.  Then and now, when we do what is right in our own eyes, we get things wrong... very wrong.  We do things we shouldn't, we make often tragic mistakes, and we do things that we end up regretting and feeling shame about.

God's commandments are there to help us to avoid that harm to our own souls, and we really need that guidance.  It doesn't mean that we are worthless or that we can't make our own decisions.  It just means that we are still learning, and we have the advantage of having a father and coach who can help.  It's a super good idea to take advantage of that. :)

Today, let's not try to go it alone when there is so much at stake.  Let's be willing to listen to and follow God's advice, trusting in him and knowing that he not only has our best interests in mind, but that he has our desires and personalities and preferences in mind as well.  He loves us and knows us well.  It doesn't mean that we'll always get what we want, because that isn't always the right choice, but we don't have to worry about him getting it wrong... we just have to worry about *us* getting it right. :)  Let's get an extra pair of eyes helping us make the tough decisions.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

2 Nephi 4:31-32 -- On Travelling the Lord's Road

"O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?
May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!"
2 Nephi 4:31-32

I think that this first question is one that we all want to ask God, pleading with him for our own souls... and we *should* ask, and have that conversation, because that opens us up to the guidance of the Spirit and being led along God's path. 

Speaking of God's path, I find it interesting that this talks about a low valley, when so many scriptures talk about a high mountain, and that is a traditional symbol for the temple.  In that context, I was looking for anything else that referred to low valleys and I found Helaman 14:23 which is talking about some of the changes that would happen at the time of Christ's birth, and it says "there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains." 

Since that already happened, I wonder which holy spots are now valleys that used to be mountains, and if that changes the nature of the spot... or, if, sometimes, God's path also takes us through low valleys, perhaps even "the valley of the shadow of death" that it talks about in Psalm 23:4.

Today, let's make sure we are walking through the gates of righteousness rather than the gates of hell, so that we are on the correct path, whether it takes us high or low, through shadow or plain. :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Hosea 1:9-10 -- On Rejection and the Path to Acceptance

"Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God."
Hosea 1:9-10

This is cool, because at the same time God rejects his people for their wickedness, he has his prophet tell of the future when the people will be worthy to be the sons of God.  It reminds me of the beginning of the Book of Mormon when God shows Nephi what will happen to his posterity... God knew the whole history of the people even then, and made plans for the future by having Nephi start writing a history of his people that could be passed down to them after they had drifted away.

I think it is also like our relationship with God can be.  When we choose evil and make poor choices, God has to allow us to feel the consequence of those choices, and we are cut off from his spirit--but even at that time, God is planning ahead, knowing when we will be open to his influence again, and puts things in our lives to bring us to that point.  He is always about finding a way to welcome us back and help us find happiness again.

Today, let's remember that even when we feel rejected, we can turn around and become accepted by God again... and that indeed that is what he is working toward, every moment.  Let's let go of our internal evil and our bad attitudes and choices, and let's embrace God's way and his love, and come unto him again and partake of his blessings. :)

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Isaiah 32:2 -- On Shadows and Service

"And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."
Isaiah 32:2

The man in this verse is a symbol of Christ, and I really love the imagery here of Christ being our relief... a place out of the wind, a shelter in the storm, a river in the desert, or a shadow to rest in when we are tired. :)  He is all of that for us when we reach out to him for help.

I think that these are also things that we can aspire to be for others.  We won't do as well as Christ does, of course, but part of walking with him and following his path is helping him in serving and helping others.

Today, let's turn to Jesus Christ in our need, and let us also reach out to others in need and provide what assistance we can.

Monday, December 9, 2019

D&C 111:11 -- On Wisdom, Folly, and Divine Parenting

"Therefore, be ye as wise as serpents and yet without sin; and I will order all things for your good, as fast as ye are able to receive them. Amen."
Doctrine and Covenants 111:11

At the beginning of this section God tells the brethren "I, the Lord your God, am not displeased with your coming this journey, notwithstanding your follies," and this verse is at the end.  To me, it seems like God's reaction to a lot of the things that we do... telling us that it's okay even though we probably could have done better, and then teaching us a bunch of stuff anyway, wherever we are at that moment.  And then he reminds us that he is behind us and will help us as fast as we can move forward.

Now of course, sometimes we really screw up and he chastises us, or we have to work really hard to repent... I'm not discounting the importance of those times either.  Repentance is the way to free ourselves from those sins that clog our thoughts and our lives with shame and regret.

I like this a little better though... a subtle nudge to do better, to go faster, to be better. :)  And love beyond reason. :)  Today, let's be thankful for divine parenting and infinite love, no matter the situation, as God reaches and helps us every single time we reach out to him.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

1 John 3:10-11 -- On Righteousness, Love, and Self-Evaluation

"In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another."
1 John 3:10-11

I like this straightforward message.  We can tell who we are following by how we behave.  If we do the works of righteousness and show love towards other people, then we are of God.

Sometimes that's hard, because we're certainly flawed.  We haven't been always righteous, and we haven't always done the righteous, loving thing, and so something this clear can be scary.  Are we children of the devil?

And the answer to that is no... if we turn around and serve God, and learn better how to love in the Lord's way.  We can let go of the past, of our mistakes and our bad choices and allow God to change our hearts.  That's what Christ did for us, and why we aren't trapped in our sins.  Let's talk with God about our lives and where we want them to go... who we want to be, and he will help us know what to do, and how to change.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Ezekiel 37:11-14 -- On Refound Hope

"Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.
Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,
And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord."
Ezekiel 37:11-14

We already know that God is much wiser than we are and that we can't really comprehend the vastness of his plan, but things like this kind of drive the point home.  The first verse talks about hope being lost for the dead, which makes sense, right?  It's a little too late to do all the things that we wanted to do if we only start on our deathbeds.  ... And yet, God looks on the lost hope of a whole valley of dried bones and he reminds us through the prophet that hope is never, ever lost, because the Lord will raise us up and restore us to life, and to hope.

Maybe this is something we should remember in the rest of our lives too.  God sees differently that we do, and his perspective and his timing are perfect, according to his plan.  Just because we can't always see how things are working out according to *our* plan doesn't mean that hope is lost.  God has it under control, even when we do not.

Today, let's try to take a step back and regain some perspective, or share some with God. :)  Let's never give up hope in the future or think that all is lost.  God knows what he is doing, and things will work out, now or later, if we keep the faith and trust in the Lord.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Isaiah 61:1-4 -- On Beauty for Ashes

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.
And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations."
Isaiah 61:1-4

This chapter is about Christ and the last days, and I love the positive themes here.  Good tidings, healing, freedom... even vengeance is a positive theme in a world where evil has been slowly gaining strength--finally it will end, and we will be free from that as well.

I love the beauty for ashes part... trading all of these amazing things for basically the nothingness or the negative that we had before.  And everything rebuilt and made new, physically *and* spiritually. :)

Today, let's remember that the evil ends.  It can't last or continue forever, because God will personally stop it.  And when he does, he will give us beauty for ashes, and joy for mourning, and we will praise God rather than feeling like we are suffering.  Of course let's choose happiness as much as we can now, but when life gets us down, let's remember to look to the Lord who can deliver us from evil and everything else in the way of our salvation.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Proverbs 1:16-18 -- On Laying Traps for Ourselves

"For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.
Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.
And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives."
Proverbs 1:16-18

This is interesting, because it seems to be saying that the evil make plans to harm themselves.  And although we focus a lot on what evil does to other people, in the end God is going to solve things for those other people as part of the atonement and drawing all people to him, healing all wounds, and righting all wrongs.  However, if we brought evil on ourselves, freely choosing it and refusing to repent... that not only changes us as we make those choices, making it easier to do more evil and harder to feel the pull of the spirit, but that evil is going to stick to us, endangering what we might have wanted for ourselves eternally.

Today, let's realize that everything we do is building who we are, and affecting us greatly.  Let's choose to make choices that will bring us closer to God and farther from evil.  Let's not harm ourselves by seeking to harm others or in doing any other kind of evil... let's realize that it is a Satanic trap meant to tempt us to destroy our own souls, and stay well clear.

And if we have done or been evil in the past, let's leave that in the past and change who we are now.  Let's repent and do good and be better, trusting that God will forgive us as we change our ways. :)

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Matthew 6:3-6 -- On Private Prayers and Authenticity

"But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
Matthew 6:3-6

This is interesting stuff.  We are told to be lights to the world and to set an example for others, but here we are also told to be careful about what we reveal... and the reason seems to be pride.  When we do things for the praise of others, then that will be our reward.  But if we do things for a purer motive, then God can reward us differently.

It seems pretty easy to do things for the wrong reasons, so perhaps what God is saying with these ideas that pull a little bit in different directions is that we need to think about our motivations, and help people and set a good example because we like people and we want to help them, not because we are trying to protect our image. :)  And when we pray and do alms, we do it because we want to talk to God and help his children, not because we want people to think we are cool or extra-pious. :)

Examples of how we live our lives and are happy are one thing, but if it is for show and not real, then what are we accomplishing?  Somehow, God wants us to mesh our "fake it" with our "make it" and be truly authentic and truly good... not advertising how cool we are, but just being good on the inside, which is the best example of all... because we can all spot fakes, right? :)

Today, let's work on our authenticity.  Let's bring who we want to be into the actions of our lives and let's let what we want people to think of us fade a little, as we learn some humility and let go of our pride that demands that we look perfect all the time.  We're not... and it's okay.  We all have things that we need to repent of and apologize for, and that were unbelievably stupid.  Let's own those things, and then work on changing and becoming better as the sometimes broken people that we are. :)  God can fix us, if we look to him and work with him... privately and sincerely. :)

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Psalms 102:16-22 -- On Helping and Hoping for Zion

"When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.
He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.
This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.
For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth;
To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death;
To declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem;
When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord."
Psalms 102:16-22

I love the idea of building Zion.  Here, the destitute are specifically mentioned, as are prisoners and those appointed unto death.  In other places in the scriptures the fatherless and widows are prominently mentioned as well.  It seems that in Zion, not only will there be "no poor among them" (Moses 7:18), but that Christ means to help right all the injustice and inequality in our society.

I truly look forward to that, and in many ways I am interested to see how that looks.  Our modern society I think gets so polarized about different ideas that a "perfect" or even just a "good" government can easily seem like an impossibility, with no one able to agree on anything, and good people getting pulled to both sides.  A government with God in charge would seem like a big relief. :)

Not that I am saying that as humans we should just give up... we shouldn't.  We should work for a way to make things better, and with God's help, we can do a lot better.  I just like the idea of a Zion community where we actually get to live that way... and I wonder how badly I would fit in, and how much I would have to overhaul my ways of thinking to be able to treat people the way that a Zion person would.  ... Those are things that I should be working on now, so that when Zion actually comes, I won't be afraid to go there. :)

Today, let's try to be a little bit more like the Zion people we can be, and incorporate a little bit more goodness into our lives.  Let's help people more, and relieve the burdens of those that need help... looking forward to a Zion society that we have learned to be a part of. :)

Monday, December 2, 2019

Ephesians 5:8 -- On Sometimes Darkness and Children of Light

"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:"
Ephesians 5:8

I really like this. I have felt that "sometimes darkness" in my life before, and I love the idea of walking as children of light (and also walking in love as it talks about in verse 2). There are also hints in this chapter about what things to avoid, but I also like the idea of figuring it out based on how it feels in a light/dark way... going with the spirit. There are a lot of things in life that make us feel confused and dark and uncomfortable or trapped, and other things that feel good and right and that make us happy because we are making other people happy, and I think as we talk to God about the choices that we make in life and practice more and more, we get the hang of the feeling... what feels wrong and right.

Of course practicing does zero good if we blow off the spirit and deaden those feelings by trying to "overcome" that feeling. For instance, I had a friend at an old job tell me a story about going to Europe and experiencing a nude beach, because that was the norm where he went. He wasn't comfortable with it, and felt embarrassed... but apparently he thought he was embarrassed for the wrong reasons, because at the end of the story, after going to the beach every day for a few weeks, he eventually was able to take off his swimsuit and go nude like everyone else, and the whole beach clapped. ... That is definitely a story about overcoming something, but more a story showing how the great and spacious building can influence us rather than how God influences us.

Today, let's let go of our sometimes darkness, and walk as children of light. As we do, let's remember to check our compass settings with the Lord and not to "call evil good, and good evil" (Isaiah 5:20), but to truly be "light in the Lord."

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Romans 15:4 -- On Leaving Hope for the Future

"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."
Romans 15:4

I like the idea of the scriptures being written for us by our predecessors who wanted us to have hope.  That's what God wants too, which is why he asks people to write and to share their experiences... asking us all to write in our journals, and for other people to write histories of the doings of the prophets.  Then, if we're lucky, we get a great editor like Mormon who comes along and combs through all the records, compiling a history for us.

The scriptures, which we so often take for granted, were a labor of love for those who came before.  Some of them saw our day, and others didn't, but they all wanted to help us.  It's a cool idea, thinking about the people back then trying to decide what would be most important for us, and being guided by the Spirit to put in things that would be important in the future.  Maybe that is something that we want to do for others as well.  What better legacy could we leave to our descendants, or anyone who comes after us in life?

Today, let's get out our journals or letter-writing supplies and let's do something for the future.  Let's write a letter to the people who come after about what we've seen, and why they should have hope.  ... Whether it makes it into future scriptures, is read by our descendants, or whether it just inspires us to think about the reasons for hope in our lives, it is a good exercise that we can do with God. :)

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Mosiah 27:25-27 -- On Going Where We Want To Go

"And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
I say unto you, unless this be the case, they must be cast off; and this I know, because I was like to be cast off."
Mosiah 27:25-27

It makes us uncomfortable sometimes to think about God casting people off... especially ourselves.  We sometimes try to justify ourselves by saying that if God really loves us, then he will save us all, no matter what, and so there must be no such thing as hell or any kind of rejection or punishment.

The thing is, if God didn't have any standards or rules, there wouldn't be any reason to look forward to heaven... it couldn't be the perfectly good and peaceful place that it is if everyone could go.  Either that, or God would have to force everyone to be good, and slavery isn't heaven either.

We make choices about who we want to be and how we want to live in our lives, and those choices determine our future... as we expect, right?  If we choose to travel to New Mexico, we aren't going to expect to suddenly be in the middle of Pennsylvania.  And if we choose to take the road towards Hell in our lives, we can't expect to suddenly be in Heaven after we die. 

(Also, just so we're clear, I am not equating New Mexico with Hell and Pennsylvania with Heaven.)

Today, let's make changes to our path if we aren't headed where we want to go.  Let's accept Christ's mercy in our lives and realize that we need his help to become who we want to be, and to get where we want to be... in this life and in the next.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Psalms 103:8-12 -- On Mercy

"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us."
Psalms 103:8-12

I really like the "he hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities" part.  That's an important thing to keep in mind... that God is merciful to us.  He doesn't ever reward us as we deserve, but is gentle and patient, giving us room to change and grow.  I was recently reading about Lamoni and also Lamoni's father in the Book of Mormon, and that whole story is one of amazing humility... wanting to know God enough that they were willing to leave their sins and bad habits and even their kingdoms behind. 

I think that pride gets in our way so often: in the way that we think about God, in the way that we think about ourselves and our sins, and in the way that we think about other people.  God is trying to teach us constantly, but when we think that we are above believing in God, or we think that we know better than he does, or we think that we are better than other people... these all are walls that we build between ourselves and God... essentially between ourselves and salvation.

The Lord says this to "such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them" (verse 18), so today, let's remember to keep our covenants with the Lord, and to follow his commandments, so that we can partake of his mercy. :)

Thursday, November 28, 2019

D&C 59:15-19 -- On Thanksgiving

"And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—
Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul."
D&C 59:15-19

I think it is amazing that these blessings are based on our thankfulness and happiness.  Not in a weird controlling way, but more as a natural consequence... God helping us understand how it works.  If we take everything for granted, then we could never enjoy it, after all.

As we take the time to be grateful for the things around us, and to find the good, and to use things the way that God meant them to be used, then everything becomes blessed unto us, while I am sure the opposite is also true.

Today, let's see the good, and be thankful for the blessings that we have, and the great goodness of God in helping us learn how to grow, becoming more blessed and more happy. :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Jonah 2:9-10 -- On Sacrifice and Salvation

"But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.
And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land."
Jonah 2:9-10

This was an interesting combination of verses that struck me today because the first verse sounds similar to verses that we have talked about recently (similarity not diminishing coolness of course), while the second verse shows the interesting context of the end of this prayer.

Jonah talks about sacrifice with the voice of thanksgiving, which is an interesting idea... is thanksgiving a sacrifice?  Perhaps.  It probably was really difficult to be thankful in his circumstances, and perhaps in ours as well.  We also find it difficult because part of what we have to sacrifice is our pride... perhaps only a broken heart and a contrite spirit can thank the Lord properly, when we humble ourselves and really see our relationship to God, and how we have abused that friendship.  Or, interpreted a different way, perhaps we are thankful for sacrifice--for the ability to make those choices and to lay down our will in favor of his as we comprehend the wisdom and goodness of his plan.

Jonah talks about paying what he has vowed, or keeping his covenants / promises.  This builds our relationship with God as well, and is also indicative of repentance, for surely Jonah had previously turned away from his vows, as we often do.

Even this prayer uttered from inside of a whale was heard by God, and answered with deliverance.  Indeed, salvation is of the Lord, and Job went to the right place to find it. :)

Today, in whatever situation we find ourselves in, let us cry unto the Lord, offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving and paying what we have vowed, so that we too may find salvation.  If Jonah can be heard "out of the belly of hell" (verse 2), he will surely hear us as well, wherever and whenever we choose to turn and change.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Alma 7:23 -- On Improving

"And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive."
Alma 7:23

This is Alma preaching to the people in Gideon.  These people were living righteously already, but he still had a lot to say to them, which makes sense if we we look at our own lives.  Even when we're doing good, we have plenty that we could do better. :)

I think that is the core of the humility that Alma talks about here... just remembering that we're not perfect, and neither is anyone else.  If we really take that to heart, maybe it will help us with the rest of this list... submissiveness (acknowledging that God always and other people often know more than we do, or have the answers when we do not), gentleness (with ourselves and others, and even God, remembering that he is our friend, not a bully), patience (with ourselves and others), long-suffering (not masochistic, but willing to endure trials and frustrations without letting them change our devotion and commitment to God's path), temperate (not freaking out when things go wrong, but keeping our cool, both for the sake of our own calm and the way we affect other people as well).

I like "easy to be entreated" I think because it reminds me of a grandmother.  Experienced enough to hold her ground with the rules, but wise enough to be flexible when it is something that will delights her grandchildren.  Yes, bedtime, but okay, another 15 minutes.  I think it's also what Christ did with the law of the Sabbath, and what we mean about the spirit and the letter of the law.  The law is important, but it is these relationships and the people all around us that matter--and what the law is made for.  That doesn't mean we should break laws frivolously, of course, because we are supposed to be diligent in keeping the commandments, and they are there to help us, but what it does mean that we should love people before we judge them (again including ourselves)--that care and connection is the whole reason there is a law--rather than hating people and using the law to justify it.

I also love the part about asking and thanking.  God wants to be included in our lives, and he wants to help us.  He encourages us to ask for help to get us talking, and he encourages thankfulness so that we don't forget him, as we too often do.

Today, let's work on Alma's list, knowing that we can improve and that God wants to help us do so. :)

Monday, November 25, 2019

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 -- On Planting Generosity

"But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."
2 Corinthians 9:6-7

This chapter is talking about "ministering to the saints" ... or, basically, helping each other.  And it is interesting talking about sowing and reaping in that context, because it's like giving to or doing things for others is a seed, and it will grow into something.  I really like that thought.  Maybe it will grow into kindness to others and generosity, not only in our own souls, but in the souls of those we give to as well.

Later in the chapter it says "Being enriched of every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God" (verse 11).  So that is at least one thing that our ministering and kindness and helpfulness can grow into... thanksgiving.  And since we know that giving thanks to God enriches our relationship with him, that is a seed that we should plant a lot of. :)

Today, let's give, and give, and give some more, and see what wondrous and beautiful plants will grow up around us. :)

Sunday, November 24, 2019

James 1:5-7 -- On Wisdom and Wavering

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord."
James 1:5-7

I like the idea of being able to ask God anything, and knowing that God will help us learn, and for the record I absolutely know that this works, as I have seen it happen often in my life.

I think the "nothing wavering" part is difficult though.  We have so much to learn about faith and confidence in the Lord, and it is easy to be uncertain at times.  And if we are uncertain, then we likely aren't focused enough to get an answer.

So, seemingly, we can end up in a situation where we don't know what to do, and we don't know whether God will help us out, and since we don't know, we still won't know. :)  So, what's the answer to that spiral of uncertainty then? :) 

I think that it is probably at least two things: the knowledge that God can help us even if our faith isn't rock solid, as when a father said to Christ "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.: (Mark 9:24), and the idea that God teaches us "line upon line, precept upon precept" (2 Nephi 28:30).  Indeed, God seems to match every effort we make as he expresses when he says "Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you" (D&C 88:63).

Today, instead of being discouraged from asking by the thought that we're wavering, let's get some practice in.  Let's keep asking for what we need, and then take the time to stop and evaluate from time to time whether it is working (and give thanks).  That practice, and a heightened awareness of the blessings in our lives, will help us to acknowledge the help of God in our lives, and build up the faith and confidence that we need in our relationship with the Lord.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Psalms 50:12-15 -- On Promises and Thanksgiving

"If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.
Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:
And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."
Psalms 50:12-15

Earlier in this psalm, God says "Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice" (verse 5), which seems  to be his audience for the following verses.  And to those people (which probably would have included most of his dedicated followers at the time, so similar to members of his church now) he explains that sacrifice is symbolic.  The offerings and payments that he really wants aren't animals and cash.  The covenant, or vow, is the primary thing, and acknowledgement that we need the Lord through thanks and praise, which could also be interpreted as humility and faith, for those are expressions that we would never make if we didn't believe that God was there and that he was worth talking to. :)

As our traditional day of Thanksgiving approaches, let's remember what our relationship with God is really about.  It isn't about appeasing a hungry deity who somehow can't feed himself.  It's about keeping our promises, and giving God the credit he deserves.  Those are things that are needed in any relationship, but are supremely important in our relationship with God.  Let's give thanks for the help and blessings that surround us, and remember to give God the credit.  Let's call upon him and repay his kindness by fulfilling our covenants and keeping our promises to him, that we will change and do better and follow his commandments, etc.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Isaiah 12:1-3 -- On Water from the Wells of Salvation

"And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.
Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation."
Isaiah 12:1-3

I like the image here of drawing water out of the wells of salvation.  Good tasting water indeed. :) Another thing I like about this is doing it with joy.  These verses are describing the Millennium, and it certainly seems like an ideal time, when we are comforted, and everyone can trust and not be afraid.

I think the challenge is trying to live for that day and that ideal future even though things are not quite as ideal now.  If we don't work at keeping the spirit with us, we too easily get bogged down in the distractions of the world and start to look on our fellow humans as generally bad or not to be trusted.  It is really easy to let our negative experiences outweigh our positive ones, and stop working to make a more positive impact ourselves. We even sometimes start to think that we can't make a difference, even though the scriptures tell a totally different story about the importance of the individual.

Today, let's remember God's promises and believe in them.  Even if we can't have a nice cool drink of salvation today, someday we will have it, and that thirst for everything good will be quenched. :)  Let's not give up on ourselves or on other people, but instead be instruments in the hands of God to bring that perfect day a little closer.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Psalms 73:22-24 -- On Foolishness and Glory

"So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.
Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.
Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory."
Psalms 73:22-24

There are a lot of interesting things in this Psalm, but this part is what struck me today, I think because I can really relate to that first verse... maybe we all can.  And yet, despite our foolishness and ignorance and all of our mistakes, God holds our hands, and guides us with his counsel.

I like the idea that there is always someone there to help us, that knows the way out of every problem and can help us not have to face the consequences of our stupidities alone. :)  It's also someone wise enough to teach us how to change and overcome our faults, and who really gets us and knows how to deal with our individual quirks.

Today, let's be thankful to God, and for God, who helps us through our foolishness and eventually receives us to glory. :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Daniel 3:28 -- On Deliverance or Not

"Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God."
Daniel 3:28

This is part of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who refused to worship the idol that Nebudchadnezzar (the king) had told everyone to worship.  At first, the king was super mad, and had the furnace heated up even hotter than normal, but afterward when he sees that the men he sent to throw them in died of the heat, but they were fine, he changes his mind.

Interestingly, towards the beginning of the story when the king is just threatening, he asks "who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" (verse 15). They answer and say "our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace," but also leave it up to God, saying "But if not" (as in if the Lord doesn't deliver them even though he is able to), they still won't worship the idol. men tell the king that they aren't going to worship the idol (verses 16-17).

We know for certain that the Lord doesn't always save us from things, even though he is able to.  Perhaps in this case the Lord saved them just so they could impress the king and influence the decree he sends out at the end of the chapter, forbidding persecution against their God.  Perhaps it was a measure of their faith in the Lord... but I think an important part of that faith was faith that if they did the right thing, that God would make it right, now or later.  It wasn't about being delivered, but about staying true and trusting that God would take care of the rest, even if they died in a fiery furnace.

Today, let's work on trusting that doing God's will is always the right choice, whether we are delivered or not, and that God is able to change even the King's word, not through a power struggle, but by showing that he has all power to save, no matter the earthly consequence or trial. :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Mosiah 14:10 -- On Purposeful Pain

"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

It's a little hard to accept the first phrase here, I think.  It's about Christ and it sounds a little sadistic to our ears, and God is definitely not that.  And, you know, if God could feel that way about his most obedient son, how does he feel about *our* suffering, which is sometimes innocent as his was, but which we also often bring on ourselves and very much deserve?

I think the answer here is the same reason that God designed the whole Earthly experience in the first place.  We don't necessarily enjoy seeing children frustrated or upset, but we *are* pleased when it teaches them something--how to keep trying, or how to avoid that consequence in the future.  We aren't happy about what we ourselves went through when we were growing up, but we *are* pleased about at least some of the results--all the lessons that we have learned, and the modicum of wisdom that we have gained in the process. 

God had to be happy about the atonement because he was so proud of his son for doing the single most important thing in the history of the world, and also because he knew what it would mean, not only for all of us, but for him as well (Mosiah 15:12).  It wasn't a joy in the fact that he was feeling pain, but a joy that Christ was pulling all of us together, and handing us the keys to salvation.

Today, let's try to understand why God allows us to suffer, and how happy he is to see us learning and growing.  Let's also be thankful to Christ, who makes it possible for all of us to be happy and to return to God. :)

Monday, November 18, 2019

Proverbs 4:14-15 -- On the Positive Side of Avoidance

"Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.
Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away."
Proverbs 4:14-15

I like the general idea here of avoiding temptation.  I'm not saying willpower is useless.  It can get us out of some tough spots... but I think the main idea is not to get in the tough situations in the first place.  I think that is what Christ was saying when he stated "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: / But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28).  If God warns us, saying "Don't jump off the cliff" that doesn't mean we should play games with how close we can get without falling over.  That's just insanity, right?  Same with the other commandments.  If we know we have a weakness, then let's stay the heck *away* from situations that involve that weakness, not indulge in thinking about it all the time and filling our minds with whatever it is.  That isn't helping.

Joseph understood the principle of avoidance when he was a servant in Potiphar's house.  He didn't stay in a compromising situation to talk about it.  He ran.  And that is *exactly* what we should do with temptation as well.  Run.  Get the heck out of Dodge.  There is no reason for us to feel like we have to walk in the path of the wicked or go in the way of evil men... we don't have anything to prove.  We don't need to show how strong we are in the face of danger.  We need to survive.  And avoidance is a really, really good technique for spiritual survival. 

(... Not saying that avoidance is always good either.  It's a pretty bad idea in normal social situations and when we need to clean the house, etc... but this is the good side of it.  When we are avoiding temptation or evil paths, it is totally okay.) :)

Today, let's dust off our running shoes and use them as needed to stay far, far away from evil and wicked roads and temptations.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Hebrews 7:19 -- On Hope Makes Perfect

"For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God."
Hebrews 7:19

Even though "practice makes perfect" is way more well known, I like the idea here that hope makes us perfect.  In Moroni 10:22 we're told that "despair cometh because of iniquity," which makes sense, but it also seems like kind of a death spiral, because despair makes us think that nothing matters and that we'll never be okay again.  It's the hope that Christ gives us that encourages us to push forward and to change.  The hope that with his help we can overcome all things, that things are indeed eventually going to be okay.  Thus we could also say "we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair" (2 Corinthians 4:8).

Now, of course just because the law doesn't make things perfect doesn't mean that it is worthless, or that we shouldn't be obedient.  That is also important, but it's sort of the letter vs spirit idea again.  Obedience is the method... the way that God helps us to avoid temptation and to get to where we want to be... but we want that in the first place because of hope... because God makes it possible for us to get where we want to be. :)

Today, let's walk God's path and trust in his word, not because obedience and faith are the ultimate goals of our lives, but because they help us become who we want to be and lead us to God, who gives us that hope we need to move forward towards the happy ending. :)

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Joel 2:25-26 -- On Restoring The Eaten Years

"And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.
And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed."
Joel 2:25-26

This chapter talks about some things leading up to the Second Coming, so no telling exactly when this is going to happen, but it is super cool that God tells us that he will restore "the years that the locust hath eaten" etc.  Unlike in similar scriptures where it explains that if we are righteous we will prosper in the land, this one actually talks about getting back some of what was lost.  I'm guessing symbolically, as in a period of great plenty, but there are a lot of ways you could interpret that, including being able to have some additional time on earth with loved ones, either in the millennium or later. 

We don't know how all of that works, but we probably don't have to, because God tells us clearly here that we will be satisfied, and praise him for dealing wondrously with us... basically the continuing idea that we often forget: what God has in store for all of us is so much better than what we have now, we can't even imagine it.  If we could, we would never ask if anything in this life is worth it... because it would be clearly beyond question.

Today, let's work on having faith in God's promises and his happy ending.  When the bad times and the frustrations and pain of living get to us, let's remember that this is temporary, and that it gets better -- so much better that we will consider even the hardest times to have been worth it.

Friday, November 15, 2019

1 Thessalonians 5:15 -- On Reacting to Evil

"See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men."
1 Thessalonians 5:15

This is something that I think is hard for all of us sometimes.  We want to regress to the "eye for eye" level (Leviticus 24:20), but Christ asked us to move beyond the old law and to embrace the new one (Matthew 5:38-39).  And that is super hard for us, because we want justice (at least when someone else is at fault), and it is hard to leave it up to the Lord.  If someone slights us, we want to slight them back, and unfortunately we often get so emotionally involved in our thoughts of resentment and bitterness or plans for revenge that we poison our own peace.

I think the key to this one is seeing it from the other side... thinking back to times when *we* have been in the wrong, making horrible mistakes, saying and doing the wrong things, and just totally screwing up.  And no matter what our excuse... youth, ignorance, stress, etc. we still have done things that were unjust or wrong to others.  And maybe they wanted, or still want, justice... and isn't it *amazingly* good that God stands between all of us to accept the price of justice, and to then be able to be merciful to all of us, because we don't owe each other these debts anymore.  We only owe God.  He pays the price that we couldn't pay, and gives us a chance to change that we would never have if we were stuck with the consequences of all of our actions. (This doesn't of course mean that we get a free pass to treat each other like crap.  Instead it means that if we treat people like crap it is exactly as though we treated Christ that way (Matthew 25:40, 45).

Today, let's work on not reacting to other people's bad behavior with our own, or justifying ours because of theirs.  Let's choose a better way, and make sure we are clearly doing and being good, no matter what other people are choosing.  Let's remember what God has done for us, and remember that our debts are to him, and so are the debts that others have incurred towards us.  We all answer to God for all of it.  Let's practice reacting to evil with good, because that is the way to build a better world, and a better self. :)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Mark 5:22-23 -- On Humility and Healing

"And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,
And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live."
Mark 5:22-23

I admire Jairus' humility here even though he was in a position of authority, even though he knew that he looked desperate. He was willing to risk himself and be authentic and show his vulnerabilities, and ask/beg Christ to save his daughter.  On the way to his daughter is when the woman with an issue of blood came and touched Christ's garment, and they stopped for a bit so that Jesus could talk to her about her healing as well.  She was humble and honest as well, coming forward and telling him what had happened to her, and was blessed for it.

It is at this point that the story cranks up a notch, because some people come while they are stopped and say that Jairus' daughter is dead already, which I imagine made Jairus a little panicky.  But Christ tells him "be not afraid, only believe" (verse 36).  Then Jesus sends away everyone except Peter, James, and John, and the child's parents when they get there, and he raises her up.

I think that we probably all need some healing in our lives.  Whether it is changing our hearts and minds so that we can be pure and have "no more desire to do evil" (Alma 19:33), or whether it is more of a physical healing that no one else can accomplish, as with the daughter of Jairus, or the woman who stopped them on the way, or when we seek to address other seemingly insurmountable addictions or emotional or mental obstacles in our lives, we sometimes don't know what to do, or where to find hope.  And the answer, for us just as it was for Jairus, is in Jesus Christ.

Today, let's be humble, honest, and faithful in seeking healing from the Lord.  It might not come the way that we expect, and it might come after everyone around us says it is too late... or it might not come for twelve years, which is how long the woman with the issue of blood had been trying to find healing, or even longer... but it will come, and we will all be raised and blessed and made whole in *every* way, if we continue faithful in following the Lord.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Jacob 3:7 -- On Love and Bias

"Behold, their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children; and their unbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers; wherefore, how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator?"
Jacob 3:7

This is a really interesting verse because I think that it shows that God judges by a very different measure than we typically do.  At this point in the Book of Mormon, the Nephites were basically the good guys and the Lamanites were the bad guys.  They didn't wear white and black hats, so it was harder to tell, but the background is fairly plain, and the Lamanites wanted to murder the Nephites... I mean, and at least in the modern world we typically think that people who feel that way are bad guys.

From God's perspective however, love is a central focus, and hatred that is taught to us seems to be less damaging than the more personal and chosen kind of hatred that we exhibit to people we know.  Now, of course I don't think that God is saying we don't need to unlearn the residual hatreds passed down through generations.  That is super important... but I think we also need to be generous with those who live in places or have been raised in traditions that taught them to hate us.  As we see later in the Book of Mormon, even people raised in intolerance and taught to hate can learn new ways and change their hearts--including even ourselves.

Today, let's see if we can learn a little bit more love.  Christ mentioned that "because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matthew 24:12).  Let's make sure that doesn't happen to us.  Let's "pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love" (Moroni 7:48), and let's examine our own biases, and forgive those of others, as we seek unity and oneness in love.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

John 17:11-12 -- On Oneness

"And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled."
John 17:11-12

I love the concept of oneness.  It is something that God talks a lot about in this chapter, and in the scriptures as a whole.  Not in a Borg "you will be assimilated" way, or a creepy "let's make slaves instead" Stepford Wives type of way, but in the type of way that we get a taste of with family and close friends, when they become part of us... things remind us of them and we adopt their sayings, attitudes, or mannerisms.  We start becoming this amalgamation of people, because (just like the English language), we borrow a little bit of everyone. :)  And that is what being one with God is... because he becomes our best friend and the closest thing to our hearts.  We think of him when we run across something that makes us smile.  We know and respect what he values, and we make that a part of ourselves, just as he connects with and helps all of us.

In verses 20-21 the prayer continues and Christ says "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; / That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us," so we can also see clearly that this oneness is not just a one-to-one person thing, but it's bigger, where we can have that positive family/friend spiritual connection with everyone, or at least all the everyones that want it too. :)  It's the idea of a Zion society, where everyone is "of one heart and one mind," and there are no poor or other impediments to oneness (Moses 7:18).  I know that sometimes this seems hard in our society where we often polarize ourselves and find it hard to understand or listen to someone on the other side of whatever line it is... but I think our job is to get closer to God, and as we *all* do that, I think a lot of our problems with each other will fade.

Today, perhaps what we should work on is extending our sense of belonging or togetherness or inclusion a little farther than it is now.  Let's try the oneness idea out a little, and see if we can invite more people in, and also be open with other people rather than closing ourselves off, so that we can all learn a little bit more, and trade a little oneness with each other. :)  Still not the Borg way, mind you, but the God way, where Christ took care of what the Lord put in his charge, and cared for them and prayed that his Father would keep them safe even after he left them.  Let's care for the people around us, and see if we can feel closer to others, and build some little shards of Zion.  Who knows... if we keep it up, maybe they'll grow. :)

Monday, November 11, 2019

Alma 12:6 -- On Snares and Chains and Choice

"And behold I say unto you all that this was a snare of the adversary, which he has laid to catch this people, that he might bring you into subjection unto him, that he might encircle you about with his chains, that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity."
Alma 12:6

I like the symbolism here.  Talking about snaring and catching makes me think of hunting, and then talking about subjection and chains makes me think of slavery... and Slaver might be too soft an image for what Satan is, but I think maybe it also helps us to take him more seriously than we usually do.  He is out there trying to trap us and harm us, and capture us so that we can never get home.  That's serious, and something that we should work to avoid, rather than embracing him in return for some extremely short-term high, of whatever kind.

The other thing that I thought of here is that Satan is trying to encircle us with his chains, whereas Lehi talks about the Lord, saying "I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love." (2 Nephi 1:15).  What a vast difference, and a simple choice when we can see the truth behind what we are offered.

Today, let's choose Christ over Satan.  Let's not risk the chains for something that we think we want short-term, but let's talk to God about who we want to be long-term instead.  Let's not embrace slavery and bondage, and the lies that Satan tells to get us to think that his chains are actually any sick kind of freedom.  Let's find the true freedom of love and possibility with God rather than exercising our freedom to destroy our lives, and our souls.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

3 Nephi 17:19-24 -- On Individuality and Unity

"And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise.
And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full.
And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
And when he had done this he wept again;
And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.
And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them."
3 Nephi 17:19-24

This is an incredible scene.  I especially like the fact that he took each child and blessed them and prayed for them... not as a group, but that individual experience.  I think it really emphasizes the fact that every single person matters, and that we are all part of each other.  The children, the people, the angels, God... all of us.  Those children mattered, and they continued to matter as they grew up and learned and made mistakes as they figured out how to live in their society.

Sometimes I know that it can feel like we are lost in the multitude, but we matter to God as well. He is happy to work with us individually to bless and instruct and help.  And as part of the multitude, we also can feel the power of being part of something amazing, when heaven and earth connect.  God teaches how to be our best selves, but also how to be part of the multitude... to work together, help each other, and work towards that "oneness" that blesses us all without removing our individuality. :)

Today, let's work with God individually and remember how amazing we are... and when we know that, let's move forward and help everyone else feel that way too.  Every person matters, and we are all part of something amazing.  Let's get in there and make all of it even better. :)

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Malachi 2:17 -- On Slothful Sacrifice and Casting Blame

"Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?"
Malachi 2:17

In this chapter and the chapter before it, God is explaining some of the things that are not right within his kingdom.  People are sacrificing the worst of their flocks rather than the best (Malachi 1:13), people are getting rid of their wives (Malachi 2:14) both literally and figuratively in the sense that God is the "wife of youth" and people are leaving him for idols, and the priests have allowed and even encouraged keeping commandments in a really lazy or corrupt way... you could even say with "slothfulness" (D&C 58:29).

What it comes down to is that when we make covenants and agreements with God (or with anyone else for that matter), we are supposed to be doing our best to keep the letter AND the spirit of those agreements.  If we are looking for the loopholes in our agreements with God, I think that we will find that that we'll fall out of the agreement through our own loopholes... and the agreement was there to keep *us* safe, and to help us find happiness, so it is seriously crazy for us to default on something that is benefiting us.

Plus, honestly, when we try to cheat an agreement, what does that say about us, and about how we feel about the person the agreement is with, or about how far we ourselves can be trusted to make any agreement?  Do we really want to send that message to God, or to anyone?  And then, as noted in these verses, we look at our world and we say ignorant things like "people that do evil prosper" or "God needs to do better" or whatever it is... when we are not seeing the whole picture, and we *definitely* aren't doing a great job of setting an example or teaching others to be better as we put the blame on God.

Today, let's take a good, hard look at ourselves and how we are keeping our covenants with God.  I definitely need to think about this as well... I'm not here to compare or condemn.  Let's think about our priorities--are we putting God dead last in our lives and treating our worship as an afterthought, or are we putting him first and honoring him?  Are we looking for loopholes in the commandments, or are we working to understand how they improve our lives?  Are we focusing on how we can improve, or are we looking to cast blame?  Let's work hard and do better, especially in how we talk about God, who deserves nothing but deep thankfulness and respect from us.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Jarom 1:10-12 -- On Threats and Boundaries

"And it came to pass that the prophets of the Lord did threaten the people of Nephi, according to the word of God, that if they did not keep the commandments, but should fall into transgression, they should be destroyed from off the face of the land.
Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was. And after this manner did they teach them.
And it came to pass that by so doing they kept them from being destroyed upon the face of the land; for they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up unto repentance."
Jarom 1:10-12

It's interesting that the word "threaten" is used here, because we don't usually expect the gospel to presented that way, at least normally, although certainly there are places in the scriptures where a harsher approach is used in order to wake people up--for instance striking down Paul/Saul or Alma the Younger, or destruction is threatened/promised and then carried out if the people are too wicked.  And although we don't usually favor the "fire and brimstone" sermons or way of looking at things, I wonder if we really need that sometimes, because we become too hardened for anything else to get through.

I guess I think of it as sort of a tough-love approach.  Although that term has often been abused to justify cruelty, which of course I am not advocating, I think the original idea is a good one--that when we love people we still have to set behavioral boundaries.  Love doesn't mean, especially with God, that we can just do whatever the crap we want with no consequences.  We can love people without being overly permissive, and indeed we often need to teach children the consequences of their actions or defend ourselves from being used or abused.  At work, even if our supervisor likes us, that doesn't mean we get a free pass to not do our jobs.  There have to be limits, and when we try to use love as a lever to get our way or ignore our responsibilities, then it is we who are in the wrong.

And so with these verses.  The prophets warn and even threaten, because we need to know the boundaries.  They also teach and persuade in a lot nicer ways, as we see in these verses as well.  God wants to bless us and help us, but he can't do that if we are continually convinced that if he *really* loved us he would let us do whatever we wanted.  That isn't going to fly with God, just like it wouldn't fly with a parent whose kid was convinced that heroin was their new career path.  God isn't going to just shrug and let us die.  He is going to warn us of the consequences of our actions, and where our current road leads.

Today, let's work on listening and changing our ways instead of believing that we know better than God does.  Let's heed the prophet's warning voice, even when it is harsher than we expect.  Perhaps it is something we really need to take to heart.

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