Thursday, January 31, 2019

2 Corinthians 5:4 -- On Eternal Clothing

"For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life."
2 Corinthians 5:4

When Paul talks about a tabernacle in this chapter, he is talking about the "tabernacle of clay" (Mosiah 3:5; Moroni 9:6), or in other words, the body.  He refers to our spirits or souls being clothed in a body, so basically this verse is saying that we sometimes suffer because of the pain and inadequacies of our mortal bodies, but it isn't that we are seeking a disembodied existence, but rather a resurrection into a perfect, heavenly body and an immortal life.

D&C 183:50 helps clarify this as well, telling us that "the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage."  This helps us to know that coming to earth and receiving bodies is truly a gift from God, and something that we are going to want forever, even if for a time on this earth our bodies cause us a lot of pain or hardship.

Today, let's keep our bodies clean and pure along with our spirits, but let's not look on them as something bad.  They are good, and are an amazing gift from God that bring us a lot of joy.  We just have to learn to use them wisely.  Let's rejoice where we can, and have patience the rest of the time, waiting upon God's timing to be clothed with perfected bodies that aren't subject to death and pain. :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

2 Chronicles 9:23 -- On the Source of Wisdom

"And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, that God had put in his heart."
2 Chronicles 9:23

The scriptures tell us in many places how important wisdom is.  For instance, "wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it" (Proverbs 8:11).  So, even though other things are also valued above rubies or spoken of in the same imperative sense, we at least know that it is a very desirable quality.  Solomon possessed it in so great a measure that people came large distances with immense wealth in order to ask him questions.  And our verse clearly tells us that God was the source of his wisdom.

Going a step further, we read that if we "lack wisdom" that we should "ask of God" (James 1:5).  It is unlikely that we need it to the same degree that Solomon did, but the offer is real, and it is offered to everyone.  Knowing that, I feel like we might be wasting our time here together reading these words when we could be on our knees talking to God instead. :)  I mean, of course we need to study things out in our minds as well (D&C 9:7), but God is the true source of the wisdom that we need.

Today, let's be sure to learn and study and do our part, but then let's also turn to God and ask humbly for his help.  If he could bless Solomon so much that all the kings and queens of the earth looked to him for guidance, surely he can help us as well, with our individual conundrums / challenges.  Let's be willing to ask for help, and to accept his guidance when it is given.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Daniel 12:8-9 -- On Limited Knowledge

"And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?
And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end."
Daniel 12:8-9

In this chapter, Daniel sees some amazing things like the resurrection and a lot of things that lead up to the Second Coming, and then it all kind of ends and Daniel doesn't see the end of the story.  And that's tough, when you are invested in a plot. :)

Our lives are like this in some ways.  God shows us a lot of things, and helps us know what to do next, but he doesn't show us or tell us all of it.  And that's sometimes tough, because we don't like not understanding, and we're really invested. :)

God doesn't hide things from us for laughs, or to frustrate us.  Limited knowledge helps teach us faith and trust in God, as well as preserving our free agency.  Also, even though we often don't appreciate it, mistakes that happen as a result of lack of knowledge are often good for us, and help us learn more and try harder, as long as we don't give up.  Being immediately good at everything can set up false expectations and make us afraid of failure or incompetence, when honestly, compared to God, we are incompetent at everything, right?  No reason to be afraid of being the children that we *are,* or being in need of guidance from our Heavenly Father.

Today, let's remember that it is okay not to know everything.  It is okay to work with limited information, and to make mistakes, and even fail.  As long as we are working to avoid intentional sin and we keep trying to do better and to move closer to God, we're golden.  Let's try to be okay with that for now.  God has promised to tell us everything eventually. :)

Monday, January 28, 2019

Romans 6:16 -- On Being Servants of Righteousness

"Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?"
Romans 6:16

The idea here, that by our actions we choose to become the servants either of God or Satan / sin or righteousness, is seen throughout the scriptures.  For instance, Matthew 6:24 and 3 Nephi 13:24 talk about not being able to serve two masters, explaining that we have to choose between God and Mammon (basically evil influences).  The idea in part being "no fence-sitting."  Joshua 24:15 also tells us to "choose you this day whom ye will serve."  He lays out some choices, but they too come down to God and not-God, and not-God is the same as serving Satan or serving sin.

We're either going towards God or away from him.  We can't stand still, and we can't sit on the fence.  The war that began in the premortal existence continues, and we have to choose sides.  ... And as tempting as it is to believe that we can choose ourselves or some third option, it is an illusion.  If we don't choose God/righteousness, then we *are* choosing Satan/sin... because walking away from God is the same as choosing evil.

By our actions we are choosing our futures and choosing who to bind ourselves to.  Let's remember that Christ said in Matthew 11:30 that "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."  He offers us challenges and trials so that we can learn, but also rest and peace and love and goodness.  His goal is to help us learn the truth that can set us free, through growing and improving and becoming more like him.  Choosing Satan binds us with chains, and we become slaves to our own choices as we sin... trapped in lies or limited by our addictions and countless burned bridges.   Today, let's choose God, who loves us and seeks to give us more and more freedom as we can handle it (like learning to ride a bike and graduating from training wheels).  Let's be servants of righteousness rather than slaves to sin.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Isaiah 2:4 -- On Learning Peace

"And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
Isaiah 2:4

This chapter talks about the last days, which is when we are living, and there are some cool prophecies here about Christ reigning personally on the earth and making some big changes.  I love the idea here of not learning war anymore.  It reminds me of the people in Alma 24 who, as part of their conversion and repentance, buried their weapons and covenanted not to take them up again.  Later, their sons had to take up arms to help defend their homes, and like them, a similar covenant might not be something that is workable in our individual lives, but it is also clearly an ideal that will come when we have the opportunity to live in a more perfect world with Christ at the helm.

Today, maybe we should look forward to that time and imagine what the world would be like and what we could accomplish if we as communities, populations, countries, and nations weren't as preoccupied with war and contention as we are.  Are there ways now that we can learn peace and not war?  Let's work to encourage cooperation rather that competition, love rather than hatred, and unity over division.  Let's learn, and teach, peace.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Hosea 6:4-6 -- On Mercy, Sacrifice, Law, and Spirit

"O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.
Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings."
Hosea 6:4-6

The idea of mercy and not sacrifice is one that Christ mentions in Matthew 9:13, asking us to learn what it means.  It's an interesting idea, since God *does* ask us to be willing to sacrifice for the gospel when necessary.  In this case, I think these verses give some excellent context, helping us to understand that he is likely talking specifically about burnt offerings.  The idea behind animal sacrifice was to symbolically point us toward the "great and last sacrifice" of Jesus Christ himself (Alma 34:10), but instead people often glommed onto the idea of sacrifice as an end in itself, and focused on the letter of the law rather than the spirit, or the meaning behind the law.

The first verse seems to be telling us that if we are going to be good, that we have to be good all the way through.  We can't just be good on the surface, or until we actually encounter another person each morning.  It has to last--to be something we become, not just something that we play at when necessary.  I think God is asking us to focus on the whole of the gospel and on becoming good people rather than just on following some rules... those things can go together, because obeying God is part of becoming good, but if we make the rules more important in our minds than God himself, then we are going to go far astray.  For instance, do we ever find that one of God's rules is encouraging us to be unkind to someone else?  If so, perhaps we are misunderstanding God's laws.  Or, if we are using the gospel as some sort of scoreboard to show that we are better than other people, we might be missing the mark.  If we ever find that one part of God's law is clashing with another part, that should throw up flags for us and encourage us to go back to God to learn how to resolve those apparent contradictions and help us know what to do.

Today, let's go and "learn what [it] meaneth" (Matthew 9:13) to offer mercy and not sacrifice, not only in the context of the past, but what the same kind of letter versus spirit idea might mean for us right now.  Let's stay in tune with God so that we don't misunderstand and start trying to interpret the gospel as though God supports something bad. God gives wisdom to those that ask, and he promises us that the spirit will teach us all things.  Let's take him up on those promises and learn to really become good rather than just making marks on a gospel checklist.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Matthew 8:31-34 -- On Devils, Swine, and Asking Questions

"So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.
And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.
And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.
And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts."
Matthew 8:31-34

This is an interesting story where Christ meets two people possessed with devils, and the devils know who he is and that he is the son of God, and say so.  Then these verses describe him allowing them to go into a herd of swine instead of the people he was kicking them out of.

It's interesting that Christ allowed it... did he have compassion on the devils who would be without bodies?  Did the herd of swine suicide, or were they pushed to it by the devils?  The thing that I find even more interesting is that the city asked Christ to leave.  Does that mean they thought he was crazy or evil, or did they hear the reports and actually understand that he had a power that no other had?  ... Also, what happened to the people that the devils had been cast out of?  Were they okay?  Were they from the nearby city?

The lesson that I get out of this is that when God does something that we don't understand, we should not just ask him to leave.  That's like throwing out a treasure because it is too shiny and it is blinding us.  Instead, we should approach it a different way.  When we don't understand God, it never means that he is wrong.  It means that we have a knowledge gap, and we need to learn something.  First steps might be to learn to respect God's power, and then ask him to teach us his reasoning.  If it keeps bugging us, instead of rejecting it, we should learn more about Christ's life and choices, his other encounters with devils, the premortal existence, the nature of devils, and everything else that we can think of, and then when we've studied it out in our own minds, we should ask God about it, and see if we're close to understanding.  If not, God will help us learn over time.

Today, let's go to God with the things that we don't understand and ask him to help us understand.  His disciples did this frequently, and that's part of what made them wise.  Let's ask questions and learn rather than rejecting things that we can't yet understand.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

2 Nephi 9:14 -- On Perfect Knowledge

"Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness."
2 Nephi 9:14

This chapter is talking about the resurrection, and in the verse before this it explains that "all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect."  And perfect knowledge--wow.  It sounds amazing, right?  No more stumbling for words or trying to remember what that one story that we really liked was called.  We don't usually stop and consider the down side to perfect knowledge, and I think that is what Jacob (and God) are asking us to consider.

God's plan is to save us, but do we really think about what he is saving us from?  The whole image that we've built up in our society of the fires of hell I think are all based on a symbolic representation of what it is like to be a resurrected, eternal being with a perfect knowledge of sin and guilt.  Alma the younger illustrates this well in Alma 36:12-16, where it specifically says that he was experiencing the "pains of hell" and the "pains of a damned soul."  Zeezrom also experienced the "pains of hell" in Alma 14:6, and which is explained a little bit more in Alma 15:3 where it describes it as being "scorched with a burning heat."  These are two stories of people who were really staunchly against God and his church and who turned their lives around because of this realization and knowledge of their sins.  With Zeezrom we read that "this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance" (Alma 15:3).  When he realized that Alma and Amulek weren't dead, he regained some hope and asked to be healed... but imagine if they had been dead and he never had the chance to repent.  Would that self-recrimination have ever ended?  Maybe on earth, where our knowledge fades over time, but not in the resurrection where our knowledge is perfect.  That is the kind of situation that God is working to save us from.

In our lives now, our often-faulty memories can be a blessing.  It's annoying to have a brain cramp when we are trying to express ourselves, but it is super cool when we are trying to get through a day without beating ourselves up for some past sin or some current self-doubt.  Regret and self-hatred are terrible things, and God doesn't want them to haunt us for eternity.  He gives us a way to solve those problems through repentance, and he offers to take our guilt and our pain away through the atonement.  It's still our life and our past, but it doesn't have to haunt us if we repent and turn around and change.  We don't have to be the people in the verse that have a perfect knowledge of our uncleanness, which in front of God will feel *way* worse than walking filthy and naked in front of everyone we know.  We can be the people in the verse that are clothed with purity and righteousness.  We just have to start now and turn around.  God can help us repent even of the worst things that we have ever done, as long as we are willing to change.  Let's get on our knees and talk to him about it, and get counsel from our bishop if needed.  Today, let's take a step toward God and toward being who we want to be and not someone that we are going to regret being for eternity.  I like that "perfect knowledge of their enjoyment" line way better.  Let's try for that. :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Isaiah 8:11-13 -- On Fear, Dread, and Divine Solutions

"For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying,
Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread."
Isaiah 8:11-13

This puts an interesting spin on all of those scriptures that talk about fearing God.  Here is it clearly presented as a superior option over fearing people, and I think that's totally right.  To fear God typically means to respect him, somewhat in the way that we usually fear fire.  We aren't terrified when we encounter it, but we are careful to follow the rules of interacting with fire so that we don't burn ourselves or others.  Here, dread is added, but still as something superior to dread about things or events or people.

Maybe the idea here is that fear is an obsessive focus that makes us anxious, and if we are going to be obsessive or anxious about something, it should totally be about God.  If we're worried about something, maybe it should be being able to be reunited with God and our loved ones after death.  If we're going to have something always in the back of our minds, maybe it should be the only one who can really help us in 100% of the situations that we face.

I'm not saying, and I don't think God is saying, that he wants us to be afraid or freaked out in general.  I think it is another way to say, hey--if you have a problem in your life, let me replace it.  I can be the solution to *anything* that is wrong.  ... And he can be.  Today, let's go to him and rediscover that truth.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Luke 24:44-47 -- On Scriptures and Miracles

"And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."
Luke 24:44-47

This struck me today as fascinating because Christ, after his death and resurrection, takes the time to help his disciples to understand the scriptures about him.  I mean it makes sense because they needed to go out and preach to the world, and to understand the doctrine of Christ, but it's also kind of bizarre on another level, you know... this amazing miracle has just happened, and he is there, resurrected and alive, in front of them, and they go back and read a book about it.

I think the whole thing not only shows us how complete God's plan is, with everything laid out and perfect, but also how much is actually in the scriptures if we take the time to really study them with prayer and the guidance of the spirit.  There is so much to learn, always.  There is never a point at which we can say "oh, I've read that already" and get nothing more out of it.  The scriptures just keep on teaching us.

Today, let's learn of Christ from the scriptures as well as our prayers, and really search to understand his life and his doctrine and his plan for all of us, as he asked his disciples to do.  Let's learn about repentance and the remission of sins, and be ready to help spread his message to those that ask about the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).

Monday, January 21, 2019

D&C 5:9 -- On Future Generations

"Behold, verily I say unto you, I have reserved those things which I have entrusted unto you, my servant Joseph, for a wise purpose in me, and it shall be made known unto future generations;"
Doctrine and Covenants 5:9

When I read things like this--predictions for future generations even at the time of Joseph Smith, and other scriptures that haven't been fulfilled yet, it reminds me that God isn't finished, and that there is still much more to do.

I think, knowing that we live in the last days, sometimes we get worried that they are the very last, and that the world is going to collapse around us... one of the reasons that the youth were reassured in general conference that "You can look forward to . . . getting married, having a family, seeing your children and grandchildren, maybe even great-grandchildren" (October 2011: Boyd K. Packer, "Counsel to Youth").

This doesn't mean that I am predicting when any of the huge events of the last days are going to happen.  No idea.  Hopefully it means that we can step back and relax a little about this, but I think the idea is that we shouldn't be stressing about it anyway.  God's timing is impeccable, and he knows what he is doing, and he has promised us a happy ending.  The thing is, even if it was all going to end next week, I think that God would want us to keep doing what he asks, and keep building things, not giving up or tearing them down.  Throughout the scriptures we are asked to fear not, and to not be dismayed.  Instead of freaking out about the world melting down, God wants us to make the world better, and prepare it for the "future generations" that this verse talks about.

Another thing I love about the idea of future generations is that there are so many cool things to look forward to.  More scripture, more revelation, more miraculous everything.  God will do his work, and we can be a part of it... be a part of the miracles that happen every day.  Even if we're only a tiny part, it's amazing to be *any* part of the tapestry of God's plan.  Kind of like Psalms 84:10, which I love.  Better to be a doorkeeper in God's house than be a rich or cool somebody, anywhere else. 

Today, let's listen to God and look ahead and build the kingdom.  Let's think about how we can make a difference.  Even if it is just keeping a journal, we can impact future people's lives in a positive way.  Let's prepare for things to come, open our hearts to God's instructions, and live our lives well, trusting in God's timing.  Let's be a part of God's "wise purpose" and make a difference now, and in the future. :)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

2 Nephi 2:24 -- On Starting with Trust

"But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things."
2 Nephi 2:24

This is a really interesting idea and it gets into the juxtaposition or the push-pull in our lives between trust and mistrust, or faith and doubt.  I think we start out pretty faithful in life, and we tend to believe what our parents and others tell us.  Little kids are usually very trusting.  As we grow though, people laugh at us for being trusting... labeling it "gullible" instead, and we also experience the pain of having our trust betrayed.  Intentional or not, it can be a painful transition in our lives as we realize that our parents are not infallible, and that other people lie in order to manipulate.

Part of this transition is of course good.  We have to learn to tell the difference between truth and falsehood, and God assuredly doesn't mean for us to fall for every fake story someone posts on Facebook or tells us on the playground.  He wants us to learn to think, and evaluate, and he is always there to help when we are uncertain.  The part that isn't so good is the part where we can start feeling like our trust is broken, or that the world is broken and we refuse to trust anyone or anything, including God.

There is a certain amount of ambiguity or uncertainty pretty much baked into the human experience.  We have to be in the middle of competing priorities, powers, and possibilities--if everything were black and white and completely certain, we could never learn to choose.  If there were only good and not bad, same thing--we can't graduate to choosing between good and better until we learn the difference between good and bad, or understand the idea that there can be a wrong choice.

Realizing that part of life, and love, is risk and vulnerability helps us to not only appreciate it more when people trust us, but also to be more careful not to cause accidental emotional harm.  Our attitudes, and lives, can completely change if we understand the differences and the risks, but still *choose* to trust, or choose faith appropriately. 

Part of this is trusting others.  We have learned that people aren't always trustworthy, but instead of approaching everyone with a default of "I don't trust you, respect you, or give you any credit as a trustworthy human being until you somehow earn it" we can choose to begin with trust, and choose to assume that people are doing their best and that they are good rather than assuming the opposite.  Making people prove that they are untrustworthy rather than  trustworthy could be a better approach because we usually respond to people's expectations of us.  In schools for instance, if a teacher expects a student to do well, and another to do poorly, even if those assumptions are based on invalid information provided by researchers, the students tend to perform as expected.  Perhaps we've seen similar things in the workplace, and even in families.  When someone starts with trust they know that we can still be awesome even if we sometimes act like jerks, and treat us accordingly--helping us believe that we can live up to our potential, and forgiving us for our stupid mistakes.  Starting with and choosing trust can do wonders.

The other part of choosing faith is trusting God.  This verse is about starting with trust, applied to our relationship with God.  It's believing that God knows what he is doing, and  having faith that the things that happen and the way the world is going are part of a grand design and not just a big mess.  That is what faith is, and a lot of what hope is: looking around us and seeing the good, and the divine threads that are holding things together and helping us in our individual lives.  It's seeing God's influence in the world and in people's lives, and knowing that God can help us to change even when there is zero probability we can accomplish it on our own.  It's believing him and doing as he asks, even if we can't immediately see the outcome or the happy ending.  It's trusting him that it is there.

Today, let's start with trust.  Let's do it with other people and especially with God.  As we believe in people and in God's promises, and act on them, we will start to see more good in ourselves and in others.  Plus, I believe that we will be happier overall seeing the good than we would be always expecting the bad.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Matthew 7:3-5 -- On Seeing Clearly

"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye."
Matthew 7:3-5

The idea here isn't something that we often want to consider, since it can be uncomfortable to dwell on our own faults, and it is easy to see them in others.  But God clearly wants us to work on our own sins before trying to address other people's.  That doesn't mean he doesn't want us to help others or lift them up... it's not about other people's general needs, but clearly about not judging, as the first verse of this chapter states.

Today, let's examine out own problems, and worry about clearing our own vision, and taking care of our own sins, before we worry about the sins of other people.  Let's admit that we might need some help from God with our eyesight, and let him teach us how to see with love.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 -- On Listening, Loving, and Focusing

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."
Deuteronomy 6:4-9

This is great stuff, and I think another thing that would totally transform our lives if we took it more seriously.  Later in this chapter God warns us not to forget him after we have been led by him and are enjoying the fruits of that, and it is a very good point.  Often when things are bad and we can't think of a way out of a situation, we plead with God because he is the only one that can help, but then when he comes through for us, we are all, oh, it wasn't that bad, it worked out, and we not only forget how much he helped us, we don't even give him credit.

God is absolutely the best friend we have in this world or the next.  If we understood that on an emotional level, or had even an inkling of how amazing he is, I don't even think this commandment would be hard at all.  Instead, we so often treat him as though he were a bully, a dictator, a charlatan, or some relative that we are obligated to interact with, but certainly aren't forced to like.

The first word of this selection in Hebrew, shema, also means listen... the idea not just being to hear what God has to say, but also to absorb it and understand it, and the rest of the selection reinforces that first point.  God is the one focus of our lives, and everything we do and feel and teach and say should center on him.  His words should be in/on our hearts, our hands, and our foreheads, which some interpret physically/literally and some symbolically/figuratively, but the idea is the same.  Our hearts and actions and thoughts should be united and always aligned with the Lord and his purposes.  Our houses and our travels should be dedicated to him as well.  It's sort of like the idea of infusing the spirit into everything we create, but also the other way around--infusing everything we do into him and his purposes.  This I think leads us to the logical end of removing things from our lives if they don't mesh with God's purposes, which means pretty much what we have always known on some level... embrace the good and reject the bad.

Today, let's learn how to really focus on the Lord.  Let's align our thoughts and our words and our actions with God's purposes.  Let's truly be good by focusing on God, who will tell us all the good things that we can do as they come along, if we are listening.  Let's listen.  In understanding God, we will learn to love him above all else, as he deserves.  And doing so doesn't lessen anyone, since his love embraces other people as well.  Let's pour ourselves into this one thing, and see how it makes a difference.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Ephesians 4:29-32 -- On Corrupt Communication

"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you."
Ephesians 4:29-32

Can you imagine how much our lives, and even the world, would be changed, if we did this one thing?  We see marketing titles all the time about the "one little thing" that can change our lives, but this one is totally real. :)  If we just avoided corrupt communication, we would be so golden.  The rest of the selection is good, of course, but it is mainly helping us understand that one first statement.

Today, let's communicate to edify and not to tear down.  Let's stop letting our bitterness show (even better: stop believing in it and letting it hurt us) and put away our anger and wrath and gossiping and complaining.  Instead, let's compliment someone and be kind and treat others as we would like God to treat us.  Let's really invest in this one thing, and let God change our hearts and our minds as we work to live life his way. :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

D&C 88:11-13 -- On Light and Belonging

"And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:11-13

In the verses before this it explains that the light we are talking about is the light of Christ, and also that it is in the sun, moon, stars, and the earth, and is the power by which they were made.  Here, we learn that the same light helps us to see and understand, and that it is in everything, and is also in some way law and power.  I think I catch an edge of meaning there, because if everything is connected in some way, then law and power have to use whatever that is.  ... I have no idea if it is the spiritual way of talking about quantum entanglement or if it is something else entirely, but it is interesting to think about, and really the fundamental idea that everything is connected, that we are all connected, is something that God has been trying to get across to us in many different ways for a long time.  It could be connected to the gospel idea of restoration (what we might call karma)--of getting back whatever we put out there, and of being rewarded in the same way that we treat other people.

Today, let's think about what it really means that we are all connected by the light of Christ and are part of each other on a basic level, and also connected to and empowered by God.  It's really the same idea as building a Zion community, just maybe a little deeper than we usually think of it.  In order for the whole to thrive, we need to lift each other, and help each other succeed.  Helping other people *is* helping ourselves, because we are part of the same life, and on some level literally part of God.  Let's feel that connection today, and treat others as though they belonged and were part of us... as they literally do and are. :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Psalms 35:9-10 -- On Souls and Bones and Depth

"And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord: it shall rejoice in his salvation.
All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?"
Psalms 35:9-10

I like how the soul and the bones are involved in the emotions and communications of the writer.  Perhaps that is an indication of how deeply we can feel and know the Lord in our lives.  With so many things in life we only have sort of a shallow or tertiary connection, and we aren't fully present for a lot of our interactions in life, always thinking about something else or pre-planning the next thing.  Often even that is a little too real, so we go home and try to escape into something else besides our own lives. :)

Now, understand, I am not knocking escapism.  I think sometimes it is important in managing our stress levels or in helping us experience reality with training wheels sort of.  I think that is what fiction does for us.  The situations that are presented are still things that we can learn from... even about ourselves, and there is a lot of truth there too (like a parable, for instance), but the fictional aspects soften the lessons a little, and allow us to see truth without the harshness of direct confrontation.  Like everything else, we need some of these things in moderation.  What I am trying to say is that our experience with God is the most real thing that we are going to run into, and in our encounters with God therefore, we really do... or at least can... feel all the way down to our bones and our souls.

Today, let's not be afraid to engage with God on the deepest level, and let's not hold back anything as we pray and read and think about the gospel.  God isn't like anyone or anything else, and he won't betray our trust, and he will engage with us on the same level we engage with him.  If we want more from God, all we have to do is give more, and he will match his blessings to our effort every single time.  Let's work and serve and do as the Lord asks, and as we do, we will feel the Lord's presence in our lives to a greater degree and on a deeper level.  Let's rejoice in the Lord who saves us all when we can't save ourselves.

Monday, January 14, 2019

1 Samuel 2:7-9 -- On Winning

"The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.
He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them.
He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail."
1 Samuel 2:7-9

This is an interesting idea, and one hard to understand sometimes, that the Lord is in charge, even of economic realities, and doesn't allow people to win through strength. In a general sense I don't think it is hard for us to understand the idea that God is in charge, but when it is applied to us personally I think sometimes we want to think that we did it ourselves, somewhat like the king that we read of in Isaiah 10 that claimed "By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent" (verse 13). However, the Lord responds to him (and likely us) by saying "Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith?" (verse 15).

The Lord isn't trying to teach us that nothing matters or that all of our work is pointless. He wants us to learn to work and to accomplish things. I think the real lesson here is about pride, and thinking that we can do things without the Lord's help, for crazy circumstances lead us all to quick success and quick failures throughout our lives.  ... Also I think part of the point here is to ask the question that is asked in Alma 5:54: "Will ye persist in supposing that ye are better one than another"?  The world teaches us that we *are* better than each other on a lot of different levels, and God is trying to help us see that we aren't--that we are all dependent on God, and that we all have a lot to offer, no matter what kind of education we have, or our gender or race or nationality or citizenship or fame or wealth level, or whatever else.  Even the gospel and religious adherence that God asks don't make us better than our brothers and sisters--they make us more able and more responsible to help those people who don't have what we have.

In these verses God lifts up the poor rather than telling them that they are lazy and shiftless and that they brought it on themselves through lack of effort.  And perhaps that is a good hint to us about how we should treat each other, and especially those that are struggling economically.  Part of building the city of Zion was ensuring that there were no poor among them... not because the poor were kicked out of the city, but because people helped each other so much that no one was left poor.

Today, let's remember that we are in the hands of God, and let's not think that we are better or worse than anyone else because of our external circumstances.  Let's do good with what the Lord has given us, and let's lift and help the people around us, remembering that God is the purpose of all of this, and that we need to build a Zion society where we are caring for each other, rather than a mountain of profit that we try to push each other off of.  The only way to win in life is God's way.  In the end, God's pure, selfless love will prevail over strength.  So maybe instead of trying to be better and stronger, we should learn better how to love.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Alma 40:12 -- On a Zero-Trouble Future

"And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow."
Alma 40:12

That phrase "rest from all their troubles" is amazing--especially the "all" part.  I love the idea that we don't have to carry any stress beyond the grave. :)  It's hard to imagine not having any troubles or sorrow at all, but definitely something worth experiencing. :)

I'm not trying to say that death is nothing, or that it doesn't impact our current lives in real ways.  ... It is good, though, to know that the life beyond this is a better place where we will have a peace beyond what can be experienced here.
Today, let's work on living our lives in God's way so that we can return to him after this life, and experience that zero-trouble future of happiness, peace, and rest that God has prepared for all of us.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Jeremiah 6:8 -- On Being Instructed

"Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited."
Jeremiah 6:8

It's easy to hear a lot of what God says as a threat, especially when we're off the path and not listening to the spirit at all.  And assuredly, the things that God says he will do, he will do.  But I think that pleading is a lot closer to the correct interpretation than threatening is.  God never wants us to have to suffer the consequences.  He doesn't want to see us suffer, even when the consequences are a natural and just reward for our own evil choices.  He would much rather have us turn around and become better people.  He wants us to learn and change.  If we won't though, eventually we will have to suffer the consequences.  Eventually, if we don't accept Christ's atonement in our lives and grasp the repentance that is offered to us, it will become too late.  ... Not now, or while we can still desire repentance.  I want to be super clear that none of us are beyond hope at this moment.  But to make sure that continues, we have to turn around and start making a change.

Today, let's allow ourselves to be instructed.  Let's be humble enough to realize and accept that we need God's help to change.  Let's repent, and become better than we ever thought we could be, with God's divine help.  If being afraid of the consequences of evil helps, then let's use the motivation to change, but honestly God isn't doing all of this to scare us.  His whole goal is to save us, and a big part of that is by teaching us.  So, let's get on our knees and enroll, and start today, learning all the great things that God has to tell us about--the hope, and the love, and the possibilities.

D&C 91:1-2 -- On Interpolation and Inspiriation

"Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha—There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly;
There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men."
Doctrine and Covenants 91:1-2

This is an interesting selection in the context of the "other books" and "last records" (1 Nephi 13:39-40) that will be revealed at some point in the future.  God explains a few verses later "whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom; /And whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited" (verses 5-6).  He doesn't ask us not to read or to avoid it... just, like most everything else, it is a mixed bag, and we should make sure we include God in the doing of anything that we do.

So why scripture and why are new records promised if we can gain from almost anything we read?  I think the point is that there are some things that God wants preserved without the "interpolations" (additions/alterations/corruptions) of men, so that even at our weakest, when we are not in tune enough with the spirit to know which part is truth, we have a pathway to God because there are some things that are purely good.  We can look at them and learn from them, and strive to follow them, which helps us tune into the spirit and then understand more.  Without that pure source, it would be easy to be lost, not just in the scriptures but in the world, not knowing which of the messages around us are true, or if they are all false in different ways.

A Relief Society teacher back in one of my student wards at BYU used the analogy of a giant yellow highlighter for the spirit, and I still think it works.  The Holy Ghost is what points out to us the things that matter among all the background noise, showing us in the spiritual version of fluorescent yellow the true and good things to focus on.  And when we can't feel that spirit in our lives and we are lost, that is a sign that we need to go back to the source, to God, and pray so that we can again find that guidance to move forward along God's path.

Today, let's make sure that we understand the varied nature of the world around us and gain the guidance and inspiration of the spirit in knowing what is true and what is the interpolation of others, not only in scripture study but in anything that is confusing us.  As Moroni promised us, "by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things" (Moroni 10:5).

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Psalms 117:1-2 -- On Nations and People and Praise

"O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.
For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord."
Psalms 117:1-2

This is a very short Psalm, and I really like it because when I read it today it reminded me that those of us included in "all ye nations" means everyone, and that praise of the Lord is something that can unite us.

It's hard sometimes to be understood with a message like that, because it is easy to go too far both ways.  I absolutely do not mean using religion as a club and persecuting everyone who doesn't agree with God, or with us.  I also don't mean that God loves us all so much that he doesn't care what we do.  He's not a senile grandmother, perfectly happy defending her serial-killer grandchildren.

God does love all of us, even when we sin, and he also wants us NOT to sin.  Those things are not incompatible.  God loves people from every religion and belief, but that doesn't mean that he approves of all churches or the practices of all nations or individuals.  God has commandments, and they matter, but they also don't mean that we have the right to think that we are better than other people, no matter how righteous.  That was one of the traps of the pharisees in Christ's time, right?

True worship of God is about drinking in His pure love, and then joining together and sharing that love by caring about other people as God does.  And he loves us all, no matter our nation, or beliefs, or sin level, and he works diligently to help us learn about and love each other.  His merciful kindness truly is great, and he is willing to share it with us so that we can share it with one another.  Let's remember that we are *all* imperfect and learning and that we all desperately need God in our lives.  Let's remember that we're in this together, and maybe let's think about what it really means to love other people as brothers, and in the same way we love ourselves, because I think we all have a long way to go in that area. 

Today, let's join together in worshiping the Lord, and let that be something that unites us and helps us love the people around us more rather than distancing ourselves or thinking of them as somehow part of some other group or family.  They are ours--part of us, no matter who they are or how we have been thinking of them.  Let's unite with them, together, all of us, in love and worship.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Acts 16:14 -- On Open Hearts and Asking God

"And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul."
Acts 16:14

I like the phrase here "whose heart the Lord opened" and that the reason that Lydia listened to Paul was that the Lord was helping her in that regard, to pay attention and not dismiss what was said because it didn't fit into her traditions.

There are so many things out there in the world, and so many people trying to sway us one way or another, that it can be really hard to know which way is right.  No one is giving us all the information, sometimes on purpose, but often because they don't know all of it either.

Joseph Smith was in a similar situation, and he took the advice found in James 1:5, to ask of God.  He is the only one who has *all* the information, and so we are going to get a lot further listening to him than listening to our friends, or the news, or online opinions (including mine).  God opened Lydia's heart, and he can do the same for us.

Today, let's look to God for the truth in the world around us.  Let's stay close to him and keep his spirit with us as we listen and respond to others, so that we may be led in the right direction, towards goodness and happiness and towards making the world better and not worse. :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Isaiah 28:14-18 -- On Death, Hell, and Repentance

"Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.
Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.
And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it."
Isaiah 28:14-18

This is God's way of telling us not to play with fire.  It's so easy, isn't it, to think we're being cool by rebelling or walking on the edge, or going over the line further and further but thinking we can do it without getting caught?  We go to the very edge of the cliff, but somehow believe that we can't fall.

This is the same thing that God means when he says "my Spirit will not always strive with man" (Ether 2:15).  God will save us, help us, and do whatever we can to give us chance after chance, but there is some point (pray we never get there) where we are completely hardened and the spirit can't get through at all anymore, and we've walked off the edge of the cliff for the last time.  And at that point, God isn't going to spare us from the consequences.  We're going to hit the ground, hard.

This doesn't mean at all that repentance doesn't work.  If we can still *want* to repent, then we still can... and we should.  We need to run with all our strength away from the edge of that cliff and into God's arms, because *he* is the way that we save ourselves from becoming hardened and hopeless and slaves to the evil that we have consistently chosen.

Today, let's walk away from death and hell and the chains of sin.  Let's return to God and make things right.  He can help us to understand, to desire good, to find true happiness.  We just have to turn to him and work with him, and we can be free even of our own worst choices.  We don't have to suffer if we turn to Christ.  He is willing to take on our burden if we return to him in faith, willing to change.

Monday, January 7, 2019

1 Peter 2:3 -- On Tasting the Word of the Lord

"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious."
1 Peter 2:3

This is an interesting analogy, and I think it goes along with the whole idea of learning about and discovering God, and then when we realize how amazing he is, incorporating him into our lives.  This analogy I think is showing us that our seeking doesn't have to be complicated... it can be almost as instinctual as what usually gets us into trouble.  The only changes are that we're using our spiritual instincts rather than our physical ones, and that we're looking in the right place for the answers, rather than all the wrong places as we usually do.  We taste that God's word is good, and thereafter we want more and more as we seek nourishment and goodness.

Today, instead of trying to fill the holes in our lives with physical desires or obsessions that can mask the pain, let's get spiritual and seek the only source that can *heal* the pain and fill the God-sized hole that nothing else *can* fill.  Let's seek the Lord as a child seeks a caring parent, to be obeyed because they love us and watch out for us, and because that is the way to be fed and to grow up and learn how to be like them.  Let's follow God and want to be like him.  Let's drink of his word as though it were the only nourishment in the world.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

1 Thessalonians 5:21 -- On Proving Everything

"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
1 Thessalonians 5:21

I think it is cool that the scriptures encourage us to prove all things.  Obviously this can't only mean in the limited scientific way that ignores the truth of the spirit, but everything that God tells us is something that he wants us to study and seek after, and test, and find out for ourselves.  Some of that will be scientifically observable, and other parts of it we are going to have to test internally and measure for ourselves--for instance, whether our experiences with God make life better or worse, happier or sadder.  Moroni states it right out in Moroni 10:4-5 that his spiritual test through the Holy Ghost can be applied to anything, and Acts 17:11 (and many other verses) show us people searching the scriptures to know the truth of what they have been told.  God doesn't expect us to just accept whatever we hear.  Nephi inquired of God directly, and so can we.  Alma 34:4 explains the "experiment" of planting the word in our hearts (which Alma 32 explains in more detail), and we are told to find truth and study the best books.

Contrary to popular opinion, God doesn't typically want us to follow blindly.  We often *are* blind to certain truths, but that doesn't mean that God prefers it that way.  Better, for God *and* for us, when we unblind ourselves, and we do our research and study it out and find out for ourselves.  We're here to learn, not to lemming, right?  So the more that we dive in and figure it out, the more we are doing exactly as we should.  Note that there is a difference between studying it out and asking for a sign.  Not saying sign-seeking doesn't work sometimes, but after seeing some of the signs that God gave to those Book of Mormon antichrists, I would be careful about asking for more than we can handle.  And, truthfully, we have tons of signs all around us if we look for them.  Better probably to ask the way that Moroni suggests... read, study, and think about it, and then pray and ask God if we're on the right track.  The better we learn to listen to the spirit, the better guidance we can get about absolutely everything.

Today, let's not only study the things of God so that we can learn and prove them, but let's take a look at the things around us, and let's prove *them* as well.  If we aren't going to accept God blindly, then let's not accept propaganda and earthly authority blindly either.  Let's read and study and find out about both sides of whatever issue or question it is, and them let's also ask God about those things, and be open to his answers.  The verse doesn't just talk about proving God.  We're proving everything, and God gives us some good advice in Moroni 7:15 about discerning between good and evil.  And when we figure out what is good, let's do as Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to do, and hold on to it.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Ether 12:23-24 -- On Mighty Writing and Spiritual Infusion

"And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;
And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them."
Ether 12:23-24

I love the idea here that God can grant us power in speaking and in writing, through the Holy Ghost.  I feel like I have heard talks, read words, sung songs or listened to music, and even seen artwork that was somehow infused with the spirit, carrying the message or idea or emotion out to whoever was open and in tune.  2 Nephi 33:1 talks about this idea as well, telling us that "when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men."  Nephi said that he was better at speaking than writing in that regard, which is probably a little strange to us because we are all familiar with his writing.

I think the scriptures themselves are writing like that.  Not just the black and white message, but the spirit-infused words, waiting for our hearts and minds to be open enough to feel as well as read ... to get the many-layered communication that God is sending us.  I am not sure that we typically get to the point where we are overpowered from reading the words--the scriptures that we have are probably adapted to not blow our minds quite so much all at once, but it does make me super interested in what the Brother of Jared had to say.

I also wonder how far this idea goes.  God is the creator.  Surely he infused everything that he created with the spirit, which, if it is the same idea, is what gives life to everything just as it brings to life his words as we speak or read or sing them, or as we see/watch depictions of his life or his message.  The Earth itself speaks in one of Enoch's visions (Moses 7:48), calling God her creator.  If the Earth is alive on some level, then maybe everything is... and maybe learning to become like God includes learning this whole idea of how to infuse the spirit into our messages and our own creations.  Perhaps a baby step, but a step nevertheless. :)

Today, let's work on our connection to the Spirit, and work on including that spirit in all that we do... speaking, writing, singing, painting, composing, sewing, building... let's find ways to include God and infuse his spirit into all that we do, making things that are worthy of the spirit, better and stronger and closer to fulfilling the "measure of [their] creation" (D&C 88:20).  I think the whole idea of infusing the spirit into the things around us gives us the same general motivation as when we are already asked to infuse the spirit into our own lives, praying and reading and staying connected in that way.  It helps us to be better people, and it can also help us to make everything around us better... our communications, the things that we work on, and even the things that we do for fun.  As we move the spirit into everything that we are and everything that we create, we will be walking the Savior's path more closely, improving everything we touch, and every person that we talk to.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Hebrews 3:12-14 -- On Being Steadfast

"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;"
Hebrews 3:12-14

It's interesting here how the idea of unbelief is equated with evil.  I think we often feel that we can't help our own unbelief... that it just creeps up on us and we have to feel it.  And perhaps instead, like a lot of other things we don't want to take responsibility for, it is something that we can choose.  Doubt and fear and despair... and unbelief... don't have to rule us.  If they start creeping in, we can banish them and continue to move forward.

I think that's why the next verse encourages us to exhort one another, and talks about how deceitful sin is.  When we sin, we are accepting a lie offered to us by Satan.  The lies can take many forms, but they are all alike in that they encourage us to move away from God.

Today, let's recognize the lies that Satan is trying to feed us, and that we don't have to believe them or feel them when they are thrust upon us.  We can banish them and turn back to the peace of God.  I love the phrase "partakers of Christ" because his atonement, mercy, and love are things that we can allow into our lives every day that naturally counteract the lies that Satan is trying to feed us on the other side.  Let's partake of Christ's truth and reject Satan's lies.  Let's be steadfast and believing and remain confident in the course we have chosen, to follow the path that God has offered us that leads to exaltation and joy.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2 Nephi 27:23 -- On Sameness, Consistency, and Example

"For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith."
2 Nephi 27:23

I like the idea of God being consistent and staying the same.  Since we are imperfect, a constant in our lives is the need for repentance and change, but for God things are already perfect the way they are. :)  Sometimes we think of sameness as boring, but in this case, definitely not.  Perfection is interesting and beautiful, not dull.  The idea of not changing for God also means that he remains perfectly trustworthy, merciful, kind, and good, along with tons of other amazing concepts.  Honestly, maybe we need that kind of consistency in our lives, especially perhaps as an example to follow.

I also love that God works by faith.  The idea of faith lifts us up and helps us to have power in our lives... belief in true ideas that we can't necessarily touch.  Our faith and belief can change the world, if we have faith in real and good things, and it can also change our minds and our hearts because when we believe in an idea of ourselves that might not be true yet, but we want to be true, we can help it to happen, with God's help.

Today, let's reach for some non-boring perfection, and trust in God and his consistent solidity in our lives, helping and lifting us each day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Ether 2:5 -- On Getting Directions from the Lord

"And it came to pass that the Lord commanded them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been. And it came to pass that the Lord did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel."
Ether 2:5

This is part of the story of the Jaredites, which at least in this part is a little bit like the story of Noah as far as the whole taking animals with them thing.  They even take containers with fish and carry bees with them as they travel.  What I really love about this verse though is that God was going with them, talking to them and giving them directions the whole way.  I mean, I thought the Liahona was cool, but having God go with you and show you the way in person... even cooler.

I was thinking about this and realized that we can actually have almost all of this in our own lives.  Maybe not the physical cloud, but we can actually talk to God every day and get directions from him as we need them.  Prayer and scripture study are the way that we communicate with God.  Prayer is primarily the way that we talk to him, and the scriptures are often the way that he speaks to us.  I'm not saying, of course, that we can't have more dramatic things happen to us, but in thinking about it I don't think we realize how dramatic those things already are, or can be.

It might be impatience.  As with most things, we expend the tiniest effort and we want immediate and immense results to prove that our miniscule effort was worth it.  But that isn't typically the way that God works.  He might offer immediate feedback occasionally when the situation warrants it (in God's mind, not ours), but often we need to learn patience and faith, which means that our effort probably needs to be sustained more than a couple of minutes. :)  … and sometimes, of course, a lot longer.  And we need to learn to listen to the spirit and remove distractions in our lives so we can tune into that still, small voice, so our answers are likely to be soft and quiet.  We might get huge and persistent again, when the situation warrants it, but that definitely isn't typical.

Once we learn how it works though, and we get in the habit of communicating with God regularly, then it's normal to get up and pray and feel him there.  To read, and get hints about how the scriptures apply to our lives popping into our minds throughout the day.  Those things that are dramatic to people who don't have them are our new normal.

Today, let's work on our consistency in reaching out to God through prayer, and inviting him in through scripture study.  We can, like the Jaredites, have God join us on our daily walk, and get directions from him as needed if we include him in our lives.  That kind of company and direction starts with just a small, daily effort, and turns into something that can lift and sustain us our whole lives.  Let's do it. :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Ezekiel 29:17 -- On Anticipating the Word of the Lord

"And it came to pass in the seven and twentieth year, in the first month, in the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,"
Ezekiel 29:17

So, this verse by itself makes you wonder what is going to come next, doesn't it?  It kind of leaves us hanging, waiting for the message or the punch line.  So, I'll tell you... it is a prophecy about Babylon overthrowing Egypt.  There is some interesting stuff there, but that isn't really what struck me about this today... it was the anticipation of what the word of the Lord was going to say, and the thought that the word of the Lord doesn't just come to us without some preparation.

If we're looking for a New Year's resolution, a really good one for anyone is to read the scriptures.  That's *how* the word of the Lord comes to us.  That's how we listen to God, and a large part of staying in touch with him (prayer is also awesome and essential in that regard).  And communication with God is how we are prepared for things that are going to come, and how we learn to have patience and hope and faith through the things that we are going through at any moment of our lives.

Every day should feel like this verse does... like a new beginning, anticipatory, waiting on what the Lord is going to tell us.  And it can totally be that way if we keep our side of the communication channel open and don't let it descend into static.

Today, let's be ready for communication from the Lord.  Let's pray our hearts out, and let's resolve now to read the scriptures every single day.  It doesn't have to be a lot really.  What it has to be is sincere and consistent, so that we're ready to listen and to hear what the Lord has to say to us.  Revelation for the whole world only comes through the prophet, but revelation for each of us individually *comes* to each of us individually if we stay ready and willing to communicate with God.

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