Saturday, August 31, 2019

Galatians 5:13 -- On Liberty and Love

"For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another."
Galatians 5:13

The scriptures talk a lot about the superiority of spirit over flesh, an idea that is basically reminding us that our spirits need to assert themselves and not give in to the desires of our bodies all the time.  Instead, we should use our bodies to accomplish our spiritual goals.  This verse reminds us of one of those goals, and that is loving, lifting, and helping others.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't eat and sleep, etc. or that taking care of our own needs is always selfish.  It just means that, like everything else, we need to fulfil our body's needs in good, healthy ways and not stay in bed all day, or eat all the things, or overindulge in other ways, so that we stay focused on our higher, spiritual needs, as well as being able to sense and help with the needs of others.

Today, let's use our liberty to feed our spirits and uplift others, and if we're having trouble with our baser appetites, let's go to God and ask for help.  He will help us know where the lines are and teach us how we can get our spirits and our bodies to work in harmony, teaching us how to serve ourselves and others, and not to lose our own freedom by focusing on one desire more than everything else, and getting ourselves caught in that addictive cycle.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Acts 7:10 -- On Affliction and Favor

"And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house."
Acts 7:10

This is a verse talking about how God was with Joseph, even after his brothers sold him as a slave.  We read something similar in the first verse of the Book of Mormon, where Nephi tells us that he has both seen "many afflictions" and also been "highly favored of the Lord" (1 Nephi 1:1).

We often want to believe that afflictions and favor are mutually exclusive, and that if God loves us that our lives will go smoothly, but as we read in Hebrews, "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth" (Hebrews 12:6, also see Proverbs 13:24).

God helps us with our problems, certainly, but he doesn't make our lives challenge-free. :)  I think a large part of that is just that we would never learn anything if we had smooth lives all the time.  We'd likely just keep doing things the same way--and we need those challenging times to stir us up to action and some of the more important lessons of our lives.  For instance, do we learn serious reliance upon the Lord without losing our normal support system at some time or another?  Perhaps, but it's harder to learn things that way sometimes, because we have to break ourselves out of our own rut.

Today, let's work to understand that afflictions come to everyone, and that we are not less favored when we suffer.  Let's look to God for deliverance, and for help learning and growing from the things that we go through.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

2 Nephi 9:51 -- On Lasting Worth

"Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness."
2 Nephi 9:51

The phrase here "that which cannot satisfy" and the whole idea of worth reminds me of Ecclesiastes, where it says "all is vanity and vexation of spirit" (Ecclesiastes 1:14).  I think the idea is the same... that most of what we seem to value in life just isn't valuable.  It is all fleeting and temporary, and not of lasting worth.

Here, Jacob advises us to seek things that truly are of worth... lasting, eternal worth.  Those things are all found through God... often in our relationships rather than in our acquisitions.  Today, let's consider what we are working and paying for, and let's talk with God about making wiser choices about what we want, and what really matters.

John 11:41-44 -- On the Power of Prayer

"Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go."
John 11:41-44

The raising of Lazarus is amazing here, so even though I am going to move on to something else, it is a good thing to stop and consider--just the wonder of God's power, even over death, which seems so final to us.

What struck me today is the prayer to the Father right before this event.  Christ mentions it out loud so that we would know that it is something he asked for, which is interesting because even at this moment Christ was being an example and helping us to know that all that he did was his Father's will, and that they were in constant contact.

I think that is something that we can work on in our own lives.  We aren't as faithful as Christ was in his mortal ministry, and our hearts aren't aligned with God's will all the time, as he always was, but he gave us a pattern, and showed us how to walk the same path.

Today, let's work on the admonition to "pray always" (D&C 19:38, Luke 21:36, 3 Nephi 18:15).  Let's seek the Spirit, and discuss all things with the Lord throughout the day.  As we do, we will be walking the path that Christ walked, and learning to become more like him... in addition to getting excellent advice and guidance from our Heavenly Father, who wants to hear from us.  That power of prayer is the basis, not only of raising the dead, but of every other miracle that exists.  It all starts with communication, and it can change our lives as miraculously as it changed Lazarus.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Acts 17:11 -- On Readiness of Mind

"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
Acts 17:11

This verse is talking about investigating the gospel for ourselves and examining his truth to find its worth in our lives for the first time.  I like the phrase "readiness of mind."  It reminds me of being in a class that you always wanted to take, on the first day.  That feeling of being excited about learning this new thing, and wanting to soak it all up and make it part of yourself.  It's those types of situations where we learn the most.

I think, too, that this is something we probably need more of in our later study.  If we're bored by the gospel and think that we know all the answers, then we stop having that same kind of excitement and joy in our lives when it comes to the gospel.  We effectively stop searching and asking and seeking more, which is something that God wants us to do.

Today, let's dig a little deeper and find something interesting about the gospel that we want to know more about, and then let's take some time to look the topic up in the scriptures and learn more.  Maybe we can pick a weekly or monthly theme as families or friends and then at the end of the specified time talk about the topic again and see what we learned, and what we can learn together.  Kind of like a book club, but more with topics than specific books of scripture (not that we shouldn't study that way as well).  Let's get excited about the gospel, whether it is our first time learning about it, or we've lived a long while with the knowledge.  There is always more to learn... let's jump into the scriptures and find it out. :)

Monday, August 26, 2019

Alma 43:7-8 -- On the Preservation of Hatred

"Now this he did that he might preserve their hatred towards the Nephites, that he might bring them into subjection to the accomplishment of his designs.
For behold, his designs were to stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites; this he did that he might usurp great power over them, and also that he might gain power over the Nephites by bringing them into bondage."
Alma 43:7-8

In reading this today, it made me think of how rotten and totally against God this idea is... a plan to preserve hatred, rather than breaking it down and unifying people... or in other words, totally against the whole idea of building up Zion.

Unfortunately, I think in our day this technique is still being used... using dissension and hatred to gain influence and power, rather than seeking to lift and unite people.

Today, let's take a step back and look at this deceitful methodology, and determine not to allow ourselves to be manipulated in this way.  Let's remain dedicated to the Lord and to furthering the cause of Zion and his kingdom on earth... let's learn how to let go of our hatred and stand united.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

1 Corinthians 2:10-14 -- On Spiritual Searching

"But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
1 Corinthians 2:10-14

The phrase "the Spirit searcheth all things" here made me think of a search engine.  Obviously the Holy Ghost isn't an unintelligent earthly algorithm, but the Spirit does some similar things for us... it brings things to our attention that we might not have known, can remind us and teach us, and it has access to vast stores of information that we don't have, but which can help us in our lives.

As these verses continue, we are reminded that the Spirit is of God, and that it doesn't teach man's wisdom, and in fact can't even be understood by the natural man, but the things that it teaches are spiritually discerned.  Which means that we have to be in tune with God to be able to understand what the Spirit is saying to us.

Unlike worldly technology, the Spirit of God can't be used for evil.  Anytime we even imagine something bad, we lose that essential spiritual contact.  There can be only goodness and truth from this source, which makes it remarkable... even miraculous, compared to the far inferior earthly means of accessing information we are used to, and to honor that source, we have to be sensitive to the requirements of contacting it.  We have to be good, and if we slip, then our contact with it slips too.  Access to the Spirit is a good indicator of how we're doing spiritually.

Today, as we have questions in our lives, let's be sure to tune in to God through prayer and honoring our covenants.  As we do, we can gain access to his Spirit, which will not only teach us all things (John 14:26) and help us know the truth of all things (Moroni 10:5), but will also help us search the "deep things of God" for the answers God freely offers.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Genesis 45:5 -- On Unmarked Souls

"Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life."
Genesis 45:5

This verse is Joseph speaking, who was sold into Egypt, forgiving his brothers who did so, and focusing on the larger picture.  God tells us that "all things work together for good" (Romans 8:28, D&C 90:24, etc.), and this is an excellent example.  Selling your brother into slavery seems pretty clearly evil, and yet, with repentance, change, and time, God wove even this into his pattern and turned it into something positive.  That of course doesn't make what his brothers did a good thing, but it shows how Christ can ameliorate the bad in our lives and heal the harm that we have caused.

Whether we are the sinners or the sinned against in any circumstance, God can help us.  He can heal even the worst wounds and change our hearts from evil to good, if we trust in him and dedicate the time, faith, and patience that it takes to commit to his ways and to repent of our sins.  Today, let's go to him in whatever circumstance we are in, and ask for his help.  As we work with him, God will make things better.  Nothing that we have done or experienced has to mark our souls forever.

Friday, August 23, 2019

1 Corinthians 15:50-53 -- On Being Changed

"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."
1 Corinthians 15:50-53

I like the idea here of putting on incorruption and immortality... easily, like a new outfit.  Immortality seems amazing from our perspective, since we are so used to endings.  When we are changed and immortal, I wonder what this life will seem like to us.  I imagine that most of the things that we feel are important now will have less or no importance, and we might realize that our priorities were a little mixed up, because of our focus on ends and limits and death.

Perhaps we should think ahead and work on changing those priorities today... working on the things that are going to matter eternally.  And to know what *those* things are, let's turn to God, who is already immortal, and who can help us know how to prepare for that great day. :)

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Daniel 2:44 -- On God's Kingdom

"And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever."
Daniel 2:44

This is part of the story of Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream, which is great if you haven't read it before (it's basically just this chapter, though reading the first chapter will give you some good background information).  The king had forgotten the dream, so Daniel had to go to the Lord for help to know the dream before he could interpret it.

What I like about this verse is the hope and triumph part.  We often hear about stuff that will happen in the last days, but mostly it is this dire, everybody-dies idea rather than a message of hope and cleansing and eternal peace.  I think this verse is similar to the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees in Jacob 5.  In that allegory, God basically says that the evil will be taken away as the good grows... talking about trees, but meaning the world.  The more good we bring into the world, the more the evil can be pruned away.

In this dream, God tells Nebuchadnezzar (and Daniel, and us) that eventually God's kingdom will be established and will never fall.  And that's what we are building now.  Yeah, bad stuff and wars are going to happen, but as it says, God isn't going to leave it to other people.  He is going to be with us, helping us with all of it, and if we stick with him... that is the safety and peace and permanence and hope, and love, and *everything* else that we have been looking for, and that we need and want.  And it is never going away.

Today, let's trust in God and help build his kingdom, which will be the stability that we, and others, need in the last days. :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Isaiah 42:13-14 -- On the Messiah

"The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies.
I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once."
Isaiah 42:13-14

This made me think about how much the injustice and cruelty and evil that exists on this earth must bother the Lord.  He steps back and allows us to make our choices, good or bad, and has to allow evil temporarily so that we can make choices between right and wrong, good and evil--actual freedom rather than guided choices, because otherwise we would have limited potential--but one day there will be an accounting, and things will be made right.

I remember one moment when I was in Jerusalem, standing on the top of the Masada plateau, talking with a friend from the company that I then worked for.  In talking with him about the history of that place and that country, I felt the very palpable need for the Lord to come and make things right, and I joined with him in wishing for the coming of the Messiah.

Maybe we aren't ready for that yet... but we probably should work on that, because eventually it needs to happen.  The idea of God crying "like a travailing woman" kind of cuts to the center of all of it... he knows the need as well, and feels it every day.  So much injustice and hatred and wrong that needs to be corrected.

Today, let's do our best to make the world a better place, lifting up the people around us and not giving up or giving in to evil.  Let's also make ready for the Messiah, who will come to make things right.  It's scary, but also essential.  He delays for our sakes... to give us time to learn and to prepare.  Let's do so. :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Psalms 37:3-5 -- On Trust, Delight, and Commitment

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."
Psalms 37:3-5

These verses are great because they are like a bulleted list of things that we can do to improve our attitude towards, and relationship with, God.

Trust is important because it is the foundation of faith.  If we're constantly doubting our existing relationship with God, then we'll never be able to build on it and achieve the higher level of communication that is required for personal revelation or the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost... or the Ministering of Angels, etc.  To reach the promised land, we have to believe that it exists, and that God has a better future in store than the past we are leaving behind.

Delight I think has everything to do with attitude here.  Too often we look at our relationship with God as one of pure obligation and responsibility, thinking that if we suffer through, doing what we should (but not liking it very much), then someday we'll get to go to heaven and suddenly be filled with joy.  And the truth is very different from that.  In order to have joy after this life, we need to learn some now (Mormon 9:14). Also, God rewards us according to our desires (Alma 29:4-5, D&C 137:9, etc.) as well as our works.  Attitude counts, which is one reason that God offers us help with changing our hearts (Alma 5:7, Mosiah 5:2, etc.).  To really be on the same page with God and improve our relationship with him, we have to want to be there, and be happy about the things that we are working for.

Commitment is necessary in our relationship with God as well.  It's like the parable of the tower (Luke 14:28-30).  You don't start building a tower without thinking the whole thing through and knowing that you are going to be able to afford it.  Similarly, we can't enter into a covenant relationship with God and then go break it with Satan.  We have to choose "this day" to serve the Lord (Moses 6:33, Joshua 24:15, Alma 30:8).

Today, let's work on trusting that God has a happy ending in store for us, and let's enjoy the story with that in mind, continuing to turn the pages and never stopping or giving up until we reach that promised day.

Monday, August 19, 2019

D&C 78:6 -- On Equality and Generosity

"For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;"
D&C 78:6

Sometimes I think we are so used to disparity in life that it is hard for us to even imagine what parity looks like.  The idea of "no poor among them" (Moses 7:18) is an awesome ideal, but we often run into problems trying to understand how to implement the idea in real life, and commonly the thought of being equal seems to be okay unless it results in us losing what we have now.

Since it is hard to look at from our own perspective, maybe taking a look at God's perspective (or at least as close as we can imagine) might help.  Essentially, God is offering us everything that he has, to share with him... that's what heaven is all about.  From that perspective, we kind of seem like bratty children that haven't learned to share, and maybe in some ways we are.

Today, let's think of some ways that we can work on generosity in our lives.  Let's remember what God does for us, and all that he offers us, and focus on trying to share that love and goodness with others. :)  The more we work on equality here, the closer we will be to heaven.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Romans 8:32 -- On Sacrifice

"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
Romans 8:32

This verse struck me today because I guess it made me look at God's sacrifice in a different way.  Normally I guess I find God's perspective sort of alien.  He knows everything, and death is just a doorway to him, rather than the more permanent, earthly perspective that we learn here.

This verse made the whole experience seem more like what I imagine the story of Abraham was when he took his son Isaac to sacrifice him... even though he had been saved from the same thing himself, and that was one of the reasons he sought the Lord.  Everything in his individual experience was probably crying out against it, but he also had complete faith in the Lord, and that won out.  He was willing to do whatever God asked.  ... And maybe one of the reasons that God asked it was so that Abraham, and by extension all of us upon hearing and knowing the story, could understand what he was going through in sacrificing his son for our sake.

As Paul says here... if he was willing to allow that to happen to his son, for our sake, then what would he not be willing to give us, at least in terms of things that will help us rather than hurt us? :)

Today, let's remember on maybe a more personal level how much God really loves us and wants to help us in our lives.  Let's go to him with our joy as well as our sorrow, and honor the counsel that he gives us, and his sacrifice.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Proverbs 29:23 -- On Pride and Honor

"A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit."
Proverbs 29:23

The whole idea of pride bringing us low is an interesting one, and perhaps is a good thing to ponder as we examine our own interactions with the world.  I think often we choose an unkind response because we feel vulnerable or like we need to protect ourselves, or like we need to stand up to someone or win an argument, when in actuality being able to let it go is a much better move that will bring us more peace and more respect/honor from those around us.

Today, let's remember that conflict or putting others down is not the right choice, and let's look for another way.  Let's stifle that urge to have the last word or to punish someone else for our embarrassment.  I'm not saying it is easy.... I think it often requires some help from God to calm down or back down when emotions are high.  However, humility is a better choice, not just for the people around us, but for ourselves, and the people that we can choose to be who are kind, loving, in control of their own emotions, and at peace.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Genesis 3:21 -- On Trials and Reliance on God

"Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them."
Genesis 3:21

I think it would be cool to wear clothes made by God. :)  This also makes me wonder what kind of immense learning curve Adam and Eve had upon exiting the Garden of Eden.  They might be able to use the clothes that God made as a pattern, but thorns had just been introduced (verse 18), and so they had no experience with those, or probably any harsh thing in the world.  I mean, we all have a sharp learning curve as we grow up, but they didn't have anyone to help them with any of it, except God.

I think in some ways that gave them a unique opportunity to learn reliance on the Lord, and perhaps that is also what some of the trials in our lives teach us that we couldn't learn on quite that level in any other way... that God is there, even when *all* else fails.

Today, let's look to God for our support, and for that solidness that is so lacking in the world.  He will be there for us, always, if we take the time and spare the thought to seek him.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

D&C 7:8 -- On Desires and Joy

"Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired."
Doctrine and Covenants 7:8

One thing that is interesting in the gospel, and perhaps it isn't something that we can completely comprehend yet, is the way that God deals with all of us individually and collectively.  He gives general commandments to everyone, like "Thou shalt not kill," but in Nephi's case, and even in Captain Moroni's case, there were exceptions.

God says "What I say unto one I say unto all" (D&C 93:49) in several places, but he clearly also gives us individual instruction, as illustrated in many places, but a good example is the selected verse, which is a discussion with Christ, Peter, and John.  Peter and John wanted different things, and both were granted, and both were good.

God wants us to pray and ask because part of this life is learning what we really want--and it isn't a trick question.  Our desires are important to God, and he works to help us find righteous ways to fulfil them.

Today, let's go to God with our desires.  They are unlikely to be instantly fulfilled, but God does want to talk with us individually about them, and to help us find joy.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

2 King 15:34 -- On Our Verse

"And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord: he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done."
2 King 15:34

This verse is in the middle of a lot of similar ones about this or that guy who ruled for this or that amount of time and did "that which was evil" (verse 28) or that which was right.  And it kind of reduces down their lives to the central essence, right?  Were they good or bad?

I think that might be a perspective worth looking at for our own lives.  Today, let's step back and really examine that question... are we good or bad?  And, you know, if there is a lot of bad in there, let's work on changing that.  Let's make sure we like what our entry in the book of life will say, even if it is only a verse.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Psalms 42:11 -- On Disquiet and Hope

"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."
Psalms 42:11

This scripture struck me today because I could relate to it maybe a little too much. :)  And maybe we all have times when we feel similarly: cast down or disquieted.  Nephi also wondered something similar: "why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow?" (2 Nephi 4:26).

What I like especially about this verse is the "advice to self" part.  It starts out "hope thou in God,"  but gets even more specific, reminding himself (and us) that God is the health of the countenance... meaning that if we are upset or have any kind of negative emotion at all, God is the solution.  He can help.

I like that whole concept, because sometimes we feel stuck in a mood that we can't see a way out of, and when that happens, God will have the answer.  He'll help us know what we need to do, or say, or apologize for, or whatever, to feel okay again.

Today, let's turn to God for hope, and the resolution of whatever is disquieting our souls.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Alma 36:22 -- On Attitude

"Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there."
Alma 36:22

This is a great vision that Alma saw after his miraculous conversion, and I like that he saw God and wanted to be there with him... I think we would probably all want that if we were granted a similar glimpse.  One thing that stood out to me in this brief vision were the angels who were "in the attitude" of singing and praising.  It kind of reminded me of singing with my family, which was always enjoyable, even if we sometimes messed up the lyrics. :)

The word "attitude" in there also struck me (perhaps because I have been thinking about my own today), and it made me wonder what our lives would be like if we had more of an attitude of singing and praising rather than a contrasting attitude such as "the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers" (1 Nephi 8:27) for instance.

Today, let's take a look at our attitudes, and try to move them more towards the angels of heaven rather than the people in the great and spacious building.  Let's be legitimately thankful to God and kind and open with others, and do what we can to make the atmosphere around us better and not worse.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

2 Corinthians 12:8 -- On When God Says No

"For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me."
2 Corinthians 12:8

There is a gap between the Lord's will and our own wills that we don't always really understand.  Here, Paul asks the Lord to take away an unknown infirmity or "thorn in the flesh" three times, and the Lord basically says no, telling Paul "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."

So, how does this mesh with Christ's admonition to "ask, and it shall be given," or that "according to your desires, yea, even according to your faith shall it be done unto you" (D&C 11:17)?  Sometimes if our prayers for relief or healing aren't answered, that we think we are worthless or lacking--that we just aren't good enough or faithful enough to be delivered.  And yet here we have the example of a very righteous man who was denied what he asked, as well as the ultimate example of Christ himself, who asked the Father to take away the metaphorical cup he was asked to drink, and also was essentially told no (though an angel came to strengthen him, so his prayer was also answered, as Paul's was, in a different way).

Perhaps the problem is not that we don't have faith, but only in how we are directing our faith.  Are we trying to pin our faith to a certain outcome, or are we investing it in the Lord and his will?  Working out our salvation involves not only "fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12) but communicating, which is why God tells us to ask.  He wants to talk to us about it.  If it was just wanting something, he could give it to us as soon as we thought of it.  And as he did for Paul and for Christ, God *will* answer our prayers and wants to give us amazing gifts.  They just aren't always going to be exactly what we ask for, because sometimes we ask for things that will harm ourselves or others, and other times, God is planning to give us something much better.  If we talk it out with him, then he will help us to understand why. *Everything* that God does is for our good, and will work towards our ultimate joy, and that's what we have to have faith in.

We all have talents and trials, and those things help us to work together... to match our strengths to other's weaknesses so that we are all interconnected in helping one another with the things that are hard for us.  We can be healed and overcome our weaknesses in many instances, but in other things, we have to learn patience and faith.  Today, let's not beat ourselves up if we can't overcome all of our weaknesses.  Instead, like Paul, let's "take pleasure in infirmities," because it provides us a chance to lean on the Lord and feel his grace in our lives, making up for everything that we are not, or haven't become yet.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Acts 22:26-28 -- On Citizens of God's Kingdom

"When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.
Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.
And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born."
Acts 22:26-28

This is interesting because it depicts the stratification of earthly societies, but also gives us a background as a contrast to other things that are going on in the New Testament. In Paul's day a Roman citizen had privileges that other people didn't have.  Some people were born citizens, others had to work really hard to obtain the privilege, and of course to others the chance to be a citizen was beyond reach.

God tells us "Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another;" (Mosiah 23:7).  Also, at this time in the New Testament, the gospel was being preached to the Gentiles specifically because of a revelation that God had blessed Peter with where he realized "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:" (Acts 10:34).

Today, no matter what society says, let's remember that we should not be "supposing that [we] are better one than another;" (Alma 5:54).  And although God does bless his followers, he offers those blessings to anyone who is willing to make those covenants with him.  God loves us all, and we are *all* free born to him--citizens of God's kingdom, and children in his family.  Let's not think less, or more highly, of ourselves than we ought to, and let's accord other people the same regard, treating them as equals, and as family.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Jude 1:24-25 -- On Falling and Becoming Faultless

"Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen."
Jude 1:24-25

I like the idea here that God can keep us from falling, and present us faultless.  That's actually really incredible... perhaps more so the more I think about it.

I know that I certainly can't keep myself from falling, or present myself faultless.  None of us can do that for ourselves--only Christ can do it for us, even after we have fallen down and have plenty of faults.  He can do this because he suffered in our stead, to save us.  He gives us the opportunity to repent and change and to keep learning and growing.

Life is kind of like juggling chainsaws, right?  One slip and it is over (and very messy).  And, not really having enough experience with jugging *or* chainsaws, still we try.  Everyone knows the ending to that story, except Christ can pick up the pieces and make us new, and able to try again.  He essentially gives us the ability to make mistakes... to mess up and learn from it.  Through him we are reborn, and able to change and choose more wisely.

Today, let's give praise to God who has the power to put us back together better than we were before, and if we work with him and are willing to change, can someday present us faultless... which is something that is so amazing it's almost beyond comprehension.  Let's work towards that day, rejoicing and thankful.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Alma 34:3-4 -- On Making Time for the Spirit

"And as ye have desired of my beloved brother that he should make known unto you what ye should do, because of your afflictions; and he hath spoken somewhat unto you to prepare your minds; yea, and he hath exhorted you unto faith and to patience—
Yea, even that ye would have so much faith as even to plant the word in your hearts, that ye may try the experiment of its goodness."
Alma 34:3-4

This is part of the story of Alma and Amulek teaching the gospel to the Zoramites, and I think the lesson here is probably applicable to us as well.  We probably all get rebellious and impatient sometimes.  Amulek talks here of preparing our minds, and exercising faith and patience.

Learning the gospel, communing with God, and even reading the scriptures aren't things that we can just rush through and be done with.  They take time, and patience, just as with the analogy of the word as a seed, planted in our hearts.

Today, maybe we should make some time to read and study and pray and listen, really making room for the spirit in our lives rather than trying to rush through all the distracting things in life.  Let's make sure we make God a high priority, and take the time to nurture the word in our lives, and never let it wither and die in our hearts.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Proverbs 13:10 -- On Pride and Peace

"Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom."
Proverbs 13:10

This is an interesting verse, and I think maybe we can learn something from it.  We can call to mind the contentions in our lives, and ask ourselves how our pride plays into those interactions.  It seems like there has to be pride on both sides.  Christ was never drawn into an argument, because that isn't God's way to solve problems... and often the problems don't even have to *exist* if we could let go of our pride and back down, focusing on the areas where we are similar, rather than the areas where we are different.

At least with me, there are often times when I want to have the last word, or I feel like I need to make my point, or I feel like things are unfinished or broken, and I think often it is because I want to soothe my ego and tell myself that I am in the right, when that part actually doesn't even matter.  In 3 Nephi 11:29, Christ tells us "he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention."  Maybe there isn't any real righteous reason to be at odds with someone else.

Today, let's seriously think about the effects of our pride on our lives and the way we interact with others.  Are there better ways that we can handle the potential conflicts in our lives? Can we let go of the last word, and find common ground?  As the well-advised, let's endeavor to follow Christ's example and find ways to be at peace with one another.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Proverbs 29:12 -- On Lies, Adaptation, and God's Ways

"If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked."
Proverbs 29:12

This is interesting, and teaches the concept that we tend to live according to the rules of whatever game we are in.  If lying can get us a few more points with the ruler, then we tend to do that.  God, however, asks us to resist the influence of the world and the rules of the current game and to live by a higher, better law.

I think we all experience this as we go throughout life.  We get really good at mastering the rules in one context, and then we change jobs, or schools, or families, or some other context, and the rules are suddenly different and we have to readjust. Sometimes this is good, because we are learning a better way of doing things, and sometimes it is worse, where we might feel that we have to compromise our beliefs and principles in order to survive or compete in that context.

God teaches us a way to be whole and solid, and to not be swayed by circumstance.  He teaches us how to be people who can live in a Zion society, where there are no deceptions or changing rules, but we can be honest and good and not have to worry that we will be mocked or taken advantage of.  He teaches us to be that kind of person now, and to *change* the rules so that other people follow our examples and live better lives.

Today, let's be wise rulers, not hearkening to lies, as well as righteous servants, who can be trusted even when all around us are corrupt.  Let's stay true to God, our ruler who never hearkens to lies, and learn his ways rather than the world's ways.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Alma 36:9 -- On Freedom and Change

"And he said unto me: If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God."
Alma 36:9

This is part of Alma the younger's conversion experience, and this part stood out to me today because it seems to emphasize freedom.  I mean, the appearance of an angel seems like a really big deal, but as we know from Laman and Lemuel, and as we see even more clearly here, God doesn't send angels to force people to believe.  They still clearly get a choice, and I think that is cool.

We know that free agency is important enough to fight for because we know the war in heaven (Revelation12:7) was fought over it.  I'm not sure that we can know exactly why free agency is so important to God, but I'm guessing it has to do with our spiritual maturity and that we really need to learn who we are as people, and as sons and daughters of God, in order to find our way in this life and find our happiness after this life. 

It is interesting that we fight for freedom so idealistically, but are sometimes tempted to let go of our freedoms in exchange for safety... that isn't what God asks of us, and not a trade that he will make.  For him, freedom is so valuable that he allows us to make mistakes and harm each other, and incorporates even our bad choices into his plan.

There are of course limits to any freedom, because what we do affects others as well as ourselves.   Our ability to make our own choices is that important to God, and is important enough that Alma was allowed to keep rebelling if he wanted to.  The angel was just there to protect the church.

Today, let's be thankful for our freedom, and use it wisely.  And maybe also remember that if God is protecting our freedom so strongly and carefully, that there is incredible potential in it.  Let's not blow off our choices and just zombie through life.  Let's make some positive things happen, and change things for the better. :)

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Psalms 63:1 -- On Spiritual Thirst

"O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;"
Psalms 63:1

I like the idea of spiritual thirst.  I think it feels like that sometimes in our lives, like we are wandering around in a desert and there is nothing there to drink or even to shade us from the heat.  And when we encounter God in that spiritual desert, he is like air conditioning and a bottomless well of sweet water to our souls. :)

Today, let's remember that God can fill the emptiness in our lives, and the joy of quenching that spiritual thirst by feeling his love.  Instead of hanging back, thirsty for what we need, let's go to him and work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12; Alma 34:37).  He won't turn us away.  He knows us already, and loves us still.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Psalms 126:5 -- On Reaping Joy

"They that sow in tears shall reap in joy."
Psalms 126:5

This is a good thing to remember.  Although a lot of the things that we do in life are hard, if they are things that the Lord approves of, and part of our work to lift ourselves and other people to his level and walk on his path, not one instant of that effort is wasted.  We are planting the seeds of life and hope and joy, and although we often do not see them growing, they always lead to good.

Just as Noah, the Brother of Jared, and Nephi couldn't see where the vessels they built would lead them and yet they still built them, so too is our work.  We can't see where we are going to end up, but we *know* that we are headed to the promised land. :)

Today, let's trust in the joy that is coming.  Though we may walk through sorrow and pain now, and perhaps we feel our current efforts are of little use... doing God's will is always the right thing to do, and will always move us towards happiness, both eternally and in this life, even though we can't see it right away.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Psalms 32:7 -- On God as Our Hiding Place

"Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah."
Psalms 32:7

This is beautiful.  I love the idea of God being our hiding place.  Not saying that we don't need to face the world, because we do... but sometimes we also need a break from that, and a place to hide and recover.  And when those times come, God is there for us, always, providing that companionship and protection that we need even when there is nothing else.

Today, let's thank God for all that he does for us and helps us with, which is really everything, but you know, we can come up with some specifics. :)  He loves us so much... let's get to know God better and love him in return, and try to be there for other people the way he is there for us. :)

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Acts 2:44-45 -- On Zion and Sharing and Making a Difference

"And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need."
Acts 2:44-45

I like this idea as part of what it takes to be a Zion society.  We can't let people suffer in poverty (Moses 7:18; Deuteronomy 15:4).  And maybe, yeah, there are a lot of problems with trying to implement something like this, especially if it is government based rather than church- or God-based.  Even so though, it doesn't mean that we can't try moving closer to the Zion ideal and finding ways to help each other, and to serve each other better.  Indeed, as James explains "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, / And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?" (James 2:15-16). Thinking about these things is good, but *doing* something about them is what is necessary.

Today, let's think about ways that we can move closer to being Zion-like people, and doing good to God's children.  How can we help the poor and the needy?  How can we assist the sick and the afflicted? What can we do individually, and how can we influence the world for good?  Let's think about it, and then let's make a plan for how we are going to make a difference in our lives, even if it is just a very small step.  Let's not be satisfied with just letting other people deal with it.  Let's be part of the change that we would like to see in the world, and lead the way by doing something about it.

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