Monday, September 30, 2019

Zechariah 14:9 -- On God as the King of Earth

"And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one."
Zechariah 14:9

This idea of God as an earthly king seems so mind-boggling and far away that it seems totally out of reach, but this is God we are talking about, so it isn't really out of reach at all.  Can you imagine God being the actual political leader of the earth, and what would change, and how things would be different?  It's an immense idea, and one that won't happen until the Second Coming, along with all the rest of the things this chapter talks about, but it's cool to think about.

The scriptures tell us of the city of Enoch and the people in 3rd Nephi after Christ visited the Americas, and those times seem so amazing, I think probably a lot of us want to jump into the pages and be there. :)  Cool to think that someday it will really happen again... and we can be part of it, whether we are working towards that day, or get the chance to live it.

And you know, even if it isn't something that we experience in this life, that is what all of this is working towards anyway, right?  That return to God and the "rest from all [our] troubles and from all care, and sorrow" (Alma 40:12).  Today, let's be willing to make God our primary focus and priority in our hearts and everyday lives, and work towards the day when he can bring his kingdom to bless us all.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Ezekiel 11:19-21 -- On Stone to Flesh Hearts

"And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:
That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord God."
Ezekiel 11:19-21

There are a lot of cool ideas here.  The trade of stony hearts for hearts of flesh, the idea of the covenant between people and God, and the idea of getting our actions dumped back on our own heads.

These are all ways that God works with us... the stone-to-flesh hearts seems to be referring to how God helps us to stay sensitive to the spirit and not become "past feeling" (Ephesians 4:19, 1 Nephi 17:45). 

The covenant to be people and God is similar... at least part of the agreement we all make with God is to allow him to guide us, and he agrees to guide us--it has to work both ways, as the old proverb about horses and water teaches us.  No matter what our relationship to God is at the moment, we both play a part.  No matter how much God speaks, we can't gain anything if we aren't listening.  Being willing to follow does zero good if we don't have a leader.  Everything we accomplish with God has to be both of us working together.  We can't put it all on him, and he never puts it all on us.

In the end, what we get involves to a very great extent what we give.  This is true in our relationship with God, but also our relationship with other people and our willingness to feel and use our hearts rather than turning them to stone. :)

Today, let's have hearts of flesh, keep God's ordinances and our side of the agreement with God, and make sure that when our ways come back on our heads that it is going to be a good thing. :)  And if we aren't there yet, then let's remember the immense gift of repentance, and go back a few steps and with God's help, change stone to flesh again, and do it better this time. :)

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Mark 10:42-45 -- On Being Great and Being One

"But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Mark 10:42-45

Earth life seems so focused on the individual sometimes.  Earlier in the chapter Jesus teaches that in the creation there was male and female--a group (verse 6).  Thinking about that earlier context, this lesson about leadership and success also seems to be emphasizing that group concept--that we are meant to work together, not singly, and depend on one another and help each other.  Even working out our "own salvation" (Philippians 2:12. Mormon 9:27) is not just defined by our relationship with God, but also by our relationship to other people.  After all, the two great commandments which encompass all of the rest are to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.  Our relationship with others is what the gospel is all about.

Not that being an individual is a bad thing.  We're here to learn and to make decisions that other people can't learn or make for us, but it is all part of the whole.  In building relationships with God and other people, and in serving others and helping them... that is how we learn about ourselves and find out who and what we are.  As Matthew 10:39 says, "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."

Today, let's think about ourselves in the context of our relationships with others, especially God.  Let's remember that we're part of a community and the way to greatness, and even salvation and self-knowledge is not through focusing on the self, but on how we interact with and serve others.  D&C 38:27 says "if ye are not one ye are not mine," interestingly encouraging us to be more than one--unified.  Let's work to build our groups and communities and families and world, not just ourselves.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Proverbs 6:16 -- On Avoiding Abomination

"These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."
Proverbs 6:16

This list is interesting.  I don't think that these are the things that I would have chosen if I were to choose a list of things that the Lord hates, but maybe that is because I want that list to be much further away from my own actions than this list is. :)

Talking about proud looks reminds me of the parable in Luke 14:7 about where to sit at a wedding... that you should sit in a lower place than you think you deserve so that you don't get embarrassed when someone asks you to move down.  Kind of reminds me of Thanksgivings when I was younger, and who had to sit at the "kid table." :)  Honestly some good advice to always be willing to symbolically take the lower position... removes a lot of competitive angst from our lives.

Lying tongues, wicked imaginations, and false witnesses that speak lies all seem to be going in a similar direction with regard to deception, but specific types of deception that can harm others. Obviously basing relationships or court testimony on lies can be super harmful... but the wicked imagination thing made me think of books or movies that are all about evil things, and that promote bad things or the triumph of the bad guys.  Even though we understand it is fiction, it can still harm us if we learn to root for or glorify evil.

Innocent blood covers murder, but perhaps other things as well.  I sure hope it doesn't cover mosquitoes, but I suppose it could.  It is a good reminder that we need to take a closer look at our actions and consider and respect the life that God grants, not only to ourselves, but to other creatures.

The sowing discord thing seems like one of the most common ones to me.  So many things could fall under that... gossip, political rants, complaints--really, anything that doesn't promote love and unity.  I think this one likely requires some serious thought about how to avoid sowing discord in our lives.

Today, let's think about some of these things, and try not to do the things the Lord hates.  Let's work on not running quickly into mischief, or into any of the rest of these questionable activities.  Let's talk to God about how we can do better and be better in our lives, and as examples to others.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Moses 1:6-8 -- On God Showing Moses Just One Thing

"And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.
And now, behold, this one thing I show unto thee, Moses, my son, for thou art in the world, and now I show it unto thee.
And it came to pass that Moses looked, and beheld the world upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered."
Moses 1:6-8

This is great stuff, all of it, but my favorite part is when God says to Moses in the second verse of the selection "this one thing I show unto thee."  After that, God shows Moses the entire world and it sounds like the whole history of it, with everyone who will ever live.  And all of that, which is practically everything to us, was just one thing to God.

I think it is a good reminder that God's ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).  We so often think that we can outdo God--that our reasoning can catch him in a mistake or an error, or that we could do better or something equally inconceivable (as in truly unimaginable, not in a Princess Bride way).

Today, let's remember that the entire world and everything we know is just one thing to God, and that we aren't going to outthink or outdo him. Let's try and allow ourselves to admit that God's thoughts and ways and plans are higher than and superior to ours, and get that tiniest bit of humility, so that we can approach God with the right attitude, asking for his help because we all need it, and he is the source of wisdom that we just can't yet comprehend.  ... And so that we can begin to understand his love for us, his children.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Psalms 40:17 -- On the Lord Thinking Upon Us

"But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God."
Psalms 40:17

This struck me today because I think we all feel poor and needy sometimes, whether financially, spiritually, physically, or emotionally.  And it is an amazing thing that despite our neediness, of whatever kind, that the Lord thinks about us, and loves us.

Sometimes we feel really small... just one among billions, and our insignificance can seem overwhelming.  And yet, God, the creator of all things... the *most* significant, know our names, and knows who we are, and wants to have a personal relationship with us.

In terms of obedience, we're often symbolically "less than the dust of the earth," as it is written in Helaman 12:7, but as for our inherent value, this verse applies far more: "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;" (D&C 18:10).

Today, let's remember that God's plan is all about us, and that he desires every single one of us to come home to him.  Let's not feel small, except when it comes to motivating ourselves to follow God's plan more perfectly. :)  We matter to him, and that means that we matter to each other and the whole universe... all of his creations.  Let's pray and develop a relationship with God, so that we can always know that we are not alone, and that he "thinketh upon" us every day.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Psalms 92:4 -- On Gladness and Triumph

"For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands."
Psalms 92:4

One thing that the scriptures are for is to show us the work of God's hands--how he has dealt with people in the past and the works he has done in the past so that we can know who he is, and what to expect in our own lives and our future dealings with God.

God teaches us a lot about ourselves through the scriptures as well.  We see examples of different types of people and reactions to the Lord's commandments that we can relate to.  The prophets were fallible, just like we are, and they didn't always do what God wanted the first time he asked.

The end result of God's work in our lives is always good, and something that brings joy.  It doesn't always seem that way at first though, I know.  The death of a loved one, or a sad medical diagnosis, or many things that we suffer because of the bad choices of others... or even our own choices... they don't seem good at the time, and it is hard to see the good in them anywhere.  And yet God says to us, as he said to Joseph Smith, "...if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good" (D&C 122:7).

Today, with the advantage of hindsight, let's look back on our lives and think about why some of the bad or hard things in the past happened.  Perhaps a job or a house was lost, but those things prepared us for a better situation later.  Perhaps we lost people, to death or through alienation, and it taught us to be more reliant on God.  There are going to be things that we can't see the good in as well, just like Jonah couldn't see the good in Nineveh, but the things that we *can* see show us the pattern that exists within all of God's works.  God *will* make us glad and help us to triumph, if we have faith in him and stay the course of the gospel.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Revelation 21:6-8 -- On Beginnings and Endings

"And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."
Revelation 21:6-8

The idea that God is the beginning and the end is kind of cool.  He's where we came from and where we are going.  It talks about overcoming in order to inherit, and I think that's where trials come in... they are built in to life, this in-between time between God and God.  They aren't typical of our experience, but this life gives us a chance to live, understand, and know in a way that we couldn't experience otherwise... in a weird way I think it is our one chance to be truly independent.  This place is set up to present bad things in an enticing way.  I don't think that is something we could believe for a moment in the actual presence of God.  With him there, we'd look at the icing on the cake of dirt and know it for what it was, and we'd always have the answers.

We still can have all the answers, but in this context it requires faith rather than it being as obvious as sunlight.  As we learn the difference between good and evil, and develop faith and so many other things, we have this one, unique chance to learn who we are, and to learn what having a body is all about, and the associated danger and potential.

Today, let's take this laundry list of bad things and maybe work on scratching some of them off of our own lists. :)  Let's take some initiative since we have all of this freedom and independence and let's choose the water of life over the lake of fire and brimstone.  Horrible aftertaste. :)  Let's remember that God is the set of bookends to everything we do and are.  This is our volume--let's make sure it is a good story with a happy ending.  With his help, it can be, no matter what this chapter looks like.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

1 Peter 4:12 -- On Thinking it Not Strange

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:"
1 Peter 4:12

This is similar to 1 Corinthians 10:13, which tells us "there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man." ... And on one hand I think it is comforting to know that temptations and trials happen to other people, even the ones that seem super unique to us.  It means that other people can relate, and maybe even help.  On the other hand, knowing that someone else has suffered similarly doesn't necessarily make it easier.

One thing that does help, I think, is knowing that God knows how to solve the problem.  1 Corinthians 10:13 continues, explaining that God always makes a way to escape, and makes our burdens possible to bear.  Because Christ suffered for us, he really does know what it is like to be in our shoes, and how to comfort us, and help us know how to get through it.

Another thing that helps, at least for me, is realizing that it is "not strange," and by that I mean not just that this one has happened before, but remembering that trials and temptations are a normal, expected part of life.  We go through life sometimes thinking that it is supposed to be smooth and untroubled--but that isn't the way life is supposed to be at all.  This is a training ground to teach us how to handle a body, which is a huge undertaking all by itself, and then also to figure ourselves out as a spirit and body combination... and help others with all of the above as well.  Trials are part of the deal.  The combination of knowing that they are coming, and knowing that we *can* get through them... I think that is what helps.

Today, let's remember that trials (even the fiery ones) are not strange, but pretty normal.  Let's try to get past the "being mad that we have to face hard things" stage, and move on to the "how can I solve this" or "what do I need to learn from this" stage.  If possible, let's take the problems that come and use  them as the impetus to change for the better. :)

Saturday, September 21, 2019

D&C 38:7-9 -- On Vision and Veils

"But behold, verily, verily, I say unto you that mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me;
But the day soon cometh that ye shall see me, and know that I am; for the veil of darkness shall soon be rent, and he that is not purified shall not abide the day.
Wherefore, gird up your loins and be prepared. Behold, the kingdom is yours, and the enemy shall not overcome."
Doctrine and Covenants 38:7-9

The idea that God is in our midst and that we just can't see him is kind of a cool idea.  Also a little scary if we have anything to hide, but not all that different because we already knew that he was aware... just being here seems a little closer.

The idea of that changing... of being aware of God's presence every day... also seems amazingly cool, and also a little scary, or maybe just interesting--how will life change if the veil is rent and we can see God?  And, if it is the same veil, if we have our pre-mortal memories back?

Some cool things to think about today... and more reason to follow the admonition in the final verse of the selection and to be prepared.  One day we will knowingly stand in the presence of God, and all of the distractions and illusions of the world will be brushed aside like a cobweb.  We'll have a perfect knowledge of the way things really are.  Will we be ready for that?  Will we be prepared, having put those eternal things first, and made the things of God our first priority?  If not, perhaps we should think about who we will be when nothing is hidden.

Friday, September 20, 2019

2 Corinthians 5:14-18 -- On What We Live For

"For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: cold things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;"
2 Corinthians 5:14-18

It's interesting here when it says "that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves."  ... Maybe one of the most powerful parts of the atonement is to pull us out of that self-centered absorption that so often leads us astray.  Our reliance on God isn't a weakness at all, but a blessing and a reminder to get outside ourselves and consider others--the fact that we *need* more than ourselves helps us get our heads in the right place to think farther than our own bodies and our personal agendas.

I also love the idea of "the ministry of reconciliation" here.  One definition for reconcile is to restore to harmony or friendship, and I think that is pretty much what the gospel is--to get us all into harmony, with God and with each other--in a happy way, not a Stepford Wives way or a Borg assimilation plot. :)   Coming to earth and getting a body throws us all into disharmony at some point.  We have these desires that we don't always know how to handle in a righteous way, and we all mess it up sometimes... but the atonement is there, pulling us back together, helping us learn how to be whole again and how to be restored to that unity that some part of us always misses.

Today, let's become new creatures--living for something besides ourselves, and finding that harmony with God and through him, with the world around us.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Acts 18:24-26 -- On Eloquence and Education

"And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly."
Acts 18:24-26

I love the phrase "mighty in the scriptures."  It seems like something to aspire to.  The cool thing about Apollos is that he wasn't just eloquent and mighty in the scriptures--he was also humble enough to learn from Aquila and Priscilla when they taught him more than he already knew.  Someone so knowledgeable and fervent could certainly have thought that he knew more, or that they were deluded.  It is easy to get prideful about being good at something... but this guy listened, and learned, and became a powerful force in speaking for Christ (verse 28).

In 2 Nephi 9:28-29 we read that for many people, "when they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God," but that "to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God."  Apollos was on the good side I think, and that's something that we can also strive for.  God wants us to learn about him, about his gospel, about the world, about other people... there is so much knowledge that can help us, and that he wants to share.  But as we learn, it's important to keep our focus on God, and make sure that we don't start thinking of *ourselves* as the font of wisdom. :)

Today, let's remember Apollos, and his humility before God despite his great knowledge and eloquence.  Let's be like him, putting God first, and being willing to learn, and revise our views based on whatever additional truth God sends us.  Let's listen to God and his apostles and prophets, and to the spirit as we work to apply truth and knowledge in our lives and do good with our own knowledge and eloquence. :)

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Revelation 18:6 -- On Rewards and Repentance

"Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double."
Revelation 18:6

In context, this verse is written as a condemnation and judgement of the city Babylon, which symbolically represents evil / sinfulness.  Interestingly though, it is the same idea of restoration which we see elsewhere in the scriptures, that can also be used as a reward.  If we are rewarded as we reward others, and our own works are doubled and returned to us, or we have to drink the same beverage that we have offered to others, that can either be really bad or really good.  The thing is... it is our choice.

It's an interesting way to judge, and combined with repentance, is miraculously fair, merciful, *and* just.  We get rewarded for who we become... good or bad.  Christ suffers for the mistakes we make and that we repent of, but the things that we don't change come back to us--whoever we are we get back in return, even more so.  We don't get anyone else's decisions dumped on us--only our own.

Since we're all going to face a similar final judgement, today maybe we can think about what is going to come back to us, and whether is is a good thing or a bad thing.  If it isn't good, then we still have time... time to change, to repent, to take advantage of the atonement of Jesus Christ and to start putting out some better works and rewards and beverages than we have before.  This is one reason why God tells us that if we have done it unto the least of our brethren, we've done it unto God--because we're all connected, and everything that we give out returns to us, just as though the only person that we are ever interacting with is God, because he is the one with the power to send both the good and the bad back to us, as self-chosen and ultimately appropriate self-rewards.  Let's make some good choices, and heed God's counsel as he tries to help us.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Alma 10:5-6 -- On Hearing and Knowing

"Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.
Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart, even until the fourth day of this seventh month, which is in the tenth year of the reign of the judges."
Alma 10:5-6

This is Amulek speaking, and I think that his story is a familiar one.  We use ignorance as an excuse a lot when it comes to God, but we know a lot more than we realize.  The idea of refusing to hear is not the way we think about it, perhaps, but it's the same basic truth even if we put it in nicer terms, like allowing our fear of responsibility to block out the voice of God in our lives.

Today, let's pay more attention to what God is teaching us every hour of our lives.  Let's stop refusing to know things that we know, and let's hear and see the things around us as well.  It's scary, but also amazing and empowering to admit God into our lives and to recognize his hand and his voice in our lives.  Let's take the next step, as Amulek did, and after we learn to stop rebelling, maybe we can learn to take some good advice. :)

Monday, September 16, 2019

Psalms 25:4-8 -- On Yearning to Learn

"Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.
Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way."
Psalms 25:4-8

This is beautiful... not necessarily the description of anything, but the idea.  This is that childlike humility that we sometimes look for, expressed in a prayer to God, to help us learn, to lead us, to remember mercy and to not remember our past mistakes, and please, please to remember us in mercy, and to teach us despite the fact that we are still sinners.  It's a good prayer, a good song... a beautiful expression of what we all desperately need, even though sometimes we're too proud to say so.

Today, let's think about all the ways that we need the Lord in our lives... all the things that we would prefer that he overlook from our pasts, and our desire to learn from him despite our current sins.  We don't need to pray this particular prayer, but perhaps it can be a help to us in constructing our own--telling God what we desperately need help with in order to be a better person, and a plea for his guidance and help as we strive to improve.  Let's reach and stretch and learn to become more like God, and not more hardened and resistant like the world around us.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Psalms 10:11-14 -- On Delayed Justice

"He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it.
Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.
Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? he hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it.
Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless."
Psalms 10:11-14

The first line of this Psalm asks why God stands afar off, and hides himself in times of trouble, and the first line here represents the thoughts of the wicked, similarly... that God has forgotten and is hidden, and that he won't ever take note of what the wicked do.  ... That the Lord won't "require it" or ever make them/us face justice.  Later in the Psalm, we are reminded that the Lord will hear, and judge, "that the man of the earth may no more oppress" (verses 17-18).

The appeal of the future that God has promised--eternity and resurrection and eternal life--isn't just in prolonging the kind of lives that we have now, but in promising us a better world.  A place where the wicked (including ourselves) don't get away with their wickedness, or go unpunished.  A place where Mercy lives, of course, but where Justice also lives without having to hide, or be left unsatisfied.  And the only way those two things can meet is through Jesus Christ, who pays the price of Justice in order to bestow Mercy.

Christ doesn't pay for our sins and then let us spit in Justice's face though... at least not at the final judgement.  It can't work that way.  Justice must prevail, and wrongs must be righted.  Wounds must be healed.  Repentance works, but it also requires work--we have to change our hearts and our minds and our selves so that we become the people who would not do what we are repenting for.  Only then is the circle complete.  Christ's atonement gives us the time and the space to get there, avoiding that instant justice that we often want to see happen to others ("Break thou the arm of the wicked and the evil" in verse 15), but not to ourselves.

Today, let's realize that Christ doesn't offer us a free pass for bad behavior, but an opportunity, and the time, to change.  That's the answer to the first line of the Psalm.  God stands afar off and hides himself in times of trouble only when he wants to give us the chance to change and to become better.  But we have to take that opportunity now, because this life is the *only* chance we are going to have for that delayed Justice.  No one wants to live in that sort of a place forever.  We want to live in a better place, where bad things don't happen... and that is the kind of place we are headed for.  So much better than what we have, but without the unique opportunity we have now.  Let's take the opportunity that we have to really think about who we want to be, and if it isn't who we are, to get that help that God offers to change ourselves.  Justice, however delayed, will come, and the amazingly beautiful and perfect new world will also come.  Let's be ready. :)

Saturday, September 14, 2019

3 Nephi 13:8-13 -- On Prayer as Connection

"Be not ye therefore like unto them, for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him.
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen."
3 Nephi 13:8-13

Christ tells us in the first verse of the selection that Heavenly Father already knows what we need.  So the example prayer becomes more interesting at that point, because although it is directed to our Father, in a lot of ways it is a conversation filled with reminders for us.  God already knows. :)  Prayer isn't about God's need for worship, but about our need to connect with God, and to understand that relationship and its importance in our lives.

Today, let's remember that we need to forgive, and avoid temptation, and look to God for help and strength.  Let's remember that His will is way more wise and appropriate than our will.  Let's look to him, respect his value in our lives, and learn to love him as he loves us.

Friday, September 13, 2019

John 6:37-39 -- On Coming to Christ

"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day."
John 6:37-39

These verses seem very hopeful to me.  I love the idea that Christ will lose nothing that the Father has given him, and from the first verse we know that if we come unto Christ he won't cast us out.  I think the trick here is not casting ourselves out, or walking away from God... because if we go to Christ and remain there, we won't be lost.

Now, of course coming unto Christ is more challenging than just stating our belief and accepting him once.  We have to come to stay, and we have to listen and act on his suggestions.  It's a continuing relationship that we need to keep working at.  The cool thing about that is we already know that Christ isn't going to bail.  He's committed to helping us make it back to our Father.  If we are committed to the same thing, then he won't leave us behind, but will continue to help us forward until we make it.

Today, let's make sure that we are doing our part and sticking with Christ.  If we are, then we can have full confidence that he will help us the rest of the way.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Isaiah 28:9-12 -- On Learning From God

"Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.
To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear."
Isaiah 28:9-12

This is interesting as kind of a description of how God teaches us.  So often we want really complex and deep revelations from God, but we are unwilling to listen to or accept the basics.  And we argue that it doesn't matter, and that we still want it, but it is like a kindergartner trying to jump into a PhD program.  There are prerequisites, and we don't have them, and unless we listen to God and learn some faith and obedience, and get the underlying structure and understanding and context for what we are looking for, we're never going to get those deeper answers that we so desperately want, and wouldn't understand them even if they were in front of us, which they likely are.

If we want answers from God, then we have to accept him as a teacher, and make a covenant with him, to listen to him and to obey him, because that is the only way we are going to get where we're going.  It's Karate Kid and waxing the car, right?  We might not understand why now, but we are learning the skills that we need to understand the bigger concepts, and to be the better and stronger people that we can be.

Today, let's try not to get impatient with God, but instead recognize that it takes time and effort and a lot of practice to learn what God offers us.  He isn't trying to keep it from us--he is only trying to prepare us so that we can learn and understand and do more.  He is offering us everything that we can handle, and all we have to do to get more is accept what we already have and incorporate it into our lives... and then more and more will be added until we run out of brainspace. :)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

1 Nephi 19:7 -- On Alternatives to Trampling

"For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words—they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels."
1 Nephi 19:7

The idea of trampling God underfoot is disturbing, and perhaps an image that will help us think about it, and avoid it.  I think we see this around us a lot, but we don't always consider how we are often treating God in our own lives as an acquaintance or even someone we would like to avoid.  In actuality, God is our best friend and the only thing 100% solid in our lives.  He doesn't do anything that isn't for our benefit, and he is willing to work with us individually to help us find our path and our potential.

Today, let's be certain that we are the ones that are esteeming God, and the things of God, to be of great worth.  Let's listen to his counsel, and find our answers and our rewards in him.  Instead, let's give God the attention, the respect, and the honor that he deserves, and allow him into our lives and our hearts permanently.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

John 3:5-8 -- On Being Born of the Spirit

"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
John 3:5-8

The division between flesh and spirit is emphasized here, and the symbolism of baptism is explained.  Baptism is the idea of being born of the spirit rather than of the flesh... of becoming a new creature, devoted to God and his spiritual pursuits and goals rather than following our own desires which are typically motivated by the flesh.  It's the idea of living a higher way.  Not that bodies are bad, because they totally aren't.  They are an incredible gift.  ... Only they have a tendency to drown out our spiritual selves if we let them, and so it is important to keep them in check, and learn to be united with our spirits ruling our bodies rather than the other way around.

I like the last verse talking about how you can tell the wind is there even though you can't see it... kind of an early primer on listening to the spirit, which is something that also happens in conjunction with baptism--receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost so that we can have that greater spiritual influence in our lives.

Today, let's make sure we are dedicated to our new spiritual lives, and if we haven't committed to that yet through baptism, then let's be willing to do so.  Let's listen to God before we listen to our own desires, and make sure we are thinking with our spirits rather than our flesh. :)

Monday, September 9, 2019

D&C 64:29-30 -- On Working for the Lord

"Wherefore, as ye are agents, ye are on the Lord’s errand; and whatever ye do according to the will of the Lord is the Lord’s business.
And he hath set you to provide for his saints in these last days, that they may obtain an inheritance in the land of Zion."
Doctrine and Covenants 64:29-30

I like the idea of being about the Lord's business.  That's basically what Christ told Mary when he was twelve years old and stayed behind in Jerusalem when his parents and family left: "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?" (Luke 2:49).  It's really how he lived his whole life, doing what God asked him to do, always, even during the maybe single time when he wanted something different.

Being on the Lord's errand makes a difference.  Doing something for God is different than doing it for ourselves.  It also might be a useful motivator.  Since we are used to doing things at work that we wouldn't necessarily choose to do if we were on vacation, that idea of duty can help us to try the things that God asks us to do, even when they are hard for us.

The concept of working for God is kind of a cool one.  It feels different than the word "obedience" which seems to get my hackles up sometimes, but working for God, well, that seems cool and important and kind of like you have the best job in the universe, right? :)  And, if you're like me and you are way more motivated to work for a boss or professor that you really like, or on a project that will make a difference, then even better... God is the coolest of them all, and his projects are the most exciting ones that exist.  Nothing else has even close to the same potential. :)

Today, if we're asking why, or having a hard time getting out of bed, or wondering what is the point--let's remember that there is a point, and it is to get in there and work for God.  No questionable ethical practices at this company, no treating its employees badly, and tons of freedom to develop your talents and design your own projects.  It's basically a perfect job.  There is work enough for everyone, and more rewards than you can possibly imagine.  ... I sound like a recruitment poster, but that's okay. :)  Let's work for the Lord, and let's work on helping and providing for others.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Mark 6:35-42 -- On Having Enough

"And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:
Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.
He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?
He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.
And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass.
And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.
And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.
And they did all eat, and were filled."
Mark 6:35-42

This is a cool miracle, but it is also cool the way that God was teaching the disciples.  The day was over and they were in the desert, and everyone was spiritually filled, but physically hungry.  They saw the problem.  They proposed a solution... send the people away so they can buy some dinner.  Time for everyone to go home.

Christ, instead, challenged their solution, and told them what to do... but they didn't know how to obey him, and asked if he meant that they should go and buy food for everyone (with an amount of money that they likely didn't have).  Instead of giving them the answer, Christ asked them to find out how much food there actually was.  They could do that, and came back with the answer.  And then Christ showed them what to do.

I find this remarkably similar to our lives.  So often we see problems and we can only think of one way to solve them, even if it isn't a very good solution.  As we communicate with God about our problems he often gives us a better solution, but we don't always know how to accomplish it... we're like okay, but I don't have that kind of resources.  And then, importantly, God, still teaching us, asks what we *do* have.  And, as he did with the disciples, he makes what we have enough.

Today, as we face the difficulties of life, let's try not to jump to the conclusion that our problems are unsolvable or that we don't have the mental, spiritual, physical, or emotional resources to solve them.  Instead, let's work with God to take an inventory of what we do have, and have faith that he can make what we have enough.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Hosea 4:1-2 -- On Truth, Mercy, and Knowledge

"Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel: for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.
By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood."
Hosea 4:1-2

Some good clarifying footnotes on this one, letting us know that "break out" means breaking bonds, and "blood toucheth blood" means bloodshed leads to bloodshed.  And a good list of some of the things that we can really get wrong.  What struck me as I was reading the list though is that the list just sounds like an average movie.  These are things that we as a society often *glory* in, rather than thinking of them as this verse does... as abhorrent.

I'm not saying never watch a movie.  I like them too.  I'm just using that as an example of how pervasive these things are in our lives, and how they leak into our perspectives as well.  Perhaps today we can think about this idea and figure out ways to eject these things from our lives a little bit more, and how to re-inject some truth, mercy, and knowledge of God into our lives instead.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Moses 8:19-21 -- On Learning from Mistakes

"And the Lord ordained Noah after his own order, and commanded him that he should go forth and declare his Gospel unto the children of men, even as it was given unto Enoch.
And it came to pass that Noah called upon the children of men that they should repent; but they hearkened not unto his words;
And also, after that they had heard him, they came up before him, saying: Behold, we are the sons of God; have we not taken unto ourselves the daughters of men? And are we not eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage? And our wives bear unto us children, and the same are mighty men, which are like unto men of old, men of great renown. And they hearkened not unto the words of Noah."
Moses 8:19-21

I like this reminder that God works to save us and give us a choice, even when we've gone over to the dark side.  Our pride gets in the way a lot, and like the "children of men" here, we want to be as cool as God's followers without any humility or other effort.  Unfortunately for us, sometimes we don't snap out of that stage, and keep wanting to be justified in being perfect the way we are instead of admitting that we are imperfect and that we need to change, and also need some help to do so.

Today, when God calls upon us to repent, let's listen to him rather than trying to justify ourselves as the embodiment of perfection just the way we are.  Let's listen rather than boasting, and learn rather than laughing at the messenger, and then drowning because we didn't.  Let's learn from their mistakes, and be open to God's help in our lives, and humble enough to be willing to improve. :)

Thursday, September 5, 2019

3 Nephi 22:7-10 -- On God's Message of Comfort

"For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.
In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.
For this, the waters of Noah unto me, for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee.
For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee."
3 Nephi 22:7-10

Sometimes we wonder why bad things happen, especially when we are doing good things and trying to make a difference for good.  In other places in the scriptures the Lord explains the why of it, about agency and justice and mercy and repentance, etc.  But sometimes when we ask those things we aren't really looking for an answer--we are just looking for comfort.  This is God offering us that comfort.

Whatever the reasons for the forsaking or the wrath, it is temporary.  God promises that he won't be angry, and that his kindness and his peace are permanent.  Today, let's remember God's beautiful message of comfort, and look forward to the time when everything will be made right.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Moroni 10:5-6 -- On Acknowledging Christ

"And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is."
Moroni 10:5-6

A good reminder of some of the basic helps that we have in making good choices.  We have the Holy Ghost, and if we can tune in to that, then we can know the truth of anything.  And while we're perfecting that tuning in process, we have a nice solid general guideline here... if it denies the Christ, it is not good.

I think that second one is something that deserves some thought in our lives.  I think it shows us how Christ-centric our lives should be.  We don't always have denials of Christ around us, but often we have an absence of Christ in our environment.  That isn't something that we should just go along with, hiding our own faith to blend in.  ... I'm not saying that we have to dance on a table and sing I am a Child of God either, but we shouldn't actively edit Christ out of our lives as we sometimes do. 

Today, let's show our own goodness by "acknowledg[ing] that he is."

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Psalms 124:7-8 -- On Souls and Snares

"Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
Psalms 124:7-8

I like the poetic feeling of this.  It is a beautiful way to think of the atonement, and the way Christ saves us from the snares that we experience on earth, and too often set for ourselves, getting too caught up in the world and neglecting the things of heaven. 

In keeping with the analogy, I think we forget how to fly, and sometimes think that our nature is to stay on the ground, but not so, and Christ reminds us of that, and lifts and strengthens us, reminding us of our eternal natures and our destiny beyond this life.

Today, let's remember who we are--not of the earth or mortality, but of spirit and immortality, and God is the one that can help us regain the sky. :)

Monday, September 2, 2019

Luke 18:17 -- On Wonder and Cynicism

"Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein."
Luke 18:17

This makes me wonder what the qualities of a child are that we should emulate.  Love and trust seems to be obvious ones, and I think that curiosity and excitement might also be up there, and probably humility.  We seem to get more cynical and less willing to risk as we "mature."

If we could receive God's kingdom with excitement and the wonder of a child, and were able to recapture that purity and awe, then maybe it would be easier to enter... and to live that way here on earth, right?  Maybe we would want to rush to talk to God and to tell him everything, and read and learn everything too, instead of seeing prayer or scripture study as a burden.

Perhaps that is something we can work on today... seeing the wonder and majesty of God, letting go of our cynicism, and being willing to go wherever God leads.  Let's see what good qualities we can bring back from our childhood, and what unwanted baggage of adulthood we can offload. :)

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Proverbs 3:1-4 -- On Obedience and Cookies

"My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:
For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.
Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:
So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man."
Proverbs 3:1-4

This is a good reminder about obedience, which we try to skirt around too often, thinking that we can pick and choose which commandments that we want to obey, or that just breaking a couple of them won't be too bad.

To me it seems like a recipe.  God gives us the recipe for life and peace, and if we put in one sixth of the ingredients, are we going to get the result promised?  By his grace, we might get a tiny part, but if we don't follow the recipe, we can't get the result. It isn't about God being too strict or not loving us... it is just plain impossible to get chocolate chip cookies if you leave out half the ingredients, and substitute in some mudballs or something instead of chocolate chips.  You might get something that looks similar, but you aren't going to want to eat them.

One of the reasons that God tells us that he will draw near to us as we draw near to him (D&C 88:63) isn't, again, because God doesn't want to be close to us, but because we can't hear his spirit if we aren't listening.  We can't build Zion with Tinker Toys.  Just like any recipe, or plan, or blueprint, it takes effort and either following exact instructions, or at least having enough experience and knowledge of what you are creating and the proper materials to know where you fit in to the overall plan so you can make things better and not worse.  And we aren't going to ever get to that stage if we don't have God's law written in our hearts.

Today, let's rethink our stance on obedience.  The word can feel restrictive and limiting... but God isn't trying to take away our personalities or prevent improvisation at all.  He asks us to be "anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness" (D&C 58:27).  All he wants to do is give us the skills that we need, and make sure that we aren't poisoning ourselves.  Let's listen to him, and learn how to follow a recipe and at least what the ingredients are for *before* we start making up our own desserts.

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