Tuesday, December 31, 2019

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 30, 2019

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 29, 2019

2 Nephi 6:16-17 -- On Deliverance

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Psalms 60:11 -- On Help

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 27, 2019

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Proverbs 11:27 -- On Finding What We Seek

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 23, 2019

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 21, 2019

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 19, 2019

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 16, 2019

Moses 4:30 -- On Words

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 13, 2019

Judges 21:25 -- On Perspective and Choices

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 12, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Isaiah 32:2 -- On Shadows and Service

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 9, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 8, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Ezekiel 37:11-14 -- On Refound Hope

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 6, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 2, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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