Monday, January 31, 2011

Doctrine and Covenants 6:36 -- On Looking to God and Trying Again

"Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not."
Doctrine and Covenants 6:36

Usually when I read this scripture I think that it means that we should trust God, and not doubt him... not be afraid that he'll leave us. If we look to him in all that we do, we'll be okay. And it does mean those things, but as I was reading today I think that maybe it means more than that. Maybe it also means that we shouldn't doubt ourselves and our ability to follow Christ. We shouldn't fear that we're lost when we make mistakes and lose the path. We should remember that God is still there, listening to us, loving us, and encouraging us to stand up, dust ourselves off, and try again.

In the verse immediately previous to this, God says "Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more." ... almost exactly what he said to the woman taken in adultery in the New Testament. And here, he says it to us.

Pain and failure are built into the human condition... they are part of the test of life. We're going to make mistakes, and screw up things that are important, and fall short of God's (and other people's, and our own) expectations. But through the atonement, God gave us the gift of being able to recover from even the worst and often-repeated mistakes. And he gave us the power to overcome our own weaknesses through joining with him.

Today, let's look unto God, and not fear failure, and not doubt God, or ourselves... because together, we can make it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Acts 26:8

"Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?"
Acts 26:8

This struck me today because I think that sometimes we don't give God enough credit. :) It is good to remember that God is like us, that we can relate to and love each other, and that we can strive to follow his example and become like him. Sometimes though, I wonder if we go too far and think that somehow God has the same weaknesses and frailties that we do... that surely he'll understand if he just listens to our point of view, or learns to understand the modern world, or could walk in our shoes for a few steps. We believe that miracles happened in the past, but somehow don't have the same faith that they can happen now. The truth is, God knows everything, and doesn't have any mortal frailties. He is perfect, and he actually *has* walked in our shoes because he suffered for us, for our sins and for our sorrows, when he atoned for our sins in Gethsemane and as he died, for us, on the cross. To us, death can be a soul-shaking tragedy. God, to whom death is not an obstacle, can see beyond our tragedy and our pain, and help us triumph over any problem and any loss. Today, let's try to remember the amazingness of God... the miracles and power and incomprehensible knowledge and goodness that we can barely begin to understand. And as we remember all he has done both in the scriptures and in our individual lives, let's give him a little more credit, and try to overcome our earthly blindness and trust in his very much larger perspective.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mark 5:35-36

"While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?
As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the
ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe."
Mark 5:35-36

These verses are from the story of Jairus and his daughter. Here, in kind of the middle of the story, Jesus has stopped for a minute on the way to heal Jairus' daughter, and some people from Jairus' house come and meet them and tell Jairus that his daughter is already dead. It is this moment in time that is interesting to me, and I think that we all come to similar moments in our lives. We might have faith and hope in the beginning, and then there is a moment where it gets really tough to keep those alive. All of it seems to be in vain... the blackness seeks to take over our minds, and block out the light, and threatens our hope and trust in God. And, to all of us, in all of those moments, Jesus says "Be not afraid, only believe." Things will work out. Not saying that we'll get whatever we want or that no one will ever die. Obviously we won't always, and they will sometimes... but just as Jairus' story had a happy ending, so do all of our stories, if we make it through the middle verses and retain our trust and faith and connection to God. Things seem hopeless and bleak to all of us sometimes, but that feeling is never permanent. Our lives are never irreparably broken. God is our hope and our healer, and no matter how bad things seem... how past redemption or hope we feel, there is always a way back and a path to the happy ending. Today, let's remember Jairus and remember that our fear and suffering are temporary, and that if we stick with God, we can still, and always, have hope in the future.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-37

"Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man."
Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-37

This verse is talking about priesthood, but I actually think that it applies to any kind of authority that we might have over another person. True that being unrighteous doesn't automatically cause us to lose our job, our position at church, to get divorced, or become disowned by our family. However, even if we still have the title or the relationship when acting unrighteously, we've lost sight of the true goal. We might be able to still bully someone into something, but we will be ineffective where it counts. NO ONE can be controlled or handled, except through the principles of righteousness. I think Matthew 25:40 emphasizes this as well. Inasmuch as we interact with anyone, we've interacted with Christ... our actions on earth are inseparably tied to our connection with heaven. And it works the other way too. Even though we might have less influence on people who have authority over us, those interactions affect our connection to heaven as well. God's Spirit is grieved if we treat people badly. Today... let's try to learn the "one lesson" in these verses. We can't accomplish anything good without God. If we've lost that Spirit, let's repent and pray and plead and do whatever it takes to get it back... because until we have it back, we're not going to be good family members, church members, good teachers, good bosses, or good anything. We're going to be ineffective leaders, and probably also ineffective followers and onlookers. :) Sometimes even breathing in and out effectively requires God's help... so let's stop right now, and make sure we have it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Colossians 1:20-23

"And, having made peace through the blood of the cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by
wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and
unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved
away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was
preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am
made a minister;"
Colossians 1:20-23

I love this picture of the atonement... that it is about peace and reconciliation--making all things in tune with God. ... And haven't we all felt this? Feeling alienated or enemy-like when we do something wrong, and we find ourselves not on God's side? It's a scary feeling, and hard to shake. Takes work to bring things back into alignment and experience that peace again... but no work is more worth it to do. I like the idea of being beyond blame and reproof... of being grounded in faith, and never being moved away from hope.
Today, if we feel a little like alien enemies, let's remember that God did all of this for us, so that we can be at peace, and have hope in our lives. Let's accept the reconciliation he offers, and have faith that things will always work out better with God than without.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jacob 4:10 -- On Listening to God's Counsel

"Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works."
Jacob 4:10

This is a great verse, reminding us that listening to God, rather than *telling* him how we want it, is best. I think sometimes that we get so wrapped up in our lives and trying to guide and control them, that we forget who *should* be in charge, and we end up saying prayers asking for specific things that we've decided are right for us... often forgetting the many other outcome possibilities, or remembering that God might have something else in mind.

I think that sometimes this tendency is why people can get the impression that God doesn't answer prayers, or doesn't care, or isn't there. In actuality, he is constantly listening, and cares more than we know... enough to give us things that we don't want or haven't considered sometimes, because he knows that the eventual outcome will be better for everyone.

Today, let's remember that we should not treat God as a genie whose job is to grant all our wishes. Instead, let's go to him humbly, as children to a trusted and kind friend, or coach, or Father. Let's discuss and consider all the possibilities. Instead of only saying "this is what I want," let's go further... telling God how we would like it to work out... but presenting other possibilities as well. Telling him what we want, what we're scared of, and asking his advice, and assuring him that we are willing to do it his way, since we know that he knows best.

I think that not only will prayer have more meaning for us this way, but maybe it will also better prepare us for a future where things don't always go according to our plans. When we include God in our plans, it is much easier to improvise as we head towards the happy ending. :)

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