Friday, May 31, 2013

1 Kings 10:23-25

"So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.
And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart.
And they brought every man his present, vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and garments, and armour, and spices, horses, and mules, a rate year by year."
1 Kings 10:23-25

I was reading this, and before this verse, both in the 2 Chronicles version and in this version, it talks about how rich Solomon was... the Queen of Sheba gave him such and such, and he had these cool trees, and his throne was ivory, etc.  So many riches.  And then it gets to these verses, and after this it jumps back into how rich he was... silver and horses, etc.  But my mind was still here... people sought him out for his wisdom, they gave him everything to hear his wisdom.  So, even though he was surpassingly rich and surpassingly wise, the wisdom seems to me to be the more important and more valuable part.  And the cool thing is that it was a gift from God.  We might not be able to be as wise as Solomon, but wisdom is something that God specifically offers to us (James 1:5).  Today, let's remember the value of wisdom, and remember its source.  And if we don't have it in sufficient abundance, let's get down on our knees and ask God to bless us with some, in order to make the important decisions that we need to make in our lives.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mormon 3:20

"And these things doth the Spirit manifest unto me; therefore I write unto you all. And for this cause I write unto you, that ye may know that ye must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, yea, every soul who belongs to the whole human family of Adam; and ye must stand to be judged of your works, whether they be good or evil;"
Mormon 3:20

A good thing to remember.  And huge, really.  Seems scary, but I don't think it has to be.  That is why we have repentance, right?  If we didn't, judgment would condemn us all.  Christ saves us from that condemnation though, if we repent and change.  We're still going to be judged for our works, but we have a chance, now, to subtract bad works through repentance, and to add good works... through, you know, good works. :)  I feel like we all have a real chance to stand in front of Christ and for it to be a happy moment... not looking back at how we've failed, or not lived up to expectations... but instead, rejoicing together over our triumphs over sin and sorrow.  Talking about how much we've learned, even through our worst struggles.  Remembering how He helped us learn through prayer and study.
Today, let's do all we can to make that future day a happy one.  Let's let go of resentments, of bitterness, of sin.  And let's learn to love, and hope, and have faith.  Let's talk to God about our situation and where we hope to be someday... and how we can get there together.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Romans 1:16

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
Romans 1:16

This is an interesting chapter.  I think the core of it is here in this one verse: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ."  ... How easy it is to say, and how hard it is to feel and live from day to day.  It reminds me of Lehi's dream... so many people coming to the tree, knowing that God is there, and real, and actually *tasting* of his love, but then turning away, ashamed, when the people in the great and spacious building laughed at them.  And in our society, many people laugh at us for believing.  They admire this or that, but then they dismiss it all when they run into something that they don't understand or want to live... and sometimes we do the same.  And we turn our backs on what we know to be true.  And once we wander off, our minds become darkened; we find reasons to doubt; we forget and lose so much light.  It's like living in a darkroom, but we start thinking that blackness and the weird chemical smell is normal.
Let's not do that.  Let's not be that.  Even if we have walked away, let's be courageous and walk right back.  Let's remember that even when we don't understand how or why, that God does.  It's true... of course it is true.  And above *everything* ... above our desires, above anyone's ridicule, above the pain of changing our hearts, and above the difficulty of repentance... above everything and everyone, God IS.  He exists, and his gospel is true.  And in the awe of that knowledge, we go forward.  Suffering ridicule sometimes, yes... and many other things.  But Psalms 84:10.  Better to be a doorkeeper in the house of God than to be anywhere else.  And better to give up something... anything that we want, than to hold on to it *instead* of God. 
Today, let's not be ashamed of God and his gospel.  Let's live our lives for him... living his gospel will make us happier than we could ever make ourselves.  We just have to stick with him to the end... trust, and not be ashamed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Jeremiah 7:3-7 -- On Amending

"Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.
Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these.
For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour;
If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt:
Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever."
Jeremiah 7:3-7

This chapter is interesting, and it talks about some bad things that were going on.  Idol worship, child sacrifice, profaning the temple... really bad stuff.  And even so, God asks his people to change, to come back to him.  Even when he knows that they won't listen (see verse 27).  Luckily, this isn't the only chance they had as a people... and for us, so many years later, whether their spiritual or literal descendants, it isn't the only chance for us. 

God wants to save us all, and he asks us to amend our ways.  He says "to your hurt" because he knows that when we do evil things that it harms us, and pulls us further away from him. If we want to be close to God and dwell in his land, then we have to learn how... otherwise we'll have to live elsewhere.  And some of the things to learn are executing judgment, not oppressing people, not murdering people, and not worshipping anything but God. :)  Maybe we have some of those down already, but maybe not all. 

Judging righteously, or not judging at all is a tough one.  As is not oppressing strangers, orphans, and widows.  Even if we aren't specifically targeting them, if we are oppressing anyone, they might fall into those categories.  Strangers are everywhere. :)  Today, let's work on amending our ways.  Let's not harm ourselves by doing evil.  Let's take our chance, listen to God, let go of our bad habits, and be kind to the people around us.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Words of Mormon 1:10-11

"Wherefore, it came to pass that after Amaleki had delivered up these plates into the hands of king Benjamin, he took them and put them with the other plates, which contained records which had been handed down by the kings, from generation to generation until the days of king Benjamin.
And they were handed down from king Benjamin, from generation to generation until they have fallen into my hands. And I, Mormon, pray to God that they may be preserved from this time henceforth. And I know that they will be preserved; for there are great things written upon them, out of which my people and their brethren shall be judged at the great and last day, according to the word of God which is written."
Words of Mormon 1:10-11

I wonder how different the world would be if we didn't keep records.  Certainly the absence of the Bible, Book of Mormon and other similar records would be significant.  The whole story of Nephi going back for the Brass Plates shows us that, to God, records matter.  We even see later in the Book of Mormon a people that came over without records, and how different things were for them.  Even non-religious things though... can you imagine if we didn't learn about history?  If there were no dictionaries nailing down spellings and language in a certain form?  Everything would be so, so different... and we might be doomed to repeat mistakes from the past, rather than learning from them.
I think it is interesting that part of the judgment will be records... things that we write.  And it says also "according to the word of God which is written."  ... God's word is also written.  In a sense, then, isn't writing eternal on some level?  I think that is amazing... and something that we can tap into.  Many of the prophets have counseled us to keep a journal.  This is a good idea, not only for our posterity, but also for ourselves.  If we are going to be judged according to the things that are written, then let's tell our side of the story. :)  (Not that writing down lies is going to do us any good... not suggesting that.) :)  Only that we write sincerely about what we think and choose, and write about our relationship with God and his hand in our lives.  Half of the gospel is practice anyway... practice with our relationship with God, remembering spiritual experiences, becoming more familiar with the spirit.  And records enlarge and lengthen that memory.  They help us to remember what we've known and felt before, and help us retain the lessons that we learn so that we can build on them and continue to grow.
Today, let's renew our dedication to God by keeping records.  Let's write down our thoughts and feelings, especially about spiritual experiences that we've had... let's tap into the eternal part of writing, and remind ourselves who we are, and what we want in the long run.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Psalms 34:17-19 -- On Being Delivered

"The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all."
Psalms 34:17-19

These verses emphasize that the Lord delivers us from... everything, if we are righteous.  It still says "many are the afflictions of the righteous," and it doesn't mean that we won't experience afflictions, challenges, problems, and all those other synonyms for things that are hard for us, but it does mean that we will be delivered. :)  I think that the middle verse here is kind of a hint for us at what it takes to be righteous... at least partially.  A broken heart and a contrite spirit.  We need to be humble and teachable... open to God.  But more than that.  A broken heart... feeling bereft... isn't fun.  Feeling contrite... like you are so sorry that you've screwed up... that isn't fun either.  But those things are necessary for real change in our lives.  If we're completely happy with our lives as they are, we aren't going to make any real effort to change.  It's when we feel that pain of separation from God, and are so sorry that we've turned our lives into what they are, and we need a way out... a way back to God, back to sanity... back to redemption.  Those are the times that we are willing to let God step in and save us.  And when we are willing to do as God asks.  And although occasionally God saves us without asking anything in return, sometimes he does... as he did with the woman taken in adultery.  He saved her, but he also asked her to sin no more.  God is willing to save us from our mistakes, but he wisely asks us to not make those same mistakes again... so that we learn to save ourselves by avoiding creating the problems in the first place. :)  So, to be righteous is to be repentant.  To know that we are broken, and to be improving and trying to make ourselves whole.
Today, let's pray and plead with the Lord to help us with our problems.  He will.  And let's do all we can to avoid tangling up our lives this much again. :)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Isaiah 52:7-10

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.
Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God."
Isaiah 52:7-10

This is another set of verses talking about the last days, and what we have to look forward to. Can you imagine how amazing it will be when Zion comes back (I'm thinking they mean here the city of Zion that we will build joined to the City of Enoch that will return).  And the whole "see eye to eye" thing, where we all are on the same page, trying to accomplish the same goals.  And the fact that everyone will know and see and get that God is real... that's a reason to sing, even if there weren't anything else involved. :)  Today, even though we're going to be faced with challenges and obstacles, let's remember what we're working for.  If we stick with God, the ending is always happy, and joy is what we have to look forward to, no matter how bleak things in between might seem.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 101:26-30

"And in that day the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face.
And in that day whatsoever any man shall ask, it shall be given unto him.
And in that day Satan shall not have power to tempt any man.
And there shall be no sorrow because there is no death.
In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree;"
Doctrine and Covenants 101:26-30

These verses are telling us a little bit of what life will be like during the Millennium.  Can you imagine how cool it will be?  The sorrow part is interesting.  I never really thought about how much of the sorrow in our lives is tied to physical illness and death, or the fear of the same.  If that possibility were off the table, what else is there to feel sorrow about?  Maybe we didn't get a promotion or we didn't have enough to eat... but again, the second verse of this selection says that whatever we ask we will be given.  So... no sorrow? :)  We could still be sad that someone isn't reaching their potential or that we don't have enough time to become who we want to be... learn all the stuff, get all the degrees.  But then, our lives as the age of a tree?  Wow.  We totally have time to do all the stuff. :)  And it seems like an environment very conducive to reaching your potential, so maybe not even that. :)  And no temptation.  That's pretty cool too.  I'm not sure how much temptation is external from him, and how much is internal from us... but I'm imagining that losing that external pressure will make things a lot easier as well. :)  Some of the verses before this talk about gathering Zion together and preparing for when everything corruptible is going to be wiped away, and that is one of the ways that we get to this point.  Today, let's work on building Zion and being incorruptible. :)  So maybe someday we can see this... and help build this future.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Genesis 41:53-57

"And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.
And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.
And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do.
And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.
And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands."
Genesis 41:53-57

Sometimes I think that we forget how amazing God is.  We take him for granted, and think maybe he listens to our problems, helps us find our car keys, but all the heavy lifting is up to us. :)  Which is hilarious, and a little twisted.  We do have to do some heavy lifting in our lives... not because God is incapable, but because *we* have to learn to be capable.  And God is so much more amazing than we give him credit for on a daily basis.
The story in these verses is the result of a dream that Pharaoh had, that Joseph interpreted.  7 years of abundance, and then 7 years of dearth.  And God told them about it ahead of time, so they could prepare and save the people from starvation.
I think the same thing happens to us in our lives.  We have periods of prosperity and periods of hardship.  Whether it is physically, mentally, socially, or spiritually... we all go through phases where things are great, and phases where things are really hard.  And God warns us too.  He encourages us to store a year's supply of food in case of shortage or environmental emergency.  He asks us to read scripture, pray, and write in our journals, so that we have reserves and memories of spiritual strength when things get hard in those ways.  He encourages us to be friendly and to build strong families so that we can weather social tragedy.  He asks us to pursue education and to read and learn so that we can weather mental and emotional storms and still keep our heads. :)
Today, let's take of the abundance that Christ has blessed us with, and let's prepare to weather any storms that come our way.  Let's listen to God, who is overwhelmingly amazing and can see the future, and who knows how everything fits together.  If there is some heavy lifting to do in preparing and becoming... let's do it.  We'll never get better advice than from God... and his whole goal is our happiness.  That's worth working for. :)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Jeremiah 2:31-33

"O generation, see ye the word of the Lord. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee?
Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.
Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways."
Jeremiah 2:31-33

These are good questions.  Has God been a wilderness or a land of darkness unto us?  Probably rhetorical... definitely he hasn't.  In fact, God is who pulls us out and saves us from the dark and dreary wilderness and shows us the way to the path and something better.  So, why do we say that we are Lords and we won't hang with God anymore?  ... Pride maybe?  Or sin that we don't want to give up?  Because we actually *believe* it sometimes... that we can handle everything without God?  We do forget God, all the time.  Hopefully, as we grow closer to him, the periods of forgetfulness grow shorter and shorter... but we're still forgetting, even if it is only for an hour, or a day.
Why do we turn our lives upside down, and change ourselves or pretend to be something we're not, all to seek love?  ... Because we're lonely and desperate?  Because that is the primary focus of our lives?  We teach our enemies what temptation they can put in front of us that we'll immediately fall for.
Today, let's think about our relationship with God, and what it is that we truly seek.  Let's let go of our pride, and our sin, and remember God is our Lord and our Leader.  Let's pray, and read our scriptures, and try to remember God in our lives more often.  And let's also remember that the truest and deepest love comes from God.  If we put him first, then the righteous desires of our hearts, including friendships and companionship, will come.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Luke 15:16-20

"And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."
Luke 15:16-20

This is part of the story of the prodigal son.  I like it because it shows repentance so well.  When we look at sin, at first it can feel thrilling or exciting... like the prodigal son asking for his inheritance up front, and going and living it up for a while.  But, just like the Prodigal son ran out of money, sin always disappoints in the end.  And we eventually "come to ourselves" and realize how badly we've screwed up.  And if we turn back to God at that point, and admit our faults, and are humble, willing to be servants and doorkeepers (Psalms 84:10), then God will accept us, and welcome us back with open arms.
This isn't, of course, to say that we should go out and sin on purpose, knowing that God will take us back.  It's a lot bigger challenge to become who we can be when we play with our own souls like that, and it sets us at a disadvantage to convincing ourselves to really change and become new people.
Today, let's remember that no matter who we have been, if we are willing to change and come to God, he will accept us.  And when we're back on God's path, let's work on changing our hearts and becoming the people that we need to be to be worthy of eternal life.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Romans 13:9

"For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
Romans 13:9

This is both awesome and scary st the same time I think.  Awesome because all the commandments can be summed up in one.  We don't have to go list all of them, explain the minute distinctions, and try to keep track.  ... Scary because less direction usually means more responsibility, and we have to make good decisions, and live up to how much God is trusting us.
And back to awesome again, of course.  The idea that love encompasses everything else is really true... it touches us at our core.  And the converse holds true as well... that all sin arises, somehow, out of lack of love... at least lack of the right kind of love.  We could (and do) argue that sexual sin comes from love... but is it really love, or have we twisted it into obsession or lust?  If we truly loved... God, the other person, others that could be harmed by our actions, and even ourselves, we would probably save everyone the pain, heartache, and guilt, and avoid the sin.  And the same goes for every sin.  God doesn't ask us not to do things in order to control us or limit our freedom.  He asks us because he loves us, and he wants to save us from pain.
God also asks us to do things because he loves us, and he knows that we will be happier the more we learn and the more we grow, and the closer we get to Him.  And here, he asks us to love.  All of the commandments wrapped into one... one thing to do.  Simple, right?  Okay, not really.  Not always.  But today, let's work on it.  Love.  Love the people around us... love the people not around us.  Love everyone, look at everything we do with the filter of how can we love better... love more people, and love everyone more?  And as we work on that, we'll be building God's kingdom.  We'll be approaching Zion.  We'll be becoming who we have the potential to become.  Love.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

John 7:24

"Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."
John 7:24

So much of the way we learn to interact with the world is based on sight.  We want to "see it to believe it" and we develop so many ways to make decisions based on our senses... but here, God tell us not to Judge according to appearance.  So, if appearance isn't the way to judge, how can we make those decisions that we need to make in our lives?
I think that God addresses this in a lot of ways and in a lot of scriptures.  Sometimes the answer is to not judge at all.  We should love *everyone* and not place one person above another because of appearance or any other reason.  And sometimes the answer is to look deeper.  We tend to look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart... and, as we learn to be more like our Father, we should similarly start looking deeper.
Not that it is easy.  Getting to know people takes time, and effort, and it is easy to screw it up... to put in too little effort, or even too much so that we seem stalkerish. :)  But the idea is to know people better before we can even start to make those sorts of decisions that we usually make quickly, based on appearance.  Underneath the appearance, we all have something to offer to each other.  ... Doesn't mean we all have to be best friends or romantic prospects, but we *are* all worthy of love, and respect.  There is something that we can learn from each person around us, if we are open to it.  No one is worthless or unworthy of our time.
There are of course situations where we need to protect ourselves from abuse or harm, and loving people and forgiving them doesn't always mean that we have to be close to them to do that.  But today, let's work on getting past the appearance and looking deeper at the people around us.  Let's take the opportunity to try to know them, and love them, and learn from them.  And if we're having a problem loving or forgiving, let's as God... who loves us all so deeply, he can show us the good in anyone.  Including ourselves.  Let's not judge ourselves on appearance either. :)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Exodus 15:2

"The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him."
Exodus 15:2

I really like this.  It is kind of a mixture of faith and praise in poetic or musical form. :)  I can imagine singing it... and the Lord *is* our strength, and something that we should sing about. :)  I love the "prepare him an habitation" part.  I think that often we look at it the other way around, and are expecting God to prepare a habitation for us in the eternities.  And I think he will... but right now it is our turn.  We need to prepare a habitation for him with us.  A place where he would be comfortable to come.  And I think that it means both our homes and our souls, but probably more so our souls.  Clean houses are great, but clean souls are imperative.  ...Today, let's sing to the Lord.  And let's clean up our souls, so that God's spirit will feel comfortable hanging out with us. :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Hebrews 10:38-39

"Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul."
Hebrews 10:38-39

Consistency in faith isn't always easy.  Peter faltered as he was walking on the water, and sometimes we falter too, in accomplishing things in our lives that are at least close to equally difficult. :)  In Christ's parable of the sower and also in Lehi's dream we see that some people reject the gospel entirely, but so often we accept it at first, but then harden our hearts or become caught up in other things... or wander off into forbidden paths.
I had a roommate in college who thought that she had been a "fence-sitter" during the war in heaven.  And we too often try to fence-sit when it comes to doctrines or tasks that are hard for us.  The thing is, I don't think it was possible to be a fence-sitter in the war in heaven... and I don't think that it is something that, even now, we can do for very long.  Eventually we're going to cross the fence into God's yard, or we're going to retreat to perdition, which first of all isn't going to be very fun, and second of all... doesn't it hurt to sit on the fence like that?
I think that sometimes the hardest thing to have faith in is ourselves.  Faith that we're going to make the effort necessary to change.  Faith that there is anything in there worth saving sometimes.  ...But God is there for us even then.  He offers to change our hearts.  He blesses us with motivation and power.  He is there to lift us up when we fall.  There are so many justifications that we can think of for giving up or for not staying with God.  For going halfway and then retreating.  We could talk for days about them.  But this scripture tells us "we are not of them who draw back."  ... Today, instead of doubting ourselves and doubting God's ability to make us equal to the task... let's try having faith in this one statement.  We are not of them who draw back.  WE are of them that believe, unto the saving of the soul.  Let's act like it, and get off that painful fence and start moving forward. :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mosiah 4:19

"For behold, are we not all beggars?  Do we not all depend on the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?"
Mosiah 4:19

This is a good thing to remember.  It might seem like a put-down at first glance, but I was thinking about how most of the times that we get into trouble in our lives it is because we are trusting in our own strength/wisdom/judgment rather than in God's.  It's so easy to slip into thinking that we're cooler or we know best... dismissing other people and even God when they try to show us differently.  I think this is just a good thing to remember.  None of us really have anything without God.  And the things that we need to improve, to become better people, sometimes we don't even know what they are.  But God does.  He knows what we need, how to get us there, and he has a plan designed for our ultimate happiness.  Ours and everyone's.  He's cool like that. :)  So, today, let's try to let go of our pride, and our frequent belief that we are better than other people, for whatever reason.  Let's work on helping lift each other up rather than tearing anyone down... and let's look to God for whatever lessons he has for us today. :)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Exodus 10:21-23

"And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.
And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days:
They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings."
Exodus 10:21-23

This is one of the things that Moses brings upon Egypt when he is in negotiations with Pharaoh to let Israel go.  After the locusts, and before the death of the firstborn.  In this story I think we are often struck at just how hard-headed Pharaoh is... he sees miracle after miracle, even ones that are absolutely devastating to his country, and although he reacts in asking Moses to turn it away, and Moses does every time, he still doesn't relent.  Now, I am sure that Pharaoh was justifiably worried about how his lifestyle was going to change and how his large building projects were going to get done if he lost this source of cheap labor.  But when faced with such huge and obvious evidences of God's disapproval... especially the fact that the Egyptians suffered while the Israelites did not... it seems pretty short-sighted.
Do we act like Pharaoh in our own lives?  When we experience miraculous things and evidences of God, do we dismiss them as coincidence, or forget them once they are past?  Do we look to God when the darkness comes, and pray for it to pass, and then when it does, go back to the same old thing, figuring that we must have been blowing it out of proportion to be so worried?  I know that I have done this in the past... been just as hard-hearted as Pharaoh.
Today, let's look to God.  Let's ask him to help us escape from that tangible darkness that we all experience at one time or another in our lives, though often in a more symbolic way than in this story. :)  And afterward, let's remember why we have light in our lives, and never forget the Lord.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Helaman 4:15

"And it came to pass that they did repent, and inasmuch as they did repent they did begin to prosper."
Helaman 4:15

This chapter talks about the Nephites, who at this point in history were getting pretty wicked.  Even though they were less numerous than the Lamanites, they had been miraculously preserved as a people, because God blessed them and gave them strength.  ... but when they started to let go of their belief in and obedience to God, then they became just as weak as the Lamanites.  And as Moronihah encourages them to repent, they start to prosper again.
I think that the same thing happens to us on an individual level.  Sometimes, when we are in tune with God, we are on top of the world, and everything is working out, and we feel like everything is going right.  ... Even if something goes badly wrong we can still feel okay, knowing that we can handle it, that we have that perspective and know that with God, everything will be work out in the end.  And then somehow we forget, or drift away, or sin, and lose the companionship of the spirit.  ... and suddenly, even if things are great, we start doubting and worrying.  Things seem to fall apart and we're like why, why, why... and often why is that we aren't in tune with God anymore.  Not saying that everything bad that happens in life is a punishment from God.  Totally not true.  But our perspectives about the things that happen... that can be dramatically affected by how in tune we are with the spirit.
Today, let's do some self-examination.  Let's talk to God and try to get on the same page with what we need to work on or do next.  And, as we examine our lives, as we talk to God, and as we repent of our mistakes, we'll start to feel the spirit, and we'll start to prosper in direct proportion to how much we work on getting our lives in tune with God.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Isaiah 40:31

"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
Isaiah 40:31

I love this idea... that as servants of God, we are renewed.  Wings?  That sounds pretty cool too.  Might be symbolic rather than literal, but even so, the idea is a cool one.  I've always loved the idea of running and walking without being tired at all.
Although the idea is cool, it is sometimes hard to see in our lives.  We get tired, frustrated, and overwhelmed sometimes.  Running makes us tired.  Walking does too, especially up a long staircase. :)  So, how does this verse apply to our lives?  I think in a couple of ways.  One, it applies right now in that the spirit can renew our energy and determination and keep us going when we need it.  It probably requires some faith and a good reason, but it does work.  I saw this on my mission many times.  My body was exhausted, but the spirit kept me going, and engaged in the work, even when I was past my capacity and would normally be grumpy and irritable.  Doesn't mean that we don't need to take care of our bodies, or get adequate rest, but if we are in need of the Lord's help in doing his will, he'll help us.  Probably even to fly if necessary... the scriptures do talk about people being carried in the spirit to the tops of mountains.  Not exactly wings, but it does sound pretty cool. :)  Two, it applies later when we're resurrected as well.  Then we will have bodies that are perfect and that aren't subject to earthly limitations. :)
Today, let's serve the Lord and do his will (waiting upon, like a server/waiter, right?), so that we can show our love for him and build Zion... and get the cool blessings of renewal as a nice side benefit. :)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

John 20:29-31

"Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."
John 20:29-31

Remember what it is like to meet people that we instantly feel a connection to?  We want to talk to them for hours, do things to impress them, or follow them around like a puppy because they are so fascinating.  Except, socially, that is sort of looked down on, so you have to rein it in a little and just say hello, tell them you loved their talk or that you like their hair, and maybe figure out how to talk to them a little more so you can invite them to your next party or friend them on Facebook. :)  It's kind of a thrill feeling that connection, and knowing that here is a potential friend. :)
I imagine that the way we feel when we meet people like that pales in comparison to how we would feel meeting Christ.  So amazing... and the disciples GOT to talk to him, and follow him around all the time.  I think of Thomas here, who had someone that he felt like that about, and had just recently gone through the anguish of him *dying.*  And then he hears that everyone else got to see him, but he didn't, ... and he thinks, I don't know what you guys saw, but I could only believe that if he were right here, and I could test it for myself.  And then he sees him, and it is clear, and he doesn't need to touch the scars.  He knows.   He feels the same way he did before, and he knows that this is Jesus, the Christ.
They got that privilege and we aren't there.  We can't see him.  We can't follow Christ around and listen to him all day.  But he gives us these scriptures, and tells us about all these things so that we can have him in our lives too.  Because that feeling is still there.  When we pray, when we worship... whenever we connect with the spirit.... we want to talk to God more, we want to get to know him.  We want to follow him around and friend him on Facebook.  We can't always have what we want as far as Facebook goes, but we CAN have Christ in our lives, all the time, as much as we can handle.  Scriptures help us learn about him, and prayer helps us build that relationship.  If we get good at it, we can have his spirit with us even when we're at work, or walking down the street.
Today, let's work on having that kind of life where we can always feel Christ with us.  Let's read, and believe, and do the work that it always takes to build a friendship... let's talk to God, and hang out with him today.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Alma 32:31

"And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness."
Alma 32:31

I really like this verse.  The whole chapter is amazing, but this verse individually reminds me today that if we plant good seeds, then we will reap good plants.  We don't plant good and reap evil.  Symbolically, here, it is talking about the gospel.  If you experiment with praying to God and reading your scriptures, and it makes your life better, that means it is good.  And I think it applies to what we do as well.  The actions we take in life produce the people that we are, and what we become.  If we want to be good people, we can't do bad things.  Love, kindness, service... those things turn us into good people.  Resentment, hatred, cruelty... those things produce much different results.  We're choosing every day who we will be.  Let's choose good.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mark 7:14-16

"And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear."
Mark 7:14-16

I like how Christ taught when he was on the earth.  He often gave people something to think about, and let them discover the lesson themselves, as they figured out the principle.  His disciples asked him about this one, and he explains it further later in the chapter.  But I don't think that it is ever just the lesson that Christ was trying to get across.  He wanted... and wants... people to learn how the world works beyond just this individual lesson.  And of course to think about it, to gain a testimony of the principle, and to put it into action in their lives.  Perhaps in this case he wants us to think about how a person becomes defiled... how sin starts, and to think about all the external things that we try to to blame our problems on. :)  If he just said it straight out, like "take some personal responsibility for your lives" we might think less about it, and perhaps it would be easier to blow it off as a general principle when we haven't really thought about how to apply it to our lives.
This method of teaching, because it requires thought and introspection, seems really effective.  When we realize the lesson on our own, our minds and hearts are both engaged, and we're not in defensive mode.  That's part of what reading the scriptures does for us as well.  We don't read just to have the words flow by our eyes, but so that we can think about it, and ponder how it applies to our lives... and do something about it.
Today, let us have ears to hear, and let's think about the lessons that God sets before us, including this one, and how they apply to our lives now.  And then let's take some action in our lives to improve.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 9:11-13

"Behold, it was expedient when you commenced; but you feared, and the time is past, and it is not expedient now;
For, do you not behold that I have given unto my servant Joseph sufficient strength, whereby it is made up? And neither of you have I condemned.
Do this thing which I have commanded you, and you shall prosper. Be faithful, and yield to no temptation."
Doctrine and Covenants 9:11-13

Sometimes when we miss opportunities I think that it is easy to get upset or even to doubt God.  I had a companion on my mission once who got called to go to another country, but while she was in the MTC her call got changed to my mission: Montana, Billings.  Not that it is a bad mission at all, but imagine the disappointment possible there.  This scripture is about a similarly disappointing event, when Oliver Cowdery wanted to help translate.  And there are so many others in life... if we had chosen this other major, or if we had gotten a degree, or if we had said yes to this marriage proposal, or if we hadn't waited to have children, or if we had accepted this job offer, or done better in this calling... so many things.  Some of them are even in Patriarchal Blessings.  ...And we look at them and wonder how we missed that, or why God didn't warn us more stridently or something, because now we have to live without whatever it is, or we aren't prepared for this thing that we want, or we feel like we're going to lose blessings in eternity, or we just don't get to do what we want to do.  ... All of those things I think are part of the temptation that God is talking about in the last verse of the selection.  Yeah, sometimes we miss an opportunity... and of course we need to repent if we've sinned, but overall it doesn't really matter whether it was our fault or someone else's fault or how pivotal we feel it was to our lives.  We have to let it go, and know God can still work with *this* reality, and make everything okay.  And he can.
Today, let's remember that God is not condemning us.  He's only asking us to move forward, trusting him.  Having faith that everything will work out, and that we can still have blessed and happy lives, no matter what.  Even if we screwed up.  Even if we missed something important.  Christ died so that we would have the opportunity to repent, and as we do, he WILL make everything okay.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Joshua 7:16-20

"So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken:
And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken:
And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.
And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.
And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:"
Joshua 7:16-20

This is interesting... not just because of the method of rooting out the guy who had stolen and disobeyed the Lord, but because of the importance of confession... and publicity in the community too.  God could have taught the lesson individually, or publicly could have just shown Joshua who did it, what he had done, and they could have taken care of the problem, done.  But instead, they gather the entire community together, and go through them, narrowing it down till they single out the one person.  And then ask for a confession.
Some of it was probably so that people would know very clearly that God knows what we are up to... but maybe there are lessons here also about being a Zion community.  God was trying to teach the people that being in a community carries a responsibility... you can't just go your own way.  He was also still trying to get them to understand that he was God, and there is no getting around that.  The whole community suffers if one person is working at odds to what the group is doing, or hiding things from them... and also, as in James 5:16, in a Zion community, we should be admitting our mistakes to each other, and helping build each other up, rather than hiding and sneaking around and stealing things that God expressly told us not to touch.  Some of these Old Testament stories teach the lessons more starkly (it's taken us a long time as a society to learn some of the basics), but I think the core principles are the same.
Today, let's confess our faults and work on becoming better people.  I don't think that God is going to send the prophet to our doors to root out our secret stash... but he does already know about all of it.  And just in case.  You know. ;)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2 Corinthians 6:14-17

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you."
2 Corinthians 6:14-17

I think these verses are hard to understand at first.  God says to love our neighbors, and then says stay away from them?  So, let's look at these verses and see what might be a better interpretation than God contradicting himself. :)
To be yoked together probably means more than just a neighbor relationship... probably means a partnership or a closer relationship.  Not necessarily only marriage, although that is where this scripture is often used, but in anything similarly binding... that requires a lot of time and close contact over long periods of time.  Might apply to business partnerships or dating or "best friend" status as well.
Unbeliever... does this mean someone who isn't sure whether God exists, or who believes but is of a different religion, or only people that are specifically non-believers and don't think God exists?  As the verses continue, it doesn't sound like it is talking about people who believe in God, even if they aren't the same religion, but people who actively work against God.
So, one interpretation of this scripture could be, don't be spouses/best friends/business partners with an atheist or antichrist.  Which makes sense, at least to me.  I have friends that are atheists (and in this context I am talking about people who actively mock believers, not people who just don't believe), but I think that a marriage to one or a closer relationship would be tough.  And it *would* be unequal... trying to raise a family or support each other in a partnership or in life with such different world views.
I like the "ye are the temple of the living God" part as well... and this is part of *why* we shouldn't have those close relationships with people whose beliefs are antithetical to our own.  Because we're trying to stay pure and clean, and just like we don't want to listen to profanity all the time or have nudity parading before our eyes all day, we don't want to invite the mockery of God to stay a while in our temple, and profane it.
Today, let's work on keeping our temples clean, and making sure that we're able to respect God and look to him in our close relationships.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Proverbs 14:12

"There is a away which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."
Proverbs 14:12

This is interesting to me today because it makes me think of how thoroughly we deceive ourselves sometimes.  There are so many things that we talk ourselves into, justifying that this must be right, because we want it, or because it brings a temporary emotional or physical high.  Or just because we can't feel the spirit anymore, and we forget what it feels like.  In Relief Society yesterday one woman told a story of being inactive for 17 years, until her son talked her into going to conference with him, in person.  And she listened to the prophet, and she remembered and felt the spirit again.  And she came back.  ... God is always inviting us in, inviting us back, but sometimes we won't hear him, and after refusing to hear for long enough, sometimes we go spiritually deaf... we forget what it is like to walk with God, and we finally talk ourselves into thinking that whatever we have chosen instead is just as good, and enlightens our lives just as much.  And it takes a lot to bring us out of a self-imposed disability like that.  Today, let's remember that our ways are not God's ways, and that if we go our own way, it leads to nothing good.  Let's listen to God and stay sensitive to his spirit.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Daniel 1:17

"As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams."
Daniel 1:17

So much of the gospel is the basics, or sometimes remedial classes, which we need.  It is a challenge to get down the foundation... faith, repentance, baptism, etc.  But I really love it when we get hints of the advanced classes... the blessings that can come if you have a foundational understanding and can build upon it a little.  Learning and Wisdom and Visions and Dreams... not as advanced as Walking on Water, Parting the Sea, or Moving a Mountain, but maybe a little higher than Coming to Church Consistently, Prayer, or Reading Our Scriptures.
... Wouldn't it be cool to be blessed with the knowledge of how to interpret visions and dreams?  Or to be blessed with insight as we are studying?  Things would click faster, and we would understand how to apply things in our lives a little bit more?  And I think this is just small stuff when it comes to God.  He wants to bless us with things like this.  He wants to help us grow and become so much more than we are.  Today, let's nail the foundational stuff... and if we can do that consistently, then let's talk to God about the next step for us.  Maybe it will be something cool like this.  Learning how to interpret dreams, or expanding our learning or wisdom with God's help... and even if it isn't exactly like this, it is sure to be cool.  Life with God is never, ever boring. :)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

James 3:2-5

"For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.
Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.
Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!"
James 3:2-5

I think it is amazing to think that if we can master our words, that we are perfect, or at least perfect in being able to control our bodies. :)  Makes it sound achievable... although of course, controlling what we say is tough.  Often, we blurt things out before we really think about it.  We want to take it back, or at least express it kindly, and unless we have written it in snail mail and the mailman hasn't come yet, it is usually too late.  Technology makes things more immediate, but it doesn't make us smarter. :) Today, let's guard our tongues, and the things that we say in writing, and work on that one thing... what comes out of our brains and gets expressed to other people.  If we can master that, then apparently, we can master anything.  Sounds pretty worth it. :)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Luke 6:41

"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"
Luke 6:41

I think sometimes when we read the scriptures or hear a commandment, we instantly think of an example... in someone *else's* life.  Oh, yeah, that sounds like Joe, or that totally is what Jill does.  I think that we get other-focused like that because we live in fear of criticism, even from ourselves.  Criticism isn't always accurate, or presented in a productive way, but even so, it often makes us doubt ourselves and wonder if we need to change... and change is hard.  And when it IS accurate, it doesn't make the changing any easier... or the knowing that your friend or acquaintance thinks little of you.  And if it is hard for us to be criticized, even when it is right, then we can imagine how it feels for others.  Today, let's not criticize other people or point out their faults.  They probably already know, and even if they don't... God is much better at revealing weaknesses than we are, because he sticks around and helps people do something about it.  Instead, let's work on our own faults... getting those beams out of our eyes, so that we can see other people more clearly and lovingly.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Psalms 23:4

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
Psalms 23:4

I hear this verse a lot, and to me it brings to mind funerals.  People seem to read this one at them a lot... at least on television. :)  Today it struck me though, and I thought about it a little more.  To me, it doesn't really seem like a scripture for the dead... but for the living.  Even in the worst times, including facing death or anything similarly scary, we don't have to fear evil.  God is with us.  The rod and staff part is interesting.  They are implements used by shepherds in tending sheep.  The rod is typically used to fight off danger to the sheep, and the staff is used to guide and correct... prodding them to go back to the group if they are wandering off, etc. :)
I think that it does provide a lot of comfort in our lives to know that God will protect us, and also that he will correct us.  Only a really horrible uncaring shepherd would just stand there and let a sheep wander off... because he knows that it will get lost, and quite possibly eaten.  The shepherd cares about the sheep, and will prompt the sheep to return to the flock.  Sheep don't always listen of course, and as humans, we definitely don't always listen when God warns us or encourages us to come back.  Sometimes we wait until a wolf takes a big bite before we call for the shepherd.  But it is still comforting that when we call, God hears us... that we don't have to face the world, or evil, alone.
Today, whatever we face, however scary, let's look to God and accept his guidance, and his protection.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Proverbs 3:5

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."
Proverbs 3:5

I'm not sure that we always do it consciously, like saying "I totally know better than God does," but I do know that we often act like that.  We dismiss what he's asked us to do, we ignore his commandments and his advice, and we go our own way.  And sometimes, temporarily, it seems to work out.  But in the end, any other way stops in a dead end, or leads someplace that we find out that we never, ever wanted to go.  We end up worse off than we were, and it is sometimes really hard to find our way back to that original turnoff, so that we can continue following the good directions from there.  It's like a road trip where you need to stay on the path to get to where you are going, and for some reason you get distracted by the "World's Largest Ball of Yarn" sign, and end up turning off, going miles out of your way, and then staying there, admiring the yarn for months.  You have to get a job at the local diner to support your yarn habit, but you don't care because you are totally infatuated, wondering if you could add to it or crochet it into something.  One day you wake up in this dirty little motel room with a cockroach staring you in the face and you suddenly realize that if you actually finish your interrupted journey, you wouldn't have to deal with cockroaches.  You were invited to a mansion, after all.  It just seems so far, and you are already here...
Although I know today it probably won't be the world's largest ball of yarn that is fighting for our attention, let's be on alert for the yarn-like distractions in our lives.  God's destination is so much better than the little podunk turnoffs that we choose for ourselves.  Even if we've driven so far that we've run out of gas or the car has broken down, or we're lost beyond hope of a map or a GPS signal... God will still be able to help us find our way back to the straight and narrow road, and towards our destination... if we will only listen to him and realize that we really don't know where we're going.  It takes some humility to admit that and to ask for directions, but today, let's do it anyway.  Let's ask God to help us find our way to him.  It's definitely not always easy... but God's house is always a better destination than Yarntown.  Promise.

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