Monday, April 30, 2018

Psalms 34:4 -- On Deliverance From Fear

"I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears."
Psalms 34:4

I love the idea here of being delivered, not necessarily from actual physical threats or danger, but instead from all of our fears.  Sometimes our psychological well-being causes us a lot more concern than actual reality does, and our paranoia causes us a lot of anxiety and pain.  And even then, God will deliver us. :)

Today, let's remember that God can save us from anything, rational or irrational, and in him and through him we can overcome our weaknesses and find peace and rest to our souls.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Matthew 24:42-44 -- On Being Ready to Meet the Lord

"Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.
Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh."
Matthew 24:42-44

This is a good point.  If we knew exactly when the second coming was going to be here, we would remember and be ready for it.  The challenge comes in that we don't know exactly when, and so the only way to be ready is to *always* be ready.

I think this goes along with the whole idea in the gospel of changing our whole selves and the way that we think and act... who we are, rather than just apologizing for a behavior that we are likely to repeat.  It emphasizes permanent changes rather than temporary regret, and it means that when we consider repentance, we have to talk about mental and emotional and spiritual changes in addition to physical adjustments.

If we are changing ourselves on a deep level for God, then we are working on becoming perfect... a process that takes time and sustained effort.  We are working on building Zion by learning to be part of it, and preparing for heaven because we are participating in the act of purifying ourselves. ... and, we are always ready for whatever the Lord brings, because we are practicing our religion and living the gospel all the time.

To be always ready for the Lord's return sounds tough, but it isn't anything earth-shattering or dramatic.  It is those small, everyday, sustained efforts and changes that we are making for the Lord that prepare us.  It is daily prayer and scripture study.  It is working to keep the spirit with us every day and to listen to the Lord.  It is the effort to love others and to learn meekness.  It is when we face challenges with faith rather than doubt.

Today, let's work to be those people who will be prepared for the Lord's coming, no matter when it is.  Let's be ready, today and always, to welcome that change and rejoice to meet him, even if he drops by unannounced. :)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Proverbs 19:17 -- On Investing in God

"He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again."
Proverbs 19:17

This is similar to other scriptures that indicate that the way we treat others is symbolically the way that we treat God (Matthew 25:40, 45).  The idea of lending to the Lord is an interesting one, and I like the idea here that God will restore to us whatever we give.  Not that that should be our only motivation of course; learning to love is an important lesson.

Today, let's help the poor and remember that it is an investment in the Lord... no chance of that turning out to be a bad investment. :)

Friday, April 27, 2018

1 Nephi 17:8-9 -- On Prayer and Finding the Next Step

"And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters.
And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?"
1 Nephi 17:8-9

Nephi is awesome.  If God told me to build a ship, I don't think my first question would be about finding ore.  I would probably be more like Moses, asking if I was really the right person for the job.  Nephi skips past all of the "not me" and "it's impossible" stuff and gets straight to the "how."  He realizes he is going to need some tools, and he doesn't have any, so he needs to make some, and he asks the question that will get him to the next step.

I think that is a good coping strategy, both with amazing things like this that we are asked to do, but also with some of the hard things that we just have to deal with in life sometimes.  Instead of spending valuable time and emotion on being overwhelmed and scared and feeling inadequate or angry, Nephi shows us how to skip up to finding the next step... what do I need?  What can I do about this?

I don't think that Nephi knew anything about shipbuilding, or probably even toolmaking.  His brothers mock him (verses 17-18) because they don't believe that he can do it.  It would have been easy for him to feel the same, but he took the next step, and whenever he needed additional help, he prayed for it (1 Nephi 18:3).  We can do the same.

Today, as we face the impossible tasks of life, let's remember that with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27).  Just because we don't know how and whatever we face is way too big for us doesn't mean that we can't do it, a little at a time, with God's help.  All we have to do is hold on to our faith and figure out the next step.  We can let the things after that come later, praying as we go.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Psalms 64:4 -- On Shooting Perfection

"That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not."
Psalms 64:4

This idea of shooting at the perfect unfortunately seems to be a popular one in our society.  It's a tempting one because when we feel inadequate it can sometimes make us feel better to see other people failing as well, or to show that others are not as perfect as they seem.   Seeing other people fail can make us feel that failure is okay, and normal.

Like all of Satan's tactics however, these are all corruptions and half-truths.  Failure *is* normal, but giving up and wallowing in it is deadly.  Instead we have to keep getting back up and trying again.  Embracing the idea of shooting at the perfect only serves to destroy us.  It teaches us mockery and scorn and hatred rather than service and support and love.  It teaches us criticism rather than compassion; failure over friendship.

Jesus Christ was perfect.  He stands as our ideal, our example, our goal.  Killing him did nothing to diminish him, but only condemned others.  Similarly, tearing others down in our own lives does nothing to build us up.  It only destroys us further.

Today, let's build each other up, helping those that admire us, and learning from those we admire.  Let's not set the perfect up for target practice, but instead work on becoming more perfect ourselves... both individually and as a community, striving together to emulate Christ.  Let's shoot *for* perfection rather than shooting *at* perfection.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Ether 6:5 -- On Furious Wind and the Promised Land

"And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind."
Ether 6:5

This is talking about how the Jaredites got to the promised land, and what struck me about it is the furious wind.  They were tossed upon the waves of the water, and that doesn't sound like a very comfortable trip.  The wind was an integral part of that journey though, despite discomfort.

So it is in our lives, right?  We get tossed around quite a lot sometimes, but the very wind doing the tossing is the same one that delivers us to the promised land.  We have to endure the discomfort in order to find our peace.

Later in this chapter (verse 9) it talks about how, during the journey, they sang and they prayed and thanked God for helping them.  I liked that as well, thinking about our lives and how we have to find joy in the journey.  We can't wait for perfection before we cultivate some happiness in our lives.

Today, let's thank God for the journey, and for the wind, even though it isn't always comfortable, and it forces us to grow and change.  Let's rejoice in changing for the good and on moving towards God in our lives.  Let's stick with him and make it to the promised land.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

3 Nephi 18:15 -- On Prayer, Captivity, and the Easier Hard Way

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him."
3 Nephi 18:15

The idea here, that sin is captivity, is fairly common in the scriptures, but we so often think the opposite... that sin is freedom, and God's commandments are horrible impediments in our lives.  We often think of sin as an escape from religious or societal restrictions that are conspiring to prevent us from having what we truly want.

Later though, when that initial rebellious rush is over, and we have time to think, we realize (sometimes slowly) that something is missing, and that nothing we've gained could ever make up for that loss.  We realize that we've lost something we desperately need, and that this isn't freedom at all... in fact, we're trapped, and it seems like there is no way out.  ... Or no easy way, at least.

The way out is changing who we are, because that is part of what repentance is.  It isn't just saying we're sorry.  It's truly *being* sorry that we made that choice, and being a new person that wouldn't make it again.  And that is hard, hard work.

Being alive is hard work though... learning is hard work.  Repentance is completely worth it.  However, today, let's do our best to watch, and pray, and be careful of falling into those pits that we have fallen into before.  Let's give ourselves the room and the freedom to learn things the easier hard way rather than always the harder hard way. :)  Let's obey God and thereby gain freedom rather than break our covenants and gain captivity.  It doesn't always seem like that, I know, but it is exactly that way.  God is working to protect us from horrible things, every day.  Let's pray, and pray some more, and not volunteer to jump into them anyway.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Matthew 7:3 -- On Changing Ourselves and then the World

"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"
Matthew 7:3

This is a trap that I think we all fall into sometimes--criticizing others rather than examining ourselves.  It's very tempting, because we can't change others, and we don't typically know them as well as we know ourselves, so it is easy.  We can blame them for all that is wrong with the world and we don't have to do anything about it.

The problem with that is, we are the only parts of the world that we can do anything about.  The way we live, the example we set, the difference that we individually make.  We can change the world, but we can't do it by trying to change others.  We do it by changing ourselves, and thereby influencing others for good.

Today, let's stop looking for other people to blame and let's take a good long look at ourselves.  When we read scriptures, let's apply them to ourselves, not to the other guy.  Let's change the world by changing ourselves, by following God, by setting an example of purity and goodness.  As we do that, we'll be able to help God to establish his kingdom and help others in need.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

2 Nephi 1:7 -- On Cursings and Blessings

"Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever."
2 Nephi 1:7

When I read this today I was wondering how the land could be cursed for the sake of iniquity, but still be blessed unto the righteous forever.  Perhaps it is a similar idea to television or the internet or other technologies... they can be powerful forces both for good and for evil, depending on how they are used.  Are we watching conference or are we watching something inappropriate?  Things aren't always that black and white of course, and as individuals we draw different lines in our lives about how we use technology, hopefully including God in that decision.  I'm definitely not saying technology is evil, just that things can be both good and bad at the same time.

We know that "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28), and I assume that land is included in that.  And I think we all know from personal experience that things just don't go as well in our lives when we aren't including God.  Things aren't clicking the same way.  So, in a way, we bring upon ourselves a blessing or a cursing depending on whether we are including God in our lives or not.  The cursing might just be the absence of the blessing, but since we know what that blessing is like, it feels like a curse when it isn't there.

Today, let's be the righteous, and use tools and technology and land righteously.  Let's interact with others positively.  Let's use our freedom to work towards blessings and improvement rather than curses and stagnation.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

D&C 58:29 -- On Attitude and Action

"But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned."
Doctrine and Covenants 58:29

Something that we don't always get about life is that attitude matters.  God isn't just trying to force us into a behavioral mold.  He's trying to help us to become happy, to learn *why* the commandments are right and good and we should stick with God, rather than just doing things "because he says so."  As with any parent-child relationship, it isn't a bad idea to obey for that reason, but eventually (and the sooner the better), we need to learn why for ourselves, and actually want to do the good things for the right reasons.

I had a teacher once who gave me a C on a paper, and explained to me that for anyone else it would be an A, but that he knew that I could do better.  I didn't react well to that message, and I thought it was a pretty unfair standard.  Looking back though, I think it makes a lot of sense.  He was right.  The idea in the verse above of keeping a commandment with slothfulness was *exactly* me.  I did the minimum necessary to get by, and thought that I would skate through like always... and I needed to wake up.  That teacher was looking out for me, trying to give me some individualized education, and help me excel.  It didn't work so much at the time, but that's my fault, not his. :)

God isn't expecting us to be good at everything, or to be better than the next guy.  Truthfully, he knows that none of us will ever meet the minimum standards for heaven by ourselves.  So it isn't about being "fair" to us.  If he were actually fair, we would all fail.  He just wants us to all make a sincere effort and keep trying, so that we can eventually rise above our limitations and be able to live with him again.

Today, let's try not to be resentful that we have to do things that reek of effort.  Let's not wait around until the last minute when there is no way out of it to take care of our obligations to God.  Let's not go in expecting to fail, or expecting God to condemn us.  Instead, let's work with God, being open to his help to change our hearts and to become the amazing people that we can be.  That day, in that class, I should have realized that it was an opportunity to improve, and rewritten the paper.  Today, with God, let's do better than I did with my professor, and let's take the opportunities that God gives us and act on them.  Let's find ways to learn and grow and help people without God having to draw us a map.  We can see good things to do all around us.  Let's do some of them. :)

Friday, April 20, 2018

2 Chronicles 16:7-10 -- On Anger versus Repentance

"And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.
Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet, because thou didst rely on the Lord, he delivered them into thine hand.
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.
Then Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time."
2 Chronicles 16:7-10

This is a cool little story.  Hanani comes and tells Asa that he isn't relying on the Lord, and that is the reason for the recent setback.  He provides an example of when Asa did better.  Hanani tells Asa what the consequences of his lack of reliance on the Lord will be.

At this point in the story Asa has a choice, and it is the same choice that we all have when faced with similar situations.  Do we repent and turn back to the Lord, or do we get angry, and keep choosing something other than God?  Unfortunately, Asa chooses to get angry, and he throws Hanani in jail.

The thing about getting angry though is that it doesn't do any good, and it doesn't change the facts.  Asa could be mad all day, but Hanani was still telling the truth.  Throwing him in jail didn't change anything.

Today, let's work on relying on the Lord rather than putting anything else first or discounting God's advice.  And when we are reminded or even chastised, as will happen from time to time in our lives, let's choose repentance over anger and change our lives for the better rather than for the worse.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Joel 3:16 -- On Hope in the Midst of Chaos

"The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel."
Joel 3:16

This verse is from a prophecy of things that will happen before the Second Coming, and there are a lot of scary things in these chapters.  What I really like in this verse is the idea that "the Lord will be the hope of his people."  I think that holds true now, just as it will then.  Bad things are going to happen, whether it is now or as it gets closer to the Second Coming.  No one gets through life without some obstacles and tragedy.  No matter how bad it gets, though, there is *always* hope to be found in the Lord.  He is the reason that we don't have to be afraid of the things that are happening around us in the world.

Today, let's remember that the Lord is our hope, even when the heavens and earth are shaking around us.  Let's trust in him, and not be afraid.  He will help us with whatever we face, even in the midst of all the chaos around us.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Psalms 74:16-17 -- On Breaking Down the Partitions

"The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun.
Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter."
Psalms 74:16-17

I think that we set boundaries sometimes in our lives about where and when it is time for God.  Sundays often make the list, but other times are set aside for ourselves, for family, for work or school, etc.

Reading this today was a good reminder that everything is God's, and that he should be part of every fraction of our lives... and in fact, every part of our lives would be better if God were involved.  He can help us to be more than we are.

Today, let's break down those partitions in our lives, and make sure that we invite God into our lives wholeheartedly and completely.  As we do, we will enjoy better lives, better relationships, and better happiness.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Genesis 40:8 -- On Including God

"And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you."
Genesis 40:8

I like that Joseph is so confident in God that he would help him understand the interpretation of dreams.  Nephi has a similar experience when his father had a dream and he wanted to understand it.  He prayed, knowing that God could not only show it to him, but help him understand the interpretation.

I think so many things in our lives are harder just because we don't think to ask God about them, or we don't trust him to help us.  Joseph and Nephi, and the Brother of Jared, and so many of the other people that meet in the scriptures--they believed that the Lord could help them with any task, and he did.  They included God in their daily lives in a way that I think sometimes we just don't.

Today, let's show that we always remember God and that we put him first by including God in our lives, and asking him to help us with whatever we are facing.  Whatever it is, if it concerns us, then God cares, and he wants to help, and he will if asked in faith.  Let's work on having the faith that Joseph had, and trust the Lord that he will help us with everything that we do, as we are obedient and trust in him.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Psalms 57:9-10 -- On Mercy and Truth and Breaking Down Partitions

"I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations.
For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds."
Psalms 57:9-10

I like the idea of mercy being great unto the heavens and truth unto the clouds.  Obviously symbolism, but God's mercy really does reach to the heavens, because that is how we get there. :)  And his truth encompasses everything we know, including the clouds.

We so often partition our lives with God on one side and "real" life on the other... going about our school or work days and not thinking about God until it is time for that.  Except God's mercy and truth (and everything else) reaches us wherever we are, and is *part* of all of it.  God can help us at work or school, and we can serve him there as well.

Today, let's remember that God's mercy and truth are everywhere, and let's embrace it everywhere rather than trying to live part of our lives without that necessary goodness.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

2 Nephi 9:39 -- On Remembering Awfulness

"O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal."
2 Nephi 9:39

Remembering awfulness probably wasn't on our list of the things that we wanted to do today, but I think that Jacob has a point here.  Sometimes we gloss over the consequences of our actions, and the seriousness of losing the spirit.  We think it's no big deal, we can repent later, or get it back tomorrow or whatever.  And, while it is absolutely true that repentance works and we *can* repent at any time, we might not be considering how hard it will be after walking away, or the very real consequences of sin in our own lives.

God doesn't tell us not to sin just to be able to order us around.  He tells us not to because sinning *hurts* us.  We are harming ourselves, and often other people as well, when we sin.  It isn't always obvious harm, but it is serious nevertheless, and we can see it in our lives when we start actively avoiding church or anything that reminds us of God because we don't want to feel guilt and pain.  We can see it in our lives when the shine wears off of whatever obsession we are focused on and we don't even like it, or ourselves, anymore, but we stay focused there, trying to get that fleeting joy back, and missing being able to feel good about ourselves.  There are many other examples.  God is trying to save us from that hurt, and sadness, and despair, and saying that we can repent later doesn't save us from any of it either.  We have to remember the awfulness in part so that we can remind ourselves to avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

No matter where we were, or where we are, God can help us come home to him.  We can be clean again.  We can be whole.  Today, let's remember the awfulness and climb OUT of it, and remember never, ever to dive back in, but to stick with God, where there is joy and peace.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Abraham 1:2 -- On Reflection and Refinement

"In the land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of my fathers, I, Abraham, saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence;
And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers."
Abraham 1:1-2

This is interesting to me because in thinking about it today, I think we all do this.  Abraham is getting ready to move (he doesn't mention it right here at the beginning, but this is serious need, not just "hmm, maybe I want to travel the world for a bit.") and he takes the opportunity to think about what he wants, and who he wants to be.

Abraham sees that there is greater happiness and peace through God.  And isn't that part of the conversion story for everyone?  When we finally realize that God can take care of us, and everything, way way better than we can, and that we have a lot to learn, and we'll get more happiness and peace doing things his way rather than our way?  He realizes that he truly wants to be righteous, and to know more, and learn more, and to follow God.  He doesn't just want the blessings alone, but he sees what following God entails.  He wants the blessings, *and* the way of life that is inherently tied to them, because he wants to be a better person as well, and to learn God's way.

Today, even if we aren't in the middle of moving, let's take some times for reflection and refinement, as Abraham did.  Let's look at our lives and think about what we want, and who we want to be.  Let's work at learning, and living, and becoming better, with God's help.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Genesis 18:14 -- On Miracles and Never Giving Up

"Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son."
Genesis 18:14

This verse is from the story of Abraham and Sarah, when God blessed them with their son Isaac.  Sarah, by any mortal measure, was too old to have children, but God promised her one anyway.  And 3 chapters later, it happens. :)

One of the things about this earth life that I think infects us too much is the idea of endings and limitations.  It's good on one hand to know when to say no, and to not overwhelm ourselves or neglect our loved ones because of all of the extra things that we take on.  That said, though, the main idea in this verse, and so many other places in the scriptures is that God is able to do anything, and that through him, we have the power to do anything he asks.

Today, let's work on believing God when he says something.  We can become better, we can repent, we can be saved... through him.  Miracles will happen as we trust in the Lord and do as he asks.  Things might not always happen exactly the way that we wanted them to, but they will happen the way the Lord wants them to, and because he is in charge, all of it leads to a happy ending.  We just have to keep working at it and never give up, on God or on ourselves.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Lamentations 3:55 -- On Prayer from the Dungeon

"I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon."
Lamentations 3:55

This really says it all in a lot of ways.  Whenever our lives go wrong, as they will, and we feel trapped, whether through chance, the actions of others, or our own actions, the answer is always the same: Call on the Lord.

God isn't always the first thing that we think of when things go wrong, but he probably should be, because God is the one that can sort through even our impossible problems and help us find solutions.

Praying always is a good thing that helps us stay close to the Spirit.  Prayer can get us through pretty much anything.  So, today, let's start practicing and developing that relationship with God that saves us from low dungeons and makes everything else better too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Proverbs 17:27-28 -- On Shutting Our Lips

"He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.
Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."
Proverbs 17:27-28

I think these verses are a good reminder that sometimes we just need stop and listen.  We often want to get in the "last word," or offer our opinions about everything that occurs, but often that is just overactive ego, and the best thing to do is to disengage our mouths and engage our ears.  Listening helps us to learn about others and their thoughts and feelings.  We don't always need to broadcast our own.

Today, let's work on shutting our lips.  When we do need to speak, let's spare our words.  It doesn't mean that we don't have a voice or can't communicate or participate.  It just means that we listen and evaluate a little better before we do that, and start including others in our lives and choosing our words wisely just a little more.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Jonah 3:9 -- On Hope, Optimism, and Positive Change

"Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?"
Jonah 3:9

This is part of the story of Jonah and the city of Nineveh, in which God did spare Nineveh.  I think that we sometimes get caught up in predictions of doom and thoughts of consequences that we forget to factor in the miracle of repentance, and instead just stop trying, figuring that if the future looks so bad and our own choices have already condemned us, then why try anymore?  Except here is the lesson of Nineveh which teaches us otherwise.

They were condemned, and they had sinned, and yet they studiously and sincerely repented.  They dedicated themselves again to the Lord.  And the Lord spared them.  ... And sincerely, before that, he sent someone to warn them (which is probably pointless if the doom can't be averted), and he gave them time to repent.  He could have just disintegrated the whole place, but instead he waited, and he gave them time to change.

God does the same for us.  He warns us, and he gives us time to repent.  He even helps us to change (if we ask him to; never forcing us).  Today, let's learn the lesson of optimism and hope that Nineveh teaches us.  Let's not focus on the bad things that might happen or that have happened.  Let's focus on now, and the miracle of repentance.  Let's be willing to change rather than give up.

Monday, April 9, 2018

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 -- On Good Words and Works and Everlasting Consolation

"Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work."
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I love the phrase "everlasting consolation."  That sounds pretty good, and permanent. :)  Maybe it shouldn't, but it often just blows me away that God even cares about our feelings.  The whole idea of God is so ... I don't know ... huge, I guess.  So beyond what we are and so he seems out of reach and out of our league, and beyond everyday concerns.  And yet, his work, as our Eternal Father, is helping and loving us.  It might be sort of like the relationship a toddler has with her father, except I'm more aware of my toddlerness. :)

One of the miraculous things about the atonement was Christ experiencing the pains and the sufferings of his people--all of us--and really knowing what it is like to go through what we do, to feel what we feel, and to really know us intimately.  And I think that is how Jesus Christ and God the Father both comfort us and give us consolation and hope... because they know us so well, and they love us anyway, wanting to help us and lift us and teach us.

Let's seek and accept God's support as we do good works and speak good words.  Let's rejoice in God's love and everlasting consolation, and spread that joy around freely. :)

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Romans 8:28 -- On Heroes and Happy Endings

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose."
Romans 8:28

This is a great scripture that helps us understand that everything is basically on our side when we are on the same page with God.  We sometimes misinterpret this to mean that bad things won't happen, but that's inaccurate.  Nephi was doing the right things, but he still got tied up and beaten, still broke his bow and his family was still on the brink of starvation... still had to flee from Jerusalem and live in the wilderness.  Joseph was highly favored of the Lord, but his brothers still sold him into slavery and he still was accused of a crime he didn't commit and was thrown into prison.  In both these cases, and in many, many others throughout the scriptures, all of these bad things led to something good in the end.  Even the bad things worked together to help not only them, but their families, and you could argue changed the entire world.

So it is with us.  Sticking with God isn't going to stop bad things from happening, or mean that we always understand the purpose of the things that are happening around us.  But it does mean that we can trust God that there IS a purpose... that everything that happens is leading us to something good in the end.  Today, let's trust in God's plan, and stay faithful even in the bad times, knowing that God is in control and will lead us to our happy ending, if we just stick with him through the good and bad chapters, and keep working to become the heroes that we were meant to be. :)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

2 Nephi 25:26 -- On Christ-Focused Love

"And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins."
2 Nephi 25:26

This is a good reminder that our focus should always be Christ, who died for us and made salvation possible.  I like the idea of talking, rejoicing, preaching, prophesying, and writing about Christ and focusing on teaching others.  It is only through the idea of Christ's atonement that we can build Zion and become unified and perfected.

Today, if we are able to do these things and rejoice in and spread the good word, let us do so.  And if we aren't there yet, let's focus on learning of Christ, and first obtaining his spirit and his gospel (D&C 11:21).  It's important to listen and understand and have the spirit with us, so that we're instruments in his hands rather than spreading our own ideas.

As we put Christ first in our lives and remember every day what he did for us, and how much we need him, it helps us to become meek and to understand what our relationship with our fellow beings should be.  Let's go forward in love, following Christ's example of helping and serving others, and making sure that our faith in and love for Christ is reflected in the way that we treat our fellow humans.  As we do, we can rejoice with them in the gospel as it points our way to God.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Mark 9:43-48 -- On Pain and Perfection

"And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."
Mark 9:43-48

Jesus taught these words in the New Testament.  What it is teaching seems to be not self-mutilation, but symbolic self-sacrifice in the pursuit of something better.  Sometimes we feel like some habit or lifestyle or sin is just a part of who we are, and it would harm us to give it up... it's just "who we are."  And here, Christ advises us to give it up anyway.

Life is going to hurt sometimes.  That's okay... we need to keep living anyway, and make the right choices even though it can be painful.  Let's not accept that we are just bad at something, or claim to be unable to comply with God's requests because they just don't fit with who we are.  And if it means losing something that is as precious to us as a hand, or a foot, or an eye--still.  So be it.  God will make up for anything we lose in the long run, and even in the short run, the point is well made here that it is better than hell. :)

Today, let's choose better than hell.  Let's choose God over our weaknesses, and become the better people that we all can be.  It isn't always easy, to be sure... but it is always, always worth it.  That process of perfection is worth a little pain... especially pain that will be washed away and swallowed up in joy as we grow closer to God.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

1 Nephi 8:7-9 -- On Praying for Light

"And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste.
And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies.
And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field."
1 Nephi 8:7-9

The thing that I thought of today while reading these verses is "What if they were the same place?"  The dark and dreary place turns out to be a large and spacious field... what changed?  God did, spreading his light and showing us the things around us more clearly.

I have no idea if that is the correct interpretation of the verses of course, but it doesn't really matter that much because that underlying idea of God lighting up our lives and showing us the good in the middle of even the worst times... that's still true.  God can help us see clearly and know how to navigate and tell the good from the evil (Moroni 7:15).

Today, let's do what Lehi did, and when we find ourselves in darkness, let's pray for God's light and mercy. :)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Moses 7:21 -- On Cooperating towards Perfection

"And it came to pass that the Lord showed unto Enoch all the inhabitants of the earth; and he beheld, and lo, Zion, in process of time, was taken up into heaven. And the Lord said unto Enoch: Behold mine abode forever."
Moses 7:21

This whole verse is cool, but the thing that strikes me the most here is the idea of a whole city achieving perfection together.  Thinking of cities that I have lived in, that seems far out of reach.

One of the lessons here is certainly that we need each other... that we all have to work together to make Zion possible.  Not just setting a good example, although that is of course valuable, but making a real, concerted effort to love and serve each other.

Today, let's work on overcoming our contentions and divisions.  Let's work on cooperating and on truly loving each other and finding solutions together to make ourselves and the world around us better and better.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Zephaniah 2:2-3 -- On Seeking the Lord

"Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger come upon you.
Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger."
Zephaniah 2:2-3

These verses are powerful in advising us to seek the Lord.  On the surface the whole anger part might seem like scare tactics, and perhaps in a way they are, but I think it is more the way you might get frightened when you see someone you love doing something very dangerous, and you are scared *for* them.  Zephaniah saw a taste of the future Second Coming, like many other prophets had, and he pleads with all of us here to please prepare ourselves rather than choosing our own destruction.

Zephaniah asks us to seek three things here: the Lord, righteousness, and meekness.  It's a powerful combination, and I think that there are specific things that we can do to heed Zephaniah's warning.

We seek the Lord through prayer, scripture study, and listening to the spirit. 

We seek righteousness by repenting, going to our Sinners Anonymous meetings (church), and by obeying the commandments.

We seek meekness by putting the Lord's will before our own, by celebrating the accomplishments of others, and by exhibiting calm self-restraint and kindness, no matter our circumstances.

Obviously these lists are not all-inclusive, and there is overlap.  It's a start though.  Today, let's seek the Lord through righteousness and meekness.  Let's choose to find something to work on rather than allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed with our need for improvement.  Let's get outside ourselves and help others and treat them with kindness.

[The meekness steps were selected from the recent conference talk Meek and Lowly of Heart by Elder David A. Bednar.  Excellent stuff.  I recommend it.]

Monday, April 2, 2018

2 Nephi 9:29 -- On Priorities

"But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God."
2 Nephi 9:29

The verse before this talks about how much trouble being learned can get us in... thinking that we are wise and not listening to God like we should.  Here though, it acknowledges that being learned can also be a good thing, as long as we are putting the Lord first, and listening to God.

I think most things are like this.  We can get ourselves into whole heaps of trouble when we start thinking that we can handle things ourselves and that we don't need God.  Our knowledge, popularity, wealth, beauty, intelligence, talents, desires, attitudes, friendships, family, possessions, travels, and so much more, can all get in between us and God, or trip us if we put those things first.

However, if we put things into their proper places and make sure that the Lord is always first, so many of those things can be incredible blessings in our lives and the lives of others.  Not saying that we never have to sacrifice things, because sometimes we do (especially sin), and we always need to be *willing* to sacrifice things that get between us and the Lord.  But often the problem is priorities.

Today, let's be willing to listen to the Lord, and make sure that everything in our lives, no matter how important to us, takes a back seat to God.  As we put God first, everything will be better and the things that we still have in our lives will be sweeter, because they are in the right place, and things that we can righteously include in our God-focused lives.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

John 20:14-17 -- On Joy and Embracing Hope

"And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God."
John 20:14-17

This is an incredible story, and the end of a story that started somewhat earlier when Mary Magdalene came very early and found an empty tomb, where she expected to find Christ's body.  She was upset by this because instead of assuming resurrection, she assumed that his body had been taken.  (And to be fair, that is probably what we would assume as well, if we encountered the empty tomb or grave of a loved one.)  She was upset already by all the events leading to Christ's death and it isn't hard to imagine that grave robbing seemed to be the icing on that really, really bad cake.  She had suffered immense loss.

I have no idea why she didn't recognize Jesus instantly.  It could be that, like with the men on the road to Emmaus, his identity was hidden from her.  It could also be that her mind just wasn't there at all yet, and she couldn't see the living where she expected the dead until he said her name.  In any case, what an incredible moment, when she did recognize him... when her sorrow was turned completely around into overwhelming joy, and she knew that all she had suffered had been washed away by the living truth of his life standing before her.

At this point, I think we should examine some other translations, because in this case I think it makes a large difference.  The Joseph Smith Translation changes "touch me not" to "hold me not" and many other translations of the original Greek render the phrase here "cease from holding me," or "do not cling to me."  I think the word choice here changes everything.  It takes it from a sterile scene where the resurrected Lord could not be touched, to one where there was the overwhelmingly joyful embrace that you would expect.  But then, after comforting Mary, Jesus had to go, because he still had to ascend to his Father, so he sent her ahead with a message for when he would come back later.

Today, let's remember Mary's overwhelmingly joyful experience of having her sorrow washed away, and realizing that even death could not hold her Lord.  Let's realize as well that he can do the same for all of us, for because he overcame both sin and death, he can overcome all of our pains and our sorrows, as well as our mortality.  He gives us immortality in our resurrected bodies as a free gift.  Because Christ lives, we can live also.  And he also overcomes our sins, in essence giving us video-game like infinite chances to keep trying until we get it right.  All we have to do is keep playing and getting better (repenting and improving).  Let's embrace that hope.

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