Saturday, June 30, 2018

2 Nephi 7:4 -- Morning by Morning

"The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season unto thee, O house of Israel. When ye are weary he waketh morning by morning. He waketh mine ear to hear as the learned."
2 Nephi 7:4

I love the idea of God giving the tongue of the learned to people.  He can teach us what to say and help us learn anything, if we trust him.  We have a hard time relying on that sort of learning, but the other part of the verse perhaps shows us why we should make the effort.  God "waketh morning by morning" to help us when we are weary.  He is there, causing miracles every day to help us on our way.  Not just in huge, desperate circumstances, but in the important daily moments when we talk to him and build our faith.

Today, let's include God in our daily moments of decision or worry or triumph or joy.  He is there, every morning, every day... wanting to be part of it, and wanting to help us.  Let's tap into that and accept his love and his goodness into our lives every day, allowing him to bless us with whatever tongue or other help that we need, and remembering him not just occasionally. :)

1 Corinthians 9:27 -- On Subjection and Order

"But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
1 Corinthians 9:27

This is a good reminder that we should keep our bodies in subjection.  I don't think that means to harm them or treat them badly, but instead it is about priorities and boundaries.  Too often we live our lives just doing whatever our bodies want, rather than making sure that our spirits are behind the wheel.  It is an important lesson, because I think that we all know that we can get into a lot of trouble indulging uncontrolled appetites and passions.

Today, let's find out how much our lives can improve when we work to satisfy our spiritual desires before, and sometimes instead of, our physical ones.  Let's work with God and make sure that we check in with him on our priorities from time to time.  He will guide and teach us as we look to him for help, and will help us regain some order in our lives as we need it.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Luke 21:14 -- On Settling Our Hearts

"Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:"
Luke 21:14

Christ is talking to his followers here, telling them that they will be persecuted and that they will be called up before kings and rulers (verse 12).  This verse encourages them, and us, to trust in God to know what to say (see verse 15), but I also like the idea here of settling our hearts.  Christ doesn't ask us not to think ahead about this stuff so that we will doubt, but because he is asking us to trust him that he will grant us what to say when we need it.

The idea of settling our hearts isn't one of planning what to say ahead of time, but it is a commitment to rely on the Lord, and to put our trust in him so completely that we aren't going to start freaking out and doubting that decision over and over again... because it is settled. :)  It's still working on it ahead of time, but in a different way... firming up that commitment and making sure that we have the spirit with us, rather than going through disaster scenarios and pre-deciding what to do in each.  That might work occasionally, but God's way works always.

Today, let's work on having settled hearts, and dedicating ourselves to the Lord, so that, whatever comes, we will be ready, and confident that God will be there to grant us whatever is needed in that moment.  And if we aren't there yet, and we don't have that confidence, let's work with God and tell him we want to get there.  He will help.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

D&C 29:1 -- On Listening to the Voice of Christ

"Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I Am, whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins;"
D&C 29:1

This is a clear, strong message, and one that is pretty central to the gospel.  We miss a lot of what God has to say to us because we just aren't listening, so that is our first task.  To really listen, we have to quiet the other things that are going on in our heads and distracting us from the most important things... and it's tough.  Other people and other responsibilities that aren't bad things at all can still get in our way, let alone all the things out there that are indeed bad. 

I think that is part of the reason that idolatry is the first of the 10 commandments.  It isn't necessarily just about other objects of worship (though we certainly have many of those), but the idea is also about being distracted from where our focus needs to be, which is on God.

Some of the ways that we can listen are through prayer and scripture study, but other times just finding some quiet and thinking about God or reading a talk or listening to a hymn can help us feel the Spirit and his voice in our lives as well.

Today, let's listen to the voice of Christ.  Let's take time in our busy lives to make time for God, and to include him and prepare our hearts to do as he asks.  He will never lead us astray.  He suffered to give us a chance to succeed, and wants to lift and help us.  Let's follow his advice, and work at listening so that we know what that is.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Amos 8:11 -- On Famine and Meaning

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:"
Amos 8:11

I think using the word famine here helps us to understand the absolute necessity that God's word is to us in our lives.  Without it, we spiritually starve.  We waste away, and are at risk of death if we don't take the search for the water of life seriously.  God is that water, and his words are the scriptures and the words of the prophets, and the words that he grants us individually through prayer.  That communication and relationship that we have with God is what sustains us and lifts us and offers us hope, life, and meaning.

Am I saying that life is meaningless without God?  Yes and no... not entirely, at first.  It is more like growing up in an orphanage and being a little bit lost because you have no connection to your family, heritage, or culture.  When we don't have that connection to God we feel an emptiness or that there is something important missing.  We try to fill that void with many things, but none of them work for long, because the hole is God-shaped, and nothing else will work.  When we find him, and allow him into our lives, we make that connection.  We fill that void.  We have family, and we have a connection through whom we can learn our heritage and our culture.  We can learn to understand who we really are, and the possibilities and potential before us. 

If we choose to make covenants with God to remember and follow Christ, then he will lead us to all good.  If we reject that connection, then yes life is meaningless in a way, because we are now choosing to have a void in our lives and we know for ourselves exactly what is missing, which is much different than it was before we understood or experienced that sense of completion.  Perhaps the same difference between a famine and a hunger strike... specifically a hunger strike without a purpose, like suicide by starvation.  (Definitely not fasting, which we do to eliminate distractions from the Lord, instead of blocking him out.)

Maybe my analogies are a little muddled today, but I hope the main idea comes across... without God, our lives lack something essential, and until we find it, we can't know the richness and depth and true goodness that there can be in life.  Today, let's work on not spiritually starving ourselves, but instead, let us seek God and his word, and find that hope and meaning in our lives.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Proverbs 6:6-8 -- On Sluggards and Self-Reliance

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest."
Proverbs 6:6-8

This is a good lesson from God, asking us to be wise and to prepare and provide for ourselves.  It's just a good idea about living life, not something we should need to be forced or coerced into.

Today, let's work on not being sluggards. :)  Let's take God's advice and work on being as self-reliant as possible.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

D&C 1:19-20 -- On Stepping Up Our Trust in the Lord

"The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—
But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;"
D&C 1:19-20

The overall idea of trusting in God is clear here, and I think that is usually what we emphasize when the scriptures refer to trusting in God versus trusting in "the arm of flesh" (2 Chronicles 32:8, 2 Nephi 4:34).  However, just as powerful here is the idea of not counseling with each other.  I don't think that this is because it is a bad thing to talk about our lives with our friends, but just because we're reaching for an ideal that is well beyond just trusting God, at least on the level that we usually consider.  It is trusting God SO MUCH that we don't have to get advice from anyone else, ever, because we are so in tune with the Spirit that we are on the same page with God constantly.

We're not there yet, and just like God asking us to be perfect, God knows that it is going to take us a lot of time to practice before we are.  Today though, let's remember the ideal and instead of accepting the level of trust that we currently have in the Lord, let's maybe take it up a notch and do a little more to include God in our lives, and to counsel with him in all that we do.  Let's do more praying and communing with God, reading the scriptures, and listening to the prophets.

Hosea 3:5 -- On Covenant Breaking and Repentance

"Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days."
Hosea 3:5

This verse is about returning to God.  Throughout the chapter the symbolism of adultery is used as an illustration of how we betray God when we make covenants with him and then walk away.  It's an uncomfortable analogy, perhaps appropriately, because it gets us to really think about how we are treating the Lord.

Today, let's improve, and keep our promises, and return to the Lord.  God will take us back if we turn to him with our whole hearts and make the effort to change.  He loves us that much... not a weakness or a lack of self-respect, but an honest forgiveness and love that allows us to have another chance and to change, despite our horrible mistakes.  ... Let's thank and praise him, and repent and return.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Alma 18:22 -- On Relationships and the Lord's Way

"Now Ammon being wise, yet harmless, he said unto Lamoni: Wilt thou hearken unto my words, if I tell thee by what power I do these things? And this is the thing that I desire of thee."
Alma 18:22

I like this part of the story of Ammon, partly because of Ammon's response here.  Lamoni offers him basically anything he wants, and Ammon just asks if he will listen as he answers his question.

I think sometimes it is hard to think of everyone as our brothers and sisters, and treat them as well as we treat ourselves (Jacob 2:17).  Ammon could have gotten rich here, or gained influence, or many other things that we often seek.  Instead though, he just asks to be heard.  And before this, Ammon's missionary approach wasn't to just walk in and tell everyone they were wrong and he was right and everyone better repent or go to hell.  Instead, being offered more, he chose to become Lamoni's servant.  He consistently shows compassion and love, getting to know people rather than just trying to convince them to believe as he does.

Today, let's look to God and do things his way.  It's tough sometimes to take the time and build relationships with people rather than just calling them to repentance.  As with all else that God asks though, the effort to do things his way is totally worth it, teaching us faith and patience and love and service, and so much else... including helping us to connect with other people, which is kind of a self-contained reward. :)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Mosiah 24:7 -- On the Children of God

"And thus the Lamanites began to increase in riches, and began to trade one with another and wax great, and began to be a cunning and a wise people, as to the wisdom of the world, yea, a very cunning people, delighting in all manner of wickedness and plunder, except it were among their own brethren."
Mosiah 24:7

The idea here, of treating our own group well, and not being concerned with how we treat others, seems to be pretty pervasive in our society.  We might not plunder, but, like the Lamanites, we definitely don't always treat others the way we should, especially when they aren't in whatever group that we have defined for ourselves as people that are like us.

Today, let's not delight in wickedness in any form by ignoring or harming any of our brothers, sisters, and neighbors, or thinking that only our families or people similar to us are worthy of respect and compassion.  Perhaps we can remember Christ who asked us to love each other--even our enemies, and to lift and serve others.  We are all brothers and sisters, the children of God.

Let's be wise but harmless (Matthew 10:16) as we focus on God and his teachings and not the wisdom of the world.  We don't always understand why God asks what he does, but following his path and his teachings is always the best choice.  If we don't feel love for a certain group of people, let's pray and ask God to teach us.  He definitely will.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

John 14:6 -- On The Way

"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
John 14:6

The idea that we can only approach God through Christ is an important one.  It isn't about exclusivity, but about Christ actually enabling us to return to God.  He is the only way that it is possible.

Sometimes I think that we want it to be different.  We want to approach God ourselves, hoping for acceptance, but forgetting our own obligations.  God's plan is about covenants, and while God does provide for us, our part is that we have to remember Christ and improve, taking advantage of the multiple second chances he offers, and getting back to working on our potential.

Today let's remember that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life... that he enables us to be able to reach our potential and that he is our way back to our heavenly home.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 -- On Labor and Vanity

"Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.
And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity."
Ecclesiastes 2:18-19

These verses are part of a much larger discourse where it seems like the writer is trying to figure out the purpose of life.  Here, he realizes that it isn't to labor and earn earthly things, because at death they are just left to others, and may or may not be taken care of or respected at all.

That's a hard thing to remember, because work *is* important, and we value almost by definition the things that we work for.  It is hard to remember that we still owe everything we have to God, whether or not we worked for it.  It's part of the gospel package to give to others and to help them, but when we claim ownership of things and they become especially valuable to us, it is hard even to consider that someone else might need them more than we do.

Today, let's remember the vanity of chasing wealth or accumulating things.  Let's place more importance on people than things, and on helping others over luxury.  God is leading us to what is truly important and what will make us happy.  Let's trust him and live his way rather than trying to find meaning in acquisition.

Monday, June 18, 2018

2 Nephi 11:4-5 -- On Christ's Path to Perfection

"Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him.
And also my soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers; yea, my soul delighteth in his grace, and in his justice, and power, and mercy in the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death."
2 Nephi 11:4-5

I like the idea here of the all-encompassing nature of God's plan, and how everything and everyone was taken into consideration, the way all is as one day before the Lord (Alma 40:8).  The scriptures were written to point to Christ even though he was not yet living, and people before Christ were saved by his atonement, as we are, after the actual event.  Because God promised it, it was a sure thing before it even happened, which I think is a good thing to remember about all of God's promises.  They are always sure, even when they seem really far away.  Just like the atonement, the happy ending that God promises us, if we trust in it, can help us to be happy now (Mormon 9:14).

Nephi also mentions the covenants that the Lord made to his ancestors (and ours, whether by blood or adoption).  That's another example of this idea.  Sometimes it takes thousands of years for a promise to be fulfilled when it is to a whole people, but God *always* keeps his word.  If we can be patient and accept God's timing, it will always be perfect.

Nephi mentions God's grace, justice, power, and mercy.  The way that all of those pieces of the gospel fit together is a primary aspect of the atonement.  Christ makes it possible for justice and mercy to coexist in our lives, through the grace and power of Christ.  Through him, we can be imperfect, and yet still work towards perfection.  Because he pays the price and overcomes the obstacles for us, his grace grants us almost unlimited second chances to get it right (not that we should use them unwisely of course, or treat the atonement lightly).  Christ, as mediator, gives us that opportunity to keep working on changing and improving, until the eventual perfect day (Proverbs 4:18; D&C 50:24), which I think is not the day (though cool) with the best weather and the best friends, but rather the day when we actually reach perfection.  What an amazing day that will be.  Today, let's stay on God's path, and keep working towards that day.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Proverbs 26:24 -- On Hate and Deceit

"He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;"
Proverbs 26:24

This idea that deceit is a part of hate is interesting.  I was thinking about that, and it seems like we mostly hate people and things that we don't understand.  It's easy to hate something generic and depersonalized, but the more we get to know or understand, the more (usually) we learn to love.  So, I am wondering if hate is a form of self-deception, as we refuse to learn and insist upon our limited perspective.

Part of the atonement of Christ was Jesus learning what it was like to be each of us... to walk in our shoes and understand our pains and sicknesses and sin.  Essentially, he learned to see from our perspectives, and with his perfect love, he paid the price for us, so that we can still be saved if we repent and change.  Walking in his footsteps and doing as he did doesn't mean that we have to suffer as he did, but I think it does illustrate that learning about and loving others brings us closer to God.

Today, let's work on learning not to hate, and not to deceive ourselves or others by considering hatred okay in any way, with any person.  Instead, let's learn about others and work on loving them.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Mosiah 2:41 -- On Never Ending Happiness

"And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it."
Mosiah 2:41

Never-ending happiness is a pretty cool concept, and I love the fact that it is something that we can really have. :)  ... I think that sometimes we don't consider the truth here because it is difficult to see past our own challenges, or to understand God's timing.  And yet, if this is true (and it is), everything bad that happens to us will just turn into joy over time... part of faith in God is faith in that happy ending that he promises.  Also, trusting in the happy ending doesn't mean just suffering until then.  Because we already know that things will work out for the best in the end, that helps us to be happy now as well.

Being blessed in *all* things is another amazing promise, and another one we overlook sometimes because we are busy paying attention to things that we don't like.  When we really examine our lives, we find that even the hard things were huge blessings, designed to help us learn and grow into a potential that is greater than we can really comprehend.

Today, let's remember how good it is when we keep the commandments, and how blessed we are.  *Everything* goes better with God.  Let's not gum up our lives with sin and risk that happiness and guidance from God, who is always leading us to something great.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Luke 10:41 -- On Priorities

"And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:"
Luke 10:41

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were siblings, and some of Jesus' good friends (John 11:5).  They are part of some of the significant events during his life.  In this particular story, Martha invites Christ over, and she is busy serving everyone, but her sister Mary isn't helping her, so she asks him to intercede, and this is part of his response.  After this he goes on to tell her that "one thing is needful" (verse 42), indicating that she might be overly worried about the wrong things.

I think we run into similar issues in our lives quite often, where we are putting the wrong things first.  We, like Martha, get stressed about many things, and feel like we have to make everything work, and control it all.  Christ tells us "seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." (3 Nephi 13:33; see also Luke 12:31), not because he means that we should quit our jobs and read our scriptures all day, but because we need to switch up our priorities, not only remembering God during our other tasks, but also because we have a tendency to let other things crowd out God.  Ezra Taft Benson explained "When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives."

Today, let's try to worry less about the myriad of things that are on our plates, and make sure we remember God and put him as the first priority of our lives.  As we do, we not only will find more spirit and calm in our lives, but everything else will work better as well.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Haggai 1:5 -- On Taking God's Advice

"Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways."
Haggai 1:5

Even without being specific, this is some remarkable advice I think.  Likely, an awful lot of the mistakes and sins in our lives could be avoided with some simple reflection about what we are doing, where it is leading us, and who we really want to be.

Today, let's take God's advice seriously and consider our ways.  Then let's pray and talk to God about how we want to change, and ask him to help us get there.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Isaiah 25:7-8 -- On Veils and Tears and Becoming

"And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it."
Isaiah 25:7-8

This is talking about the Second Coming, and the covering or veil here seems like it could be the same veil that it talks about in Ether 3:6, D&C 110:1, Ether 12:19, and several other scriptures.  It could be the veil that caused us to forget the premortal existence when we came to earth, or it could be a veil of darkness and unbelief that it talks about in some other scriptures.  Either way, it talks about it being over all people and all nations, so destroying it seems like it will have a very dramatic effect.

I love this next verse as well, talking about death being swallowed up in victory, and no tears.  It say ALL faces, so doesn't that mean *zero* sadness?  Wow, right?  It is really hard to imagine a world with no sadness, but it is something I really *want* to envision, and participate in. :)

I think that scriptures like this are a taste of what God has in store for us.  Limitations removed, light restored, and happiness over us all like a blanket.  Let's live for that... working God's plan, and becoming the people who can be happy with all of that openness, and with God.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Mosiah 16:10-11 -- On Immortality, Happiness, and Damnation

"Even this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption, and shall be brought to stand before the bar of God, to be judged of him according to their works whether they be good or whether they be evil—
If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation, being delivered up to the devil, who hath subjected them, which is damnation—"
Mosiah 16:10-11

The becoming immortal and incorruptible part here is awesome, and the idea of resurrection and endless life and happiness.  It is less awesome to read about the other option... the reward for evil, which is being subject to the devil and being delivered to damnation.

I think damnation *should* be scary.  After all, it is something that we need to work hard to avoid.  However, I think the important thing to remember is that it is not *arbitrary.*  We can choose, and we have the ability to avoid damnation (or actually God has the ability to save us, but we have the ability to call upon God, and to get his help to change, which is necessary to our salvation).

Sometimes we risk damnation because we have a favorite sin, and we think God will understand our tiny, private vice.  The thing is, God doesn't look on sin with any degree of allowance.  It isn't because he is a bully, but because he knows better than we do.  When we ask God to keep a sin or two it is just like a kindergartner asking her mom if she could just drink a little bit out of the bottle marked poison.  Sure, the mom might *understand* why the kid finds the bottle fascinating, or why the child might wants to do something that is forbidden, but she is NEVER going to agree to it.  ... Similarly, God is trying to *save* us.  He won't allow sin because it is poisoning us and hurting us in ways that we don't even realize.

Today, let's work on preparing to stand before the bar of God, and be sure that we are choosing the "endless life and happiness" option rather than the "damnation" option.  Let's avoid the poison of sin, and look to God for help changing our ways.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Matthew 6:6-8 -- On Practicing Prayer

"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him."
Matthew 6:6-8

I like the idea here of prayer being a very personal thing between ourselves and God.  It isn't meant to be shown off in public or about proving how holy we are.  It's about communicating with our Heavenly Father, getting advice and help on dealing with life.

The fact that he already knows what we need can seem frustrating, and we wonder why he doesn't just give us what we need.  As with most things in life though, the point is our own edification.  We need to learn who we are, and the difference between needs and wants, and generosity and selfishness, and ... so many other things.  And sometimes we need to talk it all out with someone, and God is always going to be the best someone for things like that, because he can always help, no matter how bad it gets.

Today, let's go to God in prayer.  Let's talk to him about how we think and feel and of our hopes and dreams, and let's also listen and feel and see what God wants to communicate to us.  The more we practice, the more we'll be able to tune into the Spirit, and be on the same page with God about things.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

John 6:65-68 -- On Sticking with God

"And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."
John 6:65-68

The idea here that approaching Christ is a gift from God is an interesting one.  Sometimes we resist the idea, because on some level we want to be big and grown up and independent, but in a very real way, the good desires that we have are blessings from God.  He changes our hearts and teaches us how to reach our potential, and we work with him to take each step on the path to salvation.  That doesn't mean that we don't have a choice.  We do... but that free agency is also an important blessing from God. :)

Many of Christ's disciples left him because of something he says a little earlier in the chapter that they either didn't understand or didn't like.  Either way, the resulting conversation with the twelve is interesting, because Peter actually gets the whole idea of everything coming from God.  If we walk away from God, there is nowhere to go.  He is the only source of that life and spirit that we so desperately need.

Today, let's try to remember just how much we need God, and maybe stop trying to shut him out of parts of our lives. :)  Let's be like Peter, and instead of walking away when we don't understand or like something, let's acknowledge that the Lord is teaching us, not asking for our approval.  Let's go to God to learn the things we don't understand and to hear the words of eternal life.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

John 6:61-64 -- On Spirit, Life, and Testimony

"When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him."
John 6:61-64

This is from part of Christ's ministry when some of his disciples stopped following him, either not understanding when Christ talked about the atonement, or not believing, or perhaps both, having once followed him and presumably had a testimony, but then losing it when it got difficult. 

There are some interesting ideas here.  One big one is that the spirit is what gives us life, and the body "profiteth nothing."  That's very different from our largely body-obsessed modern world.  Not that bodies are pointless of course, or that we shouldn't take care of them, because they matter, and we should.  But we often go very far overboard focusing on our bodies and not on our spirits... prioritizing the needs of the body over the needs of the spirit, and worrying more about physical issues than spiritual issues.

Christ tells his disciples (and us) that his words are spirit and life, and yet some of them among even his closest followers didn't believe.  I wonder how hard that must have been for Christ, knowing ahead of time who would betray him, and yet knowing it had to happen, and doing nothing to avoid the betrayal, allowing the people involved their free agency, and accepting the consequences, for all of us.

Today, let's remember that the spirit is life, and let's try to reshuffle our priorities to reflect that.  Let's also avoid our own betrayal of Jesus Christ by taking our testimonies seriously and not accepting unbelief and doubt.  If we don't know whether some part of the gospel is true, then let's do the work and find out... let's work to establish a foundation in the gospel that we can build on, rather than letting our faith die out because we have left it malnourished.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Psalms 118:5-6 -- On Freedom and Improvement

"I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?"
Psalms 118:5-6

Setting someone in a large place seems to be associated with freedom.  Like the idea of giving someone their space now, or of freeing someone from a closed space is the idea of escaping from confinement.

It's interesting and cool that God answers our distress with freedom.  Often in our modern world desperation leads to someone taking advantage of our need, and binding us further in some way.  God does the opposite.  When we are desperate, he shows us that there is more to life than the limited choices we can see through the blinders of desperation.  He returns us to the freedom that he gave us in the first place, allowing us to choose to serve him, or not.

What we get out of this life is what we put into it, enhanced and multiplied by the Lord.  When we turn to him for help, he always moves us towards being able to stand on our own again and make our own choices... because he isn't going to compel us to love him or to choose to be good people.  That has to be our own choice, or we aren't actually changing who we are or progressing.

I like the last verse here too.  The Lord is on our side, and there is no reason for fear.  Compared to God, the things that people can do to us are limited and frivolous.

Today, let's remember that other people aren't in charge of our future.  We are.  God's goal is to set us in a large place and free us to make better choices, and he can free us from any man-made confinement.  Our escape from any bondage is through the Lord... including bondage that we have chosen for ourselves.    Let's take advantage of that freedom he bestows and ensures, and become better--helping other people to improve and to learn to make better choices as well.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Matthew 5:5 -- On Meekness and Inheriting the Earth

"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."
Matthew 5:5

There is an interesting footnote on the word meek here. It says "GR gentle, forgiving, or benevolent; the Hebrew in Ps. 37:11 characterizes as the humble those who have suffered."  I like the idea that we learn gentleness, forgiveness, and benevolence through the things that we suffer... and so the meek who are going to inherit the earth are the people who have suffered--been tested and tried--and thus have learned meekness and patience and love.  Perhaps the meek inherit the earth because they are the ones still standing. :)

I think "meekness" is often misunderstood to be weakness, but if it is something forged through suffering, as is implied in the footnote, then I think instead that it is a very clear choice rather than fear or lack of strength.  The meek have the power and the knowledge to compete and likely prevail, but they choose, instead, to be kind and loving and patient with people who might misunderstand, misjudge, or even condemn them.  They don't have to prove anything or win at all costs.  ... Sounds a lot like Christ.

Today let's look at meekness differently.  It isn't being weak or a loser or a doormat.  It's actually the supreme power of self control--of being calm and okay even when provoked, of loving our enemies, and repenting and learning from our mistakes, and from the people around us.  It's recognizing that other people have value and have something to offer even when they don't respect us or conform to our standards.  Let's start working on the whole inheriting the earth thing by making it a better place for us all.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

2 Chronicles 6:28-30 -- On Trials, Prayer, and Repentance

"If there be dearth in the land, if there be pestilence, if there be blasting, or mildew, locusts, or caterpillers; if their enemies besiege them in the cities of their land; whatsoever sore or whatsoever sickness there be:
Then what prayer or what supplication soever shall be made of any man, or of all thy people Israel, when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief, and shall spread forth his hands in this house:
Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men:)"
2 Chronicles 6:28-30

This is Solomon dedicating the temple.  I like the all-encompassing nature of this part, where he basically says if anything bad happens, then please help. :)  We all know our own sores and our own griefs as individuals, apart from the suffering of others, but God also knows, because he knows all of our hearts.  We never have to feel alone or isolated because of our suffering, if we reach out to God in prayer for help.

I like also that forgiveness is part of helping us out in our times of trial.  Perhaps we all need a little bit of forgiveness before we can really be on the same page with God, since we so often forget him.  When things go bad and we remember him because we finally feel like we need his help, we have some repenting to do about all that time in between this crisis and the last one, where we didn't quite keep us with our communication and our promises.

The last part that is both very cool and also a little scary is that God will render to us according to all our ways.  That could be amazing, and it is definitely meant here as a blessing, but it also is somewhat scary just because it means that we'll be blessed according to our own actions--which means that we probably have to consider our ways (Haggai 1:5,7) and repent.

Today, let's repent and work on our desires and actions, so that when God blesses us according to our actions and desires that will be a good thing. :)  Let's also remember to call on the Lord whether it is a time of trial for us or not. :)  None of us have to be alone in anything that we are going through, because God really does know how we feel and think and everything in our hearts.  It's a good message to internalize, and also to share: Prayer works.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

1 Kings 8:37-39 -- On Spiritual Plagues and Cures

"If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpiller; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be;
What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house:
Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)"
1 Kings 8:37-39

 I like this prayer.  The idea that God answers our prayer, no matter what else is going on in the background is a powerful one.  I also like the idea that God knows what is in our hearts, and that so do we. :)

Today, let's remember the plague of our own hearts, and let's make supplication to God that he will forgive us as we repent.  Let's remember that we can rise above our faults and mistakes and weakness, with God's help.  He is the cure for our plague. :)  And as we remember, let's do something about it.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Hebrews 6:15 -- On Patience and Promises

"And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise."
Hebrews 6:15

This verse is talking about Abraham, but it could just as well be talking about each of us.  God's promises are sure, but we have to learn patience and faith, and trust in his timing, which is always better than our own.  Patience precedes the promises, and even sometimes enables them.  Once on my mission If we get to a point where we think that we've waited long enough for the Lord, then we're off track.  Just as when tragedies strike, we can't know exactly when, or even if, our problems are going to be resolved.  What we do know is that God is the author of the story.  We can learn happiness now, even in chapter 5, if with an eye of faith we look forward to God's happy ending and trust in it.

Today, let's work on getting better at the patient endurance, but especially in the trust and faith and belief in God and his plan that allows it to be patient endurance rather than desperate suffering.  Knowing that things are going to be okay can get us through immediate circumstances that are not okay.  Let's hold on to our trust in the Lord and look to him for our answers.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Psalms 26:6-7 -- On Hands and Voices

"I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord:
That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works."
Psalms 26:6-7

The idea of washing in innocency seems to be an allusion to repentance, and I like the idea that we can become innocent again, or in other words, "become as little children" (Matthew 18:3), right?  God's cleansing doesn't leave stains and his healing doesn't leave scars, so if we repent we can essentially be new again... a much more radical idea than the way we usually think of repentance.

I also love here the idea of publishing the voice of thanksgiving and telling of God's wondrous works.  Most of us talk to our friends about products that we like, or about awesome things that happened to us... but we don't talk about the Book of Mormon or going to church with that same kind of fervor, and too often even just kind of avoid talking about God in our lives.

Today, let's work on that newness of life that God offers by repenting and working back towards the good qualities that we had as children.  Let's also work on finding ways to tell people what God has done for us, and how wondrous they were and how thankful we are.  As we do, we'll get closer to our ideal selves and improve our relationship with God.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

D&C 18:10 -- On the Worth of Souls

"Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;"
Doctrine and Covenants 18:10

This is a good reminder, both about others and about our own souls.

The scriptures can seem contradictory on this subject because we are told in other places that we are "less than the dust of the earth" (Helaman 12:7; Mosiah 4:2).  Those verses are associated with disobedience and how the dust follows God better than we do, but they don't mean that we don't matter to God.  I think they are more focused on making sure we don't get above ourselves and think that we are so super cool that we don't need God.

The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) I think illustrates both sides of the seeming paradox.  The prodigal son took his inheritance and wasted it, and then had nothing, and he finally realized that he was nothing on his own, without the wealth that he had wasted (which is the comparison to dust), and he decided to return to his father's house to ask for a job as a servant.  But when he came home, he was welcomed with a feast, and accepted again as a son, because his soul was of great worth to his father, who compares his return to coming back from the dead. 

Similarly, we are told in Mosiah 3:19 that "the natural man is an enemy to God" (which goes along with the dust idea), but that we can put off that natural man and learn to become saints.  I think the combined message from both sides is that we have infinite potential, but that when we walk away from it, we're walking away from greatness towards dustiness, but when we "arise from the dust" (2 Nephi 1:14; Moroni 10:31) and start living up to our potential, we can still learn to understand and try to live up to our true worth, and the incredible price that Christ paid to save us.

Today, let's not discount the worth of others or our own worth, but remember our potential, which God can teach us to understand and work toward.  Let's arise from the dust and move towards the amazing people that we can become with God's help.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 -- On Loving the Stranger

"For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:
He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.
Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt."
Deuteronomy 10:17-19

In our modern society we often advocate the fear of strangers.  "Stranger Danger" is what we pass on to children to warn them to be aware that people they don't know might not have their best interests at heart.  ... And I am certainly not advocating placing children in danger.  However, perhaps we ourselves take the idea too far.  God asks us in these verses to love the stranger, as he does.  I don't think that necessarily means accepting candy or rides from them right away, but I submit that there are many ways to love others without placing ourselves in danger.

One of the ways we define "stranger" is people that we don't know, and another way suggested by the verses above is people who aren't from our own country, or who are "not like us" in some other way, as the Hebrews and the Egyptians were different.  Even when Joseph was second only to Pharoah, it tells us that the groups ate separately: "the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians."  So, even living together in the same nation, they were strangers in many ways, being different and having differing traditions and practices.

How do we love the stranger?  Leviticus tells us "But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself" (19:34). Matthew states "Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or thirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?" (25:44), and Mosiah asks "For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?" (5:13).  All of these verses seem to advocate treating strangers just like we treat everyone else, and loving and serving them as we would a friend or a brother.  The last verse especially suggests that God is a stranger to us in many ways, and that as we serve him and think about him and consider his desires, we get to know him better.  And that is probably a good way to approach all non-kidnapping stranger interactions. :)  One of the ways to love strangers is to get to know them, and consider their perspective.  This helps us turn strangers into friends, even when they remain strange to us in some way. :)  And, honestly, aren't we all a little strange sometimes? :)

Today, let's remember that God doesn't ask us only to love our families or the neighbors that live on the same street, but that he asks us to love everyone, including strangers, and even beyond strangers, enemies (Luke 6:27).  Let's reach out to those that might be strange to us, in whatever way, and get to know them and work to understand their perspectives.  Let's love and minister to those we come into contact with, learning to appreciate and serve people who are different than we are.  Let's keep God in our thoughts so that he won't be a stranger to us, and let's turn all the strangers and even enemies that we come in contact with into friends where possible, and even when we can't, let's treat them with love and respect.

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