Saturday, November 30, 2019

Mosiah 27:25-27 -- On Going Where We Want To Go

"And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
I say unto you, unless this be the case, they must be cast off; and this I know, because I was like to be cast off."
Mosiah 27:25-27

It makes us uncomfortable sometimes to think about God casting people off... especially ourselves.  We sometimes try to justify ourselves by saying that if God really loves us, then he will save us all, no matter what, and so there must be no such thing as hell or any kind of rejection or punishment.

The thing is, if God didn't have any standards or rules, there wouldn't be any reason to look forward to heaven... it couldn't be the perfectly good and peaceful place that it is if everyone could go.  Either that, or God would have to force everyone to be good, and slavery isn't heaven either.

We make choices about who we want to be and how we want to live in our lives, and those choices determine our future... as we expect, right?  If we choose to travel to New Mexico, we aren't going to expect to suddenly be in the middle of Pennsylvania.  And if we choose to take the road towards Hell in our lives, we can't expect to suddenly be in Heaven after we die. 

(Also, just so we're clear, I am not equating New Mexico with Hell and Pennsylvania with Heaven.)

Today, let's make changes to our path if we aren't headed where we want to go.  Let's accept Christ's mercy in our lives and realize that we need his help to become who we want to be, and to get where we want to be... in this life and in the next.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Psalms 103:8-12 -- On Mercy

"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us."
Psalms 103:8-12

I really like the "he hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities" part.  That's an important thing to keep in mind... that God is merciful to us.  He doesn't ever reward us as we deserve, but is gentle and patient, giving us room to change and grow.  I was recently reading about Lamoni and also Lamoni's father in the Book of Mormon, and that whole story is one of amazing humility... wanting to know God enough that they were willing to leave their sins and bad habits and even their kingdoms behind. 

I think that pride gets in our way so often: in the way that we think about God, in the way that we think about ourselves and our sins, and in the way that we think about other people.  God is trying to teach us constantly, but when we think that we are above believing in God, or we think that we know better than he does, or we think that we are better than other people... these all are walls that we build between ourselves and God... essentially between ourselves and salvation.

The Lord says this to "such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them" (verse 18), so today, let's remember to keep our covenants with the Lord, and to follow his commandments, so that we can partake of his mercy. :)

Thursday, November 28, 2019

D&C 59:15-19 -- On Thanksgiving

"And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—
Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul."
D&C 59:15-19

I think it is amazing that these blessings are based on our thankfulness and happiness.  Not in a weird controlling way, but more as a natural consequence... God helping us understand how it works.  If we take everything for granted, then we could never enjoy it, after all.

As we take the time to be grateful for the things around us, and to find the good, and to use things the way that God meant them to be used, then everything becomes blessed unto us, while I am sure the opposite is also true.

Today, let's see the good, and be thankful for the blessings that we have, and the great goodness of God in helping us learn how to grow, becoming more blessed and more happy. :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Jonah 2:9-10 -- On Sacrifice and Salvation

"But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.
And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land."
Jonah 2:9-10

This was an interesting combination of verses that struck me today because the first verse sounds similar to verses that we have talked about recently (similarity not diminishing coolness of course), while the second verse shows the interesting context of the end of this prayer.

Jonah talks about sacrifice with the voice of thanksgiving, which is an interesting idea... is thanksgiving a sacrifice?  Perhaps.  It probably was really difficult to be thankful in his circumstances, and perhaps in ours as well.  We also find it difficult because part of what we have to sacrifice is our pride... perhaps only a broken heart and a contrite spirit can thank the Lord properly, when we humble ourselves and really see our relationship to God, and how we have abused that friendship.  Or, interpreted a different way, perhaps we are thankful for sacrifice--for the ability to make those choices and to lay down our will in favor of his as we comprehend the wisdom and goodness of his plan.

Jonah talks about paying what he has vowed, or keeping his covenants / promises.  This builds our relationship with God as well, and is also indicative of repentance, for surely Jonah had previously turned away from his vows, as we often do.

Even this prayer uttered from inside of a whale was heard by God, and answered with deliverance.  Indeed, salvation is of the Lord, and Job went to the right place to find it. :)

Today, in whatever situation we find ourselves in, let us cry unto the Lord, offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving and paying what we have vowed, so that we too may find salvation.  If Jonah can be heard "out of the belly of hell" (verse 2), he will surely hear us as well, wherever and whenever we choose to turn and change.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Alma 7:23 -- On Improving

"And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive."
Alma 7:23

This is Alma preaching to the people in Gideon.  These people were living righteously already, but he still had a lot to say to them, which makes sense if we we look at our own lives.  Even when we're doing good, we have plenty that we could do better. :)

I think that is the core of the humility that Alma talks about here... just remembering that we're not perfect, and neither is anyone else.  If we really take that to heart, maybe it will help us with the rest of this list... submissiveness (acknowledging that God always and other people often know more than we do, or have the answers when we do not), gentleness (with ourselves and others, and even God, remembering that he is our friend, not a bully), patience (with ourselves and others), long-suffering (not masochistic, but willing to endure trials and frustrations without letting them change our devotion and commitment to God's path), temperate (not freaking out when things go wrong, but keeping our cool, both for the sake of our own calm and the way we affect other people as well).

I like "easy to be entreated" I think because it reminds me of a grandmother.  Experienced enough to hold her ground with the rules, but wise enough to be flexible when it is something that will delights her grandchildren.  Yes, bedtime, but okay, another 15 minutes.  I think it's also what Christ did with the law of the Sabbath, and what we mean about the spirit and the letter of the law.  The law is important, but it is these relationships and the people all around us that matter--and what the law is made for.  That doesn't mean we should break laws frivolously, of course, because we are supposed to be diligent in keeping the commandments, and they are there to help us, but what it does mean that we should love people before we judge them (again including ourselves)--that care and connection is the whole reason there is a law--rather than hating people and using the law to justify it.

I also love the part about asking and thanking.  God wants to be included in our lives, and he wants to help us.  He encourages us to ask for help to get us talking, and he encourages thankfulness so that we don't forget him, as we too often do.

Today, let's work on Alma's list, knowing that we can improve and that God wants to help us do so. :)

Monday, November 25, 2019

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 -- On Planting Generosity

"But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."
2 Corinthians 9:6-7

This chapter is talking about "ministering to the saints" ... or, basically, helping each other.  And it is interesting talking about sowing and reaping in that context, because it's like giving to or doing things for others is a seed, and it will grow into something.  I really like that thought.  Maybe it will grow into kindness to others and generosity, not only in our own souls, but in the souls of those we give to as well.

Later in the chapter it says "Being enriched of every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God" (verse 11).  So that is at least one thing that our ministering and kindness and helpfulness can grow into... thanksgiving.  And since we know that giving thanks to God enriches our relationship with him, that is a seed that we should plant a lot of. :)

Today, let's give, and give, and give some more, and see what wondrous and beautiful plants will grow up around us. :)

Sunday, November 24, 2019

James 1:5-7 -- On Wisdom and Wavering

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord."
James 1:5-7

I like the idea of being able to ask God anything, and knowing that God will help us learn, and for the record I absolutely know that this works, as I have seen it happen often in my life.

I think the "nothing wavering" part is difficult though.  We have so much to learn about faith and confidence in the Lord, and it is easy to be uncertain at times.  And if we are uncertain, then we likely aren't focused enough to get an answer.

So, seemingly, we can end up in a situation where we don't know what to do, and we don't know whether God will help us out, and since we don't know, we still won't know. :)  So, what's the answer to that spiral of uncertainty then? :) 

I think that it is probably at least two things: the knowledge that God can help us even if our faith isn't rock solid, as when a father said to Christ "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.: (Mark 9:24), and the idea that God teaches us "line upon line, precept upon precept" (2 Nephi 28:30).  Indeed, God seems to match every effort we make as he expresses when he says "Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you" (D&C 88:63).

Today, instead of being discouraged from asking by the thought that we're wavering, let's get some practice in.  Let's keep asking for what we need, and then take the time to stop and evaluate from time to time whether it is working (and give thanks).  That practice, and a heightened awareness of the blessings in our lives, will help us to acknowledge the help of God in our lives, and build up the faith and confidence that we need in our relationship with the Lord.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Psalms 50:12-15 -- On Promises and Thanksgiving

"If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.
Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:
And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."
Psalms 50:12-15

Earlier in this psalm, God says "Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice" (verse 5), which seems  to be his audience for the following verses.  And to those people (which probably would have included most of his dedicated followers at the time, so similar to members of his church now) he explains that sacrifice is symbolic.  The offerings and payments that he really wants aren't animals and cash.  The covenant, or vow, is the primary thing, and acknowledgement that we need the Lord through thanks and praise, which could also be interpreted as humility and faith, for those are expressions that we would never make if we didn't believe that God was there and that he was worth talking to. :)

As our traditional day of Thanksgiving approaches, let's remember what our relationship with God is really about.  It isn't about appeasing a hungry deity who somehow can't feed himself.  It's about keeping our promises, and giving God the credit he deserves.  Those are things that are needed in any relationship, but are supremely important in our relationship with God.  Let's give thanks for the help and blessings that surround us, and remember to give God the credit.  Let's call upon him and repay his kindness by fulfilling our covenants and keeping our promises to him, that we will change and do better and follow his commandments, etc.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Isaiah 12:1-3 -- On Water from the Wells of Salvation

"And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.
Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation."
Isaiah 12:1-3

I like the image here of drawing water out of the wells of salvation.  Good tasting water indeed. :) Another thing I like about this is doing it with joy.  These verses are describing the Millennium, and it certainly seems like an ideal time, when we are comforted, and everyone can trust and not be afraid.

I think the challenge is trying to live for that day and that ideal future even though things are not quite as ideal now.  If we don't work at keeping the spirit with us, we too easily get bogged down in the distractions of the world and start to look on our fellow humans as generally bad or not to be trusted.  It is really easy to let our negative experiences outweigh our positive ones, and stop working to make a more positive impact ourselves. We even sometimes start to think that we can't make a difference, even though the scriptures tell a totally different story about the importance of the individual.

Today, let's remember God's promises and believe in them.  Even if we can't have a nice cool drink of salvation today, someday we will have it, and that thirst for everything good will be quenched. :)  Let's not give up on ourselves or on other people, but instead be instruments in the hands of God to bring that perfect day a little closer.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Psalms 73:22-24 -- On Foolishness and Glory

"So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.
Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.
Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory."
Psalms 73:22-24

There are a lot of interesting things in this Psalm, but this part is what struck me today, I think because I can really relate to that first verse... maybe we all can.  And yet, despite our foolishness and ignorance and all of our mistakes, God holds our hands, and guides us with his counsel.

I like the idea that there is always someone there to help us, that knows the way out of every problem and can help us not have to face the consequences of our stupidities alone. :)  It's also someone wise enough to teach us how to change and overcome our faults, and who really gets us and knows how to deal with our individual quirks.

Today, let's be thankful to God, and for God, who helps us through our foolishness and eventually receives us to glory. :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Daniel 3:28 -- On Deliverance or Not

"Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God."
Daniel 3:28

This is part of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who refused to worship the idol that Nebudchadnezzar (the king) had told everyone to worship.  At first, the king was super mad, and had the furnace heated up even hotter than normal, but afterward when he sees that the men he sent to throw them in died of the heat, but they were fine, he changes his mind.

Interestingly, towards the beginning of the story when the king is just threatening, he asks "who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" (verse 15). They answer and say "our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace," but also leave it up to God, saying "But if not" (as in if the Lord doesn't deliver them even though he is able to), they still won't worship the idol. men tell the king that they aren't going to worship the idol (verses 16-17).

We know for certain that the Lord doesn't always save us from things, even though he is able to.  Perhaps in this case the Lord saved them just so they could impress the king and influence the decree he sends out at the end of the chapter, forbidding persecution against their God.  Perhaps it was a measure of their faith in the Lord... but I think an important part of that faith was faith that if they did the right thing, that God would make it right, now or later.  It wasn't about being delivered, but about staying true and trusting that God would take care of the rest, even if they died in a fiery furnace.

Today, let's work on trusting that doing God's will is always the right choice, whether we are delivered or not, and that God is able to change even the King's word, not through a power struggle, but by showing that he has all power to save, no matter the earthly consequence or trial. :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Mosiah 14:10 -- On Purposeful Pain

"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand."
Mosiah 14:10

It's a little hard to accept the first phrase here, I think.  It's about Christ and it sounds a little sadistic to our ears, and God is definitely not that.  And, you know, if God could feel that way about his most obedient son, how does he feel about *our* suffering, which is sometimes innocent as his was, but which we also often bring on ourselves and very much deserve?

I think the answer here is the same reason that God designed the whole Earthly experience in the first place.  We don't necessarily enjoy seeing children frustrated or upset, but we *are* pleased when it teaches them something--how to keep trying, or how to avoid that consequence in the future.  We aren't happy about what we ourselves went through when we were growing up, but we *are* pleased about at least some of the results--all the lessons that we have learned, and the modicum of wisdom that we have gained in the process. 

God had to be happy about the atonement because he was so proud of his son for doing the single most important thing in the history of the world, and also because he knew what it would mean, not only for all of us, but for him as well (Mosiah 15:12).  It wasn't a joy in the fact that he was feeling pain, but a joy that Christ was pulling all of us together, and handing us the keys to salvation.

Today, let's try to understand why God allows us to suffer, and how happy he is to see us learning and growing.  Let's also be thankful to Christ, who makes it possible for all of us to be happy and to return to God. :)

Monday, November 18, 2019

Proverbs 4:14-15 -- On the Positive Side of Avoidance

"Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.
Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away."
Proverbs 4:14-15

I like the general idea here of avoiding temptation.  I'm not saying willpower is useless.  It can get us out of some tough spots... but I think the main idea is not to get in the tough situations in the first place.  I think that is what Christ was saying when he stated "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: / But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28).  If God warns us, saying "Don't jump off the cliff" that doesn't mean we should play games with how close we can get without falling over.  That's just insanity, right?  Same with the other commandments.  If we know we have a weakness, then let's stay the heck *away* from situations that involve that weakness, not indulge in thinking about it all the time and filling our minds with whatever it is.  That isn't helping.

Joseph understood the principle of avoidance when he was a servant in Potiphar's house.  He didn't stay in a compromising situation to talk about it.  He ran.  And that is *exactly* what we should do with temptation as well.  Run.  Get the heck out of Dodge.  There is no reason for us to feel like we have to walk in the path of the wicked or go in the way of evil men... we don't have anything to prove.  We don't need to show how strong we are in the face of danger.  We need to survive.  And avoidance is a really, really good technique for spiritual survival. 

(... Not saying that avoidance is always good either.  It's a pretty bad idea in normal social situations and when we need to clean the house, etc... but this is the good side of it.  When we are avoiding temptation or evil paths, it is totally okay.) :)

Today, let's dust off our running shoes and use them as needed to stay far, far away from evil and wicked roads and temptations.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Hebrews 7:19 -- On Hope Makes Perfect

"For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God."
Hebrews 7:19

Even though "practice makes perfect" is way more well known, I like the idea here that hope makes us perfect.  In Moroni 10:22 we're told that "despair cometh because of iniquity," which makes sense, but it also seems like kind of a death spiral, because despair makes us think that nothing matters and that we'll never be okay again.  It's the hope that Christ gives us that encourages us to push forward and to change.  The hope that with his help we can overcome all things, that things are indeed eventually going to be okay.  Thus we could also say "we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair" (2 Corinthians 4:8).

Now, of course just because the law doesn't make things perfect doesn't mean that it is worthless, or that we shouldn't be obedient.  That is also important, but it's sort of the letter vs spirit idea again.  Obedience is the method... the way that God helps us to avoid temptation and to get to where we want to be... but we want that in the first place because of hope... because God makes it possible for us to get where we want to be. :)

Today, let's walk God's path and trust in his word, not because obedience and faith are the ultimate goals of our lives, but because they help us become who we want to be and lead us to God, who gives us that hope we need to move forward towards the happy ending. :)

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Joel 2:25-26 -- On Restoring The Eaten Years

"And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.
And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed."
Joel 2:25-26

This chapter talks about some things leading up to the Second Coming, so no telling exactly when this is going to happen, but it is super cool that God tells us that he will restore "the years that the locust hath eaten" etc.  Unlike in similar scriptures where it explains that if we are righteous we will prosper in the land, this one actually talks about getting back some of what was lost.  I'm guessing symbolically, as in a period of great plenty, but there are a lot of ways you could interpret that, including being able to have some additional time on earth with loved ones, either in the millennium or later. 

We don't know how all of that works, but we probably don't have to, because God tells us clearly here that we will be satisfied, and praise him for dealing wondrously with us... basically the continuing idea that we often forget: what God has in store for all of us is so much better than what we have now, we can't even imagine it.  If we could, we would never ask if anything in this life is worth it... because it would be clearly beyond question.

Today, let's work on having faith in God's promises and his happy ending.  When the bad times and the frustrations and pain of living get to us, let's remember that this is temporary, and that it gets better -- so much better that we will consider even the hardest times to have been worth it.

Friday, November 15, 2019

1 Thessalonians 5:15 -- On Reacting to Evil

"See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men."
1 Thessalonians 5:15

This is something that I think is hard for all of us sometimes.  We want to regress to the "eye for eye" level (Leviticus 24:20), but Christ asked us to move beyond the old law and to embrace the new one (Matthew 5:38-39).  And that is super hard for us, because we want justice (at least when someone else is at fault), and it is hard to leave it up to the Lord.  If someone slights us, we want to slight them back, and unfortunately we often get so emotionally involved in our thoughts of resentment and bitterness or plans for revenge that we poison our own peace.

I think the key to this one is seeing it from the other side... thinking back to times when *we* have been in the wrong, making horrible mistakes, saying and doing the wrong things, and just totally screwing up.  And no matter what our excuse... youth, ignorance, stress, etc. we still have done things that were unjust or wrong to others.  And maybe they wanted, or still want, justice... and isn't it *amazingly* good that God stands between all of us to accept the price of justice, and to then be able to be merciful to all of us, because we don't owe each other these debts anymore.  We only owe God.  He pays the price that we couldn't pay, and gives us a chance to change that we would never have if we were stuck with the consequences of all of our actions. (This doesn't of course mean that we get a free pass to treat each other like crap.  Instead it means that if we treat people like crap it is exactly as though we treated Christ that way (Matthew 25:40, 45).

Today, let's work on not reacting to other people's bad behavior with our own, or justifying ours because of theirs.  Let's choose a better way, and make sure we are clearly doing and being good, no matter what other people are choosing.  Let's remember what God has done for us, and remember that our debts are to him, and so are the debts that others have incurred towards us.  We all answer to God for all of it.  Let's practice reacting to evil with good, because that is the way to build a better world, and a better self. :)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Mark 5:22-23 -- On Humility and Healing

"And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,
And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live."
Mark 5:22-23

I admire Jairus' humility here even though he was in a position of authority, even though he knew that he looked desperate. He was willing to risk himself and be authentic and show his vulnerabilities, and ask/beg Christ to save his daughter.  On the way to his daughter is when the woman with an issue of blood came and touched Christ's garment, and they stopped for a bit so that Jesus could talk to her about her healing as well.  She was humble and honest as well, coming forward and telling him what had happened to her, and was blessed for it.

It is at this point that the story cranks up a notch, because some people come while they are stopped and say that Jairus' daughter is dead already, which I imagine made Jairus a little panicky.  But Christ tells him "be not afraid, only believe" (verse 36).  Then Jesus sends away everyone except Peter, James, and John, and the child's parents when they get there, and he raises her up.

I think that we probably all need some healing in our lives.  Whether it is changing our hearts and minds so that we can be pure and have "no more desire to do evil" (Alma 19:33), or whether it is more of a physical healing that no one else can accomplish, as with the daughter of Jairus, or the woman who stopped them on the way, or when we seek to address other seemingly insurmountable addictions or emotional or mental obstacles in our lives, we sometimes don't know what to do, or where to find hope.  And the answer, for us just as it was for Jairus, is in Jesus Christ.

Today, let's be humble, honest, and faithful in seeking healing from the Lord.  It might not come the way that we expect, and it might come after everyone around us says it is too late... or it might not come for twelve years, which is how long the woman with the issue of blood had been trying to find healing, or even longer... but it will come, and we will all be raised and blessed and made whole in *every* way, if we continue faithful in following the Lord.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Jacob 3:7 -- On Love and Bias

"Behold, their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children; and their unbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers; wherefore, how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator?"
Jacob 3:7

This is a really interesting verse because I think that it shows that God judges by a very different measure than we typically do.  At this point in the Book of Mormon, the Nephites were basically the good guys and the Lamanites were the bad guys.  They didn't wear white and black hats, so it was harder to tell, but the background is fairly plain, and the Lamanites wanted to murder the Nephites... I mean, and at least in the modern world we typically think that people who feel that way are bad guys.

From God's perspective however, love is a central focus, and hatred that is taught to us seems to be less damaging than the more personal and chosen kind of hatred that we exhibit to people we know.  Now, of course I don't think that God is saying we don't need to unlearn the residual hatreds passed down through generations.  That is super important... but I think we also need to be generous with those who live in places or have been raised in traditions that taught them to hate us.  As we see later in the Book of Mormon, even people raised in intolerance and taught to hate can learn new ways and change their hearts--including even ourselves.

Today, let's see if we can learn a little bit more love.  Christ mentioned that "because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matthew 24:12).  Let's make sure that doesn't happen to us.  Let's "pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love" (Moroni 7:48), and let's examine our own biases, and forgive those of others, as we seek unity and oneness in love.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

John 17:11-12 -- On Oneness

"And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled."
John 17:11-12

I love the concept of oneness.  It is something that God talks a lot about in this chapter, and in the scriptures as a whole.  Not in a Borg "you will be assimilated" way, or a creepy "let's make slaves instead" Stepford Wives type of way, but in the type of way that we get a taste of with family and close friends, when they become part of us... things remind us of them and we adopt their sayings, attitudes, or mannerisms.  We start becoming this amalgamation of people, because (just like the English language), we borrow a little bit of everyone. :)  And that is what being one with God is... because he becomes our best friend and the closest thing to our hearts.  We think of him when we run across something that makes us smile.  We know and respect what he values, and we make that a part of ourselves, just as he connects with and helps all of us.

In verses 20-21 the prayer continues and Christ says "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; / That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us," so we can also see clearly that this oneness is not just a one-to-one person thing, but it's bigger, where we can have that positive family/friend spiritual connection with everyone, or at least all the everyones that want it too. :)  It's the idea of a Zion society, where everyone is "of one heart and one mind," and there are no poor or other impediments to oneness (Moses 7:18).  I know that sometimes this seems hard in our society where we often polarize ourselves and find it hard to understand or listen to someone on the other side of whatever line it is... but I think our job is to get closer to God, and as we *all* do that, I think a lot of our problems with each other will fade.

Today, perhaps what we should work on is extending our sense of belonging or togetherness or inclusion a little farther than it is now.  Let's try the oneness idea out a little, and see if we can invite more people in, and also be open with other people rather than closing ourselves off, so that we can all learn a little bit more, and trade a little oneness with each other. :)  Still not the Borg way, mind you, but the God way, where Christ took care of what the Lord put in his charge, and cared for them and prayed that his Father would keep them safe even after he left them.  Let's care for the people around us, and see if we can feel closer to others, and build some little shards of Zion.  Who knows... if we keep it up, maybe they'll grow. :)

Monday, November 11, 2019

Alma 12:6 -- On Snares and Chains and Choice

"And behold I say unto you all that this was a snare of the adversary, which he has laid to catch this people, that he might bring you into subjection unto him, that he might encircle you about with his chains, that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity."
Alma 12:6

I like the symbolism here.  Talking about snaring and catching makes me think of hunting, and then talking about subjection and chains makes me think of slavery... and Slaver might be too soft an image for what Satan is, but I think maybe it also helps us to take him more seriously than we usually do.  He is out there trying to trap us and harm us, and capture us so that we can never get home.  That's serious, and something that we should work to avoid, rather than embracing him in return for some extremely short-term high, of whatever kind.

The other thing that I thought of here is that Satan is trying to encircle us with his chains, whereas Lehi talks about the Lord, saying "I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love." (2 Nephi 1:15).  What a vast difference, and a simple choice when we can see the truth behind what we are offered.

Today, let's choose Christ over Satan.  Let's not risk the chains for something that we think we want short-term, but let's talk to God about who we want to be long-term instead.  Let's not embrace slavery and bondage, and the lies that Satan tells to get us to think that his chains are actually any sick kind of freedom.  Let's find the true freedom of love and possibility with God rather than exercising our freedom to destroy our lives, and our souls.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

3 Nephi 17:19-24 -- On Individuality and Unity

"And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise.
And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full.
And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
And when he had done this he wept again;
And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.
And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them."
3 Nephi 17:19-24

This is an incredible scene.  I especially like the fact that he took each child and blessed them and prayed for them... not as a group, but that individual experience.  I think it really emphasizes the fact that every single person matters, and that we are all part of each other.  The children, the people, the angels, God... all of us.  Those children mattered, and they continued to matter as they grew up and learned and made mistakes as they figured out how to live in their society.

Sometimes I know that it can feel like we are lost in the multitude, but we matter to God as well. He is happy to work with us individually to bless and instruct and help.  And as part of the multitude, we also can feel the power of being part of something amazing, when heaven and earth connect.  God teaches how to be our best selves, but also how to be part of the multitude... to work together, help each other, and work towards that "oneness" that blesses us all without removing our individuality. :)

Today, let's work with God individually and remember how amazing we are... and when we know that, let's move forward and help everyone else feel that way too.  Every person matters, and we are all part of something amazing.  Let's get in there and make all of it even better. :)

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Malachi 2:17 -- On Slothful Sacrifice and Casting Blame

"Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?"
Malachi 2:17

In this chapter and the chapter before it, God is explaining some of the things that are not right within his kingdom.  People are sacrificing the worst of their flocks rather than the best (Malachi 1:13), people are getting rid of their wives (Malachi 2:14) both literally and figuratively in the sense that God is the "wife of youth" and people are leaving him for idols, and the priests have allowed and even encouraged keeping commandments in a really lazy or corrupt way... you could even say with "slothfulness" (D&C 58:29).

What it comes down to is that when we make covenants and agreements with God (or with anyone else for that matter), we are supposed to be doing our best to keep the letter AND the spirit of those agreements.  If we are looking for the loopholes in our agreements with God, I think that we will find that that we'll fall out of the agreement through our own loopholes... and the agreement was there to keep *us* safe, and to help us find happiness, so it is seriously crazy for us to default on something that is benefiting us.

Plus, honestly, when we try to cheat an agreement, what does that say about us, and about how we feel about the person the agreement is with, or about how far we ourselves can be trusted to make any agreement?  Do we really want to send that message to God, or to anyone?  And then, as noted in these verses, we look at our world and we say ignorant things like "people that do evil prosper" or "God needs to do better" or whatever it is... when we are not seeing the whole picture, and we *definitely* aren't doing a great job of setting an example or teaching others to be better as we put the blame on God.

Today, let's take a good, hard look at ourselves and how we are keeping our covenants with God.  I definitely need to think about this as well... I'm not here to compare or condemn.  Let's think about our priorities--are we putting God dead last in our lives and treating our worship as an afterthought, or are we putting him first and honoring him?  Are we looking for loopholes in the commandments, or are we working to understand how they improve our lives?  Are we focusing on how we can improve, or are we looking to cast blame?  Let's work hard and do better, especially in how we talk about God, who deserves nothing but deep thankfulness and respect from us.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Jarom 1:10-12 -- On Threats and Boundaries

"And it came to pass that the prophets of the Lord did threaten the people of Nephi, according to the word of God, that if they did not keep the commandments, but should fall into transgression, they should be destroyed from off the face of the land.
Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was. And after this manner did they teach them.
And it came to pass that by so doing they kept them from being destroyed upon the face of the land; for they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up unto repentance."
Jarom 1:10-12

It's interesting that the word "threaten" is used here, because we don't usually expect the gospel to presented that way, at least normally, although certainly there are places in the scriptures where a harsher approach is used in order to wake people up--for instance striking down Paul/Saul or Alma the Younger, or destruction is threatened/promised and then carried out if the people are too wicked.  And although we don't usually favor the "fire and brimstone" sermons or way of looking at things, I wonder if we really need that sometimes, because we become too hardened for anything else to get through.

I guess I think of it as sort of a tough-love approach.  Although that term has often been abused to justify cruelty, which of course I am not advocating, I think the original idea is a good one--that when we love people we still have to set behavioral boundaries.  Love doesn't mean, especially with God, that we can just do whatever the crap we want with no consequences.  We can love people without being overly permissive, and indeed we often need to teach children the consequences of their actions or defend ourselves from being used or abused.  At work, even if our supervisor likes us, that doesn't mean we get a free pass to not do our jobs.  There have to be limits, and when we try to use love as a lever to get our way or ignore our responsibilities, then it is we who are in the wrong.

And so with these verses.  The prophets warn and even threaten, because we need to know the boundaries.  They also teach and persuade in a lot nicer ways, as we see in these verses as well.  God wants to bless us and help us, but he can't do that if we are continually convinced that if he *really* loved us he would let us do whatever we wanted.  That isn't going to fly with God, just like it wouldn't fly with a parent whose kid was convinced that heroin was their new career path.  God isn't going to just shrug and let us die.  He is going to warn us of the consequences of our actions, and where our current road leads.

Today, let's work on listening and changing our ways instead of believing that we know better than God does.  Let's heed the prophet's warning voice, even when it is harsher than we expect.  Perhaps it is something we really need to take to heart.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

2 Nephi 4:27-29 -- On Anger, Enemies, and Affliction

"And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?
Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.
Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions."
2 Nephi 4:27-29

You know, I was listening to this in the car and it struck me how personal all of this was for Nephi.  He knew every single person on the continent at the time... the enemies that he is praying about are members of his family who want to murder him, not nameless strangers who cut him off in traffic or an overbearing boss that he could move on and forget.

We face a lot of these same things in life... we are tempted to anger about people and situations that we can't control, and if we give into it, that allows Satan to destroy our peace and afflict our souls.  We're tempted to do less or be less because of people who stand in our way.

Like Nephi though, with the Lord's help, we don't have to give in to that anger, and we don't have to choose bitterness or resentment or turning away from what we can be.  Instead, we can turn to God and find that inner peace again, even when our enemies are close, and extremely burdensome, as they were for Nephi. Today, let's banish that affliction of the soul, no matter how tempting, and turn to the Lord to regain our peace.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Isaiah 59:1-2 -- On Barriers and the Willingness to Be Saved

"Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear."
Isaiah 59:1-2

This is a good reminder that when there is a silence or even a wall between ourselves and God, it is *we* that have built it.  God's hand is still reaching for us, still willing to gather us.  He is still listening, hoping that we will pray and talk to him about our challenges.  When we sin and walk away from him, we stop listening to him, and we stop being able to make ourselves heard through the static.  In order to get through, we have to tear down that wall, tune into the right channel... do whatever it takes to get back in touch with God.

We often hear the scripture that says "the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance" (D&C 1:31 and Alma 45:16) and I think we frequently misinterpret it to mean that God won't even listen or help us unless we are as close to perfect as we can get.  It doesn't mean that.  It means that God is never going to look at our progress and let us graduate without actually knowing the material.  He's never going to lead us into mediocrity.  He doesn't encourage us to just give up and say "that's okay."  He is always determined to set us on our feet again, and help us to face the things that we have to face so that we can eventually prevail.  It means all of those things, but NEVER that he won't help us, as long as we are willing.

Today, let's clear out the distractions and tear down the walls--let's focus and set our priorities, and get rid of the impediments that we have created that interfere with our communication with God.  Let's make sure that the way is clear and that we are willing to be saved, so that God can do just that. :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Psalms 119:105-109 -- On Carrying Our Souls Safely

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.
I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word.
Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me thy judgments.
My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law."
Psalms 119:105-109

The first verse of this selection is very popular, but I think just as important is the second verse.  The imagery of God's word lighting our path is awesome, but no less important is the importance of keeping our covenants with God.  As the selection continues, we see afflictions, and choices, and lessons. 

I really like verse 109 because I think it encompasses all of these things.  Having our souls in our hands mean that we are making choices every day that affect our souls and what happens to them is our responsibility... but at the same time, the psalmist reminds us that power over our own souls, as heady as that can be, shouldn't make us forget God's law.  If we want to be careful with those souls we are carrying around, and limit the damage we are doing, we need to listen to God.

He it is that lights our path, and helps our feet not to stumble.  As we keep our promises to him and follow his path, we find our way through affliction, gaining life and lessons as we willingly offer our wills to him because he can help us find our ways in the darkness.  Not saying rebellion is all bad, since there are of course things in life worth fighting, but in God's case, rebellion is pretty useless since it just leaves us more lost, and in the dark. :)

Today, let's remember who is lighting our path and keeping our souls safe even when we are holding them.  Let's keep our promises to God, and willingly follow him and his commandments so we can find our way through the darkness to light and happiness. :)

Monday, November 4, 2019

Psalms 69:1-2 -- On Floods and Building Boats

"Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.
I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me."
Psalms 69:1-2

Whether it happens to us due to an external cause or whether we cause it ourselves, I think that we all feel like the psalmist here at one time or another.  We ask God "Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink" (verse 14), and God hears us, and as we seek God, our hearts will live (verse 32).

I think sometimes our trouble is with the way that he saves us.  Sometimes it doesn't exactly match up with how we wanted to be saved. :)  We ran into a flood when we were traveling a certain road, and we want God to save us in a miraculous way by getting us through that water, rather than a more conventional way of perhaps taking a detour, or turning around and going somewhere else.

It is probably a good idea to think about letting the Lord save us in *his* way rather than refusing to be saved. :)  All of the promised lands that the Lord gave his people in the scriptures were pretty much do-it-yourself projects, including the boats (or crossing without a boat), and the instructions were different each time, tailored to the time and place and circumstance.

God *will* save us and guide us to all the happiness we can handle, but today let's remember that God might not send in a helicopter.  As in times of old, we might need to have the faith to build a boat to save us from the flood, and then still pitch in towards that happy ending, which could be in a direction and a place we hadn't thought of.  Let's trust the Lord that where he guides us IS our promised land, and let's start building.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Isaiah 56:3-8 -- On Gathering the Outcasts

"Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him."
Isaiah 56:3-8

These verses talk about "the son of the stranger" and "the eunuch" as examples of outcasts... of people who don't fit in.  Sons of the stranger represent foreigners, strangers, people not of the covenant... people who perhaps racially and culturally didn't fit in.  Eunuchs were outcasts in a different way because, by their own choice or that of another, they were unable to marry and have children, which made them strangers as well in a society where that was a central tenet.

It is hard for us to do as God asks and to "love [our] enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again" (Luke 6:35).  It's much easier to love people who are similar to us, who are in our own families, our own countries, who have similar families and lifestyles and beliefs.  It's seriously a lot to ask to reach out to the outcasts who of course we don't hang out with because what do we have in common?  Sounds pretty awkward.  And yet "the Lord God which gathereth the outcasts" will gather "even them" and "yet will . . . gather others" (verses 7-8).

The Lord doesn't look at any of this the way that we do (1 Samuel 16:7).  He isn't gathering just the physically beautiful and the graceful and the people that speak the same language or that have the same desires, or that sin the same way that we do.  God is gathering every single person that will hear his voice, and he means to save us.  He doesn't care whether or not we are considered outcasts... he loves us all.

Today, let's work on seeing as God sees, and asking God to help us do that a little bit better.  Perhaps then we will discover the amazing hearts of the people around us, and be willing to gather together, outcasts or not, as children of God.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Alma 5:6-9 -- On Remembrance and Mercy

"And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?
Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.
And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, they were not.
And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved."
Alma 5:6-9

When we read the scriptures or consider those who have gone before us, we usually consider the positive things that were done.  We talk about famous missionaries or disciples after their conversion, rather than before.  We consider our ancestors to have been great people, and often they were... but also human.  Also "encircled about by the bands of death and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them."

I think that perhaps we are all more alike than we seem, living and dead, past and present.  We all have faced darkness, and death, and hell, and we all need Jesus Christ's power which overcomes those powerful impediments in our lives and allows our escape from the darkness, and also our deliverance to life and love and soul-expanding joy.

Today, as we face our own darkness, let's remember the people who have gone before us, and know that with God's help they were able to find a way to happiness and peace... that it is possible, no matter how bleak it sometimes seems, and that as we turn to God and call upon his mercy, we too can overcome obstacles that seem impossibly large and find a way through to the morning (Psalms 30:5).

Friday, November 1, 2019

Acts 20:35 -- On Doing and Being Good

"I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Acts 20:35

The idea of giving rather than getting is not a new one, but it is one that we often overlook, wondering "what's in it for me?" rather than "what can I do to help?"  We all have talents and abilities that we can share with others to make the world a better place.

Sometimes we think that God should solve all of these problems himself.  After all he made the world, and all these people, so why doesn't he fix it all, since he is all-powerful?  Why should we have to labor?  ... The answer to that is that the world was made for us to learn and to grow and to make choices so that we can learn to have joy.  Forcing the world and everyone in it into obedience was Satan's plan, and it would remove our freedom, and limit our potential.  We are meant to be more, and we can reach higher with God's help, and a willingness to boldly strive to go forward and do good.

Today, let's do as Paul suggests and support the weak, and work on finding ways to give and help rather than always trying to grab a bigger share. :)  Let's become people that we want to be, that we can be happy being, and that won't be afraid to eventually stand in God's presence.

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