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Come Follow Me
Luke 12-17; John 11
The Lost Sheep painted by Alfred Usher Soord (1868-1915)
I often to compare my spiritual growth and progress to my retirement savings. I know it’s weird, but hear me out. When a person saves for retirement, they invest money in some sort of services like stocks, IRAs, a 401K, or other type of asset allocation to increase their security for later in life. They check on the growth from time to time, but largely they leave it alone and don’t stress about the day-to-day growth or decline because they are in it for the long haul, and the day-to-day fluctuations don’t really matter much, as long as the trend is positive.
My spiritual growth is much the same way to me. It may not be a perfect analogy, but I am in it for the long haul and if I mess up from time to time, I don’t beat myself up. I repent and keep moving forward. Maybe you think this is a lackadaisical approach, but it helps me to keep my peace of mind and a positive attitude. President Nelson taught: “Too many people consider repentance as punishment—something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances. But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us”. (Access talk here).
When a young child is learning to walk, falling down is a part of the process. No one chastises the child or points out his incompetence for succumbing to the law of gravity. Quite the opposite. Parents, loved ones and even strangers offer encouragement and positive motivation for the child to continue to increase in strength and try repeatedly to take those first steps independent and unassisted.
Why should my spiritual growth or your spiritual growth be any different? I think many people are often too hard on themselves. President Uchtdorf said recently: “The important thing is that you don’t give up; keep trying to get it right. You will eventually become better, happier, and more authentic. . .That may not happen immediately—it is a lifelong effort. But it will happen.” (Access his talk here.) We are in this for the long, eternal haul and should look at minor setbacks as part of the process. We should be kind to ourselves and others as we journey to becoming something greater than what we are today.
Now that being said, I do make an effort to honestly evaluate my progress from time to time. And General Conference is one of those times. I re-evaluate where I am, and what direction I’m going and determine where I need to make adjustments. Our prophet and apostles give us direction and advice on where we should focus our efforts. I love that. And with the influence of the Holy Ghost we can have a tailor-made plan for self or family improvement.
President Oaks advised that we should ask ourselves ‘Where will this choice lead?’ when we evaluate our position. He was talking to the brethren at the recent priesthood session, but it applies to sisters as well. “ we make countless choices in life, some large and some seemingly small. Looking back, we can see what a great difference some of our choices made in our lives. We make better choices and decisions if we look at the alternatives and ponder where they will lead. As we do, we will be following President Russell M. Nelson’s counsel to begin with the end in mind. For us, the end is always on the covenant path through the temple to eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God.”( Italics added; access talk here.)
Keeping the end in mind helps us when we need to repent and make changes. President Oaks also reminds us that asking ourselves about the final destination “is . . . important in choosing how we label or think of ourselves. Most important, each of us is a child of God with a potential destiny of eternal life. Every other label, even including occupation, race, physical characteristics, or honors, is temporary or trivial in eternal terms. Don’t choose to label yourselves or think of yourselves in terms that put a limit on a goal for which you might strive.” (Access here). So let’s be kind to ourselves as we strive for our limitless potential.
As a family, we have been slacking somewhat in our efforts with the Come Follow Me readings recently. We have been doing the bare minimum. We have been limiting ourselves. I won’t make excuses, but the fact is that we need to change our ways. I could get frustrated with myself or my family, but why? What purpose would it serve? We are moving in a positive direction and we are actively seeking to do the Lord’s will and follow our leader’s counsel. It’s my spiritual retirement savings philosophy in action. Or said in a different way, we are looking at this opportunity to change with an eternal perspective.
We had a family council and determined a couple of changes we can implement immediately. One thing we have decided to add is watching some videos with our reading assignments. One or two individuals will be assigned to find and choose videos to watch each week. We haven’t really done this regularly before. It will be a good change. There has even been talk about making a video of our own. But that has yet to be hashed out in any detail.
This week’s readings have given me food for thought as I ponder the meanings the parables and stories have for me and my family personally at this point in our lives. The overwhelming message for me is to determine what it is that distracts me (or my family) from serving and contributing to the kingdom of God here on earth.
Am I like the Rich man, Lazarus, or the unprofitable servant. Maybe I display the attitude of the unjust steward, or like any of wedding guests that promised to come and then made excuses. Do I relate to the lost sheep, or the shepherd who seeks to find the sheep. Am I neglectful or inattentive in any of my duties like the woman who lost her coin? In the story of the prodigal son, am I similar to the prodigal man, or more like his obedient and diligent brother who had a bout of jealousy? Or am I in some way like the father? Maybe you, like me, take time to evaluate your heart at Conference time. This weeks’ readings and studies are a good follow up for that thought process.
Here are some ideas of activities you can do throughout the week:
*Luke 12: 14-16: Setting our Hearts on Eternal Things
–Read all, or part, of Joseph Smith’s ‘Lectures on Faith’. If you haven’t read them, they are interesting and teach the definition, object and effects of faith, the character and attributes of God, and the law of sacrifice. Here is an excerpt: “ a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary to lead unto life and salvation.”
–Here are a couple of talks that can give you ideas about setting your heart of the things of God.
- We Are Doing A Great Work and Cannot Come Down, by President Deiter F. Uchtdorf, April 2009.
- Opening Our Hearts, by Gerald N. Lund, April 2008
–There are many parables to read and enjoy this week. If you have young children you could act them out. This is always a good option with young children. Make sure that you ask them: What is Jesus trying to teach? And what goals can I make because of what I have learned from these stories?
—You could also take a closer look at one or two of the parables. Take time to really study it out and look at the symbolism. What do they teach you about Jesus Christ? How do the stories relate to you? What will you do differently because you have taken the time to analyze them?
–Luke 13: 34–Gathering Like a Hen Gathereth her Chicks
A few articles to read about the beauty and love taught in this metaphor.
—-Luke 14: 12-24: The Great Supperhttps://www.biblegateway.com/resources/ivp-nt/Parable-Great-Supper
This source has some interesting thoughts about the reasons people gave to be excused from the feast. What reasons do you think people might give today? How can we encourage people to overcome human tendencies to set hearts on things of the world?
*Luke 15: Heavenly Father Rejoices When the Lost are Found
–Luke 15: 11-3–Parable of The Prodigal Son
A Catholic resource that teaches 12 things we can learn from the Prodigal Sonhttp://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/12-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-prodigal-son
–Come up with your own parables and make them into a family book. You can either illustrate them yourself or have your children do it.
–Nourish the Flock of Christ by Elder Alexander B. Morrison April 1992 https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1
*Luke 17: 7-10– The Parable of the Unprofitable Servant
–Joseph B. Wirthlin gave a talk entitled Unprofitable Servantshttps://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2012-08-1840-unprofitable-servants?lang=eng
–Here are scriptures to cross reference to this passage: Alma 32: 21-43; Mosiah 2: 21-24 Can you find or think of others that might enhance your understanding of this principle?
*Luke 17: 11-19 Gratitude for Blessings will Bring Me Closer to God
–Start a gratitude journal. Or if that is too ambitious, write some things you are grateful for in your regular journal. Maybe draw, paint or photograph something for which you are grateful.
–Find a conference talk about gratitude and prepare a talk or lesson about it.
— Luke 12:13-21: The foolish rich man. (2 minutes)
— Luke 14: 7-11: Parable of the wedding guests (about 6 minutes)
–Luke 15:4-7–Jesus declares the Parable of the Lost Sheep (2:15 minutes)
By The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos
Here’s one for the little children: Parable of the Lost Sheep.mpg (2 minutes)
–Luke 15: 8-10–Parable of the Lost Coin (1:47 minutes)
—Luke 15: 11-3–Parable of The Prodigal Son
Parables of Jesus: The Prodigal Son (5:34 minutes)
–Luke 17: 11-19–The 10 lepers–or as my brother-in-law likes to say– Jesus and the Nine Ingrates (2 minutes)
–He Ran to Me by Oliver James Wong published on Dec 3, 2012
–Pick you favorite one-liners. You can memorize them, illustrate them, find a talk to go with them, or copy them and put them around your home. Here are some of my favorites;
Luke 12: 21–Be rich toward God; Luke 12: 21–Neither be doubtful in mind for your Father knoweth what ye have need of; Luke 12:31–Seek ye the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you; Luke 17: 5–Lord, increase our faith; Luke 17: 32–Remember Lot’s wife; and finally, John 11: 35–Jesus wept.
President Nelson encouraged us to remember that “Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. When we choose to repent, we choose to change! We allow the Savior to transform us into the best version of ourselves. . . .The Lord does not expect perfection from us at this point in our eternal progression. But He does expect us to become increasingly pure. Daily repentance is the pathway to purity, and purity brings power. Personal purity can make us powerful tools in the hands of God.” (access talk here)
This is a new week. Don’t let the bumps in the road deter you from your goal. Every day we are becoming better than we were yesterday. Allow the Savior to transform you little by little. Review your progress with an eternal perspective and be at peace that you are making progress as you learn, grow and develop. Rejoice this week in your spiritual enlightenment. God bless!