find joy
Week 19 is scheduled for study May 1-7, 2023. This week we focus on the ways in which we find joy and extend joy to others by following Christ. He suffered much for our joy.

Day 1

As you read Luke 12-17 and John 11, prayerfully seek what Heavenly Father wants you to know and do. Your study of these chapters can open your heart to messages meant just for you.

Luke 12; 14-16 – I am blessed as I set my heart on eternal things.

In life, the ultimate power move is someone threatens your life or that of those whom you love. Did you notice in the stories that Jesus delivered that his concern was not about the person who could kill us, but about anyone who could, after your death, cast your soul into hell? He specifically told us to not fear what man can do to our bodies. It is more important that we worry about the state of our eternal soul. All of the stories in these chapters illustrate in one fashion or another someone who isn’t worrying about their soul, only their physical comfort and prosperity.

The foolish rich man has amassed lots of wealth, and is thinking only of expanding his storehouses so he can live comfortably the rest of his life on what he has brought in. But God, who knows that his time on earth is fast drawing to a close, calls him “foolish,” because he hasn’t done anything to secure the safety of his immortal soul. In other words, he has completely missed the point of being in this life.

In Luke 14:12-24 we read the story of the great supper. When thinking about the food the master was offering those who were initially invited, think about the parables Jesus constantly referred to about him being the bread of life and that it is he who offers us the living water. What we receive from God is what fills us and slakes our thirst so that we never are hungry or thirsty again. He is, of course, referring to our hunger for truth and righteousness. Do you remember in the Old Testament what it says in Amos 8:11-13?

11 ¶ 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:

12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.

13 In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.

Did you notice in these verses that God acknowledges that a thirst for truth and the things of God is a real need for every person, every bit as much as food and water? In His parable of the great supper, those who refused first rights of access to what God offers His children were left to their worldly concerns, and the mercy of God was given, instead, to the poor and the needy. God desires all of us to share in the feast of truth and righteousness He is willing to spread before us, but if we aren’t willing to come when called or bidden then He has no choice but to offer the blessings we have refuse to someone else.

Eventually, everyone will be offered these blessings, for God loves all His children. But for one reason or another, He has decided that some children will have the opportunity given to them before those blessings are offered to others. This is demonstrated in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The eternal blessings are the same, whether we are the first to accept them or the last to accept them. The key is that we accept what is offered to us, when it is offered. We need to spend our time in mortality seeking all things righteous and good. If we focus on our spiritual wellbeing first, God will let us also ask and receive physical blessings. He only asks that we put His interests first in our lives.

Day 2

As you read Luke 12-17 and John 11, prayerfully seek what Heavenly Father wants you to know and do. Your study of these chapters can open your heart to messages meant just for you.

Luke 15 – Heavenly Father rejoices when those who are lost are found.

In the introductory paragraph for this week’s lessons, the writers of the lessons make a point that is important to remember. “In most situations, 99 out of 100 would be considered excellent—but not when such numbers stand for beloved children of God.” To God, when it comes to His children, there is no such thing as an acceptable loss.

In this life we weigh the options before us, and when something appears to be a lost cause, we “cut our losses” by walking away from that which is costing us too much in time, money, effort, or resources. With God, walking away from anyone is never an acceptable option.

In the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd is willing to walk away from the 99 who don’t need to repent in order to search for the one that is lost, they make the point that all of us need to repent. There is no such thing as a person who doesn’t need to repent. In essence, they are saying that all of us are the one lost sheep. We are equally worthy of God’s undivided attention and concern. Any effort needed to find and save us is worth the cost to find us and bring us home. So whether the Savior’s story is about a lost sheep or a lost coin, the lesson is the same.

Elder  Gerrit W. Gong, in the April 2023 general conference made this statement.

In the spirit of the Book of Mormon allegory of the olive trees, the Lord of the vineyard and his servants bring forth precious fruit and strengthen each tree by binding together the strengths and weaknesses of all the trees. The Lord of the vineyard and his servants repeatedly ask, “What more can I do?” Together, they bless hearts and homes, wards and branches, through inspired, consistent ministering.

When you read the allegory of the Olive Tree in Jacob 5 of the Book of Mormon, notice that God does not give up on any tree in his vineyard until He has done absolutely all that is possible to be done. The cost and expense of the effort to save everyone is not an issue, for all things are His to use as He sees fit. When we do His work, we must likewise be willing to be as patient and exert the needed effort to exhaust every possibility for each person for whom we minister. God expects this of each of us, for He would do the same for any one of us.

Day 3

As you read Luke 12-17 and John 11, prayerfully seek what Heavenly Father wants you to know and do. Your study of these chapters can open your heart to messages meant just for you.

Luke 16:1-12 – What was Christ teaching in the parable of the unjust steward?

There are a number of interpretations that can be pulled from this parable. I will focus on just one that I consider the most important.

Jesus was not complementing either the steward, nor his master as people we want to be like. The steward was being dishonest with the master’s property, and hence someone had reported his dishonesty and the steward was let go. But the steward recognized that he wouldn’t be happy with any of the natural results of the loss of his position, so he feathered his own nest, so to speak. He quickly went to those who owed the master money and offered them a discount for quick payment. They were happy to oblige, because the steward made the terms of payment so enticing, thus causing them to favor him and the master for offering the discount. So now he is leaving his master’s employment looking good to those who do business with the master.

The steward hadn’t been honest with the master, but he made both himself and the master look good in the eyes of those with whom they did business. Jesus acknowledged that the steward was clever in what it took to avoid the full impact of losing his situation with the master. Jesus then goes on to state that the children of the light, those who follow Jesus, are not usually that clever. They see that eternal judgment is coming upon them, but they aren’t doing anything to prepare for it, like the steward did.

Whether the follower of Jesus uses his own goods to bless the lives of others, like the steward did with the master’s goods, or whether the follower is actively trying to make sure the results of the judgment to follow this life are as favorable as possible, the person of the world is usually more wise than the follower of God. Jesus is wishing we were as concerned about preparing for our future condition as the unjust steward was in feathering his own nest in the parable.

Jesus recognizes that those who follow him still need to deal with those of the world, but he is encouraging us to use all our resources (which belong to him anyway) to cement our good relations with those around us by being generous and kind with our worldly wares. There is no reason for followers of Jesus to get to the other side and have others claim they were stingy and grasping with the resources at their disposal. We should be generous and willing to bless the lives of all who come in touch with us. So this is one of those cases where someone who was totally worldly showed more wisdom in preparing for his own future than most members of Christ’s Church do in their preparations for eternity.

Day 4

As you read Luke 12-17 and John 11, prayerfully seek what Heavenly Father wants you to know and do. Your study of these chapters can open your heart to messages meant just for you.

Luke 17:11-19 – Gratitude for my blessings will bring me closer to God.

Gratitude is the language and lifeblood of humility. Without gratitude, humility withers and dies. Can you imagine someone remaining humble without any gratitude in their soul? Humility is the recognition of our dependence on someone else. It is our acknowledgment of the contribution and kindness of others, which is another way of say we are grateful for the part others play in our life. I don’t see how humility can exist without gratitude, and humility is the opposite of pride.

It is because of the very nature of gratitude and humility that these attributes, these virtues, draw us closer to God, the author of all things good in the universe. In Alma 5:50 we reach that part of Alma’s sermon where we are told that all good things come from God, while all things that lead us away from God come from the devil.

40 For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil.

We produce the works of him whom we serve. If we serve God, we produce good works. If we serve the devil we produce evil works. How can we remain humble and grateful and not serve God? Does Satan promote gratitude and humility? No, he does not. Satan promotes pride, anger, a sense of superiority, entitlement, and prejudice. Satan revels in contention, while God thrills in unity, service to others, and cooperation.

Faith is the expression of our belief in the goodness of God. We believe He can, and will, heal us, help us, and teach us to be better people. When the ten lepers were healed, only one recognized Jesus as being the healer and was so overwhelmed by gratitude that he turned back and worshipped God at Christ’s feet. Christ told him that his faith healed him. Since the other nine were not grateful enough to do or say anything, I wonder if it was the faith to be healed of the one leper to which the other nine owed their healing. Christ often said that without faith he could do no healings. So I wonder if the one leper had enough faith for all of them to be healed. I would like to believe it was so.

Expressing our gratitude is to also express our humility, our acknowledgement of God’s goodness, and our reliance on Him. Expressing gratitude also demonstrates our faith that we believe all good things come from God. We know that gratitude comes from God, because He encourages us to feel it and express it, while Satan ridicules and dismisses virtues such as gratitude.

Day 5

As you read Luke 12-17 and John 11, prayerfully seek what Heavenly Father wants you to know and do. Your study of these chapters can open your heart to messages meant just for you.

John 11:1-46 – Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life.

There is a big difference between raising someone from the dead and resurrecting someone. Many priesthood holders have raised the dead through the centuries. Only Christ can offer an eternal reuniting of our restored and perfected physical body with spirit in a glorified new combination that allows us to progress eternally. When Jesus raised the dead he was demonstrating that he had power over life and death. Even more important than physically raising someone from the dead was his ability to forgive sins, something no one else on earth has ever had the ability to do.

By forgiving our sins Jesus demonstrated that he was truly the Messiah, the Christ, he who was the master of the universe and our eternal judge. Only a God can forgive sins. Only a God could raise himself from the dead into a newness of life and eternal glory. Jesus not only fulfilled every tiny detail of the law of Moses, every jot and tittle (he dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” in the requirements of the law), but he also showed that he is above and law by raising himself from the dead and that both the living and the dead are answerable to him, and him alone for our choices.

It can be easy to read the stories of Jesus and get comfortable with his parables and miracles. What is more important than knowing these things is that we occasionally spend time reacquainting ourselves with the wonder of his wisdom, promises, and miracles. Awe is a wonderful thing, and something we need to infuse into our worship of Christ on a regular basis. Jesus wasn’t just a good teacher and great example for us to follow. In the stories of his life are demonstrations that the very elements of the universe obey his every wish.

With a simple statement Jesus calmed storms, gave sight to the blind, restored hearing to the deaf, and restored voices to the mute. He spoke and the dead were raised. With seeming casualness he walked on stormy seas as we would walk down a path. When something was needed, but not available, with a blessing from his mouth a few loaves and fishes were able to multiply and feed multiple thousands of people, with many leftovers, far more than they started out with. No man could best him with logic or lies. His wisdom, even as a small child far exceeded anyone living. He could not be taught anything, for he knew everything.

This is the wonder we need periodically to remind ourselves exists in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. He willingly continued to fulfill the will of God, our Father, even when all those around him were rejecting him and calling for his death. His love for each and every one of us drove him to suffer unimaginably, because he knew that on the other side of his own suffering would be not only understanding of what drives us and motivates us to do what we do, but he would understand how it feels to suffer in a million different ways. His desire to know this was so that he could give us the comfort that we need the most as we try to live his commandments. He truly wanted to understand us in the most intimate ways. For this we should be in constant awe and reverence of his greatness and majesty, his love and understanding. We should truly appreciate his willingness to pay the price required to open the way home to God for each and every one of us.

FHE/Personal Study

Luke 15:1-10 – Being lost

I would like to address two forms of being lost. The first is the kind of being lost when you are surrounded by others who can help you. For example, let’s say you are in a large mall or in an amusement park. You are surrounded by thousands of people. If you don’t know which way to go you can probably ask most anyone and get some kind of information that can help you. Finding your way in this situation is not that difficult.

Now let’s suppose you are alone in a forest. You can’t find any of the cardinal directions, because the sun is hidden by rocks or trees. No one is around to ask which way is out. You are completely without direction or resources to save yourself. In this case, you are truly on your own. This can be a very frightening situation to be in, for it may call into question your ability to survive even the next few days. You don’t know what is dangerous, what is safe, where to turn to find your way home, or how long you may be stranded in that situation. This kind of being lost can feel like you have been abandoned, and are without hope.

In the parable of the lost sheep, the sheep sometimes are not even aware that they have wandered into dangerous territory. Some have lost their way, thinking they knew where they were headed. But sometimes they get to where they thought they were going only to find they have forgotten how to get back to where they were, or they feel they are not welcome back where they were. Being in this kind of a lost state can create anxieties that can be debilitating to us.

When Jesus tells us to be his under shepherds, and to seek after the one sheep who has wandered off, we need to understand that those we search after and try to return to the fold may not even be aware of how lost they really are. When the shepherd is said to put the sheep over his shoulders and carry it back home, we as Christ’s ministers may need to do a lot of emotional and spiritual heavy lifting to help get those who are lost back to full fellowship in the fold. Shepherds make many sacrifices for their sheep. How much are we willing to sacrifice to help someone else find their way back to the joy of the fold?

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NT19-2023 – Rejoice With Me

Week 19