Thursday, March 28, 2019

Notes on Matthew 14-15, Mark 6-7, John 5-6, Come Follow Me Study for March 25-31

This week's reading was so dense and full of beautiful stories and wonderful applications -- the feeding of the 5,000, Christ and Peter walking on water, the healing of a Gentile woman's daughter and a deaf and mute man as well as multitudes, the feeding of the four thousand, the pool of Bethesda, and the Bread of Life Sermon.  I feel a bit overwhelmed in trying to reduce my thoughts down to just the highlights! 

John the Baptist's Beheading, Matthew 14:1-12, Mark 6:14-30

  • The story illustrates the power of good people to influence even a very wicked man.  Herod would have put John to death but "he feared the multitude because they counted him as a prophet."  If there hadn't been good people following John, Herod would have not held back from putting him to death for telling the truth about his unlawful marriage.
  • The story also illustrates the power of peer pressure for evil, as Herod beheads John for "the oath's sake, ad them with sat with him at meat."  He didn't want to lose face with his dinner guests, those who had heard his oath to Salome to give her whatever she wanted.
  • The application in our lives is pretty clear.  We need to do good things because they are right, no matter what the crowds and multitudes might think.  And we need to be careful that we don't allow our desire to please those around us keep us from doing what is right.  
  • We can learn from John the Baptist's example to speak the truth and let the consequences follow.  And that God allows bad things happen to good people.
  • "When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart"  Once again, Christ seeks time alone.  His ministry included so much healing and teaching, but it also included time to commune and pray and seek His Father.  Do I take that same time to turn off all the distractions in my life and really pray?  Or do I fill up every moment with entertainment, media, internet, etc.?

Feeding the 5,000+ 

  • Christ went to a place apart, but he is followed by the crowds.  I wonder if some of them heard of John the Baptist's death and sought understanding of it through Christ.  Certainly, others came for the healing He could bring to them and their loved ones.  Still others wanted Him to be their ruler -- it says in John 6:15 that after he fed the 5000, "When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone."
  • Instead of annoyance at the crowd for disturbing Him, He was moved with compassion.
  • The feeding of the 5000 is one of the few miracles found in all four gospels.  It was the sign to many of the people that this was the Messiah, the new Moses who gave them manna.  John 6:14 "Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world."
  • I heard someone comment that when Christ commanded them to gather up the fragments that remain, He was teaching us not to waste.  That may be, but I think the larger message of the twelve baskets is as a witness of the incomparable generosity of God.  Not only did He magnify the humble loaves and fishes into enough to feed the entire multitude, He gave so much that there was plenty left over.  It reminds me of the scripture in Luke 6:38 " Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."  God gives us so much that we don't have room enough to receive it!  
  • I have often seen and felt that as I do my small part and bring what I can to my work as a mother, as a teacher, as a friend, then Christ takes that humble offering and makes it enough.  This talk by Elder Faust beautifully illustrates this concept:  
"Many nameless people with gifts equal only to five loaves and two small fishes magnify their callings and serve without attention or recognition, feeding literally thousands . . . Any man or woman who enjoys the Master’s touch is like potter’s clay in his hands. More important than acquiring fame or fortune is being what God wants us to be. Before we came to this earth, we may have been fashioned to do some small good in this life that no one else can do. The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jer. 1:5). If God has a work for those with many talents, I believe he also has an important work for those of us who have few.
  • One of my favorite applications of this story comes from Jaroldeen Edwards (though I should say I'm a mom who makes the kids pack their own lunches!):
My daughter Julia, who is expecting her tenth child, makes seven school lunches every morning. It is a job she has disliked so much it was hard for her to get out of bed, because the chore of making sack lunches is the first chore she faces every day. . . .
Lunches were a chore for Julia that made every morning less than joyful until the Sunday that her eight-year-old son came home from church and had the following conversation with his mother. 
'What was your Primary lesson about today?' his mother asked.
'Oh, you know,' young Weston said in an offhand way. 'It was that story that everybody knows. You know. The one about the time Jesus was walking around the Sea of Galilee and all these thousands of people came walking after him, and they listened to him for most of the day, and then it got hot and late and they were all tired and hungry and there wasn't any food at all.
'Except, you know, for this one little boy, and his mother had remembered to pack his lunch, and so he had some loaves and fishes, and Jesus took them and fed all those people.' 
My daughter told me this incident, and there were tears in our eyes. 'His mother had packed his lunch.'
'So you see, Mother,'Julia said, 'I have learned to like making lunches now, because I realize that when I'm feeding my children, I am feeding the five thousand—-and more. It makes me think of all the hundreds of people my children's lives will touch through the years, and I am making that possible by nourishing them as they grow up.'
'Lunches are a whole new experience since I have thought of that unknown mother in Galilee who made a lunch for her little boy, and her son gave it to the Savior, and the Savior fed five thousand people with it.'

Walking on Water (Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-53)



  • I love that in order to finally get his time alone to pray, He sends the multitudes away and sends His disciples on ahead on a boat.  Then presumably, He occupies most of the night with communing with His Father.
  • There is a lot of imagery in these two episodes -- the feeding of the multitude and the crossing of the sea -- of the Exodus.  Just as Moses crossed the Red Sea miraculously, so Christ did the same.  In Mark, it implies that the disciples on the boat should have already known from the miracle of the loaves that Christ was the Messiah.  But they did not.  It says, "And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered [or understood] not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened."
  • For Family Home Evening this week, we listened to some of this devotional by Michael Wilcox that I referenced in one of my earlier posts.   It's good so I will post it again!

"The phrase “the fourth watch” comes from the account in Mark, and others in the New Testament, where the Savior during the day has fed the 5,000 and He sends the Apostles down to the Sea of a Galilee while He’s going to dismiss the multitude. Then He will pray, and the Savior will often pray a long time. So it’s late afternoon, early evening, when the Savior sends the Apostles down to the ship and they get in it and a storm comes up.  
The phrase that Mark uses is “the wind was contrary to them and they toiled in rowing against the wind.” That expression is so fit for so many of us in our lives, I know in my own life, and I look at my children’s lives; we toil in rowing against the wind. There’s blessing we want but don’t have, there’s a trial we want over that isn’t over yet. In John’s account they row for about the equivalent for 75 football fields against the wind, and they’re discouraged, they’re tired. Hope is starting to wane. In Mark’s account I think one of the first things that really gives me comfort is that he says He saw them toil in rowing, He saw them. I’ve been to the Sea of Galilee a number of times and you can see the hills around the lake. I picture Him up there looking down on them, but they don’t know He’s looking down on them. Sometimes in our own lives He’s looking, He’s watching, He sees us toiling and rowing–we may not always realize that He sees us. And then it says that in the fourth watch of the night He came to them walking on the water. 

The Hebrew day is roughly divided into 12 hours; six in the morning, roughly, was the first hour, so the sixth hour is noon, the ninth hour is about three in the afternoon. The night was divided into four watches; roughly six at night to nine at night, nine to midnight, midnight to three, the fourth watch–three in the morning to sunrise. And it’s in the fourth watch that He comes. 
So I often say to myself and to others, we worship a Fourth-Watch God. In many areas of our lives He seems to allow us to toil in rowing against the wind. There must be something good in developing spiritual muscle. The problem is that I’m usually a first-watch person, or a second-watch person. And when the third watch starts, and He’s not come and my trial is not over and my blessing is not arrived, we may begin to make some assumptions that are dangerous. We may begin to assume that He’s not there, or that He’s there but doesn’t care, or He’s not listening, or maybe the most dangerous assumption ‘I’m not worthy.’ And I think the correct assumption I try to make–in my own fourth-watch times or with my children or friends–He’s there, He listens, He cares, we’re as worthy as we can be. We’ve not yet reached the fourth watch, and when we reach the fourth watch, He will come.

  • Peter walked on water but when he saw the winds he became afraid.  As the mother of eleven kids, each of whom I feel strongly I was supposed to bring into my family, I have had many experiences like Peter's, where I know I'm supposed to have a baby or keep this family together and initially I feel as if the Lord will support me in the challenging task I've taken on, but then as time goes on and I see the "winds boisterous," I start to falter.  The winds in my life are usually exhaustion, overwhelm, worry, and never-ending hard work.  Am I really enough for this task?  I wonder.  I am so thankful that in my moments of doubt and weakness, Christ is still there for me as Christ was for Peter, reaching out his hand to him, saving him from drowning and giving him a gentle rebuke.  In the same way, I have felt the Spirit's guiding influence in my moments of inadequacy telling me that while it is true I am not enough for this, I am not doing this alone.  With Christ's help, I can do everything that I need to do.
  • The Hand of God by Yonsung Kim

  • I love the words of Elder Maxwell, who reminds us that we are all imperfect and that we should celebrate Peter's walking on water more than we condemn his faltering:
Likewise, unremembered by some is the reality that in the kingdom we are each other’s clinical material; the Lord allows us to practice on each other, even in our imperfections. And each of us knows what it is like to be worked on by a “student” rather than a senior surgeon. Each of us, however unintentionally, has also inflicted some pain.
Often unallowed for, too, are the differing styles of leadership we experience in the kingdom. Paul was thoughtfully sensitive to the need not to offend weak members by eating meat (see 1 Cor. 8:13), while John the Baptist’s diet of locusts and wild honey may not have proven contagious—surely not with Jerusalem’s country club set.
It is our individual and constant responsibility to avoid “looking beyond the mark.” (Jacob 4:14.) My focus is my responsibility! What is most to be focused on—the fact that Peter walked briefly on the water or that he did not continue? Has any other mortal so walked, even that briefly?
Imperfect people are, in fact, called by our perfect Lord to assist in His work. The Lord declared to certain associates of Joseph Smith that He knew that they had observed Joseph’s minor imperfections. Even so, the Lord then testified that the revelations given through the Prophet were true! (See D&C 67:5, 9.)
Unsurprisingly, therefore, we do notice each other’s weaknesses. But we should not celebrate them. Let us be grateful for the small strides that we and others make, rather than rejoice in the shortfalls. And when mistakes occur, let them become instructive, not destructive.

Encounter with a Gentile Woman, Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-30


  • When I was a teenager, I read the story of the Gentile woman coming to Christ and I was rather bothered by it.  It didn't fit with my picture of who and what Christ was.  A Gentile woman comes to Christ begging for healing for her daughter only to be told, "It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs."  She responds humbly, "Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table."  Only then does Christ say, "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour."
  • Truthfully, the story still doesn't sit well with me.  I understand some of the principles and interpretations, but I can't help but think that there is more to the story than what is told here.  In the absence of that, I will give a few ideas
  • While we recoil at the thought of someone being called a dog, it was not necessarily an insult.  According to Thomas Wayment, the form of the verb used is in diminutive form, so more like a household pet than some feral animal.  If we substitute the word "kitten" for the word we might be able to get a better idea of what it might have meant in the original exchange.  Even so, it is clear that the woman seems to be asking metaphorically for a seat at the table and Christ is telling her she is not in a position to ask for that.
  • Matthew gives us a short explanation of the exchange when it quotes Jesus in verse 24 as saying, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel."  The time of the Gentiles has not yet come.  The gospel has to be offered first to the house of Israel and then later to the whole world.  But why would this preclude Christ healing the woman who came to him?  Especially given that it is likely he has healed other Gentiles in the past -- the man with the legion of devils was probably a Gentile, as was (possibly) the Centurion's son.  Could she have been asking him to take time away from his other pressing needs?  Was this an instance where if He had gone with her as she perhaps had asked (but is not recorded), He would have left something even more important undone?  As a mom with more to juggle in the course of a day than I can actually do, I understand competing priorities and the need to say "no" at times.
  • Some scholars believe this exchange was meant not to insult the woman, but to test her faith.  We know that Christ does use this technique at times because during the feeding of the 5000 as recorded in John 6:5-6, "[Jesus] saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do."  In that instance, Christ used the question to see how the disciples would respond.  I personally lean to this interpretation of the Gentile woman's story.  From what is written in scripture, the exchange was short and in the end, the woman received the great blessing for which she sought, plus praise for her great faith.  Because she was willing to accept the smallest crumb, she got the feast that she desired -- her daughter was made whole.
  • In keeping with this reading, this scripture has great meaning for me.  Do I have faith enough to accept crumbs from the table of God?  Or would I go away offended that I was not given prime seating at the banquet?  It's hard to be a person today without having a certain amount of entitlement, having grown up in a culture that celebrates individuality and even has a saying that "the customer is always right."  
  • Sometimes it might feel like God is giving us crumbs when we desire a feast.  We may want to be married and haven't found a spouse.  We may have married but our spouse did not turn out anything like what we hoped for.  We may want children and be forced to endure miscarriage after miscarriage.  We may desire financial security only to suffer job loss and poverty.  We may be blindsided by chronic illness or disability. In such times, are we willing to accept what God is offering to us?  Or do we turn away, offended that our lives didn't turn out the way we thought we deserved?
  • Of course, I don't believe in a God who gives only gives crumbs.  He gives us good gifts, but "Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith." (Mosiah 23:21) If we can hold on to what we know while we endure whatever we feel is unfair or unjust about life, we will eventually see how our trials fit into God's plan. 
  • This reminds me of a story told by Elder Gordon B. Hinckley as referenced here:  
Then-Elder Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of meeting a young naval officer from Asia. The officer had not been a Christian, but during training in the United States, he had learned about the Church and was baptized. He was now preparing to return to his native land.
President Hinckley asked the officer: “Your people are not Christians. What will happen when you return home a Christian, and, more particularly, a Mormon Christian?” 
The officer’s face clouded, and he replied: “My family will be disappointed. … As for my future and my career, all opportunity may be foreclosed against me.” 
President Hinckley asked, “Are you willing to pay so great a price for the gospel?”
With his dark eyes moistened by tears, he answered with a question: “It’s true, isn’t it?”
President Hinckley responded, “Yes, it is true.”
To which the officer replied, “Then what else matters?” 

  • I believe that each of us will have times in our lives when our faith is tested, just like the woman's was.  If we are humble and willing to accept whatever God wills for us, we will one day be astonished at the generous compensatory blessings we receive.
  • One final note -- there is one other mention of "crumbs" in the New Testament, and it is where Christ tells the story of the rich man and the beggar named Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.  In that story, Lazarus endures torment in life "desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table," but the rich man ignores him.  After both die, Lazarus is brought "into Abraham's bosom" while the rich man is in hell.  This reminds me of a quote by Elder Joseph WirthlinThe Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.  One of the blessings of the gospel is the knowledge that when the curtain of death signals the end of our mortal lives, life will continue on the other side of the veil. There we will be given new opportunities. Not even death can take from us the eternal blessings promised by a loving Heavenly Father.

Confrontations with Jewish Leaders about Traditions, Matthew 15:1-20, Matthew 16:1-12, Mark 7:1-23,


  • There are multiple confrontations with the Pharisees and Jewish leaders in these sections.  They condemn Christ and his disciples for not doing a ritual washing before meals, which was part of their oral law and not the original law of Moses.  Christ condemns them for following a tradition that allowed a son to pledge his property to the temple after he died and therefore be rid of the requirement to take care of his aged parents instead of following the law in the scriptures.  
  • This makes me remember that at times, the details of how we implement a commandment can change and that we don't need to get so fixed on one way of doing things that we mistake the way we follow a commandment for the actual commandment.  With many wonderful and exciting changes in our Church, I see a lot of traditions and cultural practices getting simplified and rearranged.  I love what Sister Nelson said of her husband, "He's not interested in cutting the ham to fit inside of the pot anymore.  And he's not just about, 'If it was tradition, let's do something different.' It's, 'Let's look at why we were doing that.' And that's what's caught his attention over and over again." 
  • Christ also warns his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.  I think today, we also need to beware who and what we listen to and allow to influence us.  Some people sow poison and actively work to destroy faith but have nothing to take its place.  As Elder Dallin H. Oaks says, "

We live in a time of greatly expanded and disseminated information. But not all ofthis information is true. We need to be cautious as we seek truth and choosesources for that search. We should not consider secular prominence or authorityas qualified sources of truth. We should be cautious about relying on informationor advice offered by entertainment stars, prominent athletes, or anonymousinternet sources. Expertise in one field should not be taken as expertise on truthin other subjects.

We should also be cautious about the motivation of the one who providesinformation. That is why the scriptures warn us against priestcraft (see 2 Nephi26:29). If the source is anonymous or unknown, the information may also be suspect.
 
Our personal decisions should be based on information from sources that are qualified on the subject and free from selfish motivations.
  • When Christ heals the man at the pool of Bethesda, the Jewish leaders get angry because the man is carrying his bedroll on the Sabbath!  Straining at gnats and swallowing camels, that's the way they roll.  I also think Christ deliberately works on the Sabbath because it is the Lord's Day.  He tells the Pharisees who criticize that as his Father works on the Sabbath, so He will work.  This makes them even angrier because he is speaking blasphemy in declaring His Sonship.
  • This video shows the contrast well between the caring of Christ and the criticism of the Jewish leaders:


Healings and More Healings, John 5:1-15, Mark 7:31-37

  • Christ heals multitudes and all who come to him in these chapters, but we also have some beautiful, intimate encounters he has with individuals.  
  • The man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15), who had an infirmity for 38 years, was healed by the master's touch and not by some superstition he had been hoping for.  I love that it says in John 5:14, "Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."  The man didn't know who it was that helped him, but Christ came and found Him as he was at the temple.  This man would have been unable to go to the temple to worship for 38 years, so it is beautiful to me that he goes there soon after his healing.  But I also love that Christ sought him out, and I believe He will seek us out as we seek for Him.
  • There is a note in my Wayment translation that says that the warning "lest a worse thing come" doesn't imply that the man's original infirmity was given to him because of sin, but instead, that being caught up in sinful ways is a worse thing than being physically infirm.
  • In Matthew 14:36, it says that those who touched the hem of his garment were made whole.  I think it's interesting how Christ uses various means to heal.  Sometimes he physically touches a person, other times they touch His clothes, and still other times He heals from a distance at a word.  (The Twelve are said to anoint with oil, which represents Christ's Atonement, when they go out healing).  The act of coming to Christ and exercising faith, whether it be faith in his touch or faith in the power of His clothing, is what is essential, not the specific way one is healed.
  • Along those lines, I love the healing of the man who is blind and dumb in Mark 7:31-37.  It says that Christ took him aside from the multitude and put his fingers in the man's ears and touched his tongue.  The man would not have understood any words Christ spoke, but he could see and feel and understand what Christ meant by touching him.  It seems such a personal way to say, "I see you and know you and I want you to understand what I am doing for you."

The Bread of Life and Hard Sayings John 6:22-71

  • There is so much depth to this Sermon and teaching!  I will only touch on a few things.
  • Christ seems to be at the height of his popularity.  John the Baptist is dead, He is thronged by multitudes who want him to be King, He has fed thousands -- twice! -- miraculously and demonstrated through these miracles that He is the prophesied new Moses who is to come.
  • And then comes this sermon, which to my ears doesn't sound particularly difficult.  Christ tells the people that they are following him, not because they want to do His will and follow Him, but "because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled." (John 6:26).  The people prove this to be the case when after Christ speaks to them of the manna that the Father gave to Moses, they cry out, "Lord, evermore give us this bread!"  
  • When Christ went on to explain more about the Bread of Life and how to eat it, they are angry, both because He declares He came down from heaven, and also because they don't understand or want to do what He is asking.  "This is an hard saying, who can hear it?" (John 6:60)  
  • It seems to me that the people didn't want Christ.  They wanted the same thing many of us want.  They wanted an easy life.  They wanted to do away with the daily toil and struggle they go through just to have enough to eat.  If they could have bread from heaven every day, then all their troubles would be solved.
  • Instead, Christ calls them to be His disciples, which is going to require a lot more of them.  Many did not want to accept this.  John 6:66: "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him."
  • Here is the Son of God, declaring Who He is to them, and inviting them to partake of the Life He brings, and they reject it.  What a tragedy!  
  • And yet, don't we also seek an easier life today?  I think of many who plan their family size or space their children out not through prayerful decisions but based on what they think will make life easiest.  Not all do this, of course, but it seems to be a much larger consideration than it should be.  What would God have me do? should be the main question.  And what about accepting the calling and challenges of motherhood?  More and more in our society put it off or simply choose not to have children at all.  They miss out on all the joys that come from the hard.  
  • We want to form God in our own image at times, wanting him to follow whatever current trends are popular.  We don't want "hard sayings" about being chaste, for example, or about living a consecrated life or overcoming our selfishness.  
  • Leaving aside societal trends, I believe that sooner or later, all of us will have a moment on the path of discipleship where we encounter what we consider "a hard saying."  What we do at those times is instructive.  Will we, like the man who brought his son to Christ, say, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief”? (Mark 9:22-24).  As Elder Holland puts it, "In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. . . When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes."
  • Are we willing to engage in the wrestle towards understanding?  
  • Simon Peter is a perfect model of how to handle what we don't know by holding on to what we do.  I love verses 67-69:  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. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God."
  • Peter didn't need to understand everything.  He knew enough to know that there was no other path.  Christ is the Son and the Way.  Come what may, he was committed.
  • Following Christ even through my hardest hours and when going through things I couldn't understand has brought me every good thing in my life.  With Christ, my life is rich and full and my understanding grows.  I may not know everything, but I know enough.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Notes on Matthew 13, Luke 8, and Luke 13, CFM for March 18-24,

Why does Christ Teach in Parables?  Matthew 13:10-17


  • I wonder how many of the listeners to these parables wondered why people were so interested in this man who was just telling little stories about seeds and lost coins.  
  • It seems that parables are a way to teach people at many different levels of understanding and commitment.  I recently had an experience where I was troubled about something and praying for answers.  Instead of explaining the answer to my problem in depth, the Spirit directed me to an experience I had that to many might seem unrelated to my question and said, "the answer is like this experience you had."  That experience was the perfect way of understanding in a profound way the very thing I was struggling with.  
  • In a similar way, I can see how people can come to Christ with questions about "why are some people willing to follow you and others leave after just a short time?"  or "how in the world is this tiny little group here supposed to influence the whole world?" Instead of answering the question with a lot of details, Christ tells them about the sower who sowed in four different places and what happened to the seeds in each or he tells them about how the tiny mustard seed will grow into a mighty tree.  
  • With parables, Christ teaches us from what we know.  These people knew about soils and seeds, about lost coins and lost sheep, so that that is how Christ taught them of the gospel.  No matter your experiences in life, God can use them to teach you of His ways.  For example, I love hearing stories from President Nelson about what he learned as a heart surgeon that helped him understand divine law.  I love reading nonfiction and seeing gospel principles at work in the world.
  • Parables are also a merciful way of teaching so that those who are ready can absorb the message while those who are not ready are not held accountable for the knowledge.
  • The Master Teacher’s parables show both the justice and mercy of God at work among those who hear them. “Two men may hear the same words,” wrote Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933). “One of them listens in indolence and indifference, the other with active mind intent on learning all that the words can possibly convey; and, having heard, the diligent man goes straightway to do the things commended to him, while the careless one neglects and forgets. The one is wise, the other foolish; the one has heard to his eternal profit, the other to his everlasting condemnation.”6  (source)
Discovering how to interpret and apply the parables of Jesus is essential to getting the most from them. To interpret a parable, one must study what it meant to them, there, then. To apply a parable, one must ponder what it means to me, here, now. “The only true interpretation is the meaning the parable conveyed, or was meant to convey, when first spoken. The application of a parable may vary in every age and circumstance” (Bible Dictionary, “Parables,” 741). (source)

The Parable of the Sower, The Parable of the Wheat and Tares, Matthew 13:1-9, Matthew 13:18-30, 13:36-43, Luke 8:5-15

  • Our first lesson of the year covered the parable of the sower and how to prepare ourselves to be good soil.  This parable points out that the gospel message, or the seed, is good, but the reception to it differs in significant ways.  Christ himself gives the interpretation.  
Matthew 13:19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catchethaway that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty

  • I found this explanation of the farming methods involved interesting:  "Farmers in ancient Palestine (and much of the world) spread their seed first, and then plow the seed into the soil. Without pre-plowing the soil, some seeds fall on hard pack, thorny, and rocky soils. Scientific American published the benefits of this ancient farming technique, including a lack of erosion and less water use.7"  
  • Imagining a farmer sowing seeds and then plowing them into the soil makes a lot more sense as to where and how the seeds landed.
  • I love this quote by Elder James E. Faust:  "We also need to prepare our own seedbed of faith. To do this we need to plow the soil through daily humble prayer, asking for strength and forgiveness. We need to harrow the soil by overcoming our feelings of pride. We need to prepare the seedbed by keeping the commandments to the best of our ability. We need to be honest with the Lord in the payment of our tithing and our other offerings. We need to be worthy and able to call forth the great powers of the priesthood to bless ourselves, our families, and others for whom we have responsibility. There is no better place for the spiritual seeds of our faith to be nurtured than within the hallowed sanctuaries of our temples and in our homes."
  • How do I allow my own cares of the world or riches to choke out the gospel?  Do I spend more time on Facebook than I do with God's word?  Am I more concerned about the latest viral outrage than I am about the burdens my neighbor is carrying that I might lighten?  How do I keep nourishing the seed so that it gets deep roots?





  • The parable of the wheat and tares can answer questions like, Why aren't all Christians living their faith? or Why does God allow the wicked to prosper for a time?  
  • "Tares are a weed called “bearded darnel.” It looks the same as wheat until it comes to ear. The roots are often intertwined, so farmers do not want to pull them prematurely or they may lose the crop (Matthew 13:29). Tares are poisonous—they taste bitter and when eaten separately or in bread, can cause dizziness, vomiting, convulsions, or death."  (from Lynn Wilson)
  • The poisonous nature of the tares explains why they will eventually be burned, while the good grain is gathered into the barn.
  • Anyone who has planted a garden and watched over little seedlings understands why it is a bad idea to pull weeds during that tender time.  Not only can it be difficult to tell which tiny plant is a weed and which one is a good crop, it is also very easy to dislodge and crush the little seedlings by pulling nearby weeds.
  • Joseph Smith said this about this parable:  "The wheat and tares must grow together till the harvest; at the harvest the wheat is gathered together into the threshing floor, so with the Saints the stakes are the threshing floor. Here they will be threshed with all sorts of difficulties, trials, afflictions and everything to mar their peace, which they can imagine, and thousands which they cannot imagine, but he that endures the threshing till all the chaff, superstition, folly and unbelief are pounded out of him, and does not suffer himself to be blown away as chaff by the foul blast of slander, but endures faithfully to the end, shall be saved." (source)

The Parable of the Mustard Seed, The Parable of the Leaven, Matthew 13:31-35

  • I love this picture from the student manual that shows just how small those tiny mustard seeds are.  And yet, they can grow into something big enough for birds to nest in.


  • The parable of the leaven reminds me of the words from the Sermon on the Mount about being the salt of the earth.  It doesn't take a lot of leavening or salt to make a loaf, but it is essential.  The seed of Abraham has a responsibility to bless the whole world, but we are likely to always be small in number in comparison to the world's population.  

The Parable of the Treasure in the Field, The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, Matthew 13:44-46


  • These two parables teach great truths about how much we should be willing to give for the gospel of Jesus Christ.  My ancestors left behind family, friends, and their native lands of Europe because they felt a call to gather to Zion.  They sold all that they had to raise money and then undertook a journey to leave behind all that they knew to gather to Zion.  Do I have that same commitment?
  • I wonder how the audience reacted to these stories.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest treasure in the world, but how many are willing to sell all they have to buy it?

The Parable of the Net, The Parable of the Householder, Matthew 13:47-52


  • The net gathers of every kind, but only the good fish are kept.  
  • The householder parable was a bit harder for me to understand.  Is he likening just scribes to a householder with a full treasury of good things?  Or all men like scribes and householders?  Lynn Wilson says this, "In the Jewish world, scribes were scholar teachers who interpreted the Torah. Jesus called for a new type of scribe, “which is instructed into the kingdom of heaven.” These new scribes, who have been taught by Jesus (which included Matthew himself), would need to go through the traditions, the learnings, the scriptures and separate out, or find new things in light of the Gospel. Everything takes on a new light through understanding Christ’s Plan of Salvation. “At its heart the gospel consists of ‘new things,’ and that newness must never be underestimated. But for Matthew, these ‘new things’ presuppose and are fundamentally loyal to the ‘old things.’” Matthew’s Gospel is an example of a new scribe who ties the OT and the NT together "  

Do Tragedies Happen Only Happen to Sinners?  The Parable of the Fig Tree, Luke 13:1-9


  • Though we don't know much about the two events spoken of -- the Galileans being persecuted by Pilate and a tower that fell in Siloam and killed 18 people -- Christ used the two tragedies to teach an important principle about righteousness.  While many at the time thought that bad things only happened to the wicked, Christ taught them not to believe that the victims were more unrighteous than anyone else.  
  • Christ follows up this teaching with the story of an unfruitful fig tree.  Instead of pulling it up right away when it fails to bear fruit, he seeks fruit three separate times and then gives it one more chance after that, digging about it and fertilizing it and giving it all that it could possibly need before finally casting it out.
  • I think through this parable, Christ is showing that God is not a God of wrath just waiting for his children to do wickedly so He can smite them.  Instead, He is a God of mercy, who hopes and waits for His children to repent and bring forth good works.  He gave the fig tree not just three chances, but a fourth.
  • I love that the parable doesn't tell us how the fig tree ended -- was that one last year successful?  Did the extra care given allow it to be fruitful?  Or was it once again barren and ready to be cut down?  So it is with our lives and those around us.  God didn't come into the world to condemn us, but to invite us to return.  Those who continually reject goodness will eventually find themselves outside God's kingdom, but not until they are given many chances to repent and change.
  • Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained the Savior’s teachings: 
“To say that particular individuals slain in war, killed in accidents, smitten with disease, stricken by plagues, or shorn of their property by natural calamities, have been singled out from among their fellows as especially deserving of such supposed retribution is wholly unwarranted. It is not man’s prerogative to conclude in individual cases of suffering or accident that such has befallen a person as a just retribution for an ungodly course. … The Lord brings difficulties upon the most righteous of his saints to test and try them; persecution … is the heritage of the faithful. 
“The real lesson to be learned from Jesus’ conclusion, ‘Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,’ is that there was no difference in righteousness between the slain and the living, and that unless the living repent they would perish with the dead. … In a broader sense the thought is that as these have perished temporally so shall all perish spiritually unless they repent” (source)

How many will be Saved?  Luke 13:22-30

  • A man asks Christ, "Lord, are there few that be saved?"  Instead of answering the question outright, Christ uses the opportunity to describe the unexpected nature of His kingdom.  He reminds the man that there is a narrow gate and that some who think they are going to enter will be shut out.  This wording is similar to that used in the Sermon on the Mount and in the parable of the ten virgins.
  • But then He follows up by saying, "And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.  And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last."  
  • It sounds like to me the answer to the question is, "Some who think they will be saved will not be and many who you think won't be saved will be."  
  • The quote about the last being first and the first last is a concept Christ uses a lot.  To me, it invokes images of the gospel being given first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles and then in the last days to the Gentiles and then to the Jews.  But it also means that some of those who have great prominence in this life will not be "first" in the next, while those who are the most humble will no longer be forgotten and overlooked.  
  • Elder Uchtdorf says this on that subject, "The Lord doesn’t care at all if we spend our days working in marble halls or stable stalls. He knows where we are, no matter how humble our circumstances. He will use—in His own way and for His holy purposes—those who incline their hearts to Him.  God knows that some of the greatest souls who have ever lived are those who will never appear in the chronicles of history. They are the blessed, humble souls who emulate the Savior’s example and spend the days of their lives doing good."

Events from the Life of Christ:  Rejection in Nazareth, Followed and Served by Certain Women, Matthew 13:53-58, Luke 8:1-3


  • In Matthew 13:53-58, once again the people in Nazareth reject him, not believing that with his humble background he could be anything special.  "Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?"
  • They weren't willing to accept Christ because He was too familiar.  They were like Naaman refusing to wash seven times in the lowly Jordon River because how could such a simple thing like that save him?  
  • They seemed also to reject Christ because He didn't fit their preconceived notion of what the King of Kings should be.  Rather than abandon those expectations, they abandoned Christ.
  • How do we avoid it being said of us, "he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief."?
  • In contrast to the rejection at Nazareth, in Luke 8, we learn that "certain women" traveled with him and "ministered unto him of their substance."
  • I love these quotes from the  Daughters in my Kingdom book:

While little is known about a formal organization of women in the New Testament, evidence suggests that women were vital participants in the Savior’s ministry. The New Testament includes accounts of women, named and unnamed, who exercised faith in Jesus Christ, learned and lived His teachings, and testified of His ministry, miracles, and majesty. These women became exemplary disciples and important witnesses in the work of salvation. 
Women journeyed with Jesus and His Twelve Apostles. They gave of their substance to assist in His ministry. After His death and Resurrection, women continued to be faithful disciples. They met and prayed together with the Apostles. They provided their homes as gathering places for Church members. They valiantly participated in the work of saving souls, temporally and spiritually. . .
It is likely that these women provided some economic support for Jesus and His Apostles, along with service such as cooking. In addition to receiving Jesus’s ministering—the glad tidings of His gospel and the blessings of His healing power—these women ministered to Him, imparting their substance and devotion.

  •  Women do the work that makes the world worth living in.  Many of the best of them are unknown except among their circle of influence, but their faith and goodness effects generations.  I wish we knew more about those great women of the New Testament, but I know enough great women of my own days to know what it looks like to be fully engaged and committed to the work, and it is enough.

Events from the Life of Christ: The Calming of the Storm, and the Woman Healed on the Sabbath, Luke 8:22-25, Luke 13:10-17


  • I wrote quite a bit about the calming of the storm a few weeks ago.  
  • In Luke 13:10-17, Christ heals a woman who had an infirmity for 18 years.  The ruler of the synagogue is aghast that Christ heals on the Sabbath Day.  There are six other days in the week, why not heal her on one of those days?  Which is interesting, because the woman was just as infirm the day before the Sabbath and if Christ had wanted, he could have avoided healing on the Sabbath.  But it seems that Christ is not going to bow down to the popular demand to keep the traditions about the Sabbath day.  In this instance, He talks first about how the men there feed and water their animals on the sabbath day.  If it's okay to do good to animals, how about to a "daughter of Abraham?"  In contrast to some of the other Sabbath day stories, in this case, his enemies were cowed.  "all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him."  
  • I love how the people rejoiced with the woman and other at the glorious things done by Christ.  When we put envy aside, we are happier because we can rejoice at all the good things that happen to those around us.  
  • I love this quote from Elder Jeffrey R. HollandBrothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those. 
Furthermore, envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! What a bright prospect that is—downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment! To say nothing of the chagrin in the end, when we find that God really is both just and merciful, giving to all who stand with Him “all that he hath," as the scripture says. So lesson number one from the Lord’s vineyard: coveting, pouting, or tearing others down does not elevate your standing, nor does demeaning someone else improve your self-image. So be kind, and be grateful that God is kind. It is a happy way to live.

 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Our CFM Assignments for March 18-24, Matthew 13, Luke 8, 13

These are the assignments I'm giving my family members to prepare for our study this Sunday:

Why does Christ Teach in Parables?  Matthew 13:10-17

Why does Christ teach in parables?  
Read Matthew 13:10-17, Alma 12:10, D&C 107:19.

Consider the following quotes:
The Master Teacher’s parables show both the justice and mercy of God at work among those who hear them. “Two men may hear the same words,” wrote Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933). “One of them listens in indolence and indifference, the other with active mind intent on learning all that the words can possibly convey; and, having heard, the diligent man goes straightway to do the things commended to him, while the careless one neglects and forgets. The one is wise, the other foolish; the one has heard to his eternal profit, the other to his everlasting condemnation.”6  (source)
Discovering how to interpret and apply the parables of Jesus is essential to getting the most from them. To interpret a parable, one must study what it meant to them, there, then. To apply a parable, one must ponder what it means to me, here, now. “The only true interpretation is the meaning the parable conveyed, or was meant to convey, when first spoken. The application of a parable may vary in every age and circumstance” (Bible Dictionary, “Parables,” 741). (source)
How can we learn from the parables Christ taught?  How can we apply them to our lives?

Bonus:  Write your own parable, using every-day things from your life to illustrate something about the gospel.  Come prepared to share it with our family.

The Parable of the Sower, The Parable of the Wheat and Tares, Matthew 13:1-9, Matthew 13:18-30, 13:36-43, Luke 8:5-15


What do these parables teach about the kingdom of God?  How can we apply them in our lives and in the modern world? 

Bonus:  Write your own parable, using every-day things from your life to illustrate something about the gospel.  Come prepared to share it with our family.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed, The Parable of the Leaven, Matthew 13:31-35

What do these parables teach about the kingdom of God?  How can we apply them in our lives and in the modern world? 

Bonus:  Write your own parable, using every-day things from your life to illustrate something about the gospel.  Come prepared to share it with our family.

The Parable of the Treasure in the Field, The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, Matthew 13:44-46


What do these parables teach about the kingdom of God?  How can we apply them in our lives and in the modern world? 

Bonus:  Write your own parable, using every-day things from your life to illustrate something about the gospel.  Come prepared to share it with our family.

The Parable of the Net, The Parable of the Householder, Matthew 13:47-52


What do these parables teach about the kingdom of God?  How can we apply them in our lives and in the modern world? 

Bonus:  Write your own parable, using every-day things from your life to illustrate something about the gospel.  Come prepared to share it with our family.

Do Tragedies Happen Only Happen to Sinners?  The Parable of the Fig Tree, Luke 13:1-9

Though we don't know much about the two events spoken of -- the Galileans being persecuted by Pilate and a tower that fell in Siloam and killed 18 people -- Christ used two recent tragedies to teach an important principle about righteousness.  While many at the time thought that bad things only happened to the wicked, what does Christ teach instead?  Why does Christ follow up this teaching with the parable of the fig tree?  What does the parable teach about God's mercy and eventual judgment?

Consider this quote:
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained the Savior’s teachings: 
“To say that particular individuals slain in war, killed in accidents, smitten with disease, stricken by plagues, or shorn of their property by natural calamities, have been singled out from among their fellows as especially deserving of such supposed retribution is wholly unwarranted. It is not man’s prerogative to conclude in individual cases of suffering or accident that such has befallen a person as a just retribution for an ungodly course. … The Lord brings difficulties upon the most righteous of his saints to test and try them; persecution … is the heritage of the faithful. 
“The real lesson to be learned from Jesus’ conclusion, ‘Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,’ is that there was no difference in righteousness between the slain and the living, and that unless the living repent they would perish with the dead. … In a broader sense the thought is that as these have perished temporally so shall all perish spiritually unless they repent” (source)

How many will be Saved?  Luke 13:22-30

What question is Christ asked in these verses and how does he respond?  Who will be shut out of the kingdom of heaven?  In contrast, who will sit down in the kingdom of heaven?  What does it mean that the "last shall be first, and the first, last?"

Events from the Life of Christ:  Rejection in Nazareth, Followed and Served by Certain Women, Matthew 13:53-58, Luke 8:1-3

Read Matthew 13:53-58.  Why did the people of Nazareth reject Christ?  What application does this have for us today?  How do we avoid it being said of us, "he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief."?

Read Luke 8:1-3 In contrast to the rejection at Nazareth, what does Luke tell us about some of the women who followed Jesus?  Why do you think they were so committed?  

Consider these quotes from the Daughters in my Kingdom book:
While little is known about a formal organization of women in the New Testament, evidence suggests that women were vital participants in the Savior’s ministry. The New Testament includes accounts of women, named and unnamed, who exercised faith in Jesus Christ, learned and lived His teachings, and testified of His ministry, miracles, and majesty. These women became exemplary disciples and important witnesses in the work of salvation. 
Women journeyed with Jesus and His Twelve Apostles. They gave of their substance to assist in His ministry. After His death and Resurrection, women continued to be faithful disciples. They met and prayed together with the Apostles. They provided their homes as gathering places for Church members. They valiantly participated in the work of saving souls, temporally and spiritually. . .
It is likely that these women provided some economic support for Jesus and His Apostles, along with service such as cooking. In addition to receiving Jesus’s ministering—the glad tidings of His gospel and the blessings of His healing power—these women ministered to Him, imparting their substance and devotion.
How are women a vital part of the kingdom today?

Events from the Life of Christ: The Calming of the Storm, and the Woman Healed on the Sabbath, Luke 8:22-25, Luke 13:10-17

Read Luke 8:22-25.  What can we learn from the calming of the storm?  What can we do when we are in the midst of our own tempests?  

Read Luke 13:10-17  What does Christ teach about the worth of souls in this story?  Why do you think his enemies were ashamed at his words?  How can we learn to rejoice at the good fortune of others like the crowd did?

Consider this quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
Brothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those. 
Furthermore, envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! What a bright prospect that is—downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment! To say nothing of the chagrin in the end, when we find that God really is both just and merciful, giving to all who stand with Him “all that he hath," as the scripture says. So lesson number one from the Lord’s vineyard: coveting, pouting, or tearing others down does not elevate your standing, nor does demeaning someone else improve your self-image. So be kind, and be grateful that God is kind. It is a happy way to live.

 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Notes on CFM March 11-17, Matthew 10-12, Mark 2, Luke 7 and 11

The Calling and Commissioning of the Twelve. (Matthew 9:36-38 and Matthew 10)

  • At the end of chapter 9, Christ laments the scattered, lost state of the multitudes."But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest."  In chapter 10, He commissions his Twelve to go out in his place representing Him.  What a responsibility!
  • Christ gives the twelve "power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease." and then he sends him out to lost sheep of the house of Israel.  "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give."  I love thinking about those words.  I have been given so much in my life.  Am I taking of my abundance of spiritual and temporal blessings and giving that just as freely to those around me?  
  • In verses 9-11, the Twelve are told to go without purse or even extra coats or staves.  This is a big leap of faith, to go and rely on the Lord to provide everything they needed.  I wonder which was bigger leap of faith, to have the faith to heal and raise the dead or to depend on God each day for whatever the moment required?
  • In Luke 22:35-36 it says, " And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one."  It is interesting that the requirement to go without their own provision is changed at this time.  This reminds me that what is right in one situation at one time may be different for that same person at another time.  Or what is right for one person in a situation may not be right for another person in a similar situation.  Coming to know Christ and following the feelings and promptings we have through the Holy Ghost is so important in discerning what we need to be doing with our lives and in our decisions right now.  Principles of the gospel don't change, but how we apply them at different stages of our lives will.
  • Christ then warns the Twelve of the persecution they will face.  I love the counsel he gives in verses 16-20:  "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you."  It seems that Christ is teaching the Apostles to rely on him not just for their daily needs of food, shelter, and clothing, but also to depend on Him for the very words they say.  I have had so many experiences in my life where I have been given "in the very hour" the words I need to say to someone.  It is a powerful experience that always increases my testimony.  We can rely on Christ to be with us as we do His work.
  • I love how he tell his disciples that they are loved even more than the sparrows that God knows and that God knows even the very hairs of their head.  "Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."  God knows and loves us too, and is intimately involved in the details of our lives.  He is not the "unmoved mover" who set the clock in motion and then lets it all play out, indifferent to His creations.  Instead, He is a loving Father who carries us in the palm of his hands and leads us as we seek His guidance.  In a beautiful talk, Elder David A. Bednar testifies, "I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Often, the Lord’s timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them."
  • I had one of those tender mercies just last Friday, the morning after my son read out his mission call.  While a friend watched my youngest boys, I went to the temple pondering about the place where Joey was called and how it would affect his life.  I had faith that he was called by revelation, but I was trying to understand God's plan and purpose for it better. As I was walking into the temple, I thought to myself, "I wonder if I will have one of those experiences where I run into someone who knows about Joey's mission."  Then I laughed at myself and thought it unlikely.  Then I walked into the dressing room and saw the receptionist at our dentist's office, serving as a temple worker.  She knows all of us pretty well and so after I changed, I told her about Joey's call.  "That was my mission!"  she exclaimed.  It was so neat to hear her experiences of serving there, and I took it as a further witness that Heavenly Father knows what He is doing.  
  • I love verse 39, where it talks about seeking or losing our lives and finding them.  Those who are selfishly holding onto their own wills and their own lusts will lose it all in the next life, while those who lose their life following Christ will be compensated for every sacrifice they make.  Elder Kevin Duncan said, "we can take great comfort in knowing that God will compensate us for every injustice we experience. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin stated: “The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. … Every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.”1"

Response to Opposition (Matthew 11:16-19, 12:22-32, Luke 7:31-35, Luke 11:14-26, and Luke 11:37-54)

  • In Matthew 11:16-19 and Luke 7:31-35, Christ speaks about the different reactions the naysayers have towards Him and John, "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners."  This reminds me that to those who fight against the gospel, it doesn't matter how the word is presented.  I know some think that if the Church would just change on this subject or that, then we'd be accepted in the world.  But these scriptures point out that no matter what, there will be opposition.  Christ compares the generation to children who sit in the marketplace and whine that the others aren't doing their bidding. A more modern analogy would be people who are trying to control the puppet strings of others or saying they will take take their ball and go home if the others don't play by their rules.  Christ is pretty hard on those who are not willing to take counsel from God but instead seek to lecture God on who and how He should be.  
  • Along those lines, it is interesting to me to think about how some people want only a God who fits into their view of what God should be.  They aren't willing to expand their mind or change their understanding when they encounter something that doesn't fit with their pre-conceived notions.  They want to form their God after their own image, not come to God and learn of Him.  (see this talk about the costs and blessings of discipleship)
  • In Matthew 12:22-32 and Luke 11:14-26, the Pharisees explain away Christ’s miracles of casting out devils by saying that it is only the by the power of the devil that Christ casts out devils.  Christ then teaches that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, using great logic to show how ridiculous it is to think that Satan would work against himself.  
  • In Luke 11:37-54, Christ is criticized for not washing his hands before eating.  In response, Christ criticizes the Pharisees for worrying more about the outer parts of a vessel and ignoring the "ravening and wickedness" on the inside.  He tells them that they love to sit in the best seats in the synogoge and to tithe the smallest herb, but "pass over judgment and the love of God."  
  • The Pharisees keep some of the commandments while neglecting others. If Christ were to come today and give similar words to our culture, what do you think he would say? Would he point out the hypocrisy of our society's hyper-focus on tolerance as the highest virtue while our society is destroying itself with debasing pornography and neglecting to keep the basic laws of chastity?  Or warn us that working so hard never give offense is not as important as the call to teach truth, real truth?  

Sabbath Day (Matthew 12:1-14)

  • As if to illustrate the point above, we now examine teh Pharisees criticism of Christ and the Sabbath.  First, they complain that Christ's disciples were gleaning on the sabbath day.  Then they complain when he heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath.  It's so jarring to us today -- how in the world could they sit there and watch a man go from crippled to whole and not rejoice and seek to be healed themselves?  Instead, they seek to fault-find and criticize.  I wonder how many times we miss the miracles around us because we are seeking to criticize?

Beautiful Words of Wisdom (Mathew 11:28-30, 12:33-37). 

  • I love the imagery of taking Christ's yoke.  While many think of it as taking a yoke that binds us to Christ who will help us carry our burdens, it is also appropriate to consider this as a willingness to submit to God as our loving master and trust in how He leads and that the burdens He gives us He will make light.  
  • I love these words from Matthew 12:35 "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things."  I have seen how people who continually seek to do good just become more and more filled with good that they then share with others.  As I seek to do what is good, kind, and Christ-like, I build my own store of good treasures to draw from for those around me.

Fasting (Mark 2:18-22) 

  • Yet again, Christ is criticized, this time for not fasting like John's disciples did.  Christ uses the imagery of a bridegroom to say something to the effect of, "If you are at a wedding party, is that the time to fast?"  Christ is the bridegroom and is with His people.  There will be other times of deep sorrow and times to fast, but it is not this day.  This reminds me, again, that we need to be aware of the times and seasons in our lives and that what we engage in at various times will change.

Raising of the Widow's Son (Luke 7:11-17, 1 Kings 17)

  • Christ is going to Nain when he finds a widow following the funeral procession of her only son.  Compassionately, lovingly, he restores to life the widow's son.  In contrast to some miracles, where people seek Christ out, this story shows Christ acting when He sees a need.
  • Widows depended on their sons for their support.  There was no social security and very little paid work for women.  Without her son, she would have been destitute.  Christ restored more than just a beloved child to her, he restored to her security and care.
  • Several commentators I read pointed out parallels between this story and the story of Elijah and the widow's son in 1 Kings 17.  This story of their great prophet Elijah would have been very familiar to the audience, so when they saw Christ raise a widow's son, they marvelled.  "And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people."  They saw in this act that Christ was as powerful as their great prophet Elijah.

A Woman with a Jar of Ointment and the Parable of the Grateful Debtors (Luke 7:36-50)

  • I love the contrasts in this story -- the proud Pharisee who neglected to give the best to his guest Jesus versus the humble sinner woman who anointed his feet with precious oil and bathed his feet with her tears.  But I'm also convicted by the story -- am I more like the proud Pharisee, sure that my righteousness and generosity is enough?  Or like the woman who recognized her own great sin and need for the Savior?  
  • Christ gives here the parable of the creditor who forgave two debtors, one who owed him a little and one who owed him an enormous sum.  The one forgiven of the greater sin is the one who is more committed to the Savior.  This reminds me that no one is beyond the reach of the Atonement of Christ.  Some that we may be inclined to reject as too involved in sin to be interested in the gospel may be the very ones who later repent and hold fast and strong to the gospel ever after.  Like Paul, who I'm sure no one ever expected to join Christ, yet who later became an apostle.  Christ didn't come to condemn the world, but to invite us to repent and change and come to Him.

The Parable of the man responding to his friend's request (Luke 11:5-13)

  • Christ teaches about the prayer, gives the Lord's prayer, and then gives a parable unique to Luke.  He talks about a man who has unexpected guests but nothing to feed them.  He goes to his friend's house at midnight and knocks on the door and the friend is annoyed.  It's late at night and his children are already in bed with him and why should he have to get up?  Yet because the man at the door continues to knock, he gets up and gives him the loaves that he needs.
  • Christ then teaches that if we humans, being so evil, are willing to get up from bed and share with a friend just because he asked, so God, being better than all of us, will give us good gifts if we continue to seek Him in prayer continually.  It seems that it is not enough to say a prayer once in a while asking for something.  It is important to keep seeking, asking, and knocking, trusting that God will open to us the doors we need.

Called to Serve!

Wow, what a beautiful week it has been for our family.  My son opened his call and he is going to serve the Lord in . . .





We had a map of the world where people could place pins for their guesses and my sister-in-law guessed it just right!

Baton Rouge, Louisiana!

He is so excited to serve and I am so thrilled for him.  I've had a few very profound experiences over the last few days as I've pondered over this call that has come and I know this is where he is meant to be.  

He will leave in July, overlapping my daughter's mission to Brazil by 6 months. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

In Between

Yesterday, my son's mission call arrived.  They send it electronically now, so at any time, he could open it up and look at it.  He's choosing to wait until tomorrow when his grandparents and some friends can be here.  He's thrilled and so are we.  Tomorrow night, we will all know where he is being sent.  Whatever the destination, it will shape and change his life in so many ways.  He will learn to love the people deeply, he will face challenges he can only dream of now, his heart will be moved with compassion, and he will represent Jesus Christ.

So now, we wait in this in between place for one more day.  Our summer plans are on hold until we find out where and when he will go.  We don't know yet whether he will need clothes suitable for the jungles of Brazil, like my husband did 20+ years ago, or for the long, dark winters of Finland, like one of my friends.  Or the in-between of a place like Virginia.  Tomorrow, we will begin to plan.

Friends, it's an amazing thing to watch your children grow up and make adult decisions you can be proud of.  There's nothing like receiving my daughter's emails each week and feeling the joy that she is experiencing as she gives herself wholeheartedly to the work.  She feels such an urgency as she sees the gospel of Jesus Christ give hope to the hopeless, and friends to the friendless.  She writes of miracles large and small.  The Brazilian people have welcomed her into their hearts, homes, and lives.  I can't wait to watch my next son as he steps into this new role and leaves behind his fishing nets for two years.





Matthew 4:18-20: "And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 
And he saith unto them, 
Follow me, 
and I will make you 
fishers of men.

And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.





Monday, March 11, 2019

Questions to Ponder for CFM March 11-17, Matthew 10-12, Mark 2, Luke 7 and 11

I will take time later in the week to write my own thoughts about the reading this week (Matthew 10-12, Mark 2, Luke 7 and 11).  For now, this is what I prepared for my family for our study next Sunday.  Each section below will be given to a different family member to read and present on.  I hope it might be useful for your own or your family's study.

The Calling and Commissioning of the Twelve.

Read Matthew 9:36-38 and Matthew chapter 10. 
How is Christ calling and preparing the Twelve to be laborers in his vineyard? 
Consider these questions:
·         In verse 1, what power did Christ give to the Twelve? 
·         In verses 5-8, What were the Twelve to do with their power?  What does it mean when it says “freely ye have received, freely give.”?  How does that apply to you and to our family?
·         Compare the counsel given in verses 9-11 with Luke 22:35-36.  What do we learn from these different instructions about the way Christ gives counsel?  Why do you think Christ asked his disciples to go without purse or scrip in the beginning and then later gave different instructions?
·         What does Christ counsel his Apostles to do in response to persecution in verses 17-20?
·         What does verse 39 mean to you?  How can we follow that counsel today?


Response to Opposition

Read Matthew 11:16-19, 12:22-32, Luke 7:31-35, Luke 11:14-26, and Luke 11:37-54,  How does Christ respond to opposition?  What condemnation does he give to the Pharisees?  What condemnation do you think He would give to us today?

·         In Matthew 11:16-19 and Luke 7:31-35, what is Christ teaching about the different responses to Him and to John?  What is it that makes some people criticize others no matter what?

·        In Matthew 12:22-32 (see also Luke 11:14-26), how do the Pharisees explain away Christ’s miracles of casting out devils?  What does it mean to have a kingdom divided against itself and how does this apply to both the casting out of devils and to the sin against the Holy Ghost?

·        In Luke 11:37-54 why is Christ talking about outward and inward parts?  The Pharisees keep some of the commandments while neglecting others.  If Christ were to come today and give similar words to our culture, what do you think he would say?  What do we think we do well at and what are we neglecting to do? 



Sabbath Day

Read Matthew 12:1-14 What principles does Christ teach about the Sabbath in these verses?   What is your reaction to the way the Pharisees feel about the Sabbath and what Christ does on it?  In what ways could we today be like the Pharisees who watch Christ only to find ways to criticize him?  What principles are involved in proper Sabbath Day worship?

Beautiful Words of Wisdom

Read Mathew 11:28-30.  Consider this from the manual: “We all carry burdens—some resulting from our own sins and mistakes, some caused by the choices of others, and some that are nobody’s fault but are simply part of life on earth. Regardless of the reasons for our struggles, Jesus pleads with us to come unto Him so He can help us bear our burdens and find relief (see also Mosiah 24). Elder David A. Bednar taught, “Making and keeping sacred covenants yokes us to and with the Lord Jesus Christ” (“Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 88). With this in mind, ponder questions like the following to better understand the Savior’s words in these verses: “How do my covenants yoke me to and with the Savior?” “What do I need to do to come unto Christ?” or “In what sense is the Savior’s yoke easy and His burden light?””

Read Matthew 12:33-37.  What do you learn from these verses?  How can we fill our heart with good treasures?


Fasting 

Read Mark 2:18-22  What is Christ’s response to questions about fasting between his and John’s disciples?  What does this teach about times and seasons in our lives?

Raising of the Widow's Son

Read Luke 7:11-17.  What can we learn about Christ from this story?
Read 1 Kings 17  What parallels does this story have to Elijah and the widow?  What principles about faith can we learn from these two stories?


A Woman with a Jar of Ointment and the Parable of the Grateful Debtors

Read Luke 7:36-50.  What do you learn about the Savior from this story and this parable?  How can we increase our love for Heavenly Father and recognize and be grateful for the things that He gives to us? 

The Parable of the man responding to his friend's request

Read Luke 11:5-13.  What is Christ teaching about prayer from this story?  Why did the man in the story answer his friends’ request?  How can we gain more confidence that God will answer our prayers?

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