Thursday, July 24, 2014

TFOT - The Cost and Blessings of Discipleship - Jeffrey R. Holland, Joyful Burden of Discipleship - Ronald A. Rasband

It's been a few months!  In May just after I got the new list of topics I was asked to fill in for our Primary chorister and then had a work deployment, and then sickness issues - so this month, I am back!!  Both suggested topics covered Discipleship - and wow did they speak to me!

Today’s lesson talks of the cost and blessings, and even the joyful burdens of discipleship

What is discipleship?

At the October 2006 session of conference, Elder Faust defined The word for disciple and the word for discipline both come from the same Latin root—discipulus, which means pupil. It emphasizes practice or exercise.

It is primarily:
1.      Obedience to the Savior.

This includes:
2.      Chastity.
3.      Tithing.
4.      Family home evening.
5.      Keeping all the commandments.
6.      Forsaking anything that is not good for us.

This month’s message from Jeffrey R. Holland echoes Elder Faust’s words that a life of discipleship may be difficult, but it is worth it.  He says:

Reader #1
You will one day find yourself called upon to defend your faith or perhaps even endure some personal abuse simply because you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Such moments will require both courage and courtesy on your part. 
Elder Rasband shares the same sentiment and expounds upon it going one step further to not just want to be disciples, but our responsibility and duty in being disciples with his reminder:

Reader #2
We are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness – be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers.  We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth with the mandate to serve and to lift His children.  He is dependent upon each of us.

As an example, Elder Rasband shares that 317 member of the seventies, serving in 8 quorums to assist the 12 apostles in carrying the burden placed on the first presidency.  Just like they all lend hands and might and mind, we all have the ability to assist and bless the lives of others.

In President Holland’s talk, he shares a story of abuse some sister missionaries experienced.  That same message was reiterated in a letter I got from a missionary I know in Guatemala – she wrote: 
This week someone asked me how I knew that this was the true church.  She asked me in a mocking way, "How do YOU know? Did God tell you??"  I told her Yes He did, in my heart and He continues to tell me every day.  She then looked me square in the eyes and told me, "No te creo." or I don´t believe you.  Sometimes it hurts, as Elder Holland put it, to have your most cherished beliefs reviled. Something I am learning right now is that the road to the Promised Land isn't all rainbows and daisies, it's hard.  People don't flock to the baptismal fonts just because I bear testimony God told me it's true.  People have distorted their image of God into that of their own. 

On the other hand, being a disciple of Jesus Christ has been the BIGGEST blessing in my life.  Amidst all of the rejection and embarrassment, there are miracles.  Just yesterday we were in a lesson with a husband and wife who were not at all wanting to listen to us.  The lesson was kind of scattered and I wondered what to do.  I thought to pull out a picture of Jesus Christ that I have in my Scriptures.  I asked the husband, "How do you feel when you look at Him?"   He paused for a while and then said quite simply, I will go back to Him one day.  I felt really impressed to cover up one side of the painting and tell them about how Christ is all just and all merciful, just like in the painting where one side of his face is hard and darker which represents the law, the other side of his face is soft and full of light.  I explained to them that He LOVES us.  He wants us to return to Him so much that He DIED so that we could.  In that moment the kids were really quiet, the pigs stopped making noise and a big breeze came by.  All of these people that run and hide from us because they find the truth to be hard.

***How many of us find that being a disciple is hard?  

Pres. Holland’s response could (and should) be applied to all of us – he said:

 Dear child, you have in your own humble way stepped into a circle of very distinguished women and men who have, as the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob said, “viewed Christ’s death, and suffered his cross and borne the shame of the world.”

****What wrongs do we experience as members in regard to our lifestyle, religion, or choices dictated by religion?? 
(Clothes, Media participation, activities, Scheduling, Stereotypes, Misinformation, etc.)
(open discussion)

Reader #3
In keeping with the Savior’s own experience, there has been a long history of rejection and a painfully high price paid by prophets and apostles, missionaries and members in every generation—all those who have tried to honor God’s call to lift the human family to “a more excellent way.”

Reader #4
Jesus Christ continues to extend the call Come and follow me.  He walked his homeland with his followers in a selfless manner.  He continues to walk with us, to stand by us, and to lead us.  To follow His perfect example is to recognize and honor the Savior, who has borne all of our burdens through His sacred and saving Atonement, the ultimate act of service.  What he asks each one of us is to be able and willing to take up the joyful burden of discipleship.

***Let us consider some of the things Jesus did that we can all emulate.
1.      Jesus “went about doing good.”  
We can all do something good every day—for a family member, a friend, or even a stranger—if we will look for those opportunities.
2.      Jesus was the Good Shepherd who watched over His sheep and had concern for those that were lost.  
We can seek out the lonely or those who are less active and befriend them.
3.      Jesus had compassion on many, including a poor leper.  
We too can have compassion. We are reminded in the Book of Mormon that we are “to mourn with those that mourn.”
4.      Jesus bore witness of His divine mission and of His Father’s great work.
For our part, we can all “stand as witnesses of God at all times.”
5.      Jesus invited “the little children to come unto [Him].”  
Our children need our attention and love as well as our care.

And therein lies a message for every man and woman in this Church. You may wonder if it is worth it to take a courageous moral stand … only to have your most cherished beliefs reviled or to strive against much in society that sometimes ridicules a life of religious devotion. Yes, it is worth it, because the alternative is to have our “houses” left unto us “desolate”—desolate individuals, desolate families, desolate neighborhoods, and desolate nations.

Hate is an ugly word, yet there are those today who would say with the corrupt Ahab, “I hate [the prophet Micaiah]; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always [prophesied] evil.” That kind of hate for a prophet’s honesty cost Abinadi his life. As he said to King Noah: “Because I have told you the truth ye are angry with me. … Because I have spoken the word of God ye have judged me that I am mad”  

Sadly enough, it is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds.  Talk about man creating God in his own image! Sometimes—and this seems the greatest irony of all—these folks invoke the name of Jesus as one who was this kind of “comfortable” God. Really? He who said not only should we not break commandments, but we should not even think about breaking them. And if we do think about breaking them, we have already broken them in our heart. Does that sound like “comfortable” doctrine, easy on the ear and popular down at the village love-in?

Reader #5
At the zenith of His mortal ministry, Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” To make certain they understood exactly what kind of love that was, He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” and “whosoever … shall break one of [the] least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be … the least in the kingdom of heaven.” Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it. So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others.

Elder Rasband says:
Focusing on serving our brothers and sisters can guide us to make divine decisions in our daily lives and prepares us to value and love what the Lord loves.  In so doing, we witness by our very lives that we are His disciples.  When we are engaged in His work, we feel His spirit with us.  We grow in testimony, faith, trust, and love.

Pres. Holland echoes that sentiment:
Friends …take heart. Pure Christlike love flowing from true righteousness can change the world. I testify that the true and living gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth and you are members of His true and living Church, trying to share it. I bear witness of that gospel and that Church, with a particular witness of restored priesthood keys which unlock the power and efficacy of saving ordinances. I am more certain that those keys have been restored and that those ordinances are once again available through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than I am certain I stand before you at this pulpit and you sit before me in this conference.

Be strong.

Live the gospel faithfully even if others around you don’t live it at all.

Defend your beliefs with courtesy and with compassion, but defend them.

A long history of inspired voices, point you toward the path of Christian discipleship. It is a strait path, and it is a narrow path without a great deal of latitude at some points, but it can be thrillingly and successfully traveled, “with … steadfastness in Christ, … a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.”  In courageously pursuing such a course, you will forge unshakable faith, you will find safety against ill winds that blow, even shafts in the whirlwind, and you will feel the rock-like strength of our Redeemer, upon whom if you build your unflagging discipleship, you cannot fall. 

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