~ Arise and Shine ~

Butterfly Impressions

The Ninety and Nine

This is not the usual polost-lamb-by-greg-olsenst for my welcome page. But, it’s important enough that I wanted to make sure as many people see it as possible. I know that not all visitors to Butterfly Impressions will see it, because they will come here through other links to view specific posts. And, of those that do see it, not all will read it. In addition, not all who read it will finish reading it. But, I hope that all of those who do finish reading it will walk away from the experience a little bit better.

Recently, my family has been reading the New Testament for our Family Scripture Study. It has been very insightful and spiritually uplifting for us!

Yesterday, when we read the Parable of the Lost Sheep from Luke 15:1-7, I saw it in a different way than I’ve thought about it before. Usually, as members of the church, we think that we’re a part of the 99 sheep that stayed together with the Shepherd. We’re where we are supposed to be, doing the things we’re supposed to do. We go to church every Sunday, say our prayers, and read our scriptures. So, we see the lost sheep as a less-active member of the church. Have you ever stopped to think about how it was not one of the 99 sheep, but the Shepherd who went to rescue the one sheep that was lost?

“I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (v. 7). This verse made me think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which is told later in the same chapter (Luke 15:11-32). And, I asked myself, “Do the ninety and nine really need no repentance? What kind of people are they, really? Might they be like the other son in the story of the Prodigal Son?”

There was an excellent talk given by Jeffery R. Holland in the April 2002 General Conference entitled “The Other Prodigal” that offers some amazing insights into this story. When the older brother sees how the younger is treated upon his return, he is jealous. Why should there be so much joy over the one sinner? It isn’t fair, is it?

But, Heavenly Father is always fair. He would not rejoice over one unless they had truly earned it. And, how do we earn it? We do so through grueling trials that rack the soul and stretch our weaknesses until we think we can no longer go on.

“But, that’s hard,” says the ninety and nine. “We’d much rather stay over here in our safe flock and enjoy our social gatherings, happy feelings, and luscious green grass.”

But, what did the one say? “I am already a lost sheep. I need to go and find myself. I need to find out who I am and what Heavenly Father wants me to be. I need to go off by myself to experience personal trials that will help me come to truly know my Shepherd.” So, the one leaves the others, not to become lost, but because he recognizes that he already is lost.

Remember what Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, said about his sheep: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10:14). Do we truly know him? Or are we so distracted by the things of this world that we don’t even notice the Good Shepherd standing near and watching over us?

“And if ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity; and it must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:39). And, we know what happened to the Nephites. In latter-day revelation, Christ has lamented: “Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness; they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness. These things ought not to be, and must be done away from among them” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:31-32).

How can we do the work of God if we are so caught up in worldliness? For, he said, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

The ninety and nine live life according to the rules of the world. Go to school, get a job (any job will do), work at least 40 hours a week, spend a bit of time with your family… All of these things are good, but are they what’s best? (see Elder Oak’s talk, “Good, Better, Best” from October 2007 General Conference) If Heavenly Father is not in your life, you’ll never know what is best for you. If you don’t know your Shepherd, cannot know what he would have you do. If you spend your life as one of the 99, doing what is easy, normal, and comfortable, you will never truly know the Good Shepherd.

“May we maintain the courage to defy the consensus. May we ever choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.

As we contemplate the decisions we make in our lives each day—whether to make this choice or that choice—if we choose Christ, we will have made the correct choice” (Thomas S. Monson, “Choices”, April 2016 General Conference).

Every sheep in the flock is a lost sheep. But, not all of us recognize that we are. There’s a strong force of evil persuading us to focus so much on others – “It’s not my fault, it’s theirs” or “Look at what they’re doing wrong” or “Since I’m trying to be righteous, it can’t be me – it must be them.”

We need to show greater charity toward our fellowmen. We need to give them the benefit of a doubt, let go of judgment, and ask ourselves, “What can I do better? What do I need to learn from this? How can I be strengthened from this experience?”

We cannot do this if we huddle in our flock of safety, focusing on those who have gone astray. “Oh, look! There’s the lost one! Maybe we should make a service project out of him – take him some cookies or something! Then we can congratulate ourselves on how wonderful we are to be part of the ninety and nine and not a lost sheep.” Have you ever noticed yourself falling into any of these attitudes? Have you ever caught yourself acting out of rules or responsibility, rather than charity?

Having charity is to love so deeply, that you want what is best for another person, no matter how much it hurts, and you’ll do whatever you can to help them in the ways they most need it. Such love requires the influence of the Holy Spirit.

A sheep of the fold who has charity in his heart will consider the one who is lost. He’ll pray for him, asking what he needs. Maybe he needs to have some time alone. Maybe he needs a listening ear. Maybe he needs a friend to help him find his way back home. But, we can’t know what he most needs without the Spirit.

You can be a sheep that helps the Good Shepherd by losing yourself in order to reach out in charity to those who are lost. “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39). And, by doing so, not only will you find what life truly is, you’ll also come to truly know your Savior: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).

So, why am I taking all of this time to write a long post for Butterfly Impressions? My husband is currently unemployed. We face the possibility of not being able to pay our rent at the beginning of November. Yet, I continue to spend time posting on Butterfly Impressions instead of going out and getting a job. Why in the world do I do this?

I’m several weeks ahead on preparing the lessons for my Primary class, so that everyone who has the same calling can benefit from my planning – even if they’re ahead of me in their lessons. I don’t have to do this. I really don’t have to post anything on this blog at all. It takes a lot of extra time that I can devote to other things. So, why in the world do I do this?

I can testify to you with all the strength of my soul, that there is a God in Heaven who infinitely loves each of his children. He wants us to love and care for each other the way he loves and cares for us. So, he sent us here, to help each other – to open up, allow ourselves to be vulnerable, share who we are and what we know, and connect with each other in unity.

Each time I check the stats for visitors to Butterfly Impressions, my spirits are lifted to know that my efforts are touching the lives of so many. When I see that my time isn’t being wasted, I know that it’s worth it to share the things I do.

But, then I think about how I have had Patreon ready and open to supporters for over two months, but no one has offered their support. And, that thought fills me with such deep sorrow.

This is not to say that my financial well-being is dependent on you. Just yesterday evening (before even contemplating this post) I was talking to my hubby – reminding him that if something doesn’t work out, there’s always something else. Heavenly Father’s plan is perfectly omniscient, and I’m trying each day to put greater trust in his plan.

So, I would have you ask yourself, what would Heavenly Father have you do? I don’t want you to offer your support out of fear or obligation. Rather, I want you to do whatever the Spirit whispers to your heart.

I love you all! I’m so grateful for your visits to Butterfly Impressions! I want us all to help each other become the best we can be!

If you do feel that Heavenly Father would have you support Butterfly Impressions through Patreon or a one-time PayPal donation, just click on the appropriate button in the sidebar.  However, if you feel restrained by the Spirit to offer financial support, but still have a desire to send me a private message, please contact me at butterflyimpressions[at]protonmail[dot]com. Every little bit helps! ❤

 

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