7/7/18  "Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.'" (Matthew 26:26; ESV)

Jehovah God, the Bible's author, wants us to obtain a correct understanding of his Word. This is evident from the multitude of ancient manuscripts that are available to modern translators. According to Insight on the Scriptures, there are "more than 13,000 papyrus and vellum manuscripts containing the whole or a part of the Christian Greek Scriptures, dating from the 2nd to the 16th century. Of these, some 5,000 are in Greek, and the remainder in various other languages. More than 2,000 of the ancient copies contain the Gospels, and more than 700, the letters of Paul. While the original writings themselves are not currently extant, copies date back to the second century, which is very close to the time the originals were written. This vast number of manuscripts has enabled Greek scholars in the course of years to produce a highly refined Greek text of the Scriptures, confirming in many respects the dependability and integrity of our present-day translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures." ―it-1 p. 443 Christian Greek Scriptures.

Of course, the accuracy of a Bible translation depends not just on the large amount of available ancient manuscripts, but also on the integrity of the translators. One Watchtower article, Meeting the Challenge of Bible Translation, stated: "
Among the many challenges that Bible translation poses is that of accuracy. Is the translation as explicit as is the original? Does it do justice to the flavor as well as the words of the original? Often translations come short in this regard...There is also the matter of fidelity to the original. At times Bible translators let their religious bias show through in their renderings." It went on to say: "It might well be said that no one translation is superior in every instance. While some freer translations may err as to accuracy, more literal ones may at times not communicate as well as do others...Truly, doing justice to translating the Bible presents a real challenge. It is indeed a blessing that there have been produced so many different translations. However, from the foregoing examples it may well be said that, as an accurate translation, the New World Translation has much to recommend it." (w74 6/15 pp. 363-364 Meeting the Challenge of Bible Translation)

Does the New World Translation deserve our confidence when it comes to accuracy? Proverbs 30:5-6 pointedly states: "Every saying of God is refined...Add nothing to his words, that he may not reprove you, and that you may not have to be proved a liar." (NWT) For a translation to inspire confidence, it is essential that it accurately translates the contents of the available manuscripts in the original language without any religious bias; or without the temptation to explain the meaning of a scripture rather than to hold true to what is stated. If there is any doubt about the meaning of a particular scripture, the answer is always found somewhere within God's Word. (2 Tim. 3:16,17) A translation worthy of being called a translation, will refrain of inserting the translators own interpretation or explanation; for if he does, he will surely be proved a liar.

Take for example Jesus' words that he said to his disciples when he instituted the Lord's Evening Meal, as recorded at Matthew 26:26-28. According to the New World Translation, this is what Jesus said: "
As they continued eating, Jesus took a loaf and, after saying a blessing, he broke it and, giving it to the disciples, he said: 'TAKE, eat. This means my body.' Also, he took a cup and, having given thanks, he gave it to them, saying: 'Drink out of it, all of YOU; for this means my "blood of the covenant," which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.'" Yet, in all other translations, including The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the GREEK SCRIPTURES (published by the Watchtower Society), the Greek word "εστιν" is translated as "is", not "means". Thus, the English Standard Version translates the verses as follows: "Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.' And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'" (See also Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25)

Why does the New World Translation translate it as "means" rather than "is" my body―my blood; when other translations render the word as "is"? Because, according to their reasoning, the bread that Jesus gave his disciples to eat was obviously not literally his fleshly body; and neither was the wine his literal blood. So, rather than faithfully translating Jesus' words as he spoke them, they render it according to what they think Jesus meant. But if Jesus meant to say this "means my body", and "this means my blood of the covenant", he could have done so, for there is a word in Greek that actually means "means"―such as appears in the Greek Version of the New World Translation, where the Greek word "σημαίνει" [means] is used, as translated from the English into Greek.

But, do these seemingly insignificant differences really matter for us to accurately understand the word of God? In answer, please consider what Jesus had earlier said to the Jews and his disciples:

   I am the bread of life. YOUR forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness and yet died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and, for a fact, the bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.”
   Therefore the Jews began contending with one another, saying: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Accordingly Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to YOU, Unless YOU eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, YOU have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day; for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in union with me, and I in union with him. Just as the living Father sent me forth and I live because of the Father, he also that feeds on me, even that one will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. It is not as when YOUR forefathers ate and yet died. He that feeds on this bread will live forever. ―John 6:48-58.


Many of Jesus' disciples were shocked by his words and stumbled, for they "went off to the things behind and would no longer walk with him." Even the twelve, whom Jesus had chosen, must have wondered at his words, for Jesus asked them: "You do not want to go also, do you?" (John 6:60-69)

But, here now, as he is eating the last supper with his chosen and faithful apostles, Jesus is making clear to them his earlier words regarding the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood. Giving them each a piece of the loaf of bread, he tells them, "Take, eat. This is my body." Yes, this is his "flesh" that he said he gives "in behalf of the life of the world". The same with the cup of wine that he gives them to drink―it
is his blood that he was talking about earlier. These were not mere representations, or symbols, of his flesh and blood, but rather they are that what Jesus said they are, according to the commandment which he received from the Father. The partaking of them in obedience to Jesus' words is vital for everlasting life. When Jesus said that "he that feeds on my flesh [the bread] and drinks my blood [the wine] has everlasting life"―and that he also "remains in union with me, and I in union with him"―he was clearly stressing the importance of obeying his command if we are to receive everlasting life and remain in union with him. (John 12:49; Deut. 30:19,20) The New World Translation obscures this simple fact by changing the word "is" to "mean", which allows the Society to restrict the partaking of the bread and wine (which they refer to as emblems) to an elite few, contrary to Jesus' words.

Of course, Jesus never said that we must literally eat his flesh and drink his blood, but partaking of the bread and the wine at the Memorial is the same in importance; for to obey is life, it does not simply mean life, as Jesus said in prayer to his heavenly Father: "And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (John 17:3; ESV;―compare with the New World Translation)

Taking the liberty to change one seemingly insignificant word of God's inspired Scriptures, may actually obscure the meaning, and hinder us from knowing a vital truth for everlasting life; rather than help us to understand it. "You can trust this: Every word that God speaks is true. God is a safe place for those who go to him. So don’t try to change what God says. If you do, he will punish you and prove that you are a liar." (Proverbs 30:5-6, Easy-to-Read Version)

(The doctrine of transubstantiation, as taught by the Catholic Church, states that the bread and wine offered at Communion are literally transformed into the body and blood of Christ. That is certainly not what Jesus was teaching.)


6/27/18  "Yes, nearly all things are cleansed with blood according to the Law. . ." (Hebrews 9:22)

When the apostle Paul states that "nearly all things are cleansed with blood according to the Law, and unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place", he is at the same time inferring that blood does not cleanse or purify everything. According to the Law God gave through Moses, there was another important factor involved in cleansing, or purifying his people, besides the blood of the sacrifices. What was that? And what is the lesson for us today?  (Heb. 9:22)

Moses explains that when the tabernacle in the wilderness was set up, "according to all that Jehovah had commanded him," there was not only "the altar of burnt offering before the entrance of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting," but also the basin which contained the water for washing for the priests, Aaron and his sons. In fact, "when they went into the tent of meeting and when they went near to the altar they would wash, just as Jehovah had commanded Moses." (Exodus 40:6,7, 16,17, 29-32) Also, note how the tribe of Levi was inaugurated to assist the priests, as God instructed Moses: "Take the Levites from among the sons of Israel, and you must cleanse them. And this is what you should do to them to cleanse them: Spatter sin-cleansing water upon them, and they must have a razor pass over all their flesh and must wash their garments and cleanse themselves." After their cleansing with water, two young bulls were offered up to Jehovah, "the one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering." (Num. 8:5-16)
 
In order for us to be clean in God's eyes, we need more than to have our sins forgiven. This is reflected in King David's prayer, after he had been confronted by Nathan the prophet over his sin with Bath-sheba. Although he was assured that Jehovah had forgiven his sin, yet David pleaded: "Show me favor, O God, according to your loving-kindness. According to the abundance of your mercies wipe out my transgressions. Thoroughly wash me from my error, and cleanse me even from my sin. May you purify me from sin with hyssop, that I may be clean; may you wash me, that I may become whiter even than snow." (Psalms 51:1,2, 7) The "hyssop" mentioned by David, with which he prayed to be cleansed, was the plant the Israelites used to splash the blood of the Passover victim on the two doorposts and the upper part of the doorway of their houses when they were about to leave Egypt. And according to Paul, Moses employed hyssop at the inauguration of the Law covenant, where he sprinkled the blood of the young bulls and of the goats, along with water and scarlet wool, upon the book of the Law and all the people. (Ex 12:21, 22; Heb 9:19) Hyssop also figured in the cleansing ceremony for persons or houses previously infected with leprosy, and in the preparation of the ashes to be used in “the water for cleansing,” as well as in the spattering of this water on certain things and persons. (Num. 19:6, 9, 18; Heb. 9:11-14; 10:21,22; it-1 p. 1165 Hyssop) 

When the nation of Israel had become rebellious, Jehovah put them on notice that he was no longer listening to their prayers, telling them: "From now on, when you pray with your hands stretched out to heaven, I won’t look or listen. Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear, for your hands are those of murderers; they are covered with the blood of your innocent victims. Oh, wash yourselves! Be clean! Let me no longer see you doing all these wicked things; quit your evil ways. Come, let’s talk this over, says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool! .'" (Isaiah 1:5,6, 18; TLB

It is not enough for us to have our sins forgiven! We are defiled by our sins, making us unclean. That is the reason why the priests who were officiating at the altar needed to wash themselves before they could offer up the blood of the sin offerings, first on their own behalf and then also for the people. The water cleansed them of their defilement due to sin; while the blood of the sacrifice granted forgiveness of any sins committed. The apostle Paul explains why the blood of the Christ is far superior to that of goats and of young bulls, when he writes: "The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a cow were sprinkled on those who were no longer pure enough to enter the place of worship. The blood and ashes made them pure again—but only their bodies. So surely the blood sacrifice of Christ can do much more. Christ offered himself through the eternal Spirit as a perfect sacrifice to God. His blood will make us completely clean from the evil we have done. It will give us clear consciences so that we can worship the living God." (Heb. 9:13,14; Easy-to-Read Version)

When Paul writes that "nearly all things are cleansed with blood," he also includes the water
according to the Law, to cleanse us of the stain due to our sins. To illustrate, a parent might tell their young child who is playing in the yard to be careful not to get himself dirty an hour before leaving for the congregation meeting. Well, the child accidentally does get himself dirty. It's not enough for the parent to forgive the child for not having listened. That doesn't remove the stain. He also needs to have it cleaned with water. So, too, Jehovah forgives us our sins, but at the same time we need to be cleansed of the defilement caused by our sins. Thus, the command to be baptized in water. Under the Mosaic Law, an unclean person was merely sprinkled with the "sin-cleansing water" for it could not completely remove the stain of his sin, in the same way that the blood of the animal sacrifice was unable to atone for their sins perpetually. Therefore, the people needed to be sprinkled with "sin-cleansing water" often, whenever they became unclean. Jesus was baptized and died for our sins "once for all time", to obtain "an everlasting deliverance for us". Thus, we are completely clean and holy in God's sight. That is why we are baptized just once by being completely submerged under the water. (Acts 2:38; 8:36-39; Heb. 9:12; 10:11-18)

The apostle Peter explains further that "[Christ] himself bore our sins in his own body upon the stake, in order that we might be done with sins and live to righteousness. And 'by his stripes you were healed.'” (1 Peter 2:24; Isaiah 53:4,5) It is regarding his body, in which he bore our sins, that Jesus said: "This means my body which is to be given in your behalf." (Luke 22:19; John 6:51-53, NWT) Just as Jesus died for our sins, he also presented his body for baptism in our behalf, according to the Law, in order to cleanse us of the stain of sin that we have inherited from Adam. (Rom. 5:12-14; Psalms 51:5, 7) When we are baptized, we are baptized into Christ Jesus and into his death, by which we are not only absolved of our sins, but also are washed clean of the defilement due to sin. (Rom. 6:3, 7, 11, 23; Eph. 5:25-27)

Seeing that we have been cleansed of our inherited sin, it is vital that we remain clean, and not become defiled again by practicing sin willfully. (Rom. 5:8-11; Heb. 10:26-31) Some members of the congregation in Corinth needed to be reminded of their cleansing and avoid returning to their former course of life that had put them at enmity with God, as the apostle Paul wrote: "Don’t you know that those doing such things have no share in the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who live immoral lives, who are idol worshipers, adulterers or homosexuals—will have no share in his Kingdom. Neither will thieves or greedy people, drunkards, slanderers, or robbers. There was a time when some of you were just like that but now your sins are washed away, and you are set apart for God; and he has accepted you because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you." (1 Cor. 6:9-11; 5:11-13, TLB; Eph. 2:1-3) Once we have been washed clean at our baptism, we need to remain clean. (2 Peter 2:20-22)

And here is a further point: The Scriptures do not speak of Jesus dying in "symbol" of forgiveness of sins—for the Law said that "unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place." The blood does not "symbolize" or "represent" life—but rather "blood is life", as Jehovah said in his Law to the Israelites: "The life of each creature is in its blood. So I have given you the blood of animals to pay for your sin on the altar. Blood is life. That is why blood pays for your sin." (Leviticus 17:11-14; NIRV) Jesus paid for our sins with his own blood, in fulfillment of God's Law. The same is true regarding the Law on Baptism. Baptism is not in "symbol" of anything, for according to God's Law, the sin-cleansing water was required to make a person clean from the defilement of sin
.


6/17/18  "Faith is the basic ingredient to begin a relationship with God."

In researching the subject on what faith in God means, I came across this insightful definition: "Faith is the basic ingredient to begin a relationship with God. Faith is the assurance that the things revealed and promised in the Word are true, even though unseen, and gives the believer a conviction that what he expects in faith, will come to pass. . . In other words, it becomes so tangible that you now possess it." (Rom. 10:17; Heb. 11:1)

Yet, the apostle Paul notes that "faith is not a possession of all people." (2 Thess 3:2) It's not hard to see why, when we look at the history of Jehovah's people and note the lack of faith the Israelites constantly displayed; whether it was the making of the golden calf, or the murmuring and constant complaints to the point of mutiny during their wandering in the wilderness. A hindrance to genuine faith in God is man's inclination to put his faith in the things he can see, such as in other men; or even in idolatry, the worship of false gods; which is anything that replaces Jehovah in our affection and obedience; to which even Jehovah's own people have not proved immune, in spite of God's repeated warnings. (Matt. 22:35-38) Take for example God's command not to worship any idol, and yet his people have often turned to idolatry, such as when they came to worship the copper serpent staff that God instructed Moses to erect in the wilderness, for the purpose of saving the life of any Israelite who was bitten by any of the poisonous snakes that God had sent among them in reply to their constant murmuring. But eventually, they began worship that copper serpent. (Num. 21:5-9; 2 Kings 18:3,4) Consider also, when the Israelites asked for a king like the other nations had, they were in reality rejecting Jehovah from being their king. They wanted a king whom they could see with their physical eyes, in order to follow him; which was evidence of their lack of faith in Jehovah being their king. No wonder Jehovah was hot with anger! (1 Sam. 8:4-9; Hos. 13:11)

Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and many other faithful men and women mentioned by Paul, had faith in Jehovah without the need of a "go-between". (Heb. 11:4-38) King David, under inspiration, warned us NOT to put our trust "in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs."
Our everlasting life is not dependent upon anyone except God, in whom alone we must put our faith. (Psalms 146:3-5) Obeying this command protects us from falling victim to "the false prophets that come to [us] in sheep's covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves", Jesus warned. (Matt. 7:15; 24:24,25) The apostle Peter also forewarned us against the false prophets and false teachers who would appear among God's own people, for they will "quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them", and "with covetousness they will exploit you with counterfeit words." (2 Peter 2:1-3) I think we can all agree that obeying God's command "not to put our trust in earthling man" protects us against falling victim to any of these ravenous wolves in sheep's covering. That we are not exempt from this danger, we only need to consider the things that befell God's people in ancient times, when they refused to listen to God. That is the point Paul is making in his letter to the congregation in Corinth, when he says that "these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the system of things have arrived".(1 Cor. 10:7)

So what will we do? Faith by its very definition, involves trusting in Jehovah, even when we cannot see how it might benefit us at the moment. Never is that faith to be extended to any man [or group of men] under any circumstance! Faith is something exclusive to Jehovah, because it serves as the basis of having a relationship with Him. If there's anything that can be said of those who have failed in remaining faithful to God, it's that they never formed a close personal relationship with their heavenly Father; having instead allowed themselves to put their trust and reliance in men. Jehovah invites us to draw close to him like a son (or daughter) to a loving father. (Mal. 3:17,18) While that might seem obvious, can it be really said that we have developed that sort of bond with God that will protect us in the coming days?
Contributed.


4/30/18  Is a "covenant" a "dedication"? And does God require us to make a "dedication vow"?

Regarding the teaching on the subject of Dedication, the Watchtower Society has on occasion used the words "covenant" and "dedication" interchangeably, as if they mean the same thing. That explains why many elders will argue this point. This raises the question: If "dedication" and "covenant" means the same thing, does that also mean that we are all in the new covenant, since all of us must dedicate ourselves to God, according to the Society? or if only the anointed are in the new covenant, should only they dedicate themselves to God? that is, if indeed the words "covenant" and "dedication" means the same and are interchangeable. But they do not mean the same. God made a "covenant" with his people Israel, which they broke. He never mentions them having broken any "dedication" to him. In fact, he never mentions any need for them to dedicate themselves to him. They belonged to God because he had chosen them to be his people, and the covenant he made with them at Mt. Sinai made it legal. (Deut. 25:18,19; 29:10-13; Jer. 31:31-34)

Our Christian baptism" is not "in symbol" of a dedication/covenant; but rather it is about "forgiveness of sins" (not "in symbol of" forgiveness of sins), as the Bible clearly states. (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Titus 3:5; Heb. 10:22) By the way, the Society does not acknowledge that all of God's people are in the new covenant, but that is another topic.

The doctrine of baptism being about "dedication" (previously called
"consecration" in the Watchtower until the early 1950s) originated with the Catholic Church after the Council of Nicaea; and was subsequently adopted by most other religions of Christendom; which they claim is vital for a person in order to get to heaven. Charles Taze Russell put much emphasis on the subject of personal consecration, claiming that "without consecration there can be no salvation"; a teaching to which the Society still holds (except for the change in terminology); although there is not a single Scripture to support that doctrine. The only real difference between the Watchtower's teaching and that of the Catholic Church concerns the age of a person at the time of his dedication/consecration. Catholic dogma requires that even infants must be consecrated to God and be baptized; for that reason a "godfather" or "godmother" does the consecrating of the infant in behalf of the parents. According to the Catholic belief, in case a child dies without first having been consecrated to God, he will not be able to go straight to heaven; whereas, according to the Watchtower Society, a person needs to be old enough to understand what his dedication involves, as it is viewed a sacred vow.

Does God require us to make a dedication vow to him in order to gain everlasting life?  Interestingly, a Watchtower article, back in 1973, provided this answer:

  It should also be noted that vows were something spontaneous, and hence unrequested, unsolicited. They were not something set forth as a general requirement for all who would enjoy a certain privilege or enter into a certain relationship. Hence, one’s becoming a disciple of Christ Jesus and fulfilling the requirements that are set for all persons, including repenting and turning around and making public declaration of one’s faith, and being baptized, do not involve a 'vow' in the Scriptural sense. w73 10/1 p. 607 Questions from Readers.

As God's people we belong to Him; no, not because of any dedication on our part, but because God "purchased us with the blood of his own Son". The apostle Paul explains: "Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own [Son]." That is why, "You do not belong to yourselves, for you were bought with a price." (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 7:23; Compare Romans 5:8-11; 14:8) We cannot dedicate to God that which already belongs to him; and we belong to him because he bought us with a price.

Rather than emphasizing our own love for God by our dedication, the Scriptures clearly put the emphasis on God's love for us, in that he paid the ransom so that we can be reconciled to him by our faith in Christ Jesus, and thereby receive everlasting life. (1 John 4:7-10; Gal. 3:26) We can individually demonstrate our appreciation and love for God every day in how we live our life.


4/26/18  Must we "wait on Jehovah" to "clarify matters" that are presented by "the great motherly organization of God"?

There can be no doubt that God's word is truth. It merits our full confidence. (John 17:17; 1 Thess. 2:13) Within its many pages, God tells us about himself; his provision for everlasting life; and what he requires of us to receive it. Jesus said to God in prayer: "And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth." (John 17:3; 3:16, NLT) Of course, in order for us to get to know Jehovah and his "only-begotten Son" Jesus Christ, we need to familiarize ourselves with the contents of God's inspired Word. Are you discouraged by its many pages (over 1500 pages for most Bibles); or perhaps by some of the seemingly hard to understand portions which the apostle Paul refers to as "the deep things of God"? (1 Cor. 2:10; 2 Peter 3:15-17) Perhaps you have come to believe that it is not possible to know the truth at this time, having become bewildered by the ever changing "truth" as explained in the Society's Watchtower publications.

The Watchtower Society presents itself as "the faithful and discreet slave", the channel through whom Jehovah reveals the truth, and therefore we must be submissive and obedient to them. And when we have doubts regarding the food they serve "at the proper time", they tell us that we must wait on Jehovah to clarify matters and to make any necessary adjustments. Back in 1957, a Watchtower article explained:

  Showing respect for Jehovah’s organization really resolves itself down to our attitude toward God’s visible channel and the trust that we place in our proved, faithful brothers. If we have become thoroughly convinced that this is Jehovah’s organization, that he is guiding and directing his people, then we shall not be unsettled by anything that happens. If something comes up that we do not understand we will wait patiently until it is made thoroughly clear to us. If we feel sure something is wrong we will ‘keep the commandment’ of our Father and take whatever theocratic steps are open to us and then wait on Jehovah. We will not ‘forsake our mother’s teaching’ by immediately beginning to criticize and find fault. We will realize that Jehovah knows what is going on in his organization, and if he is willing to permit it, who are we to insist it should be different? If we really have faith, we will know that if it is wrong he will straighten it out eventually, and we are far safer inside his organization even with these minor difficulties than we would be on the outside where only chaos and destruction await us.
     When we consider the tender care of our heavenly Father as manifested through his loving, motherly organization, how can our hearts but be refreshed and warmed with an overflowing appreciation? When we taste the rich and sumptuous food he provides and observe the careful attention to detail with which our mother has served it, how can we speak anything but praise for such worthy parents? And when we truly see the great motherly organization of God arrayed with the heavenly light of truth and righteousness, walking in the pathway of divine light, with perfect organizational light brightening and adorning her mind, how happily we can exclaim: ‘This woman is the spouse of the universal King of whom it is written, “God is light,” and in her heavenly position she can worthily bring forth his royal heavenly creation.’ What a privilege to be her children and to share in the beautiful name she bears, “Jehovah our righteousness”! (Jer. 33:16, AS) And what a joy is ours in reflecting on high the divine light beaming down upon us from her royal person as we welcome all lowly-hearted ones from the dark corners of the world to come out into the brightness of Jehovah’s pleasure and bask in the warmth of his smiling approval! w57 5/1 pp. 284-285 Trust Your Proved, Faithful Brothers.

Does God teach us by his "great motherly organization"? or is it God's holy spirit that teaches us? Jesus said: "I will request the Father and he will give you another helper to be with you forever, the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither beholds it nor knows it. You know it, because it remains with you and is in you. . . But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things, and bring back to your minds all the things I told you." (John 14:15-17, 26) It is not any man, nor some "motherly organization", that we need to look to in order to understand the truth of God's word. Paul further explains how God's people are his temple, and as such we have God's spirit dwell in us. He says: "Do you not know that you people are God’s temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] you people are." The same holy spirit that inspired the writing of the Bible is also teaching us to know the meaning of its writing―"even the deep things of God," which, Paul says, "a physical man does not receive, for they are foolishness to him." (1 Cor. 2:10, 14)

If you truly have God's spirit dwelling in you, then you are also taught by the same spirit the truth of the holy Scriptures. Therefore, there is no need for you to "wait on Jehovah" as if he were making continuous progressive adjustments to the Society's teachings; because Jehovah is not going to change a single word of truth of his own inspired Word, which he requires us individually to read. The truth always remains truth; it never changes! (Prov. 30:5,6) In fact, without having the truth of God's word it is impossible to worship the Father with "spirit and truth"; nor can we be clean in God's eyes, for it is the truth that "sanctifies us", as Jesus said. (John 4:22-24; 17:17) That is why it is impossible to combine errors and falsehood with the truth of God's word, and expect it to be acceptable to God. The cup has to be clean inside and out! (Matt. 23:25-28; 15:7-9; John 4:22-24)

The "inspired expressions of error" that we are taught by men who claim to speak in God's name―yet which contradict God's own "inspired expressions of truth"―exposes the false prophets among God's people. (Deut. 18:21,22) Consider, has Jehovah ever required his people to listen to any false prophet, and to "wait on him" until he changes their falsehood to truth? (Compare Ezekiel 13:6,7; 14:9,10; 1 John 4:1, 6; 1 Tim. 4:1,2; 2 Peter 2:1-4) Many among God's people today are stumbling over the simple fact that the lies that are taught in God's name are not God's words. Jesus foretold that his angels will collect "out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness." (Matt. 13:40-43; Dan. 11:35) While it was prophesied that "no wicked ones at all will understand", yet, at the same time "the ones having insight will understand." In fact, they "will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." ( Dan. 12:3, 10; Mal. 3:14-18) They will not stumble!

If we fail to understand fully certain Bible texts or explanations provided in Watch Tower publications, do we have reason to become impatient? Awaiting Jehovah’s appointed time to clarify matters is the course of wisdom. “For the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will not do a thing unless he has revealed his confidential matter to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) What a marvelous promise! But we must realize that Jehovah reveals his confidential matters at the time he deems advisable. For that purpose God has authorized a “faithful and discreet slave” to provide his people with “their [spiritual] food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45) There is, therefore, no reason for us to become overly concerned, or even agitated, that certain matters are not fully explained. Rather, we can be confident that if we patiently wait on Jehovah, he will provide, through the faithful slave, what is needed 'at the proper time'. w99 10/1 p. 5 par. 4 “For Everything There Is an Appointed Time”

The apostle John has this timely warning: "Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world." ―1 John 4:1; NWT.
 


1/12/18  "Keep doing this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19,20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

It's a sad fact that many of Jehovah's sincere worshipers put more faith in the Watchtower Society's publications than in God's inspired Word, which the Society claims to base their teachings on.

Jesus promised his disciples that the holy spirit, which he called "the helper", will teach us all things by bringing back to our minds all the things he taught. (John 14:15-17, 26) That of course requires us to get acquainted with
all the things Jesus taught; yes, including all the things that are written in God's Word the Bible that Jesus quoted in his teaching. (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11) It is God's spirit that teaches us, and apart from God's spirit none of us would be able to know or understand the truth. (Luke 8:9,10; Acts 7:51) When Jesus said that we must worship the Father "with spirit and truth", he was thereby also assuring us that it is possible for us to know the truth, because without having the truth our worship would be in vain. (John 4:23,24)

Suppose you have a question that needs answering. How do you go about getting the answer? One elder once explained the simple means by which we can find the answer to any question, within a short time, in the Society's publications, notably the Watchtower. Are we to assume that God's spirit will help us recall information that we read in the Watchtower? Does not the spirit rather teach us by helping us recall what we have read in God's word of truth, as Jesus referred to it? (John 17:17) In order for the spirit to teach us, by "bringing back to our minds" all the things we have read in God's Word, requires that we first of all become acquainted with its contents―all of it, from cover to cover. That is our individual responsibility. (Psalms 1:1-6; Deut. 18:18-22; 1 John 4:1) Reading God's Word on a regular basis helps us to become acquainted with God's thoughts and his way of doing things; which may be so different from those of men, including our own. (Isaiah 48:17-19; 55:8-11)

The annual Memorial of Christ's death this year is on March 31, 2018, a Saturday. And everyone in attendance will face a decision. What decision? Whether or not to obey Jesus' command to "keep doing this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19,20) The speaker will explain why most of those in attendance are there simply as observers and should not partake of the emblems, even though the bread and the wine will be passed from person to person. In many congregations there won't even be one person who will partake. The January 2018 Watchtower, in one of its study articles (pages 12-16), provides the Society's explanation of their understanding of what the Memorial is about, and how it should be observed. What will you do? Why not go to Jehovah in prayer and ask for his help, because you want to worship him with spirit and truth. Jehovah will answer your prayer by "bringing back to your mind" the things you have read in his Word that are applicable to your request; and his holy spirit will help you get the sense of it. (James 1:5-8)

Jesus emphatically told his listeners, notably the scribes and Pharisees, that if anyone makes the word of God invalid by ones own teachings, doctrines, or traditions, then that worship is in vain, futile,―not only unacceptable to God, but also offensive to him. (Matt. 23:1-3, 13-15, 27,28; Rev. 22:18,19) Is the ritual of the Memorial, as observed in our Kingdom Hall, based on God's word of truth―or on the teachings and traditions dating back to Joseph Rutherford, as taught by him back in the 1930s? According to his teaching and expectation, by the mid 1930s the number of rightful partakers of the bread and the wine was believed to have been completed in number (144,000), and thus the number of partakers was expected to decrease from then on; while their friends, who were attending as mere observers, would continue to increase until all of the partakers had been taken up to heaven to be with Christ Jesus, thereby signaling the end of any further Memorial celebrations.

Contrary to their expectation, in recent years the number of partakers has actually increased, causing the Society to revisit their belief that the full number of anointed was completed decades ago. But, we may wonder, is the increase in the number of partakers at the Memorial due to many more having come to believe that they will rule with Christ in heaven; or is it because many of God's faithful and obedient servants have come to understand that Jesus' command to "keep doing this in remembrance of me" applies to all of his true disciples, without exception? According to the Scriptures, the Memorial of Jesus is not about who has what reward―whether everlasting life on earth, or to rule with Jesus in his kingdom―but about "proclaiming the death of the Lord until he arrives." And the fact that we are still "proclaiming the death of the Lord" by keeping the annual Memorial is evidence that Jesus has not yet arrived. (Matt. 5:5; 19:27-29; Rev. 7:1-4; 14:1; 20:6; See the Watchtower explanation on this point in the January 2018 issue, page 16) )


Consider some interesting statistics:
● Last year (2017) there were 20,175,477 in attendance at the Memorial worldwide. Of those, 18,564 partook of the emblems, an increase of 551 over the previous year (a ratio of 1,087 observers to every partaker. Thus, the majority of congregations don't have anyone who partakes). The number who partook in 2017 was more than in 1954, sixty-three years ago, when there were 17,884 partakers of the bread and the wine.
● Until the year 2005 the number of partakers steadily declined, at which time it had reached an all time low at 8,524. Thus, in the past 12 years the number of partakers has more than doubled from what it was in 2005, an increase of 10,040.

What is the Watchtower's explanation for this trend that is going contrary to what has been their expectations; namely, that the number of those who are worthy to partake of the bread and the wine and who will rule with Christ Jesus in his kingdom, was completed by the mid 1930s? (Rev. 7:1-4) Are any of those still alive? Does it really matter? Are we to assume that the number of partakers at the Memorial is increasing because the choosing of Christ's co-rulers is still continuing? or is it perhaps due to many of God's people coming to the realization that the command to "keep doing this in remembrance of me", applies to all of Jesus' disciples? Jesus said: "You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you." (John15:14) We cannot sin by our obedience to Jehovah and Christ Jesus; but we could become guilty by obeying men as rulers rather than God. (Acts 4:19; 5:29; 20:30)

We should closely keep in mind that the Memorial observance is not about who has what hope set before them; but rather, it is about coming together in appreciation of the ransom that Jesus paid for our sins, and it is on account of his death that we have the hope of everlasting life. The Memorial day belongs to Jesus. Don't allow anyone to distract your appreciation from that reality. (John 3:16-18; Isaiah 65:17-25; 2 Peter 3:13
)

You will find additional information on this website regarding the Memorial:
Letters_0313_Why_attend_the_Memorial.htm
Letters_0610_memorial.htm 
Letters_0215_Another_Memorial_Question.htm


12/24/17  "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." (Acts 16:31, ESV)

These words of the apostle Paul, that he spoke to the jailer in Philippi, is perhaps the best known and most often quoted Scripture. More than anything else, it is this simple message that unites the millions of members of the over 33,000
diverse denominations that make up the realm of Christendom. But does simply believing in the Lord Jesus meet God's requirements for a person to be saved? It seems that most sincere believers are not as familiar with Jesus' words to his disciples, when he said to them: "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" (Matt. 7:21-23, ESV) Clearly, in order for a person to be saved, more is required than to simply "believe in the Lord Jesus". (Compare Luke 13:23-27)

Jesus got to the heart of the matter regarding worship that is acceptable to God, when he spoke to a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water at Jacob's well and of whom he requested a drink, saying: "You Samaritans worship something you don’t understand. We Jews understand what we worship, since salvation comes from the Jews. But the time is coming when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. In fact, that time is now here. And these are the kind of people the Father wants to be his worshipers. God is spirit. So the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (
John 4:22-24; Easy-to-Read Version)

Although the Samaritan woman was undoubtedly sincere, yet she did not understand God's requirements for true worship, at least not at that time. And, frankly, neither did the Jews who rejected Jesus, for Jesus said to them: "You come from your father, the devil, and you desire to do what your father wants you to do. The devil was a murderer from the beginning. He has never been truthful. He doesn’t know what the truth is. Whenever he tells a lie, he’s doing what comes naturally to him. He’s a liar and the father of lies. So you don’t believe me because I tell the truth. Can any of you convict me of committing a sin? If I’m telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? The person who belongs to God understands what God says. You don’t understand because you don’t belong to God.” (John 8:44-47; GW)


Jehovah is a God of truth! It is impossible for Him to lie. (Num. 23:19;
Heb. 6:18) Addressing God in prayer, Jesus acknowledged: "Your word is truth." In fact, Jesus said that it is the truth of God's word that sanctifies his worshipers, making us clean and holy, and acceptable to God. That is what Jesus meant when he said that "the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth". It is God's spirit that teaches us, and his truth that sanctifies us. (John 14:25,26; 17:17; Rom. 3:4; 1 Cor. 2:10, 14) God cannot accept anyone's worship when that worship has been diluted and polluted with lies and falsehood. Who of us would accept a cup of what was pure water, but which has become contaminated with filth, which can be observed floating in the cup and turning the water murky? Should we expect God to be pleased with a form of worship that is defiled by men's lies? (Rom. 1:28-32; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; 1 John 4:1)

If we want to belong to God, it is vital that we listen to Jesus and obey him, just as Jesus himself listened to his heavenly Father. (John 8:28,29; 15:10, 14) The first man Adam did not do that. When the serpent succeeded in deceiving the woman, Eve, by telling her the lie that she would not die if she were to disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit, Adam joined in her rebellion by also eating. Unlike his wife, Adam was not deceived, for he had received his command not to eat from the tree directly from God. Yet, he chose to accept
the lie as spoken by the Devil, rather than uphold the truth that he had received from God; and in so doing Adam came under the condemnation of sin and death, not only for himself but also for all his yet unborn offspring, which includes everyone of us. (Gen. 2:16,17; 3:1-6; 1 Tim. 2:14; Rom. 1:24,25; 5:12) It is as the apostle Paul writes: "For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive." (1 Cor. 15:22)

In order for us to be "made alive" in the Lord Jesus, it is vital that we not only believe in him but also obey the truth. Thus, worshiping the Father in "spirit and truth" means that we imitate Jesus, and not Adam. It is only when we obey the truth of God's word that we become reconciled to God
; for Jesus set us free not only from sin and death, but also from the lies that originate with the Devil. That is what Jesus meant when he said: "If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31,32; 2 Cor. 5:18,19)


9/14/17  "Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity." (Psalms 133:1)

The congregation arrangement with its meetings, where fellow believers associate for mutual encouragement, is from Jehovah
like "every good gift and every perfect present that is from above." (James 1:17) Our heavenly Father knows that we need each other "to incite to love and fine works". (Heb. 10:23-25) Whereas we are persecuted in the world, the congregation should "prove to be like a hiding place from the wind and a concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country." (John 16:33; Isa. 32:1,2; 4:5,6) We ought to find refreshment and encouragement among our fellow believers, and by our love for one another prove that we are indeed "a people for [God's] name". (John 13:34,35; Acts 15:14, 17)

Do we need to be present at the congregation meetings in order to have God's blessing and protection? What about our brothers and sisters who cannot attend due to circumstances? Jesus said that "where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst." (Matt. 18:20) It is not the attending of meetings in itself that will save anyone, but rather our obedience to Jehovah and Jesus. Jesus emphasized that fact when he told his listeners: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness." (Matt. 7:21-23)

In his letters to the Seven Congregations in Asia Minor, Jesus showed that being a member of a congregation does not in itself prove a person to be righteous. In fact, of the seven congregations only two received his commendation (Smyrna and Philadelphia); whereas he censured the other five (Ephesus; Pergamum; Thyatira; Sardis; Laodicea), giving them time to repent and make necessary adjustments, in order to be acceptable and inherit the promised reward. Interestingly, Jesus took note of any faithful ones who belonged to a congregation that he denounced. For example, in his letter to the congregation in Sardis, Jesus wrote: "I know your deeds, that you have the name that you are alive, but you are dead! Become watchful, and strengthen the things remaining that were ready to die, for I have not found your deeds fully performed before my God. Therefore, continue mindful of how you have received and how you heard, and go on keeping [it], and repent. Certainly unless you wake up, I shall come as a thief, and you will not know at all at what hour I shall come upon you." Yet, Jesus had words of encouragement to the few faithful ones in that same congregation, telling them: "Nevertheless, you do have a few names in Sardis that did not defile their outer garments, and they shall walk with me in white ones, because they are worthy. He that conquers will thus be arrayed in white outer garments; and I will by no means blot out his name from the book of life, but I will make acknowledgment of his name before my Father and before his angels. Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations." (Rev. 3:1-6)

The congregation in Ephesus seemed to be doing well, for Jesus told them: "I know your deeds, and your labor and endurance, and that you cannot bear bad men, and that you put those to the test who say they are apostles, but they are not, and you found them liars. You are also showing endurance, and you have borne up for my name’s sake and have not grown weary." Yet, their deeds, and their labor, and their endurance, was not enough, for Jesus went on to tell them: "Nevertheless, I hold this against you, that you have left the love you had at first. Therefore remember from what you have fallen, and repent and do the former deeds. If you do not, I am coming to you, and I will remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent." (Rev. 2:1-7)

There are vital lessons contained for us in the letters that Jesus wrote to those seven congregations. First of all, there is more involved in having God's approval than simply belonging to a congregation and be present at the meetings. We must not miss the purpose of the congregation arrangement. What we are and what we do—individually as a person—matters to Jehovah, and to Jesus who is the head of the congregation. (Eph. 5:22-25) It is vital that we "love one another intensely from the heart." (1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 4:16-21)

Many of Jehovah's sheep no longer attend meetings, or belong to an established congregation, whether by choice or due to circumstance. Jehovah knows each one's situation and he continues to view them as his sheep; perhaps sheep who are ailing and are broken; sheep who are lost and dispersed, on account of the wicked shepherds who have had them in subjection "with harshness"—"even with tyranny". (Ezek. 34:2-10; 2 Tim. 2:19) Jehovah will remove all wicked shepherds from their positions of oversight at his appointed time. He will look for his sheep and collect them together again, as he has promised: "'Yes, I will feed my flock, and I will lead them to a place of rest.' This is what the Lord God said. 'I will search for the lost sheep. I will bring back the sheep that were scattered and put bandages on the sheep that were hurt. I will make the weak sheep strong, but I will destroy the fat and powerful shepherds. I will feed them the punishment they deserve.'" (Ezek. 34:15,16; ERV) The fat and powerful shepherds prospered because they were "feeders of themselves", while at the same time they were trampling down the "very best pasturage" and befouling the "clear waters" meant for God's sheep. Is this not also the case in our congregations today? The spiritual food meant for the sheep has been trampled upon and befouled, just as the apostle Paul forewarned: "I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves." (Acts 20:29,30; 2 Tim. 3:13)

If we cannot find the much needed help and encouragement in our congregation, then we can still be assisting each other to endure outside the regular congregation arrangement. After all, it's not the size that determines whether it qualifies as a congregation, as Jesus pointed out. (Matt. 18:20; 24:10-13) Jesus also acknowledged that many would not be able to keep attending meetings because of having been expelled from the "synagogue", the congregation. (John 16:1-4) These ones certainly need our love and encouragement in order to help them endure to the end.

Whether we belong to a congregation that is "dead" in God's eyes, as was the congregation in Sardis, or perhaps wicked in the extreme as in the case of the congregation in Thyatira; or we have been expelled from our congregation for supposed "apostasy"; or we simply find attending the meetings too stressful and discouraging—even to the point of it becoming a threat to our endurance—we can find comfort in Jesus' words to the few faithful disciples in Thyatira: "However, I say to the rest of you who are in Thyatira, all those who do not have this teaching, the very ones who did not get to know the 'deep things of Satan,' as they say: I am not putting upon you any other burden. Just the same, hold fast what you have until I come." (Rev. 2:24,25; 2 Thess. 2:9-12)
 


9/6/17
 "Faith is not a possession of all people." (2 Thessalonians 3:2)

A man, who was versed in the Law, once asked Jesus: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus answered: "You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind. This is the greatest and first commandment." (Matt. 22:34-38; Deut. 6:4,5) Can Jehovah command us to love him? If our love from the heart for God is a command, compulsory, how can it be said that it is a genuine love
with our whole soul and our whole mind? The apostle John answers this way: "The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commandments and they are not at all troublesome." (1 John 5:3; MSG) Simply put, our love for God is dependent on our obedience to God's word.

A servant of Jehovah might reason that he truly loves God because he is obedient; he never misses a congregation meeting; is always well prepared and participates in it; and when it comes to the preaching activity he is a shining example. To him, his zeal for true worship is prove of his love for God. But obeying God's commandments is not an effective expression, or measure, of our personal love and devotion to our Heavenly Father. For example, John explains further: "If anyone boasts, 'I love God,' and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both." (1 John 4:20; MSG) Yes, Christ Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another: "I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves." ( John 13:34,35) We cannot separate love of God and love of neighbor. (Matt. 22:39,40)

Seeing that our love for God and neighbor is legislated, obeying it is not necessarily something by which we show our own intense personal devotion and attachment to our Creator. After all, in what way does God benefit from our obedience? That is the point young Elihu explained to Job: "If you actually sin, what do you accomplish against him? And if your revolts actually increase, what do you do to him? If you are really in the right, what do you give him, Or what does he receive from your own hand? Your wickedness may be against a man like you, And your righteousness to a son of earthling man." (Job 35:6-8) When Jehovah demands our obedience it is because he cares for us, and wants us to benefit from listening to him: "I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk. O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments." (Isa. 48:17,18) Therefore, when we obey God's commandments, including loving our neighbor as ourselves—which is mandatory—we are really the ones benefiting ourselves, by our obedience.

Is there a more effective and personal way of expressing your genuinely deep love for Jehovah, other than by your obedience? Yes, there is—and, as Paul says, it is not something that everyone possesses. It is your faith! Obedience and faith are closely related, but faith goes beyond obedience. For example, when God told Abraham, to "go your way out of your country and from your relatives and from the house of your father to the country that I shall show you," Abraham obeyed without hesitation, not only because God had commanded him, but because he had faith in God's promise that he would bless Abraham and make a great nation out of him. (Gen. 12:1-5; Acts 7:2-5) Abraham again demonstrated his unwavering faith when God told him to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice. He immediately complied. Paul writes: "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, as good as offered up Isaac, and the man that had gladly received the promises attempted to offer up his only-begotten son, although it had been said to him: 'What will be called "your seed" will be through Isaac.' But he reckoned that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; and from there he did receive him also in an illustrative way." (Gen. 22:1-18; Heb. 11:17-19)

Jehovah called Abraham "my friend", not on account of his obedience to law or commandments, but rather because of his outstanding faith. Paul reasons on this: "What shall we say about Abraham our forefather according to the flesh? If, for instance, Abraham were declared righteous as a result of works, he would have ground for boasting; but not with God. For what does the scripture say? 'Abraham exercised faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.'” Indeed, God considers Abraham to be "the father of all those having faith". (Isa. 41:8; James 2:23; Rom. 4:1-3, 11, 13, 16) 

How is faith superior to obedience, when it comes to our relationship with God? Faith is something very personal between a worshiper of Jehovah and Jehovah himself. Consider this: None of us has ever seen God, or spoken with him "mouth to mouth", the way that God spoke with Moses; yet, we fully entrust ourselves to God, living our lives as though "seeing the One who is invisible." (Num. 12:7,8; John 1:18; 6:46) We have come to know Jehovah and to have faith in all his promises, without hesitation or reservation, simply because of what he has revealed about himself in his book the Bible; and which we have come to believe with our whole heart. That is something very personal to Jehovah. With the passing of time, we have developed a close relationship with him so that we can express our deepest feelings and concerns in prayer, having the assurance that he hears us. We have endured abuse and suffering, persecution and ostracism, on account of our loyalty to Jehovah. His promise of the resurrection and everlasting life under his kingdom rule are real to us—which we can see with our eyes of faith, even at this time while we are still living under Satan's rule. (Heb. 11:1,2, 6, 32-40; Rev. 3,4)

Faith is the most valuable and personal gift you can present to Jehovah, for it demonstrates just how real he is to you and how well you know him. That involves your heart. It is of great value because "faith is not a possession of all people"; for God sees very little faith even among his professed worshipers. If you find that you are lacking that sort of faith, pray to Jehovah to give you more, but "keep on asking in faith, not doubting at all, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about." (Luke 17:5; James 1:6)  
 

9/4/17  "All the souls were four thousand and six hundred." (Jeremiah 52:30)

What do you picture in your mind, when you consider the number of Jews that went into exile in Babylon in Jeremiah's day? Do you visualize hundreds, or thousands; or perhaps hundreds of thousands? Maybe even millions? Did you know that exiles were taken to Babylon on three separate occasions; and that the greatest number were taken to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar when he came against Jerusalem the first time, during the reign of King Jehoiachin who was among the first exiles along with his royal family, besides many others?

Regarding the total number of Jews who came into Babylon, Jeremiah writes: "These are the people whom Nebuchadrez′zar took into exile: in the seventh year, three thousand and twenty-three Jews (3,023). In the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrez′zar, from Jerusalem there were eight hundred and thirty-two souls (832). In the twenty-third year of Nebuchadrez′zar, Nebu′zarad′an the chief of the bodyguard took Jews into exile, seven hundred and forty-five souls (745). All the souls were four thousand and six hundred (4,600)." Indeed, just a remnant. (Jer. 52:28-30)

Who were among these early ones to be taken into captivity in Babylon? Jeremiah describes them and the circumstances surrounding the first exiles:

"Eighteen years old was Jehoi′achin when he began to reign, and for three months he reigned in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Nehush′ta the daughter of Elna′than of Jerusalem. 9 And he continued to do what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes, according to all that his father had done. 10 During that time the servants of Nebuchadnez′zar the king of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, so that the city came under siege. 11 And Nebuchadnez′zar the king of Babylon proceeded to come against the city, while his servants were laying siege against it. 12 At length Jehoi′achin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he with his mother and his servants and his princes and his court officials; and the king of Babylon got to take him in the eighth year of his being king. 13 Then he brought out from there all the treasures of the house of Jehovah and the treasures of the king’s house . . . 14 And he took into exile all Jerusalem and all the princes and all the valiant, mighty men—ten thousand (10,000) he was taking into exile—and also every craftsman and builder of bulwarks. No one had been left behind except the lowly class of the people of the land. 15 Thus he took Jehoi′achin into exile to Babylon; and the king’s mother and the king’s wives and his court officials and the foremost men of the land he led away as exiled people from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16 As for all the valiant men, seven thousand (7,000), and the craftsmen and the builders of bulwarks, a thousand (1,000), all the mighty men carrying on war, the king of Babylon proceeded to bring them as exiled people to Babylon." (2 Kings 24:8-16)

Why does there seem to be a discrepancy in the number of exiles taken to Babylon between the account in Jeremiah 52:28-30 and that of 2 Kings 24:8-16, seeing that both were written by Jeremiah? In the first instance, Jeremiah emphasizes the number of Jews that were taken into exile; whereas the account in 2 Kings includes the great number of non-Jews, alien residents, that resided in Jerusalem and Judah. (Exodus 12:48,49; 23:9; Ezek. 14:7,8)

Jerusalem was "the city that was abundant with people", yet a mere "remnant" survived her destruction. (Lam. 1:1; Jer. 44:14) Jehovah referred to the early exiles as a basket of "good figs", who would be blessed in the land of their captivity and return after 70 years. But the latter exiles, who had ignored Jehovah's instruction for them to go voluntarily over to the Babylonians, he likened to a basket of "bad figs", and they would suffer the consequence: "And like the bad figs that cannot be eaten for badness, this in fact is what Jehovah has said: 'So I shall give Zedeki′ah the king of Judah and his princes and the remnant of Jerusalem who are remaining over in this land and those who are dwelling in the land of Egypt— I will also give them over for quaking, for calamity, in all the kingdoms of the earth, for reproach and for a proverbial saying, for a taunt and for a malediction, in all the places to which I shall disperse them. And I will send against them the sword, the famine and the pestilence, until they come to their finish off the ground that I gave to them and to their forefathers.'" (Jer. 24:8-10; 21:7-10; 27:12-14)

The 3,023 Jews, who were taken into exile during Nebuchadnezzar's first campaign against Jerusalem, were blessed by Jehovah and increased in numbers so that 42,360 Jews made the long journey back to Jerusalem at the end of the seventy years, not counting the many non-Jews that accompanied them. (Ezra 2:64,65) In view of all this, we might be inclined to wonder: After Jehovah has cleansed his people in "the last days" ― having removed all the wicked ones from their midst ― just how many will be left remaining? Although they are called "a great crowd" who "come out of the great tribulation", Jesus also said that "many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able." (Matt. 7:21-23; 13:40-43, 49; Luke 13:23-27; 2 Tim. 3:1-7; 1 Peter 4:17-19; Rev. 7:9,10, 13-17)


8/27/17  "In accord with the fulfilling of seventy years at Babylon..." (Jeremiah 29:10)

For over a hundred years, the Watchtower has dogmatically maintained their claim that Jerusalem, with God's temple, was destroyed by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E., in spite of scriptural evidence to the contrary. Why is this date so important to the Society? Because it is pivotal to their claim that Jesus appointed the Society's president (and later also the board of directors as a governing body) as his "faithful and discrete slave" over God's household, shortly after he is said to have been enthroned as king of God's kingdom in 1914. (See the book Reasoning from the Scriptures, pages 95-98, under the heading "Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses say that God’s Kingdom was established in 1914?"―published by the Watchtower Society.)

Why does the Society claim that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C.E.? Because the exile of God's people in Babylon was to last seventy years, which, according to the Society began with the destruction of Jerusalem. After the seventy years, God would restore his people to their homeland to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. A Watchtower article, entitled, "Things From Which We Must Flee", stated: "The prophet Jeremiah foretold the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 607 B.C.E. He said that God’s people would be carried into captivity but would be restored to their homeland after 'seventy years.' (Jer. 29:4, 10)" (w08 6/15 p. 8 par. 8) Since it is widely accepted that the Babylonian empire fell to the Medes and Persians in 539 B.C.E., and since the Jews were released from exile about 537 B.C.E., the Society simply counts back seventy years from 537 B.C.E., to arrive at 607 B.C.E., the year they claim Jerusalem fell. Sounds logical? But the question is: Did the foretold "seventy years" of exile in Babylon begin with the destruction of Jerusalem?
 
It was to his prophet Jeremiah that Jehovah revealed the time period of seventy years of exile in Babylon, as Jeremiah wrote: "For this is what Jehovah has said, ‘In accord with the fulfilling of seventy years at Babylon I shall turn my attention to you people, and I will establish toward you my good word in bringing you back to this place.’" (Jer. 29:10) Please note carefully to whom Jeremiah addressed those words. He says: "And these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the remainder of the older men of the exiled people and to the priests and to the prophets and to all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, after Jeconiah the king and the lady and the court officials, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the craftsmen and the builders of bulwarks had gone forth from Jerusalem." Jeremiah wrote regarding the number of seventy years in exile to the exiles who were already in Babylon a full decade before Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. Interestingly, this is what Insight on the Scriptures says regarding these exiles: "In 617 B.C.E., King Nebuchadnezzar took the royal court and the foremost men of Judah into exile at Babylon. (2Ki 24:11-16) About ten years later, in 607 B.C.E., at the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, Nebuzaradan, the chief of the Babylonian bodyguard, took most of the remaining ones and deserters of the Jews with him to Babylon, from which exile only a mere remnant returned 70 years later."―it-1 p. 775 Exile.
 
Have you noticed the discrepancy? If indeed the early, first exiles, which included King Jehoiachin (also called Jeconiah), and his "royal court and the foremost men of Judah" (among them Daniel the prophet and his three faithful Hebrew companions, and also the prophet Ezekiel), were taken by King Nebuchadnezzar into exile in Babylon in 617 B.C.E., and only a mere remnant of them returned 70 years later, would that not place their release from captivity in 547 B.C.E., rather than 537 B.C.E. as is taught? With those dates in mind, if their release indeed took place in 537 B.C.E., as stated elsewhere, then would those early exiles not have been in Babylon for 80 years rather than God's foretold 70 years? (See 2 Kings 24:8-17; Daniel 1:1-7; 9:1,2)
 
What was Jeremiah's purpose in the first place in writing to those early exiles in Babylon regarding the duration of 70 years? Well, Jehovah had told them to "build houses and inhabit them, and plant gardens and eat their fruitage. Take wives and become father to sons and to daughters; and take wives for your own sons and give your own daughters to husbands, that they may give birth to sons and to daughters; and become many there, and do not become few. Also, seek the peace of the city to which I have caused you to go into exile, and pray in its behalf to Jehovah, for in its peace there will prove to be peace for you yourselves." In other words, Jehovah was telling the exiles that they would reside in Babylon a long time, namely seventy years. This was contrary to what the false prophets among the exiles were preaching, saying that God would within a short time procure their release and have them return to their homeland. That is why Jehovah told his people: "Let not your prophets who are in among you and your practicers of divination deceive you, and do not you listen to their dreams that they are dreaming. For ‘it is in falsehood that they are prophesying to you in my name. I have not sent them,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.'" (Jer. 29:1-10; 28:1-17)
 

Seeing that Jehovah decreed that the exile of his people in Babylon would last a full seventy years; and if indeed their release came in 537 B.C.E., two years after Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians, then, counting back seventy years would bring us to 607 B.C.E., not as the year of Jerusalem's destruction, but rather the year when the first exiles were taken into Babylon. The fall of Jerusalem came over eleven years later, or in 596 B.C.E., "in the twelfth year, in the tenth month of our exile," as recorded by the prophet Ezekiel. (Ezek. 33:21; 1:1,2) Since the date of Jerusalem's destruction clearly is not 607 B.C.E. but 596 B.C.E., the Society's teaching of Jesus' return in 1914 in kingdom power (as explained in the book Reasoning from the Scriptures) is invalid. It is based on a lie. In fact, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians has nothing at all to do with the timing of Christ's return. There is simply no way of calculating that date from the Scriptures. Jesus told his disciples that no one can know that day and hour, neither the angels nor Jesus himself, for the Father has not revealed that information anywhere. That should not surprise us for Jesus also said that it does not belong to us "to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction." (Matt. 24:23-25, 36; Acts 1:7) Indeed, for anyone to reach out for something that God tells us does not belong to us makes the person guilty of "outright revolt against Jehovah"; such as was the case of the false prophet Shemaiah of Nehelam in Jeremiah's day, who was preaching falsehood in God's name. (Jer. 29:24-32)
 
We do not need to be told in advance the day or the hour, or even the year, of Jesus' return in kingdom glory. Jesus gave us signs that would indicate the nearness of his presence. (Matt. 24:32,33; 42-44) If you were living during the time of Jeremiah, would you have been able to distinguish between a true prophet and a false prophet
between God's words and the lies taught by men? We today face a similar situation, with similar consequence. (Deut. 18:20-22; 1 Cor. 10:11,12; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; 2 Peter 2:1-3)


8/17/17  Lost in the Translation

How many languages are there in the world? According to Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Twentieth edition, there are 7,099 languages spoken today. It says: "That number is constantly in flux, because we're learning more about the world's languages every day. And beyond that, the languages themselves are in flux. They’re living and dynamic, spoken by communities whose lives are shaped by our rapidly changing world. This is a fragile time: Roughly a third of languages are now endangered, often with less than 1,000 speakers remaining. Meanwhile, just 23 languages account for more than half the world’s population." (Bold added)

Mankind's many divers languages did not originate from simple grunts and other primitive vocalization uttered by prehistoric cavemen; for the study of the structure of languages (Linguistics) indicates that the most ancient languages were indeed very complex. In fact, in the beginning there was only one language―Hebrew. It was shortly after the flood of Noah's day when God confused the language of the men who set about to build a city with a tower "with its top in the heavens," in order to unite themselves under false worship. God put an end to their ambitious project by confusing their language, so that they were no longer able to communicate with one another; and thus they not only left off building their tower, but also they were scattered from there over all the earth according to their language. (Gen. 11:1-9)

Throughout history, the language barrier has effectively divided mankind into national and ethnic groups, separated into distinct territories with their borders; which has often resulted in wars of conquests, and given birth to unique and diverse customs and traditions. But, above all, it has contributed to the greatest divisive factor of all, namely, mankind's approximate 4,200 religions today, of which there are 11 basic religions. And although the world's conflicting religions continue to divide earth's population, yet, the rapid progress in modern technology is starting to overcome the language barrier. This greatly facilitates the preaching of the "good news of the kingdom" that Jesus said would be preached "in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come." (Matt. 24:14)

In order to have a meaningful share in the preaching of the good news of the kingdom "in all the inhabited earth", you no longer need to learn another language, or many diverse languages, such as in the case of Powell Alexander Janulus (born in 1939, Vancouver Canada), who was entered into the Guinness World Records in 1985 for spoken fluency in 42 languages. ("Powell states that he considers himself skilled in 64 languages and says that he has studied at least 80 languages.") With Google Translate anyone can instantly translate words, phrases, and web pages between English and over 100 other languages.

Since we are greatly concerned with loyally upholding the accuracy of God's word of truth, how dependable is "Google Translate" when it comes to translating one Scripture into another language? Does the message get lost in the translation? I decided to test this by translating John 3:16-17 into 22 different languages, from English to French; and then from French to Greek; and then from Greek to German; and then from German to Albanian; etc. etc., ending with Latin; with each progressive translation showing in English if and where and how the message changed. Although "Google Translate" was surprisingly accurate in translating the message from English to a second language, it did not fare so well when it comes to successive translations.

John 3:16-17 reads: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (New American Standard Bible) And after 22 translations, the message has changed to: "God, loses life in Stranglehold is not a decrease. God into the world to condemn the world, who sent his son was not beloved country of his son into the world. It can not be saved." (To see the separate results for all 22 translations, click HERE.)

In the near future, there will no more be any need for computer translating programs to communicate with one another, for under God's kingdom all "will be persons taught by Jehovah", speaking the same language; "in order to serve him shoulder to shoulder." (Isa. 54:13; Zeph. 3:9)


8/7/17  "Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10)

The Scriptures prophesied that "in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here." (2 Tim. 3:1-7) The contents of Paul's words indicate that he is describing the situation that would exist during the last days (which Jesus called "the conclusion of the system of things") to God's people, within our own congregations; and not the world in general as many believe. (Matt. 24:3)

We are now experiencing the foretold time of testing and sifting of God's household. (Matt. 13:40-43; Dan. 12:3, 10; Mal. 3:14-18; 1 Peter 4:17-19) It is therefore necessary that all of us need to demonstrate, even under suffering, the sort of person we are at heart; to prove the genuineness of our love for Jehovah and his word of truth; and that we have faith in all his promises, so much so that it affects our attitude in everything we do. (John 4:23,24; 17:17)

This point is illustrated by Jesus in his parable of the seed sown upon four types of soil; the seed being  the "word of God", and the soil upon which the seed falls representing the heart. Regarding the seed that falls upon the rock-mass, Jesus said: "Those upon the rock-mass are the ones who, when they hear it, receive the word with joy, but these have no root; they believe for a season, but in a season of testing they fall away. As for that which fell among the thorns, these are the ones that have heard, but, by being carried away by anxieties and riches and pleasures of this life, they are completely choked and bring nothing to perfection. As for that on the fine soil, these are the ones that, after hearing the word with a fine and good heart, retain it and bear fruit with endurance." (Luke 8:11-15)

As we can see from Jesus' words, Jehovah must allow us to be tested under trial. That applies to all of God's people.
(Luke 22:31,32) But, rather than letting your unjust suffering separate you from Jehovah, perhaps even causing you to stumble and fall away in the mistaken belief that Jehovah no longer cares for you, you can at such times actually draw closer to Him with the assurance that your suffering matters to him. He sees your pain and affliction, and he hears your pleadings for help. He invites you to "throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter." (Psalms 55:22) With the help and comfort of his holy spirit, you will be able to endure, even "with joy". (Dan. 11:35; Matt. 10:21,22; James 1:2-4)

Perhaps, such Scriptures as the following may provide needed encouragement when you are in need of God's help:

(Psalm 9:9-10)  And Jehovah will become a secure height for anyone crushed, A secure height in times of distress. 10 And those knowing your name will trust in you, For you will certainly not leave those looking for you, O Jehovah.
(Psalm 27:9-10, 14)
Do not conceal your face from me. Do not in anger turn your servant away. My assistance you must become. Do not forsake me and do not leave me, O my God of salvation. 10 In case my own father and my own mother did leave me, Even Jehovah himself would take me up. 14 Hope in Jehovah; be courageous and let your heart be strong. Yes, hope in Jehovah.
(Psalm 28:6-9) Blessed be Jehovah, for he has heard the voice of my entreaties. 7 Jehovah is my strength and my shield. In him my heart has trusted, And I have been helped, so that my heart exults, And with my song I shall laud him.  8 Jehovah is a strength to his people, And he is a stronghold of the grand salvation of his anointed one. 9 Do save your people, and bless your inheritance; And shepherd them and carry them to time indefinite.
(Psalm 34:18-19) Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; And those who are crushed in spirit he saves. 19 Many are the calamities of the righteous one, But out of them all Jehovah delivers him.

We cannot make our problems go away at this time, and neither can we expect to live in peace while still living under Satan's rule; but we have Jehovah's assurance that he is loyal and sustains us in our time of need and distress. He expects his loyal servants to be a source of encouragement to their fellow brothers and sisters in times of need. For that very reason we need each other, and our association. That is the point the apostle Paul is highlighting regarding the need for us to meet together. It is our love for one another that identifies us as genuine disciples of Jesus, and worshipers of the only true God, Jehovah. If a fellow brother or sister, even an elder, becomes a stumbling block to anyone, Jehovah himself will hold him accountable. (Heb. 10:24,25; John 13:34,35; Matt. 5:44-48; 18:6,7)


 (8/7/17 )

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