5/22/15  "Are you yet holding fast your integrity? Curse God and die!"

Under favorable conditions, when times are good, it's easy for a person to believe that he has the strength to endure whatever adversity may come upon him. (Matt. 24:13) For example, who will complain about hunger or thirst when there is plenty of food and clear cool water to drink? But what if these things were unexpectedly lacking, causing real hunger and thirst, perhaps for the first time? What happens to his attitude towards suffering and endurance then, and to his faith in God? Will he begin to question whether "Jehovah [is] in our midst or not," as did the Israelites when God was leading them through the wilderness? (Exodus 17:1-7; Deut. 8:2,3; Psalms 95:6-11; Heb. 3:7-10)

We are, of course, familiar with the Bible's account of the man Job, regarding whom Jehovah said that there was "no one like him in all the earth, a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad." (Job 1:8) Because of God's generous blessings upon him, Job had become the richest and greatest among all of the Orientals. What makes Job such an outstanding person, so that we are still talking about him more than three thousand years later, is that when he was struck by the sudden loss of everything he owned in one day—including his ten children—he continued to trust in God, even though he believed that God was the source of his disaster. (Job 1:13-19; 10:1,2)

Often in our discussion about Job we fail to consider his wife. She too was afflicted by the loss of all their possessions. She was the mother to their ten beautiful children; she enjoyed the wealth, a fine home with servants; there was food and drink in abundance; and her husband was held in high esteem by all who came to consult his wisdom. That was now suddenly all gone! (Job 29:14-25) Rather than having the respect of others, her husband was now sitting in among the ashes, scraping his painful boils with a broken piece of pottery. His flesh was covered with maggots and formed crusts; his breath was loathsome; he was racked with pain while his skin blackened and dropped off. Think of how this must have affected her attitude toward God. (Job 7:5; 19:7; 30:17, 30)

Believing that God was responsible for these turn of events, Job's wife exclaimed: "Are you yet holding fast your integrity? Curse God and die!" (Job 2:9) She did not share her husband's faith; nor did she understand the source of the calamity, —and yet, neither did Job. In his pain, he simply replied to her: "As one of the senseless women speaks, you speak also. Shall we accept merely what is good from the true God and not accept also what is bad?" Job did not falter in his integrity. It says that "in all this Job did not sin with his lips." (Job 2:9,10)

Satan was the cause of Job's suffering! He had claimed that Job was serving God merely for what he was getting out of it—God's protection and riches; and that Job's integrity would disappear as easily as his riches. (Job 1:8-12) But Jehovah knew Job intimately, that his righteousness was beyond question, and that under test Job would prove Satan to be the liar that he is. (John 8:44) In order to weaken Job's confidence in himself and God, Satan employed the help of three companions of Job, who traveled a long distance in order to commiserate, and to accuse Job of being guilty of secret sins for which he was now being punished. There is nothing more discouraging for a person than to be told that he is not worthy to worship God. But they failed to break Job's estimation of himself and his trust in God.

What about us today? Is your resolve to remain loyal to Jehovah in jeopardy when you experience injustice and suffering in your life, perhaps showing a tendency to blame Jehovah for allowing it? This might be compounded by individuals who, like Job's wife and the three visitors, may tell you, "Are you yet holding fast your integrity? Curse God and die!" We see this attack on one's integrity expressed on the various forums on the internet, where many distressed worshipers of Jehovah go to seek encouragement, but instead find that they, like Job, are vilified for their continued faith in God's righteousness.

Jehovah is not to blame for the suffering caused by Satan. He is not unrighteous when he allows us to undergo affliction, although never approaching that of Job's. Like Job, we individually have the opportunity to prove that the tested quality of our faith and integrity by endurance is genuine, as so many other faithful men of old have done before us. That is something to treasure! The blessings that are in store for all who remain loyal to Jehovah will far outweigh any suffering we experience at this time, as in the case of Job, for Jehovah blessed him with double of everything that Satan had robbed him of. (Job 42:10-17)

"The prophets who declared the word of the Lord are your role models, my brothers and sisters, for what it means to live patiently in the face of suffering. Look, we bless and honor the memory of those who persevered under hardship. Remember how Job endured and how the Lord orchestrated the triumph of his final circumstances as a grand display of His mercy and compassion."—James 5:10,11; 1:2-4; The Voice.

5/15/15  "Religion is often turned into an instrument for controlling others" (from The Message Bible)

When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they often do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others, either putting or keeping them "in their place." The history of such religious manipulation and coercion is long and tedious. It is little wonder that people who have only known religion on such terms, experience release or escape from it as 'freedom.' The problem is that the freedom turns out to be short-lived.

Paul the Apostle was doing his diligent best to add yet another chapter to this dreary history when he was converted by Jesus to something radically and entirely different - a free life in God. Through Jesus, Paul learned that God was not an impersonal force to be used to make people behave in certain prescribed ways, but a personal saviour who sets us free to live a free live. God did no coerce us from without, but set us free from within.

It was a glorious experience, and Paul set off telling others, introducing and inviting everyone he met into this free life. In his early travels he found a series of churches in the Roman province of Galatia. A few years later, Paul learned that the religious leaders of the old school had come into those churches, called his views and authorities into question, and were reintroducing the old ways, herding all those freedom-loving Christians back into the corral or religious rules and regulations.

Paul was, of course, furious. He was furious with the old guard for coming in with their strong-arm religious tactics and intimidating the Christians into giving up their free life in Jesus. But he was also furious with the Christians for caving in to the intimidations.

His letter to the Galatian churches helps them, and us, recover the original freedom. It also gives direction in the nature of God's gift of freedom - most necessary guidance, for freedom is a delicate and subtle gift, easily perverted and often squandered. The Message Bible.

"So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever."―2 Corinthians 4:16-18; The Message Bible.

/15  Through Whom Does Jehovah Speak to His People Today?

Examining the Scriptures (for Sunday, April 26, 2015) states: "Obedience to those who today are taking the lead among us is vital. Think of how Jehovah communicated with his people during critical times in the past. When the people of Israel left ancient Egypt, God’s orders for them came through Moses and Aaron, who acted as bearers of Jehovah’s instructions to his people. Very likely, you can think of numerous other occasions in Bible history when Jehovah provided life-saving instructions through human or angelic representatives. In all these cases, God saw fit to delegate authority. Messengers spoke in his name, and they told his people what they needed to do in order to survive a crisis. Can we not imagine that Jehovah might do something similar at Armageddon? Naturally, any elders today who are delegated the responsibility of representing Jehovah or his organization must be exceptionally careful never to abuse the authority entrusted to them."— w13 11/15 4:14, 15.

Yes, as mentioned above and as we all know, when Jehovah delivered his people out of Egypt he did so by means of his prophet and mediator Moses. And after the death of Moses, Jehovah continued to speak to his people through human or angelic representatives. But that is no longer the case today, as the apostle Paul explains: "God, who long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets, has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the systems of things. He is the reflection of [his] glory and the exact representation of his very being, and he sustains all things by the word of his power; and after he had made a purification for our sins he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in lofty places. So he has become better than the angels, to the extent that he has inherited a name more excellent than theirs." (Heb. 1:1-4) Ever since Jesus was on earth, Jehovah has communicated with his people only by means of his Son Christ Jesus, contrary to what many may claim. (Rev. 1:1,2; 2:2; John 14:6)

Moses was unique among God's representatives, for not only was he God's prophet, but he was also the mediator of the covenant between God and his people Israel. And yet, his own brother and sister—Aaron and Miriam—lacked respect for his God appointed position when they began to complain against Moses, with the words: "Is it just by Moses alone that Jehovah has spoken? Is it not by us also that he has spoken?" The account goes on to tell us that "Jehovah was listening." He confronted both of them by saying: “Hear my words, please. If there came to be a prophet of yours for Jehovah, it would be in a vision I would make myself known to him. In a dream I would speak to him. Not so my servant Moses! He is being entrusted with all my house. Mouth to mouth I speak to him, thus showing him, and not by riddles; and the appearance of Jehovah is what he beholds. Why, then, did you not fear to speak against my servant, against Moses?” As a result, Miriam was briefly struck with leprosy, which caused her to be quarantined for seven days outside the camp, in order to humble and humiliate her. (Num. 12:1,2, 6-15) Not having learned the lesson that Jehovah had intended for everyone, it was only a short time later that Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, along with 250 followers of theirs, also rebelled against Moses when they questioned his authority and leadership, while at the same time claiming to be holy like Moses. This was really a revolt against Jehovah, which resulted in their annihilation. (Num. 16:1-3, 23,24)

Without any doubt, Moses was a representative of God, and God revealed to him that at a future time he would raise up another prophet like Moses, telling him: "A prophet I shall raise up for them from the midst of their brothers, like you; and I shall indeed put my words in his mouth, and he will certainly speak to them all that I shall command him. And it must occur that the man who will not listen to my words that he will speak in my name, I shall myself require an account from him." (Deut. 18:18,19) This prophecy was fulfilled upon the arrival of God's only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, when he came to earth not only as God's prophet but also as the mediator of the new covenant. (Acts 3:22,23; John 8:26-28; Heb. 9:14,15) Since Jesus is even greater than Moses, how is it that some among God's people today are not in dread of claiming equal authority with Jesus, forgetting the lesson of the rebels Korah, Dathan, and Abiram? Are they not afraid of suffering the same consequence? (1 Cor. 10:11)

Is Jehovah also speaking to his people today? Paul answers yes! but he is doing so by means of his Son, and not by any so-called human or angelic representatives. (Gal. 1:8) Jesus himself said, immediately prior to his ascension to heaven: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:18-20) His words assure us that Jesus is with us until "the conclusion of the system of things," while we keep busy teaching "all the things [he has] commanded [us]." How, though, can he be with us if he has not yet returned? We are told that he has appointed shepherds to care for his flock in his absence until his return, at which time he will settle accounts with them. In this way he is with his sheep. (Acts 20:28; John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Matt. 24:45-47) Does that mean that Jesus is communicating with the governing body, teaching new things as circumstances call for it; who in turn pass on the information to the elders in their respective congregations? Definitely not! Jehovah is still speaking to us by means of his Son whose teachings have been recorded in his Word the Bible. Everything the appointed shepherds need, to qualify them to feed and care for the sheep, has already been available for the past two thousand years. There is nothing to be added to it; and neither does it allow for anything to be taken away as irrelevant. (Prov. 30:5,6; 1 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 22:18,19)

As we approach "the war of the great day of God the Almighty" at Armageddon, we do not need additional information to that which has already been provided in the Scriptures by God's Son; which, for example, is also contained in the book of Revelation. (Rev. 1:1-3; 16:13-16) No doubt, at that time, these Scriptures will become clear to God's people as they are taught by holy spirit, "even the deep things of God." (1 Cor. 2:10; Zeph. 2:1-3; 3:8,9) Please be aware that it was foretold that many false prophets would seize the opportunity to spread their own lies and confusion, doing so in God's name. (2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1) But we know that "God, who long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets, has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things." To him alone belongs our whole hearted attention!


4/19/15  How Many Religions Are There Today?

According to the World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions - AD 30 to 2000, there are 19 major world religions, which in turn are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups. In addition, it is estimated that there are as many as 4,200 smaller "faiths" or "belief systems" in the world. If there exists only one true God, why such profusion of confusion when it comes to religion and worship? Does it matter how, or where, or even who we worship? If God has a people, should we expect the same confusion to exist among them? Indeed, are God's people scattered among these many diversified religions?

It may come as a surprise for many to learn that according to the Creator, to whom all mankind owes their existence, there are actually only two religions. This other second religion, in addition to the original one true worship, was born from the rebellion against God by a powerful spirit creature, who is identified as "the anointed cherub"―and who came to be called Devil (meaning liar; slandered) and Satan (opposer). This Rebel succeeded in enticing Adam and Eveour original parentsto join him in his opposition to God, by claiming that God is a liar who wanted to prevent them from finding true happiness. (Gen. 2:16,17; 3:1-6; Ezek. 28:13-16; John 8:44) By siding with Satan, Adam and Eve placed themselves under his influence, thus becoming enslaved to his authority and control; and in turn also all of us who had not yet been born. It is as the Bible explains, "the whole world is under the control of the evil one," and that he "leads the whole world astray." (1 John 5:19; Rev. 12:9, NIV)

True worship has from the beginning been dependent on submission and obedience to God. The apostle John says: "You see, to love God means that we keep His commands, and His commands don’t weigh us down." (1 John 5:3, VOICE) Rather than weighing us down, keeping God's commands brings us the happiness that eluded Adam and Eve after they had sinned. Satan promised them that they would not die―but, die they did; proving that Satan was the liar, not God. And he has perpetuated his lie right down to our day, having had lots of time over the centuries to invent the many confusing beliefs as to what happens after death. (Gen. 3:17-19; 5:5; Deut. 11:26-28)

Satan's rulership, which is distinguished by falsehood and deceit, has produced the countless numbers of contradictory religions that exist today, and identifies everything in this world that is under his control; which, astonishingly, has been embraced by the majority of mankind. Satan has actually succeeded in making his lies more desirable than God's truth. For example, God tells us that death is the opposite of life. After a person's death, he does not continue to live somewhere else. His pain and suffering, and whatever joys he may have had during his all too short life, have now come to an end. (Gen. 3:19; Eccl. 3:19,20; 9:5) But God has given mankind the hope that the dead will return to life by means of a future resurrection; when loved ones will be reunited, and have the prospect of never again being separated in death. This is what Jesus taught in connection with God's kingdom; and his own resurrection is a guarantee of this hope. (Isa. 26:19; Matt. 10:5-8; John 5:28,29; 11:21-26, 43,44; 17:3; Acts 24:15; 1 Cor. 15:12-22)

Now, compare that with the lies that Satan has taught over the thousands of years, in which he asserts that mankind has some sort of an immortal soul that continues to exist after death in some place unseen to the living. Why have the vast majority of people throughout history bought into that lie, rather than believe the much preferable truth that belongs to God? For example, how often have you heard someone say, regarding a loved one who has "passed away," that he is still "with us," looking down from heaven and watching over them? Satan has fooled them into believing that the person is not really dead; even using his demon angels to pretend to be someone who has died and is now communicating through a spirit medium. Isn't the prospect of being reunited here on earth with our loved ones a far better hope? And don't people demonstrate that this is what they really want, although unwittingly, when they spare no cost in their efforts of prolonging their lives or saving that of another? The fact is, no one really wants to die! Although our Creator has given mankind his gift, the Bible, where everyone can learn the truth, yet the majority have rejected it, preferring to put their trust in Satan's falsehood no matter how unreasonable they are. (Rom. 1:25; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; Rev. 22:14,15)

From the above, it should be clear to us that if we desire to worship the true God we cannot be part of this world of which Satan is the ruler. (John 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4) The apostle Paul explains: "Stop forming inappropriate relationships with unbelievers. Can right and wrong be partners? Can light have anything in common with darkness? Can Christ agree with the devil? Can a believer share life with an unbeliever? Can God’s temple contain false gods? Clearly, we are the temple of the living God. As God said, 'I will live and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.' The Lord says, 'Get away from unbelievers. Separate yourselves from them. Have nothing to do with anything unclean. Then I will welcome you.' The Lord Almighty says, 'I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters.'” (2 Cor. 6:14-18; GOD’S WORD Translation)

God requires his people to remove themselves from false worship before they can become his "sons and daughters." This is because God decreed a great chasm between his worshipers and those of Satan when he originally pronounced sentence upon the three rebels in the Garden of Eden, when he said: "I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel." (Gen. 3:15) This shows that it is simply impossible to worship Jehovah while at the same time belonging to the world of which Satan is the god. The disciple James emphasises this reality in his letter, when he writes: "Unfaithful people! Don't you know that to be the world's friend means to be God's enemy? If you want to be the world's friend, you make yourself God's enemy." (James 4:4, GNT; 1 Cor. 10:20-22; 2 Cor. 4:4) Clearly, Jehovah's people are not scattered throughout the many religions of this world, including Christendom; all of whom are about to go off into destruction. If anyone desires to worship the true God, but is still a member of what God has called "Babylon the Great," then he is warned to "get out from among them"; just as Lot and his family were warned to escape. (Gen. 19:15-17; Rev. 17:5, 15-17; 18:4-8, 21)

Since the first century, when the new covenant came into force, Jehovah has been inviting people from every nation to worship him and become members of his household. (Acts 13:48; 1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 2:19-22;Rev. 7:9,10, 13-17) Such ones become Satan's target, but they have God's protection. In his prayer to his Father, Jesus said that his disciples would be hated by the world, "because they are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world." And for our comfort and encouragement, he made this request on our behalf: "I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world." How can we live in the world and yet be no part of it? Jesus said it is by means of the truth. In his prayer he continued, saying: "Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:14-17; 15:17-21) The truth of God's word sanctifies us, that is, it makes us holy and acceptable to God, although we are surrounded by a godless world. Therefore it is vital for us to "worship the Father with spirit and truth," for it is the truth that makes us holy and without blemish. (John 4:23,24; Phil. 2:14,15; 1 Peter 1:14-16; Rev. 14:5)

4/9/15  When you quote the Bible, do you sound strange to others in the congregation?

Understanding the truth of God's Word doesn't come all at once, but rather with time as we are taught by holy spirit; and we see one precious truth lead to the understanding of other truths, which then replaces the "inspired expressions of error" in which we at one time trusted. This in turn enables us to recognize how the Scriptures are in total harmony throughout. (1 John 4:1, 6)

Often we find ourselves having to untangle the confusion that results from teachings that are based on the bold interpretations of men, who have clearly gone "beyond the things that are written," deflecting from the simple and pure truth of God's Word the Bible. (1 Cor. 4:6) It's impossible to harmonize the two! It's like attempting to put new wine into old wineskins, as Jesus said. (Matt. 9:16,17) And Paul compares it to the "veil" that hung over the Jews, which was dulling their mental powers and prevented them from understanding the fulfillment of the Law under the old covenant. To them, the words of Jesus sounded strange when compared to the teachings of their religious leaders. "But when there is a turning to Jehovah, the veil is taken away." (1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 3:14-18; John 8:47)

To illustrate this point: We cannot harmonize the Scriptures which are fulfilled in connection with the establishment of God's kingdom—and Jesus' return (his presence—parousia), with the Society's teaching that Jesus' presence began in 1914; and that he has been ruling in God's kingdom for the past hundred years. All the facts from the Scriptures indicate that this is still future, although "near at hand." When you ask an elder (or any Witness): "How do we know that Jesus returned in 1914?", most likely he will point to the signs Jesus gave regarding his presence (as recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke); and assert that these prove that Jesus has been present since 1914. But according to Jesus' own words, the signs would provide evidence that he is near at the doors and that the kingdom of God is near—not here. We cannot harmonize one with the other. (Matt. 24:32,33; Mark 13:28,29; Luke 21:29-31)

Now, if a person actually believes that Jesus returned in 1914, then he has a very difficult time indeed to explain the prophecies in connection with Jesus' presence, because the things that are foretold to happen in connection with his presence haven't happened yet; —such as the Master settling accounts with his slaves to whom he had entrusted his talents to do business with; and the subsequent removal of the "man of lawlessness" from God's temple, "whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence." (Matt. 24:45-51; 25:14-30; 2 Thess. 2:8-10) It is not possible to harmonize the teachings of the Watchtower regarding Jesus' presence and God's kingdom being established in 1914 with the inspired Scriptures. In fact, none of the prophecies regarding Jesus' presence have yet been fulfilled, although the things the Bible foretold that lead up to his presence we are seeing taking place. The same holds true with some other things that we are finding inconsistent at the moment.

For example: At one time, under Judge Rutherford and Fred Franz, much emphasis was put on the theory of types and anti-types, which were used to explain almost everything in connection with God's people in our time. Thus, our present understanding of the identity of the great crowd that comes out of the great tribulation is based on the theory that in the type, King Jehu—who was anointed as king by Jehovah to exterminate Baal worship out of Israel—represents in the antitype the King Christ Jesus, and by extension his anointed companions; while Jehonadab—a non-Israelite who shared Jehu's zeal for true worship—was said to picture the great crowd, who were therefore called Jehonadabs, or Jonadabs; who in later years became known as the "other sheep" of John 10:16.

But now the theory of types and anti-types has been discarded with the March 15, 2015 Watchtower. It is now acknowledged that this was a matter of going beyond the things that are written. And yet, many of the beliefs that were based on that now rejected theory are still being taught as fact. We can readily see the dilemma we face when we attempt to harmonize certain teachings that we hold fast with what is actually contained in the Scriptures. If we ourselves cannot grasp a scriptural matter apart from the way it is presented in the Watchtower, how do we expect to be able to explain it to someone with whom we are studying the Bible; or to the people at whose doors we call? No wonder that most of the brothers and sisters rely heavily on the magazines to do the teaching for them; thereby leaving the responsibility of what they teach in the hands of the publishers. That pretty well also describes the situation as it existed in Jesus' day. (Matt. 23:13,15, 27,28)

Jehovah does not accept just any sort of worship, or worshipers. Jesus said, "The hour is coming, and it is now [already here; AMP], when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him." (John 4:23,24) If we have come to know Jehovah, then we also have come to understand the importance of worshiping him with spirit and truth; for he has never accepted worship that was in any way tainted with falsehood and lies. That can only happen when we take the liberty of going beyond the things that are written. (John 17:17; Gal. 1:6-9)

"For as regards Jehovah, his eyes are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him." (2 Chron. 16:9)

/15  "The Great Unconformity"

"When God looked at the earth, he saw that people had ruined it. Violence was everywhere, and it had ruined their life on earth. So God said to Noah, 'Everyone has filled the earth with anger and violence. So I will destroy all living things. I will remove them from the earth.'" (Gen. 6:11-13; Easy-to-Read Version) This may well describe the condition on earth today. God was not indifferent to the violence, crime, and corruption that had ruined the earth four thousand five hundred years ago; and neither is he indifferent to the situation today. Back in Noah's day, God destroyed an entire wicked and violent world by means of a global flood, making any escape impossible,―except for the means that God provided when he instructed Noah to build and ark in which he and his family survived. (Gen. 7:1, 7; 2 Peter 2:5) The Global Deluge of Noah's day stands as a testament that God will once more destroy all wickedness from the earth. (Psalms 37:10,11; 2 Peter 3:3-7; 2 Thess. 1:6-9) 

Scientists dismiss the Bible's account of a global flood as mere folk legend based on a much smaller local flood. Is it any wonder that most people will also dismiss God's warning of another imminent global destruction of the wicked? And yet, God has preserved for us the evidence that the Flood of Noah's day was an actual historic event, which can be read like other ancient writings preserved on clay tablets that tell of past civilizations and events. The story of the Global Deluge can be deciphered in the rocks and fossil record all over the world. But there is one place on earth in particular where the Deluge story is more outstandingly preserved, to which millions of visitors flock every year,―including geologists, palaeontologists, and other Earth scientists,―to either admire or study this amazing natural wonder. This place, of course, is the world famous Grand Canyon of Arizona. Here, in a certain spot of the canyon, geologists have been puzzling over a phenomenon they call "The Great Unconformity," which, by the way, can also be observed in many other places on earth. The Great Unconformity presents a problem in that it contradicts their geological time scale and theory on how the earth was formed; and when and how life appeared according to the fossil record. An article published in Phys-Org ("Great Unconformity: Evidence for a geologic trigger of the Cambrian explosion"), said in 2012: "The Great Unconformity has posed a longstanding puzzle and has been viewed – by Charles Darwin, among others – as a huge gap in the rock record and in our understanding of the Earth's history."

The Great Unconformity, as it has been called since 1869, presents a problem to the geological time scale as to the formation of the earth and the appearance of life forms as preserved in the various rock strata. For example, the article states that "detailed studies between 1820 and 1850 of the strata and fossils of Europe produced the sequence of geological periods still used today." The sequence of geological periods is measured in millions, even billions, of years. It all seems very straight forward, except for the global inconsistency they have come to call "The Great Unconformity," where the earth experienced a massive and violent transformation in "a blink of an eye," which according to the estimation of geologists can still amount to millions of years.

That the earth was once covered by water is evident by the fossils found on top of the world's highest mountain range, the Himalayas. ScienceDaily reports that "About 15,000 feet up on Tibet's desolate Himalayan-Tibetan Plateau, an international research team led by Florida State University geologist Yang Wang was surprised to find thick layers of ancient lake sediment filled with plant, fish and animal fossils typical of far lower elevations and warmer, wetter climates." Also, Nasa's Earth Observatory says: "Everest is the tallest of many extraordinarily high peaks in the Himalayas, including neighboring Lhotse (27,890 feet, 8516 m) and Nuptse (25,790 feet, 7885 m). The mountain range was formed when a large land mass broke off from Africa roughly 200 million years ago and was carried by plate tectonics across what is now the Indian Ocean. When this land mass came close to Asia, it started to push up the land ahead of it, forming a large shallow ocean with rich ocean life. The bones and shells of the plants and animals in this shallow ocean formed limestone and left fossils. As the land mass continued to plow north and collide with Asia, the ocean was slowly raised up and drained, eventually being lifted up to form the Himalayan Mountains. . . The presence of limestone and ocean marine fossils at the top of these mountains is one of the key pieces of evidence cited that advanced the idea of plate tectonics (large chunks of the Earth’s surface moving over molten rock in the Earth’s core) when it was first proposed as a theory in 1915."

Does a large landmass breaking off from Africa 200 million years ago,being ferried across the Indian Ocean, and finally plowing with great force into Asia,answer the question on how the Himalayan Mountain Range was formed; and why ocean marine fossils are embedded in the rock on top of these mountains? "The Great Unconformity" does not support that theory. And neither do the discoveries made under the two-mile thick ice cap of Antarctica, which indicate that the coldest and most desolate place on Earth once enjoyed a tropical climate. "It was a green beautiful place," said Prof Jane Francis, of Leeds University's School of Earth and Environment. "Lots of furry mammals including possums and beavers lived there. The weather was tropical. It is only in the recent geological past that it got so cold." Similar discoveries have been made under the ice of the northern hemisphere. What accounts for the sudden global change in climate, that quick-froze the mammoths in their tracks? It takes greater faith to believe men's geologic theories than it does to put faith in the Bible's account of the Great Flood of Noah's day.

But many wonder: If the mountains were covered by water to a height of almost 25 feet, as the Bible says, where did all that water go? The answer is simple: It is still present in the oceans, which accounts for the fact that 72 percent of the earth is covered in water. The Bible explains: "You [God] clothed the earth with floods of water, water that covered even the mountains. At your command, the water fled; at the sound of your thunder, it hurried away. Mountains rose and valleys sank to the levels you decreed. Then you set a firm boundary for the seas, so they would never again cover the earth." (Psalm 104:6-9; New Living Translation) When one accepts the Bible's account, "The Great Unconformity" is not a mystery at all! In fact, it explains how mountains and valleys, and the deep ocean trenches, were formed in an instant of time,weeks, months, perhaps even years, but certainly not the millions of years claimed by geologists. It is only when the evidence is rejected that it becomes the enigma Earth scientists consider it to be.

And this brings us to the main point: Jesus compared the coming destruction of this wicked world to the days of Noah. He said: "No one knows the date and hour when the end will be—not even the angels. No, nor even God’s Son. Only the Father knows. The world will be at ease—banquets and parties and weddings—just as it was in Noah’s time before the sudden coming of the Flood; people wouldn’t believe what was going to happen until the Flood actually arrived and took them all away." (Matthew 24:36-39; The Living Bible)

When people dismiss the historical evidence of Noah's Flood, they are also more likely to reject Jesus' warning as irrelevant

3/20/15  "God Made the World to be Lived In"

How large is the universe? Where does it begin and end? Can the universe be measured? If it is finite, what lies beyond? Scientists estimate the age of the universe at approximately 13.8 billion years (a billion being a thousand million, 1,000,000,000). What existed before 14 billion years? Seeing that scientists propose an age for the universe is at least an acknowledgment that there was a beginning; but it leaves the question as to how that beginning came about. Their Big Bang theory leaves the experts with more questions than it provides answers.

We cannot really appreciate the incomprehensible size of the universe. The enormous distances between stars and galaxies are measured in light years―the distance that light travels in one year, which is 10 trillion kilometers. Consider, for example, it would take 4.24 light-years to travel to Proxima Centauri, the next nearest star outside our solar system, speeding along at 300,000 kilometers per second. Our own solar system of the sun and eight planets―including the earth and moon―is just a tiny speck within the galaxy called the Milky Way. And the Milky Way itself is about 150,000 light-years across. Also, consider that the closest galaxy to us is the Andromeda Galaxy, which is 2.3 million light-years away. The universe is made up of billions of such galaxies, each of which contain billions of stars, and all of them unique in glory. (1 Cor. 15:41; Psalms 8:3,4)

Many religious persons believe that God created the heavens and the earth a mere six thousand years ago. Such "unscientific" claims have caused scientists to dismiss the Bible's account of creation as mere myth, and along with it most of the Bible's other teachings. But the Bible does not even suggest such a young age for our earth or the universe! It merely states: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) Since it nowhere provides any clues as to when that beginning started, it allows for the billions of years estimated by scientists. Clearly, if the universe were only six thousand years old, would not the greatest distances be limited to the distance light travels in six thousand years? Obviously we would not be able to observe light from galaxies before their existence.

The six "creation days," as recorded in the first Chapter of Genesis, which many quote in support of their belief, does not describe the creation of the universe, including the earth; but rather tells how God transformed, in six distinct stages, what was a dark, water covered, formless and waste planet earth―which already existed,―into a beautiful home suitable for a great variety of life, including man whom God was about to create in his own image. (Genesis 1:2-31) The Bible says that "Jehovah created the heavens and earth and put everything in place, and he made the world to be lived in, not to be an empty chaos." (Isaiah 45:18; The Living Bible) Yes, Jehovah created the heavens and the earth "in the beginning," however long ago that may have been. And he created it all for a purpose,―not to be an empty chaos, but to be lived in. Scientists, who reject the existence of the Creator, are definitely not able to discern the purpose behind the things He created. (1 Corinthians 2:9-14)

The Creator is not pressed for time! A million years, even a billion more, are inconsequential to him. We know that the time arrived when he chose one galaxy out of all the billions that he had created, the one we call the Milky Way. And within this one galaxy he selected one star, our sun. From the eight planets that he had created within this solar system there was one that would be suitable to sustain the abundance of life he purposed to create. But this planet was as yet not ready, for it was enveloped in darkness, and the light of the sun did not reach the surface of the waters that covered the planet. Therefore, the very first step God took in transforming this dark and formless waste into what was to become mankind's home, was to cause the light of the sun to reach the surface of the waters of the earth. The Bible calls this period of time the "first day." Now bathed in sunlight, this blue planet, which was still one large ocean, must have looked amazing in space. If Jehovah had in mind to create only sea creatures he could have left it at that. But his second step was to remove some of the water from the earth and suspend it above the earth,―calling the space in between the waters "heaven," in which the birds would eventually be flying.

The next step all geologists should be interested in, for God caused land to appear above the surface of the waters, thus forming mountains and valleys. Of course, the land that now appeared was not newly created, but simply was lifted above the waters by the readjustment of the earth itself; as the geological record testifies. And shortly following this event God caused all sorts of plants, flowers and trees, and bushes to grow. These would not only beautify the earth, but also serve as food for the abundance of life that he purposed to create after this. The time it took for this particular sequence of events is called the "third day," having had a definite beginning and end, which God pronounced as being very good.

What happened on the "fourth day" is a bit confusing to some people. No, God did not create the sun, moon, and stars during this stage as some claim, for these had already been created in the beginning. During the third day there was sufficient light for the growth of vegetation, but the source of the light was not identifiable on earth; so, during this fourth period of time God proceeded to clear up the water canopy that was suspended above the earth, thereby causing the sun, moon, and even the stars, to become clearly visible from earth. These would now serve as a means to divide time into seasons and years.

We cannot help but be deeply impressed by the sequence of events in which God went about preparing the earth as a perfect home for the life that he created upon it, especially mankind. When you come to know these things, does it not move you to want to get to know him personally? He invites us to do so, because he has so much more in store for those who love him. He will not forever allow men to ruin this home that he created for mankind over such a long period of time. Long ago he promised that he will remove all wicked ones from this earth and give it exclusively to  those who love and obey him; in order for them to care for their home, and live forever upon it in peace, happiness, and perfect health. According to all the evidence, that time is now at hand. (Psalms 37:10,11, 28,29, 37-40; Rev. 11:17,18; 21:3,4)

/15  Memorial Invitation The Simple Truth

"Millions Will Attend, Will You?" That is the title of the tract used by the brothers this year to invite the public to this year's Memorial,―including Bible studies; Witnesses who have been missing at the meetings; non-Witness relatives; friends; and anyone who has shown interest in the past by accepting literature. The inside page of the tract reads:
     "Attend what? On the night before he died, Jesus met with his apostles. At that time, he introduced a simple ceremony, and told them: 'Keep doing this in remembrance of me.' They were to do so in remembrance of the sacrifice he was about to make in behalf of mankind.―Luke 22:19,20."
     The invitation goes on to say: "Last year, in obedience to Jesus' command, almost 20 million people worldwide observed this annual event. What about this year? The Memorial of Christ's death will be held on Friday, April 3, 2015, after sundown. Jehovah's Witnesses warmly invite you to be present with them on this important occasion. You will learn how Jesus' life and death can benefit you personally." (Bold theirs)

Note how simple the truth is presented in the invitation. It mentions that Jesus told his apostles to "Keep doing this in remembrance of me," and, therefore, the Memorial is "in remembrance of the sacrifice he was about to make in behalf of mankind." It further says that observing this annual event is "in obedience to Jesus' command." Will the speaker, who gives the Memorial talk, likewise explain the occasion in such simple terms, closely sticking to the Scriptures on the subject; or will he follow past tradition and go "beyond the things that are written," by adding, at great length, why only a "little flock" is entitled to partake of the bread and the wine, while all others are mere observers? Jesus said that the bread and the wine mean his body and his blood, which he gave in behalf of mankind for forgiveness of sins. (1 John 2:2) The benefit of his ransom is for all mankind―all who have inherited sin and death from Adam. Thus the apostle Paul explains: "For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive." Yes, "we have been declared righteous now by his blood," and "we have become reconciled to God." Is that not why you are present at the Memorial, to show your appreciation for these things? (Luke 12:32; 22:19,20; 1 Cor. 4:6; 11:23-26; 15:22; Gal. 1:8,9; Rom. 5:6-10)

Seeing that the Memorial invitation acknowledges that Jesus commanded his disciples to "keep doing this in remembrance of me," who would dare to discourage, hinder, or even prevent anyone from obeying this command? Jesus told his disciples: "You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you." (John 15:10, 14; Acts 4:19; 5:29) When Jesus told the Jews, "He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life," and, "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," his listeners were shocked, including many of his disciples who "went off to the things behind and would no longer walk with him." (John 6:54-56, 60, 66-69)

Are you perhaps shocked at the thought that you too should partake of the bread and the wine, which symbolize Jesus' flesh and blood; or are you shocked when someone tells you that you are not entitled to do so, although wanting to? The decision to obey or to refrain is yours alone to make!  (1 Cor. 11:27-34)

2/22/15  Do We Need to Know Who the "Anointed" Are?

When Jesus instituted The Last Supper, which we commonly refer to as the Memorial, he instructed his disciples to "keep doing this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19) Until the year 1938 it was understood that all of God's people in attendance at the Memorial were entitled to partake of the bread and the wine. But The Watchtower of February 15, 1938, introduced a change which for the first time differentiated between two distinct classes at the Memorial, the "anointed" and "their companions the Jonadabs." This was reflected in the invitation to the Memorial published in that Watchtower issue, which said in part: “After 6 p.m. on April 15 let each company of the anointed assemble and celebrate the Memorial, their companions the Jonadabs also being present. Let the emblems be unleavened bread and real red wine.” (Page 50, under “Memorial.”) It was explained in succeeding issues of The Watchtower that "ever since the year 1935 C.E. Jesus Christ the Fine Shepherd has brought a 'great crowd' of such modern 'Jonadabs' or 'other sheep' into association with the spirit-begotten remnant of his spiritual 'body," and that these modern Jonadabs "attended the Memorial as observers, not as partakers." (See The Watchtower as of March 1, 1938, page 75, paragraphs 50-52;  w78 3/1 p. 11 Memorializing Christ’s Death—How Much Longer?)

We may ask: Did their new understanding of the "Jonadab" class―as associates of the "spirit-begotten remnant" being merely observers at the Memorial―correct a wrong way of celebrating the Lord's Evening Meal that had existed for the previous nineteen hundred centuries? Or are they saying that the "Jonadab" class did not exist until it was identified in 1935 by Joseph Rutherford? In the absence of a single scripture that restricts or even forbids anyone from partaking of the bread and the wine, can anyone forbid it, when Jesus himself instructed his disciples to keep doing it in remembrance of him? (1 Cor. 11:24-26)

But, some have wondered, if everyone were to partake at the Memorial how would we know who the anointed are, since it is at the Memorial that they identify themselves.

The truth is, we don't need to know their identity. Except for the names of the apostles, Jehovah has not identified them, as if they are somehow better or superior to any others of God's servants. Jehovah certainly knows who they are, for he is the one who has chosen them. Would it not be a temptation for them to become self-important, even presumptuous, if they were to receive special honor? (1 Sam. 15:10-12, 22,23) The apostles were not immune from having exaggerated opinions of themselves, often arguing among themselves as to who was the greater. On the night of Jesus' arrest they had once again argued this point, and again Jesus found it necessary to impress upon them the need for humility. He told them a simple illustration, asking them: "Which one is greater, the one reclining at the table or the one ministering? Is it not the one reclining at the table? But I am in your midst as the one ministering." (Luke 22:27) They certainly did not argue that Jesus was greater than any of them, and yet he was there to serve them. According to Jesus, who is the greater among God's people: The ones who have been given the responsibility to provide timely food for the members of his household; or the ones reclining at the table and being fed? Is it not obviously the ones who are reclining at the table, as in any household that has servants? (Matt. 24:45-47) Yet, according to the Society, the greatest within God's household are the ones doing the serving, namely, the governing body. They like to draw much attention to themselves, praising themselves and even going so far as to give themselves the title of "faithful and discreet." We can readily see that this is not Jehovah's way. (James 4:6)

Look at it in another way. Jehovah tells us that he has shepherds for the sake of his sheep; not sheep for the sake of the shepherds. If the shepherds have done their job well in caring for his sheep, then they will receive their wages, their reward. But if they oppress the sheep so that they run away and become lost and scattered, then Jehovah will ask back the sheep from their hand. "'Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasturage!' is the utterance of Jehovah." (Jeremiah 23:1; 1 Peter 5:1-4)

How can the sheep do good to Christ's brothers if they are not able to identify who they are, as Jesus mentions in his parable of the sheep and the goats? (Matthew 25:34-46) The point Jesus was making in his illustration was not about identifying his brothers but rather the doing of good to them, even when they did not know them. What does that mean? Since these "brothers" of his make up the foundation of God's temple, along with Jesus―as Paul explains in his letter to the Ephesians―the sheep must accept Christ's brothers, because Jehovah is directing "all those who are rightly disposed for everlasting life" to them, in order to be fed and cared for. (Luke 12:41-44; John 21:15-17; Acts 13:48; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Rev. 14:1-4) All of God's people, together, make up God's temple; some have been chosen as living stones in the foundation, while all others are built upon the foundation. This is God's building, "a place for God to inhabit by spirit." (1 Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-6)

Ask any builder as to what is the more important part in the construction of a building, the foundation, or that which is built upon the foundation? Can there be one without the other? (Luke 14:28-30; 6:47-49) The person who has been chosen by God to be a part of the foundation of his temple certainly knows it, for God is bearing witness with him. He doesn't go around advertising himself as such, as if he has to promote himself in the congregation in order to gain recognition and receive a position. Jehovah is the one who appoints his chosen ones to their position within his congregations, and he directs the sheep to them. In this way, everyone who is taught by holy spirit is able to discern whether the "inspired expressions" with which they are being fed originate with God, or they are actually being fed "inspired expressions of error" from impostors. The Society with its governing body cannot prevent Jehovah from using his chosen ones. (1 Cor. 12:27-31; 10:20,21; 1 John 4:1, 6; Rev. 2:2)

After being taught for many years "inspired expressions of error," it may become a real challenge to recognize the scriptural truths according to God's inspired Word; which may even sound foreign at times, because it sounds different from what we have become used to― such as the idea that everyone should partake at the Memorial; or expressions such as the "other sheep" applying to those who rejoice at the prospect of living forever on a paradise earth; or "living up to your dedication," for which there is no scriptural basis. Jehovah has allowed this confusion among his people, but at the same time he has also provided the explanation as to why it exists; and if we accept it, we are helped to "endure to the end." (2 Thess. 2:11,12; Matt. 24:10-13) Think of the Jews in Jesus' day, and why they had such difficulty in accepting the truth that Jesus spoke; while they gladly followed their religious leaders who were the ones misleading them. That should enable us to better understand our own situation today. (John 8:45-48)

2/15/15  "The Wheat and the Weeds"

On one occasion, when the disciples asked Jesus why he was always speaking to the crowds by the use of illustrations, he answered by saying: “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not.
12 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. 13 That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand. 14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. 15 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’" (Matt. 13:10-15, NLT; Isaiah 6:9,10)

Thereupon Jesus proceeded to relate to them the parable of the wheat and the weeds, saying: “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man that sowed fine seed in his field. 25 While men were sleeping, his enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat, and left. 26 When the blade sprouted and produced fruit, then the weeds appeared also. 27 So the slaves of the householder came up and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow fine seed in your field? How, then, does it come to have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy, a man, did this.’ They said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go out and collect them?’ 29 He said, ‘No; that by no chance, while collecting the weeds, you uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest season I will tell the reapers, First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up, then go to gathering the wheat into my storehouse.’” (Matt. 13:24-30)

Later, after Jesus had dismissed the crowd, the disciples asked him to explain to them the illustration of the weeds and the wheat. Jesus answered: “The sower of the fine seed is the Son of man; 38 the field is the world; as for the fine seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; but the weeds are the sons of the wicked one, 39 and the enemy that sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things, and the reapers are angels. 40 Therefore, just as the weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be in the conclusion of the system of things. 41 The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness, 42 and they will pitch them into the fiery furnace. There is where [their] weeping and the gnashing of [their] teeth will be. 43 At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let him that has ears listen."

Almost two thousand years have passed since Jesus told the parable of the wheat and the weeds. After all these many centuries of growing together in the same field, the distinction between the wheat and the weeds has become clearly evident. No longer does the danger exist of the wheat being mistakenly uprooted along with the weeds. (Matt. 13:43); Dan. 12:3) Compared to the growing season, the harvest is a relatively short period of time. Jesus referred to it as "the conclusion of the system of things," "the end of the age." (ESV) According to the parable, the weeds, which are the sons of the Devil, are collected out first and bound in bundles to be burned up; leaving behind only the wheat, "the sons of the kingdom." (Psalms 92:7; Dan. 12:10)

Who are the reapers that separate the weeds from the wheat? Not Jesus' disciples! Jesus said that "the reapers are angels," and they are the ones who "collect out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness." Jesus did not authorize his disciples to judge between the wheat and the weeds; not even during the time of the harvest. He is the one appointed by Jehovah to judge mankind, and he has given his angels the authority to remove the weeds from among the wheat. (Matt. 7:1,2; John 5:22, 30; Acts 17:31) God's righteous people, who are continuing to suffer on account of any wicked weeds in their midst, are called upon to endure a little while longer. (Matt. 24:10-13; Psalms 37:9-11; James 1:2-5) Soon they will share in the joy of the harvest as the wheat is gathered into God's storehouse. (Matt. 3:12)

2/8/15  Who were God's People After the Death of the Apostles?

Jehovah has always had people on earth who put their trust in his promises and remained loyal in times of suffering. He took notice of them, knowing everyone of them by name, which he has written down in his "book of life." (Ex. 33:12; Mal. 3:16; Rev. 3:5; 20:15) All of these faithful ones are alive to God, for they will return to life in the promised future resurrection. (Luke 20:37,38; John 5:28,29)

We are familiar with
many of their names today, although they lived thousands of years ago, because their names are preserved in the Bible. Perhaps you have been named after one such faithful servant of God, like Abel, Joseph, David, Daniel, Sarah, Ruth, Deborah, and many many others. We are also familiar with the names of the apostles, the most popular among them being Peter, John, and Paul. How many people do you know by those names? This is just one way in which God has honored his faithful servants, by preserving their names. But how many names of God's faithful servants can you recall who lived after the death of the apostles? Hmmm. . . . Not many, if any? Does that mean that God did not have anyone on earth who belonged to him during the past eighteen centuries?

The Bible has preserved the names of some who died a martyr's death, such as Stephen, "a man full of faith and holy spirit." King Herod did away with the apostle James, John's brother. Jesus also mentions Antipas of the Pergamum congregation. (Acts 6:5; 7:59,60; 12:1,2; Rev. 2:13; Heb. 11:36-38) Since the writing of the Bible was completed towards the end of the first century
with the apostle John's gospel, his three letters, and the Revelationwe should not conclude that God did not have faithful servants during the centuries that followed, right up to our present time. Here are some examples of individuals who kept their integrity under persecution and even death, but whose names may not be familiar to us. Perhaps you have heard of Polycarp who is said to have been an overseer in the congregation in Smyrna in the early second century. (80 - 167? C.E.) Jesus wrote a letter to that congregation a few years prior, in which he commended the disciples for their endurance under much suffering and tribulation. Perhaps Polycarp was already associated with the congregation at that time. According to historical accounts, Polycarp was taught by the last surviving apostle, John; and he is believed to have been one of the chief people responsible for compiling the Christian Greek Scriptures as we have them today. Like many other disciples who were persecuted during that time, Polycarp met a martyr's death in the arena, having been sentenced to burn at the stake for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor.

Other noteworthy names of individuals who died for "obeying God as ruler rather than men" included Justin Martyr, who lived at the time of Polycarp. (Acts 5:28,29) When he and six of his companions were given the ultimatum to sacrifice to the gods or die by beheading, they answered, saying: "We are Christians, and we do not sacrifice to idols." (1 Cor. 10:14, 20,21) John Wycliffe, of the 14th century, did not suffer martyrdom but was persecuted for his stand against Papal authority. He believed that the Bible should be available to the people in their common tongue and therefore translated it from the Latin Vulgate into common English. John Huss, on the other hand was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415, for heresy against the doctrines of the Catholic Church. Similarly, William Tyndale was a reformer who stood against many teachings of the Catholic Church. He is best known for his translation of the Bible into English, for which he was eventually strangled to death and his body burned. Do we doubt for a moment that Jehovah was not pleased with their faithfulness to death, and that he will give them "the crown of life"? (Rev. 2:10) "Jehovah knows those who belong to him," and he certainly knows which ones he has chosen to be members of the foundation of his temple, as Paul explains in his letter to the disciples in Ephesus. (2 Tim. 2:19; 1 Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:19-22) It is upon this temple foundation, which came into existence at Pentecost, that Jehovah has been building his temple and where he has been directing all believers, "all those who [are] rightly disposed for everlasting life," to render him sacred service. (Acts 13:48,49; (Rev. 7:14-17)

The opposition and persecution of God's true worshipers comes from Satan, who is "the god of this world," and "the ruler" of it. (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19) In 325 C.E., at the Council of Nicaea, Satan put in place his devious means whereby he intended to crush true worship. Under the Roman Emperor Constantine, Satan brought apostate Christians under his control, giving them the authority and glory that Jesus had rejected. (Luke 4:5-8) This was the beginning of the Catholic Church. Besides power and glory, the false disciples now also received wages and impressive temples, churches, in which they would officiate. The pagan Trinity doctrine, which was already worshiped in many parts of the world, became the corner stone of Satan's counterfeit religion; as he introduced many other non-scriptural teachings, such as the immortality of the soul. Satan did not expect everyone to believe every pagan teaching of his; for he knew that if he could sow enough doubt in the minds of the people, causing them confusion so that they would not be able to differentiate between truth or error, he had accomplished his purpose. (1 John 4:1, 5,6; Matt. 15:3-9)

Satan has opposed God's people throughout history; yet Jehovah has always had his faithful servants who were willing to suffereven dierather than to compromise their faith. All the while, Jesus has been with his disciples throughout the many years since the first centuryeven to this dayjust as he promised them before his ascension to heaven. (Matt. 28:18-20) How? By means of the ones chosen by God to care for the members of his household. (Luke 12:40-46; John 21:15-17) The choosing of them began at Pentecost with the outpouring of the holy spirit upon the 120, after which they immediately began to feed the ones whom God was adding to them. (Acts 2:1-4, 41-47) The foundation of God's temple will be completed when the final ones of the 144,000 are sealed just prior to the outbreak of the great tribulation. (Consider the parable at Matt. 25:14-30; Rev. 7:1-4)

Who were God's people after the death of the apostles? You can be on hand to meet the ones whom Jehovah had chosen as foundation members of his temple, who had the responsibility to support and feed the members of his household. These ones will come back in the first resurrection, as Paul explains. All the other faithful ones of God, who were built upon the foundation, will return in the resurrection of the righteous. (1 Thess. 4:15-17; 2 Thess. 1:6-10; Rev. 7:9,10, 14-17)

1/27/15  Is the Watchtower Society God's household?

God has a household that has existed since its inception on the day of Pentecost in the first century, when 120 of Jesus' disciples (including the twelve apostles; Matthias having replaced Judas Iscariot) were "baptized in holy spirit," just as Jesus had promised. (Acts 1:4,5, 15, 24-26; 2:1-4; John 15:26,27; 1 Tim. 3:15) It was with that event that the foundation of God's household was laid; and immediately thereupon God built upon the foundation with the addition of three thousand repentant baptized believers. Thus in one day God's household came into existence. (Acts 2:37-42; 2 Tim. 2:19)

The vast majority of Jehovah's Witnesses today believe that the Watchtower Society is God's household, of which the governing body is believed to be the "faithful and discreet slave." But, as we all know, there was no Watchtower Society in the first century―yet, God had a household. Many find it difficult, even impossible, to reconcile the fact that a secular corporation, called the Watchtower Society, is not God's household; but, rather, that it exists and operates within God's household? They are definitely not one and the same! The Society's presence and position of authority over God's people within his house is not from Jehovah or Jesus. How, then, did it attain its place within God's household which is causing such confusion?

In the first century, in every city and place where God's people resided, they were organized into congregations, of whom Jesus was the head. (Acts 16:5; Eph. 5:23) It was holy spirit that directed the preaching work. (Acts 13:2-4; 16:6) The congregations did not meet in "Kingdom Halls," or impressive church buildings, in which to worship; but they met together in private homes, away from the world's persecution; for the purpose of mutual encouragement, "to motivate one another to acts of love and good works." (Heb. 10:24,25, NLT; 1 Cor. 11:17-22; James 2:1-4) Their meeting places were not their places of worship, for every disciple himself belonged to God as his "holy temple," having God's spirit dwell in him; and they were all taught by holy spirit, "even the deep things of God." (1 Cor. 2:10; 3:16,17; Eph. 2:19-22; John 4:21-24)

God's household has continued to exist throughout the centuries, built upon the solid foundation that was laid at Pentecost. After all, did Jesus not promise that he would be with his disciples "all the days until the conclusion of the system of things"? (Matt. 28:18-20) Is he still with his disciples today? Does that mean he is with the Watchtower Society? To the contrary! The Watchtower Society fulfills the prophecies regarding "the man of lawlessness," as foretold by Paul; and the "evil slave" spoken of by Jesus, who would exist within God's household. (2 Thess. 2:3-12; Matt. 24:48-51) This "lawless one," as he is also called, would lift himself up over everyone who worships God, while at the same time making himself equal to God; claiming that his authority is from God, and even requiring obedience that belongs only to God. Yes, he would rule over God's inheritance, his sheep, "with harshness. . . even with tyranny." (Ezek. 34:4; Acts 20:29,30; 1 Peter 5:1-4)

Whereas originally all congregations were united under the headship of Jesus (as shown in the case of the Seven Congregations to whom Jesus wrote at the end of the first century), in 1919, for the first time, Jesus came to be replaced by the president of the Watchtower Society. It was under his domination that all the congregations that desired to share in the world wide preaching work were required to register with the Society as a "service organization." Thus president Rutherford gained control over "the holy work of the good news of God," and everyone who engaged in it. (Rom. 15:16) The Proclaimers book explains: "A director, or service director as he came to be known, not subject to yearly election, was appointed by the Society. As the local representative of the Society, he was to organize the work, assign territory, and encourage participation by the congregation in the field service. Thus, alongside the democratically elected elders and deacons, another type of organizational arrangement began to function, one that recognized appointive authority outside the local congregation and that gave greater emphasis to the preaching of the good news of God’s Kingdom." The footnote further adds: "Through the service director, the field service of those associated with the congregation, or class, was to be reported to the Society each week, starting in 1919."―jv chap. 15 p. 212 Development of the Organization Structure. (Bold added)

That explains how a secular corporation, namely, the Watchtower Society, came to be present within God's household; and how one man, or group of men―as it is now the case―lifted himself up within God's temple and wield authority and power over God's sheep, demanding their loyalty and obedience. Does that stumble you? (Matt. 13:20,21; 24:10-14) Does that mean that God no longer has a household? Should we be upset over the fact that Jehovah has allowed this to happen, and therefore separate ourselves from the congregation; perhaps seeking to worship Jehovah on our own? Many have done just that! Not surprisingly, Jehovah foretold that many of his sheep would be scattered and get lost, and stray "on all the mountains and every high hill." (Ezek. 34:4-10) Yet, we can find comfort in the knowledge that "Jehovah knows those who belong to him." (2 Tim. 2:19; 1 Cor. 8:3) That is why he has promised: "Here I am, I myself, and I will search for my sheep and care for them. . . The lost one I shall search for, and the dispersed one I shall bring back, and the broken one I shall bandage and the ailing one I shall strengthen." (Ezek. 34:11, 15,16)

Do you feel like a lost sheep? Do you feel like running away, not knowing where to? Perhaps you might want to consider it to be more advantages to remain where there are still brothers and sisters who have a zeal for God, although "not according to accurate knowledge"? (Rom. 10:2,3; 1 John 5:18-20) If you believe that your spiritual life is in danger in your congregation, keep in mind that Jehovah said that there exists another danger, that of a straying sheep becoming food for every wild beast of the field. (Ezek. 34:5) Jesus said that in the conclusion of the system of things, which is the harvest, he will "send forth his angels, and they will collect out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness, and they will pitch them into the fiery furnace. There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be." What will that mean for God's loyal sheep? Regarding any who will be left over after the cleansing, Jesus said: "At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let him that has ears listen." (Matt. 13:39-43; Dan. 11:35; 12:3, 10) The foremost among the wicked that will be removed from God's kingdom will be the Watchtower Society with its governing body. Can you patiently endure until that time, leaning heavily on Jehovah for support? The reward of everlasting life is worth any suffering at this time.

Yes, listen to what Jesus tells us! If we are his sheep, and we belong to Jehovah, then we are assured of his protection, for Jesus said: "My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life, and they will by no means ever be destroyed, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is something greater than all other things, and no one can snatch them out of the hand of the Father." (John 10:27-29; Rom. 8:35-39)

1/17/15  "Types" and "Antitypes"

Once upon a time, many years ago, it was believed by the formulators of our doctrines within the Societysuch as Joseph Rutherford and Fred Franzthat every incident, every experience, and every affair that took place among God's ancient people as recorded in the Scriptures, has a modern equivalence or "antitype" that finds its fulfillment among God's modern Witnesses. The Watchtower of September 15, 1950, defined a "type" and an "antitype" this way: "A type is an image or representation of something that will come to pass at some future time. The antitype is the reality of the thing which the type represents. The type may properly be called a shadow; the antitype, the reality."

Today, sixty-five years later, this idea of types and antitypes has been, for the most part, debunked and officially scrapped. The Watchtower of March 15, 2015 (pages 17-18), explains:

  Many years ago, our publications stated that such faithful men and women as Deborah, Elihu, Jephthah, Job, Rahab, and Rebekah, as well as many others, were really types, or shadows, of either the anointed or the "great crowd." (Rev. 7:9) For example, Jephthah, Job, and Rebekah were thought to represent the anointed, while Deborah and Rahab were said to foreshadow the great crowd. However, in recent years we have not drawn such comparisons. Why not? . . .
     "Some writers in the centuries after Christ's death fell into a trap―they saw types everywhere. Describing the teachings of Origen, Ambrose, and Jerome, The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia explains: 'They sought for types, and of course found them, in every incident and event, however trivial, recorded in Scripture. Even the most simple and commonplace circumstance was thought to conceal within itself the most recondite [hidden] truth ..., even in the number of fish caught by the disciples on the night the risen Saviour appeared to them―how much some have tried to make of that number, 153!'". . .
     "If such interpretations seem farfetched, you can understand the dilemma. Humans cannot know which Bible accounts are shadows of things to come and which are not. The clearest course is this: Where the Scriptures teach that an individual, an event, or an object is typical of something else, we accept it as such. Otherwise, we ought to be reluctant to assign an antitypical application to a certain person or account if there is no specific Scriptural basis for doing so. (Bold added)

This now adjusted view of "farfetched" interpretations of non-Scriptural types and antitypes presents a dilemma for the self-proclaimed "faithful and discreet slave," the Society's Governing Body; although they do not yet publicly acknowledge it. The fact is that many of their enduring doctrines are based on Joseph Rutherford's interpretation of such types and antitypes as mentioned in the above Watchtower article, but which have now been rendered obsolete. Take for example their doctrine on the "other sheep," who were once popularly referred to in Rutherford's day as "Jonadabs." These ones are still not considered to be in the new covenant. Why not? Because Rutherford believed that they were prefigured by Jehonadab (Jonadab), a non-Israelite; while king Jehu of Israel pictured Jesus and his anointed "Israel of God" who represent Jesus on earth. (w98 1/1 p. 13) This is what the book, Jehovah's Witnesses Proclaimers of God's Kingdom (printed in 1993) said regarding the Jonadabs:

In 1932 it was explained that Jehonadab (Jonadab), King Jehu’s associate, prefigured a class of persons who would enjoy everlasting life on earth. (2 Ki. 10:15-28) The Jonadabs, as they came to be known, counted it a privilege to be associated with Jehovah’s anointed servants and to have some share with them in advertising the Kingdom. But at that time, there was no special effort to gather and organize these individuals with an earthly hope.
     However, real encouragement was given to the Jonadabs in The Watchtower of August 15, 1934. The article “His Kindness” stated: “Should a Jonadab consecrate himself to the Lord and be baptized? Answer: Most assuredly it is proper for a Jonadab to consecrate himself to do the will of God. No one will ever get life without doing that. Water immersion is merely a symbol of having made a consecration [or, as we would now say, dedication] to do God’s will, and that would not be out of order.” The Jonadabs were thrilled!  

Under the Footnote, it further adds: "At that time the Jonadabs were not considered to be 'Jehovah's Witnesses.'" How "thrilled" they must have been upon becoming "Jehovah's Witnesses" with the publication of The Watchtower of July 1, 1942.―
Proclaimers, chap. 7 p. 83. 

Rutherford's now outdated interpretation of Jonadab having been a type has nothing to do with the identity of the "other sheep" of John 10:16; of whom Jesus spoke when he was addressing the crowd of non-believing Jews. (John 10:16, 25-28) The Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus was referring to the Gentiles who were about to be brought into the one fold under the one shepherd, starting with Cornelius, in fulfillment of the many prophecies. (Isa. 2:2; Acts 10:30-33, 44-48; 13:44-48; 15:13-18; Gal. 3:7-9; Eph. 2:11-16)

According to the July 15, 2013, Watchtower, the Governing Body claims to have received divine authority from Jesus to make whatever doctrinal changes and adjustments whenever they see fit; rendering a former "truth" obsolete with the stroke of a pen. (Matt. 15:6-9)  In fact, they like to point to these "new truths" as prove that they are "the faithful and discreet slave." In reality, these things help to identify them as the foretold "man of lawlessness," who is sitting in God's temple. The Governing Body's authority over God's people is not from Jehovah or Jesus, but, as Paul explains, "the lawless one's presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved. So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them, that the may get to believing the lie." (1 Cor. 3:16,17; 2 Thess. 2:3-12)

We are anxiously awaiting the day when the Lord Jesus will do away with the lawless one "by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence." (2 Thess. 2:8) "Here is where it means endurance for the holy ones, those who observe the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus," (Rev. 14:12)

1/10/15  "It is not mine to give" ― What did Jesus mean?

When the mother of the two apostles, James and John, requested of Jesus that her sons "may sit down, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom," Jesus said in answer: "This sitting down at my right hand and at my left is not mine to give, but it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." (Matt. 20:20-24; 4:21) How is it that Jesus could make a "covenant" for a kingdom with his disciples, as the Society's governing body interprets Jesus' words at Luke 22:29, and yet lack the authority to assign them their positions in his kingdom? (Compare 1 Cor. 12:18, 27-30) The fact is, the disciples do not receive the kingdom from Jesus but from his Father, as he had told them on an earlier occasion when he said: "Have no fear little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32) The "holy ones" receive the kingdom, not from Jesus but from God, just as Jesus himself receives it from his Father, the "Ancient of Days." Therefore Jesus calls it "the kingdom of my Father." (Dan. 7:9, 13,14, 18; Matt. 19:27,28; 26:29; Luke 22:18)

The Greek word diatithemi (διατίθεμαι), as used by Jesus according to Luke (22:29), means to give, bestow, or bequeath, as in a will (even as our English word bequeath, and its closely related word bequest, originally held the legal sense of "transfer by will"). The word is related to the Greek word diathēkē (διαθήκη) which is a "will" or a "testament" and also a "covenant," for in the Greek language there is the one word for all three English words. Regarding a will or testament, a death has to occur before that which has been bequeathed can be obtained legally. That is how a will (testament) or covenant works, as Paul eloquently explains in his letter to the Hebrews. (Heb. 9:15-17, 22)

Jehovah is the source and owner of the kingdom. It is his kingdom we pray for; and we preach "the good news of the kingdom of God." (Matt. 6:10; Luke 8:1; John 3:5; Acts 8:12) The kingdom is God's answer to his original promise made immediately after the rebellion in the Garden of Eden, at which time he foretold the seed and "chose" the prospective members of the kingdom, as Paul explains, "in union with [Christ] before the founding of the world." (Gen. 3:15; Eph. 1:3-7, 10,11) It is by means of this "administration," his kingdom, that God will "gather all things together in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth," and completely "break up the works of the Devil." (1 John 3:8; 1 Cor. 15:24-28)

The promise of the kingdom became a reality upon the death of Christ Jesus, being validated by "the blood of the Lamb," which Jesus called "the blood of the covenant"; the kingdom being the dominant feature of the new covenant, together with forgiveness of sins. (Rev. 7:14; Matt. 26:28; Heb. 10:15-18) Jesus could bequeath to his disciples the kingdom on that final night with them because his death provided the legal basis for them to receive the kingdom―no, not from him, but from his Father. (John 1:29; Rev. 5:9,10; 7:14; 14:1-5) Jesus did not have the authority to make a "covenant for a kingdom" with his disciples (as taught in the Watchtower), just as he did not have the authority to assign them their places in the kingdom, as he answered the mother of the two sons of Zebedee. That authority belongs to God alone! (Compare Acts 1:7 with Matt. 24:36) What Jesus did have was the authority to lay down his life and thereby provide the means of making the kingdom of God operative. As king of God's kingdom, Jesus also has the authority to return and receive his disciples home to himself, at God's appointed time, in order for them to sit on thrones and rule with him for the thousand years. This has been given him by God. (John 10:17,18; 14:2,3; 1 Thess. 4:16,17; 1 Peter 1:19-21; Rev. 2:26,27; 12:10; 20:6)

12/24/14  Does God Answer Your Prayers?

Why do many prayers seemingly go unanswered? One reason may be, as the Bible says, "When people do not listen to God’s teachings, he does not listen to their prayers." (Proverbs 28:9; ERV) Therefore, if we want God to listen to us, we must first listen to him. That is reasonable enough! But, perhaps you feel that you are listening to God, after all, you are conducting a family Bible study; you attend the meetings regularly, even preparing in advance; and you also spend much time talking to your neighbors about the good news of God's kingdom. You pray to God on a regular basis, and yet you are not receiving the things you are asking for. You may start to wonder if God is even hearing your prayers. (Lam. 3:44)

Rest assured that Jehovah does listen to the prayers of his servants, those who concern themselves with his teachings. King David expressed his joy in song over the many times that God had acted on his behalf in answer to his prayers. He sang: "Come, listen, all you who fear God, and I will relate what he has done for my soul. To him I called with my mouth, and there was an extolling with my tongue. If I have regarded anything hurtful in my heart, Jehovah will not hear me. Truly God has heard; He has paid attention to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not turned aside my prayer, nor his loving-kindness from me." (Psalms 66:16-20)

Jehovah listened to David's prayers because David listened to Jehovah, he concerned himself with God's teachings. That is why David said: "How I do love your law, all day long it is my concern." David looked to God for guidance on a daily basis in every undertaking of his. He goes on to say, "From your judicial decisions I have not turned aside, for you yourself have instructed me. How smooth to my palate your sayings have been, more so than honey to my mouth! Owing to your orders I behave with understanding. That is why I have hated every false path. Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway." (Psalms 119:97, 102-105)

If you have felt that your prayers have gone unanswered in the past, have you ever considered that perhaps Jehovah may have already provided the answer that you are looking for, and which might help your particular circumstance, in the Book that he has written for our benefit, to teach us? (Isa. 48:17,18) The Bible contains so much more than most people give it credit for. David referred to it is a lamp, and a light to guide us in our darkest hours. Money or good health is not necessarily the solution to all problems. Perhaps the answer to your prayers lies in something that you may not have considered as particularly useful; yet that may not be how God sees it. How would you know unless you are familiar with God's Word? Will Jehovah give us the answer when he has already provided it in his Word the Bible? Is it his fault when we are not familiar with what is contained within its pages? Jehovah did not burden us with a book that is so large that it would take a lifetime to read through it. No, it is compact enough for us to read from cover to cover in just 52 weeks by setting aside fifteen to twenty minutes each day. (Deut. 30:11-14)

 When Joshua was chosen by God to succeed Moses in leading his people into the promised land, God told him: "This book of the law should not depart from your mouth, and you must in an undertone read in it day and night, in order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely.” (Joshua 1:8,9) By reading God's Word on a regular basis, "day and night," we will come to know God intimately, his teachings and promises, and his amazing personality; because he gives us the helper, his holy spirit, to help us in making our way successful and act wisely. (1 Cor. 2:10-14) And after all, isn't that what our prayers are mostly about? "Happy is the man that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked ones, and in the way of sinners has not stood, and in the seat of ridiculers has not sat. But his delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night. And he will certainly become like a tree planted by streams of water, that gives its own fruit in its season and the foliage of which does not wither, and everything he does will succeed." (Psalm 1:1-3)

Like an archaeologist who keeps digging on the same site and constantly keeps unearthing new and interesting items, that is how it is when we read the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation many times over; there will always be new details and precious truths to discover and add to our treasure chest of knowledge, helping us to grow in wisdom. (Matt. 13:51,52) If reading the Bible on a regular basis is not yet a part of your daily routine, why not start now. You will find that the answer to many of your prayers are contained within its pages. By setting aside just fifteen minutes each day, which averages four pages, you will have read the entire Bible in one year.

12/11/14  "The Mystery of This Lawlessness is Already at Work"

According to Jesus' own words, it is not possible for anyone to calculate the time of his return. (Acts 1:7; Matt. 24:36, 42, 44; 25:13) But that has never prevented some from trying to do so anyways, even in the first century. There were those in the congregation in Thessalonica who believed that the "presence of our Lord Jesus Christ" was imminent. Paul found it necessary to address their false expectations by telling them that certain developments had to occur first. For example, he wrote that the "day of the Lord" will not come "unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction." And although, as Paul explained, "the mystery of this lawlessness is already at work," yet this "man of lawlessness" within God's temple would remain a mystery until the time of his being revealed; which at that time would be further evidence that Jesus' presence was imminent; "whom the Lord Jesus will [then] do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence." (2 Thess. 2:1-10) What did Paul mean when he said that "this lawlessness is already at work"; and in what sense did it remain a "mystery" until the time of his revealing?

We can glean much information regarding this matter from Paul's letter to the congregations in the Roman province of Galatia, where his preaching had yielded much success. (Acts 14:1-7, 19-23) His work among the Gentiles became known by the brothers in the Jerusalem congregation, which included the apostles and older men, and also those who belonged to "the sect of the Pharisees" who had become believers. (Acts 15:4,5; 23:6) Some from among these disciples in Jerusalem strongly felt that believers of the nations needed to become circumcised, and for that reason "certain men" of theirs went to see Paul in Antioch, after he had returned from Galatia. When there occurred no little disputing over the matter of circumcision, it was arranged for Paul to return with them "to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem." Luke's report of this incident, as recorded in Acts 15:1-32, does not mention some important details that Paul includes in his letter to the Galatians, on whose account the issue on circumcision arose. 

Who primarily wanted to impose circumcision on Gentile believers? Was it just some of the disciples who were of the sect of the Pharisees, as Luke relates; or did it also include some of the apostles and the older men who acknowledged to Paul that "some from among us have caused you trouble with speeches, trying to subvert your souls, although we did not give them any instructions." (Acts 15:24) Paul relates to the Galatians how on one occasion he found it necessary to rebuke the apostle Peter before everyone, when this one had come to visit him in Antioch. Peter had no qualms about associating and eating with the uncircumcised disciples; yet when certain men from James also arrived, he went separating himself from them because of his fear of "those of the circumcised class." Evidently James, the brother of Jesus, was of the "circumcised class." (Gal. 1:19) This was a very serious matter, for Paul says that Peter "stood condemned" for his pretense, for he was "not walking straight according to the truth of the good news." Peter had become a danger to the other disciples who were following his bad example, including Paul's companion Barnabas. (Gal. 2:11-14) Is it possible to become condemned by God simply for following the wrong course of someone who is no less than one of the most prominent of the apostles? For Peter to have become intimidated the way he did by the "men from James," they must have held very strict opinions on the matter of circumcision. And imagine how disappointed Paul must have been with Barnabas, his close traveling companion in his work among the Gentiles, when this one sided with Peter. Truly, the heart is treacherous, and we too might find ourselves unexpectedly, and unprepared, in a situation where we might be induced to compromise what we know to be the truth on account of fear and intimidation from fellow believers and follow their wrong course. (Jer. 17:9,10) There is a lot of information contained in Paul's letter to the congregations in Galatia which are not mentioned in Luke's account in Acts. Yes, the Galatians were in real danger of being misled by "false brothers." (Gal. 1:6,7; 2:4,5)

It is of interest to note that when the circumcision issue was debated in Jerusalem, the holy spirit directed Peter and James to take the lead in addressing the matter. Both of them had humbly accepted correction at Jehovah's hand, and they continued to faithfully shepherd God's inheritance, his sheep. (Acts 15:7, 13, 28,29; 1 Peter 5:1-4) 

When Paul says that "the mystery of this lawlessness is already at work," he was referring to the opposition that he had encountered at the hands of some of the "outstanding men" who seemed to be "pillars" within God's temple; and therefore the last place from where he would expect resistance to true worship. (1 Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:19-22) From the letters that Jesus wrote to the Seven Congregations in Asia Minor at the end of the first century, we can see that by then many prominent overseers within God's household had become "lawless," prompting Jesus to call them to repentance. (Acts 20:28-30; Rev. 2:2-5, 14-16, 20-23; 3:1-3, 15-17) Should we be surprised that the same situation was foretold to exist within God's household in our day, in view of what Paul writes regarding the revealing, at God's appointed time, of the "man of lawlessness" within God's temple? As was the situation with the congregations in Galatia, we too are facing the challenge today of taking a firm stand for true worship in the face of opposition from within.   

12/4/14  "One Body With Many Members" (1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Living Bible)

12 Our bodies have many parts, but the many parts make up only one body when they are all put together. So it is with the “body” of Christ. 13 Each of us is a part of the one body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But the Holy Spirit has fitted us all together into one body. We have been baptized into Christ’s body by the one Spirit, and have all been given that same Holy Spirit.

14 Yes, the body has many parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And what would you think if you heard an ear say, “I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye”? Would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 Suppose the whole body were an eye—then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything?

18 But that isn’t the way God has made us. He has made many parts for our bodies and has put each part just where he wants it. 19 What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! 20 So he has made many parts, but still there is only one body.

21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

22 And some of the parts that seem weakest and least important are really the most necessary. 23 Yes, we are especially glad to have some parts that seem rather odd! And we carefully protect from the eyes of others those parts that should not be seen, 24 while of course the parts that may be seen do not require this special care. So God has put the body together in such a way that extra honor and care are given to those parts that might otherwise seem less important. 25 This makes for happiness among the parts, so that the parts have the same care for each other that they do for themselves. 26 If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. (Compare Ephesians 2:19-22; 4:25)

11/19/14  "Do You Love Me More Than These?"

It was after his resurrection, when for the third time Jesus appeared to seven of his disciples, that he put the question to Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? (John 21:15) What was the intent of the question? Who or what did Jesus point at when he said "these"? Seeing that there were six other disciples present, including John, many feel that Jesus was pointing to these other disciples of his and he wanted to know whether Peter had greater love for him than the other six; and this is reflected in the way some Bible Versions translate Jesus' words. For example, the Easy-to-Read Version has Jesus asking: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these other men love me?” Similarly, the God's Word Translation has Jesus' asking more directly: "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than the other disciples do?" And the Expanded Bible adds their explanation in the main text, although in brackets, that “'these' probably refers to the other disciples (rather than the fishing gear), and could mean 'Do you love me more than you love your friends?' or 'Do you love me more than they love me?' The latter is more likely."

The added words such as "other men love me"; or "the other disciples do," or similar words in some of the other translations, are not found in the original text. If they were added for the purpose of clarifying Jesus' words, their place belongs not in the main text but in the margins, or footnote. A trustworthy translation will stick faithfully to the original text as preserved in the oldest available manuscripts. Since the Bible is the inspired word of God, we should allow that its Author may have had good reason for wording a particular scripture the way it was written; and the key in understanding it may exist in other scriptures, or in the setting, or the context in which it was presented. (2 Tim. 3:16) The making of unlawful additions and other changes to God's Word has not only contributed to the existence of the many conflicting religious beliefs, where truth no longer matters and everyone's opinions on a scriptural matter is viewed as equally valid, but it also makes a person accountable to God. (Eccl. 3:14; Matt. 11:25; John 4:23,24; Rev. 22:18,19)

With that in mind, let us consider the setting and context of Jesus' words to Peter: "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" (John 21:1-8)

On several occasions Jesus had found it necessary to counsel his disciples on humility, for they were often arguing among themselves as to who was the greatest among them. (Mark 9:33-35; Luke 22:24-27; Matt. 18:1-3) In view of that, is it logical to reason that Jesus was asking Peter, in front of six of his other disciples―including John, who was present on the occasion and known as the disciple whom Jesus loved―whether Peter loved Jesus more than all the other disciples did? Would that not have fueled a rivalry among them, the very opposite of what Jesus had told them on previous occasions? (John 13:23,24; 20:2; 21:20-24) What parent would ask their child, in the presence of all their other children, whether that child loved the parent more than the others, while even pointing at the others? A good parent would not do that, not even if all their other children had been adopted. Look at what happened in the case of Joseph who was shown special favor by his father Jacob [Israel], and how that affected the attitude of his brothers towards him. (Gen. 37:3,4, 18-28)

Peter and his brother Andrew were fishermen, in the process of casting their net into the sea, when Jesus came walking by and called them to be his disciples, telling them that he would make them "fishers of men." (Matt. 4:18-20) Peter and Andrew were chosen to be among the twelve apostles, and as such they accompanied Jesus wherever he went; being taught by Jesus to continue to do the work the Father had given him to do, after he would be taken from them and return to the Father. That work included the continuing feeding of God's sheep as Jesus himself had done. (Matt. 10:2-4; 24:45-47; 28:16-20; 1 Peter 5:1-4) After Jesus' death and resurrection, the eleven faithful apostles seemed at a loss as to what to do next. According to John's account, Simon Peter, along with six othersincluding Thomas, Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew), and James and John―returned to Galilee where they were fishing in the "Sea of Tiberias" (another name for the Sea of Galilee) when Jesus appeared to them, although they did not recognize him immediately. Interestingly, it was Peter who decided to go fishing while the others agreed to go with him. But although the fished all night, they caught nothing. It was when Jesus told them where to cast their net, and they caught a great many big fish, 153 to be exact, that they recognized that it was Jesus.

It was while they were all sitting together, eating bread along with the fish, that the conversation between Jesus and Peter went like this: "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.'" (John 21:15-17; ESV)

When Jesus asked Peter, "do you love me more than these," Jesus was undoubtedly pointing at the stack of 153 big fish that Peter had just now dragged to shore; which at the same time might have reminding Peter that Jesus had told him three years earlier that he was going to make him a fisher of men. What was Peter doing back in Galilee anyways? Perhaps Jesus had not yet instructed his disciples not to withdraw from Jerusalem, but to "keep waiting for what the Father has promised." (Acts 1:4) Peter was facing the choice of returning to his fishing business, or to continue in the course he set out when Jesus had invited him to follow him. Peter undoubtedly had been terribly discouraged by the fact that he had denied Jesus three times on the night that he was arrested, and might at this point have felt unworthy. (Luke 22:54-62) But here now, Jesus was inviting him to feed and care for his sheep. This was in harmony with Jesus' earlier words to him, when Jesus had told him, "and, you, when once you have returned, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:32) The Scriptures show that Peter loved Jesus more than all the fish in the world, and he proved outstandingly faithful in feeding the sheep for whom Jesus had died.

11/3/14  A Tactful Explanation to an Elder Regarding 1914

This is a letter I received from a brother who explains to an elder in his congregation why he cannot accept a part on the meeting program. I let him tell the story:

Your spiritual knowledge and input are invaluable to me, in fact I was able to use your information on a previous topic with an elder. A few weeks ago I was asked by an elder to do the demo on the 1914 presentation in the WT (you may remember). Of course I could not be a part of that nonsense but I offered a discreet (I hope) explanation via email as follows:

[Dear Brother,]
I appreciate you asking me to consider the presentation on "When did God's Kingdom Begin Ruling?". I have read the article and given it serious consideration, as stated in the concluding comments: "I guess I'm wondering, though, why this is so complicated. Why didn't God just tell us in the Bible that 1914 would be the year that Jesus would begin ruling in heaven?" (WT Nov 1, 2014, page 10)

I agree with our fictional character Jon, the arrival at the date of 1914 is a complicated issue, and one I could never reason on within 7 minutes. To me personally the date of 1914 has no real bearing on my faith in Jehovah and his word, and when it comes to the complexity in calculating dates I find reassurance in Jesus words found at Act 1:6-8: "So when they had assembled, they asked him: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” He said to them: “It does not belong to you to know the times or seasons that the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction. But you will receive power when the holy spirit comes upon you, and you will be witnesses of me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the most distant part of the earth.”"

It's of interest to consider these verses as rendered in The Message Bible: "When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?” He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”"

This may seem a confusing statement when considering Luke 21:29-33: "With that he told them an illustration: 'Notice the fig tree and all the other trees. When they are budding, you see it for yourselves and know that now the summer is near. Likewise also you, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you that this generation (Ps 95:10,11) will by no means pass away until all things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.'"

What are we to determine from the words of Jesus on this matter regarding Jehovah's timetable? Isn't it interesting that Jehovah has kept certain things hidden from us, even from his Son, especially matters regarding his timetable. For example Jesus said regarding the end: "Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father." And he said this after he had given his disciples the signs regarding his impending presence. (Matt. 24:26) If Jesus himself did not know the "day and the hour," how could he have given the many signs regarding his future presence? Undoubtedly he received that information from his Father the true keeper of times and seasons for his own jurisdiction, Jesus received the sign not the time. (John 7:16)

Jehovah would know the developments that would occur as the times and seasons progressed. After all, he was able to foretell the march of world powers, even their characteristics, which he revealed to the prophet Daniel, but he did not tell him the details about when this would happen. And although Daniel was told about the "appointed time, appointed times and a half," it was only a detail that could only be understood at the time of its fulfillment. In other words, Daniel would not be able to calculate when this time period would apply. (Dan 12:4-9)

Peter tells us that even the angels are desiring to peer into these very things regarding God's times and seasons but we know this is not permitted due to the fact this is solely Jehovah's jurisdiction. (1 Peter 1:10-12) Satan has a very keen interest in Jehovah's timetable, you can just imagine the effort he puts forth in trying to thwart God's purpose at every turn, imagine what he would propose to do with any knowledge of our Father's timetable of events. Of course Satan can never subvert Jehovah's purpose, he couldn't prevent the birth of Jesus but this did not stop him from trying to do away with him after he was born, such is his evil nature. Jehovah is keeping things hidden from Satan the ruler of this world for good reason, no doubt Satan would love to have inside information on Jehovah's timetable but Satan has no right to "know the times or seasons that the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction." But Jehovah has not left us in the dark as we are servants of light not darkness. (2Co 4:6)

Jehovah through his son has given us a sign to look for, and when we see these things being fulfilled we know that he is "near at the doors," and that "God's kingdom is near". Therefore, those who are keeping awake will not be caught by surprise. (Matt. 24:32,33, 42, 44; Luke 21:29-31, 36; 1 Thess. 5:4,5) The other outstanding sign is Holy Spirit which would enable the Good News of the Kingdom to be preached "to the ends of the world". (Acts 1:8; Matt 24:14) The evidence is clear Jehovah has chosen a people for his name which is accomplishing this work now! This demonstrates the outpouring of Holy Spirit on his Administration to gather together all things, the things in the heaven and on the earth, signalling the promised Kingdom is near. (Isa 43:10; Eph 1:8-10; Luke 21:31) Isn't it marvellous to see prophecy being fulfilled before our very eyes? "The little one will become a thousand And the small one a mighty nation. I myself, Jehovah, will speed it up in its own time.” (Isaiah 60:22)

When I ponder on my Father's words it highlights the point that as his worshipers we need not be focused on the complexity of dates but to be focused on the sign that would indicate a generation unlike any other in Human History. As I focus on this I have no doubt at all we are living in the the last days foretold by our Lord under the inspiration of our father Jehovah. My overwhelming feeling is contained in the words found at Luke 21:28: "But as these things start to occur, stand up straight and lift up your heads, because your deliverance is getting near.”

Personally I'm trying to cultivate a faith similar to that of Abraham: "By faith Abraham heard God’s call to travel to a place he would one day receive as an inheritance; and he obeyed, not knowing where God’s call would take him. By faith he journeyed to the land of the promise as a foreigner; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, his fellow heirs to the promise because Abraham looked ahead to a city with foundations, a city laid out and built by God." (Hebrews 11:8-10; The Voice Bible) Abraham loved and worshipped Jehovah merely based on a promise, a promise he knew he would never personal see in his life time, but his faith enabled him to serve Jehovah all his life with integrity, awaiting the Kingdom that would be established well after his death. May my faith be that strong in the days to come, knowing Jehovah cannot lie and will deliver people of righteousness no matter what his timetable. (Ti 1:1-3; 2Pet 2:9)

Sorry, that was the long answer but I thought I owed you a full explanation; the short answer is thank you very much for considering me capable of the demonstration but it is beyond me to explain the complexity of a particular date in a limited time frame.

Your brother and fellow servant . . .   (End of letter.)

10/28/14  "You are the Salt of the Earth"

What did Jesus mean when he told his disciples: "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its strength, how will its saltness be restored? It is no longer usable for anything but to be thrown outside to be trampled on by men"? (Matt. 5:13; NWT)

Salt has been highly valued for thousands of years as a food preservative, especially for meat, and for that reason many believe that Jesus was telling his disciples that they serve as a preserving factor for the world. That idea is reflected in the way some translations render Jesus' words, such as the Good News Translation, which reads: “You are like salt for the whole human race." Similarly, the Names of God Bible quotes Jesus as saying: “You are salt for the earth." Other Bible Translations emphasize the seasoning quality of salt, and thus interpret Jesus' words as follows: "You are the world’s seasoning, to make it tolerable" (TLB); and the Voice Bible reads: "You, beloved, are the salt of the earth," and explains that "salt draws out the good flavors subtly hidden in food and preserves what would otherwise spoil, as do those who claim to be children of God." Similarly, the Message Bible reads Jesus as saying: “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage."

Was Jesus saying that we, as his disciples, have a preserving effect on this world of mankind; or that we bring out the "God-flavors of this earth"? Mark includes a conversation that Jesus had with his disciples, but which is missing in Matthew's account, that helps us understand what it means for us to be "the salt of the earth." After Jesus arrived in Capernaum with his disciples, he put the question to them: "What were you arguing over on the road?" The account says that "they kept silent, for on the road they had argued among themselves who is greater." (Mark 9:33,34) Jesus then illustrated to them the importance for humility; and to guard against, not only of becoming a stumbling block to others, but also not to allow anything to stumble us, even if it means figuratively cutting off a hand or a foot or an eye. Therefore he told them: "For everyone must be salted with fire. Salt is fine; but if ever the salt loses its strength, with what will you season it itself? Have salt in yourselves, and keep peace between one another.” (Mark 9:49-50)

Salt is recognized in the Bible as an essential part of man's diet and a seasoning for food; and under the Mosaic Law Jehovah commanded that anything offered on the altar to him had to be salted, as Insight on the Scriptures notes, "not because of flavor, but doubtless because salt represented freedom from corruption or decay. Large quantities of salt evidently were stored on the temple grounds for this purpose." (it-2 p. 842 Salt; bold added) Jehovah commanded the priests "not to allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be missing upon your grain offerings. Along with every offering of yours you will present salt." (Lev. 2:13) Salt was added as an ingredient to the incense, which was "salted, pure, something holy." (Exodus 30:35) Ezekiel saw in vision the restoration of true worship, when the Levitical priests were commanded, "‘On your making an end of the purifying from sin you will bring near a young bull, the son of the herd, a sound one, and a ram from the flock, a sound one. And you must bring them near before Jehovah, and the priests must throw salt upon them and offer them up as a whole burnt offering to Jehovah.'" (Ezek. 43:23,24) As we can see, salt symbolized purity which made an offering to God holy and acceptable. 

Jesus told his disciples that they are the "salt of the earth" because they are the ones among mankind who are acceptable to God; and as Paul says, "to God we are a sweet odor of Christ," because we have been reconciled to God on account of our faith in Christ; and, having our sins forgiven, we are clean and free from corruption and its consequence. (2 Cor. 2:15; Acts 22:16; Rom. 5:6-11; Heb. 9:13,14; 1 John 2:1-6) We must always treasure our precious relationship with God, and continually act accordingly, that is, have salt in ourselves. That is why Peter wrote: "In accord with the Holy one who called you, do you also become holy in all your conduct, because it is written: 'You must be holy, because I am holy.'" (1 Peter 1:15,16) Being holy in all our conduct includes having intense love for one another. (1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:20,21)

As God's sons and daughters, we are disciplined and refined as though by fire, or, as Jesus said, "salted by fire." (Mark 9:49; 2 Cor. 6:17,18; Mal. 3:17,18) Therefore Jehovah says: "Look! I have refined you, but not in the form of silver. I have made choice of you in the smelting furnace of affliction." (Isa. 48:10) Jehovah refines us through suffering which results in the removal, or smelting away, of our bad habits and inclinations; and, when endured, leaves behind the good qualities that he highly values in us. Our suffering helps us to put on the "new personality" which more closely resembles that of Himself and of his Son. (Col. 3:5-14; 4:6; Isa. 12:1; Mic. 7:9) As the Psalmist expressed himself: "Before I was under affliction I was sinning by mistake. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, in order that I may learn your regulations." (Psalms 119:67, 71) This refining of us proves God's love for us, for it makes us pure, like salt. (compare Heb. 12:7-13)

How can a person lose his "saltness," that is, his purity, his righteous and blameless standing with Jehovah, as Jesus warned us about? This would happen where a person stubbornly and deliberately sins after having come to an accurate knowledge of the truth, as Paul explains. It would be impossible to revive such a person again, like salt that has lost its saltness. (Heb. 6:4-6; 2 Peter 2:21)

(10/28/14 - 5/22/15)

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