Thursday, December 31, 2009
Probably one of the most noteworthy examples (which received alot of publicity at the time, and rumors & accusations are still in circulation today), is the marriage of Charles Taze Russell (the first president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) and his wife Maria. Brother Russell dealt with alot of negative press and slander by his opposers, regarding his reputation, as well as alot of grief from his own wife, Maria. Yet throughout their relationship, he continued to apply Bible principles to try and make the marriage work despite all the trouble and heartache she gave him. She wasn't just his wife, but in the early years she was also his writing partner and confidant, so he suffered a double blow from her when she turned against him. You can see the evidence of that from a love letter he wrote to her (at the bottom of the post)
(photo of Charles and Maria Russell, the following info & photo is on pgs 645-646 of the JW Proclaimers book)
In 1879, Charles Taze Russell married Maria Frances Ackley. They had a good relationship for 13 years. Then flattery of Maria and appeals to pride on her part by others began to undermine that relationship; but when their objective became clear, she seemed to regain her balance. After a former associate had spread falsehoods about Brother Russell, she even asked her husband’s permission to visit a number of congregations to answer the charges, since it had been alleged that he mistreated her. However, the fine reception she was given on that trip in 1894 evidently contributed to a gradual change in her opinion of herself. She sought to secure for herself a stronger voice in directing what would appear in the Watch Tower. When she realized that nothing that she wrote would be published unless her husband, the editor of the magazine, agreed with its contents (on the basis of its consistency with the Scriptures), she became greatly disturbed. He put forth earnest effort to help her, but in November 1897 she left him.
Nevertheless, he provided her with a place to live and means of maintenance. Years later, after court proceedings that had been initiated by her in 1903, she was awarded, in 1908, a judgment, not of absolute divorce, but of divorce from bed and board, with alimony.
Having failed to force her husband to acquiesce to her demands, she put forth great effort after she left him to bring his name into disrepute. In 1903 she published a tract filled, not with Scriptural truths, but with gross misrepresentations of Brother Russell. She sought to enlist ministers of various denominations to distribute them where the Bible Students were holding special meetings. To their credit not many at that time were willing to be used in that way. However, other clergymen since then have shown a different spirit.
Earlier, Maria Russell had condemned, verbally and in writing, those who charged Brother Russell with the sort of misconduct that she herself now alleged. Using certain unsubstantiated statements made during court proceedings in 1906 (and which statements were struck from the record by order of the court), some religious opposers of Brother Russell have published charges designed to make it appear that he was an immoral man and hence unfit to be a minister of God. However, the court record is clear that such charges are false. Her own lawyer asked Mrs. Russell whether she believed her husband was guilty of adultery. She answered: “No.” It is also noteworthy that when a committee of Christian elders listened to Mrs. Russell’s charges against her husband in 1897, she made no mention of the things that she later stated in court in order to persuade the jury that a divorce should be granted, though these alleged incidents occurred prior to that meeting.
Nine years after Mrs. Russell first brought the case to court, Judge James Macfarlane wrote a letter of reply to a man who was seeking a copy of the court record so that one of his associates could expose Russell. The judge frankly told him that what he wanted would be a waste of time and money. His letter stated: “The ground for her application and of the decree entered upon the verdict of the jury was ‘indignities’ and not adultery and the testimony, as I understand, does not show that Russell was living ‘an adulterous life with a co-respondent.’ In fact there was no co-respondent.”
Maria Russell’s own belated acknowledgment came at the time of Brother Russell’s funeral at Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh in 1916. Wearing a veil, she walked down the aisle to the casket and laid there a bunch of lilies of the valley (Br Russell's favorite flower). Attached to them was a ribbon bearing the words,
“To My Beloved Husband.”
(photo on pg 64 of JW Proclaimers)
*Isn't that sad? That it was only after his death that she came to her senses and acknowledged how she truly felt about him? Here's a love letter he wrote to her which really shows how much he cared about her (not just romantically ... but for her spirituality)
(from pgs 68 & 69 of the 1975 Yearbook):
One can but imagine the heartache and emotional strain C. T. Russell’s domestic trials brought upon him. In an undated handwritten letter to Mrs. Russell at one point in their marital difficulties, he wrote:
“By the time this reaches you it will be just one week since you deserted the one whom before God and man you promised to love and obey and serve, ‘for better or for worse, until death do you part.’ Surely it is true that ‘experience is a wonderful teacher.’ Only it could have persuaded me thus of you, of whom I can truly say that at one time there could not have been a more loving and devoted helpmate. Had you been other than that I am confident that the Lord would not have given you to me. He doeth all things well. I still thank him for his providence toward me in that respect, and look back with sensations of pleasure to the time when you kissed me at least thirty times a day, and repeatedly told me that you did not see how you could live without me; and that you feared that I would die first . . . And I reflect that some of these evidences of love were given me only a year and a half ago, though for a year previous your love had been less fervent—because of jealousy and surmisings, notwithstanding my assurances of the ardor of my love for you, repeated a hundred times, and still asseverated.” ...
“I have prayed earnestly to the Lord on your behalf, . . . I will not burden you with accounts of my sorrow, nor attempt to work upon your sympathies by delineating my emotions, as I from time to time run across your dresses and other articles which bring vividly before my mind your former self—so full of love and sympathy and helpfulness—the spirit of Christ. My heart cries out, ‘Oh that I had buried her, or that she had buried me, in that happy time.’ But evidently the trials and testings were not sufficiently advanced . . . Oh, do consider prayerfully what I am about to say. And be assured that the keen edge of my sorrow, its poignancy, is not my own loneliness for the remainder of life’s journey, but your fall, my dear, your everlasting loss, so far as I can see.”
*The following excerpt on pg 67-68 of the 1975 Yearbook (just prior to the love letter) shows how frivilous some of the claims she made against him were. Listen to this:
At Dublin, during a 1911 tour of Ireland, he was asked: “Is it true that you are divorced from your wife?” Of his answer, Russell wrote: “‘I am not divorced from my wife. The decree of the court was not divorce, but separation, granted by a sympathetic jury, which declared that we would both be happier separated. My wife’s charge was cruelty, but the only cruelty put in evidence was my refusal on one occasion to give her a kiss when she had requested it.’ I assured my audience that I disputed the charge of cruelty and believed that no woman was ever better treated by a husband. The applause showed that the audience believed my statements.”
"Be wrathful, and yet do not sin; let the sun not set with you in a provoked state." (Ephesians 4:26)
When applied, these words can help us to solve or to avoid marital discord. But what if you entered into a marriage arrangement unwisely? You may now find yourself in a relationship that may not seem as romantic as others enjoy. Still, your remembering the Creator’s view of the marriage bond will help you. Under inspiration, Paul counseled Christians: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4) It certainly is possible for Christians to find joy in marriage. To do so takes effort and the displaying of Christian qualities, one of which is being yielding. Today, in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the globe, there are countless married couples who prove that it can be done.
(Watchtower issue: 03/15/08, 2:16-18)
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
"Woe to those who are saying that good is bad and bad is good, those who are putting darkness for light and light for darkness, those who are putting bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20)
A tactic of Satan is to undermine people’s natural sense of what is good or bad. A mentality similar to that found in Sodom and Gomorrah has come to control much of the entertainment industry. Even news reports on television and in periodicals highlight violence and pander to a lurid interest in sex. Much of what appears as entertainment in the media blurs people’s ability “to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) Recall, however, Jehovah’s words through the prophet Isaiah as found in today’s text: “Woe to those who are saying that good is bad and bad is good!” Has Satan insidiously affected your thinking with such unwholesome entertainment? Self-examination is essential.—2 Corinthians 13:5.
(Watchtower issue: 10/1/07, 3:10)
*I uploaded the Symposium part from the District Convention, "Watch Out For Satan's Traps" ...(pt 2 'The Pit) is especially appropriate in relation to today's text discussion.
The Fire (Uncontrolled speech)
The Pit (Adultery / Immorality)
The Snare (Peer Pressure)
The Trap that Chokes (Materialism)
The Trap that Crushes (Inordinate Guilt)
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
(the following experience is on pgs 20-23, of the 11/22/94 Awake!)
(childhood photo of Larry Rubin)
No Longer a Rock or an Island
A line from a song of the ’60’s went: ‘I am a rock/I am an island/And the rock feels no pain/And an island never cries.’ This song was a favorite of mine because it was how I lived. I could never remember feeling things others said they felt, such as love, compassion, and pity. I would fake such feelings and believed others did also. I could not remember ever crying as an adult. And here I was—50 years old and serving as an elder in a Christian congregation, alone in my home, choking on sobs because of a book that I was reading. How could this be happening to this “rock,” this “island”?
I was born in 1936 in a suburb of Boston, the fourth of eight children. My father and mother were alcoholics. We did not discuss feelings, hug, or express love in any way that I can remember. When I was six months old, someone put me in the bathtub, put in the stopper, turned the water on, and left. The housekeeper found me and saved my life. The only things I felt as a child were fear, dread, rage, and physical pain.
These were taught me by my father who would explode with rage and almost without exception express it on my little body with his fists and feet. The look on his face at those times still haunts me a half century later. Most of my life I believed these beatings were because I was such a bad boy, but now I know his rage expressed against me had nothing to do with my being good or bad.
In my fifth and sixth years, I was sexually abused by the family doctor. When I started school, we lived in a city of 250,000 WASPs (white Anglo-Saxon Protestants), and my schoolmates tormented and chased me, the little Jewish boy. When these gangs of 10 or 12 kids could catch me, they would strip off my clothes, beat me, and throw my clothes up into the tops of trees. I had to climb the trees in the nude to retrieve my clothes.
One month shy of my 18th birthday, I joined the military to get away from home. Till then I had never tasted alcohol, but almost immediately I started drinking and was addicted just as immediately. I stayed 20 years in the military and was drunk whenever I could beg, borrow, or steal the price of a beer. I was married at 24 and had a son, but my wife and son lived in a house dominated and controlled by an alcoholic—me—who viewed them both as a burden and an unnecessary expense.
I retired from the military in 1974 and tried business for a short time, but I soon quit that. I was no longer drinking, since my body would not take any more alcohol. I would break out in hives after only one or two beers. Now I was addicted to drugs—mostly marijuana, but others when available. This made it impossible for me to hold a job, so I stayed home and kept house while my wife, Donna, worked.
Jehovah’s Witnesses Come Calling
One morning my wife was leaving for work. It was 7:30, and I was already stoned. This made her angry. On her way out the front door she threw a sign at me and screamed: “I hope they pester you to death.” The sign was one that she had always kept in the window and that read, in large letters, “NO JW’S.” I put it in the trash. The next morning two women came to my door.
They were Jehovah’s Witnesses. By this time I had adopted Buddhism as my religion. I had long ago rejected the Bible because of the hypocrisy of my Jewish and Catholic parents. I had searched for God for a time but had given up looking, assuming there was no God. I believed in evolution and felt I had proved there was no God by standing out in the open during the monsoon lightning season and looking up and calling God every foul name I could think of and saying: “If you exist, strike me dead.” If I were God, I would have done so. Since he didn’t, I concluded that there must be no God. I thought the world was doomed because of man’s inability to stop destroying it, and I was hoping I could watch it all happen on TV while staying stoned.
As it so happened, that next morning the two women came. I was stoned and looking for amusement. We had a meaningless conversation for about 20 minutes, ending with their offer of a little blue book for 25 cents. I figured 20 minutes of amusement was worth 25 cents and so took the book and tossed it on the table without interest.
The next morning I was looking for something to read so that I could put off smoking dope for a while. I saw the little blue book and picked it up, hoping it could entertain me for an hour or so. Four hours later I had finished the book and was totally convinced that it was what its title said: The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. I had drugs in the house and knew that as soon as I put the book down I would get loaded and discount everything I had read. The last page offered a Bible for just one dollar, so I put a dollar in an envelope and mailed it off, saying to God—I had never prayed in my life—“God, that’s all I can do, you will have to do the rest.” I mailed it, got stoned, and discounted everything that had just moved me so deeply.
The Bible came in the mail, but I just put it aside. Soon thereafter, two Witnesses came and offered to study the Bible with me, and I agreed. The studies were enjoyable but not progressive because I mostly tried to impress them with my knowledge of philosophy. Additionally, I would use drugs as soon as they left, and this would cancel any progress I had made that day.
Finally, after a year, one of the Witnesses, Jim, came and asked me to read Ezekiel 33:9. I did so, reading: “As regards you, in case you actually warn someone wicked from his way for him to turn back from it but he actually does not turn back from his way, he himself will die in his own error, whereas you yourself will certainly deliver your own soul.” He then asked me what I thought it meant. I answered: “It means you aren’t coming back and I am going to die.” He said, “That’s right,” and he left.
The Witness Returns
I am glad to say I discovered I still had a conscience—I had believed I had long before killed mine. Since I did feel some longing for the future I had seen in the Bible, I decided to try to get off drugs. For weeks I tried unsuccessfully by myself. One evening my wife suggested I call “that friend,” referring to the Witness, Jim. I told her he had said he would not be back, and I did not know his telephone number. I felt utterly hopeless.
The very next day, we found a Watchtower stuck in our front door with Jim’s telephone number written on it. His wife had left it for “no particular reason.” I called him and confessed my alcohol and drug problem and asked if he could help me. He told me that if I kept off drugs, he would come and study with me every day.
This started a period of intense study that consumed all my days and nights. Not only did he study with me daily but he supplied me with Bible study books and Watchtower articles. I slept only four hours a night—a common problem for alcoholics—and all the rest of my time was devoted to Bible study. With the drugs gone, all I had learned for the past year, plus all I was learning by studying from 18 to 20 hours each day, was sounded down at once.
Additionally, I started attending all the Witnesses’ meetings. Within just a few weeks, I had progressed to the point of the first real prayer of my life, which was also my dedication prayer. I started going from door to door and preaching to everyone I knew. Seven studies were started, and five of these progressed to baptism, including my wife and son. I was baptized at a circuit assembly on May 23, 1976, just three months after I made the call to “that friend.” I started pioneering (preaching full-time) and continued for 13 years.
This brings me back to where I started this story—50 years old, sitting at home alone, and crying over a book. Self-help books were very popular during the ’80’s, and I read one of them. Frankly, the self-help part did not help me. I did not feel inclined to follow the worldly thinking it offered. But the book did make me see for the first time how the scarred years of my childhood and the starved emotional needs for love had left me emotionally crippled. The tears that came were both tears of joy because I could now understand why I was always so lacking in the ability to feel emotionally, and also tears of grief over the huge loss I had suffered for 50 years as an emotional human being unable to respond emotionally. It explained the many bouts of depression I had suffered throughout my life.
Gradually, emotional feelings came over me when I read in the Bible of Jehovah and his love, even for me, which I had never felt personally before. Love for my wife and my son, for my brothers and sisters in the congregations of God, and also for persons I preach the good news of God’s Kingdom to, that they too may have the opportunity to live forever in Jehovah’s promised new world of righteousness here on earth.
(Larry and his wife Donna)
Created to Love and to Be Loved
We were created to love and to be loved. When a child is born, it needs this love, and it needs to be accepted. When a child does not receive love and acceptance from his parents, he feels unlovable and has no feelings of self-worth. When I was very small, I craved to be picked up, held, petted. I can remember even now that when visitors came in the house, they would look at me in my playpen, and I would hope that they were going to pick me up. They never did, and I would start crying because no one ever picked me up.
Such childhood scars had left me crippled in my husbandly role and as a family head and had left me unable to believe that Jehovah, the heavenly Father, could love me. The truth about Jehovah gradually changed me, moved my concept of him from my head to my heart, and now I know Jehovah loves me unreservedly. I also know that there is no way we can earn that love. It is an undeserved kindness from Jehovah God, the God of love.
The bottom line of all this is that because of Jehovah’s blessings, my wife and I now have a good life. We are currently serving where the need for Kingdom preachers is greater, with a small loving congregation in a picturesque little town in the mountains of Arizona. I serve as the congregation’s presiding overseer, conduct a congregation book study, and it is also my great joy to conduct the Theocratic Ministry School. I have a small window-washing business that supplements my pension so that we have all we need materially and enough time for our ministry and the rest of our service to our loving heavenly Father.
Looking back to where I was that morning my wife threw that “NO JW’S” sign at me, I am filled with gratitude to my heavenly Father for what he has done for me. From an addict unable to hold a job and with only the hope of seeing everyone else killed with me, I am now a member of Jehovah’s visible organization on earth and committed to making known to as many as possible the good news of God’s Kingdom, the only hope for the world. Jehovah has also filled my life with people who give me what I have always wanted: love, trust, and acceptance.
And I am no longer trying to be a “rock” that feels no pain or an “island” that never cries.—As told by Larry Rubin.
Tuesday, December 29th, 2009
"If errors were what you watch, O Jah, O Jehovah, who could stand? For there is the true forgiveness with you." (Psalm 130:3, 4)
The extent of Jehovah’s forgiveness is illustrated in the case of King Manasseh of Judah. He did what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes. Manasseh set up altars to Baal, worshipped “all the army of the heavens,” and even built altars to false gods in two temple courtyards. He made his sons pass through the fire and encouraged spiritistic practices. Later, while in captivity, Manasseh repented and humbly kept praying to God, who forgave him and restored him to the kingship in Jerusalem, where he promoted true worship. (2 Chronicles 33:2-17) Centuries later, the apostle Peter sinned grievously by denying Jesus. (Mark 14:30, 66-72) However, Jehovah forgave Peter because he was genuinely repentant. (Luke 22:62; Acts 2:14-36) Is there any reason to believe that God would be less forgiving toward truly repentant Christians today?
(Watchtower issue: 07/15/07, 1:14, 15)
*a brother gave a funny talk about Manasseh once, saying how when he was a little kid and he learned how bad Manasseh was and that Jehovah forgave him later in life after he was captured and put into prison, he used to say to his parents: "I think Manasseh tricked Jehovah" lol (because Manasseh was so bad that it's hard to imagine a man like him truly being repentant).
But that account just goes to show the depth of Jehovah's understanding and ability to "examine the heart" (Psalm 17:3) because Manasseh didn't just repent on a surface level while he was suffering in prison ... but rather he showed by his later actions that he was genuinely repentant....because after he was finally freed, he restored pure worship and did what he could to 'right the wrongs' he had commited. The Scriptural account also shows that he remained loyal to Jehovah afterward, for the rest of his life. Which stands in contrast with some of the other kings of Israel who were more wishy-washy in their loyalty to Jehovah's laws. Even King Ahab (who also did what was bad on a large scale in Israel), would occasionally repent for a little while when things went wrong, but his overall life-course demonstrates that he wasn't sincere in the long-run, because he would go right back to doing what was bad again.
So that's a good reminder for us today not to ever presume we know a person's true motives or heart condition, or attempt to pass judgement on them based on what we personally think about their attitude or actions. Jehovah has a perfect sense of justice and even if wrong acts go unnoticed or unpunished for awhile, he always requires accountability for the consequences of a persons actions, even when he forgives them. Which shows that God doesn't forgive people simply from a sentimental standpoint.
Monday, December 28, 2009
"He stood up to read." (Luke 4:16)
Scriptural teaching and earnest effort are very effective. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Consider the case of Saulo in Guatemala. He was born with a slight mental disability. One of his teachers told his mother that she should not force the boy to learn to read, so Saulo left school without learning how. However, a Witness taught Saulo to read, using the brochure Apply Yourself to Reading and Writing. Eventually, Saulo advanced to the point of giving talks in the Theocratic Ministry School. Saulo’s mother later met his teacher in the house-to-house ministry. Upon hearing that Saulo had learned to read, the teacher asked her to bring him along the following week. At that time, the teacher asked Saulo, “What are you going to teach me?” Saulo started to read a paragraph from the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? “I cannot believe that you are now teaching me,” said the teacher. Unable to hold back her tears, she embraced Saulo.
(Watchtower issue: 02/15/08, 4:9, 10)
*literacy classes are another area which demonstrates the type of genuine love and patience a teacher should have for their student. Many people who were formerly illiterate have been helped to overcome their lack of education (even at an advanced age in life) as well as become proficient enough to read the Bible and begin teaching it to others. Demonstrating that advanced education is not the key to disciple-making... love is.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
A long time ago I had quite a fancy for vampire shows & movies, and things that had elements of spiritism. (It was during a time period when I was slacking off spiritually and not reading my Bible regularly, and missing meetings, etc.) And for awhile it didn't really register in my mind that I shouldn't be watching that kind of stuff. Because hello? ... spiritism, demons and blood drinking. Pretty much the antithesis of Christianity. lol.
But the entertainment industry has a way of putting an 'innocent spin' on alot of that stuff, so that it doesn't seem so bad...(especially when it's in the teenage film genre), so I just became desensitized to it, since it seemed pretty 'tame' compared to other entertainment.
But when I finally got back on track spiritually, and got back in the habit of reading my Bible everyday and studying, etc, I started getting a strong feeling that I needed to stop watching that stuff and get rid of all of it. So I threw out all of my DVD's, music, and books, etc that had to do with vampires and spiritism. (Including all my 'Buffy' DVDs...which was hard because I used to love that show! =) don't laugh. lol.)
But here's the interesting thing...I noticed right away that my spiritual viewpoint became much sharper and I started gaining a much deeper understanding of everything I was studying in the Bible. (even though it was material that we've covered many times before) Plus, I felt like my conscience was clear and that nothing was hindering my prayers anymore. Also, an old friend of mine (who drifted away from the truth for awhile, and got involved in things that would compromise a person's spirituality), had a similar experience as me, after making the decision to throw out all that stuff...and everyone has noticed the improvement. It's almost like we have to make that first step before Jehovah will really start to bless our efforts.
btw, I'm not trying to tell anyone what to do, or what to watch, (because that's obviously a personal conscience matter)...the only reason I'm bringing it up, is because I remembered that some of the items which I threw out were things that I had kept packed away from highschool that I had forgotton about. And in Bible times whenever the Israelites lost Jehovah's blessing, one of the reasons was because they had failed to 'clear out of their midst' items related to idolatry/false worship, spiritism, and immorality... so Jehovah always required the Israelites to sanctify themselves and get rid of anything offensive in the land before he would answer their prayers and start showing them favor again. Which is similar to what the congregation in Ephesus did when they burnt all their expensive books on magical arts and spiritism. (speaking of which...I was totally cracking up at that part from last year's drama about the book burning in Ephesus, where that one guy who wanted to buy the books was getting all worked up into a panic, saying: "the books! the books! they're being eaten by the flames!!! hahaha)
But back to the topic...one of the Scriptural accounts which really emphasizes just how important being spiritually clean is to Jehovah, is at 2 Chronicles chapter 29, during the time period when Hezekiah began restoring pure worship in the land. All of the people and the priests were commanded to sanctify themselves, the utensils, and the house of worship, in order to get it ready for the Passover.
-Well the priests hadn't finished sanctifying themselves by the time that the Passover was supposed to be celebrated, so they actually had to wait and celebrate it the following month because that's how serious the matter was. The modern-day equivalent of that situation would be like having your congregation informed that they have to postpone the Memorial celebration to the following month, because there are elders and congregation members who need to get rid of spiritistic items, pornography, or other offensive material in their homes.
Obviously that's not going to happen today on a congregation, or group level...but I thought that was an interesting account to consider on an individual basis if we feel like our prayers are being hindered or that we don't have Jehovah's approval for some reason.
"I do not speak of my own originality." (John 14:10)
When we compare Jesus’ instruction with that of the Jewish religious leaders, we clearly see the superiority of Jesus’ way of teaching. The scribes and Pharisees ‘made God’s word invalid because of their tradition.’ In contrast, what Jesus spoke was not of his own originality; he stuck to God’s word, or message. (Matthew 15:6) That is also what we need to do. Jesus practiced what he taught. For example, Jesus urged his disciples to “store up . . . treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:19-21) Did Jesus himself live in accord with that admonition? Yes, for he lived simply. (Luke 9:58) He was primarily occupied with proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, and he demonstrated what it meant to be free of the anxieties that come from storing up treasures on earth. Are you following Jesus’ admonition to store up treasures in heaven?
(Watchtower issue: 02/15/08, 3:14-16)
Saturday, December 26, 2009
(I highlighted some of the points that stood out to me)
'Love endures all things. Love never fails.'
(1 Corinthians 13:7, 8)
True followers of Jesus Christ have an identifying mark -love for one another. Jesus highlighted this when he said: "By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves." (John 13:35) Love is a quality that should permeate all we do. "Let all your affairs take place with love," admonished the apostle Paul. (1 Corinthians 16:14)
We live, however, in a world where those who exhibit "the works of the flesh" -including such things as "enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies" -greatly outnumber those who manifest "the fruitage of the spirit," with its predominant aspect, love. (Galatians 5:19-23) Coupled with our inherent sinful state, these fleshly tendencies work against our displaying "the new personality," which emphasizes love. (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10) Indeed, it is sometimes a great challenge to display Christian love.
It is important, though, that we continually strive to be guided by love in all that we do. Paul gave further counsel at Colossians 3:12-14: "Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also. But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union."
As with most humans, Paul had moments when he likely regretted what he had said or done. At one time "a sharp burst of anger" erupted between him and his missionary companion Barnabas that caused them to go their separate ways. (Acts 15:36-40) During his trial before the Sanhedrin, Paul angrily responded when high priest Ananias called for him to be struck on his mouth. Paul called Ananias a "whitewashed wall," for which he quickly apologized. (Acts 23:1-5)
What if we are angered or hurt by what others say or do, or do not do? Will we display the "intense love" that "covers a multitude of sins"? (1 Peter 4:8) Will we 'freely forgive one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave us'? (Ephesians 4:32)
Jesus noted that all of God's commandments are summed up in love for God and love for neighbor. (Matthew 22:37-40) But what if we are deliberately and viciously opposed and persecuted, just as Paul was on a number of occasions? Love for God will help us to endure when we are "persecuted for righteousness' sake." (Matthew 5:10) With love for God and neighbor, we will not let opposition dampen our zeal for preaching the good news. (Acts 5:40-42) We will be able to endure with the strength that God gives. (Philippians 4:13)
Showing the godly quality of love in whatever situations we may face is particularly needed in this time of the end. Satan, knowing his end is near, is angrily waging war against God's servants. (Revelation 12:12, 17) He wants us to succumb to his wicked ways. But we must "keep conquering the evil with the good" by our love and good works. (Romans 12:17-21) We will do so knowing that it is pleasing to God and that "love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:8) It is with this thought in mind that the Governing Body has chosen for 2010 the yeartext drawn from 1 Corinthians 13:7, 8: 'Love endures all things. Love never fails.' May this reminder strengthen our determination to press forward in our ministry, doing so in imitation of the God of love, Jehovah. (1 John 4:8)
*Daily Texts and Comments*
The comments (for 2010) are taken from the Watchtower issues of April 2008 - March 2009. Figures following the date of the Watchtower issue refer to the number, in order, of each study article (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5) that appears in that issue, followed by the paragraphs where further comments may be found.
"Clothe yourselves with love" (Colossians 3:14)
Do we ever catch ourselves saying something like “I am not prejudiced, but . . .” and then recounting some negative characteristics that we consider to be common among members of a certain ethnic group? Such feelings may reveal the need for us to rid ourselves of prejudice that we still harbor deep down. We might ask ourselves, ‘Do I make a regular effort to get to know people of a culture different from my own?’ Such self-examination may help us make improvements in accepting and appreciating our international brotherhood. The apostles Peter and Paul are fine examples of those who did adjust. (Acts 10:9-35; Galatians 1:13-20) There is no doubt that we too can make adjustments in our attitude with the help of Jehovah’s spirit. If we find that there are hidden traces of prejudice in us, let us work to root them out and to “observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.”—Ephesians 4:3-6.
(Watchtower issue: 03/15/08, 5:13-15)
Friday, December 25, 2009
Sha·lohm′, the Hebrew word rendered “peace,” refers to the state of being free from war or disturbance (Judges 4:17; 1Samuel 7:14; 1Kings 4:24; 2Chronicles 15:5; Job 21:9; Ecclesiastes 3:8); it can convey the idea of health, safety, soundness (Genesis 37:14, ftn), welfare (Genesis 41:16), friendship (Psalm 41:9), and entirety or completeness (Jeremiah 13:19). The Greek word for peace (ei·re′ne) has taken on the same broad connotations as the Hebrew word sha·lohm′ and may express the ideas of well-being, salvation, and concord, in addition to the absence of conflict. It occurs in the farewell exclamation “go in peace,” which somewhat corresponds to the expression ‘may it go well with you.’—Mark 5:34; Luke 7:50; 8:48; James 2:16; compare 1Samuel 1:17; 20:42; 25:35; 29:7; 2Samuel 15:9; 2Kings 5:19.
Since “peace” is not always the exact equivalent for the original-language words, the context must be taken into consideration to determine what is meant. For example, to be ‘sent away in peace’ could signify being sent away amicably, with no fear of interference from the one granting permission to leave. (Genesis 26:29; 44:17; Exodus 4:18) To ‘return in peace,’ as from battle, meant returning unharmed or victoriously. (Genesis 28:21; Joshua 10:21; Judges 8:9; 11:31; 2Chronicles 18:26, 27; 19:1) ‘Asking concerning the peace’ of a person meant inquiring as to how he was getting along. (Genesis 29:6, ftn; 43:27, ftn) ‘Working for the peace’ of someone denoted working for that one’s welfare. (Deuteronomy 23:6) For a person to die in peace could mean his dying a tranquil death after having enjoyed a full life or the realization of a cherished hope. (Compare Genesis 15:15; Luke 2:29; 1Kings 2:6.) The prophecy concerning Josiah’s ‘being gathered to his own graveyard in peace’ indicated that he would die before the foretold calamity upon Jerusalem. (2Kings 22:20; 2Chronicles 34:28; compare 2Kings 20:19.) At Isaiah 57:1, 2 the righteous one is depicted as entering into peace at death, thereby escaping calamity.
Jehovah is the God of peace (1Corinthians 14:33; 2Corinthians 13:11; 1Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20) and the Source of peace (Numbers 6:26; 1Chronicles 22:9; Psalm 4:8; 29:11; 147:14; Isaiah 45:7; Romans 15:33; 16:20), it being a fruit of his spirit. (Galatians 5:22) For this reason true peace can be had only by those who are at peace with God. Serious transgressions put a strain on a person’s relationship with God and cause the individual to be disturbed. The psalmist said: “There is no peace in my bones on account of my sin.” (Psalm 38:3) Those who desire to seek and pursue peace must therefore “turn away from what is bad, and do what is good.” (Psalm 34:14) Without righteousness, there can be no peace. (Psalm 72:3; 85:10; Isaiah 32:17) That is why the wicked cannot have peace. (Isaiah 48:22; 57:21; compare Isaiah 59:2-8.) On the other hand, peace is the possession of those who are fully devoted to Jehovah, love his law (Psalm 119:165), and heed his commandments.—Isaiah 48:18.
When Christ Jesus was on earth, neither the natural Jews nor the non-Jews were at peace with Jehovah God. Having transgressed God’s law, the Jews had come under the curse of the Law. (Galatians 3:12, 13) As for the non-Jews outside God’s covenant, they “had no hope and were without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12) However, by means of Christ Jesus both peoples were given the opportunity to come into a peaceful relationship with God. Pointing forward to this was the angelic announcement made to shepherds at Jesus’ birth: “Upon earth peace among men of goodwill.”—Luke 2:14.
The peaceful message proclaimed by Jesus and his followers appealed to ‘friends of peace,’ that is, to persons desiring to be reconciled to God. (Matthew 10:13; Luke 10:5, 6; Acts 10:36) At the same time this message caused divisions in households, as some accepted it while others rejected it. (Matthew 10:34; Luke 12:51) The majority of the Jews rejected the message and thus failed to discern “the things having to do with peace,” evidently including repentance and acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. (Compare Luke 1:79; 3:3-6; John 1:29-34.) Their failure resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in 70 C.E.—Luke 19:42-44.
However, even the Jews who did accept “the good news of peace” were sinners and needed to have their transgressions atoned for so as to enjoy peace with Jehovah God. Jesus’ death as a ransom sacrifice cared for this need. As had been foretold: “The chastisement meant for our peace was upon him, and because of his wounds there has been a healing for us.” (Isaiah 53:5) Jesus’ sacrificial death on the torture stake also provided the basis for canceling the Mosaic Law, which divided the Jews from the non-Jews. Therefore, upon becoming Christians, both peoples could be at peace with God and with one another. The apostle Paul wrote: “[Jesus] is our peace, he who made the two parties one and destroyed the wall in between that fenced them off. By means of his flesh he abolished the enmity, the Law of commandments consisting in decrees, that he might create the two peoples in union with himself into one new man and make peace; and that he might fully reconcile both peoples in one body to God through the torture stake, because he had killed off the enmity by means of himself. And he came and declared the good news of peace to you, the ones far off, and peace to those near, because through him we, both peoples, have the approach to the Father by one spirit.”—Ephesians 2:14-18; compare Romans 2:10, 11; Colossians 1:20-23.
“The peace of God,” that is the calmness and tranquillity that result from a Christian’s precious relationship with Jehovah God, guards his heart and mental powers from becoming anxious about his needs. He has the assurance that Jehovah God provides for his servants and answers their prayers. This puts his heart and mind at rest. (Philippians 4:6, 7) Similarly, the peace that Jesus Christ gave to his disciples, based on their faith in him as God’s Son, served to calm their hearts and minds. Although Jesus told them that the time was coming when he would no longer be with them personally, they had no reason to be concerned or to give way to fear. He was not leaving them without help but promised to send them the holy spirit.—John 14:26, 27; 16:33; compare Colossians 3:15.
The peace that Christians enjoyed was not to be taken for granted. They were to be “peaceable”; that is, they were to be peacemakers, going out of their way to establish and to maintain peace. (1Thessalonians 5:13) To preserve peace among themselves, they had to exercise care so as not to stumble fellow believers. (Romans 14:13-23) In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated: “Happy are the peaceable [literally, peacemakers], since they will be called ‘sons of God.’” (Matthew 5:9, ftn; compare James 3:18.) Christians were counseled to pursue peace and to do their utmost to be found at peace with God. (2Timothy 2:22; Hebrews 12:14; 1Peter 3:11; 2Peter 3:14) Therefore, they had to fight against the desires of the flesh, as these would cause them to be at enmity with God. (Romans 8:6-8) The fact that remaining in a peaceful relationship with God was necessary for divine approval lends much weight to the oft-repeated prayerful expression ‘may you have peace.’—Romans 1:7; 1Corinthians 1:3; 2Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; 6:16; Ephesians 1:2; 6:23; Philippians 1:2.
Christians also wanted others to enjoy peace. Therefore, “shod with the equipment of the good news of peace,” they carried on their spiritual warfare. (Ephesians 6:15) Even within the congregation they waged warfare in overturning reasonings that were out of harmony with the knowledge of God, so that these reasonings did not damage their relationship with God. (2Corinthians 10:4, 5) However, it was not a verbal fight or quarrel, not even when correcting those who had deviated from the truth. With reference to handling cases of those who had departed from a right course, the apostle Paul counseled Timothy: “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil, instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed; as perhaps God may give them repentance leading to an accurate knowledge of truth, and they may come back to their proper senses out from the snare of the Devil, seeing that they have been caught alive by him for the will of that one.”—2Timothy 2:24-26.
The Son of God, as the one to have ‘the princely rule upon his shoulder,’ is called the “Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, 7) It is, therefore, noteworthy that Christ Jesus, while on earth, showed that his servants should not arm themselves for physical warfare, when saying to Peter: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) Figuratively speaking, those who became Christians “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears.” They learned war no more. (Isaiah 2:4) This and God’s past activities, especially in connection with Israel during Solomon’s reign, point to the peace that will prevail during Jesus’ rule as King. Regarding Solomon’s reign, the Bible reports: “Peace itself became his in every region of his, all around. And Judah and Israel continued to dwell in security, everyone under his own vine and under his own fig tree, from Dan to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon.” (1Kings 4:24, 25; 1Chronicles 22:9) As is evident from other scriptures (compare Psalm 72:7, 8; Micah 4:4; Zechariah 9:9, 10; Matthew 21:4, 5), this served as a pattern of what would take place under the rule of Christ Jesus, the One greater than Solomon, which name comes from a root meaning “peace.”—Matthew 12:42.
Peace Between Man and Animals
Jehovah God promised to the Israelites, if obedient: “I will put peace in the land, and you will indeed lie down, with no one making you tremble; and I will make the injurious wild beast cease out of the land.” (Leviticus 26:6) This meant that the wild animals would stay within the confines of their habitat and not bring harm to the Israelites and their domestic animals. On the other hand, if the Israelites proved to be disobedient, Jehovah would allow their land to be invaded and devastated by foreign armies. As this would result in reducing the population, wild animals would multiply, penetrate formerly inhabited areas, and do injury to the survivors and their domestic animals.—Compare Exodus 23:29; Leviticus 26:22; 2Kings 17:5, 6, 24-26.
The peace promised to the Israelites in connection with the wild animals differed from that enjoyed by the first man and woman in the garden of Eden, for Adam and Eve enjoyed full dominion over the animal creation. (Genesis 1:28) By contrast, in prophecy, like dominion is attributed only to Christ Jesus. (Psalm 8:4-8; Hebrews 2:5-9) Therefore, it is under the government of Jesus Christ, “a twig out of the stump of Jesse,” or God’s “servant David,” that peace will again prevail between men and the animals. (Isaiah 11:1, 6-9; 65:25; Ezekiel 34:23-25) These last cited texts have a figurative application, for it is obvious that the peace between animals, such as the wolf and the lamb, there described did not find literal fulfillment in ancient Israel. It was thus foretold that persons of harmful, beastlike disposition would cease their vicious ways and live in peace with their more docile neighbors. However, the prophetic use of the animals figuratively to portray the peaceful conditions to prevail among God’s people implies that there will also be peace among literal animals under the rule of Christ Jesus, even as there evidently was in Eden.
"The wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical." (James 3:17)
James included being reasonable in the description of what reflects the wisdom from above. Are we known for being inclined to give in to others when no Scriptural principle is involved, not being quick to insist that our own personal standards be followed? Do we have a reputation for being gentle and easy to talk to? These are indications that we have learned to be reasonable. What delightful conditions can exist in a congregation as brothers and sisters work at displaying ever more the godly qualities about which James wrote! (Psalm 133:1-3) Being mild, peaceable, and reasonable with one another will surely result in improved relationships and will make it evident that we have “the wisdom from above.”
(Watchtower issue: 03/15/08, 4:17, 19, 20)
Thursday, December 24, 2009
The emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; state of happiness; exultation. The Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible for joy, exultation, rejoicing, and being glad express various shades of meaning, different stages or degrees of joy. The verbs involved express the inner feeling and the outward manifestation of joy and variously mean “be joyful; exult; shout for joy; leap for joy.”
Jehovah God and Jesus Christ
Jehovah is called “the happy God.” (1Timothy 1:11) He creates and works with joy for himself and his creatures. What he brings about makes him joyful. (Psalm 104:31) He wants his creatures likewise to enjoy his works and to enjoy their own work. (Ecclesiastes 5:19) Since he is the Source of all good things (James 1:17), all intelligent creatures, both mankind and angels, can find their chief enjoyment in coming to know him. (Jeremiah 9:23, 24) King David said: “Let my musing about him be pleasurable. I, for my part, shall rejoice in Jehovah.” (Psalm 104:34) He also sang: “The righteous one will rejoice in Jehovah and will indeed take refuge in him; and all the upright in heart will boast.” (Psalm 64:10) The apostle Paul urged Christians to take joy at all times in their knowledge of Jehovah and his dealing with them, writing to them: “Always rejoice in the Lord [“Jehovah,” in several versions]. Once more I will say, Rejoice!”—Philippians 4:4.
Jesus Christ, who was the intimate one of Jehovah, knows him best (Matthew 11:27), and he is able to explain Him to his followers. (John 1:18) Jesus is therefore joyful, being called “the happy and only Potentate.” (1Timothy 6:14, 15) Out of love for his Father, he is eager to do always the things that please Him. (John 8:29) Therefore, when there was set before him the task of coming to earth, suffering, and dying in order that he might vindicate Jehovah’s name, “for the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame.” (Hebrews 12:2) He also had great love for and joy in mankind. The Scriptures, personifying him in his prehuman existence as wisdom, represent him as saying: “Then I came to be beside [Jehovah] as a master worker, and I came to be the one he was specially fond of day by day, I being glad before him all the time, being glad at the productive land of his earth, and the things I was fond of were with the sons of men.”—Proverbs 8:30, 31.
Jesus desired his followers to have the same joy, telling them: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and your joy may be made full.” The angels had joy at the creation of the earth. (John 15:11; 17:13; Job 38:4-7) They also view the course of God’s people, taking joy in their faithful course and especially exulting when an individual turns from his sinful ways to the pure worship and service of God.—Luke 15:7, 10.
What makes God joyful
Jehovah’s heart can be made glad by his servants because of their faithfulness and loyalty to him. Satan the Devil has constantly challenged the rightfulness of God’s sovereignty and the integrity of all those serving God. (Job 1:9-11; 2:4, 5; Revelation 12:10) To them apply the words: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Proverbs 27:11) Jehovah’s people in the earth can cause God to rejoice by faithfulness and loyalty to him.—Isaiah 65:19; Zephaniah 3:17.
A Fruit of the Spirit
Since Jehovah is the Source of joy and he desires joyfulness for his people, joy is a fruit of his holy spirit. Joy is named immediately after love in the list at Galatians 5:22, 23. The apostle wrote to the Christians at Thessalonica: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, seeing that you accepted the word under much tribulation with joy of holy spirit.” (1Thessalonians 1:6) Accordingly, Paul counseled the Christians at Rome that the Kingdom of God “means righteousness and peace and joy with holy spirit.”—Romans 14:17.
True joy is a quality of the heart and can affect the whole body for good. “A joyful heart has a good effect on the countenance,” and “a heart that is joyful does good as a curer [or, “does good to the body”],” says the wise writer of Proverbs.—Proverbs 15:13; 17:22, ftn.
Joy in God’s Service
What Jehovah asks of his servants is not burdensome. (1John 5:3) He wants them to enjoy his service. His people Israel were to enjoy the seasonal festivals that he arranged for them, and they were to rejoice in other aspects of their life and worship of God. (Leviticus 23:40; Deuteronomy 12:7, 12, 18) They were to speak out about God joyfully. (Psalm 20:5; 51:14; 59:16) If they did not serve with joy of heart, there was something wrong with their hearts and their appreciation of his loving-kindness and goodness. Therefore he warned what would take place if they became disobedient and took no joy in serving him: “All these maledictions will certainly come upon you . . . because you did not listen to the voice of Jehovah your God by keeping his commandments and his statutes . . . And they must continue on you and your offspring . . . due to the fact that you did not serve Jehovah your God with rejoicing and joy of heart for the abundance of everything.”—Deuteronomy 28:45-47.
The Christian, no less, should enjoy his service to God. Otherwise, something is lacking in heart appreciation. (Psalm 100:2) “The joy of Jehovah is your stronghold,” said one of God’s faithful servants. (Nehemiah 8:10) The good news the Christian proclaims was announced by God’s angel as “good news of a great joy that all the people will have.” (Luke 2:10) Jehovah’s name upon his witnesses and the truth as found in the Bible should themselves be a joy to them. The prophet Jeremiah said: “Your word becomes to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart; for your name has been called upon me, O Jehovah God of armies.”—Jeremiah 15:16.
Moreover, Jehovah’s just, right judicial decisions put into effect in the Christian congregation and in the lives of Christians are cause for joy, especially in a time when the world has thrown justice and righteousness to the ground. (Psalm 48:11) Then, too, the marvelous hope ahead surely gives strong ground for joyfulness. (“Rejoice in the hope”; Romans 12:12; Proverbs 10:28.) Their salvation is a basis for joy. (Psalm 13:5) Additionally, there is the joy that the servant of God has in those whom he aids in coming to the knowledge and service of Jehovah. (Philippians 4:1; 1Thessalonians 2:19) Meeting together and working together with God’s people is one of the greatest joys.—Psalm 106:4, 5; 122:1.
Persecution a cause for joy
For the Christian who guards his heart, even persecution, though not in itself enjoyable, should be viewed with joy, for endurance of it with integrity is a victory. God will help the faithful one. (Colossians 1:11) Additionally, it is proof that one is approved by God. Jesus said that when reproach and persecution come, the Christian should “leap for joy.”—Matthew 5:11, 12; James 1:2-4; 1Peter 4:13, 14.
Other Joys Provided by God
Jehovah has provided many other things that mankind may enjoy day by day. Some of these are marriage (Deuteronomy 24:5; Proverbs 5:18), being father or mother of a righteous and wise child (Proverbs 23:24, 25), food (Ecclesiastes 10:19; Acts 14:17), wine (Psalm 104:14, 15; Ecclesiastes 10:19), and the multitudinous things of His creation (James 1:17; 1Timothy 6:17).
False or Nonlasting Joys
Jesus speaks of some who would hear the truth and receive it with joy but without getting the real sense of it. Such do not cultivate the implanted word in their hearts and, as a consequence, soon lose their joy by being stumbled when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word. (Matthew 13:20, 21) Joy based on materialism is a false joy that is in error and will be short-lived. Also, a person rejoicing over the calamity of another, even of one who hates him, must account to Jehovah for his sin. (Job 31:25-30; Proverbs 17:5; 24:17, 18) A young man is foolish to think that enjoyment of life requires that he give in to following “the desires incidental to youth.” (2Timothy 2:22; Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10) Similarly, love of merriment will bring one into a bad situation. (Proverbs 21:17; Ecclesiastes 7:4) Even the Christian who exults in comparing himself with others is in error. Rather, he should prove what his own work is and have cause for exultation in himself alone.—Galatians 6:4.
Jehovah promised to restore his people Israel after their exile in Babylon. He did bring them back to Jerusalem in 537 B.C.E., and they greatly rejoiced when the temple foundation was laid. (Isaiah 35:10; 51:11; 65:17-19; Ezra 3:10-13) But Isaiah’s prophecy (65:17) has a greater fulfillment in the establishment of “a new heaven and a new earth,” in which arrangement all mankind will have joy forever under the “New Jerusalem.”—Revelation 21:1-3.
Under present conditions, wickedness, sickness, and death prevent full and undiminished joy. But in harmony with the Bible rule, “A wise king is scattering wicked people,” Jesus Christ as King will bring an end to all enemies of God and of righteousness. (Proverbs 20:26; 1Corinthians 15:25, 26) Thus all obstacles to complete joy will be removed, for even “death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” (Revelation 21:4) Sorrow for those who have died will be completely gone, removed by the resurrection of the dead. This knowledge comforts Christians even today, who, on this account, do not “sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope.”—1Thessalonians 4:13, 14; John 5:28, 29.
*here's one of my favorite passages that helps to keep in mind when we have to deal with trialsome situations which can rob us of joy:
(Psalms 126:3, 5, 6)
"Jehovah has done a great thing in what he has done with us.
We have become joyful . . .
Those sowing seed with tears
Will reap even with a joyful cry.
The one that without fail goes forth, even weeping,
Carrying along a bagful of seed,
Will without fail come in with a joyful cry,
Carrying along his sheaves."
"God is for us a refuge and strength, a help that is readily to be found during distresses." (Psalm 46:1)
How does God provide that help? Jehovah may maneuver matters to remove our adversity, or he may give us the strength we need to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Either way, we are helped. How can we avail ourselves of that help? Notice what we are counseled to do: “Throw all your anxiety upon him.” This means that we figuratively hand over to Jehovah the responsibility for all our cares and concerns. We try to stop worrying and patiently trust in him to care for our needs. (1 Peter 5:7; Matthew 6:25-32) Such trust requires humility, not relying on our own strength or wisdom. By humbling ourselves “under the mighty hand of God,” we acknowledge our lowly position. (1 Peter 5:6) In turn, this helps us to cope with whatever God permits. We may yearn for immediate relief, but we trust that Jehovah knows precisely when and how to act in our behalf.—Psalm 54:7; Isaiah 41:10.
(Watchtower issue: 03/15/08, 3:7, 8)
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
(photo and following experience on pgs 165-168 of the 1998 Yearbook... I love this photo =) aren't they so cute together?)
Xavier and Sara Noll
(missionary couple who served in Martinique)
On July 10, 1954, Xavier and Sara Noll arrived from Marseilles, France. Both of them were full-time ministers, and Xavier had been serving as a congregation overseer in Marseilles.
They can still remember their arrival on this island at what seemed to them to be the other end of the world, 4,400 miles [7,000 km] from their homeland. They have not forgotten their first impressions of the heat and the humidity, nor have they forgotten the conviviality, hospitality, and good-natured manner of the people.
From the very first days, they learned how to live with a minimum of conveniences. After lodging for a few days with a man who was kindly disposed toward Jehovah’s Witnesses, they found a new wooden house, but that simply means that it was a structure made with wooden walls and a wooden floor. Sheets of corrugated iron constituted the roof. There was no ceiling, and there were no toilet facilities. At dusk it was Brother Noll’s chore to empty the “sanitary” pail in a ravine. His first trip with the pail was on July 14, the French national holiday. He had to cross a public square called Stalingrad, which was bubbling with activities connected with the holiday. As he walked through the square, with his pail exposed to the amused view of groups of people who had come out to relax and breathe some fresh air, they split their sides with laughter. It was a premiere! Never before had they seen a white man performing such a task!
A Surprising Welcome
Here are a few of Brother Noll’s recollections of that first day in service: “Going out in the preaching work for the first time here, my wife and I were anxious to come in contact with the people, to know them, to know what kind of welcome we would receive. The reality was beyond our expectations. We started witnessing in the center of the town, which at the time had a population of 60,000. That morning, my wife and I met twice as we were returning home to refill our witnessing bags with the books ‘The Truth Shall Make You Free’ and ‘The Kingdom Is at Hand’ as well as with booklets such as ‘The Prince of Peace.’”
Householders would often say: “I’ll take your book as a record of your passing,” or, “If this speaks about God, I’ll take it.” During the first two weeks, almost 200 books and hundreds of booklets were placed. It was easy to start conversations because the people were curious and were willing to welcome strangers. What encouragement it was to be received so hospitably!
Brother and Sister Noll wondered whether they would be able to study with so many people! But they learned quickly that they had to differentiate between those merely showing natural hospitality and those with a real desire to know and put into practice the truth coming from God. There were some who wanted to learn. Brother Noll recalls: “The person who met us on arrival in Martinique introduced us to some workmen and apprentices in his cabinetmaking workshop. We started a study that same night and two more during the first week.”
One of those studies was with a young couple, Paul and Nicole Jacquelin. They were studying three times a week and making good progress. Soon they were sharing with the Nolls in witnessing from house to house. With these new publishers, the preaching work started to take on local color.
Marriage, Not Simply Cohabitation (pgs 171-172)
Some African customs survived slavery and were accepted by the Catholic Church as long as the participants also performed Catholic rites. In this atmosphere, cohabitation between people not married to each other was the order of the day. As Sister Noll shared in the ministry, people would ask her: “Do you have children?” When she replied, “No,” they would ask, “And your husband?” It was not uncommon to find men who had children by women other than their legal wife. Those who wanted to become true Christians had to abandon such unscriptural practices.—Hebrews 13:4.
The first one in Martinique who faced up to this need was a woman who had six children from three different men and was living with the father of her last child when she started to study the Bible. Marguerite Lislet quickly realized the enormous changes that she had to make if she was to be pleasing to Jehovah. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) She asked her common-law husband to leave, and despite having health problems, she courageously stood up to financial difficulties in order to take care of her six children. She got baptized in 1956. Later on, she became the first Martinican special pioneer.
Jeanne Maximin, who had borne children for her common-law husband, also wanted to get baptized. He had promised her many times that before the next assembly he would legalize their relationship, but he never kept that promise. Finally, in 1959, when another assembly was approaching, she took advantage of his absence to move out of the house. On his return, what a surprise it was for him to see that she was gone and much of the furniture was missing! The neighbors did not hesitate to tell him where she was. He insisted that she return home and promised that they would get married in two weeks, during which time he would make the necessary arrangements. Her answer was clear: “The day we get married, I’ll return, but not before.” The necessary arrangements were made, and they were legally married within ten days. Many of our sisters have gone through similar experiences.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have acquired the reputation of practicing a religion in which marriage is treated as a divine institution. A civil service officer of the village of Le Vauclin was surprised to see that in a short space of time, Jacques and Pierrette Nelson, local special pioneers, served as witnesses at the weddings of two couples who had been living together for many years without the benefit of marriage. That officer already had the book Making Your Family Life Happy, but now she promised to read it again because her situation was the same as had been the case with the ones that she had just married. Before concluding their discussion, she said in a relaxed tone to our two witnesses: “Jamais deux sans trois” (“Never two without three”). That proved true in this case, for not too long afterward, the pioneers were again before her, serving as witnesses for a third couple with whom they had studied.
"They must become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24)
When a man marries, he leaves his father and his mother, and much the same can be said of a woman. Still, the divine guidance to honor one’s father and mother comes with no time limit. So even after a couple marry, they will likely spend some time with their parents and in-laws. One husband, married for 25 years, notes: “At times, it is difficult to balance the various wishes and needs of one’s mate with those of one’s parents, siblings, and in-laws. In deciding how best to act, I have found Genesis 2:24 helpful. One owes loyalty to and has responsibilities toward other family members, yet this verse showed me that loyalty to my spouse takes precedence.” Accordingly, Christian parents who are yielding will respect that their married children are now in a family unit in which the husband is principally responsible for guiding that family.
(Watchtower issue: 03/15/08, 2:10)
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009
"Make me know your own ways, O Jehovah." (Psalm 25:4)
The apostle Paul showed that he understood the importance of loving those who are being taught. (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8) Similarly, we can show a sincere interest in each Bible student by taking time to get to know him. As we discuss Scriptural principles with him, it is likely that we will become acquainted with his circumstances. We may observe that he is already living his life in harmony with some of the points that he has learned from the Bible. In other areas, he may still need to make adjustments. By helping the student to see how the information presented during Bible study sessions applies to him personally, we can lovingly assist him to become a genuine disciple of Christ. Most important of all, we can pray with our student and for our student. It should be clear to him that our objective is to help him come to know his Creator more intimately, draw closer to Him, and benefit from His guidance.
(Watchtower issue: 01/15/08, 2:16-18)
Monday, December 21, 2009
(unless otherwise noted, all the following illustrations and info are found in the 'Revelation -It's Grand Climax at Hand!' book)
(following info on pg 798 of Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2)
The last book of the Bible as arranged in most translations, though not the last written. It is also called the Apocalypse of John the Apostle.
Writer, and When and Where Written
Style and Appropriateness
Author and Channel
While some of the things seen by John in the vision may seem terrifying—the beasts, the woes, the plagues—the book was written, not to terrify, but to comfort and encourage those who read it with faith. It can lead the reader to blessings. In fact, the writer of the book states at the outset: “Happy [“blessed,” KJ] is he who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and who observe the things written in it.” (Revelation 1:3) John also says that the book is for the purpose of showing God’s slaves the things that “must shortly take place.”—1:1, 2.
Channel of Communication
Revelation 1:1b, 2 continues: “And he [Jesus] sent forth his angel and presented it [Revelation] in signs through him to his slave John, who bore witness to the word God gave and to the witness Jesus Christ gave, even to all the things he saw.” Thus, John received the inspired record through an angelic messenger. He wrote it in a scroll, transmitting it to the congregations of his time . . . God had a channel for communicating Revelation in John’s day, and John was the earthly part of that channel. Likewise, God has a channel for giving spiritual nourishment to his ‘slaves’ today. In his great prophecy concerning the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus identified the earthly part of this channel as “the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:3, 45-47) He uses this John class in unlocking the meaning of the prophecy.
The apostle John writes that Jesus presented Revelation “in signs,” or symbols . . . These visions in Revelation are not presented in chronological order. Each has its own time period of fulfillment. Many of the visions echo words of earlier prophecies that provide clues as to their interpretation. For example, Daniel’s prophecy described four fearsome beasts, explaining that these portrayed ruling powers on earth. Hence, we are helped to understand that the beasts of Revelation represent political entities, including those now existing.—Daniel 7:1-8, 17; Revelation 13:2, 11-13; 17:3.
The Stars and the Lampstands (pgs 28 & 29)
John has seen Jesus in the midst of seven golden lampstands with seven stars in his right hand. (Revelation 1:12, 13, 16) Now Jesus explains this: “As for the sacred secret of the seven stars that you saw upon my right hand, and of the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars mean the angels of the seven congregations, and the seven lampstands mean seven congregations.”—Revelation 1:20.
The seven lampstands are the seven congregations to whom John directs the book of Revelation: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Why are congregations symbolized by lampstands? Because Christians, whether individually or collectively as congregations, have to ‘let their light shine before men’ in this bedarkened world. (Matthew 5:14-16) Additionally, lampstands were among the furnishings of Solomon’s temple. Calling the congregations lampstands would likely remind John that, in an illustrative sense, each local congregation of anointed ones is “God’s temple,” a dwelling place for God’s spirit. (1 Corinthians 3:16) Moreover, in the antitype of the Jewish temple arrangement, members of the congregation of anointed ones serve as “a royal priesthood” in Jehovah’s great spiritual temple arrangement, of which Jesus is the High Priest and where Jehovah dwells personally in the heavenly Most Holy.—1 Peter 2:4, 5, 9; Hebrews 3:1; 6:20; 9:9-14, 24.
"Archaeological remains of the cities where the seven congregations were located confirm Bible record. It was here that first-century Christians received Jesus' encouraging messages that stimulate the worldwide congregation."
Revelation 1:1-3:22 -(box on pg 800 of Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2) The glorified Christ gives loving counsel to fellow Kingdom heirs...
The Ephesus congregation has endured but has left its first love.
The spiritually rich Smyrna congregation is encouraged to remain faithful in the face of tribulation.
The Pergamum congregation has held fast to Christ’s name under persecution but has tolerated sectarianism.
The Thyatira congregation has a record of increased activity, but it has tolerated a Jezebel influence.
The Sardis congregation is dead spiritually; it must wake up.
The Philadelphia congregation, which has kept Christ’s word, is urged to keep holding fast what it has.
The Great Apostasy (pgs 29-31)
Nevertheless, the apostle Paul had foretold that there would be an apostasy among the anointed Christians, and Jesus’ messages show that in John’s old age this apostasy was already developing. John was the last of those who acted as a restraint on this all-out attempt by Satan to corrupt the seed of the woman. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 John 7-11) So it was the appropriate time for Jehovah’s Chief Shepherd to write to the elders in the congregations, warning of developing trends and encouraging righthearted ones to stand firm for righteousness.
How the congregations in 96 C.E. responded to Jesus’ messages we do not know. But we do know that the apostasy developed rapidly after John’s death. “Christians” ceased to use Jehovah’s name and substituted “Lord” or “God” for it in Bible manuscripts. By the fourth century, the false doctrine of the Trinity had infiltrated the congregations. During this same period, the idea of an immortal soul was being adopted. Finally, Roman Emperor Constantine gave state approval to the “Christian” religion, and this led to the development of Christendom, where Church and State joined forces in ruling for a thousand years. It was easy to become a new-style “Christian.” Whole tribes adjusted their earlier pagan beliefs to versions of this religion. Many of the leaders in Christendom became oppressive political tyrants, enforcing their apostate views by the sword. Jesus’ words to the seven congregations were completely ignored by the apostatizing Christians.
The Seed Endures
In his parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus foretold the time of darkness that would exist while Christendom reigned supreme. Nevertheless, through all the centuries of apostasy, there would exist individual wheatlike Christians, genuine anointed ones. (Matthew 13:24-29, 36-43)
(boxes on pgs 98 & 99, showing a summary of each of the 16 visions which are recorded in the book of Revelation ... click to see close up)
"A revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place. And he sent forth his angel and presented it in signs through him to his slave John." (Revelation 1:1)
The apostle John is a fine example of faithfulness despite changed circumstances and advanced age. After serving God for close to 70 years, John was exiled to the isle of Patmos “for speaking about God and bearing witness to Jesus.” (Revelation 1:9) Yet, his work was not finished. In fact, all the writings in the Bible that were penned by John were written in the final years of his life. While on Patmos, he was given the awe-inspiring vision of Revelation, which he carefully put down in writing. (Revelation 1:2) It is generally thought that he was released from exile during the reign of Roman Emperor Nerva. Thereafter, by about 98 C.E., when he was probably 90 or 100 years of age, John wrote the Gospel and the three epistles bearing his name.
(Watchtower issue: 6/1/07, 1:15)
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Zealous activity of missionaries who are willing to serve wherever they are needed has been an important factor in the global proclamation of God’s Kingdom. Long before the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society established a school for the purpose, missionaries were being sent to other lands. The Society’s first president, C. T. Russell, recognized the need for qualified people to initiate and take the lead in preaching the good news in foreign fields . . . However, in 1942 plans took shape for a school with a course specially designed to train both men and women who were willing to undertake such missionary service wherever they were needed in the global field.
Among those who were invited to help outline the course of study was Albert D. Schroeder, who had already gained much experience in the Service Department at the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn and as the Society’s branch overseer in Britain. His positive outlook, the way in which he gave of himself, and his warm interest in the students endeared him to those he taught during the 17 years that he served as registrar and as an instructor in the school. In 1974 he became a member of the Governing Body, and the following year he was assigned to serve on its Teaching Committee.
Brother Schroeder and his fellow instructors (Maxwell Friend, Eduardo Keller, and Victor Blackwell) outlined a five-month study course that emphasized study of the Bible itself and theocratic organization, also Bible doctrines, public speaking, field ministry, missionary service, religious history, divine law, how to deal with government officials, international law, keeping records, and a foreign language. Modifications in the curriculum have taken place over the years, but study of the Bible itself and the importance of the evangelizing work have always held first place. The aim of the course is to strengthen the faith of the students, to help them to develop the spiritual qualities needed to meet successfully the challenges of missionary service. Emphasis has been placed on the importance of total reliance on Jehovah and loyalty to him. (Psalm 146:1-6; Proverbs 3:5, 6; Ephesians 4:24) Students are not given pat answers to everything but are trained in research and are helped to appreciate why Jehovah’s Witnesses believe as they do and why they adhere to certain ways of doing things. They learn to discern principles with which they can work. Thus a foundation is laid for further growth.
“You are being given further preparation for work similar to that of the apostle Paul, Mark, Timothy, and others who traveled to all parts of the Roman Empire proclaiming the message of the Kingdom. They had to be fortified with the Word of God. They had to have a clear knowledge of His purposes. In many places they had to stand alone against the high and mighty of this world. Your portion may be the same; and God will be your strength thereunto.
“There are many places where the witness concerning the Kingdom has not been given to a great extent. The people living in these places are in darkness, held there by religion. In some of these countries where there are a few Witnesses it is noted that the people of good-will hear readily and would associate themselves with the Lord’s organization, if instructed properly. There must be hundreds and thousands more that could be reached if there were more laborers in the field. By the Lord’s grace, there will be more.
“It is NOT the purpose of this college to equip you to be ordained ministers. You are ministers already and have been active in the ministry for years . . . The course of study at the college is for the exclusive purpose of preparing you to be more able ministers in the territories to which you go. . . .
“Your principal work is that of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom from house to house as did Jesus and the apostles. When you shall have found a hearing ear, arrange for a back-call, start a home study, and organize a company [congregation] of all suchlike ones in a city or town. Not only will it be your good pleasure to organize a company, but you must help them to understand the Word, strengthen them, address them from time to time, aid them in their service meetings and their organization. When they are strong and can go on their own and take over the territory, you can depart to some other city to proclaim the Kingdom. From time to time it may be necessary for you to return to build them up in the most holy faith and straighten them out in the doctrine; so your work will be that of looking after the Lord’s ‘other sheep’, and not forsaking them. (John 10:16) Your real work is to help the people of good-will. You will have to use initiative, but looking to God’s guidance.”*
Five months later the members of that first class completed their specialized training. Visas were obtained, travel arrangements were made, and they began to move out to nine Latin-American lands. Three months after their graduation, the first Gilead-trained missionaries to leave the United States were on their way to Cuba. By 1992, over 6,500 students from more than 110 countries had been trained and had thereafter served in well over 200 lands and island groups.
Right down to the time of his death 34 years after the inauguration of Gilead School, Brother Knorr demonstrated keen personal interest in the work of the missionaries. Each school term, he would visit the current class a number of times if at all possible, giving lectures and taking along with him other members of the headquarters staff to speak to the students. After the graduates of Gilead began their service abroad, he personally visited the missionary groups, helped them to work out problems, and gave them needed encouragement. As the number of missionary groups multiplied, he arranged for other well-qualified brothers to make such visits too, so that all the missionaries, no matter where they were serving, would receive regular personal attention.