Tuesday, June 30, 2009
By the way, when was the last time they made a formal announcement/declaration like that at a recent convention? I can't remember, but I know they haven't done it too often in recent years. They usually only make formal declarations like that during significant convention programs over the years. Well I guess this is obviously significant, especially when you stop and consider that there's been more organizational changes within just the past 3 years than throughout our whole history. And now with the recent announcement made just a few weeks ago about how Bethel is no longer going to be operating or doing tours on Saturday so that more time can be devoted to the preaching work...it really seems like the "All aboard!" This train is getting ready to leave the station! "final call" is going out. Kinda like when they "upped" the number of marches around the city of Jericho on the last day just prior to when the wall fell. (Joshua 6:3-5, 15, 16)
Actually I was discussing this subject with a friend (and I'm gonna steal the illustration used because I think its pretty accurate) -when it comes to all the reminders we are getting about staying close to the congregation and making sure we are reading the Bible everyday, and staying active in the ministry, etc. Remember how in the movie, Karate Kid, when he had to keep practicing the "wax on, wax off" move over and over? And he was getting really irritated and sick of it because he didn't understand the significance of why he had to keep practicing it so much? Yet, perfecting that move was the very thing he needed in the end when it came time for the match...and thats when it all clicked into place and he finally understood. Well its the same thing with us. All the information and practical instruction we are getting now, is going to be the very things which will help us get through the tough times ahead, and to make sure we're in 'the right place at the right time.' -But if we slack off now, by falling asleep spiritually, we won't be ready and prepared when the time arrives -and then it will be too late.
Its just like when Jerusalem was captured in 70 C.E. the only ones who escaped were the Christians who had been 'keeping on the watch' by staying alert to the signs Jesus had warned them about prior to his death. Anyone who didn't leave the city during that small 'window of opportunity' in 66 C.E. when the Roman armies unexpectedly retreated, found themselves trapped inside when they returned. Even those who had changed their mind and wanted to leave weren't able to because it was too late. The 'Insight' book mentioned how even when the Romans under General Titus gave people the opportunity to surrender, the different religious groups within the city were fighting one another and wouldn't allow anyone to leave. The Jewish people themselves were turning on each other. And the creepiest thing of all (which I've been noticing lately and is a major 'deja vu' indication like none-other)... do you know what triggered the Jewish revolt and what kept them so preoccupied that they didn't escape the city when they should have? They were fighting the high taxes imposed on them by the government. Gulp.
"Ought I not to feel sorry for Nineveh the great city, in which there exist more than one hundred and twenty thousand men?" (Jonah 4:11)
The conscience can be shaped by the general culture or environment in which one lives, just as one's environment may lead someone to speak with an accent or a dialect. (Matthew 26:73) That must have happened with the ancient Assyrians. They were known for militarism, and their carved reliefs depict them torturing captives. (Nahum 2:11, 12; 3:1) The Ninevites of Jonah's day are described as not knowing "the difference between their right hand and their left." That is, they did not have a correct standard for judging what was proper or improper from God's standpoint. Imagine how that environment could have affected the conscience of someone growing up in Nineveh! (Jonah 3:4, 5; 4:11) In like manner today, a person's conscience can be affected by the attitude of those around him.
(Watchtower issue: 10/15/07, 1:13)
*Even though Jonah is one of the shortest books in the Bible, its jam-packed with important lessons. It demonstrates how even a good person who God obviously feels is qualified enough to handle a prophetic assignment of this magnitude can succumb to strong negative emotions and an unforgiving attitude towards others. I always used to think 'fear' was the main reason Jonah ran away from accepting his assignment (since the Assyrians were such fierce people -who wouldn't be scared of them?), but what I didn't pick up on for a long time was the other reason he didn't want to go to Nineveh. Jonah himself pretty much reveals the fact that he already harbored some feelings of prejudice & resentment towards the Ninevites...which is why he obviously wasn't happy about Jehovah forgiving them. (Not to speculate, but I almost wonder if thats the reason Jehovah specifically chose him for that particular assignment)
Jonah 4:1-3 "To Jo´nah, though, it was highly displeasing, and he got to be hot with anger. Hence he prayed to Jehovah and said: “Ah, now, O Jehovah, was not this an affair of mine, while I happened to be on my own ground? That is why I went ahead and ran away to Tar´shish; for I knew that you are a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, and feeling regret over the calamity. And now, O Jehovah, take away, please, my soul from me, for my dying is better than my being alive."
The difference between Jonah's attitude and Jehovah's, really demonstrates the contrast between imperfect human thinking, and God's mercy & forgiveness towards repentant wrong-doers. Here's a good article that mentions Jonah and others in the Bible, who had to learn to cope with their emotions when it came to injustice
Monday, June 29, 2009
(pg 147/2009 Yearbook - Lands of former Yugoslavia. Kosovo is above Macedonia & if you click on the photo you can see the map close up)
(experience of Agron Bashota - pgs 236 & 237 / 2009 Yearbook)
"When I saw all the horrible things taking place in the war, including the murder of small children, I concluded that God must not exist. 'If he does,' I thought, 'why doesn't he do something about all the suffering?' My faith was further damaged when I saw how Muslim religious leaders were supporting the war against the Serbs. Before the war, I was Muslim; however, by the end of the war, I had become an atheist and had joined the Kosovo Liberation Army. Though I was with them for only a short time, I earned a lot of respect and received many privileges. This caused me to become aggressive and proud because whatever I said got done. Unfortunately, I also displayed this attitude toward my wife. I thought that she had to do as I told her and always act on my orders. My wife, Merita, had been in contact with the Witnesses during the war and had some of their literature. One night before going to bed, she said: "Take these and read them. They are about God." I was furious that she thought she could teach me about God. To avoid further confrontation, Merita went to the bedroom to sleep. Left by myself with the literature, I decided to read the brochure What Does God Require of Us? Next I read the booklet The Time for True Submission to God. As a Muslim, I was suprised that it quoted from the Koran. Then I read some Watchtower and Awake! magazines. Later that night, I went into the bedroom and woke my wife up. "From whom did you get these?" I asked. "Where can I find these people?" I was sincerely touched by what I had read, but my wife was skeptical and afraid of what I might do. Nevertheless, that night we phoned a Witness and found out when and where their meeting was to be held. The next morning we went to the meeting. I was so impressed at how kind and welcoming the brothers were! I didn't think there could be people like that on earth. I could tell that they were different. During the meeting I had a question and could hardly wait to get it answered, even raising my hand to ask it. Not knowing why I was so anxious to speak with them, the elders were a bit nervous. What a relief it must have been when they realized that I simply wanted to know what I had to do to become one of Jehovah's Witnesses! I started studying the Bible that very day. The many changes I wanted to make in my personality were not easy. I wanted to stop smoking, and I felt that I needed to cut off contact with my former friends. With prayer and regular meeting attendance, I repented of my former life and put on the new personality. What a difference the truth has made in my life and that of my family! Now my wife and I serve as regular pioneers, and in 2006, I was appointed as a ministerial servant. Now I can help others to understand why people suffer and how Jehovah will soon solve all our problems."
"All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction." (Romans 15:4)
The Bible presents examples of those who lived for God's purpose and those who did not. The lessons from such examples apply to people of all ages, cultures, and circumstances. (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11) Nimrod built great cities, but he did so in opposition to Jehovah. (Genesis 10:8, 9) Many others, though, were good examples. Moses, for instance, did not make the keeping of his status as an Egyptian nobleman his purpose in life. Rather, he esteemed his spiritual privileges "as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt." (Hebrews 11:26) The physician Luke likely helped Paul and others to deal with their maladies. But Luke made his greatest contribution as an evangelizer and a Bible writer. For his part, Paul is known, not as a Law expert, but as a missionary, "an apostle to the nations." -Romans 11:13.
(Watchtower issue: 10/01/07, 1:16)
*I wanted to mention one other scripture to keep in mind especially when we come across apostates who try to twist info just to make JW's look bad or mislead us. Jesus gave the simplest and clearest way of identifying who his true followers were and who were the phoneys...(Matthew 7:15-20) "Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to YOU in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits YOU will recognize them. Never do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles, do they? Likewise every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit; a good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire. Really, then, by their fruits YOU will recognize those [men]."
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Plus I was also thinking about how people tend to trust those of their own nationality or family more than a stranger right? Well at the district convention they said that one of the brothers who was baptized -his father flew 22 hours in from Iraq or Iran (I cant remember which one now) but that he loved the program and took back a whole bunch of literature with him. Someone like him would probably have alot more influence in his native country reaching others with the truth because they would trust him more than an American. You can see the potential for "speeding things up"
"You had no hope." (Ephesians 2:12)
The vast majority of mankind are unaware of the real significance of world events. In addition, the loss of loved ones in death or other personal tragedies leave many distraught. Without accurate knowledge of why such things happen and where the solution lies, these people are without hope. "Babylon the Great," the world empire of false religion, has brought little comfort to the masses. On the contrary, by means of "the wine of her fornication," she has made multitudes stagger in spiritual confusion. Moreover, by acting like a harlot, false religion has seduced and controlled "the kings of the earth," using lying doctrines and spiritistic practices to keep the masses in passive subservience to their political masters. False religion has thus gained power and influence, but at the same time, she has completely rejected religious truth."-Revelation 17:1, 2, 5; 18:23.
(Watchtower issue: 01/15/08, 1:5, 6)
*Its amazing to see how people (who've been lied to or deceived all their life by false religious doctrines) finally find out "the truth" it can turn a lightbulb on inside of them and make such a positive impact in their lives. I read the cutest thing I ever heard in the 2009 Yearbook on pg. 12, about a man in a Central Asian land where our work is restricted, who managed to obtain the brochure What Does God Require of Us? in his own language. He read it on his own and was so moved that he went to a nearby river and "baptized" himself! lol. He learned later that he needed to study the Bible first and get baptized properly, which he did, and now he shares "the truth" about the Bible with others. yay =)
Saturday, June 27, 2009
WE HAVE A DUTY ...especially now that I know so much more than I did previously, about all the hardships and persecution our brothers & sisters endured for so many years ... some of which we had no clue was going on. Did you know that even on Wikipedia it says we are the most persecuted religion? Here's a quote from it: "Viewed globally, this persecution has been so persistent and of such an intensity that it would not be inaccurate to regard Jehovah's witnesses as the most persecuted religion of the twentieth century."
(I couldn't post the Wikipedia link for some reason, but here's a similar article from another site)...
Persecution of JW's
This might disturb you but I have to mention 2 other experiences given about the persecution of our brothers in Cuba during the 80's. Some of them were kept in cisterns full of human excrement up to their necks, for days. One brother was placed inside of a narrow, barbed-wire cage (with only enough room to stand, so that he would tear his flesh whenever he tried to sleep or leaned against the barbed wire) And thats not all...this cage was placed on top of a hot metal roof, with the sun beating down on him, and he was stripped naked so that the huge Cuban mosquitos would bite him. I can barely handle KNOWING about this, let alone going thru it.
So in comparison with what so many of our brothers have had to deal with in order to get the message out, our job is so easy. It reminds me of what Jesus said at John 4:37, 38: "One is the sower and another the reaper. I dispatched YOU to reap what YOU have spent no labor on. Others have labored, and YOU have entered into the benefit of their labor."
All of the really labor-intensive, hard work was already done for us...and we have the assignment of gathering and reaping the harvest which all those others already toiled & labored on ahead of us. So lets all remember to keep that in mind anytime we think we don't feel 'up to' going out in the ministry.
"Keep walking by spirit." (Galatians 5:16)
If we keep Jehovah before us constantly, he will lead us by his holy spirit. Jehovah's holy spirit played an important role in the construction of the tabernacle in the wilderness. Jehovah appointed Bezalel as the principal artisan and builder of the tabernacle, promising to "fill him with the spirit of God in wisdom and in understanding and in knowledge and in every kind of craftsmanship." (Exodus 31:3-5) Men "wise of heart" worked with Bezalel and his assistant Oholiab in carrying out that wonderful assignment. Morever, Jehovah's spirit moved willinghearted people to make generous contributions. (Exodus 31:6; 35:5, 30-34) That same spirit motivates God's present-day servants to do all they can to promote Kingdom interests. (Matthew 6:33) We may have certain abilities, but we need to pray for holy spirit and let it lead us if we are to accomplish the work Jehovah has given his people in our day. -Luke 11:13
(Watchtower issue: 02/15/08, 1:16, 17)
*have you ever noticed when reading examples of people in the Bible, how full of wisdom and ability they were whenever they were faithfully serving God? But how their overall attitude and spiritual balance took a serious nosedive as soon as their loyalty began to stray from worshipping him faithfully? Like with Solomon, who was full of wisdom at the start, or King Uzziah -who was famous for his military and engineering inventions...(plus, he was a "lover of agriculture" =) yay I like that part!) until he 'got a big head' and stopped appreciating that his growing talents & abilities were due to God helping him, and started attributing all his achievements to himself. You see that with people today also. The closer they stick to Jehovah, the wiser and more spiritually balanced they always are.
Friday, June 26, 2009
(Anna with a relative)
My grandma had a pretty interesting experience happen on her way over to America while crossing the Atlantic. She said that a whale (or something extremely large) hit the boat one evening on the way over because she felt a big "thud" and then all of a sudden the boat was tilted sideways and passengers were falling down & sliding across the floor, while tables and dishes were flying across the dining room to the other side. (that's gotta be a pretty scary incident for a girl on her first big boat ride, while being all alone and away from her family for the first time. Especially considering what happened to the Titanic!)
Joseph's band (clarinet-2nd row bottom left)
Casalanguida postcards (the town they grew up in)
"Jesus looked upon him and felt love for him." (Mark 10:21)
Jesus cared so much about people that he gave up needed rest in order to teach them. (Mark 6:30-34) Such deep and loving concern for fellow humans made Jesus more effective than anyone else in drawing individuals to true worship. The apostle Paul too was deeply concerned about people to whom he preached. For instance, he told those who had become Christians in Thessalonica: "Having a tender affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not only the good news of God, but also our own souls, because you became beloved to us." As a result of Paul's loving efforts, some in Thessalonica 'turned away from their idols to slave for the living God.' (1 Thessalonians 1:9; 2:8) If we have genuine concern for people, as Jesus and Paul did, we too may experience the joy of seeing the good news reach the hearts of those "rightly disposed for everlasting life." -Acts 13:48.
(Watchtower issue: 11/15/07, 1:8, 9)
*what kills me so much about this (in regards to Jesus and Paul) was how quickly the crowd could turn on them right after they had just got done benefitting so much from their love and help, and praising them for the wonderful work they were doing just moments before. I see so many parallels between our modern-day traveling overseers and the Governing Body, etc. with the way some people just lash out abuse upon abuse at these hard-workers, who day after day, year after year, have been tirelessly carrying on the ministry and providing spiritual food for everyone. They do it whole-heartedly ...without pay, without any kind of distinguished prominence or noteworthy popularity, and never asking anything back in return. Yet its still not good enough for some people. Sometimes the critism is from the very ones who have benefited from the work they do but don't appreciate it! I just can't fathom the cruelty and hatred directed at such good-hearted, willing-spirited brothers & sisters, who like Jesus and Paul, literally invest all their time, money and energy into the ministry in order to help others. If I was a politically-minded person, thats the ONLY kind of candidate I'd want to see in a position of authority...someone so busy 'out in the field' helping others and getting things done, that they wouldn't even have the time or the funds to run for office! =)
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Thursday, June 25th, 2009
"Observe, O my son, the commandment of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother." (Proverbs 6:20)
Certainly, children should obey their parents. But open communication gives parents the opportunity to help their children develop reasoning ability. Vincent, a father of four, says: "Often, we would talk through the advantages and disadvantages of a situation so that our children could see for themselves the best outcome. This helped them develop thinking ability." (Proverbs 1:1-4) Of course, no parent will be able to apply perfectly the Bible's counsel on child rearing. Even so, you can be sure that your children will deeply appreciate your attempts to train them in a long-suffering, kind, and loving manner. Jehovah will certainly bless your efforts to do so. (Proverbs 3:33) Ultimately, all Christian parents want their children to learn to love Jehovah as much as they themselves do.
(Watchtower issue: 09/01/07, 1:16, 17)
*FYI - the #1 most effective discipline my parents ever administered to me, is probably the one thing they don't even remember doing, and I bet alot of parents overlook this. Do you remember the little pink book which was replaced by the "Learn From the Great Teacher" book? Well when I was old enough to read, whenever I did something bad my parents would send me to my room "to think about what I did" but they would also pick out a corresponding story in the Great Teacher book and tell me I needed to read it & think about the lesson in regards to what I had done wrong, before I could come out. Then one of them would ask me questions about the lesson to make sure I read it. That probably had a greater impact than just about anything else they ever did to discipline me, because the counsel wasn't just coming from them...it was coming from a higher authority. If you're a parent you've gotta try it, because I know it works! Even if your kids don't respond well at first, or act up & don't wanna participate or read the lesson, keep trying anyway. I know I gave my parents a hard time about it and acted like a brat by answering all their questions with "I don't know" or some other smart alec remark. But then later on, when I was alone with my thoughts, I would remember what I had read and it had a big impact on my thinking and in learning to distinguish right from wrong. Trust me on this! (Plus now its even easier since kids can listen to the audio version instead of trying to get them to read the lesson.)
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
(Grandparents - John & Dora)
"I will constitute your seed like the dust particles of the earth." (Genesis 13:16)
Abraham was told that his seed would multiply and become "like the stars of the heavens." (Genesis 22:17) In other words, in Abraham's time it was impossible for humans to know how many would make up this seed. However, the exact number of his spiritual seed was eventually revealed. In addition to Jesus, it was to number 144,000. (Revelation 7:4; 14:1) Regarding Abraham's faith, God's Word states: "[Abraham] put faith in Jehovah; and he proceeded to count it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:5, 6) True, no human is absolutely righteous. (James 3:2) Nevertheless, because of Abraham's outstanding faith, Jehovah dealt with him as if he were righteous and even called him his friend. (Isaiah 41:8) Those who make up the spiritual seed of Abraham along with Jesus have also been declared righteous, and this brings them even greater blessings than Abraham received.
(Watchtower issue: 01/15/08, 4:6, 7)
*here's some additional reference material explaining how we know that the number 144,000 is literal in this instance and not merely a symbolic number...
(Reasoning from the Scriptures -"Is the number 144,000 merely symbolic?" pg 167) "The answer is indicated by the fact that, after mention of the definite number 144,000, Revelation 7:9 refers to "a great crowd, which no man was able to number." If the number 144,000 were not literal it would lack meaning as a contrast to the "great crowd." Viewing the number as literal agrees with Jesus' statement at Matthew 22:14 regarding the Kingdom of the heavens: "There are many invited, but few chosen." and Luke 12:32 says "Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom."
Also if you compare how God dealt with the nation of Israel in the Hebrew scriptures you can totally see the parallel here ... The 12 tribes of Israel made up the majority of the people, by far. Whereas, the priestly duties were assigned only to the tribe of Levi. And even before that officially got underway, Moses delegated judicial responsibilities to a small group of those who were spiritually qualified to assist him in judging the people and handling matters. (Exodus 18:19-26)
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
(Grandma & Gramps w. dad 3 months old - nice face dad!)
(Grandparents visiting Arizona)
*Since both of my grandmothers have always motivated & inspired me when it comes to the ministry and helping others, I wanted to post a little backround info about how they first became Jehovah's Witnesses and some experiences they had. I'm gonna start with my dad's mom, Mary, and then post about my other grandma in the next entry.
When you first hear this story its gonna make my Grandpa look like a 'bad guy' (which is not my intention) because there were times when I guess he had sort of a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality type, where, although he was usually a nice and caring person, he did some irrational things when he lost his temper.
Both sides of my family are originally from Philadelphia, so during the 50's my mom's mother, Dora, came in contact with my dad's mother, Mary, and began studying the Bible with her when my dad was still pretty young. (My grandma said my dad would be running around all hyper and climbing up the bookcases while they were trying to study. lol) As far as I know my grandfather wasn't opposed to this, but for some reason he got very upset on one particular occasion. My grandmother was attending the congregation book study one night at someone's home in the congregation, when my grandfather showed up, put a gun to her head and threatened to shoot her if she didn't leave with him. My mom and uncle were also there that night and remember it happening, but they don't remember the details surrounding the situation because they were too young at the time. The brothers managed to calm him down and get the gun away from him without an incident.
I found out later that my grandfather kept lots of guns in the house because he was a sharp shooter (not as a profession, but my dad told me he won all kinds of contests for it, so it must have been a serious hobby of his), but can you imagine how nerve racking it must have been as a young mother with small children, knowing a situation like that might happen again? Fortunately, it never did. An incident that extreme would have made it very easy for her to convince herself to stop studying the Bible and to stop coming to congregation meetings. But she didn't give up, and eventually my grandfather began having a Bible study & attending congregation meetings himself.
She never lived in AZ, so I never got to know her any where near as much as my other grandmother, but what I do remember, I really admire her for. She was extremely enthusiastic in general but especially when it came to the pioneer ministry. She wasn't timid or hesistant to witness to whoever she met. But even though she was bold, at the same time, she also had a really pleasant, sweet demeanor, where you just felt good being around her. I also admire her teaching ability. She learned ASL in order to help teach the Bible to deaf students who wanted to learn. And she ended up becoming a Sign Language interpretor at the District Conventions and assemblies also. Even as an older adult she took up learning 2 new languages so that she could help out in the foreign language congregations. She learned French and Italian, and she would actually attend all 3 foreign language group meetings every week. She would go to the French, Italian, and ASL/English meetings every Sunday! I envy her energy!
Even now that she's developed dementia, and needs 24hr care at an assisted facility...when we went to visit her, although she can't remember our names or who we are anymore, the nursing staff asked us what profession she used to be in, and if she had ever been a teacher. Apparently, even after so many years, and such a severe loss of memory, they noticed her good teaching skills just by the way she interacts with others. I thought that was pretty amazing.
"Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses." (Luke 12:15)
How fitting that Jesus prefaced the above warning against covetousness with the words "keep your eyes open"! Why? Because it is so easy for people to see that someone else is being greedy or covetous, but it is rare that they will acknowledge that they themselves are guilty of it. Yet, the apostle Paul points out that "the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things." (1 Timothy 6:9, 10) The disciple James explains that wrong desire, "when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin." (James 1:15) In line with Jesus' admonition, we should 'keep our eyes open,' not to observe others to see if they fit the description, but to examine ourselves to see what we have set our hearts on, so as to guard against every sort of covetousness."
(Watchtower issue: 08/01/07, 1:10)
*I love how Jesus always knew just how to cut thru to the heart of the issue instead of focusing on minor "he said, she said" details, about who was to blame or what caused the situation in the first place. (With the exception of the hypocritical religious leaders who he verbally reprimanded in no uncertain terms in this regard), you never see him pointing the finger or putting a guilt trip on his listeners, -even those who he obviously knew were guilty of practicing the very things he was talking about. He was well aware of all the tax collectors, & greedy extortionists among the crowd, but he didn't single anyone out like that. He simply identified the problem, gave them 'food for thought' on why it was wrong, and then explained what they should do to correct it and move on. -Very effective. Because when you can sense that a person sincerely cares about you, and has your best interest at heart, it MOVES YOU to WANT to change, doesn't it? =)
Monday, June 22, 2009
"There will be richly supplied to you the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:11)
"Anointed Christians today, having been counted worthy to receive a Kingdom, eagerly look forward to ruling during Judgement Day. The very prospect motivates them to follow the counsel that Peter gave to their first-century brothers: "Do your utmost to make the calling and choosing of you sure for yourselves; for if you keep on doing these things you will by no means ever fail." (2 Peter 1:10) The other sheep rejoice with their anointed brothers. They are determined to support them. As friends of God today, they are motivated to do their utmost in God's service. During Judgement Day, they will be thrilled to support whole-heartedly God's arrangements as Jesus guides them to fountains of waters of life. Then-at last-they will be counted worthy to be Jehovah's earthly servants for all eternity! -Romans 8:20, 21; Revelation 21:1-7
(Watchtower issue: 01/15/08, 5:17, 18)
*Here's some extra "meaty" research (to get the Monday morning back-to-work juices flowing in your brain. lol) Its in regards to the 144,000 anointed class, and the point brought out at 2 Peter 1:10 above. "Questions From Readers" (1/1/07 Watchtower) "What is the sealing referred to at Revelation 7:3?"
"Let us consider the meaning of the word “sealed.” In ancient times, a seal was an instrument used to make an impression on a document. The word can also refer to the impression itself. In those days, it was common to attach a seal to a document or other items to indicate authenticity or ownership.—1 Kings 21:8; Job 14:17.
Paul compared holy spirit to a seal when he stated: “He who guarantees that you and we belong to Christ and he who has anointed us is God. He has also put his seal upon us and has given us the token of what is to come, that is, the spirit, in our hearts.” (2 Corinthians 1:21, 22) Hence, Jehovah anoints these Christians with his holy spirit to indicate that they are his possession.
However, there are two phases in the sealing of anointed ones. The initial sealing differs from the final sealing (1) in purpose and (2) in time. The sealing in an initial sense serves to select a new member who is added to the number of anointed Christians. The sealing in a final sense serves to confirm that this chosen and sealed individual has fully demonstrated his loyalty. Only then, at the final sealing, will the seal be permanently placed ‘in the forehead’ of the anointed one, identifying him conclusively as a tried and faithful ‘slave of our God.’ The sealing mentioned in Revelation chapter 7 refers to this final phase of the sealing.—Revelation 7:3.
In many cases, the Bible record shows that first-century Christians were indeed sealed shortly after they heard the good news and became believers in Christ. (Acts 8:15-17; 10:44) Such sealing demonstrated God’s approval of them. However, it did not show God’s final approval. Why not?
Paul stated that anointed Christians are “sealed for a day of releasing.” (Ephesians 4:30) This indicates that the passing of time, usually many years, is involved after that initial sealing. Anointed ones need to remain faithful from the day they are sealed with holy spirit until the ‘day they are released’ from their fleshly bodies—that is, until their death. (Romans 8:23; Philippians 1:23; 2 Peter 1:10) Therefore, only at the very end of Paul’s life could he say: “I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith. From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8) Moreover, Jesus said to a congregation of anointed Christians: “Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life.”—Revelation 2:10; 17:14.
The word “crown” gives further evidence that time passes between the initial sealing and the final one. Why? In ancient times, it was the custom to give a crown to the runner who won a race. To receive the crown, he had to do more than merely enter the race. He had to run all the way to the finish. Similarly, only if anointed Christians persevere all the way to the end of their course—from the initial sealing to the final one—will they be crowned with immortal life in heaven.—Matthew 10:22; James 1:12."
*However, just like Paul was not actually dead yet when he made that declaration in regards to his final sealing, the article finishes up with this last point...
"When will the remnant of anointed Christians who have initially been sealed receive their final sealing? Any still alive on earth will be sealed “in their foreheads” before the outbreak of the great tribulation. When the four winds of tribulation are unleashed, (Revelation 7:1-3) all of spiritual Israel will have been sealed in finality, even though a few will still be alive in the flesh and must yet finish their earthly course."
Sunday, June 21, 2009
"Make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you." (1 Peter 3:15)
*I'm switching up today's text discussion since its directly related to field service presentations (which isn't very applicable unless you're actually out in the field ministry today -in which case you won't be reading this blog. lol) So instead, I'm gonna give a brief overview of some points discussed in an awesome talk I just listened to by Br. Barr on courage ... which (in addition to preparation and study), is a vital quality to have, in order to be able to "make a defense before everyone that demands a reason for the hope" in us.
The basic meaning of courage (as used by Bible writers) is "to keep an internal strength" or "to feel held together & tightly bound as if by some unseen inner force" so that no matter what happens, or what pressure is brought to bear against us, we aren't going to crumble or throw in the towel. We are going to stand firm and faithful to God, no matter what situation arises due to this inner force or strength within us. He referred to an old 1961 Watchtower article regarding the definition of 'courageousness' based on an American College Dictionary discussion of it. "Courageousness implies a higher and nobler kind of bravery, especially as resulting from an inborn quality of mind & spirit which faces or endures perils or difficulties without fear and even with enthusiasm." He then discussed what "the secret" is to developing the kind of courage and endurance that those men and women listed in Hebrews chapter 11 had, which we also need to have if we want to maintain our courage and endurance to the end. Faith was the secret of their strength, but the basis for their faith was due to "keeping a tight grip on the word of life." (Philippians 2:16). They never left out of their minds the wonderful hope held out for them. So likewise, we also need to 'keep a tight grip' on God's Word, and constantly keep our eyes on the prize like they did. (2 Corinthians 4:18)
He referred to the following scriptures as ones to meditate on to help us in this regard...
"So that we may be of good courage and say: “Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6)
"Consequently, my beloved ones, in the way that YOU have always obeyed, not during my presence only, but now much more readily during my absence, keep working out YOUR own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is the one that, for the sake of [his] good pleasure, is acting within YOU in order for YOU both to will and to act." (Philippians 2:12, 13)
"Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of YOU a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God; but keep on exhorting one another each day, as long as it may be called “Today,” for fear any one of YOU should become hardened by the deceptive power of sin. For we actually become partakers of the Christ only if we make fast our hold on the confidence we had at the beginning firm to the end." (Hebrews 3:12-14)
*and the last part of verse 6 (at Hebrews 3) goes hand in hand really well with today's text "...if we make fast our hold on our freeness of speech and our boasting over the hope firm to the end."
Saturday, June 20, 2009
(experience of Rudolf Kalle - pgs 160 & 163 of the 2009 Yearbook)
*I thought this story was a really powerful reminder of how there may be times in life when we have to be a 'lone soldier' by standing up for what's right, even if our own friends & family or others in the congregation, aren't standing strong when they should be. It reminded me a little bit of how the apostles "scattered" when Jesus was first arrested because they were afraid. Which is why experiences like this are so important to remember (especially in the coming days ahead) so that we don't allow "fear of man" deter us from sticking to our principles -come what may. (Proverbs 29:25, John 12:43) While at the same time, encouraging and building up confidence in our brothers & sisters to do the same, if we see them start to waver.
Choosing Between Tolstoy and Jehovah
"As the world teetered on the verge of war, a split occurred in one of the largest congregations in Yugoslavia. Some had begun to advocate the views of the Russian writer and religious philosopher Leo Tolstoy. Once a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, Tolstoy became convinced that all Christian churches were corrupt institutions that had thoroughly falsified Christianity. Some of the brothers adopted this mistrust of all religious organizations and became dissatisfied with Jehovah's organization. Abusing the trust given to him, the brother taking the lead in the Zagreb Congregation succeeded in persuading most of the publishers to accept Tolstoy's views. So strong was this brother's influence that the majority of the congregation, more than 60 members, adopted a resolution to renounce Jehovah's organization. When Rudolf Kalle heard of this, he hastily traveled from Belgrade to Zagreb to meet with the whole congregation. He discussed basic Bible truths that Jehovah had revealed through the faithful and discreet slave class. (Matthew 24:45-47) He then asked: "Who taught you these truths? Tolstoy or Jehovah's organization? Quoting Joshua 24:15, Rudolf asked those who wanted to stay with Jehovah's organization to raise their hands. Only two did so.
"It was inexpressibly painful," said Rudolf. It looked as if all the good that had been accomplished in the congregation was about to be lost. Rudolf then invited the two faithful ones to come up to the platform and said: "Only three of us remain. We now represent Jehovah's people in this city. I would like to ask all others to leave the room and go their own way. Please, leave us alone! We want to serve our God, Jehovah, and you can go serve your Tolstoy. We do not want to associate with you any longer." For a few seconds, there was complete silence. Then, one after another started to raise their hand and say: "I also want to serve Jehovah." In the end, only the apostate congregation servant and a few of his followers left the room. This test of loyalty fortified Jehovah's faithful servants for the far more severe trials they would soon face."
"The god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers." (2 Corinthians 4:4)
We should not think that "deep things" are necessarily difficult things. Knowledge of "the deep things of God" is obscured from most people, not because the wisdom of God is too difficult to acquire, but because Satan deceives people into rejecting the help that Jehovah provides through His organization. (1 Corinthians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 4:3) The third chapter of Paul's letter to the Ephesians shows that "the deep things of God" include many truths that most of Jehovah's people understand quite well, such as the identity of the promised Seed, the selection from among mankind of individuals with a heavenly hope, and the Messianic Kingdom. Paul said that he had been assigned to "make men see how the sacred secret is administered which has from the indefinite past been hidden in God." -Ephesians 3:5-9
(Watchtower issue: 11/01/07, 2:7, 8)
*this is really evident when you see young children who not only know the scriptures well, but also know how to defend their beliefs against adults who try to coerce or force them to compromise their loyalty. I was listening to a Circuit Overseer giving an experience from the 80's when all the Witnesses were subjected to some of the most severe & brutal persecution in Cuba. -Castro had required that all school children not only acknowledge the Communist authority, but that they had to wear some type of bandana that signified their allegiance to it. Well one 5 yr old Witness boy wouldn't put the bandana on, and even when the teachers forcibly put it on him, he took it off. A soldier actually put a gun to his head, ordering him to put it on, and he still wouldn't compromise. A child that young could never stand firm in the face of what would make most adults cower in fear, without having a solid foundation and education of the scriptures.
Friday, June 19, 2009
(experience of Ivan and Natalia, pgs 244 & 245 of the 2008 Yearbook)
"Natalia and I moved from Ukraine to Russia in the early 1990's. In Belgorod Oblast, which had a population of almost a million and a half, there were fewer than ten publishers. There was no doubt about it - this was the place where "the harvest [was] great, but the workers [were] few." (Matthew 9:37) We had just got married and had to find work to support ourselves. However, the economic situation in the country worsened, and many people lost their jobs. In order for people to obtain basic food products, the government issued coupons, or tickets, which were distributed at the workplace. Since we had no work, we had no coupons. Hence, we had to pay a high price for food at the market. We also had housing problems and had to live at a hotel. After we had paid for a room for 20 days, almost nothing was left in our wallets. We prayed to Jehovah every day to help us find work and an inexpensive place to live. All this time, we diligently preached, searching for sincere people. The last day of our hotel stay arrived. With the money we had left, we bought a roll and a container of milk. When we went to bed that evening we again supplicated Jehovah to help us find work and a place to live because the next morning we had to vacate the room.
In the morning we were awakened by a phone call. To our suprise, the hotel administrator said that my cousin was waiting for me in the lobby. My cousin offered me some money, saying that he had recently received a good bonus and wanted to share it with me. But this was not all. A few minutes later, a brother phoned us and said that he had found an inexpensive apartment for us. Furthermore, that same day we were accepted to work as groundskeepers at a kindergarten. So in one day, our problems were solved. We had some money, a place to live, and a job. There was no doubt at all that Jehovah had heard our prayers."
(side note: "In 1991 the Memorial attendance in Belgorod was 55; a year later the number of people attending was 150. The next year 354 attended. As of 2006, the city had six congregations, and there were more than 2,200 publishers in Belgorod Oblast." - which had started out with less than 10 publishers and just them when they first moved there)
This is the case of 2 Witnesses who worked for AT&T and were unfairly fired due to religious discrimination when their requests to take time off in order to attend all 3 days of the convention was denied. (despite the fact that their employer was well aware of their religious beliefs since they took time off every year to attend.) But imagine how easy it would have been to let fear of losing their jobs cause them to cave into the pressure, instead of standing firm for their beliefs by refusing to miss the convention. They must have had alot of worries on their mind about how things would turn out...But look what happened:
and here's an even more unusual turn of events that happened to the brothers in Russia (taken from pgs 195 & 196 of the 2008 Yearbook):
"In the 1970's in Bratsk, Irkutsk Oblast, the Communist party bureau of the local timber processing plant made a decision to fire all its employees who were Jehovah's Witnesses. The brothers were told: "Since you don't like Soviet authority, it won't take care of you. Since you do like Jehovah, let him take care of you." The brothers who had been fired decided that the best thing to do would be to preach openly, so they began to go from door to door. At one door opened by a woman, the brothers introduced themselves and briefly explained the purpose of their visit. From the kitchen came a male voice: "Whom are you talking to? Let them come into the house." When the brothers entered the house, the man asked: "Why aren't you at work? It is a workday." The brothers explained how they came to be out of work.
It turned out that the man was a public prosecutor who had come home for lunch. Indignant, he went to the phone and inquired of the plant whether it was true that the bureau had fired all of Jehovah's Witnesses. After receiving an affirmative answer, the prosecutor continued: "On what basis? Don't you understand that you have broken the law? You had no right to do this! I order you to give all the Witnesses back their jobs and to pay them compensation for the three months during which they could not work because of your decision." The prosecutor put down the receiver and turned to the brothers, saying, "Tomorrow, go back to your jobs, and continue working there."
(isn't that great? I love that one)
also, here's a clip from the documentary shown on PBS, which discusses the amount of times we had to take cases to the Supreme Court in order to uphold religious freedom, (which ended up establishing legal rights for other groups in America as well)
"The man who loves money can never have enough." (Ecclesiastes 5:10 - New English Bible.)
Is it possible to pursue materialistic goals and still serve God whole-souled? No, it is not. Jesus explained: "No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot slave for God and Riches." Jesus urged his followers to store up, not material goods on earth, but "treasures in heaven," that is, to establish a good name with God, who "knows what things you are needing before ever you ask him." (Matthew 6:8, 19-25) Paul told Timothy: "Give orders to those who are rich . . . to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment . . . , to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life." -1 Timothy 6:17-19.
(Watchtower issue: 10/01/07, 1:6, 7)
*I think alot of people might understand this principle "in theory," but have a hard time actually accepting the reality of what Jesus was saying here. -That God really does provide us with the things we need in practical, tangible ways, IF we truly trust and rely on him. We don't need to let fear and worry about our financial security cause us to rely so much on ourselves, that we begin to think of God more as our "backup -plan B" just in case our own financial plans don't work out. Even though it tends to be human nature to think that way, there's some really awesome yearbook stories about people who've experienced the reality of those words in their own lives which I'm gonna post.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
"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." (Genesis 3:15)
By saying the above, Jehovah revealed that it was his purpose to empower a "seed" to crush Satan and his forces and to prove the rightfulness of His sovereignty. (Psalms 2:7-9; 110:1, 2) That "seed" turned out to be Jesus Christ, along with a distinct group of associate rulers. Together they form God's Messianic Kingdom. (Daniel 7:13, 14, 27; Matthew 19:28; Luke 12:32; 22:28-30) All of this, however, was not revealed immediately. In fact, the outworking of the first prophecy remained a "sacred secret which [had] been kept in silence for long-lasting times." (Romans 16:25) For centuries, men of faith longed for the time when "the sacred secret" would be revealed and the first prophecy fulfilled to the vindication of Jehovah's sovereignty. -Romans 8:19-21.
(Watchtower issue: 12/01/07, 1:9, 10)
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
"Your own ears will hear a word behind you saying: "This is the way. Walk in it, you people." (Isaiah 30:21)
Jehovah is our Grand Instructor. (Isaiah 30:20) Through the visible part of his organization, he provides his servants on earth with guidance as to how they should fulfill their preaching commission. In this regard, every congregation holds a weekly Theocratic Ministry School, which is designed to help all those enrolled become effective proclaimers of God's Kingdom. The main textbook is the Bible. Jehovah's inspired Word tells us what to teach. Moreover, it indicates what teaching methods are effective and appropriate. The Theocratic Ministry School regularly reminds us that we will become more skilled as teachers if we base our teaching on God's Word, use questions effectively, teach with simplicity, and show a sincere interest in others.
(Watchtower issue: 01/15/08, 2:4)
*Speaking of the Theocratic Ministry School - here's the link to a blog I made with the weekly schedule which I forgot to post earlier.
Theocratic Study Schedule
I found some old notes I took during a pioneer instruction talk a long time ago, and one of the points mentioned was: "Those who talk the most, teach the least" ...do you realize what that means??? I've probably never taught anybody anything in my whole life because I talk too much! I seriously need to work on that, and remember what my sister always says to me whenever I get on a roll: "25 words or less Kim!" lol
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
San Diego International Convention
here's another one:
"Not that, please, Jehovah!" (Genesis 19:18)
At times, parents may want to bring their children into the discussion when formulating house rules. If youths are able to share in discussions about those rules, they may be more inclined to obey them. For instance, in case parents decide to impose a curfew, they could choose a specific hour that the children are required to be at home. If the children suggest a different time, the parents may decide that it might be possible to accommodate their children’s wishes when Bible principles are not jeopardized. Does this mean that the parents are abdicating, or giving up, their authority? Consider the way in which Jehovah lovingly exercised his authority when dealing with Lot and his family. (Genesis 19:17-22) He considered Lot’s request to flee to a nearby city and chose to extend extra kindness to him in this matter. If you are a parent, are there times when you can consider your children’s concerns when establishing family rules?
(Watchtower issue: 09/01/07, 1:10, 11)
*this scripture always cracked me up that Lot would say this at a time when he's running for his life, knowing that the whole city of Sodom is about to be destroyed. "No Jehovah, don't make me escape to the mountains!...anything but that!" lol. Actually, its not hard to imagine, since anytime people get 'too cozy' in their environment, it can be extremely difficult for them to leave. Remember how on the news during the hurricane evacuations, there were some people that put their lives in danger by refusing to evacuate because they didn't want to leave their house or their stuff behind? From that perspective, its not too hard to see why Lot "kept lingering" in the city even after he was told to leave, or why he would make the request to go to the city of Zoar instead, (since that sounds alot more comfortable than living in a cave in the mountains!) But it helps us to appreciate that even though Lot was being rather immature in this scenario, Jehovah was flexible and took his personal request into consideration anyway, just like he takes into account our individual needs & personal circumstances when it comes to what he expects of us or what we can handle.
Monday, June 15, 2009
The brothers had just got done passing the bread, and were getting ready to pass the wine, when a brother who had been watching the weather whispered to one of the passers that there was a tornado headed their way. Right after that the lights went out, and they heard a deafening noise. Then it got quiet and the emergency lights came on. What else could they do? They had no shelter to go to, so the brother delivering the talk went on reading the scripture and then said a prayer over the wine. They used flashlights to finish passing the emblems and tried to continue on with the Memorial. During the conclusion, an unbelieving husband of one of the sisters in the congregation came running in and yelled out his wife's name and then said, "Your meeting saved our lives. If we had been home, we would have all been dead." -His life was saved because when he saw that the tornado was headed for Mena, he left to go get his wife at the Kingdom Hall and ended up witnessing the tornado hitting his house from a safe distance. (though the house was still standing, it had been moved 20 feet off its foundation and everything inside was destroyed.)
After the meeting one of the brothers who was keeping an eye on things outside said he saw the tornado heading right for the Hall, and just as he was getting ready to duck inside to warn everyone, the tornado suddenly veered north of the Hall and passed it by. (When they inspected it the next day they found only slight damage to the Hall and the outbuilding.)
*ok, now I know we can't expect divine protection during natural disasters, but I sure know I'd rather be at the Kingdom Hall with the rest of the congregation then at home if a disaster ever hits! =) The same thing saved the brothers & sisters during the big tsunami a few years ago because they had all been at the meeting that Sunday when it hit the beach.
And especially if we have another bizarro lightning storm like we did during last year's Monsoon season, where the sky was lit up for over an hour straight, with just one strike after another. I turned on the weather channel to see what was going on because it was so crazy...I've never seen anything like it as long as I've lived here, and the lightning strike counter couldn't even keep up with it because there were so many. I was so scared that night.
"[Pharaoh] will certainly chase after them." (Exodus 14:4)
Pharaoh, feeling that he has made a mistake in allowing the Israelites to leave Egypt, sets off in hot pursuit. As the Egyptian army comes into sight, the Israelites become terrified and cry out to Moses. Moses replies: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and see the salvation of Jehovah, which he will perform for you today.” (Exodus 14:5-14) In obedience to God’s command, Moses now stretches his hand out. The account continues: “Jehovah began making the sea go back by a strong east wind all night long . . . At length the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on dry land.” The Egyptians take up the pursuit, but Jehovah throws the camp of the Egyptians into confusion. Then he tells Moses: “Stretch your hand out over the sea, that the waters may come back over the Egyptians.” So complete is the destruction of Pharaoh’s armies that not a single soldier is left alive!—Exodus 14:21-28; Psalm 136:15.
(Watchtower issue: 12/15/07, 2:11, 12)
Sunday, June 14, 2009
(stories on pgs 16-19 of the August 2008 'Awake!')
Robert: "Serving on a disaster relief committee has been a highlight of my life. At 67 years of age, I am the oldest member of the committee. I served with an army of volunteers that included many exceptional young, spiritually-minded Witnesses. It is so encouraging to see the young displaying self-sacrificing love for Jehovah and for fellow Christians! My wife, Veronica, has been an excellent helper. So that we could make ourselves available, she supported my decision to give up a job I had enjoyed for over 40 years. We now work one night a week cleaning offices. We have learned to get by on less and enjoy leading a simplified life. The spiritual environment in which we work has given us a deeper appreciation of what it means to put God's Kingdom first in life (Matthew 6:33) Repeatedly, we have seen that Jehovah takes good care of his people."
Frank: "I serve as overseer of the food service department at the Baton Rouge relief center. Initially, the task of feeding the volunteers meant working between 10 and 12 hours a day, seven days a week. The blessings, though, were many including seeing firsthand the power of Christian love. Many volunteers who helped in food service for a week or so asked to return, and by means of postcards and phone calls, some expressed their heartfelt gratitude for the privilege of helping out. My wife, Veronica, and I have truly been touched by their spirit of self-sacrifice."
Gregory: "My wife, Kathy, and I sold our home in Las Vegas, Nevada, and bought a light pickup truck as well as a trailer, which has become our home. Simplifying our lives has enabled us to share in the relief work in Louisiana for over two years. More than at any other time in our life, we are learning firsthand the truth of the words found in the Bible at Malachi 3:10: "Test me out, please, ... Jehovah of armies has said, [and see] whether I shall not open to you people the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out a blessing until there is no more want." It often makes us smile to ourselves when people say, "Oh, that is so self-sacrificing!" Thirty years ago, Kathy and I wanted to serve at the United States branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses, but we had children to raise. Relief work has satisfied our desire to do more in God's service. Another privilege has been to work closely with fellow Witnesses, some of whom are very talented. For example, one of our cooks had been a chef in a fine restuarant, and another had cooked for two U.S. presidents. For many volunteers, disaster-relief work has been a life-changing experience. One 57-year-old had goose bumps as he described his work with hurricane victims. Even some Witnesses who were unable to come have been a source of encouragement. For example, two volunteers who do mold remediation presented us with a banner made and signed by everyone-including children-in three congregations in their home state of Nebraska."
Wendell: "The day after Katrina struck, I received an invitation from the United States branch to assess the damage to Kingdom Halls and homes of Jehovah's Witnesses in Louisiana and Mississippi. Thus began what has become part assignment and part personal journey. Having lived for 32 years in an area where there is a great need for Kingdom proclaimers, my wife Janine and I clearly saw Jehovah's care for his people. Now, however, we have seen God's care on a much larger scale. I am privileged to serve on the Baton Rouge disaster relief committee as chairman. Although challenging, this assignment has given me immense satisfaction. Indeed, hundreds of times during this relief effort, our committee has seen God solve problems, open doors, and care for damaged souls in ways that only a loving Almighty Father could. Many have asked, "How are you and your wife still able to share in the relief work after more than two years?" It has not always been easy. We have had to make numerous adjustments in our lives. But on the positive side, we have seen the benefits that come from maintaining a 'simple eye.' (Matthew 6:22)
When we made our first search and rescue missions in New Orleans, we got little rest. Complicating matters, the city was virtually under martial law because of the chaos that prevailed and the acts of random brutality that plagued the streets. It was easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the task that lay before us. We met thousands of Witnesses who had suffered losses. We prayed with them and tried to console them. Then, with Jehovah's help, we got on with the work. At times, I feel as if I have lived two lifetimes in my two years here. Time and again, just when I thought that I was exhausted beyond physical and emotional limits, a new wave of volunteers would arrive -some for a number of months, others for the long haul. To see so many joyful and willing helpers, including many young people, has been a sustaining experience. Often, Jehovah came to our rescue. For example, early on, we discovered that trees had fallen on more than 1,000 homes of our brothers. Because we had no equipment or personnel to do the dangerous work of removing the trees, our committee prayed about the matter. The very next day, a brother with a truck and the exact piece of equipment we needed offered his services. On another occasion prayer was answered in just 15 minutes, and on yet another occasion, the equipment we prayed about was on its way before we said amen! Yes, Jehovah proved to be the "Hearer of prayer." (Psalm 65:2)"
Matthew: "The day after Katrina struck, I was able to help organize the delivery of 15 tons of donated food, water, and other neccessities to the devastated area. Jehovah's people certainly proved their generosity! For our efforts to be more effective, my wife Darline, and I moved to within a two-hour drive of the affected area. A local Witness gave us part-time secular work so that we could devote most of our time to the relief effort. Another Witness provided us with an apartment. To be a part of such a loving brotherhood fills my heart with appreciation and makes me proud to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses."
Ted: "Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, my wife Debbie, and I volunteered to help with the relief effort. Within a few days, I found a used 28-foot trailer that was light enough for our truck to haul and that was also priced half the appraised value -well within our budget and an answer to our prayers. This trailer has been our home for more than two years. During a break in the work, we sold our house and most of our belongings, freeing us up for additional work in New Orleans, where I serve as a project coordinator. A highlight of our experience has been observing how Jehovah proved to be "the God of all comfort" for his worshippers. Many had lost not just their homes and Kingdom Halls but also, as a result of the evacuation, their congregations and even the entire territory in which they had preached the good news."
"These men that have overturned the inhabited earth are present here also." (Acts 17:6)
Early missionaries helped many to embrace Christianity. Philip, for one, went to Samaria, where crowds paid attention to his words. (Acts 8:5-8) Paul traveled widely with various companions, preaching the Christian message in Cyprus, parts of Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece, and Italy. In cities where he preached, multitudes of both Jews and Greeks became believers. (Acts 14:1; 16:5; 17:4) Titus carried on a ministry in Crete. (Titus 1:5) Peter was busy in Babylon, and by the time he wrote his first letter, about 62-64 C.E., the activity of the Christians was well-known in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. (1 Peter 1:1; 5:13) What exciting times those were! So zealous were those first-century Christian preachers that their enemies claimed that they had "overturned the inhabited earth." -Acts 28:22
(Watchtower issue: 01/15/08, 3:2)
*the speaker today gave an illustration about the preaching work being like a search and rescue operation in these last days, by comparing it with a real-life search and rescue story that happened. (I was taking notes but I didn't write fast enough, so I'm not sure exactly where this earthquake was) It was an 8.9 on the richter scale and killed 30,000 people in 4 minutes. At the time that it happened a father had just dropped his son off at school and after checking on his wife at home, drove back to get his son...but when he got there he found the entire school had collapsed to the ground and was completely flattened. Well he remembered the promise he had made to his son that he would always be there to help him, so despite the grim chances of survival, he started digging in the area where his son's classroom had been. A neighbor came out and said "I know you're distraught but you need to stop digging, your son is dead." but the father kept digging and just said: "Are you gonna help me now?" well then a fire fighter showed up and told the father to stop digging also, saying: "no one could have survived this, so you need to stop digging." but the father said, "Are you gonna help me now?" Then later a police officer came and actually ordered the father to stop digging saying: "You're putting yourself in danger and need to leave it to the professionals." but the father once again said, "Are you gonna help me now?" and just kept right on digging.
-Well after 38 hours of digging the father moved aside a boulder and found his son still alive along with other children in his class who had somehow been protected from the falling debris by a structure or something in the location where they were huddled together when the earthquake hit. And the boy said to his classmates "I told you my dad would find us."
Isn't that incredible? So just like the early Christians in the 1st century, no matter who tries to persuade us to stop -by telling us its hopeless or useless to go on...we can't ever give up trying because lives are involved.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
(appeared in the August 2008 Awake! pg 18)
"When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast of the United States in 2005, they caused catastrophic damage and much loss of life. The victims included thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses. Directed by the United States branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses, disaster relief committees swung into operation. In Louisiana, they set up 13 relief centers, 9 warehouses, and 4 fuel depots. Their field of operation covered 32,000 square miles. Nearly 17,000 Witness volunteers from all parts of the United States and from 13 other lands poured in to help with emergency aid and reconstruction. The results showed that the forces of nature are no match for Christian love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)
The volunteers repaired more than 5,600 homes of fellow believers and 90 Kingdom Halls, the meeting places of Jehovah's Witnesses. These figures represent virtually all such buildings that were damaged. In harmony with Galatians 6:10, which urges Christians to "work what is good toward all," Jehovah's Witnesses assisted a number of nonbelievers as well."
A Day at a Relief Center
"For the kitchen crew at a disaster relief center, work begins at about 4:30 a.m. At 7:00 a.m. the whole family of workers gathers in the dining area for a ten-minute consideration of a Bible text before breakfast. The chairman might also use the occasion to welcome new arrivals and share a recent encouraging experience. After a prayer of thanks, all enjoy a hearty breakfast and then head off to work. Some stay at the center, perhaps to work in the offices, laundry, or kitchen. The cooks prepare take-out lunches to be picked up at noon by a representative of each off-site team. Every Monday night the "family" gathers for a Bible study based on an article in the Watchtower magazine published by Jehovah's Witnesses. Such studies help all to remain spiritually strong-the secret to enduring with joy and to seeing one's work in the proper light. (Matthew 4:4; 5:3)"
*I heard the cutest little "romantic story" from a sister in our congregation about a situation that happened at one of the relief centers. I dont know which state this took place in, but there's a brother whose a chef and owned his own restuarant business during the time when all this was going on. And his father (who was working as a relief center volunteer) called and asked him a few times if he'd be willing to come down and offer his cooking services to help out the kitchen staff who prepare meals for the workers. Well at first he kept telling his dad that he couldn't do it because he was so busy running his restuarant. Well one day his dad called and asked him again, and this time when he said "no", his dad told him, "Son, you're turning your back on Jehovah"...well apparently that was the clincher that finally moved him to adjust his work schedule so he could go and help out the brothers & sisters down there. Ok, so get this...when he gets there, he meets a single sister who was also a chef, and after working together on the kitchen staff for a few months, they end up falling in love and getting married. And now they own their own restuarant business together! lol...isn't that the cutest story? It just goes to show how sometimes God has even better 'plans' in store for us, than the ones we make for ourselves! =)