Monday, May 31, 2010

daily text 5/31

Monday, May 31st, 2010
"[Christ] is a mediator of a new covenant." (Hebrews 9:15)

What does Jesus' role as Mediator involve? Well, Jehovah applies the value of Jesus' blood to those being brought into the new covenant. In this way, Jehovah legally credits them with righteousness. (Romans 3:24) God can then take them into the new covenant with the prospect of their becoming heavenly king-priests! As their Mediator, Jesus assists them in maintaining a clean standing before God. (Hebrews 2:16) What about those who are not in the new covenant, those who hope to live forever on earth, not in heaven? While not participants in the new covenant, these are beneficiaries of it. They receive forgiveness of their sins and are declared righteous as God's friends. (James 2:23; 1 John 2:1, 2) Whether we have a heavenly hope or an earthly hope, each one of us has good reason to appreciate Jesus' role as the Mediator of the new covenant.
(Watchtower issue: 12/15/08, 3:11, 13, 14)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

daily text 5/30

Sunday, May 30th, 2010
"Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations." (Matthew 28:19)

Zealous Christians continue to obey that command, striving "to bear thorough witness to the good news." (Acts 20:24) A key method of doing so is by means of what Paul mentioned to the Ephesian elders—house-to-house preaching. In a 2007 book on effective missionary work, David G. Stewart, Jr., said: "The practical, applied focus of the Jehovah's Witnesses has proven far more effective at inspiring member-missionary participation than abstract, theoretical [urgings from pulpits]. For many Jehovah's Witnesses, sharing their beliefs with others is a favorite activity." The result? "In 1999, only 2 to 4 percent of people I surveyed in two Eastern European capitals reported ever being approached by Latter-day Saints or 'Mormon' missionaries. Over 70 percent reported being personally approached by Jehovah's Witnesses, often multiple times."
(Watchtower issue: 12/15/08, 4:10, 11)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

daily text 5/29

Saturday, May 29th, 2010
"Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah's mouth." (Matthew 4:4)

The Devil tried to break the integrity of Jesus. In the wilderness, Satan used temptations in an effort to get Jesus to compromise His obedience to Jehovah. However, Jesus refused to make use of his God-given power for personal benefit. Today, the Devil seeks to exploit the natural physical desires of Jehovah's servants. We must therefore be resolute in resisting sexual temptations, which are especially common in this immoral world. God's Word emphatically states: "What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God's kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men . . . will inherit God's kingdom." (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) People who live immoral lives and refuse to change will not be allowed to live in God's new world.
(Watchtower issue: 11/15/08, 4:8, 9)

Friday, May 28, 2010

University Students Who Pursued the Ministry

The following experience is about 2 former university students, Altin Hoxha and Adrian Shkëmbi, (on pg 183 of the 2010 Yearbook) who really put the words of today's text into action.

Early in 1993, they were university students in Tiranë. (Albania) A friend talked to them for hours about what he was learning from Jehovah's Witnesses. Everything was supported by the Bible. Later they learned more, applied what they learned, and were baptized the same year. That summer, they went to preach in Kuçovë, where there were no publishers.
After returning to Tiranë, Adrian said to Altin: "What are we doing in school? Let's really get the work going in Kuçovë!"
Altin's response was, "Ok, let's go!" Seven months after their baptism, they were back in Kuçovë.
Jehovah richly blessed their efforts. Today over 90 publishers are active in Kuçovë. Some 25 Witnesses have left there to serve as pioneers or to serve at Bethel. Adrian and Altin conducted studies with many of them.
Thinking about the university, Altin smiles and says: "The apostle Paul decided not to pursue a worldly career, and in 1993, I made a similar decision. Never have I regretted saying, 'Ok, let's go!' "

daily text 5/28

Friday, May 28th, 2010
"Remember, now, your Grand Creator in the days of your young manhood." (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

We want our children to be well-educated so that they can make their way in life. Even more important, a well-educated Christian is better able to read the Bible with understanding, reason on problems and come to sound conclusions, and teach Bible truths in a clear and persuasive way. Getting a good education takes time, but it is time well spent. What, though, of higher education, received in a college or a university? Many who pursue such education end up with their minds filled with harmful propaganda. Such education wastes valuable youthful years that could best be used in Jehovah's service. Perhaps it is not surprising that in lands where many have received such an education, belief in God is at an all-time low. Rather than looking to the advanced educational systems of this world for security, a Christian trusts in Jehovah.—Proverbs 3:5.
(Watchtower issue: 4/15/08, 1:9, 10)

It's interesting how there's alot more Christian religions saying the same thing now in regards to higher education, and they're starting to publicly voice their concerns about it. (not just parents, but college-age kids too)
Which, in a way, demonstrates that this is not a concern unique to Jehovah's Witnesses, or because JW parents don't value education and only want their kids to stay focused on having a full-time share in the ministry...that obviously isn't the case, because the majority of college-age Christians belong to denominations that don't even engage in the full-time ministry work, so it's obviously the learning environment itself and what's being taught by college professors, which is causing concern.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

daily text 5/27

Thursday, May 27th, 2010
"I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk. O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river."
(Isaiah 48:17, 18)

Are you young and still unmarried? If so, how should you regard the prospect of marriage? You can avoid much heartache if you wait until you are physically, mentally, and spiritually ready for marriage before you start a romantic relationship with a Christian of the opposite sex. Of course, the Scriptures do not stipulate an age for marriage. However, the Bible does show that you do well to wait until you are past that time in life when sexual feelings are very strong. (1 Corinthians 7:36) Why? Because strong sexual impulses can distort good judgement and cause you to make unwise decisions that may result in heartache later. Remember, Jehovah's wise counsel on marriage in the Bible is for yor benefit and happiness.
(Watchtower issue: 4/15/08, 4:6)

extra reference material from related articles on the website:
Should We Break Up?
Teen Pregnancy--Mothers Too Soon

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

daily text 5/26

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
"Stop judging that you may not be judged." (Matthew 7:1)

According to Luke, Jesus said: "Stop judging, and you will by no means be judged; and stop condemning, and you will by no means be condemned. Keep on releasing, and you will be released." (Luke 6:37) The first century Pharisees judged others harshly, in keeping with unscriptural traditions. Any of Jesus' listeners who did that were to "stop judging." Instead, they were to "keep on releasing," that is, forgiving the shortcomings of others. The apostle Paul gave similar counsel regarding forgiveness. (Ephesians 4:32) By extending forgiveness, Jesus' disciples would move people to respond with a forgiving spirit. "With what judgement you are judging, you will be judged," said Jesus, "and with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you." (Matthew 7:2) With respect to our treatment of others, we reap what we sow.—Galatians 6:7.
(Watchtower issue: 5/15/08, 2:13, 14)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

daily text 5/25

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
"Against your people they cunningly carry on their confidential talk; . . . against you they proceeded to conclude even a covenant." (Psalm 83:3, 5)

What was the psalmist's foremost concern? Of course, he must have been very worried about his own personal safety and that of his family. Yet, the subject of his prayer was the reproach being brought on Jehovah's name and the threats against the nation that bore that name. May we all keep a similar, balanced viewpoint as we endure the difficult final days of this old world. (Matthew 6:9, 10) The psalmist quotes Israel's enemies as saying: "Come and let us efface them from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more." (Psalm 83:4) What hatred those nations had for God's chosen people! But they had another motive for their conspiracy. They coveted Israel's land and boasted: "Let us take possession of the abiding places of God for ourselves." (Psalm 83:12) Has something similar been true in our day? Yes!
(Watchtower issue: 10/15/08, 3:6-8)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Working Hard For Jehovah at 101 Yrs Old

(Carey W. Barber)

Talk about being a hard worker... Br Barber was still keeping up his daily schedule at Bethel until he was 101 years old! (This next little tidbit isn't in the following article, but Br. Splane, who served on the Governing Body with him, mentioned this in a talk). He said Br Barber woke up everyday at 5am, in order to join the rest of the Bethel family for morning worship and a consideration of the daily text at 7am. Then he started his workday at 8:00, and finished at 3:30 (stopping only an hour and a half sooner than the rest of the much younger Bethel workers) Now that's dedication! =)

(the following is a brief summary about Brother Barber's life, on pg 31 of the 10/15/07 Watchtower)

In a letter he wrote in 1971, Carey W. Barber reflected on his first 50 years of service to the true God: “The years in Jehovah’s service have been unusually good. The association with his people; the protection from the evildoers of Satan’s world; the prospect of victory with the Lamb, Jesus Christ; and the evidence of Jehovah’s love combine to bring about that sweet peace and inner satisfaction that guard the heart and give sure hope of the final triumph.”
Six years later, Brother Barber, a spirit-anointed Christian, began serving as a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In that capacity during the following 30 years, he continued to look forward to “victory with the Lamb.” He achieved that by proving faithful until his death at the age of 101 on Sunday, April 8, 2007.—1 Corinthians 15:57.

Born in England in 1905, Carey Barber was baptized in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1921. Two years later he and his twin brother, Norman, transferred to Brooklyn, New York, to help with a new project. At that time, Jehovah’s people were about to begin producing their own books for spreading the good news of the Kingdom “in all the inhabited earth.” (Matthew 24:14) One of Brother Barber’s early assignments was that of running a small press. Among the items printed were law briefs for legal cases being taken to the United States Supreme Court. In time, Brother Barber worked in the Service Department, focusing on congregation matters and the preaching work around the country.

Having that background, Brother Barber was well-qualified when in 1948 he was assigned as a traveling minister, visiting assemblies and congregations all over the western part of the United States. He said that he particularly enjoyed being out in the fresh air in the public preaching activity. This assignment brought many brothers and sisters into contact with Brother Barber. His quick mind and zeal for the ministry proved very useful when he later attended the 26th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. During the school term, he became acquainted with a fellow student from Canada, Sydney Lee Brewer. After graduation they married and had their honeymoon on the short trip to serve the congregations in the area of Chicago, Illinois. Sister Barber proved to be a valuable companion and a constant source of support to her husband during their two decades in the traveling ministry.

Those who got to meet Brother Barber and to know him during his decades as a district or circuit overseer or during the 30 years he spent working and traveling as a member of the Governing Body will long remember his talks and lively comments. We have every reason to rejoice over his “victory with the Lamb.”

daily text 5/24

Monday, May 24th, 2010
"My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working." (John 5:17)

There is no doubt that Jehovah and Jesus derive satisfaction from work. The Bible indicates Jehovah's satisfaction with his creative work when it says: "God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good." (Genesis 1:31) Solomon likewise appreciated the value of meaningful work. (Ecclesiastes 3:13) Many humans understand the value of honest work. For instance, Jose, a successful artist, says: "When you are able to paint on a canvas the picture you have in mind, you feel as if you had conquered a high mountain." Miguel, a businessman, notes: "Work gives satisfaction because it enables you to provide for your family. It can also give you a sense of achievement." Many times, however, the person who struggles hard to succeed ends up bitter and frustrated, realizing that he has kept "working hard for the wind."—Ecclesiastes 5:16.
(Watchtower issue: 4/15/08, 5:11-13)

It's weird how even this is an aspect about life which "the world" has influenced people into developing a mentality about work, which is the complete opposite of what God intended for us. Instead of humans being able to find satisfaction in their work, by building and creating enjoyable surroundings with their own two hands and continually learning new skills throughout their lives,...our society is set up in such a way that the majority of humans are herded together like cattle in giant corporations, doing work which they usually can't stand, just to make a paycheck to live. It's like one big factory machine.

And the overwhelming message that's portrayed in the media (when it comes to work) is to get the best education possible, in order to secure the highest paying job, so you can make the most amount of money, with the least amount of exertion, in the shortest amount of time. Then you can retire early, buy lots of toys and gadgets so you can relax and vacation for the rest of your life and never have to work again. Obviously that's an entirely backwards view of work, because the whole system is backwards.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

daily text 5/23

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010
"It is not a desirable thing with my Father who is in heaven for one of these little ones to perish." (Matthew 18:14)

Earnest effort is required to rescue lost sheep of God's pasturage. (Psalm 100:3) Jesus illustrated this when he said: "If a certain man comes to have a hundred sheep and one of them gets strayed, will he not leave the ninety-nine upon the mountains and set out on a search for the one that is straying?" (Matthew 18:12) If Christian elders are to help sheep who have strayed, they must bear in mind that the flock of God is a congregation of people dedicated to Jehovah—yes, a precious 'flock of God's pasturage.' (Psalm 79:13) Such dear sheep need tender care, and this means that loving shepherds must take a personal interest in them. Making friendly shepherding calls on them can be very effective. Loving encouragement that a shepherd gives them may build them up spiritually and increase their desire to return to the flock.—1 Corinthians 8:1.
(Watchtower issue: 11/15/08, 1:3, 4)

I was just thinking about how even Moses needed to be trained on how to deal gently with the people before Jehovah would allow him to shepherd His 'flock'. Because even though people (in general) tend to like strong leaders who 'take charge', when Moses attempted to do that -the first time he tried to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, his approach was too harsh and forceful...even in the eyes of the Israelite men.
Moses had good intentions toward God's people, but you can see how growing up in an environment of Egyptian nobility, (where everything was handled with force) must have rubbed off on his personality, and those qualities were not what Jehovah wanted, nor what the people needed. It took 40 yrs of training -as a literal shepherd in Midian, before Moses was ready to take on that responsibility. (And you can totally see why he needed to learn to be extremely patient and mild, since he had to deal with the Israelites for so long!) lol.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Azerbaijan—Is the Bible Banned?

Well it's certainly alot more difficult to apply the words of today's text and "walk with God" when government authorities refuse to allow you to even cross the border with your copy of the Bible.

JW-Media link to the following article

For Immediate Release
May 20, 2010

Azerbaijan—Is the Bible banned?
GAZAKH, Azerbaijan—At the Red Bridge border control near the city of Gazakh, customs officials confiscated personal literature including 33 copies of the Holy Bible, either in its complete form or some version of the four Gospels.

On April 25, 2010, more than 250 persons in five buses and two minivans were returning home after having attended a religious assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in neighboring Georgia. The border control officers confiscated the Bibles, as well as personal books and notebooks. The delegates were kept waiting in the cold for many hours. Though each of the buses arrived at the border control at approximately 5:30 p.m., the first bus wasn’t released until almost midnight; other buses were held until 3:00 a.m. This caused considerable hardship, especially for the more than 30 elderly and infirm persons and the more than 30 mothers with children.

Prohibiting citizens from returning to Azerbaijan with their personal copy of the Bible and other personal religious publications is in complete violation of fundamental rights and freedoms. Along with the Bible, one of the books confiscated, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, was What Does the Bible Really Teach? Although that book has been translated into 202 languages and is available worldwide, with over 140 million copies printed, it is on a list of publications that cannot be imported into Azerbaijan. The ruling to refuse its importation was issued in 2007 by the State Committee of Azerbaijan Republic for Work With Religious Associations and was based on the subjective assessment of its own Department of Religious Studies Expertise, Public Affairs and Analysis. However, that department had previously examined the same book and had not objected to its being imported.

On September 28, 2009, the Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Baku filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights regarding the censorship of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?, as well as other publications.

daily text 5/22

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010
"Because [Jehovah] is at my right hand, I shall not be made to totter." (Psalm 16:8)

To many, it is inconceivable that the Creator of our vast universe allows humans to walk with him in a spiritual sense. Yet, that is exactly what Jehovah wants us to do. In Bible times, Enoch and Noah 'walked with God.' (Genesis 5:24; 6:9) Moses "continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible." (Hebrews 11:27) King David found himself humbly walking alongside his heavenly Father. Of course, we cannot literally take Jehovah by the hand and walk with him. But we can do so in a figurative sense. How? The psalmist Asaph writes: "I am constantly with you; you have taken hold of my right hand. With your counsel you will lead me." (Psalm 73:23, 24) Simply put, we walk with Jehovah when we closely follow his counsel, which we receive primarily through his written Word and through "the faithful and discreet slave."—Matthew 24:45; 2 Timothy 3:16.
(Watchtower issue: 10/15/08, 2:3, 4)

There's another good example of this concept in the book of Jeremiah, where Jehovah has Jeremiah do a little experiment with a linen belt in order to illustrate the fact that Jehovah wants his people to rely on his Word and cling to him the way a belt clings to a person's hips. In fact, he used this illustration in regards to the whole nation of Israel...

"For just as a belt clings to the hips of a man, so I caused the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah to cling even to me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘in order to become to me a people and a name and a praise and something beautiful; but they did not obey.’" (Jeremiah 13:11)

Friday, May 21, 2010

daily text 5/21

Friday, May 21st, 2010
"In her was found the blood of the prophets and of the holy ones." (Revelation 18:24)

Among "the disgusting things" that false religion bears responsibility for are the many wars that have resulted in hundreds of millions being "slaughtered on the earth." (Revelation 17:5; 18:24) Additional "disgusting things" include acts of pedophilia and other forms of sexual immorality committed by clergymen and tolerated by the church authorities. Is it any wonder that Jehovah God will soon rid the earth of false religion? (Revelation 18:8) True Christians, who know this, have an obligation to warn members of Babylon the Great. One way they do so is by distributing Bibles and related literature published by "the faithful and discreet slave." (Matthew 24:45) When individuals show an interest in the Bible's message, arrangements are made to help them by means of a Bible study. Hopefully, they will see the need to "flee out of the midst of Babylon" before it is too late.—Jeremiah 51:6; Revelation 18:4.
(Watchtower issue: 6/15/08, 1:10, 11)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

daily text 5/20

Thursday, May 20th, 2010
"Because of my integrity you have upheld me." (Psalm 41:12)

King David once experienced a severe sickness, which is mentioned in Psalm 41. Confined for a time to a sickbed, David was so ill that it seemed to some of his enemies that he would never "get up again." (Verses 7, 8) David did not expect Jehovah to perform a miracle and remove the sickness. Rather, David felt certain that Jehovah would "sustain him"—that is, give him support and strength while he was lying on his sickbed. (Verse 3) David definitely needed such help. In addition to the sickness that weakened him, he was surrounded by enemies who were saying evil things about him. (Verses 5, 6) Jehovah may well have strengthened David by bringing to his mind comforting thoughts. David may also have found strength in reflecting on the fact that Jehovah regarded him as a man of integrity. David did finally recover from his sickness. Is it not reassuring to know that Jehovah can sustain those who are sick?—2 Corinthians 1:3.
(Watchtower issue: 9/15/08, 1:10, 13)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

daily text 5/19

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
"In showing honor to one another take the lead." (Romans 12:10)

Brothers who hold responsible positions in the congregation should set the example—"take the lead"—in showing honor to those under their oversight. In that regard, ones with weighty responsbilities do well to follow the example set by Paul. (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8) The brothers in the congregations Paul visited knew that he would never ask them to do things that he himself was unwilling to do. Paul showed respect for fellow believers, and in turn he earned their respect. When Paul said: "I entreat you, therefore, become imitators of me," we can be sure that many willingly responded because of his fine example. (1 Corinthians 4:16) Another way in which a responsible brother shows respect for those under his oversight is by giving them reasons for the requests he makes or the directions he gives. By doing so, he imitates Jesus.—Matthew 9:37, 38; 24:42.
(Watchtower issue: 10/15/08, 4:7, 8)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Jehovah Supported Me Through Trials"

the following experience, (on pgs 246-247 of the 2007 Yearbook) is of Sully Esparon - one of the first to be baptized as one of Jehovah's Witnesses (in 1964) on the island of Réunion, (the largest of the Mascarene Islands), and spent three years in prison because he would not join the military.

As told by Sully Esparon...
When I accepted the truth at age 15, my parents put me out of the house. But that did not weaken my determination to serve Jehovah. I started regular pioneering in 1964 and special pioneering in 1965. I also had the privilege of sharing in the oversight of the congregations in Saint-André and Saint-Benoît. Jean-Claude Furcy and I regularly cycled between the two, which had 12 and 6 publishers respectively.

In 1967, I was called up for military service. I explained that as a Christian, I could not take up arms. Nevertheless, because mine was the first case of its kind in Réunion, the authorities neither understood nor accepted my position. In fact, an officer beat me in front of about 400 recruits and then took me, now limping, to his office. He laid a uniform on his desk and told me to put it on, otherwise he would beat me again. Nearly six feet [1.8 m] tall and well built, he towered over me. Still, I mustered up courage and said, “If you hit me again, I will file an official complaint because France guarantees freedom of religion.” Fuming, he stepped toward me but restrained himself. Then he took me to the commanding officer, who said that I would do three years of hard labor in France.

I did the three years, but in Réunion. And it was not hard labor. After sentencing me, the judge invited me into his office. Smiling, he shook my hand and sympathized with me, explaining that as judge, he had to apply the law. The assistant prison director too was friendly toward me and arranged for me to work in the courtroom. He even came with me to the visitors’ area to meet my parents and a member of the congregation.

Initially, I shared a cell with 20 to 30 others, but then I was put in a cell for 2, which gave me more freedom. I requested an electric light and, amazingly, received one. Normally, electric items are forbidden because inmates might try to electrocute themselves. Thanks to my lamp, I could study the Bible and also complete a correspondence course in accounting. When I was released in 1970, a judge kindly found work for me.

daily text 5/18

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
"Search through me, O God, and know my heart. Examine me, and know my disquieting thoughts, and see whether there is in me any painful way, and lead me in the way of time indefinite." (Psalm 139:23, 24)

On a day-to-day basis, people think about their appearance, their health, the challenges of making a living, the ups and downs of their friendships, perhaps even romance. We may give such concerns considerable attention. What, though, particularly matters to Jehovah as he searches through our heart? It is our integrity. Jehovah, the Giver of "every good gift and every perfect present," has bestowed on each of us a variety of gifts. (James 1:17) Thanks to him, we have such gifts as a body, a mind, a measure of health, and various abilities. (1 Corinthians 4:7) However, Jehovah does not simply force us to display integrity. He lets us choose for ourselves whether we will develop this quality.—Deuteronomy 30:19.
(Watchtower issue: 12/15/08, 1:2, 3)

Hmmm, that's interesting...I never caught that last part of this scripture, where he asks to be led "in the way of time indefinite" ... I don't want to take that phrase out of context or anything, but doesn't the use of that term seem to indicate he is concerned with receiving God's guidance in *more* than just his day-to-day existence? It seems to demonstrate a strong awareness and reliance on his future hope for everlasting life, and his desire to *qualify* for it. (Since that term "time indefinite" is applied to things which are described as "eternal" or "everlasting")

Monday, May 17, 2010

Maintaining Integrity During Detention

Sometimes we forget that our brothers in other lands have already been undergoing one form of "tribulation" or another, for many years now, especially for maintaining their Christian neutrality. In places like South Korea, it isn't just isolated incidents of hardship, since large groups of brothers, of military age, are serving prison sentences right now.
The following experience (on pgs 114-117 of the 2007 Yearbook) is about a brother who was imprisoned in South Africa as a conscientious objector.

(first, here's some backround info about the political situation in South Africa at the time, on pgs 109-110)
A Test Of Neutrality
South Africa left the British Commonwealth and became a republic in May 1961. This was a time of political turmoil and increasing violence in the country. In efforts to contain the situation, the ruling government stoked the spirit of nationalism, and this caused difficulties for Jehovah’s Witnesses in the years that followed.
For many years Jehovah’s Witnesses had not been required to perform military service. This changed in the late 1960’s when the country became increasingly involved in military operations in Namibia and Angola. New legislation required that every young, white, medically fit male perform military service. Brothers who refused were sentenced to a military detention barracks for 90 days...
Shortly before they completed the 90-day sentence, the brothers would be taken to court again because they would not put on the uniform or train with the other military prisoners. Then it was back to detention. The authorities made it clear that they intended to resentence the brothers until they reached the age of 65, when they would no longer be eligible for military service.
In 1972, after strong public and political pressure, the law was changed. Brothers received a single prison sentence commensurate with the length of military training. The sentence was initially 12 to 18 months. Later it was increased to three years and eventually to six years. In time, the authorities did make some concessions, and the brothers were allowed to hold one weekly meeting.
Maintaining Integrity During Detention
(Interview with Rowen Brookes)

What were conditions like in a detention barracks?
The barracks were long blocks, each with two rows of 34 cells facing a passage with a storm-water furrow down the middle. In solitary confinement, we had our own seven-by-six-foot [2 x 1.8 m] cell. We were let out of our cells only twice a day: in the mornings to wash, shave, and clean our toilet pans and in the afternoons to shower. We couldn’t write or receive letters. We were allowed no books other than the Bible and no pens or pencils. We could not have any visitors. Prior to entering the detention barracks, most brothers had their Bibles bound together with other books, such as Aid to Bible Understanding. The guards were none the wiser because it resembled their large, old Afrikaans or Dutch family Bibles.

Were you able to obtain Bible literature?
Yes, we smuggled in literature when we could. All our possessions were kept in suitcases in one of the empty cells. This included toiletries. Once a month a guard would let us go to our suitcases to replenish our toiletry supplies. We also had literature in these suitcases.
While one of us distracted the guard by talking to him, another brother would hide a book under his shorts or undershirt. Back in the cell, we divided the book into signatures, which were easier to hide. We passed these around so that all could read them. We found many hiding places. Some of the cells were in a neglected state, and there were holes everywhere.

Our cells were frequently searched, sometimes in the middle of the night. The guards always found some of the literature but never everything. One of the more sympathetic soldiers often warned us when there was going to be a search. We then wrapped literature in plastic and pushed it up the drainpipes. One day there was a tremendous storm, and to our dismay, one of these packages came floating down the furrow inside the cellblock. Some of the military inmates started playing soccer with it. Suddenly a guard appeared and ordered them to get back into their cells. To our relief no one paid further attention to the package, and we were able to retrieve it when we were let out of our cells shortly afterward.

Was your integrity tested while you were in detention?
Constantly. The prison officials were always trying something. For example, they would be very nice to us—give us extra food, take us out to exercise, and even let us lie out in the sun. Then after a few days, they would suddenly command us to put on the khaki military overalls. When we refused, they treated us as severely as before.
After that, we were told to wear the plastic army helmets, which we refused to do. The captain was so enraged that from then on, he didn’t even allow us to have showers. We were each given a bucket so that we could wash in our cells.
We had no shoes. Some brothers’ feet were bleeding, so we made shoes. We collected pieces of old blankets that were used to polish the floors. Then we found some copper wire, flattened one end, and sharpened the other. We made a hole in the flat end with a pin and used this wire as a sewing needle. We stripped threads out of our blankets and sewed moccasins from the pieces of blanket.
Without any warning, we were once ordered to go three to a cell. Although we were cramped, this proved advantageous. We arranged that spiritually weaker brothers went in with more experienced ones. We had Bible studies and field service practice sessions. To the captain’s dismay, our morale soared.
Realizing that this scheme had failed, the captain ordered each Witness to share a cell with two non-Witness inmates. Although they had strict orders not to speak to us, they started asking questions, and we had ample opportunity to witness. As a result, one or two of these inmates refused to engage in certain military activities. We were soon back to one to a cell.

Were you able to hold meetings?
We held our meetings regularly. Above each cell door was a window with a wire mesh and seven vertical bars. We knotted two ends of a blanket around two of the vertical bars and made a little hammock that we could sit in. From up there we could see the brother in the cell across from us, and we could shout and be heard by the others in the block. We did the daily text each day, and if we had the magazine, we did the Watchtower Study. We closed each day by taking turns in offering a public prayer. We even made up our own circuit assembly program.
We weren’t sure if an elder was going to get permission to come in and observe the Memorial with us. So we made our own preparations. We made wine by soaking some raisins in water, and we flattened and dried out some of our bread ration. On one occasion, we were given permission to receive a small bottle of wine and some unleavened bread from the brothers outside.

Did conditions change in time?
In time, conditions did improve. The law changed, and our group was released. From then on, religious objectors received one sentence of prescribed length, with no resentencing. Later, after our group of 22 brothers was released, the remaining 88 brothers in custody were granted normal prison privileges. They could have one visit a month and could write and receive letters.

When you were released, did you find it difficult to adjust?
Yes, it took time to adjust to life on the outside. For example, it was quite unnerving to mix with crowds of people. Our parents and the brothers kindly assisted us to take on more responsibilities in the congregations gradually.
While those were difficult times, we benefited from the experience. The tests of faith strengthened us spiritually and taught us endurance. We really came to appreciate the Bible, and we learned the value of reading it and meditating on it every day. And we certainly learned to trust in Jehovah. After having made those sacrifices to remain faithful to Jehovah, we were resolved to carry on, giving our best to him, doing so in full-time service if possible.

Will You Be A Survivor of the Last Days?

audio link

-I just uploaded a talk that gives some extra backround info about the social situation in the 1st century, during the "last days" of the Jewish system in Jerusalem which led to the tribulation and destruction of the city. -And how the apathetic attitude of the people back then, is very similar to the attitude of people today.
It definitely wasn't a *lack of evidence* that cost so many their lives, was a *lack of faith* in the evidence.
Also, it mentions an interesting point which I forgot....about how the people were actually *expecting* the Messiah during the specific time period when Jesus 'appeared on the scene' ... because anyone who believed in Bible prophecy regarding the Messiah, and was paying attention, would have been able to calculate the time frame of his arrival based on the account recorded in the book of Daniel.

(BTW - I'm trying to make sure I use discretion when it comes to posting talks online, since we had that article last month about "circulating" talks that may contain info which is out of date or only pertains to the local needs of our congregation, etc, so I just didn't want anyone to think I was disregarding or ignoring what was said in that article)

daily text 5/17

Monday, May 17th, 2010
"There will be great tribulation such as has not occured since the world's beginning until now, no, nor will occur again." (Matthew 24:21)

Jesus stated this in his prophecy about his presence and the conclusion of the system of things. Satan's system will go down fighting in an all-out final assault against Jehovah's peaceful Witnesses. Doubtless, it will be a difficult time for all of us—adults and children alike. Nevertheless, we should not be unduly fearful about the future. Parents who are faithful to Jehovah can hope to be protected along with their young children. (Isaiah 26:20, 21; Zephaniah 2:2, 3; 1 Corinthians 7:14) For now, though, may awareness of the critical days in which we live influence how we think about marriage and parenthood in this time of the end. (2 Peter 3:10-13) In that way, our life—whether we are single or married, with or without children—will bring honor and praise to Jehovah and to the Christian congregation.
(Watchtower issue: 4/15/08, 4:16, 17)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

daily text 5/16

Sunday, May 16th, 2010
"O Jehovah our Lord, how majestic your name is in all the earth, you whose dignity is recounted above the heavens!" (Psalm 8:1)

In a song that contrasts God's greatness with man's littleness, the psalmist David sang the above. From before the creation of "the heavens and the earth" to beyond the grand fulfillment of God's purpose to make the earth a paradise and raise the human family to perfection—from eternity to eternity—Jehovah God is the most majestic and dignified Personage in the universe. (Genesis 1:1; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Revelation 21:1-5) How the God-fearing psalmist must have been touched when he beheld the quiet grandeur of the starry night sky, studded with glistening "jewels"! Filled with wonder at how God 'has stretched out the heavens like a tent cloth,' the psalmist represented Jehovah as clothed in dignity because of His magnificent creative skill. (Psalm 104:1, 2) The dignity and splendor of the invisible, almighty Creator are evident in his visible works.
(Watchtower issue: 8/15/08, 3:5, 6)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Appeal Made to Supreme Court in Russia

and speaking of "man dominating man to his injury" and how that can lead to persecution by political rulers (as mentioned in today's text), here's the latest news release about the ongoing situation in Russia...

Article link

For Immediate Release
May 14, 2010

Appeal made to Supreme Court in Russia

MOSCOW—On May 12, 2010, lawyers for the local religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Taganrog filed a supervisory appeal to the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on the decision to declare 34 Christian publications extremist and to liquidate the religious community.

On December 8, 2009, the Russian Federation Supreme Court upheld the September 11, 2009, decision of the Rostov Regional Court. Lawyers for the religious organization are convinced that this decision was a misapplication of the Federal Law on Extremism. The publications were pronounced extremist simply because Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that their religion is correct. However, their conviction in no way is connected with ill feeling or aggression toward people of other religions. Also, according to the opinion of experts, their belief in the correctness of their beliefs does not “go beyond what is common to all world religions, that which more or less characterizes all religious confessions.”

According to lawyers Arli Chimirov and Victor Shipilov, the Supreme Court’s decision misapplied the law. Since various parties with vested interests are using this decision to legitimize the religious persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, the lawyers are demanding that its enforcement be suspended.

According to the co-chairman of the Council of the Liberty of Conscience Institute, Dr. Sergey Buryanov, “Russia’s return to times of mass religious persecution has already created serious threats to the safety of the individual, society, and the state.”

daily text 5/15

Saturday, May 15th, 2010
"Man has dominated man to his injury." (Ecclesiastes 8:9)

Oppression and injustices abound today. Greedy commerce and corrupt rulership may result in harsh economic conditions. Leaders in government, business, and religion often set a poor moral example. Like righteous Lot, therefore, God's loyal ones are "greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct." (2 Peter 2:7) Moreover, as we quietly strive to live by godly standards, we often become the target of persecution by arrogant rulers. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 12) We can be certain, though, of this fundamental truth: Jehovah will not leave his loyal ones! Whatever trials we may face at present, we can be confident that Jehovah will protect us from spiritual harm. (Psalm 97:10) Morever, Psalm 116:15 assures us: "Precious in the eyes of Jehovah is the death of his loyal ones." Jehovah's servants are so precious to him that he will not allow them to perish as a group.
(Watchtower issue: 8/15/08, 1:8-10)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Azerbaijan Fines JW's For Distributing Literature

*FYI* this article was posted on the jw-media site a couple days ago in case anyone hasn't read it yet...

For Immediate Release
May 12, 2010

Azerbaijan — More fines for peaceful distribution of literature

AGSTAFA, Azerbaijan—Three women were fined 200 AZN ($250 US) each for distributing educational religious literature in the City of Agstafa, in the west of Azerbaijan. When the women later explained to a presiding judge that they are allowed to express their religious convictions under the European Convention on Human Rights, he informed them the Convention did not apply.

On April 27, 2010, Shafiga Mammadova, Salatin Iskandarova, and Gulnaz Hasanova were on their way home to Baku from attending a religious assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in neighboring Georgia. During their stopover in Agstafa, the women had conversations with different individuals about their religious convictions, providing those who were interested with copies of Bible-based literature in the form of small tracts. Later in the afternoon, the three women were shocked when police officers came to the home of the local friend they were staying with, confiscated their personal religious literature, and arrested them. The women were held at the police station for approximately six hours, not being released until after midnight. After returning to the police station the next morning, the women were taken to Agstafa District Court, where they were each ordered to pay a fine of 200 AZN ($250 US) for distributing religious literature. At this point the women related what they understood to be their legal right but those rights were denied.

Earlier this year the Khatai District Court in Baku ordered two of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Famil Nasirov and Amina Mammadova, to pay the same 200 AZN fine under Article 300.0.2 of the Administrative Violations Code. In their case, the Baku Appeal Court upheld the district court’s conviction of Nasirov, confirming that the literature in his possession was imported with the permission of the State Committee for Work with Religious Associations. The Court ruled, however, that the literature was to be distributed only within the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mammadova’s appeal has not yet been heard.

Although Azerbaijani authorities claim to promote freedom of religion, the Law on Freedom of Religion is being used by the authorities to violate, rather than protect, believers’ fundamental rights and freedoms. Unless the Azerbaijan government lives up to its commitments under various international conventions, the approximately 1,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Azerbaijan are fearful that they will continue to be ordered to pay fines for using printed literature when they express their faith.

daily text 5/14

Friday, May 14th, 2010
"You have brought something torn away, and the lame one, and the sick one; yes, you have brought it as a gift. Can I take pleasure in it at your hand?" Jehovah has said. (Malachi 1:13)

Paul admonished fellow believers: "Present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason." (Romans 12:1) Those words may have reminded Jewish Christians of the sacrifices that were a feature of their worship before they became followers of Jesus. They would have known that under the Mosaic Law, animals offered on Jehovah's alter had to be the best available. Anything inferior was unacceptable. (Malachi 1:8) The same is true when we present our bodies 'a living sacrifice.' We give Jehovah our best, not merely what is left after we have satisfied all our personal desires. When we dedicate ourselves to God, we unreservedly give him our "souls," our lives—including our strength, assets, and abilities.—Colossians 3:23.
(Watchtower issue: 10/15/08, 5:11)

It's kind of strange that people would even bother worshiping God at all if they're not going to do it the correct way in which He requires. Because what would be the point?
I was reading a section in the 'Isaiah's Prophecy, Volume II ' book, which made a statement that really impresses on you just how serious an issue this is... Jehovah compares hypocritical or unsuitable acts of worship, to things which are actually considered destable or a crime under the Mosaic law.
(The following paragraph is on pg 393)...

Jehovah Hates Hypocritical Worship
As Isaiah contemplates his contemporaries, he is well aware that few have the disposition that Jehovah seeks in his worshipers. For this reason, apostate Jerusalem deserves her impending judgment. Note how Jehovah views worship taking place in her:

“The one slaughtering the bull is as one striking down a man. The one sacrificing the sheep is as one breaking the neck of a dog. The one offering up a gift—the blood of a pig! The one presenting a memorial of frankincense is as one saying a blessing with uncanny words. They are also the ones that have chosen their own ways, and in their disgusting things their very soul has taken a delight.”—Isaiah 66:3.

These words remind us of Jehovah’s words recorded in the first chapter of Isaiah. Jehovah there told his wayward people that their formal acts of worship not only failed to please him but actually caused his righteous anger to intensify because the worshipers were hypocritical. (Isaiah 1:11-17) Similarly, Jehovah now likens their offerings to heinous crimes. Their sacrificing a costly bull would no more appease Jehovah than would their murdering a human! Other sacrifices are likened to the offering up of a dog or a pig, animals that are unclean under the Mosaic Law and certainly unfit for sacrifice. (Leviticus 11:7, 27) Does Jehovah allow such religious hypocrisy to go unpunished?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Growing Up Deaf - LifeStory of Irene Hochstenbach

This experience, (from pgs 23-26 of the 1/1/03 WA) really demonstrates the words of today's text in 2 important ways...both from an individual perspective, and within marriage. Because not only did this sister (who is deaf) need to really meditate on the Bible knowledge she was learning (since there was far less study material available in sign language and interpreters at the time)...but also because she married a brother who is not deaf.
-So you can see why cultivating a strong love for Jehovah, and demonstrating patience and understanding within their relationship would be so important, since communication is more of a challenge in their situation.

A Note That Changed My Life
As Told By Irene Hochstenbach...
It happened on a Tuesday evening in 1972. I was 16 years old and had accompanied my parents to a religious meeting in Eindhoven, a city in the province of Brabant, in the Netherlands. I felt insecure and wished I were somewhere else. Then two young women handed me a note with a message: “Dear Irene, we would love to help you.” Little did I realize how that note would change my life. But before I relate what happened next, let me tell you something about my background.

I was born on the island of Belitung, in Indonesia. I remember some of the sounds of that tropical island—the rustle of palm trees in the wind, the gentle murmur of a nearby river, the laughter of children playing around our house, as well as the sound of music filling our home. In 1960, when I was four years old, our family moved from Indonesia to the Netherlands. We made the long journey by ship, and the sound I especially remember is that of a favorite toy that traveled with me—a little clown with a set of drums. At age seven, I lost my hearing because of an illness, and since then I have not been able to hear any of the sounds around me. Memories are all I have left.

(Irene before she lost her hearing)

Growing Up Deaf
Because of the loving care of my parents, at first I didn’t fully grasp the consequences of being deaf. As a child, I thought that even my huge hearing aid was kind of fun, though it was of little use to me. To communicate with me, neighborhood children would chalk whole stories on the sidewalk, and I answered them, even though I couldn’t hear my own voice.
As I grew older, I became aware that I was different from the people around me. I also began to notice that some people made fun of me because of my deafness, while others excluded me from their company. I began to feel isolated and lonely. I started to grasp what it meant to be deaf, and the older I got, the more afraid I became of the world of hearing people.
To enable me to attend a special school for the deaf, my parents moved the whole family from a village in the province of Limburg to the city of Eindhoven. There, my father looked for a job, and my brother and sisters went to a new school. I’m grateful for all the adjustments they made for my sake. At school, I was taught to adapt the volume of my voice and to articulate more clearly. And although the teachers did not use sign language, my classmates taught me to sign.

Living in My Own World
As I grew up, my parents tried hard to communicate with me, but there were many things I did not comprehend. For example, I didn’t understand that my parents were studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I remember that one day our family visited a place where lots of people were sitting on chairs. They all looked to the front, sometimes applauded, and now and then stood up—but why these people did all of that, I didn’t know. Much later, I learned that I had been at a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My parents also used to take me to a small hall in the city of Eindhoven. I felt that it was all right there because everyone was kind and my family seemed happy, but why we always went there, I didn’t know. Now I know that the small hall was a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Unfortunately, there was no one present at these meetings to interpret the program for me. I now realize that those present wanted to help me but that they did not know how to deal with my deafness. At these meetings, I felt left out and thought, ‘I wish I were at school instead of here.’ But just when those thoughts were going through my mind, two young women scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to me. That was the note I mentioned in the introduction. I had no idea that this note would be the start of a precious friendship that would free me from my world of isolation.

(Irene sharing in the ministry)

Developing a Precious Friendship
Colette and Hermine, who sent the note, were in their early 20’s. Later, I learned that they had come to the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses that I was visiting to serve as regular pioneers, or full-time ministers. Although Colette and Hermine did not really know sign language, I managed to read their lips as they spoke to me, and in this way we communicated quite well.
My parents were pleased when Colette and Hermine asked about studying the Bible with me, but these young women did much more than that. They tried hard to interpret the meetings at the Kingdom Hall for me as well as to involve me in association with others in the congregation. They practiced Bible presentations with me to use in the preaching work, and they also helped me prepare student talks for the Theocratic Ministry School. Just imagine, now I even had the courage to give a talk in front of a group of hearing people!

Moreover, Colette and Hermine made me feel that I could trust them. They were patient and listened to me. Although we often laughed about my mistakes, they never made fun of me; nor were they embarrassed by my presence. They tried to understand my feelings and treated me as an equal. These kind girls gave me a beautiful gift—their love and friendship.

Most important, Colette and Hermine taught me that I had to get to know our God, Jehovah, as a friend who can be trusted. They explained that Jehovah had seen me sitting in the Kingdom Hall and that he understood what it meant for me to be deaf. How grateful I am that our common love for Jehovah brought the three of us together as friends! I was moved by Jehovah’s care for me, and out of love for him, I symbolized my dedication to him by water baptism in July 1975.

(Irene with her husband, Harry)

Accompanying a Special Friend
In the years that followed, I became acquainted with more and more Christian brothers and sisters. One brother became a very special friend to me, and we were married in 1980. Shortly thereafter, I began to serve as a pioneer, and in 1994 my husband, Harry, and I were assigned to serve as special pioneers in the Dutch Sign Language field. The following year, I faced a challenging assignment. I was to accompany my husband, who can hear, as he visits different congregations as a substitute circuit overseer.

This is how I go about it. When we visit a congregation for the first time, I promptly go up to as many brothers and sisters as possible and introduce myself. I tell them that I am deaf and ask them to look at me while speaking slowly to me. I also try to give an answer right away at the congregation meetings. And I ask if someone is willing to be my interpreter for that week of meetings and field service.

This approach works so well that at times, my brothers and sisters forget that I cannot hear, leading to comical situations. For instance, they tell me that when they see me walking in town, they blow the horn of their car to greet me, but of course, I don’t react. I too forget my limitations sometimes—like when I try to whisper something confidential in my husband’s ear. When I see him suddenly blush, I know that my “whisper” was much too loud.

Children help out in unexpected ways. In one congregation that we visited for the first time, a nine-year-old boy had noticed that some in the Kingdom Hall were a bit hesitant to talk to me, and he decided to do something about it. He walked up to me, took me by the hand, led me to the middle of the Kingdom Hall, and called out at the top of his voice, “May I introduce Irene to you—she is deaf!” Those present came up to me and introduced themselves.

As I accompany my husband in the circuit work, my circle of friends keeps growing. How different my life is today from the years that I felt excluded and isolated! Ever since that evening when Colette and Hermine slipped that little note into my hand, I have experienced the power of friendship and have met people who became very special to me. Most of all, I have come to know Jehovah, the most precious Friend of all. (Romans 8:38, 39) How that little note changed my life!

daily text 5/13

Thursday, May 13th, 2010
"Your law is within my inward parts." (Psalm 40:8)

If God's law is truly within our inward parts, such qualities as faith, hope, and love will be displayed and will help to nourish the marriage bond. (1 Corinthians 13:13) A Christian named Sandra, who has been married for 50 years, says: "What I most value in my husband are his spiritual guidance and advice and his love for Jehovah, which is stronger than his love for me." Husbands, could similar comments be made about you? As a couple, do you keep spiritual matters and Kingdom interests to the fore in life? Moreover, do you truly view your mate as your partner in serving Jehovah? (Genesis 2:24) Wise King Solomon wrote: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their hard work." (Ecclesiastes 4:9) Indeed, a husband and wife must work hard in order to obtain "a good reward" in the form of a loving and lasting union that has God's blessing.
(Watchtower issue: 9/15/08, 3:7, 8)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Children Taken From Parents Due To Slander

In looking for examples that relate to the theme of today's text, I came across this experience, (on pgs 114, 115, 118, & 119 of the 2008 Yearbook) which demonstrates the serious consequences that can result when a person is reviled and spoken of abusively by others. It's also unbelievable that after what the Russian government did to so many innocent people in the past, that they are trying to use the same 'defamation of character' tactics and slander once again, yet the Witnesses there continue to refrain from retaliation despite what they've been put through.

Charged With Tearing Off Their Daughter’s Ear
Semyon and Daria Kostylyev raised three children in Siberia. Semyon recounts: “At that time, Jehovah’s Witnesses were considered to be fanatics. In 1961, Alla, our second daughter, started first grade. One day while she was playing with the other children, one of them accidentally injured Alla’s ear. The next day when the teacher asked her what had happened, Alla kept quiet, since she didn’t want to tell on her classmate. The teacher knew that Alla was being raised by Witness parents and came to the conclusion that we beat her to force her to live by Bible principles. The school reported the matter to a public prosecutor’s office. The business I worked for also became involved. Investigations continued for about a year until we finally received a summons to a court hearing in October 1962.

“For two weeks before the trial, the Palace of Culture building displayed a banner that read, ‘Trial of dangerous Jehovist sect about to begin.’ My wife and I were accused of raising our children according to the Bible. We were also charged with cruelty. The court alleged that we had forced our daughter to pray and that we had torn off her ear with the edge of a pail! The only witness was Alla, but she had been sent away to an orphanage in Kirensk, a city about 700 kilometers [430 miles] to the north of Irkutsk, where we were living.

“The hall was filled with youth league activists. When the court adjourned for deliberation, the crowd caused an uproar. We were pushed around and cursed at, and someone demanded that we take off our ‘Soviet’ clothes. Everyone was shouting that we should be killed, and someone even wanted to finish us off right then and there. The crowd became more and more enraged, and still the judges didn’t appear. The deliberation lasted for an hour. When the crowd surged forward, one Witness sister and her unbelieving husband stood between us and the people, pleading with them not to touch us. Attempting to explain that all the accusations against us were false, they literally snatched us out of the hands of the crowd.

“Finally, a judge appeared with the assessors of the people’s court and read us our sentence: loss of parental rights. I was put under guard and sent to a corrective labor camp for two years. Our eldest daughter was also sent to an orphanage after being told that her parents were members of a dangerous sect and a harmful influence on her upbringing.
“Our son was left with Daria, since he was only three years old. After serving my sentence, I returned home. As before, we could only witness informally.”

(Semyon Kostylyev today)

“We Were Proud Of Our Children”
“Alla left the orphanage when she turned 13, and she came home to live with us. What a joy it was for us when she dedicated herself to Jehovah and was baptized in 1969! About this time, a series of lectures on religion was held at the Palace of Culture in our city. We decided to go to hear what they would say this time. As always, Jehovah’s Witnesses were the group most discussed. One of the lecturers held up an issue of The Watchtower and said, ‘This is a harmful and dangerous magazine that is undermining the unity of our State.’ Then he gave an example: ‘The members of this sect force their children to read such magazines and to pray. In one family, a little girl didn’t want to read the magazine, so her father tore her ear off.’ Alla was surprised, since she was sitting there listening to the lecture with both of her ears intact. She didn’t speak up, however, for she was afraid of losing her parents again.

“When Boris, our son, turned 13, he dedicated himself to Jehovah and was baptized. Once, he was street witnessing with some Witnesses his age, although our activities at that time were still under ban. They had no Bible with them and no Bible publications. Suddenly, a car drove up, and the boys were all taken to the militia station. After interrogating them and searching them, the militiamen found nothing other than a couple of Bible scriptures jotted down on paper. The boys were allowed to go home. When he came home, Boris proudly told us how he and the other brothers had been persecuted for Jehovah’s name. We were proud of our children, since Jehovah had supported them during a time of testing. After this happened, Daria and I were summoned by the KGB several times. One officer said: ‘These children should be sent to a juvenile penal colony. It’s too bad that they haven’t turned 14 yet.’ We were fined for our son’s preaching activities.

“Today, I live with my son and grandchildren who are also walking in the truth. My eldest daughter lives in Uzbekistan, and although she is not yet serving Jehovah, she respects us and the Bible and often comes to visit us. In 2001, Daria died, having faithfully served Jehovah to the end. While I still have the strength, I go with the congregation to preach in remote territories, searching for people ‘rightly disposed for everlasting life.’ (Acts 13:48) I believe that very soon Jehovah will fulfill the desire of each one of us, as written at Isaiah 65:23.”

daily text 5/12

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
"An answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up." (Proverbs 15:1)

It takes great strength to be mild when dealing with unjust criticism. Jesus Christ set a perfect example in this. "When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously." (1 Peter 2:23) We cannot expect to do as well as Jesus did in this regard, but can we work at improving the extent to which we show mildness of temper? In imitation of Jesus, may we be "always ready to make a defense" of our beliefs, "doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect." (1 Peter 3:15) Yes, our having mildness of temper can prevent differences of opinion from escalating into heated arguments, both with people we meet in our ministry and with fellow believers.—2 Timothy 2:24, 25
(Watchtower issue: 6/15/08, 2:17, 18)

This advice seems particularly important to keep in mind, because I've noticed lately that our society and almost every element of the entertainment industry, news media, and radio, has been encouraging just the opposite of this...Not only by openly tolerating inflammatory speech against others, but by actually instigating it, in order to achieve a level of drama and verbal debate which produces more viewers and higher ratings. It's so prevalent, that it could easily rub off on us if we don't make a conscious effort to avoid it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Highlights From the Book of Second Samuel

Since we're in the 2nd book of Samuel in our Bible reading, here are the Bible Highlights from (pgs 16-19 of the 5/15/05 WA)...I just realized I never posted the highlights from 1st Samuel, so I'll post that later and backdate the entry just prior to this one, for convenient reference.

Highlights From the Book of Second Samuel
Does recognizing Jehovah’s sovereignty require our perfect obedience? Does a man of integrity always do what is right in God’s eyes? What kind of individual does the true God find “agreeable to his heart”? (1 Samuel 13:14) The Bible book of Second Samuel gives satisfying answers to these questions.
Second Samuel was written by Gad and Nathan, two prophets who were close to King David of ancient Israel. Completed in about 1040 B.C.E., toward the end of David’s 40-year kingship, the book is primarily about David and his relationship with Jehovah. This thrilling narrative relates how a strife-torn nation becomes a prosperous united kingdom under a valiant king. The gripping drama is packed with human emotions expressed with deep intensity.

(2 Samuel 1:1–10:19)
David’s response to the news of the death of Saul and Jonathan reveals his feelings for them and for Jehovah. In Hebron, David is appointed king over the tribe of Judah. Saul’s son Ish-bosheth is made king over the rest of Israel. David goes on “getting greater and greater,” and some seven and a half years later, he is made king over all Israel.—2 Samuel 5:10.

David captures Jerusalem from the Jebusites and makes it the capital of his kingdom. His first attempt to transfer the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem results in disaster. However, the second attempt succeeds, and David dances for joy. Jehovah makes a covenant with David for a kingdom. David subdues his enemies as God continues to be with him.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

2:18—Why were Joab and his two brothers identified as the three sons of Zeruiah, their mother? In the Hebrew Scriptures, genealogies were usually reckoned through the father. Zeruiah’s husband may have died prematurely, or he could have been considered unsuitable for inclusion in the Sacred Record. It is possible that Zeruiah was listed because she was David’s sister or half sister. (1 Chronicles 2:15, 16) The only reference to the father of the three brothers is in connection with his burial place at Bethlehem.—2 Samuel 2:32.

3:29—What is meant by “a man taking hold of the twirling spindle”? Women customarily did the weaving of cloth. Therefore, this expression may refer to men who were unfit for such activities as warfare and who were thus obliged to do the work usually done by a woman.

5:1, 2—How long after Ish-bosheth’s assassination was David made king over all Israel? It seems reasonable to conclude that Ish-bosheth began his two-year-long kingship shortly after Saul’s death, about the same time David began his in Hebron. David ruled over Judah from Hebron for seven and a half years. Soon after being made king over all Israel, he shifted his capital to Jerusalem. Hence, about five years elapsed after Ish-bosheth’s death before David became king over all Israel.—2 Samuel 2:3, 4, 8-11; 5:4, 5.

8:2—How many Moabites were executed after Israel’s conflict with them? The number may have been determined by measuring rather than by counting. It seems that David had the Moabites lie down side by side on the ground in a row. Next, he had the row measured with the length of a line, or a cord. Apparently, two line measures, or two thirds of the Moabites, were put to death, and one line measure, or one third of them, were spared.

Lessons for Us:

2:1; 5:19, 23. David inquired of Jehovah before taking up residence in Hebron and prior to going up against his enemies. We too should seek Jehovah’s guidance before making decisions that affect our spirituality.

3:26-30. Revenge reaps sad consequences.—Romans 12:17-19.

3:31-34; 4:9-12. David’s lack of vindictiveness and ill will is exemplary.

5:12. We should never forget that Jehovah has educated us in his ways and made a good relationship with him possible.

6:1-7. Though David was well-meaning, his attempt to move the Ark in a wagon was in violation of God’s command and resulted in failure. (Exodus 25:13, 14; Numbers 4:15, 19; 7:7-9) Uzzah’s grabbing hold of the Ark also shows that good intentions do not change what God requires.

6:8, 9. In a trialsome situation, David first became angry, then afraid—perhaps even blaming Jehovah for the tragedy. We must guard against blaming Jehovah for problems that result from ignoring his commands.

7:18, 22, 23, 26. David’s humility, exclusive devotion to Jehovah, and interest in exalting God’s name are qualities for us to imitate.

8:2. A prophecy uttered some 400 years earlier is fulfilled. (Numbers 24:17) Jehovah’s word always comes true.

9:1, 6, 7. David kept his promise. We too must endeavor to keep our word.

(2 Samuel 11:1–20:26)
“Here I am raising up against you calamity out of your own house,” Jehovah says to David, “and I will take your wives under your own eyes and give them to your fellowman, and he will certainly lie down with your wives under the eyes of this sun.” (2 Samuel 12:11) What is the reason for this pronouncement? It is David’s sin with Bath-sheba. Though repentant David is forgiven, he is not spared the consequences of his sin.
First the child that Bath-sheba gives birth to dies. Then David’s virgin daughter Tamar is raped by her half brother Amnon. Her full brother Absalom murders Amnon in revenge. Absalom conspires against his own father and proclaims himself king in Hebron. David is forced to flee Jerusalem. Absalom has relations with ten of his father’s concubines left behind to take care of the house. David returns to his kingship only after Absalom is killed. A revolt by the Benjaminite Sheba ends in Sheba’s death.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

14:7—What is symbolized by “the glow of my charcoals”? The glow of slow-burning charcoal is used to denote a living offspring.

19:29—Why did David respond the way he did to Mephibosheth’s explanation? Upon hearing Mephibosheth, David must have realized that he erred when he took Ziba’s words at face value. (2 Samuel 16:1-4; 19:24-28) Very likely, this irritated David, and he did not want to hear anything further about the matter.

Lessons for Us:
11:2-15. The candid account of David’s shortcomings testifies to the fact that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

11:16-27. When we commit a serious sin, we should not try to cover it over as David did. Rather, we should confess our sin to Jehovah and seek help from the elders in the congregation.—Proverbs 28:13; James 5:13-16.

12:1-14. Nathan set a fine example for appointed elders in the congregation. They are to help those who fall into sin to correct their course. The elders must discharge this responsibility skillfully.

12:15-23. Having the correct view of what befell him helped David to respond properly to adversity.

15:12; 16:15, 21, 23. When it appeared that Absalom would ascend to the throne, pride and ambition led the brilliant counselor Ahithophel to become a traitor. Having intelligence without humility and loyalty can be a snare.

19:24, 30. Mephibosheth was truly appreciative of David’s loving-kindness. He willingly submitted to the king’s decision about Ziba. Appreciation for Jehovah and his organization should move us to be submissive.

20:21, 22. The wisdom of one person can avert a disaster for many.—Ecclesiastes 9:14, 15.

(2 Samuel 21:1–24:25)
There is a famine for three years because of the bloodguilt that Saul incurred by putting the Gibeonites to death. (Joshua 9:15) In order to avenge that bloodguilt, the Gibeonites ask for seven sons of Saul for execution. David gives them into the Gibeonites’ hands, and the drought ends with a downpour of rain. Four Philistine giants come to “fall by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.”—2 Samuel 21:22.

David commits a serious sin by ordering an illegal census. He repents and chooses to fall “into the hand of Jehovah.” (2 Samuel 24:14) As a result, 70,000 die from pestilence. David follows Jehovah’s command, and the scourge is halted.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

21:8—How can it be said that Saul’s daughter Michal had five sons, when 2 Samuel 6:23 states that she died childless? The most widely accepted explanation is that these were the sons of Michal’s sister Merab, who married Adriel. Likely, Merab died early, and childless Michal brought up the boys.

21:9, 10—For how long did Rizpah keep up a vigil for her two sons and the five grandsons of Saul who were put to death by the Gibeonites? These seven were hanged “in the first days of harvest”—March or April. Their dead bodies were left exposed on a mountain. Rizpah guarded the seven bodies by day and by night until Jehovah showed by ending the drought that his anger had subsided. Any heavy downpour of rain would have been very unlikely before the completion of the harvest season in October. Hence, Rizpah may have kept up the vigil for as long as five or six months. Thereafter, David had the bones of the men buried.

24:1—Why did taking a count of people constitute a serious sin for David? The taking of a census was not in itself forbidden in the Law. (Numbers 1:1-3; 26:1-4) The Bible does not say what objective moved David to number the people. However, 1 Chronicles 21:1 indicates that Satan incited him to do so. In any event, his military chief, Joab, knew that David’s decision to register the people was wrong, and he tried to dissuade David from doing it.

Lessons for Us:

22:2-51. How beautifully David’s song portrays Jehovah as the true God, worthy of our implicit trust!

23:15-17. David had such a deep respect for God’s law on life and blood that on this occasion, he refrained from doing what even resembled a violation of that law. We must cultivate such an attitude toward all of God’s commands.

24:10. David’s conscience moved him to repentance. Is our conscience sensitive enough to respond in that way?

24:14. David well knew that Jehovah is more merciful than humans are. Do we have such conviction?

24:17. David felt regret that his sin brought suffering upon the entire nation. A repentant wrongdoer should feel remorse over the reproach his action may have brought upon the congregation.

Being ‘Agreeable to God’s Heart’ Is Within Our Reach
The second king of Israel proved to be ‘a man agreeable to Jehovah’s heart.’ (1 Samuel 13:14) David never questioned Jehovah’s righteous standards, and he did not seek to pursue a course of independence from God. Each time David erred, he acknowledged his sin, accepted discipline, and corrected his ways. David was a man of integrity. Are we not wise to be like him, particularly when we err?
The life story of David vividly illustrates that recognizing Jehovah’s sovereignty is a matter of accepting His standards of good and bad and striving to abide by them as integrity keepers. This is within our reach. How grateful we can be for the lessons we learn from the book of Second Samuel! The inspired message contained in its pages is, indeed, alive and exerts power.—Hebrews 4:12.

Even though Samuel did not have a part in writing it, the book bears his name because the two books of Samuel were initially one roll in the Hebrew canon. Samuel wrote a major part of First Samuel.

Highlights From the Book of First Samuel

the following info is from (pgs 21-24 of the 3/15/05 WA), the illustrations are from a few different articles, noted below.

Hannah and young Samuel (illustration on pg 17 of the 3/15/07 WA)

Highlights From the Book of First Samuel
The year is 1117 B.C.E. Some three hundred years have elapsed since Joshua completed the conquest of the Promised Land. The older men of Israel come to Jehovah’s prophet with a remarkable request. The prophet takes the matter up in prayer, and Jehovah allows them to have their way. This marks the end of the period of the Judges and the beginning of the era of human kings. The Bible book of First Samuel narrates exciting events surrounding that turning point in the history of the nation of Israel.

Written by Samuel, Nathan, and Gad, First Samuel covers a period of 102 years—from 1180 to 1078 B.C.E. (1 Chronicles 29:29) It is an account of four leaders of Israel. Two serve as judges, two as kings; two are obedient to Jehovah, two are not. We also meet two exemplary women and a valiant but gentle warrior. Such examples provide valuable lessons about attitudes and actions to imitate and to avoid. The contents of First Samuel can thus exert power on our thoughts and deeds.—Hebrews 4:12.

(1 Samuel 1:1–7:17)
It is time for the Festival of Ingathering, and Hannah, who lives in Ramah, is beside herself with joy. Jehovah has answered her prayers, and she has given birth to a son. To fulfill her vow, Hannah presents her son Samuel for service at “the house of Jehovah.” There the boy becomes “a minister of Jehovah before Eli the priest.” (1 Samuel 1:24; 2:11) When Samuel is still of tender age, Jehovah speaks to him, pronouncing judgment against the house of Eli. As Samuel grows older, all the people of Israel come to recognize him as a prophet of Jehovah.
In time, the Philistines come up against Israel. They capture the Ark and slay Eli’s two sons. Upon hearing the news, aged Eli dies, having “judged Israel forty years.” (1 Samuel 4:18) Possession of the Ark proves to be disastrous for the Philistines, so they return it to the Israelites. Samuel now judges Israel, and there is peace in the land.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

2:10—Why did Hannah pray that Jehovah “give strength to his king” when there was no human king over Israel? That the Israelites would have a human king was foretold in the Mosaic Law. (Deuteronomy 17:14-18) In his deathbed prophecy, Jacob said: “The scepter [a symbol of royal authority] will not turn aside from Judah.” (Genesis 49:10) Moreover, concerning Sarah—the ancestress of the Israelites—Jehovah said: “Kings of peoples will come from her.” (Genesis 17:16) Hannah, then, was praying about a future king.

3:3—Did Samuel actually sleep in the Most Holy? No, he did not. Samuel was a Levite of the nonpriestly family of the Kohathites. (1 Chronicles 6:33-38) As such, he was not permitted to “come in to see the holy things.” (Numbers 4:17-20) The only part of the sanctuary that Samuel had access to was the tabernacle courtyard. That is where he must have slept. Apparently, Eli also slept somewhere in the courtyard. The expression “where the ark of God was” evidently refers to the tabernacle area.

7:7-9, 17—Why did Samuel offer up a burnt offering at Mizpah and set up an altar in Ramah, since sacrifices were to be offered on a regular basis only at the place of Jehovah’s choosing? (Deuteronomy 12:4-7, 13, 14; Joshua 22:19) After the removal of the sacred Ark from the tabernacle at Shiloh, Jehovah’s presence was no longer evident there. So as God’s representative, Samuel offered a burnt offering at Mizpah and also set up an altar in Ramah. These actions were apparently approved by Jehovah.

Lessons for Us:

1:11, 12, 21-23; 2:19. Hannah’s prayerful attitude, her humility, her appreciation for Jehovah’s kindness, and her lasting motherly affection are exemplary for all God-fearing women.

1:8. What an example Elkanah set in strengthening others with words! (Job 16:5) He first asked depressed Hannah the unaccusing question: “Why does your heart feel bad?” This encouraged her to talk about her feelings. Then Elkanah reassured her of his affection, saying: “Am I not better to you than ten sons?”

2:26; 3:5-8, 15, 19. By sticking to our God-assigned work, by taking advantage of spiritual training, and by being polite and respectful, we become “more likable” both to God and to men.

4:3, 4, 10. Even an object as holy as the ark of the covenant did not prove to be a charm for protection. We must ‘guard ourselves from idols.’—1 John 5:21.

(1 Samuel 8:1–15:35)

Samuel is faithful to Jehovah all his life, but his sons do not walk in godly ways. When the older men of Israel request a human king, Jehovah permits them to have one. Samuel follows Jehovah’s direction and anoints Saul, a handsome Benjamite, as king. Saul strengthens his position as king by defeating the Ammonites.
Saul’s valiant son Jonathan strikes down a Philistine garrison. The Philistines come up against Israel with a huge army. Saul panics and disobediently offers a burnt sacrifice himself. Taking along only his armor-bearer, courageous Jonathan attacks another Philistine outpost. Saul’s rash oath, however, weakens the force of the victory. Saul goes “warring round about” against all his enemies. (1 Samuel 14:47) Upon defeating the Amalekites, though, he disobeys Jehovah by sparing what had been “devoted to destruction.” (Leviticus 27:28, 29) Consequently, Jehovah rejects Saul as king.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

9:9—What is significant about the expression “the prophet of today used to be called a seer in former times”? These words may indicate that as the prophets became more prominent in the days of Samuel and during the era of the kings in Israel, the word “seer” came to be replaced by the term “prophet.” Samuel is considered the first of the line of the prophets.—Acts 3:24.

14:24-32, 44, 45—Did Jonathan lose God’s favor for eating honey in violation of Saul’s oath? This act does not seem to have placed Jonathan in God’s disfavor. First of all, Jonathan did not know about his father’s oath. Moreover, the oath, prompted either by false zeal or by a wrong view of kingly power, caused problems for the people. How could such an oath have God’s approval? Although Jonathan was willing to accept the consequences of breaking the oath, his life was spared.

15:6—Why did the Kenites receive special consideration from Saul? The Kenites were the sons of Moses’ father-in-law. They assisted the Israelites after these pulled away from Mount Sinai. (Numbers 10:29-32) In the land of Canaan, the Kenites also took up dwelling with the sons of Judah for a time. (Judges 1:16) Even though they later resided among the Amalekites and various other peoples, the Kenites remained on friendly terms with Israel. For good reason, then, Saul spared the Kenites.

Lessons for Us:

9:21; 10:22, 27. The modesty and humility that Saul had when he first became king safeguarded him from acting rashly when some “good-for-nothing men” did not accept his kingship. What a protection such a mind-set is against irrational actions!

12:20, 21. Never allow “the unrealities,” such as trust in men, confidence in the military might of nations, or idolatry, to turn you aside from serving Jehovah.

12:24. A key to maintaining reverential fear of Jehovah and serving him with all our heart is to “see what great things he has done” for his people in ancient as well as modern times.

13:10-14; 15:22-25, 30. Be on guard against presumptuousness—whether expressed through disobedient acts or a proud attitude.—Proverbs 11:2.

David and Goliath (illustration on pg 745 of Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 1)

David and King Saul (illustration on pg 31 of the 8/1/07 WA)

(1 Samuel 16:1–31:13)

Samuel anoints David of the tribe of Judah to be the future king. Shortly thereafter, David slays the Philistine giant Goliath with a single slingstone. A bond of friendship develops between David and Jonathan. Saul places David over his warriors. In response to David’s many victories, the women of Israel sing: “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7) Consumed with envy, Saul seeks to kill David. After three attacks by Saul, David flees and becomes a fugitive.
During his years as a runaway, David spares Saul’s life twice. He also meets and eventually marries beautiful Abigail. As the Philistines come up against Israel, Saul inquires of Jehovah. But Jehovah has left him. Samuel has died. Desperate, Saul consults a spirit medium, only to hear that he will be killed in the battle against the Philistines. During that battle, Saul is severely wounded, and his sons are killed. The account closes with Saul dying as a failure. David is still in hiding.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

16:14—What bad spirit terrorized Saul? The bad spirit that deprived Saul of his peace of mind was the bad inclination of his mind and heart—his inward urge to do wrong. When Jehovah withdrew his holy spirit, Saul lost its protection and came to be dominated by his own bad spirit. Since God permitted that spirit to replace His holy spirit, this bad spirit is termed “a bad spirit from Jehovah.”

17:55-58—In view of 1 Samuel 16:17-23, why did Saul ask whose son David was? Saul’s inquiry was not just about the name of David’s father. Very likely, he wanted to know what kind of man fathered a boy who had just accomplished the amazing feat of slaying a giant.

Lessons for Us:

16:6, 7. Rather than being impressed by the outward appearance of others or judging them hastily, we must try to see them as Jehovah sees them.

17:47-50. We can courageously face opposition or persecution from Goliathlike enemies because “to Jehovah belongs the battle.”

18:1, 3; 20:41, 42. True friends can be found among those who love Jehovah.

21:12, 13. Jehovah expects us to use our mental faculties and abilities to deal with difficult situations in life. He has given us his inspired Word, which imparts prudence, knowledge, and thinking ability. (Proverbs 1:4) We also have the help of appointed Christian elders.

24:6; 26:11. What a fine example David provides of genuine respect for the anointed of Jehovah!

25:23-33. Abigail’s sensibleness is exemplary.

28:8-19. In their efforts to misguide or harm people, wicked spirits can pretend to be certain dead individuals. We must keep free from all forms of spiritism.—Deuteronomy 18:10-12.

30:23, 24. This decision, based on Numbers 31:27, shows that Jehovah values those who serve in supportive roles in the congregation. Whatever we are doing, then, let us “work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.”—Colossians 3:23.

What Is “Better Than a Sacrifice”?
What fundamental truth is emphasized by the experiences of Eli, Samuel, Saul, and David? It is this: “To obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams; for rebelliousness is the same as the sin of divination, and pushing ahead presumptuously the same as using uncanny power and teraphim.”—1 Samuel 15:22, 23.

What a privilege we have to share in the worldwide Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work! As we offer to Jehovah “the young bulls of our lips,” we must do our best to obey the direction he gives through his written Word and the earthly part of his organization.—Hosea 14:2; Hebrews 13:15.