Abilities

Noah’s ark was built by humble amateurs, the Titanic by skilled but arrogant experts professionals that claimed it was unsinkable. Yet, which one would you embark on? We learn that having abilities not always yield the best of results. Godly qualities, though, always produce good fruitage. When serving in any facet of the ministry or special service, do we let our humility outshine our ability? (https://www.historyonthenet.com/the-titanic-why-did-people-believe-titanic-was-unsinkable)

Brother A: he is an seasoned and spiritual elder, graduated from MTS years ago, great speaker, extremely eloquent, very humble and approachable. But works fulltime secularly, is in debt, and is not pioneering at the moment. Brother B: he is a spiritual brother serving as elder, SKE graduate, just an average speaker but humble and approachable. He being pioneering for many years and is ready to take on an assignment whenever is needed. Now, there’s a need for a new circuit overseer. Who do you think the branch is going to call between these two brothers? Jehovah doesn't necessary use the ones that have special abilities but the spiritual ones that have special availability.




Actions

Chinese teacher Confucius once said: "What you do not want to be done to you, do not do to others." Many still believe a person has done his moral duty simply by refraining from doing any harm to others. Although this Confucian code of conduct has its merits, the Bible goes a step further by addressing a more profound dimension of human behavior and interaction. Rather than just instructing Christians not to do bad to others, Jesus Christ took it to the next level teaching that all things that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.—Matthew 7:12. Which of the two would you say come from a superior source of wisdom?

I never worry about action, but only about inaction - Winston Churchill. (http://quotes.lifehack.org)

If you were learning a skill/sport/instrument, would you know who is doing it right by how they argue over the manual/textbooks or would you see who is right by how they do it? According to the Bible, true Christians are not primarily identified by their doctrine, but rather, by their actions.(John 13.34,35)

A hurricane is coming. The sky has not turned dark yet, but the weather service announces it is imminent. It is going to be a big one. When you take a look at your neighborhood, some of your neighbors are working hard securing their property, installing storm shutters, putting away junk that may turn into projectiles, and so on. Other neighbors, though, are having the ultimate outdoors BBQ experience, partying with family and friends in spite of the storm warning. When you look at their homes, there is no indication they are preparing for the storm. Who would you say believe the storm is coming? Your neighbors didn’t need to say a word, but you can tell by their actions. The urgency shown by those who took action preparing for the hurricane attests it is real to them. But the inaction of those partying indicates they are not sure about the warning or perhaps don’t believe it at all. Likewise, we don't need to say a word for others to know the quality of our faith. Our actions and the way we conduct ourselves in the congregation will show it.




Adam and Eve

If a father provides his son with a daily allowance of 100 dollars and one day he asks his son for one dollar back, but the son refuses to help him and shows a selfish, stingy attitude, how would the father feel? It wouldn't be unfair if the father exercises his right to reduce or stop the allowance. Likewise, God generously gave Adam and Eve everything they needed on a daily basis, and yet the one thing God asked from them they failed to do. God had the right to withhold more blessings from them.

If a generous friend invites you to a banquet full of delicacies, but sets one restriction: do not eat the adornment at the center of the table. Looks like real fruit but it's harmful to humans. Would you say the host is tempting or instigating you to harm? No! On the contrary, he warned you about the danger. Moreover, as the master of the house, he can decorate his home and dinner table however he wants. Similarly, Jehovah God was generous and kind when he warned Adam and Eve of the dangers of eating the fruit of the tree that belongs to him and only to him. By no means did God instigate them to sin.

God wanted humans to be obedient. However, that was not programmed into men’s brain originally. It was necessary for it to spring voluntarily from the heart. If Adam had lacked the ability and freedom to choose disobedience, he would have been incomplete, imperfect. Free will is essential for intelligent creatures to be complete, perfect, before the Creator. That's what relative perfection means, to be complete or whole for the purpose the Creator wanted to accomplish. Adam was perfect in that sense, and in the new world all perfect humans will follow the same pattern.

Imagine that to be a good son or daughter you only need to follow one rule: don’t eat the poisonous fruit in the fridge. Would that be too hard? It would be much easier than our reality today when, due to imperfection, many other regulations are required. God certainly was very reasonable with Adam and Eve.

Just like a ventriloquist tries to trick people making it look like his voice is coming from another source, Satan used a similar deception to trick Eve to sin.




Advice

If we visit a foreign country, we may see prices in a currency other than the one we are used to. Perhaps we see a price and at first we think is a good deal, but after converting to our currency we quickly realize it's a ripoff! Likewise, the world's currency is different from that of God's people. We give value to different things. Whenever we see or hear any advice from Satan's world on education, lifestyle, work, family, etc. we need to convert it to a spiritual currency and see how much that advice is going to cost us spiritually.




Aging

The human body can be compared to a successful enterprise that unexpectedly starts downsizing, stops repairing old equipment and stops maintaining the facilities. Many employees are fired, and the property quickly deteriorates. Consequently, the business is on the brink of a shutdown. How did such a collapse happen? Mysteriously the CEO and Members of the Board allowed the company to die. That question is similar to the one facing biologists who study aging. Why does the human body stop regenerating itself after years of health and youth? Science is yet to explain the profound specifics of such phenomena. But God tells us through the Bible not only the origin of aging but also the future solution.




Air of the world

You are sitting in a restaurant in the "no smoking" section. Suddenly a smoke-saturated, filthy air drifts over the "no smoking" area. Do we just stay there breathing it? Surely we would quickly get far from it to protect our health. Likewise, when this world’s "filthy air" come our way we should immediately get away from its unhealthy influence, otherwise our thinking can become polluted, and we may develop more tolerance to it. We may stop thinking it’s dangerous. It may start alluring our flesh. It may awaken some fleshly desire we have been struggling to control, just like a past smoker may be tempted to smoke again if exposed to smoking. Thus, we need to be alert that we may not be led into a death trap by the air of this world.

Air pollution is an alarming problem today in cities like Beijing, China and Los Angeles, US. Originally our Creator made the air pure for us to breathe, and yet it is becoming more and more death-dealing. As dangerous as air pollution may be, however, there is an even more dangerous form of pollution. It is much more lethal than the smog-filled air of a big industrial metropolis. Paul wrote: "It is you God made alive though you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you at one time walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience."—Ephesians 2:1, 2.




Altruism

According to a psychological study conducted in America, individuals would feel better if they care and help others. The 1,700 people studied reported that helping others gave them a sense of calmness and relief from stress-related disorders such as headaches and voice loss. The report concluded: "It appears, then, that caring about others is as much a part of human nature as caring about ourselves." This study brings to mind the Bible command: "You must love your neighbor as yourself." Loving ourselves is natural. But for us to be emotionally stable and healthy, we have to balance that love for self with love for others. That’s how we have been designed. (Psychology Today, October 1988, pp. 38, 39)




Ambition

Who soars too near the sun, with golden wings, melts them. -William Shakespeare (http://www.azquotes.com)

Some eagles would rather die drowned than letting go from their talons a big salmon fish too heavy to lift off. Even if they don't drown, they still cannot fly back to their nest if they don't let go. Could something similar happen to a Christian due to selfish ambition? —Prov. 11:28 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/08/fisherman-rescues-drowning-eagle-canada_n_5952708.html)

Ambition often puts Men upon doing the meanest offices; so climbing is performed in the same position with creeping. - A.C. Benson (http://www.azquotes.com)

A Dog, crossing a bridge over a stream with a piece of flesh in his mouth, saw his own shadow in the water and took it for that of another Dog, with a piece of meat double his own in size. He immediately let go of his own, and fiercely attacked the other Dog to get his larger piece from him. He thus lost both: that which he grasped at in the water, because it was a shadow; and his own, because the stream swept it away. Moral? If you covet all, you may lose all. The ambitious person can become insatiable and easily falls prey of his own desires. (http://fablesofaesop.com)




Angels

If we have a good friend that we really appreciate, it would be natural to spend some time knowing his family. Likewise, to get to know God in a more intimate way we need to know more about his family, in this case, the angels. Are we familiar with their role in God's Organization? (Job 38:7)

When the angels made bodies for themselves and came to earth, did they come in the form of a couple or married person? Apparently not, since they took the form similar to that of a young single man. So Jesus was right, angels don't get married. This illustrates the fact that those angels turned demons do not respect the family institution Jehovah established for them and humans as they took human wives for themselves, even though that was unnatural to them.

The angels are in midheaven directing the preaching work. They try to direct us to find those who deserve the good news. But if we are always negative and we make excuses for not to talk, it's hard for them to work with us. How can they use us and direct us if we don't let them? Think about the following: Imagine you are an angel, and you have to work and encourage someone like yourself, how would you feel? Will you enjoy it? We need to do our best to be positive about the preaching work, and in that way, the angels may use us to find someone who is deserving of the message.

Revelation 5:11 says: 'I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels around the throne [of God] . . . and the number of them was myriads of myriads.' A myriad is 10,000. One myriad times one myriad is 10,000 times 10,000, a total of 100 million angels! Yet, Revelation speaks in the plural, of 'myriads of myriads' of angels serving God. That must be hundreds of millions, perhaps billions or more. This line of thought illustrates a faith strengthening point: we are not alone serving God, as there are more with us than with Satan.




Anger

We may have heard the saying “fight fire with fire”. But in real life does that even make any sense? Would you extinguish a small fire in your house using oil and gas? Would you throw a flaming torch into it hoping more fire will somehow put down the flames? It would be much more practical to use the fire extinguisher or water. Using more “fire” will indeed make matters worse. By the same token, Jehovah counsels us saying: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up.” (Prov. 15:1, 18) A mild answer… that is the Christian way of putting down the fire.

Some people try to hide their anger by putting on a serene face. Christians need to do better than that. As imitators of the Christ, our objective is not only to repress our anger from having an external expression. Repressing our anger puts us under significant strain. It is like stepping on a car’s brake pedal and gas pedal at the same time. Doing that can cause some serious damage, and it cannot be held for too long. Likewise, we don’t want to bottle up our anger and pretend we are at peace. Sooner or later it will burst out, and we won't be able to control it. We need to pray to God for peace and mildness, and supplicate him to protect our hearts from pain and vexation.




Anointed

If you receive an invitation to a wedding reception, do you still need to wonder whether you have been invited? Similarly, the token in advance the spirit gives is the indisputable invitation the anointed received that gives them the certainty of their adoption as sons. (Eph. 1:13, 14) We have heard stories of people that consider whether to crash a wedding party of a person they know because perhaps they really want to go but didn’t get an invitation. Similarly, an individual eager to be anointed but that hasn’t received the heavenly call may wonder whether he truly is anointed. That hesitation in itself indicates he has not been invited. Unlike weddings on earth that get crashed all the time by imprudent individuals, the marriage of the lamb can’t be crashed! (Rev 19: 1-3)

An individual arrives at your home with a bunch of luggage saying 'I’m here to live with you, I'm moving in.' The strange thing is, you never invited that person to move in. Wouldn’t you think such boldness is disrespectful, rude and reckless? And more importantly, would you let that uninvited person even get pass the door? So it is with those that invite themselves to live in heaven professing the heavenly hope without being invited. (Rom. 9.11).

Just like when a foreign resident is granted citizenship, becomes naturalized and gets a passport making his naturalization official, the anointed have received a diplomatic passport, sort to speak, confirming they are not only citizens but also co-rulers in the Kingdom. (Phil. 3:20) In case an impostor tries to sneak in through the customs of a country without a valid visa or passport, he will be detained and may be prosecuted. The same if someone claims to be anointed without having received the heavenly citizenship.

At the restroom, you encounter two doors: men and women. Do you hesitate about which one to take? The anointed know for sure their spiritual gender, the heavenly hope.




Anxiety

I'm an old man with many troubles, many of them never happened. - attributed to Mark Twain (https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes)

Insightful illustration from the Watchtower 2013: It has been said that life can be understood by looking back but that it must be lived by looking ahead. So instead of worrying about the past, we should be concerned about the present and the future. What are we doing right now, or failing to do, that years from now we will wish we had not done or had done differently? Are we maintaining a course of faithfulness that will prevent any possible regrets at a future time? As the great tribulation nears, we do not want to be plagued with such anxious thoughts as these: ‘Could I have done more in God’s service? Why didn’t I pioneer when I had the opportunity? What prevented me from reaching out to serve as a ministerial servant? Did I make a real effort to put on the new personality? Am I the sort of person Jehovah wants in his new world?’ Instead of just worrying about such sobering questions, we want to use them to analyze ourselves and make sure that we are giving our best in Jehovah’s service. Otherwise, we could be continuing in a way of life that may result in even more regrets. —2 Tim. 2:15. (w13 1/15 pp. 25-26)

Anxiety is like static on the radio. It can ruin the most beautiful song.

A man fell overboard into the ocean not knowing how to swim. He began to panic thinking he will for sure sink and die... and eventually he drowned. Those trying to help him couldn’t do much because of his panic, desperation and erratic movements. After all, though, he did not sink. He ended up floating, but dead. A similar tragedy can occur spiritually. While going through an economic crisis, we may think we won't stay afloat. We may act erratically and make some bad decisions, like accepting a job that conflicts with the meetings' time. Or we may get involved in some dubious, dishonest business. We may stay afloat financially, but spiritually we will die. We should rather trust in Jehovah's help and not panic. Even if we feel we don’t know how to swim in this wicked system of things, if we put him first, he will provide for our necessities. (Heb. 13:5, 6)




Apathy

Once upon a time, an oriental master saw a scorpion drowning. He decided to save the animal by pulling it out of the water. When the teacher grabbed it, the scorpion stung him. The same happened several times. A student observing what was occurring shout: 'Stop trying, Master! Don’t you see the scorpion will keep stinging you?' The master replied: 'the nature of the scorpion, which is to sting, won’t change my nature, which is to help.' Application: the apathy of people in the territory should not change our desire to help them by means of the good news of the kingdom.

For many drivers, their conscience is the Police. They grudgingly buckle up and follow speed limits only when a police officer is nearby. Similarly, it can be said that as we preach the good news of the kingdom we sometimes become people’s conscience. Many don’t tolerate our message and don’t like to hear the Truth, so they get upset at it and become apathetic. They hate the light but love the darkness, and would rather stay there where nobody can see what they do. (John 3:19-21) That's their choice. But we should not be disheartened by the foul usage of free will.




Apology

Two men are at the top of two buildings respectively. Their cell phones have no signal, but they need to communicate. They try to speak shouting from a distance but they are too far from each other. It's not working. What would they do? They could stay at the top, give up and stop communicating. Or if one of them is humble enough and the other follows, they can put forth a bit of effort, come down, and talk. But what if the other one doesn’t want to follow? That would be quite rude. But we as Christians are not supposed to be rude, but cordial and loving, right? A similar situation happens when an apology is not accepted. One person can put forth the effort to come down in humility, communicate and say “I’m sorry.” But if the other person refuses to come down with the same humble spirit, wouldn't that be unchristian? We need to be humble, not only to apologize but also to accept the apologies of those who have offended us.




Apostasy

Appearances

In his hometown in Colombia, many people thought he was a good man. He helped the poor, spent lots of money in the community, sponsored sports teams, built churches, schools, roads and residences. He was a local hero. Who was he? None other than Pablo Escobar, infamous drug dealer and head of the Medellin Cartel. Lesson? Appearances are deceiving. Good deeds are not an excuse for evilness, although sometimes are its best shroud. God is the only one that can read the human heart and see the hidden motives. We need to trust his judgment so that we don’t fall victim of deception. (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-25183649, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/06/two-sides-pablo-escobar-_n_5940340.html

You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear -- English idiom

Would you reject a valuable antique just because it's inside a humble container? Not if you can see past its appearance! Interestingly, 2 Corinthians 4:7 says: 'We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s and not that out of ourselves.' Thus, God chooses to present his lifesaving Word of truth to us in a seemingly unsophisticated container, a vessel practically made of dirt. However, the treasure inside is still a treasure! Humility, modesty, and meekness are required to perceive its real value and not just the 'earthen vessels,' or human agencies, conveying it to us.

You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig -- English idiom

Don’t judge a book by its cover-- English idiom




Applying

Just going to meetings doesn't make you a Christian any more than just standing in a garage makes you a car. We need to apply what we learn and put forth effort to imitate Jesus and be doers of the Word. That will make us a true Christian.—James 1:22




Appointments

Armageddon

Imagine you are rich. Would you like your spouse to love you only for your money? No! We like to be appreciated genuinely by who we are, not by what we have. In the same vein, if Jehovah announces the date of Armageddon many will serve him out of selfish interest and not because they genuinely love Him. They’ll just want to save their skin and obtain selfish profit. But by not disclosing the date He gives us the chance to demonstrate our sincere love for Him.

You are the owner of an apartment block with tenants. Some are bad tenants, and some are good. If the bad ones start to destroy the block, what would you do, burn down the whole block? Would you be that drastic? Wouldn't be better just to get rid of the bad tenants? Similarly, God doesn’t need to burn down the whole planet in Armageddon. He only needs to do away with the bad tenants.

If you have an encounter with a Grizzly bear, and it charges at you, and you fight back, the chances of survival are pretty low. If the Grizzly is already too close, instead of trying to fight or run, the best we could do is to do nothing. Playing dead may dissuade the bear to leave, as they don't like carcasses. Hopefully, we will never face such a predicament. However, the situation will be similar in Armageddon. We will have to face a frontal attack by Satan and we don’t stand a chance by ourselves. But we don't need to do anything because we are not alone. We have the best backing in Jehovah. We just need to stay put, stand still, and Jehovah will save us. (2 Chronicles 20:17)




Arrogance

Knowledge can be compared to light. On a dark road, the car headlights can provide the illumination we need to avoid accidents. Sometimes we need to use the high beams. If we try to use the high beams unnecessarily, though, other drivers on the road will be blinded, annoyed, some may even honk the horn at us. They will think we are careless and will try to drive far away from us. Likewise, we all have a measure of knowledge and intelligence that illuminate our path, like headlights. And we might have a measure of expertise in a particular area that, like the high beams, may come in handy in certain situations. However, showing off our intelligence all the time will not endear us to our friends, but will irritate them. People don't appreciate the overwhelming illumination of a know-it-all individual always correcting others, giving unsolicited explanations of how things work or how to do things. We should use the high beams, our in-depth knowledge, wisely.




Associations

Atheism

A British professor who has been called 'the world’s most influential atheist' turned around and became a believer in God. In an interview, before he passed away in 2010, Dr. Antony Flew said he 'had to go where the evidence leads.' According to Flew, this evidence includes recent scientific discoveries in the fields of cosmology and physics. Flew stated that 'the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries' and that 'the argument to Intelligent Design is enormously stronger than it was when I first met it.' Although at the time he said it was unlikely for him to become a Christian, he said: 'If I wanted any sort of future life I should become a Jehovah’s Witness.' (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_Flew, g05 12/8 p. 28)

A man driving on a well-illuminated road ignores a sign that says "Do not enter, private property." A police officer stops him and gives him a fine. The man argues that the sign was not visible so he missed it. But his argument is weak because the sign is in plain view. Besides, all drivers have to be aware and heed such signs. So it is with the evidence of God in nature. The "sign" shouting "Design!" is in plain view. As intelligent beings, we are more than capable of seeing it. There is no excuse for ignoring it. The question is: are we heeding the signs our Father have put in plain view in nature shouting a clear and powerful witness? Many that identify themselves as atheist deliberately blind their eyes in order not to recognize the existence of the Creator. In reality, they are inexcusable. (Rom. 1:20)




Attitude

Attitude is like a valve; if it's open and positive, it allows more to be received. But if it’s narrow and negative it impedes progress.

An Army General and his soldiers were surrounded by the enemy to the east, west, north and south. In that predicament, the General proceeded to say, 'Gentlemen, for the first time in the history of this campaign, we are now in a position to attack the enemy in any direction.' What things have you surrounded, tied down, fenced in? All of us have limitations in life. Some we will have to bear with while others we have to break through! It will only happen if we give ourselves an attitude adjustment to be more positive.




Authority

The Stanford prison experiment was an attempt to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power. The participants were divided into two groups. One group got appointed as guards and were put in charge of the other group, who were assigned to be prisoners. Some participants developed their roles as the guards and enforced authoritarian measures bullying the other group and ultimately subjected some prisoners to psychological torture. Many of the prisoners passively accepted psychological abuse and, by the guards' request, actively harassed other prisoners who tried to stop it. Two of the prisoners left mid-experiment, and the whole exercise was abandoned after only six days. The experiment's results favor situational attribution of behavior over dispositional attribution. In other words, this means that the situation rather than their individual personalities caused the participants' behavior. The lesson? Anyone, even those with nice personalities, can fall into the trap of misusing authority. A good Bible example of this is King Saul, who started humble but ended up as a bully. A Christian can have good qualities at the time he gets appointed to a position of authority. But having to assume a role of authority can become a test to some who tend to enjoy being in charge. All those in positions of oversight do well in self-examining their personalities from time to time to detect any traits of misusing authority. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment#Similar_studies)

A Governing Body member once said in a Gilead graduation talk: ‘The more responsibility I have, the less authority I realize that I have. Christ is in charge’. This comment makes apparent the big difference between having authority in secular matters and having authority in the congregation. We do well in adopting this wise and humble point of view.

If a soldier goes against his superiors and commanders, it will adversely affect his entire unit. A rebellious teenager in a house can be detrimental to his whole family. By the same token, if we were to rebel against the humans that Jehovah has given authority to in the congregation, we could put our fellow spiritual soldiers at risk. When a Christian doesn't follow direction from the appointed elders, others in the congregation may suffer as well, and a spirit of division and strife may arise. We should rather develop a respectful and cooperative spirit.

Our body exercises authority over us. But this authority is good for us. It 'commands' us to breathe, eat, drink, and sleep. We won't consider such command intolerable or unreasonable because we gain benefits from it. While this kind of submission may be involuntary, other forms of authority require our willing subjection. For instance, we need to put forth a lot of effort and willpower to exercise regularly, instead of watching TV; to eat the veggies instead of a juicy bacon burger, and so on. Those are required by the body to stay healthy, but we need to comply voluntarily. If we don’t, we can get sick. In the same vein, Jehovah's authority is not forceful; we need to be willing to obey. The benefits of obeying God are real and it's up to us to reach out to them.

Exodus 4:2: In that verse, God asked Moses: “What is that in your hand?” Moses’ answer was: “A rod.” Jehovah used that rod as a symbol of the authority and the commission he gave to Moses. (Exodus 4:5) Moses did well when he used his authority for God’s glory, but he displeased God when he used it to glorify himself and to berate his brothers. (Numbers 20:9-13) This account illustrates how God’s servants should make wise use of the authority or gifts God provides. We should not use them to assert authority over others, but, rather, to bring praise and honor to Jehovah.