Bad associations

The work of Christians can be compared to that of a physician who attends patients that abide by customs or traditions that are against the basic principles of medical science. Some patients perhaps uphold traditions based on superstition and unsanitary habits. The doctor will not hesitate to help these people, but he does not need to share in their customs to provide help. He wants to share his knowledge of healing and sanitary living habits with them. He aspires to make them well, not to get sick himself; to instruct them in improving their conditions, not to corrupt his own clean living habits. Similarly, Christians will preach to people to help them attain spiritual health, but never will they lower their high standards putting themselves at risk. (Luke 5:30-32)

If we have two glasses of water, one with clean water and another one with dirty water. What would happen if we mix them? The water won't be clean, but dirty. Friendship with a person alienated from God will make our faith weak, stained. It won't result in both persons being spiritually clean. (James 4:4, Deut. 7:2-4)

A farmer placed nets on his newly-sown plowlands and caught a number of Cranes, which came to pick up his seed. With them he trapped a Stork that had fractured his leg in the net and was earnestly beseeching the Farmer to spare his life. "Pray save me, Master," he said, "and let me go free this once. My broken limb should excite your pity. Besides, I am no Crane, I am a Stork, a bird of excellent character; and see how I love and slave for my father and mother. Look too, at my feathers-- they are not the least like those of a Crane." The Farmer laughed aloud and said, "It may be all as you say, I only know this: I have taken you with these robbers, the Cranes, and you must die in their company." Birds of a feather flock together. Application: the one who has dealings with the stupid will fare badly. (Prov. 13:20, Ps. 1:1; see more at http://fablesofaesop.com)




Bad habits

Have you ever noticed a vine growing and spiraling around a chain-link fence? The fresh growth, the young green vine, is easy to remove with a simple twist our your wrist. But the old, brown, woody part of the vine is tough to remove. It takes a lot of time and effort to break it off, and sometimes it won't come off unless we are willing to remove part of the fence itself. Bad habits are like a vine on a chain-link fence. The sooner we get rid of them, the easier they are to remove. But the old ones, the ones we've let remain in our lives for years, are hard to get rid of. And sometimes they can't be removed unless we also remove other parts of our life.

On California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, giant Sequoias thrive. Many of them are hundred, even thousand years old. As majestic and longevous as they are, however, tiny beetles can start burrow into its bark and lay eggs that would produce other beetles. It may seem like an unequal battle at first, but the few insects can multiply into hundreds, then into thousands, and finally into millions. First they attack the bark, then they work deeper into the trunk, and finally, they eat the very heart and strength of that magnificent forest giant. Then one day, after withstanding the elements for centuries, a storm may come and the giant tree can fall and die; not because of the elements, but because of the weakening effects of those tiny beetles. Bad habits do the same thing to people. They slowly take a toll, until the day comes when the man or woman falls like that giant tree.




Balance

The amazing Karl Wallenda was an experienced and famous high-wire performer. He performed dangerous stunts on the tightrope, many times without any safety net. The day came, though, when in spite of many decades of experience, Wallenda lost his balance and fell to his death. He was 73 years old. Lesson? Even the most skilled and seasoned Christians could lose balance and suffer a spiritual fall.—1 Cor. 10:12 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Wallenda)

If we are spiritually active and keep moving forward, we will be protected against losing our spiritual balance. It is similar to riding a bicycle. When we keep moving forward is easier to keep it in balance. But when we initially get on the bike, it's at a standstill, and we have no momentum. If we try to balance it without moving forward, it 's hard to do it, even for a few seconds. Likewise, perhaps when we started studying the Bible and we became Witnesses we felt like our lives got more in balance. That’s the natural result of making changes and living according to Bible principles. However, that initial success can only continue if we keep moving forward spiritually. As we keep advancing in our spiritual progress, we get more involved in the congregation and theocratic activities. We may be entrusted with more responsibilities, and we may even engage in full-time service. Being fully immersed in spiritual activities is the best way to keep our balance in this system of things.

It’s pouring rain, but you need to go to work. Do you go out without any rain gear, not even an umbrella? Or do you perhaps go to the other extreme and wear so many layers of waterproof clothing and raincoats that you can barely walk? No! This is the kind of situation when we need to find a balanced way to keep ourselves dry without affecting our mobility. Similarly, finding a balanced way to protect ourselves from this world’s corruptive influences raining down on us daily is not easy. Our kids, for example, can be susceptible to this influence for their lack of experience. The media, peers, worldly propaganda, even teachers at school can affect them. Mature Christians are not exempt. Satan uses the luminaries of this world, like prominent scientists and so-called experts, to turn our own intelligence against us. Even unbelieving family members are used by Satan to turn our natural filial-love against us. How can we battle such a cruel enemy? We need to rely on God and be balanced. Whether we are protecting our children or ourselves, we need to be careful not be suffocating in the way we are shielded from danger, but also we don’t want to go to the extreme of not taking any action at all to avoid being affected.

Can we imagine a high wire performer carrying many personal items while walking the tightrope without a safety net? That’s the opposite of what these performers aim to do. In order to keep their balance, they stay as light as possible, only bringing the essentials. If we want to keep our balance, we need to aim to live an unburdened life, a simple life. (Mat. 6:22) Avoiding extremes, maintaining mental stability, sorting out priorities, etc. can be easier if we live a simple life. That is a worthy goal for all Christians.




Baptism

You are driving from New York to California. Would you only fill up once in New York and be on your way without any more pit stops? After our baptism, we need to keep "refueling" ourselves spiritually and keep progressing, until we manage to be like Christ. (Eph. 4:13) Whether new or old in the truth, we have a long way to go!

Just like the foundation of a building needs to dry and set before the structure can be built on it, all Bible students need to build their own foundation until it sets before endeavoring to pursue some basic Christian duties, like baptism. If the foundation is not correctly established, everything built upon it may collapse.

A man works hard for many hours in a restaurant. However, he comes in from the back door, punches no timecard, and is not on the payroll, because he never accepted to be hired as an employee for fear of committing to sign a contract. How can he be paid if there's no agreement between him and the employer? Our dedication and baptism will inscribe our names in the greatest of all payrolls: the book of life.

In many lands, a wedding ceremony marks the end of a period of planning and preparation (and usually of courtship). At the same time, it marks the beginning of a life together as a married couple. Similarly, your baptism is the culmination of a period of preparation during which you took a number of important preliminary steps. You gained knowledge of God and Christ. You began to exercise faith in Jehovah as the true God, in Christ as your Savior, and in the Bible as God's Word. You demonstrated that faith by repenting of your former course of action and converting to a righteous course. You then decided to dedicate yourself to Jehovah to do his will. Finally, you were baptized. But it is not the end... it's only the beginning.

To be almost following Jehovah is to be almost within Satan's reach.

If by now we have heard the Baptism talk over 30-50 times, we should not assume that's the part of the assembly when we needlessly go to the bathroom, stand up and stretch, or walk around the venue trying to find our friends. For one thing, the Baptism talk outline is not the same in every assembly, so there's always a new angle. Usually, different speakers are used to deliver this discourse. Thus, we need to have the right attitude and appreciation for this solemn talk. This can be compared to watching the remake of a movie. Maybe we saw the original movie some time ago, and maybe we read the book the movie is based on. But isn’t it true that all those versions always present a distinct perspective? Often they come up with some unexpected twists! It happens the same with the baptism talk. If we pay close attention, we will find something that will sound fresh and will fortify our own dedication. It is for our benefit that we have this solemn reminder at least three times a year! (Ecclesiastes 5:4)

A man and a woman live together without getting married. She receives an inheritance and becomes wealthy. Now the man wants her to put the inheritance under his name. She promises that he will have the right to the inheritance if they get married. But he doesn't want to. Don't you think is unfair for her to comply without any commitment? Matthew 5:5 says the inheritance for those committing to Jehovah is the earth. By means of dedication and baptism, we make the commitment, the vow, that will give us the reward of having the earth and many other blessings as inheritance.

Some unbaptized publishers make apparent that they are not qualified for baptism after having considered the questions from the 'od' book. In those cases, it is better to give more time to the student so that he can be fully prepared for a life of service to God. Hearing this kind of news can make the student feel quite disappointed and discouraged. An illustration that can tactfully express the benefit of waiting a little bit longer is to compare the situation to a cake that is already in the oven being baked. You check if the cake is ready and is looking good but you noticed that if you give it a few more minutes, it will be thoroughly baked and be even more delicious. The progress of the publisher is like baking the cake; looks promising, he is getting there, but he still needs a little bit more time to solidify so that he can truly be ready. If the person stays in the warmth of the congregation, it will just be a matter of time.

In a burial the body or coffin is completely covered, not just pouring a little bit of dirt and dust leaving some parts sticking out, but usually seven feet under. Christian baptism has been likened to a symbolic burial. The baptizer and the water don't have anything miraculous or uncanny in themselves. It's just normal water and normal men. However, the symbolic ceremony in God's eyes is what possess a very special meaning. Since the symbolic meaning is to die and be made anew, dedicated to God's service, the person needs to be totally covered by water. (it-1 248) Not one tiny toe or string of hair can be left sticking out so that the symbolism can be fully accomplished. Failing to do so will prompt the baptizer to submerge the person once again. This Scriptural symbolism is one important reason why baptism by sprinkling water does not meet the Scriptural standard.




Beauty

In real life, a so called 'beautiful' or 'handsome' look can only take you as far as a superficiality can go. That's not very far in the eyes of Jehovah. Just like a book having a nice looking cover but a boring, incoherent, even offensive content will soon be put down by readers, looking good but having an obnoxious and selfish personality will not make you genuinely endearing to others. If a book is interesting, however, the reader will hold on to it and will enjoy reading it. Likewise, if we focus on qualities that can make us interesting, better persons, we will accomplish much more than any fleeting beauty ever could. And let's face it, our appearance changes as we get older. If life, friendship, and happiness hinged on youthful good looks, what a sad future would lie before us all!

Amethyst is a well-known mineral and gemstone. It is the purple variety of the mineral Quartz and its most valuable and prized variety. These crystallized Quartzes can delight the eyes beholding its jammed-up piles of sparkling purple crystals.

Enormous quantities of Amethyst come from Minas Gerais, Brazil, which contains the famous Rio Grande do Sul, where huge crystal-lined Amethyst geodes are found. Interestingly, the rock called geode containing the Amethyst is just an ordinary hollow rock that gives no clue of the beauty hidden within it.

Similarly, some people are like geodes. They may seem shy, unsophisticated, rather plain-looking on the outside. But if you take the time to get to know them, they will open up and show you an inner beauty that glows like crystals. A warm, kind spirit emerges, a delightful personality unfolds. You discover depths you‘d never suspected. Now they don't seem that plain-looking anymore! Many times they may become our good friends, and we value them more than precious stones. No wonder Jehovah's point of view in this regard is: 'Mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.' (1 Samuel 16:7) We do well if we learn to see people from Jehovah's elevated and penetrating perspective, finding precious hidden gems in human hearts. (http://www.minerals.net/mineral/amethyst.aspx; g89 1/22 p. 31)




Believe

The spectrum of light reveals how blind we really are and how limited the human eye is. Basically, most of the spectrum of existing types of light cannot be perceived with our eyes. For instance, gamma rays and x-rays are totally invisible to us.

Telescopes that can access the realm of those lights can ‘see’ or detect things that otherwise will be unknown and nonexistent to us. Therefore, believing only in what the eyes can see actually blinds people from knowing about a much greater reality out there, and about the amazing Creator of it all.

Widespread expression, but this kind of thinking is actually quite short-sighted. Why is that? There are so many things that we cannot see and yet our lives revolve around them. For instance, we don’t see the air but it fills our lungs and it caresses our skin. We don’t see odors, but our nose picks them up. Nor we see sound waves, but our ears are sensitive to them. There’s a pretty good chance you have never seen your brain, and yet you are using it right now to parse this illustration! We don’t see God nor faith, but if our heart is sincere it will detect Him, befriend Him, and love Him.

For centuries, people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely, he would not be wrong. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects; one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height in a vacuum to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle's death. In 1589 Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten-pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief was so strong, however, that the professors denied their eyesight. For a time they continued to say Aristotle was right. This illustrates what is going on in the world today. You could show the ravaging effects of venereal diseases and people will have promiscuous sex anyway. Show someone a diseased liver and cancerous lungs, yet people will continue to abuse alcohol and smoke. If only someone would just climb to the top of the tower, push off a ten-pound argument and a one-pound argument, and just see which reaches the ground first. That would finally prove who is right and who is wrong. But then we are reminded that when Galileo did that no one believed him. It took many years for his findings to be accepted as truth. Most people are going to believe what they have always believed regardless of the facts. It takes time for people to change and accept what they believe may not be correct. So we should not feel discouraged if they don’t want to listen in spite of the evidence. It is just imperfect human nature. We should not judge people, because in the end, a perfect judge, Jehovah, will be the one rendering judgment.




Bible Application

2 Timothy 3:16- One translator renders the expression 'setting things straight' as 'to reset.' Indeed, the Bible is so powerful that can 'reset' our lives, as it were, providing the opportunity for honest-hearted ones to have a clean start, regardless of the past.

The Bible can be compared to frozen holy spirit. We need to warm up to our brothers and sister, creating the needed warmth or heat to melt it and let it flow. (Romans 12:10, 11) The Bible states that “the one who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) Only if we warm up to our brothers and sisters, we can truly enjoy the waters of the spirit of truth.

A brother was conducting a Bible study with a student who failed to put into practice what he was learning. One day after the study, the brother mentioned to the student that he had bought a book on health and fitness with the promise: Become as fit as a marine in sixteen weeks. You know, he lamented, I've had the book more than 16 weeks, I've read it more than three times already, and I'm still not as fit as a marine. In fact, I'm just as unfit as I ever was. 'Have you been doing the exercises from the book?' The Bible student asked. 'No,' the brother admitted. 'Then how do you expect to get anywhere with the book if you just read it, but don't do what it says ...' The brother could tell by the way the tone of the student's voice changed during the middle of his question that he had got the point!

Reading the Bible but not turning its counsel into practical reminders is like looking through the screen of a camera but not pressing the record button. If we don't press it, important moments in our lives may never be kept and captured to be enjoyed in the future. Similarly, if we don't take scriptural counsel to heart and apply it, we will not be able to recall the principles and fully benefit from it. Our precious spiritual memories will be lost!

HMS Palls was a British Navy frigate. In 1810 near the southeast coast of Scotland, bad weather conditions caused the pilot to mistake the light on a lime kiln at Broxmouth for that on the Isle of May, and the light on the island for that on the Bell Rock. The Pallas was driven onto the rocks and completely wrecked. The sinking took the lives of eleven men. A similar danger sailors faced was false beacon lights. According to the book Wrecks, Wreckers and Rescuers, such false lights were put up to lure ships onto rocky shores so that the wrecks could be plundered. Likewise, knowledge can be likened to false light and true light. Today we faced the challenge of making distinction between them. Nowadays false news and reports are rampant via social media. Even the media is sometimes tainted with dishonesty, being guided by hidden agendas to benefit political parties and other interest. These outlets are sometimes used to charge false accusations against Jehovah's people. If we follow misleading information, we might become a victim of deliberate deception. Such path can lead to tragedy. How can we avoid fall prey of false beacons of light? We need to rely on the Scriptures to distinguish both right and wrong.—Hebrews 5:14 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Pallas_(1804))

A wristwatch, if it has a solar-powered battery, gets its energy from the Sun. These watches can last many years tickling non-stop with no internal source of energy. If, through the Bible, we seek Jehovah as our Sun, he can keep us “charged” and we will keep running for eternity.

Two men are trying to fix their broken computers. One gets so frustrated that he gives up, throws his tool down, slams the door, and leaves. The other one is smiling and calm, and soon he gets it fixed. Which of the two would you say read the instruction manual? Similarly, we sometimes see people struggling in life not knowing how to solve and avoid problems, whereas others seem to be able to stay happy in the face of calamity and seem pretty smart handling difficulties. Although circumstances vary, usually it is not too hard to know who is living by the instructions manual God has provided, the Bible, and who is not.

Imagine that your doctor directed you to apply a certain ointment twice a day to eliminate a persistent rash. Would your rash disappear if you applied the ointment only once or twice a month? That is not likely. To enjoy the cumulative benefit, we need to follow the prescription just as it says. Jehovah prescribes us to read his Word daily. Only when we follow the prescription will we enjoy the cumulative benefit. (Psalm 1:1,2)

The Psalmist in Psalm 119:105 employs a beautiful illustration saying: “Your word is a lamp to my foot, And a light for my path”. The lamp for the foot indicates our current steps, the present time, and the light to my path illustrates the future. Like an airport's control tower that indicate the pilot's flight path, the Bible accurately outlines future events and gives us clear instructions to ensure a safe arrival at our destination.




Bible Appreciation

A sportscaster makes a ball game interesting by giving many details and specific descriptions on how the ball is hit, the expression of the players, the excitement of the fans, the statistics and background stories of the players and coaching staff. Likewise, the Bible contains plenty of details that make it factual and interesting. For example, the Bible contains many facts on genealogies, ancient measures, linguistic idioms, laws, customs, and culture. All those details make the Bible accounts alive.

Just like when rewatching a movie years later we notice new details we missed the first time, the same happens each time we read the world's best-seller book, the Bible. Especially if we watched that movie the first time when we were young, perhaps many things went over our head. In like fashion, we probably read the Bible the first time when we were “young” in the truth. Now we have more knowledge; we can see things in context and connect the dots. Some accounts take on more meaning and touch us deeply. As we grow in our understanding of the book that describes the mind of God, we will deepen our appreciation and love for Him.

Just like a scoffer visits a museum and is not able to appreciate the value of the great masterpieces in it, so today many people are not able to grasp the meaning and practical value of the Word of God, the Bible. They scorn at it because they don't understand it.

Have a good friend ever given you a letter or note offering words of comfort, and it touched you so deeply that you saved it and read it when you feel down? In a like manner, Jehovah has given us comfort in written form through his Word, the Bible. We can read those encouraging expressions regularly and meditate on them. We all need the comfort from the Scriptures, the comfort of our Father. (Rom. 15:4)

The Bible is meant to be bread for our daily use, not cake for special occasions.

Jesus said: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every word that comes from Jehovah's mouth.'' Do we abide by those words? Some of our brothers have shown just that to a remarkable degree. One Witness in Europe who was imprisoned for his faith during the second world war exchanged three days' rations for a Bible. Did he regret that exchange? Not at all. He mentioned it proved to be rewarding! Now that's truly living on every word that comes from Jehovah! Do we love the Word of God to that degree? (w06 8/15 p. 23)

The bride receives a letter from her beloved one. A friend of her prying into the letter reads it and think is the corniest letter ever. But when the bride reads it she thinks is lovely, touching and most romantic. It stirs up her deepest emotions, makes her feel thrilled, nervous, inspired... a swarm of butterflies flood her stomach! She reads it repeatedly and doesn't get tired of it. She feels the need of getting in touch with her beloved one to express how much she loved the letter. What made them react so differently? The relationship they have with the writer. If we have a good relationship with Jehovah and we love him, there won't be a Bible passage that will sound boring or redundant. (2 Tim. 3:16) However, not all can sense love in that letter. In fact, many think is the most boring and controversial book ever. Only those with the right motive can feel its power; they can feel their hearts burning! (Luke 24:32) They read it regularly and thank God for his love.

We do not stop eating simply because we have eaten thousands of meals in the past. We need to continue eating on a regular basis to sustain our lives. Likewise, regardless of how familiar we are with the Bible, we need ongoing, regular intake of spiritual food. In that way, we will keep our faith well-fed and our love well-nourished.




Bible Authenticity

How did God exactly inspire the Bible? It may be hard to visualize, but if we think about how humans are able to receive messages from space, then it is easy to accept. For example, the astronauts in the International Space Station can send videos, audio, and pictures to their relatives on Earth. In fact, if you drive to the kingdom hall using your GPS you are also receiving messages from space via a satellite. That's possible because of our understanding of the laws of physics. If humans have accomplished that much, why should we doubt that the Creator of the brain, gravity, sound waves, and, if for that matter, the whole universe has any difficulties inspiring the message of his Word?

Sometimes, people say that they like to use their own Bible which uses archaic language, mainly because they are more familiar with it and they do not think it is necessary to use a modern translation. You can use an illustration: Imagine that you are entering the operating room. The surgeons are going to remove a tumor. You notice the room is equipped with the latest electronic equipment and gadgets. You feel very confident that the doctors will use these tools and their best skills to benefit you. However, just as you are going under anesthesia, you see the chief surgeon draws out a rusty old scalpel from his back pocket, and he exclaims: 'I think I will use this trusty weapon; after all, I am more familiar with it. I have used it for many years. Now, you just lie there and do not worry about a thing...' How confident would you be after that? Is it not true that we need the best Bible translation to overturn strongly entrenched things?

A man passed beside a blacksmith's door and heard the anvil ring the evening chime. Looking in, he saw on the floor old hammers, worn with beating years of time.

'How many anvils did it take to batter all these worn hammers?', he asked. 'Just one,' said the blacksmith, and then added with twinkling eye, 'The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.' Likewise, for ages opposers have beat their blows upon the anvil of God's Word. Though the noise of falling blows was heard, the anvil is unharmed, but the hammer's gone!

The Bible has faced two kinds of attacks. It can be compared with a glass of pure water. How can we ruin it? We could just smash it with a hammer or we could add some poison or make the water dirty. Either way, the goal is to make the water undrinkable. The same tactics have been tried on the Bible. During the dark ages, the Bible was subjected to fierce attack from powerful people and governments that tried to eradicate it. That was coupled with attempts to tamper its contents making it spurious. Either way, the purpose was to tamper the purity of God's word. However, these demonic tactics have failed badly. Indeed, the Word of God endures forever.—1 Peter 1:25

Some people feel they can't find satisfying answers to certain obscure accounts that create doubts in them. However, sometimes the problem is that they don't have enough information to see the whole picture. It can be compared with piecing a jigsaw puzzle. If the puzzle contains many pieces and we have only pieced a few together, there is no way we can see how each piece fits into the whole picture. But after we have put together a good number of pieces then a picture starts to emerge allowing us to visualize a distinct image which in turn reveals where each piece fits in. Likewise, our deep study of the Bible will give us the pieces we need to bring to closure the doubts that may be puzzling us.

Just like a journalist, although not able to include every single angle of a story, still picks the most relevant details to develop the news, so Jehovah has chosen with much discretion the information that makes up his Word of truth. A journalist may develop a good reputation from being truthful, objective and unbiased, which may inspire trust even when he is not able to spell out all details about his sources or other particulars in his stories. The Bible doesn't always spell out all details about every single account. An example of this is in John 21:25. However, the information that we do have enables us to get to know Jehovah's qualities, giving us a glimpse of why he acted the way he did in certain accounts in which we don't have all the details and context.

If we were to transmit a message to a long line of people, telling it to the first one and then relayed from one person to the other one by one down the line, the message would change so much that it will be unrecognizable by the time it gets to the last person. Did something similar happen to the Bible? Not at all! Bible writers didn't depend on word of mouth alone. God inspired them and even commanded them to put it in writing, enabling generations in the future to have access to the original message.

Just like a businessman uses his secretary to write a letter containing the thoughts and ideas of the businessman, so it is with the Bible. This letter, the Bible, is not a book of men, it is not the secretary's letter. Its source is its own author, God. (See the video 'How can we be sure the Bible is true' at tv.jw.org)




Bible Learning

Some people seem to expect the Bible to hit them like a jolt of adrenaline each time they read or study it. True, the 'jolt' may hit us periodically. However, the benefits of Jehovah's Word act more like vitamins. When we take vitamins, we rarely feel a jolt of adrenaline or some amazing strength rushing through our bodies. But vitamins supplements do provide long-term benefits, having a beneficial effect on our general well-being. Similarly, when we read the Bible, it can energize us immediately providing a jolt of power in our lives. But more often, is the cumulative effects of its practical wisdom and spiritual value that can, in the long-haul, change our lives for good.

Matthew 5:43-45 says we have to love our enemies; does that apply to our worst enemy, Satan? No! How can we be sure of that? Because of all the other scriptures that command us to oppose, beware, and hate what is wicked. Lesson: the Bible has to be understood as a whole, not in fragments.

The Bible is like a mine full of precious diamonds. Miners put forth the effort to extract those precious rough gems; likewise, we also need to work hard, study hard on that mine to get its riches! Daily Bible reading, meditation and teaching it to others are good ways to show our diligence in working that rich mine of infinite spiritual gems God has given us.

There was once a wealthy businessman who was fascinated by the microscope. Looking through its lens to study crystals and the petals of flowers, he was amazed at their beauty and detail. He decided one day to examine some food he was planning to eat for dinner. Much to his dismay, he discovered that tiny living creatures were crawling in it. Since he was especially fond of this particular food, he wondered what to do. Finally, he concluded that there was only one way out of his dilemma - he would destroy the instrument that caused him to discover the distasteful fact. So he smashed the microscope to pieces! 'How foolish!' one might exclaim. However, many people do the same when it comes to Jehovah's Word, the Bible. They hate it and would like to get rid of it because it reveals their imperfect nature and it hurts their ego.

A boat is sinking and people are panicking not knowing what to do. All of a sudden one of the crew members yells out: Don't worry, I have a safety manual! He hangs on to it as the boat sinks and everyone on the boat drowns. The safety manual is supposed to be read before a problem comes up. The Bible is not a good luck charm. We need to study and use it for our lives to be saved.

Archeologists dedicate their lives to hunt for treasures and old artifacts. They may find gold, silver, precious stones, even priceless relics. For sure all those are treasures, but they are not the greatest of treasures. The most valuable treasures are in a soil many of them have refused to dig into: the Bible. They find dirty pots and dry bones that are brittle and fleeting. But we have found eternal truths. How blessed we are because we dug in the right soil!

Orville and Wilbur Wright were excited. On December 17, 1903, they had finally succeeded in keeping their homemade airplane in the air for 59 seconds. Immediately they rushed a telegram to their sister in Dayton, Ohio, telling of this great accomplishment. The telegram informed in part about their success in completing a 57-seconds's flight and that they hope to be home by Christmas.' The sister then rushed to the newspaper office and gave the telegram to the editor. But in the end, the newspaper headline read, 'DAYTON BOYS EMULATE GREAT SANTOS-DUMONT.' Santos-Dumont was a Brazilian man that before flew an air-balloon in France. The editor didn’t recognize the vast difference between balloons and airplanes and missed the point of the story. What a blunder! But who has not made the same mistake in reading the Scriptures? If one is too casual about it, he might learn some truth but miss that which is most important. As Bible teachers, we also learn that it's important to know how to identify the main points of what we are teaching.—Hebrews 8:1 (https://www.wdl.org/en/item/11372/; http://wrightstories.com/wrights-first-flight-distorted-by-press/; https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/december-17)

A teenage boy was deeply interested in scientific subjects, especially astronomy. So his father bought him a very expensive telescope. Since the young fellow had studied the principles of optics, he found the instrument to be most intriguing. He took it apart, examined the lenses, and made detailed calculations on the distance of its point of focus. The youth became so absorbed in gaining a technical knowledge of the telescope itself that he never got around to looking at the stars. He knew a lot about that fine instrument, but he missed seeing the wonders of the heavens. Many Bible scholars stumble into this pitfall. They know a great deal of technicalities about the Bible but they miss the whole point of studying it. Some are so focused on those things that they have even lost faith in the Creator. With that, they miss the wonders of the heavens.

Imagine you receive an inheritance, but the will says you first need to go through certain steps and procedures in order to obtain it. At first, you find it hard to know and understand what is implied in those steps. Would you just give up and forget about it? No! Surely you would do everything you can to figure out what's required. The Bible is “the will” that declares that through Jesus death we can inherit everlasting life. But it is not always easy to study such a deep book. Let us never give up in our Bible study!

Once upon a time, there were some savages, to whom was given a sundial. So desirous were they to honor it that they took it and hid it in a secure place to keep it safe. They housed it and built a roof over it. Is that how we are supposed to treat the Bible? The Bible is sacred but not in the sense that we cannot use daily. Learn to use it, study it and only then will you get the most out of it.

Scripture explains scripture. A concrete way of illustrating this is by highlighting the value of the cross references in the Reference Bible. Its Introduction portion on page 8 mentions that there are more than 125,000 marginal references in that edition. The revised version also has this feature. These citations demonstrate that there is at least a second witness to almost every Biblical matter. A careful comparison of the marginal references and an examination of the accompanying footnotes reveals the interlocking harmony of the 66 Bible books, proving that they comprise one book, inspired by God.

You do not have to be a pianist to tell when someone plays a false note. We don't need to be Bible scholars in a secular sense to know which organization is applying the Bible and living by it.

For those who said 'Everyone has his or her own idea about the Bible. It is impossible to know who is right'. You can think of the following analogy: If you have trouble with your car —for example, it wobbles in the front end— you go to several mechanics and get different stories from each one. One says it is the fuel injection, another says it is the tires, yet another says it is the muffler. You are not the expert, so how can you know? It would not take a lot of effort to get at least an idea of who is telling the truth. For example, if the tires are worn out and are making noise, chances are that's the problem. In like manner, it does not take a lot of research in the Bible to at least find out who is telling the truth. A little bit of common sense, prayer and some knowledge can help us see who is showing right fruitage. (Matthew 7:16-19) Once we identify the right path, then we will need to put forth the effort to live the truth and learn to love God.




Bible Students

Not every plant bear fruit fast. Figs and vines can take years, and palm trees could take from 10-15 years. According to 'Insight' volume 2, page 572, 'The palm tree comes to full bearing after 10 to 15 years and continues to bear for nearly a hundred years'. In like manner, students have a different pace of progress. Some will not bear fruit right away. But once they start, they will do it for a very long time, for an eternity. Hence it is worthwhile to be patient and help them progress.

If you watch a workout video but you don't do the exercises, will you get any results? If you come to meetings and even read the Bible but don't apply it in your life, will you get the full benefit?

If we want to have progressive Bible students, we need to be progressive teachers. We should have a lesson plan that will help us set goals for our students and then keep moving ahead without becoming redundant or spending too much time unnecessarily on one section. Some goals we can give the students could be: take the study regularly, prepare well, prayer, meetings attendance, commenting, preaching to others even before being approved as unbaptized publisher, stop being molded by the world. If we are progressing with our students along these steps, we are indeed progressive teachers.

How much information should we cover in a study? It depends on many variables. It's like the soil, which gets saturated or dry due to many different reasons like the weather, quality, and previous development. Students have varying levels of knowledge, different needs, and backgrounds. We want to water their spirituality, not flood it. If they get saturated, new information will not sink in which can cause them to feel like at a spiritual standstill. On the other hand, if they can take great quantities of 'water' but we only give them a few drops, they will also feel that they are in a dry spiritual standstill. In short, we need to cover information according to their particular needs.

There is a lost child, and a frantic mother calls the police. A hunt is organized and about 500 or 600 people turn up to search for this missing youngster. After a few hours, one or two of the search party find the child. Does this mean that the other members of the search party wasted their time and effort because they were not the ones to find the child? No! Every one of them was needed to make the search effective, and no one gave up the search feeling they were wasting their time. What's the application? Even if we are not the ones to find honest-hearted ones, we should never feel we are wasting our time, and give up on the search. Everyone is needed to make the search effective.

When conducting a Bible study, think about the things that are closer to the heart of the student. Visualize an image of a heart, and stones around it. Not all the stones are at the same distance. Some stones are nearer, some are farther. Which points are closer to his heart at this point in time? Sports, children, dating, marriage or something else? If we want to reach the heart, we need to address those concerns as stepping stones to their motives and emotions. In that way, we can help them clear the way for the Bible's message to touch their hearts. (1 Kings 10:2)




Bible Teaching

Just like a skillful Surgeon uses the scalpel with unbelievable precision, just like a constitutional Lawyer quotes from the constitution with eloquence and accuracy, just like an experienced Mechanic can tell what's broken in a car just by listening, we need to show similar ability when using the Bible. We need to use it with careful precision when dealing with delicate situations. We need to quote accurately from it in the ministry. We need to know the scriptures that can heal a broken soul when listening to our brothers and sisters in need of encouragement.

As many movies portray, in the old west the most ferocious Cowboys faced off in pistol duels. The fastest gun would win the contest and gain his life. But if one of the duelists would have already unsheathed his pistol, he had the edge to win the duel (unless the other guy was Clint Eastwood...). This illustrates the advantage of having our Bibles ready in a physical sense when we preach. What this means is to have our hard copies at hand, ready to be opened. In the JW Library app, we can have it opened on the Bible tab. In this way, we will be faster drawing the attention to God's Word. If the duelist had his gun unsheathed but had no bullets, he was doom! Likewise, we may have the Bible handy, but have we loaded our gun with the bookmarked scriptures we want to shoot? Both the printed and electronic versions of the New World Translation can be bookmarked with key scriptures. If we have pulled out our gun and we have bullets, but we have no idea how to pull the trigger, we will be in big trouble. Similarly, we need to know how to use the Scriptures skillfully otherwise we won't stand a chance. Satan has already equipped people in his world with many weapons against us. They are always ready to engage. What about us? We need to be ready! (Isa. 54:17)

A good friend tells you of a podiatrist that recently treated him. He praises him for how skill and professional he was. Your friend was truly pleased. You believe your friend, you know he is not lying. But if you don't need a podiatrist at the moment, and you never had issues with your feet, will his comments make you appreciate this podiatrist? Not really, because you don't need his services. Similarly, a person may have knowledge of God, and may even believe he exists, but if he is not aware of his spiritual need, if he doesn't realize he has a spiritual void he needs to fill up, he won't be able to develop gratitude for God. Thus as Bible teachers one of the first things we need to address is to help people to be aware of their spiritual need.

The Roman sword had a very intriguing design: It was designed with a strong grip with ridges for the fingers, it had a short blade with two sharp edges, and at the end of the blade had a tapered point, so it narrowed sharply at the tip. From that design we learn the Roman sword had a tremendous penetrating power. If you get entrusted to wield such a powerful weapon, you have a huge responsibility in your hands, because if you misuse it, you could do a lot of harm. The same with the sword of the spirit. If we quote verses out of context or that don't apply to our listeners, it may not be upbuilding. We need to train hard to learn how to use it effectively in service and the congregation. (Eph 6:17; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gladius)

In spiritual warfare as in physical warfare, the effectiveness of any weapon is directly proportionate to the efficiency of the one operating it. For this reason, during the Great War, the U.S. Army assigned a new recruit one rifle which he kept throughout his training. It was called his 'piece,' and it became a part of him. The recruit handled the piece continually, disassembling and reassembling it. He cleaned it. He conducted basic maintenance. He carried it 12 hours a day. When crossing rivers or streams his head might have gotten wet, but his piece had to stay dry. Six months later in the heat of battle, the soldier knew every inch of it, every mechanism. He understood things that could malfunction and how to remedy them. He could break it down and reassemble it in just seconds, blindfolded. Man and weapon had become a synchronized and deadly, efficient fighting machine. The spiritual warrior's proficiency with his spiritual weapons should be no less remarkable. As Bible teacher, we need to be very familiar with the content of the Bible so that our teaching can be effective. The question is: if we had to rely on our own familiarity with the Bible in life and death situations, would we survive?




Blame

If you enter your home one day and you find your house has been vandalized, plates are smashed, furniture ruined, your TV is missing… would you blame your beloved and faithful spouse for the damage? No! Probably you’ll try to make sure your spouse is safe and then together will try to find who did it. Similarly, our planet and the human society has been vandalized by the enemy of God, Satan. Many people, because they don’t know God, think the Creator is the culprit. But we know our Father, we are certain that he is love, so that idea doesn’t cross our minds. We need to help people to learn the truth.

It takes humility and modesty to accept we have made a mistake and deal with the consequences. Although not all calamities of life are our fault, many are. We need to lay the blame where it belongs. We can illustrate it this way: many sports cars are equipped with racing features that allow them to go at very high speeds. However, the government may have established speed limits for public roads, and all drivers need to abide by them, even those driving sports cars. If a driver doesn’t comply, and while speeding he crashes his sports car, wrecks it, gets injured and damage public property, can he blame the state for it? Can he blame the car manufacturer for his crash? In the same vein, we have free will to make our own decisions. Jehovah has provided guidance to help us avoid dangers and unnecessary problems. If we don’t follow them, would it be fair to blame him for our own missteps?

The account in Genesis 3 serves as a good illustration to explain the human tendency of blaming others for our own mistakes. According to verse 12, Adam had the audacity of blaming Jehovah for his own sin. He knew the consequences of his disobedient act and he willfully went against God’s command, yet he blamed Jehovah, insinuating he gave him a bad wife; the same wife that gave him so much satisfaction in the beginning, so much so that he even utter poetic words when he saw her the first time. We all are Adam’s fleshly children. We may at times feel like Adam, thinking that God has wronged us. Thus we do well to ask, ‘Could it be that the frustration over my own errors and shortcomings is causing me to project those negative emotions on God and be dissatisfied with his standards?




Blessings

West Texas rancher Mr. Ira Yates was like many other ranchers and farmers. The Great Depression was approaching. Mr. Yates was in debt. He was not able to make enough on his ranching operation to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage. With little money for clothes or food, his family had to live on a government subsidy. Then a seismographic crew from an oil company came into the area and told him there might be oil on his land. They asked permission to drill an experimental well. Approximately 1,000 feet below the ground surface they struck a huge oil reserve. The first well came in at 80,000 barrels a day. Many subsequent wells were more than twice as large. And Mr. Yates owned it all. The day he purchased the land he had received the oil and mineral rights. Yet, he'd been living on relief. A multimillionaire living in poverty? The problem? He didn't know the oil was there even though he owned it. Similarly, we must never lose sight of our spiritual heritage and all the blessings Jehovah has in store. Are we part of the spiritual paradise and yet feel spiritually poor? Are we aware that the blessing of Jehovah is what makes us rich? (Prov. 10:22) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yates_Oil_Field)

It was a rough neighborhood. Even the kids stole candies at the convenience store. But little Joe was very honest and didn't steal. One day the owner of the convenience store wanted to reward little Joe for his honesty. He told Joe that he can take all the candies he wants from the candy container in front of him. Little Joe was hesitant about the offer. The owner insisted, so he just grabbed all the candy he could with his big hands and filled Joe's small hands plus all his pockets. Little Joe was so happy! Later when his father asked him why was he hesitant, Little Joe said that he was waiting for the man to grab the candies with his bigger hands instead of him using his tiny hands. What a clever boy! Likewise, if we aim to fill our tiny hands with wealth and riches in this system of things, we may or may not succeeded, but even if we do, it will pale in comparison to the eternal riches God can give us if we wait for what He has in store for us. After all, he has a much bigger hand. (Ps 145:16)

A rich father may spoil his children giving them everything in abundance at all times, which will hamper their ability to learn the joy of hard work and self-sufficiency. Conversely, a rich father could provide what they need but at the same time teach them valuable life lessons. He can let them do work from a young age, allowing them to earn their own money, and provide beyond basic material support only when is truly needed. Jehovah is more like the latter. The depth of God's riches is awe-inspiring. (Rom. 11:33) Why, everything belongs to him! He could spoil his servants beyond recounting, but he opts not to. Otherwise, he would add pain with his blessing (Prov 10:22) Part of the pain will be not being able to enjoy our hard work and self-sufficiency. (Ecl. 2:24)

Deuteronomy 16:17: 'The gift that each one brings should be in proportion to the blessing that Jehovah your God has given you'. This scripture illustrates a good point. Are we blessed by Jehovah? Surely we all have Jehovah's blessing. So if we have a measure of Jehovah's blessing, we have the responsibility to share with others.




Blood

We find a bag on the street with 1 million dollars (USD), and it contains the name of the owner. As Christians, we clearly know the money is not ours, so we have to return it. If you find $10,000 the same principle applies. What if you find a fraction of that, let's say $1.00 or 10 cents? Would you take it to the police? Will you make a report about it and strive to find the owner? Because it is only a fraction, now the situation is different. Some people might keep the 10 cents, some might bring it to the police, and some would not even pick it up! In the same vein, Jehovah has commanded us to abstain from blood, so we don't accept blood transfusions. However, when it comes to the gray area of fractions of blood, some will accept them, some will reject them, and some will not even consider them. They all may be right! It's a personal decision, but we need to make it according to our Bible trained conscience.

A brother overcame an objection against Jehovah's Witnesses for not accepting blood using the following line of reasoning: 'May I ask if you know who the first surgeon was?' The householder mentioned several names but didn't get the answer. The brother said the first surgeon performed surgery with no blood. He made a man fall into a deep sleep; you call it anesthesia. He opened the flesh and removed a rib; you call it invasive operation. He then proceeded to close the opened flesh; you call it stitches. His name is Jehovah. He performed the first surgery with no blood. By the way, he also designed the human body. As Christians, we follow his way of doing things.




Branch offices

When we see a clock with its minutes and second hands marking the time, we may forget that hidden to our eyes there is a very complex mechanism making the clock tick with remarkable precision in a visible way. Jehovah's Organization has a visible and invisible part, the heavenly part and the earthly part. We can see many aspects of how the congregation functions visibly when we attend meetings. But there are so many different gears working in the background, like translation teams, MEPS programming, service department, branch committees, the governing body committees; and in the spiritual realm, the angels, Jesus, and Jehovah. A keen spiritual outlook will enable us to see the real energy powering our Organization.

We are living in a time of simplification. Sometimes that has implied the merging or closing of branches around the world. This is not a step back at all. It can be compared to taking money out of dispersed small pockets and putting all that in a bigger pocket. More can be accomplished by consolidating resources.




Brothers and sisters

While having a walk in a park, you see a caricaturist drawing cartoons of people. You think this might be fun so you asks him to draw you. When you see the drawing, you smile, but kind of shamefaced. Why? The caricaturist has highlighted your defects in the cartoon, big time! Your nose looks huge, your head is as big as Caleb and Sofia's, and now you have dumbo ears. You feel horrible! You then say to yourself: I didn’t know I’m this ugly!. But then you bump into an artist painting portraits. You decide you want to free your mind from that hateful cartoonist and so ask the artist to paint a portrait of you. When you see the portrait, wow! You look so awesome! The artist has highlighted your virtues. Your nose went through rhinoplasty, your blue eyes look like a summer sky, your hair looks smooth and silky—making your head look not too big— and he even gave you a Mona Lisa smile! Suddenly you feel pretty good and say to yourself: Hey, I knew I had potential, I look good! The caricaturist is good at exaggerating people’s defects, but the artist focuses on highlighting people’s nice features. Which of these two better describes you in the congregation? Do we magnify our brothers and sisters’ flaws or do we focus on their good things?

One cold winter's day, a group of hedgehogs crowded together for warmth so as not to freeze to death. However, the pain from the mass of spines soon caused them to separate again, until the cold forced them back together, and thus they continued, moving from one source of discomfort to another, until they found the right balance between closeness and distance that allowed them to live enjoying the benefits of the full warmth of community but without pricking and piercing each other. So it is with the differences in personalities in the congregation. If a brother’s 'spines' prick us, we cannot just evade them and leave the congregation. Outside the congregation is cold. True, we don’t need to be best friends with every single brother and sister. But, we have to find ways to show love and warm up to all in the congregation. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creative-synthesis/201201/social-media-and-the-hedgehogs-dilemma)

The Bible can be compared to frozen holy spirit. We need to warm up to our brothers and sister, creating the needed warmth or heat to melt it and let it flow. (Romans 12:10, 11) The Bible states that “the one who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen”. (1 John 4:20) Only if we warm up to our brothers and sisters we can unleash the full power of the spirit of truth.

In the Gulf War, many of the soldiers fighting were not killed by the enemy, but by friendly fire, that is, they were shot by soldiers on their own side who mistook them for the enemy. Do you see any parallels within the Christian congregation? Sometimes Satan disguises matters, so our friends look like our enemies. In that way, we start to attack our Christian brothers and forget who our real enemy is. So whenever we are tempted to say something unkind about a brother we should ask, whose purpose will our comments really serve?

Exodus 16:27-30 - Some people went out to get Manna against Jehovah's command. But this provision was just starting, so people were not used to it. Imperfection took hold of them. Jehovah didn't punish right away. He reinforced the commandment and gave them another chance. Result? People understood it better and started to observe the Sabbath. We can imitate Jehovah by showing patience when dealing with our brothers and sisters in the congregation, even repeating instructions several times.

Although Jesus prayed all night to carefully choose his apostles and Jehovah guided the selection, they were still imperfect men and erred many times. However, Jesus never felt they were hopeless. He taught them how to improve and showed them kindness. One of them decided to betray Jesus and left the truth; at that point there was nothing Jesus can do. The same with our brothers and sisters today, including the elders. We should not have unrealistic expectations thinking they should know better. We need to be patient and avoid thinking they are hopeless. Now, if one of them leaves the truth, really there is nothing we can do but to leave the matter in Jehovah's hands.

Sometimes we say we don't hate a certain brother. In actuality, though, we don't want to talk to him nor see him. 1 John 4:20 says that if that's the case we are lying to ourselves, since those are signs of hatred. And if we feel like that toward our brothers, we cannot love God. Why? Because when we don't like someone, it’s hard to befriend that someone’s close friends. Have we realized that Jehovah is a close friend of those brothers and sisters we don't like? Then, just like John explained, if we don’t love them, how can we love and befriend God?

Haggai 2:7 says that Jehovah is going to shake all the nations, and the precious things will come in. This is like shaking a tree to make the best fruit fall into our reach. Those precious things, the best fruit, are the brothers and sisters in the congregations.




Burden

Have you ever carried a heavy box and then after putting it down you felt so relieved? Jehovah is inviting us to take our burden, those heavy problems that may be weighing us down, and throw them to him, and never get them back. If we do so, we will feel a big relief! Do we trust him enough to do so?

A man survives a shipwreck and is fighting for his life against the elements. His life vest is big, itchy and very of uncomfortable. But it's keeping him afloat. Would he consider it a burden? No! Life preservation outweighs inconvenience. Likewise, serving God has given us many blessings now, and in the future, countless more will come. Some may see Bible principles as restrictive, but the blessings outweigh the limitations. So how can it be burdensome to serve God! (1 John 5:3)

Mountain climbers try to be as light as possible to have enough energy to endure all the way to the top. In a similar way, as we go up to the mountain of Jehovah we should not burden ourselves with anxiety, resentment or doubts. (Isa. 2.3) We need to throw our burden to Jehovah and let it go. (Ps. 55:22) We need to stay light, living a simple life free of burdensome preoccupations. By doing so, we will receive the top reward, everlasting life.