Fads

Have you seen a picture of yourself from ten years ago? What about 20 years ago? If you would ask a baby boomer to show you a picture of them in the 70's, what do you think you will see? Probably a bunch of friends with thick Afros and some very colorful bell bottoms in a Disco party. Back then it was awesome stuff, but current styles are very different. Perhaps many baby boomers would prefer to keep those pictures out of sight! This illustrates the evanescence of fads and fashion. What is cool today tomorrow will be outmoded, old-fashion. If we make decisions based on fleeting fads and trends, we will regret it in the future. As Christians, we need to rely on God's unwavering thinking. (Mal. 3:6)




Faith

The African impala can jump up to a height of over 10 feet and cover a distance greater than 33 feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a 3-foot wall. The following is a photo from Wikipedia.

The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot see, and with faith, we are free from the flimsy enclosures of life that entrap us. (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/i/impala/; https://www.theexeterdaily.co.uk/news/blogs/why-african-impala-wont-jump)

We must exercise our muscles. Otherwise they can get out of shape and lose force. That's what happens to astronauts in space. Since there is no gravity putting pressure on their bodies, they need to exercise many hours a day to avoid their muscles being atrophied. If we don't exercise our faith, it will lose its shape and strength. (https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/245.html)

A little sister was taking many pictures of flowers in a beautiful garden. However, she was blind. When she was asked why, she replied that very soon after recovering her sight in the new world she will be able to see those pictures. Indeed, her strong faith is moving. Do we have that kind of solid faith? Do we see the new world as something tangible and real?

Will you renounce your faith for a million dollars (USD)? Probably not. However, Satan is smart, and he doesn't make a direct offer like that. Instead, he may offer a job that pays much less, but that will consume our time. He could also offer an opportunity for higher education that one cannot resist. In the end, many compromise their faith for much less than a million! But we need to outsmart our enemy. If our faith is so valuable that it cannot be bought even with a million dollars, then we are truly rich. (2 Cor. 6:10) We don't need to accept any offers from the enemy, and we don't need to make any decisions regarding work or education based on Satan's wisdom. We only need to have faith in Jehovah.

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

Imagine you are on a boat on a beautiful little lake in Europe. When you look at the paddles, you noticed one had carved the word Faith and on the other paddle the word Works. If you drop the Faith paddle and row with just the other called Works, what will happen? You'll only go around in circles. If you drop that paddle and start to row just the one called Faith, it will go around in circles again—this time the other way around. You will need to pick up both Faith and Works and row both paddles together, speeding swiftly over the water so as to create motion and have a direction. Our Christian faith needs both paddles to move us forward and give us direction in life.

Faith and works can be likened to the two chemicals sodium and chlorine. Each of these chemicals is poisonous and could kill a person if ingested disproportionately. But if we combine them properly, we have sodium chloride; better know as salt—the common ingredient we use that gives flavor to our food and indeed life and health to our bodies. So too, as with the ingredients of salt, faith and works are inseparable.—James 2:26

Can you make me a check for one million dollars? As a matter of fact, if you have a checkbook you can. You just need to write the check, put the one followed by six zeros, sign it, and give it to me! Now, if you don't have enough funds to back it, you'll be in big trouble if I cash it. This illustrates an aspect of Christian faith. Anybody can say 'I have faith.' But if it's not supported by actions, is as good as a check without funds, and it will bounce badly spiritually.

A man is drawing water from the well. As he was finishing up, he leaned over and fell in. Since he's done this every day for almost all his life, the water was waist deep. A rope was hanging right in front of him. It hung onto the crossbar and the man had faith that the rope can pull him up, but until he pulled himself up, he'll remain in the well for the rest of his life. Lesson? Faith needs to be coupled with actions.




Faithfulness

If a movie is good, it will get a sequel. And if the main character died, he will most likely resurrect in the second one. In a similar way, if we do good and are faithful in this first movie in the old system, Jehovah will give us a ‘sequel’ in the new world, and even if we die, we will be resurrected!




False teachings

A brother starts to do research on a sickness he has. Later on, he opens an office to treat people and even do surgery. I don't think we would go to his clinic, would we? If we do research to understand the Bible, that's good. But if we aim to be like scholars or theologians trying to interpret the Bible and spreading our own opinions, we are not recognizing the assignment Jehovah has given to his faithful slave. Dispensing spiritual food is their job, not ours. (Mat 24.45)

The sun is very bright, however, thick clouds can dim its light, and the moon can eclipse it and turn a sunny day into darkness. Likewise, spiritual illumination could be dimmed by the cloud of lies of false religion and human philosophy. And it can get eclipsed and darkened by apostate thinking. (2 Peter 2:4, Hebrews 4:4-6) We should not underestimate the power of the wicked one.—2 Cor. 2:11

If we would have asked first century Pharisees about Jesus, they would have slandered him to no end, accusing him of being demon-possessed, a drunkard, a glutton, and a friend of prostitutes. Today is no different. We can expect Jehovah’s enemies to oppose his people in a similar fashion by spreading false teachings, slanders, libel, and by misrepresenting our work, just like they did with Jesus.




Family

A man has a bad day at work and gets stuck in traffic coming home. He comes in and his wife asks how was his day. He snaps back: 'Don't ask', and stomps away. The wife gets mad and starts banging things around in the kitchen making dinner. Her daughter comes in and asks a question. Her mother tells her 'Get out, can't you see I'm busy!'” The dog then runs up to the daughter all happy to see her. The upset girl kicks at the dog and it goes rolling across the grass. The dog picks itself back up and comes right back to the daughter and licks her. Who behaved like the real Christian? If a pet can do better than us, then we need to make an honest evaluation to examine how serious we are about living the Truth.

When asked about things we are looking forward to in paradise, many people say 'I am so looking forward to seeing my mom—or dad— again.' Even those that had a terrible relationship with their parent still missed them dearly. However, it is not until the parents pass away that the children feel regret and finally understand they should have done more to fix their relationship. If your parents are alive, but you don't have a good relationship with them, why not try to fix the problems with them while they are still alive? Do we really need to wait for them to pass away to finally swallow our pride and appreciate them as a true Christian should? 

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.

A father had a family of sons who were perpetually quarreling among themselves. When he failed to heal their disputes by his exhortations, he determined to give them a practical illustration of the evils of disunion; and for this purpose he one day told them to bring him a bundle of sticks. When they had done so, he placed the bundle of sticks into the hands of each of them in succession and ordered them to break it in pieces. They tried with all their strength and were not able to do it. He next opened the bundle, took the sticks separately, one by one, and again put them into his sons' hands, upon which they broke them easily. He then addressed them in these words: ‘My sons, if you are of one mind, and unite to assist each other, you will be as this bundle of sticks, uninjured by all the attempts of your enemies; but if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.’




Family heads

The salmon swim up the rivers until reaching the very spawning ground that was their original birthplace. They run up the river entails battling hundreds of miles upstream against strong currents and rapids. Chinook and sockeye salmon from central Idaho must travel 900 miles (1,400 km) and climb nearly 7,000 feet (2,100 m) before they are ready to spawn. They cease feeding during the run, and they have to face other dangers, like bears. The following is a picture from artist Dmitry Azovtsev.

All this for the sake of its offspring! Just like the salmons makes sacrifices for their offspring, we as Christians need to make sacrifices for our family, for the Kingdom, and for our Father in the heavens. These sacrifices are worthwhile. No doubt we all can derive a practical lesson from this—not only delicious—but also audacious fish. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salmon_run)




Fault finding

Fear of God

The fear of God is similar to the deep respect we have for our parents. In many cases, the adult children have greater physical strength than the older parents—although some older ones are quite vigorous and feisty! Therefore, the respect adult children have for their parents is not driven by a fear of being beaten or harmed physically, which is the kind of fear little kids have. As adults, what we feel is a fear of offending them and letting them down. We fear they will hear some bad news about us that will make them disappointed and break their hearts. This is the kind of fear that also operates in our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

In a court, all those taking part in a trial need to have deep respect for the judge and the authority he represents. Everybody needs to be extra careful with their speech and behavior, but not necessarily because of fear of punishment. Even those who are the innocent victims seeking justice also need to exhibit remarkable decorum and give proper honor. This illustrates an aspect of the fear of God, which is not a morbid fear of being sentenced to death, but the respect, honor, and decorum we are compelled to show for his authority and elevated position as the Almighty.

Love is the force that drives us to be grateful to God and worship him. This is similar to the accelerator pedal in a car. Godly fear, though, can be likened to the brake. It can stop us from doing things unpleasing to God. Keeping these two things in balance can smooth our journey as a Christian.

Goodly fear is like hiking up a mountain (could also be developed with surfing). Perhaps we look down and we feel dread, fear, because of the altitude. We may see a warning sign saying 'watch your step.' But we keep going because we enjoy the view, climate, and scenery. The same with the fear of God.

How can you love Jehovah and yet fear him? A deep-sea diver loves the sea but takes precautions to avoid dangers. He loves the sea yet still 'fears' or respects it.




Fear of men

A Governing Body member was attributed with the following words of wisdom: “Don’t try to please men. You will wind up pleasing no one. Please Jehovah, and you will please all those who love Him.”

During the American Civil War, the two sides were often referred to by the color of their official uniforms, blue for the Union, gray for the Confederates. Legend tells of a certain soldier, figuring to play it safe, dressed in blue coat and gray pants and tiptoed out onto the field of battle. He got shot from both directions! The Bible is full of examples of individuals who compromised in one form or another and their ensuing losses. For instance, Lot, who separated from Abram and moved as far as Sodom (Genesis 13:12-13; 19:1-29); Samson who compromised with Delilah (Judges 16:1-2); and Solomon who loved many foreign women (1 Kings 11:1-4). These are but a few examples. What about us? What if we are tempted to compromise our faith or beliefs? Will we stay strong or try and wear the blue and gray? (http://www.historynet.com/civil-war-uniforms)




Feelings of worthlessness

Exodus 3:4, 5: 'God called to him out of the thornbush and said: “Moses! Moses!” to which he said: “Here I am.” Then he said: “Do not come any nearer. Remove your sandals from your feet, because the place where you are standing is holy ground.”' What interesting lesson do we find here? Jehovah can make the dirt of the ground holy by his power. Actually, he made humans beings out of that same material! Then how much more so can he help those who love him be the recipients of his eternal love? We have plenty of reasons not to feel worthless.

A speaker started off a seminar by holding up a $20.00 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, 'Who would like this $20 bill?'  Hands started going up. He said, 'I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this. He proceeded to crumple the $20 dollar bill up. He then asked, 'Who still wants it?' Still, the hands were up in the air. Well, he replied, 'What if I do this?' And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. 'Now, who still wants it?' Still, the hands went up in the air. No matter what he did to the money, the audience still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It's still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless.  However, no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who love you, including Jehovah God. 

A shirt that was stained but then thoroughly washed does not have the stain anymore. No one can say it is still dirty. The same with Jesus' blood washing our sins. We don't need to feel worthless.




Finding a mate

A piano and a guitar sound totally different. They are not even the same kind of musical instruments. To sound harmoniously, though, they don't need to sound the same. They only need to harmonize their notes in a melodious, pleasant, rhythmical way. It happens the same with marriage. The two spouses don't need to be alike in every aspect; they don't need to have the same taste, background, not even the same culture. True, having those similarities can help, but what is truly essential is for them to harmonize their thinking with God's. By doing so, they will make their marriage as lovely as a beautiful, soothing melody.

A recipe listing all the ingredients and steps to prepare a dish sets the pace of the cooking process and preparation, and it can also guarantee good flavors if followed. Just so, writing down all the ‘ingredients’ or requirements for a suitable marriage mate can provide guidance and set the pace if we are looking for a marriage mate. If our emotions start to cloud our thinking, we can look back at the recipe and see if we are sticking to our plan. As people have free will and change, there is no guarantee of a perfect marriage in this system of things, but we do our best to do things God’s way.

There are two places to go fishing in a certain town, either a secluded pond or the river. To get to the pond requires carrying your heavy tackle box on a strenuous hike through thick forests. Upon arriving, you might have to wait a while to get a bite. The river, however, has more convenient parking right next to the water. Every time you cast your line into the water, it’s bound to have a fish on it. So which is the better fishing site? You might be surprised that it's the pond. Why? Because a local waste treatment plant dumps sewage into the water just above the river's fishing site. Sure, there are a lot of fish, but that's only because they feed on the algae that feed off the sewage. In fact, signs have been posted to warn residents that fish caught in the river cannot be eaten because they are too polluted. The secluded pond has been protected from such pollution and offers much larger, healthier fish due to its seclusion. The river is like this system of things. Satan's sewage-like reasonings that appeal to the flesh had fed the minds of unbelievers for years. (2 Cor. 4:4) Although it may be more convenient to look to the world to provide a soul mate, certainly the health risks it poses to our spirituality would cause us to think twice. Jehovah has even 'posted a sign' warning us of the danger through His word, the Bible. (2 Cor. 6:14) What if we already have a non-Christian 'on the line' and we are tempted to date them? Then it's time to practice catch and release. Let's make it our goal to wait for someone in Jehovah's Organization. We must be patient if we hope to catch that trophy fish, a spiritual brother or sister. In the meantime, we can improve the bait we are using by working to improve our Christian qualities and personality. Continue to pray to Jehovah, not only for a spouse but also for the patience and self-control to continue to endure. (1 John 5:15) Surely, the lessons you will learn while you wait will make it worthwhile!




Flaws

While having a walk in a park, you see a caricaturist drawing cartoons of people. You think this might be fun so you ask him to draw you. When you see the drawing, you smile, but shamefaced. Why? The caricaturist has highlighted your defects in the cartoon, big time! Your nose looks bigger than Barbra Streisand's, 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?

If we were to find faults in some of the Bible characters, what would we find? Abraham was old, Lot was selfish, Leah was ugly, Moses didn’t know how to speak well, Miriam was a gossiper, Joseph was a daydreamer, Rahab had a questionable reputation, Samson was too violent, Hannah was bitter, Job was overrighteous, Solomon was delicate nerd, Jeremiah was a coward, Jonas was stubborn, John the Baptist was too blunt, Nathanael was sarcastic, Peter was impulsive and cocky, Thomas was a skeptic, Paul was a boring speaker, Timothy was sickly and David did some things in the past I cannot forgive and on top of that he was a moody drama queen. Yes, subjectively, we can find plenty of flaws and annoyances. But all these characters, in spite of their shortcomings, were used by God according to his purpose. Indeed, Jehovah is not a faultfinder. (Psalms 103:8-10, 130:3) What he sees is the good we have in our heart.—1 Samuel 16:7

Personality defects can be likened to getting a flat tire. The following are some elements of comparison: Regardless of how good or expensive a car may be, its tires can deflate at any time. This doesn't necessarily make it a bad car. Similarly, we all have defects, but that doesn't mean we are worthless. A flat tire may have little to do with the quality of the tire. Circumstances like the bad condition of a road or an unexpected nail in a parking lot are often the cause. Likewise, our defects may be the product of the environment we grew up in or other unfortunate circumstances beyond our control. If we get a flat, we stop and try to fix it. If we keep driving on it, we may damage other important parts. It can also be said that if we don't work hard refining our personality, it can eventually be detrimental to our spirituality. For instance, being a flirt could lead to immorality; so-called white lies could lead to slander and mistrust; being overly righteous could lead to arrogance and pride, and so on. Just like a flat tire could be the result of both excessive air or lack of it, both arrogance and low self-esteem could cause us to develop flaws in our personalities. In all, regardless of what our lot in life is, we cannot avoid defects, but we can do our best to improve and at least stop them from snowball.

During a company inspection, a colonel came to a certain soldier, looked him up and down and snapped, 'Button that pocket, trooper!' The soldier, more than a little rattled, stammered, 'Right now, sir?' 'Of course, right now!' was the reply. The soldier, therefore, very carefully reached out and buttoned the flap on the colonel's shirt pocket. The officer had been quick to note the youngster's uniform problem, but hadn't noticed his own. For some reason, we seem to be the same way. The faults of others stick out like a sore thumb, while our own are often hard to spot. Specks in other people seem major, while the planks in our eye seem excusable. (Mat 7:1-5) As Christians, we need to examine ourselves and stop judging others.

“Flaws, like straws, upon the surface flow; He who would search for pearls, must dive below.” ― John Dryden, All for Love




Focus

A naturalist, walking with his friend through the busy streets of a great city, stopped suddenly and asked, 'Do you hear a cricket?' 'Of course not,' laughed his friend. 'You could never hear a cricket with all this roar of traffic.' 'But I hear a cricket,' persisted the naturalist, and turning over a stone, he uncovered the insect. 'Did you actually hear the cricket chirping above the noise of the street?' asked his friend in astonishment. 'Certainly,' said the naturalist. 'I spend my time listening to nature, whether I am in the forest, the field, or the town. Everyone hears what he listens for.' Taking a coin from his pocket, he dropped it on the pavement, and each passer-by put his hand in his pocket to see if he was the one who had dropped it. They were listening for coins. What a lesson! It makes us wonder, what are we listening for? What are we focusing on? If we concentrate on material things, they will overpower the sound of the truth. In the congregation, if we focus on the negative, it will eclipse the positive. If we don’t want to miss the good things God provides, we may need to fine-tune our hearing and focus.

An Astronomer went out at night to observe the stars. One night, with his attention fixed on the sky, he accidentally fell into a deep well. Crying out, a neighbor heard and rushed to the well. When he learned what happened he said, “Why, in trying to see into the heavens do you not manage to see what is at your feet?” Lesson: we need to be practical and realistic when deciding which matters deserve our attention and focus. (http://fablesofaesop.com)




Foreign language

An airplane uses a lot of power to take off. That’s why it has some auxiliary sources of energy that reinforce it during take-off. Once on the air, it burns less fuel. Likewise, when we start learning a language we need to put forth lots of effort to “take off”. That first stage is challenging. It doesn't only take many hours of studying. What takes the most effort is to be humble and come to terms with constantly making mistakes. Those struggling with humility might feel incredibly overwhelmed by the frustration of making many mistakes, not being understood by others, and not being able to understand others either, and may soon give up. But once we take off, leaving the initial frustration behind, and we get the hang of it, the learning process will become gradually easier.

Some brothers like to wear neckties, others bowties. Some like to wear solid colors, but others like patterns and designs. And yet others like all of the above! We all have preferences, and we all find some things more fitting than others according to our personal idiosyncrasies. Something similar happens when learning a foreign language. Some may find that a visual approach suits them better, others may prefer audio tools, or a hardcore grammar book, whereas others would like a little bit of all of the above (by the way, JW Language app touches on all those aspects). And that's fine because we all have different interests and preferences. What is important is that you identify the methods that better suit you and then proceed to take action to become proficient in the language. In a foreign language congregation, you could get away with never becoming proficient. You'll still be useful and your willingness will be appreciated. But truth to be told, you can accomplish much more if you actually become conversant in the target language. It is worth the effort.

Have you ever felt like you are in a rocking chair trying to move but not going anywhere? That's how we may feel if we are stuck in a rut learning a language. Some may feel that it’s fine to stay in the comfort of the rocking chair instead of doing something to move forward. But if we want to step up our learning and improve our language ability, we need to leave the comfort of the rocking chair, make some adjustments, and start moving forward trying to find a realistic way in which we can actually make progress and learn the language.

Zechariah 4:10 words can be used to describe the situation of many foreign language groups when they are newly established. It says: ‘For who has despised the day of small beginnings?’ Foreign language groups may be small compared with local language congregations, and yet Jehovah doesn’t despise them. He appreciates the sacrifices of those supporting it. If Jehovah is so positive about it, should we feel any different?




Foreigners

“Meeting with these people was an incredible experience. I came to see those from other countries not as ‘foreigners,’ but as fellow citizens of the planet. I began to view the word ‘foreign’ as pejorative and created a rule within Turner Broadcasting that the word could not be used either on air or in conversation around the office. Instead, the word ‘international’ was to be used.” What's the lesson? In a world where prejudice and nationalism prevail, is quite refreshing to find this kind of positive outlook. We see Jehovah’s people making this a reality by means of International and Special Conventions. This same spirit also needs to exist in all congregations of Jehovah’s people, particularly those serving multicultural territories. (Book ‘Call Me Ted’ Chapter 17, http://books.google.com; w12 12/15 page 27)




Forgiveness

If we received God’s forgiveness, does that mean he will free us from the consequences of our actions for sins we committed in the past? Let’s illustrate it. If you borrowed money from the bank, but you couldn’t pay, so now your credit is ruined, and to fix it you need to pay the debt. Afterward, you learned the Truth and started to live by Bible principles. You made changes, and now you have cultivated sound judgment. Most likely you won’t again borrow money unless you can really pay it back. But would that new resolve free you from your bad credit and cancel the debt? Not likely. The same can happen with other circumstances, like family or health issues. God will cancel all our debts in the new world, but as long as we live in Satan’s world, we need to assume responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

When someone wrongs us, our reaction may be to want justice. Our sense of righteousness may make us feel that it’s only fair to get even and that someone has to pay for the wrong! Well, somebody already paid, Jesus. His perfect life paid for all sins, making forgiveness not only possible, but legal. So it is most righteous and fair to forgive others.

Jehovah and Jesus do not freeze people in time at their lower moment in life. Do we? We don't want to define people for the wrong they have done in the past if they have already improved their conduct. And we should not judge and hold a grudge on others based on old mistakes.

A failure to forgive eventually becomes a sin in itself.

A Snake, having made his hole close to the porch of a cottage, inflicted a mortal bite on the Cottager's infant son. Grieving over his loss, the Father resolved to kill the Snake. The next day, when it came out of its hole for food, he took up his ax, but by swinging too hastily, missed its head and cut off only the end of its tail. After some time the Cottager, afraid that the Snake would bite him also, endeavored to make peace, and placed some bread and salt in the hole. The Snake, slightly hissing, said: 'There can henceforth be no peace between us; for whenever I see you I shall remember the loss of my tail, and whenever you see me you will be thinking of the death of your son.' No one truly forgets injuries in the presence of him who caused the injury. Application? In some instances of serious sins, like murder or adultery, it is very difficult, sometimes impossible, to forgive and forget. Under such an extreme situation, it is up to each of the victims to deal with the matter in a Christian way.




Fornication

Free will

Esther 4:14, 7:3: Esther was not a coward, she discerned God's will for her. We can do the same. We are not indispensable to fulfill God's purpose, but if we decide to use our free will do something, we can do a lot.

Many people that use eyeglasses or contacts would rather not wear them for a variety of reasons, like discomfort or bad looks. Although we have the freedom not to use them, the reality is that most people do because they see the benefit of following the eye doctor's advice. The advantages outweigh the possible discomfort. Similarly, we all have the freedom to do whatever we want, but if we follow God's advice we will derive many benefits which will outweigh any restrictions.




Freedom

A youth chafes under the authority of his parents, who forbid him to smoke and to drink alcoholic beverages. Not appreciating that their authority is being exercised for his own good, he longs for liberation. After becoming of age and leaving home, he finally achieves the liberation he has always wanted. But years later, after having become a chain smoker and a borderline alcoholic, his doctor tells him that for health reasons he must give up both smoking and drinking. He finds this difficult to do. His liberation has led to addiction, to enslavement. It is particularly in this worldly-wise, sophisticated 21st century that humankind has tried to liberate himself from such moral guidelines. Yet, despite any so-called liberation, we cannot free ourselves from the consequences of practicing what God defines to be a sin. Rather than being free, such persons have become slaves to their own desires, lusts, and passions, as Jesus clearly showed in saying: 'Every doer of sin is a slave of sin.' (John 8:34)




Friends

A human and a skunk are locked together inside a small room. Whose odor do you think is going to prevail? Much of our spiritual “odor” depends on our friends.

Imagine you have a craving for a PB&J (peanut butter and jelly sandwich). While preparing it, you realize that you have peanut butter, but there’s no jelly left. However, there’s plenty of mustard. Will you put the mustard instead? No! That would be nasty! There are some things that just don't mix. Jehovah also gives us direction explaining that spiritually there are also some things that just don’t mix. For instance: believers and unbelievers. (2 Cor. 6:14-17)

A Goatherd, driving his flock from their pasture at eventide, found some Wild Goats mingled among them, and shut them up together with his own for the night. The next day it snowed very hard, so that he could not take the herd to their usual feeding places, but was obliged to keep them in the fold. He gave his own goats just sufficient food to keep them alive but fed the strangers more abundantly in the hope of enticing them to stay with him and of making them his own. When the thaw set in, he led them all out to feed, and the Wild Goats scampered away as fast as they could to the mountains. The Goatherd scolded them for their ingratitude in leaving him, when during the storm he had taken more care of them than of his own herd. One of them, turning about, said to him: 'That is the very reason why we are so cautious; for if you yesterday treated us better than the Goats you have had so long, it is plain also that if others came after us, you would, in the same manner, prefer them to ourselves.' Lesson? Old friends cannot with impunity be sacrificed for new ones. (http://fablesofaesop.com)




Friendship with God

Does the best friend of a lawyer need to have a degree in Law for them to be friends? Not really. We don’t need to know everything about God in order to be his friends. The knowledge of Him as revealed in the Bible is more than enough.

How important is our friendship with God? Let’s illustrate it with a symbolic Biblical scene described in the Scriptures: appearing before the judgment seat of Christ. (2 Cor. 5:10, Rev. 22:12)

Imagine it’s your turn to be judged. It will be decided whether you are worthy of the Kingdom. Jesus is examining your case. He puts all your good deeds on the right side of his weighing scale. That includes all the expressions of love that the Bible says will be the base for the eternal judgement: whether you forgave others, increased the assets of the Master, if you assisted his anointed brothers in the preaching work, your gifts of mercy to the orphans, widows, and poor in the congregation, and very important: the way you judge others, because with the same measure you will be judged now. (Mark 4:24) Well, you did pretty well in most of those things. Jesus calls an angel and he takes your fine record and puts it on the scale. So far the judgment seems favorable.

Now the bad stuff. Jesus examines your sinful state. He judges all the pending return visits that you didn’t follow up, the promises you made but didn’t deliver; your sins of omission, which means all the things you should have done because you had the time and circumstances, but you didn’t; all the times you were harsh and emotional judging others, and it went on and on... Now that sinful record is quite heavy, so Jesus has to call a few more angels to put all that stuff on the scale. The scale has turned against you now; your sinful record outweighs your good deeds! And thank God you were not an elder because if so James 3:1 says you would have had a heavier judgment!

It is looking like you won't make it. But suddenly, a precious, powerful, holy voice from high above is heard, saying: “Michael, Michael; he is my friend, let him in.” And now Michael factors in your friendship with his Father: all those conversations you had with Him in prayer, all the time you spent together with him by reading and meditating on his Word, all the tears shed while talking with him, tears of sadness and tears of joy. In short, all the normal things that good friends do together. The record of your friendship with God is monumental! You can fill up the Library of the Congress a few times over with all the records of your friendship with God! An angel then asks Jesus, should we call a few more angels to lift this one up? But Jesus replies: better get the cherubs on this one. The scale is totally in your favor now! Jesus then decrees the sentence: “My Father gives underserved kindness to His friends. Welcome to the new world.” You are so excited, and you start running, rushing to enter the new world. But before that, Michael approaches you and whispers in your ear: “try to do better in the next thousand years.”

When we use our imagination we can come up with mini-dramas of Bible scenes! Although surely our judgment won’t be this literal, this is merely an illustration, but it highlights an important point: on our own, we cannot “earn” our salvation. As sinners, we can only rip what we sow. The wages sin pays is death. (Rom. 6:23) Our reward comes from our friendship with Jehovah, which is possible by means of the ransom. The ransom is already in place, Jehovah’s requirements for his friends are in the Bible. (Psalm 15) We could go through the motions and mechanically perform many good deeds. Even people that don’t know Jehovah can perform plenty of good deeds. But do we know Jehovah and love him as our friend and Father? Only our friendship with Him will allow us to receive his underserve kindness.

A close friend knows when we are feeling down just by looking at us. We don’t even need to tell him. Jehovah is just like that good friend because he can read our hearts. Even if we can’t find the right words to tell him how we feel in prayer, he already knows and understands due to our close friendship with him.

Our friendship with others grows when we spend a lot of time talking to that person. Can we do that with Jehovah by means of prayer?




Full-time service

Full-time service is not required to please Jehovah. But there are clear advantages to it. We can take Abram and Lot as an example to illustrate it.

After they separated their camps, Lot placed his tent near Sodom. According to Genesis 13, at that time Lot had many herdsmen and livestock, which was the cause of the quarreling in the first place. (Gen. 13:5-12) In chapter 19 we see Lot not living in tents anymore, but having a house inside Sodom, where he showed hospitality to the angels. At this point in time, there is no mention of his livestock or herdsmen. In verse 9, he's called a 'lone foreigner' and even the angels asked him if he had someone else in the city. He only calls on his sons-in-law. What happened to his livestock and herdsmen? Did Lot decide to expand his business, buy a house, and have a normal life in the city? The Bible doesn't say. In the end, he lost everything, even his wife when she looked back, maybe missing material things. The last time we see Lot he is living in a cave with his daughters. Lot didn't become like the Sodomites, he was righteous and he hated the world he lived in. (2 Pet. 2:8) He certainly had Jehovah's approval. He hated the world, but did he start to love the things in the world? (1 John 2:15) If that was the case, it took a great toll on him and his family.

How different it was for Abraham and his family! He enjoyed many wonderful blessing by choosing to stay far from Canaan, even if that meant to be self-sacrificing and keep living in tents. He was far away from the world and worldly things.

This example is not new spiritual light, but it serves as an illustration for all dedicated Christians today. We may have the chance of choosing what we are going to do with our lives, either when we are in our youth or even after retirement. We may reason that full-time service is not a requirement for salvation, so we decide we will go work full-time, have a bigger house, and have a normal life and enjoy it. Jehovah may not necessarily reject us. But what will be the price in the end? If we lose our job or the economy crashes—again!— will we end up losing the normal life we fought so hard to build up? Will we end up losing our family to the world as collateral damage? What spiritual blessings will we miss? Those are certainly pivotal matters we need to factor in. The principle applies: All things are lawful, but not all things are advantageous. All things are lawful, but not all things build up. (1 Corinthians 10:23)

A brother who worked in a circus told an intriguing story. Where he worked, all animals were kept securely inside a cage, except an elephant. Only a chained shackle nailed to the ground was holding it. The reason is that when that elephant was younger and not as big and strong as he grew up to be, he tried many times to break off the shackles to escape but never succeeded, so he gave up trying. He never realized that in time he became bigger and stronger. Should he try to escape again, those chains would break into pieces easily. But elephant thinking doesn't go that far. Do we sometimes think like this elephant? Have we sought to accomplish spiritual goals in the past unsuccessfully and now believe that it is a waste of time to keep trying? Have we grown spiritually ever since? Are we aware of that? If so, why not give it another try? Now we might be strong enough to break off the shackles that hindered us in the past.

Let see if you can solve this riddle: If you chose me early, you have no regrets. If you chose me late, you regret not choosing me earlier. If forced to drop me, you recall me as your glory days. Who am I? Full-time service. Those that choose to serve Jehovah full-time early in their lives, have no regrets. Those that started full-time service a bit late in their lives, regret not starting it earlier. Those that are forced to drop it or stop by unfavorable circumstances, recall its days as the best time in their lives. They always talk about 'when I was a missionary... when I was in the construction group... when I was in the circuit work...' No matter the angle you see it, full-time service will bring nothing but blessings to your life!

If we do some research in WT Library, we will find out that the words 'full-time service' and 'pioneering' occur thousands of times. It is clear that if we look for information about it because we are considering this type of service but we are not 100 percent sure, Jehovah will give us a very clear answer. Have you tried it?

Is the cook exempt from eating just because he spends the whole day cooking? Or just because he samples the food would that mean he doesn’t need his own dinner? A full-time servant should never think that because he is always preaching or translating or delivering talks he does not need to have personal study or meditation.

For unlimited joy and happiness, remember, the more we serve the more joy we have. The Japanese Carp, if placed in a small bowl, will grow to 2 or 3 inches in length. In a pond, they attain 6 to 10 inches. In a large lake; they grow to over 3 feet! The size of the fish depends on the size of the body of water they are in. Water represents the many facets of our theocratic service. The fish represents joy, which grows in direct relationship to the amount of water it is in. So place yourself in the largest body of service possible, and watch your joy grow as Jehovah blesses you!