Back in the 70's, there was one brother that really cherished his huge afro. We can call the afro by the name '2-by-2' (supposedly 2 feet tall by 2 feet wide). The brother was counseled by the elders to trim his 2-by-2 to make it less eccentric so that he can be used in the congregation. But the brother didn't like the counsel. He argued that the size of his afro was a matter of personal choice. Later on, however, he got an interview to work at McDonald's. In order to get the job, he was asked to trim his thick afro. And for McDonald's he did not object, he trimmed it. Ironic! He was willing to give up his cherished afro for a job in a fast-food restaurant but not for Jehovah and the congregation. Sadly, just like this brother, some individuals are willing to do anything to please their boss and keep their jobs. But in the congregation, they are not willing to be self-sacrificing. Can they really say they love Jehovah and their brothers more than a job or money? Are they really doing the right sacrifices?
Sacrifices in Bible times implied a family giving up the best of their cattle and let a priest slaughter it. But it never implied a family offering a human. It was never needed to offer the children or a friend in sacrifice. We take this as a given, but when it comes to sacrificing things in modern times we need to understand that being self-sacrificing doesn’t mean sacrifice others. For example, parents should not sacrifice their children for the sake of pioneer service, and a husband should not stop providing and caring for his wife to make room to do more in the congregation. Balance is needed.
If you deposit $100 but then spend $100, you are saving nothing. In a similar sense, to store up treasures in heavens we should not be happy just doing the minimum. Our daily debt caused by our own imperfection really makes us spend a lot more than what we deposit in heaven, sort of speak. Although the debt of sin has been paid off by the ransom, we still need to give our best and go the extra mile in our ministry, hospitality, forgiveness, mercy, etc, to save some extra 'spiritual bucks' with Jehovah. (Luke 13:24)
How can we be saved? It can be compared with striving to be a good student in school. We can consider the following elements of comparison:
Surely, if do these things well, we will not flunk any grade.
- Are we constantly missing or skipping class? (Meeting attendance)
- Are we doing our homework? (Preaching, being a good husband/wife, etc.)
- Are we studying for the exams? (Preparation and personal study)
- When the day of the exam or test comes, are we able to remember what we studied and answer accordingly? (Put into practice, show wisdom)
- Do we respect the teachers and school staff? (Submission to theocratic order)
- Do we consult with the teachers when having questions and concerns? (Humility, prayer)
- Are we wearing the uniform required by the school? (Dress and grooming)
- Who are our friends in school? Are we hanging out with the bullies? (Associations)
- Do we wish to be popular in school and date the most popular girl/boy? (Love for the world, marry in the Lord)
- If we get a low score in one exam, do we work harder to do better next time? (Christian living, progress)
- Are we such model students that we have been asked to assist tutoring others or be part of a student club? (Reaching out)
Mnemonic to 'ADMIT ONE' into the new system. PASS:
Jehovah invented fun, music, eating, even sex. When Satan offers those things to us he is actually re-gifting what Jehovah has already given us but in a corrupted, harmful way. He is a vicious thief and that has had the audacity to plagirize God's creations to harm people. Who knows how to best use an invention? The master inventor or the corrupted plagiarizer bandit that stole it?
Imagine a bald man who is selling hair products. He sells a shampoo that supposedly can cure baldness in a matter of days. Is it not true that we would wonder how come it hasn’t worked on his own head? The same happens with Satan. He's trying to sell us his world as the secret of happiness and true freedom. But would you say Satan himself is happy? How come the Bible says that he has great anger, like a roaring Lion, and that he’s the accuser of our brothers? (Rev. 12:10, 12; 1 Pet. 5:8) How come we can see a clear reflection of that bitterness in the world he rules? The world Satan offers is a bad product and a scam, and it will only make us as unhappy and bitter as he is.
If you remove a cobweb you are doing pretty good, but the cobweb will return unless you get the spider. The same with good-intentioned politicians. They may try to remove the cobweb, some problems, and some may actually accomplish it to a certain degree, but they won't solve anything permanently unless they remove, not a spider, but the dragon. Only God's kingdom can do away with the dragon.
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?
If the devil reminds you of your past to distress you, remind him of his future (Rev. 20:10)
The footnote in the Reference Bible in 1 Peter 5:8 reads “Lit., to drink down.” So the devil is trying to drink us down. How can one drink something solid? You put it in a blender and make a smoothie out of it. Sadly, in a manner of speaking, that has occurred to some that have left Jehovah. Some that used to be in the congregation with us have been put into the devil's blender, and their spirituality has been triturated and emulsified to the point of being practically unrecognizable. Now we see them in the world, and they look like they never knew Jehovah at all.
Two parents are vying for the children’s love. One has given the children everything they need from a young age, including counsel and discipline. The other buys all the toys the children fancy, let them go anywhere they wish, and let them do whatever they please, regardless of the consequences. Who would you say deserves the children’s love? So it is with Satan. Jehovah is the good father who disciplines and teaches us for our own benefit. (Isaiah 48:17) Satan, though, offers ‘freedom,' but doesn’t tell us of the consequences..
Give Satan an inch and he'll become a ruler.
Do you remember the gigantic wrecking balls used to demolish buildings? Each hit weakened the structure, wrecking a few walls at a time until the whole building got destroyed.
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.
Dead people don't feel the passing of time. When someone dies on this end, if he has the resurrection hope, the next second of his conscious life from his perspective will be in the new world. If dead is the worst plague Satan can inflict on us, and Jehovah has solved it in such a wonderful way, should we fear any other of Satan's designs then?
This is the story about Satan's attack upon a certain Christian: First, he shot a poisonous dart at his heel, but the Christian was unharmed because he had his feet shod in readiness to declare the good news. Satan's next attempt was at his loins, but the Christian repelled this because he had his loins girded about with the truth. Unsuccessfully the devil tried a shot at his breast, the breastplate of righteousness. The Christian knocked away another arrow. But the devil, still not discouraged, slipped around behind the Christian and shot him in the pocketbook, and killed him dead as a hammer. The moral? Some in the congregation are very spiritual while they are living a relatively comfortable life, but when they face financial setbacks and get hit in the pocket, they start acting like money is the most important thing in their lives. May we all learn the secret of both how to have an abundance and how to suffer want.—Philippians 4:12
The human race is aboard a hijacked jet flying through time. God Himself directed its takeoff from the divine control tower. The initiator of all evil, Satan, managed to get a boarding pass. When cruising height was reached, he produced his weapons, threatened the pilot, and took control of the jumbo jet and all of its passengers. So it hopped on uncomfortably through history from airport to airport. But, can a kidnap last forever? No. The fuel of this plane is coming to an end. And no matters his effort to crash this plane, God is not going to allow it.
There was a little boy that was given a slingshot. He played with it a lot, but was not very good at hitting the target. One time, he saw Grandma's pet duck. Out of impulse, he let the slingshot fly, hit the duck square in the head, and killed it. He was shocked! In panic, he hid the dead duck, but his sister, Mary, saw everything. Mary decided to say nothing to Grandma. Next day, Grandma said, 'Mary, let's wash the dishes.' But Mary replied, 'Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen.' Then she whispered to him, 'Remember the duck?' And so, she started to take advantage and manipulate her little brother. After several days, Johnny couldn't take it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he had killed the duck. Grandma gave him a big hug, and said, 'Sweetheart, I know. I was standing at the window, and I saw the whole thing, I forgave you. I was just wondering how long you would let your sister make a slave of you.' The moral? Perhaps the Devil keeps bringing up whatever you have done in past. Whatever it is, you need to know that Jehovah was standing at the window and He saw the whole thing. He has seen your whole life. He's just wondering how long you will let the Satan the devil make a slave of you. The great thing about Jehovah is that when you ask for forgiveness, He not only forgives you, but He forgets, in the sense that he will not play a double jeopardy on you. Always remember: Jehovah is at the window...
There once was a fox and a rabbit. Naturally, the fox fancied the rabbit for a bit of a meal, so he hid, waiting for the rabbit to come by, which is what eventually happened. The fox jumped out of his hiding place, and said with a smile 'Good afternoon, Dinner'! Without a word, the rabbit turned and was away in a blinding flash. The fox, not to be done out of his plan so easily, immediately gave chase. The rabbit ran as he had never run before. He ran under fences, he ran through bushes, he ran in and out of hollow logs, he even ran through the culvert under the road. The fox ran right behind the rabbit, so close that several times the rabbit felt the fox's hot breath on his tail. Eventually, the fox began to tire out, and consequently gave up the chase. But the rabbit ran until he was well out of sight, and then he ran a little further. Without a doubt, the rabbit was also very tired. In fact, he had never been so tired in all his life. But you see, the rabbit was running for his life - the fox was only running for his next meal. So, next time you feel tired out, remember that Satan is running for a meal, but you are running for your life!
A WOLF who had a bone stuck in his throat hired a Crane, for a large sum, to put her head into his mouth and draw out the bone. When the Crane had extracted the bone and demanded the promised payment, the Wolf, grinning and grinding his teeth, exclaimed: 'Why, you have surely already had a sufficient recompense, in having been permitted to draw out your head in safety from the mouth and jaws of a wolf.' In serving the wicked, especially Satan the devil, expect no reward, and be thankful if you escape injury for your pains. (http://fablesofaesop.com)
Jehovah trains us to become better persons. It's similar to athletes being trained by a professional trainer. The trainer goes beyond the athletes' sports skill; he also makes sure the athletes’ private life is not in conflict with the training. Things like diet, whether they drink or smoke, which gear and apparel best suits their routine, and sometimes, even their sex life can affect the athletes’ performance. Thus a trainer may interfere in their personal matters for the sake of making them better. And committed athletes show self-control to follow through. (1 Cor. 9:25) Likewise, if we want Jehovah to train us like 'spiritual athletes' we need to follow his direction. Indeed, he frankly points out areas in our private lives in which we need to show self-control in order to become strong and fit spiritually.—1 Peter 5:10
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 a 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
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 into the air. My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you 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 do love you, including Jehovah God.
If you have flown on an airplane, you know when the flight attendant comes out and goes through the little spiel about, 'Here's how to handle an emergency,' and they always mention that, if you have a small child, you must first put the mask on yourself and then on the child. Why? If we were to pass out in the process of trying to help the child, both would lose. So first, we put ourselves in a position to be strong enough to help the individual, and then we help the child. In the same way, we can't love others if we don't respect ourselves. We need to love ourselves.
Before take-off, airplanes are inspected carefully, sometimes even using X-rays to look for tiny little flaws and wrecks. Although small, they can result in a tragic accident. We should examine ourselves carefully looking for lesser sins that may lead to serious sins and spiritual death. (https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/handbooks_manuals/aircraft/amt_handbook/media/FAA-8083-30_Ch08.pdf)
The account in Luke 18:10-14 presents two men that acted according to how they saw themselves. What they believed determined their prayer, one was acceptable, the other detestable. Although the Pharisee was dedicated to God and was praying with knowledge of him, his prayer was totally off. This illustrates the fact that, even if we are dedicated to God and have knowledge of the truth, what we believe in our heart about ourselves can make our prayers unacceptable.
The first thing you have to know is yourself. A man who knows himself can step outside himself and watch his own reactions like an observer.
There are three things that are extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self (https://www.brainyquote.com)
The castaway man didn’t know how to swim but fortunately had a lifesaver vest. The vest started to bother him because it was itchy and uncomfortable. He had two choices, keep the itchy vest on or take it off and drown. It will be stupid to indulge our flesh in such situation! As Christians, we know we live in urgent times. Many things won’t be ideal, sacrifices are needed. We cannot fall prey to self-indulgence because our lives are on the line. We need to keep enduring just a bit longer for our deliverance is at hand.
An open wound, if touched incessantly will never heal, but rather it will worsen and get infected. Similarly, self-pitying for past adversities is counterproductive for it doesn’t let our emotional wounds heal. If we keep overthinking our lot in life in dissatisfaction, our emotional wounds may never heal. On the contrary, if we are determined to move on and learn from our mistakes, the emotional pain will cease over time with Jehovah's help.
What do we value more, our love for Jehovah and the congregation or our ego? If we hesitate to answer this question, maybe we are still to dethrone ourselves and give the throne to Jehovah.
A brother at the branch that received a weighty assignment felt it was too much for him to handle. An experienced friend shared with him some insightful words: 'Can Jehovah accomplish this assignment without you?' He replied 'of course, he doesn't need me for that.' The friend then replied: 'So can God accomplish it with you? Of course! If that's the case, why worry about it? Jehovah is just honoring you by letting you work with him on this. Would you say no to him?' The brother mustered up boldness and understood that with Jehovah's help carrying on his challenging assignment was doable. We are worshipping the same God, so the same applies to all his servants.
There was a man who worked for a construction company. He always tried to do exactly what his employer wanted. He arrived for work on time, and never took 'extended' coffee breaks or lunchtime. One day after his morning break he got up and started working, picking up a large piece of timber to take to the worksite. Some of the workers completely ignored him. Some of the others started to give him a hard time. Some said, 'Take it easy, come back here and sit with us. You don't need to do that now'. Others shouted: 'That is no way to carry a piece of timber by yourself; you need to balance it better!' Others thought he was just trying to impress the boss, and trying to make them look bad. What does this example illustrate? Our pioneers, ministerial servants, and elders and others are trying to do what our 'employer,' Jehovah God, wants. We can ignore, discourage, criticize, or impute wrong motives; or we can get up, reach out and help them carry the load.
If you go to the doctor and he says he found something in your body that's growing, but it's growing apart from the body. What is it? A tumor. In an illustrative way, the service committee should not function like a tumor, so to speak, apart from the body of elders. When it tries to be apart doing things on its own that has not been assigned to handle, it can adversely affect the functionality and unity of the rest of the body. It is great to see that this is not the case in the vast majority of the congregations.
Acts 5:1-11- The account of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, shows that lying to Jehovah and those taking the lead for the sake of making ourselves look better than what we really are is very, very dangerous. It may have looked like a minor matter but Jehovah thought it was a life or death issue. One way we could fall into that trap is by inflating our service reports with fictitious figures. We must be honest at all times.
Luke 10:1-24: If Jesus would have reported only 12 disciples instead the real number of 70, would that had been just as encouraging? No! This illustrates that, although we sometimes feel that it is better to round down than up in our service report figures, not reporting everything we do in the ministry is actually inaccurate. Undercounting in our service reports is just as deceitful as over counting, as it is technically a misleading untruth. How can we avoid it then? Keeping good records diligently.
Two relatives give you a gift. One of the relatives is very wealthy and the other one poor. The poor one gives you an envelope with $5. Knowing that it is a sacrifice for him, his gesture really touches your heart. The rich relative also gives you an envelope, and when you open it, it contains $10. It is double the money than the poor relative... but is it not true that it would be a real bummer to get a $10 present from a wealthy relative? In a spiritual sense, Jehovah knows if we are rich or poor when it comes to time, energy and resources. Nonetheless, he does not ask for quantity but quality. He is pleased if we give him our best. We must reexamine ourselves to perceive if, when God sees our service, he feels like we are rich but only giving him 10 bucks.
Deuteronomy 16:17: The gift that each one brings should be in proportion to the blessing that Jehovah your God has given you. Application? Jehovah doesn't care for numbers, he doesn't quantify our service. He is interested in quality. Our service needs to be in proportion to our ability.
If you deposit $100 but then spend $100, you are saving nothing. In a similar sense, to store up treasures in heavens we should not be happy just doing the minimum. Our daily debt caused by our own imperfection really makes us spend a lot more than what we deposit in heaven, sort of speak. Although the debt of sin has been paid off by the ransom, we still need to give our best and go the extra mile in our ministry, hospitality, forgiveness, mercy, etc, to save some extra 'spiritual bucks' with Jehovah. (Luke 13:24)
Many people want to serve Jehovah, but only in an advisory capacity.
What kind of tool are we in Jehovah's hand? Are we a dull stick or a multitool swiss knife?
Some coffee shops used to sell a much bigger cup of coffee that has gotten smaller in time. The same happened with shampoos, sodas, even bottles of water... not only have they gotten more expensive, they have shrunk! Jehovah gave his beloved son for us. Have we shrunk our service and love for Jehovah as time goes by? Are we giving less than before?
Serving God can be likened to cooking. Some prefer the easy way and would rather make instant mash potatoes, just add water and get it done with it. But really, such thinking goes against what Jesus taught. (Matthew 7:13, 14; Luke 13:24) We need to be like cooks that are always learning and striving to make a great meal each time. The one that is evaluating our 'cooking' is none other than the Almighty God, Jehovah. So we want to present the best meal we can.
Serving where the need is great
A medical student is taking on his first practice as a doctor in a hospital. His life dream has always been to wear the white coat, make lots of money and enjoy a good social status. To his disappointment, he is welcomed by an emergency room full of ill people, some are vomiting and have soiled their clothes, others are screaming in pain and bleeding profusely. Soon his new white coat gets dirty with other people's blood! His dream is shattered. Feelings of regret consume him, and now he wants to quit. But really, what did he expect? His expectations of what entailed to be a doctor were not realistic. In a similar way, need-greaters need to be careful not to fall prey of wrong expectations. Surprisingly, sometimes the greatest challenge for those who go serve where the need is greater is the GREAT need they find! It may be easy to notice some things are not done following procedures, others may not be done at all. There may be some basic things that the local elders and publishers might not understand well. Especially for capable sisters that have been trained in theocratic schools can be a challenge to serve in such a congregation. But, really, isn't it that why is called GREAT need? Isn't it that the reason why help is needed? What did we expect? Great need doesn't always mean tons of Bible studies. Often times it just means setting a good example that can inspire others. We should not confuse a sense of adventure with serving where the need is great, particularly if we have been assigned by the branch office. Instead of criticizing the new circumstances and the local folks, just work hard!
When growing up, at some point our clothes started to feel tight and small. The time to get new clothes or at least to alter them had come. It happens the same with the spiritual growth. Maybe we have grown spiritually, and now we are ready to move where the need is greater or to apply for bethel and to get busier in Jehovah's work. The same also applies to the work in some countries where congregations and publishers have increased, and now the branch facilities or certain kingdom hall are starting to feel small. In time, Jehovah's Organization has made many alterations and even gotten new facilities.
Imagine that you trust me with something private and delicate, an issue that it is very sensitive to you and that you abhor with all your heart. But then next day you see me making fun of it with other people, with no consideration to your feelings. How would you feel? Jehovah is very sensitive to some subjects that he feels are very delicate, like sexual immorality, including homosexuality. (1 Cor. 6:9, Deu. 22:5, Lev. 18:22, Rom. 1:26, 27) Will we have Jehovah's feelings in mind when selecting forms of entertainment?
Some of our friends find it hard to control the natural desires of intimacy as a single person. They may at times feel like Paul described, ‘inflamed with passion.' (1 Cor. 7:9) But the efforts we are putting forth now to keep morally clean are a good investment. How so? If we compromise now and leave God, we may —or may not— ‘enjoy’ sexual relations, but it will only be in this system of things. If we remain loyal and uphold God’s standards, however, even if we don’t get married in this system of things, we will have a perfect opportunity in the new system of things to find a perfect mate and really enjoy sexual relations in perfect fashion for billions and billions of years. That sounds like a really good deal. (Mark 10:29, 30)
Simplifying our lives
Jesus said: 'show me a denarius.' (Luke 20:24) Why did he ask somebody else for a denarius? Maybe because he didn't have one! And yet, he lacked nothing. He really led a simple life, and Jehovah provided all he needed. When it comes to money, do we have a spiritual point of view?
These interesting facts help us understand why Jesus used the eye in his illustration, being the case that humans are designed as highly visual creatures.
Since our brain is so dependent on what we see, we need to keep our eye simple, focused. Otherwise, our whole mindset will be affected. (http://www.imagethink.net/imagethink-2/true-or-false-vision-rules-the-brain/)
- About 40 percent of all nerve fibers connected to the brain are linked to the retina. In fact, half of all neural tissue deals with vision in some way.
- Up to 50 percent of our neural tissue is directly or indirectly related to vision.
- More of our neurons are dedicated to vision than the other four senses combined.
Lasers are used for many industrial, medical, navigational and communicative purposes. The difference between lasers and a light from an ordinary bulb is direction. A regular bulb diffuses light in all directions. A laser sends powerful parallel beams. This can be likened to our spiritual 'eye', the things we pay attention to. If we have a laser-like spiritual vision, with a focused eye, our aim will be concentrated on spiritual things, as opposed to being distracted by material things.(http://www.nobelprize.org/educational/physics/laser/facts/)
There is a big difference between becoming sick because of a loose and careless lifestyle and being born with a congenital condition. Sin is similar in that there is a huge difference between intentionally scheming to commit a gross sin and sinning because of our imperfect inherited sin from Adam.
If you are ever tempted to scheme and commit a sin, just try to do this: fast forward your life and visualize the consequences of it. You committed the sin... now, how did it change your world? Are you happy or do you regret it? Are you near your family and friends? Do you have true friends alongside you? Do you have a bad marriage? Are you sick with a disease you could have avoided? Are you disfellowshipped? Did Armageddon catch you out of the congregation? If you play fast forward to your life and you see where you could end up if you compromise your faith, it will certainly help you to flee from sin.
When someone commits a serious sin is like parachuting from an airplane. During the free-fall you cannot go back to the plane, the only possible direction is down. The skydiver has only two choices: to open the parachute or crash. He only has a few minutes to decide! Likewise, when someone falls into a sinful state is like a spiritual free-fall, he can’t go back, he can’t change what happened. He needs to open up his heart and confess, otherwise he will crash spiritually. Confessing, repenting and seeking Jehovah’s help is the parachute needed to avoid the crash. However, the sinner needs to understand that the window of opportunity to use the parachute will not stay open forever.
When something, like a bike, is moving slowly it doesn't take much to stop it, not much force on the brakes. But as it speeds up and gains momentum it takes more and more effort to stop it, you really have to squeeze the brakes hard. Eventually, it can become almost impossible to stop suddenly and not lose control if you're going to avoid disaster. So it goes with life. You get into a situation and perhaps start to drift away from the truth. It starts slowly: missing meetings here and there, then altogether; then you get involved with the world. The sequence of events goes slow at first but then can just speed up. But by then it's too late. You've lost control. It is going to take everything you have to try to slow it down and stop. The inevitable will happen, and it's hard to avoid at that point. The more involved and attached you become, the harder and harder it is to break away. The Bible says to stay separate from the world and quit touching the unclean thing for a reason: once it gains momentum, it can easily get out of control.
In Missouri, US, there is a railroad switchyard. One particular switch begins with just the thinnest piece of steel to direct the train away from one main track with another. If you were to follow those two tracks, however, you would find that one ends in San Francisco, the other in New York. Sin is like that. Just a small deviation from Jehovah's standards can place us far away from our intended destination.
When people are going to do something bad and wrong, like stealing, they look back, right, left, right, to make sure nobody is watching them. But they often forget to look up. They forget Jehovah is watching them. If we are tempted to do something bad, look up and remember your heavenly Father. You will not do it if you visualize yourself before him.
A Goatherd had sought to bring back a stray goat to his flock. He whistled and sounded his horn in vain; the straggler paid no attention to the summons. At last, the Goatherd threw a stone, and breaking its horn, begged the Goat not to tell his master. The Goat replied, 'Why, you silly fellow, the horn will speak though I will be silent.' Do not attempt to hide things which cannot be hidden. (http://fablesofaesop.com)
If you can't sleep, don't count sheep, talk to the Shepherd.
Have a meteorite ever fall into one of your eyes? Surely, if a 20-30 pounds meteorite would have hit you in the eye you wouldn’t be here. But what about sand grain, a tiny string of your own lashes or a speck of dirt getting blown into your eyes? That’s more likely to happen, and when it does, it’s so irritating. Since it’s such a tiny little thing inside our eye it’s hard to spot and remove. (The analogy can also work with stones and kidney stone) You see, we don’t need a big meteorite to land into our eyes to have a serious issue. A tiny little speck can cause a lot of damage. This hyperbole illustrates that life consists of little things. Neglecting being faithful in what is least can have serious consequences. Being faithful when big trials like persecution come our way is surely important. But often the seemingly small matters we face every day are the ones that really show the quality of our faith.
The world's deadliest animal is not the lion nor the shark. Although these apex predators are terrifying killers, the world's deadliest animal, year after year, is actually something much smaller - the mosquito. According to the World Health Organization, about 725,000 people are killed every year by mosquito-borne diseases. Malaria alone affects 200 million, of which an estimated 600,000 die. Mosquitoes also carry dengue fever, yellow fever, Zika virus, and encephalitis. This illustrates that small matters can bring about big problems. (Luke 16:10; http://www.bbc.com/news/world-36320744)
On California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, giant Sequoias thrive. Many of them are hundred, even thousand years old. As majestic and longevous 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 beetles 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. Like those tiny beetles, spiritual issues that may seem trivial, if not corrected promptly, can slowly take a toll on us, until the day comes when a once spiritual man or woman falls like that giant tree.
Social or communitarian work
There's a fire in your building. You see your neighbor lying on the floor, his leg is wounded. What would you do first, take him out of the building or try to treat his wounded leg? Obviously, it is more pressing to get out of the building. Similarly, community or social work can help people but only temporarily. The good news from God, however, results in eternal blessings. Although Jehovah's Witnesses endeavor to help the community, sharing the good news of the kingdom takes priority.
Some people tell us: You should be out helping the poor instead of going from door to door. We can use an illustration to reply: if you pass a lake and see someone drowning, would you throw him a sandwich or a lifebuoy? Save his life first and then tend to his hunger.
The difference between being a soul and having a soul is similar to the idea of being a dog and having a dog. Huge difference!
The soul is like a grilled cheese sandwich. There are the slices of bread and the melted cheese inside. Only if we have both the bread and the cheese it is called a grilled cheese. What if I only have the bread but no cheese? Is it a grilled cheese? No! What happened with the grilled cheese then? Well, it’s not anymore, it disappeared! And if it has a slice of cheese, but it’s not melted, is it still a grilled cheese? Well, we could call it a dead grilled cheese, because it needs to be hot! Likewise, the soul came to be when God put all the ingredients in the right place at the right time, and right temperature too. He took dust to create a body and his spirit to give it the breath of life, and only then that became a soul. (Gen 2:7) If it’s missing the breath of life, it’s not a soul. What happens with the soul then? It is no more, it doesn’t exist. Only if all ingredients are put together in the right way we can call it a soul. If not, the soul doesn’t go somewhere else, it just ceases to exist.
If two people each owned a horse, and each one believed their horse was better and faster than the other, how could such a dispute be settled? Simple: Let them race. A lot of people may then hear about this big dispute, and become keenly interested. On race day the grandstands are filled with people curious about the outcome. But what if shortly after the race begins, or at any time during the race, before the finish, one man was to pull out a gun and shoot the other horse and then go on to win the race. Would it be considered fair? Would anything be proven? Those in the grandstand would never really know which is the best horse. Perhaps they would even conclude that the shooter knew he would lose the race. The race must go the full distance, right down to the finish line. Only then could it be decided which horse is clearly the better. Jehovah could have 'shot' Satan right away. But what would the angels (people in the grandstands) have thought if he did? They may have questioned whether Satan's rival government could have ruled successfully (could have won the race). They may have felt that God, by using his superior power (gun, killing), was acting unfairly. What was needed, then, to prove who had the right to rule (whose horse was fastest)? Time! Jehovah God determined that he would allow Satan time to prove his claims (let the race go to the finish). Then, once and for all, everyone would know, fair and square, whose way of rule was best (who was the winner of the horse race.)
Imagine a jet flying at supersonic speeds, but shooting cannon shells that are subsonic. What will happen next? The jet will run into the shells it had fired seconds before because it's flying faster than the shells. Basically, the jet will shoot itself down. In a similar way, if we try to speculate about spiritual matters that are yet to be explained by the faithful slave, we will be in effect trying to fly faster than the Organization. If we do that we may end up shooting ourselves down spiritually!
Many people ‘own’ their house don’t really own it in a strict sense. It is own by the bank until the mortgage is paid in full. If it happens that they don’t, the house returns to the bank. In a similar way, the spirit ‘returns’ to God when someone dies. (Ecl. 12:7) Just like the house doesn’t physically transfers to inside the bank, but only the ownership and future prospect of it returns to the bank, the spirit doesn’t physically go to the heavens, but the future prospects of life of the person that died is what goes back to God.
Spirit of the world
Just like we can get used to a bad smell by being exposed to it repeatedly, if we get too close to the world and put ourselves under its enticing air we can get used to it, seeing nothing wrong with it. Our conscience will become numb.
Just like we can get sunburned spending a pleasant day on the beach without even realizing it, the spirit of the world can affect us slowly without any unpleasant sensation. By the time we see its effect, we may already be burned!
Have you ever use a mosquito net? Maybe you’ve seen baby cradle being protected by it. In the tropics is common to use them. Sometimes the net has a very very small hole which may not look like a problem. But the problem is that there are mosquitos that are even smaller than the hole. So in they go and the poor babies end up looking like they have chickenpox. Just a tiny opening is all it needed. Likewise, if our spiritual armor is missing a piece or one of the pieces is cracked or have a hole, our enemy will put his projectiles through and pierce through our spirituality.
West Texas rancher Mr. Ira Yates was like many other ranchers and farmers. The time the Great Depression was approaching. Mr. Yates was in debt. He wasn't 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 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)
Just like in school we learn the history of the country we grew up in, we must learn the history of the Kingdom and God’s People. The Organization has provided publications and tools that facilitate learning it. When we see the rich spiritual heritage the Organization possesses we really feel proud of being part of it.
During a thunderstorm on a dark night, the Admiral of a warship spots in the distance a bright light resembling a big ship. They were heading on what it seemed like a collision course. The Admiral commands it to change its course at once. The reply came back saying 'You change your course.' The Admiral retorted: 'No, you change your course, and fast!'. This interchange happened several times until the Admiral began to threaten them asserting that he is the Admiral of a warship and if necessary he will resort to military action. Finally, it was the other side that dropped the bomb, saying 'No, Admiral, you do not understand, this is a lighthouse!' The lesson? Jehovah is the spiritual Lighthouse, and so we cannot pretend he will adjust the manner or time he provides His spiritual light. We are the ones that need to adjust.
Some of you may know those small generators that you can buy for a bicycle. This small generator moves over against the tire of the wheel and this, in turn, gives us light or illuminates the way before us. It is interesting that, in order to make the light work, we have to move, and the faster we go, the brighter the light becomes. So if we want to shine as illuminators of spiritual light, we must be on the move in Jehovah's work!
Just like we will be blinded if we are sleeping in a dark room and someone abruptly turns on the light, so Jehovah doesn’t abruptly turn on the light of spiritual light on us, but he reveals his light gradually and progressively. (Prov. 4:18)
What’s the difference between a star and a planet? Stars emit light of their own whereas planets shine by reflecting the light from a star. For instance, the sun produces its own light and the earth reflects that light. And the earth depends on that light to host life. It makes us wonder, how do we see ourselves in the congregation? Like a planet or a star? Do we love to be the center of attention, having everybody gravitating around us? Jehovah is the source of spiritual light, our sun. In fact, he is the Father of the celestial lights. (James 1:17) Us humans don’t emit light of our own but we can shine with Jehovah's light if we are humble and redirect the credit and glory we may receive to our Father. (http://keydifferences.com/difference-between-stars-and-planets.html)
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.
To survive, we need to breathe, drink, and eat, just as animals do. But to be happy, we have a deeply-ingrained need that animals do not have—the need for understanding the purpose of life. We find this need in all humans through history and in all parts of the world. To illustrate this let’s take a journey together and visit one of the most isolated tribes on earth, the Andamanese.
They live off the coast of India and appear to have lived in substantial isolation for centuries. Though it might seem unexpected, they have a rather familiar idea of God. Their supreme deity, Puluga, is invisible, eternal, immortal, all-knowing, the creator of everything except evil. He is angered by sin and offers comfort to those in distress. According to Andaman mythology, Puluga ceased to visit the people when they ignored the commands given to them at the creation. To punish men for wrongdoing, he sent a great flood.
Even in this very isolated tribe, we see a need to worship a superior creator. And how remarkable that their beliefs are quite close to the truth. Yes, most of us have the desire to understand the meaning of life. Only the Creator of life can fill that need. Those who are conscious of their spiritual need are happy because they will do something about it.—'The Book of General Ignorance' p. 22 (Mitchinson and Lloyd); https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C5%ABluga
The Caribbean flamingo has a striking pink plumage, while the greater flamingo is much paler. Its peculiar color depends on its diet.
Home cooking is always better and healthier than eating out. Of course, this doesn't mean we can never eat out. Likewise, God's Organization prepares healthy spiritual food in the form of books, magazines, videos, and even snacks and sweets in the form of pop songs and comics. This doesn't mean we cannot listen to other songs or watch other videos, but it is definitely better to feed our minds mostly with healthy food.
The eating disorder known as Anorexia is characterized by an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body weight. Those who suffer from it may fear being overweight and thus start skipping meals. Anorexia does not happen overnight but gradually, and when it happens, it may be too late. We may want to eat, but the body no longer accepts food and will not keep it down. It is the same with regular study habits: if not done on a regular basis, we will eventually thrust off any form of spiritual food. (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anorexia/home/ovc-20179508)
Fruit trees take in water, sunlight, and soil. As a result, they produce fruit. Particularly, light has a vital role in the process of photosynthesis. Likewise, we take in spiritual food and spiritual light with meditation and produce the fruitage of the spirit and godly devotion.
A sad and withered plant right in the middle of a paradise-like garden... wouldn't it look like it is kind of out of place? By the same token, if we want to show we belong in the spiritual paradise we need to show ourselves happy!
We all need to sleep, but sleeping while driving can be deadly. Not only when driving, but in a spiritual sense, sleeping can be very dangerous. (1 Thes. 5:6) Just like tiredness can cause us to be sleepy while driving, spiritual tiredness can cause us to burnout and sleep spiritually. A driver may need to stop and rest a little or take a pause and let someone else drive until he recovers. The same can be true spiritually. We may need to stop and rest, that is, take a pause if we have too many responsibilities or if we feel our joy and enthusiasm is lacking. While we pause we can put some more time improving our personal study and meditation. With God's help, we will feel recharged and be back on track promptly.
The Gesell Dome was conceived by the American psychologist and pediatrician Arnold Gesell to observe and study behavior in children. It made use of one-way mirrors shaped as a dome, under which children could be observed without being disturbed. In movies and in real life investigations it is common to see this kind of rooms being used to observe the conduct of suspects in interrogations and to preserve the anonymity of witnesses. In a way, we can say that Jehovah is on the other side of the mirror in the Gesell Dome. He can see everything we do, even everything we think. If we see Jehovah as a real person with his eye upon us, we won't fall into the snare of serious sins. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_Gesell)
Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a condition that causes distant objects to look blurry while close objects appear normal. Some may develop a similar condition, but spiritually. Spiritual myopia can blind us from the consequences of our acts. It can make us see only what's in front of us, prompting us to make decisions to find quick solutions instead of looking for ways to solve problems in a lasting way. Even worse, it can blur the wonderful future promises found in the Scriptures. We need to examine ourselves regularly in the light of the Bible to make sure our spiritual vision is still in line with God's.
Just like we are unable to obtain the basic nutrients our bodies need from junk food, so it is spiritually. We cannot satisfy spiritual needs with material things.
When a skyscraper is under construction, for the project's first six months or so, all the workmen do is make a great hole in the ground. To build a tall building by starting below the surface level seems absurd. But there is a good reason for the large hole. To build a mammoth building, it is first necessary to dig down until a strong foundation can be built, one that is capable of supporting the skyscraper. A doghouse needs no foundation, and an ordinary house can be built on little more than a concrete slab. But a skyscraper, that's different. It requires a deep and solid base. So it is in our Christian life. Our upward potential, our progress, rests on the foundation underneath it. Spiritual giants, like the skyscraper, need a huge spiritual foundation that can be built by reaching out and digging deeper into the Scriptures.
Among ancient Greeks the runner who won the race was not the man who crossed the line in the shortest time, but the man who crossed it in the least time with his torch still burning. We are so often so busy with life's activities that we are in danger of allowing the torch of our spiritual life to become extinguished. In the rush and hurry of our lives, we can feel in danger of being 'jostled out of our spirituality.' We need to avoid the demonic trap of being too busy to be good, of running too fast to keep our torch burning. (http://ancientolympics.arts.kuleuven.be/eng/TC002eEN.html)
A giant Sequoia thousands of years old can die if there is a drought. Similarly, a Christian, regardless of how experienced he may be or how many privileges he enjoys, could also die spiritually under a spiritual drought. What can be reckoned as a spiritual drought? Not reading the Bible every day, praying only on occasion and mechanically, neglecting a spiritual routine and meeting preparation, etc. (http://www.startribune.com/after-2-000-years-california-s-sequoias-face-uncertain-future/271455651/)
Numbers 15.32-36: this scripture illustrates a simple but vital point: the time for spiritual matters is sacred.
What would happen to a marathon runner who after the race failed to respond to his body's craving for water? Would he not soon face dehydration and other serious consequences? Likewise, while we are running the marathon for our lives in this wicked system of things, if we fail to respond to our need for spiritual nourishment, we will eventually wither spiritually. This will lead to loss of joy and happiness.
A mail delivery might be all scratched and damaged on the outside. But when opened, the inside surprisingly is still intact. It was well-protected with bubble wrap, so the outer damage didn't affect the inside. If we safeguard our inside —our heart, our relationship with Jehovah, and our spirituality— no tribulation will be strong enough to harm us. (Prov. 4:23) Our inside will remain intact.
Have you ever heard of 'uncircumcision'? It has been reported by historians that in ancient times when Greek sports became very popular, some Jews priests were carried away by the spirit of Greek competitions. They went through a painful surgery to become uncircumcised because when competing naked in those sports they felt ashamed of showing their circumcised genitals, as they were surrounded by non-Jews. They abandoned their identity, disregarded their priestly privileges, and became corrupted, all because of a game! Lesson? It is fine if we like sports, but we don't want to neglect our spiritual duties because of it. (http://www.cirp.org/library/restoration/tushmet1/; w96 1/15 p. 27)
A brother recorded a sport’s game for his friends. However, the friends managed to know the final result before they got the tape. When the brother gave them the tape, some of them said the team of their country lost, so they didn't want to watch it now. Would you say these brothers watch sports because they enjoy the game or for some passion for their team or country? There is nothing wrong with watching, playing and following sports. But as servants of Jehovah, we need to be careful not to get carried away and inadvertently start developing a nationalistic or competitive spirit.
Working out only a few days will not yield results. Only a regular and steady routine of exercise can bring significant benefits. The same with our spiritual habits. If we are spiritually-minded only occasionally we will not yield permanent spiritual blessings. (Gal. 6:7)
A Hare one day ridiculed the short feet and slow pace of the Tortoise, who replied, laughing: 'Though you be swift as the wind, I will beat you in a race.' The Hare, believing her assertion to be simply impossible, assented to the proposal; and they agreed that the Fox should choose the course and fix the goal. On the day appointed for the race the two started together. The Tortoise never for a moment stopped, but went on with a slow but steady pace straight to the end of the course. The Hare, lying down by the wayside, fell fast asleep. At last waking up, and moving as fast as he could, he saw the Tortoise had reached the goal, and was comfortably dozing after her fatigue. Slow but steady wins the race.(http://fablesofaesop.com)
A Boy was stung by a Nettle. He ran home and told his Mother, saying, 'Although it hurts me very much, I only touched it gently.' 'That was just why it stung you,' said his Mother. 'The next time you touch a Nettle, grasp it boldly, and it will be soft as silk to your hand, and not in the least hurt you.' Lesson? Whatever you do, do with all your might. (Col. 3:23).
A little boy is working in the rock garden with his Dad. His father tells him that if he needs any help moving the rocks, he is right across the garden. Just call him. The little boy does fine for a while, but then the rocks get too big. But he wants to show his Dad how big he is, so he struggles and sweats and strains and pants and puffs and doesn't get very far. His Dad looks up and sees him continually struggling. ‘Son,' his father says, ‘You are not using all your strength.' The little boy looks shocked but tries all the harder; with every ounce of strength he has, he tries to get that rock into his wagon. Again he struggles and sweat, and hardly any progress. ‘Son, you are not using all your strength!’ The boy says, ‘Yes I am Daddy. I am using everything I have’. The Dad answers, ‘No son, you are not using me!’ We should not only depend on ourselves when we have problems but should call on Jehovah to help us with our burdens. Strength is not only the one produced by our bones and muscles. We need to factor in the spiritual strength Jehovah offers. (Isa. 40:28-31, 2 Cor. 4:7)
If you were walking up a long flight of stairs and you were almost at the top, and then you stumbled on one of the steps, would you walk the whole way back to the ground level before starting to climb again? A stumble doesn’t mean a start over.
There was once a man sitting in front of a large office complex with many people coming and going. The man was completely blind. However, at night, he would put a lantern beside him. One man that came out of the office stopped and asked him if he was indeed blind. The man said, 'yes.' 'Then why do you have a lantern beside you?' He said that it was so people would not stumble over him. We also should make sure that people do not stumble over us! We need to take the initiative to avoid becoming a stumbling block.
Imagine this: The circuit overseer is visiting your congregation. After the meeting, you accidentally trip up the circuit overseer. He falls down into the yard and sits there and you apologize with all your heart and beg his forgiveness, offering him a hand to help him get up. Instead of taking your hand he gets angry and says: 'No, leave me alone! You have stumbled me!' You continue to express your grief that you hurt the poor brother and still he refuses your help, so you leave him sitting on the grass complaining about the way he was treated. That night it rains and it pours and you are sitting in your nice warm house with the love of your friends and family when suddenly you remember what happened that morning to the circuit overseer, and you wonder: 'He wouldn't still be sitting there in those terrible conditions, would he? Naah, that wouldn't make sense.' So you go to bed and the next morning you get up, prepare for service and drive to the hall and guess what. Sitting in the yard, soaking wet and muddy is the circuit overseer! 'Brother CO,' you cry out, 'Please don't stay out there in the rain and mud, but come in and join the congregation and get cleaned up and enjoy the association and spiritual food in the Kingdom Hall!' But still, he shakes his head and says: 'No, leave me alone! I have been stumbled and I want to stay out here!' The point of this illustration is abundantly clear: many use this expression 'I was stumbled' like it's a special label that will give them license not to have to do the necessary things required to gain Jehovah's approval. In reality, though, Jehovah wants those who fall to stand up as many times as necessary to continue serving him. (Prov. 24:16)
Obedience: the kingdom hall was thoroughly cleaned on Saturday, but Sunday the elders announce it will be cleaned again. You don’t understand so you question why again; you really don’t agree as you think it’s unnecessary. But you obey and help out, although begrudgingly. You are vocal about your disagreement, and others start saying negative things too.
Submission: you don’t understand why, but you trust the elders as they may know details you don’t. Besides, you don't mind having an opportunity to spend time in the kingdom hall working for Jehovah along with your brothers and sisters. So you joyfully and willingly help out in the cleaning. Your joy is contagious!
As we can see, submission goes beyond obeying, as it is related to our attitude. Of course, what Jehovah requires of imperfect humans is obedience. And obedience is of utmost importance. At the same time, he gives us a good reminder about cultivating submission. Why? Because those taking the lead won’t always be able to give us all the details about certain matters. Thus being submissive can help us keep our joy! (Hebrews 13:7, 17)
A man and an atheist barber were once walking through the city slums. The atheist barber tells the man: 'This is why I cannot believe in a God of love. If God were as kind as you say, He would not permit all this poverty, disease, and squalor. He would not allow these poor bums to be addicted to dope and other character-destroying habits. No, I cannot believe in a God who permits these things.' The man was silent until they met a person who was especially unkempt and filthy. His hair was hanging down his neck, and he had a half-inch of stubble on his face. The customer said to the barber: 'You cannot be a very good barber or you would not permit a man like that to continue living in this neighborhood without a haircut or a shave.' Indignantly the barber answered: 'Why blame me for that man's condition? I cannot help it that he is like that. He has never come in my shop; I could fix him up and make him look like a gentleman!' Giving the barber a penetrating look, the man said: 'Then do not blame God for allowing these people to continue in their evil ways when He is constantly inviting them to come to him.'
In Asia, a piece of land was on sale for a very low price because in the past it used to be a graveyard. Nobody wanted to buy for the fear of the dead. Yet, our Organization bought it notwithstanding and built a beautiful branch on it. Have the bethelites seen any ghosts at night? Not at all! The truth can set us free from the snares of superstition, and we can derive much benefit from it.