Shovel without a handle
Instead of presenting many facts, it is better to make the facts practical to give the audience something they can use. It's like giving a friend a shovel without a handle. It cannot be used! So the question is: Do my talks have a handle? Are they practical or they just theory? If so, put a handle on it!
Basket of ingredients
Have you ever seen a cooking show where the chefs get a basket of ingredients and they need to make a meal out of it? It's a given that they will never give the judges the raw ingredients as a meal. They will try to make a delicious meal out of it! We can see the outline of a talk as that basket of ingredients. It’s raw and it needs to be cooked. We should never read the outline line by line adding only connecting phrases and conjunctions when delivering a talk. That will be so raw! You have to cook it, develop it, bake it, roast it —but don’t burn it!— so that your audience can enjoy a delicious spiritual meal.
The cocky young speaker
A young brother went up to the platform to give a talk with a smirk on his face and an air of confidence. Sadly, his overconfidence made him neglect his preparation. A minute into his discourse, his voice turned shaky, started to sweat profusely, and he got stage fright. He barely made it to the conclusion. He came down the stage looking crestfallen and humiliated. Later on, an older brother approached him and gave him this counsel: 'If you would have gone up like you came down, you would have came down like you went up.' Overconfidence is a manifestation of our treacherous heart. The antidote to overconfidence is to be humble and modest, acknowledging our limitations.
Do you cook your congregation talks in the microwave or in a brick oven? This is important because, after all, we are ‘cooking’ for Jehovah.
Talks are like a plane ride. Taking off can be likened to the introduction, the body is the time spent in the air after climbing up, and the conclusion is like the landing. The pilot can not just jump off the plane and let the passengers land on their own. Our talks need to have a proper conclusion.
Heart rate monitor
When a heart rate monitor makes the beep, beep, beep sound, it indicates that the patient is alive. But when it becomes flat with the sharp noise 'beeeeeep' then the patient is dead.
An old time mariner using an inaccurate scale in a map to get to a place will be lost by miles distance. An inch in a map could be miles in reality, so any mistake would have great impact. If we teach our students using a human ‘scale’ rather than Jehovah's, it could translate into losing eternal life.
Art of Teaching
Could you play the piano? Well, the truth is that all of us could play the piano, but not all of us have the art and skill to play the piano. The same with our teaching skills. We all can teach, but do you have the art of teaching? (Titus 1.9)
Just like an airplane needs two wings on each side to fly, so we need to pay attention to ourselves and our teaching. (1 Timothy 4:15, 16)
Radio in the 1920s
In the 1920's the Organization made use of radio extensively as a means to transmit the good news. Not everybody had a radio back then, but that didn't stop them from using technology. The same today with the usage of the Internet. Not everybody uses the Internet today, but many do. Our Organization is not afraid of using new methods for the sake of the Kingdom.
Golden Age 1922 April 26, page 463 stated a farsighted comment: 'Someday each human individual may carry in his vest pocket his own private wireless telephone, through which he can receive reliable news from various parts of the earth and communicate at will with private individuals wherever they may be. Then, too, the necessity for the phonograph will be practically eliminated...' For 1922, that was a farsighted comment. Our Organization has never opposed to the proper use of technology, on the contrary, we have used it to advance kingdom interests.
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 close to 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 if you compromise your faith, it will certainly help you to flee from sin.
Just like a reflex when the doctor stimulates our knee tendons, the knee moves up without us thinking to move it, the same way we need to develop a swift reaction to dismiss bad thoughts and purge them out our minds. We also need to develop a reflex to turn to Jehovah in prayer immediately if we are tempted to commit a serious sin. Reflex means, we won’t even need to struggle thinking about it, we’ll just do it.
Set a barrier against temptations
Our wonderfully designed bodies are equipped with very effective barriers to fight harmful foreign organisms. The first barrier microbes find on the human body is the skin. If they manage to go through it via an open wound, the immune system will be waiting for them. Once the body detects these invaders, it proceeds to attack them promptly. So important are the skin and the immune system that we cannot live without them. Skin cancer and AIDS, which destroys the immune system, can kill us. Similarly, we have to stop and purge out fleshly temptations. A heart full of appreciation, our fear of God, and a strong desire to remain faithful can work as a barrier to stop and disrupt the practice of sin.
See also 'Serving where the need is great'
Bloom where you are planted
Serving in a foreign assignment is like uprooting a plant from its base and planting it in a new base with new soil in a new place. Will it survive? If it has sunlight, water, and the gardener's care, it will. If we let the spiritual light shine our way and the waters of the truth refresh our soul, the gardener that planted the perfect garden of Eden, Jehovah God, will take care of us in our assignments. Bloom where you are planted!
Leaving too early
A good friend invites you to a banquet in a nice hotel. You get there, but because you don't like the hotel, you only stay for 15 mins and then leave. How do you think your friend will feel? Maybe he won't tell you anything, but surely it will not escape him all the effort and resources that may have been wasted inviting you. In a similar way, some privileged brothers and sisters get invited to attend a theocratic school, to serve where the need is great or to bethel. But after they get there they may find various challenges, causing them not to like the assignment. Some decide to leave their assignments quite hurriedly. Granted, Jehovah will not reject someone for that reason. And circumstances vary. But if we make such a hasty decision, what would that say about the quality of our endurance and faith? And how would Jehovah and his Organization feel about the wasted time and resources?
Build a foundation
Attending a theocratic school it's not only about receiving a service assignment, but it's also about building a solid foundation. Jehovah is the one constructing on top of our foundation. The different theocratic schools can help us build a foundation that is deep, wide, and firm so that Jehovah can build a spiritual giant on it.
If we make excuses to evade minor trials, like enrolling to give a student talks perhaps because we get too nervous, will we be strong enough to endure big and more serious trials? Although circumstances vary, perhaps trying to deliver a student talk on the platform can turn out to be a good practice ground to learn to trust more in Jehovah's power.
See also ‘Mind’
Luke 12:1, 13. The setting was similar to being in one of those gigantic conventions in the Yankee Stadium in the 1950s. Jesus himself was the speaker. Someone in the audience had the unique opportunity of asking Jesus a question. If you would have had that chance, what would you have asked? Ironically, the man asked a petty question about his inheritance. What a wasted opportunity! This inheritance issue was so important to him that he missed a chance to ask about more important spiritual matters like the kingdom hope or the Messiah's identity. It makes us wonder, what's in our minds? What kind of things do we mention in our prayers more often? Things like our financial situation and material assets? Jehovah understands that. But we need to think big. Far more important things are being unfolded in this time of the end.
If a bird flies by and touches our head, would you let it stay on to make a nest? Similarly, if a bad thought comes into our head, we cannot let it develop into a ‘nest.'
Our thinking can be likened to a watch. A watch, whether fast or slow, can get out of sync and so it may need to be adjusted periodically to keep it accurate. Our human thinking also needs to be adjusted every now and then to be in sync with God's thoughts.
Imagine a soccer game (or other sport) in which the score is tied. There are only a few seconds left and the best player has the ball. He starts running, aiming to make the goal. But all of the sudden he stops and asks: 'how much time we have left?' Wouldn't that be atrociously stupid? Time is running out, and he will miss the chance of winning the game! Something similar happens today. In this time of the end, it is not our job to ask how much time is left. (Acts 1:7) Time is running out! Jehovah is the timekeeper, he knows how much time is left. Our job is to run, run, run for our lives, scoring the winning goal by serving Jehovah wholeheartedly.
Place some rocks in a jar and then add rice until it reaches the top, then put the lid on. Picture the big rocks as the spiritual activities we must engage on, like meeting attendance, personal study, meditation, and preaching. Picture the rice as all the tiny parts of your everyday life and things you like to do, like hobbies, workout, etc. If you reverse the order, put the rice in first, the rocks will not fit properly and you will not be able to close the jar no matter how hard you try. The following is an image from k12edubuzz.com/big-rocks/.
God’s perspective of time
Try to see time through Jehovah’s eyes: 2 Peter 3:8 says “One day to Jehovah is as a thousand years.” Jehovah created Adam and Eve six days ago, The flood was here four days ago, Christ was here two days ago, and he became king in heaven just two hours ago, and in a few minutes, Armageddon will be over! So can we really say he is taking too long?
Time is precious
Time is infinitely more precious than money, and there is nothing in common between them. You can't accumulate time; you cannot borrow time; you can never tell how much time you have left in the Bank of Life. Time is life... Jehovah is offering us to have unlimited time, but we need to use the one we have now for his service.
Give some back
A friend gives you $168 every week since you were born. One day he asks you $10 back. Will you refuse? No! Probably you'll wish to know if he needs more than $10. In a similar way, God has given us 168 hours every week since we were born. Now that we are dedicated to him, he wishes we are kind enough to give some of those back. Ten hours a week between the ministry and meetings will be quite generous. Perhaps we desire to give even more than that out of gratitude for his love. Our friend in heaven will definitely be pleased if we show gratitude.
A small boy had two coins in his hands. One was for his use to purchase anything he wanted, while the other was to be placed in the contribution box. Well, as kids will do, he was sitting on the curbside, playing with the coins, when one of them fell from his hands, rolled down the street, and fell in the sewer grate. After a little reflection, he looked up, and said 'Well, Jehovah, there went yours.' Do we, when we are faced with demands on our time, tell Jehovah 'Well, there went yours?'
Numbers 15.32-36: The time for spiritual matters is sacred.
See also ‘Spiritual sleep’
Sometimes we feel so tired, we just don't want to go to the meeting. But think about this: If we wake up tired, but we know we must to go to work, what do we do? Usually, we drag ourselves out of bed and go to work, right? Can we have the same self-sacrificing spirit for the meetings? If we wake up tired, we go to work tired, we go to the doctor tired, we go back home tired... If we are always tired anyway, might as well just go to the meeting tired!
Revelation describes a fascinating scene: angels in midheaven supporting the preaching work. Isn't that encouraging? When tired or discouraged in the ministry just look to the sky, where the birds fly, and be sure that up above at least one angel is supporting you.
Like a belt to the waist
Why do people wear belts? Not just because they look good but also because their pants may fall which will be very embarrassing. Why do we need to restrain our words, like a belt tightens the pants to the waist? Because our tongue may say many embarrassing things we will regret. And it makes us look and sound smarter, wiser.
Tracts can be used as an appetizer. It makes a good introduction for it is short and direct, and it has the ability to awaken the spiritual appetite of those who are very busy and do not have much time to read longer pieces of literature.
Likened to ants
Would you say the ant is a weak animal? No! As a matter of fact, an ant can lift up to three times its body weight. You know what else is small but powerful? Tracts! Like ants, they have the power to unleash a positive change in people’s lives, as happened with late Governing Body member, Brother Karl Klein, who became interested in the Bible after finding a tract in the trash when he was eleven.
Don't make yourself indispensable
People strive to make themselves indispensable in the business world. They think that guarantees job security. But that's not how the Christian congregation operates. Training and teaching others is a sign of love. If one day we leave a theocratic assignment and the brothers have a hard time finding a replacement for us or everything falls apart because we are not there, that means we neglected training. It was a failure on our part. But if after we leave everything runs smoothly, that means we did a great job in training others. Jehovah will be happy.
The coach of a sports team trains and teaches his players but doesn't check in to the ballgame trying to be the team’s star. He let the players play. The same with training in the congregation. An elder training other brothers should also let them do some real work. Overseers train, not just for the sake of training, but to lessen the workload and prepare to cover future needs.
Did Jesus misquote the Scriptures?
Jesus quoted the Hebrews Scriptures saying 'you must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.' (Mark 12:30,31) This came from Deuteronomy 6:4 which says 'you must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength'. So Jesus mentioned four concepts but the Scriptures listed only three. Did Jesus misquote the Bible? No! What happened then? The issue lies in the Hebrew word translated ‘heart.’ This word includes both the Greek concepts of the mind and the heart. In fact, in some versions of the Septuagint, it can be seen that some translators of old faced this translation issue when translating this quote. Some used heart, others used mind, and others included both words. In a sense, they all got it right. What can we illustrate from this profound Bible gem? No doubt translation is very hard work. In spite of the challenges and limitations, through the centuries Jehovah has used translators in a mighty way. Thanks to that, we don't need to learn old languages to get to know Jehovah.
Is speaking two languages all that's required to be a good translator? No. This can be likened to knowing how to drive a car, which doesn't automatically make you a good mechanic, not even a good driver. Much training and many hours of practice are needed to become a skilled translator. The amazing work our translators do around the world, producing publications in more than 1,000 languages, is very commendable.
Biblical Hebrew and Greek
Some people think that knowing biblical Hebrew and Greek to read the Bible manuscripts in the original languages can help them know God much better than reading a translation of the Bible. But think about this: What language did Jesus speak? He spoke Hebrew and maybe Aramaic. But what language is used in the ancient manuscripts of the Gospel? Koine Greek. So even if you are fluent in Koine, you will be reading a translation of what Jesus actually said. This fact alone proves that getting to know God by means of a translation of his Word is acceptable to him.
Lifting over trials
If you've ever tried to water-ski, you know how the water seems to resist you before you get up on the surface. The boat's engine roars, your muscles strain, and the water does everything it can to keep you down. But if you know how to take advantage of the boat's power, you are lifted up and within a few seconds, you are skimming over the surface of the same water that held you back at first. Water-skiing provides an analogy to our Christian experience as we go through the deep waters of trial. We must learn to take advantage of Jehovah's power. At first, there is great struggle and effort as we hang on with all our might to some promise of God. The weight of our own weakness seems almost unbearable. But like the water that lifts the skis, our difficulties challenge us to draw on God's power. The apostle Paul put it like this: 'We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the power beyond what is normal may be God's, and not that out of ourselves.' (2 Cor. 4:7). Have we viewed the deep waters of trial as an opportunity to realize the amazing power that first lifts us up and then carries us over those same waters?
The Boll Weevil
In Enterprise, Alabama stands one of the strangest monuments in the world. It's a memorial to an insect in the likeness of a beetle: the Boll Weevil Monument. The story behind it is that in early plantation days, almost everyone in the community raised cotton. But as the years rolled on, a serious pestilence infested the area. This small beetle soon decimated cotton harvests throughout the state, forcing farmers to heed the advice of such agricultural scientists as Tuskegee Institute's George Washington Carver and diversify their planting to include peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans. By following Carver's advice, Coffee County, in contrast to the rest of the state, rebounded economically in 1917 with the largest peanut harvest in the nation. Soon the farmers' profits far exceeded what they had earned from their best cotton yield. In the end, they realized that the destructive insect they had feared had actually triggered the research that brought them prosperity. Lesson? Jehovah often allows trials to unsettle our lives for a blessed purpose. Perhaps we are trying to grow cotton when we should be raising peanuts. If so, the delays and disappointments we experience are just the gracious boll weevils sent to redirect us so that we will plant the crop of God's choosing! (http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-2384; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boll_Weevil_Monument)
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. In a similar way, facing trials for the sake of the kingdom gives us an opportunity to show our love for Jehovah, to reinforce our faith, and to become stronger spiritually. If we have it too easy in life, we may not develop the needed strength to survive the great tribulation. (https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/245.html)
James 1:2 says that God’s servants will “meet with various trials.” It has been explained that the word “various” (Greek poi·ki´los) originally means “many-tinted” or “many-colored.” The human eye can perceive over 10 million colors, but there are many more hues imperceptible to us. Similarly, Christian trials come in many colors, so to speak. We can ask our brothers and sisters about their trials and they will relate their issues in shades we have never seen. And if you tell others your own trials, its colors will be uniquely tinted. So when Jehovah put this expression in his Word he is telling us that he knows the unique peculiarities of the trials we face. And yet, he wants us to keep our joy and learn from them. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_vision)
Psalm 119:71: “It is good that I have been afflicted, So that I may learn your regulations.” Hezekiah may have been the writer of this Psalm. He went through a lot, and yet he prepared his heart to see the benefit of trials: learning God’s regulation, abiding by God’s will. This illustrates the attitude we need to have with regards to trials and difficulties.
The roof doesn't leak until it rains. We don't know how we will react when in trials until we actually go through them. And yet, we can prepare for them by actively searching and sealing any tiny cracks our spirituality may have.
For some, giving a talk is a trial. Although circumstances vary, if we cannot go through those minor trials, like enrolling to give a student talk in the meetings because of our nerves, would we be strong enough to withstand the trials awaiting for us in the great tribulation?
Better, not bitter
We want to come out of trials better not bitter, as Jesus did.
The doctrine of the Trinity would make the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus offered by Jehovah lose the value it really has. It is a greater sacrifice to sacrifice a son than to sacrifice oneself.
Basic Math loses its beauty and logic in the face of the Trinity, for this concept states that 1 + 1 + 1 = 1, not 3. Could it be that the concept of Math and the concept of a Trinity don’t originate on the same Creator?
A life insurance policy cannot be claimed unless the person covered by it passes away. Trying to fake a death to claim the insurance is fraud. In a similar way, Adam died due to his sin. Thus the one paying the ransom also needed to die in order to satisfy God’s justice. (Rom 5:12) But if Jesus is the Almighty God, he cannot die. (Habakkuk 1:12) If he really didn’t die, how can the ransom be valid and help humanity to be redeemed? But we know that the ransom is not a like a fraud insurance policy, and Jesus didn’t fake his death. Jesus as the son, distinct from the Father, died and the ransom was effective. A distinct person, his Father, Jehovah, resurrected him (Acts 10:40)
New World: Day 1
Have you ever wonder how will Jehovah provide right after Armageddon? Will he need supermarkets, big malls, or Amazon to do it? Will he need smartphones or the Internet to provide our basic necessities? Although we don't know how he is going to provide, we know he is not bounded by those human-made things to keep us living. He is way beyond that. In reality, we don't worry about our first meal after Armageddon is over. We are absolutely certain we will have more than enough then, and we know it will be the beginning of a wonderful life in the new world. Can we show the same trust now? Are we certain that Jehovah can provide for us now, at present, if we put him in first place in our lives?
Many of us like to travel by plane. But when a plane is thousands of feet above the ground, inevitably what goes through our mind? 'This thing can fall'. Why is that? Because it has happened, planes have crashed and the consequences have been fatal. Yet, even though we are cognizant that our lives are in the hands of something that might fail, many of us still love traveling. Now think about this: have Jehovah ever failed? (Joshua 23:14) It’s ironic that we dare to trust our lives to an imperfect machine that have failed but sometimes we hesitate to trust our unfailing God.
The tightrope walker was ready for his act at the circus. The crowd was cheering in expectation! He asked the crowd: 'Do you trust I can cross the tightrope with this wheelbarrow unharmed?' Everyone shouted excitedly: 'Yes, you are the best!' He asked one more time: 'Do you have faith I can cross to the other side safely rolling this wheelbarrow?' Again, he was cheered on by the crowd. The high wire performer then said: ‘Great, if that’s the case, who will be willing to sit on the wheelbarrow and cross the tightrope together with me?' The uproar turned into a dead silence. The performer then said: ‘None of you really believe I can do this, but my partner does’. With that, the faithful performer's partner came up, got onto the wheelbarrow and they both crossed the tightrope smoothly and safely. What’s the point of this analogy? Many servants of God cheered passionately claiming they are willing to do anything for Jehovah. But when the moment of truth arrives they chicken out. Fear of men, fear of failure, fear of commitment and other insecurities take over their hearts, putting down the fire of their cheers. We need to ask ourselves: How much do I trust in Jehovah? Do I have faith that he can take us safely across the tightrope of this world? Will I put my life in his hands to prove it?
What gives a pilot confidence?
Are we confident Jehovah will guide us through this wicked system of things?
- As he gets closer the destination there are lights to guide him-->Bible
- High-tech equipment to detect darkness and position-->Meetings tell us our position
- Direction from the Control Tower-->Prayer and direction by the Organization keeps us in touch with God
Knowledge of God
Your car stalls in the middle of the road, you get out to try to get help. It's in the middle of the night and it's a dangerous neighborhood. As you're walking, a big man steps in front of you and offers you a ride home. Will you take it? Probably not, because you don't trust him. What happens if you look closely and recognize him as someone you trust, like an elder or the circuit overseer. Would you take the ride? Of course. In order to trust Jehovah, we need to know him.
The acrobat needs to trust in others. The first few times he jumps out with no safety net it will be scary and won't be easy, but once he has done it 100, 200 or more times he will not fear. In like manner, at first it may not be easy to trust Jehovah and apply Bible principles in our lives, like for example, living a simple or focused life with the confidence that Jehovah will provide. But once we experience Jehovah's care many times, we won't fear.
The peasant and the snake
There is an old tale about a peasant who, while hoeing in his field during the spring thaw, came across a snake. He raised his hoe to kill it, but the snake begged for mercy. 'I am too frozen to do you any harm,' it cried. The farmer, full of compassion, picked up the half-dead serpent and put it into his tunic, against his chest. As he began to work, the snake got warmer and warmer. Suddenly, the snake bit the peasant. The peasant frantically reached into his tunic and pulled out the snake, throwing it to the ground. 'Why?' asked the man, 'I befriended you. I trusted you.' 'True!' hissed the snake as it slithered away, 'but do not blame me. You knew I was a snake when you picked me up.' Lesson? Realistically, we can't expect all imperfect humans we trust will reciprocate our kindness and friendship. Some may make us feel disappointed, even betrayed. But really, it should not take us by surprise because of the warning in James 3:2. Only Jehovah, a perfect Person, can reciprocate perfect trust.
Beer into furniture
A brother was asked, do you really believe that miracle of Jesus turning water into wine? The brother said 'yes, and even better. In my house, I have seen him turn beer into furniture!' He had stopped drinking and he now has money to buy furniture. The truth is practical and brings great blessings.
Recognizing spiritual gems
If a kid finds a precious rock, he would probably not appreciate its value. He may start playing with it and smash it all over. If the gem cracks or gets lost, he would never know the foolish thing he did. Similarly, some individuals bump into the precious gems of the Truth, but as they are 'spiritual children' they are unable to reckon its value. (1 Cor. 13:11) May we all appreciate the immense value of the Truth!—Prov. 10:22
How do you feel about the truth?
You got a great bargain in a shopping mall supermarket. As you go out of the mall, a friend of yours see you carrying all the bags. He wants to take advantage of the deal too, so he asks you where's the bargain. Naturally, you share the news and tell him everything about the bargain! Do you need to pray about it or even rehearse what you will tell your friend? No, it comes out naturally! Now, if it happens that you are very poor and can only afford to go to a dumpy market and buy only vegetables and fruits that are about to rot, those that you need peel all the parts that are dark and rotten and then you end up with a third of the fruit. Now, your friend sees you with all the bags of fruits that are about to rot. He is coming to ask you about it. What will be your reaction? Maybe you'll try to hide because you don't want him to see you with the rotten fruit! Spiritually, it happens something similar. How do you feel about the truth? Do you feel like we have found something really good, so good that naturally comes bubbling out of your mouth? Or is it more like a rotten message that you feel ashamed of? Do we peel away most of the message and just keep the subjects that we prefer, like family and future but nothing on kingdom or prophecies? The way we feel about the truth will be reflected on the way we preach.
Imagine you wanted to hide a precious necklace so that nobody could find it. How would you do it? Well, a very clever idea would be to surround the real necklace in similar looking fake ones, perhaps making these look very precious and shiny. Then, the real necklace would be lost in a sea of necklaces. The only way to find the true one is to carefully examine the necklaces until you find the real one. In a way, that’s what Satan has done to hide the truth. The real Christianity has been hidden from view by counterfeit 'Christian' churches. People have to carefully examine to eventually find the true one. But God's penetrating vision can scan through that thick sea of neckless to find those who are deserving. (Mat. 10:11)
Don’t stretch it
Nothing ruins the truth like stretching it