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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

No Fence Sitting

(This is an adjunct, an addendum to the Who Are “Worldly People”? article I posted yesterday.)

Eldridge Cleaver is attributed the quote: “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” Truthfully, that is only a paraphrase. What he actually said was: “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem.” While researching the material for this article, I noted that at least one person observed Eldridge’s quote had some similarities to “Whoever is not on my side is against me.” (Matthew 12:30)

Jesus’ words highlight the fact that there is no “riding the fence” (of indecision) when it comes to aligning ourselves with the solution that God himself provides. In this regard, Eldridge was right that “there is no more neutrality in the world.” But how do we know we are on the right side? Some may say that it is merely “believing on the Lord Jesus.” But as I have often noted, Jesus words at Matthew 7:21-23 make it pointedly clear that more than mere belief in Jesus is required, more than “exorcisms, prophesying, and powerful works" are required. It is also noteworthy that only one interpretation of Jesus words can be correct. Either he is “the son of God” (as Jehovah’s Witnesses believe), or he is “God the Son” (a phrase found no where in the Bible) as the majority of other Christian religions believe.

Hence this brings me back to the discussion on who really are “worldly” people. Since there is no fence sitting, since there is only one name given by God, since only those “doing the will of my Father” are considered Christ’s disciples, since there can only be one right viewpoint of who Jesus is, for us the answer is very clear. We wholeheartedly believe we have found the one and only truth. As harsh as that sounds, that puts everyone else on the outside as “part of the problem.” But shouldn’t everyone’s conviction be that strong? I mean, if you feel that “it really doesn’t matter what religion a person belongs to,” then in reality, you really don’t believe in religion at all.

While this official black and white stance of the Bible and of Jehovah’s Witnesses may seem arbitrarily dogmatic, in practice, just like Jesus, we do not treat others as being below us. We try to help everyone who is searching for answers and spiritual aid in this world. Also, as I mentioned, I don’t use the phrase “worldly people” even in my private conversations with fellow believers. I make every effort to demonstrate love to all people. In contrast, I have to cite my observations of those opposed to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their strong stand against us, usually with only words of condemnation and no positive direction, demonstrate that they only want to find fault, not to help. That is why I do not feel even the slightest bit apologetic for our beliefs. I realized (it took a long while) that I have just as much right to my strong beliefs and opinions as do those opposing me. While I typically encourage conversation (up to the point that it is obvious neither side will budge), many of those I try to speak to about scripture either want to insult us, get into a shouting match or just refuse to even have a calm conversation of any sort.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Who Are “Worldly People”?

Associating with those not of our faith can potentially cause challenges, even compromises to our faith and morals. Articles appearing in the WBTS publications have highlighted the extreme cases where doing so can have devastating effects on a person. (For example, here are three such articles: w13 2/15 24; jr 59-60; w09 2/15 20) Especially in possible romantic attractions, things can go wrong – even if all that goes wrong is that a person’s moral resolve is impacted. But don’t mistake “even” to be a minimizing of the danger. After all, jeopardizing our relationship with our Creator is no small matter. First, we do in fact damage that relationship. Second, we give Satan a cause to “taunt” God because of our disobedience. Third, if we have any conscience at all, it is most likely now beating us.

Yet even non-romantic association can be dangerous. Perhaps workmates want to go out for a drink after work. Everyone is of legal age and so are you. So you don’t see any concern there. However, are those workmates moderate or heavy drinkers? Are they known to get into brawls? Is their language full of expletives (TV “bleep” words)? If you don’t know, maybe you need to get to know your work associates’ attitudes towards leisure activities a little better before agreeing. Also, if such relaxing becomes frequent, we who are Jehovah’s Witnesses need to ask if it is impacting our spiritual activity.

It is not always easy to see potential pitfalls and so the direction we as Jehovah’s Witnesses receive is merely: "Don’t." Don’t do it because number one, our own heart can deceive us; and number two, the person we are considering association with may not have the same high standards as we do, no matter how religious they claim to be. By illustration: Why try to see how close you can come to a fire without getting burned? Indeed, the official publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses all seem to apply the term “worldly” in an all-encompassing manner to include anyone who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Understandably, those who are not of our faith definitely chafe at the idea of being considered less than upright. But even individual members of Jehovah’s Witnesses can be questionable association, and the publications have also warned about those things. So the advice is not intended to make us self-righteous, but to protect us and make our lives less complicated.

But is it reasonable to think that all non-Witness associates are evil and going to ruin us spiritually? I don’t think so. Considering the foregoing, I want to now share something I told a person who was hurt by the way we use the word “worldly.” He is a married man, a father of several children, deeply religious, and pretty much a wholesome person. I said: “In my personal estimation, a ‘worldly’ person would be one whose moral compass and rudder are broken as they drift in the tumultuous waters of degraded lifestyles.” I then told him I would never insult him by calling him “worldly.” In fact, we would never intentionally insult anyone.

So why do we use such a broad brushstroke in defining those who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses? Back in the first century, there was a designation of those who were “Jews” in contrast to those who were “Gentiles.” Jesus himself used the phrase “a man (or men) of the nations.” It was not intended as an insult but in context, it usually wasn’t a flattering or positive picture such terms painted in the minds of early Christians. Today, among Jehovah’s Witnesses, that seems to be the way the term “worldly” is used. Although it is not intended to be an insult or hurtful, in retrospect, I can see how some might take it that way so I avoid using it all together. To me, those not Jehovah’s Witnesses are “associates” and in very rare cases, I may even consider them true friends. That doesn’t mean I regularly seek their association, it is just that I recognize them for their sincere and kind ways.

Many individuals in our faith have non-Witness relatives. We visit them, love them to some degree or another (each family dynamic is different), and we hope the best for them. Most of us would not label our own relatives as “worldly,” especially in a derogatory sense. But we know our relatives better than we know strangers, so we know how to handle them if things get uncomfortable. (In my own case, my mother condemned my conversion from Catholic to JW. When I married, she said I wasn’t really married because I didn’t marry in the Catholic Church or by a Catholic priest. Then, when my first child was born, she had the gall to tell me the child was illegitimate. After that incident I swore I would never talk to her again. I didn’t want to subject my children to her cruelty. I don’t know if she thought she held some influence over me that she could affect my decision. If so, she found out very quickly she was wrong.)

At age 65, I still respect the guidance we receive regarding non-JW associates. And while I am neither arrogant to think nothing can adversely affect me nor sloppy with my personal application of the advice, I’ve learned to what extend my association with non-JW individuals can go without it affecting my spirituality. I have a former business associate that I converse with occasionally. He and I have photography in common. We both are in our sixties, both worked for the same department, both raised a similar-sized family, both have a similar personalities. I don’t feel threatened by anything he does and I am authentically happy to hear from him. At a local mom/pop coffee shop I frequent, I’ve gotten to know the husband and wife owners. My wife and I enjoy chatting with them when we visit. They always come around the customer side of the counter and give us both a hug. They know my wife and I are JWs. I’ve had scriptural conversations with their adult son who also works there. One scripture I keep close in mind is the famous John 3:16 along with Matthew 22:39 and Acts 10:28 (see footnote). I ask myself, “If I don’t show genuine kindly love to my neighbors (e.g. “worldly people”), how will they ever be drawn to appreciating my beliefs?”

Actually, when the man I was conversing with mentioned that he knows I’d never consider him a friend because I’m taught he is worldly, I had to stop and think for a moment. I haven’t used that term in years. It is actually a conscious decision to avoid using it. I would much rather look for the good in people. If, after a number of observations, I realize a particular person is crude or abrasive in manner and speech, I would definitely discontinue association or at very least attempt to limit my interactions with such a person. But just because someone is not yet my spiritual brother is no reason for me to be rude, aloof, or self-righteous.

Regarding Acts 10:28. Contextually, Peter was talking about not judging others as being unworthy of the Good News merely due to ethnicity. However, even the attitude of viewing non-Witnesses as “defiled or unclean” is the point I am making. To disparagingly refer to someone as “worldly” is not at all considerate, or kind in a Christian manner.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Medical “Science”?

I really don’t know whether to laugh, cry, scream, or something else. Although I had written about what was really in my chemo treatment two years ago, I hadn’t had a cohesive realization about the whole of my treatments in the last few years. I am amazed that “treatment” is somewhat an oxymoron.

Chemotherapy: First of all, I’ve come to realize that the term “chemotherapy” is an all-encompassing word referring to all sorts of chemical treatments to attack a condition. They “kill” in order to encourage one’s own immune system to respond with rebuilding. Mine was essentially mustard gas. When you realize it for what it is, removing any euphemism like “therapy,” medical science’s “solution” is pretty barbaric. (Sure, it is diluted, but still. Using a chemical warfare agent from WWI and WWII is shocking.)

Bladder Cancer and BCG treatment: I looked up BCG. Essentially it is live tuberculosis virus that is injected into the bladder via a catheter up the urethra. The linked article states that BCG is used to fight tuberculosis. It neglects to state that BCG itself IS the tuberculosis virus! The nurse that administered the treatment had to wear full splash-back protection including full face mask because the virus was so dangerous. And the actual purpose of the virus was only to “encourage” my own immune system to respond with killer antibodies. While there, they also attack the cancer. I asked why my own immune system doesn’t just send the antibodies without the “encouragement” of BCG. The answer was that cancer cells mask themselves so well, that they appear as normal cells usually. But when the immune system responds with a hefty and hearty dose to kill the TB virus, it usually also attacks the cancer cells. (It didn’t work in my case because of my inability to “hold” the fluid in my bladder for the recommended 2 hours. Typically, 45 minutes was all I could do.)

Blood thinner: A while back it was determined I have a massive blood clot. Medical science treats that with blood thinners. What really are blood thinners? How about rat poisoning!? Yep, you heard me right. Obviously, this is diluted so it doesn’t actually cause human patients to bleed to death. There is no direct way to dissolve a blood clot, at least not from what I was told. Instead, they thin the blood until the clot somehow (hopefully) dissolves itself. In the meantime, a person can expect easy bruising. (Have you ever seen an old person with skin that looks like a war zone of bruises?) A while back, I went to urinate and was shocked I was actually peeing blood. It stopped the same day it started, but that has never happened to me except following bladder surgery.

So yeah, my personal experience with modern medical science is that they try to make a controlled kill in order to make you (hopefully) better. In God’s Kingdom, I will look forward to the time when the “leaves of the trees were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev.22:1,2) Yes, true and real “healing” as opposed to what “modern” science offers today.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Assuming Approval

Sometimes what Jehovah says and does comes across as harsh, unyielding. This can be readily illustrated in the case of Uzzah. For what seemed to be a good deed, namely preventing the Ark from toppling over, he was immediately executed by God. Some may have reasoned that dismissal from his Levitical appointment would have sufficed. Even King David was said to be angered against Jehovah for this punishment against Uzzah. The one principle the Bible reminds us is that God is ultimately righteous in everything he does. Nothing he does is unjust. This article helps us to understand that even more clearly. Collaborating that, is this article from gotquestions.com.

Perhaps this may also have been a case of wrong expectations that God would approve. Korah was a warning example of that type of thinking. He felt Moses was misusing the authority God had given him and stood up against Moses declaring ‘enough of you! The whole assembly of God is holy, not just you!’ Did Korah think he could do a better job? Even if that were so, he learned the hard way that when God has set up a means of handling a matter, revolting or even chafing at such is a direct rebellion against God’s decision. Moses wasn’t perfect. Perfection wasn’t a requirement. But Moses did closely listen and follow the directions God gave. (As a sideline, Moses didn’t feel superior. In fact, at one point he stated that he wished everyone had his power and authority.)

Another case of not following direction, which Jehovah viewed as blatant disregard, not for Moses, but for God himself, was the case of what happened when the 12 spies came back from their expedition. Except for Joshua and Caleb, the other 10 men all gave a bad report, which disheartened the nation, making them afraid to take possession of the land Jehovah promised them. (See Numbers chapters 13 & 14.) Once the people heard that their refusal to trust in God resulted in a condemnation of wandering for 40 years, they immediately changed their tune and, then once again in disobedience, refused to listen and tried to go up to war. Here are the devastating consequences.

Why do I cite these cases? Some have contended that “all religions (especially those claiming to be Christian) are approved by God.” With that claim, they find fault with me because I disagree. One of the key scriptures here is Matthew 7:21-23. The individuals mentioned there seemed shocked that they were rejected. What they did in “prophesying, expelling demons, and performing many powerful works,” all to Christ’s credit, are exactly what Jesus himself did. Yet he did not approve -- expressly because they did not do what they were directed to do. They didn't follow direction. 

I would hope that most would agree with me that today’s fake miracle workers, the insatiably money-hungry evangelists, and others who have little but selfish motives would absolutely fit in this category. But what of others who, just as supposedly sincere as the ones mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 7, likewise feel they are serving God. Indeed, no one, including me, is in any position to take God’s place as judge. He and his son, Jesus, are capable of reading the hearts that we mere humans cannot. I personally can only go on what I read and understand in the Bible. The Bible teaches there is only one God, Jehovah. The Bible teaches permanent destruction of wicked, not an eternal torment. There is more than ample evidence in scripture that Jesus is the Son of God, not God the Son, not God-in-flesh on earth, not half man, half God. I believe these things so wholeheartedly that I am convinced those who don’t, no matter how sincere they are, have deceived themselves; and like Uzzah, Korah, and those others who decide for themselves what and how much they will do for God, will suffer the consequences. 

Before anyone condemns me, I’d ask you -- Do you have such strong faith in your beliefs that you are thoroughly convinced of them and want to take strong issue with me? If so, then you are essentially doing the same thing I am doing -- being thoroughly convinced and sharing your beliefs with others. But unlike those that find fault with me and want to silence me, I respect that God gave us free will. I have no problem with people defending their beliefs in a respectful, calm manner. (Please note that I will not treat those who disagree with me with disrespect. Although I am completely, resolutely convinced I have found the one and only truth, I am not the judge of anyone.)


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Jehovah is One Jehovah

A while back I was curious how the Jewish scholars interpreted the word “us” in Genesis 1:26. Interestingly, after reading a few websites, they believe it is the angels. (2nd reference) However, Christendom, which supports the Trinity doctrine, believes God was talking to the other two members of the Trinity. (I guess it is kind of cruel, but since, according to Trinity beliefs, there are not three gods, but only one, then the logical conclusion was that God was talking to himself.)

The worship of the sons of Israel (Judaism) has always been monotheistic. To them, as Deut.6:4 states, “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” The “Matthew Henry Commentary” at the bottom of this page starts out correctly stating: “Jehovah our God is the only living and true God; he only is God, and he is but One God.” But then, in the very next sentence, it quickly derails by bringing in the trinity with some very questionable reasoning (unsubstantiated reasoning) that “The three-fold mention of the Divine names, and the plural number of the word translated God, seem plainly to intimate a Trinity of persons, even in this express declaration of the unity of the Godhead.” There is absolutely no such implied reference in this scripture. Consider for just a moment: The passage in Deuteronomy is so simple in structure, it cannot possibly be misunderstood. It doesn’t ambiguously state “God our God is one God.” The surviving Hebrew manuscripts actually contain the Tetragrammaton (four-letters) which are the name of God, the Anglicized form of which is Jehovah (but if you insist on Yahweh, I’m good with that.). The passage reads “Jehovah our God, is one Jehovah.” Since Jehovah is mentioned by name as the exclusive God and that he is singularly the only God, the only intelligent conclusion is to take the scripture at its word. There is only one Jehovah, not some split personality disorder of three in one. Throughout all Jewish records there is no indication they ever thought of God as a trinity. (Both Judaism and Jehovah’s Witnesses agree there is no trinity.)

So how did we come to such a situation where the Jews believe, even to this day, in a single entity as God but most “Christian” writers want to read something else into every scripture that may even remotely ambiguously mention a different idea? The foundation of the first century Christians was based on Jewish believers at first (before opening the invitation to Samaritans and Gentiles). These believed Jesus was the son of God, not God the Son. In fact, it seems enough of a shocking idea that Jesus called himself God’s son. Imagine how repulsive it would have been if he said he was actually God! He never did. (In the surrounding verses, Jesus reasons with the hateful Jews about the term “god.” Note that while there is only one ultimate sovereign, Jehovah, as Jesus himself highlighted, even Jehovah called “gods” those who were judges in Israel. This was not a new teaching, nor was it suggestive of there being multiple gods.) (See top paragraph in this Auxiliary information.)

So did the early Christian’s beliefs change sometime after the congregations began to be formed? No. The early Christian writers, such as Paul, even stated that there was only one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus. To finalize the belief even into our own distant future, Paul acknowledged that after everything has been brought under subjection, then Jesus would turn the kingdom back to his father so “that God may be all things to everyone.” If Jesus were already God, this would be impossible in any way, shape, or form. (For all the dancing around John 1:1 and John 20:28 that those advancing the Trinity make, there is no denying that John’s conclusion is irrefutable: “These have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. (John 20:31)

(It is interesting that the “2nd reference” mentioned in the first paragraph acknowledges the same beliefs about the Bible’s teachings of the substance and future of mankind in Judaism as do Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even the belief of future resurrection is shared by both religions. The resurrection performed by God through the prophet Elijah is part of the Hebrew Canon -- see verses 17 through 24. Although the modern Jewish leaders do not seem to teach it and even advance the idea of reincarnation.)




Friday, January 6, 2017

Isaiah 28: Warm Blanket or Cold Straight Jacket

In Isaiah 28:11-13, there are three “voices” (persons) talking. The first is that of Isaiah. The second is that of Jehovah (as quoted by Isaiah), and the last is that of disobedient, wayward Israel (also as quoted by Isaiah). Each “voice” has a separate inflection because of the context. Isaiah’s narrator voice (speaking for himself) is sharp and pointed. He is understandably upset because those whom he is delivering the message to are not mere commoners, they are the leaders. Jehovah’s voice is a calm, comforting, reassuring one. This is because Isaiah is quoting a previous statement of Jehovah when he was at peace with Israel. Finally, the third voice, that of the disobedient national representatives, is a complaining, bitter one. Compounding it, is that fact that Isaiah is mocking the words of the disobedient ones. We might imagine a frustrated parent mockingly quoting their complaining children to their very face: “I don’t want pick up my toys, I don’t want to do my homework, I don’t want to….”

Looking at this passage as a whole, we see a contrast. Jehovah views the rules and lifestyle that he’s given the nation as a spiritual “resting place,” one of “refreshment.” It is sort of like he is wrapping them in a cozy, warm blanket straight out of the drier. However, Israel is acting like a child with an attitude (a bad one). Instead of seeing a warm blanket, they perceive it as a cold straight-jacket that restrains them from moving around like they want. (How many parents can recount when they told their child to put on a warm jacket before going outside, but the child complained because it restricted their mobility.) The Israelite’s perception was unwarranted and selfish. Decades later, when asked, Jesus said that the whole law and the messages delivered by the prophets can be summed up by two commands: 1) Love Jehovah sincerely, wholly. 2) Love our fellow humans as we do ourselves. Rightly, the apostle John concluded in his first letter (1 John 5:3) that “this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.”

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Protecting the Family Name

Someone I met claimed, as I understood it, that God does not need us to perform good works because he already knows what is in our heart. That was the essence of the position, but it went deeper. Personally, I chafed at the idea. How can God see what is in our hearts if we do nothing. Action is what demonstrates who we truly are, what we really believe. Recently, I commented on Proverbs 27:11 as foundational for my conviction. The one proving to be a real son to his father would naturally want to act in a way that doesn’t discredit the family name, his father, or his own reputation.

The principle would extend to the “spiritual” level (the ultimate principled level of obedience to God) in that believers would identify with being considered God’s “sons.” So they would understand the scripture as speaking to them. I personally view that scripture that way. God is telling me to ponder / consider my course in life, my life choices, my actions, my thoughts, in a way that demonstrates wisdom (insight into effects, consequences, etc.). This is truly because it is a matter of protecting the family name. Just as a slanderer may level wild charges at a family member, Satan the devil does the same. It is Satan who “taunts” God. How? He claims that God is hiding something from mankind – man’s ability to “be like God, knowing good and bad.” Then, on the other side, he taunts God that mankind is in reality nothing more than selfish beings that are only loyal to God because he bribes them. So it is up to each individual to prove, through actions, that they are defending the name of their father and family.

But Proverbs 27:11 is not the only scripture that conveys action as a mandatory requirement for those truly loyal to God. Consider for a moment: Would a person who is kind, generous, patient, empathetic, be a person who is a Christian? Could be. But it could also describe an atheistic philanthropist. So what differentiates Christians from an atheistic philanthropist? Jesus commanded real Christians to “preach the word” of God. The apostle Paul showed how we should all consider this a personal commission. Further, in Paul’s letter to Timothy, he exhorted Timothy to be at the preaching work “urgently.” Also, there is Paul’s account of faithful pre-Christian individuals at Hebrews chapters 11 and 12 – how they took ACTION. In chapter 12 Paul concludes what Christians should do with this knowledge. In verse one he urges: “let us run with endurance….” Undeniably, demonstrating action is required. Then, there is the whole book of Acts that recounts numerous “acts” (actions) on the part of early Christians. Clearly, true worship, both pre-Christian and Christian, requires action. Any arguments to the contrary are merely efforts to confuse a very clear, consistent (throughout scripture), and easy to understand directive.