Friday, January 22, 2016

Logic of Science and Wisdom of Bible

At times I view the wisdom of the Bible like a wise, gentle, and loving father's guidance to his children. He doesn't always feel compelled to explain "why" he says what he does. Really, appreciative children ought to know that the guidance and decisions the father makes are for their own good. That this is true is seen when the logic of various sciences support the wisdom of our Heavenly Father's words in the Bible. For example, recently I highlighted a video by a psychologist that spoke of the virtues and benefits of living happy instead of seeing happiness as a series of goals. This immediately reminded me of Philippians 4:8,9. Truly, keeping a positive frame of mind does wonders for our health and our relationships.

But, to point, Paul’s words in the above citation, which believers accept as God’s words through a human, make no attempt at explaining why. Instead the passage comes across as if it is a loving father urging his children to strive for a positive mental attitude and disposition. Now, detractors might say it all sounds nice and rosy, but such an attitude isn't practical in today's world. However, the science of psychology helps us understand why such admonition is beneficial. There are other examples such as found in medical and health sciences about cleanliness but in order to keep this article short and simple, I’ll end here.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Happiness - A Journey Not a Destination

It has been a long time since I’ve written about a non-scriptural subject. In fact, in reviewing my over 250 posts, only 21% of them have been on other subjects. Due to recent conversations with a gent who feels unfulfilled and frustrated in life and finding a TED video that I hoped would encourage him, I felt it was time to capture something that I sense many more people could benefit from.

I have had thoughts like the following floating around in my consciousness for a while but I was never able to word them as beautifully as I felt the man in the following video did. His name is Shawn Achor and he is a research psychologist with a fantastic idea regarding pleasure vs. happiness, joy, positivity and mindfulness. Here is the link to his presentation. In addition, although he does repeat himself in this discussion group at Google, he does have some “fresh material” and there are other insights that you’ll enjoy.

I originally found the TED video while reading an article on The title is: How to Make Your Mind Happy: 5 Secrets to Mindfulness. The article is full of links to other excellent articles including the aforementioned TED video. Taking all of the foregoing together, it brings me back to the title of my article. True happiness is indeed a journey through life, it is not a goal or destination. It reminds me of something I heard years ago -- in any actual trip we take, at least half of the joy is getting there. Indeed, if we view only the goal as being the joy, then we will tend to view the journey as a necessary evil when in fact it can be part of the experience that is very memorable. Perhaps you remember as a child the games that our parents would engage us in such as counting all the out-of-state license plates on cars, or getting truck drivers to honk their horns, or any other myriads of things to keep our minds engaged and active.

The same goes with our journey through life. Too many people live for a goal only to experience disappointment or having to set a new goal and never experiencing the joy of the ride. But this is covered excellently by Shawn. Please see the videos.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Dealing With Death of Loved One

I have written about dealing with the death of loved one before. Just one more brief observation:

It is not my intent to discourage grieving. It is a very natural reaction. However, it can also be a bit self-destructive in that it becomes a spiraling downward emotion. The realization that there is nothing we can do to bring back the one we miss can lead to despair.

In my own experience, I have discovered that the following helps to calm my heart: In prayer to God, thank him for wonderful joy of having had that person in your life. In that prayer, recall specific traits about that person that encouraged you, that gave you joy, that made you laugh, that made you feel warm inside. Thank God for the all the time you had with that person, whether it was just a short time or a few decades. Finally, thank God for the hope of the resurrection -- the hope that you will see that person again someday when God’s Kingdom finally takes over the earth again.

After my having done the above, I experience a contentment and gratitude to God for the hope he has set before us.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Can We Earn Salvation?

I received a comment on a blog article I wrote in December 2014 titled Jesus Is Our Savior. That article was intended to address the false claims that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christian. The commenter however, wanted me to go in a slightly different direction. The moment he mentioned the “mechanics of human salvation,” I knew he was pointing to an old argument that some perceive as our not recognizing the value of God’s mercy and grace in salvation. But rather than put words in his mouth, I baited him to explain. Based on his reply, I actually commended him that he wasn’t just trying to start an argument but seemed sincerely concerned based both on his understanding of scripture and his perception of our beliefs.

In his comment, the poster cited Ephesians 2:8,9, which plainly states that our actions cannot merit or guarantee salvation. Romans 6:23 was cited as a supporting scripture. Both make it plain that what is given to us is a free gift. I (we, Jehovah’s Witnesses) completely agree. However, that is not the complete picture. Just because it is a free gift doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act appreciatively and obediently. But really, the point the commenter was making was based on a misunderstanding that Jehovah’s Witnesses somehow believe we must earn our way into God’s favor through various works. So hopefully, the following will clarify our stand.

That Jesus requires more than mere belief is seen in the illustration recorded at Matthew 25:14-30. In this illustration, before leaving on a trip, a master gave three servants some money to manage. The first and second understood what they were supposed to do -- to carry on business and increase the master’s financial portfolio. The last decided to just bury it in the ground. Now all three recognized that they were responsible to the master, however the last felt it was sufficient to merely return what the master had given him. The master didn’t agree. In fact, he referred to that last man as worthless and had him forcibly removed from the master’s home.

The other two servants were rewarded for their industriousness. But now does that mean that they did something extraordinary or does it mean they did what they knew was required of them? Even though the master was generous in this illustration, did he HAVE to be such? In another illustration Jesus gave, he answered that question. At Luke 17:7-10 we read that our humble attitude should be that we were merely doing what we should have done in the first place. What is it that Christians should be doing, even today?

Besides the requirements of the two greatest commandments recorded at Matthew 22:37-39, and besides the moral and social requirements set out in these passages, what else is needed of a Christian? (I do not intend to imply that there are not other key scriptures discussing Christian living. These are just a small sample.) Really, what are the valuable “talents” (from Jesus’ illustration in Matthew 25) that he expects us to increase? Again, Jesus himself answers that question. Yes, the requirement that a Christian share the message, knowing that it literally means people’s lives, is a weighty privilege and honor. Should anyone become “big headed” over this? If we truly perceive ourselves as slaves of God and Christ, that cannot happen. Truly, we’ve done exactly as our Christian dedication required of us. But that also doesn’t mean that Jehovah and Jesus are so unthankful that they wouldn’t reward us. In fact, that is exactly what Hebrews 6:10 assures us -- that we will be rewarded. This is in complete agreement with the opening illustration I quoted at Matthew 25.

So, can a Christian “earn” salvation? No. However, merely believing and keeping it to one’s self (effectively burying it) is also wrong. Instead we humbly see what we do as cooperatively working with God’s Will.

Here is some of the reply I made to the poster in the aforementioned article:
You are right that we cannot earn salvation. However, if you understand that to mean all one needs to do is sit back and do nothing, I'd refer you to Jesus' words at Matthew 22:37-29 and these words found at James1:12, 22, 27; 2:14-17. Just as James' words in chapter 2 accentuate, there is NO relationship where words are sufficient. Action is required to demonstrate true commitment. (Try 40+ years of marriage like I have and tell me that just saying "I love you" is all your wife wants. LOL)