Saturday, January 10, 2009
Today there seem to be many who prefer deceit or trickery to presenting what good reasons they have for what they do or for what they say should be done. Or at best some will only give their opinion about what should be done, based usually on what they already do, but not for any other good reasons than how they "feel" or based on what they personally desire. Alright, then just what is so bad about doing good? If there is nothing bad with doing good then where is all the exposure for learning to do good? While it may seem out of place at times, ask yourself, "Why does doing good ever seem out of place?" We might differ on what is "good" (but, see below), yet should not what we each consider "good" be presented as good in either case?
Usually (at least in my case) it is because something bad is present in or around us that makes what many consider "good" (such as honesty, being respectful, or working at keeping oneself in control in one of many ways) hard to find in so many places. But the solution is not to keep making it hard to do or find the good that so many of us want in ourselves and in others. The solution is, I believe, learning to do good by doing good things.
The expression "learn to do good" is actually from the Bible, from the book of Isaiah, Chapter 1, verse 17. There the God Jah is recorded as speaking to those people whom he called his own, though they were at this time rebellious for no good reasons. So Jah said to them, "Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow" (NRSV). These are good things! They are also the kinds of things that make Jah God happy! Indeed, Jesus of Nazareth showed great care and compassion for just such people.--Matthew 14:14; Mark 6:34.
Should we not at least try and do more of these things today, no matter how much we may personally struggle with our own badness'? Many do. I believe we can all "learn to do good" by doing good, and that we should do good and define what good is based on good reasons, for the alternative is to live with what we are not sure is either good or bad, but accepting it nonetheless in our lives though we do not make other decisions about less important choices in this same way. So we must both come to know and do what we have reasons to believe is good, if we want to do good, that is. At least that is what I am trying to do, each day, no matter how hard each day may be, at times.--Romans 7:19-25.
Specific to Christians, there are many things we can do today to help others while we at the same time work on bettering ourselves, strengthening our families and communities, and of course standing up for what we believe is true for good reasons. But if we find that all we ever do for the sake of the Christ is debate about what is true, then I believe we are missing out not simply on opportunities to do good, but we are also not truly learning to do good by practicing things like those that Jah God himself mentions in Isaiah 1:17. These include 'seeking justice,' 'rescuing the oppressed,' 'defending orphans,' and 'standing up for widows.' Most if not all of us would consider these things "good" if we were the one in need of justice, if we were the one being oppressed, if we were the orphan in need of protection, or if we were a widow in need. Why, then, do we not do these same things for others? Indeed, why isn't the doing of "good" learned more so than it is today?
We can change that in many ways, but primarily by in fact doing what we say should be learned and then done. When we do what we have good reasons to believe is "good" that is how we can in part experience what it means to be "Christian," or what it means to follow in the steps of Jesus, for he was known to others as one who welcomed children (Matthew 19:13-15), as one who showed compassion for those who were suffering (Mark 1:40-42), and as one who took the time to look out for and to feed those who were hungry (Matthew 15:32). That is Jesus of Nazareth, the one Christians call "Christ." But who are we? Sinners, for sure. Yet, we can still do more. Indeed, if we can learn to do "bad," then we can "learn to do good." We just need to be sure we're not confusing the "good" we want to learn with the "bad" we know all too unfortunately well.--Compare Proverbs 17:13; Isaiah 5:20.
If we can all do more in these ways then, according to Jah God, we will "learn to do good" and that, more so than anything else except trust and reliance on Jah himself, will help us all to "cease to do evil" (Isaiah 1:16). Again, we all do enough of that as it is! It's time to add more that is "good" to the world around us, and to those close to us. To learn more about how you can help those in need or be more involved in the Christian ministry of the Christian Witnesses of Jah in your area, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will do what I can to help you assist those close to you, or to set up a local outreach to others who need help.
Posted by Greg Stafford at 5:41 AM
Thursday, January 1, 2009
The other day I went through my "drawer of good intentions" and I found a draft of a trifold tract/brochure that I started thinking about in the summer of 2006. Unfortunately, I could not get a scan of the hand-written draft into this Blog (I'm still learning!) but here is what I had in mind:
Page 1 (front page when folded): Title super-imposed on an image of a peaceful scene or majestic background (image not yet determined) with the words, "Beliefs with Good Reasons from" centered with varying letter size from the top through to the middle (if "from" can be detached from the first part of the title but lower on the front page) and, "the Christian Witnesses of Jah" on the bottom. The complete front-page title is: "Beliefs with Good Reasons from the Christian Witnesses of Jah," but broken up in a way that fits with the chosen image and that is appropriate for the chosen type of lettering and style.
Page 2 (bottom page when folded): Mailing space for the sender's information, for the addressee's particulars, and for postage.
Page 3 (the "tucked in" page that will be viewable on the right side of the inside of the brochure, before it is completely unfolded, or on the far right of the cover page if the brochure is opened so that all three pages are visible): The words (in bold), "1 Thessalonians 5:3 (New Testament)," followed by a space and then the full quotation of the text followed by the image of the UN with its logo, "Peace and Security," which is then followed by the web address where these words and this image are located online (namely, http://www.un.org/peace/). Then the date the link was last checked will be captioned below the UN image, with a couple lines of explanation linking the two (the quoted NT text and the UN image/"Peace and Security" heading) and then noting as a result the need to be aware of the times but without unnecessarily motivating people over such things.
My draft shows I printed off this page from the UN web site back on October 9, 2006. The link still shows the same image and wording. This is the one prophecy and warning that Christians should always feel comfortable relating, for it is both fulfilled today and balanced in that it tells us to keep ready, gives us something specific to look for, but then leaves the matter essentially alone and between each person and the one who is coming as a "thief," namely, Jesus. With this text and with the proper captioning of it in relation to the UN's declaration of "Peace and Security," we can concentrate on the other three subjects (see below) and then like Paul leave each person to appreciate the fulfilled prophecy and to also prepare for the coming of the Christ as if for a "thief" in the night. Beyond this, nothing else is needed, just as Paul wrote in verse 1.
Page 4 (the page opposite the front cover, viewable on the left-side when the brochure is first partly unfolded): The heading in bold, "Jehovah God," followed by a section titled, "Historical Significance," followed by several lines of evidence highlighting some of the more outstanding historical involvements of Jah God with men. After this will be a new section titled, "Name:" next to which will be one or two sentences about the name "Jehovah/Jah." Then follows a collection of images of the best forms of the divine name available (with proper reference/source material citations) followed by a brief section that highlights what the Bible means when it says that humans are "made in God's image," noting a few key characteristics of humanity that show how we are indeed made in the image of Jah God.
Page 5 (the middle inside page when you fold open the brochure): The heading in bold, "Jesus Christ," followed by a section titled, "Historical Significance," followed by several lines of evidence/information which is then followed by a new section titled, "Name:" next to which will be one or two sentences about the meaning and importance of Jesus' name. Then follows a listing of historical references to the Jesus of the Bible (both from the Bible's oldest manuscripts and from several non-biblical but historically credible sources), followed by a brief section that shows how we see Jah God through Jesus, for Jesus is God's exact image and likeness (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). Finishing this page will be a few key points about Jesus and what he did and taught that show us how we can live practically today and also worship God "with spirit and truth."--John 4:24.
Page 6 (far right, inside page when opened): The heading in bold, "The Bible," followed by a section titled, "Historical Credibility," followed by several lines of evidence or information that puts the Bible in a unique category among ancient texts, which is then followed by a new section titled, "Description:" next to which will be one or two lines about what the Bible is, that is, what it contains. Then follows a collection of images showing some of the best textual witnesses to several Bible books, which is then followed by a listing of several "Notable Bible Teachings," which finishes off the brochure.
Well, that's my first Christian tract idea, or at least it was a little over two years ago! I still think this format and this type of presentation will be helpful to many, especially if the content is balanced, credible, and simply highlights good reasons for belief in Jah God, Jesus Christ, and for accepting the Bible as the best source of information for learning about both of them. But I would love to hear from others about any ideas you may have for completing this or some other tract that highlights Christianity and various beliefs associated with it. Critical to our purpose is that we present this information in a way that gives others a look at some of the best evidence available for some of our most important beliefs.
I will work on finalizing this tract and getting it professionally designed, printed, and then I will make it available to all for online download and distribution wherever and however possible. But I would like to hear from others first, so let me know your thoughts! Once this tract is done, we can work together on other materials that, with Jah's blessing, will provide good reasons to others about our Christian hope!--1 Peter 3:15.
Posted by Greg Stafford at 5:30 PM