Saturday, October 24, 2009

NEW Christian Tract: "Beliefs Based on the Best Available Reasons"

Remember my "Christian Tract Idea #1"? Back on January 1, 2009, I put up a Blog about a tract idea which has now been realized. It's a little different from the fist vision about how the tract should look, but I believe in the end it came out better than I first intended!

You can view and download PDFs of the tract on the Elihu Books Topical Index under "C," "Christian Tracts: Beliefs Based on the Best Available Reasons." Elihu Books and CWJ will be making high quality printed copies available to all who are interested, and we will be distributing them far and wide throughout the earth, Jah willing.

We will also have an option for ordering large quantities of our tracts, or to simply have some added for free to any order from the Elihu site. We will also be doing mass mailings and other forms of distribution. You are welcome to join us in making "Beliefs Based on the Best Available Reasons" known throughout the world, especially since the beliefs here have to do with Jah, with Jesus of Nazareth, and with the Bible. But you may use the material, as it is presented, however you like. You do not need to use our mailing address label; you can use your own address; but I will only defend what is presented on the tract as it is presented. So be careful if you do alter the material, and be prepared to defend whatever it is you put forth in association with this tract or with any other material, based the best available reasons.

Christian Witnesses of Jah are working on more tracts, audio and videos, and more material in print and/or for use online. Keep doing your part! Don't ever let yourself believe that you cannot give others hope in Jah's and in Jesus' names based on the good teachings and history presented to us all in the Bible. You can! And if you are having a hard time getting started, then find one or more persons with whom to work (compare Matthew 18:20) in teaching others about Jah's goodness, no, about Jah's greatness! Teach them about the history of Jesus of Nazareth, and about his many wonderful and helpful teachings. Point others to the Bible, not fanatically, or as if you are not aware of its origin and transmission among men. But do so the way you present beliefs in everything else: Based on good reasons, preferably, based on the best available reasons!

Help those in need. But start with yourself. Then take care of your family. After that, if you have more time to give, reach out to as many as possible, reasonably, but with conviction and with trust in Jah and in Jesus, who will send the holy spirit to empower you and to give you strength. Because they will send it, and you "will receive power," not as a distraction from your message, but to stabilize your presentation, and to help you reach the hearts and minds of others who are made in Jah's image, as Jah, Jesus, and the holy spirit speak through you, or bring back to your mind the things you have learned in connection with them.--John 14:26; 16:7; Acts 1:8.

Praise Jah!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Holidays, Birthdays, and Spiritual Gifts

Given the time of year, with several holidays fast approaching, is it a fact that many Christians and others are often confused about to what extent, if any, persons should participate in festivals or other celebrations. In particular, those persons who follow the directives of the Watchtower Society regularly publish information about such celebrations and festivals which is not accurate, and even misleading in several respects. 

For example, and as I presented in my book Three Dissertations on the Teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Murrieta, CA: Elihu Books, 2002), Third Dissertation, pages 208-209:

More recently, a similar question was asked about why Witnesses celebrate wedding anniversaries but not birthdays, which are essentially anniversaries of a person’s date of birth. The Watchtower pointedly stated that there is no need to celebrate either, but that it would not be a problem for Christians to celebrate their wedding anniversary since weddings are placed in a favorable light in the Bible, being a ceremony to commemorate a divine institution, namely, marriage. In contrast, the Bible is said to link birthdays with “cruel acts” of pagans.[NOTE: “Questions from Readers,” The Watchtower, October 15, 1998, pages 30-31.]

The two examples of “cruel acts” given by The Watchtower involve the birthday of Pharaoh during the time of Joseph (Genesis 40:20-23) and the birthday of Herod as recorded in Matthew 14:6-10. Regarding Pharaoh’s birthday, there is nothing explicit linking birthday celebrations in general to “cruel acts.” Naturally, occasions for celebration can provide an outlet for excessive or immoral acts. But in this case the “cruel acts” against the chief of the cupbearers and the chief of the bakers were in fulfillment of the dreams interpreted by Joseph. It is similar with Herod’s birthday celebration. The account in Matthew does not say that John was beheaded because of Herod’s birthday celebration. Rather, he was beheaded because of the request of Herodias and her daughter, and Herod’s oath to her. Indeed, there is nothing in Matthew’s account that explicitly states that John’s head was brought to the birthday celebration at all. It only says that his head was “given to the maiden, and she brought it to her mother” (Matthew 14:11). The presentation may have occurred at the celebration, but as with the account in Genesis 40 there is nothing tying such an act to birthdays in general.

The Watchtower Society regularly publishes such information, along with other arguments which are not convincing or which do not support its position concerning birthdays. For example, though C.T. Russell and the early Bible Students who later became Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrated Christmas and people’s birthdays until up to at least the late 1920s, one fairly recent issue of The Watchtower had this to say about the celebration of Christmas by early Watchtower Society followers (with my underlining added):

Bible Students [Jehovah’s Witnesses] also commemorated December 25 as the anniversary of Jesus’ birth, or birthday. It was even customary to have Christmas dinner at the Brooklyn headquarters. Of course, since then God’s people have grown spiritually in many respects. In the 1920’s increased light of truth enabled them to see the following: Jesus was not born on December 25, a date linked to pagan religion. The Bible directs us to commemorate the date of Jesus’ death, not the anniversary of his or anyone else’s birth. Doing so accords with Ecclesiastes 7:1 and the fact that how a faithful person’s life turns out is more important than the day of his birth. The Bible has no record that any faithful servant celebrated his birthday. [“Questions from Readers,” The Watchtower, October 15, 1998, pages 30-31.]

Yet, as I pointed out also in Three Dissertations (page 210): “There is no record of any faithful servant, in the Bible, celebrating a wedding anniversary, either. So this cannot be used as part of an argument against Christmas.” But it is used as just such an argument here by the Watchtower Society, an entity which for some unexplained reason does not speak about wedding anniversaries in the same way that it does about birthdays.

In the above quote fromThe Watchtower,we can see the Society claims increased understanding made the Bible Students in the late 1920s aware that Jesus was not born on December 25. In fact, however, Russell and the early Bible Students knew full and well that December 25th was not the actual day of Jesus’ birth long before the 1920s. Consider Russell’s own published words as far back as 1893 (with my underlining added):

We have elsewhere presented the Scriptural evidences that the date usually celebrated as the anniversary of our Lord Jesus’ birth is incorrect and that, instead of being Dec. 15, B. C. 4, it really was about October 1, B. C. 2; nevertheless this need not mar our pleasure, nor our appreciation of the great fact so generally celebrated on the wrong date; for its lessons are as appropriate to one date as to another. [“The Birth of Jesus,” Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, December 15, 1893, reprint page 1603.]

The footnote to the above quotation from Russell refers to Millennial Dawn, vol. 2, pages 54-62. See also “Christmas Hopes and Joys,” Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, December 1, 1902, reprint pages 3114-3116; “Christmas Review,” Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, December 15, 1903, reprint pages 3289-3290. It is clear, however, that the October 15, 1998, Watchtower was in error about its assessment of the reasons for why the Society decided to no longer celebrate Christmas. It was not because “increased light of truth enabled them to see the following: Jesus was not born on December 25.” The Society/Russell knew and published this as early as 1893, along with an explanation for why this difference in date should not really matter to those who take pleasure in the celebration of the birth of the Messiah. See my Q&A on this subject (link below) for some of the good reasons from the Bible which make clear why Christians are free to decide whether to celebrate Christmas or any other birthday, so long as it is “in honor of the Lord.”—Romans 14:6.

There is also a lingering question in the minds and hearts of many Christian Witnesses of Jah about use of spiritual "gifts," such as speaking in tongues or as it may involve some other manifestation of God’s holy spirit among us. Therefore, to help further the constructive discussion of these issues among Christian Witnesses of Jah and others, I have put together two brief Q&As on the subjects of holidays/celebrations and on the use of spiritual gifts or powers today. They are:

I hope they are helpful to all who are considering these issues.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lucian of Samosata: A Warning for Christians from an Early Non-Christian

Lucian of Samosata lived from around 120 CE to 190 CE. He wrote many dialogues in which he satirizes humanity as well as various philosophies circulating during his time. Lucian was not a Christian. In fact, in his work The Death of Peregrine Lucian writes about the devotion of “the Christians” to “a man” who “was crucified” because of the “novel rites” which the “crucified” man is said to have introduced (Lucian, The Death of Peregrine, 11). Lucian can therefore be said to have provided one of the earliest non-Christian references to the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, the only “man” historically identified with “the Christians” and who was also said to have been “crucified” or put to death by the Romans in the first century.—See the New Testament record of Luke 3:1 and 23:24-25, 33.

However, Lucian does more than simply refer to “the Christians” and to “the man” to whom Christians of the mid- to late-second century CE were devoted. In The Death of Peregrine Lucian writes about a historical figure of his time (also called “Proteus”) whose background and whose interests are of the worst kind. Unfortunately, Peregrine is credited with “the corruption of a handsome boy” and then with buying off his (poor) parents so he is not ‘brought before the Governor’ (9). Peregrine is also said to have hanged his sixty-plus-year-old father (10). But, and this is where Christians must be alert, Lucian also speaks about how Peregrine pretended to be interested in Christianity for his own selfish gain, not just once, but for quite some time and to a rather astonishing degree.

Consider how Lucian presents Peregrine’s actions in this regard (with my bracketed words added for clarity). Keep in mind, Lucian is likely not an expert on Christianity, and to him the whole matter is amusingly tragic, according to his satirical style of writing:

It was now that he [Peregrine] came across the priests and scribes of the Christians, in Palestine, and picked up their queer creed. I can tell you, he pretty soon convinced them of his superiority; prophet, elder, ruler of the Synagogue—he was everything at once; expounded their books, commented on them, wrote books himself. They [the Christians of this time] took him [Peregrine] for a God, accepted his laws, and declared him their president. The Christians, you know [as Lucian writes about this matter to a man named Cronius], worship a man [Jesus of Nazareth] to this day,—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. Well, the end of it was that Proteus [Peregrine] was arrested and thrown into prison. This was the very thing to lend an air to his [favorite] arts of clap-trap and wonder-working; he was now a made man [because he had deceived the Christians into believing he was sincere]. The Christians took it all very seriously: he was no sooner in prison, than they began trying every means to get him out again,—but without success. Everything else that could be done for him they most devoutly did. They thought of nothing else. Orphans and ancient widows might be seen hanging about the prison from break of day. Their officials bribed the [jailers] to let them sleep inside with him. Elegant dinners were conveyed in; their sacred writings were read; and our old friend Peregrine (as he was still called in those days) became for them “the modern Socrates.” In some of the Asiatic cities, too, the Christian communities put themselves to the expense of sending deputations, with offers of sympathy, assistance, and legal advice.—Lucian, The Death of Peregrine, 11-13 (As translated by .W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, in The Works of Lucian of Samosata, vol. 4 [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905], pages 82-83).

Lucian goes on to explain why the Christians of this time were seemingly so accepting of Peregrine, and so willing to help him to the extents he describes above. In what follows I will continue to add bracketed words to help with the reading of the text, and I will also underline just two sentences at the end. For in these the problem for us ‘trusting’ Christians will be manifest:

The activity of these people [the Christians], in dealing with any matter that affects their community, is something extraordinary; they spare no trouble, no expense. Peregrine, all this time, was making quite an income on the strength of his bondage; money came pouring in. You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver [Jesus of Nazareth] that they are all brothers [compare Matthew 23:8], from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage [Jesus of Nazareth], and live after his laws. All this they take quite on trust, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property. Now an adroit, unscrupulous fellow, who has seen the world, has only to get among these simple souls, and his fortune is pretty soon made; he plays with them.

If the trust, or faith, which Christians have in Jesus of Nazareth and in those with whom we associate as “brothers” was so easily manipulated in the mid-second century CE, there is little to keep this same thing from happening today. Indeed, all too often we hear of men who sneak in and who live among us and who then do some of the very things Peregrine is said to have done: molest young boys and cause those with true faith to give of their possessions, to those who are not deserving, when we should instead use them to take care of ourselves, our families, and others who are truly in need. If Peregrine was so fit as to work as hard as he did in misleading Christians of his time, he should have been made to work in ways that were in imitation of those Christians who set a truly righteous example for all of us to follow:

2 Thessalonians 3:7-15 (NRSV)

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right. Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers.

So, do not be so quick to accept even those who appear to show great zeal for what is good. If they do truly love what is right, then they would not continue to have you or anyone else bear their burdens. Of course, there are many who need help, such as ‘orphans and widows,’ as well as persons with infirmities and those of our family who are elderly and without much (Matthew 8:1-3; 1 Timothy 5:3-10; James 1:27). But we must be “cautious” (Matthew 10:16) and try hard never to allow the wicked one to find his place among us, as he has done with so many persons and Christians groups before, and today (Matthew 13:37-39; 2 Thessalonians 3:3). “Put those to the test who say they are apostles” (Revelation 2:2), such as those who show by their burdening of others that they are claiming superiority to Paul who, in spite of ‘having the right’ chose to instead work “night and day” so as not to burden anyone, “but in order to give you an example to imitate.”—2 Thessalonians 3:9.

Finally, learn from the Christians of Lucian’s time. They had a chance to investigate just why Peregrine was being imprisoned, and to do something about it before giving him any more of their time, support, and material things. Fortunately, as Lucian tells us, they did eventually see Peregrine for who he was:

The Christians were meat and drink to him; under their protection he [Peregrine] lacked nothing, and this luxurious state of things went on for some time. At last he got into trouble even with them; I suppose they caught him partaking of some of their forbidden meats. They would have nothing more to do with him ... .—Lucian, The Death of Peregrine, 15-16.

But at what cost, after paying what price to one who cared nothing for the one whose teachings Peregrine falsely claimed so zealously to have embraced? Let us be resolved, then, to do all that we can to keep the Peregrines of our time away from us, and to instead do what we can to expose those who lie and who cheat and who steal from others in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. We can do so by trusting in Jesus himself, and by praying to his God, our God, Jah, to cause those who misuse their names to see their faces every time they come near us. We can also evaluate ourselves and each other, where and when appropriate, by comparing what we do and what others claim to be with the writings and with the witness of those whom we have come to trust, whose writings we have come to accept as having good reasons to believe.Among these are Paul and John, Peter and James, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for in these we see the one after whom we have been called “Christians” (Acts 11:26) those who bear witness to what is true about Jesus of Nazareth, the Bible, and about the God Jah, whom one day all living things will “praise”!—Psalm 102:18; 106:48; 150:6; Revelation 19:1, 3, 4, 6.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Do Not Go After Them" (Unless . . . )

The words forming the quoted portion of the title of this Blog come from one of the four best historical witnesses to the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (Luke 21:8). The fuller text of Jesus’ words here is as follows: “Then [Jesus] said to [his disciples], ‘You must see to it that you are not misled. For many will come using my name and saying, “I am [the Christ/Messiah],” and, “The defined/appointed time has drawn near.” Do not go after them.’”

These last words are unique to Luke’s account, though similar parts of Jesus’ speech are recorded in Matthew 24:4-5, 11, and 23-28. But Matthew does not include the part about those who falsely claim, “The defined [or ‘appointed’] time has drawn near,” followed by Jesus’ warning, “Do not go after them.” By contrast, later in Matthew 24 Jesus gives a series of illustrations about individuals whom he would consider “faithful and discreet,” in part “because [it is] not at what time [they] think” Jesus “is coming” when he will in fact appear. Rather, “he will come on a day that [we] have not looked for and at a time that [we] do not know” (Matthew 24:44, 50). Then in Matthew 25 Jesus continues his warning by giving still more illustrations about how each one of us must be ready, “in the middle of the night” (verse 6), for even “the discreet” (verse 8) “do not know the day or the time/hour” of his coming.—Matthew 25:13.

Today, and in times past but since the days of Jesus, many have done just as he foretold, claiming “the defined/appointed time has drawn near.” Indeed, in spite of Jesus’ warning millions have ‘gone after’ such ones, in part because many of these false teachers also proclaim other things about Jesus and about God which are true, or which are based on good reasons. Just as Jesus also foretold, “weeds” have grown up together with “wheat” so that they are, at times, difficult to distinguish from each other and where any attempt to prematurely remove the “weeds” from the “wheat” could threaten the growth of the “wheat,” though the “wheat” will be separated during “the harvest” and then “the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun,” no longer indistinguishable from the “weeds.”—Matthew 13:30, 43.

It is not for us to determine when is this “harvest,” and yet being a Christian involves doing good and being “righteous” (Matthew 25:37-40) concerning that which we have good reasons to believe is true and according to the will of the one who made us (Genesis 2:9; Isaiah 7:15-16). This is the case in spite of our sin or disobedience to God at times because he permits us to act according to our own will and desire (James 1:14-15), for we are in his image (Genesis 3:22). It is the “angels” who are sent forth to “separate” the “wheat” from the “weeds,” those who “kept awake” in spite of not knowing when “the thief was coming” from those who mislead others for their own selfish gain, in part by falsely proclaiming, “The appointed time has drawn near!”—Matthew 13:39-41; 24:43-44; Luke 12:8.

I write these things, because I myself was misled into ‘going after’ or working with those who, probably more than any other significant religious organization in the past 100 years, consistently and falsely proclaimed, “The defined/appointed time has drawn near.” Part of the reason I joined in with this group, as noted above, is because of many teachings these ones proclaim which are based on good reasons, such as the names and the biblical identities of God and of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth (see my Third Edition of Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics, Chapters 1 and 2, in particular [Murrieta, CA: Elihu Books, 2009]). Today the “field” of the world is indeed mixed with “wheat” and “weeds,” and it takes time not only for each of us to grow and to learn about what is true, and about what is false, but by the time we come to an understanding of how to use the best available reasons to make such determinations, either alone or in association with others, we have already likely come to accept things which are not true, or which are not based on the best available reasons. Thus, there will always be a period of growth and learning which will bring each one of us to points of decision about what to continue believing, or about what to accept or reject as we grow.

With that said, consider the following selections from the Watchtower Society’s 2006 CD ROM Library, and then ask yourself: Do the underlined portions of what follows fit the description of those whom Jesus warned us about in the latter part of Luke 21:8, or do they suggest persons whom Jesus gives a life-time appointment as “faithful and discreet slave[s],” whose identity and position as such could never be challenged or questioned by anyone else on earth?
The time that God has allowed for humans to experiment with self-government is about to end. [“Comfort for Those Who Suffer,” The Watchtower, January 1, 2003, page 6.]
of this and of wickedness and suffering is nearing its end. ... From the fulfillment of Bible prophecies, we know that the new world is at the door, and God’s permission of suffering is nearing its end.—Matthew 24:3-14. [“God’s Permission of Suffering Nears Its End,” The Watchtower, May 15, 2001, pages 6 and 8.]

In 1914 this world entered its “last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13) We are now 83 years into that period and are nearing its end ... [“Deliverance Into a Righteous New World,” The Watchtower, April 1, 1997, page 14, paragraph 3.]

Bible prophecies indicate that Satan’s world has been in its last days for nearly 80 years now, since the pivotal year 1914. This world is nearing its end. (Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:1-5) Jehovah’s Witnesses therefore take heart because they realize that soon God’s Kingdom will assume complete control of all earth’s affairs. [“Trust in Jehovah to Fulfill His Purpose,” The Watchtower, March 15, 1994, page 20, paragraph 20.]

True, for most of mankind, there has not been much happiness on earth since 1914. But the woeful conditions on earth are proof that Satan’s rule is about to end. [“Be Thankful—Jehovah’s Messianic Kingdom Rules,” The Watchtower, October 15, 1990, page 19, paragraph 18.]

For over seven decades now, the people of this 20th-century generation living since 1914 have experienced the fulfillment of events listed in Jesus’ prophecy found in Matthew chapter 24. Therefore, this period of time is nearing its end, with the restoration of Paradise on earth close at hand.—Matthew 24:32-35; compare Psalm 90:10. [“Opening Up the Way Back to Paradise,” The Watchtower, August 15, 1989, page 14, paragraph 18.]

These prophecies undergoing fulfillment show clearly that we are living in “the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4) Yes, we are nearing the final phase of the last days, the climax of which is the destruction of Satan’s entire wicked system of things. Indeed, this pleasure-loving world is about to end. [“A Pleasure-Loving World About to End!” The Watchtower, July 1, 1983, page 7.]
The question I asked before the above quotations from The Watchtower is for each person to answer for him- or for herself, ultimately. But I will here tell you what I believe is true and also what I believe is what motivates such ones to constantly make these inappropriate claims in complete defiance of Jesus’ warning, even in Jesus’ and in Jehovah’s names (with underlining added):

The fact that the “harvest” of the “sons of the kingdom” is well advanced proves that the “conclusion [synte´leia] of the system of things” is nearing its end (telos). Your attitude toward the wheatlike anointed “brothers” of Christ and the treatment you accord them will be the determining factor as to whether you go into “everlasting cutting-off” or receive “everlasting life.” (Matt. 25:34-46) Prove yourself to be a loyal companion of the anointed “wheat” class, the “faithful and discreet slave,” whom Christ has appointed to provide spiritual “food at the proper time.” (Matt. 24:45) [“Harvesting in the ‘Time of the End,’” The Watchtower, August 1, 1981, page 26, paragraph 20.]

They want you to follow them. Thus, just as Jesus foretold they (repeatedly) tell others, “The appointed time has drawn near” (Luke 21:8). The Watchtower Society and those loyal to them no matter what they teach have also misled others into believing that Jesus has appointed them as a class known as “the faithful and discreet slave,” rather than waiting for the Master to “arrive” and to make that determination himself, “when he returns from the marriage.”—Luke 12:36.

I have elsewhere attempted to further expose the Watchtower Society’s false claims concerning their self-appointment and their failure to be more balanced in their presentation of “the form of worship that is clean and undefiled” before Jah and before Jesus of Nazareth (James 1:27; see “The People of God,” Part Three: “The Sons of the Kingdom”; “The Congregations of God During ‘the Lord’s Day’”; and “Submissive to Those Taking the Lead”). 

The Society, like each one of us, can repent; they can “turn around”; they can ‘bridle their tongue’; they can “become watchful, and strengthen the things remaining,” rather than continuously weaken them by their false teachings concerning “the times and the seasons” (Isaiah 50:5; Jeremiah 15: 34:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:1; Revelation 3:2). Indeed, if I can “turn around” so can they! If “that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and [who] teaches and misleads [Jesus’] slaves” has “time to repent,” then so does the Watchtower Society (Revelation 2:20:21)! But they, like each one of us (and like “that woman”) must first realize it is not about them, or about any man or woman. It is about the Lord Jesus Christ and about his God and Father, Jah Jehovah.—Exodus 17:16; Isaiah 12:2; Galatians 1:11-12; Revelation 5:13-14; 21:22.

Until they do, as with anyone else, I encourage all Christians ‘not to go after them.’ For if they “are not willing” then, as in times past, even if “Moses and Samuel were standing before” Jah God and now before Jesus, they will send forth and “kill with deadly plague, so that all the congregations will know that [Jesus, and not any man or woman] searches the kidneys and hearts, and [he, like Jah God before him] will give to [us] individually according to [our] deeds.”—Jeremiah 15:1-2; 17:9-10; Revelation 2:23.

We must resist the temptation to think that our association with any human, whether it be “Moses” or “Samuel,” will protect us from this “deadly plague” if we do not “individually” “turn around” and “repent.” So do not give your “oil” (Matthew 25:8-12) to those who have, apparently, “understood the will of [the] master” but ‘not gotten ready or done in line with [the Master’s] will.’ Indeed, in Luke 12 Jesus went further and spoke, not about peace among those who would claim to follow him, “but rather division” for “from now on there will be five in one house divided, three against two and two against three ... father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”—Luke 12:51-53.

Yet, there can be peace and joy among just “two or three” (Matthew 18:20) if we are gathered together, not in fear of men who refuse to listen to the Master, but in Jesus' and in Jah's names out of love for what is true and good, based on the best available reasons and not on men’s traditions. This way we can truly do “the will of God,” the one who made us, and not follow in the footsteps of men or women who wish to enslave us according to their own selfish desires.—Isaiah 29:13; Mark 3:35; Luke 16:11; John 3:20-21; Galatians 2:4.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Significance of the PAROUSIA

The New Testament speaks several times of the PAROUSIA of Jesus of Nazareth, that is, of his “return,” second “presence,” or “coming,” depending on which translation you use or how you understand this Greek word in each context in which it is used (see, for examples, Matthew 24:3; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1). However, too often religious groups have and continue to misuse the significance of Jesus’ PAROUSIA to wrongly or to falsely motivate others to action, which action almost always involves following the particular group’s or organization’s unique methods or teaching.

Such groups are often built around the use of fear over Jesus' return rather than on love for what is good or what can be shown to be true for good reasons. Consider this example from one such organization:

Jesus promised that in the last days of this system of things, he would gather his faithful disciples into a clearly identifiable Christian congregation that he would use to accomplish his will. (Matthew 24:14, 45-47) He is right now using that congregation to gather together “a great crowd” of men, women, and children “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues,” and he is uniting them under his headship into “one flock” under “one shepherd.”—Revelation 7:9, 14-17; John 10:16; Ephesians 4:11-16.

Turn away, then, from any institutions or organizations that have besmirched the name of Christ and defamed Christianity over the past two thousand years. Otherwise, as Jesus Christ told the apostle John, you could “receive part of [their] plagues” when God executes his judgment on them in the near future. (Revelation 1:1; 18:4, 5) Make it your resolve to be among those spoken about by the prophet Micah when he said that “in the final part of the days,” true worshippers—adherents of true Christianity—would listen to God’s instructions and “walk in his paths” of restored pure worship. (Micah 4:1-4) The publishers of this magazine will be happy to help you identify those true worshippers. [from “Who Are Genuine Christians?” The Watchtower, March 1, 2006, page 7.]

Yes, I am sure “the publishers of [The Watchtower] will be happy” to tell you they are the ones you must join in order to avoid being among those whom “God executes ... in the near future” (emphasis added). But the Watchtower Society has “besmirched the name of Christ and defamed Christianity over the past” hundred or more years, time and time and time again. How? By continuously putting forth false interpretation after false interpretation about the return of the Christ, and then failing to humble itself and accept that, as a result of its repeated failures, the Watchtower Society is not who they have claimed to be, namely:

Consider another means by which Christ leads the congregation today. Commenting on his presence and the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus said: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”—Matthew 24:3, 45-47.

The “master” is Jesus Christ. The “slave” is the group of anointed Christians on earth. This slave class is entrusted with caring for Jesus’ earthly interests and with providing timely spiritual food. A small group of qualified overseers from among the composite “faithful and discreet slave” form the Governing Body, serving as the representative of the slave class. They direct the worldwide Kingdom-preaching work and the supplying of spiritual nourishment at the right time. Christ thus leads the congregation by means of the spirit-anointed “faithful and discreet slave” and its Governing Body. [“Go On Walking as Jesus Christ Walked,” The Watchtower, September 15, 2005, page 22.]

Here the publishers of The Watchtower attach its teachings directly to the ‘leadings’ of “Christ.” Yet, in spite of some of the good things it has done, the Society’s history is ‘plagued’ with failures over the significance of dates such as 1914, 1925, 1975, the meaning of “this generation” (Matthew 24:34) and as it relates to many of its other teachings, such as uses of blood and uses of blood's components and fractions. To such ones, Jah God himself spoke long ago, in this way according to Deuteronomy 18:20-22 (NWT):

“[T]he prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. And in case you should say in your heart: ‘How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?’ when the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak. With presumptuousness the prophet spoke it. You must not get frightened at him.”

Indeed, though the Bible does contain prophecies which can be evaluated through time, these are not to be the focus of genuine Christian efforts to help others, as I try to explain in this brief response to a question about the meaning of the Greek word PAROUSIA.

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes, even serious ones (Romans 3:23). But for those who make special claims which lead others to depend on them for a relationship with God and with Jesus, when serious mistakes are made in connection with their special claims then they must humble themselves or be held accountable for abusing their place and their authority.—Compare Galatians 2:11-14.

Thus, the time has come, for me at least, to praise Jah and to defend the goodness of biblical Christianity apart from false traditions and failed interpretations of prophecy and chronology, and to expose those who falsely motivate others to serve Jah God and Jesus of Nazareth out of fear, rather than out of love for what can be shown to be true based on the best available reasons.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Learn To Do Good!

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 ( 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.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Christian Tract Idea #1

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, 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.