The Quirky Talk About the Resurection.

145F08E8-23BB-48E6-ABB0-4FFA8EDB6465“You look just like your dad,” one person met the speaker in the parking lot. Thanks a lot! was his reaction—“white hair and pink face.” He burns easily and groused from the platform that as a kid his mom dressed him in long sleeve shirts on blazing hot days to stop that from happening. He doesn’t tan. He burns. His dad didn’t tan. He burned. His granddad didn’t tan. He burned. But his son tans nicely, he being the product of a mom who tans nicely, and the speaker muttered about that.

(photo by Jen Theodore @ upsplash.com)

He also got all pumped up over John 8:44, the verse that calls Satan a murderer, a liar, and in fact, the father of the lie who when he lies speaks ‘according to his own disposition.’ I thought of that bro who used to give that super long talk on Jesus’ trial and execution. Supposedly, he was asked to cool it because he got so worked up people began to fear for his health. Apocryphal? Could be. There was such a bro and talk, though.

Anyone who died—it was as though the speaker took it personally. His grandma at 97, and she’d been in the same rural congregation all her life—he took it personal, as you would if any murderer took your relation, in this case Satan being the murderer, as a consequence of his first lie.

It was a quirky talk. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. It was—but it was quirky. He is the 3rd generation Witness of a stalwart family. I met his daughter, who if I ever saw her before it was as an infant. My wife worked with her in cart work a few days later. When the fellow’s dad, now deceased, gave the public talk some years ago and I said I liked it, he responded with ‘What did you like about it?’ Yikes! It’s a good thing mine was a genuine comment and not just some boiler-plate pablum. I was able to tell him what I liked about it—that it was presented so clearly and simply that I could reconstruct it all in my head without having taken notes. ‘Yeah, it’s just the way he was,’ the son recalled. ‘It could come across as though he was full of himself, but he just wanted feedback so he could improve.’

Oh, okay—it just comes to me now the significance of what the present speaker said. Though he took it real hard when his grandma died, he did not cry at all when his childhood friend died at 16. It was because his pal’s death was “foolish and preventable,” not the result of murder from the first lie: “You will not die. For God knows that in the day of your eating it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.” A lie. They did die. God had said they would. “And so death spread to all mankind,” Romans 5:12 says, in the same way that epigenetics decrees you can pass along an acquired trait.

He’s sad in both instances, you understand, his grandma and his 16 year old friend, but the sadness with his grandma was heightened with rage because God had not said, ‘Be fruitful and become many, fill the earth and subdue it—and then die.’ No, their life would have been unending had they not fallen for the big lie. That’s why grandma’s death moved him more than that of his pal, though offhand you would think it to be the reverse: the kid died young and grandma had a long life. But Satan didn’t kill his chum. His own recklessness did, a tragedy to be sure, but less so than that of a murder victim.

The talk was on the resurrection hope. He hit all the familiar scriptures but personalized most of them. If he didn’t do that, he’d put some unique twist on them. He said how the eleventh chapter of John was his favorite scriptural passage, which pleased me because it is also mine. It’s not necessarily my favorite scripture—I don’t know if I have one of those—but it is my favorite scriptural passage. You can explain so much without hopping around in the Bible from one place to another. It’s all there in one chapter: Jesus’ friend dies. He likens it to ‘sleep’ and goes to wake him up. Although the fellow had been dead four days (and ought to smell by now, his sister said) he brought him back. The guy didn’t get all grouchy because he’d been yanked down from heaven onto earth again (Why would you do that to a friend? the speaker said). Neither did he go hunting around for a bucket of water in which to cool his scorched behind because he had just escaped purgatory. You can do a lot with that passage of John 11.

The resurrection hope is part of the baseline of what it means to be Christian. It’s not an add-on, but it’s part of the basic passage, the ‘foundation.’ The speaker pointed to Hebrews 6:1-2:

“Therefore, now that we have moved beyond the primary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying a foundation again, namely, repentance from dead works and faith in God, the teaching on baptisms and the laying on of the hands, the resurrection of the dead and everlasting judgment.”

The resurrection—and he explained just how that works, how Jesus paid the ransom price to undo the effects of Satan’s lie, like-for-like, and so forth—is what undoes the sad present state that “you are a mist, appearing for a while and then disappearing.” (James 4:14)

It also—he laid stress on this—makes people immune to manipulation. It frees people “who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:15) People have done horrible things for fear of being put to death themselves. Perhaps this explains why the resurrection teaching is especially opposed by critics; they don’t want to lose their hold over people. But they have lost it with those who fear God and embrace the resurrection hope. No Witness of Jehovah wants to die. It is inconvenient and it makes people feel bad. But death itself holds no terror for them. They know what it is. They are fortified all the more so because the Bible likens it to sleep from which one can awake.

 

…..No further meeting notes this week. An account from the midweek meeting from 1 Samuel 1-2 inspired a post of its own (which hasn’t posted yet), so I’ll let that suffice.

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The First Physical Meeting in Two Years

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about returning to the Hall. I’m starting to get up there in years. Zoom is convenient. You don’t have to travel. You don’t have to worry about the attire of your lower half. 

But no sooner did I walk through the door than I knew it was the right move. Our attendance was very solid and enthusiasm ran high. The hybrid Zoom tie-in was seamless. 

The speaker read that familiar passage of 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Though he did not dwell on “not open to any agreement,” it resonated with me. There is scarcely any point today, no matter how trivial, that people to not debate over and even argue to the nth degree. I can see why some avoid the news, though I am not one of them. It’s exhausting. 

It was so refreshing being in that Hall where not a trace of that contentious spirit was to be found. It is not even that everyone agrees—they just know enough how to yield and not to squabble. Given the state of Covid in our community today, I personally think the strong mask recommendation is a bit dumb. But the majority apparently does not feel that way. I’ve been asked to wear one, so I do. It’s not that big of a deal.

Of course, given the size of the crowd I did begin to think maybe its not such a bad idea after all. I have not been in such close proximity to large groups of people in two years.

I also wasn’t sure how easy it would be to avoid handshakes. I like not having been sick in two years and I had resolved not to do it. But some in-your-face people are very insistent and the alternative elbow bump just seems too stupid to initiate. But it fact, a forearm glance proved pretty easy to do. Some shook hands with others. Some didn’t. It wasn’t any big deal.

Alas, not all is peachy. I did see something to complain about. The speaker played a two-three minute video, and afterwards everyone clapped!

I’m not playing this game anymore. I know how it starts . Someone well-respected thinks it is fine to “show appreciation.” He claps and others follow suit. People usually follow suit. I know this from the rare occasions that the music was not cued up and the attending servant can’t find it. If I knew the tune, I’d just belt it out. You’re only out there a split second or two before others follow suit. (It’s an unsettling split second, though—what if they don’t?)

In the past I’ve given two or three half-hearted claps. No more. It’s silly. The video doesn’t know you’re clapping for it. We don’t clap every time some gives a demonstration on the platform. The Watchtower reader doesn’t earn an applause. It is enough to applaud the speaker, for that is customary and is the way things are done everywhere. 

I don’t squabble over such things but neither do I have to follow suit. It is sort of like when brothers approach stage by disappearing behind that quarter wall and then appearing again. That drives me nuts. Just walk up on the platform. Do it right, brothers!

Ah well. This is our version of problems. A bit less serious than those that hamstring the greater world, I think.

 

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‘What You Sow is What You Will Reap’—a Public Talk in 16 Tweets

The public talk in 16 tweets:

What you sow is what you will reap’ is the #publictalk title. All centered around Galatians 6:7.

“Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a person is sowing, this he will also reap.” (1)

good background summary. Galatians freed from the Law wanted to go back to it, “choosing certain defeat” since no one could live up to a perfect law. Embrace those freedoms of the Christ, Paul encourages, but then a cautionary note that ‘you will reap what you sow,’ (2)

“because the one sowing with a view to his flesh [playing into our imperfection] will reap corruption from his flesh, but the one sowing with a view to the spirit [imposing reasonable self-discipline] will reap everlasting life from the spirit.” Gal 6:8 (3)

That Gal 6:8 verse empowers us, says the speaker. Plant a seed and you know what you will get. (4)

Use, don’t abuse those freedoms, speaker says, then illustrates how teen with a new license has greater freedom but also greater responsibility. Will balanced Christians all make the same choices? No, he says. Balance allows some room for movement. (5)

An illustration: Golden Gate Bridge—the road can swing 21 feet in either direction, 40 feet of flexibility, flexibility keeps it there. So the Scriptures are flexible to cover the times spans, cultures it must span. Flexibility of scripture keeps it alive and useful to us. (6)

F0A2A9E4-866C-4843-B245-F62E33EF9BE0Now a reference to ‘unified—not uniform’ as some balanced Christians will lean more conservative, some more relaxed. It’s okay, and will characterize even bodies of people—what a drudgery is everyone is the same. (7)

Alas, people are given to extremes. You ‘don’t want to be with someone who is always digging up the rules’ as though he thinks “Jehovah forgot something.” Such harping not only not necessary, but is harmful, the speaker says. (8)

Other extreme: persons too loose, and now speaker reads cautionary list of Gal 5:19: “Now the works of the flesh are plainly seen, and they are sexual immorality, uncleanness, brazen conduct, idolatry, spiritism, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, (9)

dissensions, divisions, sects, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and things like these.”
“Would you say that much of what the world offers today fit into this list?” speaker asks. “Yeah” (10)

Heard people say, “until you can show me this scripture that says….I don’t see anything wrong with it?” It is going back to Galatians—people who want a bunch of rules. (11)

Principles are fundamental statements of truth. “Bad association spoil useful habits”—not a rule, it is a principle. (12)

vs 19… “and things like these”….is this list all inclusive? No. “God dignifies us that we can apply principles to these new developments [that crop up in the modern age of “TV, Hollywood, video games” etc. Re vs 22 (reads list)….. “against such things there is no law.” (13)

‘A lot of this is a matter between us and Jehovah, the elders are not going to come and police us,’ says the speaker, “but we will reap what we sow.” (14)

Adds: ‘Like children in schoolyard, we are free to pursue own interests on earth. But 1) all have to get along, 2) must stay within boundaries. Upon observing the preceding two points, “have a blast” is how the speaker puts it. (15)

Everlasting life or corruption of Galatians 6:8. We make that choice for everlasting life every single day through the other choices we make. (16)

 

For those encouraged by this talk, they may be encouraged to know it was given by the bro who conducts the pioneer school. That means he trains those who will train others.

 

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Object Lessons at the Memorial Talk.

The Memorial speaker spent more than the usual time (so it seemed to me) in discussion of how many had the heavenly hope, and, if they did not, were they stuck with some second-rate inferior “earth” promise? Moreover, if anyone did need hand-holding on this matter, it was okay. Adam left us all to die, he pointed out. It is okay to need reassurance.

How many Senators are there in the United States, he asked. 100. How many Representatives? 435. How many in total constitute the government? 535. How do we know that? Because it is written. Where is it written? In the Constitution. You can see where this is going. The number of humans to rule in the heavenly government is also written in the Christian “Constitution.” It is 144,000.

535 to represent a nation of 330 million. 144,000 to represent a nation of ultimately several billion. It’s about right. Close enough. Furthermore, since the beginning of time, God has determined where his creatures will serve him. Angels will serve him in heaven, humans on earth, and “no one has ever had an issue with this.” We don’t choose where we serve him, he pointed out, but we do choose if we serve him..

I haven’t figured this out yet, and it wasn’t part of the talk, but one of the four groups of Jews active in Jesus’s day (Essenes—the only ones not specifically mentioned in the Bible, in contrast to Pharisees, Sadducees, and a political type sometimes called Zealots) is described by Bart Ehrman as Jews who didn’t think or carry on as though their home were in this world, but in the next. They lived on earth, of course, but didn’t feel they belonged. They tended to hole up in separate colonies, where they hubbubed with each other. This so reminds one of an uptick over the last 2 or 3 decades of those partaking of emblems, although they do not fit the “profile” (faithful Christians with a long track record of faith and works) that you wonder what is going on. Not all of these ones remain in the congregation. There are some who depart, like Essenes themselves, and thereafter express concerned that their anointed status is not more widely recognized.

Or speaker next talked about his home life as a teen. He does this a lot and most in the circuit have come to feel they know his father. The telephone would ring. They didn’t have each one his own smart phone like people do today, he said. There was one phone in the house. He, our speaker, said how he always hoped it was one particular person, one especially sweet someone. Dad would always pick up the phone. By his tone and initial words, our speaker knew the call was not for him. It was for dear old dad. Thereafter, he didn’t have any interest in it—it wasn’t for him. He certainly had no need of asking his Dad—was the call really for him? much less reassuring him that the call was or questioning him on how he knew it was.

This is the same dad who played it cool when our speaker said how, as a teen, he had announced he would no longer go to meetings because they were repetitious. The old man took it in stride. The son was relieved. He had no idea that it would go so well.

That evening he even made the boy peanut butter sandwiches. The kid loved peanut butter sandwiches, and Dad didn’t pinch pennies with the peanut butter, as he sometimes did, to say nothing of the jam.

The next day the boy made his own peanut butter sandwich, as he did each day. “What are you doing?!” Dad asked incredulously, as though the boy has taken leave of his senses. He was not satisfied with the boy’s answer. “I forbid you to eat that sandwich,” he decreed, with all of his dadhood authority.

Of course, the problem was that it was the same old food he’d eaten yesterday—it was repetitive. And with that, Dad reasoned the boy back to the meetings. He might have made the kid go back on any account, until the boy turned of age, and was off on his own. That’s what parents do. If you do not teach your child, it does not mean that they grow up free and unencumbered, and, when of age, select their own values from the rich cornucopia of life. No. All it means is that someone else will teach them. Why should a parent relinquish that God-given responsibility?

He spins a yarn like this from his boyhood each time he comes, and he comes every 6 months. He is our circuit overseer and how we snagged him as our Memorial speaker I haven’t a clue.

Everyone greeted him on the Zoom squares beforehand. How are you doing? they wanted to know. “I’ll feel better after an hour,” he said. He was just making polite humble banter. But I took him at his word. “If even Jack is nervous,” I said, “what hope is there for rest of us?” Jack is a gifted speaker.

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Don’t Ask Me to Interpret the Watchtower Artwork

Don’t ask me to interpret the artwork. I’m not good at those type of things. From a prior Watchtower study:

A brother commented on the pictures during a Watchtower study.

He said they portrayed a brother getting strong counsel from two elders, after which he pondered it, after which he met with one of those elders at the cafe (no hard feelings), after which he was busy in the ministry with the same elder!

But a sister saw it differently.

A brother was asking for spiritual help from two elders (maybe he was a chicken in field service), then he thought over their advice, then one of those elders encouraged him further at the cafe, then he was happily working in the ministry with that elder!

"These pictures are open to many interpretations," the study conductor observed.

His observation emboldened me to offer my take:

Brothers were meeting as a threesome as a gesture to the trinity, then one of them pondered that symbolism, then he met one of those elders at the cafe where they discussed this year's prospects for the eternally dismal (but lately revived) Buffalo Bills, then he worked in service with that elder's twin brother, who had flown in the night prior from Boise, Idaho.

After my comment there was a pause.

For several minutes.

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Simplified Looks at the Kings of the North and South

That May 2020 Watchtower really simplified how we can look at the Daniel prophesy of the kings of the north and south. I appreciate it for that reason.

I think it can be likened to the ingredients of a sandwich disappearing. When that happens, what’s the point of keeping track of the two slices of bread that enclose it? Such is the case when the weeds swallow up the wheat and the Master says ‘Don’t worry about it—we’ll sort it out at the harvest.’ (Matthew 13:24-30) If the covenant people disappear, why concern oneself about who is the king of the north and south? They vanish, too. This way, you don’t have to trace some tortuous lineage through the centuries that you can get your head around after a fashion, but the moment you turn away it disappears, like your grasp of relativity.

When the covenant people reappear during the harvest—well, we know that they are to be between a rock and a hard place. So look for a rock and a hard place. What could be easier than that? When the harvest season arrives, what two parties during the World Wars hate each other’s guts, and also give the covenant people grief for the same reason, that of neutrality? Easy. This new streamlined method works to everyone’s advantage except for Queen Zenobia (my favorite Bible character, second only to Obi Wan Kenobia), and I have completed my mourning for her.

The second of the study articles made it very clear: “For a government to fill the role of the king of the north or the king of the south, it must do three things: (1) interact directly with God’s people, (2) show by its actions that it is an enemy of Jehovah and his people, and (3) compete with the rival king.”

I noted Trump’s campaign words in Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia?” and how, were that to happen, it would take the prophesy off-script—the two are not supposed to get along. Almost immediately outside forces in the form of the media intervened to ensure that the two kings will not get along—they are to stay on script. Almost from the instant he said it, a Russian collusion narrative emerged to ensure the two kings would remain at loggerheads.

In the course of two weeks, the verses of Daniel 11:25-45 were considered at the meeting. A crash course for anyone not in the know: It is king-of-the-north Germany that opposes the king of the south during both world wars and opposes the covenant people, treating them harshly. With the Allied victory ending WWII, the Soviet Union and later Russia takes over the role of the northern king—pushing & shoving the king of the south and also treating the covenant people harshly, lately to be seen in the banning of their organization and publications, confiscation of their property, and arrests leading to the imprisonment of many.

A nice touch, I thought, was the “little help” rendered at 11:34. Might this be prophetic of the lull in opposition to kingdom preaching from the fall of the Soviet Union to renewed all-out attack on Jehovah’s people in 2017? During this lull, it was not even clear just who the king of the north was. (Davey-the-kid, always quick with a joke, told me it was Bolivia) Jehovah’s Witnesses were the last of all faiths to be legally recognized in 1991 (fall of the Soviet Union) and the first of all faiths (and so far, only) to suffer ban in 2017.

It occurs to me that if the king of the north started being nice to our people he would louse up stipulation 2 of the prophesy, that he must “show by its actions that it is an enemy of Jehovah and his people.” Why doesn’t he do that? There is no better way to discredit Jehovah’s Witnesses than to spectacularly mess up their take on a prophecy. Then we would have to revert back to Davey-the-kid, say it is Bolivia, and look ridiculous.

Well, maybe will happen that way. But it doesn’t seem likely. If Trump couldn’t derail the prophesy, Putin can’t either. It is probably one of those situations of nations being drawn as with hooks in their jaws. They are too determined in a course of their own seeming choice to do any differently.

From paragraph 13 and 14 of the second week’s study:

“A prophecy recorded by Ezekiel gives some insight into what may happen during the last days of the king of the north and the king of the south....it appears that we can expect the following developments....That symbolic hailstorm may take the form... It could be that this message provokes Gog of Magog into attacking God’s people with the intention of wiping them off the earth.” [italics mine]

Joe at the Kingdom Hall, who can always be depended upon for perceptive comments, chimed in about the “wiggle words” that I’ve italicized—it may....it could be...it appears that. Hardly dogmatic, is it? Sure to be missed by Tom Pearlsandswine, that brother who is known for putting the dog into dogmatic! But the words simply indicate that, while we know the final destination, we do not know the precise route to be taken, and the foregoing only indicates the best educated guess at present.

Of course, “educated” in this context means educated in the Bible study of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Despite my “crash course” a few paragraph above, I’ve made no effort to thoroughly explain anything—only the barest outline is offered. It is a little bit like how I have lately been reading Thirty Years that Shook Physics, a 1966 book by George Gamow that stood on my Dad’s bookshelf for 50 years and that I rescued from the estate sale. The preface speaks of “Dr. Gamow’s artistic gift as well as his ability to expand science in the layman’s language.” But as I peruse page after page stuffed with arcane mathematical formulas, I say, “I think they are overestimating his ‘gift.’” It’s not nothing. I’d sooner have him around than Wolfgang Pauli. But he is not exactly Mr. Rogers, and neither have I tried to be with the details of the north and south king.

As to what the final fulfillment will be, and what route it will take, 1 Peter 1:12 says: “Into these very things, angels are desiring to peer.” Are you going to tell them to straighten up and get back to work? No. You won’t stop them. But I like the current sense of couching things that only appear likely in wiggle words. It is a little like how we don’t do anti-types anymore, unless such anti-type is clearly spelled out in the Bible—Jesus’ identification with the Passover lamb, for example. It is enough to say, “this reminds me of that.” What! Is someone going to come along later and say it doesn’t?

 

 

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Shortchanging the Mentally ill?

The April 2020 study issue, under consideration for the  Watchtower Study, was about encouraging all runners in the race. However, some runners are not in good health. Among the maladies faced, some grapple with depression and anxiety. “Their distress is just as real as is the distress of someone with a broken limb, but they may not receive the same compassionate response from others,” the article stated.

Verrrrryyyyyy gingerly I will suggest that the writers themselves provided an example of such withholding compassion.

For the “broken limb” people, there was: “Are you lying in a bed or sitting in a wheelchair? Do you have weak knees or poor eyesight? If so, can you run along with those who are young and healthy? You certainly can! Many older and infirm ones...cannot do this work in their own power. Instead, they draw on Jehovah’s strength by listening to Christian meetings over a telephone tie-line or watching meetings through video streaming.” [italics mine]

But to the “mental health” ones, it was: “Because of severe anxiety, some brothers and sisters feel very nervous and self-conscious in everyday social situations. They may find it difficult to be in large groups, but they continue to attend congregation meetings, assemblies, and conventions.”

Someone cynical persons might suggest that to the latter ones, the hidden message is: “You suck it up and get your rear end to those meetings! There is no reason that you can’t!”

Now, I am not that cynical one. I am not a ‘reformer’—I am an apologist. I either allow myself to be molded by counsel, or if for some reason I cannot, I put it on the shelf and tentatively dismiss it as ‘one of those things.’ I lean more heavily than usual on this item because I have known ones with severe anxiety or depression—so severe that they do not get to meetings. Should they? It’s not for me to say, though I note that the infirm, blind, or wheelchair-bound get a free pass should they require it—but not the mentally ill. Maybe it is agoraphobia some have—a terror of outdoors. Maybe it is claustrophobia—a terror of indoors. There are all kinds of weird issues with which people suffer.

I thinking of such a person now. I know that one’s circumstances. I know that one’s home life. I also know that there will be some that will lean on that one VERY heavy to ‘get with it’—and that the person, who already feels worthless, will likely feel that way all the more.

It probably is not deliberate. Paul became a Jew for the sake of Jews, and a Gentile for the sake of Gentiles. He even became weak for the sake of those weak—but there are limits. Did he become agoraphobic for the sake of those agoraphobic? There are some things that you have to experience to understand.

My favorite circuit overseer—he wins that status with many who recall him, even though there has been very worthy ‘competition’ from a steady stream of excellent traveling overseers since—is remembered for the expression, “Just do the best you can.” He wasn’t one for comparisons. He wasn’t one for guilting or pushing or shaming. “Just do the best you can,” was his slogan. He said it repeatedly, so that the slogan itself is sufficient to identify him.

He was not a favorite of everyone, for there were some who feared that if you tell people “do the best you can,” some will do nothing and pass it off as their best. The urge to transform ‘encouraging’ into ‘pushing’ is strong. There are those who yield to it. I did notice, though, that in one of those elder training schools in which the traveling overseers took turns instructing the brothers, my CO was invariably given the heaviest and most sensitive parts. His was the example thought most beneficial for the friends.

That impression is only furthered by the Branch brother, or Gilead brother, or someone, teaching another class, leading a string around on the overhead projector, with finger placed firmly on the lead end. “See how nicely the rest of the string follows this lead?” he says. “Now what happens if I turn the method around?” he asks, as he attempts to ‘push’ the string from that lead, and it bunches up. “It’s really not very smart of me to do it this way, is it?” he observes.

So I was a little surprised to see what I did in print. These days circuit overseers approach with the directive to simply show love for the friends and don’t “pile on” at all. It is not a huge deal, for there is fine print elsewhere recognizing that some people have extraordinary circumstances which preclude normal activity. Still, I almost wish there had been just one more sentence: “Of course, in some extreme situations.....and these ones, too, need reminders that Jehovah, who knows us better than we do ourselves, knows they are “doing the best they can.”

He was my favorite circuit overseer. He has long since retired. He is in his 90’s, and last I heard, he still keeps a “circuit overseer schedule” for his pioneering. He is the one person referred to by actual name in ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’—everyone else I wait till they die—not only they, but often also family members and friends. I sent him the chapter he is named in. But he replied that “it didn’t make much sense” to him, adding that he still thought he had all his “marbles.” This worried me. It hadn’t occurred to me that he might not like it, and I offered to change the name—electronically you can do such things. But he said that at this point he didn’t really care, so I left it be.

He appears several times in my writings, but only once is he named. It is for the time that he reviewed a demonstration of mine for the upcoming District Convention. Upon hearing it, he was effusive in his praise, and marveled at the hours and hours we must have put into it. “Only,” he finally said, “this one tiny point—I wonder if anyone could get the wrong idea here?” and he outlined some picky little thing.

“Well—sure—I guess we could redo that,” I said hesitantly.

“Oh, wonderful! Just wonderful! The rest is just fine! Absolutely fine! Exactly what the slave means to convey........except...”

By the time he was finished there was nothing left! There is only one thing a brother can say in such circumstances, and I said it: “Thank you, Brother NamedHim, for your counsel,”

One of my participants, himself a man of sterling reputation who had been around forever, said: “Why are you thanking him!? He messed it all up!”

Hmm. Maybe he didn’t want his cover blown. Maybe that’s why it “didn’t make any sense” to him. It’s okay. He certainly did benefit me. And I’ll bet if he’d written that Watchtower, I would not have written this post.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

The Watchtower Study of June 14, 2020

‪I liked this one from the Watchtower study: “Marc, a missionary in Burkina Faso, puts it this way: “The people I think will make progress often stop studying. But the people I think won’t go far progress very well.” Yeah. Same here. That’s why you don’t judge: You’re usually wrong.‬

This one provoked an image from that study, did it not? “Once, at a real estate office, she noticed a tattooed young woman wearing baggy clothes. ‘I hesitated for a moment,’ says Yukina, ‘but then I started talking to her. I discovered that she was so interested in the Bible that some of her tattoos were verses from the Psalms!’ Can you picture yourself reading right off her body and elucidating the verses for her? Not in all places of her body, of course. There is such a thing as decorum.

We also read of the Witness who “started a conversation with a 19-year-old man whose T-shirt depicted a famous singer,” said Gustavo. “I asked him about it, and the man told me why he identified with the singer.” Maybe it was the same kid I called on, wearing a Jim Morrison (The Doors) sweatshirt that I, too, commented on. “Let’s go see Jim Doors,” I would say for the longest time when doing return visits. 

The study was from one of those articles on how to be more discerning in the ministry, and I love that type of article, because I don’t think we always are. There was this experience: “In Albania, a woman who was studying with a pioneer named Flora stated firmly, ‘I cannot accept the teaching of the resurrection.’ Flora did not force the issue. She relates, ‘I thought that she must first get to know the God who promises the resurrection.’ She left it on the table and came back to it later.

My Dad did this with me as a boy on the literal table. I didn’t want to eat all the food on my plate—what boy does? So Pop would draw a line, separating as though Moses at the Red Sea, the food I had to eat from the food I didn’t. I came to anticipate it—“Draw a line, Pop!” I would say. In time I learned to devour it all and I do not have to say it now to my wife.

How about this one from paragraph 8? “Perhaps [the householder] has told you directly that he has his own religion. When that happens to a special pioneer named Flutura, she replies, ‘I’m here, not to impose my beliefs on you, but to talk to you about this subject . . . ‘ I go further than that. I tell them that if I call 100 times, on the 100th call I will ask if they want to join my religion, and then they can say no. In the meantime, it is just conversation—if it’s dull, end it on that basis, but if not—no need to take cover lest you fear being recruited for the cause.

Lots of people think we are there to recruit. I suppose we are, really, but it is so far down the road that it needn’t be a concern for a long long time. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not a people of ‘instant conversion’—you cannot ‘Come down and be saved!’ with them. Besides, “this good news will be declared in all the inhabited earth” (Matthew 24:14) is a goal in and of itself, without regard for how that news is received. It actually will not be acted upon in too many cases, for the verse John 12:37 was also considered: “Although [Jesus] had performed so many signs before them, they were not putting faith in him.” If they were cool on Jesus with signs, what about those who would speak of him without signs?

Paragraph 9 was of running into a religious person. “Try to find common ground. He may worship only one God, he may recognize Jesus as the Savior of humankind, or he may believe that we are living in a time of wickedness that will soon end. Based on beliefs you have in common, present the Bible’s message in a way that is appealing to that person.”

Sometimes this works, but certain types of evangelicals will argue almost from the get-go, and if they don’t do it us, sometimes we do it to them. With one such person, when it started to go that way, I said: “Look, we are both trying to follow the Word, but we are doing it differently. You think we are doing it all wrong and we think you are doing it all wrong. We’ll steal persons from your church in a heartbeat, and you’ll do the same to us. But we are both doing it—that’s the point—and we live in a world where most people aren’t doing it at all.” Instantly we were on the same side. There was a little chat about keeping the faith amidst a world that rejects it.

There was even artwork of witnessing on a row of townhouses. The Witness couple was at house 1, a pristinely kept up house. But they would soon be calling on house 3, a pigsty—blinds crinkled and askew, trash cans overflowing,  litter everywhere. One sister commented how the people there must be ill and you wouldn’t want to comment on the nice clean paradise to come because that might make them embarrassed. (My Lord—do we ever think the best of people!) Nah—I think they’re just a bunch of slobs who might not be so slovenly if they received a message of hope. But you never know the comments you will get over artwork.

I’ll bet the people in house 1 don’t care much for the people of house 3. I have even had in the ministry some 1-like people tell me that I should call on the 3-like people, who need what I have, whereas they, the 1-like people, do not. But they do a quick reappraisal when I volunteer to do just that and tell them who sent me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Speaking in the Congregation

Q: It may come as a shock to you all..... but how will we keep unity in the faith (one message) if anyone can stand on the stage and add scriptures and give their own interpretations? 

I do agree with this. For several years running I was called upon to give talks in the District Convention. Most of them were family-oriented talks that you looked for a brother with a family to give, even if he wasn’t pioneering, which I wasn’t. They ceased after I turned one down, facing a perfect storm of calamities at the time. During that time, I might cook up my own illustrations, but I would never dream of adding my own scriptures. I knew it was not me that everyone had come to hear.

On the school talks that I give now, sometimes I take small liberties—seldom reading extra verses, but sometimes incorporating excerpts of them in passing. It is all clearly within the pattern of the fine words, done sparingly, and nobody makes a fuss over it. One conductor, though, observed: “You actually didn’t address the theme of the talk” “Oh—I changed that,” I said, and so unexpected was the reply that he almost fell over himself laughing. This was not “adding to doctrine,” or anything—don’t misunderstand—it was merely adding a personal touch to a student talk and everyone understood that. 

I gave a funeral talk in another congregation where one elder, a fine man but known to be a stickler, asked if I was using the Society’s outline, and I said that I wasn’t. He was most concerned because I was neither an elder nor servant, and I hadn’t even known up front whether I would be permitted to give the talk, only the widow had requested me—her husband had been my best man and we had always remained close. After the talk, though, he was content and made no waves. The talk did all that a funeral talk should, plus was personalized as only a best friend might do.

So there might be a few instances where you are the speaker and people wonder how you will handle this or that small part. But they would clearly end at the circuit level, and even at the congregation level, you would be very sparing of what was personal.

There used to be a local speaker in much demand who truly had a gift for speaking. He would twirl the globe he had brought up to the platform, quote Matthew 24:14, “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth” and then put his finger down upon this or that spot representing some local king’s sovereignty: “This good news of the kingdom WILL NOT be preached in MY part of the inhabited earth,” with the air of—who do you think is going to prevail?

He was a great speaker, a good man. But I visited his congregation once when he was conducting the Watchtower. He explained all the questions, and so blatantly ‘over-explained’ everything that I wondered how anyone could stand it. ‘Just ask the questions’ is what you should do, and make your own comments very few. There was no bad motive—he had just become a little full of himself—building upon an obvious talent.

Most often it is something more innocuous. There was another conductor who had some mannerisms—I hate mannerisms!—in fact, that’s where ‘Tom Irregardless’ comes from, he says it so much that I named him that—who would throw in after almost every one of his expressions, words to the effect of ‘That’s helpful, isn’t it?’ Once he announced the dates for the upcoming circuit assembly, and added, ‘that’s helpful, isn’t it?’ ‘I guess it is,” I thought.

It’s people. I love people. These days I find I don’t really like them very much unless they are a little quirky. Sometimes people misunderstand it as ridicule. It’s not. I present it in the spirit of Paul trying to rid himself of a ‘thorn in the flesh’ ‘No way!’ God told him, “I look good when you are a clod, because it is evident that no way could you be doing this on your own.”

...

Upon reading of how I take “certain liberties,” a certain yo-yo encourages me to keep venturing “out of the organizational box.” Why? Because he either thinks that by doing so “my eyes will be opened” or someone will lower the boom on me, because “we must walk in lockstep” and so that will “open my eyes.”

These guys are nuts! They are downright squirrelly loony tunes. Because the irresistible bug of being free from all restrictions! bit them, they are convinced it will bite anyone—and they hope with all their hearts that it does.

I know the meaning and value of relative freedoms. Anybody of common sense does. His wet dream may come true of me (or anyone else) jumping ship, but at present it seems not too likely. I know where my home is, I know when to yield, and I know when to press forward. I have written of it before.

 

 
 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Zoom and Jehovah’s Witnesses

In a service group Zoom meeting on the ministry, one sister said how we ought not “put people in boxes.” I agreed with this remark as I gazed upon ten boxes of people on my computer screen. The gray boxes suddenly appear with name only. It is like a drum roll announcing the appearance of yet another friend. Then the video comes online, as though the cymbal crash. I can get used to this. There are some aspects of it I even prefer—such as wearing my slippers.

With very little fuss at all Jehovah’s Witnesses adopted the Zoom conferencing software and now conduct all meetings this way. Doesn’t it provide case-in-point to those talks about how Jehovah considers people individually important? There were other church groups that also adopted Zoom—Witnesses were not alone—but because their normal program structure doesn’t incorporate congregation participation, there were remarks that the result just seemed too irrelevant and inadequate for the times. Some of those churches indeed had additional social groups, chat rooms, but that was just it—they were for chat, with no spiritual component built into it.

Then there were also some churches that blew past social distance strictures as a scheme to subvert religion and held their services as usual, enraging everyone else for being so ‘irresponsible,’ even defiant of public policy.

How much ‘credit’ will Jehovah’s organization get their for quick cooperation with the new social distancing policies at no spiritual detriment to believers? When the CultExpert tweets that cult members are putty in the hands of their leaders ordering them to ignore science and convene as usual, I append that there is at least one “cult” that does not. When he says that cults fall into line with the prompts of his new nemesis, the Supreme Cult Leader Trump, I tell him that there is at least one “cult” that is universally known to be apolitical—and not involved in such controversies at all. I mean,  in some many ways, Jehovah’s Witnesses are the polar opposite of his cult model, and as so I can’t help but think, even though I know better, that he will one day halt his ridiculous efforts to categorize them as such. I think I told him somewhere along the line that if all persons were ‘cult’ members like Jehovah’s Witnesses, COVID-19 would have moved on by now—it’s not OUR people that were partying on the beach, but it likely included some of his, whose distinguishing feature is ‘independence’ and ‘forming their own mind.’ That’s a recipe for cooperating with government recommendations? I don’t think so.

The Zoom company wondered why so many of those using their app identified as Jehovah’s Witnesses—this was related to us by a brother in our service meeting group. Zoom had served as a tool for his huge family reunion just after the Memorial, bringing together ones who had not crossed paths in some time, and some of them had Warwick connections. Warwick brothers got to witness to the Zoom team, they related. Six Zoomer leaders attended a meeting, and three of those stayed on till the end.

Now, our brothers will unfailingly put a spiritual face on doings that may be completely non-spiritual. But surely the core of the story will be true. They will spin it that these Zoomers are on the cusp of Bible study themselves, when doubtless their first motive will be to see how their product is being used and provide customer support. That does not mean a spiritual component is non-existent. Time will tell. Meanwhile, unless I am very much mistaken (how likely is THAT?) Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide are giving their product its most rigorous workout ever, ensuring that each member is connected to the coordinating organization—and this cannot help but put the cause to the front of their consciousness. Just like Putin never saw anything like every Witness in the world writing him on behalf of their brothers, so Zoom never saw anything like the efforts to keep every Witness in the world unified in Bible teachings.

Zoom was not ready for the explosion of interest in their product—nobody would be. It is as though you open a restaurant and everyone in the country shows up to order a hamburger. Some security issues came to the fore and the Zoom people scrambled to patch them, like the kid sticking his fingers in the dike. Two weeks ago our elders mentioned having received an 8-page letter from our own HQ on how to effectively yet safely use the product. All elders in the world got up to speed on Zoom—and there will be among them a huge number, no doubt, with very shaky grasp of technology to begin with.

Now you know—you just know—how the brothers would have been in interacting with Zoom personnel. They would have been respectful, patient, and even helpful, as the creators of what one Italian IT firm called the “world’s best website” (mentioned in one of the Yearbooks—I think, 2017). Contrast that with the typical customer, who might well not be that way at all—screaming when something goes wrong, some of them. Faith and its resulting qualities are not the possession of all people.

It seems a perfect time to kick back at some of those naysayers—you know who you are (oh....they will mostly be on the open forum, not here. Ah, well...tough) —who have said, “Who needs organization?” People are going stir-crazy in the greater world, but it is not so with Jehovah’s people. Just ‘Jesus and me?’—that’s enough? I think not. It is the bottom line, of course. You need a relationship with the father and with the son. But as a gimme, God throws in a network of united worshippers—a brotherhood. Anyone would be crazy to pass that by. We are social beings. We’re built that way. The brotherhood has come to the fore with its quick adaptation of technology.

At the same time, the non-stop Bible counsel fed us on how to get along with family and spouse in forbearance and love—you want to try to tell me that hasn’t come in handy? There are many people for whom the worst possible stressor is to sentence them to open-ended ‘prison terms’ with their family—cooped up in the same house! but it is not so for Jehovah’s people. Again, the godly organization has kept that counsel before us incessantly and never has the payoff been more apparent than now.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’