My Meeting Notes: Week of March 25, 2024 - Psalm 22

Just a single psalm for the Bible reading this week: 22. There are verses in this psalm that NT writers later apply to Christ. Read 1 and 8, for example. They sound awfully familiar. 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (1)

And at the ninth hour, Jesus called out with a loud voice: “Eʹli, Eʹli, laʹma sa·bach·thaʹni?” which means, when translated: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

The April 2021 Study Watchtower suggests 7 possible ways that cry might be understood. (Questions from Readers) Click on the Research Guide for Psalm 22:1

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All those seeing me mock me; They sneer and shake their heads in derision: “He entrusted himself to Jehovah. Let Him rescue him! Let Him save him, for he is so dear to Him! (7-8)

”In the same way also, the chief priests with the scribes and the elders began mocking him, saying: “Others he saved; himself he cannot save! He is King of Israel; let him now come down off the torture stake, and we will believe in him. He has put his trust in God; let Him now rescue him if He wants him, for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’” (Matthew 27:41-43)

One verse not cited by any NT writer is Pslam 22:16. Almost alone, the New World Translation renders that verse (the last phrase): “Like a lion they are at my hands and feet.” Almost all other translations pick up a corruption of the Septuagint and render that phrase: “they pierced my hands and my feet.” The NWT sticks with the earlier Masoretic version. Frankly, they’d love for it to say ‘pierces my hands and feet’ too—it fits better with the program—but it doesn’t say that originally. It says ‘like a lion they are at my hands and feet.’ This was not brought out at the meeting, but I knew it anyway from when the Lutheran evangelical tried to convert the rabbi.

It was our circuit overseer this week. In showing a video, he was all excited that when Jade says ‘Oh, I get it!’ in the coffee shop setting, at that same moment the cash register bell goes off. ‘Ka-Ching’ and he is convinced it is deliberate. Ha! It probably is. I can see it being slipped in as a cute little joke, as though to see how long it would take for anyone to pick up on it. Who would have thought it? Maybe, Governing Body members themselves don’t know about it.

Next day, I told him that, for his talk, I and some others had brought little bells that we would ring every time he made a point that we understood.

Then, there was Transgender Visibiltiy Day, proclaimed by the President for that Sunday—Easter Sunday. Now, Witnesses don’t do Easter, and there was no mention of either Easter or the Visibility Day, but you should have heard the uproar on social media! Carrying on about the desecration of a sacred holiday and all.

Ah, well. Doesn’t it proves that it is not possible to dress up a pig?

As any Witness knows, Easter is an example of slapping a Christian label on a pre-existing sordid holiday, in this the celebration of the goddess Ashtarte—always coinciding with the rebirth of the earth every springtime, once again the explosion of life, and so carried out with orgies and fertility rites. Hence, the bunnies and eggs which clearly have nothing to do with Jesus. Then along come the church fathers much later, hoping to hijack and redirect an already-wildly popular holiday by pasting a Christian label on it!

Witnesses seem to never tire of revealing the unsavory roots of holidays such a Christmas, Halloween, and Easter. My response is to say, ‘Give it a rest already. Nobody cares. If people haven’t given them up by now, they’re not going to.’ It’s like what my brother, who is vaccinated against Covid-19 but drew the line at the frequent boosters, said about the State’s incessant vaccine ads; ‘Sheesh! You’d think they’d realize that if people haven’t gotten it by now, they’re not going to.’

But, in this case, those Witnesses are right on the money and I am wrong. Transgender Visibility Day (as though they were invisible before) is no more than the holiday reverting closer to its origin. I mean, there have been people misgendered at birth. Occasionally, sexual organs are not distinct. Yet, we all know that when small children are queried at school or the pediatricians office as to whether they are really a boy or a girl (as happened with a young mother in our congregation)—question that perhaps they were ‘assigned’ the wrong sex—something is seriously out of whack.

As to the rededication of the day to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, good as it is, Jesus never said to celebrate it. Same with his birth. It’s a good thing, plainly, but Jesus never said to celebrate it. Churches celebrate both. The one event Christ did say to celebrate, the commemoration of his death, they do not do—at least not in the way we typical celebrate great events, as an annual occurrence. Instead, they attach a level of mystery to it and do it routinely so that nobody knows just what it is they are doing. I mean, the Lord’s evening meal, the first memorial of his death, was held on Passover night, Jesus giving it new significance. You would think that fact would dictate how often the Memorial was to be celebrated. “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” Paul says. (1 Corinthians 5:7)

 

*******  The bookstore

 

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What of all these Changes in Recent Months? Part 2

See Part 1:

Vomodog’s crew are beside themselves with, ‘These guys are afraid to tie their shoe unless their organization gives them permission!’ That’s how they’re responding to new changes—which changes should smooth out Witness life going forward, but it is not the draw to prior Witnesses that some in the congregation seem to think it is.

Then again, nothing ever will be. For the most part, Vic and chums have gone on full ‘Search and Destroy’ mode, not to be placated even were there to be apologies for changes not made before. Not saying that any are in the works, or ought be. Brother Winder had it right. You don’t have to apologize for previous understandings made in good conscience. It may even blow up In your face if you do (my point, not his). Apologies these days are taken as admissions of guilt, to be made use of in future campaigns. I think of how President Obama, in the early days of his presidency, went on a campaign of what was roundly ridiculed as his ‘Apology Tours.’

Still, will no good come of it among the ex-Witnesses at all? They are crazy as can be over on the ex places I have seen, woke to the nines, many giving the impression that they think the world is a near-paradise and all would know it were it not for JWs with their ‘scare tactics.’ I mean, someone over there must have both oars in the water! Maybe some of them will appreciate the bigger picture.

I don’t think the Witnesses’ governing body particularly likes saying, ‘Okay, now you can do this or that.’ But apparently they have come to feel sheeplike people need that from time to time. In 2017, they said beards are fine where local norms don’t get in the way. I think they were dismayed that so few took them up on it. I think it is with a certain annoyance that they did a later GB update, complete with bells, whistles, video history, and chariot, to say, “Look! We have no issue with beards!

‘Annoyance’ might be too strong a word. How can you be annoyed at the characteristics of the animal God has selected to represent those he favors? If annoyance is the word, they may be annoyance at themselves, for not having realized and adjusted to it long ago, annoyance that they allowed pesky matters to build up so until it looks like an ‘Old-JW Going out of Business Sale’ when done all at once. It may be annoyance that they didn’t defuse these things more gradually, and instead, postponed them for so long that, when they finally tackle the job, Vomodog paints them as jailers easing up on their charges.

Humans overswing in nearly everything. Eventually, the consequences of overswing comes back to bite. This prompts them to modify that swing. To take a trivial matter first, why did Witnesses hold on to ties and dresses as long as they did? There was a time when everyone wore ties and dresses to attend church. Even going downtown shopping was an occasion for men to don a tie and women to wear a dress.

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My Meeting Notes: Week of March 17, 2024. Psalm 19 and the Origin of Simony

Psalm 19 was the one to focus on this week. 20 and 21 were also included in the week’s assigned material. They’re fine, but 19 is where its at.

You can almost divide the psalm into two parts: 1-6 is of Jehovah’s created works: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God.” 7-14 is how He turns his attention toward humans, putting those works at his disposal. It is almost like a ‘What is mortal man that you keep him in mind?’ (Psalm 8, also of David) scenario.

For example, (vs 6) “It [the sun] emerges from one end of the heavens, And it circles to their other end; And nothing is concealed from its heat.” A pinhead sized piece of it—you’d still have to stand 90 miles away so as not to fry, the speaker said. And then, He uses that power, that nothing can be concealed from, to examine humans—don’t think you can keep any secrets from him. But his purpose is not to grill anyone—give them the third degree. It is to benefit with laws and reminders far beyond what they might come up with on their own—as though providing an owner’s manual for the product that is us:

The commandment of Jehovah is clean, making the eyes shine. The fear of Jehovah is pure, lasting forever. The judgments of Jehovah are true, altogether righteous. They are more desirable than gold, Than much fine gold, And sweeter than honey, the honey that drips from the combs. By them your servant has been warned; In keeping them, there is a large reward.” (8-11)

Back up to 3-4 about the heavens which “night after night declare knowledge:’ “There is no speech, and there are no words; Their voice is not heard. But into all the earth their sound has gone out,” How can one not like the imagery of Psalm 19? “The skies above proclaim the work of his hands.”

Speaking of imagery, get a load of this one, depicting the power of the rising sun: “It is like a bridegroom emerging from the bridal chamber.” Anyone recall how that guy feels?

Then, there was the study from the Book of Acts. This week the focus was on Simon, the sorcerer who tried to buy the miraculous gifts that turned out to be free to people of right heart: 

Now when Simon saw that the spirit was given through the laying on of the hands of the apostles, he offered them money, saying: “Give me this authority also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive holy spirit.” But Peter said to him: “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could acquire the free gift of God with money. You have neither part nor share in this matter, for your heart is not straight in the sight of God. So repent of this badness of yours, and supplicate Jehovah that, if possible, the wicked intention of your heart may be forgiven you; for I see you are a bitter poison and a slave of unrighteousness.” In answer Simon said to them: “Make supplication for me to Jehovah that none of the things you have said may come upon me.” (Acts 8: 18-24)

The conductor, a man of kindness and empathy, spoke of how sometimes you have to give counsel, “even when it is difficult.” I dunno—it doesn’t look like Peter found it all that difficult. He roasted the fellow!

There was a paragraph that pointed out how Simon has become a word, simony, stemming from this account—trying to buy ecclesiastical things with money. My remark was that the account reminded me of the saying, ‘Don’t ever say a person is worthless. They can always be used as a bad example.’ Not that Simon was a worthless—he turned out okay, but there was a moment . . . I mean, his recovery wasn’t a slam dunk. Supplicate Jehovah that, if possible, this sin may be forgiven you, Peter said. 

In a way, he got what he wanted. Had he succeeded in buying miraculous gifts, he would have been one one many and nobody would recall him today. But because he flirted with being ‘worthless,’ he got a word named after him and thus lives on forever!

The conductor ended up saying how he wasn’t a bad man; his thinking just got screwy and had to be corrected. It happens today. There will be brothers who aren’t bad people, but their thinking gets askew over this point or that and must be readjusted.  The conductor is a good guy.

Then, there was that 3-minute part assigned to me on inviting someone to the Memorial. This I already wrote about here.

 

****  The bookstore

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What of All These Changes in Recent Months? - Part 1

What of all these changes in recent months? 

Jehovah’s Witnesses have counted their time in the ministry for 100 years. Now they don’t do it any more.

Next, it was beards. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been beardless since Russell days. Suddenly they start sprouting them.

Then it is changes on how disfellowshipped ones are treated should they return to the Kingdom Hall. And also a newer, softer, way of treating minors who veer from the straight paths in which they were raised.

And then—knock me over with a feather!—ties at meetings and in the ministry are placed on the chopping block. Forget about them if you want to! Look, I’ve seen photos of our brothers striding through the jungle with ties affixed!—and suddenly they’re optional! (A few shed them both at the next meeting and occasion for field service, but most did not.)

And then, sisters may choose to wear slacks. Again, a few did. Most didn’t.

I mean, that elder I love to tease—I told him I had expected him to show up in a Steelers sweatshirt! (which he did not)

More on the horizon? I’ve got my eye on that slick two-seater sports car, just in case. I also might fix the starred out L-word in Tom Irregardless and Me: “L*ck.” Wine glasses filled up (with Coke) just awaiting people to toast.

It’s even a bit surreal how fast things are changing. 

Vic Vomodog (we used to pull together in the work!) contacted me recently. He thinks that with all these changes, now he can:

Give me a second . . . . yeah, it is a little crazy. But it still works well.

These days, a long-time favorite quote of mine is coming into play again: “It is remarkable that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society.” (Nathaniel Hawthorne—The Scarlet Letter)

I instantly thought of Witnesses upon reading that quote. Nobody ‘speculates’ more boldly than Jehovah’s Witnesses, They turn established paradigms of religious, philosophical, and secular life upon their head. At the same time, with what they regard as petty—matters of style, and so forth—they “conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of [their] society.”

It just makes life easier when people don’t go kicking against the goads over every silly little thing. And so, few of Jehovah’s Witnesses do. They save their kicking for things important. For trivial things, they go with the flow.

However, this can result in silly situations in which people resist innocuous trends of the greater world because nobody wants to be the first to make an issue over something minor—and the first to do so is frowned upon by the others. We’re clearing out a lot of baggage now that might have been cleared out long ago but for our ‘sheeplike’ nature. It is a little embarrassing, because it does leave you open to sneering from Vic and his buddies, who have opted for a more independent model, but—well, sheep is the animal God chooses to represent those people he favors—not cats that cannot be herded.

Times change. If you can change with them without sacrificing any core principles, that’s the thing to do. It makes life easier. You find yourself not taking a hard stand over things that don’t matter. Such things have built up over the years. They’re being cleared out now.

To be continued here.

****  The bookstore

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Invite a Telemarketer to the Memorial

A sister at our Sunday meeting said she invites all telephone solicitors to the Memorial. She thereby resolved a minor crisis for me.

I have been assigned the 3 minute talk this week. Invite someone to the Memorial and show them how to locate a meeting in his area via the website. The implication is that this is not door-to-door. If it was, the matter of locating a meeting would not come up. Just go where the tract says.

So, the assignment calls for me to do something I would never do in real life. I’m all for ‘Jesus at the well’ conversations, but it would be a very unusual circumstance for it to escalate to a Memorial invitation in such a short span. Not saying some can’t do it. It’s just not my M.O. I figured I’d probably end up doing it the door-to-door way, meeting a person who will be out of town that day.

But then, viola! that sister’s comment. I told my householder to push an extended car warranty (his choice of scams) for all it was worth. Return to the subject at least twice, but on the third time, let me carry the ball. Point out then that he really would like to go but how? It is not as though he is in my area.

I’ll write it out here to get it in my head better. I’ll rehearse briefly with my householder this afternoon over the phone. Word for word is not necessary; a dry run to get in the spirit of things is all I’m after.

Hello, is this Mr. TrueTom?”

”This is he.” [You don’t say ‘yes’ because some of these liars use a recorded ‘yes’ in your voice to work other mischief. In fact, I had some reservations about enacting this at all. These people are very good at what they do. But in the end, I thought it was worth it to get a ‘G’ Besides, now that there is Chat GBT, they can do what they want with or without your cooperation.]

I’m calling about your car warranty. It’s about to run out. I want to extend it for you so you will be protected from unexpected repair costs.

”I almost never answer the phone from unrecognized numbers. Do you know why I did it today?”

Um—well, no.”

”It turns out there is a big event coming up. We’re inviting people. We do it every year. I’m doing it this year. It is the memorial of Christ’s death, which will be celebrated this Sunday. I’m inviting you. If you and your family are able to attend, we’d love to have you.”

But, Mr. Truetom, do you know the average cost of auto repairs now is almost $1000? And if it comes up unexpectedly, all at once, it is a crushing burden! With an extended warranty, you can manage future costs and protect your family.”

”I’m sure it’s a very fine product, but—C’mon! It can’t be as important as Christ’s death. I’ll go back to not answering calls next week, but this week I . . .”

$150. an hour! That’s what AutoNerd.com says is the labor rate today for auto mechanics! You don’t want to find yourself without  . . .”

”Yeah, I don’t want it.”

No? But why would you not want  . . “

”I dunno, I just don’t. I do want to celebrate the Memorial, though. Jesus actually said, ‘Keep doing this in remembrance of me until I come.” So Jehovah’s Witnesses do. Every year. It begins with a talk that explains just how his death benefits us. Seriously—I’d like you to come if you can.”

I’m not a Christian.”

”You don’t have to be. It turns out that his death can benefit people whether they’re Christian or not. That’s why there’s a talk first—so you can see if it makes sense to you.”

Well, it really does sound interesting to me, but I’m not in your area.”

“Again, it doesn’t matter. You can find one online. Can you remember two letters? J W? You know, Jehovah’s Witnesses—J W. Just go to JW.org. Scroll to the bottom. You’ll find a link to ‘Memorial’. Click on that. Then you’ll find a link to ‘Find a Memorial.’ Please come. I think you would like it.”

“I may. Thank you. You’re not posting this on your blog, though, are you?”

*****  The bookstore

 

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My Quora Answers: Part 2

Q:Are Jehovah's Witness cult members anti-politics and anti-military because of their organizations failed attempt to join the United Nations?

A: They are not ‘anti’ either. They are simply non-participants, recognizing neither as the path through which God’s kingdom will ‘come’ and his will be done ’on earth as it is in heaven.’ Nor did they ever try to join the UN, though they did once register as an NGO out of someone’s bright idea that such gave them better access to documents and library materials. That person has been confined to the Bethel basement peeling potatoes for decades now.

A: The ‘superstition’ has benefited far more people than it has harmed. This is because courageous doctors have sought to accomodate it and in doing so have recognized risks and vastly reduced ‘unnecessary’ transfusions that amount to little more than ‘topping of the tank.’ It is the only conclusion one can come to upon reading sources such as New Scientist’s article, ‘An Act of Faith in the Operating Room,’ in which the act of faith is not withholding a transfusion; it is giving one.

https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2008/05/new-scientist-a.html
 
 
A: They haven’t changed or removed one, save for a few that all modern scholars have agreed are spurious—ones that do not appear in the oldest of manuscripts.
 

A: Some of them will use such questions in the way politicians do. Ignore it and just use it as a platform to say whatever they want to on the topic. This is especially so if the question is ridiculous.

JWs are among the very few faiths that will not pick up arms (weapons) for any reason. They have solved racism (JWs in the U.S. are almost exactly 1/3 white, 1/3 black, and 1/3 Hispanic). Everyone should be as ‘evil’ and ‘abusive’ as they. Then this world might have more of a future than it does.

You should get treatment for your OCD.

 

A: “That they may know that thou alone, whose name is Jehovah, Art the Most High over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:18, ASV)

Do you think there is an angel recognized as “the Most High over all the earth?” Or do you think it is God revealing his name?

 
A: Yes. Because as a people, they are trustworthy.
 
 
Q: Do JW churches not have clocks or windows inside? If this is true, what is the reasoning behind it?

A: They have both clocks and windows. The clocks are so people can tell what time it is. The windows are to look through and let in natural light. If there are fewer windows than one might expect it is because vandals have been known to break windows.

 

Q: What is your opinion of Serena William’s decision to leave Jehovah’s Witnesses?

A: I’m not aware that she did. In view of a series of posts I wrote about her, I rather doubt she did. Since those posts were written she went on to get baptized: https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2019/01/the-serena-williams-child-doesnt-do-birthdays.html

A: Some tire of the message that God’s kingdom is the only answer to man’s distress. Some begin think the politicians will yet pull off a solution, or if they don’t, we’ll all go down together. Some become like Demas, who left ‘because he loved the present system of things.’ Some fixate on the flaws, real or perceived, of their fellows and lose sight that JW is a system of worshipping God. Some decide there is no God. Some are unforgiving. ‘If errors were watch you watch, O God, who could stand?’ says the psalm. Errors are what people watch for today—society is geared that way—and for such people, nobody stands.

Some do have regrets and some return.

 
A: Within a family they generally do.
 

A: There was once a time when writing to only those persons relevant was not interpreted as attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of everyone else.

A: The movement hails from the late 19th century, is seen to be a return to first-century Christianity, and they were originally just called ‘Bible Students.’ Charles Russell, a Pittsburgh businessman, played a role in gathering a small group together. To understand any unfamiliar Bible verse, they would look up and compare all other verses dealing with that topic, writing down the result, in this way letting the Bible interpret itself.

 
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My Meeting Notes: Week of 3/10/24–Psalm 18

Just one psalm for the weekly Bible reading this week. 18. It is longer than most. Following are a few aspects commented on: 

First, the visual: “flash floods of worthless men” (Psalm 18:4) Imagine getting caught up in one of them! David, the psalmist, was, and it “terrified” him. It would me, too.

He was also worried about “the faultfinding of the people.” (vs 43) He had to be rescued from it.   They are bad news, always with ‘You didn’t do this right! You didn’t do that right! Why isn’t this such-and-such? What about . .  Sheesh.

Then there is that long visual of Jehovah “bending the heavens” to descend and save the day, with “thick gloom was beneath his feet.” (vs 9) You science brothers can be forgiven for thinking of Einstein, who also bends heavens.

Those “flash floods of worthless men” have been encircling the loyal ones with whom God himself will act loyally (vs 25), to deliver from “ropes of death, (vs 4) “ropes of the Grave,” and “snares of death.” They call to Jehovah and he heeds them.

It’s all but target practice then. Thick gloom is beneath his feet as he descends, but he lights it up with “his lightning” to throw “them into confusion.” (vs 14) Things covered are uncovered: “The streambeds became visible; The foundations of the land were exposed by your rebuke. (vs 15) Things (like the psalmist) in danger of being covered over are uncovered: “He reached down from on high; He took hold of me and pulled me from deep waters,” like pulling a Floridian from Hurricane Ian. (the storm that destroyed Ft Myers Beach, where my relatives had a time share and we used to visit from time to time.)

Upon which, the psalmist is thankful. Would you not be too? “[Jehovah] rescues me from my angry enemies; You lift me high above those who attack me; You save me from the man of violence. That is why I will glorify you among the nations, O Jehovah, And to your name I will sing praises.” (48-49)

Only a minority of translations render Psalm 18:4 as “flash floods of worthless men.” Most don’t add any human element at all—a common rendering is “torrents of destruction.” But the fact that some do suggests to me that the ones that don’t are chickening out. Maybe they succumb to the modern trend that it’s okay to judge actions but not people, like the psalmist seems to do—so they soften it. “Rivers of wickedness” is a common choice, as though rivers themselves can be wicked.

Floods “of ungodliness” or of “ungodly men” is the better choice of some. It’s like the Watchtower’s explanation that “the knowledge of Jehovah” being widespread throughout the earth is something that does not affect zebras and bears. Rather, it is a reference of humans who once lived as animals. While the Isaiah 11 prophesy of “the lion shall lay down with the lamb” may well find fulfillment in animals getting along, the real fulfillment lies in how persons who once ripped and devoured each other like wild beasts will no longer do so.

Similarly, waves don’t get ungodly all by themselves, but waves “of the worthless” (YLT) do.

***five of the Biblegateway translations had significantly different readings. NABRE is an example, which renders 18:4 as: ”Praised be the Lord, I exclaim! I have been delivered from my enemies.” There’s a note somewhere that it is a Masoritic correction. I have to research it further. It does have in common with the others that the trouble is with humans—enemies—and not just with some vague ‘forces of destruction,’ or ‘perdition’ as some translations say. 

***

Then there was the Watchtower Study article, “Conquer fear by trusting in Jehovah.” (January 2024 issue) At first glance, it doesn’t look like much. It’s like a recipe, that doesn’t look like much just to see it in print. But when you cook it, that is a different thing. The study itself at the Kingdom Hall amounts to “cooking it.” Most study articles are not designed to stand alone—they must be “cooked” with audience participation. 

Reference was made (paragraph 14) to a 2014 regional convention  which depicted how we might meditate on our hope. A father discussed with his family how 2 Timothy 3:1-5 might be worded differently if those verses foretold what it would be like in Paradise: “In the new world the happiest of times will be here. For men will be lovers of others, lovers of spiritual treasures, modest, humble, praisers of God, obedient to parents, thankful, loyal, having great affection for their families, open to agreement, always speaking well of others, self-controlled, mild, lovers of goodness, trustworthy, yielding, lowly in mind, lovers of God rather than lovers of pleasures, motivated by genuine godly devotion; and to these people stick closely.” 

Reversing the 19 negative attributes of 2 Timothy 3:1-5. I had not thought of that. But I raised my hand to comment that, for the most part, that reversal characterized the brotherhood today. It’s not flawless, people fall short, are imperfect, but in the main it is that way. That’s why they call it a “spiritual paradise.”

 

******  The bookstore

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A Watchtower Study to Settle the Faith-Works Debate: Part 2

Q: I dunno, can it really be that the faith/works debate that has raged for centuries can be cleared up in a single Watchtower Study? (See Part 1 ) It must be more complicated than that. You mean all who ‘disagree with our interpretation are either not intelligent enough to understand what is plain in Scripture, or so depraved as to deny the truth they see plainly?’

 

A: I think there is another explanation.

Key to me is Jesus words at Matthew 11:25

At that time Jesus said in response: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to young children. 

What other topic is like that, in which young children get the sense of it but the wise and intellectual ones do not? I think it means that a person ought park his/her intellectualism at the door, because it doesn’t help. Per Jesus’ words, it may even hinder.

In any academic topic I can think of, the wise and intellectual always have a leg up over the young children. Here, they lose out. Translation: Worship of God is not an academic subject and the biggest mistake one can make is to treat it as though it is.

 

Q: Maybe the doctrine of justification (by faith or works) does not lend itself to a simple, clear, certain, understanding, and grasp upon first reading the Bible. 

A. I think it does, though not necessarily on first reading. That is why Phillip asked the eunuch if he understood what he was reading and the eunuch replied he could not unless someone guided him.  Upon receiving that guidance, he got the sense of it almost instantly. For whatever reason, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been that source of guidance.

They’re not particularly brilliant. They don’t stand out as intellectuals. How is it they have discerned things that their academic superiors have not—things like no-trinity, kingdom over earth, no immortal soul, and so forth?

Obedience is surely one factor. God gives holy spirit to those obeying him as ruler, says Acts 5:32. I think that means if you don’t obey him, he may be stingy with the holy spirit that aids understanding. Humility would be another. Here, intellectualism actually gets in the way, for the more of it one has, the greater the assault on humility. Then, there is brotherly love and the resulting determination to remove any obstacle that gets in its way, whether it be the king stirring up emotions of national superiority, or prevailing societal  attitudes of racial, class, or educational superiority.

So, at least three factors exist that trump intellectualism: obedience, humility, and love. For the most part, those who frame discussion of faith as an intellectual endeavor make no mention whatsoever of these qualities. As often as not, they use their intellectualism as a ploy to justify doing whatever it is they want to do.

Not that there’s any virtue in being dumb. Not that if you have intellectual gifts you can’t bring them to the altar. Paul had such gifts and he was thus equipped to write 1/3 of the New Testament. But he’s not known primarily for his thinking ability, rather for his zeal,love, and humility. I like the way he takes direction from men inferior to him intellectually.

 

The sort relationship of faith and works does indeed lend itself to a simple, clear, certain, understanding. Granted, all the nuances will not be covered in a simple Watchtower Study article, but overall, I think it does. Some people don’t like simple and clear, for it undermines their love of debate and pontification. Some people like mystery. That way, you can put your relationship with God in that category and do whatever you want. You can forget all about ‘obedience’ and acquiesce to the contemporary view that obedience makes you a chump. You can speak of being ‘intellectually humble,’ as though it were possible to separate that quality from overall humility. 

One sister, who has derived benefit from her college degree, says, ‘I would never say that higher education is valueless, but it does have a way of taking things that are simple and making them complicated.’

 

These people who think they can muscle through on brainpower alone are a plague. “By their fruits you will know them,” holds no sway with them. You would think people would assess critical thinking by the world it has collectively produced. It has been the chief export of universities for some time now, and few world leaders are not university-equipped. 

Witnesses, on the other hand, though not without the minor mishaps stemming from being ‘earthen vessels,’ have achieved a peacefulness, unity, cohesiveness, that the world can only dream of. Pew Research says their membership (in the U.S.) is almost exactly 1/3 white, 1/3 black, and 1/3 Hispanic, with about 5% Asian thrown in. Translation: They have solved racism, the issue that is ripping this world apart, despite its educational advantage.

Brotherly love is a concept that works, but it does not stand well up to ‘reason,’ especially reason with evolution at its root. It is not a concept that lends itself well to ‘proof.’ The truths that are declared ‘self-evident,’ that ‘all men are created equal,’ are not at all self-evident to those evolution-based. What is self-evident to them is the 2001 SpaceOdyssey humanoid discovering he can beat the snot out of his competitor with a leg bone, whereupon he throws it into the air and out comes this spacecraft to Jupiter. 

 

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

My Meeting Notes: Week of March 4, 2024

When the Scriptural Gems portion came, five separate people commented on this verse, for the most part not repeating each other. The scripture was a hit

“Rescue me with your hand, O Jehovah, From men of this world, whose share is in this life.” (Ps: 17:14)

Imagine. You have to be rescued from them. Whatever they have rubs off, that determination to have it all, whereas any Christian knows the meaning of delayed gratification. You don’t want to overdose on people “whose share is in this life.” Alas, when one gives up on God completely, it is all that remains.

The contrast is in the very next verse (15): “I am satisfied to awaken in your presence.”

Then there was the student talk in which was quoted Mark 7:9: “Further, he said to them: ‘You skillfully disregard the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.’”

 

‘Skillfully disregard.’ They have to work at it.

 

And from the commentary on Acts (7:54-8:3):

“What can we learn from Stephen’s speech? . . .  We can also learn about graciousness and tact from Stephen. His audience could hardly have been more hostile! Yet, for as long as possible, he maintained common ground . . . he also addressed them with respect, calling the older men “fathers.” (Acts 7:2) We too need to present the truths of God’s Word with “a mild temper and deep respect.”​

How respectful can you be when you go on to call those religious high court members “obstinate men?” It recalls to me the quip that if you begin your remarks with, “With all due respect,” you can say any horrific thing you want.

 

“Which one of the prophets did your forefathers not persecute?” Stephen charges. (vs 52)

Now, the scribes and Pharisees were sensitive to that charge. They’d worked up a defense against it. Earlier, Jesus had said, (Matthew 23: 29-30) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you . . . say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have shared with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’”

Oh, hogwash, he says. You’re fully in that tradition. Keep on keeping on:

“Therefore, you are testifying against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Well, then, fill up the measure of your forefathers.” (31-32)

 

Someone commented on Stephen’s forgiveness: “Finally, Stephen prayed directly to God in a loud voice: “Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them.” After saying this, he fell asleep in death.​“—Acts 7:59, 60. Not his role to judge, apparently. Besides, maybe they were just being used.

 

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

My Quora Answers: Part 1

Probably, some are real. But, most of them are disingenuous. Some, maybe even AI generated. Still—why not answer a question? Use Twitter (X) skills. 140 characters, later 280, forced the windbags to be concise. Do it here.

Since they are disingenuous, ought one use the line of Paul to Elymas? “O man full of every sort of fraud and every sort of villainy, you son of the Devil, you enemy of everything righteous, will you not quit distorting the right ways of Jehovah? (Acts 13:10) No. Not unless you also can strike with blindness the way Paul did. Just answer the question. If they are too taunting or stupid, (which many are) let them slide.

Many are hot-button issues, taking the form of ‘gotcha’ questions, that are not heard in the Kingdom Hall, where people in general are quite content.

 

Q: Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses love the earth more than heaven? 

A: When you step on a cloud, your foot goes right through it. That doesn’t happen on earth.

“As for the heavens, they belong to Jehovah, But the earth he has given to the sons of men.” (Psalm 115:16)

 

Q: Why do Jehovah's Witnesses not go to hospitals for medical treatment? Is prayer considered more effective for healing?

A: No. They like prayer, but they don’t imagine they can go into hospitals and clear them out with prayer. Humans weren’t supposed to die at all, doing so only as a result of the first man pulling the plug on himself long ago, and consequently all his offspring. Since then, someone has likened life to boarding a great ship heading out to ocean that you know is going to sink. Usually, there is foundering along the way.

It is only when the cause of that original death is removed that sickness will be removed as well. (Romans 5:12) To be sure, prayer connects one to a higher source. The resulting better mood can aid recovery from illness, but no one imagines it a silver bullet. And, of course, Witnesses go to hospitals as readily as anyone else.

 
Q: Saints look forward to a NEW heaven & earth, says 2 Peter 3. What do Jehovah’s Witnesses say about that?
 
A: The ‘heavens’ above could fry you one moment, freeze you the next, drench you thereafter, and there wasn’t a thing you could do about it. Thus, ‘heavens’ made a good Bible metaphor for government. For the most part, such is still true of human government; they impose conditions on you, but power to change them is negligible for most. ‘Earth’ likewise becomes a symbol, not for the planet itself, but for the people on it.
 
A: They use email and voicemail.
 
 

A: To them, if it makes sense to you. Away from them, if it doesn’t.

Recognize the ‘cult’ label is affixed these days to anyone straying too far from the mainstream, and often for that reason. People who decry brainwashing the loudest are less concerned about brainwashing than they are brainwashing that is not theirs.

The definition of cult has much changed over the years. It used to be that if you fell under the spell of a charismatic leader, separated from society, and began to do strange things, you just might be a member of a cult. That definition is expanded today into any non-conformist group, as though someone else is ‘controlling’ them to do be that way.

A: No, he was the guy who said (and practiced): ‘If you stop and kick every dog that barks at you, you’ll never get very far.’
 
 
 
A: Some acknowledge that they know their Bibles quite well, but think it would be nice if they kept it to themselves.

Alas, they run up against Jesus observation that, ‘People light a lamp and set it, not under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it shines on all those in the house.’ (Matthew 5:15)

If you have good news, you don’t just sit on it. You tell others.

A: It is always hoped that a disfellowshipped one will return and many of them do. Disfellowshipping is a last-ditch attempt attempt at discipline, when all other avenues have failed, to ensure that members adhere to the biblical standards and conduct that they have voluntarily signed on for. Of course, anyone can tire of them and leave on their own, but if they insist on bringing unacceptable conduct into the congregation, trouble ensues. More on disfellowshipping here:

https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2018/08/the-trump-card-of-christian-discipline.html
 
 
A: Learn to mind your own business.
 
 
Q: Do Jehovah's Witnesses have humanitarian aid programs in addition to their door-to-door ministry?
 
A: Besides being a significant source for literacy in lands where it is poor, they are well known for disaster relief, prompting taking care of their own, in catastrophic times. They thus provide a good example for other groups to follow, for there is no reason that anyone cannot do as they do.

In recent years, some critics have attempted to spin this exercise of brotherly love as a lack of concern for anyone else. They do this even though they themselves would—say, in the event of an earthquake—check on family members first, never dreaming that anyone would frame that as indifference to the suffering of others. Jehovah’s Witnesses are a family, frankly not large enough to fix everyone. If opponents refuse to acknowledge that love of God can form the basis of family, that is hardly the Witnesses’ fault, is it?

The above is an excellent example of ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.’ What is the good of criticizing the Witnesses over this? Emulating them is a better idea. Alas, people without Bible principles tend to be slow to roll up their sleeves. They also tend not to get along, so cooperation is amongst them is difficult. Yet, all they have to do is adopt the Bible principles that Witnesses have, and all would be fine.

 

******  The bookstore

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'