“I came to start a fire on the earth, and what more is there for me to wish if it has already been lighted?”

“I came to start a fire on the earth, and what more is there for me to wish if it has already been lighted?”—Luke 12:49

What fire? How did it get lit?

Doesn’t it refer to God’s ways versus the ways of a world estranged from him? That fire was lit long ago. Jesus fans it into fever pitch, introducing a preaching activity that will ultimately put the choice in everyone’s face—is it the kingdom that they want to rule over them, or the present human system of 200 squabbling nations? Jehovah’s Witnesses who speak for him today do nothing to bring that future kingdom about, but they do publicize it:

“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Daniel 2:44

Moreover, those who want and expect that kingdom rule versus those who do not want or expect it assume different priorities in their lives that reflect their desires and expectations. It makes for significant conflicts, even within families. That must be what Jesus meant as he went on to  say:

Do you imagine I came to give peace on the earth? No, indeed, I tell you, but rather division.  For from now on there will be five in one house divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against [her] mother, mother-in-law against [her] daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against [her] mother-in-law.”—Luke 12:51-53

It manifests itself today in people changing sides—for the allure of both sides are as strong as the are different. In the case of a Witness family that some members depart from, it takes the form of the latter charging that they were misled, manipulated, and so forth. No wonder the apostle seems to anticipate the charge:

“We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.”—2 Corinthians 7:2

and

“Nevertheless, you say, I was “crafty” and I caught you “by trickery.”—2 Corinthians 12:16.

Jesus doesn’t buy it, either, about being obtuse regarding the end of this system of things approaching:

“Then he went on to say also to the crowds: “When see a cloud rising in western parts, at once you say, ‘A storm is coming,’ and it turns out so.  And when you see that a south wind is blowing, you say, ‘There will be a heat wave,’ and it occurs.  Hypocrites, you know how to examine the outward appearance of earth and sky, but how is it you do not know how to examine this particular time?—Luke 12:54-56

The trick may be to check your “critical thinking” skills at the door, so as to focus on what he next says: “Why do you not judge also for yourselves what is righteous?”—vs 57 God’s kingdom is “righteous.” Human governments, whatever their intent, whatever their ideals, whatever their sporadic successes, are not.

That being the case with God’s kingdom approaching, why make oneself an “adversary of him?”

“For example, when you are going with your adversary at law to a ruler, get to work, while on the way, to rid yourself of the dispute with him, that he may never hale you before the judge, and the judge deliver you to the court officer, and the court officer throw you into prison.”—vs 58

I liked this point as well (most of these verses were considered at the Kingdom Hall meeting this past week, and the ones not will be considered next week):

“But if ever that slave should say in his heart, ‘My master delays coming,’ and should start to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day that he is not expecting [him] and in an hour that he does not know, and he will punish him with the greatest severity and assign him a part with the unfaithful ones.”—vs 45-46

Practically speaking, the “slave” that doubts that the master is coming anytime soon (or at all) begins to reappraise all the effort he has put into publicizing that event. What once seemed as natural as breathing air now comes to seem wasted time, in fact, worse than wasted time, since it served to put he/she behind the curve as regards the goals of the greater world. In no time at all, such persons have joined “the unfaithful ones.” They are deriding what they once embraced—in effect, “beating their fellow slaves.” They are almost forced to carry on about how they were misled and manipulated, because the alternative is to explain how they could have been so stupid to go along for so many years with what they now reject. So they frame matters as a “sinister religious corporation” taking advantage of the minions. They are nuts—the only reason members incorporate is so that they can do things legally, such as owning land or publishing, that will not all fall apart with the death of the founders.

Let us visit the parallel verses in the Book of Matthew, noting that the slaves doing business have always been associated with the preaching and disciple-making work. Let us consider it in the satirical Sheepngoats Translation, which is not accepted by all scholars—in fact, most of them assume that the translators must have been smoking something:

“After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.  So the one that had received five talents came forward and brought five additional talents, saying, ‘Master, you committed five talents to me; see, I gained five talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’

“Next the one that had received the two talents came forward and said, ‘Master, you committed to me two talents; see, I gained two talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’

“Finally the one that had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I didn’t do squat. I thought about it, but you see, to do business, I would have had to work with the others, and they are all jerks. I also would have had to work with the bankers, and it is all about money with them. And I for sure didn’t want to work with any non-profit organizations who might lean on me to do something I didn’t want to do. I shouldn’t have to put up with that—I have rights. After all, we all know that you reap where you did not sow, and gather where you do not winnow. You want disciples? Then get off your rear end and make them yourself! Don’t foist your corporate agenda on me!’

“In reply his master said to him, ‘Wicked and sluggish slave, you knew, did you, that I reaped where I did not sow and gathered where I did not winnow?  Well, then, you ought to have deposited my silver monies with the bankers, and on my arrival I would be receiving what is mine with interest.’”—Matthew 25:19-25

The master could have worked with that attitude, it appears! Just take it to the bank if you feel that way, he says. Instead, the loutish slave dug in the ground and hid the silver money, (vs 25) working up a sweat so as to thwart the master’s will. it is as opposers do today. They go to considerable effort to thwart the work that they once took part it.

 

 

 

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Ben Franklin Gets Jilted and Flip-Flopping on the Resurrection

Ben Franklin courted the widow of his good friend, but the woman turned him down flat: ‘I could never be untrue to my husband.’ Then, in a dream, he went to heaven and met his good friend. They exchanged pleasantries until the friend presently said: “You must meet my new wife. She’ll be along soon.” Ben Franklin couldn’t believe it. ‘Your earthly wife is more loyal than you!’ he said. She turned me down cold on your account!’ ‘That’s too bad for you,’ the friend said. ‘She is an excellent woman and I missed her terribly at first, but now it is time to move on.’

As Ben Franklin grumbled, the ‘new’ wife showed up and it was Ben’s own deceased wife! Ben Franklin turned his rebuke on her, but she said: ‘I was a good and loyal wife to you for 50 years. Let that be enough for you!’

It is a mangling of Luke 20: 34-36, most likely, botched, but nonetheless used as a starting point. No need to say what is wrong with it. Suffice that it addresses the changed nature of relationships after death:

“Jesus said to them: ‘The children of this system of things marry and are given in marriage, but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. In fact, neither can they die anymore, for they are like the angels, and they are God’s children by being children of the resurrection.’”

For the longest time Jehovah’s Witnesses took those verses to mean that those who lost a spouse in death would not reunite in the earthly resurrection. The words were in response to a beef of the Saduccees, who did not believe in the earthly resurrection. Jesus went on to speak of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who will benefit from it.

After a certain public talk years ago that had mentioned the verse, a sister raised her had during the chairman’s remarks, something I had never seen before and have not seen again. She was new in the faith, widowed, and she looked forward to reuniting with her husband in the resurrection. She quizzed the chairman until the speaker himself raised his hand and said he would clarify the verse for her afterwards.

About 30-40 years ago, the Witness organization looked at the verses anew and said maybe she could reunite. They didn’t want to be dogmatic. Maybe the verses just applied to those having the heavenly hope, as they were the ones in abundance back then. It can’t even be said of earthly ones “neither can they die anymore.” They can, and surely will, if they show a rebellious spirit. I mean, if you were raised up to life on a paradise earth, would you grumble about the ground rules? And who is the that is "counted worthy" of an earthly resurrection? Essentially, all you have to do to qualify is to show up; it is "the righteous and the unrighteous" who benefit.

Grousers who say that Jehovah’s Witnesses flip-flop on doctrine miss the point. They’ve never said they didn’t. They do it all the time, re-examining verses in the face of accumulating knowledge. It has been called ‘the light getting brighter.’ (Proverbs 4:18) It has also been called tacking. The only ones who say they can’t do it are the grousers themselves.

That said, the major teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding the nature of God (no Trinity), the nature of the soul (not immortal), who goes to heaven (not everybody good, but only a minority), have been firmly in place for over a century. Ridding the false doctrines that make knowledge and a close relationship with God all but impossible is part of the job of ‘the messenger preparing the way.’ The first thing you do in preparing the way for a building project is to take out the trash.

(the Ben Franklin writing is called 'A Proposal to Madame Helvetius')

Franklin-Benjamin-LOC-head

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He Messed up the Lord!

Jesus healed the leper and specifically told him to keep a lid on it. Show yourself to the priests, thank God, and go about your business.
 
What did the fellow do? He shouted it out everywhere. He messed up the Lord! Jesus wanted to keep visiting the city. He no longer could do it. He had to hole up out in the wilderness!
 
What could he do? Apart from divinely muzzling the guy or handing him back his leprosy, he was stymied! The Lord!
 
He adapted, though. The cured fellow raised such a ruckus that everyone had to go out in the wilderness to check Jesus out. Maybe it even worked out better this way; they had to do something.
 
I think there’s a lesson for us. You want your companions in service to be discreet and to behave in a certain way, and they don’t. You want them to be like the silhouetted fellow in the videos and they are the exact opposite. It’s enough to drive a guy crazy. It was enough to drive Jesus crazy, too, yet he didn’t go crazy. He just adjusted tactics and it all turned out okay. And maybe at a later date he even ran across the fellow and said: “You know, you really should have kept your mouth shut. But it all worked out.”
 
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Just How Does One Evade a Lynch Mob?

Why did Jesus turn on them anyway in that Bible account at Luke 4? They (his hometown's people) had been very nice to him: "And they all began to give favorable witness about him and to be amazed at the gracious words coming out of his mouth." (vs 22) And then he turns around and insults them! - comparing them to lowlife Israelites that the prophets ignored so they could lavish attention on the widow of Zarephath and General Naaman,

It seems to be because they were patronizing him. He was the hometown boy what done good...he'd become a sensation...they'd heard great reports abroad, and they wanted a piece of him. In fact, they were put out that he had done his miracles elsewhere, and not started at home where they would drag out everyone with phyical complaint and he could do his vaudeville trick on them and make them well....just like he did in those others towns, only more so.

And here they are carrying on (same vs: 22) that "is this not the carpenter's son?" It can't have been easy for them to hear him stand up to give his talk at the synagogue, like he'd done many times before, quote Isaiah 61:1,2:

"The spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah is upon me,
Because Jehovah anointed me to declare good news to the meek.
He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And the wide opening of the eyes to the prisoners,To proclaim the year of Jehovah’s goodwill*
And the day of vengeance of our God,
To comfort all who mourn,"

and say: 'Right here. Right now. It's me,' even though he had the record and works to back it up; he was a nobody, a 'carpenter's son.' Alright, so he had learned some cool tricks abroad somehow...use them here! with your childhood townspeople!...but to go 'Messiah' on us is just too much.

As one brother pointed out last night at the meeting, they did get their miracle: When they sought to hurl the ungrateful upstart off a cliff, he got away by "passing through the midst of them." Just how does one pass through the midst of a mob seeking one's execution? I'll bet it's like that scene from Ben Hur (the Charlton Heston version) where the Roman soldier challenges Jesus (a fictional account) and then falls back at something he sensed in his manner or countenance. INTRO-BEN-HUR

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He Walked Through Their Midst

Evereyone wants bragging rights from a favorite son - a local person who goes on to make something of himself. It didn't work with Jesus, though, who went on to tell his sponsors that they were the worst of all Israelites. (Luke 4:23-27)

They were also a bit touchy about it:

"Now all those hearing these things in the synagogue became filled with anger, and they rose up and rushed him outside the city, and they led him to the brow of the mountain on which their city had been built, in order to throw him down headlong. But he went right through their midst and continued on his way." (28-30)

How did he do that?

Beach-cliff-coast-614495

 
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He Messed Jesus Up!

Okay, let's cut through the pious tape: The "I want to - be made clean" fellow that Jesus cured went on to mess him up!

1. Jesus cured him.

2. He said 'keep a lid on it.'

3. The fellow told everyone under the sun.

4. Jesus could no longer come and go openly and had to from that point on slink in the back door.

It's a good thing he was not like that last pointy-headed boss that you had. Otherwise, he might have thrown the guy's leprosy right back at him.

Mark 1:41-45

Pointyhairedboss

photo: Scott Adams (hopefully he won't mind)

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The Wicked and Sluggish Slave Strikes Again

I like the parables of Jesus where every word may convey meaning and none of it should be quickly dismissed as "filler" For example, the excuse proffered by the wicked and sluggish slave, and the master's rebuke:

"Finally the slave who had received the one talent came forward and said: ‘Master, I knew you to be a demanding* man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you did not winnow.So I grew afraid and went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ In reply his master said to him: ‘Wicked and sluggish* slave, you knew, did you, that I reaped where I did not sow and gathered where I did not winnow? Well, then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my coming I would have received it back with interest." (Matthew 25:24-27)

The master does not deny the slave's allegation that he 'reaps where he does not sow,' letting pass without comment only the slave's perception that he is thereby 'demanding.' The slave has a bad attitude, for the master does not expect to make his own disciples personally - he expects his slaves to pull with him, and the slave ought to have gotten his head around that.

Nonetheless, it seems that even with that bad attitude, the master could have worked with it. All it took was to deposit the money with the bankers - essentially a one-time only trip - and the master would have rolled with it. He may not have jumped for joy, but he would not have rebuked the slave - who worked up a sweat to thwart what would have occurred automatically.

So there are be ones today who don't have the greatest attitude. They don't have to. It is better if they do, for immersing oneself in the kingdom work as it exists is the best way to strengthen faith and be happy, they surely build up the brotherhood more, and they may be heading for shipwreck if they do not, but it is only by actively opposing and 'beating his fellow slaves' (from Matthew 24:48) that the master gets riled - burying the money in the ground, which is the exact opposite of setting the lamp on a lampstand so all will see the light.

Still pondering if I have the right read on his one. I am not sure it has been commented on in detail.

 
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Pay Them All a Denarius

If we accept the usual take that Matthew 20:1-15, about paying all workers a denarius, is about time spent in the Christian congregation and those arriving to it late have the same reward as those early, with its object lesson: 'don't gripe about it,' then how serious are we to take the questions within the parable? Do they mean anything or do they just flesh out the story?
 
I'll opt for the former.
 
The master's question smacks of a reproof: "Why have you been standing here all day unemployed?" Yet he accepts the laggards' answer: "Because nobody has hired us" and sends them also into the vineyard.
 
Why shouldn't that be applied to the preaching work? At first glance, the master is taken aback that there yet are, at such a late date, so many just hanging around unemployed. But their answer is unassailable - nobody 'hired' them.
 
It's not an exhortation to be active in the ministry and not to write off people as unresponsive? The master apparently agrees that it is just a matter of their not yet being reached.
 
April_Patina_Vosges_Die_Vogesen_France_-_Master_Alsace_magic_Elsaß_Photography_2014_Color_de_Vins_-_panoramio
 
I think the exchange of the master with the 11th hour ones serve as an exhortation to preach, and even to step it up where possible. 'Get out there so those ones know they are hired. They won't know it otherwise.'
 

There is another application of Matthew 20:1-15 - 'pay them each a denarious' - that has nothing to do with time spent in the Christain way, which I like as much, or even better.

It is: In any circumstance of life, you cut the best deal that you can and then you look ahead to the next deal You DO NOT look around, envious, at someone who may have gotten a better deal. Think of how much heartburn THAT would solve if we managed to internalize it.

Neither do you gripe, like the initial vineyard workers, that the 'master' was unfair. Life will be fair in the new system. It is not typically so today.

Maybe it is there in print somewhere. I haven't come across it. No matter. It is enough to stay within 'the pattern of healthful words' It is not necessary to but repeat the healthful words oneself.

 
photo: Master Alsace Magic ElsaB Photography
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It Really Does Seem Like a Big "Duh!"

As much as Bethel tries to convey the point that Jesus wasn't smart-mouthing his parents when he asked "Why did you have to look for me? Did you not know I must be in the house of my father?" so that kids in the Kingdom Hall do not start smart-mouthing their parents, it really does seem like a big 'Duh!' And he was right. They should have known.

Especially in view of the study note on Luke 2:46: "Historians say some of the foremost religious leaders would customarily remain at the temple after festivals and teach at one of the spacious porches there. People could sit at the feet of those men to listen and to ask questions."

Where did his parents think he was going to be? Off in some alley shooting dice with the delinquints? They knew of his miraculous birth, even if he did not at that time. Holy spirit is said to descend upon him 'like a dove' after being baptized, presumably recalling to him all his heavenly past.

He begins to minister in accord with what is revealed at his baptism and his relatives think he has gone nuts. "...they went out to seize him, for they were saying: "He has gone out of his mind." (Mark 3:21) But not his parents. They knew, so they should have known then, when he was 12.

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They ask Jesus a question and he takes so long to answer that you figure he has forgotten all about it.

The exchange is found at Matthew 15:1-20.  First he asks a counter question- a Strawman! - it would be called today (but wasn't then). He addresses their motive - an adhominem attack! - it would be called today (but wasn't then).
 
(the handwashing has nothing to do with hygiene - it is a ceremonial thing and involves washing up to the elbow)
 
Then the scoundrels who asked the question storm off and the disciples tell Jesus that they were upset. He tells them not to worry about it.
 
Then he seemingly veers off on another topic over what it is that defiles a man- what comes out of his mouth or what goes into it. It is what goes out: foul things that he may say. Only then does he finally answer the question - 20 verses later - and the ones that demanded he answer are no longer around to hear it!
 
Wash hands
 
Then there came to Jesus from Jerusalem Pharisees and scribes, saying: "Why do your disciples overstep the tradition of the men of former times? For example, they do not wash their hands when about to eat a meal.”
 
In reply he said to them: “Why do you overstep the commandment of God because of your tradition? For example, God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Let the one who speaks abusively of his father or mother be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother: “Whatever I have that could benefit you is a gift dedicated to God,” he need not honor his father at all.’ So you have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition. You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you when he said: 'This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshipping me, for they teach commands of men as doctrines.’” With that he called the crowd near and said to them: “Listen and get the sense of it: It is not what enters into a man’s mouth that defiles him, but it is what comes out of his mouth that defiles him.”
 
Then the disciples came and said to him: “Do you know that the Pharisees were stumbled at hearing what you said?” In reply he said: “Every plant that my heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted. Let them be. Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” Peter responded: “Make the illustration plain to us.” At this he said: “Are you also still without understanding? Are you not aware that whatever enters into the mouth passes through the stomach and is discharged into the sewer? However, whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and those things defile a man. For example, out of the heart come wicked reasonings,r murders, adulteries, sexual immorality, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man; but to take a meal with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”  (Matthew 15:1-20)
 
photo: Mark Turnauckas
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