Monday, October 26, 2009

Circuit Assembly 2009-2010 – Protect our spirituality (Rom.8:5; Jude 17-19)

We just had the circuit assembly this weekend and what an awesome pair of days it was! We got to meet our new district overseer and his wife, brothers Melendez. And got to see our circuit overseer and his wife once again, brothers Ortiz. What awesome speakers they are! Brother Ortiz is very enthusiastic and uplifting and brother Melendez is very “animated”, that talks with conviction and seriousness. He then softens up with a big smile from time to time.

Whenever a new traveling overseer is assigned, we get a chance to know a little about them through an interview. They explained what influenced them to enter the traveling work. But first of all, they both had to have been full time pioneers first. That prepared them and enabled them to then enter into the circuit and ultimately into the district. They expressed so genuinely how they love what they do, and how much they treasure the ministry. Even though having studies is more difficult to maintain in the service that they do, for they don’t pertain to a specific congregation, the brother shared how he does telephone witnessing and how he conducts Bible studies that way. That shows a lot of these traveling brothers, that even though they don’t have much time to preach, they do all they can to participate in it.

What a difference from other religions. You probably wouldn’t see leaders of other religions go out and preach to people. Much less teach them valuable things rather than "Jesus loves you". You most certainly won’t see the Pope do such a thing. No way. These brothers, including the anointed brothers of Christ, go and preach. They don’t make themselves to be gods or someone above the rest. They are humble, and that is beautiful about Jehovah’s people.

Anyway, resuming course. The sessions were so great that I would like to share some of my and others’ notes. Besides it’ll help me to remember and retain the information.

The first talk was given by Brother Melendez. It was called Why is our spirituality so valuable? At least three reasons:

1) It helps us to endure tough times. James 1:2,3 admonishes to “consider it all joy” when we are met with difficulties, because those times will test our faith and make us stronger.

2) Spirituality produces true joy and peace forever. Romans 8:6 says that being spiritual, in the true sense (Romans 8:5; Matthew 7:21-23) leads to joy, life and peace.

3) And most importantly, our spirituality pleases Jehovah God.

The talk Pioneering elevates our spirituality was given by brother Arredondo. He gave a most encouraging talk saying that not being pioneers doesn’t mean that we are not spiritual people. BUT, the HUGE advantage of serving as a pioneer elevates our spirituality and opens doors to other privileges. Sometimes circumstances don’t allow one to pioneer, but the question we have to ask ourselves is, “Can we change our circumstances?”

Brother Noriega, had the Baptism Talk. The talk brought out how it’s Jehovah who qualifies and prepares us to be ministers, not a man or organization (2 Corinthians 3:5,6); and the main work we have to do as witnesses of Jehovah, to preach the good news, for His “will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth”.

The first symposium was entitled Beware of the threats against our spirituality.

1st talk: Why be alert? Brother PĂ©rez answered with 1 Peter 5:8: “Keep your senses, be watchful. your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour [someone].” But we are not ignorant of his methods (2 Corinthians 10:12). The information encouraged keeping a simple eye and avoiding distractions and overconfidence, which leads to permissiveness. The more we liken ourselves to Christ’s mind, the more spiritual we will be, resulting in happiness and peace (Acts 20:35).

2nd talk: Avoid distractions that consume time. Brother Cavazos spoke logically to us. He said that if one goes toward one point, he obviously moves away from the opposite point. The more we draw closer to Jehovah, the farther away we will go from distractions the world throws our way. He spoke of the importance of our time, that if we are not careful, it will seep out of our hands, as sand from a closed fist. Philippians 1:10 says, “Make sure of the most important things.” He interviewed brother Chapa on doing just that. He said that every night, he and his family sing Kingdom songs before going to bed and how his three year-old daughter knows song #29 “Forward, You Witnesses!”. So cute. The brother continued saying that some things are not bad to do, such as watching appropriate television or navigating the Internet for example, but the time that is spent on them is. Besides, what do they contribute to our spirituality? Hebrews 9:14 talks of dead works, that do not produce the fruitage of the spirit. He then concluded saying ‘the more we have, the easier it is to lose balance.

3rd talk: Protect your spirituality from erosion. Erosion – A gradual decline of something. Brother Rufinelli described symptoms of spiritual erosion:
1) neglecting personal study
2) envying the supposed “good life” of others.
Isaiah 5:12 describes the condition of the Israelites when unfaithful. They have allowed their spirituality to erode. In contrast, we want to have our spirituality strong as when King David wrote the 23rd Psalm.

4th talk: Fight to counteract permissiveness. Brother Castillo’s information cautioned that permissiveness leads to errors and immorality. Hebrews 3:13 talks about the “deceptive power of sin”. One might say, “Oh, this won’t affect me.” “So and so is not THAT bad of a person.” The “deceptive power” of sin led permissiveness, and that led to the death of some 24,000 Israelites (Numbers 25:1-9). Wearing all of the Christian armor, as described in Ephesians 6:13, will help us to counteract permissiveness.

Ok, that is it for now. In a couple days or so, whenever I get a chance, I’ll put up some of the points we took from the last two super-encouraging talks on Saturday: Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and What characterizes a spiritual person? given by our circuit and district overseers... SO TUNE IN NEXT TIME!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Help find the very knowledge of Jehovah

October 5, 2009, Morning Worship, David Splane of the Governing Body conducted.

Brother Splane commended the Bethel family and mentioned how sometimes they didn’t realize how everything they do plays a part in getting the good news preached throughout the lands. He went on to relate this experience:

In June 2009 he traveled to a District Convention in Congo Kinshasa on the continent of Africa to release the New World Translation in their language. The brothers had tried to rent the Sports Stadium for years, but the Minister of Sports had said that a sports stadium should never be used for a religious convention. But now there was a new Minister of Sports appointed. The brothers made a request and he agreed to allow it. The brothers told him that 29,000 were expected to attend.

Soon thereafter the Minister of Justice found out about the convention. He was Neo Apostolic and said that if Jehovah’s Witnesses could have the stadium, why couldn’t his religious group? He said that the Witnesses could have it on Friday and Saturday, but his group wanted it on Sunday. After much negotiation, it was agreed that the Witnesses would use it from 7:00 a.m. – 12 noon on Sunday. They would have one hour to vacate and his group could have it beginning at 1:00 p.m. The Neo Apostolic group has a reputation for extracting money from the people in this country where money is hard to come by. The publicity surrounding the use of the stadium resulted in many in his group finding out that there was another convention Friday and Saturday. So many thought, “Why don’t we go and see what it is about?”.

Friday morning, to the surprise of everyone, the attendance was 45,000. When the New World Translation in their language was released, the applause was thunderous for 5 minutes. (Thunderous is 1000 times louder than enthusiastic, according to Brother Splane.) Neighbors from around the stadium heard the applause and wondered what team was playing. So many came in the afternoon to find out and stayed for the session. Those who had worked so hard on the translation had the privilege of distributing the Bibles throughout the stadium to those who remained seated after the morning session. The translators and the people receiving Bibles were weeping when they were handed out.

A Senator wrote a letter to the Branch office after the convention thanking them. He said, “Very little information has been translated into Congolese. Not only do you people translate, but you give everyone a free copy.”

Saturday 1,088 were baptized and amazingly 72,000 were in attendance. On Sunday the brothers didn’t mind the 7:00 a.m. start, since their congregation meeting normally started at 6:00 a.m. They were happy to be able to sleep in an extra hour. To everyone’s shock, 87,000 attended on Sunday. Brother Splane had prayed to get an indication as to what some of the people were thinking that attended for the first time, especially those of the Neo Apostolic faith. Were they seeing a contrast between their own faith and that of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

His prayer was answered. A man put a note in the contribution box that expressed gratitude for the convention. He couldn’t believe that with this group there were no collections taken and that he received a Bible free of charge in his language. He said, “I am going to study. I have already received more from you people than from my church.”

How did all of this come about? In January, Brother Splane received a call that with the production time and the shipping through England to the Congo, the Bibles would be received at their destination two weeks after the convention. One phone call to the printing department resulted in that overseer saying that they would drop everything and start printing the Bibles. Then the shipping department got involved and did some research. They found a company that could get the Bibles there sooner. As a result, the Bibles arrived in April instead of June. There is a huge difference in a promise of a Bible and receiving a Bible in your hands. Everyone pulled together and did their small part. The group effort of the Bethel family made this happen to the praise and glory of Jehovah God. They were doing their part helping others “find the very knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:5 – Text for 10/05/2009).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Beauty in Dissimilarities

This past Friday’s daily text was 1 Corinthians 12:12“The body is one but has many members”. We are all different. We all have a distinct height, weight, skin color, and personalities. And especially because of the fact that someone else’s personality may differ from ours, we may be inclined to focus on their weaknesses rather than on their strengths.

The comment of “the faithful and discreet slave” (Matthew 24:45-47) gives the illustration of a camera. It is as if one has a camera with a lens to focus only on a small area, seeing only a small part of that person. But Jehovah sees the whole person, including all of the individual’s good qualities. He gave an awesome example with King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 19:2,3).

It may be difficult when someone’s personality may greatly be different from ours. And it could be that one may even use that as an excuse. “Oh, we don’t get along because we have a difference of personality.” And that may be why one just says their ‘hello’ and moves on. A district overseer once mentioned in a talk a wonderful point regarding this. He said how the reality of the situation is that there are going to be differences in personalities. No doubt. But, he continued, that the fact also is that a new personality, the one that replaced our old personality while we were learning about Jehovah, cannot be in conflict with another new personality (Ephesians 20-24; Colossians 9:10). Hebrews 4:12 also states how the Word of God is powerful enough to change one’s life for the better, helping us take off and destroying that old personality. If one is set on that they cannot get along with someone, the question is: “Ok, then what has the Word of God done for you in your life?”

Yes, we will not always agree and see eye to eye on something, but there cannot be a conflict between two new personalities. Two new personalities, even if they are different, will find a way to put aside those differences and remember that we are all brothers and sisters on the same side and that we need each other. Besides, there is beauty in differences. It’s like seeing a field of flowers of a great diversity. How beautiful! How boring if they were all the same. There is no one that we do not need. Some are happier, some are more serious. Some talk too much, some don’t talk at all. That is beautiful in Jehovah’s eyes, and it should always be in ours too. That is why the apostle Paul wrote under inspiration those words to the Christians in Corinth, that the body (the congregation) has many members (different kinds of brothers and sisters), and that we need each other.

The context of the daily text, in verses 14-26 shows us how we all need each other. It would be ridiculous if one picked up a saw and said, “You know what, I don’t like my pinky finger. It’s so small and kinda in the way”. And so this disturbed individual proceeds to cut off his pinky. How would he react? Pain and tears will follow thereafter. ‘If one suffers, we all suffer. If one is glorified, we all rejoice’ says the 26th verse. We all need each other. Especially in light of what Hebrews 10:24, 25 says: “And let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, […] encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”

Thursday, October 8, 2009

“This is what the love of God means”

Today’s “Daily Text” was on 1 John 5:3 that reads in part: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments”. The comment from the “faithful and discreet slave” (Matthew 24:45-47) gives an example of this. Under the Mosaic Law, Hebrews that were slaves were set free at a certain time. But according to Exodus 21:5,6 such slave could say, “You know what, I don’t want to be set free”. What could possibly compel someone to do that? For love. If his master had been considerate with him, which was law, he could remain under his authority. That is also what compels us to dedicate our lives to Jehovah and live in accordance with that dedication. The apostle Paul wrote under inspiration in his letter to the Christians in Rome: “None of us, in fact, lives with regard to himself only, and no one dies with regard to himself only; for both if we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. Therefore both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah.” BEAUTIFUL WORDS! That type of love does not look for its own interests (1 Corinthians 13:4,5). And so when we deal with others, our love of divine principles as well as love for our neighbor compels us to ‘consider them superior to us’, putting their interest ahead of our own (Philippians 2:2,3).

The rest of the scripture brings another point. The latter part of 1 John 5:3 reads: “And yet, his commandments are not burdensome”. This one circuit overseer brought out an interesting point on this scripture. He mentioned how we Jehovah’s Witnesses are busy people. We have five meetings in two days (Hebrews 10:24,25), which we have to prepare for; we deepen our understanding of the Holy Scriptures with a personal study (Ecclesiastes 7:12), if one has a family, a Family Worship Night is held weekly (Deuteronomy 6:6-9), which one also has to prepare for, we have our daily reading of the Bible (Psalm 1:1-3), we have three new magazines every month to read before we present them to the public (Philippians 4:8), we dedicate a certain amount of hours per week to preach the “good news”, cultivate interest by returning to the householder, and conduct home Bible studies, which we also have to prepare for (Matthew 24:14; 28:19,20), we dedicate time to offer heartfelt prayer to Jehovah to strengthen our faith (Luke 18:1-8), we dedicate time to visit our brothers and those who are ill and elderly (Galatians 6:10; James 1:27), and those who serve as overseers have other responsibilities as well as these mentioned (Acts 20:28).

The brother (mentioned above) said that one may think, “Well we have a lot to do!” And yes, we do. And to some it may seem like it’s too much, that it is ‘burdensome’. But the brother reminded us of what 1 John 5:3 says, that “his commandments are not burdensome”. He then continued, “Do you know what is burdensome? Neglecting such things. If we procrastinate, leave things for the last minute, or simply neglecting our study, preparation, etcetera, we will feel burdened. But if we have a theocratic schedule, which many do, these things bring so much satisfaction! Jehovah never gives us what we cannot accomplish. These activities invigorate our lives. By the end of the day, we probably will feel tired and exhausted, but with a gratification that NOTHING else can give us. A satisfaction that we accomplished something, and something that is worth the effort, for we strengthened our relationship with our Creator, proving the inspired words of the apostle John; and that we have pleased him. And that fact alone is worth the world.