Bible Principles—Can They Help Us To Cope With Today’s Problems?

Why Use Bible Principles?

Our theme is “Bible Principles – Can They Help Us To Cope With Today’s Problems?” But that can’t be right, surely?

You ever had one of those managers: young, wears loud braces, university graduate, knows all the management lingo but seemingly knows nothing about your job or the real world. You go in to him, tug of the forelock: “Excuse me, sir. I’m having a problem with this project.”

What does he say? “Don’t come to me with problems; come to me with solutions.”

So, why isn’t this talk called “Bible Principles – The Solution to Today’s Problems?”

Well, Jehovah has provided the solution to today’s problems: through his Kingdom under the rulership of Jesus Christ, he will restore mankind to perfection and the earth to a paradise. It will be so complete a solution that it is called a “new earth.” After that, Jehovah will be restored as sole ruler of mankind. But that’s a little way off. However, because he loves us he doesn’t say, ‘Well, I’m setting up this kingdom for you. That should be enough. See you there.’ No, He also helps us to cope with problems that arise in the meantime.

To do this, he gives us principles. Why just principles? This way, He treats us with respect and autonomy. Rather than him miraculously whooshing our problems away one at a time or endlessly nit-picking every element of life into a law, he gives us principles that we can apply ourselves. And He says that regardless of the problem, the ability to cope is within each one of us; He guarantees it (1 Cor 10:13).

He doesn’t butt in to our conflicts, he doesn’t force white toothy smiles onto our faces, he doesn’t magic us up money and he doesn’t remove situations that cause anxiety. We’re not babies needing him to do everything for us nor does he treat us like such. He tells us what is good and helps us cope with the not-so-good. By giving us principles he maintains our dignity and true independence and freedom.

Today, there is a superabundance of advice on virtually every imaginable subject. So why are Bible principles better?

Have you ever watched the weather forecast on BBC and thought, ‘I don’t much like that; I’ll see what the weather is on ITV.’ Human advice is plentiful and frequently contradictory; sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong. Sometimes it’s harmless, sometimes it’s harmful. The motivation of the adviser is usually unknown or is for financial gain or self-publicity; rarely is it to benefit the hearer.

But Bible principles? They’re based on God’s wisdom, they’re available for free, they haven’t needing changing in thousands of years and Isaiah 48:17,18 reveals His motives for sharing them:

“I, Jehovah, am your God, The One teaching you to benefit yourself, The One guiding you in the way you should walk. 18 If only you would pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”

Yes, Jehovah wants us to experience peace and benefit from his timeless wisdom. Clearly Bible principles are better than human advice. Eventually, though, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So, let us consider how Bible principles can help us cope with four common problems: resolving conflicts, finding happiness, dealing with economic problems and allaying anxiety.

How To Resolve Conflicts

First problem: resolving conflicts.

Many today suffer at the hands of thoughtless and self-centred people. Even when not dealing directly with a personal conflict, because of people like this, we still find ourselves in fear of getting into conflict. We may hesitate to speak up or act in the way we would like because we are in fear of antagonising people like this.

And, amazingly, the world’s favourite system of government, democracy, is built upon a constant, never-ending political conflict and getting the populace to choose sides. This world is built on conflict and suffers from the never-ending threat of it.

So what principle can resolve this?

Five hundred years before Christ, Chinese philosopher Confucius described the virtue Ren or humaneness with a phrase along the lines of “What you do not want done to you, do not do to others.” While this is certainly great advice, Jesus Christ would reveal another dimension. For what surprisingly appears to be the first time in recorded history, he stood the Confucian statement on its head and provided his followers with the principle recorded at Matthew 7:12.

All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them.

Jesus so redefined the Confucian principle that the prior way came to be called the Silver Rule, while the Bible principle revealed by Jesus came to be called the Golden Rule.

Applying this principle means treating others respectfully, fairly, and honestly, showing genuine concern for their welfare. That is a great way of avoiding conflict in the first place. So why do we still have conflicts? Why isn’t this the solution to conflicts?

Let’s consider the example of Jesus and his apostles at Matthew 26. Please open your Bibles there and we’ll scan through a few verses starting at verse 47.

We’re in the Garden of Gethsemane on the last night of Jesus human life. Obviously, Jesus could perfectly apply his own principle and must have done so toward Judas. Yet what do we see in verse 47?

While he was still speaking, look! Judas, one of the Twelve, came and with him a large crowd with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Jesus came into conflict with Judas, the religious leaders and a bunch of armed soldiers.

You see, in order for this Bible principle to be a perfect solution, everybody needs to apply it and we cannot control what other people do.

Jesus remaining faithful apostles knew the Golden Rule but look a few verses down to verse 51.

But look! one of those with Jesus reached out his hand and drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, taking off his ear.  This is the Apostle Peter escalating the conflict, not resolving it.

In order for the Bible principle to be a perfect solution, we have to apply it perfectly. And, even though we try, even though we may apply it 99% of the time brilliantly, we simply have to realise that we will sometimes make a right pudding of it. And somebody may lose their ear.

It’s interesting to note Jesus response to Peter’s escalation of the conflict. He states in verse 52:

“Return your sword to its place, for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.”

This is the Silver Rule principle. ‘Now, Peter. Would you like your ear sliced off? No? I didn’t think so. So don’t go around slicing other people’s ears off.’

But what does Jesus himself do? Luke tells us (in Luke 22:51) “he touched the ear and healed him.” Jesus perfectly applied the Golden Rule principle. He did good to others, first. He still got arrested and executed, though, didn’t he?

So, if we do find ourselves in conflict, does the Golden Rule become irrelevant? Should we, perhaps, run away from conflict so that we don’t make things worse? No. In fact, the Bible tells us the reverse: if we have a problem with someone, we go and see them – but always with the principle of the Golden Rule in mind.

See what the purpose of Jesus’ advice at Matthew 5:23-25 is.

“If, then, you are bringing your gift to the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar, and go away. First make your peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift. 25 “Be quick to settle matters with your legal opponent, while you are with him on the way there, so that somehow the opponent may not turn you over to the judge, and the judge to the court attendant, and you get thrown into prison.

The purpose of his advice is to pursue peace; to settle matters before they get out of hand; to do good to the one we are in conflict with because, of course, we would like him to do good to us.

Now, even though they won’t always resolve things, how do these Bible principles help us cope with conflict?

If we strive to apply the Bible principle of the Golden Rule, we will be actively pursuing peace and that gives us inner calm and helps us to enjoy happy relationships. Consider what Philippians 4:9 has to say about those who pursue peace by applying Bible principles.

The things that you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these, and the God of peace will be with you. If we pursue peace by applying Bible principles, the God of peace will be with us. And what does that mean? Verse 7 the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.

Bible principles help us to cope with today’s problem of conflict because we will receive peace from God that surpasses our understanding. The conflict may or may not get resolved, but Jehovah promises us that, even if we can’t see how, we can cope with it.

In God’s coming new world, our imperfect tendency towards conflict will belong to the past. But in the meantime, we can use the Bible principle of the Golden Rule to help us avoid, resolve and cope with conflicts.

How To Find Happiness

Our next problem is how to find happiness.

Now this is one of those subjects where it is easy to agree with the scripture at Luke 12:15. In theory.

“Then he said to them: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of greed, because even when a person has an abundance, his life does not result from the things he possesses.” ”

Many people would agree you can’t buy happiness. But then they continue to look for it through money, possessions, prominence, power, pleasure or other selfish means. So how does the Bible principle at Acts 20:35 help us to cope when we can’t find happiness through these things?

“I have shown you in all things that by working hard in this way, you must assist those who are weak and must keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said: ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’” “

Jesus taught his followers that true happiness comes from being generous. It’s not what we have that brings happiness; it’s what we do with it. This principle helps us cope because it puts things such as money, prominence and power in their proper place. Having them is fine. The Bible features the super-rich such as Solomon, the extremely prominent such as Abraham, the extraordinarily powerful such as Jesus Christ.

Yet they are all notable for giving of themselves and their things. Solomon gave himself and his wealth to the building of the temple; Abraham all but gave the life of his son; Jesus gave his power to heal the sick and, ultimately, gave his life.

Now, what if we’re not a multi-billionaire or a father of nations or capable of raising people from the dead? How do we apply this principle?

Looking back at Acts 20:35, what action did Paul couple with the principle “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving”? It was ‘assisting those who are weak’. Now that’s more wide-ranging than simply giving to the poor, isn’t it? It means that we can give of whatever we have; it could be money or material things but it could also be time, care and energy.

Giving generously builds strong marriages and happy families because we think of their well-being first and put our material and career pursuits in their proper place. Giving of ourselves can bring comfort to the bereaved, the sick, the elderly, and the depressed because they need our time, care and energy to help them cope.

And how does giving bring us happiness?

Often we can directly see the positive results from the giving of our things, time, and energy and this brings us happiness. Our giving is usually much appreciated and gratefully received and this gratitude brings us happiness.

Hebrews 13:16 highlights another way that giving brings us happiness.

“Moreover, do not forget to do good and to share what you have with others, for God is well-pleased with such sacrifices.” Yes, on top of the immediate benefits of giving, our actions can please God. Jehovah is not just pleased, mind you, he is “well-pleased.” And that brings us happiness. It also means that when we give and don’t see a positive result or a grateful response, we can still be happy because we know that God sees our actions and that he is well-pleased with them.

In God’s coming new world, our imperfect tendency towards selfishness will belong to the past. But in the meantime, we can use the Bible principle of there being ‘more happiness in giving than in receiving’ to cope when we don’t find happiness in material pursuits.

How To Deal With Economic Problems

Our third problem is economic. In today’s world, not only do many people struggle with making ends meet, entire countries do.

Now, where do you keep your cash? A wallet? Yeah, you’re doing it wrong. Once, when Jesus needed to pay his tax he said “Of course; get me a fish. Yes, from the sea.” Then he magicked some money out of it and paid his tax with that. Oh, and he paid the Apostle Peter’s tax while he was at it. (Mt 17:24-27) Unfortunately, Jesus isn’t producing infinite money from unsuspecting wildlife today.

So, the bible principle we are going to look at doesn’t directly concern money. The principle is in 1 Timothy 6 and keep your bibles open, please. Look at verse 8 with me and note that money is not mentioned. Can you see why?

“So, having food and clothing, we will be content with these things.”

The Apostle Paul is telling us to be content with the necessities. Why? He continues in verse 9 and 10:

“But those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge men into destruction and ruin. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”

While success in this world is often measured in terms of material possessions, it’s the determination to get them that can be ruinous. It’s all too easy to lose perspective on the important things in our life such as our worship and time with our families. So the principle in verse 8 reminds us to be content with the necessities. Does this mean that once we have the necessities we should give the rest away or stop working or something? Does this mean that we are not allowed to be rich? That we’re not allowed to have nice stuff? Look to verses 17-19:

“Instruct those who are rich in the present system of things not to be arrogant, and to place their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who richly provides us with all the things we enjoy. 18 Tell them to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be generous, ready to share, 19 safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, so that they may get a firm hold on the real life.”

Paul was addressing Christians who were rich and reminding them, not to give everything away and live on the breadline, but to be careful and remember where their trust needs to lie.

So if we don’t need to teeter on the precipice of poverty to apply this principle, just what does being “content with these things” mean?

Contentment involves living within our means. Contentment involves not being distracted by the quest for more or better material possessions. Contentment involves not being resentful or disappointed by our current standard of living.

And how does being content help us to cope with economic problems?

Being content will help us readjust to new financial circumstances as quickly as possible.

Being content will help us focus on the more important things such as cultivating a good relationship with God and enjoying a happy and secure family life.

Being content will help us avoid being enticed by get-rich-quick schemes and risky financial investments which cause distracting anxiety.

Consider this indisputable statement from Proverbs 22:7

“The rich one rules the poor, And the borrower is a slave to the lender.”

Being content will help us to minimize the times we become slave to a lender because we will try not to incur unnecessary heavy debt which causes anxiety and pressure, distracting us from the more important things.

In God’s coming new world, economic problems will belong to the past. But in the meantime, we can use the Bible principle of being content to live within our means to help us avoid and cope with economic problems.

How To Allay Anxiety

Our fourth topic is how to allay anxiety. There are plenty of things to be anxious about these days; it seems almost everyone has something weighing down on them. So what Bible principle might we apply to help us cope with anxiety?

Philippians 4:6, 7 opens with a dogmatic and startling phrase:

“Do not be anxious over anything”

Easy for him to say. How is that possible?

“but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”

Prayer brings us “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding”. Now perhaps we can’t see how prayer can bring us peace from anxiety. We can’t imagine how it works. Indeed, it “surpasses all understanding.” But history and personal experience will tell us that it does work and we will receive the peace of God. Does that mean that prayer is a magic cure-all? No, because it’s not the solution; it’s there to help us cope until the solution is complete.

Now, what if you pray and it doesn’t work and you’re still anxious and you don’t feel like you’re coping at all? Does that mean you’ve done it wrong or that the principle has failed or God’s just had enough of you and your whining?

Consider, please, the example of Jesus recorded at Luke 22 and we’ll look at a few verses here.

Luke 22:41-43 He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw away, and he bent his knees and began to pray, 42 saying: “Father, if you want to, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, let, not my will, but yours take place.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.

Did Jesus have reason to be anxious? Yes, this was the night he was to allow himself and his Father to be humiliated and his life to be sacrificed. He was clearly worried about it, there was tremendous pressure on him and he was feeling it. He prayed and got a wonderful direct answer: an angel came and strengthened him.

However, look at verse 44.

But he was in such agony that he kept praying more earnestly; and his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground.

Yeah, the first prayer didn’t do it. Not only that, after his first prayer he became more stressed; so much so that it describes his sweat becoming like blood. Have you ever been so anxious or stressed over something that it affects you physically? Some of you have, I’m sure. And it happened to Jesus after he prayed about his anxiety.

Did that mean that Jesus would abandon the idea of prayer or presume God was ignoring him? Of course it didn’t. Just a short while later when he returned to his disciples in verse 46, he extols the value of prayer – “keep praying, so that you do not enter into temptation” – and, even though his anxiety nor the circumstance causing it were miraculously wiped away, he was able to cope and continue with the task at hand.

He clearly wasn’t embarrassed to pray repeatedly, even immediately, was he? With Jesus’ experience in mind, let’s consider a couple of points from James 1:5

“So if any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching, and it will be given him.”

You see, Jehovah doesn’t mind us praying again and again, in fact, he urges us to do so: “keep asking”. I like James’ use of the phrase “without reproaching”. God will not think less of us because we ask repeatedly for his help. ‘I can’t believe you need my help again so soon already.’ No, there is no reproaching or criticism or smug sarcastic comments from God just because you need to pray to him over and over. Jesus had to pray immediately after he had been strengthened. Jehovah wants us to feel comfortable enough with him to do the same.

Now, prayer by itself will help but we need to work along with it. Philippians talked about guarding hearts and mental powers, James talked about praying for wisdom. Sometimes we can avoid, guard against or cope with situations that cause anxiety by following wisdom gleaned from God’s Word. Prayer… can give us enough peace so that we can find that wisdom.

In God’s coming new world, all problems that cause anxiety will belong to the past. But in the meantime, we can use the Bible principle of persistently praying for peace and wisdom to help us cope with and allay anxiety.

What is the Key to Coping with Today’s Problems Successfully?

Chatting about these principles is all well and good and easy now. But how do we make sure we still refer to them when we need to? You see, everything’s working against us. When things are going well, we tend to consider it our own achievement and so our opinions take on an exaggerated importance. When things become difficult, we tend to become more susceptible to unrealistic solutions and find it harder to make discerning decisions.

See what Hebrews 5:14 tells us will help us train our powers of discernment.

“Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their powers of discernment trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”

‘Discernment trained through use.’ That means we need to consider and apply Bible principles constantly; not just when we have problems. We have to continually prove to ourselves that God’s wisdom is better than our own. That only happens through personal study and meditation. By doing that, we will be training our conscience to default to God’s wisdom and that will help us make sure we still refer to Bible principles when problems arise.

So, Bible principles – can they help us cope with today’s problems? Well, as we’ve seen, they can help us to avoid some of today’s problems in the first place. But when enduring problems, Bible principles can help us to cope, often by keeping things in proper perspective and by reminding us to keep asking for the “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.”

Eventually, thanks to God’s coming Kingdom, today’s problems will belong to the past. But in the meantime, thanks to God’s love, Bible principles can help us to cope so that we can march gratefully into that eagerly awaited new world.

Does the Bible Teach That Sexual Relations Are Sinful?

The traditional parent-child discussion on sex is often referred to as the birds and the bees. I had a think about this and have no idea what the birds and the bees have to do with human sexuality; if anything, they make the discussion much more complicated. But one thing that did strike me while pondering this most worthwhile conundrum was that an animal’s sexual activities are never sinful. For example, if you’ve got a cat and it comes home pregnant, you don’t condemn it for doing something sinful.

But humans? For humans it’s different. We can sin – that is, we can fall short of God’s standards – and one way we can do this is through improper sexual relations.

So what does the Bible teach about this? Let’s consider three verses that cover this subject: two that show how sexual relations are to be used acceptably and one sinfully.

First let’s consider God’s blessing at Genesis 1:28

“Further, God blessed them, and God said to them: “Be fruitful and become many, fill the earth and subdue it,”

Fulfilling this divine command would require that Adam and Eve have sexual relations, wouldn’t it? Doing so would not be sinful but would be in harmony with God’s purpose for the populating of the earth. Jehovah reiterated this when Noah survived the flood and, once more, it’s nice to see that He referred to populating the earth as a blessing.

So procreation for a husband and his wife is not sinful. What about recreational sex?

1 Corinthians 7:2-5 “because of the prevalence of sexual immorality,* let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband give to his wife her due, and let the wife also do likewise to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but his wife does. 5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent for an appointed time, so that you may devote time to prayer and may come together again, in order that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-control.”

Sexual relations between a husband and wife are completely appropriate and an important part of the relationship. There is no mention of baby-making here, just the generous sharing of one’s body with the other.

What sex is sinful, then? Well, the scripture in Corinthians contrasted proper sexual relations between a husband and his wife with sexual immorality, that is, intercourse involving parties who are not scripturally married to each other. But is sexual immorality really sinful? Or is it just an acceptable alternative? Aren’t our bodies ours to use as we see fit?

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 For this is the will of God, that you should be holy and abstain from sexual immorality. 4 Each one of you should know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not with greedy, uncontrolled sexual passion like the nations have that do not know God. 6 No one should go beyond proper limits and take advantage of his brother in this matter, because Jehovah exacts punishment for all these things, just as we told you previously and also strongly warned you. 7 For God has called us, not for uncleanness, but for holiness. 8 So, then, the man who disregards this is disregarding, not man, but God, who gives you his holy spirit.

While we can do what we want with our bodies, sexual immorality has consequences; it affects our standing with God. Jehovah says that sex involving parties who are not scripturally married to each other does not meet his approval; in other words, sexual immorality is sinful.

So, does the Bible teach that sexual relations are sinful? As we often find, the Bible’s view is clear, candid and refreshingly balanced and straight-forward. God’s arrangement is that a man and a woman married to each other can have sex to produce children and just for fun. Unlike the birds and the bees, though, the Bible teaches that any other sexual relationship is sinful.

rs p. 367 ¶1–p. 368 ¶2

Highlights from Exodus 1-6

The Exodus account is one of the most famous in the Old Testament. There have been lots of books written about it and famous movies made about it. There’s another big Exodus movie coming this winter with Batman as Moses.

You see, to many, the book of Exodus appears to be a book about Moses. But it’s not. It’s deeper than that; and it’s all about God.

Exodus appears to be a book about legal minutia; about God getting into every orifice of your life with commandments and regulations and judicial decisions and stop telling me what to do. But it’s deeper than that. It’s a book that is setting up how completely unnecessary such detailed stipulations should be; something that would only be explained 1500 years later by Jesus Christ when he staggeringly condensed every law ever written into two sentences.

Exodus appears to be a book about Jehovah’s cruelty and violence. And, to be fair, Jehovah sure kills an awful lot of people. But it’s deeper than that. Each of the estimated 810,600 (Drunk With Blood, God’s Killings in the Bible by Steve Wells) deaths in Exodus was avoidable – indeed some Egyptians did – and they were a clear consequence of someone ignoring Jehovah’s warning. Exodus shows how Jehovah gives men free will to make their own choices – even if they choose punishment and death.

Perhaps surprisingly, Exodus also gives us insight into Jehovah’s tender feelings.

For example: what does Exodus 3:7-10 teach us about Jehovah?

“Jehovah added: “I have certainly seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their outcry because of those who force them to work; I well know the pains they suffer. I will go down to rescue them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a land good and spacious, a land flowing with milk and honey, the territory of the Ca′naan·ites, the Hit′tites, the Am′or·ites, the Per′iz·zites, the Hi′vites, and the Jeb′u·sites. Now look! The outcry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen also the harsh way that the Egyptians are oppressing them. Now come, I will send you to Phar′aoh, and you will bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” ”

These verses reveal that Jehovah is a deeply concerned and caring God, not just about himself, not just about his name but also about his people. He says “I well know the pains they suffer.” What does the expression “I well know” imply to you? Barnes’ Notes on the Bible comments that “I well know” implies personal feeling, tenderness, and compassion. But Exodus demonstrates that Jehovah does more than simply look with pity or hear with compassion. He is moved to act.

Obviously, he did this with the rescue and migration of Israel out of Egypt. But Jehovah’s compassion is also demonstrated on a more subtle and personal level.

Look at Exodus 6:9-13:

“Moses later gave this message to the Israelites, but they did not listen to Moses because of their discouragement and because of the harsh slavery. Then Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying: “Go in and tell Phar′aoh, Egypt’s king, that he should send the Israelites away out of his land.” However, Moses replied to Jehovah: “Look! The Israelites have not listened to me; how will Phar′aoh ever listen to me, as I speak with difficulty?” But Jehovah again told Moses and Aaron what commands to give to the Israelites and to Phar′aoh, Egypt’s king, in order to bring the Israelites out of the land of Egypt.”

Jehovah didn’t cruelly abandon or intolerantly criticise or violently destroy the Israelites for their lack of faith but compassionately understood their situation and spoke positively to them about how he was going to make the future better.

Jehovah wasn’t infuriated by Moses negative vibes and patiently reiterated his instructions and, to help him, went on to detail precisely what to say and how Pharaoh would react.

Today, too, we can be sure that Jehovah cares for us deeply; he knows the pains we suffer, he knows the pressures we are under and he is moved to act in our behalf. He speaks positively to us about how He will make the future better and, to help us, gives us the Bible and Christian fellowship.

Exodus appears to be about certain things; many presume that it’s about Moses. But it’s not. It’s about God and it’s deeper and more meaningful than Hollywood and, perhaps, we might imagine.

Other highlights from Exodus 1 to 6?

Exodus 4:20. Now Moses’ sons could have been almost 40 years old at this point. “Then Moses took his wife and his sons and lifted them onto a donkey.” How big was this donkey?

5. What does Exodus 3:7-10 teach us about Jehovah? [Mar. 31, w09 3/1 p. 15 pars. 3-6] These verses reveal that Jehovah is a deeply concerned and caring God. The expression “I well know” implies personal feeling, tenderness, and compassion. Furthermore, Jehovah does not simply look with pity or hear with compassion. He is moved to act. Today, we can be sure that Jehovah cares for us deeply, he knows the pains we suffer, and he is moved to act in our behalf. (1 Pet. 5:7)

6. How did Jehovah live up to one aspect of the meaning of his name in the days of Moses? (Ex. 3:14, 15) [Mar. 31, w13 3/15 pp. 25-26 pars. 5-6] Jehovah lived up to one aspect of the meaning of his name by proving to be Israel’s Deliverer, by punishing Egypt with ten plagues, and by showing that Pharaoh and the Egyptian gods were powerless. (Ex. 12:12) After leading Israel safely through the Red Sea, Jehovah destroyed Pharaoh and his army. (Ps. 136:13-15) In the wilderness, Jehovah kept millions of Israelites alive, and he even caused their clothes and sandals not to wear out. Nothing can stop Jehovah from fulfilling his word. (Deut. 29:5)

Genesis 31: Don’t Mess With Women on Their Periods

After 20 years in his father-in-law Laban’s service, under instruction from God, Jacob wants to return to his father, Isaac, and his homeland. Because God had been looking after Jacob and cheerfully reversing Laban’s attempts to cheat Jacob, Laban’s attitude toward his son-in-law had cooled. Laban didn’t like Jacob; Laban’s sons didn’t like Jacob.

Because Laban has a habit of putting several years’ worth of obstacles and random women in his way, Jacob is going to leave as surreptitiously as possible.

“Moreover, Jacob outwitted La′ban the A·ra·mae′an, for he had not told him that he was running away.” – Genesis 31:20

Well, “outwitted” is probably putting it a bit strong.

“Now La′ban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole the teraphim statues that belonged to her father.” – Genesis 31:19

On their way out, Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel steals her father Laban’s idols. These were extremely important; it’s thought that they represented the estate and whoever owned them could lay claim to it. Quite why she took them isn’t terribly clear.

“On the third day, La′ban was told that Jacob had run away. So he took his brothers with him and pursued him for a journey of seven days and caught up with him in the mountainous region of Gil′e·ad”. – Genesis 31:22,23

The idols were so important that Laban chased after Jacob (who had a 3 day headstart) for 7 days.

“Then God came to La′ban the A·ra·mae′an in a dream by night and said to him: “Be careful about what you say to Jacob, either good or bad.” ”- Genesis 31:24

They were so important that Laban ignored a warning from Almighty God himself to basically leave Jacob well alone.

“It is in my power to do harm to you.” – Genesis 31:29a

They were so important that Laban was ready to kill Jacob to retrieve them.

“Anyone with whom you find your gods will not live. Before our brothers, examine what I have, and take what is yours.” But Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.” – Genesis 31:32

Jacob, who knew nothing of the theft, suggests that Laban search the entire camp so that he can kill the thief. This seems like an entirely reasonable suggestion to Laban; the idols were so important that he would kill whoever stole his belongings.

“So La′ban went into the tent of Jacob and into the tent of Le′ah and into the tent of the two slave girls, but did not find them. Then he came out of Le′ah’s tent and went into Rachel’s tent. Meanwhile, Rachel had taken the teraphim statues and put them in the woman’s saddle basket of the camel, and she was sitting on them.”- Genesis 31:33-34a

He finally storms into Rachel’s tent where she’s put them in a saddle bag which she is sitting on.

He searches Rachel’s tent. He comes to the saddle bags that Rachel is sitting on. She doesn’t get up.

Here is a man who has stormed across country for seven days. Here is a man who has defied the advice of God. Here is a man who is prepared to kill whoever stole his belongings.

“Then she said to her father: “Do not be angry, my lord, because I am not able to get up before you, for the customary thing with women is upon me.” ” – Genesis 31:35a

More colloquially: “Pardon me, but I’m on my period and I’m not moving.”

“So La′ban searched through the whole tent but did not find them. … So he searched on carefully but did not find the teraphim statues.” – Genesis 31:34b, 35b

Here is a man who has stormed across country for seven days. Here is a man who has defied the advice of God. Here is a man who is prepared to kill whoever stole his belongings.

“Then La′ban departed and returned home.” – Genesis 31:55

Here is a man who knows not to argue with a woman on her period.

Highlights from Daniel 10-12

Daniel 10:2, 3 In those days I myself, Daniel, happened to be mourning for three full weeks. 3 Dainty bread I did not eat, and no flesh or wine entered into my mouth, and in no way did I grease myself until the completing of the three full weeks.

Daniel was concerned about fellow Jews who in 537 B.C.E. had returned to Jerusalem. That’s a nice reminder right there; to pray for our brothers and sisters.

Jehovah noted Daniel’s actions and heard his prayer and immediately sent an angel to strengthen and reassure him.

Daniel 10:12 And he went on to say to me: “Do not be afraid, O Daniel, for from the first day that you gave your heart to understanding and humbling yourself before your God your words have been heard, and I myself have come because of your words.

Yes, Jehovah heard and acted on the first day Daniel started praying. But didn’t verse 3 say that the angel arrived three weeks later? Well, it turns out he had a good excuse.

Daniel 10:13 But the prince of the royal realm of Persia was standing in opposition to me for twenty-one days, and, look! Mi′chael, one of the foremost princes, came to help me; and I, for my part, remained there beside the kings of Persia.

I suppose the first thing to note is the account never mentions why one of the other 100 million angels couldn’t have come. More importantly, it tells us why this angel was delayed by revealing that this ‘prince of Persia’ was actively stopping him. Who was this ‘prince of Persia’?

The angel was obviously not referring to Persian King Cyrus, who was favourable toward Daniel and his people. Additionally, how could a human resist an angel?

The only being that could resist an angel must be a fallen angel, a demon, an agent of the Devil, who had been given control over the realm of the Persian Empire.

The angel goes on to reveal more in Daniel 10:20:

…now I shall go back to fight with the prince of Persia. When I am going forth, look! also the prince of Greece is coming.

So there wasn’t just a demon assigned to Persia. There was also one assigned to Greece. What can we conclude from this?

That there are invisible world rulers, demon princes who share control of the world under the authority of Satan the Devil. This chilling state of affairs was something the Apostle Paul wrote about at Ephesians 6:12:

we have a wrestling, not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.

Wicked spirit forces: demon princes.

And Daniel’s experience confirms, that when Paul said ‘we have a wrestling,’ he didn’t just mean generally. Yes, there is the spirit of the world and the endless distractions and temptations of modern life. But in Daniel’s case, demons actively worked against a response to prayer; angels have to battle through them to bring Jehovah’s messages to us.

We always value responses to our prayers but I’m sure that this reminder will help us to appreciate even more the work Jehovah’s invisible organisation puts in, the battles they must wage, to bring us his answers.

Reference: w11 9/1 The World’s Secret Ruler Exposed

Why Greed Is Idolatry

Ephesians 5:5 tells us that being a “greedy person … means being an idolater.” But why is that the case?

Consider the commandment regarding idolatry in Exodus and see why the command was given:

“You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.” – Exodus 20:5

‘Don’t serve them, serve only me.’ If you’re not worshipping Jehovah, as far as he’s concerned, you’re committing idolatry. Whatever takes the place of worshipping Jehovah becomes our idol.

Can greed for something take the place of worshipping Jehovah? Yes, of course it can. If we’re greedy for something, it has become the priority in our life and, therefore, Jehovah is not. Whatever takes the place of worshipping Jehovah becomes our idol.

The question now is: how can we tell if we are greedy? Greed is when a normal desire becomes insatiable and takes over our lives. In the context of idolatry, greed is when a normal desire or part of life takes priority over worshipping Jehovah.

So, is a normal desire or part of life beginning to take priority over worshipping Jehovah? We need to look for warning signs, chinks in our spiritual armour, the thin end of the wedge, as it were.

Let’s consider two areas: meetings and preaching. Perhaps we can ask ourselves how many meetings have we missed this year and why? Did I miss those meetings because I keep allowing a normal desire or part of life to encroach on worshipping Jehovah?

Do I prepare for every meeting? Or do I keep allowing a normal desire or part of life to steal that time away?

In April the average hours for publishers in the congregation was 7.7. Are we one of those who do less than that in the preaching work? I am, so I ask myself, is that because I keep allowing a normal desire or part of life to encroach on worshipping Jehovah?

If we are, is that the thin end of the wedge?

We can also look at things such as personal study, prayer, meditation, and personal conduct. We can analyse these to see if we are pushing Jehovah’s worship out of first place. Whatever takes the place of worshipping Jehovah becomes our idol.

Now, what would you say is the opposite of greed?

“So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” – 1 Timothy 6:8

What would you say is the opposite of greed?

“Let [YOUR] manner of life be free of the love of money, while YOU are content with the present things. For he has said: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.” ” – Hebrews 13:5

What would you say is the opposite of greed? Contentment. If we’re content, it means that our normal desires are under control and so we are able to keep things in their proper place. If we are content, then we will put Jehovah’s worship first and gladly fit everything else around that.

So, greed is idolatry because whatever we are greedy for takes the place of worshipping Jehovah. We want to be content so that Jehovah can fulfil his promise to us that he ‘will by no means leave us or by any means forsake us.’

What Are the Benefits of Knowing the Truth About Death?

This isn’t a talk about the truth about death but about the benefits of knowing the truth. But one benefit we don’t get is highlighted in Genesis.

“So Sarah died in Kir′i‧ath-ar′ba, that is to say, He′bron, in the land of Ca′naan, and Abraham came in to bewail Sarah and to weep over her.” – Genesis 23:2 (also Luke 11:35. “Jesus gave way to tears.”)

Abraham knew the truth about death. He knew about the resurrection and almost certainly knew of the events in the Garden of Eden. Nevertheless, when his wife died, the event still affected him deeply. Knowing the truth about death doesn’t mitigate grief. We will be traumatically, perhaps uncontrollably, upset when someone we love dies.

So, if that is the case how are we to understand this verse?

“Moreover, brothers, we do not want YOU to be ignorant concerning those who are sleeping [in death]; that YOU may not sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13

Well, we still experience sorrow so what do you think is the key word here? Isn’t it ‘hope?’ What difference does it make?

Consider this experience from Nigeria related in a 2007 Watchtower:

Kehinde and Bintu, a Nigerian couple who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, lost two of their children in a car accident. Ever since, they have suffered pain because of this terrible loss. Even so, their trust in Jehovah sustains them, and they continue sharing the Bible’s message of hope with their neighbors.

Others noticed the serenity and strength displayed by Kehinde and Bintu. One day a woman named Mrs. Ukoli said to one of Bintu’s friends: “Bring the woman who lost two children at the same time and is still preaching the Bible’s message. I want to know what gives her the power to endure.” When Bintu arrived at the woman’s house, Mrs. Ukoli told her: “I want to know why you are still preaching about the God who killed your children. God took my only girl. Since then, I have nothing to do with God.” Bintu used the Bible to explain the reason why people die and why we can have the sure hope that dead loved ones will be resurrected.—Acts 24:15; Romans 5:12.

Afterward, Mrs. Ukoli said: “I used to think that God takes people in death. Now I know the truth.” She decided to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses in order to learn more about God’s promises.[1]

Mrs Ukoli did not know the truth about death and what effect did it have? She attributed the tragedy to Jehovah and lost her relationship with God. Learning the truth helped her to see that Jehovah wasn’t responsible for her girl’s death; he did not ‘take her’. She would have been reassured that her daughter was not all alone waiting in heaven. Learning about the hope God gives made it possible for her to appreciate the resurrection hope and the provision he has made to remove death forever.

And that’s the difference, isn’t it? Without the truth, without hope, grief can cause us to lose faith. It can cause us to lose our relationship with God. With the truth, with hope, we can gain genuine comfort from Jehovah’s promises.

“He will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces.” – Isaiah 25:8.

Isn’t that a lovely thought? Not just that Jehovah has a plan to “swallow up death forever” but that he will also “wipe the tears from all faces.” *Mime wiping tears from someone else’s face* ‘Here you go, it’ll be alright.’ And you know, even though you’re sad, it will be.

Because we know the truth about death, because we have the hope of the resurrection and that Jehovah will “swallow up death forever,”[2] we can be genuinely comforted during grief. When we weep, we can allow Jehovah to wipe the tears from our eyes and our relationship with him will become even closer.

We are truly benefited from knowing the truth about death.

[1] The Watchtower 2007 5/1 p.5 box, 6 Help From “the God Who Supplies Endurance and Comfort”

[2] Awake! 1980 3/22 p. 10 What Is Death?

Who Is Your God?

Now on this subject we’re given the account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

King Nebuchadnezzar had set up a golden image, probably of the chief Babylonian god Marduk. He ordered his government to come and worship the image. For the Jews, though, this was a big problem thanks to Commandments One and Two.

Exodus 20:3-5a “You must not have any other gods against my face. 4 You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. 5 You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion…”

This exclusive devotion made the Jews unique among the ancient nations in that they were the only ones who could not worship foreign gods. Babylonians had no problem giving worship to Jehovah in addition to their own gods but Jews could worship only Jehovah.

Unfortunately, the punishment for not worshipping Nebuchadnezzar’s image was death by fiery furnace. For the longest time, i.e., until I prepared this talk, I thought that Nebuchadnezzar had a special furnace just for throwing people into. As if he’d gone down B&Q: “Yes, I’d like a fiery furnace. No, a big one.” In reality, it was probably a furnace used for making bricks and horrific death was just a bonus feature. Anyway, we know how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego responded:

Daniel 3:18 “…let it become known to you, O king, that your gods are not the ones we are serving, and the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship.” ”

But no-one will throw us in a fiery furnace for being a practising Christian. It’s not an immediate matter of life and death. If false worshippers don’t treat religion as all that important, will that apathy rub off on us?

In our increasingly secular society, the question ‘who is your god’ doesn’t really matter to many. Will that apathy rub off on us?

A religious commenter wrote: “The greatest development in modern religion is not a religion at all—it’s an attitude best described as ‘apatheism’ … a disinclination to care all that much about one’s own religion.” [1] Will that apathy, that apatheism, rub off on us?

It could, but I’m sure we don’t want it to.

Is apathy a quality you’d use to describe the response of the three Hebrews? Do you think there was any question in their mind when the issue of exclusive devotion came up? Do you think they wondered: “guys, where exactly do we stand on this?” No, because their lives were clearly centred on Jehovah. They must have kept him close in mind continually. They were spiritually minded and proud to be His servants. So when their faith was tested, they didn’t have to think. They knew: “the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship.”

Just like the apostles in Jerusalem: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

We too can fight apathy by being spiritually minded and proud of our identity. How do we do that? One religious magazine [2] listed the following:

  • Continually reaffirm your relationship with God
  • Prove Bible truth to yourself
  • Seek to please God, not man
  • Make your Christian identity known
  • Cherish your spiritual heritage
  • Immerse yourself in Christian activities

When we do these things, we will be able to respond definitely and without hesitation, like the three Hebrews would have, to the question ‘who is your god?’

  • [1]Let It Be” by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic May 2003
  • [2] The Watchtower 2005 2/15 Safeguarding Our Christian Identity p.17-21

Jesus’ Vital Role in God’s Purpose

You know the scripture that says “all things are possible with God”? (Matt. 10:27) I’ve found something that he couldn’t do and it clearly shows just how vital Jesus’ role in God’s purpose is.

Jesus has been intimately involved in God’s purpose since day one. Colossians 1:17 talks about this time:

“Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist”

Jesus was deeply involved in the creative works. He is called a “master worker” (Prov. 8:30) and Jehovah is likely speaking to him during the Genesis account when he said “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26) So Jesus has always been very important in the outworking of his Father’s purpose but, of course, the rebellion in Eden occurred and that changed his role considerably. From that point on, Jesus became vital to the successful outworking of Jehovah’s purpose. How vital? Without Jesus, Jehovah could not accomplish his purpose; in fact, it would become impossible for Jehovah on his own to fulfil his purpose; that’s how vital.

Satan caused mankind to become alienated from God and slaves to sin and death from imperfection. To accomplish Jehovah’s purpose those things would need to be reversed and would require Jesus to do something that Jehovah could not. Mark 10:45 tells us what that was:

“For even the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.”

Justice demanded that a ransom be paid to buy back what had been lost. But Jehovah couldn’t give his soul as a ransom; he is immortal and cannot die. It wasn’t possible for him to do this himself. Instead, Jesus willingly undertook this most selfless of tasks and so enabled Jehovah’s purpose to still come to fruition. And when we mention the death of Jesus, we remember that it was an awful, awful experience.

Jesus came to Earth knowing that when his end came, it would be painful and humiliating. He knew how criminals were executed. He knew they were flogged and nailed to something. Look at your hand. Look at your wrist. Imagine someone carefully placing a huge, blunt nail just there. Stare at it. Then, BAM! Jesus knew this, and did it anyway. Why? Because he wants to see God’s purpose fulfilled and because he loves us.

Jesus also knew that he would have to resist calling upon Jehovah for a rescue. He made a point of this, first telling his apostles that he could call legions of angels if he wanted to and later proclaiming on the torture stake that Jehovah had forsaken him; that he had no protection from above. It’s all very well going into something knowing that you’ve got superpowers and God on your side; it’s something entirely different going into something knowing that you can’t use those powers and God will not be stepping in to put a premature end to it.

Jesus knew this, and did it anyway. Why? Because he wants to see God’s purpose fulfilled and because he loves us.

Without Jesus, without this sacrifice, God’s purpose could not be fulfilled. With Jesus and his remarkable sacrifice, it could.

Scriptural proof? Remember that Satan caused mankind to become alienated from God? Note what Colossians 1:19,20 tells us about Jesus sacrifice:

“[God] saw good for all fullness to dwell in him, and through him to reconcile again to himself all [other] things by making peace through the blood [he shed] on the torture stake, no matter whether they are the things upon the earth or the things in the heavens.”

To reconcile means to re-establish a close relationship between. All things in heaven and earth were reconciled to God through Jesus’ death. Remember Jesus himself talked about this earlier: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Only by putting faith in Jesus can we have a close relationship with Jehovah. Having a close relationship with Jehovah is part of his purpose and Jesus’ role is vital.

What effect did the ransom sacrifice have with regard to sin and death? Yes, look at Hebrews 2:14, 15:

“Therefore, since the “young children” are sharers of blood and flesh, he also similarly partook of the same things, that through his death he might bring to nothing the one having the means to cause death, that is, the Devil; and [that] he might emancipate all those who for fear of death were subject to slavery all through their lives.”

Not only did Jesus sacrifice emancipate or liberate mankind from slavery to sin and death but he also provided the final nail in Satan’s coffin. After this point, Satan remains alive only to see the ultimate fulfilment of Jehovah’s purpose. Once His purpose has come to fruition, Satan will be destroyed.

What does freedom from slavery to sin and death mean? John 3:16

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”

No sin means no death. No death means, obviously, everlasting life. Everlasting life for mankind is part of God’s purpose and Jesus’ role is vital.

It was impossible for Jehovah to send himself to Earth as a human and die because he cannot die. It was impossible for us to pay the ransom of a perfect human life. But God didn’t want this to be a Catch-22 and so he gave his Son and his Son willingly submitted. He could be sent to Earth and offer his perfect human life as a ransom sacrifice, once for all time.

This talk doesn’t begin to cover every role that Jesus has in God’s purpose. But when we remind ourselves of these things, even briefly, and meditate on them it should have an effect such as that described at 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15:

“For the love the Christ has compels us, because this is what we have judged, that one man died for all; so, then, all had died; and he died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.”

To compel means to exert a strong, irresistible force on. When we think about Jesus, the love he showed for Jehovah and for us and his vital role in God’s purpose, it has a profound effect on our attitude, conduct and goals in life.

We want people to know that this is why we are Christians: to unitedly exercise faith in Jesus and tell people about the vital role he plays. This is why we are a worldwide brotherhood identified by love: because Jehovah and Jesus loved us. This is why we look forward to the future: because Jehovah has a purpose and because Jesus has made it possible for it to be fulfilled.

Do You Remember to Say Thank You?

lr chap. 18; Luke 17:11-17 The Ten Lepers


“And what do you say, Little Johnny?”

“Oh. Thank you, grandpa, for the Werther’s Originals. Can I eat them now?”

Do you recognize that? Now, here are two questions that sound the same but aren’t. Are you thankful? Do you remember to say thank you? Little Johnny was surely thankful to receive a nice toffee sweet from grandpa but he didn’t remember to say thank you.

With that in mind let’s see how our scriptural example fits in. It comes from a drive-by healing Jesus performed while on his way to Jerusalem one day and is related at Luke 17:11-17.

11 And while he was going to Jerusalem he was passing through the midst of Sa·mar′i·a and Gal′i·lee. 12 And as he was entering into a certain village ten leprous men met him, but they stood up afar off. 13 And they raised their voices and said: “Jesus, Instructor, have mercy on us!”

Now this tells us something about the ten lepers. They had congregated outside the village (for five-a-side, perhaps?) and stood away from the main road, so far that they had to shout to get Jesus’ attention. This was in obedience to the Law that told them that they had to be quarantined outside the village while they were contagious. So the ten lepers were obedient to God’s law.

14 And when he got sight of them he said to them: “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Then as they were going off their cleansing occurred.

Notice the order of events. Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests before he healed them. Would you have gone on your way? Or you would have said “Er, haven’t you forgotten something?” No, all ten lepers went on their way while still unclean. They showed obedience to Jesus and terrific faith and trust in him. So we have ten faithful, obedient men. What happens next?

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice. 16 And he fell upon his face at [Jesus’] feet, thanking him; furthermore, he was a Sa·mar′i·tan. 17 In reply Jesus said: “The ten were cleansed, were they not? Where, then, are the other nine?

Ten faithful, obedient men; ten men who received a miraculous cleansing. One man returned to Jesus; one man remembered to say thank you. Do you think it likely that the other nine lepers were ungrateful for being healed? “Oh, look, I have perfect skin. This is awful.” If Jesus had met up with them and said “And what do you say, you formerly leprous men, you?” do you think it likely that they would have said “Oh, yes. Thank you.” and meant it?

Were the ten lepers thankful? Almost certainly; Jesus had miraculously healed them. Did the ten lepers remember to say thank you? Only one took his gratitude and turned it into action; only one returned and said thank you.

People do things for us all the time. Perhaps they bring us to the meeting or take us in the ministry or offer an encouraging word or help with the shopping or make us a meal or hold the door open for us or give us a perfectly-formed hug or even do the washing and drying up and putting away.

Are we thankful? Of course we are. Do we remember to say thank you? …

In the congregation, the elders organize and deliver meetings for instruction and meetings for field service. They keep the congregation clean and are always available to provide spiritual guidance and comfort.

Are we thankful? Of course we are. Do we remember to say thank you? …

Then, of course, Jehovah himself has provided us with good things. He has revealed to us the truth and given us the brotherhood, the Bible and his own ear to help us endure through these “hard to deal with” times.

Are we thankful? Of course we are. Do we remember to say thank you? …

Now, after the meeting, please feel free to come and get a sweetie from me. And make sure you remember to say thank you.

Highlights from First and Second Peter

I read about a nurse who once found a confused patient in the bathroom brushing her dentures in the toilet while, the whole time, complaining about the sink being too low. The Apostle Peter also wrote about a low sink but this one isn’t quite so funny.

1 Peter 4:3,4 “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for YOU to have worked out the will of the nations when YOU proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries. 4 Because YOU do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of YOU.”

Wouldn’t you agree that “low sink of debauchery” is the perfect description of modern Christmas for many? “Deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches.” “And a partridge in a pear tree.”

And is it true to say that the world is puzzled by those of us who choose not to engage in such practices especially at this time of year? Yes. If you tell a worldly person that you’ve never been drunk or never had sex before marriage, they find it difficult to believe.

Yet most people, even those that practice them, would also agree that those things – loose conduct, drunkenness, bad behaviour and things like them – are not desirable. It’s obvious that a true Christian wouldn’t follow that course.

But what about the more subtle aspects of Christmas? Many people also recognise that Christmas had its roots in paganism and that Jesus wasn’t born on 25th December but they say that it doesn’t matter. It’s what it stands for now that is important. They are puzzled when we say that these elements mean we cannot be associated with the celebration at all.

Aren’t they right, though? Because Christmas is accepted as a valid celebration of Jesus’ birth by Christendom, surely its roots and inaccuracies don’t really matter anymore.

This is where the Judeans from 612 B.C.E. come in. Let’s see what they were up to at Ezekiel 8:16.

“So he brought me to the inner courtyard of the house of Jehovah, and, look! at the entrance of the temple of Jehovah, between the porch and the altar, there were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of Jehovah and their faces to the east, and they were bowing down to the east, to the sun.”

In 612 B.C.E., the Judeans introduced pagan worship of the sun into the temple in Jerusalem. Was such pagan worship sanctified by being carried on in Jehovah’s temple? If they did it for long enough, would it have become acceptable? Verse 17:

“And he went on to say to me: “Have you seen [this], O son of man? Is it such a light thing to the house of Judah to do the detestable things that they have done here, that they have to fill the land with violence and that they should offend me again, and here they are thrusting out the shoot to my nose?”

Yes, rather than being sanctified, that pagan form of worship put the whole temple in jeopardy. These practices permeated Judah and contributed to the prevalence of violence and moral degradation in that land. It is similar today with Christendom where practices rooted in paganism come to the fore and the behaviour described by Peter – loose conduct, drunkenness, bad behaviour and things like them – are tolerated. Just because it is accepted by Christendom and the world does not mean we should accept them.

Because we take a stand on this issue, even though many people acknowledge what we say, they are, as Peter said, puzzled at us. So, aside from not celebrating Christmas, what kinds of actions show that we are not in this “low sink of debauchery”? Peter continues at 1 Peter 4:7

“But the end of all things has drawn close. Be sound in mind, therefore, and be vigilant (lit. be sober) with a view to prayers. 8 Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10 In proportion as each one has received a gift, use it in ministering to one another as fine stewards of God’s undeserved kindness expressed in various ways. 11 If anyone speaks, [let him speak] as it were [the] sacred pronouncements of God; if anyone ministers, [let him minister] as dependent on the strength that God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. The glory and the might are his forever and ever. Amen.”

Amen, indeed, brothers.

How Forgiveness Promotes Unity

In my research for this talk, I came across lots of articles about forgiveness and they all said forgiveness promotes Christian unity. But they never said how. They just said it did. So what I thought we’d do is consider some of the standard scriptures about forgiveness and try and see how they promote unity. See if you agree.

So, we’ve offended somebody? How does Matthew 5:23, 24 help us to promote unity?

23 “If, then, you are bringing your gift to the altar and you there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar, and go away; first make your peace with your brother, and then, when you have come back, offer up your gift.”

This promotes unity because it reminds us that our worship will not be acceptable until we have made peace with our brother. It shows that Jehovah considers the peace and unity of our worship to be critically important, more important than the actual act of worship itself; “go away,” he says, “first make your peace.” If he considers it so important, so should we. If both parties to a problem consider the matter as Jehovah considers it, it is a uniting factor.

Luke 17:3,4 picks up this situation and adds some detail:

3 Pay attention to yourselves. If your brother commits a sin give him a rebuke, and if he repents forgive him. 4 Even if he sins seven times a day against you and he comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.

“If he repents forgive him.” One article put it this way: “Forgiving an offender who has apologised is essential.” (w96 7/15 p.18 par.13). How does that promote unity? It shows that both parties want the same thing: to be united in worship and to have peace in the congregation. It shows that the offender still wants to serve Jehovah despite his error. It shows that the forgiver also wants the offender to serve Jehovah and is willing to serve alongside him despite his error.

And forgiving “seven times a day”? How does this promote unity? It unites us because we are following the example of Jehovah as highlighted at Colossians 3:13:

Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave YOU, so do YOU also.

Jehovah freely forgives us all as many times as we make mistakes and repent. We are united when we all try to follow his example.

So what might it mean to forgive and promote unity? It means that we wouldn’t try to stop an offender from serving Jehovah. We wouldn’t make their position untenable. We wouldn’t make efforts to avoid them; we wouldn’t have the attitude that ‘if they come to the meeting I’m not going.’ We wouldn’t spread malicious gossip or untruth. We wouldn’t make barbed comments at meetings. We wouldn’t highlight their error. We wouldn’t try to embarrass them. We wouldn’t be happy to see them suffer when they reap what they sow.

We would recognise that we are all trying to worship Jehovah. We would admire the humility required to ask for forgiveness. We would understand the effort it takes to repent. And we would continually remind ourselves that Jehovah forgives all repentant ones and that he would forgive us in the same situation.

Truly forgiveness does promote unity.

Highlights from Luke 22-24: Cultivating a Christ-like View of Greatness

Sources: Luke 22-24, w04 8/1 Cultivating a Christ-like View of Greatness

“I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.” “I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest.” “When you’re as great as I am, it’s hard to be humble.” Who said those things? Muhammad Ali.

Luke 22:24 “However, there also arose a heated dispute among them over which one of them seemed to be greatest.”

Not for the first time, the apostles argued over who was the greatest. But do you think their argument sounded like those Muhammad Ali quotes? Did Peter say “When you’re as great as I am, it’s hard to be humble.”? Did John retort: “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”? Did James spout: “I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest.”?

No, it is highly unlikely their argument took any form like that. It is more likely that they were arguing about something else but their true motive was to make themselves look better. So what were they arguing about? Well, we don’t know for sure but we can look at Jesus’ counsel to them on the topic.

Luke 22:25-27 “But he said to them: “The kings of the nations lord it over them, and those having authority over them are called Benefactors. 26 YOU, though, are not to be that way. But let him that is the greatest among YOU become as the youngest, and the one acting as chief as the one ministering. 27 For which one is greater, the one reclining at the table or the one ministering? Is it not the one reclining at the table? But I am in YOUR midst as the one ministering.”

Now it seems likely that Jesus was referring to his washing the feet of the apostles earlier in the evening. Perhaps the argument had started along the lines of “I can’t believe you let our Lord wash our feet, John. You should have done it. You got the room ready.” “What do you mean, I should have done it? Peter got the room ready as well. And, while I’m on that subject, what about Peter? He even asked our Lord to wash his hands and his head as well. I’m glad I’m not like that.” “What do you mean, I’m glad I’m not like that. No-one tries harder than me to do as instructed. Even if it meant going to prison, I’d do what Jesus says. I’d even die if necessary.”

And so on and so on. Perhaps you can picture the argument now. And recognize it.

I am sure that none of us have had an argument where we have said the words “I am the greatest, and you’re not.” But how many of us have expressed opinions, had arguments or acted in a manner where the underlying point was to make ourselves appear better?

So looking back at Jesus’ counsel to the apostles let’s briefly consider what it means for us in a practical sense.

‘The kings of the nations lord it over them. You, though are not to be that way.’ Jesus says here that the standard of worldly greatness, greatness before men, showy greatness, is not the standard of Christ-like greatness. In this world, a great man is one who controls and commands others and has his every whim catered to. But among Jesus’ followers, it is humble service that is the measure of greatness: “the one acting as chief as the one ministering.”

One clear group who need to keep this Christ-like view of greatness in mind is those who have and those who are reaching out for privileges in the congregation. Do we look for opportunities to serve others, see a need and fill it? Are we willing to put ourselves out to fulfill responsibilities? Are we willing to perform helpful tasks that are not readily noticed by others? For example, a young man might be willing to give talks on the platform but might hesitate to render help to the elderly. Do we seek the association of responsible men in the congregation yet be reluctant to share in the preaching work? Do we focus primarily on aspects of God’s service that bring recognition and praise? Seeking personal glory is not Christ-like. Jesus said he did not accept glory from men. (John 5:41)

Let’s conclude with a nice example of ‘an overseer who was inspecting the operations of one of the branch offices. In spite of a very busy schedule and a heavy load of responsibility, the overseer stopped to help a young brother who was struggling to adjust the settings on a stitching machine. “I could not believe it!” the brother recounted. “He told me that he operated the same type of machine when he was a young man, and he recalled how difficult it was to get just the right settings. He worked on that machine with me for some time even though he had so many other important things to do. That really impressed me.” That brother is now an overseer himself at one of the branch offices and he still remembers that act of humility.’

‘May we never feel that we are too lofty to do humble things or too important to do menial tasks.’ We will then show by all our actions and speech that we share Christ’s view of greatness and, hopefully, will not get ourselves into an argument over who is the greatest.

Is Having Material Riches Evidence of God’s Blessing

Sources: w01 9/15 Jehovah’s Blessing Makes Us Rich; study 38: Interest-arousing introduction; Forbes rich list

According to 2008 Forbes annual rich list, the richest person in Britain is Lakshmi Mittal whose steel businesses make him worth around £25 billion. He’s also Europe’s richest man. However, he’s only the fourth richest man in the world. Microsoft co-founder William Gates III, Bill Gates? Third richest with a £33 billion fortune. The richest is investment banker Warren Buffett who is worth around £35 billion.

Bearing that in mind, a question with an obvious answer comes from the scripture at Proverbs 10:22.

“The blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.”

Is having material riches evidence of god’s blessing? Is Warren Buffett the most blessed man in the world, the greatest servant of Jehovah alive today, the most outstanding example of Christian living we have the privilege of sharing the planet with at this time whose every movement is accompanied by a heavenly choir of awestruck angels? No.

The reasoning is this: if having material riches was evidence of God’s blessing then being poor would be evidence of God’s – what’s the opposite of blessing? – disapproval. And that does not fit with his personality.

As we know, the Bible is here referring to spiritual riches. What do they include?

God’s Word the Bible, the gift of Holy Spirit, Christian love in our brotherhood, gifts in men with elders and mini-servants, the privilege of the Field Ministry, marriage and a happy family life. These are all blessings from Jehovah that make us rich despite our material circumstances.

We can often more deeply feel Jehovah’s blessing when we are in trying circumstances. Is the statement at Psalm 145:14 true?

“Jehovah is giving support to all who are falling, And is raising up all who are bowed down.”

And what was it that the Apostle Paul said? ‘When I am weak, then I am powerful.’ (2 Cor. 12:10) Have you ever felt “bowed down”? That phrase conveys the feeling that even air becomes too heavy to carry. It’s at times like these when we cannot rely on our own strength that we really feel God’s gift of Holy Spirit or really appreciate the thoughtfulness of a brother or sister who takes the time and effort to communicate with us.

Specifically in this regard, Jehovah blesses us with gifts in men whose effects are described at Isaiah 32:2

“And each one must prove to be like a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country, like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land.”

At any time, the elders are available to offer scriptural support and encouragement. While we generally just have to cope with our own problems, the elders obediently accept that they might have to perform scripturally-required duties caused by other people’s dramas even though this often brings them stress and unpleasantness. That they put scriptural things first, sometimes to the detriment of their own health and sanity, makes them a gift from Jehovah that we should never underestimate.

So, yeah, we might not have £35 billion but we do have each other and many other blessings from Jehovah that we never want to forget.

The Ultimate Temptation?

What is the ultimate temptation and can we endure it? Let’s look at an incident in the life of the apostle Peter.

John 17:17; 25-27 17 “The servant girl, the doorkeeper, then said to Peter: “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said: “I am not.” 25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. Then they said to him: “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said: “I am not.” 26 One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the man whose ear Peter cut off, said: “I saw you in the garden with him, did I not?” 27 However, Peter denied it again; and immediately a cock crowed.”

Luke tells us that Peter went outside and wept bitterly at this. He would have instantly remembered what Jesus had said earlier: “Most truly I say to you, a cock will by no means crow until you have disowned me three times.” (John 13:38)

Now when Jesus said that, Peter, I am sure, would have been super-determined not to disown him. Even though he knew that what Jesus said must come true, he wouldn’t quite believe it. It’s like when we say “we’re all imperfect” or “we can’t please all the people all the time” but we don’t really believe it, even though we know it to be true.

Now, some of Peter’s super-determination can be seen a few hours later at John 18:3, 10.

“Therefore Judas took the soldier band and officers of the chief priests and of the Pharisees and came there with torches and lamps and weapons. 10 Then Simon Peter, as he had a sword, drew it and struck the slave of the high priest and cut his right ear off. The name of the slave was Malchus.”

Here Peter goes up against a band of soldiers and officers by himself and wades right in, lopping an ear off in the process. So why did he deny Jesus later when merely in conversation with house slaves?

When confronted with a definite, in-yer-face threat, the soldiers, Peter showed no weakness. No doubt, if he had been placed in a court and asked to deny Jesus, he would have refused. In fact, he did exactly that at Acts 5:29 where he stated before the Sanhedrin that “we must obey God as ruler rather than men.”

But the courtyard of the house was a situation where he wouldn’t have expected his faith to be challenged and he was clearly caught off guard. In this instance, Peter succumbed to fear of man. We all face trials and temptations and sometimes we will not behave as we would have wished. But let’s consider Jesus view of this incident at Luke 22:31,32

“Simon, Simon, look! Satan has demanded to have YOU men to sift YOU as wheat. 32 But I have made supplication for you that your faith may not give out; and you, when once you have returned, strengthen your brothers.”

But surely Peter’s faith did give out. He succumbed to fear of man. That was the temptation. No, that was just a catalyst for the real temptation. All of Satan’s machinations and trials and temptations are ultimately designed to do the same thing: to tempt us to reject Jehovah. That was what he did in the Garden of Eden; he tempted Eve to reject Jehovah. He then used Eve to tempt Adam to reject Jehovah.

Here, Peter could have been so disconsolate at his weakness that he abandoned Jesus altogether. He had negative feelings of shame and worthlessness; he no doubt thought to himself that he wasn’t good enough for Jesus anymore. Jesus knew this to be the real temptation and so Jesus made sure that Peter’s faith could cope with the temptation to reject Jesus and Jehovah.

Peter resisted the ultimate temptation. Despite succumbing to one temptation he did not go on to reject Jesus and Jehovah.

The same temptation faces us today: the temptation to reject Jehovah. Satan uses all the other trials and temptations to maneuver us into a place where the temptation to reject Jehovah becomes harder to resist. But just as Jesus prayed for Peter’s faith, we have help today.

1 Cor. 10:13 No temptation has taken YOU except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let YOU be tempted beyond what YOU can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for YOU to be able to endure it.

What is ‘the way out?’ When we catch up with Peter after this incident we find him still associating and praying together with the apostle John and Jesus’ other disciples. (John 20:2, 19-24; 21:1-7; Acts 1:13,14) We have the same ‘way out’ today. Meetings and prayer are our ‘way out’ to stop ourselves being tempted to reject Jehovah.

Even if we succumb to other temptations, like Peter did, by continuing in prayer and meeting attendance we will show Satan that we will not reject Jehovah, that we will endure that ultimate temptation and that we will receive the wonderful reward that Jehovah has promised us.

Story of the Week: Catholic Church forgets who they worship

Now you have got to wonder whether anyone at the Vatican has read the Bible in the last couple of hundred years because you get the strong suspicion that they probably don’t believe in God anymore.

The following headline at grabbed my eye: Vatican says aliens could exist. The BBC article contains the following comment / quote from Father Gabriel Funes L’Osservatore Romano interview headlined “The Alien Is My Brother”:

“The search for forms of extraterrestrial life, he says, does not contradict belief in God.”

The original Catholic News Agency report had this to say:

When he was asked about the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the Director of the Vatican Observatory responded that “it is possible, even if until now, we have no proof. But certainly in such a big universe this hypothesis cannot be excluded.”

“Vatican says aliens could exist.” “It is possible.” (Italics mine.) There’s no ‘could’ or ‘possible’ about it. Somebody seems to have overlooked the fact that all Christian religion is based on the belief in extraterrestrial life, specifically, two extraterrestrials named Jehovah (or Yahweh) and Jesus (or Yeshua). One of whom did a little something nearly seven thousand years ago called the creation of mankind. The other who came to earth about two thousand years ago and made a bit of a splash known as changing the course of human history forever.

In a coda of, presumably deliberate, irony, the BBC notes that

“To strengthen its scientific credentials, the Vatican is organising a conference next year to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of the author of the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin.”

So the father of the theory of evolution commemorated by the supposed protectors of the truth of God. Well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Not sure that’s the attitude God or his son would really like us to have.

Hebrews 3:4 “Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God.”

Who Died 1975 Years Ago?

March 22nd, 2008 is the most important date on the calendar for Christians this year as it reminds them of why they probably became Christians in the first place. It is the 1975th anniversary of the death of Jesus Christ, a sacrifice that has reverberated through history.

What’s odd is how much fuss is made of and publicity given to Christmas and his birth (held at the wrong time of year, by the way, as Jesus was probably born around October time) compared to his death. Without question, Jesus’ death is considerably more important. It had sacrificial and symbolic value and he even commanded us to ‘continue doing this in remembrance of him.’ (Luke 22:19,20; Hebrews 2:14-17)

It seems that only Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to be making an effort to publicise this most important date for what it is and they have been distributing the invitation below worldwide. I’ve heard nothing from more mainstream churches (except ongoing squabbles about God’s stand on homosexuality in the Anglican church, despite it being one of the more clearly defined Bible principles – >>>SPOILER>>>God’s against it<<<END SPOILER<<<).

I received my invitation at the beginning of March here in Coventry, England. Have you had one or seen one? If you have, put a shout and location in the comments.

1920×1080 invitation

How to deflate my ego in one easy step with Forza Motorsport

I was talking to my friend last night about how I rated in the top 1,000 on some of the Xbox Live scoreboards for the final R-P1 races on Forza Motorsport for the Xbox and how pleased I was with that. There are about 20,000 people with Xbox Live who played Forza Motorsport (according to the first Amateur race statistics) and so that got me in the top 5%.

The Bible says at Proverbs 16:18

“Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”

Or it is often condensed from the King James Version as:

“Pride comes before a fall.”

Quite right.

Upon completing another race today and noting with pleasure my position in the 500s I decided to bring up the full scoreboard for the race I was in and saw that, instead of there being 20,000 players on the scoreboard, there were just 1,500.

In hindsight, it is obvious that not many people would have played Forza enough to get through to the final stages of the game. According to the Xbox Live scoreboard, less than 10% played Forza to the end.

So I’m not in the top 5% at all. Checking through some of the other scoreboards it turns out my true position is between one third and one half on each scoreboard. I’m in the top 33% at best, top 50% generally. Which is much less impressive.

While bad for my ego, it is always good to learn humility even from something as trivial as a video game.

1 in 4 teenagers honest?

According this news article published on, “figures show one in four teenagers with access to the net view porn at least once a month.”

So, does this mean that only 1 in 4 teenagers are honest?

The same news article went on to quote another study which stated that “six in 10 children in the UK were regularly being exposed to porn, mostly as a result of viewing explicit websites accidentally.”

This is, of course, complete rubbish. It is, in fact, quite difficult to get exposed to pornographic imagery using standard web search tools. Unless you click the little “Yes, I am over eighteen and I wanted to view potentially adult material” button. Which is not accidental.

The phrase “regularly exposed to porn” also raises an eyebrow. While unlikely, I’ll accept that it may be possible to get a titillating eyeful by accident. But you cannot have a regular accident. Perhaps the Britney Spears remix has become a mantra for teenagers participating in such surveys: “Oops!… I Did It Again.
Wisdom from above

How far-reaching is the wisdom recorded in the Bible? It never ceases to amaze me just how perfect the counsel contained therein is.

Jehovah God could almost have had this thought written with Google and Yahoo et al in mind.

Amos 5:14

Search for what is good, and not what is bad.

Why Christians Avoid Competitve Comparisons (5 minutes)

Bible-based five minute talk delivered week beginning 29 January 2007.

Talk 4, 29 January 2007 (no material, article found w05 2/15 pp.28-31 Do You Measure Yourself Against Others?)

As soon as I saw the theme for this talk I couldn’t help myself. I instantly started thinking about how others can do more than me, have families, spiritual responsibilities and can have jobs and aren’t limited in their ministry and how my life is rubbish in comparison. So, there’s the first reason why Christians avoid competitive comparisons. It can be really depressing.

The Bible gives us an example of another set of negative emotions that come from competitive comparisons. Let’s turn to 1 Samuel 18. Whose example will we find there? Verses 6-9: “6 And it came about that at their coming in, when David returned from striking the Phi•lis´tines down, the women began coming out from all the cities of Israel with song and dances to meet Saul the king, with tambourines, with rejoicing and with lutes. 7 And the women that were celebrating kept responding and saying: “Saul has struck down his thousands, And David his tens of thousands.”8 And Saul began to be very angry, and this saying was bad from his viewpoint, so that he said: “They have given David tens of thousands, but to me they have given the thousands, and there is yet only the kingship to give him!” 9 And Saul was continually looking suspiciously at David from that day forward.

Yes, this is the example of King Saul who didn’t like it when David’s body count was bigger than his. He became envious, resentful, suspicious, and displeased with David. With what result? Verses 10,11 “10 And it came about the next day that God’s bad spirit became operative upon Saul, so that he behaved like a prophet within the house, while David was playing music with his hand, as in former days; and the spear was in Saul’s hand. 11 And Saul proceeded to hurl the spear and say: “I will pin David even to the wall!” but David turned aside from before him, twice.”

Saul’s competitive comparison led him to attempted murder, and he fell out of Jehovah’s favour.

Those who competitively compare themselves cannot be content until they feel they are better than others and, even then, relationships with such ones can be tense and their attitude can easily make others feel inferior. Love identifies true Christians, not competitive achievements.

Remember the theme? Why Christians Avoid Competitive Comparisons. I think we’ve answered that but does this mean that there is such a thing as a non-competitive comparison, a positive comparison?

Ephesians 5:1 ”Therefore, become imitators of God, as beloved children”

Compare ourselves to God? Surely that would be the most depressing comparison. No. Comparisons are most often made between people who resemble one another: same sex, similar age and social level, someone we know. When we compare ourselves to Jehovah it isn’t a competitive comparison because we don’t naturally consider him our potential equal.

Therefore, we can see his perfect qualities of love, warmth, empathy, and humility and we can strive to imitate them. We can measure ourselves against his qualities, purposes and ways of doing things. The same also applies to the perfect example shown by Jesus Christ.

Now, this comparison can enrich our lives, providing positive and unerring guidance, and can help us to attain the stature of mature Christians. If we concentrate on doing our best to imitate their perfect example, this will surely help us to avoid competitive comparisons.