Tag Archives: adoption

Preparing Jehovah’s Witnesses to Listen: A New Strategy, Part 2

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In a previous post, I lamented about the recent phenomenon I have noticed with Jehovah’s Witnesses: their reluctance to engage in dialogue with anyone who doesn’t seem like a “humble, teachable one,” (easy mark), and their eagerness to refer people to their website (ostrich-like avoidance). See that previous post here.

While driving home the other day, I thought of another (related) strategy that I’m eager to try. Rather than using clever baiting tactics, or posing as a humble, curious Bible student (not that there’s anything wrong with those strategies), my new approach will be more up-front, genuine, honest, and transparent.

Side note: I have been wrestling lately, at least on the back burner of my mind, about the ethics of my “undercover” strategies, where I pose as a naive Bible student to keep them interested. But I have resolved the issue, at least in my own mind. If Jehovah’s Witnesses can justify their use of “theocratic warfare,” that is, the use of deception with outsiders, then so can I. And actually, I liken my strategy less to deception, and more with that of Nathan the prophet, who told a story to king David, lowering the boom at the end with the revelation: “You are the man.” (See Second Samuel 12:7.)

Back on topic: Here’s my new strategy, represented by the following imaginary dialogue:

Me (approaching JW’s doing cart ministry): Hello! Are you the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

JW: Yes we are!

Me: Oh, I love you guys!

JW: Oh, good. Have you been studying the Bible with someone?

Me: Yes, I have several JW friends, and I love y’all so much. I just want all of you to experience what I have experienced, being adopted by Jehovah as his son, and having Jesus as our mediator, and being in the New Covenant.

JW: Oh yes, of course Jesus is our mediator.

Me: Oh, you don’t know, do you?

JW: Know what?

Me: You don’t know that Watchtower teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the 144,000.

JW: No, that’s not right.

Me: Oh, yes, I have checked this out with my JW friends, and we have verified it at the JW.org website. In fact, here’s my printout of the article on “Mediator” in the “Insight” book. You know of that book, yes?

JW: Well, yes. (Pauses to look at the article). Well, I don’t know about this. I think I need to do some more research on this.

Me: Oh, yes, please do, and let me know what you find out. Here’s my phone number and email address. You see, this breaks my heart, because I love you all so much, and I want you to experience the joy and excitement that I have been experiencing lately, and the Watchtower is withholding these and many other kingdom privileges from you. There’s the mediator issue, and being adopted as sons, and the new covenant, and being born again, and . . .

JW: Well, we know that being born again is only for a special set of people.

Me: Oh, I know you believe that. In fact, I have a favorite scripture about that. Can I share it with you?

JW: Okay.

Me: Can you look it up in your New World Translation? I want to see if it says the same thing as mine. I usually read from the New American Standard. It’s First John 5:1.

JW: Here it is.

Me: Can you read that for me? Especially the first half.

JW: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God.”

Me: Yes, that’s what my version says too. So, do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, or Messiah?

JW: Yes.

Me: So therefore, you have been born again.

JW: No, it says “has been born from God,” not “born again.”

Me: But the cross-reference in the online version of the New World Translation at jw.org connects this verse with John 3:3, where Jesus says that you must be born again.

JW: Um, I’m going to need to research that some more.

Me: Please do, because it grieves me that the ones I love so much are being denied these kingdom privileges that the Bible says are available to all believers.

And we hopefully go on from there, if Mr. JW doesn’t shut down the conversation. But I do think this will make the dialogue last at least a few minutes more than if they sense I’m trying to be clever with them. This way, they know up front that I have no intention of becoming a JW, and that I’m sharing with them my genuine concerns about the organization. Hopefully they will sense that I’m not an evil, Satanic, deceptive opposer, but rather a concerned, yea even burdened genuine believer in Jehovah. That’s my hope, and I’m ready to give it a try, and will report hopefully in an upcoming blog post. I would love it if others try this, and let us know (in the comments below) how it went.

 

 

 

 

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Is Attendance Down at the Jehovah’s Witnesses Conventions?

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JW Convention, Cow Palace, 2017

Is Convention Attendance Down?

On a recent Saturday I attended part of the 2017 convention entitled “Don’t Give Up!” My intention was to attend the full day, like I usually do, but circumstances made me arrive at lunchtime and leave before the sessions of the day were over. Here are some of my experiences and thoughts from the day.

I wondered whether attendance would be down as others have been reporting. I believe it was down a little, but not greatly. It seemed there were more gaps between people than there had been in my past experiences. Take a look at the pic above and compare it with my pic from last year, below. It’s difficult to discern any difference from my blurry pics, but my experience was that there were slightly fewer people this year.

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JW Convention, Cow Palace, 2016

 

A Conversation

Upon arriving at lunchtime, I met my friend Mark, and we and walked out to Marla’s car (the sister he had ridden with), where we all ate together, enjoying the cool, sunny day outside of the Cow Palace (San Francisco). Because I have been recently experiencing less willingness on the part of JW’s to interact in any meaningful way (see my previous post, Preparing Jehovah’s Witnesses to Listen – A New Strategy), I used my new approach with Marla. She began asking me about whether I liked reading the Bible, and what translation I used. I could tell where she was going, but I didn’t let on. I told her I liked New American Standard and New International Version, and that I have them side-by-side in columns in my Bible app. To my surprise, she said she liked the NIV too. But then, sure enough, she began claiming the superiority of the New World Translation, because of its inclusion of “Jehovah” for God’s name, where others have substituted in the title “LORD.” I told her that I also liked a version that used the name “Yahweh” in the Old Testament, and explained that it was more accurate to the original language than the name “Jehovah” which was not invented until the 14th century.

Before that point could loom and spoil our relationship, I expressed my joy at being able to join with Jesus in calling God “Father,” and even something like “Dad” according to Romans 8. I was going to be kind and not drop the bomb that Watchtower teaches that adoption as sons (according to Romans 8) is only for the anointed 144,000, but then Marla did it herself. (She knows her doctrine better than most JW’s.) My cheerful response was: “Oh, I believe I have been adopted as Jehovah’s son, and when that happens, we’re free to address him as Jehovah, Yahweh, Father, Dad, or any of his other names. It’s fantastic!”

Then I changed the subject, mentioning the great weather Jehovah had provided for us that day. And we remained friends, chatting all the way back into the arena! (Actually, Marla did most of the chatting, which was essentially “humble-bragging” about the Jehovah’s Witness organization.)

Comments on One of the Talks

One of the most bizarre talks, in my opinion, was one among the four in the symposium “Imitate Those Who Have Endured,” specifically the talk on Jephthah’s Daughter (Judges 11:36-40). If you read Judges 11, it says that Jephthah (foolishly) vowed to offer as a burnt offering “whoever comes out of the door of my house.” The speaker then went on to assume that Jephthah’s daughter was not killed by her father, but lived the rest of her days a virgin in the temple, perhaps playing a part in raising Samuel. He (and I assume the Watchtower leaders) completely overlook that the Bible says that Jephthah “carried out the vow he had made regarding her.” The NWT even gives a biased translation of verse 40, saying that “from year to year, the young women of Israel would go to give commendation to the daughter of Jephʹthah,” in contrast to all other translations which say something like “each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate (or lament) the daughter of Jephthah.” I was amazed at the Watchtower’s sanitizating of the biblical story, and wondered what was their motive for doing so. I would appreciate your thoughts and insights about this in the comment section below. Yes, you, whether you’re a Jehovah’s Witness in good standing, faded, disfellowshipped, or a non-JW (or some other category I haven’t thought of). Remain anonymous if you need to. Jehovah loves you, and wants to adopt you as his son or daughter! (Read Romans 8.)

 

 

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Warning: You Might Get Kicked Out of the Kingdom Hall by a Donkey

My experience Tuesday night at the Kingdom Hall was strangely serious and hilarious at the same time. I’m still reeling from it. How do I even begin to recount the surreal event? Well, I have to try, so here goes.

Let’s begin with the letter that I sent to “The Branch” (JW headquarters). The answer came in the form of a visit by an elder (let’s call him Carl) and another JW, who failed to answer my question (see my previous post about the letter). So I wrote again, asking for an answer directly from the branch. The answer came again in the form of a visit from Carl, this time with my friend Aaron! But they came during the day, while I was at work, and my wife told them that I was planning on attending the meeting at the kingdom hall that night (Tuesday).

So I arrived at the kingdom hall about 15 minutes before the meeting time, and immediately Carl and Aaron wanted me to meet with them in the boardroom. “Uh oh,” I thought, but obligingly joined them in the boardroom. Carl explained that it was about my letters to the branch, saying that the answers would only continue to come in the form of visits by locals. THEN he dropped the bomb. He said he had noticed me sharing my opinions at the kingdom hall about a number of things, and that I seemed to have very strong opinions about certain things, especially the subject of being adopted as Jehovah’s son. “We don’t want you sharing your personal opinions in the kingdom hall,” he said. I politely defended what I had shared on the grounds that it was only what I found in scripture. We politely debated back and forth a little bit, but were interrupted by the beginning of the meeting.

The meeting included, among other tedious presentations, a “Bible Study” about Mary and Joseph’s travels both before and after the birth of Jesus. Mention was repeatedly made of the donkey that was used for Mary to ride on. Numerous comments were made by those participating in the congregation about “how difficult it must have been to ride on that donkey!” I raised my hand twice, attempting to share a comment. I was not called upon. The “Bible Study” also included mention of many apocryphal details that have been added to the story by Christiandom.

After the meeting, I met several folks, and one man asked me what I had raised my hand about. I told him that the Bible does not mention a donkey in the stories, so they may not have had that luxury, possibly making their travels even more difficult, and that I greatly admired Mary and Joseph’s dedication.

I had no idea how hard that donkey would kick.

Carl had overheard the conversation, on purpose I’m sure. He came over and asked about what I had shared. I explained again. He said that there was indeed a donkey in the account. I politely disagreed, even conceding that I could be wrong, but I hadn’t seen one in the scriptures. Carl was only able to show me mention of the donkey in the “Bible Study” literature. I asked whether that “fact” came from scripture, or was it from an apocryphal source. (Please note that I did all this with a polite, genuinely inquisitive, and not sarcastic demeanor.)

But bam! I was ushered into the boardroom again, this time with Carl, Aaron, and another elder. At first they spent some minutes searching in vain for scriptural mention of a donkey. That was the comical part. Then when they couldn’t find a donkey in the scriptures, Carl showed me (again) mention of the donkey in the “Bible Study” article. He then asked me, “Are you questioning the Faithful Slave?” I wanted to say “Duh, yeah!” But instead I asked, “Well, aren’t there corrections made, that is, adjustments whenever there’s new light?” “The light keeps getting brighter!” was Carl’s cheerful response. My response: “So do you expect there will be more adjustments in the future?” Nods all around. “So some things being taught now are incorrect, right?” Uncomfortable squirming and no real response.

Carl asked what my purpose was in coming to the Kingdom Hall. Was I there to cause doubts in the minds of the members? I countered with my wanting to be like the Bereans, comparing everything I heard with scripture, and that they must understand that it would take a long time and a lot of effort on their part to convince someone like me, who had been steeped in the the traditional doctrines of Christiandom for a long time. “You can understand that, yes?”

I could tell that they were conflicted between mistrust of me, and wanting to give me the benefit of the doubt. I agreed that in the future I would not share my opinions with the members, but would bring my questions to the three who now stood in the boardroom with me. That seemed to calm them down for now.

Many more words were said in our conversation; you’re getting the condensed version. The practical result of it all is that I’m not allowed to tell the members how excited I am to be adopted as Jehovah’s son, at least not in the Kingdom hall. Meeting one-on-one with Aaron is now disallowed. But I will be able to meet with him with an elder present. And I’m okay with that. In fact, I plan on actively pursuing that.

But the whole encounter was just so bizarre! If the governing body says that there was a donkey, then there’s no need to check the scriptural account, it must be in there somewhere, because the GB says that it’s so. I get the impression that if the GB said that Jesus had a beard, the members would automatically assume that the Bible says so. Or if the GB said that Jesus had no beard, they would consider that to be supported by scripture, even though the Bible doesn’t say one way or the other. I have heard them use the phrase “Don’t run ahead of what’s written.” Apparently that doesn’t apply to the GB, who is free to add phantom donkeys to the scriptural account.

Before I left the kingdom hall I jokingly said to my friend Aaron, “I never would have thought that a donkey would get me into so much trouble!” He awkwardly tried to assure me that I wasn’t in trouble. Hmmm. Seemed like it to me. All over an imaginary donkey.

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Witnessing to JW’s Enhances Witnessing to Others

I was at the barber shop just the other day. A young man was wearing a cross around his neck. (Obviously, he was not a Jehovah’s Witness. They believe that the cross is a pagan symbol.) I asked if I could look at his cross more closely, which he allowed. I then asked “What’s it about? Why are you wearing a cross?” He said he really didn’t know, and said that it had been given to him by my barber. (I think the two have a mentoring relationship.) By then I had the attention of the young man, my barber, and a young woman. I said “Did you know that the cross is the way that you can be adopted by God as his son?” His response: “What? Really?”

“Yes,” I said so that all three could hear. “When Jesus died on the cross, he paid for all our sins, so that we can have a relationship with God, and be adopted as his sons and daughters. It’s fantastic!” I then went on to briefly explain how that works.

Do you see what I did there? Without really intending to, I used the very same strategies that I use with Jehovah’s Witnesses. They include: (1) Bringing up a topic that’s off the usual “Christianese” radar; (2) Creating a desire for an attractive benefit of having a relationship with God; and (3) Speaking enthusiastically about what I have experienced in my relationship with God.

If I had brought up being born again, or going to church, or right living, they would have tuned me out. Instead, I brought up the biblical concept of adoption, and they eagerly listened to what I had to say. I shared for less than one minute. I left them curious and hungry for more. I’m praying that they will wonder about what I said, and that next time they will ask me to explain more. The young man has been there every time that I have visited, so I expect that I’ll be able to talk with him and my barber again. Who would have thought that I would ever be eager to witness, rather than reluctant? Now there’s a miracle.

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Thank you, Jesus, for Jehovah’s Witnesses

Over the weekend I was thinking about my involvement with Jehovah’s Witnesses the last few years, and I found myself talking with God about it. Have you ever prayed something, then realized the import of what you just prayed, after praying it? That’s what happened to me. What I prayed was, “Thank you, Jesus, for Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

By the way, yes, I talk to Jesus, praying directly to him, because along with Thomas I can say to Jesus “My Lord and my God” (literally, “The Lord of me and The God of me”). The practice of addressing Jesus in prayer is second nature to me, and has been from the early days of my Christian journey.

So as I prayed that simple prayer to Jesus, I realized something. I realized that my attitude toward JW’s had changed over the years.

It used to be that I would reluctantly talk with my friend Mark. At times I even avoided him, if I didn’t feel like talking. At that time, I was not thankful for Jehovah’s Witnesses. More like, I just tolerated them, reluctantly. Now, I’m eager to meet with Mark and others, even going out of my way to connect with them. So what changed? The answer is: I did. Over the last few years, The Lord changed me. And He used at least two things to accomplish that change.

The first thing that changed my attitude was seeing God at work as I conversed with Mark and other JW’s. Seeing Mark open to what I had to share, and realizing that only God could cause that openness (see John 6:44), was highly encouraging. And seeing God protect my conversations with him and others from the intervention of JW elders and overseers was exciting, something like being a secret agent for Jesus.

Secondly, my study of scripture in preparation for my conversations with JW’s has been nothing less than transformational for me. When I researched the benefits of being a believer in Christ, which scripture says are available “to all who believe,” rather than only to the 144,000 as taught by Watchtower, the result has been a re-vitalization of my faith. Doctrines that in the past have been limited to rational understanding (head knowledge) are now felt by me emotionally, and experienced by me directly. Here are some, but not all, of those scriptural truths that have for me a new-found significance:

Adoption: When I put my trust in Jesus, Jehovah adopted me as his son. I’m his legally adopted child, and have a relationship with him where I can even call him “Dad.” (John 1:12, Romans 8:15, Galatians 3:26 and 4:6.)

Heirs: Because I am Jehovah’s legally adopted child, I’m also his heir. I inherit from him a heavenly home, as well as access to his authority now, and rewards in the life to come. (Romans 4:14 and 8:17, Galatians 3:29 and 4:7, Titus 3:7, Ephesians 3:6 and James 2:5.)

Mediator: Having Jesus as my mediator between me and Jehovah means that Jesus redeemed me by his ransom, and intercedes in prayer for me, giving weight and meaning to the concept of praying “in Jesus’ name.” (First Timothy 2:5-6, Hebrews 8:10-12.)

Kings and Priests: Jehovah makes all of his adopted children (even me) kings and priests, from the moment of faith (aka belief). (First Peter 2:7-9, Revelation 5:9-10.)

Rebirth: All who believe, that is, putting their trust in what Jesus did for them (including me) are born again, experiencing a new life in Christ. (First John 5:1. Note: this verse in the New World Translation app, published by the Watchtower, provides a cross-reference to John 3:3, about being born again.)

New Covenant: All who believe (not just 144,000), again including me, are grafted into the New Covenant, which is JEHOVAH’S ARRANGEMENT WITH HIS PEOPLE. (See what I did there with the all-caps and italics? That’s the emphasis we need to be using when we speak about it.) This New Covenant is the legal contract that Jehovah signed with Jesus’ blood, committing himself to many promises, some of which are listed here. (Hebrews 8:10-12, 9:15, and 12:24, Ephesians 2:12.)

Citizenship: We are made legalized, naturalized citizens of Jehovah’s kingdom, with all the responsibilities and benefits pertaining thereto. Just as the foreign residents in Old Testament times could become naturalized citizens of Israel, and could participate in all the festivals and feasts, including the Passover, we now are entitled to full participation in all the benefits of the New Covenant, including the Lord’s Evening Meal, among many others. (Ephesians 2:19, Philippians 3:20, Exodus 12, Numbers 15, Isaiah 56:6-8.)

This list is not exhaustive; there are others including, but not limited to, eternal security, immortality, being able to please Jehovah, being declared righteous, being Abraham’s seed, and receiving/having/being sealed with the Holy Spirit. Learning about all these benefits that are given to little ol’ me has injected my faith journey with a new-found power and joy. So I thank you, Jesus, for Jehovah’s Witnesses!

May Jehovah touch your life in the same way as you study in preparation for your conversations with JW’s and other pre-Christians.

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How Many Sons of God? Part 2

Recently I had two occasions to share the verses in the previous post (“How Many Sons of God?”) about adoption and being born of God, once with my friend Aaron, and again with my other friend Mark. Aaron’s response was “Oh, I see what you’re saying. I need to research that some more.” With Mark the response was “You may be right.” I thought it commendable that Aaron didn’t shut down our conversation, as some JW’s are prone to do, but remained open to further dialog at a later date. And Mark is (amazingly) very open to considering the possibility that the Watchtower might be wrong about some things. At least, he’s tentatively open. This time he told me that the possibility of the Watchtower being wrong causes fear for him. At first I thought he was talking about the possible repercussions of his questioning within his congregation. But when I asked what he feared, his answer indicated a general fear of uncertainty. Mark fears a life of relativism, without an authoritative organization to tell him what to believe and how to live. I tried to reassure him with Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit will lead us into the truth, and we don’t need to rely on any human organization to interpret scripture for us. I wish I could say that my words of encouragement were a great help, but I’m not confident that they were. The experience was another eye-opening insight into the difficulty that questioning JW’s must encounter. I cannot imagine the internal conflict that a questioning JW must experience. It just emphasizes to me again, with a new nuance, how that anyone coming to Christ out of whatever background they hold, has to be completely a work of God. “No one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” said Jesus (John 6:44).

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“Orphan Train,” a Short, Short Story

I’m attaching a short, short story that I recently wrote. You will probably quickly figure out that it’s an allegory about Jehovah’s Witnesses. But it’s a bit more than that. It summarizes my experiences as I attempt to share my faith with JW’s and non-JW’s alike. It also serves as a brief description of my strategy, which I’m hoping could be useful to other believers as they attempt to share their faith with others. Please give it a read, and let me know what you think. I hope you find it both enjoyable and helpful!

Orphan Train

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