Tag Archives: Watchtower

Why I Love the JW Literature Carts

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If you have been to a train station, bus station, or another high-pedestrian-traffic area in your city, you have likely seen the JW Literature carts. I find it amazing that this is considered an acceptable form of field service, given their adamant argument that house-to-house preaching is the proper form of ministry. (I know that JW’s standing on street corners holding out their literature is nothing new. They have been doing so for a long time. But my understanding is that in the past, individuals used that as an unofficial way to fill their service time when they hadn’t done so by going door-to-door. Now the cart ministry is a fully sanctioned and resourced form of field service.)

Whatever the reasons the governing bully is now endorsing the cart ministry, I consider it to be a blessing. I love the cart ministry! Why? Because of the opportunities it affords to us in ministry to JW’s. Take my recent experience as an example.

I took at day trip into my nearest metropolitan downtown area (i.e. I went into the Big City), with the purpose of hopefully encountering the JW’s that station themselves and their carts in the commuter train station. I expected I would be able to talk briefly with perhaps two couples of JW’s. But because of the cart ministry I was able to talk with 10-12 JW’s that day. They had two carts, each with two or three people, inside the underground train station. Then another cart up on the surface streets, right at the cable car turnaround. (Oops, I just gave away what city I’m near.) So I talked with each of those groups of JW’s. Then, thinking I had exhausted my opportunities, I took a walk up the street to another city square, where, aha! I discovered two more “cart couples.” After talking with them, I poked around in some shops, then walked back to the train station. There I discovered that the cart people had rotated, so that there were some of the same people, but also some that were new to me. More people to talk with!

It turns out that the JW’s cart ministry strategy results in a witnessing opportunity bonanza for me (maybe you?). Their practice of multiple locations in close proximity to each other, together with their periodic rotation of staff, provides me with ongoing “divine appointments.” I kept it up for most of the afternoon!

My talking points were (1) Jesus as our mediator, (2) assurance of eternal life, and (3) being adopted as Jehovah’s sons. (See my past posts for those topics.) It was a fun, and I believe profitable day in the work of sharing with my JW friends.

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Opportunity Knocks, Then Runs Away

Have you noticed that one of my blog posts has a very long string of comments attached? See My JW Friend and I Share a Laugh to see what I’m talking about. The comment string represents an ongoing conversation between myself and a reader that went on for three months, almost to the date (12/15/16 through 3/15/17). Any reader patient enough to read through it (if you do, you’re a Bible nerd like me), would likely only see a debate between two disagreeing Bible students. And that’s certainly true. But for me the comment string represents more than just a conversation or debate. It represents a relationship; at least, that’s how I feel about it. I don’t know how my reader/comment-er thinks, but that’s my perspective. For three short months, the reader and I interacted, respectfully disagreed, debated, and discussed a number of topics. We debated about whether God’s name should be specified as Jehovah, Yahweh, or something else. We discussed the issue of Calvinism, predestination, and free will. We discussed the nature of God as ontologically stable or changeable, including whether the divine name is more properly translated “I am” or “I will be what I will be.” All those potentially volatile subjects were discussed with respect and even friendliness. At one point my reader said:

BTW, a sincere ‘thank you’ for the open discussion and allowing me to express my view on your blog. It’s refreshing!

Every day I looked forward to finding out what my reader would say in response to what I had written. I was challenged and stretched by the interaction. I was hoping that our friendship would become one lasting years.

Then suddenly, nothing. No response to my post on 3/15. Cue the sound of crickets.

I’m not angry with my reader. I’m not offended. I’m just concerned. In my mind I have considered all the possibilities I can imagine. They include:

  1. He became sick or otherwise incapacitated, or died, and so can no longer interact.
  2. His computer or internet connection gave out, and he has no access to another one any time soon.
  3. His elders found out that he was interacting with “opposers” online, and forbade him from doing so any more (assuming that he is, in fact, a Jehovah’s Witness).
  4. He himself decided to not interact with “opposers” any longer, feeling convicted by the convention talks, the literature, or some other propaganda from the Governing Bully.
  5. He became frustrated with the fact that it was looking like he wasn’t going to change my views any, and moved on to interact with others that might be more pliable. (Aka he felt he was wasting his time and effort on me. The “pearls before swine” principle.)

I sure wish I knew what really happened. For the record, I have no sense of “having won” the argument. That’s not the point, and not why I was interacting with him. I was hoping a good friend was on his way to being set free from the organization, into new life in Jesus Christ. The silence breaks my heart.

But, at the same time, I know that God was at work, and still is. The fact that he would interact with an “opposer” for three months is miraculous, and indicates that God is at work on his heart. Jesus said that “No one comes to me unless the Father draws him.” I was privileged to have a 3-month window of opportunity with him. That window of time opened suddenly, and closed even more abruptly.

I’d like to ask all my readers: Whom are you trying to reach with the good news (gospel) of the free, unearned, undeserved gift of new life with Jehovah in Christ? Your window of opportunity could vanish in a blink, at any time. Make the most of the opportunity you have. Love and pray for that dear one(s).

And, dear 3-month friend, if you read this, please contact me again. I want to know how you’re doing, hoping that you have new life and freedom, and a relationship with Jehovah apart from the organization, but if not, I’m also willing (no, eager) to engage in further dialogue with you. Jesus loves you, and so do I.

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Read Any Good Books Lately, Chapter 2

In a previous post (See: Read Any Good Books Lately?) I told about a young man, George, a high schooler who shared with me a love of good literature. His favorite book is The Giver, by Lois Lowry, a story about independent thinking , a value we naturally cherish, but which is frowned upon by the Watchtower society. Since reading The Giver, I have been champing at the bit to talk with George about it. I got my opportunity during this last kingdom hall visit. Kind of.

George was with his dad, Darryl, when we talked. And mostly Darryl talked. But I didn’t mind; actually it worked out quite well. I told both of them about my book that I recently completed and published on Amazon, and Darryl questioned me about it a lot. I could tell he was grilling me (politely) to see whether or not it would be something that he would approve of his son reading. I had the pleasure of describing my purpose in writing, to draw atheists and agnostics toward the reasonableness and desirability of theism. And I delighted to tell him about my commitment to a faithfulness to scriptural truth. Darryl seemed satisfied with my answers. I’m pleased to have been able to recommend my book to George with dad’s approval, rather than George having to possibly sneak to read it.

The whole time that I was talking with Darryl, George was listening intently. I was finally able to ask George again what he liked about The Giver. His response was very different from when I had talked with him apart from his dad. This time, there was not any mention of independent thinking, but only an expression of appreciation for Lois Lowry’s creativity and compelling style. I don’t think I’m imagining that George had confided in me something that he didn’t want to express in the presence of his dad.

Oh, Lord Jesus, I know you love George even more than I do. Please set him free into a new, vibrant life in Jesus.

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Questioning My Motives

After the kingdom hall talks, I approached one of the speakers to ask a question about the scripture he lectured on. The passage was Galatians 4, which he gave as an example of a legitimate usage of type and anti-type in biblical interpretation. I agree with him (and with the Watchtower teaching he was parroting), because the typology of the passage is clearly spelled out in the very passage. Paul, the author, explains that Hagar symbolizes the Old Covenant, and Sarah symbolizes the New Covenant.

My question was about verse 27, where it says that the barren woman (Sarah) would rejoice, because “more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.” My question would have been “Since this verse indicates that there would be more believers in the New Covenant than in the Old Covenant, doesn’t that indicate that there are more than just 144,000 in the New Covenant?”

I say that my question “would have been,” because I didn’t get a chance to ask it of the speaker. One of the elders (in past posts I called him Carl, see Donkey Incident), ushered me away from the speaker, and took me over to my other friend Aaron. Then he left us. I told the perplexed Aaron, “Carl brought me over to you, but I don’t know why.” Then Carl came back. (I assume he had gone back to Mr. Speaker to warn him of my ways.) I was then able to ask the question of Carl and Aaron.

Trouble was, Carl kept interrupting and wouldn’t even listen to the question. And he questioned my motives, saying things like, “It sounds like you already have your opinion about the matter,” and “What is your purpose in asking the question?” It was annoying, but I kept my cool, giving him my usual explanations when confronted this way, namely:

I’m seeking the truth.

I have been brought up in a different system, for a long time, and I have questions about your belief system.

I want to understand clearly what Watchtower teaches.

I’m like the little kid in the “Bible Teach” book, asking questions repeatedly until they receive a satisfactory answer.

These answers are all truthful. But obviously it’s not the full truth. I am trying to influence the ones I’m questioning.

So here’s the tough part. Carl’s challenges made me think deeply about my motives, even while I was talking with him and Aaron. Now, I know I’m not the demon Carl imagines me to be in his mind. He thinks I’m merely sowing seeds of doubt, leading people away from “the truth” and toward paganism, atheism, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Not so, Carl. Yes, I’m sowing seeds of doubt, and I want to lead people away from the Watchtower, but more than that, I want to lead people toward Jesus and The Truth of scripture. But Carl’s probing made me question my motives in my own mind.

Do I take pleasure in stumping my JW friends?

Am I addicted to the adrenaline rush that I get when I’m challenging my JW friends?

Am I in this for the fun of being a “secret agent” for Jesus?

Does outsmarting my JW friends make me feel proud and smug, and intellectually superior to them?

And finally: Is it right for me to be secretive about my agenda with my JW friends?

I have to admit that sometimes the first four are true. I am praying that Jehovah will work those flaws out of me.

That last question, though; I don’t yet know what to think about that. Do I need a more up front and honest approach? If I did that, would they not talk or listen to me at all?

Am I just overthinking all of this? Perhaps. But, I will continue to take this to the Lord. He’s having me think about this for a reason. (Unless it’s the enemy trying to attack me with doubts, but I don’t think so. There’s no condemnation attached to it.)

I do know for certain that I need to change my strategy with that particular congregation from this time forward. No more questioning of congregation members. I think I just need to be a friend to the people, and let them (hopefully) sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in me, and see what the Lord does with that. I will let you know what comes of it.

If you have experience or insight into these issues, please feel free to comment. Thank you!

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Read Any Good Books Lately?

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The last time I attended the meeting at the local kingdom hall (I think it was in March), I was chatting with one of the young men there, a high school student whom I will call George. I really like George. He reminds me of me when I was a highschooler. We’re both brainy, introverted, tall, klutzy; you know where I’m going with this–we’re nerds, ok? Anyway, we both like to read, and he was quite interested to hear me describe the book that I have written and will soon publish, a “dystopian” work of fiction. (If you don’t know what that is, think Hunger Games or any of the recent popular stories set in “ideal” but dysfunctional societies.)

So after hearing my description of my book, George said, “That reminds me of one of my favorite books.” When I asked him what that was, he said The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Being unfamiliar with that book or author, I asked him to describe it for me and tell me why he liked it. He said that it was about independence and thinking for oneself.

“Uh–”

Me, speechless.

George’s favorite work of literature has as its main theme a value that is explicitly denounced by the Watchtower Society. The literal phrase “independent thinking” is used as a negative buzzword in the literature and the kingdom hall talks. So when George said that, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

I immediately decided that I needed to read that book. Not many days later I downloaded it from Amazon and read it. I was shocked and delighted that George valued the story of a boy who ends up questioning everything that has ever been taught him by the overbearing organization under which he and his family live. The parallels in the story to someone living as a Jehovah’s Witness are obvious. But the question haunts me: are the parallels obvious to George?

Is George’s valuing of this story an indication of his own questioning of the Watchtower? Or does he merely think it a cool story, making no connection between the life of the main character and his own? I’m drowning in curiosity, and can’t wait to talk with George about it some more.

Whether George is already doubting and questioning the WT, or whether interest in this story can begin to spark that “independent thinking,” the evidence indicates that God is at work in either case. What an amazing opportunity I have before me to talk with a young man about the freedom he can have in Jesus. Please pray for George.

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Ever heard of “The Vindication of Jehovah’s Sovereignty”?

If someone asked you what the theme, or main message of the Bible is, what would be the first thing that you think of? Go ahead, think of your answer. Got it? Okay, good.

My immediate answer is something like “God’s relationship with humanity,” or “the salvation of mankind,” or simply “redemption.”

I have often wondered what the Watchtower’s answer to that question would be. My guesses were “God’s coming kingdom,” or “the end is near.” I have always wondered whether there was an underlying assumption or an over-arching theme that dictated and tied together most, if not all of the watchtower doctrine.

Recently I think I found what would be their answer. And yes, it does tie things together, if not perfectly, at least enough that it helps make sense of many of the WT doctrines that we consider quirky and disjointed. Here’s how I discovered watchtower’s answer to the Bible’s theme.

I was researching (on the internet) the watchtower’s view of God’s sovereignty as an attribute of God, and stumbled across an article critiquing the watchtower’s teaching about something called “The vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty.” Here’s an excerpt from that article:

“You are my witnesses,” declares Jehovah, “Yes, my servant whom I have chosen…” (Isa 43:10)

We are taught that we are like witnesses in a court case.  What is being judged is God’s right to rule and the righteousness of his rule.  We are told that we live under his rulership; that the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a true theocracy—a nation ruled by God with a population larger than that of many countries on earth today.  By our conduct and by showing that life in our nation is “the best way of life ever”, we are said to be vindicating Jehovah’s sovereignty.

by Meleti Vivlon | Apr 26, 2015 http://meletivivlon.com, “Why Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Preach the Vindication of Jehovah’s Sovereignty?”

My immediate thought was, “I have never heard about this doctrine before, either in the WT literature, or in any of the talks at kingdom halls or conventions. Where is this coming from? Is this for real?” Well, I have come to find out that yes, it’s a thing. My suspicion is that the doctrine was something that was taught in the past, but now assumed to be true; part of the Watchtower mindset and culture, but not explicitly stated in current literature. I think it quite possible that modern JW’s have been operating under the assumptions of this doctrine for most of their history, but with few current JW’s being able to give a concrete expression of it. But now, I believe that someone at the WT headquarters has re-discovered the old expression of this doctrine, and is now bringing it again to the forefront.  When I searched “sovereignty” at www.jw.org, here’s what I discovered.

In the June 2017 issue of the Watchtower (study edition), there are two articles: First, there’s “Keep Your Eyes on the Big Issue.” (pp. 22-26) What is the Big Issue? It’s the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty. Surprise! A ghost from the past has been resurrected! The second paragraph alone uses the phrase three times, with variations of the phrase occurring throughout the article almost too many times to count. (It’s a good example of mind-numbing  repetition.) Here’s the main argument:

The action of Satan the Devil has raised the question of the rightfulness of Jehovah’s sovereignty.

Of course, Jehovah knows that the Devil’s allegations are false. So why has God chosen to allow the issue to go on, giving Satan time to try to prove his point?

The first human couple rejected Jehovah’s rulership, and so have many others since then. This could lead some to wonder whether there might be validity to the Devil’s claim.

As long as the question remains unsettled in the minds of humans or angels, discord among nations, races, tribes, families, and individuals will exist.

The second article is “Uphold Jehovah’s Sovereignty!” (pp. 27-31.), which is the application of the doctrine, essentially saying that our everyday actions are needed in the great cause of vindicating the sovereignty of Jehovah:

“Now is the time to uphold God’s sovereignty by our integrity, our service, and our earnest endeavors to imitate him in all we do.” (Paragraph 20.)

There’s a third thing that I found that confirms that this old theme is being revived by the Watchtower. If you click on “The Message of the Bible” under “Bible Teachings” at jw.org, a page comes up reinforcing the theme as taught in the articles:

“The Message of the Bible: Jehovah God has the right to rule. His method of ruling is best. His purpose for the earth and for mankind will be fulfilled.”

Seven pictures give an overview of the Bible, beginning with “The serpent questions Jehovah’s right to rule and his way of ruling,” and ending with “Jehovah’s original purpose for the earth and for mankind is fulfilled, his name is cleared of reproach, and his way of ruling is vindicated.”

Essentially Watchtower is saying that God has been the defendant in an ongoing trial, beginning with the fall, and ending at Armageddon. I wonder then: Who is the judge in the trial? Who is the jury? (Apparently the unsettled minds of humans and angels, according to the WT article.) And why are the ranting accusations of Satan, the deceiver, the liar and father of lies, being taken so seriously?

The doctrine does, though, make sense of the whole Watchtower legalistic system. Humans, like character witnesses, are burdened with presenting the evidence for God’s right to rule. (As if the burden rested upon God, rather than Satan.) Nowhere in scripture is the doctrine of the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty taught or even mentioned. The verse usually quoted is Proverbs 27:11, which is about a father imploring his son to be wise so that the father “may answer anyone who treats me with contempt.” Making this verse proof of God’s need for our witness of his sovereignty is an obvious stretch, similar to the “new light” verse of Proverbs 4:18 (used to “prove” the need for ongoing updated revelation).

It will be interesting to see renewed emphasis given to this old doctrine in upcoming congregation meetings, regional assemblies, and district conventions. I’m sure the catchphrase “vindicating Jehovah’s sovereignty” will soon become part of the “theocratic language” of the common Jehovah’s Witness. The best way to use it as an opportunity for ministry will be to simply ask your JW friends, “Where is that phrase found in scripture?” Then, share with them what YOU see as the main theme of the Bible.

Alternately you could use the tactic of quoting Jesus, when he says “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8), asking them to explain how different that is from being a character witness in a court case. You might also ask, “As a witness of Jehovah, are you a witness in the sense of announcing, or making known, the good news of the coming kingdom, or are you a witness like a character witness in the cosmic court case against Jehovah? I’m confused by the Watchtower’s two very different uses of the word.”

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Debate or Discuss, That Is the Question

Mark and I finally met again after too long a time. As we approached one of our favorite meeting places, a local restaurant, he expressed his concern that we not get into a big debate, since the waitstaff know him by name. I told him that I agreed, and understood his concern about not offending those around us who might be listening. While I fully agreed with this new policy of ours, I wondered how we would be able to have any kind of meaningful conversation. “Lord, what am I supposed to do now?” I prayed.

We began talking about our lives, including his work and mine, his home projects and mine, and finally our spiritual lives. He mentioned to me (as he has before) that one of his favorite verses is Matthew 24:45, the one about the faithful and wise servant, or as the New World Translation says it, “the faithful and discreet slave,” whom the Watchtower claims is a prophecy fulfilled by the Governing Body in the last days. Struck with an idea, I asked him about his door-to-door ministry involvement. “Are you doing much of that?” I asked. He confessed that he hadn’t been active in the formal ministry effort, saying that he didn’t feel prepared to do an adequate job of it, but that he was doing some “informal” ministry, meaning that he made efforts to talk to people at the grocery store, or wherever else he encountered others.

“So you’re making efforts to bring spiritual food to people?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“You’re endeavoring to bring spiritual food to people at the proper time.”

“Yes, I am,” he said.

“I believe that you’re honestly trying to be a good servant, and not like the wicked servant in the parable. You’re not trying to coerce people into living by your rules, like the Pharisees. You’re trying to be more like the faithful and discreet slave, bringing spiritual food to people at the proper time, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am,” he said.

“Yes,” I said. “I think your motives are good, like the faithful and discreet slave. The more we share with people directly from scripture, the more we’re being the faithful slave, and not the wicked slave.”

It took a while, but by now he was beginning to see my point. So now that he was making the logical connections, I began to explain my view in more detail.

“This parable is found among other parables. They’re all about being ready, being prepared, and being faithful. The prophecy that Jesus gave was that he would return. But the parables are what Jesus used to challenge us all, about what we would do about the prophecy. We need to be faithful, like the faithful and discreet slave, and not be wicked, like the wicked slave.” I spent some time explaining my view with more depth, all the while calmly discussing with him our spiritual lives and experiences. While I was challenging the Watchtower interpretation of the parable in Matthew, we did not get into a heavy debate about it. I laid out my view, but never attacked the Watchtower interpretation directly.

Here’s the great part: The whole time we were discussing the parable and our lives, we both had smiles on our faces. We truly enjoyed our conversation together. And the people around us (both fellow diners and waitstaff) thought nothing of our meeting, other than we were two friends enjoying each other’s company. When we left, we agreed to not wait so long to meet again.

Please continue to pray for me and Mark, and our ongoing relationship.

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