When JWs Come Knocking

When JWs Come Knocking

So, I have begun a relationship with a lovely couple who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. The came proselytizing about a month ago and we struck up a conversation. Super nice people, and I enjoyed our discussion. They, of course, wanted to know if they could leave some Watchtower literature with me.

Normally, when a JW offers me the latest issue of Awake! I politely decline it. I tell them, as kindly as I can, that I have examined their beliefs and have rejected them as unbiblical.

That’s harsh, I know. I do tell them as gently and as kindly as I can, but firmly; for though I do not wish to be harsh, I must be honest. This is not a kid’s game. This is life or death stuff, and they know it. It’s the whole reason they come knocking in the first place – they believe souls are at stake. And they’re not wrong. Souls are at stake – their souls – and somebody has to love them enough to be honest about it and warn them. I don’t know how effective it is – I seriously doubt anybody has left my door and thought, Wow, she thinks what I believe is unbiblical…maybe I better look into that! But it is better than lying to them, blowing them off to get rid of them and leaving them in lost in their deception. Now that would be harsh. Better to confront their unbelief and declare the Gospel to them – for all I know, it may be the only time the actually ever hear it.

But in this case, for whatever reason, I did not decline their offer. I took their magazine and promised to read it and invited them to stop back for a chat the next time they are around.

And I did read it. It was garbage, of course – little bits of truth woven into the lies until the whole thing is practically unrecognizable. The Gospel promise was certainly no where to be found amongst the pages. Sad.

This past Saturday, my new friends came by again. I had been thinking about them just a couple of days prior, wondering if they would come back and what I might say to them if they did. For in truth, I really didn’t know what I would say to them if they asked me about what I had read. Where to start?? Their truth and lies are so tangled up together it’s impossible to tell which thread to pull first…

So when they stopped in Saturday morning, I was not prepared for them – and in fact, it wasn’t really a good time for me, I was still in my pajama bottoms and an old hoodie, cleaning out the dust bunnies from under my bed when they arrived.

My friends chuckled a bit as I arrived to the door. “Did we catch you at a bad time?”

I admitted I was in the middle of some housecleaning, but I had some coffee on if they wanted to join me for a short break.

“No, no, we don’t want to keep you,” they demurred. “We just wanted to see if you had had a chance to read the articles we left with you…?”

“Yes, I did…” I said, and left it hanging. Thankfully they did not ask me what I thought of the articles. I don’t know what I would have said.

But they didn’t push it any further and simply asked if I would be interested in another article to read.

“This one is about God’s angels,” my visitor enthused. “I know you are a spiritual person (her word, not mine) and I thought you might be interested.”

Honestly, I have no desire to read another Watchtower, but I didn’t want to make a big deal of it, so I accepted the tract and thanked them for thinking of me. The tract got folded in half and stuffed it into the pocket of my hoodie.

We chatted for a few more minutes before they made their goodbyes.

“Be sure to stop by again next time you’re around,” I invited. “Maybe you’ll have time to come in for a coffee.”

They agreed that sounded lovely and they were looking forward to it, and then they were off.

I headed back inside to finish off the dust bunnies and I didn’t give a thought to the tract in my pocket until later that afternoon as I prepared to take a shower.

Emptying my pockets before I undressed, my hand came across the tract and I almost tossed it right into the trash without another thought…and then I hesitated.

Though I hadn’t meant it, I had said I would read it. And I had invited them back; surely they would want to discuss it on their next visit.

I’m gonna have to read this, I realized. Shit.

I haven’t read it yet. The article she wanted me to read is on angels, supposedly from a Biblical perspective.

Fair enough. I will take them at their word – I will study what the Bible has to say about angels and then I will read the article to see if what it says lines up with Scripture.

The problem is, I don’t really know all that much about angels. I could really use some help with this, and that’s my purpose for writing .

I know that angels are created beings. I’m less clear on whether they have a corporeal form – in some instances they seem to have human form (Joseph wrestles with an angel, right? and Daniel (I think) sees one “having the form of a man” in a vision), but they are also supposed to be hanging around here, unseen, (or is that something I just picked up from the culture?) so I don’t know.

I know that whenever people do see them, they fall down in abject terror. You do not want to come face-to-face with one of these Messengers of the Lord.

I know that at least three of the angels are named; the fallen one, Lucifer, the “bringer of light”; the archangel Michael, “chief of the angels”; and Gabriel. There is also an angel mentioned in the intertestimental stuff, Raphael – I’m not sure how much weight to give that. Not enough to be dogmatic about it either way.

I know that angels worship God and that angels are not to be worshiped; I know they are messengers; I know that an angel refused to rebuke Satan by his own authority lest he blaspheme God but did so under God’s authority which He was given to wield. I’m fuzzy on how I know this. From Scripture? From something I’ve heard? Probably some of both.

As I’ve been pondering what (I think) I know about angels, I’ve kinda picked up that Michael seems to be associated with the person and work of Christ (for example, John sees Michael slay the dragon) and Gabriel with the person and work of the Holy Spirit (he announces and precedes the coming of the Christ). It makes me wonder…and this is just total speculation, but am I crazy in thinking is Lucifer maybe the Father’s angel?? Again, speculation, and even if it were so, what then would it tell us about God and His angels? Not even sure it matters…maybe that’s just a big empty rabbit hole.

As you can see, I know appalling little about angels, lol, and what I think I do know about them is pretty sketch.

I’m familiar with the most famous appearances angels make in the Scriptures and probably quite a few lesser ones as well, but the truth is, when angels pop up, I hardly ever pay attention to them. I’ve considered them a minor matter – and maybe that’s true in the bigger scheme of things – but as I do a little bit more than merely scratch the surface, interesting stuff starts to emerge. Perhaps the accounts of angels have something to teach us about the nature of the unseen world? At the very least, I should learn something new about the Creation, no?

Now that I have decided that angels are worthy of my study (kidding/not kidding) I’m pumped to do it…but I realize I have no idea where to start.

If you’re so inclined, help a girl out, would ya?

I’m looking for suggestions. Any good places for me to start? Where in the Bible can I find the clearest passages regarding angels? Aside from my crazy speculations, where am I getting it wrong?

Any input/discussion is greatly appreciated!

Grappling – Desire…The Root of Sin

Grappling – Desire…The Root of Sin

What do you desire?  Plenty, am I right?  

Desire, in and of itself, is not sinful, but not all desires are right desires.  Often, it is when desire turns inward toward the self that our desires become false desires, and when we’re chasing down false desires it stands in the way of us seeking right desires.

Take, for example, Esau, who traded away his birthright for a bowl of stew to calm the desires of his hungry belly.  Dude traded away the promises of God for lunch!  Much later, he realises his error, but it is too late. The promises that were intended to be his, as first born, passed to his sneaky brother instead.  We tend to look at Esau and think, What a dumbass! I would NEVER do that!  

Think again.  If you don’t see yourself in Esau, look harder.  We ARE Esau, trading away right desires for false ones, exchanging God’s good promises for the momentary desires that reside within our hearts.  

I’m not sure why we are so inclined to trust the desires of our heart – the Bible is clear that the heart of man is deceitful and wicked above all things, that our desires are in opposition to God’s.  Follow your heart is horrible, horrible advice.  

In his Commandments, God encompasses for us what right desires ought to look like – a guidebook, if you will, to bring our desires into alignment with His own – but this conversion of our desires is only and and ever begun, never fully completed in this life.  Converting our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh is a lifelong process – we are ever in need of restraining the flesh –  therefore meditating on the Commandments and their meaning ought to be a lifelong habit as well.

This is the last video (or maybe second-to-last, I can’t remember for sure) of the “Introduction to the Commandments” in this series; then we’ll be moving onto looking at the text of the Commandments and their meanings.  Lots of insightful stuff, so stay tuned!

**If you haven’t seen the earlier videos, or you want to review them before moving on to the nitty gritty of the text, you can find them here.

Grappling: The Two Tables of the Law 

Grappling: The Two Tables of the Law 

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The Pharisees come up and ask Jesus Which commandment is the greatest? and Jesus’ answer is interesting.  He doesn’t point to any one commandment – in fact, he doesn’t quote any single commandment at all; rather, he gives a summary of all the Commandments – love God and love people.  

His answer is instructive – the heart of the Commandments is to love; not as an emotional abstraction (“all we need is love!”) but that in the Commandments we find very specific, concrete principles of what love for God and neighbour ought to look like.  

God’s high, holy standard for us is encompassed within the Commandments as a whole.  You can’t pick out just one and elevate it above all the others – they are designed to work together as a complete ethical system, each commandment flowing out from the previous one all the way back to the first, and summarized into two tables – love for God (the first table) and love for neighbour (the second table).

Jesus also points out that our love for God and neighbour is never finished.  Love your God with ALL your heart and ALL your soul and ALL your mind.  How’s that working out for ya?  If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ll find that under the Law there is always more to do.

When we confess our sins before God, we confess this very thing – We have not loved You with our whole hearts; we have not loved our neighbour as ourselves.  We have sinned against God and neighbour in thought, word and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. 

Thanks be to God that we are covered by the blood of the Lamb, who left nothing undone; who is the beginning and end of love! His grace is sufficient and in Him all things are made complete.  

Grappling: The Ten Commandments As Virtues

Grappling: The Ten Commandments As Virtues

For me, this is where the study of the Commandments really starts to get interesting 😀

I know I’m going against the grain here, but I happen to believe that one can know what one should or should not do at any given moment and under all circumstances according to the Ten Commandments.  That is to say, we can confidently find God’s will for our entire lives in them.  (That provocative enough for ya?)   

If you object to this idea, it’s ok, I get it…just hang with me for a bit, alright?

If you’ve been following along, you’ll recall we looked at the Law as the primary means by which God confronts us with our unpayable debt of sin, and our desparate need for a Saviour who will rescue us from it.  The Law, however, shows us more than just what we ought not to do, it also shows us the virtues that we ought to strive after as Christians. Not virtues for the sake of our virtuousness (for we are already wholly righteous before God, in Christ) but virtues that reflect who we are under God, and how we are to live in service to one another.  Remember, the Commandments still apply, but our motivation for keeping them under Christ is radically shifted.  We no longer keep them out of fear for our own condemnation – because that has already been taken care of, dealt with at the Cross.  Now we keep them because in them we find who God created us to be.

In the Creation, God told us what man’s job is – to care for all of Creation.  And because God saw that it was not good that man should be alone, He created woman and then, in His wisdom, He allowed us to become participants in creation through the joining of man and woman together to create offspring.  In a very real sense, Creation was not fully completed until the first child was born.  We were created to create, and to care for the created.

We were originally created to know how to do that – the Law that is written on the hearts of all testifies to this – but sin has obscured our view.  We can no longer clearly see how it is that God created us to live in community together, under Him, caring for one another.  God said it is not good for man to be alone, and that is true for us too.  We’re all in this together. It’s not good for us to live in isolation of one another, nor to live as if we were, caring only for ourselves without regard for others.  

Jesus Himself told us how we ought to live in relation to one another – the first shall be last – and if we knew how to do that, we wouldn’t need the Commandments to tell us, would we?

There’s this lovely description of what the life of the faithful looks like from the prophet Micah:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

He has told you what is good…  

God has informed the heart of every man that which is good, and when that was not enough, He spoke it to us as well; commanded that it be written down, preserved, and taught to all generations. Not for the sake of our own righteousness, but so that God’s righteousness – which looks very much like servanthood, like the first shall be last, like Jesus – may be made visible in the world.

He has told you what is good – and am I wrong to think that the “good” referred to here is God’s Word?  I don’t think so…God is good, and none other.  His Word, including His Commandments are the good that He has told us.  

The more I study the Commandments the more I am convinced that they are instructions for daily life; the broad principles by which we are to relate to God and to each other.  The first shall be last and the last shall be first?  Love your enemies?  I wouldn’t know how to do that, how to put “skin” on those exhortations and live them out apart from the Commandments.  

Grappling: The Law As Conscience Training

Grappling: The Law As Conscience Training

Always let your conscience be your guide.                                               -Jiminy Cricket 

It’s good advice, so long as your conscience is properly calibrated by God’s word.  

The Bible doesn’t speak a lot about the conscience – at least, not directly – but what it does tell is is that we all have one, and that apart from God’s word our consciences remain unsure.  

How’s your conscience?

A clean conscience, one that stands sure in the word of God, is a great gift of God. But how do you know if your conscience is right? 

Ten Commandments to the rescue!  

Note: I REALLY liked this video. So much so that I did a little digging and found a few more resources – both expandments upon this short video, taking a more in-depth look at a Christian theology of the conscience. One is in written format, the other is a series of three audio podcasts.  Both are long; both are excellent.  And both are quite accessible- you don’t have to be a theological geek to understand them!

Written format here

Audio Format: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

And the video

Grappling – Using The Law As A Mirror

Grappling – Using The Law As A Mirror

Way back in confirmation class, we learned the 3 functions of the Law (curb, mirror and guide).  We were given just the basics, really, and it was literally decades later before I was able to distinguish between the first use (curb) and the third use (guide) – they seemed almost interchangable to my mind.  But the second use of the Law, that one I fully understood.  We were taught that the second use of the Law is the primary use of the Law, that it functioned as a mirror to show us our sin and to show us our need for a Saviour.  We used the acronym “S.O.S.” to help us remember the two components of the second use, and how they are connected in the life of the Christian.

In this video, Pastor Wolfmueller discusses how he uses the 10 Commandments as a “diagnostic test” in his devotional life – he breaks the commandments down into a series of diagnostic questions to meditate on as a means of acknowledging our own sin. This is meant to be a devotional exercise, a way to prepare our hearts and focus our minds on what we ought to pray for.


More Grappling – Ordering of the Commandments

More Grappling – Ordering of the Commandments

In my last post, I mentioned the fifth Commandment as You shall not murder and the eighth as You shall not bear false witness about your neighbour.  It occurred to me that you may be scratching your head over the “numbering” that I used for them.  Wait a second…I thought You shall not murder was the fourth commandment?   (Or maybe the sixth…I get confused!)

Well, you’re not wrong.  There’s like three different ways of ordering the Commandments amongst Christians.  I just used the ordering that I’m accustomed to when I referred to them.

If you’ve ever wondered why there’s a difference, this video explains why.

Personally though, I don’t really think how the Commandments are numbered matters all that much – it’s the content of them that is important. 

Sidebar – Do I Really Have to Tell THAT Guy About Jesus?  Yes, yes, You Do

Sidebar – Do I Really Have to Tell THAT Guy About Jesus?  Yes, yes, You Do

Wally suggested that I write about the first Commandment (You shall have no other God), and maybe I will at some point, but today I am reflecting on the eighth Commandment (You shall not bear false witness) with a little fifth Commandment (You shall not murder) thrown in for good measure.

So, do I really have to tell THAT Guy About Jesus?

Well, to be honest, that’s not something I personally struggle with – it’s never occurred to me that THAT guy isn’t worthy of being told about his salvation in Christ; no matter what I think about THAT guy, it’s not a barrier (for me) to speak the truth to him.  It’s not because I am a “better” Christian than those who might struggle with this, not at all.  I am simply “hardwired” to be friendly to all. It’s in my nature.  I will talk to anybody, and if we talk long enough, sooner or later, Jesus is gonna come out.

Nor do I wish to shame those who do struggle in this area.  I get it, I really do.

The truth is, I am so, so judgmental.

I keep it to myself – I don’t broadcast my internal judgments out loud – but the stuff that I think in my head about other people is vile.  Stuff that, if I were to say it out loud,  I would be ashamed for saying.

I see the young, single mom, still in her pajamas, hair hastily pulled back into an unkempt ponytail, coming up the pathway.  She’s just dropped off her oldest child at school and she will now, as she does every morning, stop her stroller in front of my stoop where I sit with my morning coffee.  She wants to chat.

Inwardly, I sigh, because she’s disturbing my peace, harshing my mellow, you know?  I just wanna enjoy my coffee in peace, check my blog feed (and facebook, of course); have a little time to myself before I have to start my day.  

Oh God, I think to myself, what does the crackwhore want now?  

As far as I know, she is neither a whore, nor does she do crack, but for some reason I think it’s ok to make these private judgments about my neighbour, to dehumanize her in my thoughts. It’s not like I’m saying it out loud to anybody, right?  As long as I keep it to myself, I’m not sinning (or so I tell myself).

And yet, the commandment You shall not bear false witness insists otherwise. Refraining from publicly speaking my private judgments aloud isn’t good enough – it ain’t enough to simply restrain my outward sin but still allow my inner thoughts to have free reign.  The eighth Commandment would have me restrain those horrid inner judgments every bit as much as outward judgments.

This commandment tells us not just what we should not do – tell lies about our neighbour, betray him, slander him or hurt his reputation  – it also tells us what we ought to do as well – defend our neighbour, speak well of him and explain everything in the kindest way.

According to the eighth commandment, I am not free to think of my neighbour as a bothersome crackwhore, it compels me to see her as she is – a single parent who struggles to stay on top of her various responsibilities (regardless of how I may privately judge her ability to do so).  And she’s probably lonely to boot.

From that perspective, well, she’s not all that different from me.  It humanizes her, renders her relatable; shows me her need and how I might serve her.

This young woman doesn’t need my secret disdain, she needs my compassion. 

And so I put aside my phone and give her my attention, even though I’d really rather be doing something else and wish she would go away.  God has placed her right in front of me, to show her the love of Christ, in the words that I speak to her and my actions towards her. 

She knows I am a Christian; I know that she has (thusfar) rejected the notion that she is in need of a Saviour, much less One with a whole bunch of un-fun rules attached to Him.  Christianity, to her, is for suckers and hypocrites.  The irony, of course, is that it is my Christian conviction that compels me to engage her in the first place, to see her as a soul in need of the love of God.  It matters not that she has flatly rejected God’s greatest love towards her – and has made it clear that she’s not interested in hearing about it – that doesn’t disqualify her from being a recipient of whatever form of God’s love that I am called to shower upon her in this moment. 

I can make time to chat with her when she is lonely.

I can help her with her children when she is tired.

I can give her encouragement when she is feeling overwhelmed.

There’s a million little ways that I can show the love of Christ towards her without speaking a single word.

She may distrust this Jesus that I speak of, but she is learning that she can trust me, His follower. I will show her that my love for her goes all the way, that my interest in her is not solely so I can “convert her”.  She is free to reject the Gospel and while she does, yet will I love her.  Perhaps in this way, she will see a picture of the love the Lord has for her. 

Speak the Gospel, in season and out.  

Perhaps I will still be in her life when her season comes and she is brought to the end of herself, when she knows that what she desperately needs more than anything else is forgiveness.  On that day, I will tell her, You already are.  The forgiveness that you so desperately seek has already been won for you!  I will speak pure, sweet Gospel to her, of unearned forgiveness poured over her.

On that day, I will only do what I have been doing all along, just loving her in the moment. 

That’s what the Lord gives us.


Moments in which the Lord places a neighbour in front of us so that we may respond to their need in that moment.

Moment by moment, we are asking ourselves, How can I best love my neighbour, right now?  

That’s all.  Just love in the moment.

Wow.  There’s so much more that could be said here – I didn’t even get around to connecting it to the fifth commandment! This ended up going in a different direction than I first anticipated; it ended up being more of a real life example of how the Commandments shape my Christian love toward neighbour, as well as the deeper ways in which I must ever restrain my sin. And paradoxically, it illustrates that when I restrain my sin, ever better works pour forth for my neighbour.

Maybe I’ll put it to you guys.

How do you think the commandment You shall not murder is at play in this scenario with my neighbour?  How does this commandment show me my sin towards my neighbour (the young girl, I mean, and how I am tempted to think ill of her)?  How does it instruct me in how I ought to love her instead?

Aaaand, GO!

More Grappling – Consider Your Station In Life

More Grappling – Consider Your Station In Life

We’re still on the “Introduction” to the Commandments and in this video, we consider how they function daily in the life of the Christian.

Something that we’re working towards here is the idea that the Commandments are not works done to display our righteousness before God or man.  No. Our righteousness is Christ’s righteousness, a perfect righteousness that He promises to clothe us in, an applied righteousness that is not our own and that we live out imperfectly here and now but that nonetheless we are called over and over again to live in.

Why?  If we’re already righteous in God’s eyes, and if keeping the Commandments adds nothing to our righteousness, our standing before God, what’s the point??

Our good works – that is, the keeping of the Commandments – are for our neighbour.  God doesn’t need our good works…but our neighbour does!

Grappling with The Ten Commandments – The Three Functions of the Law

Grappling with The Ten Commandments – The Three Functions of the Law

More Ten Commandment goodness today 😀

Parts 1 & 2 of the Introduction to the Commandments are here if you missed it, covering the biblical account of the giving of the Commandments to the people at Sinai, and the insight that the Commandments were given to both teach us about -as well as protect – the way that God has ordered to world we live in.

The Commandments are given for our good – not just our own good, but our neighbours’ as well.  They give shape to our Christian love towards others.

That’s one use of the Law – to teach us how we ought to live.  There are two more uses, and that’s what Part 3 covers.