One Way to Respond to the Jehovah’s Witness Who Comes to Your Door

I just had a Jehovah’s Witness come to the door.  She seemed like a nice lady.  She had a Jamaican accent (or at least that is as sophisticated as I am at judging Caribbean accents).  I could have listened a long time.  She was inviting me to a convention downtown that would take no offering and was free.  I said I wouldn’t be going and she asked if I was acquainted with Witnesses.  “Yes,” I said, “I had not too long ago met with some of your people and gone through the little book.”  She knew exactly what book I was talking about and said, “Yes, it is a very nice book.”  I immediately answered, “No, it is not a nice book.  It does not give Jesus the honor he deserves.”  “Oh, we believe in Jesus,” she said.  “But you don’t believe he is God,” I said.  Her instant reply was, “But Jesus never called himself God.”

I didn’t go further with her but I wish I had responded this way:

“Ma’am, if you have the slightest openness to hearing contradictory evidence to your claim, I would be happy to share it with you.  Are you open to receiving an opposite viewpoint?”  If she said yes I would have directed her to Revelation 22:12,13, which reads,

Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

The speaker is identified in verse 16 as Jesus.  And he calls himself the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  So I would direct her attention then to Revelation 1:8,

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

Do you see the dilemma for the Jehovah’s Witnesses here?  Jesus takes the same titles as the “Lord God.”  That is blasphemy unless Jesus is actually God.

I remember sitting across the table from the Witnesses with whom I went through the little book and I remember laying out this passage to them.  It was at this point that the woman (it was a couple I was meeting with) took a book out of her purse and began looking up the answer to this passage.  I never heard what that answer was, though I am sure they have one.  It must not have sounded convincing to her.

Now let me be clear about something.  Even if Jesus never did directly say, “I am God,” (though he has indeed by claiming these titles), the rest of the New Testament very clearly proclaims it (John 1:1, for example, which, by the way, cannot be translated the way Jehovah’s Witnesses translate it in their New World Translation, see John 1:1 translation).  And if the apostles and prophets of the New Testament teach it, it is true.

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A Biblical Theology of Work – Part 4

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.  Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.  Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. (Ephesians 6:5-8)

Here is a fascinating application of God’s perspective on work.  Fascinating because it is addressed to someone who has no choice in the work he or she does because he or she is owned by another human being.  Nevertheless, there is an understanding that the slave can do legitimate work for this master and so fulfill the Cultural Mandate.  We may suppose that if the master were asking the slave to do something contrary to the will of God that this would not be fulfilling the Cultural Mandate, which requires that we work under God’s authority to better the world.

But assuming that the master has the slave doing legitimate work, the slave is to do so with sincerity of heart, being motivated out of love for God and for one’s fellow man in accord with the Great Commandments.  He or she is not to do it begrudgingly, simply to avert the master’s anger, but is to do it as serving the Master, the Lord God, who is the ultimate rewarder of good work.

Though it is not clearly stated in this passage, we may assume from what Paul says elsewhere (Titus 2:9,10) that he is also concerned that the way a slave works in subjection to his or her master is a reflection of the gospel and its transformative power.  The Great Commission is always a factor in how and why we work.

A Theology of Work – Part 3

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

English: The Great Commission, at the Cathedra...
English: The Great Commission, at the Cathedral Parish of Saint Patrick in El Paso (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This passage has been dubbed The Great Commission.  Jesus has commanded his church to complete the work of making disciples that he began.  If the Cultural Mandate (“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”) gives us the nature of our work as stewards of the King doing His work at His direction, and if the Greatest Commandments (“Love the Lord your God; love your neighbor as yourself.”) give us our motive for working for God, then the Great Commission gives us our goal in our work.

It should be obvious that the Great Commission gives us our goal for all aspects of our lives.  But as we apply it to work it leads to these conclusions:

  • The greatest good my work can accomplish is to help lead someone to Christ

This is not to say that the only work I should do is be an evangelist.  As we have already seen, doing our work as a grocer, a police officer, a seamstress, or any other profession that is morally acceptable brings credit to God and benefit to mankind.  When we do our work as if working for God (which we really are) we show the beauty of God’s love for humanity and draw people to His goodness.  By participating in this honorable cultural mandate we gain respect that aids us when we speak the words of the gospel.  It is one way of showing that we practice what we preach…the love of God.

The good of contributing to our world by helping flourish is a worthy goal in and of itself.  But an even greater goal is to help someone flourish spiritually with their Creator.  So though our work is done as part of our subduing the earth, it is also done with an eye to securing converts to the faith.  This, after all, is clearly God’s greatest desire for all His people.

  • There are some believers whose main work should be helping lead someone to Christ

There is a place for “full time service” to the Lord.  Even though all of us are in full time service to the Lord if we are Christians, some of us have gifts of leadership and equipping that can be more fully devoted to the task of preparing God’s people to accomplish the Great Commission if we are financially supported by other believers (1 Timothy 5:17).  It is strategically wise to install some as pastors and evangelists in order to give them more freedom to equip the church for this task.

Following whatever vocational calling we have in accord with our gifts and talents and desires will give each of us unique insights into life and how to reach others for Christ.  Someone who speaks the language of accounting might be better able to reach a fellow accountant.  Someone who has experienced the unique strain of an emergency medical technician might be better able to reach a fellow EMT.  Someone who herds sheep might be more in tune to God’s spiritual shepherding of people.  Everything we know and do can contribute to our effectiveness as individuals and as the church combined for drawing our world to the Savior.

For further reading:

Is There a Distinctively “Christian” Way to Be a Bus Driver?

A Biblical Theology of Work – Part 2

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40, ESV)

A Ten Commandments monument which includes the...
A Ten Commandments monument which includes the command to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus confirms that of all the commandments in God’s Law the two greatest are the ones which summarize all the others.  The commands like having no other gods besides God, no graven images, not testing Him and obeying Him can all be subsumed under “love God with all your being.”  And all the commands like not stealing or killing or lying can be subsumed under “love your neighbor as yourself.”

We have already discussed how the Cultural Mandate given us in Genesis 1:27,28 describes the nature of our work as stewards of God’s world for the sake of God’s glory and mankind’s benefit.  The Great Commandments highlight even more clearly what our motivation should be for working in this way.  We should work out of love for God and out of love for our fellow humans.  This means at least three things regarding our work:

  • In our work we love the people God loves

When I work, am I doing what I do because I love people? Do I work for someone the way I would want them to work for me?  Am I providing goods or services that meet important needs of the community I live in or the greater community of my world?  And in the place I work am I loving my co-workers, seeking to help them succeed and not just myself?  Am I a positive force at work or a destructive one?

  • In our work we love the world God loves

As I work, am I caring for the world God has put under my dominion, or am I exploiting it simply for my own good or the good of my community?  This becomes a hard question to answer at times when the survival of my community seems to necessitate such exploitation.  Asking the question should lead us to consider long-term survival in relationship to the survival of our environment.  Does God love the animals He created?  Of course.  Did He give them to us for food and other sustaining properties?  Of course.  But we must have long-term plans for caring for their survival as well as our own.  Humans are the most important creatures on God’s planet, but our lives and those of the other creatures are closely tied together.

  • In our work we love the God who loves

All the work I do I ultimately do as an homage to the God who made me and gave me the capacity to work.  I do the kind of work He loves (righteous work) and I acknowledge it is accomplished by His help.  When I work I am ultimately working for Him and out of love for Him, regardless of my most immediate human supervisor.  This gives my work dignity and moves me to work with excellence and even joy.  I am contributing in a way that honors Him.

Why I work is as important as how I work.  It many times is the difference between finding meaning in my work or not.  Many a mother or father has labored in difficult situations with joy knowing it was for their children’s sake, for their community’s sake, and for God’s sake.  Obeying the Great Commandments gives us our motivation for work.

For further reading:

Due Diligence or DO Diligence?

Sweating Outcomes (and other blog entries about work)

Ephesians 6:10-20 –Conversations with God

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,  for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Father, we are in a war!  I don’t know how more plainly Paul could make that point.  The enemy is scheming against us.  Evil is afoot.  Flaming arrows are being shot at us.  We are in danger of losing ground if we don’t stand firm.  Being alert is paramount.

But you don’t want us to fight human beings.  In fact, we might actually be in chains as we do our fighting.  We might be in the weakest of situations personally or politically.  Nevertheless, there is an armor to don and a battle to fight and it is all on the spiritual level.

And so our armor is spiritual.  Truth, to keep us from succumbing to the lies of the Devil and his demons.  Righteousness, positionally and personally, to keep us from despairing.  The gospel message that brings peace to those who embrace it.  Faith, to ward off the evil one’s attacks.  Salvation, to keep us secure in the midst of battle.  The Word of God, to slice through the deceptions of our foe.  And prayer, to give us a lifeline to God who gives us boldness for the preaching of the gospel.

Keep me alert, Lord!

Reflections on India

A Report on Some of the Pastors Supported by

Light of Hope Mission

In my recent trip to India I once again worked with the Light of Hope mission in Madurai, Tamilnadu. S.J.P. Vijayakumar (Vijay), the director of the ministry there, has been training men in groups of 12 for the past eight years. These men are apprenticed to minister in the Hindu villages which some estimate make up to 80% of India’s population. The following four men are his veterans who have been successful in establishing churches and are at the vanguard of this outreach ministry.

Pastor Duraichamy

I first met Duraichamy four years ago on my first trip to India. I took an immediate liking to him despite being unable to communicate with him in English. Vijay took us to his village, which consisted of several mud brick huts with thatched roofs. Without a doubt his is one of the poorest of villages. The church building he served from was attached to his house, another mud hut with a thatched roof that Vijay had taken responsibility for replacing every couple of years because of insect damage.

Vijay took us across the road from Duraichamy’s village to an undeveloped plot of land that Duraichamy had donated from his family to further the gospel. Because of Duraichamy’s position in society no one outside his caste would come to his church. But this property, being outside the village, would permit many to overcome their social hesitations about attending.

To date there has not been enough money to build the proposed concrete structure, but Duraichamy has moved to this property nevertheless to attract more attendees.

When I saw Duraichamy this time he was in obvious emotional pain. June,06, 2012 was the one year anniversary of his youngest daughter’s death. She was 17 years old and had been of great help in leading outreach events for children. But a recurring brain condition that had previously only temporarily incapacitated her took her life. When Duraichamy and I set eyes on each other at the Bible conference we were attending his tears welled up and he couldn’t speak. But he was still praising the Lord and is still serving faithfully.

Pastor Gnanaselvam

Pictured here are Gnanaselvam with his son Johnson and wife Indira. In a picture next to them is their daughter Jansi who is living and working in Chennai. Gnanaselvam lives in a town called Kovilpatti a few hours south of Vijay’s home, Madurai. Across from Gnanaselvam’s rented house is the church building where he ministers every week.

This family hosted us and our Bible conference, attending to our every need and were responsible for inviting all those who attended. Their hospitality was amazing! Gnanaselvam tirelessly works with his own congregation, giving generously of his time and talents to encourage them in their walk with the Lord. He has been working in close association with Vijay for many years in furthering the gospel to some of the southern states of Tamilnadu, India.

Pastor Jothiraj

You see pastor Jothiraj pictured here on the roof of his home, which also doubles as the church building where his congregation meets. In the background is a Hindu temple. This plot of land was actually all owned by those who built the temple here and when the portion of plot his house is standing on was purchased by him, someone threatened that the Hindu god, who was said to roam this property, would kill him. Sometime later that person died, but the work of God has continued.

Besides pastoring this church pastor Jothiraj ministers in 18 Hindu villages in the area. Despite receiving a mere 8-10 rupees in congregational tithes (mere pennies a week) he also manages to house a woman and her two children whose husband/father is a drunkard and does not provide for the family. The son, Barnabas, has been through Vijay’s training and is called to the ministry, but his father is demanding that he go to work and support the family, something Indian culture says is his responsibility to do. Whether Barnabas is able to do both is still up in the air. In the meantime, pastor Jothiraj is supporting this impoverished family.

Pastor Jothiraj helped lead worship music at our conference in Kovilpatti and his son Paul helped, pictured here with his mother. Their other son David is a bright boy as well who also helps minister in their church meetings with music.

Pastor R. P. John

Pastor R.P. John prayed for a place to build a church building that would have public exposure and God answered by placing them in this property right on a main road outside Kovilpatti. One of his sons is pictured here. This young man had begun attending Vijay’s one-year training but due to epileptic seizures had to return home. This man faithfully preaches the Word of God from this pulpit. Though you can’t see it too well, the pulpit behind him is a c-shaped structure you enter from the back, and it puts the teaching of the Word of God front and center in the life of this congregation.

It has been my great privilege to meet these men of God who courageously stand for the gospel and serve our Lord Jesus Christ in a very difficult setting where they are by far the minority. May God continue to use men and women like them to spread His Word throughout the world.

Reflections on India 4

I am just returned from a 12 day trip to India where I partnered with John Marley, a teacher from my church, to hold two 3-day Bible conferences.  The first was in Madurai, or more specifically, Light of Hope Gospel Mission just outside of Madurai.  The second was in Kovilpatti, a 3 hour trip south of Madurai.  All this is in the southern tip of India.  Our host was S. J. P. Vijayakumar, or Vijay.  He has been a missionary sponsored by Central Church since the mid 90′s.  His father-in-law, the founder of Light of Hope, has been supported by Central for many more years.  They are faithful servants of the kingdom.

I found myself drawn to several of the participants and their stories and would like to share some of those with the world (or at least whoever reads this blog).

1,000 Songs in an Unknown Tongue

She was given in marriage to a 25 year old blind man when she was 9 years old.  This tells you right away that she came from a poor family and she married into an impoverished marriage.  Undoubtedly her parents thought this was the best way to take care of her.  The new marriage was so poor that she had to go to work breaking rocks.  The woman standing to her left was explaining to us that this is why her feet were in such poor condition.

Somewhere along the line she became a follower of Jesus Christ and found ways to minister to others.  I had asked, during one of our sessions in which I was teaching on the filling of the Holy Spirit, if anyone there had some experiences of being filled with the Spirit that they would like to share.  She did.  She explained that she had gone to another state in India where she did not know the language.  But miraculously she found herself able to speak it and wrote 1,000 songs in this previously unknown language.

She sang for us that day in the Tamil language, the language everyone at this conference spoke since all were from the state of Tamilnadu, where Vijay lives.  She has had a hard life, but God has transformed her life in Christ.