Acts, chapters 9-11

“When [Barnabas] arrived and saw the undeserved kindness of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all to continue in the Lord with heartfelt resolve.”
~Acts 11:23

The early Christian congregation was changing in the sense that it was no longer exclusive to Jews or Jewish proselytes.
Barnabas was a Levite who had converted to Christianity. (Acts 4:36)
He was appointed an apostle because holy spirit moved him to do missionary work. (Acts 13:4; 14:14)
When he saw the enthusiasm with which the new converts in Antioch received the good news of the kingdom, he sought out Paul and together they helped strengthen the congregation. (Acts 11:25,26)
It was there that “by divine providence” Christ’s disciples were first called “Christians.”
In Greek, the phrase translated “heartfelt resolve” literally means “purpose of the heart.”
Other synonyms could be: firmness, conviction, determination.
Barnabas not only told his new spiritual family to stay in the truth; he took them under his wing and nurtured their faith.
Through personal sacrifice, tolerance toward others, and a joyous spirit, he exemplified ‘continuing in the Lord with heartfelt resolve.’

Acts, chapters 6-8

“Jehovah’s spirit quickly led Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him anymore, but he went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, found himself in Ashdod, and he went through the territory and kept on declaring the good news to all the cities until he got to Caesarea.”
~Acts 8:39,40

After Philip taught and baptized the Ethiopian traveler, he appears to have been suddenly swept away to the town of Ashdod.
He then proceeded to travel north 80 km (50 mi), presumably by foot, to Caesarea.
He “kept on declaring the good news” zealously, despite having had no say in his choice of territory.
Perhaps he had left unfinished business or personal belongings in Jerusalem, but he listened to the Holy Spirit’s direction and preached along the Mediterranean coastline.
Sometimes we have the privilege of studying the Bible with someone who values what they learn to the point of becoming a baptized Jehovah’s Witness.
While they rejoice with their new hope, we have to keep moving forward, bringing the kingdom message to as many people as possible.
I vividly recall meeting a student under similar circumstances as Philip and the eunuch’s, in the sense that she was reading a Watchtower magazine when we arrived at her business.
I asked her if she understood what she was reading.
She said, in sign language, “How? If no one explains it to me?”
She took the steps to get baptized six months later, despite having two serious disabilities.
We seldom meet people so eager to learn in our ministry, but when we do, their memory continues to motivate us for the rest of our lives, regardless of which territory we end up in.

Acts, chapters 4 & 5

“You have lied, not to men, but to God. […] Why did you two agree to make a test of the spirit of Jehovah?”
~Acts 5:4,9

Ananias and his wife Sapphira were members of the Christian congregation in Jerusalem.
They tried to deceive their brothers and sisters by claiming they had contributed more than they had really given. (Acts 5:1,2)
Some people lie to preserve their reputation or advance their interests.
While some can deceive their friends and family, it is impossible to deceive God. (He. 4:13)
The Apostle Peter acted as God’s representative when he questioned Ananias and his wife about their deception.
He was moved to do so by God’s holy spirit.
In that sense, the couple was trying to lie to God.
As imperfect humans, from time to time we may be tempted to try to get away with improper behavior even while we serve Jehovah.
We must remember that Jehovah hates deception to the point of equating it with violence. (Ps. 5:6; Prov. 6:16,17)
If we learn to be honest with ourselves and with those around us, we can maintain a good standing before God. (Zech. 8:16,17; Luke 6:45)

Acts, chapters 1-3

“All those who became believers were together and had everything in common, and they were selling their possessions and properties and distributing the proceeds to all, according to what each one needed.”
~Acts 2:44,45

Were the first Christians practicing an early form of Communism?
The story of the first Christian congregation relates that they went from 120 members to over 3,000 people in a single day. (Acts 2:41,47)
Many of those people were from far away and had not originally planned to extend their stay in Jerusalem, but that is what they ended up doing in order to learn more about Christ. (Acts 2:5-11,42)
The generous Christians knew that very soon, they would be persecuted and eventually, Jerusalem would be destroyed, so their possessions would be lost. (Acts 8:1)
Their material things were put to better use because they had a sense of urgency, not because of a philosophical ideology.
While donations were administered by the congregation, property owners could choose how to manage their own assets. (Acts 2:46; 5:1-4)
Later on, a formal distribution was arranged for the benefit of widows only. (Acts 6:1-3; 1 Tim. 5:16)
Christians were always encouraged to share, even after the congregation had been well established. (Acts 20:35; Jas. 2:15-17)
But the fact that there were still class distinctions indicates that the congregation did not redistribute wealth as a rule. (Rom. 12:13; 15:26; 2 Cor. 9:7)

John, chapters 20 & 21

“Jesus said to them: ‘Children, you do not have anything to eat, do you? […] Come, have your breakfast.'”
~John 21:5,12

I find it heartwarming that one of the last things Jesus did for his friends before leaving this world was to make them breakfast.
He had important instructions to give them, but he did not rush through his visit.
Jesus took the time to comfort them- particularly Peter, who was no doubt discouraged from having denied knowing him on the night of his death. (John 18:25-27; 21:15-19)
Jesus’ forgiving, patient, generous and industrious attitude is a fine benchmark for what type of friends we should strive to be.

John, chapters 18 & 19

“My Kingdom is no part of this world. If my Kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be handed over […].”
~John 18:36

Throughout history and throughout the world, true Christians have followed Christ’s courageous example of maintaining political neutrality at the cost of their freedom or even their lives.
Like Jesus, we trust that God’s solution to mankind’s problems will be brought about through his own means. (Dan. 2:44)
Prior to the messiah’s coming, servants of Jehovah sometimes held high government rankings, such as King David or the governor Zerubbabel.
But the priests who killed Jesus were hungry for more political power. (John 11:48)
Jesus made it clear that his followers were not to get involved in the political controversies of his time, and the same applies to us. (Mark 8:15; John 17:16)
We can instead participate in the sharing of the kingdom good news- the same “truth” Jesus said he came to bear witness to. (Matt. 6:33; John 18:37)

John, chapters 15-17

“[…] But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”
~John 16:32

Jesus knew his closest friends were about to run away as he would be taken into custody, but he relied on his relationship with Jehovah to get him through that dark period of his life. (Zech. 13:7; Matt. 26:31)
He had warned his disciples that one day they would face similar trials, but like him, they too could prevail. (John 16:2, 33)
No matter what this crazy world throws at us, when we take comfort in the peace that Jehovah gives us, nothing can ruin our faith. (Rom. 8:35-39; Php. 4:6,7)