Ephesians, chapters 4-6

“[…] Speaking the truth, let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ.”
~Ephesians 4:15

How can I “grow up” by love, becoming a more spiritually mature Christian?
Mature Christians look for ways to promote unity in the congregation. (John 17:21,22; Eph. 4:2-4,13,16)
Instead of holding grudges, mature Christians consistently overlook the flaws of their brothers and sisters.
They view others with mercy and compassion. (Eph. 4:25,26; 31,32)
In the above passage, the Greek phrase “alitheiontes” literally means to maintain the truth.
This implies upholding Bible principles even when no one is watching. (Eph. 6:6)
But to be a mature Christian, it is not enough to obey systematically.
I have to be motivated by love.

Romans, chapters 4-6

“Happy is the man whose sin Jehovah will by no means take into account.”
~Romans 4:8

The verse the Apostle Paul is quoting in this passage is a Psalm which continues: “In whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Ps. 32:2)
In order to benefit from the joy of being granted true forgiveness, we must first turn around from our evil course. (Eze. 33:11; Acts 3:19; Ep. 4:22-24)
This implies being humble enough to recognize the error of our ways and a willingness to put in the effort to change.
Once we have demonstrated our repentance, we are able to feel the joy that comes from being reconciled to God through Jesus. (Rom. 5:11)
The knowledge that God loves us and assumes the best in us when we try to please him can carry us joyfully through difficult times. (Rom. 5:2-6)

Luke, chapters 14-16

“[…] For this son of mine was dead but has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they started to enjoy themselves.”
~Luke 15:24

In the illustration of the prodigal son, neither the repentant son nor his compassionate father dwell on the bitter past.
They focus on the present and rejoice in each other’s company.
When someone who wronged us, insulted us or even ruined our name and reputation, comes back humbly ready to make amends, are we able to bury the past?
Or what if we are like the prodigal son who squandered everything valuable and lost all sense of self-worth?
Do we trust in Jehovah’s mercy and let him heal us emotionally and spiritually, letting him use us to do his will again? Or do we resist his holy spirit and stubbornly hold on to negativity, even against ourselves?
Jesus’ illustration shows us the wisdom of focusing on the present and moving past sadness and anger. (Lu. 15:11-32)

Luke, chapters 2 & 3

“Jesus went on progressing in wisdom […].”
~Luke 2:52

At the young age of twelve, Jesus appears to have had a clear idea of the direction his life was heading in. (Luke 2:49)
But for most children, the proverb that states their heart is full of foolishness holds true. (Prov. 22:15)
How can parents, Bible teachers, or mentors help their kids progress in wisdom?
Past suggestions from Watchtower articles include:

  • Take the time to teach him/her how to distinguish right from wrong
  • Teach them the value of will power
  • Be consistent
  • Teach them to manage money
  • Teach them how to act appropriately/respectfully toward different people
  • Do not withhold discipline
  • Give reasons for rules
  • Give reasons for the way you do certain things
  • Be kind, warm and understanding
  • Try to make chores fun for them
  • Gradually help them take on responsibilities outside of home
  • Encourage them every chance you get
  • Only rebuke when absolutely necessary, but include something positive
  • Listen to him/her patiently

If there is an important child in your life, would he/she say you need to work on any of these things?

Though neither we nor the children we teach are perfect, Jehovah’s counsel is.

(Deut. 6:4-9; Prov. 17:10; 22:6; Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim 2:24,25)

Mark, chapters 7 & 8

“[…] He sighed deeply in his spirit […].”
~Mark 8:12

Jesus was a man who clearly expressed his emotions.
This is the only passage where the greek verb “anastenazas,” or exasperation, is used in the Scriptures.
It describes how the Pharisees’ lack of faith made him feel.
But Jesus also sighed when speaking sign language to a deaf man he was about to cure. (“estenazen,” Mark 7:34)
He did not simply go through mechanical motions like an overworked doctor.
His sigh conveyed heartfelt empathy, a quality he reflected from our heavenly Father.
People may respond favorably or critically to God’s message, and they can move us, encourage us or drain us.
And like Jesus, we will need to discern who truly is appreciative of the good news and keep looking for them without becoming disheartened.

Mark, chapters 5 & 6

“The woman, frightened and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.”
~Mark 5:33

The woman referred to in this passage had suffered an embarrassing ailment for twelve years without finding a medical solution.
She did not wonder if Jesus could help her.
She had faith that she would be healed as soon as she could discreetly touch his clothes. (Mark 5:28)
In doing so, she was breaking Mosaic Law. (Lev. 15:25-27)
When Jesus discovered her, she confronted him with the truth.
In her place, I would have likely ran away as fast as I could.
I admire her boldness.
She not only had faith that Jesus would heal her, but also had faith that he would compassionately understand.
When approaching Jesus’ father, Jehovah, in prayer, I will try to imitate this woman’s faith in divine mercy, expressing myself from the heart. (Heb. 4:16)

Mark, chapters 1 & 2

“[…] He was at home. And so many gathered that there was no more room, not even around the door, and he began to speak the word to them.”
~Mark 2:1,2

When I think of Jesus’ ministry, I do not think of him as having people over for brunch, but rather picture him as a wanderer, reaching out to others wherever they were at.
But he did have a home based in Capernaum, which was close to Nazareth, the town he had grown up in. (Matt. 4:13)
What strikes me in this passage is Jesus’ hospitality, even towards those who did not have faith in him. (Mark 2:6,7)
Not only was his privacy overcrowded in an unannounced manner, but some even removed the roof to bring down a paralytic man. (Mark 2:4)
Jesus remained helpful and compassionate as always. (Mark 2:5)
When we in the Christian congregation are encouraged to be hospitable, it is not a suggestion based on culture or personal preference. (1 Pe. 4:9)
The way of hospitality is part of Christ’s example.

Obadiah

“You should not gloat over your brother’s day on the day of his misfortune,
You should not rejoice over the people of Judah on the day of their perishing,
And you should not speak so arrogantly on the day of their distress.”

~Obadiah 12

Many Bible prophecies are directed toward the nation of Edom because they were distant relatives of the nations of Israel and Judah.
Edomites descended from Esau, the twin brother of Jacob (Israel). (Ge. 36:1; De. 2:4-6)
As such, God expected mutual respect between the Edomites and his people.
But this did not end up being the case; there was often war between both nations. (1 Sam. 14:47; 2 Sam. 8:13; 2 Ki. 14:7; Amos 1:11)
In this particular prophecy, Jehovah God warns the Edomites that when judgment came upon Jerusalem, they should not rejoice.
Nowadays, God’s servants do not war against others, but try to bring people a message of peace and hope. (Matt. 24:14)
Sometimes we are in situations where people who used to be friendly/receptive to God’s message are suddenly and inexplicably rude to us.
We should not rush to judge those people, saying they deserve whatever judgment may be coming their way, nor rejoice in the idea of their future calamity.

Ezekiel, chapters 11-14

“Although I have removed them far away among the nations […], for a little while I will become a sanctuary for them in the lands to which they have gone.”
~Ezekiel 11:16

Even when Jehovah God decides to discipline someone, he does not abandon them.
Jehovah wants those he disciplines to learn to rely on him.
The Jews in Ezekiel’s time were being taken captive to Babylon. (2 Ki. 24:14,15)
Those remaining ended up fleeing to other nations. (2 Ki. 25:26)
Regardless of where they ended up, Jehovah was still reaching out individually to those who wanted to worship him.
Nowadays, for whatever reason, someone might find him or herself separated from the congregation.
Jehovah wants to comfort any of those who call out to him in prayer, as he will never desert those who actively seek him. (Neh. 9:31)

Psalms 60-68

“Because your loyal love is better than life,
My own lips will glorify you.”
~Psalm 63:3

What is “loyal love”?

The glossary in the New World 2013 translation defines it as:
“[…] Rendered from the Hebrew word cheʹsedh, referring to love motivated by commitment, integrity, loyalty, and deep attachment. It is often used in connection with God’s love for humans […].”
How is Loyal Love different from God’s love toward humankind as a whole?
It is “kindness that lovingly attaches itself to an object until its purpose in connection with that object is realized. […] It is an act that preserves or promotes life. It is intervention on behalf of someone suffering misfortune or distress. It is demonstration of friendship or piety.”

(“Loving Kindness of God.” Watchtower Online Library. Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Web. 11 July 2016).

The marginal reference in Psalm 63:3 takes us to Psalm 30:5:

Because being under his anger is only for a moment,
But being in his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may come in the evening, but in the morning, there is a joyful cry.

Jehovah God is a compassionate Father who knows we are prone to sin and error.
He actively seeks out His servant who has derailed from a course of righteousness, proving his loyalty and kindness toward him.
God understands we are imperfect but He also knows we can change for the better.
So He does not give up hope in His servants and He does not abandon them.
If one feels he has failed God and returns to Him, he can continue to glorify God on account of His loyal love.