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)

Acts, chapters 23 & 24

“At the same time [Felix] was hoping that Paul would give him money. For that reason, he sent for him even more frequently and conversed with him. But when two years had elapsed, […] he left Paul in custody.”
~Acts 24:26,27

How can a Christian distinguish between giving a bribe and tipping an official to ensure a service is rendered?
The Bible clearly condemns bribing. (Ps. 15:1,5)
But what could be considered a bribe in one country, could be considered a customary tip in another.
I remember a traffic officer in Mexico who would not release us until my aunt (not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses), implied she would give him a tip.
On other occasions in which my husband and I were pulled over, we accepted citations for minor traffic infractions instead of handing over any cash.
But it is true that many government officials, especially in developing nations, do not make enough money to live on, so whether or not a Christian decides to tip one is a matter of personal conscience. (Mark 12:17; 1 Cor. 10:31-33)
It would be blatantly wrong to give something with the intent of evading justice or seeking preferential treatment over others(Deut. 16:19; Matt. 7:12)
Despite his reputation for corruption, Felix as governor did have a legal right to hold Paul indefinitely without handing him a verdict. (Watchtower. 2001, December 15. “I Appeal to Caesar!”)
If Paul had caved in to bribing him, he would have been breaking Roman law.
As Christians, we find comfort in knowing that Jehovah will bring ultimate justice and he cannot be bought. (Deut. 10:17)

Acts, chapters 19 & 20

“I do not consider my own life of any importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear thorough witness to the good news of the undeserved kindness of God.”
~Acts 20:24

Paul did not feel entitled to the privilege of teaching others about Christ.
He humbly recognized that he was a sinner and attributed the success of his ministry to Jehovah God. (1 Cor. 3:6; 15:9,10; 1 Tim. 1:12,13)
When a need for financial aid struck the congregation in Jerusalem, Paul personally risked his life to carry relief over to them. (Rom. 15:25,26)
He fulfilled his sense of debt towards God, grateful for the ransom sacrifice that allowed him to be God’s friend. (2 Cor. 5:18)
If we have the privilege of sharing God’s good news with others, may we equally treasure it.

Acts, chapters 12-14

“[…] They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and threw them outside their boundaries. […] And the disciples continued to be filled with joy and holy spirit.”
~Acts 13:50,52

Jesus had foretold the type of joy his disciples would reap on account of persecution:
“Happy are you whenever men hate you, […] and denounce your name as wicked for the sake of the Son of man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for look! your reward is great in heaven […].” (Luke 6:22,23)
Paul and Barnabas were physically thrown out of Antioch of Pisidia by “God-fearing” women and prominent men after only about one week of preaching there.
But the many Greek-speaking new disciples were happy despite the opposition because they knew they had God’s spirit. (1 Pet. 4:14)
While some modern day Christians enjoy more freedom of worship than others, all of us undergo various trials to our faith.
Whatever we are experiencing, if we endure with a positive attitude, we will also be blessed with a feeling of joy. (Jas. 1:2,3)

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.’

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)