From A Cleverly Invented Story
to the Greatest True Story Ever Told
By Jeffery and Kathy Schwehm
How many of you have ever been deceived? Has anyone ever lied to you? Has your parents, Pastor, or best friend ever lied to you? How did you feel? Were you devastated? Did you ask them why they had deceived you and were their explanations less than satisfactory?
Second Peter 1:16-21 talks about following "cleverly invented stories." According to Adam Clarke in his commentary on Second Peter, it was common in the days of the Apostles for the religious leaders among the Romans to present mystical shows in order to make the stories of their gods appearing in the flesh more believable. These shows were tricks made up by these religious leaders.
Today, there exists other "cleverly invented stories" that are taught by religious leaders who claim to be the only "channel" between God and man. In effect, such religious leaders while claiming to be Christian usurp the position of Jesus as our mediator and the Holy Spirit as our teacher.
Unfortunately, Jeff's mother, who was raised as a Missouri Synod Lutheran, stopped professing her belief in the historical Jesus that we know through the writings of the New Testament in order to follow after the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Through Jeff's mother, numerous members of Jeff's family eventually became Jehovah's Witnesses and are still active members of this sect today. This occurred when Jeff was five years old and for over 20 years Jeff was deceived. Jeff pioneered for two years and served one year at Bethel.
When Kathy was 15 years old, her mother came into contact with the Jehovah's Witnesses. Kathy and her family were Catholic and the entire family including Kathy's siblings were required to study with the Jehovah's Witnesses. Eventually Kathy got baptized when she was 22 and became an auxiliary pioneer.
We believed that the leaders of the Jehovah's Witnesses had a special knowledge and relationship with God that we could never have. We believed that their prophecies that they made about the end of the world originated with God and that God channeled this information directly to the leaders of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
After many years we discovered many interesting things about the leaders of the Watchtower Society. For example, we discovered that in 1889, Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Watchtower Society, which is the parent corporation used today to direct the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide, predicted that Jesus would return in the year 1914 A. D. He borrowed this idea from various Adventist groups of the time. Eventually, in order to "prove" his idea he engaged in all sorts of mathematical calculations and even believed that the dimensions of the Great Pyramid in Egypt proved his prophetic calculations to be true.
His successor Joseph Franklin Rutherford predicted with more complicated calculations that the end of the world would occur in 1925 A. D. And that before 1925, the ancient worthies like Daniel, King David, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be resurrected to life on earth in order to rule over the earth in preparation for Jesus' return in 1925 A. D. In order to prove how much he believed his own prophetic speculation to be true, Rutherford had the Watchtower Society acquire a large mansion in San Diego. This mansion was called "Beth Sarim" which means "House of Princes". He even had the title deed of the mansion placed in the name of Daniel, King David, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. Of course, Rutherford had full use of the mansion until these men arrived to claim it.
Adam Clarke in his commentary on verses 20 and 21 of 2 Peter chapter 1 says that the Apostle's message in these two verses is "…that no prophecy of scripture….was the offspring of calculation or conjecture."
So, evidently, Isaiah needed no pyramid in Egypt nor a mansion in San Diego when he said the following about the coming messiah: "Behold my servant whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon him, and he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes to bring out the prisoners from prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house."-Isaiah 42:1,7.
Clearly, the Apostles and disciples needed no complicated mathematical equation to recognize that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah's words. They knew that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. Some of them realized this when they heard God the Father proclaim that Jesus is "the one in whom he delights" at his baptism. Peter and John knew his identity when they saw Jesus' divine glory at the transfiguration as is alluded to in verses 17 and 18 of Second Peter chapter 1. And still others believed when they saw Jesus after he was resurrected.
St. Peter tells us in chapter 1 of his second letter to pay attention to the prophecies of old about Jesus and the descriptions of their fulfillment as recorded by the Apostles. These prophecies are a light shining in a dark place.
We can remember when we were in a dark place, when we realized that we had lived a lie for over 20 years. We remember getting angry with God and asking God, "Why did you allow us to be deceived for so long? We are good people. Why us?"
Jeff will never forget the time he begged God to help him to understand His word. You see, Jeff had read the Bible through many times but he was not reading with understanding. The Bible had been used by the Jehovah's Witnesses to manipulate us and scare us and not to comfort us and teach us. After praying to God for understanding, Jeff opened his Bible and it fell to the first chapter of Romans. He read the entire book and recognized for the first time that Jesus was the way to salvation and that if he had faith in Jesus he would be with Him in heaven. You see, he realized that he did not need some religious leader or group of religious leaders that served as a channel between God and man. It was clear to him that Jesus was the way to life for us. This was truly enlightening!!!
Later we discovered that we had asked God the wrong question. We should have asked God "Why do good things happen to condemned sinners deserving of death?" And, the answer is because 'God so loved us that He came in the flesh to save us'. He saved us from the deception of a "cleverly invented story" to give us eternal life. Yes, Jesus certainly has been, is, and will continue to be our morning star and our light out of the darkness as He has been, is, and will continue to be for us all.
Since we left the Jehovah's Witnesses officially in 1996, God has richly blessed us. We live in Nebraska now and attend a Christian church that belongs to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Jeff also teaches Chemistry at Concordia University, Nebraska, which is a Christian college owned and operated by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
Since learning that the Jehovah's Witnesses do not teach authentic historical Christianity, God has given us the opportunity to work and share the authentic Christian Gospel with many individuals and families who have been affected by their involvement with the Jehovah's Witnesses and other cults.
In 1999, we were approached by Family Shield Ministries (www.familyshieldministries.com) to help them in their cult education and evangelization network. Family Shield Ministries is a recognized service organization with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Since 1999, Family Shield Ministries has assisted us in getting the message out about cults primarily through their radio program that is broadcasted on Saturday mornings on radio station KFUO based on the Concordia Seminary Campus in St. Louis, MO. The show is also broadcasted on the Internet via the radio station's website (www.kfuo.org). Family Shield's radio program is hosted by the President of Family Shield Ministries, Kay Meyer and Kay has interviewed many current and ex-JWs including Jeff, Wayne Rogers who is the Public Relations Officer for the Associated Jehovah's Witnesses for Reform on Blood, and Bill Bowen who is the owner of the website www.silentlambs.org that deals with child abuse issues within the Watchtower. Part of Family Shield's goal is to reach out to those JWs and ex-JWs that are involved in publicizing certain specialized topics of interest and concern to those in the JW and ex-JW community and to help these groups in getting their message out to the public.
On October 14, 2001 we were asked to talk to about 100 individuals who were attending Family Shield Ministries annual fundraising silent auction. Most of the individuals who attended had friends or relatives who were involved with the JWs or other cults. Many Concordia Seminary professors and other clergyman were present as well. Afterwards, many individuals including many of the Seminary professors and clergyman remarked at out difficult it is for them to reach out to those who have been in cults and help them. We want individuals to know that there are many in the Christian community willing to help if they only knew how to do that effectively.
Family Shield has as its goal to be a resource to the Christian community in helping to equip people in assisting effectively those who have been hurt by cults. Our five year plan includes expanding the website to include written material on cults and how they hurt families and what families can do to protect themselves and their loved ones from this. In addition, Family Shield would like to syndicate their radio program nationally and hold seminars to assist clergyman and others who want to reach out to those involved in cults.
We ask the Christian community for their prayers in these endeavors and if it is God's will we know that it will happen. In the meantime, we continue to pray for God's blessings on all people especially our friends and relatives who are still involved in the cults that someday they will realize that God loves them unconditionally and that they do not need some false religious organization with a cleverly invented story to be saved.
Jeff and Kathy Schwehm
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