humility

Day 147

Numbers 29

Moses outlines the festivals that followers of the Lord are commanded to celebrate. Interestingly enough, celebration was the topic at last Sunday’s sermon, which… took place on the day after I was supposed to write about Numbers 29.

The problem with the sermon, as well-meaning as I believe the pastor to have been, is that it sounded a lot like “if you’re somber or sad, then you’re not being a good Christian.” This is a little too close to what has been called prosperity theology, or the prosperity gospel. To quote Wikipedia,

“Prosperity theology teaches that Christians are entitled to well-being and, because physical and spiritual realities are seen as one inseparable reality, this is interpreted as physical health and economic prosperity.”

It is also noted that followers and preachers of the prosperity gospel view poverty and sickness as spiritual ailments or curses that can be alleviated through faith. My partner has had some very negative experiences with churches that follow prosperity theology.

Poverty and illness are curses? Yeah, I mean it’s a damn shame to be sick or poor, and I believe that dedicated faith can lead to greater willpower and desire which can in turn lead to financial success. However, I don’t think that God’s plan for people involves or guarantees financial well-being. Poverty is not a sign of God’s disfavor.

Can poor personal habits and a lack of direction lead to poverty? Yes. But I don’t think that physical, material wealth has much to do with faith in Christ.

I see this situations as teaching surrender to God and His will, as opposed to undesirable curses. Does being poor debilitate a person? Damn right it does. I’ve lived with it for a long time, and sitting around that poverty line is depressing. It emotionally and spiritually drains you. Or it can.

But regardless, God can and will give you the strength to work through it, if you ask. “Thy will be done, in all things.” I seriously hate the phrase “Let go and let God,” but it’s important to ask that His will be done, that He may guide you to it.

Can the principles in the Bible teach you to be rich? Probably? I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I’m willing to bet that if that’s the motivation one has while reading it, one will find a variety of implementable tips or lessons for financial success.

And just to be clear, I have no problem with people who want to be rich. I myself am determined to achieve some measure of wealth, to surpass my parents and my family, to provide for my own family and possible future children.

However, I think we, especially as Christians, have to see wealth as a means and not an end. Wealth as an end is idolatrous. But with wealth, one can do many things and help many others. We should seek to do our best as Christians even in poverty, but if we are wealthy, then our goal should still be to serve and glorify God.

Bill Gates is probably my favorite example of a wealthy person who does amazing things with his riches. Go to the website of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Read the 2014 annual letter. If that doesn’t restore some of your faith in humanity, I don’t know what will.

Wealth and power are responsibilities. Health and stability may be gifts if God intends them to be, but they may make us complacent.

“[A]s there may be pleasures in Hell (God shield us from them), there may be something not all unlike pains in Heaven (God grant us soon to taste them).”

— C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

In Numbers 29, the Israelites are commanded to celebrate, but every day of these festivals and celebrations involves sacrifices and offerings to God. Even, or especially, in our celebrations, we are told to humble ourselves to God, to supplicate ourselves before Him, and to glorify Him in all things.

In sorrow and in joy, do not forget the Lord.


Numbers 30

Oh my goodness, I went and looked at Matthew Henry’s unabridged commentary. It made my head hurt a little.

Numbers 30 concerns the making of vows, oaths, and pledges. Basically, at its core, this chapter states that a man who makes a vow must not break his word.

That’s a quote, by the way: “[H]e must not break his word but must do everything he said.”

This chapter also outlines how fathers and husbands have the power to override vows made by their daughters and wives, respectively. I think this is meant to be indicative of the Biblical position of fathers/husbands as the heads of households, which I think is intended to correlate with how God (the Father) is meant to be the head of the Church, both as a collective and as the singular body of worship that one human being offers.

Now, I don’t have the book in front of me, but I am reminded of the book Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. If I recall correctly, he talks at some point(s) about the importance of keeping one’s word or speaking the truth. Or maybe I’m thinking of The Four Agreements, in which I know for a fact the author Don Miguel Ruiz outlines the importance of what he calls “being impeccable with [one’s] word.”

“Impeccable,” by the way, comes from a Latin word, meaning “not liable to sin.” An impeccable word is free of sin.

The way I see it, breaking vows erodes the strength of one’s soul. You make a habit of being disingenuous, of saying things that you have no intention of following through upon, of being careless in word and in deed. There is some Biblical support for this, I think:

“Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.”

— Ecclesiastes 5:5

Keep those words and deeds in line, dear readers! Keep that soul strong, exercise the power of your will, that you may have more dedication to offer to God.

Peace be upon you.

Day 132

Shucks. The power just went out, and with it goes my internet access.

Just now, for a moment, some people in the apartment complex went outside, heading out into the lightning-filled sky to escape the darkness of their homes.

For a moment, I looked at the angry sky, and I understood why man fears God.

For a moment, I wondered how the world would end.

Lightning struck hard in the distance, and I could hear the distant thunder rumbling in waves toward me. Lights flickered and the power came back on. I’m back inside now, and behind me, electrical discharges cascade across the sky while trees thrash about in the wind. I can hear the excited voices of the neighbors and their young girl as they discuss the storm.

I feel very small. But it’s somehow more than that. I feel very mortal.

The power just went off and on again. Darn router is going to keep resetting.

Meanwhile, my partner sleeps in blissful ignorance. She’ll figure it all out tomorrow, or perhaps when I come to bed.

Numbers 15 is interesting, and I found the contrast between “unintentional sin” and “presumptuous sin” to be interesting: when unintentional sin is committed, the community gets together to make a sin offering, but when someone commits a presumptuous sin, he shows that he has “despised the word of the Lord… [and] that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.” (Numbers 15:31)

I feel as though I have been a disobedient child. I’m not sure how to make it up to my “Father” or to myself, and at this point in my life, my rebel heart is particularly strong. The old animal urges never really go away, do they?

I’m glad I’m going to church in the morning.

That’s all I’m going to talk about tonight. I’d rather not be tied to this computer, staring into this screen. The world is out there.

I’m going to put this away for a while after I’ve updated, and I’m going to sit outside, in awe of the power of God.

Tonight, when I sleep, I will dream a dream of thunder.

Peace be upon you.

Day 59

The Love Letter

So here we are, finally catching back up to my schedule. This last week has been a very trying time physically and mentally just because of work and life’s demands.

I was listening to the radio yesterday, a Christian station, and I caught an on-air sermon or some such thing where the pastor/minister was talking about reading the Bible. He said that all too often we read the Bible out of obligation or because we feel we have to put on a show rather than reading it because we so desire to know God. He said that we should read it like a love letter, poring over every word and every nuance, reading one, two, or three times until we analyze and understand the meaning.

I feel like hearing that is what I needed to get back on track, to dive back in to this project. I feel like every time things start to get away from me, God comes back and gives me a sign. I am gently reminded and redirected, and so I resume my task.


Jehovah’s Witnesses

Also, while I was catching up this morning, the Jehovah’s Witnesses stopped by to talk to me. They’re a pleasant, devout bunch. The only thing that gets me is that to them, the only answers are in scripture. I can see that there is indeed an ability to find answers in scripture, and that everyone can find answers in scripture, but to think that the only way we can know God is by the Bible is beyond me. Is it not written in the book that “God is love”? True, without some conception of God and some expansion of our minds and experiences it is difficult for us to know the true and all-encompassing love that is God, but I think it is possible. Is it necessary to acknowledge Him by name? By one name only, Jehovah, or by a title or epithet such as God or Lord?

God has many names and many titles and they have changed throughout the years. He may be Jehovah or Yahweh, or Adonai, YHWH, or G-d (I think) if you’re Jewish. He may be the Father, or he may come to us as the Son of Man. He is the Holy Spirit as well. He is El, El Shaddai, Elohim… He has many names. In the NKJV, when God reveals himself to Moses he is called “I AM,” and to the Jehovah’s Witnesses he is “I Will Become.” It is hypothesized that Jehovah, or the Hebrew rendition יהוה is related to the word for “to become,” or perhaps “to be” or “to exist.”

I feel like I brought this up in Exodus 3, but one wonderful rendition of God’s name is “He Causes to Become.” God is the Supreme Force, the Supreme Being that causes all things to be, to become what they are. A quick Google search of the word “become” reveals this as the primary definition:

be·come

verb

1. begin to be.

With God, we can begin to be. We no longer will sleepwalk through life, living half-dead, but we can become. We can realize the truth and beauty of the present moment, of everything that is. And everything that is is with God. And all that is is God.

“And I think to myself… what a wonderful world.”


Exodus 9

This same business starts all over again. Plague five consists of a pestilence on Egypt’s livestock. Plague six consists of boils and sores on man and beast alike. Plague seven consists of thunder, hail, and fire. All animals and people left out were slain.

Pharaoh admits his wickedness and entreats Moses and Aaron to take the plagues away. Moses tells Pharaoh that he will indeed take away the plague, but he knows that Pharaoh will not release the Hebrews from bondage. I wonder about the use of the word fear, here. I imagine the Pharaoh does “fear” God in an English sense, but it seems to me that Moses means more than just that kind of fear; Pharaoh has no respect for God, no awe, humility, or veneration for God.

“Beatings will continue until morale improves.” Pharaoh has not yet learned his lesson, and worse things are to follow.

Let us not harden our hearts and subject ourselves to plagues. Do not resist God, for that is to resist love and life. Be humble, act with confidence and do what must be done in any situation. Respect and be humble, for God is always watching.

Peace be upon you. Go with God.