Napoleon Hill

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.

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Day 20

I really tried to get up early this morning to do this. Just shows how well “trying” gets anything done. It was bad enough today having woken up at around 6 am; I can’t imagine if I’d gotten up at 5. The problem is that now I’m just tired.

But, dammit, I’m going to see this thing through to the end. By the time I’m done with this project, and I know I will finish because I can visualize it perfectly, when I’m done, I will have made writing as much of a daily ritual as sleeping. I can’t wait. Part of me always wanted to become a writer, and I’ve got archives of old poems to prove it. (Their quality varies.) I’ve started two or three books and never finished and I’ve had ideas for several more that have never come close to fruition. But I have stories to tell, and I can’t seem to bring myself to practice much but this right now. Although by doing one thing every single day, I can build new habits. I can “unlearn what I have learned.”

I finally looked this up, because I thought of Yoda and the whole “trying” thing that I mentioned above. I was just going to use an image but I forgot the entirety of the scene, and I felt that it was important to include. This project, case in point, is not getting done because I am trying. It is getting done, chapter by chapter, day by day, because I am doing. If there is one thing I can recommend to anyone, and I know this has been said before, but do. Sitting and thinking and hoping and theorizing and whatever is all well and good, but you will not get anywhere unless you go out and get things done. It doesn’t matter if you are defeated the first time, or the second time, or the hundredth time. You are learning the whole way.

The important question is, “What are you willing to commit to?”

I myself am willing to commit to spending time every day, no matter how tired I may be, to reading the Bible and writing this blog. I am pushing myself harder than ever before and I am feeling the burn, I am feeling the resistance. Part of me wants to collapse and is ready to throw in the towel. But now I have no choice. I have no choice but to succeed in my career because I will not go back to waiting tables. I have no choice but to continue this project because of my conviction and spirituality. I would not live with myself otherwise. The time has come for me to dig my feet in and say that I will give no ground. No matter how hard life pushes me I will push back. I will press on.

It has been said that “faith can move mountains.” In one sense, by maintaining one’s climb, by pressing ahead, by taking one step after another no matter what, the mountain will have moved: the obstacle that lay ahead  now lies behind. In another sense, look at Christ’s words in Mark 11:23:

“Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.

I spoke earlier on Day 8 about the Language of the World… a communication that is beyond words and human speech. It is wind and water and element and action. It is a language of happenings. In our human tongues we need to say “I am” in a million different ways; we speak our thoughts and feelings just so that we can show others (and ourselves) that we are here, just so we can avoid being forgotten and drifting, lost, into obscurity. But in the Language of the World there are no words, and it is through our actions that we must convey our existence. Actions happen to us and we take action, effecting change in the world. I don’t even mean big changes; by doing something as simple as cooking an egg or drinking water we are moving atoms and reorganizing molecules. The world is different because of our action.

So go back to Christ’s words. One cannot stand next to a mountain and command it in English or Hebrew or any other tongue; mountains do not understand such things. But if you tell it to move in the Language of the World… now that is a language that a mountain can understand. There is no room for misinterpretation. Your action, in that sense, speaks for itself. Actions speak louder and deeper than words, and reverberate long after words have gone silent.

The second part of His statement in Mark 11:23 deals with belief. It is necessarily to have a clear picture, to develop one’s faith in a desired outcome, to see it in the mind’s eye. Once it is real to the mind and heart, once all doubt has been cast aside, then the path lies open and the dream will be made real.

Napoleon Hill knew this truth and gleaned it from so many successful men. Interested readers will direct their attention to Think and Grow Rich by Mr. Hill, for he gives instructions on how to develop faith, the likes of which I have never seen. Faith is a delicate in its early stages and must be tended to as a precious flower; it will not grow in infertile soil. It must always be tended to and strengthened, and once it is developed, nothing can shake it.

Time to delve into my chapter of the day. No matter how hard things get, readers, say it with me:

“I will press on.”


Genesis 20

So Abraham pulls the same stunt he pulled in Egypt back in Genesis 12 and tells Abimelech, king of Gerar, that his wife is his sister. I wanted to find some super stereotypical redneck picture for this but I really couldn’t bring myself to do it. Especially considering that after he is called out on it by Abimelech, Abraham says

“But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.”

Nice one, Abraham. Keepin’ it all in the family. So okay, half-sister, if this is to be taken literally? Whatever.

The whole point here seems to be that Abimelech, after taking Sarah, was visited in a dream by God and informed of the truth and of his unwitting sin. Abimelech is warned of the consequences of his sin because God knows that he was deceived and will not allow him to fall into sin. It is important for us to cultivate a righteous heart so that we can listen when God speaks.¹

Also important is Abraham’s deception. For some reason, once again, he fears for his life and distorts the truth about Sarah. He comments that he was worried that “the fear of God is not in this place,” but he himself slips back and fails to trust in God and the covenant established therewith. Steady that inconstant heart, Abraham. S**t ain’t over yet.

The thing I wonder about Genesis 20, just out of curiosity, is how long this whole episode takes. At the end of this debacle

“Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then they bore children;
for the Lord had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.”

Yeesh. I just wonder if this actually took some time, maybe a few months or something before Sarah was restored to Abraham. Or maybe Abimelech and his people are just good at getting freaky as soon as the Lord’s curse was lifted. Either way, don’t mess with Abraham’s wife.

So ends Genesis 20. Looks like a long chapter ahead for tomorrow.

Have a blesséd evening, everybody. Peace, I’m out.


¹ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=20&com=mhc

Day 11

For heaven’s sake… God is not going to make this easy on me.

Today is the first day that I’ve actually had difficulty doing my writing, and I foresee more challenges on the horizon. Work is ramping up in a big way and I need to get it under control before it controls me. I’m also not getting enough sleep and not enough personal leisure time.

One consolation that I forgot to write about came in the form of my horoscope from 3/25/14. This happened to be the day or the day after I told my friend about this project and worried about my lack of motivation. My horoscope read:

You have more command over your emotions than you think you do, which you’ll find out by taking control of your environment.

That’s the kind of information I need these days. I wish the “taking control of [my] environment” part wasn’t such a pain in my ass. My room and my house are a terrible mess. All my work folders and paperwork are disorganized. I feel like I have neither the time nor the inclination to change this, because it feels like an overwhelming undertaking at this point. But I have to work and I have to pay my bills and I have to have to have to.

I’m just going to bang my head on the keyboard for a while and see what comes out.

Genesis 11

Gen 11 reminds me of Gen 2, in that it appears to conflict with the previous chapter. Genesis 10 shows all the different genealogies of all the families and constantly lists them as “according to his language, according to their families, into their nations,” or some form thereof (Gen 10:5). It shows that all these people were separated into different cultures and languages.

Genesis 11 comes along and says that “the whole earth had one language and one speech” (Gen 11:1). It seems that, like Genesis 2, Genesis 11 is here to elaborate on the narrative of the previous chapter.

With their one language, people started building a tower “whose top is in the heavens… lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Gen 11:4). I love this verse because they’re like, “Oh boy, we better not get scattered to the four winds! That would be terrible!” And then the Lord sees them and does exactly that. Once again, the Lord refers to Himself in the first-person plural: “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language” (Gen 11:7).

So God does this apparently because humans will be able to do anything they want! With one language, they could build a tower straight up to Heaven, which once again points back to the Hebrew mythology of a heavenly realm located physically above the Earth.

This baffles me a little, and Matthew Henry gives me no placating explanation. I think… firstly the location of Babel is in the land of Shinar, which was mentioned previously as part of the kingdom of Nimrod in Gen 10. So we already know that these are not supposed to be the godly folk. With that in mind, it seems that their hubris was their undoing; with one language they could have accomplished many great works but instead decided to essentially rebel against God by saying, “Screw the rules, we’re building our way to Heaven!” And the Lord says no.

So He punishes them for their hubris and their disrespect by confounding their language and scattered them all over the world. Apparently this is part of the plan, that humanity will be divided. The eventual reunification will come with Christ, apparently. So sayeth Matthew Henry:

“The children of men never did, nor ever will, come all together again, till the great day, when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and all nations shall be gathered before him.” ¹

Mankind does seem to have this problem where we help each other in our misery rather than lifting out of it. Ruiz says as much, that we have agreements to help each other suffer.² Suffering is comfortable because we are so used to it, but the company of angry, fearful fellows does not beat the serenity that can be found within. It is a hard lesson to learn, but the more people that learn it, the better we will be as a species.

Genealogy

The rest of Genesis 11 is dedicated to the genealogy of the family of Shem.

We have:

  • Shem
    • Arphaxad
      • Salah
        • Eber
          • Peleg
            • Reu
              • Serug
                • Nahor
                  • Terah
                    • Haran -> deceased
                    • Abram — Sarai
                    • Nahor — Milcah
                      • Lot

Yikes. I think that’s everybody. So at the end of Genesis 11, Terah takes his son Abram, Abram’s wife Sarai, and Lot, Abram’s nephew and Terah’s grandson, and they leave Ur, headed toward Canaan. They stayed in Haran, or Charran, for a time, where Terah passed away. Matthew Henry ends this portion of his commentary with the poignant thought:

“Many reach to Charran, and yet fall short of Canaan; they are not far from the kingdom of God, and yet never come thither.” ¹

I’ve heard a similar sentiment regarding general or business success, but here it applies spiritually as well. Ah! Found it:

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”

—  Napoleon Hill

Most of the time we never know how close we are to something, to achieving a goal, and our tendency is to stop or turn around, often just before we make a breakthrough. Persevere! Today I will leave you with one last quote, the other of which I was thinking:

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter
hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as
much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first
blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last
blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

— Jacob A. Riis
Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

Every blow weakens the stone, just as every step in the right direction, no matter how small, leads closer to one’s destination.

Blessings to all, and peace be upon you.

 

Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.

Jacob August Riis

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.

Jacob August Riis

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

¹ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=11&com=mhc

² Ruiz, Don Miguel. The Four Agreements