Think and Grow Rich

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 24

At the time of writing, my internet connection is down. But, it is 10:46 pm and tomorrow is not yet here. Today has felt long and short at the same time. I got some work done, got some things accomplished, and was fairly lazy for the rest of the day. It happens.

So, dear readers, I have looked into today’s chapter and I’m ready to go!


Genesis 24

Sarah, wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac, has passed away. Abraham wants his son to have a righteous wife and so makes a servant swear an oath to find one for him. He makes the servant swear to not allow Isaac to take a wife from the Canaanites, and for some reason insists that Isaac not return to his homeland with the servant.

It seems to me from the scriptures that Abraham is now taking very seriously God’s promises, and knows that Isaac must stay and live in this new promised land. As I write that, I remember another use of the term “promised land;” Don Miguel Ruiz uses it as one of the names for the mindset of heaven.

Here in the story of Abraham we see God taking the unfaithful, “lost” land that is Canaan and promising to make make it into a better place suitable for the families of the righteous. God alone works His magic and infuses the material with the spiritual. The power of God can make “heaven” out of “hell.” Heaven, in this case, being a righteous mindset, a strong holy purpose, love and compassion for others, and compassion for oneself. Hell is wandering and never finding, looking but never seeing, hearing but never listening… hell is the emptiness of the heart; hell is being lost at sea, cast about by the capricious whims of fate.

Heaven is finding purpose and fulfilling that purpose, knowing that God is with you through and through. Genesis 24 shows this, in a way. Abraham’s servant, who must travel to find Isaac a wife, is not sure if he can complete the task, at first. But he takes some men and camels and travels to the city of Nahor, home to Abraham’s brother.

When he arrives at the city, he waits by the well, and prays with intense purpose; his desire is strong, he is in place to fulfill his mission. He has clear expectations, and can envision how they will be fulfilled.

Lo and behold, who should come during his prayer but Rebekah, first introduced to us back in Genesis 22:23. I sort of overlooked her on Day 22, as I had no idea who she was. To me it just looked like a mish-mash of Hebrew-ish names. But here she is, apparently the granddaughter of Nahor.

The servant asks her for water, and she gives generously from her pitcher. She tells him that she will bring water for his camels too, and returns to the well to give him water. The man was surprised and waited, “wondering at her” (Genesis 24:21).

Seek and ye shall find, so they say. With clarity of purpose and determination to fulfill his task, yea, it is fulfilled. By the grace of God did this woman Rebekah come to him, this woman who fit his expectations and the needs of his master. And so it is, that with definiteness of purpose, with faith and determination, we can find a way to fulfill our needs and our goals. We can complete the tasks set before us through our own strength and will, but ultimately through the grace of God.

Many people have said this before and written books on the subject (Think and Grow Rich, The Secret, the latter of which I have never read and for which I cannot vouch) but I know it is true for myself. I once read somewhere that it is not necessarily true that events have inherent meaning, but it is possible to find meaning hiding anywhere. “Contemplate a grain of sand,” and so forth.

If you are looking for a solution, start looking at everything through the lens of your situation, and you will be amazed at how much suddenly applies and connects. Trust your instincts.

This happened to me once upon a time. I had gone camping and during that time of peace and quiet, that time of separation from the tyranny of clocks and the racing rats of life… during that time I had the most amazing experience. It is hard to explain, but I felt God in a cosmic, universal way. I was fresh and new from moment to moment, there was no past and no future, just a wondrous, miraculous now, and that now, the same now as right now, was at its core made up of the purest, whitest light. Color and shape and beauty abounded, but it was as though I could see the Light behind it all; I could see the light and love that is Creation. It was amazing.

The only problem was, I didn’t know what to do afterward. How could I ever go back? How could I go back home, back to living by a clock, back to working at my bulls**t, dead-end job? I was afraid and I was filled with despair. Much like Abraham, who had seen the power of the Lord, I still doubted. Oh, Abraham… I never realized until just now how much I understand you.

And so my night passed in contemplative silence; reality was coming and I had no choice but to face it sooner or later. But I knew that something in my mind had to change; there was a switch that needed to be turned on, some new piece of information I needed to acquire to be at peace. Lo, and behold…

I had brought with me a book, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman. It was lent to me by a friend and spiritual confidant; she thought I would appreciate it. I don’t know why I brought it, or why the circumstances in my life had led me to talk to this friend, or the circumstances that led her to be in a place to acquire and read and value this book, and so pass it to me. A million little choices added up to one little miracle…

So the morning we’re supposed to pack up and leave, head back to “civilization,” as it were, I was still feeling empty. Like Abraham, I felt as though I would be headed to a foreign land, and I was concerned about my safety. That morning, I picked up the book and started reading where I had left off. This is the other part that gets me: I left off in such a perfect spot, and so on this morning, I was able to find exactly the piece of information I needed. Like Abraham’s servant, I knew I needed something, and by the grace of God, I found it. What follows is one version of the same parable:

“Long ago, there was a young man who was searching for enlightenment. He saw a very old man walking towards him, carrying a heavy sack of rice on his back, and was stooped over, his head low to the ground.

The young seeker went up to the old man. He said: ‘Please, sir, can you tell me what enlightenment is?’

The old man threw the sack off his back, and stood up straight and proud.

‘Ah yes, I see!’ The young man cried. “Now can you tell me what comes after enlightenment?’

The old man picked up the rice, and continued his stooped march up the hill.”

I read this and stopped. I looked up and laughed and wept. It was hilarious, it was beautiful, and it was obvious. My burden and my fears were gone from me, and I was able to return home in peace. Of course, I grew increasingly dissatisfied with my position, and only lasted about three more months there, but that is a story for another day.

By the grace of God, we are given what we need, if only we have the courage to look and to ask with an open heart. I am reminded here of a joke that shows what happens when you do not have the eyes to see the gifts of God.

“There was an old man sitting on his porch, watching the rain fall. Pretty soon the water was coming over the porch and into the house.

The old man was still sitting there when a rescue boat came and the people on board said, ‘ You can’t stay here. You have to come with us.’

The old man replied, ‘No, God will save me.” So the boat left. A little while later, the water was up to the second floor, and another rescue boat came, and again told the old man that he had to come with them.

The old man again replied, ‘God will save me.’ So the boat left him.

An hour later, the water was up to the roof, and a third rescue boat approached the old man, trying to get him to come with them.

Again the old man refused to leave, stating, ‘God will save me’ So this boat, too, left him.

Soon after, the water rises and the man drowns. He arrives in Heaven, and when he sees God, he asks, ‘Why didn’t you save me?’

God replied, ‘You dummy! I tried! I sent three boats after you!’”

Gets me every time.

But I digress. The servant does not have the problem of the drowning man, and he sees the work of the Lord for what it is. He speaks to Rebekah, offers her a golden nose ring and golden bracelets, and prays to God. She tells her family about the man, and her brother Laban speaks to him and invites the servant into their home.

The servant tells his story to Laban and Bethuel, his father, and they are reluctant to let her go so quickly. They wish to keep her for ten days, but the servant implores them to reconsider.

reconsider

Something like that. ¹

They ask Rebekah about this and she agrees to go with the servant. Her family blesses her, and Rebekah and her maids leave. They travel back to the land of the Canaanites, where Isaac and Abraham dwell. Rebekah covers herself with a veil and meets Isaac; the servant explains the story, and Isaac and Rebekah are married. First cousins once removed wasn’t such a big deal back then.

Genesis 24 ends in verse 67, stating that Isaac was comforted after his mother’s passing. It seems to be only natural that the new takes the place of the old, and that we move on after our mourning period. Abraham does not forget his wife, but he buries her and mourns her and then goes about the business of living.

Isaac, too, must live, for his life has purpose; he must not spend forever grieving over the loss of his mother. In this case, the beautiful and virginal Rebekah (Genesis 24:16) seems to ease his mind. But of course I joke; Genesis 24:67 also says that Isaac loved Rebekah, and by loving her, he can once again experience joy.

Well, time is up for the day! Midnight has come, and further writing will have to wait for tomorrow’s chapter.

Good night (or good day, depending on when you’re reading this), and peace be upon you.


¹ Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, 2002. 20th Century Fox and O Entertainment. Image retrieved from http://archive.4plebs.org/tg/thread/26247501

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