Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Resurrection of Jesus

(And Two Other Details of Interest)
1. The Empty Tomb
     Jesus was publically executed by crucifixion (an intentionally noticeable mode of execution) and buried in a tomb belonging to a Jerusalem VIP, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin. Three days later, the tomb was found empty, and Jesus’ body was missing.
     These events of history were publically verifiable and, if they had not been true, the extraordinary claims of Jesus’ followers would have been empirically falsifiable from the start. Because Jerusalem was a very small city (“A fast walker could go outside the walls of Jerusalem and walk entirely around the city in an hour. I do not know how else to make one understand how small it is,” Mark Twain), a simple walk across town could provide all the proof any person could need to verify the details of Jesus’ true story, one way or the other.
     There were obviously a lot of people, from both the upper and lower classes, who were enraged by Jesus’ message (which is why he was crucified), so all they would have needed to do to stop the Christian message forever was to produce the dead body of Jesus. But this they could not do.

2. Eye-Witnesses of Post-Mortem Appearances
     It is a simple fact of history that a lot of people who lived at the time of Jesus’ death believed that he rose from death. Some of these were eye-witnesses to the events of that time, and eye-witness evidence is the only way historians have to establish that any events in history ever occurred. Disinterested third party sources (Britannica Online and Wikipedia articles on 1 Corinthians) agree that the long passage in 1 Corinthians 15 on the topic of Jesus’ resurrection was written in the early 50s A.D. –within 25 years of the events. After referring to thirteen individuals who gave eyewitness accounts of encounters with the resurrected Christ, this passage states that Jesus appeared after his resurrection to more than 500 people on one occasion, challenging objectors with the argument that most of those were still living in the early 50s A.D. and could be interviewed as eye-witnesses to this history.

3. The Personal Risks Taken by the Apostles
     Paul, who wrote 1 Corinthians 15, had no motivation to convert to Christianity until the evidence in favor of Jesus’ resurrection forced him to convert. Until his own eye-witness encounter with Jesus, he was healthy, prosperous, and well-connected in society. He was also violently hostile to the Christian faith. To convert meant to admit to being grossly in error about things he once held most dear, to endure the hate and hostility of his peers, to move from one crisis to another as a social pariah, and to die during Nero’s persecution of Christians. An unconvinced person would never risk so much as Paul risked in becoming a Christian, and only very powerful evidence could account for his change of mind.
     Peter and the other apostles were naturally demoralized by the death of Jesus, whom they believed to be the Messiah. The unflattering account of Peter’s denial of Jesus during Jesus’ arrest and trial gives way to accounts of Peter’s fearless preaching everywhere in Jerusalem just a few weeks later, accounts of him being harassed and assaulted for the rest of his life and, evidently, also dying during Nero’s persecution of Christians. Seeing the resurrected Christ caused this amazing change in Peter between the time of his cowardice and his fearlessness. He became willing to risk everything for what he had come to believe.
     All that has been said above about Paul and Peter could be said of all the original eleven apostles (and other early Christians) who continued to spread the truth about Jesus’ resurrection in spite of the monumental personal risks involved. These men did not live like liars (self-serving and greedy), and they did not die like liars. They were in a position to know the true story of Jesus, and they maintained their eye-witness testimony to that truth, even when it was clearly not to their advantage to do so. These original eleven disciples all stood in solidarity with one another. None of them ever confessed to “making up the whole account of Jesus’ resurrection.” None of them ever recanted of their faith in the resurrection to avoid pain or suffering. They were true believers.
Two Other Details of Interest
The Rise of the Idea of “Resurrection”
     Ancient Jewish people believed in resurrection, but they said very little about it (notice how comparatively few references to resurrection are found in the Old Testament). The sudden emphasis on resurrection that was displayed by Jewish people during the early years of the church is difficult to account for unless the resurrection of Jesus prompted it.
     Likewise, ancient pagan religions, being preoccupied with spirits in the underworld, demonstrate virtually no interest in physical resurrection. Then, suddenly, history documents a flood of former pagans throughout the Roman Empire beginning to emphasize resurrection.
     In both Jewish and pagan societies, first-century history manifests a sudden interest in resurrection, and this is best accounted for by Jesus’ historical resurrection. Additionally, the interest in the Christian gospel of resurrection grew so exponentially in history that all modern societies now date every event of history by the life of Jesus—B.C. or A.D. (of course, labeling dates as B.C.E. and C.E. in no way changes the fact that they are being numbered by their relationship to the life of Christ).

The Integrity of the Gospel Accounts: Featuring Female Witnesses
If the resurrection had not really happened as portrayed in the Gospel accounts, it is extremely unlikely that the apostles would have featured the reports of women visiting the empty tomb to substantiate the Christian claims of Jesus’ resurrection. In the first century, women were considered to be unreliable and hysterical. It would not be to the advantage of the early Christians to use women as witnesses for their extraordinary claims about Jesus’ resurrection, but they must have done so out of sheer integrity, simply because they knew the account to be true. (Celsus, in the 100s A.D., exemplified the negative attitude of ancient Romans toward women in this regard when he said Christianity was just based on the word of “a hysterical female.”)
If Jesus’ resurrection is a historical phenomenon, if it really happened, then Christianity is the most important religion in the world by far. No other religion has a founder who conquered death—the ultimate test of religion. Even if the Bible was riddled with errors, if the doctrine of Jesus’ resurrection is true, then the Christian faith is the only faith that matters in a dying world.

If Jesus’ death was very public, and His tomb was well known, and that tomb came up inexplicably empty in the presence of many eyewitnesses, then the Christian message is far and away the most important message in the world. This is, of course, exactly where the evidence leads us, and it explains why people like Paul and other Jewish leaders, who certainly didn’t want to change their religion, were compelled to convert to Christianity after all.

Eyewitness Evidence
     Even die-hard atheists agree that Paul's long address on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 was written in about 55 A.D.—within 25 years of Jesus’ death.  So the resurrection story is at least as ancient as 55 A.D.  Furthermore, the rabbinic formula Paul uses ("For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received...")  is the traditional Jewish way of indicating that a teacher’s position comes from an already-existing tradition that was handed down to him by others. In other words, the resurrection tradition was handed down to Paul by other eyewitnesses long before 55 A.D.

     Therefore, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that the resurrection message is as ancient as the time of Christ and the apostles.  When the gospel was being preached in Jerusalem, the very place where Jesus died and was buried, eyewitnesses, hostile and friendly, would have been available to confirm or deny what was preached.  Eyewitness testimony is how all human history is known. Those who were present at historical events had to tell and write down for others what happened.

     Eye-witness skeptics in the first century could easily investigate:
1) Whether Jesus had really been crucified and buried in the garden tomb of a Jerusalem dignitary (member of the Sanhedrin) named Joseph of Arimathea.
2)Whether armed guards were actually standing watch over the tomb of Jesus when it came up empty.
3) Whether 500 people, most of them still alive even in 55 A.D., really did see the risen Christ (I Corinthians 15:6).
     But their investigations only confirmed the honest Christian message, and that’s why Christianity was so hard to argue against.

Additional Evidence
1) If the resurrection had not really happened, it is extremely unlikely that there would be unanimity amongst all the earliest Christians that it had really happened, and that it had happened literally.
     There was no disagreement. History demonstrates that the literal resurrection of Jesus was universally believed by professing Christians until the late 100s A.D. when Gnostics first began to use the term “resurrection” in a non-literal, ghost-like sense.
     It is also extremely unlikely that the idea of resurrection would have become the focal point of the gospel—the essence of the entire Christian message if the resurrection had not occurred.
     The Gentile converts from paganism never believed in resurrection at all until becoming Christians. Paganism always features spirits going to the underworld. No bodily resurrection is ever anticipated or wished for.
     The Jewish people believed in resurrection, but they said very little about it until they became Christians. (Notice how comparatively few references to resurrection are in the Old Testament.) Then, suddenly, the resurrection was the number one, most important topic of all to them.

2) If the resurrection had not really happened, it is extremely unlikely that the apostles would have used the reports of women to substantiate their story of Jesus’ return from death. In the first century, women were considered unreliable and hysterical. Their important part in the resurrection story is mentioned by the apostles simply because the apostles were telling the plain and simple truth about how things really were when the empty tomb was discovered.
Mark 16:1  And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.  2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun…. 9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.  10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.  11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
     Celsus (100s A.D.) exemplifies the attitude of ancient Romans toward women. He said Christianity was just based on the word of “a hysterical female.”

Answering the Suspicions of Our Skeptical Friends

Perhaps Jesus never really died.  Perhaps he simply swooned, was presumed dead and the cool of the cave-tomb revived him.

Perhaps Jesus' body was secreted off by his enemies.

Perhaps Jesus' body was stolen by his disciples in order to bolster their message.

Perhaps the Christian version of Christ's resurrection is a myth with no historical basis whatever.  It was popularized decades after Christ's actual death. 

Eyewitness investigation would also prove that:
*Jesus did not merely faint on the cross and exit the tomb upon recovery.  A half-dead, whip-torn, nail-impaled, spear-pierced Jesus would not:  slip out of his 75lb. grave clothes (wound up like a mummy in embalming chemicals, John 19:40); roll away a 2000-4000 lb. stone at the entrance of the tomb; elude armed guards in the process; and then convince his disillusioned disciples that his mission was a complete success and worthy of their faith.

*Jesus' body was not stolen by his enemies since a rumor of resurrection would injure the enemies' own cause and reputation.  And Jesus' body was not stolen by the disciples since they could not have overcome the problem of the armed guards, and since they were more demoralized than anyone else at Christ's death.  They could not have died for their belief in the resurrection if they knew they had merely stolen and hidden Jesus' corpse.

It is precisely because the eyewitness evidence was so strong that Christianity was born in the very city where Jesus' suffering occurred.  That something entirely extraordinary happened at Christ's tomb, even Christ's detractors could not deny.  His enemies admitted Christ's supernatural ability from the start:  "Jesus practiced magic" (The Sanhedrin 43a Talmud, 95-110 A.D.) and "Jesus of Nazareth, he hath practiced sorcery" (the first century Baraita Talmud, oldest Talmud of all).

1) If the resurrection had not happened, it is extremely unlikely that there would be unanimity amongst all the earliest Christians that it had really happened, and that it had happened literally.
History demonstrates that the literal resurrection of Jesus was universally believed by professing Christians until the late 100s A.D. when Gnostics first began to use the term “resurrection” in a non-literal, ghost-like sense.
     It is also extremely unlikely that the idea of resurrection would have become the focal point of the gospel—the essence of the entire Christian message if the resurrection had not occurred.
The Gentile converts from paganism never believed in resurrection at all until becoming Christians. Paganism always features spirits going to the underworld. No bodily resurrection is ever anticipated or wished for.
     The Jewish people believed in resurrection, but they said very little about it until they became Christians. (Notice how comparatively few references to resurrection are in the Old Testament.)       Then, suddenly, the resurrection was the number one, most important topic of all to them.
     If the idea of Jesus’ resurrection had cropped up among the disciples long after Jesus’ crucifixion, wouldn’t there have been a lot of disagreement amongst the Christians about it?

2) The fact that the gospel narratives of Jesus’ resurrection are free from sophisticated O.T. references about resurrection indicates that the gospel narratives are telling the simple truth, and that they represent the earliest Christian beliefs.
     In later Christian teachings (by the 50s A.D.), it was popular to mention that Jesus’ resurrection was foreseen in the Old Testament. “He rose from the dead according to the [Old Testament]” (1 Corinthians 15:4, written circ. 53 A.D.)
     Throughout their accounts of Christ’s life, the gospel writers were always eager to point out those aspects of His life that were fulfillments of Old Testament prophecies and foreshadowings. They do this, too, for the death of Jesus, but then become stone silent on O.T. prophecies about the resurrection that were fulfilled. Why?
     The logical conclusion would seem to be that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did not include references about how the resurrection of Jesus fulfilled prophecy because they actually hadn’t thought it through yet. In other words, the stories they relayed to us about Jesus’ resurrection were still new enough that all the implications hadn’t been realized yet.
Mark 15:27  And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.  28 And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.
Matthew 27:35  And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
     No such observations for the resurrection until the Christians had more time to think about it!

3) The simple truthfulness and early telling of the resurrection accounts in the gospels is indicated by the important role played by women in the gospel narratives at a time when women were considered unreliable and hysterical.
Mark 16:1  And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.  2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun…. 9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.  10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.  11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
     Celsus (100s A.D.) exemplifies the attitude of ancient Romans toward women. He said Christianity was just based on the word of “a hysterical female.”
     By the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15 (circ. 53 A.D.), he chose not to mention the female eyewitnesses of the resurrection, presumably, because the idea of relying on female witnesses just raised too many objections.

4) The simple truthfulness and early telling of the resurrection in the gospel narratives is indicated by the fact that they are free from references about how Jesus’ resurrection is going to be replicated in the experience of all Christians at the end of the age.
Almost without fail, when Paul writes about the resurrection he adds that what Jesus experienced is also going to be experienced again by all Christians in the future, at the end of the age. The same is true of all later Christian teaching, in general.
1 Thessalonians 4:14  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.  15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not go before them which are asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.  23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
Romans 8:11  But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
     The best explanation for why Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John don’t focus on how Christ’s resurrection offers hope for all Christians to be resurrected is that they had not thought it through quite yet. Their idea seems to be, “Jesus conquered death. This proves He’s the Messiah. Let’s tell others till He sets up His paradise-like kingdom.” The idea of all Christians being resurrected after dying had not yet begun to be emphasized when the earliest preaching about the resurrection was going on. There was therefore no self-serving motive for them to concoct a resurrection doctrine.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tools of Titans Highlights

Emotional Wellness
p.157 [Chade-Meng Tan, Google engineer and philosopher] I tell the audience members to each identify two human beings in the room and just think, “I wish for this person to be happy, and I wish for that person to be happy.”…The entire exercise is just ten seconds’ worth of thinking. Everybody emerges from this exercise smiling, happier than 10 seconds before. This is the joy of loving-kindness.

p.190 Take 45 minutes instead of 43. Is your red face worth it? […] I think of all of this maximization—getting the maximum dollar out of everything, the maximum out of every second, the maximum out of every minute—you don’t need to stress about any of this stuff

p.211 [Tony Robbins, performance coach and infomercial producer] “Stressed” is the achiever word for “fear.”
[Tony’s first three minutes of meditation.] Feeling totally grateful for three things. …But I don’t just think gratitude. I let gratitude fill my soul, because when you’re grateful, we all know there’s no anger. It’s impossible to be angry and grateful simultaneously. When you’re grateful, there is no fear. You cannot be fearful and grateful simultaneously.

p.314 [Tracy DiNunzio, online entrepreneur and investor, spina bifida victim] When you complain, nobody wants to help you. […] I just decided to put myself on a “complaining diet,” where I said, “Not only am I not going to say anything negative about the situation I’m in, but I’m not going to let myself think anything negative about it.”….Not only did replacing those thoughts help me start moving my life in a better direction, where I wasn’t obsessing about what was wrong,…it also made me not feel physical pain as much, which is very liberating and kind of necessary if you want to do anything.

p.405 [B.J. Miller, hospice care doctor, triple amputee] For hospice patients at death’s door, big existential questions aren’t always the needed medicine. One oddly powerful alternative is baking cookies together. Just the basic joy of smelling a cookie….You’re rewarded for being alive and in the moment.

p.408 [Maria Popova, journalist and Internet entrepreneur] Ours is a culture where we wear our ability to get by on very little sleep as a badge of honor that symbolizes work ethic , or toughness, or some other virtue—but really, it’s a profound failure of priorities…

p.489 [Tim Kreider, essayist and cartoonist] Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with their friends the way 4.0 students make sure to sign up for some extra-curricular activities because they look good on college applications.

p.490 I recently Skyped with a friend who had been driven out of New York by the rents….She had described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years….What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality—driven, cranky, anxious, and sad—turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment, of the crushing atmospheric pressure of ambition and competitiveness….It’s something we collectively force one another to do. [See more of his comments on busyness to prove self-worth.]

p.603 [Tim Feriss, Internet entrepreneur, author, and podcaster] Slow is smooth; smooth is fast.
     My definition of luxury has changed over time. Now, it’s not about owning a lot of stuff. Luxury, to me, is feeling unrushed.  [See also p.612 on the conditioning of tigers and monkey to act irrationally.]

p.640-641 [Jocko Willink’s complete “Good” essay.]
Relationship Skills
p.94 [Gabby Reece, volleyball and fitness coach] I always say that I’ll go first….That means if I’m checking out at the store, I’ll say hello first. If I’m coming across somebody and make eye contact, I’ll smile first. […] The response is pretty amazing.

p.134 [Jane McGonegal, social scientist, on the question, What is something you believe that other people think is crazy?] That you should never publically criticize anything or anyone unless it is a matter of morals or ethics. Anything negative you say could at the very least ruin someone’s day, or worse, break someone’s heart, or simply change someone from being a future ally of yours to someone who will never forget that you were unkind or unfairly critical. It is so uncommon today to complain or criticize others’ work on social media, or dogpile on someone for a perceived offense. I won’t do it. It’s not my job to be the world’s critic, and I’d rather not rule out any future allies.

p.335 [Tim Ferris quoting Lord Mahon] Great men have almost always shown themselves as ready to obey as they afterwards proved able to command.

p.404 [B.J. Miller, hospice care doctor, triple amputee] I think I’ve gotten in trouble when I come in with some predetermined idea of advice-giving. Oftentimes, that’s not really what’s needed. It’s more just the camaraderie and bearing witness….But I think most of the power of the visit is just visiting, just being together and sharing this awkward body.

p.479 [Whitney Cunnings, comedian, actress, writer, producer] I have a white tattoo on my lower left forearm that says “I love you.”
     My trauma therapist said every time you meet someone, just in your head say, “I love you” before you have a conversation with them, and that conversation is going to go a lot better.
     It’s just an interesting little trick. For 28 days, when I met someone, whether it’s the lady at the DMV who’s making me wait 2 hours [or someone else], I would just assume that everybody is doing the best they can with what they have, which is really hard for a lot of us to accept.

p.487 [Alain de Botton, author and practical philosopher] Don’t attribute to malice that which may be explained otherwise. Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who said that when dealing with anyone who’s upset, he always asks, “Has this person slept? Have they eaten? Is somebody else bugging them?” He goes through this simple checklist….When we’re handling babies and the baby is kicking and crying, we almost never once say, “That baby is out to get me” or “She’s got evil intentions.”

p.497-498 [Cal Fussman, author and historian, on the question he chose for his two-minute interview with Gorbachev—it ended up being much, much longer. Gorbachev was primed for a question about nuclear weapons.]  What’s the best lesson your father ever taught you? He is surprised. Pleasantly surprised.  He looks up and doesn’t answer. He’s thinking about this.
p.498 [On a great interview question.] What are some of the choices you’ve made that made you who you are?

p.436 [Stanley McChrystal , four-star Army general and business consultant, on how to phrase interview questions] But if you asked somebody, and you said, “Everybody loves you but they don’t love this about you,” or “they’d hire you but…” it accomplishes a couple of things. One, it forces them to come to grips with “What is it people don’t love about me?” And the second is, they’ve got to say it to you. It could be very common knowledge, but if they don’t have the courage to face up to it and tell somebody who’s thinking about hiring them, that’s a window into personality, I think.
p.304 [Alex Blumberg, podcaster and radio journalist, on the best questions interviewers can ask, and how they elicit stories]
Tell me about a time when…
Tell me about the day [or moment of time] when…
Tell me the story of …[how you came to major in X, how you met so-and-so, etc.]
Tell me about the day you realized _____...
What were the steps that got you to _________?
Describe the conversation when…

p.516 [Cheryl Strayed, author and teacher, on great self-examination/journaling/biography questions]
Write about a time you realized you were mistaken.
Write about a lesson you learned the hard way.
Write about a time you were inappropriately dressed for an occasion.
Write about something you lost that you’ll never get back.
Write about a time when you knew you’d done the right thing.
Write about something you don’t remember.
Write about your darkest teacher.
Write about a memory of a physical injury.
Write about when you knew it was over.
Write about being loved.
Write about what you were really thinking.
Write about how you found your way back.
Write about the kindness of strangers.
Write about why you could not do it.
Write about why you did.

p.547 [Naval Ravikant, Internet entrepreneur and investor] People who regularly fight with others will eventually fight with you.

p.554 [Glen Beck, radio and television journalist and author, on telling a radio audience the truth about his background—mother’s suicide, his own alcoholism and addiction, divorce, etc.] What I realized that day was people are starving for something authentic. They’ll accept you, warts and all, if that’s who you really are. Once you start lying to them, they’re not interested.

Work and Money Skills
p.185 [Derek Sivers, musician, programmer, businessman, philosopher] Choose the plan with the most options. The best plan is the one that lets you change your plans.

p.215 [Tony Robbins, performance coach and infomercial producer, on the topic of the best investors] Every single one of them is obsessed with asymmetrical risk and reward….It simply means they’re looking to use the least amount of risk to get the max amount of upside, and that’s what they live for.…They don’t believe they have to take huge risks for huge rewards.

p.219-220 [Casey Neistat, film-maker, YouTube video expert] You realize that you will never be the best looking person in the room. You’ll never be the smartest person in the room. You’ll never be the most educated, the most well-versed. You can never compete on those levels. But what you can always compete on, the true egalitarian aspect to success, is hard work. You can always work harder than the next guy.
p.220 For me, it’s not about how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.

p.223 [Morgan Spurlock, film-maker] Hope is not a strategy. Luck is not a factor. Fear is not an option.

p.233 [Peter Thiel, PayPal founder, investor] So if you’re planning to do something with your life, if you have a 10-year plan of how to get there, you should ask, “Why can’t you do this is six months?” Sometimes, you have to actually go through the complex, 10-year trajectory. But it’s at least worth asking whether that’s the story you’re telling yourself, or whether that’s the reality.

p.269 [Scott Adams, comic strip creator and author] If you want an average, successful life, it doesn’t take much planning. Just stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like. But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths: 1) Become the best at one specific thing. 2) Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.
     The first strategy is difficult to the point of near impossibility.
     The second strategy is fairly easy. Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort.
     Capitalism rewards things that are both rare and valuable. You make yourself rare by combining two or more “pretty goods” until no-one else has your mix….At least one of the skills in your mix should include communication, either written or verbal.

p.357 [Justin Boreta, musician, quoting Chuck Close] Inspiration is for amateurs—the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will—through work—bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great “art idea.”

p.413 [Jocko Willink, ex-Navy SEAL, business consultant, podcaster] My mantra is a very simple one, and that’s “Discipline equals freedom.”
     Two is one and one is none.

p.442 [Shay Carl, YouTube video producer, film-maker, entreprenuer] The secrets of life are hidden behind the word “cliché.” So any time you hear something you think is a cliché, my tip to you is to perk your ears up and listen more carefully.  He had heard certain phrases like “eat more vegetables” a million times, but ignored them for years, as it all seemed to simplistic. Ultimately, it was the simple that worked. He didn’t need sophisticated answers. They were right in front of him the whole time.
p.443 It’s not easy to get better. It’s tough. Our natural inclination is toward addiction and toward the things that are easy.  It’s easy to drink alcohol and take away the pain. It’s easy to go through the drive-through and buy a Big Mac, right? What are you willing to do that is hard? I remember my Grandpa saying, “Work will work when nothing else will work.”

p.473 [Kevin Kelly, magazine founder, researcher, author] One of the many life skills that you want to learn at a fairly young age is the skill of being an ultra-thrifty, minimal kind of little wisp that’s traveling through time…in the sense of learning how little you actually need to live, not just in survival mode, but in a contented mode.

p.552 [Naval Ravikant, Internet entrepreneur and investor] [My existence] is like a firefly blinking once in the night. Nothing that we do lasts.

p.625 [Tim Feriss, Internet entrepreneur, author, and podcaster] This was a depressing realization I came to while considering blowing my head off or getting run over. Damnation! … I literally had zero evidence that my death would improve things….the unknown void could be Dante’s Inferno on steroids.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Praying Through the Scriptures

Praying Through the Scriptures
Our relationship to the Savior is more necessary than the air we breathe. If we "breathe in" God's message to us from the Bible each day, and "breathe out" our gratitude and yearnings to Him, we will never be deprived of spiritual life and wellbeing.

     The idea of “praying through the Scripture” is neither a recent nor a human innovation but, rather, an idea as old and divine as the Scripture itself. It is only natural that the insights and perspectives we derive from God’s own words should prompt our minds to expressions of gratitude, awe, repentance, and understanding. The practice of praying through the Scripture is not only found innumerable times in the book of Psalms, but virtually everywhere in Scripture where prayers are articulated.
     Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the Temple in 1 Kings 8 was clearly impacted by his meditation on Deuteronomy 4, 12, and 28, as well as the miracle of the exodus and the prophecy of the Davidic Covenant.1
     Daniel’s great prayer of confession in the ninth chapter of his prophecy was prompted by his reading in Jeremiah’s prophecies about the duration of the Babylonian captivity.2
     Ezra clearly stated that his great prayer of confession (9:5-15) was prompted by his acquaintance with the spoken and written appeals of the prophets who came before him.3
     The great prayer of the Levites in Nehemiah 9 recalls the scriptural history of God’s creation of the heavens and earth (v.6), the call of Abraham (vv. 7-8), the exodus and wilderness wanderings (vv. 9-21), the conquering of the land (vv. 22-25), the victories of the judges (vv.26-29), the captivity (vv. 30), and even the specific verbiage of Leviticus 18:5 [Your judgments, ‘Which if a man does, he shall live by them.’, v.29].
     After meditating on the implications of Psalms 69:25 and 109:8, in the context of Judas’ apostasy and destruction, the apostles prayed for guidance in choosing another who would “take his office” (Acts 1:20-25).
     When the first Christians lifted their prayer of praise to the Lord for His deliverance from persecution in Acts 4:24-30, they did so while recalling the second Psalm.5
     Even the Lord’s Prayer was surely at least somewhat prompted by Jesus’ own exhaustive acquaintance with Scriptures that refer to the incomparable name of God, the kingdom of God, the care of God for His creatures, and His forgiveness, salvation, and might.
     Wherever the prayers of people who had access to the Scriptures are recorded in Scripture, there is the explicit or implicit understanding that their prayers were prompted by their meditation upon God’s words. Their “breathing in” of the message of God informed and inspired their “breathing out” of their praises and insights from God.
     Praying through the Scriptures is as natural and necessary as breathing air, and even more important.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for our “Praying Through the Scriptures in a Year” project.

1. 1 Kings 8:22 [Many references to the exodus and to 2 Samuel 7 and Davidic Covenant] Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; 23 and he said: “Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. [Deuteronomy 4:39 the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.] 24 You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day. 25 Therefore, Lord God of Israel, now keep what You promised Your servant David my father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, only if your sons take heed to their way, that they walk before Me as you have walked before Me.’ 26 And now I pray, O God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David my father.
27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! 28 Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today: 29 that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. 30   [Deuteronomy 12:11 then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes] And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.
31 “When anyone sins against his neighbor, and is forced to take an oath, and comes and takes an oath before Your altar in this temple, 32 then hear in heaven, and act, and judge Your servants, condemning the wicked, bringing his way on his head, and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness.
33 “When Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You [Deuteronomy 28:25 The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them], and when they turn back to You and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication to You in this temple, 34 then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You gave to their fathers.
35 “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You [Deuteronomy 28:23 And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron.], when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, 36 then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance.
37 “When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemy besieges them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sickness there is; 38 whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple: 39 then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men), 40 that they may fear You all the days that they live in the land which You gave to our fathers.
41 “Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for Your name’s sake 42 (for they will hear of Your great name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this temple, 43 hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name.
44 “When Your people go out to battle against their enemy, wherever You send them, and when they pray to the Lord toward the city which You have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name, 45 then hear in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.
46 “When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to the land of the enemy, far or near [Deuteronomy 28:36 he Lord will bring you and the king whom you set over you to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods—wood and stone.]; 47 yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of those who took them captive, saying, ‘We have sinned and done wrong, we have committed wickedness’; 48 and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul [Deuteronomy 4:29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.] in the land of their enemies who led them away captive, and pray to You toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name: 49 then hear in heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause, 50 and forgive Your people who have sinned against You, and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against You; and grant them compassion before those who took them captive, that they may have compassion on them 51 (for they are Your people and Your inheritance, whom You brought out of Egypt, out of the iron furnace [Deuteronomy 4:20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day. ]), 52 that Your eyes may be open to the supplication of Your servant and the supplication of Your people Israel, to listen to them whenever they call to You. [Deuteronomy 4:7 For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?]  53 For You separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be Your inheritance, as You spoke by Your servant Moses, when You brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord God.”

2. Daniel 9:2  in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession

3. Ezra 9:5 At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God. And I said: “O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens. Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been very guilty, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plunder, and to humiliation, as it is this day. And now for a little while grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage. For we were slaves. Yet our God did not forsake us in our bondage; but He extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem. 10 And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken Your commandments, 11 which You commanded by Your servants the prophets, saying, [General message of many prophets:] ‘The land which you are entering to possess is an unclean land, with the uncleanness of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations which have filled it from one end to another with their impurity. 12 Now therefore, do not give your daughters as wives for their sons, nor take their daughters to your sons; and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land, and leave it as an inheritance to your children forever.’ 13 And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since You our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us such deliverance as this, 14 should we again break Your commandments, and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations? Would You not be angry with us until You had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant or survivor? 15 O Lord God of Israel, You are righteous, for we are left as a remnant, as it is this day. Here we are before You, in our guilt, though no one can stand before You because of this!”

4. Acts 4:24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David[b] have said:
‘Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’[c]
27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”