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On the road to Emmaus

March 31, 2013 Leave a comment

Luke 24:1-53 KJV – [1] Now upon the first [day] of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain [others] with them. [2] And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. [3] And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. [4] And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: [5] And as they were afraid, and bowed down [their] faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? [6] He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, [7] Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. [8] And they remembered his words, [9] And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. [10] It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary [the mother] of James, and other [women that were] with them, which told these things unto the apostles. [11] And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. [12] Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass. [13] And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem [about] threescore furlongs. [14] And they talked together of all these things which had happened. [15] And it came to pass, that, while they communed [together] and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. [16] But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. [17] And he said unto them, What manner of communications [are] these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? [18] And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? [19] And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: [20] And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. [21] But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. [22] Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; [23] And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. [24] And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found [it] even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. [25] Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: [26] Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? [27] And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. [28] And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. [29] But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. [30] And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed [it], and brake, and gave to them. [31] And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. [32] And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? [33] And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, [34] Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. [35] And they told what things [were done] in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. [36] And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you. [37] But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. [38] And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? [39] Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. [40] And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them [his] hands and [his] feet. [41] And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? [42] And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. [43] And he took [it], and did eat before them. [44] And he said unto them, These [are] the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and [in] the prophets, and [in] the psalms, concerning me. [45] Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, [46] And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: [47] And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. [48] And ye are witnesses of these things. [49] And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. [50] And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. [51] And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. [52] And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: [53] And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the account of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. I have a copy of the famous painting by Robert Zund in the “inner sanctum”. My mom bought it for me when she learned how special the account is to me. You can read the text (in purple) and see what happened so I don’t want to repeat the whole story but I do want to share some of the things that touch me about this account.

  • Cleopas & his friend are travelling after the news that Mary told the disciples and then have heard Peter & John verify that Jesus was not in the tomb. These two men head to Emmaus. It is apparent from the Bible that they were perplexed & saddened. I think they were in shock; I mean consider the events that they have experienced first hand over the past four days. Wouldn’t you be in a daze? Part of me thinks they started walking and they were not even considering where they were headed, they just knew they had to clear their heads. It is also apparent that they were discussing and trying to figure out exactly what was going on that Jesus appeared on their path and started walking along with them.
  • That when Jesus asked them what they were talking about & why were they sad. Cleopas is flabbergasted at the inquiry. How could this traveler not know?! It was not something done secretly but openly and loudly. Cleopas gives a great summary of the events and then Jesus (I always picture a smile) replies to them with the same flabbergastedness “How could YOU not know it was supposed to and needed to happen?!” Then Jesus beginning with Moses – meaning the Law and working his way through the Old Testament showed and proved to them why what happened did happen. I am sure these men were absolutely stunned because over and over in the Gospels there is reference to the people being blown away by how when Jesus expounded on the Scriptures how He spoke with such authority, confidence and wisdom. These two guys were being given a survey of the Old Testament by the Savior, Messiah, & Word. Think about it!
  • We are told that they were not allowed to discern or recognize it was Jesus who was the traveler. I figure it happened for one or both reasons. One, that is because they would have been so busy worshipping they would not have provided the opportunity for Him to show them what the OT taught about Him. Two, these men were already shocked and perplexed and God didn’t want to add to the confusion. What He wanted to do was help them so He made sure that He would first have the time to answer all their questions then He would reveals Himself.
  • That they recognized Him immediately when He prayed, when He spoke to the Father. They knew how He spoke to the Father and the words and the tone rang true. They had heard Jesus many times bless the breaking of bread for meal and here He does it again and I am certain He did it the same way He usually did. Then you get the verification once Jesus disappears! that again when He had been expounding they were struck by the way He taught.

One of the most powerful interpretations of the events on the road to Emmaus is the following song. Please do yourself a favor and spend the four minutes to listen to it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAX-KJusIjQ

Calvary

March 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Best version/performance of this song is by the Florida Boys with tenor Greg Cook singing the lead.
The song captures among other Scriptures, Romans 5:8
“But God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

When He Was On the Cross, I Was On His Mind
I’m not on an ego trip, I’m nothing on my own
I make mistakes and sometimes slip
Just common flesh and bone
But I’ll prove someday just why I say
I’m of a special kind
For when He was on the cross
I was on His mind

A look of love was on His face
The thorns were in His head
The blood was on that scarlet robe
And stained it crimson red
Though His eyes were on the crowd that day
He looked ahead in time
For when He was on the cross
I was on His mind

He knew me, yet He loved me
He whose glory makes the Heaven’s shine
So unworthy, of such mercy
For when He was on the cross
I was on His mind
For when He was on the cross
I was on His mind

What is a good life?

March 22, 2013 Leave a comment

I came across an absolutely fantastic article that I want to share with each of you. I know for certain that most of you will find this information strikes a chord with you. I hope it provides fodder for comments, posts and more so – life improvement. The story is in the best magazine on the market The Week.  If you do not have a subscription to this magazine you are missing out. See if your library carries and grab a couple old issues and take a stroll through it.

 

What is a good life?

People pursue happiness, says Emily Esfahani Smith, but it’s always temporary. Pursue meaning instead.

PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 13, 2013, AT 5:41 PM

IN SEPTEMBER 1942, Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents. Three years later, when his camp was liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished—but he, prisoner number 119104, had lived. In his best-selling 1946 book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: meaning.

As he saw in the camps, those who found meaning even in the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing,” Frankl wrote in the book, “the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

In his book, Frankl gives the example of two suicidal inmates he encountered in the camps. Like many others there, these two men were hopeless and thought there was nothing more to expect from life, nothing to live for. “In both cases,” Frankl writes, “it was a question of getting them to realize that life was still expecting something from them.” For one man, it was his young child, who was then living in a foreign country. For the other, a scientist, it was a series of books that he needed to finish. Frankl writes: “This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love…. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how.’”

In 1991, the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club listed Man’s Search for Meaning as one of the 10 most influential books in the United States. Today, the book’s ethos—its emphasis on meaning, the value of suffering, and responsibility to something greater than the self—seems to be at odds with our culture, which is more interested in the pursuit of individual happiness. “To the European,” Frankl wrote, “it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.’”

According to Gallup, the happiness levels of Americans are at a four-year high. On the other hand, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about four out of 10 Americans have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Forty percent either do not think their lives have a clear sense of purpose or are neutral about whether their lives have purpose. Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression.

This is why some researchers are cautioning against the pursuit of mere happiness. In a new study, psychological scientists asked nearly 400 Americans aged 18 to 78 whether they thought their lives were meaningful and/or happy. Examining their self-reported attitudes toward meaning, happiness, and many other variables—like stress levels, spending patterns, and having children—the researchers found that a meaningful life and a happy life overlap in certain ways, but are ultimately very different.

HOW DO THE happy life and the meaningful life differ? Happiness, they found, is about feeling good. Specifically, the researchers found that people who are happy tend to think that life is easy, they are in good physical health, and they are able to buy the things that they need and want. While not having enough money decreases how happy and meaningful you consider your life to be, it has a much greater impact on happiness. The happy life is also defined by a lack of stress or worry.

Most importantly from a social perspective, the pursuit of happiness is associated with selfish behavior—being a “taker” rather than a “giver.” The psychologists give an evolutionary explanation for this: happiness is about drive reduction. If you have a need or a desire—like hunger—you satisfy it, and that makes you happy. People become happy, in other words, when they get what they want. Humans are not the only ones who can feel happy. Animals have needs and drives, too, and when those drives are satisfied, animals also feel happy.

“Happy people get a lot of joy from receiving benefits from others, while people leading meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others,” says Kathleen Vohs, one of the study authors. In other words, meaning transcends the self while happiness is all about giving the self what it wants. People who have high meaning in their lives are more likely to help others in need. “If anything, pure happiness is linked to not helping others in need,” the researchers write.

What sets human beings apart from animals is not the pursuit of happiness, which occurs all across the natural world, but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans, according to Roy Baumeister, the lead researcher of the study.

The study participants reported deriving meaning from giving a part of themselves away to others and making a sacrifice on behalf of the overall group. Having more meaning in one’s life was associated with doing activities like buying presents for others, taking care of kids, and arguing. People whose lives have high levels of meaning often actively seek meaning out even when they know it will come at the expense of happiness. Because they have invested themselves in something bigger than themselves, they also worry more and have higher levels of stress and anxiety in their lives than happy people. Having children, for example, is associated with the meaningful life and requires self-sacrifice, but it has been famously associated with low happiness among parents, including the ones in this study.

“Partly what we do as human beings is to take care of others and contribute to others. This makes life meaningful, but it does not necessarily make us happy,” Baumeister told me in an interview.

Meaning is not only about transcending the self, but also about transcending the present moment—which is perhaps the most important finding of the study, according to the researchers. While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting. The amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness but not at all with meaning.

Meaning, on the other hand, is enduring. It connects the past to the present to the future. “Thinking beyond the present moment, into the past or future, was a sign of the relatively meaningful but unhappy life,” the researchers write. “Happiness is not generally found in contemplating the past or future.” That is, people who thought more about the present were happier, but people who spent more time thinking about the future or about past struggles and sufferings felt more meaning in their lives, though they were less happy.

Having negative events happen to you, the study found, decreases your happiness but increases the amount of meaning you have in life. “If there is meaning in life at all,” Frankl wrote, “then there must be meaning in suffering.”

WHICH BRINGS US back to Frankl’s life and, specifically, a decisive experience he had before he was sent to the concentration camps. In his early adulthood, Frankl had established himself as one of the leading psychiatrists in Vienna and the world. As a 16-year-old boy, for example, he struck up a correspondence with Sigmund Freud and one day sent Freud a two-page paper he had written. Freud, impressed by Frankl’s talent, sent the paper to the International Journal of Psychoanalysis for publication.

While he was in medical school, Frankl distinguished himself even further. Not only did he establish suicide-prevention centers for teenagers—a precursor to his work in the camps—but he was also developing his signature contribution to the field of clinical psychology: logotherapy, which is meant to help people overcome depression and achieve well-being by finding their unique meaning in life. By 1941, he was working as the chief of neurology at Vienna’s Rothschild Hospital, where he risked his life and career by making false diagnoses of mentally ill patients so that they would not, per Nazi orders, be euthanized.

That same year, he had a decision to make that would change his life. With his career on the rise and the threat of the Nazis looming, Frankl had applied for a visa to America, which he was granted in 1941. By then, the Nazis had started rounding up the Jews and taking them away to concentration camps, focusing on the elderly first. Frankl knew that it would only be time before the Nazis came to take his parents away. He also knew that once they did, he had a responsibility to be there with his parents. On the other hand, as a newly married man with his visa in hand, he was tempted to leave for America and flee to safety.

As Anna S. Redsand recounts in her biography of Frankl, he was at a loss for what to do, so he set out for St. Stephan’s Cathedral to clear his head. Listening to the organ music, he repeatedly asked himself, “Should I leave my parents behind?… Should I say goodbye and leave them to their fate?” He was looking for a “hint from heaven.”

When he returned home, he found it. A piece of marble was lying on the table. His father explained that it was rubble of a nearby synagogue that the Nazis had destroyed. It contained a fragment of one of the Ten Commandments—the one about honoring your father and your mother. With that, Frankl decided to stay in Vienna and forgo whatever opportunities for safety and career advancement awaited him in the United States. He put aside his individual pursuits to serve his family and, later, other inmates in the camps.

The wisdom Frankl derived from his experiences there, in the middle of unimaginable human suffering, is just as relevant now as it was then: “Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself—be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is.”

By putting aside our selfish interests and serving someone or something larger than ourselves—by devoting our lives to “giving” rather than “taking”—we are not only expressing our fundamental humanity, but are also acknowledging that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness.

©2013 The Atlantic Media Co., as first published in The Atlantic Magazine. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services.

 

 

Another week goes by

March 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Hizballah has got hold of chemical weapons

For the first time in many years, voices in the US administration were criticizing the Israeli defense forces for under-reacting and, in this case, also underestimating the chemical weapons threat emanating from Syria and neglecting to pursue counter-measures. This is what visiting Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak heard when he met US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon Tuesday, March 5, as the new defense secretary’s first foreign visitor.
DEBKAfile’s military and Washington sources disclose that Barak was berated for “inadequate and cursory” military preparations which failed to take into account that a chemical attack on Israel would make it necessary for the IDF to enter Syria – most likely for an offensive operation coordinated against the common threat with the Turkish and Jordanian armies.  The rest of the story here

 

Joint task force

A new US-led contingency headquarters for joint US, IsraelU, Jordanian and Turkish operations will go into action inside Syria if any or all these allies should come under chemical or biological attack. Agreement to establish this headquarters was finalized at the talks US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel held with visiting Israeli defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Pentagon Tuesday, March 5.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Hagel spoke of a chemical war in Syria in terms of an imminent and realistic eventuality. Washington expected the Syrian rebels close to al Qaeda to initiate this type of warfare and the Syria army to fight back in kind. Such an exchange could quickly spill over the Syrian borders to its neighbors, it was likewise predicted. Rest of the story here.

 

Egypt

When visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry sat one-on-one with Egyptian President Morsi in Cairo, Sunday, March 3, he talked at length about Egypt’s calamitous economic straits, relations with Israel, democratization and essential reforms. He had hoped to find the Egyptian president amenable to getting to grips with his country’s fast approaching bankruptcy. In the event, Morsi nodded politely but, DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources report, he was far more preoccupied with pushing forward the three-point plan he and the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme leader Mohammed Badie have begun implementing. Details here

 

Iran

The continuing saga of “I will huff and puff and blow your house down” is here. Meanwhile Iran continues to march closer and closer to their ultimate goal.

 

2 cents:

What does the above stories reflect? The absence of actual leadership as well as the protection of the USA and its allies.

Understand what is happening in our nation’s capital

March 1, 2013 Leave a comment
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