Sunday, June 19, 2005

Here's Mud In Your Eye

Image problem

I've always loved contrasts. Words like paradox, oxymoron, and yin/yang serve as humbling reminders of how dangerous it is to assert oneself too strongly. Throughout life, I've always been wary of forcefully insisting that I'm right, since there always seems to be too much conflicting data on any given topic. Debaters and students quickly find that, no matter what the issue is, there are stacks of research of equal height to "verify" both sides. I like to think that my gentle nature is simply a reflection of this fact, but I'm sure there are those who would argue that I'm simply wishy-washy.

To be sure, the only thing I'm 100% convinced of is God and His Word. May God never let that be shaken.

My reading today offered a rather intense contrast. The FIRST thing I read today was an article on the front page of my local newspaper. It describes some fake mud that SUV drivers can spray on their vehicles to give the appearance of actually using your RV for off-road activity. The brisk sales of this product suggests that many are loathe to be perceived as driving such gas guzzlers simply because they can. This, folks, is front page news.

The LAST thing I read today was an online article on Christian suffering titled "It's Hard To Be Like Jesus." I'm going to print it out, and carry it around with me so I can pull it out any time I feel like life's not treating me fairly.

It was easy to read the first article, and feel superior to the crowd that would shell out money to gaurd their image. Can you imagine catching someone in the act of spraying this stuff on their SUV? I can almost hear their defense:

"Well, I really AM a rugged kind of guy, and I really do PLAN on doing some off-roading. But you know, with the business of life and all, I just haven't had a chance to actually GET to it yet. Hey, I'm just putting across the image of who I really am INSIDE - the guy I'm BECOMING, you know?"

Let's give our sprayer credit where it's due. Maybe he does have SOME rugged qualities. Given time and practice, perhap he WILL grow in to the daring off-roading "stud of the mud" he envisions. Some day. Today however, we know how far he is from that ideal.

I could only hope I would be granted such understanding from a suffering missionary who would examine my comfy Christian walk. I can almost hear my defense:

"Well, I really AM willing to pick up my cross daily, and I really do PLAN on doing some serious missionary work. But you know, with the business of earthly life and all, I just haven't had a chance to actually GET to it yet. By calling myself a committed Christian, I'm just putting across the image of who I really am INSIDE - the guy I'm BECOMING, you know?"

Luckily, a true man of God would probably not condemn me as a faker, because he would know that our maker will not cease His work of changing us until we are like Christ. Meantime, I'm reminded of how far I am from that ideal.

Meantime, I believe God has reminded me why it's not for me to judge the SUV sprayers of the world. He knows that ALL of His followers have spray cans of various sizes. Dare I imagine what Jesus would say to us, I think it would be something like: "Just keep following me in Faith, and I'll loosen your grip on that spray can until there's no need for it."

Thank you Jesus, for your awesome patience.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

the Word = the Gospel

Friday, June 10, 2005

Pimple on the Body of Christ?

Ole Anthony

Oh man, if you want a good read, this is it. This guy (Ole Anthony) is dubbed "the man televangelists hate." I haven't read anything this inspiring, laugh-out-loud-funny, yet bordering on irreverent, in.. well, I don't know when. And that's just an ARTICLE on the man and his ministry. I can only imagine how fascinating he would be in person. If you like 'em rough around the edges, start reading, and enjoy...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

7's on the Seventh


I'm busy preparing for an exam on Thursday, so I haven't posted much. Meantime, since today is the 7th, here's a fascinating article on the number 7:

Shavuot and the Magnificent 7's
by Rabbi Yaakov Salomon

An incredible tapestry of 7's has been woven into the creation. How many can you name?

In the beginning... God created 7's.

Oh sure, He created light and dark, the heavens and earth, too. But for reasons unknown to us, He seemed to have a special affinity for the number 7.

The fact that the Torah begins with a verse containing 7 words and 28 letters (divisible by 7) is hardly remarkable. But when placed within the context of the overwhelming number of associations in Judaism with '7', a fascinating tapestry begins to unfurl. Let's take a closer look at this phenomenon.


Every spring, Jews around the world celebrate the holiday of Shavuot --commemorating the most seminal event in the history of mankind, God's revelation at Mount Sinai.

Shavuot. Curious name for this holiday, no? Shavuot means "weeks," underscoring the 7-week period between Passover and Shavuot in which we count each day (and week) in anticipation and preparation for re-living the Sinai revelation. But why call it Shavuot -- "weeks"? Why not call the holiday "Torah," or "Sinai," or "Commandments," or "Tablets." Of what significance is "Weeks"?

Time contains many different entities. Nearly all of them are related to natural phenomena. Days, nights, months, seasons and years are all directly determined, in some way, by the constellations. There is one exception -- the week. The formulation of a week seems to be totally arbitrary. Who needs it? Let one day just follow the previous one. And why 7 days?

The concept of a week and its constitution of 7 days is one that is strictly God-invented and human-adopted. While we may quibble about creation -- how, when, by whom, why -- the world has consensually agreed to the concept of a week. The Beatles were wrong... there are only 7 days in a week. And whenever a week is completed it is yet another reminder to mankind (or should be) that God created the world in 7 days. (Only 6 days were required to manufacture the physical structures, but the process was not complete until the spiritual realm, Shabbat, was added.)

Call it the "week link."

WHY "7"?

Kabbalah teaches that 7 represents wholeness and completion. After 7 days, the world was complete. There are 6 directions in our world: north, south, east, west, up and down. Add to that the place where you are, and you have a total of 7 points of reference.

Shavuot, marking the emergence of the Jewish people into a nation, by virtue of their receiving and accepting the Torah, also marks a completion. Perhaps that is why the holiday is called Shavuot, "Weeks." We want to identify this holiday as a completion of the process of Jewish nationhood.

No one is certain why God chose the number "7" to signify completion. All we can do is speculate, observe and marvel.

In honor of our own completion of the 49 day period leading up to Shavuot, we present 49 allusions to the number "7" within Judaism. How many of these do you recognize? How many more can you add?


  1. Shabbat is the 7th day of the week.
  2. There are 7 weeks in the counting of the Omer before Shavuot. (Leviticus 23:15)
  3. In Israel, there are 7 days of Passover and Sukkot. (Leviticus 23:6, 34)
  4. Every 7th year, the land lays fallow during Shmita (Sabbatical year). (Leviticus 25:4)
  5. After 7 cycles of Shmita, we have a Jubilee year (Yovel). (Leviticus 25:8)
  6. When a close relative dies, we sit Shiva for 7 days.
  7. On Sukkot we shake 7 species - 1 Lulav, 1 Esrog, 2 willows, and 3 myrtles.
  8. Yitro, the first real convert to Judaism, had 7 different names, and 7 daughters (one who married Moses).
  9. Moses was born and died on the same day - the 7th of Adar.
  10. Our Sukkah huts are "visited" by 7 guests - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David.
  11. The Menorah in the Temple had 7 branches.
  12. Achashvarosh, King of Persia during the miracle of Purim, held a party for 7 days. (Esther 1:5)
  13. There are 7 holidays in the Jewish year: Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Chanukah, Purim, Passover, and Shavuot.
  14. In addition to the 613 Commandments, the Sages added 7 more.
  15. There are 7 Noachide Laws pertaining to all humanity.
  16. At every Jewish wedding, 7 blessings are recited (Sheva Brachot).
  17. Each Shabbat, 7 people are called to the Torah reading (Aliyot).
  18. The first verse in the Torah contains 7 words (and 28 letters).
  19. Our Matriarch Leah had 7 children - six sons and one daughter.
  20. There were 7 days of preparation for the construction of the Tabernacle in the desert. (Leviticus 8:35)
  21. Traditionally, the bride circles the groom 7 times under the Chuppah (wedding canopy).
  22. We wind the Tefillin straps around the arm 7 times.
  23. Moses was the 7th generation after Abraham.
  24. Each plague in Egypt lasted 7 days.
  25. In Pharaoh's dreams there were 7 cows and 7 stalks of grain. (Genesis 41)
  26. The Biblical contamination period typically lasts 7 days. (Leviticus 13:4)
  27. God created 7 levels of heaven. (Hence the expression, "I'm in 7th heaven!")
  28. On Shabbat and holidays, we recite 7 blessings in the silent Amidah.
  29. There are 7 special species of produce by which the Land of Israel is praised: wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranates, figs, olives, and dates. (Deut. 8:8)
  30. The world has 7 continents.
  31. The 7 weeks of the Omer correspond to the 7 "sefirot," the 7 behavior traits in which we serve God: kindness, strength, beauty, triumph, splendor, foundation, and kingship.
  32. Noah sent the dove and the raven out of the Ark for 7 days to inspect the weather conditions. (Genesis 8:10)
  33. 7 nations warred with Israel: Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites.
  34. On Yom Kippur, the High Priest sprinkled the blood in the Temple 7 times. (Leviticus 16)
  35. The Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashana occurs, surprisingly, in the 7th month -- Tishrei. (Leviticus 23:24)
  36. The Jewish calendar, largely lunar, has a cycle of intercalation that contains 7 leap years during each 19-year period.
  37. There are 7 notes on the musical scale.
  38. A Kohen (priest) should participate in the burial of 7 relatives: father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter, and spouse. (Leviticus 21:2)
  39. We dance 7 circles (hakafot) on the holiday of Simchat Torah.
  40. The smallest allowable dimension of a Sukkah is 7 cubits by 7 cubits.
  41. The world has 7 seas.
  42. Joshua led the Jewish People around the walls of Jericho 7 times before the walls fell. (Joshua 6:15)
  43. Jacob worked for Laban for 7 years (twice) in order to marry his daughters. (Genesis 29:27)
  44. The Holy Temple contained 7 gates of entry.
  45. We recite 7 blessings every day before and after the "Shema" -- 3 in the morning and 4 at night.
  46. The Talmud lists 7 female prophets: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Avigail, Chuldah, and Esther.
  47. A Jewish servant regains freedom after working for 7 years. (Exodus 21:2)
  48. We conclude our Yom Kippur prayers by proclaiming7 times, "The Lord is God!"
  49. A Jewish wedding is followed by 7 days of celebration (Sheva Brachot).

Author Biography:
Yaakov Salomon is Creative Director of the Aish HaTorah Research and Development Department; North America and a Senior Lecturer for their Discovery Seminars program. He is also a psychotherapist in private practice in Brooklyn, New York and an author and editor for the Artscroll Publishing series. He is tolerated at home by his wife, Temmy, his eight children (three of them with spouses), and six adorable grandchildren.
Yaakov Salomon is also the coauthor of “What the Angel Taught You."

This article can also be read at:

Friday, June 03, 2005

Late to the Party I Am


O.K., it's already two weeks since the latest Star Wars came out. Many blogs I follow had observations on this event the day after it was released. Surely, Yoda would admonish me thusly: "Late to the party, are you." Hopefully, you'll forgive me for covering something that's two weeks in the distant past. If not, you may have real difficulty when I tie in events from over 2005 years ago....

I went to the movie with my 10 year-old son. I'm one of the many fathers who got to introduce this younger generation to the Star Wars saga when the series resumed with The Phantom Menace. The big difference for me, as a viewer, was that I now see with a brand new set of eyes. So, viewing Revenge of the Sith opened up a whole new dimension of spiritual connotations that I didn't focus on too much while enjoying the first 5 Star Wars movies.

Of course, Star Wars is just a fantasy movie, so perhaps an examination of it's spiritual components is not called for. I did, in fact, remind myself to just enjoy the film - especially since it was quality time with my son. I deliberately forced myself to "watch and enjoy now - analyse later." Even still, driving home from the movie, I couldn't help but offer a couple observations from the Christian perspective to my son. Thank God, it actually turned out to be a good (if brief) conversation.

So why should I bring this issue in to this blog? Yes, it is just a movie. article by John Sweeney titled Jedi “Religion” Sees Dramatic Growth (we’re not kidding) reports that an increasing number of folks see Star Wars as much more than just a fantasy film.

At risk of posting yet another long post, I'd like to offer some comparisons/contrast between the Jedi "religion," and the way of the one true God of Christianity. First, the similarities:

  1. Both have a "dark lord" who uses lies to entice people to evil. Interestingly, both involve lies concerning death. In Christianity, it was Satan who suggested to Eve that, contrary to what God had told her, she would NOT SURELY die if she ate the forbidden fruit. In Star Wars, Palpatine suggests to Anakin that the dark side has knowledge of how to cheat death. Palpatine himself, admits that this power is not "natural.' In both cases, the dark power is hinting that those following the light side have been duped, and should come out of their naive, archaic beliefs to a mature, practical acceptance of harsh reality.
  2. In both, the stated agenda of the dark side is peace. In Star Wars, Palpatine claims that his ultimate goal in wiping out the Jedi is simply to stop all the fighting, and bring peace to the galaxy. In the Bible, we learn that the anti-christ will come on the scene bringing a similar lie of peace.
  3. In both, the members of the dark side come to see the members of the light side as the enemy. In Star Wars, Jedi's are seen by the dark side as a threat to be hunted down and killed, lest they continue to bring imbalance to the galaxy. In the Bible, the Lord Jesus spoke of a future time when He said that those who kill us (referring to Christians and/or Jews) will think they're doing God a favor (John 16:2). Indeed, in many parts of the world, this is happening now (see THIS or THIS site). Edit as of 6/7/05, I just stumbled across this new blog about Christian Persecution:
  4. In both, followers of the light side are expected to give up selfishness, and pursue the common good.
I'm sure there are many more similarities. However, let's move on to the important differences:

  1. In Star Wars, the qualities and characteristics of the light and dark sides are vaque and nebulous. Of course, this is a film, so Lucas is hardly to be blamed for not spelling out the foundations of "The Force." In contrast, Christianity (through the Bible) offers a full description of good/evil, instructions on exactly how to live, and the characteristics God himself!
  2. In Star Wars, one seems to have to move away from good by voluntarily choosing to align with the dark side. The Bible, however, teaches us that we are all born sinners, and must come to the light by accepting Jesus' sacrifice for our sins.
  3. Star Wars never suggests that the "force" will ultimately exert itself, bringing divine justice throughout the galaxy. Thus, it is up to the Jedi to bring about, and maintain, ultimate good. They do this with the sheer force of ninja fighting techniques and light sabres. In contrast, Christians know that Jesus will return to bring justice, and set up the eternal abodes of the righteous (Heaven) and the unrighteous (Hell). Rather than a sword of laser power, Christ's sword will emanate from his mouth. His sword will be His Word, and with it, He will be victorious. This is not to say that followers of Christ are not expected to live as righteously as possible BEFORE Christ's return, but we know that we are powerless to bring peace by our own efforts. Christ will return as our King. EVERY knee will bow to Him, the creator of all things.
  4. Star Wars, as fun as it is to watch, is the product of a human being's imagination. In contrast, everything that actually exists is the real product of a real God. George Lucas needed countless helpers and complex technology to create a 12-hour world that only exists as a fun diversion for the eyes and ears. In contrast, God used Himself alone to THINK everything in to existence, including one of his more creative products - George Lucas.