Sunday, October 30, 2016

Between the Ears Index

The Blog Archive on the right side of this page, generated automatically by blogger.com, is in chronological order by year and month. While it is complete, it does not give titles, so I thought it would be more convenient to provide an index with titles and summaries of my blog articles. These are in reverse chronological order, except "Sycamore Of Ground Zero", which got moved by accident when I updated it. I will update the index when I add new articles.
 


The Heart of the Torah The structure of the Bible gives clues to its meaning. Scholars have come to see that Atonement is the pivotal ceremony at the heart of the Torah, meaning the five books of Moses. I use the literary device called the chiasm to show how Atonement IS the heart of the Torah. Chiasms are best understood visually, so be sure to study the charts included.

Counting The Days A few Bible controversies revolve around what day something happened. Here my understanding of four of them.

What day was Jesus Christ crucified?
What day did Israel leave Egypt?
What day is Pentecost (Shavuot)?
What day did Israel cross the Red Sea?


The Generations Of Adam The Bible often records why a person is given a particular name. It surprised me to learn that according to some scholars, the names of Adam to Noah (Gen 5) reveal a message, specifically a message of the Gospel. In this article, I examine those names, and the messages different authors claim those names make. I also show what some critics say about Bible codes in general, and this message in particular.

Crown Of Thorns Jesus wore a crown of thorns during His trial and crucifixion. What is the significance of this? Any symbolism? Let's explore the subject of thorns to see what the Bible reveals.

How Paul Wrote His Epistles Artists have depicted the Apostle Paul writing epistles as a solitary man sitting at a desk, quill pen in hand, maybe candles and scrolls nearby. But according to recent scholarship, this isn’t an accurate picture. Letters from that era combined with clues in Paul's epistles can shed some light on the process. We look at the work of E Randolph Richards to get a better picture of how Paul wrote his epistles to the churches.


Give Us This Day Our Daily Pill Drugs, both legal and illegal, are big business today, over $1 trillion per year.  The Bible doesn't say much about drugs, but Revelation 18:23 has a reference  to drugs hidden by translation. Here, the Greek word pharmakeia is translated as sorcery. Pharmakeia is clearly the word we get pharmacy and pharmaceutical from, so why is it translated sorcery? Let's dig in and see what we can discover about pharmakeia.

Watch Ye Therefore. Ye Whom? Watch What? Luke 21:36 says "Watch ye therefore, and pray always...". Watch what? The traditional view is that we need to be watching world events. But does anyone not know about the events taking place in the world? Let's look at the context of "watch ye therefore" and see if there is a deeper meaning.

Gospel Of The Firstfruits Acts 1:8 says the disciples will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes, and they will witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. I had always focused on the tongues of fire. But 1:8 says two things, receive power AND witness. And that witness is to flow out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Let’s look at the first chapters of Acts to see how Acts 1:8 was fulfilled. And has a future fulfillment too.

Is the COVID-19 Vaccine the Mark of the Beast? Some have said that the COVID-19 vaccine is the Mark of the Beast. Is there any truth to that? Is that what the Bible says? The Mark of the Beast is mentioned in a few verses in the Book of Revelation. Among other things, it refers to preventing commerce to people without the Mark. Multiple sources are now discussing restricting travel and other activities without a "vaccine passport". So, does it follow that the COVID-19 then is the Mark of the Beast?

The Other Kinsman Redeemer - In the book of Ruth, we see an example of the kinsman redeemer, in this case Boaz redeemed Ruth, her mother in law Naomi, and their land. It is a love story complete with drama and a happy ending. And this short story also provides us with a picture (a type or foreshadowing) of Jesus Christ and the church. The phrase "kinsman redeemer" is translated from the Hebrew word "goel", but there is another use of the word goel which is obscured in English. Let's explore this other goel, and see what we can learn about it.

The Throne of David And The Daughters Of Zelophehad Here's a puzzle from the Bible. It says that Jesus will sit on the throne of King David. It also says that King Jeconiah, who is descended from David, will never have a descendant on the throne. So how can Jesus, apparently a descendant of Jeconiah, sit on the throne of David?

On Vultures' Wings The popular Christian song "On Eagle's Wings" by Michael Joncas is based partly on a verse from the Bible, Exodus 19:4, which says "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself." Let's see what lessons we can dig out of this short verse.

A Tale Of Two Natures The story of Israel warring with Amalek has much meaning under the surface, typology rich with symbolism for us today.  We have two natures, and we need to fight the Amalek within us, and this story shows us the battle is both physical and spiritual. As a church or as a nation, we win as long as we hold up the arms of our leaders. As individuals, we win as long as we amplify our physical efforts with the spiritual tools of prayer and Bible study.

Anxiety In Perilous Times I think it is clear that we have entered perilous times. What should our response be? Depression? Alcohol? Prepping? Study prophecy? I think Psalm 91 can help us cope with anxiety by comforting us and assuring us of God's love for us and His plan for us. Let's examine Psalm 91 more closely in light of today's perilous times.

It's A Jungle Out There The jungle metaphor is common in America. It pictures a brutal world view, where people are vicious to each other, likening humans to animals in the jungle. "The real world is severe. It's hard to get by in everyday life." With the riots in America, it feels more like a jungle than ever. Even the jungle has laws, but the rioters want lawlessness and anarchy.

The Kinsman Redeemer Ruth is traditionally read at Pentecost. One reason is the events of the book of Ruth take place during the barley and wheat harvest season. But we as Christians have more reasons to study the book of Ruth. The events described are filled with prophetic meaning for us, some fulfilled, some still future.  Consider that Naomi pictures Israel, Ruth pictures the church, and Boaz the kinsman redeemer pictures Christ.

A Tale of Two Prophecies A prophecy by Jacob about Judah. A prophecy about his descendant Boaz. Three laws that are foreign to us. These all work together to produce Israel's longest running monarchy beginning with King David. Foretold in advance in a hidden code. Not only that, but Boaz pictures Jesus Christ, our Kinsman Redeemer.

Is Corona Virus The Pale Horse? - Even people who know very little about the Bible will recognize the term "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" from the book of Revelation. And most people know to associate the fourth horse, the Pale Horse, with death and disease. The Corona Virus COVID-19 looks like it could fit that description. Let's see.

The Paradigm: A Pattern For America -Many stories in the Bible serve as patterns of events to come later. The Bible records the reign of King Ahab and his wife Jezebel over the northern kingdom of ancient Israel. The characters and events of their rise and fall are a type for characters and events occurring right now in America, impossible as that seems. See the astonishing lists of parallels uncovered by Jonathan Cahn between ancient Israel and modern America. What does it mean?.

Well Well Well Sometimes, two or more Bible stories will share a common theme, phrase or unusual word. It is like the Bible is telling us to consider the stories together. And sometimes, two Bible stories are related simply because they are next to each other. By comparing companion stories, we gain more insight and dig out the deeper meanings.

The story of the Samaritan woman that meets Jesus at Jacob's well is an example of both types of stories. In this article, I compare Old Testament stories of men meeting women at wells with the Samaritan woman meeting Jesus; AND compare Nicodemus's meeting with Jesus to the Samaritan woman's meeting.

To Breed Or Not To Breed -More things you can learn even if you don't want to. In this article, I explore the philosophy known as anti-natalism, which is the notion that it would be better if humans were not born.

Epispasm -The things you can learn even if you don't want to.

Cover It With Covering -There is symbolism in Noah’s ark that has parallels with Atonement, also known as Yom Kippur. Read the surprising connections between Noah's Ark and the Day of Atonement, and why that is of interest to Christians.


The Omer - Make Mine A Double -The day the Wave Sheaf Offering is made is often called Firstfruits, and so is the Feast of Pentecost. The offering on Pentecost is double the offering on Wave Sheaf Day. What does this doubling mean? The Sabbath day was revealed to ancient Israel by a double portion of Manna. How is the double portion of Manna and the double offering connected? Read about the significance of "doubling".

You Don't Know What You Don't Know - Psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger have repeatedly shown that people who aren't good at something often overestimate their performance. And people who ARE good at something underestimate their performance. In this article, I explore what the Dunning-Kruger effect means individually, in politics, and in religion. With a message of hope.

Lessons From UN-Leavened Bread - The Bible commands us to keep Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. There is fascinating symbolism in leaven and in unleavened bread. Each year when these days roll around, I make unleavened bread. It helps me get into the spirit of the season. Here are some of my observations on lessons from making Unleavened Bread.

It's All About The Benjamins - The tribe of Benjamin can get overlooked by students of the Bible. It became the smallest of tribes, down to 600 men at one point. But Benjamin played a key role in ancient Israel by saving the tribe of Judah from destruction, and a key role in the New Testament church, a little known fact is that all the Apostles were Benjamites. Historians trace Benjamin to the modern countries of Iceland and Norway. Read the surprising history of Israel's smallest tribe.

Wrestling With Strangers - I've been puzzling over the story of Jacob wrestling with God for a while. At first, Jacob did not know it was God he was wrestling with. So questions occur to me. How exactly does one start a wrestling match with a stranger? Who started it? If this were a fight for survival with a stranger, why would Jacob choose wrestling as the best form of combat? These questions prevented me from seeing the more important point of the story.

Church of God Legacy The Church that Jesus started began small, one can wonder if it had any impact on the world throughout history. In this blog, I show that this Church was instrumental in writing the New Testament, preserving the text of the New Testament, and translating it into the languages of the people. The major translations of the Middle Ages were all based on earlier Church of God translations. And the publication of the Bible has shaped Western Civilization.

I'm Tired, Boss In the movie The Green Mile, John Coffey is tired of living because people are being "ugly to each other". He wants rest that he thinks only comes in the grave. We all desire rest. Where will it come from? 

Feast Of Trumpets: Memorial Of What? The Feast of Trumpets has the shortest description of all the Holy Days listed in Leviticus 23. The only thing it tells us to do that sets it apart from the other Holy Days is blow trumpets as a memorial. Which begs the question, “memorial of what?”

Five Spiritual Senses? "Spiritual blindness" is a common phrase. Spiritual blindness is even referred to in Amazing Grace, a very well known hymn, "I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see". Does the analogy extend to other senses? Many argue that there are five spiritual senses corresponding to the five physical senses. In this article, I explore the idea of "Five Spiritual Senses".

Filthy Rags The Bible is interconnected in surprising ways. It is humbling to see connections after years of study that were there all along. In this post, I show how four stories in Genesis are related to each other, and in my mind to a passage in Isaiah.

How Can The Law Set You Free? The Apostle James called it the Law of Liberty, or Law of Freedom. It seems contradictory,  freedom implies choice, law implies restricting choice. Well, which is it? Is it true? How does the law give freedom?

Bethlehem Sometimes we can miss so much of a Bible story if we don’t understand the historical and cultural context in which it was written. It’s impossible to shed our own culture completely, but the story of Bethlehem shows how important it is to understand the life and times of Jesus Christ. The proper context is not visible unless we understand the point of view of the shepherds in the field, and that society’s culture.

Unmasked Every culture has a tradition of wearing masks.  Why do people wear masks? What is their origin? And meaning? What does a mask hide? What does it reveal? Let's take a look at the origins and meaning of masks.

Joshua's Left Foot Both Moses and Joshua were told to remove their sandals because where they stood was holy. But the instructions are slightly different for each. Rabbi Hayyim Angel has a theory why the instructions are different and what that might mean. Let's take a look.

Esther Pays An Old Debt I always thought of the Purim story as a Jewish girl who rescued the Jewish nation. But, Rabbi David Fohrman points out that Esther and Mordecai were not Jews ethnically. They were descended from Benjamin. He also says that the story of Esther is linked to the story of Joseph in Egypt. Let's see how and why that's important.

Truth Changes Everything Why do people not heed the truth? What happened to being a lover of the truth? Because truth would require people to change. Here I ramble a bit on how hard it can be to act on learning a new truth.
Rhythm And Rhyme - The Old Testament is at least one third poetry, but Hebrew poetry isn't like English poetry, so until the 18th century, Western scholars did not even recognize the OT was filled with poetry. The key to appreciating biblical poetry is parallelism. In this article, I examine parallelism in Biblical poetry, and a deeper look at the parallelism in Psalm 67, the Menorah Psalm.

Spin The Bible Wheel - The Bible Wheel displays the books of the Bible in a two dimensional way ie circular, not simply as a linear list of books. It is based on the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the 66 books of the Protestant Bible making three concentric rings. It reveals hidden structures between books of the Bible. Take a closer look at it.

Hearing The Voice Of God - Amos predicted a famine of the Word, possibly meaning that no one hears the voice of God anymore. It may be no one is listening anymore. How God does talk to people? In a thundering voice? Or a low whisper? Or through His Word, our thoughts, and our lives?

Religious Nutjob Yes, I've been called a religious nutjob. As far as I know, not for anything I've written here. What is a religious nutjob anyway? When I look at what people do in the name of God, I am sometimes embarrassed to call myself a believer. Here I explore some aspects of religious nutjobbery. 

A Tale Of Two Sons The Apostle Paul uses the two sons of Abraham to talk about the two covenants. But there is another, older connection between the boys. the story of Isaac and Ishmael foreshadows a ceremony at the Tabernacle hundreds of years later. Consider this, one was (almost) sacrificed, one was sent away. This is exactly what happens during Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement in English. 

Work Versus Work There are two Hebrew words translated as work, avodah and melacha, both used in the Sabbath commandment. "Six days shall you avodah, and do all your melacha." - Exodus 20:8. I thought it would be easy and helpful to understand the difference between the two words for work. Not as easy as I thought.

Total Solar Eclipse: Apocalypse? Aug 21, 2017, people in the United States (and only the United States) will be able to see a total solar eclipse, coast to coast. Is this just an ordinary astronomical event? Or is it a sign from God Himself? Big deal or no?

The Story About Dinah Is Not About Dinah No words of Dinah are recorded. No thoughts or feelings of Dinah are recorded. Indeed, she is silent throughout the story. This maelstrom of deceit and violence and plunder and anger swirls around Dinah, but it appears no one ever thought to ask her how she felt, or what she thought. So I submit that the story about Dinah is not about Dinah.

The Other Ark of Moses The ark of the covenant and Noah's ark are translated from two different Hebrew words, but there are similarities between them. Noah's ark was covered inside and out with pitch (kafar)And it turns out the ark of the covenant had a cover called the kapporet, the same root Hebrew word as kafar or kippur.

Day Of Coverings In English, we call Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement. The Bible doesn't even call the day Yom Kippur, it calls it Yom HaKippurim or Yom Kippurim, plural not singular kippur. One meaning then of Yom HaKippurim is Day Of (The) Coverings. Why multiple coverings? And what do they mean?

The Ark of Moses Tevah is the Hebrew word for both Noah's ark and Moses' ark. What can we learn by comparing and contrasting the two uses of tevah? How are Noah and Moses alike? different? And what theme connects the two?

The Evolution of Matzoh  Those of us that keep Passover expect to eat square crackers called matzoh at the service, matzoh probably made by Mannishevitz. In nearly four decades of Passover observance, I don't recall anything but these matzohs. Some people love them, most just tolerate them, and some liken them to cardboard without all the flavor. The point is that when most of us think of matzoh, this is what we picture. Here's a look at how matzohs came to be the product we see today.

Why Write A Blog  In particular, why do I write this blog? I was prompted to ask myself this question after watching a TED talk called "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek. I was poised over my keyboard and ready to answer that with a fairly short statement, and I thought "why do other people write blogs?" ... An autobiographical look at why I write.

Here Comes The Groom  Many Jewish wedding customs from betrothal to the marriage supper foreshadow events in the Bible, past, present, and future. Many events and sayings in the Bible make more sense when viewed through the lens of a wedding. Here are a few such elements.

Unleavened  Beer? - People who keep the days of Unleavened Bread often ask "what about beer?" knowing that bread and beer are both made with yeast. There is much more than answering "it's not the days of unleavened beer". Let's see if we can sort out fact from tradition.

The Life Is In the Blood In 1898, Henry Clay Trumbull wrote "The Blood Covenant" documenting rituals and beliefs about blood from cultures around the world. He also showed the Biblical significance of a blood covenant. As Wayne Nelson of Faithwriters said "The importance of understanding the Blood Covenant is found in the fact that the basis of Christianity is rooted in a Blood Covenant." This article is a synopsis of the blood covenants of the Bible, with Abraham, ancient Israel, and the New Covenant as well.

What's In A Name? - The Gospel can be summarized in a few sentences. But the name of the players reveals a deeper message. Many believe there are no random names in the Bible, that everyone is named according to who they are or who they will become. Looking at the names in the Gospel account reveals a deeper meaning.

The Cross At Auschwitz On the grounds of Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau, the Catholic Church erected a 26 foot tall cross in 1984 to commemorate Pope John Paul II's visit to Auschwitz five years earlier. Jewish people took offense at this as it was primarily Jews that died there, upwards of 1.5 million Jews died there. Gabriel Wilensky argues that "Absent Christianity, no Holocaust would have taken place."  That is a very strong statement to make, so let's review the history and the logic.

Goliath The Underdog - The phrase "David and Goliath" has taken on a secular meaning, denoting an underdog situation, a contest where a smaller, weaker opponent faces a much bigger, stronger adversary. That is, David is portrayed as the underdog. But is David really the underdog? Malcom Gladwell makes the argument that David had the advantage, and Goliath was simply big and clumsy and nearly blind. Let's review the original story, and Gladwell's ideas, then decide for yourself.

A Tale Of Two Siblings - The story of Cain and Abel foreshadows a ceremony at the Tabernacle thousands of years later. Consider this, the righteous one was killed, the guilty one was sent away. This is exactly what happens during Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement in English. Two goats were selected, one goat sacrificed for the Lord (who was treated more "humanely" than Abel), and one goat to be removed, Azazel in Hebrew often translated scapegoat in English. The Azazel goat bore the guilt of the nation of Israel.

A Tale Of Two Seas - The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are both fed by the Jordan River, separated  by only 63 miles, yet these two "seas" couldn't be more different. Galilee, is full of life, including 35 species of fish. The Dead Sea is just that, dead. It is so salty (35%) that nothing plant or animal lives in it. One analogy likens water to the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit flows through us like the Jordan flows through the Sea of Galilee, life is produced in abundance. In other words, Jesus must flow through us, producing fruit like love, joy peace, etc. When one keeps the Spirit for themselves, perhaps through selfishness, greed, or fear, it becomes stagnant, not producing fruit.

Form Follows Function, Function Follows Form - Do you ever wonder why churches look the way they do? Ever think about the elements they have in common? A church wouldn't be a church without a pulpit, would it? It's located on the chancel. Here's the key thing - the chancel and especially the pulpit are reserved for the clergy. The choir and the organist also have their assigned places on the chancel. In many churches there is a dividing screen between nave and chancel.

A Harvest Of Muslims - When I look at the situation in the Middle East, I see chaos and warfare. But it seems that when God looks at the Middle East, He sees "the fields are ripe for harvest". What kind of harvest? A harvest of souls as it were. Tens of millions of Muslims are leaving Islam and converting to Christianity, often at great risk to themselves. And they're doing this in the middle of a war zone.

The More I Learn About Islam, the More I Hate It - Islam has been in the news a lot lately, with Syrian refugees pouring into Europe, the vast majority of these refugees being Muslim males. Many Europeans are uncomfortable with the influx, for several reasons: financial, crime, integration, terrorist Trojan horses. Rapes and other violence from the refugees has skyrocketed, so some cities and countries want to ship them back.  Those who welcome them in argue that "Islam is a religion of peace", and cite humanitarian grounds. What is the truth about Islam?

Is Leaven Sin? - Many churches who observe the Days of Unleavened Bread teach that leaven symbolizes sin. They base this on Jesus' words "beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees" in Matthew 16:6. The message was initially lost on the audience (the 12 disciples) because they thought He was talking about bread. Let's see how Jesus Himself interpreted leaven. In verse 12 of Matthew 16, Matthew says they (the disciples) understood Jesus was talking about the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Well, which is it? Does leaven represent sin or does it represent doctrine?

I Am A Worm - Gospel In A Grub - "I am a worm, and not a man." - Ps 22:6. When I read that, I always pictured an earthworm. But, Jesus was not thinking of earthworms in Psalm 22. Digging deeper we learn that there are two words for worm in Hebrew, one meaning maggot (rimmah), and the other meaning crimson worm (tola'at shani).  The word in Psalm 22:6 is tola'at shani. What is the symbolism of the crimson worm?

Paradise Pi - A Slice Of Heaven - Most Bible believers recognize that the Scriptures are deeper than the words on the surface, that is, the text has layers of meaning. Christian commentaries however seldom dig past the surface meaning of the words written. Not that they're wrong (well, sometimes they are), but that they usually don't dig deeper into the text. The Jews teach that every passage has four levels, from simple to hint to insight to secret. Let's look closer at these four levels of meaning - P'shat, Remez, D'rash, and Sod; or Simple, Hint, Insight, Mystery.

DIY Salvation - In a TV show I watched recently, a man undertook a Native American ritual of self inflicted pain to "set things right in the universe". He suffered severe pain and deprivation to make amends for wrongs he had done, after which his daughter was healed. Of course, that's TV. But the notion of self inflicted pain for spiritual gain is not confined to Native Americans, it is in many religions. Does this "Do It Yourself Atonement" work? Can I make it right with the universe by inflicting pain on myself? Can I do acts of charity to balance out the score?

The French Connection - The day of the Shemitah came and went. Skeptics feel justified in their skepticism, that life goes on just as it did before. Or in Bible language "For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." Maybe one needs to look in the right place for events associated with the Shemitah, which according to Jonathan Cahn was Sept 13, 2015. While the focus of the Shemitah warnings were given to America, perhaps we should also look at Israel.

Was Jesus Angry at the Leper? - In Mark 1:41, we read a story of Jesus healing a leper, simple enough on the surface, but with a puzzling aspect. 40 And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, "If You are willing, You can make me clean." 41 Becoming angry, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be  cleansed."  One translation says "Jesus was indignant". Was Jesus angry at the leper? If so, why?

Ten Little Known Facts About the Ten Commandments - The Ten Commandments are famous. Many Christians will know them by heart, at least the short form of each. Non Christians will even know some of them, or at least be aware they exist. Jewish people certainly know them. But how well do we know them? Can you recite them in their short form? In their long form? Is there more to them than just memorizing the list? See how many of these "little known facts" about the Ten Commandments you already knew.

Incensed - In the tabernacle of ancient Israel, incense, often referred to as fragrant incense, was burned twice daily for God's enjoyment,. Since we are made in the image of God, let us assume that smells that please us also please Him and vice versa. What does incense have to do with the birth of Christ?

The Unpublished Bible - There are lots of Bible translations published these days. According to Wikipedia, the Bible has been translated fully into 531 languages and paritally into 2883.  And of course, the Old Testament is readily available in Hebrew, the New Testament available in Greek. But one combination does not exist. What if you want the OT Hebrew and the NT Greek in one volume? Granted most people wouldn't be interested, perhaps only Biblical scholars, but as far as I know, this particular combination is not published. And it would require NO translation, how easy is that?

Into the Holy Of Holies - The Holy of Holies was a cube shaped room in the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and later in the Temples in Jerusalem. It was the inner room of the Holy Place. To get into it, one would have to enter the Tabernacle courtyard, pass the bronze altar, the bronze laver, enter the holy place, pass the showbread and lampstand and altar of incense, enter a special curtain on one side and walk to the other side to finally enter the Holy of Holies. It was a big deal. But only the High Priest (Cohen Ha Gadol) could make that trip, and he could only make it once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). But there is another way in.

Shemitah -- She WHAT? - The Shemitah, known in English as the land sabbath occurs every seven years. What has that got to do with the world today? More than I ever thought possible. Can a little known law given to ancient Israel affect world events now? Let's look at Shemitah years of the last century to see that the Shemitah is still in effect.

A Tale Of Two Sighs - There are many kinds of sighs, a contented sigh say at the end of a productive day, an anguished sigh of frustration when your computer crashes again. and many more shades of sighing. You can read about some of the science of sighing at Scientific American blog. But I know what you're thinking, "what's that got to do with Noah's flood?"

Mmmm... Fat - I had always thought that the Bible forbade eating fat, so I trimmed my steaks, but I also believed "marbled fat is OK". Was this only kidding myself? What about sausages or hamburger? Even if the package says 90% lean, the other 10% is still fat (assuming that's bad of course). The problem is that fat is tasty, lots of flavors like spices are soluble in fat, making it even tastier. Is fat OK?

Ethiopian? Eunuch? - The deacon Phillip, often called Phillip the evangelist, apparently didn’t suffer from ill chosen words like me. When the deacon Phillip met the Ethiopian eunuch, described in Acts, it culminatied in the baptism of the Ethiopian. From the view of the 21st century, we perhaps don’t see how remarkable this story is. From the view of a 1st century Jew, it has some puzzling features. Ordinarily Jews would not associate with Gentiles, though he appeared to be what the Bible refers to as "God fearing", perhaps a Jewish proselyte. Eunuchs would not be allowed in the Temple, yet he was returning from worshiping in Jerusalem. We take Bibles for granted, but he was reading a scroll of Isaiah, at a time when scrolls were rare and precious, the equivalent of new car today. Most striking is that the Ethiopian eunuch would be the first Gentile convert to Christianity -- before the Apostle Peter met Cornelius. Peter was more reluctant than Phillip, he explained to Cornelius that it was against Jewish law to visit a Gentile.

What Is Truth? - We fall in love with our own ideas. People often merely reinforce their existing beliefs, in other words “our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept”. Researchers found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds.  But not all ideas are right even though we strongly believe our own ideas are.

26- Let me introduce you to my friend 26, a very interesting number. I picked 26 because God’s name is associated with it. His name is not associated with more popular numbers like seven or 12, but 26. Why 26? Proverbs 25:2 says It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.  Can we search out this matter?

The Koran Points to Jesus Christ - I am not an expert on Islam or the Koran. I have not read the Koran. Until very recently, I had not read any of the Koran. Now I can say I have read a few verses. So why would I say that the Koran points to Jesus? Because it's not my idea, I got it from a former imam (Muslim priest) whose Western name is Mario Joseph.

Audition For Battle - Imagine this. You’re the king, but three armies are bearing down on you. You can’t withstand one of them, much less three. What do you do? Surrender? Call your generals? Fight to the last man? Hide? Or maybe like Jehosaphat of ancient Israel, you audition a choir. That’s right, audition a choir.

Four Faces of the Gospel - The four Gospels parallel the four “living beings” of Revelation 4, and also parallel ancient Israel. The four living beings have four different faces - lion, ox, man, and eagle. The banners or flags that ancient Israel camped by had the same four faces. These same faces are also associated with the four Gospel messages.

Camping Foreshadows the Gospel - The story of the Exodus, ancient Israel leaving Egypt for the Promised Land, is rich with symbolism, perhaps more than any other event in the Bible.  Consider some parallels between Exodus and the life of a believer.  Egypt pictures slavery or bondage to sin.  Pharaoh pictures the evil one, the one we were enslaved to.  Crossing the Red Sea pictures deliverance from that bondage. Wandering for 40 years in the wilderness pictures a lifetime of testing, training, and proving. They didn't really wander in the wilderness – God led them the whole time by a pillar of fire or pillar of smoke. Crossing the Jordan to the Promised Land is a second deliverance, this time by Joshua.  The Promised Land was their reward. But they lived in tents, camping, for forty years.

Hamas in the Bible - HAMAS, the Palestinian Sunni Islamic organization, is actually an acronym, chosen to spell the Arabic word “hamas”, meaning zeal or enthusiasm. But it is also a Hebrew word hamas, meaning violence. Hamas suggests immoral, cruel violence.

The Gospel In Six - What if I told you that God managed to pack the gospel into one word of six letters? Yes we have to go back to Hebrew to see it. But it is the very first word in the Bible. In English, the Bible starts “In the beginning”, in Hebrew it starts “beresheet”. The word Beresheet has also come to mean the first book of Moses, what we call Genesis in English. Since Hebrew is written without vowels, this gives different ways to parse a word like beresheet. We will consider three ways.

The Scroll of Esther - Esther is the origin story for the Jewish Festival of Purim, which occurs the 14th of Adar on the Hebrew calendar, sometime in March on the Roman calendar.  In the story, Haman is bent on exterminating the Jews, and Esther, who had become queen, and her uncle Mordecai play key roles in saving them, and in a twist of fate, Haman gets hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.  Then Esther asks that the sons of Haman also be hanged, even though it seems they were already dead. The Torah scroll of Esther has some unusual characteristics, large letters and small. What is the meaning of them?

Sycamore of Ground Zero - On September 11, 2001, a steel beam falling from the north tower of the World Trade Center would have damaged a small church named St. Paul's Chapel if it had not struck a Sycamore tree. Instead, this Sycamore tree was cut off and gave its life to protect the Chapel.  St. Paul's Chapel, across the street from the World Trade Center site on Church Street soon became a de facto dormitory and relief center for rescue workers in the days after 9/11. What's so special about St. Paul's Chapel?  Was this coincidence?  Or can we see God's hand at work?  Does God care about church buildings?

How To Comfort- In 2011, I spent three weeks in the hospital after a stroke in which I was paralyzed on my right side. I have regained much movement, but still have a limp and right sided weakness.  I think I learned some things about comforting that I thought I would share with you. This is all based on my experience, not research. These are just my observations. You can observe a lot just by watching… Let me start on the lighter side with some of my pet peeves…

The Horns of Moses - In Rome, in the church of San Pietro , there is a famous statue of Moses, done by the famous sculptor Michelangelo (Buonarroti). It depicts Moses with horns -- discreet horns, but horns nonetheless. According to Wikipedia, "This was the normal medieval Western depiction of Moses". Why is he depicted with horns? What was Michelangelo thinking?

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