Showing posts from 2011

An Old Testament Skeleton

The Old Testament is a huge book and as a teacher I am constantly looking for tips and tricks to help the layperson sort all these pieces together.  It covers 2000+ years of recorded history, and is written by at least 40 different people.  Sometimes you need mental pegs to hold all the material.  Without a knowledge of the OT, it really makes the New Testament more confusing.  

One resource I have used again and again is 10 keys dates to help put everything into context.  You can fit everything into this historical framework.  

2000  Abraham1500  Exodus1000  David/Solomon/Division720    Israel Falls to Assyria600    Judah Falls to Babylon530    Exiles Return300    Greek Rule160    Maccabees60      Roman Rule4BC    Birth of ChristGranted, most of these dates are rounded off, but it sure makes it easier to remember.

The Forge 12.28.2011

If you have any money left over from Christmas, then here's a book suggestion.  Fr. Andrew Damick's Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy.  It's an excellent summary of the every conceivable variation of Christianity and other world religions in comparison with Orthodoxy.  It is well-written and you don't need a seminary education to understand. I would easily recommend this book to any high-school or college student trying to understand their faith.  

Have you heard the theory about the date of Christmas?  That Christians co-opted a pagan festival for their own purposes.  Here's a great article questioning that popular notion:  Calculating Christmas

Even if we did adopt a pagan celebration, this article artistically says "So What", and proclaims that "Christmas means that the unconquerable god of the Romans just got conquered. A pagan Roman holiday just got stuffed with more Christianity than a December Turkey stuffed with spiced bread crumbs."

And since we ar…

Judges - Living Springs of a Broken Heart

The first chapters of Judges overlap the ending of Joshua and set the stage for the remainder of the book.  The tribe of Judah becomes the new leader to drive out the rest of the Canaanites, and a familiar face from the sons of Judah appears once more.  Back in the wilderness, 12 spies were picked to scout out the land, and only two embraced the promise of God and the hope of victory.  The rejection of conquest by the majority relegated the people to 40 yrs of wandering, but the two faithful spies, Joshua and Caleb, became future leaders for the people of Israel.  

The last years of Caleb’s life mentioned in Joshua are recounted again in this first chapter.  Aged Caleb needs help conquering the last remaining bits of his inheritance, and seeks out a man of bravery with the promise of his daughter’s hand in marriage.  The man that steps forward from Caleb’s tribe of Judah is Othniel.  Othniel appears a couple chapters later as the first judge mentioned in this new era of Israel, but thi…

Christ is Born! A Song of the Virgin to her Newborn Child

Hymns on the Nativity of Christ: Hymn 11 St. Ephraim the Syrian (The Virgin Mother to Her Child.) I shall not be jealous, my Son, that You are with me, and also with all men. Be God to him that confesses You, and be Lord to him that serves You, and be Brother to him that loves You, that You may gain all! When You dwelled in me, You also dwelled out of me, and when I brought You forth openly, Your hidden might was not removed from me. You are within me, and You are without me, O You that makes Your Mother amazed. For [when] I see that outward form of Yours before my eyes, the hidden Form is shadowed forth "in my mind," O holy One. In Your visible form I see Adam, and in Your hidden form I see Your Father, who is joined with You. Have You then shown me alone Your Beauty in two Forms? Let Bread shadow forth You, and also the mind; dwell also in Bread and in the eaters thereof. In secret, and openly too, may Your Church see You, as well as Your Mother. He that hates Your Brea…

Judges - No God?

Before reading, here are a couple thoughts about the setup for the book of Judges.  Chronology is almost impossible to pin down.  Even though each cycle from sin to salvation is given a number of years of oppression then a number of years for peaceful rest, to total all those years generates a calculation either too long or too short for what we know about the time from Moses to King David.  It appears the author is giving us snippets and vignettes from this time, as evidence each tribe gets a representative judge.  Then in the middle of the of the list of judges, full attention and space is given to the man Gideon.  The structure alone suggests the author is not recounting a linear history, but has a design in place, without Gideon being highlighted as the ideal judge.  
The book begins by giving the third-born tribe of Judah a new preeminence, guaranteed by God’s stamp of approval.  This has been coming for some time, even in Genesis, we find the older two brothers abdicating their l…

The Forge 12.21.2011

Christmas is right around the corner, and there's plenty of interesting Christmas posts floating around the ether.  Mystagogy has as an interesting set of links regarding the phrase "there is no room at the inn".  This has become a standard Christmas theme especially in plays, cards, and TV movies, but the meaning may be different than you think.

A good friend and fellow blogger Rick Mansfield posted a Christmas quiz that he used in his Sunday School class.  Check it out and see if your Biblical Christmas knowledge is as good as you think it is.  Christmas Quiz.

Here's a great Christmas post by a fellow St. Michael blogger, that has some great resources for celebrating Christmas with the kiddos, information about the Nativity Fast, and how to prepare for the coming birth of the King.  

Evlogia has been crafting a series of posts on the Jesse Tree that are wonderful to read.  The Jesse Tree follows the Old Testament path to the birth of Christ.  This is such a brill…

Here's to the Israelite Judges

I stumbled onto this great poem by Fr. Lawrence Farley, and because of ongoing Sunday School preparation the book of Judges is almost always on my mind.  I hope you enjoy, and make sure to add Fr. Lawrence to your blog reader, and check out his books as well.

Here’s to the Israelite Judges
Here’s to the Israelite judges: lying facedown and forgotten, buried in the backpages, doomed to molder, their very names left unpronounced by all save German scholars who sit in towers of Teutonic irrelevance, scribbling unreadable tomes for the anaemic. They deserved better.
Here’s to the Israelite judges: not old men who sit heavily on British benches, white wigs perched ridiculously on bald pates consulting books, handing out sentences, but young men, running furiously down foothills, their hot blood intent on their cold swords, shouting wildly to the wind about God and death and freedom, young men whose arms hugged their women hard and hoisted their children high, and brandished their swords swiftly so that thei…

The Pearl 3:3 - The Seed of Grace Bears Fruit

St. Ephrem's The Pearl 3:3

The Queen of Sheba
Was a sheep that had come into the place of wolves;
The lamp of truth did Solomon give her,
Who also married her when he fell away.

She was enlightened and went away,
But they were dark, as their manner was.

The bright spark which went down home with that blessed [Queen],
Held on its shining amid the darkness,
Till the new Day-spring came.

The bright spark met with this shining,
And illumined the place.

The Revelation of the End of All Things - The Anagogical Sense

There is a rumor, that north of this barren place exists a land lush with green rolling hills dotted with flowers, bird, and butterflies, flanked by large piney forests full of wild game and run through with streams and creeks.  The source of all this goodness is a river that gathers and spreads its fertile waters throughout the land.

The old ones tell of a time that at the edge of this fertile plateau, the river tumbled off into a waterfall sharing the nourishment of this northern country with our own.  Some tyrant full of greed dammed the waters of this generous river, plugging off life from our little plot of earth.  Now we hovel in the sides of ditches, onetime creeks fed from above, sheltering ourselves from the elements, looking for a puddle of moisture to slack our constant thirst.  

Rushing at us with panicked excitement, a horseman cries out for us to climb out of our trenches and run from these cracked beds.  He speaks of an unknown warrior who defeated the tyrant that had spr…

The Forge 12.14.2011

Here are this weeks miscellaneous gatherings:

The Bible is a scented garden, delightful, beautiful, it chants our ears with birdsong in a sweet, divine, and spiritual harmony, it touches our heart, comforts us in sorrow, soothes us in a moment of anger, and fills us with eternal joy.  -St. John of Damascus

If you like unique slices of history, this site does a great job of pieces together little known stories of American Christian History

If you are a American news junkie, you tend to get the same story regardless of whether you are watching Fox, MSNBC, or CNN.  Regardless of your feelings about the so called "Arab Spring", it has not been good for Christians or Jews in the region.  Here's a different take on the situation in Syria from an American who traveled there and was shocked at what he found:

Here's a story about a recently discovered ancient Christian city in Egypt:…

Judges and Bible Thumping

We recently started going through the book of Judges in our Sunday School class, and even though it traces event taken place long ago, the stories remain fresh. Here's a little intro, providing a short summary of the events:
Sin, Slavery, Supplication, & Salvation, I shout! 
An old-time preacher is channeling me with a 4 part alliterated list, yet this list summarizes the repeated cycle of this book.  The Bible reader got hints of this as Israel was in the wilderness, and glimpses in Joshua (remember the Achan story), but it is on full display in Judges, setting the stage as a microcosm of Israel’s history.  
The Pharisee in us all snickers at Israel’s continual fall into sin and slavery, and their cry of supplication for salvation from God.  In our distance from the events at hand, arrogance bubbles up, giving thanks to God that we are more enlightened than these ancient dolts, but if we allow a moment of reflection our life is shot through with this cycle as well. 
This past ye…

The Pearl 3:2 - The Faith to the Ends of the Earth

St Ephrem's The Pearl 3:2

Very glistening are the pearls of Ethiopia, as it is written,
Who gave thee to Ethiopia of black men.

He that gave light to the Gentiles,
Both to the Ethiopians and unto the Indians did His bright beams 

The eunuch of Ethiopia upon his chariot saw Philip:
The Lamb of Light met the dark man from out of the water.
While he was reading, the Ethiopian was baptised
And shone with joy, and journeyed on!

He made disciples and taught,
And out of black men he made men white.
And the dark Ethiopic women became pearls 
         for the Son;
He offered them up to the Father, as a glistening 
         crown from the Ethiopians.

Track 9 - Fulfillment

Track 9 - Fulfillment (Luke 1:46-55; 67-79)

For the final song on the Biblical soundtrack, two voices, come together as one, one a young girl unknown by man, raised by faith in holy seclusion, the other an old priest, without heirs, made mute by doubt before the holy.  Together they sing of fruitfulness at the coming of children destined to announce and bring deliverance to all mankind.

For centuries their people had waited for deliverance, stories had been told of Moses and their ancestors escaping the clutches of an evil Pharaoh, of Joshua driving out idolators, of heroes rescuing the oppressed by the miraculous hand of God, of King David unifying their people and his son Solomon exalting a nation to world prominance, of exile and return, of persecution and victory, only to ask, "Will my generation see God's hand, surely we are poor again and now is the time for salvation?"; and salvation came as a baby.

The previous 8 hymns have been revealing portions of the story of re…

The Forge 12.7.2011

An interesting article about the journey of the Belt of the Theotokos through Russia:

My book is now available for the Kindle:

A post on keeping the next generation in the Faith.  After spending so much time in the OT, I always worry that we are only one generation away from losing the faith.

If you are at all interested in iconography, spend some time on this site.  Hexaemeron teaches about icons and instruct on the "writing" of icons.

Love Wins - What it means to be saved

This is a wonderful visual of the nature of salvation and the truth that ultimately Love wins.

ht: Again and Again and many thanks to Steve Robinson

The Pearl 3:1 - Beauty Unadorned

Hymn 3:1 of St. Ephrem's The PearlThou dost not hide thyself in thy bareness, O pearl!
With the love of thee is the merchant ravished also,
For he strips off his garments;
Not to cover thee --
     (thy clothing is thy light, thy garment is thy brightness,
      O thou that art bared!)
Thou art like Eve who was clothed with nakedness.
Cursed be he that deceived her and stripped her and left her.
The serpent cannot strip off thy glory.
In the mysteries whose type thou art,
Women are clothed with Light in Eden.

November 2011 Top 6

The Forge 12.1.2011

Too bad we can't get the Occupy movement over to Turkey to protest this historical travesty

Poet Scott Cairns summarizes the Gospel in 5 words.  

Here's an incredible new resource that connects American Christians to Mt Athos.  This is an English journal connected to the VATOPAIDI MONASTERY on Mt. Athos.  The name of the journal is Pemptousia, meaning the Fifth Essence.  Check it out here:

And here is a sample article from Pemptousia:

Struggling with Scripture

In Sunday School we have been studying the Old Testament for the last several months, and at times it can be daunting.  
The stories aren't particularly difficult, but extracting meaning about God can feel like trying to squeeze water from a rock.  In a moment of honesty, a classmate asked the question we all think, but are afraid to ask in polite Christian company: "Why does the Bible have to be so hard?"  
My immediate reaction is to fall back onto Mark Twain's maxim: "“It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”  It's so much easier to fret over the identity of the third horn of the beast of the Apocalypse than work out "love your neighbor" in everyday life.  
Yet there's still a lot of text, and laws, and sacrifices, and rituals, and stories, and images that become hard to ignore.  After encountering the God of the Bible, it is hard to walk away contented, sensing tha…

The Pearl 2:2 -A Suffering Savior, A Suffering Faith

Hymn 2:2 of St. Ephrem's The Pearl
Shadowed forth in thy beauty is the beauty of the Son, Who clothed Himself with suffering when the nails passed through Him. The awl passed in thee since they handled thee roughly, As they did His hands; And because He suffered He reigned, As by the sufferings thy beauty increased. And if they showed no pity upon thee, Neither did they love thee: Still suffer as thou mightest, Thou has come to reign! Simon Peter showed pity on the Rock; Whoso hath smitten it, is himself thereby overcome; It is by reason of Its suffering That Its beauty hath adorned the height and the depth.

The Forge 11.23.2011

Baptists heading for Constantinople?

Here's a nice article by Clark Carlton on how salvation works

Science has learned the God helps resist temptation!

and now for the Geek Orthodox:

My eldest has this as his cell phone Christ is in our Midst

God Behaving Badly? (the resources)

I hope you enjoyed this series of post.  They were not designed to be airtight arguments against challenges to faith, but various ways to wrestle with our life in God.  

The title of the posts is taken from Evangelical Bible professor Dr. David Lamb's, God Behaving Badly, and here is an interview with Dr. Lamb

Here is part 1part 2part 3, part 4, and part 5.

Also here are several posts, videos, and podcasts that I found extremely helpful in sorting some of this out for myself:
Fr. Thomas Hopko addresses this question in 4 parts on his AFR podcast: 1.

The Pearl 2:1 - The Faith: A Reflection of the Only-Begotten

The Pearl 2:1 - The Faith: A Reflection of the Only-BegottenHymn 2:1 of St. Ephrem's The PearlWhereunto art thou like? Let thy stillness speak to one that hears; With silent mouth speak with us: For whoso hears the stammerings of thy silence,      to him thy type utters its silent cry concerning our Redeemer.
Thy mother is a virgin of the sea, though he took her not: She fell into his bosom, though he knew her not; She conceived thee near him, though he did not know her. Do thou, that art a type, reproach the Jewish women That have thee hung upon them.
Thou art the only progeny of all forms. Which art like to the Word on High, Whom singly the Most High begot. The engraven forms seem to be the type of created things above. This visible offspring of the invisible womb Is a type of great things.
Thy goodly conception was without seed, And without wedlock was thy pure generation, And without brethren was thy single birth. Our Lord had brethren and yet not brethren, Since He was an Only-Begotten. O solita…