Showing posts from 2012

Two Powerful Songs You May Never Have Heard

It's been a while since I have done posts that are pure recommendations, so here goes.

Yesterday, I learned that my book The Rest of the Bible had been quoted by one of my favorite online writers, Joel J Miller.  He was writing on the Two Songs of the Three Holy Youths in the Fiery Furnace, which is found only in the LXX Old Testament.

If you don't currently read his work, you need to subscribe to Joel J. Miller's posts on Patheos.  I will give you the link in a minute.

I have been following Joel for some time.  He's an Orthodox Christian who maintained his own blog, where he wrote great essays only too infrequently.

Recently he was picked up Patheos, and online repository for religion writing.  Since then his posts have become more regular and consistently good.  

Joel is the Vice President of Acquisitions and Editorial in the Non Fiction Trade Group at Thomas Nelson.  He is also the author of 5 books, and his recent Lifted by Angels has been highlighted through an…

Do You Know the Christmas Carol, "God Will Come From Teman?"

The carols of Christmas have begun as we prepare for the birth of Christ.  Joyous old hymns celebrating “The First Noel”, honoring a “Silent Night”, and hearing angels beckon “Come All You Faithful” pulse through speakers of our local marketplace.  Orthodox songs are absent in popular American life, so we may be less familiar with the words and meanings.  Leading up to the Nativity, several hymns repeat each service, bringing to us the theology of the Church and helping us understand the fullness of the Incarnation.  No service of the Christmas season is more full of wonder and theology than the Royal Hours preceding the celebration of the Nativity of Christ.  Hymns explaining the mystery of God becoming Man through the womb of a Virgin are scattered among litanies, Psalms, and Readings of Scripture.  Yet throughout this service a strange phrase is repeated:  click here for the rest Theron Mathis

How To Survive Political Disappointment

Wednesday, November 7, many Christians awoke to disappointing election results.  If not in the presidential race, then probably somewhere else---governor, senator, representative, school board, county coroner.  To appreciate the mood, here is a sampling of some of my favorite mournful and joyful Tweets: 
                          - read the rest here.
Theron Mathis

Thank You and A Free Gift

Thank you to all the readers of The Rest of the Bible!  

It's been a little over a year, since the print and ebook publication, and I continue to be encouraged by the response.

There is very little in print regarding those "extra" Old Testament books, and this book fit that need.

If you have ever wondered about the content of Tobit, the Maccabees, Judith, etc, but never had the time to dig and read, this book will give you an overview of each book as well as discussing how Christian throughout history have used and understand these stories.

Thank you as well to those who commented on Amazon.

Here are a sample of the reviews.

It is about time someone took to giving a good outline and reading companion to these books. So often they are overlooked because sadly most bibles do not include them. This is not only a readable book for those interested but in my mind opens up a world of 'forgotten' Scripture to the modern eyes.A simple but brilliant idea for a book. I do…

Scarcity and Abundance

In Adult Sunday School, we are reading St. John’s account of the feeding of the 5000.  This miracle of Jesus never fails to impress.  Five thousand men plus their families have come to Him to hear His teaching and perhaps get a glimmer of the miraculous because, for many in the crowd, there have been rumors of miracles: rumors that people were healed, blind could see, life was transformed into something new.  Who wouldn’t want to be present for something like this? This would be especially appealing after your life has been spent occupied and controlled by a foreign power, yet the promise of God to your family and religious leaders is that God has given you this land, you will be strong, you will be great, your kingdom will never end... read the rest here
Theron Mathis

Bible Landscaping Secrets

A couple years ago my main water line burst.  The fix was not a pretty sight.  Half my front yard was excavated leaving a landscaping nightmare.  Years later after much work and settling, the yard is beginning to recover.

Turning the earth from the bottom up brought up sizable prehistoric rocks into the front yard.  My first priority to restore any green grass was to remove these large rocks. 

From behind the house, the wheelbarrow made its appearance and I bribed a couple of my children to help dad move rocks out of the front yard.  Of course, for them it was not about moving rocks but looking for ancient fossils and possible dinosaur discoveries.  

Soon the big rocks were gone, but lo and behold there were still rocks.  Hidden among the large stones were others of lesser size, still preventing a lush landscape of enviable green grass from taking root.  

So these smaller stones were hauled away along with a "dinosaur tooth" or two.  

Now the work of planting grass could begin. …

Elderly Apostle John Chases Down Young Prodigal

In studying the Gospel of John, I stumbled upon a wonderful story of the Apostle John as an old man, and in memory of his repose today in the city of Ephesus the retelling seems appropriate.

John unlike many of the apostles seemed to have never married, being tasked with the care of the Virgin Mary.  Upon her repose, he left Jerusalem and traveled into Asia Minor, where he became the overseer of the churches there making his residence in the city of Ephesus.  During this time, he was exiled and tortured, but eventually made his way back to his beloved city as an old man.

John's life was inflamed by the love of God, and the story below demonstrates the zeal and passion that love had upon his life.
6. “Listen to a tale, which is not a mere tale, but a narrative concerning John the apostle, which has been handed down and treasured up in memory. For when, after the tyrant’s death, he returned from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus, he went away upon their invitation to the neighboring …

What is John's Mission in His Gospel?

I love the Gospel of John. 
If for no other reason, it is different.  Unlike the other three gospels, there is no birth story, no temptation, or no transfiguration. 
In Orthodoxy, we read John in the lectionary during the Easter season.  The Gospel for Easter Sunday is John’s Prologue in Chapter 1. 
This gives a clue as to why the Church thinks John was written.  The newly baptized experiencing their first Liturgy on Easter Sunday begin to read a new Gospel – the Gospel of John.  John himself proclaims his purpose for writing at the end of his book.  He wrote so that the reader would know that Jesus is the Son of God, and by trusting in Him, would have eternal life. 
John is designed to bolster faith, perhaps in the face of heresy, for there were many false teachers who questioned the fullness of Jesus’ humanity and divinity.  Or perhaps, John is trying to protect us not from the heresy of the head, but of the heart.  
In a later book, John chides his own flock in his adopted cit…

The Orthodox Mega-Church?

I believe in the mega-church. 
Over the last 30 years, American Christianity has seen the rise of the mega-church.  
According to sociologists, the mega-church is defined by having 2000+ members. 
In my backyard, exists the fifth largest church in the US, Southeast Christian Church, with a membership of 30k and average weekly attendance of 20k. 
No doubt this type of church can only exist in the numbers it does today, due to our mobile environment.  You can live 10 – 15 miles from the church, and still be an active participant due to quick and easy transportation.  Historically, you went to church where you lived, and usually within walking distance, and a church could only grow to such numbers in a densely populated area. 
Because of the size of these churches, certain advantages began to happen.  First is that growth generates more growth.  One trend-observer said: “You hit a certain size and you can become self-generating. You attract people by your sheer size. People know that you …

To Be Wise You Must Get Out Of Your Head

For years, I found myself geeking out at the intricacies of theology, the minutiae of textual criticism, the obscurities of history.  It’s one of the reasons I spent years in undergraduate and graduate school reading dusty books and ancient scholars.  Post-college, I continued dipping into various theologies as a pastime – some watch Sports Center, I picked up Lossky.  Finding my way to Orthodoxy did give me an ocean of theology so deep I often felt like I was drowning, but eventually I found my way back to shore only to come back another day. 

... continued here

The Problem of Orthodox Culture

Over the past months several Orthodox writers have taken up the topic of Orthodox culture and whether we can create one in this country.  Much of the writing flows out the pens of artists, so I am sure that this is a desire longing for an ethos where there is a richness of art seen in places like old Russia with majestic architecture, beautiful music and haunting works of literature. 
I long for this too.
What is the critical mass of people for such a culture to emerge?  Evangelicals have had this mass in America for some time, but only recently is there a serious arts movement bubbling up. 
Rather than a culture of high art, I propose we are looking for community, and this is the base where we must start. The magnet that draws Americans into the Evangelical world, robust Catholic life, and even stranger American movements such as Mormonism is not theology, but community.  This is a place where you can enter and every part of your life is infected by it. 
For these believers, opportuni…

Heading Off to the School of Christ

It’s that time of year again.  Tomorrow, my wife and I will help gather supplies into a well-worn book bag, and shuffle our eldest out the door to a new school.  Then one week later, the little ones will be ushered out of the house with notebooks, pencils, and a bagged lunch in hand.  School days, I love them.  For me, they bring up great memories, full of excitement at the newness waiting for me inside those classroom doors.  I think I could spend the rest of my life as a student, if it was only feasible to the wallet and the mortgage.  ....check out the rest at the Sounding.

A Dark Night Rises in My Heart

Here's a quick post I did for OCN in response to the tragedy in Colorado.  Make sure to read the others.  There are some really good reflections here.  I struggled with this one.

How a Dark Night Rises in My Heart

Why Should I Use the Words of Others When I Pray?

For years, I would come to God throughout the day and proscribed times to offer up prayers and commune with Him.  While at times, I found a form to follow when praying, it was always a rough formula based on the Lord's Prayer or some other scheme that tried to include all types of prayers such as Praise, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  
Not that these extemporaneous offerings were bad, but I noticed I would always same the same thing.  Novelty in prayer only lasts so long.  Perhaps my creativity is lacking, but look at the blessing before meals as example.  How many ways can you ask for God's blessing and offer Him thanks without eventually settling down into a certain rhythm?
Eventually I needed more form and certainty in what I was saying.  My prayers could easily devolve into selfishness and egotism, and saying those words daily was not shaping me into the likeness of Christ, but into a parody of myself.  
The solution was the words of others--written prayers.  Ch…

Why We Should Bring the World into the Church

Below you will find a link to my latest post on OCN's Blog the Sounding.

Why We Should Bring the World into the Church

How Do We Commune with Memories That Bring Life?

I grew up in the Deep South, and it was common for people to talk about the Civil War as if it was a current event rather than an event well deep into our nation's history.  Granted for some old timers, it had not been that long ago, and they and certainly their parents had felt its influence.
The memory of this war produced a wide range of effects.  A person could have nostalgia for a romantic version of the South that never existed, and others a sense of inferiority with a need to prove their worth to a larger nation.  
I am not wise enough to know the place of such memory, nor how they should affect our present.  In fact, as a nation we are not alone in this behavior.  Other older nations can often hold onto and live in the presence of memories centuries old.  
These memories do exist and we are wont to continue to live in them.  For not only do the positive memories our life and ancestors shape us, those memories that are less than pleasant often force us to live in communion wit…

9 Ways to Stay Awake During Church: From Sleepy to Sober

Below you will find a link to my latest post on OCN's Blog the Sounding.

Originally, I put this together as a ten minute talk for our local youth group.  They got to be my guinea pigs, and no one fell asleep during the talk so I took it as a good sign.

9 Ways to Stay Awake During Church

Are We Creating a Present for a Positive Future?

Think back to childhood and dredge up some good memories.  For me, my best memories as a kid have nothing to do without getting things.  In fact, I can't remember many birthday or Christmas gifts, but I do remember moments.  
I remember being in the front yard shooting cans out of the air with my dad.  I remember the mountain vacations with no TV to entertain, but being left to wander around the cabin and explore with my parents.  We bumped into old-timers with crazy stories, panned for gold, and rafted in whitewater.  
I rarely remember a lecture or instructions the adults in my life gave (not that they were not important), but I remember experiences:  a Sunday School teacher taking our class on a prison tour, a high school coach letting me hang at his house, or my father shuffling me through plowed fields looking for Indian relics.  
I am sure the lectures and teaching shaped my soul, but it's the meaningful experiences that let me slip back in time.  
Memory allows us to commun…

Journeys of Faith - A Review

Recently I received a copy of Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism.  It was written by Robert Plummer, a professor at Southern Seminary in Louisville.

Journeys presents the stories of conversion from one segment of Christianity to another.  These are not jumps between denominations, but leaps from the Protestant Evangelical world to Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism with one story in reverse of a cradle Catholic moving into Evangelicalism.

The book was setup in a wonderful format.  A person presented his story, then another would kindly refute the reasons given for leaving the former tradition, and the story conclude with a rebuttal on the part of the convert.

The arguments were usually vigorous, but done in a spirit of love, so you didn't feel like you were on a religious O'Reilly show.

As one who left Evangelicalism, I felt a kinship with most of the stories, but felt the refutations never got to the heart of the convert…

Skewer Your Ideas With Humor

Do you ever stumble into nostalgia that forces your face into an unexpected smile?  The other day, I was rummaging through old files and uncovered old seminary publications.  The finding filled me with a chuckle that grew as I scanned each word.

Back in my seminary days, partly out of boredom, and partly our of contentionsness, myself and two other friends (who will remain nameless) created a fake newsletter patterned after the official Seminary publication--the Towers.  We entitled ours the Faulty Towers.

At most we only published 4 issues, and because of cost we didn't even print enough for all the students.  We printed just enough to cause a stir and then effectively distributed them into the right hands to create controversy.  We found a mole working inside the post office who would distribute them into the boxes of random students and select professors.

The seminary had recently escaped a liberal phase via a conservative takeover, and was slowly embracing the theology of J…

4 Ways Memory Makes You a Better Person

This past weekend my sons and I joined our Boy Scout troop on a trip to our local federal cemetery to install flags at the graves of all the veterans.  The ceremony surrounding our effort was short but sober honoring the sacrifice of the men and women who in many cases gave their lives for us.  

It was an important event for my boys, if nothing else than to remind them that Memorial Day is not merely the unofficial start to summer and the occasion for outdoor grilling, but an important part of whom they are and will become. 
It is a time of memory, a memory of those gone before whether they are military dead or departed family.  These people shaped our lives, and to forget is to cut off their person from our own lives.  
Memory is a significant part of humanity and has the ability to change us as we participate in something bigger than ourselves.  Here are four ways memory impact our daily life.
1.  Memory is an essential component of the image of God in our lives.  Humans are unique in …

Do We Really Believe in Communion?

Here's my last post on the OCN's The Sounding Blog:

Do We Really Believe in Communion?

Why Reality is Communal

Reality is communal.  The fabric of creation, the heart of everything, the meaning and purpose of life, the path to transformation, the very code of our DNA is communal.

If you are a Christian, you believe this.

God is communal.  He is three in one, eternally, never alone.

Because we are God's image we can not escape this need for communion and the effect it has on our lives.

Our molding as persons is linked with who we enter into communion with.

I wonder why I behave the way I do, when I am in communion with those who behave the same.

I wonder why I don't act like Christ, when I neglect communion with Him.

What is communion?  How does it affect your daily life?

The Pearl 7:1 Sharing the Faith of Abraham

St. Ephrem's The Pearl 7:1

As in a race saw I the disputers,
The children of strife,
To taste fire,
To see the air,
To handle the light:
They were troubled at the gleaming,
And struggled to make divisions.

The Son, Who is too subtle for the mind,
Did they seek to feel:
And the Holy Ghost
Who cannot be explored,
They sought to explore with their questionings.
The Father, Who never at any time was searched out,
Have they explained and disputed of.

The sound form of our faith is from Abraham,
And our repentance is from Nineveh and the house of Rahab,
And ours are the expectations of the Prophets,
Ours of the Apostles.

Comment:  It sounds like those who try to delve into the intricacies of theology through an attitude of questioning run the risk of becoming heretics.  
The model of true faith is not these "disputers", but Abraham.  What does St. Ephrem mean by that?

Why Stuff Matters?

Stuff matters.  Why?

It is part of our salvation, not meant to be sloughed off like an old snake skin, not a prison to escape, not a weight holding you to the earth.  It is a path to salvation and groans for redemption. 
It was created by God and called good, provided as a conduit for man to commune with God. 
God became stuff, and uses stuff to save:  mud to make blind see, handkerchiefs to heal, bones to resurrect, hems of garment to restore, water to wash away leprosy, bronze statues to deliver, rods of wood to bring water from rock, food to sustain, fiber to clothe.
It is infused with the grace of God for our salvation. 
What happens if stuff does not matter?
We neglect and abuse our bodies.  We see others as objects to be used and thrown away.  The earth is exploited because one day it will burn with the rest of the stuff that doesn’t matter. 
One purpose of man is the redemption of this fallen mess.  
We must bless all the stuff of this life, for everything matters and can be…

You Are a Writer (a review)

I've been following Jeff Goins online for some time now, and I have learned a lot.  
I love to write, and even though I am a published author and blogger I have never thought of myself as a writer--until I read Jeff.  
I was fortunate enough to review Jeff's new book You Are a Writer, and am thankful.  It is full of inspirational gems and practical advice.  As a blogger, who has been frustrated by lack of traction and readership, and an author looking for greater visibility and promotion for material that I believe is truly life changing; I can't wait to put into practice Jeff's advice.  
Here are some inspirational gems, I found laying on the surface of the page:
"Everything is practice"  "The secret to mastering any discipline: As you conquer one, you'll find it easier to tackle another."  "Multi-tasking is a myth.  You can either create or react.  But you can't do both.  Choose wisely."  "..dangerous territory, when your c…

Can I Think My Way to Heaven?

Can I think my way to heaven?  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  Yet this question sums up a popular approach to salvation. 
This question represents a knowledge-based salvation.  The path of salvation is through the mind, and reason becomes the highest form of spiritual attainment.  Apologetics is king in this world.  Logical, reasoned arguments for God’s existence trump all else. 
The fervent believer confronts science and philosophy and worldly wisdom with a point by point logical, scientific rational defense of God, the Resurrection, Creation, the Virgin Birth, the problem of evil, etc.  Ideas are consumed with consent and commitment, but nothing substantial happens to the believer, yet facts are provided providing a system to make good decisions and give an appearance of holiness. 
Understanding’s competitor is Union. 
This is salvation by communion, connection, dipping into the currents of grace so the residue of death is sheared away replaced by a renewed man.  Union is a relation…