Showing posts from February, 2012

The 2 Faces of Samson That Reveal Your Heart

In a previous post, the oft criticized Samson was defended as a better judge than his reputation usually suggests.  Samson's life is full of contradictions--much like ours.  On we hand we aspire to unite to God but so often we push against God's hand to follow our own path.  Samson speaks to this.

1.  Samson -- the possibility of purpose

Samson personifies God's plan for His people Israel.  At the blessing of Abraham, God gives a vision of His people blessing the earth and all nations, but within a handful of generations this promise looks shattered as His people become enslaved and will stay so for 400 years.  Moses then arrives as a vessel to rescue the people from slavery, consolidating them into one nation, establishing clarity of purpose and vision through the law he receives on Sinai.  Israel was to be a light to the nations.

One purpose of the law separates Israel from the rest of mankind, so that they might display the greatness and lovingkindness of their God.  T…

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

Tomorrow we officially begin Lent, although we have been easing into the spirit and fast of the season the past couple weeks, and it is the Prayer of St. Ephrem that will be our constant companion in this journey, haunting us as pride trips our steps, encouraging us to rise and walk again.

O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, idle curiosity, lust for power and idle talk.But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love.Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brother. For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

5 Reasons Samson was a Great Judge

In my mind, I always viewed Samson as the bumbling judge, wondering if he made it in the Bible just for sheer entertainment purposes.  It seems like he always stumbling over himself, and being made a fool like a circus sideshow.  Rereading his story over the last couple weeks and dipping into the commentary of the Fathers (especially St. Ambrose), I am thinking differently about this man.

He wasn't perfect, but there is much that is admirable about him.  Here's at least 5 reasons, Samson stands out as a true hero and faithful judge.

1.  He was a thorn to Israel.  Unlike previous judges, there was no cry from Israel for deliverance from their oppressor.  God raised up Samson to deliver Israel from their own complacency.  They embraced their Philistine master allowing themselves to become assimilated into this pagan people, losing their identity as God's covenant people.  He irritated Israel.  Judah seemed frustrated at his actions, arresting him to deliver to Philistia.  …

The Forge 2.22.12

Have you heard of the Thirteenth Apostle?  He's No Longer an Ancient Curiousity, and back in action spreading Christianity throughout Africa at an unprecedented rate.  This is exciting stuff and should encourage and inspire Christians everywhere.   ht: Jason Rossiter

If you have ever dipped into Biblical studies for very long, you have come across the discipline of Textual Criticism.  Textual Criticism gathers up all the manuscripts and fragments of the Bible found throughout the ages, and tries to determine what is original and what is not.  Orthodox Christians have been proponents for the Majority text.  This means that the manuscripts, fragments, and versions in the majority win the day.  Gabe Martini in his continuing series on the Bible has one of the clearest arguments for the Majority text written without any scholarly jargon:   Origin of the Biblical Context

Recently Catholic bishops made it to Capitol to discuss contraception and Obama care.  Here is one of the best comm…

Are You the Father of the World's Strongest Man?

For most men, the following story should sound vaguely familiar.

An angel announces the miracle of a coming child to the ears of a grateful barren woman.  The now-expectant mother asks for details, and he gives instructions about how she is to behave while pregnant and how to rear the child once born.  In her excitement she runs to her husband with the joyful news.

Details pour out of her mouth, there is no holding back, no vague suggestions, but she speaks verbatim as if each word of the angel was written on her heart.

What did the husband do?

He asks God to tell him what his wife just said.

God concedes, sends the angel, and the angel tells the man what his wife had said.

Several years, my wife and I were discussing food and self-control.  She wisely stated that she tried to stop eating while a little hungry.  I don't know where that morsel went when it hit my ear, but later when we reading St. Mark the Ascetic he offers similar advice as a weapon against gluttony.  Of course…

The Pearl 5:2,3 - Precious for the Poor and the Child

St. Ephrem's The Pearl 5:2

It is thou which art great in thy littleness, O pearl!
Small is thy measure and little thy compass with thy weight;
But great is thy glory:
To that crown alone in which thou art placed, there is none like.
And Who hath not percieved of thy littleness, how great it is;
If one despises thee and throws thee away,
He would blame himself for his clownishness,
For when he saw thee in a king's crown he would be attracted to thee.


Men stripped their clothes off and dived and drew thee out, O pearl!
It was not kings that put thee before men,
But those naked ones who were a type of the poor
And the fishers and the Galileans.

For clothed bodies were not able to come to thee;
They came that were stript as children;
They plunged their bodies and came down to thee;
And thou didst much desire them,
And thou didst aid them who thus loved thee.
Glad tidings did they give for thee:
Their tongues before their bosoms did the poor [fishers] open,
And produced and sh…

Interview with Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, Author of Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy

A couple months ago, I grabbed a copy of Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy: Exploring Belief Systems through the Lens of the Ancient Christian Faith, by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, and even though I have two religion degrees I discovered facts I never knew and learned ways of expressing ideas that were incredibly helpful.  

Fr. Andrew does the seemingly impossible in a mere 224 pages.  He gives a broad scope of Orthodox belief, but details every imaginable brand of Christianity, cult, and world religion.  

The book originally began as a podcast series on Ancient Faith radio with the same name, but don't be afraid of redundant content, there is plenty of new information expressed clearly for the religion teacher and the non-specialist.  

Last week, two Mormon missionaries stopped by front door, leading to a brief but cordial conversation.  Retelling this encounter to a friend, prompted the idea of a future series in our Sunday School that will use this book as our textbook.  

Fr. Andrew was grac…

The Forge 2.15.2012

In honor of yesterday's celebrations of Valentine's Day, here's a couple links:

A Valentines Day Love Story from the book of Tobit

The Orthodox St. Valentine

The Feast of St. Valentine

and for something completely different about the book of Romans, for any Calvinist friends (or recovering Calvinists) that stop by: The Elect according to Romans 9

Church as Context

In previous posts, I ran through the 4 basic ways that the people of God have interpreted the Bible over the centuries.  These 4 Senses of Scripture reveal a depth to the text, and ultimately reveal Christ. 
Imagine you are reading the Bible, and a flash on insight floods your brain, verses and images converge into a coherent picture.  Quickly you write down your insights, planning to share with friends and church-mates, convinced you have stumbled upon something important that illuminates in ways no Christian has seen in the Church’s 2000 years. 
This flash of light should be a warning sign, a neon sign on the streets of 1st Century Jerusalem, screaming something is wrong. 
Not only does the text provide context for understanding—the Church is context. 
St. Vincent of Lerins (434) “Hold fast that faith which has been believed everywhere, always and by all.”
So how do we stay in context and follow St. Vincent’s maxim.
Read the Bible with the Church:follow the lectionary, think about…

The Pearl 5:1 - A Free Gift

St. Ephrem's The Pearl 5:1

O gift that camest up without price for the diver!
Thou laidest hold upon this visible light,
That without price rises for the children of men:
A parable of the hidden One
That without price gives the hidden Dayspring!

And the painter too paints a likeness of thee with colours.
Yet by thee is faith painted in types and emblems for colours,
And in the place of the image
By thee and thy colours is thy Creator painted.

O thou frankincense without smell,
Who breathest types from out of thee!
Though art not to be eaten,
Yet thou givest a sweet smell unto them that hear thee!
Though art not to be drunk,
Yet by thy story, a fountain of types art thou made unto the ears!

The Forge 2.09.12

Here are links of interest this week:  Often those antagonistic to Christianity try to find weak spots of morality to argue against, yet the ironic fact is that they are arguing inside the Christian moral framework that shaped the Western World.  Here is one such example of how the West was shaped: The Christian Origin of Hospitals

Have you heard of St. Brendan?  He was an Irish missionary that traveled great lengths by a small boat.  Some believe he may have made it to the new world, and there is evidence that Irish monks found their way to America from scribblings found throughout the East Coast.  This man is on a similar journey: Ghost in the Brendan Voyage

The Arab Spring is been anything but springtime for Christians living in Muslim countries and Newsweek covers it in their latest issue:  The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World

I am horrible about keeping up with the news, but this is a hot topic right now: 65 Orthodox Church Bishops Call on Obama to ‘Rescind’ the ‘Unj…

The Fate of Jephthah's Daughter

So what happened to Jephthah's daughter, was she offered as a human sacrifice or something else?  A quick reading could lead to this conclusion, but read it again and another option appears.  In a previous post, the circumstances of this story was developed, but no answer was given to her fate.  Among Jewish and Christian commentators, two basic views dominate.  One is she was tragically sacrificed and the other is her sacrifice was a life of perpetual virginity wholly devoted to the service of God.

Let's weigh both views.

1.  A Human Sacrifice.  The greatest argument for this view is it is the plain reading of the text.  This was common among ancient Rabbinical writers, and along with their comments a tradition emerged about Jephthah himself.  

Among these ancient Jews arose a belief Jephthah was ultimately punished for this act along with the contemporary high priest, Phineas, who could have annulled the vow but was too proud to act.  Phineas was punished by God removing His Sp…

The Pearl 4:4 - From Heaven and Earth

St. Ephrem's The Pearl 4:4

And if a man thinks that thou art framed [by art]
He errs greatly;
Thy nature proclaims that thou, as all stones,
Art not the framing of art;
and so thou art a type of the Generation
Which no making framed.

Thy stone flees
From a comparison with the Stone [which is] the Son.
For thy own generation is from the midst of the deep,
That of the Son of thy Creator is from the highest height;
He is not like thee,
In that He is like His Father.
And as they tell,
Two wombs bare thee also.

Thou camest down from on high a fluid nature;
Thou camest up from the sea a solid body.
By means of thy second birth
Thou didst show thy loveliness to the children of men.

Hands fixed thee, when thou wast embodied,
Into thy receptacles ;
For thou art in the crown as upon the cross,
And in a coronet as in a victory ;
Thou art upon the ears, as if to fill up what was lacking ;
Thou extendest over all.

January 2012 Top Posts

Thanks again to everyone who stops by and reads awhile.  Here are the top posts for the new year.

Track 4 - Unexpected Victory Jul 11, 2011

Track 1 - Deliverance
Mar 31, 2011

To Be a Father Aug 7, 2011

Your Own Personal Baal Jan 13, 2012

The Forge 1.11.2012 Jan 11, 2012
The Bible - the Director's Cut Jan 26, 2012

The Forge 2.1.2012

If you grew up in the Evangelical culture, then the site Stuff Christians Like will have you cracking up; then not then you will just find yourself scratching your head.  This post was particularly funny considering my current status:  Wishing You Could Dance Like They Do at the Greek Orthodox Churches (I still wish I could dance like that...lessons anyone).

Because of my interest in the The Readables , I am always on the look out for posts and articles surrounding those mysterious OT books.  Here's the latest I have found: Were the Deuterocanonicals Ever a Part of the Jewish Canon of Scripture

I've mentioned it before, but today it is official: The Orthodox Christian Network has launched and updated their blog, The Sounding.

It's been redesigned, and there is a diverse slate of writers from all walks of life.  It should make for a great stopping place for all types of information and writing.

I will be a regular contributor which will be slightly different than the pos…