Hymnus Deo

Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Out of town

I'll be out of town until Friday. May you all have a blessed Ash Wednesday.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Hymn of the week


Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great high Priest, whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
Telling of evil yet within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there! the once slain Lamb!
My perfect, spotless Righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace.

One with Himself, I cannot die:
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God.


Many thanks to Dave Clark and Jim Jenkins for several of the ideas that have gone into this post.

We have, it seems to me, grown far too comfortable with present arrangements.

A friend told me years ago that we in America today tend to view life as a TV dinner. Life is this neatly divided tray – one section holds work, one section holds home, one section holds recreation, one section holds church or “religion”, and so on. The Biblical worldview, he taught, views life as a pot pie – every element is mixed together. He was attempting to emphasize the fact that my relationship with Christ isn’t contained merely in the “church” area of my life, but that it has to do with every area of life. This is a common theme among Evangelical teachers nowadays. Biblical Worldview is sort of the hot topic, with innumerable books and study programs to go with it.

“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Matt. 22:37-40). One area where this recent approach to understanding the Scripture has seemed to fail thus far (in my limited experience) is that it, like what was being taught in Evangelicalism prior, fails to address, among other things, the huge problem of Western Individualism. In the pot pie scheme, I have the different areas of my life neatly divided, with no crisscrossing of the various areas. That includes no crisscrossing of the individuals in each area, for the most part. Everybody knows where the lines are drawn, except for the few individuals who don’t get it for whatever reason and sort of struggle to deal with it. In the new Worldview setup, my relationship to Christ affects everything. So my business ethics are shaped by the Scriptures, my recreational time is shaped by the Scriptures, my home life is shaped by the Scriptures, and so on. But the various areas of my life still remain divided. This is most evident in the relationships I have. I have people I work with. Then I have my family. I have my friends I hang out with, some of which don’t even know each other exist. Then there are the people at church, with whom I have the common refrain, “See you next Sunday.”

At this point, let me head a more personal direction. Does this strike anyone else as a bit odd? I recognize that an element of this is inevitable. If I were married, I would rather not have a situation where anyone could just come in and jump in the bed while my wife and I were sleeping at night. And I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about walking out of the bathroom after taking a shower in the morning to find half a dozen of my friends have let themselves into my house and are watching TV in my den.

Nonetheless, I do think what we are missing is a genuine sense of community. The Church should be the first to take the steps in correcting this. The Scriptures, after all, are full of admonitions to love one another, and they give us concrete examples and straightforward directions on the ways this should take place. What I see instead in the Church is that Christians are continuing their love affair with all the things that separate us. A good analogy here is C. S. Lewis’s statements about people being so used to making mud pies in the slum that they can’t imagine what it would be like to have a holiday by the sea. A similar analogy would be that a person who has only ever had a cheeseburger couldn’t imagine what a filet mignon tastes like. People who don’t have community have something they’re missing, but they might not even know they’re missing it. It’s something you have to experience to understand.

I’ve become aware that in some corners of the Church there has been an attempt to emphasize community. The attempts I’ve seen, however, have usually carried with it cult-like elements, such as the uber-leader who seems to have a direct connection to God that no one else has, or else clearly contains heretical teachings, such as the denial of penal substitution among the Amish. These sorts of things are common knowledge, to the point that if you told somebody you were moving someplace to live with a group of people, most people would look at you wide eyed and wonder when you fell off your rocker.

In the orthodox churches attempts have been made to correct this through home groups, cell groups, and other local church involvement. While these things can bring some semblance of community, they are destined to be a big failure unless they can morph into something more like real community. Being involved in programs at church is the exact opposite of true community. When the program is over, you and I go back to our “normal lives” (that is, in fact, what we call them). And our normal lives don’t involve one another. And while the Bible may be studied in these groups, real relationships can’t be based only on studying the Bible. Community is about living life together.

Church leaders may seek to take care of single people by getting them busy doing things. But this philosophy is the same thinking that says if I fill my stomach with enough vitamin supplements, I won’t be hungry for real food. I think we all know that wouldn’t work. And in my experience, this only lasts until the person either burns out and leaves the church all together (bars are far more fun and have more community) or gets married. In the marrying case, that of course ends all church involvement altogether, except for Sunday morning attendance (well, most Sundays, anyway). It is no doubt different being married, with the added responsibilities of caring for your spouse and children. But I’m convinced that married people need community with people outside of their family too, though it may not be immediately evident to them.

I don’t know all the answers to these problems. I know the segregation of people according to age and marital status is a huge part of this. I know that the influence of commercialism on the church is a big problem. But you can’t make people be a community. You can’t make people do anything, for that matter. I do know my calling is to obey the “two commandments”, though working this out in practice is often hard. And I find in my own life a growing used to things to the point that I have given up on much of what I once hoped for in these matters. That being said, I will no doubt raise the question of community on a regular basis on this blog anyway. May the Lord have mercy on us all and guide us in understanding and applying His word.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Occasional Riddle #3

Why do churches in the South always hold revival services in the summer? Does the Holy Spirit winter in Aspen or something?

Occasional Riddle #2

According to the Fordham University website, the Jesuit school conferred 4,030 degrees in the 2003-2004 year. Can you imagine what it would be like to spend the rest of your life telling people that your alma mater is good ol’ F. U.?

Occasional Riddle #1

What if Five For Fighting were to fight the Foo Fighters? Who would win? What is a foo, anyway? Are Five For Fighting foos? If they aren’t foos, would the Foo Fighters still fight them, or do the Foo Fighters exclusively fight foos? And who would referee? Fred Flintstone?

Occasional Riddles: Introduction

They're Occasional, because I post them only occasionally. They're Riddles because, well, they're riddles. Sort of. Hence, they're Occasional Riddles.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Donne on Prayer

It isn’t my intention for this to become the John Donne blog. Nonetheless, I like Donne, and I thought this was an interesting statement by him. It’s a different take on prayer than what the majority of American Christendom would hold, and is worthy of some thought. This is taken from a sermon entitled On Prayer, Repentance, and the Mercy of God; a Lenten Sermon:

It must be my own prayer, and no prayer is so truly, or so properly mine, as that that the Church has delivered and recommended to me. In sudden and unpremeditated prayer, I am not always I; and when I am not myself, my prayer is not my prayer. Passions and affections sometimes, sometimes bodily infirmities, and sometimes a vain desire of being eloquent in prayer, alienates me, withdraws me from myself, and then that prayer is not my prayer.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The purpose of this blog

Welcome to my weblog. I thought that, after beginning with a poem, I would give a brief introduction. You’ve already read my name, as well as the name of the blog. Any other description about myself besides my name I’ll save for another time. The title of the blog is Hymnus Deo, meaning A Hymn to God in Latin. It is taken from the John Donne poem below. You may think that the title suggests that this blog will be more devotional in nature. While that will certainly be a portion of what I post here, it won’t be everything. I have no definite plans here. I’ll probably write some cultural commentary, some theological commentary, some amateur Biblical exegesis, along with the occasional poem or joke. I don’t know how often I’ll blog either – maybe once a week, maybe every day. If you’re familiar with blogs, all of this is old hat to you anyway.

I mentioned amateur Biblical exegesis. As a matter of fact, everything I write here will be amateur, except for those things I quote from others. I’m armchair in all these things, and they should be read as such. Anything I write should be examined in light of Scripture and in conjunction with the great teachers of the church. If you think anything I’ve said is wrong, then I would encourage you to take it to your pastor. Pastors aren’t infallible, but they are ordained (and I’m not), and therefore are presumably more knowledgeable about these things than I am. Nonetheless, I do hope that what I write will be of benefit to the reader. There is a place to put comments after each entry. If you have any questions or comments, I would like to read them, so don’t be shy. I want the things I put here to generate thought and conversation.

I expect this blog will generally be read only by my friends, considering the number of blogs on the internet. And little of what I’ve written so far will be news to them. I write this next part, however, for the random stranger that might stumble upon my blog.

I write what I do for edification. If you want constructive dialogue, you’re in the right place. That might even include heated discussion from time to time. If you are just looking for a place to spill venom, however, you’re in the wrong place. If I think the conversation is becoming destructive, I will, as our friend Barney says, nip it. All contentiousness needs to be taken somewhere else. We would all do well to heed the words of the Apostle Paul: “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”

Well, that’s all I have for now. Once again, welcome.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Hymne to God the Father

Wilt thou forgive that sinne where I begunne,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sinne; through which I runne,
And do run still: though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For, I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sinne which I have wonne
Others to sinne? and, made my sinne their doore?
Wilt thou forgive that sinne which I did shunne
A yeare, or two: but wallowed in, a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sinne of feare, that when I have spunne
My last thred, I shall perish on the shore;
But sweare by thy selfe, that at my death thy sonne
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, Thou hast done,
I feare no more.

-- John Donne. A Hymne To God The Father.