King of glory, great in might,
humble our hearts by Your infinite light.
Call us into Your presence, absolve our sins,
consecrate our hearts, and commune within,
Send us away with your benediction that we all may see,
the glory of Jesus spread from sea to sea.((Other short poems here.))
I was in a humorous mood this morning so I thought I’d pen something a bit different. Indeed we need to be grateful to those around us that cause us to laugh. Laughter is good medicine, and it also is a remarkable way to release daily stress.
Humor you have given,
Our stoicism is stricken!
Our boredom is bitten.
As the hearty laughter we express,
At the funniness some possess.
I start and end chiastically with themes from the Lord’s Prayer. In between I connect other Gospel themes combining brightness and treasures and the Christian’s confidence in the unbroken promises of God.
The shared joy of sins forgiven,
the hallowed Name spoken.
The brightness of new life giv’n,
the Word remains unbroken.
The treasures on earth stored and stolen,
the heavenly chest untouched.
The beauty of your kingdom come,
the gates of hell cannot stop.
-Poema, Untold Joys
I hope you are drawn to the simplicity of this poem.
My son, my son, forget me not,
‘Tis you, ’tis you, your Savior bought.
In life, in life, I in you dwell
The hope, the hope, your faith shall tell
From you, from you, I’ll ne’er depart
Because, because, remembering is my art.
A few years ago I sat with a brilliant thinker. We enjoyed each other’s company. He was wise and experienced. Already a prolific author versed in many fields of study. As we were about to depart, I asked him to impart some wisdom to a young writer. I have published a few small works. But I am the kind of person who comes up with an unending stream of ideas. I want to expand my generalist tendencies. I am the worst kind of visionary who is disciplined in imagination and slow in application.
I asked this scholar what must I do to be saved from being a mediocre writer. He looked at me in utter compassion–slight exaggeration–and said: “Write poetry!” Poetry? I had read my fair share of poems; enough to be familiar with names. But write poetry? So, recently, I listened to this wise saint and have explored a bit in poem writing. Not the kind that grabs the attention of well-versed experts, but the kind of poetry that is simple and child-like; the kind that rhymes with life; the experiential type that communicates not with types and shadows, but simplicity and clarity.
So here is my third:
Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned,
My heart is tender, come within;
Rebuke my pride, bring me low,
And in the valley renew my soul.
-Poema, Explorations in Christian Piety
Death in its rage the saint does take
Heaven in its rest the saint protects
Jesus in his roar the saint restores
The Gospel by its reach the saint forever keeps.
The results are in and they don’t look good. Christianity Today reports on the Sex Lives of Unmarried Evangelicals. The two surveys offer differing numbers, but the conclusion is summarized in this manner:
Bible Reading? Evangelicals who infrequently read the Bible were 70 percent more likely to have been recently sexually active than frequent Bible readers.
Church Attendance? Evangelicals who attend church less than weekly were more than twice as likely to have been recently sexually active than weekly attenders.
Conversion? Of the sexually active singles, 92 percent had sex after becoming“born again.” That’s largely because the average age when evangelicals under 40 became “born again” was 8.
Evangelical statistics have a way of increasing our national Christian guilt, which is something that usually is already mighty high. Furthermore, the numbers usually paint a more pessimistic picture than what is actually taking place. My general principle when dealing with these statistics is to cut the percentage by a third. When the oft-cited “50% of Christian married couples end in divorce” statistic is referenced, this usually means about 35% of Christian married couples divorce. Those original statistics also included Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. A Non-Trinitarian marriage is anything but a Christian marriage.
But however you do the math, the numbers are still frightening. No one can deny that they reflect a weak evangelicalism. It is not that evangelical churches are fully entertainment driven without any substance, but that the substance they offer is not sustaining, and therefore leading our young generations to find pleasure is worldly entertainment. Part of this worldly entertainment is the casualness of the sex culture.
Since this is the case we have responded in the way we evangelical do best: we have over-reacted. We have bought into the “world is against us” slogan and we have acted upon it with zealous fury. We have sheltered our children to the point of stifling their rhetoric and making them miserable spokesmen for the Lordship of King Jesus. On the other hand, we have overly exposed them to the vastness of sexualized culture. By the age of ten they all have their Lady Gaga lyrics as accurately as a Puritan boy his catechism memorized.
What can evangelical churches do to provide a culture that despises impurity and treasures purity?
The remarkable response–according to the statistics– is by focusing on the simple means of grace of Church attendance, Prayer, and Bible reading one reduces dramatically the chances of engaging in fornication. I have stated many times that the evangelical problem is one of prioritization. And what does priority look like in the church? The damning news is that conversion is not enough. For many parents conversion serves as a perpetual moral babysitter. As long as words are spoken affirming the X,Y, and Z of Christian conversion then we are on our way to bringing up pure children. But conversion or its vocabulary are not enough! The evangelical culture has evangelized their children to death, and then they are left wondering where did we go wrong.
Here is a sample quoted above:
Evangelicals who infrequently read the Bible were 70 percent more likely to have been recently sexually active than frequent Bible readers.
Let’s say 50% of this is true. Without going into detail of what this “Bible-Reading” should look like–a worthy discussion to be had–in what ways are churches inculcating their children with the Sacred Scriptures? In other words, what are they doing to instill a desire in our children to drink deeply of the Biblical narrative? Have churches made the Bible so one-sided and narrowly explicated that our children long to escape to a different narrative of the world?
As we affirm Sola-Scriptura, let us also delve into the Scriptures in a transformative way. “Your word is life,” says Yahweh. And this alone is enough to make the point of the study. When one saturates himself in life, then he will find death-like practices abominable.
To echo N.T. Wright, let’s return to a simply Christian view of life. Our understanding of sexuality needs to be transformed by a new understanding of who we are in Christ. Our new creation life is a life that treasures sex in its right context. Further, it sees the life of another human being as sacred, and therefore violating that sacredness–which is what pre-marital sex is–is a violation of life; a profound misunderstanding of the Imago Dei.
The Scriptures and its reading will help us re-shape our view of ourselves and others, but it must be done in a context that perpetuates the reality that the new world brings a new light and this light is filled with redemptive and ethical consequences. Therefore, forsake the works of darkness and drink deeply of the words of life.
*An additional post on “How to read Bible” will soon follow.
Chesterton once penned a poem from the perspective of the donkey that Jesus rode:
G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936)
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
I am not as erudite or as descriptively verbose, but this is uncontestable:
In spring, the sweet young spring, decked out with little green, braceleted with the song of idiotic birds, spurious and sweet and tawdry as a shopgirl in her cheap finery, like an idiot with money and no taste; they were little and young and trusting, you could kill them sometimes. But now, as August like a langourous replete bird winged slowly through the pale summer toward the moon of decay and death, they were bigger, vicious; ubiquitous as undertakers, cunning as pawnbrokers, confident and unavoidable as politicians. They came cityward lustful as country boys, as passionately integral as a collage football squad; pervading and monstrous but without majesty: a biblical plague seen through the wrong end of a binocular: the majesty of Fate become contemptuous through ubiquity and sheer repetition.
Mosquitoes was recently reissued by Liveright Publishing