Archive for April 11, 2008

Applying the 10 Commandments

April 11, 2008 Leave a comment

The gift of the 10 Words is a gift that teaches God’s people how to walk as kings and priests in the land. As I pray and meditate upon each command, the Holy Spirit can bring conviction, inspiration and wisdom in my following him. Unfortuantely, I think we may have a tendency to want to use the commands as a way to evaluating and condemning others people–especially those outside the covenant.

While I humble myself before the Lord in looking upon His commands to reveal my own need for redemption and forgiveness, I should not use those same commandments as flash light to point out the flaws in other people around (especially those outside the faith). Rather, I lay down my life for them, praying for redemption and restoration. Otherwise, I fear I will become like those who did not make the temple a house of prayer for all nations but turned it into an exclusive club.

Prayers of the Fathers

April 11, 2008 1 comment

Most of my great insights that come after hours of study and meditation, turn out to be new articulations of wisdom I learned from living with my parents. Day after day, week after week, year after year, they patterned their faith. I learned about the riches of the gospel from the mundane atmosphere of every day living with parents who were trying to live out their faith.

In the early 90s, I began studying the Celtic Christians, hoping to mine new wisdom for living today. This study led to a series of Celtic retreats, which were really excuses for me to study and read more about them. While preparing for one retreat, I was overwhelmed by the sense of gratitude that shines out in their poems and prayers. This insight changed my prayer habits, and I found myself praying more slowly and more thankfully.

Prayers over meals shifted from some kind of magic rite to gain God’s blessing to a fresh opportunity to offer thanksgiving for God for His overwhelming goodness. I had discovered the riches of thanksgiving to God.

But then one day as I listened to my dad prayer, I noticed a long litany of thanksgivings. Everything you could imagine: good health, our house, our nation, our family, and the thanksgivings continued to rise. As I listened, I realized that this was the way he always prayed.

My new discovery in prayer emerged while I was studying the Celts, but now I realize this was simply an awakening to a pattern deeply ingrained in my consciousness. Now I realize that the pattern of my father’s continual stream of thanksgiving shaped me long before I was aware of it.

No Carved Images!

April 11, 2008 Leave a comment

The 10 Words appear to restrict our freedom but in reality they assure our freedom, and without them there is only enslavement. So each commandment, each word is a gift. The second word, “No carved images” is the gift of knowing the God who cannot be contained, cannot be controlled, cannot be limited.

YHWH (the Covenant God) shatters our limitations and shatters our worlds, ushering us into new worlds and leading us from glory to glory.

The IAMIAM who “is and remains present” cannot be summoned by our carved images (whether in wood or in thought). He is and always has been Present. I cannot encompass Him; I cannot comprehend Him; I cannot grasp Him. In His gracious lovingkindness, He contains me’ He comprehends me; He grasps me.

He knows my beginning from my end. The freedom to let go of carved images allows me to rest, rest, rest and rejoice in the goodness of God and the world He has graciously given to me.

Walking in Two Worlds

April 11, 2008 Leave a comment

We live in at least two worlds or two types of world. We are born into the first and primary world. We didn’t create it. Some people think it just appeared somehow. I believe in the Creator of this world as revealed in the Bible.

The First World
God creates the first world in and through His Word. This world is not God and yet symbolic power is rooted in this world He created by His Word. Thus the prophet can proclaim, “The whole earth is filled with the glory of God.” This world of mountains and valleys and trees and oceans and all manner of creatures and human beings express the glory of God. Not because it (or we as humans) consciously choose to but because His Word created it.

While we could think about Word on many levels, I want to focus here on the aspect of word of symbolic power. Words are primary symbols. They express meaning. Words take forms that express meaning. God speaks the world into being. The whole world conveys meaning (whether we are blind to it or not). In our sin, we may misunderstand the meaning or even worship the world that express the symbol, but our failure does not diminish the riches of meaning, of glory, of wonder expressed by the world of soil, grass, trees, mountains and more. The Bible interprets the meaning of this created world (see Jim Jordan’s “Through New Eyes” for a wonderful introduction).

The fullness of God’s Word is expressed/imaged in Jesus Christ. (More on this later.)

The Second World
Human are created in the image of God. Humans are rational and emotional communicators. We relate. We express meaning. We create symbols. So we create a second world through our words. Our words carry symbolic power. Our words take forms that express meaning.

I can tell a story about an evil empire and the band of noble rebels who resist the evil forces and end up rescuing the enslaved people. These words take form in the imagination. They might also take form in a song. Then someone may write down the words in a book. Another person might act out the words on stage with a group of actors. These words might even take shape in the houses and communities we build.

Our words take form in poetry, song, story, paintings, communities, buildings, dreams and more. Our words create a world that conveys meaning. Every day we create through our words. If our hearts are evil we create worlds that mock God, oppress people and damage the first world.

The 10 Words (10 Commandments) form the building blocks for creating worlds of wonder. Through the 10 Words, we create songs, proverbs, stories, homes, and communities. These words burst out in drawings, paintings, architecture, sculpture, music and dance that all sing out to the glory of God.

The worlds that we create are imperfect (incomplete). They do not reflect the fullness of God’s glory or wonder. They may reveal partial aspects His glory but the not whole. Thus God cannot be limited or contained by our worlds. And we cannot be limited or contained by our worlds. History reveals humans breaking out of one world and into another.

The child leaves one symbolic world and enters into the fuller world of adulthood. As we grow and develop, so does our ability to create worlds. But at the same time, as we fall under the deception of sin or allow the root of bitterness to grow, we create like worlds. Some of us create worlds of darkness, hopelessness, victimhood, and we need to be delivered from the horrible world that we’ve created and brought into the light of God’s good creation.

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