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3rd Commandments

June 29, 2009 Leave a comment
The Good Shepherd (Ravenna)

The Good Shepherd (Ravenna)

If you haven’t guessed, I’m working my way through each of the 10 Commandments and meditating upon the glory that I believe is revealed and guarded in the command. This is not comprehensive but thoughts that come to mind after spending the last 18 months reflecting on these grand and wondrous Words.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. (Deut. 5:11)

Blessed be the our Lord Creator and Ruler of all times, all places, and all peoples. We bow our knees and confess, “Jesus is Lord, Jesus is King, Jesus is Savior.” We confess Jesus as the name above every name. We lift our voices to the Lamb of God who is worthy of all praise and honor and glory and power and wisdom.

We rejoice that the Father in heaven has adopted into the family of God through our Lord Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for sealing us with the Spirit of Truth, who teaches us to say, “Jesus is Lord.” Not simply with our mouths but with our lives. The word of truth articulated and translated in our tongues, in our hearts, in our hands and in our feet.

We rejoice King Jesus in your righteous rule. We didn’t know what greatness was, we didn’t know what glory was, we didn’t know what beauty was, until you came. You revealed the rule of the Father in the heart of a servant. Clothed in glory and dwelling in unapproachable light, you precede all things, all thoughts, all referents. No idea, no concept, no word can contain you, the Lord of Glory.

And yet.

Instead of grasping for glory and power and honor (which are all yours), you let go and humiliated Yourself before all creation and entered into creation as Word made Flesh; as servant; as criminal; as the cursed scapegoat of all our violence, all our cruelty, all our pain, all our brokenness, all our sin. You carried all of the darkness and pain and evil of the world upon yourself.

In dying, you poured out your body, your love, your life into the Father’s hand who raised you up by His Spirit and exalted you above every name. We glorify this name. We honor this name. We bow before this name. We swear fealty to this name.

We confess this name by Your Holy Spirit.

By the great and wondrous Grace of Your Spirit, we’ve been caught up in your Righteous Rule and we rejoice. We’ve been taken up to the throne. We’ve been set in a family: the family of God. We’ve been made kings and priests of our Lord Jesus, the King of all Kings.

May our words and our hands and our feet and our hearts become an anthem of praise and glory and honor unto the true King, the Kinsman-Redeemer, the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

2nd Commandment as Praise

June 29, 2009 Leave a comment

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Deut 5:8-10)

We sing your praise most glorious Lord and Creator of all things in heaven above, on earth beneath and in the water beneath the earth. By your great and gracious word, you’ve taught us that all things were created in and through the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. We rejoice Father that you created all things in and through Your Son Jesus by the power of your Spirit.

And even as we are in awe of the wonders of this world, we know and reaffirm that all things that exists exist because they were created in and through Jesus. So in and through all things do we lift up holy praise to the Lord Jesus Christ who chose to enter into His Creation, and fully reveal the Father. And we realize that no image in creation can be worship and glorified outside of you. For you alone are worthy all praise and honor and glory and wisdom.

Jesus, the true image, the express image, the icon of God. For in Jesus, we behold the Father by the Spirit. And we are changed. The glory of the Son changes us into His Image that we might become the image of God for which we were created.

We rejoice in this world of splendor. We rejoice in the stars and sun and moon. We rejoice in the lush world of plants and trees and rocks and hills. We rejoice in the birds in the air, the squirrels and rabbits and every living thing. We stand in awe of the majesty of the soaring eagle and the boundless energy of the newborn puppy. We rejoice in the streams and rivers and ocean. In the fish of the deep sea and the myriad of other living things that teem beneath the surface.

You created us with five senses to experience and enjoy the heavens above, the earth below and the sea beneath the earth. We rejoice in the soft scent of mountain laurel and in the drunken winds that carry the aroma of honeysuckle. We delight in the pungent taste fresh tomatoes, the fiery flavor of salsa and the sweet intoxication of chocolate cake.

Thank for the gift of music that washes over our ears with joyous melodies and the bittersweet songs of love and life. To behold the brilliant colors of flowers and fish and birds, fills us with joy and awe. And gazing upon the streams of gold and pink and blue and yellow in the setting sun bring rapturous delight.

We are grateful for soothing feel of warm water and the cool breeze across our skin. What a gift is the embrace of friends and lovers and the healing touch of one person to another.

Thank you Lord for this world of physical experiences, this world of beauty, this world of breathtaking sights and heart-shaking sounds.

In all these wonders, glory: the glory of the Lord shining out from the vast and bountiful world. Everywhere we turn, we are overawed by you Oh Lord and the glory of Your creation.

And the greatest glory of this earth is the man and woman created to bear and reveal your image and glory. In every relation Lord, we rejoice in you.

In watching the father instructing his children or the mother caring for their needs, we rejoice in your constant and unfailing care. We rejoice in Your Spirit that teaches and guides us in the way of truth. In beholding the loving bond of brothers and sisters, we rejoice in you Lord Jesus who is the friend that sticks closer than a brother.

In the love of a man and a women, we rejoice Lord Jesus in your love for your people and by Your Spirit, raising us up together with you and the Father in a communion of love. You have loved and have loved and have loved your people. And you great and wondrous love extends from to generation to generation to generation. We rest in your faithful love, and we rejoice in this world of wonder you’ve given us as home.

Thou Shall Not Take the Name of the Lord in Vain

May 15, 2008 4 comments

Israel is under attack yet again from the daring and fierce Philistines. Crushed by terrorizing force of this battle ready tribe, the Israelites decide that it’s time to use the awesome force of YHWH against these invaders. They call upon Eli’s sons, the ungodly guardians of the doorway, to extract YHWH from the tabernacle and bring His presence onto the battlefield.

As the Philistines spy the ark entering the camp and hear the shouts and frenzied joy of the Israelites, they feel a terror deep in the bowels. Should we proceed or run from this god who struck down the mighty Egypt? Choosing to be strong and courageous (much like Joshua’s army of old), the Philistines mount attack on the camp of YHWH and are victorious.

There is no victory shout among God’s people. There’s is not terror like the terror of God’s warriors overcoming Jericho. Instead, the wicked priests fall dead and the fallen people shrink in absolute defeat. Eli dies hearing the news and Eli’s daughter-in-law names the desolate birth of her dying womb Ichabod: the glory has been taken away.

God’s glory falls into captivity and is made to serve before the great god Dagon. Or is He? The God who brought an end to Eli’s rule; the God who killed Hophni and Phineas for their mockery of His holy name strikes out at the breathless image, breaking the head and hands and forcing obeisances even to the image of this false god.

Soon the captive YHWH reigns plagues upon these oppressors, and the Philistines fall before the terror of a holy God. Just like the soon to be destroyed Pharaoh sent Israel out from the land, the Philistines send out the ark with gold and treasure upon an ox cart.

YHWH is not captive to the rule of the wicked or the false worship of the chosen. He is not captive to the wisdom of the men whether among the counsels of the wicked or the courts of the godly. All fall down before his glory, his word, his holy reign.

Forgetting their high and holy calling, the Levites of Kirjath Jearim assume they have a right to handle the holy. And terror destroys the people. Instead of crying out for mercy, they send YHWH on his way.

In the midst of YHWH’s travel, Samuel calls upon the people of God to humble themselves before Him, to forsake their false gods and to return to His covenantal rule. Israel falls before the holy call and responds in the only proper way to the Holy God: “Lord, we have sinned against you. Have mercy!”

As the people humble themselves, the holy power of God arises. Not limited to a mere box, God rests upon his servant Samuel and the enemies of the people of God are crushed. The Philistines fall before the Lord who remembers His people.

As we plan and plot our crusades, our towering temples, and glorious growth plans, may we fall down before the holy God. His name will be Holy among His people. And those who are not broken before our covenantal King, will be crushed. Lord have mercy on your people. Forgive the mockery of your commandments, the sin that runs rampant at the gate of the house of the Lord and the presumption that you must do our bidding. Lord have mercy. May your glory be raised high as a banner before your people.

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A Messy Epistemology

May 12, 2008 Leave a comment

Today I spent an extra free thought time to consider knowing as I prepared to lead a discussion on ideas tonight. I was thinking through some ideas from NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope where he lightly introduces an epistemology of faith, an epistemology of hope, and an epistemology of love. (I say lightly because NT drops several thought-provoking bombshells and then continues.)

At lunch I tried to immerse myself in an overview of Bernard Lonergan’s ideas on insight (via Tad Dunne). Then after I skimmed a wiki article on Michael Polanyi’s ideas on tacit knowledge.

And oddly enough (and completely unplanned), I drove to and from work listening to a couple Mars Hill interviews that focused on knowing. One interview featured Norman Klassen and  Jens Zimmerman discussing their book The Passionate Intellect. One of them used the phrase a “messy knowing.”

I liked that and in some ways that gave me a highlight for the evening. Knowledge is messy (thus requires humility). While we may still use words like “objectivity,” we must let go of notions of disinterested observation and accept that we bring a personal context to knowing. We still can apply a form of critique to our knowing, but we acknowledge our weakness.

NT’s ideas on knowing in relation to faith, hope and love got me to thinking abut the Hebrew understanding and wisdom rooted in meditation and observance of the 10 Commandments. But more on that later. I need some sleep.

Meditating on the 10

April 26, 2008 Leave a comment

My friend David Legg has been meditating upon the 10 Words as well. He spends most of his time as a hermit in a small house (that he built) on Top of the World.

No Other Gods!

April 19, 2008 Leave a comment

The first word shatters the illusion of strength and freedom, revealing the slavery our idolatry has produced. In Deuteronomy, Moses repeatedly warns against worshiping other gods. Finally, in his prophetic song to the people (Deuteronomy 32), Moses reveals that these “other gods” are not gods at all. They are “foolish idols.” Developing Moses’ revelation, the prophets will mock the idols that people worship as God.

In order to prepare his people to bless the whole world (Genesis 12), God must free them from the enslaving results of worshiping the creature instead of the Creator. Paul picks up on this theme in Romans 1, revealing that worshiping the creature distorts our desires, our thoughts and our actions. We are no longer free to bless freely but we become enslaved to the idol that now controls us.

God sends Israel to Egypt to become a nation (Deut. 26:5), but this land of plenty becomes a land of oppression. At some point, a new Pharaoh forgets the covenant with Joseph and begins to oppress and control the Israelites. We also learn that at some point, the Hebrews begin to trust in the gods of Egypt instead of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Joshua 24.14).

In the land of provision, they lost site of the God of provision. Egypt is the place where God chose to bless and test Israel, but Egypt is only a place of provision not the person of provision. As I meditate upon the ancient Hebrews failing to trust God in the land of plenty, I become ever aware of my own idolatry.

Often I’ve confused the place of provision with the person of provision. Forgetting that God is blessing and meeting my physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, I’ve looked to the place as the true provider. I’ve done it in the workplace, and I’ve done it in relationships.

Both in the workplace and in the ministry, I sometimes sought for provision that God was bringing from other places. For instance, we all need encouragement and affirmation (this is clear throughout several of Paul’s letters). There have been times I’ve struggled with discouragement in work and ministry because I didn’t receive the affirmation in the specific place. He was bringing it in other places like in my relationship with my wife Kelly, but not in the ministry or in the workplace.

One night I couldn’t even sleep because I was discouraged about my job. As I sat up and began to reflect upon Scripture, He immediately convicted me of trusting other gods. Just as Israel was prone to trust in the power of the horse (Egypt), I find myself not trusting that God will provide all my needs–in the places that He chooses. Sometimes that provision looks like manna (what is it?) and other times it looks more like field waiting to be plowed.

As long as we are trusting other gods to provide our emotional needs, our physical/financial needs, or even our spiritual needs, we will be subject to oppression and slavery. And worse, the image of God in us will be distorted. If we are ever to rule as kings and priests, bringing the blessing of Abraham to the whole world, we must be freed to the control of other gods.

We must be free to trust on YHWH (the Covenant God) alone. Then we are free to move as He pleases. Then we are free to have or to have not, to prosper or to suffer, we are free to rejoice and be source of blessing regardless of any circumstance.

Have mercy Lord and free me from the rule of other gods.

Note: I tried writing a variation this again as a meditation over at Floydville.

10 Commandments in Stone

April 16, 2008 2 comments

God impresses 10 words in stone. 10 words, 10 commands revealing His heart of blessing for the world. The words are not meant to stay in stone but to become enfleshed. They’re not simply rules about what to do and what not to do, they are revelations of life.

The 10 words in stone were glorious, but a greater glory was coming. Jesus embodies the 10 words fully. He fulfills the law. Jesus comes as YHWH in our midst to reveal the heart of God flowing out from the 10 words. He  calls for an obedience not rooted in will but in relationship. Jesus bears both the death that comes from violating the words and the life that comes from fulfilling the words.

In Him, we enter into the words. Or rather, they enter into us. The Spirit writes the law upon our hearts, so that we, as the body of Christ, might also enflesh the words. By the Spirit, we reveal His life, His blessings, His kingdom to the world.

Sabbath Trust

April 12, 2008 Leave a comment

Not a word failed of any good things which the LORD has spoken
to the house of Israel. All came to pass.
Joshua 21:45

God completes His work in six days and rests on the seventh. He commands his people to enter sabbath rest/remembrance. Yet, we do not complete our work in six days. Sabbath rest for God’s people might be understood as the trust in YHWH’s Word. He gives His Word to His people, and none of His words fail. This passage in Joshua stands a reminder to the people that “all came to pass.”

We cannot sabbath if we cannot trust in the faithfulness of His Word. The writer of Hebrews realizes this when he reminds God’s people that “we who do believe enter that rest.”

As we grow to trust on the faithfulness of God’s word, we can rest and rejoice in the goodness of our God.

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.

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.

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