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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.

1st Commandment as Praise

June 28, 2009 Leave a comment


I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. Deut 4:6-7

Thank you Father for rescuing us from the house of slavery. In your great and wondrous grace, you’ve adopted us into your family. You’ve rescued us from the folly of our own foolishness. We were taken captive by our own lusts and desires. We not only turned away from you but we turned away from one another. Our selfish desires led us astray and we fell captive to unforgiveness, self-pity, inglorious imagination. Seeking to be wise we became fools and worship created things and people instead of worshipping you, the Creator of all things.

In our despair and confusion, you remembered us. In our state of war against you and your kingdom, you loved us. Like the only true Father, you came to us in our confusion and rebellion, and you rescued us.

You’ve led us forward into the wideness of your grace, and we are overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by your unstoppable love. Overwhelmed by your songs of deliverance. Overwhelmed by the joy of your salvation.

You’ve freed us from the tents of wickedness and welcomed us into the house of the righteous where we feast upon you and your goodness. As the only good and gracious Father, you shower us with ever good thing and all we can do is rejoice. Thank you oh great and gracious Father. May your Spirit teach us to sing anthems of praise to your name. Blessed the Lord, God Almighty, Our Father and Protector and Provider and Royal King both now and forever. We rest in Your embrace.

2009 Retreat Schedule

January 22, 2009 1 comment

Below are a list of retreats I am planning for 2009. If you are interested, please email me (doug (at) springoflight.org). I am making immediate plans for the first retreat on the last weekend of February (27-29). On this weekend, we’ll discuss vision, hope and the power to change the world with the message of the gospel.

In some ways, this retreat will inform every other retreat I do this year. I believe it is timely and important. Much of my writing and meditation over the last year has related to what I hope to explore during this retreat.

Also note, we have a one day seminar on business coming up on March 21. This should be a provocative conversation about the kingdom of God and the market.

Here are the list of retreats and plans. If you plan to come to the February retreat or would like more information, please email. (doug (at) springoflight.org)

2009 Retreats Schedule

Hope in the Midst of the Hopeless (weekend retreat) – February 27-28, 2009
Reforming Business (seminar) – March 21
Relationships and the Commandments – April/May
Holy Creativity – Summer 2009
St. Patrick and the Evangelism of the World – Fall 2009

Hope in the Midst of the Hopeless
February 27-28, 2009
How do you still hope when it feels like your whole world is coming to an end? Worse yet, what happens when everyone else’s world seems to be coming to an end? As I’ve reflected on the fear of personal and cultural suffering, I’ve seen a Biblical response in the beginning and ending the world.

Drawing from Scripture and Church History, we’ll look at how we respond when it feels like the world is coming to an end. Better yet, we’ll consider how the prophets, Jesus, and the New Testament writers can translate faith, hope and love into words of vision that inspire themselves and those around them walk in the joy and power of the kingdom.

Now more than ever, Christians must know how to speak a vision of hope to the world around us. If we look at the Augustine writing while Rome was burning, Luther writing while his life was being threatened, or the early American settlers writing and speaking while facing an uncertain future, we will see how Christians in every age have learned how to speak the word of faith that changed the world around them.

From proclaiming peace and joy to our own souls to speaking the word of faith to the world, this weekend will help each person draw from Biblical wisdom to face the threats around us with an unyielding hope, an undying faith and an unfaltering love.

Brad Getz and Rick Doughty will join me in this conversation. I invite you to join us as well for a weekend of fellowship, reflection and visioning for the future.

Reforming the World Seminars
March 21
This year I plan several one day seminars focused on reforming our world. The first seminar will focus on our role in “Reforming Business.” This is not a theoretical seminar but a practical seminar born from the struggle of Christians in business. While I’ve invited a few folks to share their stories and lead the way, I invite all Christians in business from entrepreneurs to managers to employees, each of us face the challenge of translating our faith into environments and situations that may not be conducive to faith. Drawing from personal stories and the wisdom of the commandments, we will look at the hard questions and challenges of living out the kingdom of God in the mist of the business world.

Relationships and the Commandments
April/May
For many years I’ve resisted a “marriage retreat.” One reason is that many churches and ministries already focus on this area of need, so I’ve concentrated my ministry efforts in other places. But I believe the Lord showed me a way of discussing relationships through the wisdom of the 10 commandments that I think will offer a fresh perspective on marriage, parenthood, friendship, employer-employee relationships and more.

Instead of isolating marriage as the focal point, I would suggest the Bible offers a vision of family relationships that introduces a way of understanding all human relationships. Kelly, my wife of 20 years, and I will lead this retreat together through discussion and exercises.

Holy Creativity
Summer 2009
Come discover the delightful, wondrous creative gifts God placed in each person. Paul often exhorts his brothers and sisters to offer their gifts on behalf of one another. But if you look at his lists in Romans, Corinthians and other letters, you see a wide range of gifts and callings.

Instead of trying to classify and group human gifting into a neat Aristotelian chart, I invite you to join us for a weekend of discovering the riches and surprising and unexpected ways each of us are gifted to bless those around us. If you think you know all about your gifts, you’ll be surprised by what you discover this weekend.

Old friends and former professors, Darlene and Michael Graves will join me this weekend for an eclectic, playful and worship-filled weekend of creativity.

St. Patrick and the Evangelism of the World
Fall 2009
Every year America celebrates his birthday and a few people actually realize the amazing story behind this man. The story of St. Patrick is the story of a man who loved his enemies into the kingdom of God. He loved them so much, we think of him as Irish. But he wasn’t. Come hear more about the story of Patrick, the Biblical and Historical use of power evangelism, and the wonder of a nation that was converted without one martyr.

Law and Love and Grace Part 3

August 15, 2008 1 comment

Overcoming Evil with Good

God created a world of glory and wonder. He created a man and woman in the center of this world and taught them the rules of this world that governed how they relate to God, to one another and to all creation. While their violation seems almost innocent to us, it is a tragic violation the breaks the laws of relating to God, to other people and to all creation.

The first few chapters of Genesis records the impact of such a violation. Broken relationship leads to self-preservation to jealousy and eventually to murder, which leads to destructive civilizations and eventually to a world of chaos.

Into this world of evil God sends a flood to wash away almost everything. While the flood is judgment, it is also a gift of restoration where evil and chaos infiltrated almost everything and everyone on the planet.

Genesis reveals the end result of the kingdoms of this world. The football teams, glee clubs, restaurants, businesses, cities and families are kingdoms infected with sin and evil. This is not a light innocuous infection. Without intervention, it leads to chaos, destruction, death and disaster. Given time and space, sin and evil continue unraveling, corrupting, and destroying everything.

This is hard for us to grasp because we see the seed of sin. The beginning looks minor. A stolen fruit. An angry thought. A little self pity. But left unchecked, the seed keeps growing. Death keeps overtaking the person. Tolkien captures this corrupting aspect of evil in Lord of the Rings with Gollum. He starts out as a Hobbit, but over time evil corrupts and corrupts and corrupts him eventually into a monster.

Even more disturbing is the recent image of the Joker in the movie, The Dark Knight. We see evil given full reign. Total chaos. The Joker acts for the sake of destruction and chaos. No desire for revenge or greed or power, but absolute chaos and destruction.

Think of the most horrid crimes and evils that plague our world, and you see the fruit of the works of man. No matter how creative, how industrious, how disciplined and even how religious humans are, given time, sin will blossom into horrid evils that destroy our worlds and destroy our souls. In one sense, hell is the unchecked, unstopped, uninterrupted place and time for evil to completely corrupt, completely destroy, and completely ruin.

So the question is, “How do we confront evil?” Whether a person believes in God or not, they still face the challenge of evil all around them. Every day the newspaper brings fresh evidence of evil and corruption. Scandals and abuses are not limited to one political party, one religious or non-religious group, one social class.

Look over the headlines from one year of news and you’ll find images of slavery, physical and sexual abuses, murder, stealing, and more in people from all sectors of society. From church group leaders to politicians to outspoken liberal and conservative commentators, we see evil and corruption abound. Just this year a wealthy couple from Rhode Island were indicted for slavery.

Somehow we are shocked by such heinous stories. Somehow we wonder, “what caused this?” “How could they be so bad?” Some of the best educated have given in to dark actions as much as the poorest and least educated. This should somehow be a clue that evil is not “out there” but “in here.” If we but think about our own imaginations, we may realize all of us are capable of unthinkable evil.

The Bible is not prudish but honest about this evil. While we like to debate the origins of evil, the Bible spends little time answering our metaphysical questions. Instead, it reveals God responding to evil.

The Bible reveals a world crying out for the sons of God to vanquish evil and restore the earth. With that context, we can see the law as God’s response to that cry. The law revealed to Moses is but the beginning of God’s fulfillment of His promise to Abraham.

The gracious gift of blessing the whole earth through Abraham’s seed is the great and wondrous blessing of recreating a world corrupted by sin and evil. Instead of flooding it again, God works through Abraham’s seed to overcome evil with good. The kingdoms of this world are coming under subjection to our God.

The law is given to the children of Israel as God redeems them from Egypt. In His love and grace, He chooses a specific family at a specific time in history to freshly reveal His kingdom, His rule, His order. Within the seed of Abraham, the seed of the law is planted and it will grow to reach all nations.

Paul reveals that the particularities of the law in relation to the Jewish people were just for a season. As John Frame explains, those particularities of a specific family, a specific priesthood, , a specific temple, and  a specific piece of land would flourish through Jesus into a  new nation of Jew and Gentile, a priesthood of all believers, a temple made of believers, a kingdom stretching outward to every tribe and nation around the world.

Through Jesus the law comes into fullness by the power of the Spirit. While the tablets of stone were glorious, the law written on the heart by the Spirit is even more glorious. For now, we are all through Jesus growing up into the image of our God.

Think back of the image of a family. Through Jesus we are becoming human. We are learning to walk, to talk, to eat, to live for the glory of God. The law is revealed in and through us by the Word and Spirit. As children of God, we are immersed into the kingdom of God.

We are immersed into the rule of God. In and among the people of God, we see the Spirit outworking the law in His people. Just as the child grows and learns and develops in relationship, we grow and learn and are shaped in relationship with God and God’s people.

With this in mind, think of Moses’ command to the people about studying the law:
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:6-9)

If we apply Moses’ command to the picture of a child learning and practicing to walk and to talk and to eat, we begin to understand that the law is shaped and formed in a family relationship. As children of God, we are learning in relationship. We are learning by practicing. We are playing at being human.

We don’t go to school to become human. We become human (in Christ’s image), by the grace of God working through us as we learn His word and act on His word. In other words, we are learning by living in the midst of decaying kingdoms all around us.

Outwardly, the kingdoms of this world are wasting away. But He is renewing us inwardly. He teaches us. We are growing in grace and truth. We are learning through failure, through suffering, through conflict and even through success.

A parent does not give a child a rule for how to respond to every particular situation in life. Rather, the child learns from the parent how to think and act and move within a framework. The Spirit of God is teaching His framework through which we think and act and move.

This framework is not simply ideas but is ideas rooted in relationship. As we meditate on God’s Word through study, prayer, and fellowship we grow in knowledge of the law. As we act upon the Word through speaking and acting, we grow in understanding.

This growth prepares us to rule. We rule in the various kingdoms. We rule in the bowling clubs, the businesses, the Boys and Girls Scouts, the local community, and in the churches. We speak and act upon the wisdom of God in the midst of kingdoms of this world.

Every day of our lives, we will be working out His kingdom in the midst of the kingdoms of this world. We are participating, but it is His Spirit that truly establishes the kingdom in and through us.

And His glory is being revealed. And the slaves are being set free. And the fatherless are being fathered. And it’s happening in offices, restaurants, car dealers, day care centers, car washes, prisons, coffee shops, and even churches. And the most-quoted Psalm in the New Testament is being fulfilled:

“The LORD said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
Psalm 110:1

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.

Mercy is not for the Lawless

April 12, 2008 Leave a comment

For I, the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands (of generations), to those who love Me and keep My commandments. Deuteronomy 5:9-10

And yet, God shows mercy again and again and again to those who violate his commands. The challenge of the Old Testament is not judgment and destruction but mercy upon mercy upon mercy to those who betray His word, oppress others and destroy the land.

When inequity has reach its fullness upon the earth again, He doesn’t send a flood. And yet, He still brings judgment. He brings the inequity into Himself and therby carries the judgment and the suffering and anguish caused all by all the inequity.

Some may foolishly read Scripture and suppose they are more merciful than God but they are not. We may have a great confidence in our untested morality but in a moment our true character is revealed by some secret thought of hatred, some killing word or even an act of betrayal disguised as righteousness. The great mystery in Scripture that we will never understand is the mercy of the Lord.

And as we gaze upon His lovingkindness, we can only bow in worship, offering praises to the one who alone is worthy of all praise.

Categories: commandments Tags: , ,

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.

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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