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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.

Advent: The Cry of Desperation

December 1, 2008 Leave a comment

Advent breaks into our satiated lives with a disturbing cry. Beneath the constant chaos of non-stop activity, we’re confronted with lonely, aching voice of desperation.

Something is wrong.

Our ingenuity cannot fix it. Our laughter cannot repress it. Our motion can silence it. The painful howls of Jeremiah echo across time, penetrating our cool pretension of comfort and ease:

My eyes fail with tears,
My heart is troubled;
My bile is poured on the ground
Because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
Because the children and the infants
Faint in the streets of the city.
(Lamentations 2:11)

Something’s wrong. Something’s terribly wrong. Jeremiah watches in disbelief as his world collapses. He cries until no tears are left–only the dark, putrid bile of despairing revulsion. All anguish of all the years converge in Jeremiah’s book of Lamentations. The overwhelming grief of sin’s destructive force is realized in this moaning cry of desperation.

But we don’t know this desperation. Thus we find it difficult to wait and watch the coming of the Lord. And this waiting is the essence of Advent. How can we wait if we are not really even anticipating his coming? Sometimes, we think His coming might interfere with our plans, our hopes, our dreams.

“O Lord, don’t come yet. Please wait until
I’m married
I’ve traveled the world
I’ve fulfilled my dreams.
I’ve seen my grandchildren.

“O Lord, don’t come yet. I’m not ready.”

Isaiah lived among a people very similar to us. He could see they were clothed in rags and were desperately poor, but they proudly sported their humiliation as a thing of pride. They were blind to their desperate condition.
But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.
And there is no one who calls on Your name,
Who stirs himself up to take hold of You;
For You have hidden Your face from us,
And have consumed us because of our iniquities.
(Isaiah 64:6-7)

Advent begins the church year, reminding us. We are desperately in need of a Savior. During Advent, we stir ourselves to take hold of God.

Without the Advent’s desperate longing, Christmas joy seems empty and mocking–a superficial smile covering the anguish caused by sin. Our world is not all right. Would we, could we but catch a glimpse of the pain that stretches across this globe in one single moment, we might break under the weight of grief. Jeremiah’s lamentation over the destruction of Jerusalem anticipates this woe more fully than any other human prayer–save one.

The tears of blood shed in the garden by our Savior. Jesus realizes this anguish perfectly and suffers beyond all human comprehension and grasping. In his suffering, he enters into the suffering of every single human across the ages.

In moments of clarity and honesty, we admit an ache that reverberates through our being. The ache of failure, of suffering, of bitterness, of loneliness, of rejection, of loss, of separation. We know the ache of disappointment, of dreams that will never be realized, of sorrow that knows no consolation. We may deny it. We may ignore. But we still suffer. And the fear of these pains drive many of our actions in this world. Ultimately, we all face the desperate terror of being separate from God. And it burns within our souls.

Only from this realization of desperation can the waiting for the coming of the Lord make any sense. As we pause from the frivolity of our darkened and darkening world, may we acknowledge our all-consuming condition of neediness.

Only then, may we come to understand the wonder and the glory of the hope Jeremiah discovers in his dark night of eternity. For in the midst of Jeremiah’s song of woe, he realizes there is hope in waiting upon the Lord. As we begin the season of waiting and longing for our Lord’s second coming, let us join the waiting and longing for His first coming, and discover a hope that cannot be shaken.
My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the LORD.
(Lamentations 3:20-26)

Categories: Advent Tags: , , ,

On Gifts and Calling

October 24, 2008 2 comments

In my wistful moments, I’ve dreamt of being a poet. And in the gentle mornings hours, there’ve been times when that dream took form in words and cadence and poor articulations from a voice that longs to speak something real in iron and stone.

But my poetic voice comes and goes, and I realized at some point that while I delighted in the expression, my writing was not great art. But rather scribblings of soul trying to follow in faltering steps a call that haunts me.

I once dreamed of speaking to large crowds who would sway and fall under the weight of my words. But those large crowds have often taken form in a handful of folks in my living room or in one friend during an extended lunch.

It seems that when God called me, He called me out from the successful and ever-growing church as I knew it, and into the lonely quiet of caves (better known as cubicles).

For a season I fought this exile by reminding myself that my intellect would one day reap great acclaim from audiences far and near. Over time, I’ve come to realize that I know far less than most people and understand even less of what I know. My only formal training was rhetoric, and I am a dismal failure as a rhetorician.

Whether in writing or speaking or thinking, I’ve come to peace with the limitations of my abilities and opportunities. And yet, following Chesterton’s advice, I continue to delight in all three because “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

Every so often I am reminded of the gifts and calling that I bear. Rather than being called to soar to great heights of profound erudition, I’ve been given the simple gifts of laughter and tears.

These are the two small gifts that I can give to the world. As I grow older, the tears fall more and more easily and often in embarrassing moments (when I would like to restrain). And oddly enough, I might be unaware of the laughter if it were not for people turning there heads toward the sound of my voice.

It is in laughter and tears where I am most vulnerable and most human. The sheer joy of being alive is not something I actively cultivate but something that overflows as a gift from the Father above. And that joy only stops when I fill the well with dirt because of my own pains and self-focus.

The tears flow as reminders that I live and breathe and enjoy as gift gracious gift from my Father above.

In the quietness of this moment, I am fully aware that beside the gifts of laughter and tears, I offer little to the world around me. And I am at peace with God’s grace working in the midst of that. Yet I know that a few hours from now, I will struggle once again with longing for respectability and honor and glory from the people around me.

By God’s grace, I would pray that I “would not think of myself more highly than I ought” but rest in the form which the Lord Himself has created and called forth into His glory. And may I live but for the word and blessing and acceptance from my good and gracious Lord.

Categories: meditation Tags: , , , , , ,
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