3rd Commandments

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

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


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.

Psalm 124

Psalm 124

Stepping out into steady drip, drip, drip of an early morning rain, Victor walks toward home. The cool, crisp air greets him as soft water streaks down his face, reminding him that he is alive. Alive.

The greenness of the grass washes over his eyes, the sweet smell of spring flowers mixed with the earthy smells of mud and trees intoxicates him. He looks around and beholds a new world. A new creation.

Fallen trees and leaf-covered paths suggest a heavy rain had passed through this place. A deluge. But now the devastation of last night’s storm has given way to a gentle sun penetrating the soft, spring rain flowing into rivulets along the road.

Overcome with thanksgiving, he stops walking and lifts up his hands and to proclaim,

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—
let Israel now say—
if it had not been the Lord who was on our side
when people rose up against us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us;
then the flood would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us;
then over us would have gone
the raging waters.(Psalm 124:1-5)

This Psalm burned in Victor’s soul as he meditated upon the words day after day after day for the past 15 years. Plunged into prison for his faith, he was starved, beaten, mocked, and drugged. Despair engulfed him, darkness choked him, death drew near.

Day after day after day his confession of faith was tested. The enemy came like a flood, swallowing Victor’s faith and and hope and love. Yet the Lord was faithful even when Victor felt the last vestige of faith slipping from his soul.

He thought the world forgot and feared that God forgot. From the depths of Sheol, he cried out to the Lord. “Remember me!”

And He did. In the place of forsakenness, Victor encountered the faithful love of the Lord that lasts forever.

And strangely, in this place of pain and loneliness, he also met a company of friends. As the prison swallowed Victor alive, he remembered Jonah plunged in the bowels of the great fish. As he faced year after year of suffering and hardship, he remembered the Israelites breaking under the harsh whip of Pharaoh.

In heart of darkness, he met King David crouched and hiding in a cave; Jeremiah in a sinking dark well; and Paul being stoned and left for dead. As He descended down in the dark chasms of suffering, Victor came to realize he lived in a great company of saints. In the mystery of God’s encircling love, he rested in this family of the not forsaken.

One vague story haunted him in the dark watches of the night. Again and again his mind returned to the 3rd century story of St. Julian, an old man accused of following Christ. Tormented and crippled by gout, Julian was carried into the court for trial. This frail and broken man stood without waver in the face of judgment and destruction.

Victor dreamed. And as he dreamed, he encountered Julian.

“Get up!” The gruff voice of an old soldier wakens Julian from his momentary dozing. Stiffly and slowly his rises. His shoulder is dislocated and his swollen feet feel like clods of earth attached to his legs. Julian hobbles towards the guard with a secret smile.

Today he is going home. As he walks, his shackles fall away, and Julian is free. He is going home. He thinks of himself like a bird getting ready to fly. And he remembers an old psalm and silently sings:

Blessed be the Lord,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth!
We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped! (Psalm 124:6-7)

Dried blood cracks along deep cuts, and fresh streams wash down his back. Once again a secret smile. Julian remembers another washing.

Long ago in another age, he was plunged into waters of life. As Julian was immersed into the waters of life in death, he remembered and was remembered.

The Lord gathered this poor and forgotten boy into the family of God. The joy of this embrace gave him a song that never ceased. And like a bird from the heavens, he never stopped singing Psalms of thanksgiving to Lord who put him in family.

Today the song bubbles just beneath the surface. For in the great and merciful love of his Lord, Julian now enjoys the honor of another baptism. And in this great cleansing, he feels giddy like a young a boy with the fire of life.

Again and again, the dreams of Julian encouraged Victor and reminded Him of God’s unfailing love. Today as Victor leaves the prison and walks home, he envisions Julian walking home alongside him.

He soaks in the cool rain, the mud-soaked ground, and gentle mist floating over the fields. At the edge of the field stands on old stone house. Crossing the path, he walks toward two people working in the morning drizzle: the wife of his youth and his boy become a man.

A song flies upward from his mouth to the throne of God. As he sings, he tastes the sweet joy of St. Julian.

Tears of joy flood Julian’s face as he climbs the cold, stone steps one last time. The joy inside him overpowers the twisted and broken limbs and for a moment, he walks upright before the cheering crowd. Soon he will be home, but first another promised baptism. As Julian walks into the raging fire, his secret song explodes out from his lungs in a psalm of praise.

Julian’s and Victor’s voices join the chorus of David, Jeremiah, Daniel and all the people of God walking home to the Father:

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:8)

Social Media and the Iran Election Protests

Iran Election (photo by Shahram Sharif)

Iran Election (photo by Shahram Sharif)

The current protests surrounding the recent Iranian election may be one 0f the best tests yet of the global possibilities of social connection via the internet. As many people already know, the US Government asked Twitter to hold off on their regularly scheduled maintenance yesterday so that tweets from Iranian protesters could go on uninterrupted.

In spite of attempts to black out the press and the protestors (via SMS signal jamming, arrests & intimidation, and more), news is still flying out of the country on Twitter (see #iranelection and #gr88), Flickr (constructive help guidelines , there is so much activity on Flickr that the site is actually having hiccups), YouTube, Picasa, LiveLeak, Posterous, Wikipedia, Global Voices Online and more. While the Internet is helping disseminate information around the globe, it is also making a way to get support into the country. One way has been via hackers from outside Iran who are helping by targeting specific government sites. I’m not sure where all this leads, but I am fascinated by the speed and mobilization that interconnectivity of social media has provided.

For those in the West (Americans in particular), I think we should watch and help support (see Simple Ways to Help Iran), but we are not running the ship so to speak. This is not our protest or revolution. And we must not assume that our goals equal the goals of the Iranian people. I think we should pray for them and seek to reach and support when possible, but ultimately whatever happens or does not happen, should come from the people who live in that land.

While some Americans may hope these protests are the beginning of a revolution, I think are primary hope and prayer should be with and for the Iranian people. They want to make sure their vote is counted. I think we should try listening to them and supporting them in ways that we can. Some sites (Simple Ways, Boing Boing Cyber War, Iran Share Archy) have already been set up to show how we can help.