Friday, January 29, 2016

Why is the Trinity Important?

     Good question.  "Father, Son, Holy Spirit" doesn't neatly fit into the Logical File.  But, really, the bottom line is: This is not about theology.  It is about relationship.  In fact, the One who desires a relationship with us is so eager to do so that He presented Himself to us in ways that were understandable to us.
     In order to walk with me on this, you need to take off your toga.  Our Western heritage descends directly from the Greeks and Romans, who made logical argument an art and a science.  Rhetoric itself--how to persuade others--was a key part of classical education.  William Shakespeare and Thomas Jefferson both were well-schooled in the art of rhetoric.  They both understood logic and its fallacies, and practiced it as an artist and as a statesman, respectively.  That is one reason that their words are so potent--they carry depth of thought and elegance of reason.
    The Greeks and Romans robustly debated, seeing the world as a "Cascade of Reason."  This means that if A is true, then B is true, and then C is true, and so on.
    Think of a courtroom, where an attorney builds his case before a jury, based on such a progression.  Whether it's the prosecution or the defense, both sides seek to set up a series of events, based on evidence, to create a conclusion in the jury's mind. 
    But, in order to understand the Trinity, I must ask you to don a prayer shawl, and think about things the way people did in the Middle East, specifically the Jews in Israel.  Jews had no problem entertaining two seemingly contradictory ideas.  Logic did not drive their thinking.  Things did not have to fall in a logical sequence to be true.  Yes, they reasoned that God was a Divine Being Who cherished order (Genesis 1 and its creation sequence points to that) and Who sought to eliminate chaos. 
     Sin, as I have explored in an earlier blog, reintroduced chaos into creation.  On one hand, the Jews said that God was El-Shaddai (the Almighty One) and yet compared Him to a loving earthly mother: "Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in My arms; But they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love, And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; And I bent down and fed them.…" (Hosea 11:3).
     The Greeks would have said, "OK, Which is it?  Is He the mighty God or a loving gentle parent?  How can you have both?"
     Exactly.  To the Jew, you could have both, because the Holy One was not Someone we humans could completely comprehend.  Look at the name that God gave Moses when he inquired of Him: He called Himself, "I AM."  That means I have always been, I am now and I will always be.  Moses went down the mountain happily bearing this name. 
     The Greeks would have said, "What?  He has always been?  Even our gods had a beginning.  Zeus was created.  How could someone, albeit divine, have no beginning?"
     So, fast forward to Jesus.  He used illogical comparisons all the time.  We call them paradoxes.   You have to lose your life to find it.  The poor are blessed.  The meek are blessed.  Seek God first and then you will have what you desire.  You need to be born a second time.
    The Greeks would be rolling their eyes at this point.  "How can you die and then find life?  The poor and the meek are far from blessed.  The pursuit of knowledge and reason lead you to security.  Seeking the gods will lead you into trouble.  Climb back into Momma's womb?  We need some wine about now..." 
     Thus, when Jesus said...

     "I and the Father are one." (John 10:30)

     "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father '? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.…" (John 14:9-10)

     "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.…(John 14:16-19)

     Jesus was accused of blasphemy.  His fellow Jews did not chide Him for being illogical.  Those listening were startled to hear Him blending Himself into the Father and promising to return again as the Spirit.  Because of their fierce respect of God and the monotheism of Judaism, His listeners only had two ways to go: Either God was manifesting Himself in the likeness of this Man to rescue them from sin and death or a mere man was claiming to be God, and such blasphemy deserved death.  
     They didn't try to argue with Him.  Greek listeners would have enjoyed a heated debate with Him, because what was at stake, in their way of thinking, would have been reason itself.  A skilled thinker could prove his intellectual prowess and then walk away.  No harm, no foul, no relationship to the subject at hand; only an intellectual Wimbleton and then, game over.
     But to the Jews, their relationship to God was everything.  So, Jesus made His relationship to the Father front and center.  He was way more intimate with God, making His listeners very uncomfortable.  Jesus called Him "Abba," meaning "Daddy."  Then He spoke of His oneness with this  Father.  Then He spoke of never leaving the ones who were following Him.  He would return and dwell within them, and the same power in Him would reside in them.
    The Trinity, although not by name, is evinced all throughout Jesus's relational teachings.  I have only cited a few.  They are key, however, to why the Trinity is important:  These statements by Jesus speak of the relationship within the Godhead, and of the relationship between Him and us.
    God the Father gave His only begotten Son to the world.  The Son agreed, and dwelt among us.  The Spirit came to live in us, now that we are cleansed from sin by the Son's blood. 
    If God is our Father, He wanted to walk among us.  He was the prodigal son's father...always waiting for the return of his lost child.  Then He became a Child, born in a stable and encased in fragile flesh.  He was tempted, cried tears, humiliated, betrayed and beaten.  He then faced a horrible death. 
    He was then resurrected by the power of His Father, and returned home to be seated at His Father's side.  He sends the Holy Spirit, to dwell and empower us to walk in His footsteps.
    With every aspect of the Trinity, we are blessed with relationship:  a Father Who waits for us, a Son Who died for us and a Spirit Who lives in us.  Theology, schmology....He wants to live in us and reveals Himself to us to bring us into His arms.   


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Caterpillars Before Christ

In our former lives as “caterpillars,” some of us faked it well…

Some of us were larger than life and looked good...

Some of us were, well, not popular…

Some of us just rolled along and got the job done… 

At the end of the day?  We were still just caterpillars. 

The world gave us leaves and we ate them.  We dodged hungry birds and just tried to survive.  Our lives were sometimes good, bad and ugly.  The sky was too far away to think about.  We couldn’t have gotten there anyway, even if we had tried.

Then we came to know Jesus.  We wanted to wear the beautiful wings of our salvation proudly.  
But over time, even with all our best efforts, the wings grew heavy on us.   It’s hard to crawl upon leaves and branches with large wings; such wings get entangled and don't seem suitable for the environment we crawled around in day after day.   We tried to fly with them; we hit the ground all too often and wondered why.  The wings got in our way after a while.  They just seemed incompatible with the life we were trying to live. 

Now, being a caterpillar became a lot harder.  Instead of becoming stronger, we grew weaker.  Praying and an occasional leap of faith from the treetops just confirmed a deep nagging suspicion: Either we have misunderstood this life in Christ, or maybe the whole thing is suspect.  A lumpy, bumpy caterpillar with added on butterfly wings is designed for failure.  We sometimes even wondered what life would be without those wings. We thought leaves were all we could eat.   We wondered why the life inside of us couldn’t just take flight. 

But Christ died to make possible a newness of life for us and in us.  He didn't come to merely stick new butterfly wings on an old caterpillar body.  

We need to reassess what salvation means.  We are saved from sin and death, yes, but we are also renewed and released to be what He wants us to be.

First, our caterpillar selves must choose to die:  "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Rom. 6:4).

We must be buried with Christ in a cocoon.   His image must reproduce in us, slowly but surely. 

What emerges from that tomb/cocoon?  The New Creation.    We now want to drink nectar—liquid sugar from the source of the life we now possess:  Christ Himself.  Now we can take wing and those wings lift us ever higher in Him.

Listen to the Word:  “My old self has been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (Gal. 2:20) 

 The beauty of this is illustrated in an excerpt taken from an online article from Scientific American:

How does a caterpillar rearrange itself into a butterfly? What happens inside a chrysalis or cocoon?

First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. If you were to cut open a cocoon or chrysalis at just the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out. But the contents of the pupa are not entirely an amorphous mess. Certain highly organized groups of cells known as imaginal discs survive the digestive process. Before hatching, when a caterpillar is still developing inside its egg, it grows an imaginal disc for each of the adult body parts it will need as a mature butterfly or moth—discs for its eyes, for its wings, its legs and so on. In some species, these imaginal discs remain dormant throughout the caterpillar's life; in other species, the discs begin to take the shape of adult body parts even before the caterpillar forms a chrysalis or cocoon…

Once a caterpillar has disintegrated all of its tissues except for the imaginal discs, those discs use the protein-rich soup all around them to fuel the rapid cell division required to form the wings, antennae, legs, eyes, genitals and all the other features of an adult butterfly or moth… One study even suggests that moths remember what they learned in later stages of their lives as caterpillars.

 Do you see this?  Inside of the caterpillar is the butterfly.  But the caterpillar must first die in order for the butterfly to emerge.  The caterpillar didn't earn those discs.  They are an integral part of the caterpillar, placed there long ago, in a garden far away...

When were our "discs" placed in us?  "Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes." (Eph. 1:4)

The Word also teaches us: "And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God." (Rom. 8:10-14)

Yes, you may remember with great pain the days of leaves and crawling.  But He has forgiven all of that.  Forever. 

Allow Christ to work in you and live His life (not yours) through you.  Don't try to be good--your caterpillar nature will not allow it.  Rest in Him and trust Him to transform you, cell by cell, day by day.  He forgives sin, yes, but don't allow sin to dominate who you are, because you now have "Christ in you, the hope of glory."  (Col. 1:27)

His word is your nectar.

Sitting in His presence is your nectar.

Talking with Him is your nectar. 

Take Him in.  Every day. 

Become what He destined you to be all along:  His child.  

He died for you.  Now let Him LIVE through you.
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