Christianity 201

March 3, 2017

Devotional for 3/3: The Trinity

Someone pointed out the coincidence (if that applies) that a major motion picture about the Trinity is releasing on 3/3. That got me thinking that perhaps we could look back at this topic as it has been discussed here.

In November of 2014 we began with a quote from Tozer:

Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption.
~A.W. Tozer, The Idea of the Holy, chapter 4

and then continued to look at “who does what.”

In the Holy Scriptures the work of creation is attributed to the Father

Gen. 1:1 In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below

to the Son

Col 1:16 It was by Him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes.

and to the Holy Spirit

Job 26:13     By His breath, the heavens are made beautifully clear;
        by His hand that ancient serpent—even as it attempted escape—is pierced through.

Psalm 104:30 When You send out Your breath, life is created,
    and the face of the earth is made beautiful and is renewed.

The article continues as a scripture medley worth checking out… continue reading here.

In July, 2013 we looked at the idea of “One What and Three Whos” with this item by C. Michael Patton:

I believe in one God (ousia), who exists eternally in three persons (hypostasis) — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — all of whom are fully God, all of whom are equal.

Spirit of GodSince there is only one God, one member of the Trinity, in his essence, cannot have more power, authority, or dignity than another. They all share in the exact same nature (ousia, ontos, “stuff”). I did not understand this until later in my Christian life. For many years I existed as a functional polytheist (a tritheist, to be technically precise). I believed the three members of the Trinity shared in a similar nature, not the exact same nature. In other words, just like you and I share in the nature of being homo sapiens, so the members of the Trinity are all from the “God species” . . . or something like that. But this is a bad analogy since, though you and I may be the same species, we are different in essence. You are you and I am me. I have my body and you have yours. But in the Trinity, all three persons share in the exact same essence. One in nature; three in person. One what; three whos…

For more on the idea of a hierarchy within the Trinity… continue reading here.

In February of 2011, we offered “The Trinity Collection,” to go-to verses in which all three members of the Godhead are referenced:

Matthew 3: 16, 17 NIV

16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 28: 19 NLT

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

John 15: 26 ESV

[Jesus speaking] 26“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Acts 2: 33 NIrV

33 Jesus has been given a place of honor at the right hand of God. He has received the Holy Spirit from the Father. This is what God had promised. It is Jesus who has poured out what you now see and hear.

II Cor. 13: 14 The Message

14The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.

Ephesians 2: 17 – 18 TNIV

17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

I Thess. 1: 2-5a CEV

2We thank God for you and always mention you in our prayers. Each time we pray, 3we tell God our Father about your faith and loving work and about your firm hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4My dear friends, God loves you, and we know he has chosen you to be his people. 5When we told you the good news, it was with the power and assurance that come from the Holy Spirit, and not simply with words…

I Peter 1: 1 – 2 NIV (UK)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world … 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Also included in this list is the longer passage at I Cor. 12: 4-13.

That’s pretty much the entire piece… read at source here.

Also in February, 2011, we had a discussion at Thinking Out Loud and noted that

…four of the seven statements in the National Association of Evangelicals Statement of Faith which specifically refer to God, Jesus and Holy Spirit, of which the first is primary for this discussion:

  • We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
  • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  • We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.

(For Canadian readers, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada Statement of Faith is identical.)

For that article… continue reading here.

Finally, in January of this year, here at C201 we quoted Fred Sanders on Trinitarian Praise:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the
Holy Ghost! As it was in the beginning, is now,

and ever shall be, world without end.

The glory of God is from everlasting to everlasting, but while the praise of the Trinity will have no end, it had a beginning. There was never a time when God was not glorious as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit. But there was a time when that singular glory (singular because, to gloss the Athanasian Creed, there are not three glorious, but one) had not yet disclosed itself so as to invite creatures to its praise. To join in the ancient Christian prayer called the Gloria Patri, directing praise to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is to come into alignment here in the world “as it is now” with triune glory “as it was in the beginning.” All theology ought to be doxology, but Trinitarian theology in particular is essentially a matter of praising God. This doxological response is the praise of a glory (ἔπαινον δόξης, Eph 1:6, 12, 14) that always was, and whose epiphany in time entails its antecedent depth in eternity. Those whom God has blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ are summoned to join that praise: “Blessed be God the Father, who has blessed us in the Beloved and sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:3–14, condensed).

For more of that article… continue reading here.

February 27, 2017

The Importance of Names

Today we’re paying a return visit to Jeremy Serrano who we connected with briefly here about a year ago. Jeremy is currently the Pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Concord, CA.  Before that he was a Youth & Family Minister for 14 years. And his name is not Joshua, as you’ll learn in a minute!  Click the title below to read this and many other articles at his blog.

What’s in a name?

I just heard a very thoughtful Pastor (Gypsy Pastor) ask the question, “I wonder why we get so wrapped up in proper names?”

I think it’s a question worth asking.  I have to confess, I do find myself getting wrapped up in proper names. I think proper names are important; when I use proper names, its because I want to show respect to the person who has given me their name.

I appreciate when I am in an environment where people can self-identify using the name they want to be called, the gender they wish to identify as, the pronouns they want others to use about them. I think names are important because they tell others how they want to be identified.

I know a tiny bit about multiple names.  As a twin I go by two names.  If you call out my name, or my twin brother’s name, in a large crowed of people, I will respond to both.  Not because I’m my brother, but because I understand that other’s may be making an honest mistake.  I am never bothered when people call me by my brother’s name unless they’re being rude and are trying to tell me that I am my brother.

We leave room for everyone to self-identify, yet we seem to have trouble with that when it comes to God. God has chosen to reveal God’s-self in a specific way, yet we seem to just give only a slight nod to that and say, “there must be more.”  So instead of focusing on how God has chosen to reveal Gods-self, we see similarities in other religions and proclaim “Look, God is there too.”  I am not denying that God is at work in other places, at the same time, we seem to neglect the place God has promised to be revealed, and that is through Jesus.

Proper names are important because they identify and differentiate the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from Ba’al, Molech, Ashtoreth, and for all you Game of Thrones fans—The Many Faced God and Lord of Light.

christians-praying-to-allahOn the one hand, Christians praying to “Allah” should be no big deal—we’ve been doing that for thousands of years—Allah is God in Arabic.  On the other hand, if by Allah we mean the God of Islam then there’s something that needs to be clarified. The God of Islam is not the same God revealed in Jesus Christ nor are the Gods’ of Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Sikhism (among others).

In fact, it’s offensive to many in those other religions to claim that they worship the same God we do—Jesus by another name.

So, I think it’s important that we allow God to self-identify, as Christians believe God does in Jesus.

We as Lutherans have a ground up, earth to heaven, physical to metaphysical way of doing theology. We begin all of our understandings about God through God’s self-relation in Jesus Christ who we believe is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:1).

Jesus is God on earth according to scripture.  When we look at Jesus way of being in the world, we are looking at God’s way of being.

For in him [Jesus] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col 2:9)

He [Jesus] is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being (Heb 1:3)

Likewise we know who we are to follow as God’s revelation.  We follow Jesus because we believe that he is God’s self-disclosure to the world, especially in his act of sacrificially love.

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son [Jesus]… (Heb 1:1)

It is to this God. This self-revealed, specifically named God, that we pray, “Hallowed be thy name.”

When we use a name for God from other religions and call all God’s the same we are no longer identifying God in the way God chose to be self-identified.  We are not taking God’s self-revelation to heart.

I think names are important and I get wrapped up in proper names because I want to show respect to the person named, including God.

With all that said, I don’t have a problem referring to God as the Great Spirit, or Creator, or Olodumare, or Waengongi. Let us be clear in what we are doing though—we are using foreign names and appropriating them to identify the God revealed to Abraham and Moses, who came to earth as Jesus, and who is the One God now and forever.

December 7, 2016

“I Am a Jealous God”

Last year at this time we ran an excerpt from one of the hundred entries in 100 Names of God Daily Devotions (Fall, 2015; Rose Publishing) by Christopher D. Hudson; a padded, full-color, hardcover book which features not only many interesting devotional readings, but also an index giving the Greek or Hebrew terms along with their Strong’s Concordance number. We thought we’d revisit that book today.

100 Names of God Daily Devotional - Christopher D HudsonEl Kanna

Jealous God

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God  Exodus 20:5

Who wants to be thought of as jealous?  This unflattering description brings to mind the petty schoolgirl who bitterly resents the spotlight that a peer is enjoying, or the fact that her rival’s boyfriend is cuter than hers.  To be jealous is to be vain, selfish, suspicious.  It is to want what others have, never fully acknowledging or appreciating the good things in one’s own life.

And yet, there is another kind of jealousy – a holy version. It’s this noble form of jealousy that God has for His people, according to the Bible.  But why is this a fitting jealousy?  Why is God right to want us exclusively for Himself?  Because he made us, and in Christ He purchased us (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23)

Divine jealousy isn’t motivated by greed or selfishness.  God’s holy jealousy is rooted in a desire to protect, provide and bless.  He always and only wants what is best for His chosen ones.  And what can be better than His perfect love?

Instead of imagining the negative and hurtful jealousy displayed by a petty schoolgirl, we need to imagine the protecting and providing jealousy of God.  Picture God more as a loving father who discovers his homeless son sleeping in a filthy gutter. Imagine how this father might jealously seek to rescue his son. The father’s goal is to restore his son’s life, not to further punish him.

When God freed the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, He took them to Mount Sinai.  At the foot of the mountain, God told them they would soon be surrounded by neighbours who were devoted to other gods.  He warned them they would be tempted to turn away and be unfaithful.  Lastly, He assured them He would not stand idly by and allow that to happen.  As a jealous God, He would fight fervently for their attention and affection.

When God calls Himself jealous, it is a reminder to us that our worship cannot be divided.  The Great Commandment is to love God with “all” (not part of) our hearts.  He alone is worthy of our devotion.  He alone is deserving of our hearts.  He knows that the ones He loves will find life, ultimate meaning, purpose and joy nowhere else.  He knows that He alone is the one place where our hearts will find their true home.

This is why when Jesus came, He reminded us that we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).  He told us that whoever is not for God is against Him (Luke 11:23).  It is tempting to be “sort of”, “sometimes” or “mostly” devoted to God.  But we either give ourselves to Him or we give ourselves to other lovers.  God is jealous for our love because He is zealous for us to know His.

Related readings: Exodus 34:13,14; Isaiah 42:7,8

December 26, 2015

Geōrgos: The Gardener

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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This is an excerpt from one of the hundred entries in 100 Names of God Daily Devotions (Fall, 2015; Rose Publishing) by Christopher D. Hudson; a padded, full-color, hardcover book which features not only many interesting devotional readings, but also an index giving the Greek or Hebrew terms along with their Strong’s concordance number.

100 Names of God Daily Devotional - Christopher D HudsonGeōrgos: The Gardener

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. – John 15:1 NIV

“Gardener” is not a title we typically use to refer to God (even though there is a lot of agricultural imagery in the Bible).  But that’s how the Scriptures portray Him, and that’s what Jesus called him.  And with good reason.

Human history began in a garden (Genesis 1 – 3).  It’s there in a lush place called Eden that God met with His human creatures and instructed them to cultivate and care for His creation.

When sin entered the world, God’s garden was ruined and access to Eden was lost.  What did God do?  He instituted an epic plan to restore His garden paradise.  Throughout the events described in the rest of the Bible, God farmed.  He carefully and patiently grew a nation, in much the same way one would grow crops.  God, in a sense, sowed seed.  He planted and watered.  He mended and tended.  He replanted and transplanted.  He pruned and fertilized.  He drove away ‘pests.’  He uprooted and shored up.

When God sent His Son into the world to defeat Satan, sin and death, it’s in a garden – Gethsemane – that Jesus overcame the evil one.  And it’s from a garden tomb that Jesus emerged victorious over death.

In the final three chapters of the Bible, we read about a new creation – new heavens and a new earth.  It is a place that restores the perfection once found in the Garden of Eden.

Meanwhile, in a world still feeling the effects of sin, the divine Gardener works.  By His grace, and through our faith, He grafts us into Christ, the true fine, the source of life.  We’re just branches.  But as we stay firmly attached to Him, we grow and bear life-giving fruit.  At times God props us up or trims us back so that we’ll be even more fruitful.

Our job is not to worry about dirt or fertilizer, or where other plants are located, or what fruit they’re producing.  Our job is simply to respond to the Gardener’s care – and grow!

Lord, I surrender my life to You. Plant me where you want. Make me beautiful and fruitful in your garden. Amen.

Related readings: Psalm 1, Luke 8: 5-15

 

June 28, 2015

Maybe They’ve Never Seen The Real Christ

francis chanFrancis Chan in the book, ChurchLeaders.Com Top 100 (2012):

As Christians in America, we often complain about how antagonistic people are toward Christ.  Personally, I’m not sure that Americans are really rejecting Christ.  Maybe they just haven’t seen Him.

Try to be COMPLETELY honest with yourself right now.  Is the following true of you?

    • You passionately love Jesus, but you don’t really want to be like Him.
    • You admire His humility, but you don’t want to be THAT humble.
    • You think it’s beautiful that he washed the feet of the disciples, but that’s not exactly the direction your life is headed.
    • You’re thankful He was spit upon and abused, but you would never let that happen to you.
    • You praise him for loving you enough to suffer during his whole time on Earth, but you’re going to do everything within your power to make sure you enjoy your time down here.

In short:  You think He’s a great Savior, but not a great role model.

The American church has abandoned the most simple and obvious truth of what it means to follow Jesus:  You actually follow His pattern of life.  I pray for those who read this article – that we don’t become cynical or negative toward the church.  Instead, let’s make a personal decision to stop talking so much and begin living like Jesus.  Then we can say as the Apostle Paul,Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 11:1).  My guess is that you’ve never had someone say that to you, and you’ve never said it to anyone else. Why not?

May we make it our goal to someday have someone say of us:  “The day/hour/15 minutes I spent with _________ was the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to walking with Jesus.”


This morning our pastor mentioned my name in the sermon. That always zaps me back to attention! He was discussing all the various names given to God in scripture, and that there are, by some counts, over 600! Then he said he saw this on my blog.  Actually, Pastor Mike Stone of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia posted these on his blog in 2010, and I thought it would be good to reproduce them here one more time. For those who want to dig a little deeper; the second-last one is also the title of a very hold hymn, which is how I came to learn of these names while still a teenager.

Genesis 22 – Jehovah Jireh – The Lord, my Provider

Exodus 15 – Jehovah Rapha – The Lord who heals

Exodus 17 – Jehovah Nissi – The Lord, my banner

Exodus 31 – Jehovah M’Kaddesh – The Lord who sanctifies

Deuteronomy 33 – Jehovah Chereb – The Lord, my Sword

Deuteronomy 33 – Jehovah Magen – The Lord, my Shield

Judges 6 – Jehovah Shalom – The Lord, my Peace

1 Samuel 1 – Jehovah Sabaoth – Lord of the hosts of heaven

Psalm 3 – Jehovah Kahbodi – The Lord, my Glory

Psalm 10 – Jehovah Malech-Olam – The Lord who is king forever

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Chezeq – The Lord, my strength

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Misqabbi – The Lord, my strong tower

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Naheh – The Lord who smites the enemy

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Seli – The Lord, my Rock

Psalm 20 – Jehovah Hoshea – The Lord, my Savior

Psalm 23 – Jehovah Rohi – The Lord, my Shepherd

Psalm 24 – Jehovah Milchamma – The Lord, mighty in battle

Psalm 27 – Jehovah Ori – The Lord, my Light

Psalm 89 – Jehovah Gannan – The Lord who is my defense

Psalm 91 – Jehovah Machsi – The Lord my Refuge

Psalm 98 – Jehovah Hamelech – The Lord, my King

Isaiah 40 – Jehovah Bara – The Lord, my Creator

Isaiah 49 – Jehovah Goel – The Lord, my Redeemer

Jeremiah 16 – Jehovah Ma’oz – The Lord, my Fortress

Jeremiah 23 – Jehovah Tsidkenu – The Lord, my righteousness

Ezekiel 48 – Jehovah Shammah – The Lord who is present


The book mentioned at the beginning of today’s post is available from CBD

March 10, 2014

The Name Above All Names

Ps. 34:3 NIV Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.

Phil. 2:9 NIV Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Jer. 10:6 NIV No one is like you, Lord;
    you are great,
    and your name is mighty in power.

Today I want you take six minutes to listen to a song that will appeal to everyone reading this regardless of whether you like traditional or contemporary worship. I thought of this song in the early hours of Sunday and am glad it was available to add here. This features the music of Chuck Girard, lead singer of Love Song, one of the groups which launched contemporary Christian music in the 1970s. He then went on to worship leading and writing powerful worship songs like this one.

IT’S THE NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES,
AND WE WILL DECLARE IT, WE WILL DECLARE IT
IT’S THE NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES,
AND WE WILL SHOUT IT TO A DYING WORLD.

Who will declare My name?
Who will shout My name in the middle of the nations
Who will take the shield of faith and the sword of My tongue,
And declare My name to a dying world?
You who have declared Me thus far,
Will walk in even greater power
Though the sands of time are running out,
My name will be declared in this final hour

I am Jehovah! I Am that I Am! And My trumpet will soon call ..out
I formed the worlds with a whisper
But I’m getting ready, I’m getting ready, I’m getting ready
To shout!

CHORUS

I will possess My people
I’ll take every inch that you’ll surrender to Me
For I’m building an army, and I’ve given it My Name
And my words in your mouth shall set the captives free.

I am Jehovah! I Am that I Am! And My trumpet will soon call out.
I formed the worlds with a whisper
But I’m getting ready, I’m getting ready, I’m getting ready
To shout!

Related posts at C201 on the name(s) of Jesus, God:

June 23, 2013

The Other Side of “Trinity”

holy_spirit_-_pentacost_jwisIn February of 2011, I wrote an article at Thinking Out Loud asking, ‘If the doctrine of the Trinity is one of 7-10 core doctrines that turns up in the statement of faith of almost every denomination, can non-Trinitarians be consider ‘Christian’ in the regular sense of the word?’  Last week someone dredged up at the post and wrote several long and heated posts suggesting that yes, indeed they can. I had just about forgotten that when I came across a similar piece that sets out the argument of non-Trinitarians in a more calm and rational manner. I’ve heard this stated before and certainly some of it, I am sympathetic to. But I decided it’s good to be challenged — this is after all Christianity 201, not 101 — so I’m featuring it here today. It’s actually part one of a two part (so far) series; the author is Kermit Zarley and the link to this part — to read at source or leave comments — is The Holy Spirit Is Not a Person; God’s Identity that Only Worsens. Inclusion here does not imply endorsement.

Most Christians believe in the Trinity since that’s what their church teaches. It says God is one essence consisting of three co-equal and co-eternal Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So, the Holy Spirit is deemed a full-fledged Person.

The church didn’t always believe this. During the 2nd and 3rd centuries, there was no consensus among church fathers, called “apologists,” about the constitution of the Holy Spirit. Most of them didn’t think it was important. In fact, there was a widespread fluidity of ideas among Christians about it. Some thought the Holy Spirit was an impersonal power; others ascribed full personality to the Holy Spirit. Eminent church historian Philip Schaff observes, “the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was far less developed, and until the middle of the fourth century was never a subject of special controversy.”

Both the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed only state, “I/We believe … in the Holy Spirit.” Due to this brevity, it is absurd for later Trinitarians to assert that a person must believe the Holy Spirit is a full-fledged Person in order to be a Christian.

The Arian-Nicene Controversy of the 4th century was conducted mostly in Greek. All three parties in conflict agreed that the Spirit is a separate hypostasis (subsistence) from the Father and Son. Arius deemed the Spirit’s essence to be unlike that of the Father or the Son. Eusebius, church historian who led the middle party, said the Spirit is inferior in essence to that of the Father and Son, “a third power” in “third rank” to them.

Jannes Reiling contrasts biblical teaching about God’s Spirit with the above view by rightly alleging, “Within the Bible neither ruah nor pneuma are used as a divine name. They are not worshipped as divine beings…. The OT does not represent the spirit as a divine being connected with, yet distinct from, God. It is always functioning as an intermediary between God and mankind…. In the NT the spirit is not envisaged as a divine being (hypostasis), but as an instrument of divine action or revelation.”

James D. G. Dunn says of the Old Testament (OT), “‘Spirit of God’ is simply a way of speaking of God accomplishing his purpose in his world and through men.” He adds, “‘Spirit of God’ in Judaism denoted the power of God.” He says of the writings of Paul and John in the New Testament (NT), “The idea of God’s Spirit as a power and presence (i.e., God’s) … that thought is well established…. But of the Spirit as an entity in any sense independent of God, of Spirit as a divine hypostasis, there is nothing.”

Non-Trinitarian, Dutch theologian Ellen Flesseman-van Leer explains that the Holy Spirit is “not an independent entity alongside God, but the evidence of God’s active presence in the world.”

The Apostle Paul mentions both God the Father and Jesus Christ in the salutations of all ten of his NT letters (assuming he wrote them all), yet he does not mention the Holy Spirit. This absence suggests that Paul did not regard the Holy Spirit as a person.

One reason Trinitarians think the Holy Spirit is a full-fledged Person is that English Bibles usually capitalize “Holy Spirit” and “Spirit” when associated with God. Yet the Hebrew and Greek languages did not have upper and lower case when the earliest biblical manuscripts were written. Such capitalization is merely interpretation of the translators of these versions since they were Trinitarians. In contrast, Jews don’t capitalize “holy spirit” or “spirit” because they don’t think it refers to a person.

Most Christians also think the Holy Spirit is a Person since nearly all Bible versions ascribe personal pronouns to the Spirit. The best biblical example is the frequent “he” in Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit in John 14-16. But pronoun gender in Greek is irrelevant. Whether pronouns applied to the Holy Spirit should be translated “he” or “it” is strictly a theological decision. It is the same there for the pronoun ekeinos.

Binitarian, UK theologian C.F.D. Moule says concerning the Bible applying personal pronouns to the Holy Spirit, “the appeal to Scripture,… proves nothing as to the eternal ‘being’ of the Spirit. It only shows that ‘Spirit’ is a word for a personal God’s personal activity.” Moule concludes, “the fact that Spirit is the mode by which a personal God is present does not seem, in itself, to necessitate the recognition of Spirit as essentially personal;… it seems gratuitous to insist on using a personal pronoun” for the Holy Spirit.

Another reason most Christians think the Holy Spirit is a Person is that the Bible can personify the Holy Spirit as it does God’s Word or Wisdom. When it says the Holy Spirit did some activity, such as speaking, it should not be taken as depicting personality. Jesus once said, “the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles’” (Luke 11.49); yet he did not intend to attribute personality to wisdom. The best OT example of the personification of wisdom is in Proverbs 8—9.6.

Catholic theologian Karl Rahner and biblical exegete Murray Harris rightly admit that the NT never identifies the Holy Spirit as God. Thus, some Trinitarians have wrongly contended that it does in Acts 5.4.

The Bible teaches that man is a tripartite being consisting of body, soul, and spirit. Since God made man in his own image (Genesis 1.26-27), man’s spirit must correspond to God’s Spirit. Moule states, “there is a certain kinship between God and man—between Spirit and spirit.” Yes, and it should be understood from creation that the Spirit of God is to God what the spirit of man is to man. Since man’s spirit is not a person as we moderns understand personhood, God’s Spirit must not be a person either. Rather, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10.20; Mark 13.11).

(In my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ, I devote 14 pages to an appendix, “The Nature of the Holy Spirit,” citing 25 scholars and their writings as well as the writings of 5 church fathers.)

…Still in? Here’s the link to part two: If the Holy Spirit Is a Person of His Own, then Why Isn’t He Sitting on Heaven’s Big Throne?

May 22, 2013

Son of God, Son of Man

Crosswalk.com is running a series of excerpts from the book Praying the Names of God by Ann Spangler.  You might want to dive in and cover the entire study, or better yet, pick up a copy of the book.  Here’s the link to today’s reading.

The Name

Like the Father, Jesus is God. He always was, always is, and always will be. But unlike the Father, Jesus is also a human being. Though  charged with blasphemy and crucified for claiming to be one with the Father, Jesus’ resurrection validates his claim to be God’s Son in a unique way. When we confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God, we share in the love the Father has for the Son, becoming adopted children of God.

Though Jesus was the Son of God, he was also the Son of Man, a title that emphasizes both his lowliness and his eventual dominion. Near the end of his life, when the high priest asked him whether he was the Son of God, Jesus no longer avoided the title but said that he would one day “see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64).

When you pray to Jesus as Son of God and Son of Man, you are praying to the One who is your Brother and your Lord.

Key Scripture

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 16:15 – 17

Praying the Name

In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God. . . .’ ” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:41 – 43, 50 – 54

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27

Reflect On: Matthew 27:41 – 54 and Deuteronomy 33:27.

Praise God: For sending his beloved Son.

Offer Thanks: Because God considers you his child.

Confess: Your faith in Jesus as the Son of God.

Ask God: To deepen your sense of being his son or his daughter.

Have you ever played a game in which you let yourself fall backward into someone else’s arms? It’s difficult not to hedge your bets, not to sneak a look around to see whether the other person stands ready to catch you. Now imagine a more difficult challenge. This time you stand with your back toward an open grave and your task is to fall backwards into it. Your friend has assured you he will be there to catch you as you fall. The success of this venture depends on two things: your trust and your friend’s ability to keep his promise.

I imagine that Jesus’ death must have been something like that. Though he was God, he had to fall back helplessly into a human grave, trusting that the Father who loved him would raise him up. To do this, Jesus had to have been absolutely secure in his identity as God’s Son. In fact, Jesus never called God by any other name than Father, except once, when quoting directly from a psalm. Over and over, it was always “Father”:

* Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?
* Father, protect them by the power of your name.
* Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am.
* Abba, Father, everything is possible for you.
* Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
* Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

Jesus was crucified for one thing — for claiming to be God’s Son. So it is interesting to note that when the earth shook at the moment of his death — the exact moment when the Son, falling into the grave, had need of his Abba’s all-powerful arms to raise him up — the centurion and those with him guarding Jesus exclaimed in terror: “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).

Abba, a word derived from baby language to describe Almighty God! A word that would have sounded shocking to pious Jews! This is how Jesus expressed his relationship with Yahweh — as my Daddy, my Dear Father. It is the way he wants all of his followers to think of God.

Listen to what Paul says to the Galatian Christians:

“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’ ” (Galatians 4:6).

Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! If you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Because of what Jesus our Brother has done for us, we too have become children of God. As his sons and daughters, we can be absolutely confident that underneath our deepest griefs will always be the everlasting, ever-loving arms of God our heavenly Father.

Related article on the Humanity of Christ.

May 4, 2013

The Inscription on the Cross

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Again today another new blog to introduce you to, this one is called Who?Jesus written by Brennan McMahon.  I found the story of the blog interesting:

Started off as a daily devotional blog, turned out to be a full-blown research and “Christianity rules and God is amazing” website. I take people on a word journey where they learn awesome, often overlooked hints in the Bible that point to the sheer brilliance and unerring truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We chose the most recent post, the Hebrew title of which is also below! You’re encouraged to read it at source.


ישו מנצרת מלך היהודים
IESUS NAZARENVS REX IVDAEORVM
“Jesus of Nazareth the King of Jews” or “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”
That Latin phrase, written on the board above Jesus’ head on the cross, is where we get “INRI” that then gets written on random jewelry, pictures, etc. Yea, it’s pretty cool. 
It was also written up there in Greek…
ΟΥΤΟΣ ΕΣΤΙΝ Ο ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΤΩΝ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΩΝ
Now, check this out. The same was also written in Hebrew…
ישו מנצרת, מלך היהודים
“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”
…the Hebrew symbols read…
Yeshua Ha’Netzeret V‘mlech Ha’Yehudim
“And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.” – John 19:17-30
Keep in mind, Pontius Pilate probably didn’t realize his off-hand phrase about Jesus would reveal anything in Hebrew. So, why did the Pharisees (the chief priests) want to change what he had written? I’ll tell ya. It’s because the Hebrew phrase translated into words whose first letters were none other than Y-H-V-H.  The “I AM!” The very name of God! They freaked out. Coincidence? Doubt it. They just realized they messed up big time and probably double-timed it to smear Jesus’ name some more.
“Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ’I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD,the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” Exodus 3:13-15
I don’t know where in time the the “W” replaced the “V” because there is no “W” in the traditional Hebrew language. Yahweh is the transliteration of the proper name YHWH which comes from spelling “I AM WHO I AM” in Hebrew. (You can see where vowels got tossed into “YHWH” to be able to pronounce it. It is also sometimes referred to as “Jehovah.”)
Recorded as written above Christ’s head from each of the Gospels…
King of the Jews
No one knows for certain the exact words written up there due to different fragments of this phrase in the four Gospels. An educated guess as to the addition of the words “this is” and “the” could be that they are English qualifying terms, perhaps not necessary in other languages for this instance. John 19:19 seems to be the one to keep an eye on.
The differences in the Gospels do not make the Bible inconsistent four times, but rather gives us a puzzle, when pieced together, no matter the language most likely reads:  ”Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
Brennan McMahon

January 21, 2013

To Come or To Go — That is the Question

Today’s piece is from Harlen Wall. When we asked for permission to use this, Harlen also wrote his own introduction:

Who am I? A Jewish Bible Teacher. Inspired by G-d, I composed this message for my weekly newsletter, which is distributed via email to a group of Christians and Jews (comprised of my students and those who attend my weekly Shabbat service along with friends and family).

The reason I put the dash in G-d is out of reverence for His Holy Name. Who am I to think I can comprehend who G-d is –and the “dash” reminds me of His infinite and transcendent Unity (Oneness) that is above space and time.I should NOT be casual when I write the Holy Name of G-d or refer to Him. Jews are taught to have reverence for His Holy Name.

Here is today’s reading:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them (2) and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.” EXODUS 10:1-2

I only wish to make a very simple and concise point in this week’s message. Sometimes, less is really more! Most English Bibles translate the word bo as go as in “go to Pharaoh.” But the Hebrew word is best translated as, and properly rendered “come.” There is a big difference between coming and going, especially in this context. There is a very important lesson in this verse. Hashem (the LORD) is telling Moses to come to Pharaoh because He (G-d) is already there waiting. This idea is dazzling in its simplicity but profound in its depth.

G-d is telling Moses to come. Not only to come to Pharaoh but to come to Him (G-d) since G-d is already there waiting for him. In truth, it won’t be Moses that will confront Pharaoh. It will be the G-d of Israel, the G-d of Heaven and Earth. Moses just has to show up and realize that it’s not about him. It’s not about what he can do or say. He doesn’t even have the natural gift of persuasive speech. In fact, the Torah tells us that Moses is C’vad Peh (heavy of speech). It’s not about Moses in any way. It’s about what the LORD can do and will do in and through Moses.

This is, in many ways, the most difficult lesson for us humans to learn. Many of us invest decades upon decades of our lives in proving to the world that we’re worthy of respect and deserving of recognition. We make every effort to convince others that we’re intelligent, beautiful, “strong,” wise, and powerful. It’s both ironic and sad that we often spend our entire lives seeking honor, only to find out in the end, that’s it’s not even about us. It’s only about what the LORD can do in and through us. It’s not about us. It’s all about Him. This reality can be liberating and troubling at the same time.

The totality and essence of the human experience is “coming to G-d.” He’s always waiting “there” for us, in every situation. G-d is not telling Moses to go to Pharaoh. He is really saying “Come to Me. I’ll be here waiting for you. I’m already there.” He is saying you will not defeat Pharaoh if you “go to him.” You will defeat Pharaoh (despite your many weaknesses and flaws) if you come to me. Moses could not defeat Pharaoh and the Egyptian forces on his own merit or strength. He could only succeed by coming to G-d and allowing Him to fight the battle. A war is never won. It’s merely received.

It’s not just the word bo that is mistranslated. There are many Hebrew words that are mistranslated in Christian/English versions of the Torah. Perhaps the most glaring error is the very name of the LORD that is given to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Hebrew word is “E-hi-yeh,” which is translated in most bibles as “I am that I am.” This is not the meaning of the word and falls short of what the original Hebrew language reveals to us. To render the word as ‘I am That I Am” is to miss the point and the underlying message to Moses, Israel, and ultimately the entire world.

In truth, however, the word is a verb and means “I shall be” as in I shall be there. G-d was revealing His Essence to Moses and at the same time assuring him that he would be there with him when he approached Pharaoh. The name of G-d and his essence is that he will always be there (waiting) even before we get “there” (even when it seems like he’s not there or we can’t see him or feel him). He was also revealing to Moses that He would be with the children of Israel in their exile and all their trials throughout history as well.

We must always remember this lesson that G-d taught Moses. And we must always remember the meaning of His Name. We must know with complete certainty that the LORD is always there waiting for us in every situation. Instead of going to confront our enemies or going to confront or deepest fears or going to defeat HaSatan, we must make the decision to come to G-D instead. The victory is always received when we come to the LORD. And we must joyfully accept that the victory is His. Not ours. It’s not about us. It’s ONLY ABOUT HIM.

But the choice to come or go is ours.

~Harlen Wall

June 30, 2012

God Working Out His Plan In You

 

“Just think, you’re not here by chance…”

Have you ever received a greeting card with that poem on it? Then you have already been acquainted with the writing of Roy Lessin, founder of Dayspring, a Christian line of greeting cards. But Lessin’s writing goes beyond greeting card theology, he actually has full books with other publishers.

Here’s a short thought for today from a Dayspring email program I once subscribed to that I found in an old email earlier in the week…

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

God has a plan for your life. He brought you into this world to fulfill that plan. It is the best plan that anyone could ever make for you. It is a plan that will bring Him the greatest glory and you the greatest good. From the beginning of this calendar year until its end, God is working out His plan.

As you follow God’s plan for your life, you do so by faith. It is important to remember that He is the Guide and you are the follower. He does not need to bring you into His planning room as a consultant to help Him decide what is best for your life. God has called you to trust Him and to take the next step of obedience according to His will. God has said,

“I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16 NKJV

Here are some ways that God is working out His plan:

He is your Shepherd—He is leading you.
He is your Provider—He is taking care of you.
He is your Strength—He is enabling you.
He is your Counselor—He is speaking to you.
He is your Shield—He is protecting you.
He is your Comfort—He is encouraging you.
He is your Father—He is blessing you.

By Roy Lessin

January 21, 2012

God is All This and More

Sometimes the best material in the life of any blog consists in the many early posts when the project was commencing.  Like me, my friend David Fisher had (and still has) a blog Pilgrim Scribblings, and like me he had reached the thousand-post mark and wanted to start a secondary project that would reach deep into peoples’ lives.  Although he no longer posts at The Barnabas Blog, I went looking around some of the first items there today, and found this list of the many names and attributes of God and names and attributes of Christ.  Lists like this are totally superficial until you meditate on them, so take several minutes to work your way slowly through.

He is:

Abba Father………….when we need fathering.
Acceptance……….when we feel unwanted.
Adequacy……………………for our inadequacy.
All-sufficient……………in our hardest situations.
Amen……………when we need Him to be the last Word.
Answer…………………..for our uncertainty and questions.
Author of faith……………..for our unbelief or doubt.
Bread of life………………….for our spiritual hunger.
Bridegroom……when we need companionship and cherishing.
Broken and spilled out for us……….when we’ve been used.
Burden bearer……………….when we are heavy laden.
Before all things……………..when we’re surprised.
Cleansing………….for our defilement and shame.
Closer than a brother…………when we are lonely.
Comforter who wipes away tears……..in our griefs and sorrows.
Defender……………when we are under attack.
Deliverer, liberty………………for our bondage or captivity.
Door………………..when it looks like there’s no way out.
Sure foundation…………when we’re shaking and insecure.
Faithful friend…………….when friends fail us.
Fullness…………………when we’re empty.
God of details………………when we’re frustrated.
God of love……………..when we feel unloved and need a hug.
God who is there………………when we feel alone or abandoned.
Guide and way………………when we’re confused and need direction.
Grace……………….when we’re too hard on ourselves or others.
Healer…………for woundedness, rejection, physical sickness.
Hope……….when we are discouraged and want to quit.
Humility…………………for our pride.
Joy…………………………when we are depressed.
Keeper and Protector…………..when we are vulnerable.
Lifter of our head………….when we feel oppressed.
Long-suffering, slow to anger……..when we have blown it again.
Mercy……………………….for criticism and unkindness.
Mighty God, our strength…………..for our weakness or temptation.
Never-failing, the same……………when we are fickle and faithless.
Overcoming victory……………….for defeat and depression.
Prince of Peace……….when we are stressed, worried, and confused.
Provider………………………….for every financial need.
Quieter of the storm……………for struggles without and within.
Reconciliation………………..for breaches in relationships.
Rest……………………when we’re tired and can’t go on.
Restorer of our soul…………when we’re bruised an beaten down.
Reviver, living water………..when we are depleted, barren, thirsty.
Satisfaction………………….when we’ve tried everything.
Song, praise……………….when we’re joyless and heavy of heart.
Spirit of the Lord………………when we need to be set free.
Strong……………………….when we’re weak.
Trinity, unity…………………for mending separation.
Truth…………………in spite of what the world says.
True riches…………….when we covet the world’s wealth.
Vindicator……………….when we have been wronged.
Way-maker……………when a solution seems impossible.
Wisdom……………………….for our hard choices.

* The “I AM” list is taken from Prayer Portions Sampler for the Family by Sylvia Gunter .

“He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” – Romans 8:32 (ESV)

November 14, 2010

The Jehovah Names of God

I’m always amazed at the number of people who haven’t — somewhere — encountered teaching on the various names given to God beginning with Jehovah and followed by a noun which describes an aspect of God’s character and nature.

Pastor Mike Stone of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia posted these on his blog today, and thought it would be good to reproduce them here as well.   For those who want to dig a little deeper; the second-last one is also the title of a very hold hymn, which is how I came to learn of these names while still a teenager.

Genesis 22 – Jehovah Jireh – The Lord, my Provider

Exodus 15 – Jehovah Rapha – The Lord who heals

Exodus 17 – Jehovah Nissi – The Lord, my banner

Exodus 31 – Jehovah M’Kaddesh – The Lord who sanctifies

Deuteronomy 33 – Jehovah Chereb – The Lord, my Sword

Deuteronomy 33 – Jehovah Magen – The Lord, my Shield

Judges 6 – Jehovah Shalom – The Lord, my Peace

1 Samuel 1 – Jehovah Sabaoth – Lord of the hosts of heaven

Psalm 3 – Jehovah Kahbodi – The Lord, my Glory

Psalm 10 – Jehovah Malech-Olam – The Lord who is king forever

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Chezeq – The Lord, my strength

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Misqabbi – The Lord, my strong tower

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Naheh – The Lord who smites the enemy

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Seli – The Lord, my Rock

Psalm 20 – Jehovah Hoshea – The Lord, my Savior

Psalm 23 – Jehovah Rohi – The Lord, my Shepherd

Psalm 24 – Jehovah Milchamma – The Lord, mighty in battle

Psalm 27 – Jehovah Ori – The Lord, my Light

Psalm 89 – Jehovah Gannan – The Lord who is my defense

Psalm 91 – Jehovah Machsi – The Lord my Refuge

Psalm 98 – Jehovah Hamelech – The Lord, my King

Isaiah 40 – Jehovah Bara – The Lord, my Creator

Isaiah 49 – Jehovah Goel – The Lord, my Redeemer

Jeremiah 16 – Jehovah Ma’oz – The Lord, my Fortress

Jeremiah 23 – Jehovah Tsidkenu – The Lord, my righteousness

Ezekiel 48 – Jehovah Shammah – The Lord who is present