Thursday, April 29, 2010

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

God preoccupies the minds of men and women in everyday life. Whether they cry out to him in time of need, to thank him, to praise him or to utter curses and blasphemies seemingly in his name, He is on their minds.

Christians who seek, know and serve God sometimes become similarly preoccupied in a maze to explain God in understandable terms. The New Testament (NT) references to Father, Son and Holy Spirit may seem insufficient for them to explain in numeric (singularity versus plurality) terms. However, resorting to the popular use of the term Trinity is itself a problem too. It is a problem for many primarily because it does not appear in the scriptures. The term is an invitation for erroneous charges of polytheism against Christians. My own reference to the term here is only to show my awareness of it. I do not to rely on it. I have no use for it as my explanation to a seeker of God. The scriptures, written by the apostles and men inspired by the Holy Spirit, remain the first and last resort, without substitute, for understanding God and his will as far as concerns written sources.

oversimplification and unity

In addition to the use of the Trinity term there are two common, but seriously mistaken attempts to explain what are clearly three different. terms and entities, or a plurality, in reference to God. These explanations are embraced by some Christians also. The explanations are: 1) Jesus is the Father and Holy Spirit, and 2) God is One.

The first explanation is an oversimplification of the subject in the extreme. It fails immediately. The first reason it fails is because the Father testifies of Jesus at the time of Son's baptism (Matt 3:17). Secondly, the Son speaks of the Holy Spirit as the One whom the Father would send (John 14:15,16) after Jesus ascended back to the Father. Peter declares to Ananias the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-9) is God and in so doing he ascribes the masculine gender to the Holy Spirit also. The Holy Spirit is He, not it. Clearly, three entities, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are referred to as separate beings.

The second explanation seems to be a lack of confidence and understanding. It seems more of a cheer or a chant. The explanation is to refer to God in quantitative terms of one as opposed to three. This explanation comes from verses such as The LORD our God is one LORD (Deuteronomy 6:4). This conclusion as to quantity is at best an oversight and at worse a error of interpretation of the scriptures.

The Deuteronomy verse (Jews know as the Shema) seems more a point regarding the unity between anything and everything God said and what was said in his name. It is about the harmony and unit of 1) what God spoke directly to Moses, 2) what Moses spoke to the children of Israel as being from God, and later after Moses 3) what God's servants, the prophets, spoke as the message of God all throughout Israel's history.
This same unity between Moses, the prophets and the Father were common claims of Jesus.

an illustration of one

The problem with illustrations is they can and will break down when pressed beyond the original intent of those illustrations to teach or clarify a point. Furthermore, they can be just as misunderstood as the scriptures themselves. Even worse is that someone will run with his/her misunderstanding of the illustration only to create even further misunderstanding. Still, here's my illustration. I commend all readers to search and understand the scriptures.

Ken, his wife, Patti and their son, Alex are a family well-known in their home congregation. Ken is a husband to Patti. Ken is a father to Alex. Ken is a friend to Robert. This represents one person, Ken, in three different relationships (husband, father and friend) with three different persons. The people in their respective relationships with Ken do not misunderstand or freely shuffle their relationship with Ken as they please. Attempts to shuffle the respective roles in these relationships can range from inappropriate to disrespectful or worse.

the apostle Paul in Ephesians 1

A similar point on relationships is made about God by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 1. The Father is presented much like a master planner who conceived his plan to choose (a topic for another RRM study) a people for his own possession before the foundation of the world. The Son is presented as the one who redeems the chosen. The Holy Spirit is he who seals the chosen redeemed. Paul not only presents the three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but he explains their separate relationships towards man. There's a significant difference between the illustration involving Ken (1) in relationships (3) as husband, father and friend and the three beings, Father, Son and Holy Spirit described by Paul as God. Paul describes a transcendent, divine entity of three beings, not just three relationships of the one God.

This may not be as difficult to understand as it is to accept it. What is truly astonishing to man is not the question of three beings or three relationships. No, the greater difficulty for man is comprehending and grasping such total, absolute unity between any multiple of entities. We, from a human standpoint, know how difficult it can be to achieve a significant measure of unity with one other let alone two others. We might unite with others in a common cause, but to face the certain approaching footsteps of death as did Jesus in his cause as Savior is a bit more than most of us are willing to do for the unity of our cause or idea.

acceptance of one is acceptance of all

There are believers who profess to believe and honor Jesus, but deny and reject the claims which He himself made concerning his death, burial and resurrection. This is apostasy, that is, they have fallen away from the faith. There are some who deny and reject what Paul and other apostles wrote because, as they see it, Jesus never said something about which the apostles wrote. This has a reverse application on Jesus. Again, it is pointed out Jesus never said anything for or against homosexuality. This is taken as license for the silent approval or active embrace of homosexuality. However, what this reveals is an ignorance of the work of the Holy Spirit as Jesus told his disciples. They have, by rejecting the apostles' writings, rejected and denied the Holy Spirit. Jesus told the apostles the Holy Spirit, will bring to your remembrance all things and will guide you into all truth. (John 16:13)

Similarly, the denial and rejection of the Father who sent the Holy Spirit reveals a lack of unity between what some believe and what they do. They can not grasp or accept the unity of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and resort to an oversimplification or rejection of scripture. Rejection of any part of scripture is a rejection of all. Rejection of the Father, Son or Holy Spirit as divine beings or their respective roles towards man is to reject all. Conversely, acceptance of any part of scripture is to accept all of it just as acceptance of the Father is acceptance of Son and Holy Spirit. This is much more than simplification. It is unity.

A rejection of what Father or Son or Holy Spirit said or did is rejection of all. The corollary to that statement is that acceptance of what any one of them said or did is to accept all of which the others said and it. The same acceptance/rejection carries over to the apostles, the carriers of the message of the Father as revealed by Jesus, of Jesus as revealed by the Holy Spirit and of the Holy Spirit as Jesus gave him utterance for the apostles.

the unity of God in marriage

The intimacy of marriage as a relationship of mutual submission. It is where a man and a woman as husband and wife reflect this unity, this one-ness. Submission did not make Jesus less divine than the Father or the Holy Spirit. It does not make a man less than a man or a woman less than a woman by fulfilling their relationships in their roles as husband and wife. As you draw closer to understanding God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit seek His unity to in your heart and in your relationships and marriage with all glory, honor and thanksgiving to God.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Marks of a Spiritual

Note: The RRMinistry is a twin blog to the YouTube site by the same name. My prolonged technical struggles on the video side are nearly over. Until I post the first video ( which will be Marks of a Spiritual) the site remains unaccessible. I'm not waiting any longer and have decided to move ahead with this post. These posts are not offered as manuscripts of the videos. The blog allows those with more extended comments the space to do so. Thank you. Walk in the Spirit. Gil.

Spiritual and religious soundbites and implications

There is, for some people, no meaning in life. Just live and die. End of story. Others seek to understand and articulate in simple, clear terms beyond a superficial level those things which hold meaning for them.

There's an unfortunate fallout behind such a simple and clear approach. The fallout is that understanding and meaning are summed up in soundbites: I'm not religious. I am spiritual. It's an erroneous, mistaken implication which would ascribe a greater value or even vice versa of the spiritual above the religious. One would be no less mistaken to place religiosity over spirituality. Competitive ranking and one-upmanship are the way of the world. It does not take much listening to people's attempts to articulate beyond soundbites before their lack of understanding becomes apparent. Perhaps even worse than trite soundbites is the extremely convoluted language surrounding their talk of spirituality. There are many who buy it whether in the form of superficial soundbites or the extremely convoluted because, _ it's spiritual.

Spirituality on the Internet

A brief sampling of some offerings on spiritual/spirituality found on the Internet:

just be honest, listen to your inner self, be good, listen to your gut, listen to your heart, do what feels good, do what makes you feel good inside, be yourself, everyone is spiritual, everything is spiritual, you are already spiritual, you are god, be in tune with your energy, rocks are spiritual, trees are spiritual, animals are spiritual, get in tune with the universe; a list without end.

Can anyone who feeds on this walk away with a appreciable understanding that they have been filled with anything of substance in their quest for spirituality or to be a spiritual?

How is a spiritual to be identified? What does it mean to be spiritual? The question, Who is a spiritual emerges with the apostle Paul's admonition to the Christians in Galatia you who are spiritual restore the one who has fallen in sin.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mistake-free trainees

During my years in International Export with Dell I was a one-man team in my operation. It's not rocket science and, yes, a caveman could do it. However, the exportation of product involves government, customs and international industry standards with serious consequences for the exporter, and, in some instances the individual employee too should a product be shipped without the required documentation. Although management had me train various associates to fill-in in my absence management never allowed those associates to do the job in my absence presumably for fear they would make a mistake.

I determined I wanted to do everything I could do in my training of associates. I developed a training philosophy around these three points to set them at ease in the training process.

1) There is no mistake you can make I have not already made.
2) There is no mistake you can make which can not be rectified.
3) You do not make mistakes.

The first two are pretty clear. It was the third point which had the desired effect on my trainee. I waited for their question: "What do you mean, 'You do not make mistakes?'"

Those of you who have been trained as the new employee know there are varieties of trainers; those who love/enjoy training and are competent, those who love/enjoy training but have little clue about the task, those who hate training despite their vast knowledge and experience, and, those who hate training and lack the knowledge, experience or aptitude to train others.

My point, by way of setting my trainee at ease, is that I take responsibility for any errors which might slip through my supervision. Too many people train from the perspective of fear: Don't mess up because I don't want to get yelled at or get fired.

I stand by and am accountable for the day's work. I can take the hit. I am confident about my tract record and my ability to give an account of myself and to implement the measures necessary to rectify the error. It is for this reason I see no need/have no need to, or in the language of the world, cover my ass. Fear produces lack of confidence which results in self-preservation and self-defense tactics. Mistakes are my responsibility and are not to be passed off on my trainee. It pleased me to know and to see trainees at ease in a learning environment free of fear. They knew there really were no dumb questions or dumb mistakes to be made only teachable moments to be captured by their trainer.

What was your experience as a learner of the fundamentals of the scriptures? I cringe when I hear of people's training experiences and what is passed off on them by those who profess themselves teachers. I love it when an unwitting visitor raises a tough question in a Bible study. The tension in the group becomes palpable, but I love it because it is the teachable moment for me to capture both for the visitor, for the regular class members and teacher trainees especially.

Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment. 3:2 For in many things we all stumble. If anyone doesn’t stumble in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. (Epistle of James 3:1)

The passage speaks to those who would be teachers. If your view and approach of the task of teaching or training is with a fear of judgment for making a mistake you may be wise to wait a while before taking on that responsibility. In the meantime, challenge those who teach not as to oppose them but in the interest of a fuller, richer understanding of the scriptures for the benefit of all without fear of mistakes.

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Luke 6:40

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Resurrection of Jesus

The meaning of the resurrection
There's a uniqueness in the message of Jesus. It is vastly, radically different from all messages delivered by leaders and accepted by men and women throughout the world. It is the resurrection. Some may argue over his claims of deity, but the point of the resurrection puts all other matters in perspective. How?

Recent online discussions with some who reject or diminish the resurrection of Jesus reveal a distorted perspective. Others, they state for example, Osirus, were resurrected long before Jesus, hence Jesus was not the first to be raised up from the dead. Lets look at two of these cyber discussion claims, briefly.

First, Lazarus could well be added to the list of individuals resurrected before Jesus, but the point of these individual resurrections (I will not speak of Osirus) is that those individuals never made claims of their own resurrection as did Jesus. Furthermore, the resurrection of Lazarus was not to show Lazarus was immune from death but to demonstrate Jesus' claim, I am the resurrection and the life (see, John 11). The reason some offer as their unbelief of the resurrection is that they were not there to see it. However, there were some present at the resurrection of Lazarus, who saw, did not dispute it, but refused to accept it so as to declare themselves disciples of Jesus. They hurriedly went and reported to the authorities what they had just witnessed.

Second, I marvel at the readiness with which resurrection claims of the likes of Osirus are accepted, _ on the basis of what evidence? Jesus made his claims to his own resurrection openly and publicly. His claims were not an inner secret known to his disciples only. His enemies, the Jewish and Roman authorities, were quite familiar with these resurrection claims (see, Matthew 27:62-66). These authorities even agreed to post a guard at the tomb precisely to prevent the disciples from stealing the body of Jesus and declaring he had risen from the dead. The meaning of what Jesus claimed and accomplished with his resurrection is captured in his words:

For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again.

No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father. (John 10:17,18)

The significance of the resurrection
The significance of the resurrection is that it speaks to two things common to all mankind: birth and death. We know of our birth because we are alive. Parents, siblings, family, friends tell us and documents reassure us of our birthdate and birthplace. Death needs no such reassurance. It is ever before us. All faith and piety, religious leaders, their deeds and teachings are nothing if all they can offer mankind is claims about God and how to please him. Similarly, chants, platitudes, noble and even the most bizarre of deeds as one's way of pleasing God or leading men to God are nothing if these fail to address the spectacle of death which haunts mankind. Euphemisms or the prolongation of life do not prevent death.

The best source for the study and understanding of the resurrection is the New Testament scriptures. Yet, as intriguing and perhaps fascinating as these points might seem it is when the individual considers the significance of the resurrection event for himself or herself.

The value of the resurrection
As with the value of all Jesus said and did it was not lost in the first century as some claim. Neither the claims nor event of the resurrection have ever been mere religious ideas for discussion. The value of the resurrection was evident from the beginning in the first century when lives were impacted and transformed radically as people understood the meaning and significance of just who is this Jesus raised from the dead. This transformation of lives was/is in keeping with this words of Jesus:

The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.

Those who believed the resurrection of Jesus as the Son of God were not left to wander in obscurity. They were among the first added to the number of the believers, the church. Their act of obedience of the gospel message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus resulted in them being added to the church to become disciples, followers of Jesus, or Christians. (see, Acts 2:37-47) This same transformation of lives continues today.