My One Word 2015: Fast…Six Months In…

Six months have gone by since I started 2015 with a focus on fast and fasting.

It has been a very helpful journey and I think, and hope, that it will continue to be.

One of the “things” that I have learned from my fast-ing is that ‘noise’ is something that I need to fast from on a regular basis. By ‘noise’ I mean all of the words that come my way through social media, traditional media, the daily living of life, and such.

It is loud and deafening at times and to take time to hear not just God’s voice but that of my family, my friends, my congregation that I serve, and even… myself… I have had to get off the superhighway of information and travel some quiet back roads from time to time.

But Jim! How you can hear what others are saying if you are not plugged into all the channels required of us these days?

A good question.

BUT, which others deserve my best hearing?

Those that I swap photos, comments, memes, and thoughts with on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook?

Or, my wife and my two sons, my 91 year old mom, those who sit across from me in my office, the congregation I serve?

And what about God? Am I hearing Him well these days?

And while this month has been a month in which fasting has been almost nonexistent I am getting back into a rhythm of fasting now and it is creating space to listen.

 

 

Sunday Sermon: W D/D JD?

WWJD
What Would Jesus Do?

I think that it is a question that we asking intensely these days and understandably so. We may not recognize that we are asking it as such but I think that we are asking it.

It is more than a marketing gimmick. It is a very important question that stops us and forces us to consider what would Jesus do in this situation at work, at home, in my life, in my country, in my world?

This morning however, with this service being a part of our VBS weekend, I am modifying the question as follows:

W D D J D?

What Did/Does Jesus Do?

Over the course of our VBS our kids have been learning about who Jesus Christ is and what He has done and continues to do for us. I am sharing those things with us this morning for a few moments before we conclude our outdoor worship with the baptism of four individuals – one adult and three teens!

The first thing that Jesus did for people and can do for us today is that He brings us hope.

In John chapter 10 and verse 10 Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” A full life in Christ includes hope. A hope that is rooted in who Jesus is – the one and only son of God- and not in our circumstances as hard, painful, and difficult as they may be.

Jesus encountered difficult in His life here on earth. He did not have it easy. He was made fun of, He was hated, He was both betrayed and rejected, and He was murdered by a group of people who were jealous of His power and increasing popularity. But even though He died, He did not stay dead. He came back to life! He willingly hung on that cross without hate in his heart, asking God the Father to “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

But the healing that He did, the love and mercy toward those considered “outsiders” and beyond help, the call to love and forgive and change for the better, gave people a hope they did not otherwise have. Jesus still offers us the same kind of hope and new life today.

The second thing that Jesus did for us is to show us how say ‘no’ to temptation and that we can say ‘no’ to doing things that take us away from God, from real love, real hope.

In Matthew chapter 4 He did something incredible… He went 40 days and nights without food… in a desert environment and in a weakened condition was tempted by Satan to use His power for all the wrong reasons and to come over to Satan’s side.

He said ‘no’ to all three temptations and ‘yes’ to God’s way.

“Pastor that was Jesus. You and I could not go 40 days in the desert without food.”

You are probably right. But you and I face all kinds of temptation to lie, steal, cheat in some way, gossip, criticize, mock, ridicule, hate, and the like. I think that Jesus did as well.

In the book of Hebrews, Jesus is compared to the High Priest of the Jewish faith. The High Priest, in the practices of ancient Jewish faith was the only one who could enter the most sacred areas of the tabernacle and then the temple to offer the sacrifices for the people’s sins.

But the High Priest could not be a morally perfect representative because he was human and subject to temptations like you and me. But Jesus was morally perfect as noted in Hebrews 4:15-16

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

The moral perfection of Jesus gives us hope that we can begin to live differently, live better, live without guilt and shame. We can live forgiven.

A third thing that Jesus can give us is courage to be His followers. Jesus picked 12 men to follow Him and He invested three years as He traveled Israel teaching about the Kingdom of God and healing various people. He knew that eventually He would leave them to carry on the work of telling people about Him and offering them the hope that is available because of what He did.

So He sent them on a training mission and told them, BEFORE they started, as noted in Matthew 10 and starting at verse 16 they needed to:

be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,  for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you

Would you have gone on the mission? Jesus does not paint a very nice picture of what will happen to them. But they go and people are freed from evil spirits and healing takes place in people who were running out of or had no hope for healing.

It took courage for them to go out in Jesus’ name but then went with, as noted in verse 1, with the authority of Christ. That authority gave them courage.

When is it hard for you to live out your faith? When you are asked to do something that you know is not right? When you are tempted by the group you’re with to do something that you know is dangerous to your health or the lives of others?

It is hard to live as a follower of Jesus Christ. But with the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority that we have, not to abuse or misuse, but to serve and love and care, IN Jesus’ name, we gain courage to live and to do what is right and just.

The fourth thing that Jesus has done for us is save us from our sins.

Good Friday is good not because of the terrible injustice done to Christ on that day but because of the good that ultimately is done through that day. Christ died, a cruel death, on the cross, but then came Easter Sunday and His resurrection.

We do not have to live with our shame and guilt we can be free of them. Yes memories remain but we do not have to let our past have the last word. Christ came to offer us, as I said earlier that we “may have life, and have it to the full” not just later after we die but now. Christ’s saving action can make a difference in our life today, now.

Finally the fifth thing that Jesus has done for us is that He has given us a reason to celebrate, to look forward to tomorrow – He is coming back. In the opening chapter of the book of Acts Jesus tells His disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to come and to be His witnesses everywhere they will go from that point forward and then He begins to ascend into heaven. Then we come to verse ten and read

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Jesus IS coming back. Lots of people have their ideas as to when but we really don’t know. But He is coming back and when He does He will set everything right and evil, in all of its forms, will be destroyed. No more sickness or pain or death.

Are you ready for that day?

Jesus Christ offers us life and life eternal and as we confess our sins and accept His forgiveness, we are made right with God through Christ. And the life which He offers us today, for today and for this life, is new life a better life. No, it is not always an easy life and we, as Christians, do not escape pain and suffering and loss but we have a God who will help us through all of that and we can have a peace in our hearts in the midst of the storms of life.

If you have not accepted Christ’s forgives, I invite you to do that today. If you have been disappointed with God (and there are many who are), I still invite you to come back or come home for the first time.

W D D J D?

He has done, and continues to do, a great deal for us and I can think of no greater illustration than the four people who we are to baptize today, as evidence of God’s great grace for us.

Let us now celebrate with them and thank the Lord for them and for His grace and mercy in their lives!

My Review of Jake Alexander’s Airplane Rides: Observations from Above

24660411 I have had some interesting conversations with strangers on airplanes over the course of nearly 40 years of sporadic air travel. So it was with interest that I read this book.

Published late last year through Smashwords, Airplane Rides: Observations from Above was an interesting read. But though it was interesting, it was not what I expected.

One of the biggest drawbacks to me was the reliability of the narrator. I could not trust him.

I am glad I read the book and I thank both Netgalley and the author for the opportunity to read the book. But it became very repetitive series of stories that were about sex or religion.

 

My rating? A rare ‘poor’ rating.

 

Note: I was given a copy of the book via Net Galley in exchange of a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday Sermon: The Place of Grace

Ephesians 2:1-10; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Grace.

What a word it is.

Many of us were taught to say grace at meal time. When a dancer or figure skater performs in a wonderfully artistic way we say she (or he) performed with grace.

On the other hand, when we seem to have trouble staying on our feet and find ourselves hitting the ground – we are often told, or tell ourselves, “Okay Grace…”
Or “Just call me Grace…”

Graceful people are magnets. We love to be around them. They exude a calmness, a peace, a graciousness that is like a drink of clear and cold water in the middle of a desert.

But this morning, as we prepare for Communion, I want to spend a few moments walking through two different texts of scripture, both from the New Testament, in which God’s grace is noted. His grace is vital and essential for us in two ways that we will note in each passage.

The first way is the way of salvation because as we shall read in moment, “it is by grace that we are saved through faith.”

Let us turn to Ephesians 2:1-10 and read some very important things about God’s great grace for us.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

In the early part of this letter to the church in the city of Ephesus Paul reminds the believers of several important things…

First, he reminds them that they were spiritually dead, that their relationship to God was nonexistent because of the state of their soul.

you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath

Paul is reminding his audience that at one point in their lives, they were dead, unresponsive, and incapable of realizing, God’s great grace and salvation. Instead they followed and gave into their warped human nature, what Paul calls the flesh, as they let it guide them into satisfying sinful and self-centered desires and thoughts. The result was a condition in which experiencing God’s wrath was a very real possibility.

“Thank goodness Pastor we are not like that!”

Really?

This is true for all of us. None of us were born perfect. (Sorry to have burst your bubble this morning.) None of us have the perfection of God. None of us are God.

We too have lived with a focus on satisfying our own desires and thoughts without regard to what God’s thinks or desires for us. We too, have given little thought to God’s grace.

“Gee pastor, I was hoping for some good news today! If I wanted bad news I would stayed home have read more of the paper this morning! There is enough in there to fill my day with gloom and doom. Tell me something good.”

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:1-3 (NIV)

Isn’t this the newspaper? Stories about conflict and selfishness and “not getting my way?”

Isn’t this life in school? Jealousy and envy Competition in areas of life where cooperation should be the norm?

Isn’t this the workplace? Scratching and clawing our way up to get more money, more power?

Isn’t this home life? We argue and fight to get the most of something – food, attention, money, control?

Our inner life, our motives, thoughts, attitudes, and priorities they are the battleground for the control of our souls and life. They are where Satan comes to influence us; tempt us, to put ourselves first. “Really, did God say that?”

Impatience, pride, jealousy, envy, rage, fear, lust, self-righteousness, greed, – these are the weapons of war which knows no geographic boundaries or racial boundaries or any other kind of boundaries. These are both the signs to and the paths we take to satisfying our own warped desires. They are both tools that we used to wound others and which wound us.

It is not a pleasant picture is it?

But there is more to the passage!

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

There is one of those marvelous and longed for transitional words – BUT!

You people were a mess… BUT!

God is really angry at what you have been doing… BUT!

You are full of sin and far from God… BUT!

:,,, because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

Love, mercy, grace.

Three wonderful words. Three powerful words. Three redemptive words.

But it is by God’s grace that salvation, a deep change, a necessary change within us, is made possible. We cannot earn it. There is no college degree program available to earn it. There is no work training program possible to obtain it.

Grace comes as we have faith in, as we believe in Jesus Christ and His work of salvation on the cross. It is God’s gift to us. He wants us to have it.

Dr Barry Callen says it well about this wonderful grace and what it means for us today:

“The grace offered is intended for all people. In a fast-paced and lonely culture of self-centered striving, the presence of divine grace that is unmerited and without price is really good news.”

“Apart from such grace…” says Callen who then goes on to quote Thomas Oden who says, “the task of personal growth turns into a frantic search for innovative strategies….

We have tried to manufacture spiritual growth while missing the very grace that would enable it. We have wanted to produce results without a readiness to receive help through the available means of grace – prayer, scripture study, sacrament (another name from Communion), and actively serving love.”

In the church mail box, in my home mail box, in my email inbox, and in my social media stream, there are so many offers coming at me for the next greatest and latest way to grow spiritually that it is overwhelming. The trash can and the delete button get quite the workout. Here Dr Oden names four easily accessible ways to grow and be sustained in God’s grace all of which costs little or nothing. We do not have to go bankrupt in the seeking of God’s grace in our lives. It is present for us today, right now. We just have to ask God for it!

Callen also notes something else about God’s grace that bears noting this morning. Something that I think many of us in this sanctuary need to hear and be reminded of. He says this:

“We who are ravaged by guilt, despair, anger, anxiety, and inadequacy are candidates for a wholly unmerited grace from God…Divine grace,’ he continues, “is more than a means for our forgiveness and a hope for our future.

It is the way we frail humans can be sustained in our troubled presents.”

I think that some of us needed to hear that this morning.

Grace is not just about our saving from sin, death, and hell. It is also about the divine strength, available for the asking, to help us in our daily lives. We experience a lot of troubled “presents.”

And this leads me to our second passage this morning. 2 Corinthians 12:1-10:

I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

In the previous chapter, chapter 11, and throughout his ministry Paul addresses the conflict he has with “false prophets” those people who Paul believes are taking advantage of people with their smooth talk and ways. I think Paul is saying, “Okay, you want to boast about your commitment and spiritual maturity? Fine. Bring it.”

And then he goes on to list all of the things he has suffered through in his ministry. The beatings, the imprisonments, and the shipwrecks he has encountered in his missionary journeys. And he does not slow down when he gets into chapter 12. He keeps boasting and he speaks of some deep spiritual experiences that he is not able, in fact is prevented from, talking about.

In other words, and Paul says it himself, “… in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” Paul just admitted to the temptation of conceit.

Pride is about to go full blossom in Paul. “Hey critics, you want to know what being spiritual truly is? Well, try and top this…” But God intervenes and Paul is stopped from letting pride and conceit taking root in his life. And he starts arguing with God.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Here’s my point. Grace is a counterpoint to pride, self-pity, and all the comparison we do in this life. Paul was in danger of getting off track and letting his missionary work become all consuming and all important. He was tired of dealing with critics who spoke better than he did and had more polish that he did. So he is going to show who the more spiritual person was. But God stepped in. Why? Because it was not about Paul and what he did it was about Christ and what He did!

And whatever this thorn in the flesh was, we really don’t know, it was placed there to keep Paul from boasting about the wrong thing – himself and his success and his spiritual maturity. Instead his boasting, if you will, is about the gracious work of Christ in his life and ministry.

Grace is present here! Grace thrives in our weaknesses.

When we deal with the fear that comes as we stand for the Lord… God’s grace helps us stand.

When we deal with our character weaknesses, like conceit, and we all have them, God’s grace is there to help us overcome them and to be confident in the Lord.

When we feel emotionally, relationally, financially, or occupationally shipwrecked, God’s grace is there to help us walk through those times.

Being a Christian is not an easy task. It is hard at times. Our faith gets stretched thin.

So this morning as we prepare for communion let us be thankful that God’s grace is present not just at our moment of salvation but every moment of our lives no matter what is going on within us and around us.

His grace is sufficient for us! For when we are weak, in Him, through His grace, we are strong!

Amen?

Amen

My review of Laura McNeill’s Center of Gravity

Ava Carson’s life has fallen apart. Her estranged husband has taken their two sons, one from another marriage (his) and one from their marriage and made it clear that she will never get them back. She has been accused by him of numerous things, including theft.  He is planning to leave with them never to return. He says his father is dead but Ava finds out otherwise and discovers some important truth about his past. But her sons are more important than anything else… including her life and she intends to get them back.

In her Thomas Nelson debut novel Center of Gravity, Laura MacNeill takes the reader on a whirlwind journey both within the human heart and around a small Alabama town as she desperately seeks to get back not just her sons but her life. The journey will leave you breathless and brokenhearted at times. And then, at other times, it will make you go “Yes! Good for you!”

Center of Gravity tells the all too often told tale of domestic violence from multiple perspectives: Ava, Mitchell the husband, Jack the third grade son, Graham, Ava’s attorney and Dr Lucy Bennett the psychologist brought in by the courts to help make a determination regarding custody. It is a harrowing story and one that grows darker as you move through it. But it is also a story of hope… and, I believe looming quietly in the background… faith.

I can honestly say that I had trouble putting this book down. I read it in two days and on day two it was the middle of the night when I finished it. It was worth it.

I rate this book a “magnificent” read.

Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book via Smith Publicity in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

 

My Review of Jeff Shaara’s The Faithful Lightning: A Novel of the Civil War

23164911Jeff Shaara’s The Faithful Lightning: A Novel of the Civil War is the final installment of his four volume set of novels covering the American Civil War.

Published by Ballantine Books (2015) it is a wonderful piece of historical fiction. More than, however, merely weaving a fictionalized account into dramatized history, Shaara explores the mind and emotions of both Yankee and Rebel alike as they march, and retreat, through Georgia, then South Carolina, and finally North Carolina as the war comes to an end.

With the conquest of Atlanta in the rear view mirror, William Tecumseh Sherman marches his bluecoats toward Savannah and beyond. The story of that famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, March to the Sea and beyond is the stage upon which Shaara explores those final six months of the war through the views, emotions, and actions of not just Sherman but also his two Confederate rivals, General William Hardee and Captain James Seely and, from the unique perspective of a Georgia slave who is freed by the marching Yankees as they go by and through the plantation where he has lived, a man who would become known as Abraham Lincoln Franklin. Franklin would follow Sherman’s army to the near end of the war, where he would survive a battle with rebel forces, only to return to his future wife in Savannah.

With clear attention to detail of both tactics and the events of battle, Shaara brings a clearly written tale of hope and despair; victory and defeat; life and death. One of the things that I loved about this book is that Shaara does an outstanding job of getting the reader into the mental and emotional aspects of war, humanity and leadership in war.

I truly enjoyed this novel as it brought to life the other ending of the American Civil War in the deep south.

I rate this book an “outstanding” read.

Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the Amazon Vine review program in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Trinity Sunday Sermon: Blessed Trinity? Huh?

We have just sung “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”

“Blessed Trinity.” What does that mean?

“Does it mean we worship three Gods?” NO! it does not mean that at all.

“Well what does it mean Pastor? And please don’t turn my brain into a pretzel! This idea of the Trinity confuses me.”

I will do my best to not do that and I understand your confusion.

But the Trinity is not an ‘idea.’ It is a very important description about who God is.

Several years ago I encountered a responder to my blog who began arguing about the Trinity. He denied it and thought that the Bible did not support it. Well I have learned that arguing on the Internet is futile.

But the doctrine of the Trinity is (and this is Trinity Sunday) is vital to our faith. And The Trinity itself is vital to our faith.

Why?

I will address that in a moment.

Now much has been written and argued about the Trinity over the centuries and I like what Kevin DeYoung, a pastor, has written about the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity can be summarized in seven statements. (1) There is only one God. (2) The Father is God. (3) The Son is God. (4) The Holy Spirit is God. (5) The Father is not the Son. (6) The Son is the not the Holy Spirit. (7) The Holy Spirit is not the Father. All of the creedal formulations and theological jargon and philosophical apologetics have to do with safeguarding each one of these statements and doing so without denying any of the other six.

Still with me?

In other words if we choose to not believe any of those seven statements, then we begin to weaken our faith and we begin to weaken our salvation of God through Christ. We put it in jeopardy.

But Pastor Jim, I still don’t get it the Trinity. At.all.

I know, I know.

However, how I want to ponder for a moment the impossibility of trying to fully comprehend God. Augustine, one of the early church leaders and thinkers (and we need thinkers and leaders) once wrote, “God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand you have failed.”

In a more recent generation, Lindsell and Woodbridge once wrote, “The mind of man cannot fully understand the mystery of the Trinity. He who has tried to understand the mystery fully will lose his mind; but he who would deny the Trinity will lose his soul.”

The Trinity forces us to deal with mystery and mystery is something we seem to not be able to live with today. We want to fully understand everything and when we don’t (or can’t)? Look.out!

“Hey Pastor, I have never read the word ‘trinity’ in the Bible? Have you?”

No I have not. It is not in the Bible. But it has become a very important part of Christian belief that is still debated today. To deny the Trinity, however, is to court spiritual disaster.

Now I have used, and others have used, the analogy of an egg – shell, whites, yolk, and the three states of water – solid as ice, liquid as fluid, and gas as steam- to try and help us grasp in some fashion, the Trinity. But they are not good ones because God exists together as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and not as three distinct gods.

A molecule of water cannot simultaneously exist as a gas, liquid, or solid. The Trinity simultaneously exist does as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The substance or nature of an egg shell is different than the yolk or whites. That is not true of the Trinity. The substance or essence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the same. (And we throw the shell away!)

Now there is also an important distinction between the doctrine of the Trinity and The Trinity, itself.

The Trinity refers to the relationship, if you will, between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The doctrine of the Trinity refers to a vital and defensive doctrine, or statement of faith, that was created because there were heretical ideas about Jesus developing in the early centuries of the church. Without going into deep detail, these ideas or doctrines stated that Jesus was not divine or fully God and did not share equal status with God the Father. The implications for our faith and salvation are thus profound because if Jesus was not fully divine then our salvation is ineffective and we are in dire straits.

So as the leadership of the early church wrestled with these issues and beliefs (and they are still present today) they formulated (with I believe the leading of the Holy Spirit) the doctrine of the Trinity as a defense against the idea that Jesus was not God. This work is found in some of the major creeds of the church that were developed to help Christians affirm the truth faith.

There was the Nicene Creed which said this about the Holy Spirit:

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.

Then there is the Athanasian Creed

we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.

The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.

As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.
And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.

Still with me?

“But Pastor Jim what does the Bible say about all of this? Are we not a group who says that the Bible is central to our faith not something written by a group of men?”

The Bible speaks of The Trinity and the relationship among the Trinity.

For example Genesis 1:1-2 says this:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

In Hebrews 1:3 we read these words:

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Then there is John 15:26:

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.

And finally a verse you have heard a lot lately, Matthew 28:19

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

The Trinity is a reality of which the Bible clearly speaks.

Why then is the Trinity important?

Jesus is God. He is not like God. Nor did God adopt Jesus.

Our salvation is based on Jesus being God’s one and only Son and dying on the cross and then rising from the dead three days later. If he was not equal with God the Father, then our salvation is fake.

The Holy Spirit is God.

He was present at creation as God the Father created the heavens and the earth. He was present at Jesus’ baptism. (Matthew 3:16 – “As 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 alighting on him.”)

With God being Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we serve a profoundly powerful and redemptive God who we cannot fully know or comprehend. But one who reveals Himself to us through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And they are not three separate beings. They are one being co-existing together… always.

God is relational.

Jesus spoke often about His relationship with God the Father. In John 10:30 He said to the Pharisees who were questioning Him about His identity “Are you the Messiah?” “I and the Father are one.” They wanted to kill Him because they considered such a statement to be dead wrong and arrogant and profane. Throughout the gospels Jesus speaks of His relationship with the Father.

So we have a Trinitarian faith not a Unitarian one.

A Unitarian faith is one in which Jesus was believed to be a created being and not as divine as God is. We respectfully disagree with that for if Jesus was not God then how could He have done what He did as recorded in the gospels – the miracles of healing and of raising Lazarus from the dead? And then the most important – rising from the dead as well?

We worship, serve, and love a magnificent God. He is all powerful, all knowing, all present for us. He is love and grace and mercy. He offers us the forgiveness of everything we have done and said that was wrong.

But He is also a mystery and beyond full human comprehension.

So on this Trinity Sunday, we are reminded that the God we come to worship is a God who makes Himself known but is truly unknowable. And yet… He is also our greatest lover and our creator.

Give Him praise today! Amen.