How Important is the Trinity? Jesus Thinks It Is VERY Important.

I’ve often reflected on the rather obvious thought that when his disciples were about to have the world collapse in on them, our Lord spent so much time in the Upper Room speaking to them about the mystery of the Trinity. If anything could underline the necessity of Trinitarianism for practical Christianity, that must surely be it!

Sinclair Ferguson, in an email to Robert Letham, April 4, 2003; cited in Robert Letham,The Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology and Worship (P&R, 2004), 1.

What TV Does to Us Spiritually

I am not against television per se, but I am a firm believer that the cumulative effect of many hours spent watching TV is a spiritual and mental dullness that can rob a Christian of the ability to think biblically, and therefore, to live biblically.

Greg Beale states this so eloquently in his recent excellent book on idolatry, in which he makes the point of Psalm 115:8—that those who worship idols become like the thing they worship. That is, the idols of our hearts, against which we are warned in 1 John 5:21, change us, as we give ourselves to them. The greatest deception in the world since the Fall has been that people can worship gods beside Jehovah without being destroyed in the process. Beale, then, applies this principle to television-watching today:

Many Christians watch television, and many watch it when they want to sit back and relax and not have to use their minds much. This can certainly be a form of relaxation, but it can also become an uncritical openness to the media’s worldview. Subtly, unconsciously, we absorb this worldview by a kind of mental osmosis. And what is the typical TV worldview? It is a worldview with little to no awareness of, or sensitivity to, God’s working in everyday life, in the details of our life.

Have you ever heard a TV character say, “Well, let’s look at Scripture and see what God says about this. Let’s pray about this”? Or when have you heard someone on TV say, “Let’s go to the pastor and learn what the Bible says about this problem”?…

The absence of God in mainstream media should alert us to the fact that when we uncritically leave ourselves open to the perspective of the media’s worldview, then slowly but surely, it leads us to cease thinking of the things of the Lord in the details of our everyday life. In this worldview, God is not active in the specific affairs of the world or in our individual lives.

At this point you may be thinking, “Yes, but the shows I watch are not that bad! I don’t watch shows with immorality, or extreme violence or profanity.” (That’s how I was starting to justify myself when I was reading this!). But Beale proceeds to show why this is, in fact, so dangerous to our hearts and minds:

And when we imbibe this worldview uncritically, it makes us feel a little bit abnormal, a little bit unnatural in relating to God and being sensitive to his sovereign activity in our daily life. We may even feel awkward mentioning this to anyone, whether to believers or unbelievers. I would dare say that many Christians have been more influenced by the media than they would admit. The media’s worldview has subtly become an idol we easily reflect. And that mindset–that God is not active in the daily affairs of people–can destroy us. What we revere we resemble, either for ruin or restoration.

Greg K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (IVP, 2008), 299.

Wow, this is convicting. If you, like me, at times fail to speak freely of God’s working in your life to believers or unbelievers alike, it could very well be that you have been made to believe that such expressions are abnormal, and are best kept to yourself. This influence may come from many sources, but it is certainly pervasive on television. What a contrast between the way life is lived in the community of a Spirit-filled, Scripture-centered church, and the way it is lived in the world! But how often have we adopted the more reserved and silent worldview, resulting in the absence of God in our speech because that is where we truly live. In this case, our spiritual expression in church on Sundays becomes the exception to our behavior, rather than the rule.

So here’s the challenge: let us cast off the deleterious effects of such an idolatrous worldview by any means necessary (Heb. 12:1-2). Whether the source is television programming, our friends and family, or even our reading material, let’s reject this empty worldview and return to a bold, verbal acknowledgement of the sovereign and ever-present working of God in our lives! In doing so, we will be returning to genuine worship of God, and as a result we will resemble what we revere to our own restoration.

Einstein’s Problem

Albert Einstein’s brilliant intellect ran him right into a brick wall. That is, as he studied the natural order of the created world, he sensed something marvelous and majestic. But his brilliance notwithstanding, he never figured out who or what that was.

I see a pattern but my imagination cannot picture the maker of that pattern. I see a clock, but I cannot envision the clockmaker. The human mind is unable to conceive of the four dimensions, so how can it conceive of a God before whom a thousand years and a thousand dimensions are one?

Einstein had deep within his heart, just like every human, a longing to know the Creator.

I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know his thoughts. The rest are details.

Ultimately, Einstein arrived at a tragic conclusion.

We know nothing about God at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. Possibly we shall know a little more than we do now, but the real nature of things, that we shall never know, never.

The truth is, if Albert Einstein had a thousand lifetimes to study the created world, he would still not know the “real nature of things.” This is the powerful teaching of Psalm 19, a psalm that C.S. Lewis once described as “possibly the greatest poem in all of world literature.”

The first six verses of the psalm describe the penetrating, yet silent, message of the heavens – basically, God exists, and He is very powerful – “The heavens declare the glory of God.” So powerful, in fact, that the blazing sun, emitting the equivalent energy of a billion atomic bombs each second, is merely His “handiwork” (literally “fingerwork”). His power is beyond our ability to comprehend!

But seeing the daily journey of the sun across the heavens is not quite enough to come to know this God in a personal way, to “know His thoughts.” As a matter of historical record, many people in David’s day mistakenly identified the sun itself as a god. Perhaps David was taking a little jab at these idolaters by describing their “god” as simply a little “fingerwork” of the true God.

The answer Einstein sought he never found in nature. I’ll talk about that answer next week from the rest of Psalm 19. Until then, when you feel the hot summer sun on your face, think about “fingerwork” and how marvelous the God we serve must really be. No matter what you’re facing in your life, is anything too hard for Him?

Do You Have “Planning Paralysis?”

If you believe in God’s sovereignty, you may feel a tension when it comes to strategic planning.

Common sense tells you that you should set goals and make plans. The adage “Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time” certainly seems to match our experience in life. Nothing of lasting significance happens without purposeful planning.

On the other hand, we remember that God already knows everything that will happen. He is “working all things after the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). We also know that God already has plans for us (Jer. 29:11). Nothing, absolutely nothing in God’s earth, happens without His wise and loving approval. What possible role could our puny plans serve in the bigger picture of God’s providential oversight of His world?

Proverbs 16 provides at least a partial answer to that question. Not only do these wise sayings assume human planning as a normal part of life in God’s world, they actually indicate that God is already at work through our planning.

  • “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD” (v. 1).
  • “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established” (v. 3).
  • “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (v. 9).

Followers of King Jesus make plans as an expression of trust and dependence on Him. We set goals in obedience to our Lord’s great commission to take the Gospel to every creature. Just like our prayers, our plans make a real difference. Plans are one of the ways we experience God’s faithful guidance in our lives.

Believing in God’s sovereignty does not remove from us the responsibility of prayer-bathed planning. Rather it comforts us that our wise and powerful God is already at work through the humble plans of His people (Jas. 4:15).

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

A Walking Reminder Part 2

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was in a 5K last weekend. It was a community event and our church was encouraging participation as an outreach opportunity. My wife was going to be involved—she was walking along to encourage a friend. Since we usually walk together on Saturday morning, I decided to go along too.

We arrived at the assembly site with plenty of time to spare. We assembled. We were instructed. The runners took off. Then so did we— my wife, her friend, and her friend’s friends, and I. Before we had gone a block, I realized that this was going to be a much slower pace than I was used to on a Saturday morning. After a brief word with my wife, we parted ways. She stayed with her friends. I took off.

I made it to the 1 mile marker basically as the lead runners were finishing the race. I passed another runner at the 1.5 mile point. It was thrilling . . . and then I realized that they were sitting on the grass catching their breath. At the 2 mile mark, the water table was in sight. When I made it to the last marker before the finish line, I had passed a few other runners. Finally I crossed the finish line.

I drank some water. I talked with some friends. I watched for my wife and her friend to come. I check the race board. I talked with some friends. I watched . . . After a while my wife and her friend came around the last corner. They finished the race very near the end, but they finished.

After a time of talking with friends, my wife and I strolled through the booths that were part of the local event. We laughed about passing up the award ceremony and shared the sunshine and the time together. Yesterday my wife found out that during the award ceremony her name was called. She came in second place for her category . . . and she won a medal!!

As I reflect on our 5K, I reflect on the truth of God’s Word that “the race is not to the swift” (Eccl. 9:11). “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isa. 40:31).

A couple of thoughts to ponder: Are you in the right race? Are you racing for the right reason? Are you racing with the right person?

A Walking Reminder Part 1

I was in a 5K last weekend. I suppose, if you’re a serious runner, you would say that I was at a 5K. Our church had encouraged participation and we had around 40 people involved. Since a Saturday morning walk is part of our summer routine, I agreed to be involved. The only difference would be that this Saturday morning there would not be a stop at McDonald’s half way through for breakfast—no big deal!

It was a beautiful day—low humidity and cooler temperatures. The fellowship was great before the race. A little catching up and some meeting of new friends; a group picture of all those involved from our church. Then we moved to the starting line.

After a few instructions, the race began. Almost 300 people began to move at once as we stood there watching. Then we started. Since my wife was walking with a group of other ladies, I quickly decided to go on by myself. And that is how I spent much of the next 2 miles—walking by myself.

Now usually walking by myself is no big deal; however, this Saturday I was in a “race.” At first I decided that I could catch up with the next yellow shirt in front of me. It was one of those moments I have experienced with some regularity over the last few years. My mind and my body have this conversation . . . perhaps more of a debate. So my mind said “Let’s catch that yellow shirt up there about 75 yards.” To which my body replied, “You want to jog! You’ve gotta be kidding!”

In the past my body would have been far ahead of my mind and well on the way to ‘catching that yellow shirt.’ But with the passing of time (often incorrectly attributed to maturity), the mind has been in denial and the body in pain—at least the knees. After 2 miles, once the pain in each knee was in equilibrium, I did jog a bit here and there (and mostly at the finish line where the crowd was). I did cut the distance between me the yellow shirt to about 20 yards. I did finish.

I can write about this today because the pain in my knees is mostly gone. My mind and my body have gone 3 days without a disagreement. And as I reflect on my 5K, I reflect on the truth of God’s Word that “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41b).

How Do You Measure It?

It seems like every time I read through Scripture I discover ‘new’ things in familiar passages. I had one of those moments this spring while going through the Book of Ruth. Before I share my discovery, let me rewind the story for you.

We are introduced to Ruth in 1:4a when she marries into Naomi’s family. The account that follows is one of deprivation and loss. (1) In verse 4b we are told in the story that they “lived there about ten years.” Throughout all those years Ruth was barren (cf. 4:13b). Throughout all those years the famine continued to dry out the land of Israel. (2) Then in 1:5 Ruth’s husband dies. Ruth is left a widow. (3) In 1:6 Naomi decides to return to Israel without her daughters-in-law. Ruth faces abandonment by her mother-inlaw. (4) In 1:6-18 Ruth chooses to return to Bethlehem with Naomi. This choice means that she chooses to leave her parents, her people, her homeland, her culture, etc. The choice will place her at the bottom of Israel’s social ladder—a foreigner (and a foreign woman at that). (5) Naomi, her only Israelite family and traveling companion, is consumed by bitterness (vv. 19-21). Naomi feels robbed by God and insists on being renamed “Bitter” (i.e., Marah).

(6) Chapter 2 apparently records Ruth’s first morning in Israel. The day starts early (2:7) and ends late (2:17). The day is filled with backbreaking labor. First, with stooping over picking up what the harvesters had dropped. Then with threshing and winnowing. Finally with carrying her gleanings back to Bethlehem and home . . . only to repeat the process on the morrow. (7) When lunch time comes she apparently had nothing to eat for Boaz directs her to eat what he had provided for his laborers (2:14). We may assume that she had eaten nothing for breakfast. Naomi and Ruth had returned to Bethlehem virtually empty-handed to a house that had been abandoned over 10+ years earlier. (8) Through Boaz’s generosity, Ruth is given more food then she can eat for lunch (2:14). (9) As we approach the end of chapter 2, Ruth has returned home to Naomi and is sharing an account of her day.

My point of discovery is in 2:18b. Naomi has been home all day apparently with little or no food. So Ruth reaches into her pocket for the left over food from lunch time. The version in front of me reads – Ruth “gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied.” The Hebrew text reads something like – Ruth “gave her what she had remaining from her abundance.” The word carries the basic idea of plenty or abundance.

Here in lies the question — “How do you measure abundance?” I’m not sure that many people in our contemporary, affluent society would have considered left overs from the only meal you had that day after over 10+ years of loss and deprivation as abundance. However, Ruth considered it abundance to be shared with others. We would do well to stop in the busyness of life and in making a living to check our definition of abundance. According to God’s Word, what is it? Do I already have it? Where can I share it? Perhaps it would help to read James 2:15-17 as a commentary both on Ruth 2:18 and on our lives.

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

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