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OK, here’s what I want you to do. Pick a number. I want you to double it. Then add 4 to that number. Now, multiply it by 5. Simply add 12 to that. Multiply it by 10. Subtract 320 from it. Take away the two digits on the right hand side of that number. Now, you have your original number back again, Right?
While we are talking numbers let me take that number ‘3’. One thing that helps me have confidence in the Truth of the Gospel is the order found in its consistency; from the front to back, the Bible is full of confirmations of Divine patterns. It’s as though there are threads that run through it, and if you pull on it, all the other parts are connected. That constancy helps me be settled and peaceful in my Faith.
‘3’ …well, let’s start with the scripture explaining that we need to understand the height, width and depth of God. How ’bout the three offices of the Old Testament: Prophet, Priest and King. ‘3’ has always represented fullness in God. Simply, God is 3: Father, Son and Spirit. That’s as full as you can get! There’s more, lots more consistency. The temple was made up of the outer Court, inner Court and the Holy of Holies. The O.T. was identified in Luke’s (24:44) writing as the Law, Prophets and the Psalms. There’s Abraham, Isaac and Jacob used to represent the whole of the Jewish faith. In Numbers 6, we find 3 blessings of God: to bless and keep us, to make His face to shine upon us and be gracious, and to lift His countenance upon us and give us peace.
In the New Testament, that consistent thread follows. God for 4000 years has patterned the fullness of things using the number 3 as a rhythm, if you will, of His Word. Jesus responded to the great temptation stating 3 times ‘it is written.’ John tells of man’s 3 weaknesses: the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life. The Spirit, the water and the blood testify/witness to the Grace of God. The world, the flesh and the devil is referred to in Jesus’ teaching as one connected group. Christ had a 3 year ministry. Two thieves and Jesus were crucified. Jesus was crucified at the 3rd hour, then 3 hours of darkness, and three hours later, ‘It is finished,’ crossed the lips of Christ. Jesus rose from the dead on the 3rd day. The order of belief for us is Faith, Hope and Love. We’re made in one ‘dirt ball’ referred to as Body, Soul and Spirit. Christ’s ministry is identified with death, burial and resurrection. As mentioned earlier the fullness of the Godhead is referred to as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being One. The angels of Revelation bring a final period to the Gospel sentence with worship by crying out: Holy, Holy, Holy!
This Gospel has overcome death, fear and darkness with Life, Love and Light. Simply, in the Creation, light itself is made up of 3 kind of light rays. That Creation is consistent as well. The smallest unit we can see and measure is the atom. It’s the smallest unit of matter and it’s made up again of 3 parts: protons, neutrons and electrons. They, by their very nature, are held together as one unit. Maybe better said, they (the 3 parts) are in relationship with one another. They form what scientists call an electromagnetic field. Simply, atoms are bonded together. The smallest bit of matter is similar to the largest, the most huge ‘3’ thing: Father, Son and Spirit. The smallest unit thing and the biggest Thing are both uniquely in relationship inside their unit.
God (F,S,S) stands outside our universe with its billions of solar systems and trillions of stars and creates an atom on a small planet: earth. As Christians I sometimes think we are afraid of science and make it an enemy. DNA chains and the human eye, heart, the human brain and the content of our souls scream there is a God. Certainly, there are those scientists that oppose the Truth, but science itself does not prove there’s no God. Actually, God proves science! Someone once said that the knowledge of science only adds to the awe and wonder of a flower. Scientific discovery has not proven that God is dead; rather it has opened His Creation to show us more splendor, wonder and complexity. Science only shows how incomplete our understanding of who God (F,S,S) is and what He has done. Unfortunately, the way we use science leads us to power over people, rather than leading us to Wisdom. Typically, science alienates itself from the Wisdom of God; yet at the same time it closely observes the Creation’s order.
It was and still is the great plan of God to bring us into relationship with Himself just as that atom and its protons, electrons and neutrons. God invites us, encourages us to the same kind of relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit, a firm, un-destroyable relationship. Before the foundation of the ‘cosmos’, when only the relationship between Father, Son and Spirit existed, before any atom, universe, earth or creature made of dirt arrived, there was just God-three persons in one deep, interpersonal connection to one another (F,S,S). That’s how 3 can be 1, their hearts are for one another, they are merged with one another in purpose and desire. That desire for a relationship with His Creation did not die, but continued, when Adam fell. Instead of turning His back on Adam and Eve, God moved toward them, embraced them and began a plan that would make eternal relationship, creating an environment where He would be their God and they would be His people. Simply said, ‘I will not let them perish, will not let them fall into ‘nothingness’. The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the cosmos to preserve and invite us into His circle of Love. Adam was big enough to capture the world in a problem; the Son of God, even before the cosmos existed, was planning to do even bigger! It has always been His plan and hope that none should perish. That’s His same plan today: God coming down into His Creation, His Creature and embracing ‘dirt.’ He is Love and Love is natured to embrace, can’t help but embrace.
Jane and I love our 3 children. Raising them has, as with all children, had challenges, but we have completely enjoyed the opportunity to be related to each. In our hearts, we want them to believe us, and we want them to know, and even more to experience, our love for them. Many of our hopes and dreams are wrapped up into their hopes and dreams. And while our love is imperfect and fails to always be sufficient, we still have relationship with them because our hearts are toward them. Jane and my relationship creates a union of care and love. We would never leave or with purpose damage them. Surely we can have confidence that God is super that! Immeasurable that!
Atoms are always moving, but always connecting with one another. God (F,S,S) is moving in the same way, contained in their wonderful and unique relationship and at the very same time wanting to bring in ‘children of God.’ They are seeking us out in order to invite us into their circle of Life. Will we accept the invitation? Will we say yes?
I’m sitting here writing the newsletter and listening to our newscast at the same time. What I’m hearing reminds me of a “great weight” that all of us seem to have to carry. What I’m hearing is certainly discouraging and, at times, it would seem to be more than we can bear. I began to think about the difference between our Faith and all the religions in the world. Our faith really has an odd suggestion when you stop and think about it. Its difference is simplified in one word: Emmanuel, or God with us (and I might add, if He is, then it obligates us to be with or present with Him). No other belief system offers such a suggestion. The Creator stepping down, mingling with His creation was so revolutionary it had never been dreamed of. Even in our Old Testament, God came upon people only to leave again, and never to anyone except prophet, priest or king. But He never, ever dwelt inside people. Now, with Christ things have changed.
And just as radical, we’re to believe that out in the middle of the desert the Creator of the whole cosmos made personal contact with a man (Abraham) and in that contact He has offered “His Righteousness as a free gift”! And then, just about the time the early church got the “Spirit-filled” thing off the ground at Pentecost, here comes another hard pill to swallow: the idea of an inclusive Grace of God. And to make it even worse, this Grace is declared by some guy that used to be called Saul, but for some reason changed his name to Paul. And He starts bringing Gentiles into the group! In Saul’s clique of friends it’s simply, ‘Forget about it’! That’s just too much for “good old religious folks” to bear! After all, mythic gods and even the Jewish God had never, ever been portrayed as tightly knit with their followers and certainly never yielding to a grace fellowship with them. Greek gods were to amuse themselves with the tragedies of people’s lives. They were to demand sacrifices, penance, servitude, be worshiped– and don’t forget a god’s part-time work of creating great fear among his or her people just to keep them in line. In the Old Testament there was always separation implied, a God that arrived, did His Thing and moved on. That this good-God would declare Peace and a Rest for his subjects, those lousy bums? I mean give me a break here! But, that’s exactly what we’re to believe if we believe in the work of Christ.
A Peace based on the Mercy and the Grace of God was hard for a people to accept, people that had used the Law of God as their agent of change in a person’s life. But now, Paul’s book of Romans was using a Greek word, charis, street language, meaning “unearned favor” and this man of God was using it to talk about the way God favored us. Then, like an Emeril cooking show, “bam!” the Word of God kicked it up a notch by making the case for favor that’s not only unearned but undeserved as well! That was too much! After all, the Pharisees had perfected the deserved “rewards” of God as the order of the day. How could those new Christians suggest such a thing as a merciful God, a God that we could literally call to intimately as Father? A God we could pray to and He would hear us of all things? Well that’s where we find ourselves. By believing in Christ we move into fellowship with the Spirit. This is the one-line Gospel: ‘in that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I in you.’ (John 14:20)
The daily news should not spook us like quail hidden in tall grass. Instead we should hold our ground, trusting in both what Jesus did for us and also to us. We are His people, not a suggestion but a fact. David identifies God as “my habitation.” He is “my Shepherd,” not just corporately, but individually. He never leaves or forsakes! He doesn’t rent a place temporarily and do ‘temp-work’ here; He paid a very expensive price to live with us! We don’t have to call out to Heaven for intervention; we simply need to access our hearts. It’s not a ‘depends on His mood’ type of living in us. He does not travel between Heaven and Earth visiting our lives occasionally! He is here. And as hard as that is to wrap our heads around, the Scriptures of God declare it as fact, proclaim it as Truth. It does not become true because we believe it; it’s True because He’s said it’s True, said that Jesus was the Truth.
I remember a Bible teacher illustrating “God inside us” with a story about playing tennis. If I wanted to learn to play tennis I could go to the store and purchase a tennis racket, get magazines about tennis. I might get books that explain tennis. I could get on the Internet and YouTube and see tennis. I could even buy a pair of white shorts, shirt and shoes especially designed to play tennis. I might go to Wimbledon to watch the experts play, could go so far as to hire a coach. After doing all that, I’d finally go to the court and try to play tennis only then to find out all that preparation was of no practical use because something “inside” me refuses to co-operate. My muscles don’t coordinate; I’m slow of foot and exhausted! However, what if my tennis coach could “step inside me”, inside my mind, nerves, muscles? Do you think that would make a difference in my game? My part would be to quit playing tennis and let coach do it. That coach didn’t teach me how to play tennis; he is how I play tennis. I would not be playing tennis in my own ability, but by resting in the one who is inside me, he plays tennis through me. God in us does that for us if we permit through our trust.
Well, that’s the “story” we’ve been given to believe in. God in us, with us. Amazingly He wants to be right there! When I listen to the news, look around at my world, and feel the weight I remember my “helplessness,” but much more importantly, I remember the “Helper.” I have no idea what I’m going to do about tomorrow but I trust God to live through me and anticipate living according to the ability He brings. No other religion will offer such a miracle, offer such a remedy. Imagine a God that desires to be with us so much that He searched us out while we were still a mess, determined to do that before you and I existed, before anything existed. Hoped for and provided a solution for our alienated minds by providing Jesus to make us able to have fellowship and relationship with God. A God that made a mystery that must not be solved by trying to get to Him, but a God whose mystery is that He has come to us. A God whose nature was to breathe Life into Adam and in His very next act literally ‘spoke’ to the creature. A God who, rather than running the other way when His creation (Adam) blew it, ran toward us and promised not to leave us that way. Colossians (1: 20-22): …having made Peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, whether they be things on earth or things in heaven. And you, who were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you Holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight. It’s kind of hard to “swallow” but that Saul/Paul fella seemed pretty convinced. Maybe we should be as well.