Saturday, June 12, 2021

Triplets of Unity: Triune God, One Will – Creation and Pre-Incarnation




Our God is a Triune God – three distinct Persons, Each equally divine, All acting together in one perfect will. All are self-existent (Exodus 3:14), everlasting (present since before time began and throughout eternity; John 1:1; Revelation 1:8,11;21:6;22:13), and all-powerful (omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent).

Jesus Christ is the Creator, the Word Who made all things and Who spoke the universe into existence (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:10). Yet He was not alone in this mission, for it was that Hebrew Name Elohim, that plurality of divinity (Genesis 1:1) responsible for creation, with the Spirit moving upon the waters (Genesis 1:2) to empower the Father’s plan (Hebrews 1:2).

When it came to man, the crowning achievement of creation, God (Elohim –Three in One) said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). This threefold emphasis on the Trinity serves to remind us that all three aspects of the Triune God were intimately involved in all of creation. Not surprisingly, man has a mind, body, and spirit, reflecting God’s Triune Nature after Which he was designed.

In the Old Testament, we see preincarnate appearances of Jesus Christ in human form, often referred to as “the Angel of the Lord,” (Genesis 16:7-11; Numbers 22:22-35; Judges 2:4; 6:12, etc). One such example is when He came with two angels to Abraham. He announced that Sarah would conceive a child through whom Abraham would become the father of a great nation (Genesis 18). Limited human understanding could easily miss that the Word and two angels were visiting from Heaven, for they appeared as travelers and even ate a meal with their host.

Yet when God the Father spoke with Moses (as the Angel of the Lord in a burning bush; Exodus 3:6) and with Elijah, His glory was so great that they could not look directly at Him. The Angel of the Lord touched Elijah and even fed him in his weakness and despair (1 Kings 19:7), but when God appeared to Him in all the fury of nature, Elijah hid his face (1 Kings 19:11-13),

We are told in the Gospels that the Holy Spirit was visible as if in the form of a dove as He alighted on Jesus after His baptism, while the Father praised the Son (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; John 1:32; Luke 3:22). Generally, however, the Spirit is not visible any more than we can see the wind (John 3:8), yet we see His power and learn of Him through the words He spoke to David (Acts 1:16) and to all the authors of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16).

So on those rare occasions when one or more Persons of the Trinity appears to man, human perception of the Father, Son and Spirit varies greatly. The Father speaks from the midst of powerful manifestations of nature (1 Kings 19; Job 37), the Son can be seen, touched and felt as a loving and compassionate Friend (Proverbs 18:24; Hebrews 4:15), and the Spirit is experienced indirectly, by seeing what He has done or hearing others speak His Word.  

Although the Three Persons of the Trinity may differ in their physical manifestations to mankind, they act together with a single-mindedness of will – not only in creation, but also in salvation and in the incarnation. God the Father poured out His Spirit on prophets who told of the coming of the Lord Jesus Who alone can save (Acts 2:1-4). The Triune God knew from the beginning that man would fall and would therefore need a Redeemer.

Through Their “determinate counsel and foreknowledge,” or awareness and agreement (Acts 2:23), the Trinity decided together on the plan of salvation. They allowed the Word to come in the flesh and to be crucified to pay all of our sin debt, that all who trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15: 1-4) would be delivered from sin and death into eternal life.

The Messianic prophecy in Psalms 2:2-3 uses plural pronouns when referring to the Lord and His Anointed Who was rejected by Israel. “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” again emphasizes the role of all Three Persons in this sacrifice.

Perhaps the clearest indication of the distinct yet unified Nature of the Trinity is Their role in the incarnation. Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son (Hebrews 1:5-6), of and given by God the Father (John 3:16), conceived through the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:35) Through His taking on human flesh, man would see the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:13-15), hear His words, and experience His healing touch, as we shall see next week!


© 2013 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Beware of Scenic Overlooks

 


Photo Gary Halvorson Oregon State Archives 2006


Many young people and their families are now celebrating their graduation, a praiseworthy milestone in itself, and even more so in recent times because of challenges in schooling related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  A victory, for sure, yet one that can become a trap if we rest on laurels so long that we fail to commit to the next leg of the journey.

A dream reminding me of this dilemma inspired me to write the blog post below, which I now dedicate to recent graduates and their families. Congratulations to all, best wishes for the journey ahead, and praise God for allowing this achievement and all its accompanying blessings!

In this dream I had to reach holy ground where I would collect priceless treasure. The path to the prize was a maze with the holy place in the center, and each leg of the maze was a narrow corridor hewn into an underground cave.

The design of the maze was deceptively simple – it was just three sides of a square. At each corner was a brightly lit torch, but the sides of the square were long enough so that the light became progressively dim as I left the corner and traveled toward the middle of each side. Then my path became increasingly illuminated as I approached the next corner.

Also at each corner was a smaller, winding, rocky path leading along the diagonal of the square toward the center. After a long, arduous hike to the first corner, I approached the first of these byways. I cautiously ventured out along it and was thrilled by the view – I could see straight down to gleaming piles of gold and jewels heaped up in the center of the cave. At last I had the prize clearly in my sights, which gave me second wind for the rest of the journey.

I was so excited that I nearly lost my balance, which would have been disastrous as I would have tumbled down the rocks into the precipice and plunged to my death. Once I regained my footing and came to my senses, I stumbled back along the crooked path to the corner of the maze, only to find myself confused and dazed.

Which way should I go? The design of the maze could not be easier – just follow the three sides of the square, and then I assumed there would be a path leading directly to the treasure. But the torch light now blinded me; I was unsure of how much time had passed during my detour down the rocky path; and even worse, I did not know which direction to proceed along the maze.

I chose one path, only to discover a long time later that I had gone the wrong way, and was now back to where I had entered the maze. Tired and discouraged, I turned around and plodded again to the first corner, where at least now I was wise enough not to journey down to the scenic overlook.

After that I used the torch lights at each corner as my guideposts, helping me to measure how many sides of the square I had traveled. I resisted the temptation to check out the view below by taking the winding paths to the center. But each time as I left the reassuring glow of the torch to start the next leg of the journey, my spirits fell as the light grew dim, and I wished I could once more have a glimpse of the prize.

Finally the torch from the last corner came into view, and I found that once again I faced a difficult choice. There was an easy, wide path leading down, which presumably would take me to the gold and jewels that had motivated me along the journey. And there was a steep, circular, stone staircase leading up, with no visible reward in sight.

Suddenly I realized that the gold and jewels were merely a distraction keeping me from the true reward, which was the high, holy ground where I would meet my Saviour face to face! The worldly prize was visible and tantalizing, misdirecting me from my true destination. I could not see Him, but by keeping the eyes of my heart fixed on Him, I had the faith to follow Him as He led me in the right direction and to my promised reward.

As I awoke, I remembered that once we are born again by placing our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We walk.in Him (Colossians 2:6), and in His Spirit (Galatians 5:16,25) Who enters our heart at the moment of salvation (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13).

The path to Him is narrow but straight (Matthew 7:13) and simple, not convoluted, for He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:5-6). There are three steps along the path to entering His holy ground: realize we are sinners (Romans 3:23), turn away from our sins (Matthew 9:13; 2 Corinthians 7:10), and trust Him as our Lord and Saviour (2 Corinthians 3:4; Acts 15:11; 16:31; Ephesians 1:12-13; Philippians 3:20).

Yet even the disciples who walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry sometimes faltered in their faith (Luke 22:31,34; John 20:25), and our journey is in many ways more difficult because we have not directly seen, heard or touched Him.

But we are more blessed because we believe and follow without seeing (John 20:29). When we feel lost in the darkness, we should not despair, give up, or turn back, because we have the light of His Word illuminating our path (Job 29:3; Psalm 18:28; 119:105). He is the Light of the world (John 8:12), and as His light shines through us, we are also the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

Of course, Satan takes advantage of our inability to see Jesus Christ directly by tempting us with highly visible, spiritually empty rewards that appeal to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). But these are just scenic overlooks that can waste our time, create spiritual roadblocks, and even endanger us physically.

Sometimes Satan even uses these scenic overlooks to take away physical life before someone can be saved or complete God’s plan for their life. He has plucked away the lives of teenagers who fell to their death as they tried to take a “selfie” by a dangerous waterfall or precipice. The pleasures of sin only last a short while (Hebrews 11:25) before they bring forth disastrous physical as well as spiritual consequences (Romans 6:23).  

It is natural when we have experienced a great victory, spiritual or otherwise, to want to bask in the glow of the mountaintop experience. When Peter saw Christ’s glory in His transfiguration, he wanted to prolong the moment by building tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-6). It is good to enjoy God’s blessings (Psalm 34:8), to thank and praise Him for what He has done through us (1 Chronicles 16:34; Psalm 30:4; 92:1), and to seek His direction for the future (Proverbs 3:6; 16:9).

Doing that prevents intense rebound distress after great victory, like that experienced by Elijah, whom God used to defeat the prophets of Baal in a powerful display of His glory (1 Kings 18). But then Elijah succumbed to fear and depression, thinking that Jezebel would destroy him and that no one would be left to worship God (1 Kings 19:4-16).

Rest in God after spiritual victory is good, but if we spend too much time with our head in the clouds, we may fail to complete the earthly mission God has planned for us.  Even faithful, productive believers such as King David can be diverted from their true purpose by scenic overlooks.

After his triumph in battle, David should have continued the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7) by leading his troops and setting a good example. Instead, he took time off, went home, got bored, wandered out on the roof on a hot summer night, and fell in lust with the beautiful view of Bathsheba bathing (2 Samuel 11:1-3).

Lust led to adultery, deceit, murder (2 Samuel 11:4-17), and then the consequences of his sin – the death of his firstborn by Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12: 18), and family strife for many years to come. If David had the luxury of a do-over, he may well have decided to forego the scenic overlook and to get back to God’s business.

May we keep or eyes fixed on the Prize – our true reward of eternity with Jesus Christ! May our journey shape us into His image, reflecting His perfect light, without wandering into worldly detours that can become deep ditches or even an early grave!


© 2015 Laurie Collett
Edited and reposted from the archives
children's ministry blogs

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Remember



Memorial Day has special personal significance for me as I remember my grandmother, “Baba,” who went home to be with the Lord on this holiday when I was fourteen years old. She loved her family sacrificially, enduring many hardships as a young wife, leaving her home and country to begin a new life with her husband, to raise my mother and then me. She was a true Proverbs 31 woman in her generosity, industriousness, and character, and I cherish the Godly legacy she left me as a model of faith (Hebrews 11), charity (1 Corinthians 13), prayer, and service.

Tangible reminders of Baba highlight my life, from photographs on the foyer table and in albums, to tea towels she hand embroidered in the Ukraine, to a print of the Lord’s Supper that adorned her bedroom wall, and even to my medical school diploma, representing the education she helped finance through her thrift and keen business sense.

As we celebrate Memorial Day in the United States, we remember our fallen troops who paid the ultimate price to protect our freedoms, and we thank them for their faithful service. By giving their lives, they showed the self-sacrificing love epitomized by Jesus Christ, Who laid down His life to save His friends (John 15:13).

Jesus paid it all to bring peace between sinful man and holy God (Colossians 1:20). He became sin for us even though He was pure (2 Corinthians 5:21), holy and sinless (Hebrews 7:26), the perfect Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He rose again from the grave on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), proving that He is the Son of God and God Himself, so that all who trust Him as Lord and Savior have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Remembrances of God’s love, faithfulness and provision also abound in the lives of His children. First and foremost, we have His recorded Word (2 Timothy 3:16), His love letter to us explaining where we came from, His instructions for how to live a fulfilled life pleasing to Him (Proverbs, Psalms), and His plans for our future (Jeremiah 29:11). Throughout the Bible we learn of tangible reminders of His goodness.

The Ark of the Covenant contained the Ten Commandments inscribed in stone (Deuteronomy 31:26; 1 Kings 8:9), a golden pot of manna that God provided to feed His children in the wilderness, and Aaron’s rod that miraculously budded with almond blossoms (Hebrews 9:4). Men of God built altars and used Ebenezer stones (Joshua 4:7-24; 1 Samuel 7:12) to remember, honor and praise God for His deliverance.

If we look at our own lives, there too are numerous emblems of God’s blessings. Our spouse and children are answers to prayer for loved ones to fill our daily lives with love, joy, purpose and meaning (Psalm 127:4; Genesis 25:21; Proverbs 18:22; 19:24). Our dwelling, possessions, clothing and food represent God’s fulfilled promise to provide for our daily lives (Matthew 6:33; Psalm 37:25). Treasured mementos, photographs and letters remind us of the legacy left by our loved ones, and how God enabled us to achieve the goals and dreams He planted in our heart (Ephesians 2:10).

Notes written in our Bible, in a prayer journal, or in our hearts prove God’s faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23; Psalm 36:5; 89:1-2)) over and over as He answers prayer in the best possible way, with His perfect timing, working all things together for our ultimate good, for the good of others, and for His glory (Romans 8:28). May we remember the name of the Lord our God, His works and wonders (Psalm 20:7; 77:11), and His Word (John 12:16; 16:4).

As we visit the graves of fallen heroes on Memorial Day and beyond, decorating them with flags and flowers, we remember their service and sacrifice. May we also never forget God’s mercy, grace, and goodness (Hebrews 4:16), from the cross of Jesus Christ, Who died for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), throughout our Christian walk, and His recorded promise to bring us home at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) to live with Him and our loved ones in Him throughout eternity!


© 2018 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives
 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Coterie Ingenue

 


As readers of this blog may know, it is not unusual for me to have complex, detailed dreams. But sometimes I awaken with just a single image or phrase left in my conscious mind, apparently from a dream I had during the night.

One morning in mid-January of this year, when COVID-19, violence, persecution, and godlessness were raging worldwide, I awoke with the words “Coterie Ingenue” echoing in my mind. I was familiar with both words but had never heard them used together.

The dictionary defines “ingénue” as an innocent, naïve, or unsophisticated young woman, especially in a play or film. Its first recorded use in English was in William Thackeray's 1848 novel Vanity Fair, describing the ambitious heroine who disarmed her opponents by “adopting a demure ingenue air, under which she was most dangerous."

The French word “ingénue” derives from the Latin word “ingenuus,” which is the root of the English word "ingenuous," meaning "showing innocent or childlike simplicity and candidness."

Merriam Webster defines “coterie” as “an intimate and often exclusive group of persons with a unifying common interest or purpose.” The etymology of this word is also French, meaning "group of persons joined by a common interest," or dating even earlier to Middle French, meaning "group of peasants owing labor service or rent to a lord."

This interesting juxtaposition of words, “coterie ingénue,” reminded me of how Christians, or those who are saved by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), should be in these End Times, amidst Christian persecution, plagues, violence, wars, and rumors of wars (Matthew 24).

Jesus told His disciples that in times of persecution, they would be as vulnerable as sheep among wolves, but that to protect themselves, they should be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Serpents are particularly crafty and swift in escaping danger, as well as cunning.

Such wisdom would enable Christians to endure or escape difficult situations, as in the apostle Paul being all things to all people so that he might win some to Christ. For example, he used the superstition of the Greeks, who among their many idols had designated a statue to “the unknown god,” to persuade them that the One True God, our Lord Jesus Christ, was the One they should worship (Acts 17).

Serpents may be wise, but they are despised by most, which could lead to their swift destruction once recognized. Jesus therefore told His followers to also be as harmless as doves, in other words, to portray themselves as inoffensive, meek, and tolerating attack, for example by turning the other cheek to an attacker, or praying for or being kind to an enemy (Luke 6:28-29; Romans 12:20). This strategy would help protect them, as even most wicked people would hesitate to harm a creature as innocent as a dove.

So Christ’s advice to His followers appears to have included some element of dissimulation, or at least of not revealing the wisdom underlying their strategy. A similar situation in the Old Testament occurred when Queen Esther showed such discretion in not revealing her Jewish heritage to the King until it was expedient to do so to save her people (Esther 4).  

The word “ingénue” seems therefore to reflect this two-pronged strategy: appear blameless and innocent, without losing sight of the mission and the wisdom to accomplish it, as portrayed by Thackeray’s heroine.

But I believe Christians are also to have a genuine element of innocence, as we are not to use any unlawful or immoral strategy to protect ourselves or to gain an advantage, even when under attack. Our beliefs and actions are to be beyond reproach, or blameless, in contrast with the wicked world (Philippians 2:15).

We are to be “simple” regarding evil (Romans 16:19), meaning that we should not even know how to do anything wicked. Indeed, if we are simple regarding philosophies of men and the “wisdom” of the world, the Lord Himself will give us His wisdom (Psalm 19:7; 116:6; 119:130; (1 Corinthians 1:17-31), which far surpasses that of man, for He is omniscient (Psalm 139).

As described in three of the Gospels; Jesus loved children and rebuked His disciples for trying to keep them away from Him. He set a small child among the apostles and told them they must become as that child if they would enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3-4; 19:14; Mark 10:14-15; Luke 18:16-17).

We are saved by grace through a childlike faith in and dependence on our Abba Father (Ephesians 2:8-9), and in His Son Jesus Christ Whom He sent to be the perfect sacrifice to pay our sin debt in full (Romans 3:25). In the book of I John, the apostle refers to Christians as “little children,” emphasizing this aspect of our faith.

Just as each Christian is to be innocent, blameless, and without deception, trusting our Lord with childlike faith, we together are to exemplify these traits, bound together in our love for and service to Him. The word “coterie” fits this description perfectly, for we should be an intimate and often exclusive group of persons with a unifying common interest or purpose.

Scripture warns us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16), separate from the world and its fleshly desires, and in one accord in our devotion to Christ and to His purpose for us. Yet we are not to form a clique, have divisions among ourselves (1 Corinthians 1:10-17), stay isolated in an ivory tower, or have a superior “holier-than-thou” attitude toward the unsaved or backslidden (Galatians 6:1). Although we are not of the world, we are to be in the world (John 13:1), where we can be lights for Him, the true Light (Philippians 2:15; John 9:5).

He is our Lord and we are His servants, owing Him everything, yet He has wiped out our debt through His shed blood. We are like the Old Testament slaves set free in the year of jubilee, who choose to stay with their Master Who has been so kind to them and has met all their needs (Leviticus 25:10).

It is amazing how Christians from opposite ends of the globe can meet, in person or online, and despite vast cultural and other differences, instantly feel a bond of love, family and friendship stemming from our shared dedication to serving Christ and bringing others to Him. We are to love one another, for if we cannot love our brother whom we have seen, how can we claim to love God Whom we have never seen? (1 John 4:20)

We are to be “likeminded” toward one another in Christ, glorifying God with one mind and one mouth (Romans 15:5-6). That mindset is to be none other than the mind of Christ, Who put the needs of others ahead of His own, and humbled Himself even to the point of death on the cross for the sake of His enemies (Philippians 2:2-8; Romans 12:16).

Just like the church today and through the centuries, the early church consisted of believers from diverse backgrounds, religious upbringing, social status, and education. Yet all were “in one accord” (Acts 1:14; 2:1,46; 4:24; 5:12; 8:6; 15:25) and had all things in common, selling their possessions to meet the needs of others and of the church.

They were a “coterie” not only in ideals and beliefs (1 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 13:11), but in actions and behaviors. They worshiped together, met in one another’s homes, broke bread together in remembrance of Christ’s work on the cross (Acts 2:44-47; 4:31-35), and supported one another financially, emotionally, and in prayer.

In these End Times, as each day brings us closer to the eagerly anticipated return of Christ, may we act together as a “coterie” in the united body of Christ, exemplifying individually and corporately the wisdom needed to fulfill God’s perfect plan for our life, and the ingenuousness, or innocence and purity, exemplified by Jesus Himself!!

© 2021 Laurie Collett