Category Archives: The Trinity

The incarnation and today’s news

The incarnation means that the Father of Jesus refused to give up on us.  Today’s news is full of reports of an American Father, David Goldman being reunited with his son, Sean, who was kidnapped and held in Brazil for more than half of his life.  For this Father it was unthinkable to “move on;” unimaginable to forget about Sean and to turn his focus to other things.

But the problem is messy in two ways: legally and relationally.  Legally, David Goldman battled for years to establish his claim over Sean and to answer any argument that would say otherwise.  In the story of God, that battle took place on the cross when Jesus shattered every claim the Enemy had over our lives through sin.

But an equally difficult challenge, in the case of nine year old Sean, will be the reestablishing of a relationship with a Father who has been maligned by five years of indoctrination by his adulterous Mother and stepfather.  Last night’s news gave a name for it that made me sit up and say “That’s the problem of the human race!” Parental Alienation Syndrome is what happens when a child, separated from a parent, begins an unjustified campaign to vilify the parent.  It happens through indoctrination as well as in the imagination of the child himself.

What a perfect description of the human race, lost in a jungle of religion that slanders God and paints him in harsh, demanding terms.  As I write this David is sitting on an airplane trying to regain the trust and affection of a nine year old who has been programmed with alien ideas about his Dad.  I wish him well in what may be a long journey.  In the case of mankind, Father approached this tragedy by sending Jesus to mirror his staggering love and affection towards us, and then to declare “The person who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

This Christmas I rejoice in two great realities:  I am no longer alone, and Jesus has shown me the true face of my Father.  I pray that you will allow the God who has come near to put his arm around you and pull you close.

Hymn to the Godhead

Song to the Godhead

Father of mercy,
Author of life;
Lord of creation,
Refuge in strife;
Broken your heart
From Adam’s dark sin;
Determined in passion
To bring us back in.

Jesus our brother
Sent from the throne
Revealing the Father,
Calling us home.
Offering your utmost
To break the dark curse;
To raise us to heaven
And show us our worth.

Sweet Holy Spirit
Come open our eyes;
Bind us together,
Break off the lies.
You are our Comfort,
The Spirit of Truth
Lift us, adopt us
And make us anew.

Don Stephens

Where it all begins

ford-maddox-brown_christ-washing-1848Every good thing finds its origin within the circle of the Trinity.  Honor, justice, love, joy and beauty with a thousand other gifts are simple reflections of the “circle dance” of life that pulses between Father, Son, and Spirit:

  • Honor reflects the way they relate to one another.
  • Love reflects the way they care for each other.
  • Order is a shadow of the way Father, Son and Spirit work together.
  • Joy pictures the delight they find in each another.

Beauty in all its forms is nothing more than the visible reflections of an invisible God. And lately I’ve been making a spiritual/mental exercise of tracing the “beautiful things” of life back to their source.

This past week I was pondering the stunning beauty of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet:  Were on earth did such a sublime idea originate?

“Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For what he does, the Son does likewise.”

Where else but in the circle of the Trinity?   It must have been that Jesus saw this staggering act of humility enacted within the affectionate fellowship of the Godhead: Father, Son and Spirit “washing” each others’ feet!  It makes me smile to think of such a God.

Learning to trace these good gifts of life back to their source has done wonders for my vision of God and sanctified my life in ways I never thought possible .

Is Jesus still a man?

circle-dance-black“Is Jesus still a man, and does it really make any difference if He is or isn’t?” I’ve had this conversation with a several friends this past week, and I want to say YES he IS, and that makes ALL the difference in the world!  If the whole incarnation was about nothing more than Jesus going to the cross to purchase forgiveness, then I suppose it really doesn’t matter.   The humanity of Jesus might easily be something he could shed like a suit of work clothes once the job was completed.  But if the incarnation goes beyond forgiveness to adoption, then the fact that there is still a man, (a divine God-man), sitting at the right hand of the Father means that you and I have a tangible human connection – a “brother” – within the eternal circle of the Trinity.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6)  Jesus, being a Spirit from eternity past, had to be born of the flesh in order to become in every sense the God-man. In the same way, you and I, having been born of the flesh a few decades ago, must also be born of the Spirit in order to share that same amazing relationship He enjoys with his Father. (John 17:11 & 22)  Jesus is not only our Savior; he is our divine/human connection between the Triune God and mankind.  And that is crucially important if we are to delight in our place as God’s adopted sons and daughters. (See Ephesians 1:5 and Galatians 4:5)

How do we know Jesus is still a man?  The resurrected Jesus invited Thomas to feel the wounds in his hands. (John 20:27). He was hungry, asked for food, and ate it. (Luke 24:42).  He ascended into heaven as a man, (a glorified man, yet still a man), and the angel promised that He would return “in the same way you saw him go up into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and Gnostics of every sort reject this idea.  But more tragic still, the church has overlooked it to the point that many even wonder if it’s important at all.  And so we stop at forgiveness when we could be enjoying fellowship around the table of the Father, Son, and Spirit.  This Christmas I’m rejoicing not only because the Savior broke the curse of sin, but because his incarnation gives me a place at his table today.  I am no longer alone.

“God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.” (Galatians 5:5)

Reflections of the Trinity

Today I had a sweet opportunity to share my Kingdom stuff, (six hours worth), with a small group of missionary friends. It’s the first time I’ve had the chance to share the teaching in its entirety here in Sarajevo. And that in itself was a real gift

But even sweeter was a dream I had last night: I fell asleep thinking about the Trinity, and how so much of life reflects the stunning oneness in diversity that spoke the world into existence.

At 2:30 am I woke up with a string of ideas rumbling around so strongly in my heart that I had to get up and write them down: Human beings are a trinity of body, soul and spirit. Atoms a trinity of electron, neutron, proton. Family is a trinity of man, woman, child. Music a triune oneness of melody, harmony and rhythm. Musical harmony consists of three distinct tones played as one. All the colors of the spectrum flow from a trinity of three primary colors. Matter exists in a threeness of liquid, solid, and gas. Time is comprised of past, present and future. Creation is a trinity of animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms. And we live in a three dimensional world of height, width depth. It’s no wonder the angels cry Holy! Holy! Holy!

Truth: propositional or relational?

Been thinking about Truth for the past several weeks.   For most of my life I’ve viewed Truth as something found in a series of propositions:  God is omnipotent, omniscient, almighty, merciful, etc.  Sometimes we build our fellowship around systems, concepts and ideas like “Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical”, etc., and we end the day separating into doctrinal puddles like oil in water.  

 But the Truth is a person (John 14:6), and it seems likely we’ll best discover Him in relationships.  That’s gotta be the reason why I get such a kick out of talking with my buddies at Aroma Underground about the mysteries of the Godhead.  The very act of sitting face-to-face in friendship reveals – in a small way – the relational nature of God.

Of the commandments, God instructed Israel to “…talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road…”   (Deut 11:19) “Wherever two or three of you are gathered in my name, there am I in your midst.”  (Matt. 18:20)   Don’t you see it?  A loving trinity of friendship is a thousand times better picture of Father, Son, and Spirit than pages and pages of theology.  If only we could catch hold of the notion that fellowship ought to be built around Jesus Himself rather than statements about a him, perhaps the world would begin to see the True Christ.

Staggering love…

I’m staggered this morning by the notion that according to John 17:23, God the Father loves me as much asHe loves Jesus.

“…so that the world shall be knowing that You sent Me and You loved them just as You loved Me.” (Analytical – Literal Translation)

“…that the world may know that thou didst send me, and lovedst them, even as thou lovedst me.” (Authorized Standard Version)

…so that they may become completely one. Then this world’s people will know that you sent me. They will know that you love my followers as much as you love me. ” (Contemporary English Version)

What do we do with that? It feels dangerous to even imagine it.

The healing power of relationship

This week I’ve been taking notice of the way we humans experience wholeness through relationship. It’s popped up in movies, in conversations, in Emails, and just about everywhere I look. Relationship is the miracle balm that encircles our broken hearts and binds the fractured pieces of our lives together again.

It all goes back once more to the Father, Son, and Spirit, doesn’t it? The Triune God, the “One” who exists forever in the otherness of threeness created us in His image. Aloneness could never be natural because it is foreign to God himself. When we’re alone, we’re broken. It’s as simple as that. Solitary human hermits can never reflect the happy glory of a Trinity who laughs and dances together in joy.

“I have come to believe that the root of all our personal and emotional difficulties is a lack of togetherness, a failure to connect that keeps us from receiving life and prevents the life in us from spilling over onto others.” (Larry Crabb: Connecting)

It’s breaking my heart this week to see so many friends who are feeling disconnected, excluded, and abandoned. Even in the middle of writing this update I had a friend plop down and begin to pour her heart out about the pain of feeling alone. It seems to be everywhere I turn. If only we could believe, (REALLY believe), that Jesus has stepped into our freezing loneliness, broken down every wall of separation and adopted us into His Family, then maybe our healing would begin.

rescuehug.jpg monkeypidgeon.jpg

These two photos illustrate the power of relationship: in the first one, the premature twin on the left was struggling for her life in a separate incubator until a wise nurse moved them into a single incubator. When the frail baby’s sister put her arm around her, the weaker twin’s heart stabalized, and her temperature rose to normal.

The abandoned monkey in the second photo was close to death when it was rescued to an animal shelter in China. And even though it’s health began improving, the little monkey remained listless until he befriended a pigeon. From their “friendship” he drew a fresh lease on life.

What does this say about the stunning relational nature of the Trinity who created humans, monkeys and pigeons?  Would such a tender God, could such a tender God leave us as orphans?

Hymn to the Godhead

Holy Father,
servant Son,
Spirit Teacher
Three in One

Embrace my heart,
eternal Grace;
Great God of love,
reveal your face.

Fearful soul,
backs away;
Bring me from
my hiding place.

Orphaned child,
lost, alone;
Adopt me as
Your very own.

A Father’s voice
I long to hear;
Whisper love
into my ear.

Where can I go?
Where can I flee?
from perfect Love,
Great Trinity?

Don Stephens 9/26/07 Budapest

The telltale sign of loneliness

It’s no small gift that my friends who drop by to visit here allow me to speak openly about loneliness, struggles, and disappointments. Jesus, (I’m pretty sure of this), places a far greater value on truth than he does on “victory.” Heck, one of the greatest “victories” of my life was the day I found the guts to stop answering polite inquiries with religious slogans and start telling the truth.

In fact, I do get lonely. But loneliness is no cause for alarm. It simply confirms the idea that I was created in the image of God, who exists eternally in Trinitarian relationship. My yearning for inclusion is a telltale reminder that ultimate reality, (the Trinity), is in essence relational. Would not the Father or the Son feel the same “loneliness” if either was deprived of the company of the other?

Trouble is, none of us can experience complete “oneness” with the Father, Son, Spirit, or anyone else this side of eternity. “Now we see only a blurred reflection in a mirror, but then we will see face to face. Now what I know is incomplete, but then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (I Cor. 13:12) Today I experience relationship only by degree.

But I’m happy to report I have begun to experience it this week even in the anthill busyness of America: little pockets of people and random conversations where friends have taken the time and trouble to remove the masks and visit. “Behold how good and pleasant it is … for there the Lord commands a blessing” (Ps. 133:1)