Chapter Nine: The Paradox of a Tri-angular God


And the goal continues…and the chapters increase…and the journey for all is like day 4 of a 3 day road trip:  it’s a bit long…everyone’s a bit restless…and from somewhere over my left shoulder, I’m sure I heard, “Are we there yet?” and then, “Why are the child-safety locks on?” 

Chapter Nine:  The Paradox of a Triangular God

Moving from the Law of Opposites as depicted in the written word and in the living Word, we’ll now examine that same law as demonstrated in the Persons of God and in the names of God.  As we have seen so far, each inspection of an action, an attribute, or an attitude of God has pulled our vision in opposite directions as we try to look both to the left and to the right, both at the center and at the circumference of God.  As often as we have stepped closer for a clearer view of God, we’ve had to step back for a broader view of God.  His omnipresence makes it impossible not to see Him everywhere we look while also making it impossible to see Him only where we look.  But, because “an intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Prov. 18:15), let us continue to behold our multidimensional God.

The Paradox of God as Illustrated in His Form(s)

We’ll start first with the angularity of God as portrayed in the Holy Trinity:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  These titles are also referred to as the three Persons of the Trinity.  Together, they are God; independently, they are their own Person while also retaining the fullness of God.  In other words, if you were to step closer, you’d see that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; but if you were to step back, you’d also see that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father.  It’s an interesting relationship our God has within Himself.  In fact, it’s a mathematical wonder!

Geometrically speaking, the Trinity is often presented as a triangle.  To be exact, it is an equilateral triangle, with each side measuring the same length and each angle measuring the same degree.  Yet, while the Trinity is portrayed as a triangle, God is illustrated as a circle, having no beginning or ending.  Two shapes, two representations, one God.  It is through both of these depictions that we gain a clearer understanding of our God.  As related to the tri-angle, let’s look at the definition of an angle:  a shape formed by two lines diverging from a common point.  In order to identify a name in the Trinity, we look at an endpoint in each angle; but in order to understand the nature of that name, we look not at the endpoint but at the angle that is formed by the lines emanating from each endpoint.

This means, then, that the Father is seen through the Son and the Spirit; the Son is seen through the Spirit and the Father, and the Spirit is seen through the Father and the Son.  The paradox surfaces when we realize that God defines who He is by contrasting Himself with…Himself.  And, not only does He pinpoint who He is, but He also proclaims who He is not.  God is the Father who sent the Son; God is the Son who announced the Spirit; God is the Spirit who speaks for the Father.  One God, three Persons; three Persons, three angles; three angles, three measurements of God.

The Paradox of God as Illuminated in His Name(s)

            As we continue to see how the law of opposites highlights God, we’ll next examine His nature as illuminated in His names.  Before looking at the names that pertain to the Persons of God, let us first examine those that pertain to the wholeness of God.

Elohim.  This is the first name for God we encounter in Scripture.  It is found in Genesis 1:1 when we read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  This Hebrew name for God is unique in that it is plural in form, just as God is plural in form.  In Genesis 1:26, we come face to face, or truth to text, with God’s plurality when He says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”  While Elohim proclaims the triune nature of God, it is not the only name through which His completeness is identified.  El Elyon, meaning God Most High, and Jehovah, meaning self-existent One, also encircle the entirety of God.  Truly, there is no god like Jehovah, or El Elyon, or Elohim.  He is the God who governs the law of opposites in that His fullness is found in the totality of His parts, though within each individual part, His fullness is also contained.

From the angle of the Father

        When it comes to names for the Father, we will look at three:  El Shaddai, El Roi, and Abba.  In Genesis 17, we meet up with Abram who, having waited nearly 25 years for God to fulfill His promise of making him a father, now falls on his face before his Father, El Shaddai (God Almighty).  Not only does God tell Abram that He will keep His promise to him, but to make sure Abram doesn’t forget his Father’s name, El Shaddai changes Abram’s name!  Abram becomes Abraham; before he becomes the father of a nation, Abraham meets the nation’s Almighty, Promise-Keeping Father, and a new relationship is born.

Just a chapter before Abram’s encounter with El Shaddai, we learn about Hagar’s encounter with El Roi.  Hagar is Sarai’s maidservant who, through a series of events, finds herself pregnant and alone in the wilderness.  She is without a home, without a husband, and without a hope, but she is not without a Father.  Just when she struggled to see a way out of her present, she met the God who saw into her future; in the midst of uncertainties, Hagar meets El Roi, The God Who Sees.  What a revelation is unmasked in this name, El Roi.  When we run into the arms of our Father, not only do we have the guarantee of the promises He has made to us (as El Shaddai) but we also have the assurance that He never loses sight of us, even when we lose sight of Him.

Thirdly, we come to the Aramaic name Abba, which in English means “Daddy”.  Jesus used this name when He prayed to His Father.  In Romans 8:15, we learn that, as adopted children of God, we too can approach our LORD as “Abba, Father”.  What a special relationship we have been offered through the Son to the Father!  It is a bond Jesus shares with God and a benefit He extends to us.  “How great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).  Who is this God…this Elohim, El Elyon, and Jehovah? He is El Shaddai, our promise-keeping Father; He is El Roi, our all-seeing Father; and He is Abba, our Heavenly Daddy.

   From the angle of the Son

As we move to the “endpoint” of the Son, we will do so through another set of names: Jehovah-Tsidkenu, Jehovah-Rohi, and Jehovah-Jireh.  The first name, Jehovah-Tsidkenu, means The LORD our Righteousness.  This name is found in Jeremiah 23:6 where God is warning the religious leaders that He “will raise to David a Branch of righteousness…He will be called THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS”.  The reference is to His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we receive our righteousness.  Paul records the fulfillment of this promise when he writes that our “righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” are found in Jesus (I Cor. 1:30).  Jesus was sent from Heaven to earth so that, through Him, man would have a way from earth to Heaven.  It is from the Father that we receive the Son, but it is because of the Son that we can receive the Father.

Next, there is Jehovah-Rohi, The LORD is my Shepherd.  We are most familiar with this name in Psalm 23 where David writes “the LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want”, but Micah also refers to Jesus’ role as a Shepherd (chapter 5:4) and Isaiah writes “like a shepherd He will arise and shepherd His flock” (40:11).  Then, in the New Testament, John records Jesus’ own use of this name when He calls Himself the Good Shepherd (10:11) and when Peter exhorts the elders to care for their flock (I Peter 5:4), he reminds them of their accountability to the Chief Shepherd.  The Lamb who is our righteousness also guards our righteousness as He shepherds His fold.

Then, there is Jehovah-Jireh, The LORD Provides.  Abraham speaks of this name in the fourteenth verse of Genesis 22, but he believes in this name in the eighth verse of that same chapter.  Here, Abraham and Isaac are physically climbing Mount Moriah but spiritually clinging to Mount Promise.  Abraham believed the Provider of his promised son would also be the Provider of his required sacrifice.  So he climbed…and he clung…and he kept the faith.  And, when he reached the summit of Mount Promise, he found himself at the foot of Mount Provision and at the feet of Jehovah-Jireh.  Here, at the place where the sacrifice was to be made, God provided a ram to take Isaac’s place.  And Abraham, who already knew El Shaddai, encountered Jehovah-Jireh, The LORD Who Provides.  It is a beautiful depiction of God’s love for Abraham and Isaac and a continual reminder to us that, what God requires from us, He also provides for us through His Son, through our Lamb.

From the angle of the Spirit

While the Holy Spirit, as a part of the Holy Trinity, has always existed, His attributes are proclaimed in Isaiah 11, His arrival is heralded in John 14, and His anointing is decreed in Romans 8. In Isaiah 11, we see the Spirit as The Giver:  The Giver of wisdom and understanding, The Giver of counsel and might, and The Giver of knowledge and fear of the LORD (Is. 11:1-2).  In John 14:26, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Helper, for “He will teach all things and bring to remembrance” the truths of God’s word.  Paul also describes the Holy Spirit as our Helper in times of weakness, as our Intercessor when we don’t know how to pray, as our Convictor when we struggle with the flesh, and as our Birth Certificate confirming our adoption by the Father (Romans 8:12-27).  When it comes to “measuring” the Holy Spirit, the definition of an angle couldn’t be more applicable, for truly His endpoint is seen most clearly through the lines that extend toward the Father and the Son, to Whom He illuminates and from Whom He emanates.

The Law of Opposites as found in the Diverging Lines

Just as angles are known by the divergence of two separate lines from one common point, so now we see our God more clearly through the points of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Each Angle (Person) of the Trinity being defined by its alternate Angles (Persons), and yet, both in their individuality and in their collectiveness, they are complete in Who they are as well as in Who they are not.  El Shaddai, El Roi, and Abba are three degrees of the Father measured through the Son and the Holy Spirit; Jehovah-Tsidkenu, Jehovah-Rohi, and Jehovah-Jireh are three degrees of the Son measured through the Holy Spirit and the Father; and the Giver, the Helper, and the Interceder are three degrees of the Holy Spirit measured through the Father and the Son.

The Law of Opposites, we’ve examined it in what God designed (Creation), in what God dictates (spoken word and Living Word), and in what God demonstrates (His Nature and His Name).  Next, we’ll examine it in what God demands.


The (Holy) Ghost of Christians Past, Present, and Future

The Ghost of Christians Past, Present, and Future

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”  Romans 8:14

               I teach seventh grade literature.  That’s not a fact worth mentioning except, because of this, I recently read “A Christmas Carol” with my students.   I’ve seen the movie at least twenty times and I’m pretty sure (completely sure, should my students ask) that I’ve read the play before, but this time it haunted me long after we’d finished the plot diagram.  There was something about those visiting spirits and the changes they produced that kept drawing my mind to the Holy Spirit and His affect upon us today.  And then, there were these words spoken by Ebenezer Scrooge that literally levitated off the page,

“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.  The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.  I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”         Act II, Scene 4

And to that, I can only say, “Amen, and amen.  How can that not be spiritual in nature?  How can that not be a lesson meant to be acted out on the stage of life?  I believe it is.  In fact, I believe it’s time for the curtain to open and for Act I of “The Holy Ghost of Christians Past, Present, and Future” to begin!

Act I, Scene 1

(As the curtain rises, the Narrator and the Visitor are standing center stage.)

Narrator:  So you are questioning the role of the Holy Ghost in your life?  You think, though you wouldn’t dare say, that the Holy Spirit is the “third wheel” of the Trinity?  You wonder if, perhaps, His role is less relevant to your life…to your faith…than that of the Father and the Son?  You aren’t so sure that the Holy Spirit of the past, present, and future can strive within you?  Well, let’s see if the Ghosts of Christians Past, Present, and Future can shed some light on such thinking and either confirm or contest the direction of such thoughts.

Come with me now, as we step back in time and see the workings of the Holy Spirit.  Just as the Ghost of Christmas Past escorted Scrooge to the days of his youth, let us lay hold of the train of Angelic robes and be transported to the days of Messianic youth.

(Stage lights go down and there is a flash of light and a cloud of fog that rolls across the stage.  Lights go up to reveal a first century bed chamber where Mary is conversing with an angel.  Mary wears an expression of disbelief mixed with excitement as she gazes upon the angel, Gabriel.)

Gabriel:  And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end.

Mary:  How can this be, since I am a virgin?

Gabriel:  The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.

Mary:  Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.

(Gabriel leaves stage right.  Light zooms in on Mary and then fades as scene closes.  Luke 1:31-35.) 

Narrator:  Did you see it?  Did you heart it?  A messenger sent by God to proclaim the coming of the Messiah.  And who would be the conduit through which the Son of God would become the Son of Man?  The Holy Spirit.  The Holy Ghost…of Christmas Past…of Christians past.

(There is a flash of light and an emergence of fog.  Scene 1 closes as the light fades.)

                Act I, Scene 2

(Lights come back to center stage to reveal the speaker.  There is a looming shadow of a figure upstage, behind and slightly to the left of the speaker.)

Narrator:  Through the Holy Ghost of Christmas Past, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; through the Holy Spirit, Jesus was conceived and Immanuel, God with us, stepped from majesty into a manger.

Visitor:  So through the Holy Ghost of Christmas Past, the Holy Ghost of Christians Past and Present also dwells among us…and in us.

Narrator:  Not only can people experience the presence of the Holy Ghost, but they may also receive His presents through the Ghost of Christians Present.  But it’s better if you hear this for yourself. Once again, lay hold of the robe that will lead you to see that which overlooks you, yet is all too often overlooked by you.

(Light fades and then slowly returns and pans out to reveal a Jeopardy parody in which a panel of three contestants are answering questions game show style.)

Host:  Contestant #1, which category will you be choosing?

Contestant 1:  I’ll take Holy Ghost for 100.

Host:  Identify the ‘you’s in this statement: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”?

Contestant 1:  Who are the first century disciples…as well as the 21st century disciples… of Jesus Christ?

Host:  That’s correct!  What category do you want next?

Contestant 1:  I’ll take Holy Ghost for 200.

Host:  Scripture that states the Holy Spirit seals us.  Name the reference and recite the verse.

Contestant 2:  What is Ephesians 1:13?  “In Him also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”

Host:  That is correct, Contestant #2. You may choose the next question.

Contestant 2:  I’ll stay with this category for the $500, please.

Host:  This word means ‘seal’ in Greek.

Contestant 3:  What is shragizo?

Host:  Well done, Contestant #3!  You are now in the lead!  Choose your question.

Contestant 3:  I’ll stay with Holy Ghost and go for $300, please.

Host:  What do these three words have in common:  guarantee, ownership, protection?

Contestant 1:  What are the three ways in which the Holy Spirit seals a believer?

Host:  Well played.  Do you want to close out this category?

Contestant 1:  Yes, I’ll take Holy Ghost for $400.

Host:  This verse assures the believer that he belongs to God.

Contestant 2:  What is Romans 8:16?  “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

Host:  That’s right.  What category will be chosen next?  Fruit of the Spirit, The Seven Spirits, Spiritual Warfare, or Spiritual Apps?

(Light fades on scene, closing in on the Narrator and the Visitor who have returned to center stage.  The Narrator recites a monologue.  As he speaks to the Visitor, he moves around on the stage, walking around the Visitor.  The Visitor keeps his eyes upon the Narrator, visibly contemplating what is being said.)

Narrator:  All around, the workings of the Holy Ghost may be found, but too often these are looked over, or through, or past.  Too often, believers are satisfied with mediocre living rather than sold out to miraculous living.  If you are a child of God, then the Holy Ghost lives within you, and He has a three-fold job to do.  First, He is to mark you for the kingdom so that you are always confident in your salvation (Romans 8:16).  Secondly, He claims ownership, reminding you that you were bought at a price and now belong to God (I Cor. 6:19-20).  And, finally, the Holy Ghost offers protection, helping you fight against the flesh and live according to the Spirit (Romans 8:13).  And then, having properly sealed you, He gives you access to His power, that “you may know Him and [Jesus’] resurrection power” (Phil. 3:10).  And, if that’s not enough, the Ghost of Christians Present also gives you access to a storehouse of attributes such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22).  So, what have we to learn from the Ghost of Christians Present?  We are to learn that His presence results in many presents!

(Lights fade out.)

Act 1, Scene 3

(Scene opens to the Narrator and the Visitor standing upon what appears to be a cloud.  Both are looking out over a large body of water, toward an island in the distance.)

Narrator:  Having spanned time with the Holy Ghost of Christians Past and surveyed time with the Ghost of Christians Present, it is time now to meet with the Ghost of Christians Future.  Hold on to His robe, look ahead through His eyes, and listen to His words as He speaks to you through John.

(There is a sudden light that flashes.  When it fades, the Visitor is standing on stage right with his hand upon the Ghost of Christians Future.  The spotlight slowly pans out to reveal a man standing center stage before a throne.)

Visitor:  (leaning in toward Ghost) I know of this man.  He’s the apostle John, right?  The one to whom God revealed what is to come?

(Ghost of Christians Future gives an affirming nod.)

John:  (turning toward the Ghost and the Visitor) Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne.

Visitor:  And who are the seven Spirits, John?

John:  Isaiah named them when he wrote, “And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the Spirits of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and strength, of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” (Is. 11:2).

Visitor:  And who is the One who was, and is, and is to come, before whom these Spirits stand?

John:  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. (Rev. 21:6).

Visitor:  What things will take place, John?  What must I know about the things to come that will make a difference in my life now?

John:  I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. I am making all things new.  He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.  But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Visitor:  Oh, John, it sounds like the best of times…and the worst of times!  How long before this time of reckoning occurs?

John:  I was told that these words were faithful and true by an angel God sent to me.  He said I should share these words for the time is near and the LORD Himself said, “Behold I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.

Visitor:  I see, John, I see.  Ghost of Christians Future, will you take me back now, that I may apply this knowledge to my present days?

(Ghost extends his robe to the visitor who places a hand upon the robe.  There is a sudden flash of light and the stage lights fade.)

Act II

(Lights gradually come on to reveal the Narrator and the Visitor standing center stage.)

Narrator:  Well, what say you, visitor of Christians Past, Present, and Future?  Did the journeys prove worthwhile?  Do you now see the tri-fold workings of the Holy Ghost in the lives of Christians Past, Present, and Future?

Visitor:  Yes, yes, and yes.  I must admit that I haven’t given the Holy Spirit…the Holy Ghost…as much prominence as He deserves, especially around Christmas time.  I think of the Father sending His Son, but I pass over the role of the Holy Spirit in that transformation.  I forget the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past who then became the Ghost of Christians Past and Present as He sealed me with a guarantee of His ownership and protection as I await the return of my Savior.  And I fail to see His place before the throne of God as He too awaits the completion of all things.  As an equal part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit transcends time and works in my past, present, and future simultaneously that I may say, like Ebenezer Scrooge, “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.  The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.  I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

(Lights fade. Play closes.)

Did I mention that I teach literature?  Did I mention that my most recent assignment was for students to rewrite a portion of a story as a drama?  I think that somewhere in my subconscious I felt the need to do the same assignment.  I hope I haven’t drawn the curtain in an untimely manner or set the stage too sparsely or too sporadically.  The goal was to see the importance, the embeddedness, of the Holy Spirit in our lives from the beginning of earthly time to the end of earthly time; from the onset of personal belief to the culmination of that same belief.  I hope the stage lights accentuated such truths.  I hope the Holy Ghost of Christians Past, Present, and Future will draw you ever closer to the manger, to the cross, and to the throne.  I hope “the Spirits of all three will strive within you”!


Paradox – Paradigm – Paraclete

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake.”  Philippians 1:29

                Have you ever heard something that, in your lobe of reasoning, you knew couldn’t be true?  For example, perhaps your parents preceded a disciplinary act with the statement, “This is going to hurt us more than it hurts you.”  Or, maybe you’ve been told, “It may not feel like it now, but in the long run this decision is for your own good.”  We’ve all experienced situations in which we only saw one side of the proverbial two-sided coin…and it was definitely the tail and not the head.  It wasn’t what we wanted.  It wasn’t what we expected.  It wasn’t what we prayed for.  But there it stood, and it seemed impossible to move around it, over it, or through it.  It was a paradox, and we felt paralyzed in the face of such a parapet(By the way, this writing is being brought to you by the letter P.  It was a toss-up between P and Q, as I was minding them both, and P prevailed.  It’s a very persistent and persuasive letter!  Q never stood a chance…just stood there quivering and quaking.)      

While paradoxes are prevalent in everyone’s life, they are especially pronounced in the life a Christian.  And why shouldn’t they be?  After all, they are prolific within the paragraphs of Scripture.  While Jesus was a pro at offering up a parable for His listeners to chew on, He was equally adept at producing a paradox for the same purpose.  Just think about some of the seemingly illogical instructions He presented to those who pondered following him:

  • “He who wishes to be first, must be last.” (Matt. 20:16)
  • “My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
  • “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…Whoever finds their life will lose it and whoever loses their life for My sake will find it.”  (Matt. 10:34,39)
  • And finally, for those who are still standing in the “I’ll Follow You, Lord” line, here’s a final punch…”For it has been granted to you…to not only believe, but to suffer…”

What kind of reasoning is this?  Every one of these statements presents opposing views within itself.  The last one to cross the finish line wins the Golden Sneaker medal, the weakest contestant wins the Strong Man trophy, the dead seed takes home the Most Fruitful award, and the one who wants to serve must also be prepared to suffer.  Illogical remarks?  Contradictory instructions?  Heads and Tails…at the same time?  In a word…in God’s Word…they are simply a paradox:  statements with seemingly illogical conclusions.  But remember, for now, we only see in part.  When we see God face to face, then we’ll see the whole (1 Cor. 13:12) and the paradox will be fully seen in the light of paradise.   But, until then, we’ll need a new paradigm.

Paradigms, as the road maps for decision-making, tend to get stuffed into compartments until the paramount moment when the precipice is reached…and the needed directions are not only precautionary…they are pertinent!  A paradigm is a pattern we tend to follow either because it represents a path we’ve taken before or it’s one we’ve watched others traverse.  Either way, we follow it because we think we know where it will lead us.  But, when we encounter a paradox and we don’t know which way to go, our tried and true GPS (Global Paradigm System) simply won’t do!  In these situations, we need to expect the unexpected…and those pathways can be hard to navigate.  How do you go right by turning left?  How does the downward slope lead you to the uphill observatory?  When it comes to paradoxes, you find that you literally “can’t get there from here”!  At such times, however, we do have a map, a paradigm, to follow…and His name is Jesus Christ.

Jesus caused quite a few paradigm shifts in His day.  He did it as a baby when angels heralded the birth of a King… in a manger.  He did it as an adolescent when the Word of God studied the words of God with the temple teachers.  He did it at Jacob’s well in Samaria when He said He was the living water.  And, He did it near the end of His earthly ministry when He, the Son of God, washed the feet of the sons of men.  Everything about Jesus, from God’s announcement of His birth to His pronouncement of His death, caused a paradigm shift in the minds of those around Him.  The coming Messiah…in a manager; the Word made flesh…studying the scrolls; the Creator of man…washing His creations’ feet.  Who expected any of that?  Who would have expected such unexpectedness?  But therein lies our pattern; therein lies the template we are to place over our lives so that we may trim away what lies outside its borders.  Jesus, Himself, is a paradox that demands a paradigm adjustment.  He is fully God yet fully Man; He is the Sinless One who died for sinful man; He is Omniscient yet unable to say when He will return (Matt. 24:36).  Jesus is a paradox; but He left us with a pattern to follow so that, by it, we could realign our thinking, reconstruct our mindset, and recalculate our direction.  When we don’t know which way to turn, we can always examine the life of Jesus and follow the pattern He outlined for us.

But we all know there is a gap between knowing and doing.  Actually, it’s more like a gorge than a gap!  We all too often know the right thing to do and yet do not do it (and yes, to him who does not do this, it is sin; James 4:17).  So, if we struggle under normal circumstances, what do we do when we encounter paradoxical pitfalls?  We update our GPS and exchange our Global Paradigm System for God’s Paraclete Service.

In Greek, paraclete means advocate or helper; in the New Testament it is the name given to the Holy Spirit who is our Helper and the One who comes alongside us…and dwells within us.  The Holy Spirit, as our Paraclete, also serves as our Great Connector.  He takes what appears to be contradictory situations and merges them so that they are now conjoined through Him.  For example, when Nicodemus asked Jesus about salvation, Jesus told him one must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus was stunned; how could one be born again?  Jesus presented him with a paradox that Nicodemus’ present paradigm couldn’t compute…his current GPS couldn’t calculate this route.  In his own way, Nicodemus asked Jesus, “How do I get there from here?”  To which Jesus replied (and I paraphrase), “You can’t get there without a Driver…but the Spirit…He can take you.”  And in that illustration, Jesus let it be known that, in Him, even a paradox comes full circle.

Paradoxes, paradigms, and paracletes; one perplexes us, one patterns us, and one positions us.  We can plan on plunging into the unplanned; we can set our mind on knowing we’ll have to reset our mindset; and we can calculate that wherever we’re going…we’re not going to get there from here!  But, as children who are never to be tossed to and fro, we do have our paradigm shifter in the person of Jesus Christ and we do have our paraclete positioner in the power of the Holy Spirit…and there’s nothing paradoxical about that!

paradox cartoon paradox parcel

Getting a Handle on a Holy God

Getting a Handle on a Holy God

“And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings on the four corners that are at its four legs.”  Exodus 25:12 &26

       Handles.  They’re important for picking things up.  They’re vital for moving things.  They’re an idiom for life as we continually try to “get a handle” on things, but can their presence, or non-presence, ever be indicative of something more…of something we fail to get our hands on?  Perhaps, just perhaps, handles need to be handled more insightfully.

Today, as I was continuing my Bible reading in and through Exodus (get it… through Exodus…ha!) I encountered  some handles that I’d never given much thought to before.  But this time, for some reason, they kind of rose up off the page and I had to lay hold of them.  I was in Exodus 25, reading about the Ark of the Testimony, the Table for the Showbread, and the Gold Lampstand.  This was God’s description of the three items that would eventually be located in the innermost part of the Tabernacle.  Each item was outlined in detail and as my eyes read, my mind pictured.  I tried to visualize the ark covered with gold inside and out…with “two rings on one side and two rings on the other side…that it might be carried” (Ex. 25:12, 14).  I attempted to imagine the golden table, it too having “rings on the four corners…close to its frame…that the table may be carried” (Ex. 25:24-28).  And then there was the lampstand…it took a little more concentration as it was far more detailed and decorative with its branches, bowls, knobs, and flowers…but without any handles (Ex. 25:31-40).  I went back over each item, tracing it out in my mind, making sure I placed those golden rings in the right spot.  I had trouble with the table because I kept putting them in a place that would be in the way…I had to keep moving them until they were (I think) in the right place so as not to be thigh or hip bruisers.  And that’s when I noticed the lack of handles on the lampstand.  The ark had handles for moving; the table also had handles; why not the lampstand?  How would it be moved?  As I thought about it, I rethought what each item represented.  And then my mind pictured far more than the description of each item; now, my mind looked upon the Deity each article represented.  And when I saw the Father in the Ark, the Son in the Table, and the Spirit in the Lampstand, then I also saw a purpose for the rings…as well as a purpose for the lack of the rings.

One of the things I love about the Old Testament is the way in which it foreshadows the New Testament.  It’s not an anthology of outdated, overwritten, or overshadowed texts that, thanks to the addition of the New Testament, are now chronicled as “archaic” transcripts.  Rather, an understanding of the Old Testament adds to the context of the New Testament, providing the contextual pegs upon which we can hang our conceptual hats!  (Think about that one…it spins for a while, but when it stops it becomes clear!)  And, likewise, the New Testament enhances the Old Testament.  By combining the two, we learn the literal and symbolic meaning of the ark, the table, and the lampstand.  The ark, covered in gold without and within and containing the Ten Commandments, a container of manna, and Aaron’s rod, represents God, the Father.  The table, also overlaid with gold and upon which the Showbread was placed, is Jesus, the Son.  And the lampstand, ornamental in its design with bowls and blossoms, is the Holy Spirit.  In addition to relating the items within the tabernacle with the Persons of God, there is also a relationship between the tabernacle and the believer.  In 2 Corinthians 6:16, Paul writes, “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’”  If we are the present day tabernacle of God, the dwelling place of the Most High, then wouldn’t it be wise for us to take a closer look at the Ark of the Testimony, the Table of Showbread, and the Golden Lampstand…and at those handles?

The ark was simple in form with no blossoms or branches, but it was iron-clad, or should I say gold-clad?  It safely housed the commandments, the manna, and the rod.  When looked at through the overlayment of the New Testament, we see these as the Law, the Bread of Life, and the Rod of the Spirit.  God the Father is our Ark of Testimony.  In Him we find our Judge, our Provider, and our New Life.  (I find it interesting that even in His Role as One-in-Three, He is still Three-in-One!)  Next we have the table.  It too was simple in its design, but it was solid, stable, and serviceable; upon it the show bread was placed.  Jesus is both our table and our bread.  His life was a counter upon which He placed His own body.  Just as a table’s purpose is to serve others, so Jesus’ life was one of service to mankind.  And, as the ultimate host, He not only offered the table, but He offered Himself that we might be filled and hunger no more.  Finally, there was the lampstand.  This item was beautifully adorned and embellished.  Four times the word ornamental is used in describing this lampstand.  It was meant to catch one’s eye.  Here, I believe, the lampstand represents the Holy Spirit; different in appearance but not in substance.

So what of the rings, those handles of old?  The ark had them as did the table, but the lampstand did not.  Common sense tells me that the ark and the table would have been heavier and, therefore, would have needed “two men and a camel” to move them while the lampstand could have been picked up and carried by “one man and a donkey”.   So, the rings are probably related to the weight of the articles.  But, common sense sometimes keeps us at the gate rather than moving us through it, so sometimes I defy common sense…after thinking it through, of course.  Today, I took a few steps past common sense and when I arrived at a clearing where the New Testament light shone upon the Father of the Testimony, the Son of the Showbread, and the Lamp of the Spirit, I saw the handles in a new light.  While handles are necessary for the purpose of moving things, they are also needed for the purpose of holding onto things.  When it comes to our relationship with the Father and the Son, I don’t know about you, but I need something to hold onto.  I need to hold onto the righteousness of God that is revealed through His Law because it’s through the Law that I also receive grace. I need to hang onto the promise that God will always meet my needs, for He is Jehovah-jireh, my Provider.  I need to grasp the truth that in His hands there is deliverance.  Just as He used the rod in Moses’ hands to part the Red Sea, so too will He part the waters for me (Is. 43:2).  I desperately need to cling to the table upon which Christ offered Himself for me and to me.  I need to clasp onto the rings that remind me that I too am to make myself available to serve and to be served.  For me, the rings are places where I can lay hold of my God…places where He allows me access to Him in a very close and personal way.  So then, what of the Lamp, the Spirit, which has no handles?  Well, the Holy Spirit is not in need of handles because He is God’s handle on me!  Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God keeps me tightly fastened to His throne…and nothing can sever that attachment.  Thankfully, though I have a God I can hold onto, my salvation is not dependent upon the length or strength of my grip but on the everlasting hold He has on me through His Holy Spirit.

Handles.  They help us move things, but they also help us grasp things.  Today, the handles on the ark of the testimony and on the table of showbread did both; they moved me to a deeper understanding of God and they helped me grasp a new truth:  I have a God with handles…and He lets me hold onto them!

hold tightly to God

Flat Stanley…Flat Christian?

Flat Stanley…Flat Christian?

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Hebrews 11:1

        Have you ever heard of the book, Flat Stanley?  It’s an oldie but goodie.  Though first published in 1964, it’s still widely read today…but mainly by second and third graders!  It’s a story about a boy whose bulletin board falls on him during the night and, though he didn’t flat line…he did flatten.  At first it seems like a terrible fate, but Stanley soon discovers the benefits of his, well, shallowness.  He can now go places that were formerly off-limits, like under closed doors, through sidewalk grates, and into the exhibits at the art museum.  But before long, Stanley wishes to return to his former, fuller, self.  And, with the aid of an air pump, that’s just what happens.  The story line is a perfect setup for creative writing because it poses the question, “What if you were flat?” What if indeed.  What if I were a Flat Kris…or, worse yet…a Flat Christian?

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