Liberty, Wild and Free

BCMVII6673The fourth of July has become my favorite national holiday. I love the sense of nationalistic pride that comes from hearing patriotic songs on the radio. I love the brilliance and boldness of the red, white, and blue of the American flag displayed everywhere. I love the tumultuous sound of military aircraft on display down by the river in our town in the late afternoon hours as we wait for the coming of the dark. And I love the sights and sounds, the lightning flash and thunderclap, of fireworks bombarding the night sky and penetrating into my soul. I love all these things for what they have come to symbolize for me and so many others: freedom.

But what is freedom? What is liberty? Can anyone really possess these things? Are not those who claim to be free simply delusional, ignorant of reality? Can I really be free if I am required to work to earn money to pay bills and eat and cloth myself and my family and stay alive? Is not liberty elusive, deceptive, unattainable, and so unsatisfying? Can anyone legitimately say that they are truly free? Continue reading

Why the Garden Tomb is [Probably] Not Jesus’ Tomb

HOLYLAND 2005 111Several years ago I was blessed to be able to visit the Holy Land with a former teacher and friend. Seeing the places where biblical events transpired was a truly life-changing experience. I do, however, remember being perplexed by the presentation of the two different popular locations for the burial place of Jesus. One site is contained within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Having grown up in a city with an abundance of Catholic churches and being familiar with the iconography and liturgy that accompanies them I was not impressed by the site. It was dark, dank, and devoid of joy, crowded with weeping pilgrims asking forgiveness, perhaps unsure if Christ would grant their petitions.

There was a great contrast between that first site and the Garden Tomb that we later visited. The Garden Tomb was situated in the midst of beautiful greenery in a quiet and quaint area inviting the meditation and reflection of visitors. There was even a sign on the recently added tomb door that read “He is not here. He has risen.” I will never forget my instructor standing beside me near the Garden Tomb with a smile on his face, saying facetiously, “This place just feels so good, this is where it had to have happened. Jesus had to have risen from the dead here, right?”

He was referring to the fact that in spite of how the two different sites may feel, the Garden Tomb is almost certainly not the place where Jesus was buried. Looks can be deceiving, and the look and feel of these two sites today convince many to trust their emotions rather than the evidence. In the following brief sections I want to outline three reasons why the Garden Tomb is likely not the place where Jesus was buried and rose again. Continue reading

Why is the Birth of Jesus Good News?

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“And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”    (Luke 2:8-11)

There’s a lot of good news at Christmas time. For children, there are shouts of joy for presents under the tree on Christmas morning or weather reports of giant snowstorms on the way and days off of school. For adults, announcements of Christmas parties, bonuses, time off, paid vacation!

But why is the birth of Jesus good news? Why do we, two thousand years later, celebrate the birth of a Jewish boy from a home of unimportant nobodies in an unimportant Podunk city in the ancient Middle Eastern nowhere? How does this event that took place so long ago have any bearing on our lives today? The angel’s words to the shepherds in Luke 2:10-11 help us understand. Continue reading

Does the Shamrock Picture the Trinity?

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The shamrock is commonly used to picture the Trinity, and at first glance it’s easy to see why. There are three leaves that are united in one plant and join at one stem. This gives us a picture of the Triune God of the Bible, does it not? The God who is one, and yet at the same time eternally exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So where is the problem? Why don’t all Christians just use this picture to explain the Trinity?

What the Shamrock Does Well

The shamrock gives us a good picture of the distinction of the Trinitarian persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) while showing they are united. We can see this come out clearly in God’s word. In Matthew 28:19, for example, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Interestingly the Greek word for name in that verse is singular. In other words, Jesus says that His disciples are to baptize in the one name of the Father, the Son, the Spirit. The name of God here is “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” There are three persons, but there is one being, one essence.

The shamrock has three leaves that come together as one plant. This can be a helpful reminder to Christians that God is three persons who eternally exists as one God. The three persons share one common divine nature. The three leaves are distinct from one another, just as Father, Son, and Spirit are eternally distinct. At the same time, the leaves are united, just as Father, Son, and Spirit are eternally united.

Where the Shamrock Picture Fails

Where the shamrock does not succeed in picturing the Trinity is in the fact that each of the divine persons is fully God. The Father is fully God, the Son is fully God, the Spirit is fully God. The Father is not a part of God, but is fully God in Himself. The same is true with the Son and the Spirit. This is brought out in regards to Jesus the Son in Colossians 2:9, “For in Him [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” Jesus is fully God in His incarnation while at the same time being fully man. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is fully God (a fact that should give tremendous comfort and courage to the believer in Christ on a daily basis).

In the shamrock, each individual leaf is not the entirety of the plant. For the picture to be biblically and theologically accurate, each leaf would have to somehow be the entirety of the plant. To our minds this seems impossible, and at this point the right response is to pause in wonder and praise in worship the greatness of our Triune God who is three in one and one in three and is so eternally and infinitely.

The shamrock can be a helpful picture, but the picture shouldn’t be taken as a perfect illustration of what God is like. It can only help us understand God in a limited sense. While the shamrock is a convenient metaphor, it remains (as all pictures and analogies of God ultimately are) imperfect.