Recently my daughter, Abby, and I have been golfing together. She’s eleven and very new to the game so I am careful not to give her much instruction or set her expectations too high. Right now she just starts each hole at 50 yards and works her way in. She is making par on some holes already and seems to enjoy going with me.
For Abby and I, the chance to be together outdoors is what makes our golf outings most enjoyable. But… there is another thing that excites her. Once we get out to a flat area of the course I move over and let her drive the cart. Now I know what Harvey Penick said, “In my opinion, no young player can develop his or her game to its highest potential if he or she rides around the course in a golf cart.” But… renting a cart and letting her drive it is another way to keep my younger daughter interested in the game and, if all goes well, maybe she’ll fall in love with golf and go to college on an athletic scholarship.
So the first time Abby ever drove the cart she made me seasick!! She was literally swerving from one edge of the cart path to the other. Thankfully she wasn’t going very fast but in any case we were driving twice as far as we were going, if you catch my drift. (see what I did there)
Finally, I asked her a question, “Abby, are you looking at the cart path right in front of the cart or are you looking out ahead a few yards?” She responded by telling me that, indeed, she was focused on what was immediately in front of her.
I made the recommendation that she keep her focus a short distance ahead of the cart and after that she did well. She drove the whole back 9 and only bumped the curb once. I was highly impressed with her hand-eye coordination, timing, and skill… and that was just in handling the cart, not to mention the half dozen times she made bogey or par.
Arriving home, I told my wife that there was surely a spiritual lesson in the cart driving experience Abby had that day. Well, I think there is and I think this is it:
Too often in our walk with the Father, Son, and Spirit we are tempted to focus too much on what is right in front of us. We get focused on our doubts, our financial situation, our politics, or the latest “ism” or “schism” the Christian Church is talking about. What we may find helpful is to keep our eye on the Big Picture… his name is Jesus. Sure we must keep watch for what is right in front of us but our main focus should always be on Jesus, as he relates to our Father, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and our inclusion in that life of love.
Yes, rather than bump and weave our way through life from one side of things to another, perhaps we’d be a lot better off paying heed to these words found in Hebrews 12:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, (emphasis mine) the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Theological Theme: The burnt oﬀering was for the removal of the people’s guilt before God; the grain oﬀering restored Israel to serve God and neighbor, and the fellowship oﬀering was for the reconciliation between God the Father and His people.
Christ Connection: Because of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, we celebrate the removal of our guilt before God, the freedom to serve God on His mission, and the restoration of our relationship with God – Father, Son and Spirit.
Missional Application: Because we who share in Christ’s life have been freed from our guilt, God the Holy Spirit calls us to serve Him by serving others.
*photo courtesy of pinterest.com
One expects certain things from a Baxter Kruger book, such as really good theology, stories about fish, the phrase “truth of all truths,” and references to Cajun cooking. In this, PATMOS delivers as expected. Add to that some SHACK-like trini-magical realism, and the result is an edifying and enjoyable book full of Baxter’s familiar blend of God-talk and fart jokes.
What I didn’t expect was the Holy Spirit.
In PATMOS I found a Baxter Kruger book packed with pneumatology. For years I’ve heard him mention that he’s been doing some thinking on the Holy Spirit, but I never heard him say much more than that. Well now we can definitely say his thinking here has arrived at where it’s been going all these years.
This is welcome news for me, because I’ve had like a couple dozen pneumatologies through the years, and I’m tired of being so flaky about it.
Baxter has a knack for casting his line to people like me who live in theologically flaky clouds, and reeling us in to land us on something solid, something like Rock. He’s done this to me a couple times now, and this could be Number Three.
As I now flop about, gasping, on this new ground, what I see is a sort of Krugerian thumbs-up to my Inner Pentecostal. That part of me who thinks I may have 1). Heard God talk to me a few times, 2). Healed a friend’s damaged kneecap, and 3). Spoke in tongues once. I’m hearing from Baxter that maybe that part of me is theologically legitimate, that this part of me fits in the real world of the Triune God.
That said, I’m not certain I agree with Baxter here. I’ve grown a lot less Pentecostal in recent years, and that has its benefits. For example, I spend a lot less time worrying about being crazy. But Kruger has steered me in good directions before, so I plan to give him a big fat benefit of the doubt.
There is such a thing as infantile greedy swindling Pentecostalism with big hair and small brains. I’m not going back to that.
But what I see in PATMOS is not that. I see the Apostle John live in easy rhythm with the Holy Spirit as his constant, real, practical connection to the Incarnate Son in face-to-face union with the Father. And it wasn’t smarmy or weird. It was kind of cool.
So yeah, I’m not done thinking about this. Give PATMOS a read, and tell me what you think.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from SpeakEasy in exchange for an honest review.
Theological Theme: The tabernacle was built so it would be possible for our holy, unique and one-of-a-kind relational God to dwell among a sinful people.
Christ Connection: God instructed the Israelites to build a tabernacle so that He could dwell with them. God wants to be with His people. For this reason, God the Father later sent His Son, Jesus, to “tabernacle,” or dwell, with us.
Missional Application: As the people in whom God, Father, Son and Spirit dwells, we are called to manifest His glorious presence in the world in which we live.
*photo courtesy of slideshare.net
…Black, White, Asian or Hispanic??? Or Republican, or Democrat? Or why not say you’re a Millennial, Boomer, or a Gen X’er??? (After all everyone else calls themselves by their age, too?) Why not call yourself ESFJ, or INTJ – for those familiar with the Myers Briggs personality inventory?
Because, simply put but complexly true, according to Jesus Christ and the God Revealed in Him, you are not any of those things! You certainly may exhibit some of those traits but…
“Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.
– Colossians 3:3-4 (The Msg)
According to Jesus, from the Father and through the Holy Spirit in the Apostle Paul, that’s why you shouldn’t identify as just any old “thing”, or even as your own thing! So if you’re struggling with your identity, it is probably because you’ve forgotten, or never knew the Truth God points out through this scripture:
1.) Your identity is not in some thing (your sexual attraction, your skin color, your political party or age), it is in Someone outside yourself, namely, in Jesus Christ, in God. You’re going to have to look outside yourself in the first instance to discover your identity! You should receive and look to Jesus because your real life is hidden in him. Your true humanity is hidden in him. He is your life! (By the way, what largely remains hidden to you now is the glorified humanity Jesus has for you; the humanity that will never die and is incorruptible. What isn’t hidden is all of the other stuff revealed and witnessed to about Jesus in the bible!)
2.) If you’re going to receive who you really are, you’re going to have to follow Jesus and let him show and tell you. Because he is a Person and you are a person, that means discovering your identity is not static but dynamic, or relational and active. Identity is not a thing that can be discovered in isolation from others (as in “I’m a hermit”). Your identity is a discovery that comes in relationship with Jesus and the God Revealed in Him.
3.) One of the greatest and common places Jesus is pleased to meet you is in the scriptures! Perhaps you, personally, are having more clarity about your identity through the scripture just quoted. It wouldn’t surprise me! This Relational God – Father, Son and Spirit is the one who inspired and left us these books we call the bible through which he would encounter us and witness to himself! If you like reading books, he left you quite a few to catch up on! Lol! If you are getting clarity about your identity through the scripture notice that we went to a passage through which God has been pleased to witness to himself (though He’s NOT the bible!) Through that passage he was pleased to speak to you not only about who he is but also about who you really are!
4.) Notice also that this isn’t a scripture only about you, it’s about every one of us! Because of who we are speaking of, Jesus, the God/Man and One who created and sustains every single person, your fellow human beings also have their identity in Him! Jesus is literally the One Human for all! Pointedly, this means you should seek to see your neighbor also for who they are in Jesus who represents all humans in his humanity, namely, your brother or sister, or neighbor in Christ!
Imagine for one moment how transformed our world would be if we referred to all others as “brother” or “sister” or “neighbor” “in Christ” rather than the things I noted in my first few sentences? Can you see the difference that would make in our treatment of each other? Can you sense the other-centered love in humility that could thrive, and the self-centered pride that could die? Wow!!!
By the way, none of this means that you become Jesus or that he becomes you! No! He will still be Jesus and you will still be distinctly you. It does mean that Jesus intends to share with you his awesome and glorified human nature so you can relate with God and each other in a way that partakes of the divine nature, as one made in the image of his image in Jesus (2 Cor 4:4)! His life reveals what it really means to be human and those who trust him get to participate in that!
Here’s the link to a GREAT read through which I was encountered by God – Father, Son and Spirit and got stirred to write this article: http://www.livingout.org/why-not-say-you-re-gay-
As author Jonathan Berry writes in his last paragraph:
“We’re often warned of the dangers of identity theft in an increasingly digital age. As a Christian I feel passionately that I don’t want to allow myself to be robbed of the enjoyment of these great blessings, by falsely embracing any other identity. In his letter to Christians in Rome, Paul urges his readers not to “conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). For me, a really important aspect of that mind-renewal process involves ditching any unbiblical labels and securing my true identity as being in Christ.” (underline emphasis mine!)
*photo courtesy of rhemafromgod.blogspot.com
When my older daughter Faith was about 4 years old we all sat down to watch a movie together as a family. It was probably a Disney, Barbie, or a My Little Pony cartoon but I can’t recall. What I do remember is an event that bowled me over theologically. You see, at the time I was only one year into my “Trinitarian transformation” and the Father, Son, and Spirit seemed to have me on such a fast track that nearly everything around me appeared to shout some aspect of the Gospel of our Inclusion in Jesus.
As we prepared the movie, Faith asked if I would make some popcorn with “extra, extra, extra butter”. I agreed and off I went to make real old fashioned stove top popcorn like my grandma Mary Ethel Winn used to make for us on her magic stove.
As the movie began Faith and I sat close so that we could share our bowl of popcorn. Just moments into the movie I found myself staring, jaw dropped, and wide-eyed at my 4-year old daughter. She wasn’t levitating or quoting Shakespeare, she was eating popcorn. Yep, I can guess that right now you might be thinking, “That Bill Winn sure is a weirdo.” Well, you might be right. You wouldn’t be the first person to ever tell me they wonder how my brain works and frankly I don’t know either except to say that more and more, in the past 10 years I have tried to make my brain more available to the Holy Spirit.
What I had a front seat to that night on the couch with Faith was her personhood, she’d always had it but in her development as a child it was becoming more obvious. You see I was eating the popcorn too, and the butter and salt content was perfect (if I do say so myself). I was enjoying the popcorn but Faith was too, why? She was enjoying the popcorn because it tasted good and, as a distinct person in the Cosmos, she liked it.
We are distinct persons given a place in the Triune God’s Universe. The great news of the Gospel is that we have been included in the life of Jesus with his Father in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and we will never lose our personhood. We will never not be us. Our inclusion and union must never be thought of like a droplet that gets included in a bucket of water. If we put a droplet of water in a bucket of the same substance it become indistinguishable from the rest of the water.
Our inclusion, our union, did not cause humans to disappear into God. No, our inclusion and union highlight us as persons so that we are more brightly shining as the Image of God than ever!
Humanity has been included in the Shared Life of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Trinity and Humanity- in unity, but forever distinct persons.
Thank you Jesus that you love me and have included me and that you value me so much that you have ensured that I will always be me and someday… a more awesomely Christ-like me than I can imagine!
Theological Theme: God the Father’s law reflects God’s intention for human flourishing in society.
Christ Connection: As the sinless Savior, Jesus is the only One who has kept the law perfectly. He demonstrated His love for others by laying down His life in their place.
Missional Application: Because we have experienced God’s great love toward us, we are called to love and seek the good of our neighbors in the Grace and Power of the Spirit.
*photo courtesy of tourguidepastor.wordpress.com
I don’t yet know what that new thing will be. This blog – and its predecessor e-newsletter The Adopted Life – began as an extension of my pastoral ministry in GCI. Since my ministry in the Episcopal church began four years ago I’ve had a desire to focus my energy on writing in places and ways that will be an extension of that ministry as this one was of my ministry in GCI.
I’ve also started to wonder about blogging in general. It has certainly been a great outlet for me to form and test my thinking. And I know from the comments I’ve received that it has been helpful to others. But after years of writing I share some of the doubt implied by the Teacher who said “of making many books there is no end” (Eccl. 12:12). I sometimes wonder how much the world needs yet another blog post. For those who must write in order to think, or even to live, it doesn’t matter if the world needs another blog post – they must write anyway. For those, like me, who need to talk in order to think or live, writing is just icing on the cake.
So, I take my leave of you. I’ll still pop up in the comments section from time to time on some posts and if I do find a new place to blog I’ll send word back to all of you about where to find me.
As I close this chapter, let me take a moment to summarize what I’ve been trying to say for the last 8 years: God is loving, inclusive community as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Through the Son’s incarnation as the man Jesus, all of humanity – including you! – has been adopted into God’s life to share forever in the freedom, love, and joy that the Father, Son, and Spirit have always known. Live your life by that and don’t ever forget it.
~ Jonathan Stepp
Theological Theme: God the Trinity’s law reflects His good character and His desire to be first in the lives of His people.
Christ Connection: As the sinless Savior, Jesus is the only One who has loved God – Father, Son and Spirit – completely and honored His name in all things. Through His perfect work on the cross, He has become our Sabbath rest.
Missional Application: The Triune God calls us to live in a way that pleases Him and puts on display His purpose for humanity.
*photo courtesy of coonapc.com
“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is one of my favorite Christmas carols, so I sing it with gusto. Sometimes my “gusto” is a little overpowering. I noticed this on Christmas Eve when I saw the gentleman sitting ahead of me sticking his finger in his right ear! I just can’t help myself. The lyrics of this carol resonate with me, especially these lines: “Hail the incarnate deity / Pleased as man with men to dwell / Jesus, our Emmanuel.”
“Emmanuel” – God with us – speaks volumes about the the blessing of Jesus’s birth, with “incarnate deity” affirming his status as fully God and fully man. “Pleased as man with men to dwell” shows the willingness, the self-emptying nature of the Son who was “pleased” to take on our frail flesh so that we might participate in the love relationship that is integral to the Triune God. These short verses from a well-known hymn reveal the heart of the Divine toward humanity.
But they don’t reveal everything. And I don’t know about you, but I like to know EVERYTHING. I like to see ten miles down the road; I like to have a plan; I like to be prepared. The story of Emmanuel doesn’t tell us everything. Like why tragedy happens in our world and innocent people suffer. Like how we are supposed to go on when we lose someone or something we love and value. Like when we will see some evidence of God’s power or healing in a world that often seems hell-bent on self-destructing.
It’s hard to live with not knowing, and our human nature makes us seek certainty and permanence, only to realize that nothing in this world is certain or permanent. Nothing, except Emmanuel, the one who was pleased to live in the midst of our suffering. Somehow we must come to terms with the mystery of God never being fully revealed, though Jesus himself says that “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (NIV, John 14:9). Author Peter Rollins says, “The point is not that the mystery of God is dissipated in the Incarnation, but that this mystery is brought into the heart of the world. The mystery is in our midst. The unknowing is here dwelling among us” (The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction).
While we can’t see ten miles down the road and we can’t have a plan or be prepared for everything, we do know that within this mystery and unknowing is a Heart that is for us, one that is present in our tragedies and unbearable losses and one that is working out healing despite the world’s chaos in ways we could never fathom. That’s the heart I sing about when I sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” That’s why I must belt it out with gusto (sorry, fellow singers around me!). News of the loving Mystery dwelling with us is too good not to share loudly.
~by Nan Kuhlman
Youtube video courtesy of JakeSD19