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1 +1 + 1 = 1?

Let’s just say that Math was not one of my strong points. However, even I know that this answer cannot be right. Can it?

Well, it cannot be mathematically right. But it is theologically right.

Math says, “No, no, no! 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 is wrong.”

But the Bible says, “Yes, yes, yes! 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 is right.”

I’m speaking of course of the Trinity, God in three persons.

STOP! Don’t click away yet. I know that word” “Trinity” sounds terribly complicated, and even boring, but with the help of the Shorter Catechism, I believe we can keep it simple and even interesting.

The secret is to accept we will never fully understand this, and be cool with that. We can get lots of enjoyment out of things we don’t fully understand. I don’t understand how a brown cow can eat green grass and produce white milk, but I can still enjoy a milkshake! I have no idea how a plane can fly, but I can still entrust myself to a metal cylinder and enjoy the awe of flying at 30,000 ft and 500mph. We don’t need to fully understand something to enjoy it, to be awed by it, or to benefit from it.

Same with the Trinity. I don’t need to fully understand it to trust God, to enjoy God, and to be awed by God.

So, with that, let’s note three facts about the Trinity.

1. Evident Threeness

Shorter Catechism 6 says: There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost…

It’s very obvious from the Bible that there are three different persons all of whom are God.

It’s not 1⁄3 of a person + 1⁄3  of a person + 1⁄3  of a person = 1 God.

It’s 1 full person + 1 full person, plus 1 full person = 1 full God.

2. Essential Togetherness

…and these three are one God…the same in substance

Although there are three persons, all of whom are God, we don’t have three Gods, but rather one.

It’s not 1 person + 1 person + 1 person = 3 Gods.

It’s 1 person + 1 person + 1 person = 1 God.

3. Equal Throne

The three persons areequal in power and glory

We don’t have a small 1 + a medium 1 + a large 1 = 1 God.

No all the “1’s,” all the persons, are equal in power and glory. They all sit on the same throne at the same level and they are all to be equally worshipped.

Before I was converted, this idea of the Trinity was one of my biggest obstacles to believing the Gospel. I couldn’t figure it out at all and that put me off believing. When I was born-again, I started reading a book on the Trinity and it almost sent me back to unbelief again!

So I left it, trusted the Bible’s teaching (as simplified and summarized in the Shorter Catechism), and over time, through Christian experience, I have come to grasp the Trinity in a way that my mere intellect never could.

In my Christian experience, I have a relationship with three persons, each of whom is equally God, and all of whom are one God. I can’t explain it, and I’ve found no book that fully explains it. But it works!

Previous installments in the Shorter Catechism video series
Introduction: A Summary not a Substitute
Question 1: Why am I here?
Questions 2-3: What is Truth?
Questions 4-5: The Unanswerable Question

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A modern parable from Britain’s Got Talent

He’s being called “the new Susan Boyle,” and you only have to watch the video to see why (two profanities edited out). The media are again making much of the “ugly duckling” angle, but there are two other lessons from this “parable.”

The power of partnership
When you first see this so-called “Beauty and the Beast” pairing, you wonder how they ever got together…then you hear their moving story unfold. When Jonathan Antoine’s painful shyness and weight problems made him an obvious and easy target for bullies, Charlotte stuck up for him and protected him. Jonathan admitted: ”I would not be going on stage today without Charlotte at my side.”

“Do you think you can win?” asked a skeptical Simon Cowell as they stepped on stage.

“Yeah…together,” they replied in unison.

But when Cowell later suggested to Jonathan that he was unbelievably great, whereas Charlotte was just good; that Charlotte might be a drag on his certain future stardom; and even that he should “dump her” to get ahead, the audience held its breath.

Will he throw her under the bus? Will he take the gold and leave the gal?

“NO!’ he responded. We came on here as a duo and we’ll stay here as a duo.” And all the ladies wept (OK and not a few guys teared up too – this one included!).

There’s no question of Jonathan’s superior singing talent, but he knows that without her by his side he couldn’t sing a note on stage.

“Two are better than one,” said Solomon (Eccl. 4:9). True in Britain’s Got Talent. True in marriage. True in disciple-making.

The power of pain
There’s something about suffering that gives a unique power to singing. You only have to look at Susan Boyle or Jonathan Antoine to know that they must have had a really tough time growing up in our cruel world.

And you can hear it in their singing. You can’t help but feel that, just as with Susan Boyle, Jonathan poured 17 years of agonizing suffering into those powerful three minutes on stage. It’s in his posture, it’s in his expression, it’s in his gestures, it’s especially in the deep pathos of his voice.

And we connect. We resonate. We empathize. 100 other singers, possibly even better singers, could sing the same song and it would do nothing for us. But there’s something mysterious, something indefinable, in the voice of a genuine sufferer that lasers our hearts and stirs our deepest emotions.

And it’s the same in preaching, counseling, and even witnessing. Suffering brings a unique, powerful dimension to all human communication. We can tell the difference between a preacher who’s just preaching the commentaries and one who’s preaching out of his own deep experience.

Suffering is not just the best singing school. It’s also the best Seminary.

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Can you enjoy ministry too much?

In yesterday’s post on workaholism I mentioned five possible causes of this addiction:

  • Idolatry: the worship of work
  • Greed: pursuit of material rewards
  • Escapism: avoidance of less pleasant responsibilities
  • Identity: defining oneself by one’s work
  • Unbelief: distrusting God’s provision

Another reason crossed my mind today: enjoyment. And I think that’s often what drives many workaholic pastors – our work is so enjoyable, It’s not that way all the time, of course, but often we can find so much satisfaction and happiness in what we do.

An easy problem
It’s hard to be a workaholic if we hate our work. But if we love it, if we bounce out of bed most mornings, if we can’t wait to get into the study and then into the pulpit to share what we have studied, if we enjoy being with the sheep God has blessed us with, if we see God’s Word converting sinners and edifying God’s people, then overwork is going to be a much more easy problem to fall into.

In fact, sometimes the ministry is so enjoyable that it hardly feels like work at all.

So that’s OK then. If you love your work, and it’s good work like the ministry, then it doesn’t matter how many hours a week you put into it, does it? Enjoyment makes everything just fine!

No, it doesn’t. God gives us many good things to enjoy in this life – friends, hobbies, sport, music, etc. – but we must exercise self-denial lest these good and legitimate things become too prominent and too important in our lives.

Difficult self-denial
The same goes for our work, even for ministry work. At times self-denial will require us to clock off early and play football with the kids, or take a day off to help our wife paint the kitchen. It may not be so enjoyable as the books, but sometimes tidying the garage or washing the car is more pleasing to God than perfecting the next sermon.

If the main driver of our ministries is personal pleasure, to the detriment of our bodies, family relationships, and other responsibilities, are we that much different from the drug-addict?