Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Our Spiritual DNA

In my last blog, we touched on the concept of the relational Trinity as the Creator of the church.

Let’s not forget how radical this concept of Plurality-in-Unity was to the first apprentices of Jesus. They would never make up something so crucial and counter-cultural. They inherited from their Jewish ancestors and from the Old Testament a fierce allegiance to the one, unique God (the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4, for instance). They had a powerful bias against any other teaching. Nevertheless, the concept of “Trinity” arose out of their experience. In addition to God the Father,…
“… they had also come to confess Jesus as the risen and exalted Lord. In addition, they were conscious of the ongoing divine presence within their community, a presence provided by the Holy Spirit" (Stanley J. Grenz, Created for Community)”

So the word “Trinity” did not arise as a result of aimless, 1st century, philosophical speculation in an ivory tower think-tank. 

Rather these early disciples experienced God’s Three-ness. Certainly, they could make no more sense of the Trinity intellectually than we can. No matter. The Apostles powerfully proclaimed the Trinity as their new worldview. Confusion never stopped these new Christians from worshipping this Plurality-in-Unity, which they had so dynamically experienced as life.

You and I have been fashioned to actively partner with this relational Community-of-Three, as His intimate allies. It’s who we are. And gives us unimagined value and worth. Nothing else in life brings this level of satisfaction, living in alignment with our Genesis 1 & 2 design. This image and likeness of God is dynamic. Each and every one of us becomes God’s active representatives on earth, partnering with Him in His plans. We have been fashioned to complete His assignments together with Him, in different ways and in different arenas.

Through faith in Christ, we have been redeemed and restored to relationship. Restoration means that God’s people now experience God’s presence and participate in His own eternal Community of light, love and life. The Trinity makes Himself a generous love-gift to us. He then calls His people to experience this life and also to make our lives a generous love-gift to others in community and in the world, especially the marginalized and oppressed. The Trinity is our Model for humanity, persons-in-community made in His image. This is at the core of the spiritual DNA upon which this dynamic faith-community was built, our dynamic life-focus.

 For more on how this relational Trinity impacts our every day lives, please go to my website: 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Cultivating our Connection with God

Paul hints at two, powerful and interconnected ideas in 1 Thessalonians 1:1. For me, this taps into what is central and foundational to all of Paul’s thinking and ministry. He taught them their Triune origins as an ancient/new launching point for their thoughts and actions. It’s Paul’s shorthand description for what he later elaborates in Ephesians chapters 1-3.


First, "What is God like?"

He is a relational Community, delighted to connect the “seed” of His life-giving presence with His people to participate together as partners.

In God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:1).

Coming to know God in a growing way is a lifelong process, both a joy and a challenge. I see the generous outpouring of God’s goodness and His greatness standing prominently as mountain peaks of His Being. And God has always existed eternally as a Community in relationship, Father, Son and Spirit. He has always been Community, mutually relating and caring as the original “small group” or “primal group.”

God is not a lonely or selfish God. Since He is the “Community-God,” He has been giving and receiving mutual love since before time, relational at His core. God made us in this image and initiates to draw us home into His presence. He finds great pleasure to adopt us into His Forever Family since relationship stands center-stage. Notice how family focused this letter is.


Have you ever wondered why God chose to create?

Our Team-of-Three decided to flood earth with other relational beings like themselves, created in His image of unique personalities in community. He yearned to multiply joy and love by extending their own life-releasing relationship and intrinsic goodness. Above all else, abandon yourself as a living sacrifice to this Community-God. For me, beginning with God and His eternal plan brings coherence to the whole.

Though our minds are stunned as we try to grasp the Trinity, this does not mean that we cannot experience the Father, Son and Spirit as Triune God, like the Thessalonian believers did within a few brief weeks. In this short letter, Paul reinforces and expands what the team had taught during their short stay. This essential, relational view of God weaves its way through this entire letter to these new converts … and it’s contagious. Any other view of God impoverishes our lives.


Paul does not describe abstract traits of a distant God. 

No, instead He emphasizes the very presence of this relational God initiating to love, support and empower among them in this faith-community. How much more intimate can it get than to be “in” the Father and Son? There, “in Him,” they experienced an abundant supply of what life is really like, eternal life, Trinitarian life.

These new believers experienced God as Plurality (Father and Son) as they turned to His presence in the good, bad and ugly of life. In Christ, they experienced the same co-love and mutual giving that the Father and Son experienced with each other. Elsewhere in Scripture, this relationship God has with His people is described as that of a Groom/Husband with His Bride/Wife.


Note the Trinity as you read 1 Thessalonians. Not so much to fully grasp, but to delight in.

The Father is the Living and True God, who shows us our worth and comes alongside in tough times. We live our lives to please Him alone. He actually does for us what He calls us to. 

The Son rescues us from the coming judgment. Through His death and resurrection, He provides life to us who were hopelessly separated from Him. He releases faith, love and hope so we stand firm in trials, living out of His abundant grace (His spiritual resources). 

The Spirit releases power for witnessing, makes Scripture come alive with joy and insight in tough times, helps us make moral choices, and also provides the “fire” to release growth in community.


From start to finish,

these new believers experienced the relational Trinity as they responded to His initiative (I call our choices “transforming responses”). So must we respond to God’s caring initiative today. We thrive through this relational connection with the “Community-God.”

Second, "How does this God see and know me?"

This Community-God designed and re-created us to relate with Him and with each other as the people of His presence. The God revealed in the New Testament is no uncaring, distant God. His generous, initiating first-love makes the difference. We are fully satisfied, intimate allies on His epic adventure.
“The glory of God is mankind fully alive” (Saint Irenaeus).
For more on how this relational Trinity impacts our every day lives, please go to my website: 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Why Did our Relational God Create?

Have you ever asked yourself this profound question?

Certainly not because He lacked anything in Himself. If you question this, go back and repeat an exercise imagining the mutual relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit before Genesis 1:1.

From all eternity, God is relational at His core, neither lonely nor solitary. He lives as Father, Son and Spirit in a rich and abounding relationship of utter oneness. This Family-of-Three exists in perfect cooperation as a deeply intimate, joyfully satisfied, mutually serving, intrinsically good, gloriously creative, outwardly focused, peaceful, pure and powerful relational Community…lacking nothing.
The Father, Son and Spirit were eternally satisfied with their mutually giving, energizing, joy-filled relationship. Each made Himself a pure gift to the Other, giving and receiving co-love. This pulsating love between the Father, Son and Spirit would not permit this supremely good Family-of-Three to keep these riches to Himself. At His core, God yearns to bless by pouring out His life and love. He is a Giver. Such bubbling-over life and love could not be contained!


Why did God create?

Love is creative. Life will find a way. Love must multiply itself.
Such passionate Self-Giving launched God’s desire to multiple His other-centered love by “going public.” Before time, they decided to create humanity in an amazing way, man and woman, as much like the Uncreated as a created being could ever be (Genesis 1:26; Psalm 8:5; 2 Peter 1:4). So He fashioned us in His image and likeness as outlets for His extravagant, initiating first-love and overflowing blessings. We receive then pass it along.
“Overflowing with the generosity that comes from the abundance of real love, He creates us to share in the joy of this heroic intimacy” (Brent Curtis and John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance).
The stunning truth is that this Triune God determined to open the circle of this intimate relationship and share His Trinitarian life with those fashioned in His image. God formed the first man from the ground and breathed into him the breath of life with face-to-face intimacy (Genesis 2:7). The Bible calls this life “eternal life,” emphasizing the quality of life more than the length of life. This is the one, eternal reason for the creation of the world and of human life.


Why did God create?

Before the creation of the world, the Father, Son and Spirit set their love upon His people. They fashioned us to know and to experience their own Trinitarian life. And when Jesus came to restore relationship, He did not come alone! The Father, Son and Spirit all worked as a divine Partnership-of-Three (Acts 10:37-28; Mark 1:9-11).

One measure of the value of any object is its purchase price. The God who knows everything was acutely aware of the coming defection of mankind at the Fall. Even before He created. What “return on investment” (ROI) could be great enough for God to pay such a very high price to ransom humanity, that is, the death of His unique Son? This unmeasurably high cost of Jesus’ death restores God’s eternal Eden-plan. Jesus joyfully paid this price because He anticipated the results, bringing many sons into the Family of God (Hebrews 12:2; 2:10).

And Jesus’ life and death, resurrection and ascension, will also bring God’s plan to its final consummation. God will never veer from His Eden-intent. He values His Bride so much that He freely, willingly, and joyfully pays such a price to restore intimate relationship with us. Look at the cross. His death defines how very much God loves you!


Why did God create?

God delighted to design us and to restore us like Him, unique in all His creation, His image-bearers. God is a lavishly generous Giver. Through us, He has now multiplied channels for His life and love. As we freely receive His life, love and light, we serve others as we freely pass it all along. Out of His free, boundless and energetic love, God found His pleasure in creating us lovable, like Jesus. It’s who He is. He acts. He blesses. God initiates to reproduce because it’s His nature. So now God’s plan multiplies this bursting-forth life and love and light to flood all of creation with His presence through His people. Resting in the Father, Son, and Spirit is our new home from which we participate in His epic adventure faith.

The key question, though, is: “Do you personally believe that this Sovereign God always invites us to respond to His presence and love?” Open arms outstretched toward us is God’s grace-stance, like the Father with the prodigal son (Luke 15:20). Do you really believe this? Then nothing makes any sense in life at all except to yield our lives to Him, lock, stock and barrel…now and forever. And this view of life thrusts us out toward ongoing renewal and change as lifelong life-learners and doers.

See also a website devoted to an incarnational, Trinitarian Christian worldview:

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Relational Trinity, an Approach to our Christian Journey

Why begin with our relational God as we reflect?

So without beginning with the relational Trinity, it's tough to break out of these childish habits. Too often we think and respond as if the world centered around us and our pain. We cannot simply make a leap directly to this re-centered life in the Trinity, which includes serving others sacrificially. So, how can we break free? How do we mature? How do we “adjust to Reality?” How does the Spirit train us as servant-first influencers?

The Trinity models a dynamic exchange in which each is who they are because of relationship. No one Member of the Godhead could exist in isolation. Each cares completely for the other. This openness and radical mutuality was the authentic model for 1st century community life, and is also for us today. No wonder Paul began the last three chapters in Ephesians with a clear call to “walk worthy of the joint call you have received as community.” Look at the rest of Ephesians from the perspective of freeing ourselves from self-protective community-breakers. These undermine unity in community.

Ten years ago I finished writing a book on our spiritual foundation for LifeChange called, Big God! Bold Design. See the “Resources” tab for the trilogy. A few months later, I was struggling and returned to this primer. I saw for the first time that my opening four chapters were a significantly different way for me to pointedly engage life It sketched out an approach consistent with the book of Ephesians.

Oh, I had known and believed this teaching or theology for a long time. I wrote those chapters! But now I’m beginning to deliberately launch my daily thinking where the Bible does. This two-pronged pattern focuses on Him (“In the beginning God created…”, Genesis 1:1). It also focuses on His awesome, majestic design to make the crown-jewel of His creation both His friend and His partner (“Let us make man in our image…”). Ephesians chapters 1-3 reflects the same approach. As I choose to realign my thinking patterns, something significant is changing within. Now I ow believe any other view of Reality subtly distorts vision, some more, some less. I just wonder why it took me so long to see!
  1.   The Relational Trinity as Life-Giver.

Furthermore, this relational Trinity gives us a long, refreshing drink of the relational Community-God delighting in each other and ecstatically pleased with us. He sings His love-songs over us, the pinnacle of His creation. His love-thoughts about us are more than the sands of the sea. The Father's love chases us around every day. God celebrates us with indescribable pleasure as Beloved children. He really does like hanging out with us! This Community-God made us a little lower than God Himself and blesses us with every smidgen of resources we need for this life. He is abundance so no poverty or limitation exists in Him as life Giver. We must begin with His passion for us.
“In the confession of the Trinity throbs the heart of the Christian religion.”
  1. The Relational Trinity re-created us as image-bearers sent into God’s fallen world.

First of all, “very good” creation-intent comes from this relational Trinity. He has already inbreathed into us, making us “community/individuals,” like the Trinity. His Eden-design, fashioning us as image-bearers partnering with Him and with each other together in community, gives us value, worth and a destiny. The Triune God draws us near to powerfully experience His eternal life, love and light. Also note this is our ongoing Eden-call, from which God will never detour. The Trinity is the environment in which we live and move and have our being. Let’s begin to see ourselves through His eyes as beloved friends and as intimate allies. Then we will recover this high view of mankind, created male and female. Now we can in turn relate with other people in the same way the Trinity already relates with each Other.

Over and again, Paul bankrupts language to describe how completely we are restored to intimacy through the successful rescue and full restoration in Christ (cp Rom 8:32). One man listed thirty-three changes that happen the instant we trust in Christ and our stolen throne is restored to God. We belong to Another! How else can we break free from our self-absorbed poverty mentality that focuses on dead things (our sin and our brokenness) and on our in-process-ness.  We have been purchased at a high price and fully forgiven…
…in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding (1:7).

Download PDF booklet from my website my short meditation on Ephesians called Created Community. Also, visit my website:

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Relational Trinity, Father, Son & Spirit in Ephesians 1:1-14

"What is our relational God like?”

He is the relational Trinity! Mind blowing!

A buddy and I were chatting the other night about this key question. God is unknowable. Not beyond knowing and experiencing, of course. But beyond fully knowing since God is also mystery. For me, immeasurable oceans of His vastness still remain undiscovered after my forty+ years of walking with Him. What I do know and experience, though, oh my, what a delight and a blessing. The first part of Ephesians chapter 1 begins to answer the two most essential questions in life.


1. “What is God like?”

2. “How does this God see and know me/us?”

Similar to Genesis 1:1, Paul begins first with God in relationship to His people. Specifically, Paul launches Ephesians with what scholars call the Trinity (or Trinitarian, which means “from the description of God as Trinity”). The relational Trinity, one God in three persons, Father, Son and Spirit, all equally God, is mind-blowing theology. It's also life-impacting Reality that ravishes my heart as truth intersects life. A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about God.

For me, the first two verses tap into what is at the core of Paul’s ministry. This is typical Paul. He begins in 1:1-2 with a concise summary of what he spells out in more detail in Ephesians 1-3. The connected relationship between God and His people supplies what these 1st century followers needed for life. Into His “saints,” that is those set aside for God, He pours out grace (God’s unmerited, divine favor and enabling) and peace (the presence of God’s deep, abiding wellbeing that penetrates every aspect of life). Grace gives us resources for life and peace provides a safe, secure, life-releasing home (similar to the Hebrew word Shalom).

Now open your Bible to Ephesians 1:3-14. Take time to read and reread 3-6, 7-12 and 13-14 as small units, time and again. Briefly summarize the gist of each unit before moving on. Action-learning is essential to maximize impact.

Paul has the capacity to surprise us! These words from 1:3 to 1:14 tumble out as one unending sentence in the original manuscript. Can you sense Paul’s awe and wonder in these passages…and His excitement that we might “get it”? His heart is ready to explode. His energized outburst of heartfelt praise to the Triune God arises from Paul’s enthusiastic love towards God. He glimpses what the Triune God has done in, for and with us in Christ, and the vast possibilities. Each section concludes with “praise of His glory,” (or His magnificent splendor, or the brilliance of God’s presence, the stunning Reality of who He is).


And God has included us in His plan spanning eternity.

Notice how Paul first calls us to exuberant praise to God for who He is and what He has done in verse 3. God fashioned us as worshippers to become more like whatever we set our hearts on. Nothing is more crucial for us than to set our hearts in loving adoration and passionate desire on God. As worshippers, “we become what we behold,” so let’s delight ourselves in Him.


The Relational Trinity, God the Father (1:3-6).

We praise God the Father because: (1) our Father blessed us with every good gift imaginable (1:3). (2) Our Father chose us before the world was created, demonstrating that our unending relationship with Him is based on His sovereign choice, not anything we could ever do (1:4). (3) Our Father predestined us to be adopted.

In human adoption, parents set their hearts on a specific child to be an integral part of their family. God set His heart on us for His Family. Now, don’t get hung up on the words “predestination” or “chosen.” Focus on the main-&-plain of what it says. God initiated to adopt us into His Family because it was His great pleasure. Don’t stumble over the magnitude of this promise, but soak in it, embrace it, “to the praise of His glorious grace.” I would like to rest here awhile, but Paul rushes on.


The Relational Trinity, God the Son (1:7-12).

In Jesus Christ through faith in Him, (1) we have been ransomed from our enemy’s clutches and fully forgiven, each and every one of our sins (1:7-8). (2) Paul then gives us a glimpse into the epic, cosmic adventure to which He has joined us in Jesus Christ. We are participants in a far-reaching call, something larger than ourselves, something that will ultimately bring all things together under His Father’s headship (1:9-10). (3) Again Paul emphasizes that God chose and predestined His people in Christ according to God’s plan formulated before time (1:11-12). First and foremost, Paul underscores the God who initiates. God longs to have our lives count “for the praise of His glory.”


The Relational Trinity, God the Spirit (1:13-14).

The Spirit of God, equally divine along with the Father and Son, (1) includes us permanently in Christ the instant we believe. (2) The Holy Spirit Himself is the seal that marks us for Himself, (3) since He Himself is the deposit guaranteeing our unending life with the Father, Son and Spirit “to the praise of His glory.”

Download booklet from my website the PDF of my short meditation on Ephesians called Created Community.Also, visit my website at:

The Relational Trinity, God the Spirit Seals His People, Ephesians 1:13-14

In case we missed it, God the Spirit joins God the Son and God the Father. 

They relate with their people in this staggering, all-encompassing action to restore His fallen creation to intimacy. This is not something we dreamed up or usurped. God the Spirit personally leads us home by the hand the instant we believe.


First, God the Spirit included God’s people in Christ forever.

This marvelous Reality happened the instant we said “yes” by faith in Christ to the Gospel of our salvation. God then completely immersed us into this Trinitarian fullness of relatedness. We are participants in His existence, not passive observers (although never becoming “lit’l gods,” the horror of the thought!)


Second, God the Spirit sealed our relationship with God.

This forever marked God’s people as His own. This seal identifies us as God’s own and is unbreakable since the Spirit of God Himself is the “signet ring.”


Third, the God the Spirit is also the pledge of our ultimate blessing and security.

This down payment guarantees that each of His people are redeemed, completely secure in the keeping-love and keeping-power of the Triune God. The Holy Spirit is the mark, seal and deposit “guaranteeing our inheritance.” From a God who has never lied, this gives us a powerful sense of security coupled with this clear call to mission, now and for all eternity “to the praise of His glory.”


“The living God is a relationship, a community, a Trinity. And this God draws near to us to draw us near to himself within the circle of his knowing and loving of himself" (Darrell W. Johnson, Experiencing the Trinity).

We do not yet know the fullness available to us in the Triune God. The Good News is that God will not rest until we do! May I ask a few questions to massage this a bit?
  • How much of the fabulous spiritual wealth that is ours together in Christ are we aware of?
  • How can we tap into this lavish grace with one another?
  • How can we become deep people and escape from the dual curses of our age, busyness and superficiality?
  • Do we even want this? Does this stir inner longings within us?

Download from my website the PDF of my short meditation on Ephesians called Created Community. Also, visit my website at: