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Christian Living

3 Images to Explain God as Trinity

The Great Three in One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Most Christians comprehend God as Trinity, a singular entity existing as three persons: Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit. This is confusing, but recall that Jesus says, “the Father and me are one” (John 10:30). Another time Jesus tells his disciples to baptize people “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Though the Bible never uses the word Trinity, it connects Father, Son, and Spirit.

There are two common illustrations that explain God as Trinity.

Each part of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is interconnected, essential, and equal. Click To Tweet

God as Water

Compare God to water. Water exists in three forms: ice, liquid, and vapor. Each part is still water, albeit a different manifestation of it. Each form has unique characteristics but is still the same compound. So it is with the triune God: three forms; one God.

God as an Egg

The second image is that the three-in-one God is like an egg. An egg has three principal parts: the shell, the white, and the yolk. These parts make up an egg. In the same way, a singular God exists as three parts.

God as a Tripod

Here’s a third image for consideration: Consider God as a tripod. A tripod has three legs. Each of the three legs are part of the tripod. Each leg connects to the tripod. And each leg is essential for the tripod to work. Remove one leg and the tripod falls over. For a tripod to work properly, each leg must be equal. No one leg is more important, and no one leg is insignificant.

So it is with God as a tripod. We see each leg—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—interconnected, essential, and equal. Remove one and our perception of God becomes incomplete. Overemphasize one and our view of God becomes unbalanced. There may be three parts (three legs), but it is still one God (the tripod). The tripod reveals God who is a three-in-one Trinity.

God as Trinity

May we recognize each part of the godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—to inform our connection with God. Consider how understanding God as Trinity can affect our faith.

In my next post I’ll cover how God’s trinitarian nature can inform our prayers.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Holy Trinity: The Great Three in One

3 Illustrations of the Trinity

A commonality among most who call themselves Christian is the understanding of God as Trinity—the Holy Trinity— that is, a singular entity existing as three persons: Father, Son (Jesus), and Spirit. That is confusing, but recall that Jesus said, “I and my Father are one,” (John 10:30).

Two common illustrations explain God as Trinity:

God Is Like Water

Water exists in three forms: ice, liquid, and vapor.

Each form is still water, albeit a different manifestation of it. Each form has different characteristics, but is still the same compound. So it is with the triune God: three forms, but one God.

God Is Like an Egg

God has also been likened to an egg.

An egg is composed of three main parts: the shell, the white, and the yolk. Collectively, they are an egg. In like manner, a singular God exists as three parts.

God Is Like a Tripod

I’d like to suggest a third image for consideration.

A tripod has three legs. Each leg is part of the tripod; each leg is connected to the tripod; and each leg is essential for the tripod to work.

Remove one leg and the tripod ceases to function. Also, each leg of the tripod is equal; no one leg is more important and no one leg is insignificant.

The Holy Trinity

So it is with God as a tripod. Each leg—Father, Son (Jesus), and Spirit—is connected, essential, and equal. Remove one and our perception of God becomes incomplete. Overemphasize one and our understanding of God gets out of balance.

There may be three parts (legs), but it is still one God (the tripod). The tripod reveals God as Trinity.

May we worship God as a Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Pray to the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Praying to the Godhead

Last week we looked at God as Trinity and used the image of a tripod to illustrate how one God can exist in three parts: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Now we’ll build upon that understanding and use it to inform us so that we can better pray to the Trinity.

When you pray, who do you pray to? Many people address their prayers to God. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s a bit impersonal and keeps him at a distance. God doesn’t want that, and we shouldn’t either. God desires that we have an intimate relationship with him. This should be our intent as well. One way to do this is to stop addressing our prayers to God and start talking to him using his Trinitarian parts: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is, our Creator, our Savior, and our Advocate.

To inform us as we move forward, consider the characteristics of each part of the godhead.

Pray to the Trinity When We Offer Thanks and Praise

God deserves our adoration and are thankful hearts. Out of gratitude for what he’s done for us, is doing for us, and will do for us we should praise and thank him. To help make this come alive we can address our appreciation, as appropriate, to the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit.

For example, we can praise the Father for creating us (knowing that his Son took part as well, John 1:1-3). We can thank Jesus for saving us. We can thank the Holy Spirit for living in us and guiding us.

Likewise, we can praise Father God for his blessings and provisions. We can praise Savior God for his example, words, and sacrifice to save us. We can praise Holy Spirit God for living in us and guiding us.

Pray to the Trinity When We Make Our Requests

We can also use this idea of praying to the Trinity to inform our petitions. For example, James writes that if anyone lacks wisdom, they should ask God (James 1:5). This is correct. But which part of the godhead can best grant this request? The Holy Spirit. So ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom.

If we seek a blessing, who might we ask? Go to God the Father. Ask the Father for his provisions, and he will provide.

If we desire to live a more holy life—not to earn God’s attention but as an act of worship—we might ask this of Jesus, since his life serves as an example for us to follow.

In Whose Name Should We Pray?

Jesus tells us we are to set our requests before him, asking in his name (John 14:13-14). Some Christian traditions follow this by adding a phrase to the end of their prayers: “in Jesus’s name we pray, amen.” Of course, Jesus also tells us to pray to the Father (Matthew 6:6). Which is it? Both.

In addition, the Holy Spirit can help us when we pray. He will intercede for us (Romans 8:26-27). Should we then pray in his name? How about all three? This may be why other Christian traditions pray “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Enjoy Freedom as We Pray

This idea that we can pray to the Trinity is to free us so that we can move into a closer and more meaningful relationship with God. In doing so we should hold loosely our desire to identify the correct part of God to pray to. If we ask Jesus for something that more appropriately should go to the Father, it’s not a problem. They are one (John 17:22).

Praying to one is praying to all three. If we get the name wrong, it’s not a big deal.

When we pray to the Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we draw ourselves to God in greater intimacy. Click To Tweet

This idea that we can pray to the Trinity is not a command to follow but one option to enhance our prayers. As we pray to the Trinity, we can breathe life into our prayers if our words mired stuck in a rut. In the same way, this can also draw us into a closer relationship with God if he seems distant. Remember, it’s not him who’s far away from us but we who are far away from him.

When we pray to the Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we draw ourselves to God in greater intimacy. Isn’t this the purpose of prayer?

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

In Whose Name Do You Pray?

When You Pray, Whose Name Do You Invoke?

This isn’t a trick question or a pluralistic way to approach the god of your choice. This is a simple question. When you pray to the God who is revealed in the Bible, whose name do invoke at the end?

When you pray, do you say “in Jesus’s name” or “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?”

Different streams of Christianity prefer one over the over. Each has historical or theological reasons for their preference, not to mention the custom of their upbringing.

While some Christians may be adamantly entrenched in one practice over the other, even to the point of dogmatic rhetoric, most give no thought to their unexamined habit. This ending words often spew out without a thought to their meaning or implication.

I, for one, don’t think it really matters. A Trinitarian perspective says that God is three persons in one, so to fully embrace this belief means that either practice addresses the same God, regardless of the actual name or names used.

Vary How You End Your Prayer

Though I was taught one way and not the other, I now prefer to mix it up. For one, this helps to keep the end of my prayers fresh and avoid mindless repetition. It also reminds me that the God, as Trinity, is involved—regardless if I name him fully or implicitly.

Last, it reminds me that just as there is diversity among those who follow God, there are also diversity in how to approach him. And that’s a good thing.

Since God is trinity—the great three in one—it matters little which phrase you invoke when you end your pray. What matters is that you do pray.

This will please God and honor him.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Pursuing a Balanced Trinitarian Faith

There is an amazing little booklet, sporting a tongue-twister of a title. It is The Threefold Art of Experiencing God: The Liberating Power of a Trinitarian Faith by Christian A. Schwarz. In a stellar example of “less is more,” this diminutive book carries a profound punch.

The central theme is that Christianity exists in three streams, the liberals (mainlines), the evangelicals, and the charismatics. In general terms, each places their faith focus primarily on one part of the Godhead: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, respectively.

The perspective of each stream is correct, but at the same time, incomplete. Each of these three segments carries with it corresponding strengths. However, it simultaneously contains risks inherent from persisting in an unbalanced point of view of the Godhead.

Schwarz’s prescription for this is that all Christians should equally pursue the three parts of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, experiencing God in totality, not in part.

A Trinitarian faith. In doing so, our understanding of who God is will become more balanced. The result is that we will all arrive at the holistic center of who God is, being more unified in the process.

As I learn more about each of Christianity’s major streams, I become more appreciative of what each as to offer, making my faith fuller. This helps me be more accepting of my brothers and sisters from all Christian walks.

[Read my review of The Threefold Art of Experiencing God: The Liberating Power of a Trinitarian Faith.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Do We Need to Rethink How We Pray?

Whether we pray often or seldom, we have likely fallen into unexamined habits

How do you begin your prayers?

What is your common salutation? It might be “Heavenly Father . . .” or perhaps “Father God . . . ” or maybe “Dear God . . . ”  (How about, “Hey, God. It’s me again.”) The Lord’s Prayer opens with “Our Father in heaven,” which is a good model to follow (Matthew 6:9).

Some people open with “Dear Jesus . . . ” Have you ever addressed your prayers to the Holy Spirit? He is part of the triune God, after all.

When you finish praying, how do you conclude?

Some traditions end with “In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.” This aligns with what Jesus taught us (John 14:13). Other traditions take their cue from Matthew 28:19 and wrap up with “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.”

Some use the shortcut of just “Amen.” (What about just saying “Bye” or “Catch you later,” which is how we talk to other people. Prayer, after all, is a conversation.)

What does amen mean, anyway?

The Amplified Bible suggests it implies “So be it” or May it be so.” Saying one of these declarations to end our prayers may get us out of the rut of concluding with a rote “Amen,” but it usually confounds anyone listening to us.

Try praying to specific parts of the godhead according to their character or role. Click To Tweet

And what should we say in the middle portion of our prayers?

Sometimes I direct my communications with God to specific parts of the godhead according to the character or role of each. For example, I can praise Father for creating me, Jesus for saving me, and Holy Spirit for guiding me.

Or I can ask Papa to bless me, the Son to be with me, and the Spirit to inspire me. Doing this helps me see God in fresh, new ways; it enables me to better connect and be more real in my communications with God.

But what if I error and address the wrong aspect of God? It’s happened, but I don’t think it matters to God because Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all the same God, the great three in one (consider 1 John 5:7).

The point is to stop praying words out of habit and think about why we say what we say when we talk to God. He deserves our full attention, so we should avoid using thoughtless words.

So be it.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

The Bible Shows Us the Holy Spirit

The New Testament Centers on Jesus, but the Holy Spirit Emerges as Key in the Book of Acts

We’ve talked about how the Bible Reveals God the Father to Us and how the Bible Points Us to Jesus. The Holy Spirit forms the third part of the Trinity, the supernatural mystery of three spiritual deities in one package.

Though the Bible doesn’t mention the word Trinity, most Christians accept the concept of a triune God, albeit with variations of understanding.

The Holy Spirit emerges as the star of the church, guiding the followers of Jesus into a fuller understanding of him and showing them how to live their faith in a way pleasing to him.

The book of Acts, the record of the early church, serves as a descriptor of how the church functions with the Holy Spirit at the helm. Acts contains nearly one hundred references to the Holy Spirit. In fact Acts talks about the Holy Spirit more than it mentions Jesus.

While Acts should serve as our practical guidebook to community and faith through Holy Spirit power, most followers of Jesus diminish or even dismiss him as part of our spiritual heritage and present experience.

But the Bible doesn’t relegate the Holy Spirit to the book of Acts. He shows up, by name, in all the Gospels and a majority of the books in the New Testament.

The phrase “Holy Spirit” is even in the Old Testament, though “Spirit of God” is more common. The simpler label of “Spirit” occurs in about half of the Old Testament books and all of the New Testament books, except for 2 and 3 John.

The Holy Spirit takes part in creation and in the end times. He is present with us today. Click To Tweet

In the beginning we see the Holy Spirit taking part in creation to form our reality (Genesis 1:2). In the end of time the Holy Spirit serves as the central player while God wraps up our physical existence, reality as we know it (Revelation 22:17).

Clearly the Holy Spirit moves throughout the entire Bible, just as he moves through the church of Jesus and in the lives of his followers today—or at least how he should move, if only we will let him.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Father, Son, and Holy Bible

Don’t Dismiss the Holy Spirit

Most Christians believe that God is three persons in one; we call this concept the Trinity. Though it never uses the word Trinity, the Bible does portray the godhead as three beings who function as one interconnected entity.

Though I believe this and revere this, at times it makes my head spin. The concept of a trinity is hard to grasp: three is one and one is three. It’s so abstract and impossible to quantify.

In practice, some people and especially some churches have trouble with this too. Though they say God is comprised of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, they act as though God is Father, Son, and Holy Bible.

They dismiss the Holy Spirit because he messes up their nice modern theology and manageable religious practices; they worship the Bible in his stead.

They say God is comprised of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, they act as though God is Father, Son, and Holy Bible. Click To Tweet

These people elevate the Bible to an unholy height. They study its words with legalistic fervor, using it to attack others and defend themselves. Their faith shifts to one that worships the Father, the Son, and the Holy Bible.

Some people, I fear, even exalt the Bible above the God who it reveals. For them, the Bible isn’t a means to the end, but the end.

Jesus talks about this, too. He criticizes people who diligently study the Bible because they think it gives them eternal life. With their deep focus on the details in the Bible, they miss the God of the Bible.

While the Bible is critical to our faith, let’s not place our faith in the Bible or expect it to provide us with salvation. The Bible is a tool that points us to God, but it is not God. God is not the Father, the Son, and the Holy Bible.

Let’s put the Bible in its rightful place and God in his.

[John 5:39-40]

How do you view the Bible? The Trinity?

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Embracing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Embracing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Many people are surprised to learn the word Trinity isn’t in the Bible.

Trinity reflects the nature of God, one God, with three distinct parts: the Father (creator), the Son, Jesus (savior), and the Holy Spirit (guide).

I understand Trinity to mean “three in one.” It’s not a polytheistic implication, as some people assume, but an acknowledgment of God’s character.

Just as I relate to my wife in different ways (friend, partner, lover, and so forth), depending on the situation, God can reveal himself to us through different personas—and we must accept all three.

Not able to find Trinity in the Bible, I looked for mentions of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the same verse. Matthew 28:19 is the only place I can find all three—and it’s a most significant circumstance. In baptism, all three aspects of God’s person are affirmed—and with equal standing.

We must do the same, equally embracing God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our true worship of God should be to all three unified parts of his singular reality.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 26-28 and today’s post is on Matthew 28:19. A most helpful book on the subject is The Threefold Art of Experiencing God by Christian A. Schwarz.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

The Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

The Great Three in One

The prophet Isaiah gives four descriptive names for Jesus. They are Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.

However, I tend to think of Jesus as Savior, Healer, Redeemer, and so forth, but not so much the names Isaiah gives.

In fact, to me, Wonderful Counselor seems more descriptive of the Holy Spirit, while Everlasting Father and perhaps even Mighty God seem to point to God the Father.

Does Isaiah have his names mixed up? Am I confused? The answer to both questions is “no.”

If we truly perceive the God who is revealed in the Bible as three persons in one, then the names given to one part of the godhead appropriately applies to all three.

Therefore, Jesus really is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace—as are the Holy Spirit and God the Father.

They are, three in one.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.