Multiple Names for God

The beginning of the Nicene Creed refers to God as Father and Almighty.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty

What do those two names mean to you?

For one, they are ways you can know God. Names are one way God describes himself to us. As Basil, a fourth century church father, pointed out in Against Eunomius:

There is no one name that is adequate to give complete description of God. Rather, there are many names for him, each of which has its own particular meaning…. Taken together they afford us only a small and unclear knowledge of God’s nature, but this is still adequate enough for our purposes.”1

Our purposes are to glorify God and enjoy him forever. His names help us to do that. With his names he comforts us, he humbles us, and he causes us to sing the with the angels:

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:8, ESV)

  1. Cited in Ancient Christian Doctrine via Accordance. [return]

🌱 Inspired by the Johnny Appleseed of hollyhocks, I now have a bag of seeds and am on a mission.


⍟ If you’d like to better understand Jesus’s relationship to the Father, or the Trinity in general, listen to last week’s sermon. Tomorrow, I will preach again from John 5. This time, I’ll teach more about the Spirit.

I Believe. Amen.

The Nicene Creed contains core doctrines of the Christian Faith. It puts forth a set of objective truths about the triune nature of God, the work of Christ, the church, and more.

But those truths are framed in a personal way. The creed begins with these important words: I believe (in Latin, it’s Credo, hence “creed”), and it ends with Amen, which comes from Hebrew and means, “it is truly so.” These words that frame the creed are important to me because they remind me that these objective truths from God are also very personal.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

When I recite the Nicene Creed, I’m not listing a set of doctrines, I am stating my relationship to those doctrines. It’s the difference between saying trees, and saying I climb trees. And actually, in the case of the creed, it’s more than even that because I’m not primarily professing my faith in the doctrines but in the One who has revealed them.

So when I say, I believe, I’m not reading a grocery list of truths I found in some historical parking lot; I’m confessing what I truly believe and in Whom I truly believe.

This makes the Amen at the end of the creed equally precious to me. It’s the ancient way we say, Yes! I truly mean and agree with what I have said I believe. And, as such, a truly spoken Amen never really ends a confession of faith. The Amen is an exclamation point; it pushes my faith forward by demanding faithfulness.

In other words, if I believe is true, then the rest of what I do ought to conform to the truths I say I believe. Otherwise, I don’t really believe them.

So Lord, may my actions that follow my confession of faith, flow from the faith I confess. Amen.

⍟ How a journalist pretended to be scientist and fooled the media into reporting that chocolate helps people lose weight.

A Pastoral Rule for Today

I finished reading A Pastoral Rule for Today: Reviving an Ancient Practice. Drawing lessons from pastors of the past, the authors show how pastors today need structure in their ministries and suggest ideas toward that end. There were major and minor lessons throughout the book and lots of overlap (in a good way). Here were some major lessons:

  • On the importance of theological friendship from Augustine.
  • On the conduct of ministers among other pastors and among the congregation from Bendict.
  • On the dual duties of service and contemplation from Gregory the Great.
  • On the specific structures and practices of doing pastoral ministry jointing from Calvin.
  • On the value rich conversation and the care required for edifying speech from Wesley.
  • On the significance of disciplined and devotional study from Newman.
  • On the education of seminarians in the context of community from Bonhoeffer.

Review of Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Most of us are accustomed to a maximalist approach to technology. As long as it’s new and has some value to us, we adopt it. But according to Cal Newport, that sets the bar way too low and is leading to all kinds of negative consequences.

Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University, has written several books about what it means to do valuable work in ways that don’t lead to burnout. In his latest book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, Newport focuses on how our approach to technology needs to change.

Newport calls his approach: digital minimalism. The digital minimalist doesn’t reject technology—Newport still has an iPhone—but chooses his or her tools carefully and optimizes them. As he puts it, digital minimalism is

“a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”

Like Marie Kondo, Cal Newport, is helping us to understand that there’s a cost to having things that clutter up our lives. Even though digital things may not take up much physical space, they still require a lot of mental and emotional space. Digital minimalism is, in part, about becoming sensitive to the cost of our digital tools.

Digital Minimalism, is not all philosophy though. The book also offers lots of practical advice on how to become more focused and reduce “the hum of low-grade anxiety”—or worse—“that permeates [our] lives”.

For example, Newport believes that we use digital distractions to try and fill our true need for high-quality leisure, like eating a bowl of mints, one after another, when what you really need is some homemade chicken noodle soup. And these low-quality leisure activities tend to exhaust us instead of refresh us. They tend to make us feel less human and more lonely. I believe distraction has its place, but learning the difference between low-quality and highly-quality leisure is important. Newport gives examples and suggests ways to incorporate more high-quality leisure into your life.

He also gives this helpful advice: make sure you find high-quality leisure activities before you start “decluttering the low-value digital distractions from your life”. Why? Because removing these distractions without filling the need first “will be unnecessarily unpleasant at best and a massive failure at worse.” (UPDATE: An article on his blog explains this and gives some examples of people who have followed this advice.)

Sanely, Newport never promises that if you adopt digital minimalism that everything in your life will be perfect, the kind of overpromising that is common in self-improvement books like this. But he does think that digital minimalism will make a difference for the better. And he’s right about that. Being a digital minimalist hasn’t saved my soul but it has decreased my anxiety, increased my productivity, and improved my focus. It has helped me be a better husband, father, and pastor.

I’ve been on the path of digital minimalism for a few years now. Amoung other things, I’ve canceled or discontinued use of most of my social media accounts. I’ve reduced the number of podcasts, RSS feeds, newsletter subscriptions, etc. to about 15% of what it was. And I’ve optimized my phone to limit its ability to distract me. But the pull to a maximalist or reactive approach to technology, or life in general, is strong for me. So I appreciated the way Digital Minimalism strengthened my resolve and suggested new ways to grow.

I highly recommend you read this book and consider this approach for yourself.

Find Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World via WorldCat.

🎵 Finzi, Parry, and Bridge: today is a great day for listening to English string orchestra music.

⍟ Spring flowers in the backyard.

Prickly Pear flowers

Tears of Love

David sang,
My heart became hot within me.
As I mused, the fire burned;
Then I spoke with my tongue.

Without meditation
He would have been a cold man
Who looks at a fire from a distance,
And sees the flames, but never gets warm.
But David saw God’s dancing truths,
Moved closer, and in meditative praise,
Put out his palms.

When you feel the heat from meditation,
Don’t leave. Muse on the truths
Until you are warmed
And ready to speak to God.

Focus your thoughts on a heavenly thing.
Treasure its source, virtue, and blessing.
Then plant it like a seed in the soil of your heart,
And ask: “How this might bear fruit in me?”
Divine fruit.

Be resolute.
As bold as a puritan.
Like Watson, who said:
Leave not your mediations of God
Till you find something of God in you.

For godly musing
Melts the heart when it is frozen
And makes it drop into tears of love.