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Ethan Longhenry
From northern Illinois to South Central Los Angeles
From northern Illinois to South Central Los Angeles


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The Christian and God the Father

Christians recognize and confess God as One in Three Persons according to what has been made known in Scripture: God the Father, God the Son (the Lord Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit (John 1:1, 14, Colossians 2:8-9). The members of the Godhead exist as distinct “personalities” (John 8:16-18), yet remain perfectly one in nature, purpose, will, and intention: in a word, one in relational unity (John 17:20-23). YHWH, the Creator God of Israel, is One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in perfect unity (Genesis 1:26-27, Deuteronomy 6:4-6, John 8:58).

The triune nature of the Godhead is indeed a divine mystery, a matter we take by faith based on what God has made known about Himself. Such an understanding has always proven controversial; contentions regarding the nature of God consumed Christendom for its first half millennium, and to this day the triune reality of God is not well grasped by many.

Christians must be careful lest they make too much of the distinctions among the members of the Godhead; God’s unity remains a profound element of His nature, so much so that the Scriptures speak of God in the third person singular even though He is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, there is danger in the opposite extreme as well in entirely conflating the Three Persons of the Godhead. Jesus Himself, as well as the authors of the New Testament, found profit in speaking of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; we therefore also do well to explore the Scriptures to see how we as Christians should relate to each member of the Godhead.

The danger of conflation is nowhere more apparent than with God the Father. Far too often discussions of “God” only involve understanding the triune nature of the Godhead; Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit get described in greater detail as distinct “personalities” while the Father is neglected. While Christians have good reason to refer to the whole Godhead as God, New Testament authors tend to refer specifically to the Father when they speak of God (e.g. Romans 1:1, 7).

Such conflation is understandable: most of what we imagine regarding God in general is specifically true of God the Father. God the Father is the Creator of heaven and earth, having spoken all things into existence by His Word (Genesis 1:1-2:3, Psalm 33:6-7, John 1:1-3). God the Father has all authority; any authority which exists is empowered by God the Father (Romans 13:1; cf. Matthew 28:18-19). God the Father has communicated His Word to mankind by the Spirit through the prophets and in Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Furthermore, God the Father is not only spirit but also ineffable and literally inconceivable: as YHWH, the Existent One, no image can be fashioned which looks like Him, because no man has or could see Him as He is (John 4:24; Exodus 20:1-5, John 1:18, 6:46). Thus, whatever image we may have of God the Father in our minds inevitably proves wrong, and as humans, it is hard to identify with something or someone of whom you have difficulty mentally conceiving. And yet we are given assurances that Jesus is the express image of God, the imprint of His character; if we have seen Jesus, we have seen the essential character and nature of God (John 14:6-9, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3). Indeed, Jesus represents the great testimony of God the Father’s love, grace, and mercy: the Father sent the Son into the world to redeem it by His death and resurrection, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves (John 3:16, Romans 5:6-11).

While the Father may seem more remote than the Son or the Spirit, He need not be; the Scriptures have made His desire for relational unity with humanity well-known (John 17:20-23, Acts 17:26-31). The great revelation we obtain from Jesus involves recognizing God as our heavenly Father: a loving parent, not a cantankerous curmudgeon (e.g. Matthew 6:8, 9, 14). God is our Father because we are His offspring, made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27, Acts 17:28). God was under no compulsion to save us or care for us at all, and yet He gives good gifts to all mankind, and especially those who seek His purposes through His Son (Acts 14:17, Romans 8:31-32, James 1:17). God wants to hear from us truly and sincerely, as a parent loves to receive a word from his child (1 Peter 5:7). We are invited to see the Father in the tender portrayal of the father of the prodigal son and his older brother in Luke 15:11-32, full of compassion and mercy, welcoming all those who have grown weary of sin, darkness, and death, and gently (or, at times, not so gently) rebuking those who have considered righteousness their birthright. Having God as our Father ought to elevate our understanding of ourselves as human beings: we are of great value and we ought to act with integrity and dignity, seeking righteousness and holiness as He is righteous and holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Yet even as God is our Father, He is also seen as our Master, and we are His servants (Luke 17:7-10). We are the creation; He is our Creator; it is not for us to answer back to Him, but to heed what He says and do it (cf. Romans 9:19-21). God would rather be the kindly Father, but also warns that He will come in judgment against all unrighteousness and iniquity (Romans 1:18-20, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, 1 Peter 1:17-20). God is full of love, grace, and mercy; and yet He is also holy, righteous, and just!

We must resist drawing the wrong conclusions from the images of God as Father and God as Master: we are not entitled to salvation as a child would be entitled to his or her inheritance, and God is no oppressive taskmaster or tyrant. Instead, we ought to have the relational intimacy with God as a child does with a parent while proving willing to serve God as a benevolent Master.

From before the beginning until after the end, there is God (Genesis 1:1, Revelation 21:1-22:6). When it is all said and done, God will dwell in the midst of His people forever (Revelation 21:1-11). God the Father made us to love Him as He loves the Son, the Spirit, and us; in this life the Christian is to learn, grow, and mature so as to want God Himself, proving no longer satisfied merely with what God gives. Christians enjoy the great privilege of getting to know God the Father; we will spend eternity in His presence, basking in His light and love. May we draw near to God the Father through the Son and obtain the resurrection of life!

Ethan R. Longhenry
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So we built the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto half the height thereof: for the people had a mind to work (Nehemiah 4:6).

The walls of Jerusalem were repaired because the people had a mind to work. They were encouraged by Nehemiah and trusted God was with them, but they still knew that they had to do the actual work. God was not going to miraculously build it for them; others would not come and do it for them; they had to do the work.

So it is to this day: God has work for His people to do in proclaiming the Gospel and encouraging one another. God will not do that work miraculously for them; they cannot expect others to come and do it for them. May we all diligently strive to do the work of God in our lives to His glory and honor!
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But it came to pass that, when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews (Nehemiah 4:1).

In the days of Artaxerxes king of Persia Nehemiah heard of the broken condition of the walls of Jerusalem and was moved to work to repair them. He encouraged the people of Judah to repair the wall. While they worked their opponents perceived a threat. They mocked the Jews; they reviled their work. They conspired to fight against the Jews. They would ultimately try to cause Nehemiah difficulty with the governor and king. They wanted to terrorize Israel and stop the work. They succeeded for a moment but ultimately failed.

The Enemy of God’s purposes works the same way to this day. Christians do well to stand firm against opposition and prove faithful to the Lord Jesus!
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Part of my recent article about suicide was to admit the less than compassionate ways people professing Christ in the past have handled the issue. This article does well at going through how and why that is, the better way forward, and why we should be a bit more circumspect before quoting Puritans and their modern day fanboys.
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Judgment Redounds upon the Nations

The prophet Joel had forecast a message of doom and despair for Judah and Jerusalem: a terrible plague of locusts of historic proportions (Joel 1:1-2:27). Whether the locusts were actual insects sent to ravage the land or a way of describing the Assyrian host is contested; even if Joel spoke of locusts, we know the Assyrian, and then the Babylonian, would overrun Judah as judgments from YHWH (cf. 2 Kings 18:13-19:37, 25:1-26). In those days Judah and Jerusalem would be brought low; the nations would vaunt against her.

Yet Joel did not leave Judah and Jerusalem destitute: he spoke of a promised day when YHWH would pour out His Spirit upon the remnant which would be saved (Joel 2:28-32). These days would be fully manifest after the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Acts 2:14-39).

Joel continued by extending more hope for the vindication of Israel in Joel 3:1-21. YHWH promised to bring all the nations together into the “Valley of Jehoshaphat,” perhaps better “valley where YHWH judges,” in order to exercise judgment against the nations for scattering the people of God throughout their lands, enslaving others, and selling still more (Joel 3:1-3). Tyre, Sidon, and Philistia received special mention for having taken the resources of Israel and selling Judahite captives to the Greeks in order to depopulate them from the land: YHWH would recompense them on their own heads, and they would be sold into slavery (Joel 3:4-8).

Joel envisioned the judgment scene as it would play out: the nations would be summoned for war. In a reversal of Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3, the nations are called to beat their plowshares into swords and pruning hooks into spears so as to come and fight (Joel 3:9-10). All the nations would come together for judgment, and YHWH would reap the harvest and tread the winepress of their wickedness (Joel 3:11-13). The sun and moon would be darkened on the day of the valley of decision; the heavens and earth would shake from the roar of YHWH when He would prove a refuge to His people, a stronghold to Israel (Joel 3:14-16).

In this way Israel would recognize YHWH as their God in Zion: Jerusalem would be holy, and no stranger would live there (Joel 3:17). The land would produce wine, milk, and water, while Egypt and Edom will become desolations for what they have done to the Judahites in shedding blood (Joel 3:18-19). Judah and Jerusalem would abide forever, for YHWH would cleanse them, dwelling in Zion (Joel 3:20-21).

The conclusion of Joel’s recorded prophetic message underscored YHWH’s concern for His people. Yes, He would be compelled to judge them; yes, they would be laid low in the endeavor, and for a time, the nations would gloat and exalt over Israel and YHWH. Yet they would not get the last word; they would be gathered for judgment, and they would be held accountable for what they had done. God would vindicate His people. Jerusalem and Judah would be in distress, but only for a time; the day of the valley of decision would draw near. Even though His people often proved faithless and required the sharp blow of His justice, YHWH never abandoned or gave up on them or His purposes for them. There would be a time of restoration.

Images based in Joel 3:1-21 would arise in the Revelation given to John. John would see the one like a Son of Man reap the earth; an angel would then reap the grape harvest, and it would be trodden in the winepress of the wrath of God, and blood would flow for miles (Revelation 14:14-20). John would see the nations gathered for battle against the Lord of lords and King of kings at “Armageddon,” and the Lord Jesus would overcome them with the sword proceeding from His mouth, the Word of God (Revelation 16:12-16, 19:11-21).

If we look to the history books to find some grand judgmental event somewhere in the Levant we will be disappointed. If we thus project this event into the future we would miss the point. The judgment may not have concretely taken place in a particular valley in Jewish territory, but YHWH absolutely judged those who plundered His people. Assyria was overrun in a moment by the Medes and Babylonians, just as Nahum prophesied. Babylon would fall to the Persians and ultimately become a ruin: a backwater of little consequence in the days of Jesus of Nazareth, and completely forgotten until rediscovered by Europeans professing the God of Israel in the 19th century. Edom would be conquered by the Jews under John Hyrcanus and compelled to convert to Judaism. Tyre and Sidon would lose their independence to the Persians, Macedonians, and Romans in turn. Israel would suffer another Day of YHWH and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE; the Romans, after suffering wave after wave of tragedy, would ultimately profess Christ, and their Empire would be no more.

The people of God have much to gain from Joel’s prophecies in Joel 3:1-21. Perhaps there are times when God judges His people, or allows His people to suffer tragedy, humiliation, and loss. In those days the enemies of God’s people gloat and exalt, presuming their gods or they by their strength have conquered. Yet God will have the last laugh; whatever they imposed upon the people of God will redound back to them. As they represented the poured out wrath of God, so they will drain the dregs of the cup of the wrath of God. God may have to chastise and judge His people, but He does not give up on them or His purposes in them. May we serve God in Christ to obtain the resurrection, finding cleansing in Jesus!

Ethan R. Longhenry
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The news seems to come at an unrelenting pace: yet another person has taken their own life. Sometimes it is a teenager who would seem to have their whole life in front of them but felt as if he or she could no longer handle the pressures of life. Sometimes it is a celebrity who had fame and fortune but proved haunted by feelings of inadequacy and/or profound pain. Whether old or young, rich or poor, suicide is a terrible tragedy: for some reason or another a person has not found value in this life, and family members and friends are left to grieve and wonder how it all went so horribly wrong.

In modern Western culture, suicide is still seen as a shameful thing, a devaluation of the gift of life; in some religions, and even within “Christendom,” it is reckoned as a “mortal sin.” Suicide is against the law in much of the United States; granted, those who successfully commit the act cannot be prosecuted, but even the attempt is unlawful. For these and many other reasons suicide was one of the unmentionable things; families who suffered the loss of a family member to suicide are further burdened by shame, internally and externally.

One might expect the Bible to provide explicit and thorough condemnation of suicide; it may come as a surprise to find out this is not the case. King Saul of Israel fell on his sword to die once he was injured so that the Philistines could not get the glory of torturing and killing him; his armorbearer did the same once Saul was dead (1 Samuel 31:5-6). The Roman jailer in Philippi, presuming the prisoners all escaped after an earthquake, prepared to kill himself, since it was more honorable for a Roman soldier to take his own life in such a circumstance rather than face corporal punishment (Acts 16:27). These examples reflect ancient attitudes regarding suicide: at times it was a more honorable way of dying than being executed.

And yet, on the other hand, the New Testament presumes a level of self-interest and self-care. Paul would have the Philippian Christians look not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). Paul rightly emphasized the need for concern regarding the welfare of others, but we do well to note that he assumed the Philippians will give at least some consideration to their own interest as well. In his instruction to husbands in Ephesians 5:28-30 Paul assumed self-love: a man is to love his wife as his own flesh, since no one hates their own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it. While we might look for the exception to the rule, Paul’s rule does reflect reality: in the absence of some mitigating factor, people automatically take care of their own bodies and its basic needs.

God has not only given us life but has also extended hope of life for eternity in the resurrection; death is the enemy, not a friend (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Nevertheless, there is no blanket condemnation of those who commit suicide in Scripture; neither is there commendation or justification for it. As Christians we therefore do well to avoid any kind of blanket condemnation or justification of suicide; God, in His holiness, righteousness, love, and mercy, will render judgment (Romans 14:10-12, James 4:11-12). The reasons for suicide, after all, are legion. Some believe they are sacrificing themselves for a greater cause and die as “martyrs” while killing others; others murder people and kill themselves as well in order to avoid earthly consequences for their behavior. Some commit suicide as an attempt to “get back” at or hurt other people; others do so to escape shame or consequences of immoral behavior or personal failures. And then there are some who feel driven to suicide by relentless bullying and harassment by others. Many who feel driven to suicide experience forms of mental illness, especially depression. Few would expect much mercy to be shown to those who commit suicide for the earlier reasons; we hope many of the last find mercy, for they were not in their right mind when they acted as they did, and perhaps will be accounted as those who suffered from physical illnesses. We thus do well to trust in God and His judgment in such matters.

Suicide, no matter the reason or justification for the act, leaves tragedy and suffering in its wake. Family, friends, and other loved ones are left to grapple with the hole left in their lives from the loss of a loved one. Those who have lost family or friends to suicide ought to have our compassion, love, and care. We should grieve and mourn with them. Suicide can be the tragic action of a person not in his or her right mind and yet still a selfish act at the same time. May God comfort, strengthen, and sustain all those who bear the grief of the loss of a loved one by suicide.

We do well to not extend judgmentalism toward others in depressed circumstances but love, compassion, and mercy. People are starved for human contact and kindness; many just want to know someone cares for them. As followers of the Lord Jesus we ought to be that person who shows that love and care!

Perhaps you are contemplating suicide. You may be convinced that no one loves you and there is no reason to continue with life. Please do not listen to those voices inside your head. They are damnable lies. God loves you; He has sent His Son to die for you; He desires for you to spend eternity with Him in the resurrection (John 3:16). We love you as a fellow human being given the gift of life; you are as precious in the sight of God as any one of us (Galatians 3:28, 1 Timothy 2:4). Please reach out to us so we can talk and be of any service we can without judgment. Please call 1-800-273-8255; they also can help you at this difficult time in your life. May we all find hope in Christ and obtain the resurrection of life!

Ethan R. Longhenry
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