It’s All About Jesus, Part 1: The Christ Hymn

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” – [Colossians 1:15-20 NIV]

This section of Scripture found in Colossians is often referred to, by many Scholars, as ‘The Christ Hymn’ because many scholars believe that it was sung during worship in the early church. The origin of this hymn is not known but some think that it came from various sources ranging from the Stoic persuasion to the Hellenistic-Jewish persuasion. Regardless of it’s origin, it declares the preeminence and supremacy in Christ in all things. What we have here is one of the finest descriptions of who Jesus is that we can find in the Bible. In one of his sermons, Louie Giglio calls this the hymn of all creation.

       1. The Preeminence of Christ in Creation (1:15-17)

Verse 15 starts off by telling of His heavenly origin. We find in Romans 8:29, Paul calls Jesus the first born among many brethren and now in Colossians Paul goes deeper and says that Jesus is the first born among all of creation. According to Adam Clarke, “The phraseology is Jewish; and as they apply it to the Supreme Being merely to denote his eternal pre-existence, and to point him out as the cause of all things; it is most evident that St. Paul uses it in the same way.”

Laminin

In verse 16, we see that the writer of this hymn emphasizes the work of creation in powers and authorities and makes it known that all of these things, whether upon the earth or dwelling heavenly realms, were created for the glory and supremacy of Christ. Everything that God does will bring glory to Him in some way, shape, or form. In Isaiah when God says that no word will go forth void (Isaiah 55:10-11) he means that everything he speaks is for a specific time and purpose and, it will accomplish that purpose in it’s appointed time. Going back to verse 16, everything was created for a specific time and purpose.

In verse 17, Paul says that Christ is before all things. This phrase reaffirms verse 15 where it speaks about Christ being the firstborn among all of creation. In the latter part of this verse shows us that in Christ all things hold together. We find here the Greek word synesteken, meaning that connotes preservation or coherence. In the RSV reading of this verse it says, “in Him all things consist.” This verse is truer than what we might think. In our bodies there is a cell membrane called, Laminin. I’ve posted about this topic before. According to Wikipedia, “The laminins are a family of glycoproteins that are an integral part of the structural scaffolding in almost every tissue of an organism. They are secreted and incorporated into cell-associated extracellular matrices. Laminin is vital for the maintenance and survival of tissues.” Without these laminins, our limbs would literally fall apart. What’s even more amazing is that these laminins are in the shape of a cross. The writer was scarily accurate in saying that in Christ, all things hold together!

     2. The Preeminence of Christ in the Church

Paul starts off in verse 18 by discussing Christ’s function as head of the church. Dr. Augustus Neander says, “The Church is His body by virtue of His entering into communion corporeally with human nature.” This proves the idea that Paul wants his readers to know that Christ exercises his authority in the universe through the church. In verse 18, Paul notes that he is the firstborn from among dead meaning that he is the only to rise from dead and die no more (as opposed to Lazarus who died a second after being raised form the dead in John 11) so that, once again Christ might have supremacy and preeminence in all things thus proving that Christ is sovereign over the living as well as the dead.

In verse 19, Paul explains that it pleased God for his fullness to dwell in his son, Jesus. When you read this verse you must read it in correlation to John 3:34-35 and Matthew 28:18:

“For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” – [John 3:34-35 ESV]

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” – [Matthew 28:18 ESV]

The father has given all things, including the church, into Christ’s hand and he has all power and all authority.

Verse 20 is the culmination of all this, “..that he might reconcile all things …by making peace through his blood.” Everything that Christ does through the church it is so that all things might be reconciled unto Himself through the shedding of His blood. I found the Apologetics Study Bible enlightening on this verse.

“This passage does not teach universalism (all will be saved) but instead points forward to Messiah’s quelling all rebellion, bringing lasting peace to the universe. The “reconciliation” here entails a pacification of evil powers (as 2:15 makes clear).” – The Apologetics Study Bible

In the commentary for Colossians 2:15 the Apologetics Study Bible says:

No contradiction exists here between Paul’s statement that the principalities and powers have been defeated and his assumption elsewhere that the powers are still virulently active and that believers need to fight against them (e.g., Eph 6:12). The cross of Christ is the point of decisive victory over the powers of evil; believers can now be victorious over them through their union with Christ. They will be vanquished once and for all at the end of the age. – The Apologetics Study Bible

There are two realms in which this reconciliation operates: the present and in the future. The present blessing of reconciliation is that you’ve been adopted into the family of God and you are made a co-heir with Christ according to Romans 8:17. The future blessing of reconciliation is that evil work and every power and principality will be obliterated and we (the Church) will enjoy the presence of Christ and be eternally consummated to Him. If you’re wondering about the past blessing of reconciliation it’s this: there is none because the blood of Jesus Christ has washed away your sinful past. The only thing that matters is your present and your future.

Methodology vs. Meth-idolatry

“Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” – [Ecclesiastes 7:10 ESV]

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols”. – [1 John 5:21 ESV]

I was listening to a lecture given by Mark Driscoll and he was talking a new movement that he and a few other pastors are a part of called, ‘New Calvinism’. The four points of this movement are:

  1. Reformed Theology (Traditional Calvinism)
  2. Complimentarian Relationships
  3. Spirit-filled Lives
  4. Missional Churches

I won’t exactly dwell on the movement but I’ll provide you with the information and you can do the research for yourself.

What I wanted to focus on was something that Pastor Mark said in his lecture that caught my attention. He said that if you’re not careful, you’re methodology can turn into meth-idolatry. This happens when you love tradition more than you love Jesus. This is why it’s hard to convert a lot of Mormons because they love their religious structure more than they love Jesus. Of course, no one would ever verbally or even consciously admit to loving tradition more than Jesus but if you’ve ever been in a traditional church long enough then you know it happens. And don’t think that because your church isn’t traditional that it means that your church isn’t subject to it. It happens in traditional and non-traditional churches alike. People fall in love with method instead the God who inspired the method. But after a while, culture changes and as the culture changes our methodology should also change. While all this change is taking place our message should remain the same: “Christ died to save sinners.”

I grew up in an old-school Pentecostal atmosphere. I firmly believe that there is no school like the old school but there are some disadvantages to ‘traditional church’. The problem is that the concept of ‘traditional church’ will die. Church hymnals will be in the museum; pulpits and kneeling rails will be nothing more than relics of once was.

One thing you must realize if you’re a young pastor and you’re trying to mix things up in a traditional church is this: If you’re going to move the piano in a Pentecostal church, do it one inch at a time. If you shake things up too quickly then you’ll have a bunch of old religious stiff getting their boxers in a knot over something that has eternal value. For example, the minute you bring in theatre seats in a church instead of pews you have people saying stuff like “This is church; it’s not supposed to be comfortable.” (Yes, I’ve actually heard that one.)

Remember, I also said that more modern churches were susceptible to this as well. What happens is this, they get into a mentality that all tradition is bad and because it’s old is must be thrown out the door. This is an erroneous presumption that stemmed from Emergent Church movement. Pretty much the concept of emergent churches was to throw out anything old, have no kind of tradition at all to the point where they starting questioning fundamental doctrines just because they were a tradition in the church such: the divinity of Scripture, the issue of homosexuality, the existence of Hell. A good example of an emergent church pastor would be Rob Bell. He does not believe in the literal existence of Hell. He also doesn’t believe in the divinity of Scripture because anyone who doesn’t believe in the existence of Hell doesn’t believe in the inspiration of Scripture, it’s just not possible.

Another thing about traditions and methods is that they vary from culture to culture and geographical location to geographical location. A lawn mowing ministry would not be needful to someone who lived in the desert and didn’t have a lawn to mow. If you’re going to do good ministry you need to be a student of your student and learn to adapt in a way where you can bring the message of Christ in their own language and in their own terms.

In conclusion, there’s no need to get into an argument about tradition, culture, and methodology because it’s all going to die anyway. The only thing that will last forever is the word of God.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” – [Matthew 24:35 ESV]

As for those resources that you were promised:

Four Points of the Movement – Mark Driscoll
http://theresurgence.com/v/h7ue7jqmuff1

Four Points of the Movement Re:visited - Mark Driscoll
http://theresurgence.com/v/zfw9npg3d2r6

Article in Times Magazine about New Calvinism

carm.org on the Emerging Church Movement

Taking Your City

Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth; and the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth: see, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, and to destroy and to overthrow; to build, and to plant. – [Jeremiah 1:9-10 RV]

Good ministry through a church begins when that church determines that they are going to positively affect the culture in their area. As the body of Christ we always need to be moving, shifting, and reaching out for the sake of the gospel. As one of my dear friends in the ministry once said, ‘we must create, in out environment, a Christ-centered culture.’ The reason I chose Jeremiah 1:9, 10 as the main passage is because when God told Jeremiah that He had set him over nations and kingdoms He actually instructions: pluck up, break down, destroy, overthrow, build, and plant. The way I interpret this passage from the sentence and grammar structure is that through building and planting we will, in the process, pluck up, break down, destroy, and overthrow things that have no place in our culture. Through the courage that was built up inside Gideon, he destroyed the idols of his father (Judges 6:28-31).

We must be influential in culture because now, more than ever, we are being surrounded by a negative culture that is begging for people to conform to it’s worldly ambition and standard of living. Please understand, I am not anti-culture. I am anti-negative culture. As the church, I believe that it’s okay to take something that is positive from culture and redeem it for the preaching of the gospel. Churches do this all the time when they show clips from new movies and present the positive values that the movie teaches.

When Jesus sent out his disciples he knew that what kind of culture they would be going into. He didn’t expect them to be like the Essenes and completely avoid culture forever. He knew that the only way  to get the culture to embrace the gospel was to send them out into it.

All things considered, our objective has been and always will be to preach, pray, prophesy, heal the sick, and raise the dead.

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” [Mark 16:15-18 ESV]

For more information please watch “The Elephant Room: Church in the Culture vs. Culture in the Church” on the link below:

http://marshill.com/v/b75oqkn4f75b

Deep Refreshing

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. – [Psalms 42:5-7 ESV]

Just these verses, to me, reveal so much about God. David was discouraged. He was in exile longing to be in Jerusalem. He was in a place where, a lot of times, we find ourselves: in captivity. Maybe not in a physical captivity but we are, at times, caught in a binding stronghold feeling like we can’t get out. I don’t know, I might be the only one who’s ever felt this way. I’ve felt like I was in the same cycle over and over again. I’ve felt like I was slipping up over the same sins over and over again. I’ve felt trapped wondering, ‘When will all of this end?’

But out of all those times, God was still calling out to me. He was still reaching for depth inside me not because I’m anything special because I’m not. I’m a totally depraved human being, but when God saved me He put in me something that could that bring life to dead situations and that something is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead. No matter what you’re going through you can always depend on the comforting and strengthening power of the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and direct into all truth and all righteousness.

The reason God calls out for that depth is because when He looks at you, as a believer, He sees that same Holy Spirit and knows the potential that He placed inside you to overcome.

I love what David said in the second part of verse 7: “…all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.” For those you who don’t know: water is usually represented in the Bible as the Holy Spirit because John 7:38 says:

Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you, just as the Scriptures say. – [John 7:38 CEV]

So, when I read Psalm 42:7 I imagined being so hot and thirsty, and this huge wave of cool refreshing pouring down over me and I realized that that’s how the Holy Spirit brings refreshing to us when we need it the most.

I hope this has blessed and encouraged you in some way, shape, or form.

“The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”
– [Numbers 6:24-26 RV]

Our Response to His Presence, Part 2: Our Change of Identity in His Presence

“Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”
– [Genesis 17:3-5 ESV]

Names don’t mean a lot in our society anymore. Many times the only two requirements are that the name rolls off the tongue and it doesn’t get the child’s butt kicked in middle school. Many times the first one isn’t even a requirement that’s how you end up with names like ‘Zulu’, ‘Malik’, ‘Inigo’, ‘Ivo’, and ‘Jago’ (I’m not joking, these are real names.) In light of the value of the names of our poor children, I believe that God’s intention was for names to have a significant meaning. In Proverbs 18:21 we read that life and death are in the power of the tongue. The word ‘power’, in this verse, in the Hebrew, can mean ‘a charging force’. This means that whatever comes out of your mouth has a charging force to affect your destiny. This is why speaking the name of Jesus when we pray carries so much weight because anything we could possibly ever need is found in Him.

With this information in mind, I believe that when you name a child you speak over them a trait of their identity they must live with unless there is another spoken word over them. A prime example of this is found in Genesis 35:16-18:

“Then they journeyed from Bethel. When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.” And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.”
– [Genesis 35:16-18 ESV]

As Rachel was dying, in her final fleeting moments, she named her son Ben-oni, meaning ‘son of my sorrow’, and after she died Isaac renamed him Benjamin meaning, ‘son of my right or my blessing’. If Isaac had not renamed Benjamin, then he would have had to live with the sorrow of knowing that his life brought his mother’s death and Isaac did exactly what a father should’ve done in that situation and change his son’s identity so he wouldn’t have to live with that guilt and shame.

When we know that our identity is affected by our name, we’ve got to wonder what exactly happened to Abram when his named was changed to Abraham. The name Abram means ‘high father’. It’s strange enough that he was called a father before he even had children but God knew that that wasn’t good enough. When God showed up, he changed Abram’s name to Abraham, meaning ‘father of a multitude of nations’. In the presence of God Abraham’s identity changed. He could not remain the same in the sight of God. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul makes an amazing statement:

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
– [1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV]

I look at this verse and I think, “What are we known by?” We are known by our character. Who knows us better than we know ourselves? Our Creator. As I process all of this I am reminded of the verse in Revelation that says:

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.'”
– [Revelation 2:17 ESV]

We know that that new name will indicate an identity. I believe that it will reflect the potential that God saw in us while we here on earth. While we were down here struggling, toiling, and striving over temporal things that shrink in the light of the eternal weight of the glory of God, He saw in the power that He’d given us to overcome any circumstance.

“I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.”
– [Philippians 4:13 GW]

I hope this has blessed and encouraged you in some way, shape, or form.

“The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”
– [Numbers 6:24-26 RV]

Our Response to His Presence, Part 1: Our Change of Posture in His Presence

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face…”
– [Genesis 17:1-3a ESV]

In this passage we read where God appeared to Abraham and gave him one of the most significant prophetic words of his life. This word that God gave Abraham changed every aspect of his life but two things specifically: 1. his posture in God’s presence and 2. his character in God’s presence. In verse 3 we read that when God appeared to Abraham and started speaking to him, it’s instant response was falling on his face. There were a couple of reasons Abraham responded the way did:
1. The Profoundness of the Presence of God
2. The Weight of the Word of God

1. The Profoundness of the Presence of God
I’ve been listening a lot to ‘O Holy Night’. It’s one the few songs, I believe, that capture the proper response to the holiness, as well as the presence of God. “Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices.” What a beautiful line. What a profound reaction to the birth of our Lord.
There have been times where the presence of God has been so thick on me that I’ve laid on the floor in the middle of a worship service and done nothing short of weep and when it was possible for me to speak, the only thing that came out was my prayer language. In the words of Jason Upton, in his song ‘In the Silence’, “Sometimes there is no language, no language but a groan, sometimes there is no language, no language but a cry.” I have encountered the presence of God at times when I have been broken to a place where I can no longer do anything but worship. There was absolutely no choice anymore. I have learned that when God shows up He leaves you no options. There’s no other choice sometimes but to worship Him. That’s why God’s grace is irresistible.

2. The Weight of the Word of God
I think it’s interesting that God only shares with Abraham the introduction to full prophetic promise and the effect of that part of the promise alone made Abraham want to fall on his face. The weight of what that promise carried, I believe, humbled Abraham and left probably thinking thoughts like, “Who am I that my seed should multiply as the stars of the heavens?” The thought of that truly humbled him. After he had fallen on his face God continued speaking to him (v. 3b-14) because he responded correctly to the weight of the word. There are times in our lives where God speaks us and promises us something and the weight of the word leaves us with no choice but to be humbled by it.

I hope this has blessed you and encouraged you in some, way, shape, or form.

“The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”
– [Numbers 6:24-26 RV]

Of Pudding and Things Similar in Value

Whenever you say ‘Be thankful for the Little Things’ do we really know what we’re talking about or are we just spewing practical crap off the top of our heads to make ourselves seem morally superior? My fear is the latter. But I come to you tonight to tell you that I know what it’s like to be thankful for the little things. Oddly enough, I discovered this while eating pudding. Tonight, I had the choice to either partake of chocolate or vanilla pudding. Normally, I would’ve chosen chocolate but tonight I decided I would take vanilla. As I was eating it I thought to myself, “There’s something about this that’s familiar, almost nostalgic.” I thought about my grandmother, how she used to buy me pudding all the time at the local supermarket. Vanilla pudding is so simple. Just like the pudding, my childhood was also simple. My parents were divorced but it didn’t seem to bother me much. All I was worried about was whether or not I could get to spend the proper amount of time to spend with my grandmother or not. She was my best friend and she is my best friend. As I was pondering on the simplicity of the pudding and the simplicity of my childhood I became thankful for everything God has given me including her. There are so many times that I take everything for granted and I don’t say Thank you. Tonight, I will not forget to say Thank you. I will be grateful for everything I have and I will give God my praise for the little things.

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

~G.K. Chesterton