A Theology of Expression

Some people have a problem with being thankful. I am not one of those people.

I thank God for things all the time. But I am not one of those irrational people who thanks God for everything – like inventing cars, or soda, or diabetic socks, or bacon. God didn’t invent those things, stupid people. But I usually pray a prayer of thanksgiving every time I eat a peanut butter sandwich that goes something like this: “God, thank you for creating the man who invented peanut butter.” Now, you might say that is George Washington Carver, but you’d be doubly wrong. So, maybe I have to retract my statement about bacon, but the rest still stands.

I’m so glad that God has inspired so many men and women to think, invent, and create.

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can cause a person to paint a picture, write a song, develop an invention, or pen Scripture. All forms of expression come from some form of inspiration. The key to discovering a great form of expression is to look at the inspiration. God is the highest form of inspiration there is. He is the Creator of the whole universe – from the stars in the sky to the fleas on a dog. Every night when I walk into my house, I look up at those stars and am continually reminded at how inspiring God is.

Just like you can look at a great painting and see the heart of the artist, you can look at the heart of mankind and see the hand of God. You can look at Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and see the love of God. You can see the conquest of Joshua and see the wrath of God. You read the Psalms and see how God inspires man. The Bible itself is another example of God inspiring man – in more ways than one.

Expression is only as good as the inspiration behind it. If your inspiration is temporary, if it is fleeting, if it can fail you, your expression loses significance. People who don’t live in an area where there are peanuts probably don’t care for the inspiration behind peanut butter. People who write songs about sex or drugs or money don’t create inspiration. But songs and paintings can be temporary or about current situations in time and still hold eternal significance depending on the inspiration. Great expression always inspires. It’s contagious.

My pastor said a few weeks ago that the gospel isn’t centered on expressing oneself but denying oneself. This is one of those statements though with a paradoxical twist – it is only when denying themselves that people can truly express themselves. If God is the highest form of inspiration, the highest form of expression comes through Him. This can be heard in Handel’s Messiah, seen in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, or experienced while walking through a park on a nice day.

A great thing about expression is it speaks about and to its inspiration regardless of how explicit that mention might be. There are some great worship songs out there that are glorifying and directly speak to God’s character. Then there are those songs that speak through metaphor or situations to point to spiritual and godly truths. I think one of the disasters today of the Christian music industry is its forcefulness of the inclusion of God. People love NEEDTOBREATHE and Switchfoot because their expression isn’t forced; it is fluid and it is natural.

One of my favorite songs of all-time is called “John Wayne Gacy Jr” by Sufjan Stevens. In the song, Stevens talks about one of the most prolific serial killers to ever live. The song is disgusting and it leaves the listener feeling sickened as the song progresses. In the heart, the listener feels how wretched this killer was. Then in the last line of the song, Stevens says: “In reality, I am really just like him. Look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid.”

There it is.

What a phenomenal song to express the fallen nature of mankind and to show the morality engraved in the hearts of man to feel sickened by evil. It is something I loved about the show Breaking Bad. No show in the history of television has painted such a vivid picture of right and wrong. This is the key to great expression. This is a key that opens many doors and leads the artist down many corridors. This is the key that allows one to think outside the box, outside of themselves, and potentially outside their present reality.

What inspires you?

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Sons of Serendipity – Galatians 1:15-16a

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…” –Galatians 1:15-16a

A father and son were driving down the road after a fishing trip. During their trip, they were in a car accident. Both the father and son were rushed to the hospital, but the father passed away in the ambulance. When the boy reached the operating room, the doctor walked out of the room. “I can’t operate on him,” the doctor said. “He is my son.” How can this be?!

Paul refers to Jesus as the “Son of God” 15 times in his letters. Every time Jesus is mentioned as the Son, it is in his pastoral epistles. There is no mention of Christ as the “Son of God” in either the prison epistles or the pastoral epistles. Because of this Longenecker asserts that, “… “Son of God” as a Christological title was derived by Paul from his Jewish Christian heritage.” The idea of Christ being God’s son is probably an idea drawn out from Paul’s old life of Judaism. This is important because the men in Galatia who were spreading around false teaching were also Jewish, so they might’ve been using the same words to describe Jesus.

Referring Christ as the Son was also a relational term for Paul. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament states: “‘Son’ describes the bond of love between God and Jesus and hence the greatness of the sacrifice. The title relates, not so much to preexistence, but to the wonder of the saving act. It is grounded in Christ’s passion rather than his exaltation and kingship.” There were other words like “Lord” or “Christ” that could be used to talk about Christ’s kingship. This is specifically talking about Christ’s relationship to God as his Son, sent to save the world. Jesus came as God’s Son in that he was the full representation of God. He was a reflection of God much like many children are walking reflections of their parents.

This is Paul’s logic: If Christ is God’s Son, and Christ is in Paul, then Paul is God’s son. This is why Paul has the privilege to call God, “Abba” or Father (Galatians 4:6). Not only so, but Paul will be saying the same thing about the Galatians later in the letter. To be in Christ not only meant that one was in God’s family, but even more so, that they are viewed as God’s children – his sons and daughters.

The love and sacrifice that God took as a Father to send his Son, and the love and sacrifice that Christ made to offer his life, should remind us just how much God has done to allow us to be part of His family. We are children of God if we follow Christ by faith. Do you see yourself as one of His children? Do you know he loves you? Do you know you are an heir to His promises?

Live today as one of God’s children. Walk as though you are a representative of Him. Just as children are a reflection of their parents, your life is reflective of how you respect your heavenly Father. Represent Him well.

And to answer the riddle, the doctor in the operating room was the boy’s mother.

The End is Near: A Revelation Revealed.

Recently, I posted a blog where I explained that some clichés are necessitated in learning. This isn’t one of them.

You can almost assume you are watching a B-rated movie when you see a scene featuring a homeless man holding a sign describing how the world is about to end. Whether it is central to the plot or added as a comedic relief, chances are there was something better that the movie could have done… like anything.

I understand that vampires and soon-to-be-zombies aren’t “hip with the youngsters” anymore, but mainstream media has now decided to go down the Post-Apocalyptic route like this is more acceptable and cool. It isn’t. It is like Hollywood forgot how bad the 60’s and 70’s were to the world and wanted to relive it in EVERY way (cue Daft Punk’s new DISCO song, “Get Lucky”).

One thing that I enjoy about being Pentecostal and from the Assemblies of God is its young, but rich, heritage. This year marks 100 years since it’s founding in the early 1900’s. A denomination marked by innovation, gender equality, and once pacifism and environmentalism, the A/G is currently getting recognized as one of the only Christian denominations flourishing in a world now marked by a decline in spirituality.

I think one of the things that I like about Pentecostalism is their grasp of a realized eschatology – and understanding that Jesus is coming soon. It is what drives their hearts. It gives their love for others perseverance as they know that time is short. Jesus is coming… and he will be here any time.

Just as life is a pendulum swing, I think that is true with the greater church’s view of the end. Where the church at large tries to hide behind the phrase that, “no one knows the hour,” Pentecostals equally cry wolf on many occasions. And people who are outside the church looking through its stained-glass windows see the Church as a some beatnik-crazed transient in a B-rated film with a sign reading, “The End is Near.”

The problem is the end IS near. It has been near for the past two thousand years. The church of the first-century realized that, the people of the early Pentecostal Movement realized that, and we need to healthily embrace it. I’m not saying that we need to preach that Jesus is coming every chance we get. But we need to be aware that he IS coming to set the world to rights.

Paul wrote about it all throughout the epistles in the New Testament. Many scholars talk about it as “now/not yet” theology – truths that hold merit now but will not reach their full fulfillment until the eschaton. We are reconciled along with the world, but it won’t be fully understood until Jesus returns. We are saved from the wrath of God, but it won’t be fully seen or understood until we reach the final judgment at the end of days. We are sanctified, but we won’t be like-Christ until we are with Christ.

Don’t run to the end times like a loon-radio-evangelist or a distraught homeless man, but don’t run away from the fact that Jesus is coming back. He is coming to close the inclusio that was introduced in Creation – the bracket of Old Creation and New Creation, when the world will be as it was before the Fall. We will be with God and He will be with us.

The end is near, and we are here now to help usher in the new world of tomorrow.

The Day That Death Was Defeated

Imagine a Jew living during the time of the Second Temple. Nehemiah might have brought some of the Jewish people back to their Promised Land, but the Jews were still in disarray. A Temple might have been built to replace the former one, but the Israelites were no longer a nation of God – they weren’t a nation at all. The Israelite people were floating from nation to nation – Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans. They might have been “post-exilic”, but they were definitely not out of exile.

Imagine an Israelite who was alive amidst the captivity in Egypt. Their ancestors might have freely come to the land, but that isn’t the case for them now. People through whom God said he would bless the world are now captives in a foreign land. The Israelite people weren’t “people” at all – they were slaves. They might have been promised a blessing, but their children were still getting slaughtered by the hundreds.

Moses was sent by God to deliver the Israelites in Egypt from their physical bondage. God parted the Red Sea, and from Mount Sinai Moses presented to the people of God how they should live according to the Law.

They were to be God’s chosen people.

Through them the whole world was to be blessed.

But they took the Law and saw it as a way in which to separate them selves from the world they were supposed to bless – a Law they couldn’t even keep. They needed a truly Faithful Jew through which Abraham’s covenant could be fulfilled. But they were looking for a way out of their physical bondage of exile during the Second Temple Period. They lost sight of the promise that God made to them. They lost sight of their purpose as the People of God.

Jesus was sent by God to deliver all of mankind from their spiritual bondage of sin. God’s Spirit fell on Jesus during his baptism, and from there Jesus presented the Sermon on the Mount, where he showed the people what it meant to live by faith.

He was God’s Chosen One.

Through him the whole world had been blessed.

But the people crucified him. When given the chance to free this man who knew no sin, the people chose an insurrectionist instead… How fitting. They took an innocent man and gave him a death sentence expected for the worst of people. Just as Moses and his people were the first to celebrate the Passover, Jesus was presented as the final Passover Lamb the day he was crucified during that Passover week.

The Passover. The Passion.

Moses. The Messiah.

Physical Bondage. Spiritual Bondage.

God’s Deliverance.

If Christ’s story ended there, then this wouldn’t be a story worth being told. When Jesus was taken to be crucified, the disciples fled. After his death they left in shame believing that they were merely following an allusion of grandeur that he was there to set them free from Roman rule.

But Christ’s story didn’t end there. When Jesus rose from the dead, he proved his reign as King! Christ didn’t ignore death; he defeated it! And by defeating death, Christ showed how he was the Ultimate Deliverer. He isn’t just Christ – but he is Lord! He is the I Am! And though the Jewish people were expecting their Messiah to come and deliver them from their bondage from Rome, he came and delivered all people from their spiritual bondage of sin.

This is the day in which death was defeated.

We now know that there will be a day when we are resurrected.

We now know that there will be a day when all things will be reconciled to him.

We now can go to the world knowing that he has ALL authority.

We can now go bringing this news of reconciliation.

Because this is the day in which death is defeated.