And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved" (II Corinthians 12:15).
Monday, February 22, 2010
The Missing Ingredient
By Chip Brogden
Besides prayer, no other subject has been talked about more and practiced less than the subject of loving one another. We all know we are supposed to love one another. We have heard it preached a thousand times. But there is a difference between knowing the Path and walking the Path.
I want to speak specifically to the issue of love as it relates to "ministry". That word "ministry" is a loaded word now, and we really need to question someone when they use that word so we can find out what they really mean. I think most people will agree that what passes for "ministry" these days is something very far removed from the ministry practiced in the New Testament. And I am not referring to some kind of method or technique that they practiced. The "missing ingredient" is not something so superficial as meeting in homes versus meeting in buildings. How far we have fallen to think that the secret of New Testament life is found in some way of conducting a meeting.
Leadership exists in the Bible, and leadership exists in the Church. There is no getting around that. Jesus showed us, both in word and in deed, that His idea of leadership is based on service to God and to others. The question we need to ask is what constitutes godly, Spirit-led, Christ-centered, servant leadership? What makes someone a spiritual father? What really qualifies someone as an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher?
You might say the calling of God is what qualifies someone. Perhaps, but many are called and few are chosen. Many are called but they fail to respond to the call. You need more than a calling.
You might say the gift of God is what qualifies someone. Let me tell you something, brothers and sisters. Gifts no longer register much with me anymore. Gifted brothers and sisters are really a dime a dozen. I am just speaking frankly. Often I will meet people and come away thinking how gifted they are, but they leave me hollow inside. They have a lot of potential but I would not trust them to watch my dog much less watch over people's souls. Many of them claim to be in some kind of pastoral or prophetic or apostolic ministry. But that in and of itself does not qualify a person. I have seen gifted brothers and sisters with absolutely no wisdom, no maturity, and no spiritual discernment make a real mess of people's lives.
You might say revelation from God is what qualifies someone. I absolutely believe that revelation is a necessity for teaching others because you cannot point the way to a place you have never been. But revelation by itself does not qualify a person.
There came a time in my life when I realized I was called, and I was gifted, and God had given me great revelation, but I still lacked something. Now when I was younger I believed that having a calling from God and being gifted by God was all you needed. Then I began to learn some things by revelation and thought that was God's seal of approval upon me.
Even so, I could not get away from the fact that there were then, and there are now, lots of people in the world besides me who are called by God, have spiritual gifts, and enjoy an abundance of revelation. But God cannot trust them in any kind of a servant leadership capacity. They may have a title or a ministry but they are unqualified because they do not have the missing ingredient. I noticed they lacked something, and worse, I lacked the same thing. Eventually I discovered what everyone, including myself, is lacking.
What is the missing ingredient? The missing ingredient is LOVE.
Let me share something to illustrate what I mean. A pastor told me something that happened many years ago between him and his associate pastor. They worked together in the church but fortunately they were also good friends. He said his associate came to him one day with tears in his eyes and told him, "You're the best preacher and teacher of the Word I have ever heard in my life. But you just don't love people." When the pastor shared this story with me he had tears in his eyes, too. It was a powerful reminder to him, and an important lesson to us. We can be called and gifted and full of revelation and still fall short because we are not walking in love with people.
Now we could go to many examples of love demonstrated and love commanded in the New Testament. You know them as well as I do. But when I turn to this little obscure passage in II Corinthians 12 I find something mostly overlooked. Paul writes, "I will VERY GLADLY spend and be spent for you; though the more ABUNDANTLY I love you, the less I am loved." Now that is what qualifies a person. That is the missing ingredient.
Paul wrote this to the Corinthians. You know Paul had more trouble with the Corinthian church than all the others combined. Most people would have quit, but not Paul. Paul has the heart of a father. That is a real apostle. That is a real pastor. We know he was called, we know he was gifted, and we certainly know he had a depth of revelation. We could understand if he felt like he was wasting his time with Corinth and wanted to turn his attention elsewhere.
You see, that kind of thinking has the flesh all over it. I read something many years ago that I accepted at first as wisdom, but have since changed by mind. A man wrote, "Go where you are celebrated, not where you are tolerated." At the time I was feeling very unappreciated so I thought this was sound advice. But God has been gracious to me, and He has helped me to see that this attitude is the whole problem with "ministry" today. We love people who love us, and we serve people who serve us, and we thank people who thank us, and if you scratch my back then I'll scratch your back. What kind of Christianity is this? What if Paul only went where he was celebrated and avoided places where he was just tolerated? What a foolish statement, but this is the prevailing attitude among "ministers" today.
Paul gave us an example to follow. Don't just look at his calling and his gifting and his revelation. Look at his heart of love. He gave all - not just for the Lord, but for the Lord's people. And they were a most carnal, unappreciative bunch of people. Even so, the heart of a father is demonstrated. That is the reason he had authority. I tell you his authority was not in his title, his position, or his status as having founded the church. His authority was not in his calling, gift, or revelation. His authority was in the abundant love he showed.
Make no mistake: I am not there yet. I still struggle with how to be a good brother, much less a spiritual father with abundant love for everyone. I obviously have a long way to go, but now I see the missing ingredient and I am following after love. How about you?
You know, the days of a person just "showing up" to exercise their gift and do their little ministry event are just about over. I have been guilty of that, I think we all have either done it or seen others do it. Is that what Jesus has called us to do? Is that being an example? Hold some meetings, have some talks, shake hands and go home? It doesn't mean a thing if we are not loving one another. It is all tinkling brass and clanging cymbals.
Paul saw himself as a father caring for the needs of his children. He entered right into the heart of God, because that is exactly the way God sees it. That is why Paul was able to love them more even as they loved him less. There is a vacuum of that kind of leadership in the Body of Christ today. We have people who cannot even be good brothers and sisters and yet they aspire to be spiritual fathers and leaders, apostles and prophets and pastors and teachers. Instead of serving people WITH their gift they expect people to serve them BECAUSE of their gift. It is seen in things so seemingly insignificant as the pastor's reserved parking space right by the front door.
In recent months I have prayed, "God, take away my calling, take away my gifts, take away my revelation, but give me a heart of love." Really friends, we have plenty of gifted brothers and sisters. But where are the Pauls and the Peters and the Johns of our generation? Where are the spiritual fathers, the leaders, the elders, the ones giving a godly example to those who follow after? An example is most definitely being given, but all too often it is an example of what NOT to do.
Where are the ones who will very gladly spend and be spent in the service of God and of others - who will love abundantly even when they are not loved in return? One father is worth more than ten thousand teachers.
All you who are called and gifted, hear me. Love is the missing ingredient. Follow after love and the calling, the gifting, and the revelation will find its deepest and fullest expression.
By Bob Gass
Do everything without complaining Philippians 2:14 NIV
Two groups of psychology students were wired for recording purposes, and assigned a period to socialise freely. One group knew the experiment would measure the level of complaining in normal conversation; the other group did not. Afterwards, both groups were shocked by how frequently they complained. The group in the know complained almost as much as the group unaware of what the experiment was aiming to achieve. It's the oldest response in the book - literally! Confronted with our choices and actions, we spontaneously start complaining: 'It was their fault, not mine; If they hadn't… I wouldn't have.' Adam needed no lessons in the art of complaining. Caught red-handed, he told God, '…The woman whom You gave… me, she gave me… and I ate." … the woman [Eve]… said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate" ' (Genesis 3:12-13 NAS).
Neither accepted responsibility for their choices. And since God doesn't help people who won't be responsible, He threw the complainers out of Paradise. If they ever subsequently 'got it' regarding complaining, they didn't transmit it to their offspring, Israel: 'Now the people complained… in the hearing of the Lord… his anger was aroused. Then fire… consumed… the outskirts of the camp' (Numbers 11:1 NIV). Notice, all complaining is 'in the hearing of the Lord', and He clearly doesn't want to hear it! Paul writes, 'Do not complain as some of them did; they were killed by the angel that destroys. The things that happened to those people are examples… written down to teach us… ' (1 Corinthians 10:10-11 NCV). Clean up your verbal act! Decide to detect, reject and eject all complaining from your vocabulary.
Complaining is toxic. It contaminates both the complainer and everyone within earshot. Sometimes we think we're helping by complaining. We maintain, 'If somebody doesn't say something, nothing's ever going to change!' - as though positive change can come from negative words. We imagine we've contributed something worthwhile by our complaint. But complaining is what we do to avoid facing, dealing with and solving the problem. It's what we do instead of contributing to constructive change, and it makes us part of the problem instead of the solution. The more you complain the more problem-focused you become, and the more problem-focused you become the more you complain. Ultimately, your complaining affects you more than anyone else.
The Psalmist said, '… I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed… ' (Psalm 77:3 NKJV). If no one else pays attention to your words, you do. Before you say them you think them: '… out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks' (Matthew 12:34 NKJV). And when you say them, you hear them and believe them just as you would the words of a trusted authority. Every time you repeat them you reinforce their power over you until eventually you make yourself the victim of your own complaints! Your spirit (attitude) will be overwhelmed, not by the problems and difficulties people bring to you, but as the self-inflicted product of your own complaints. So, 'Do all things without complaining… that you may become blameless and harmless… without fault in… a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world' (Philippians 2:14-15 NKJV).
Isn't complaining really just about words? No, it's much more than that!
First, complaining hands your power over to the people and circumstances you complain about, making you feel like their victim. It diminishes your ability to think of solutions, conditions your mind negatively, and blunts your ability to receive creative ideas from God. Positive outcomes don't grow in negative soil! You can't complain and create simultaneously. 'Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring… can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?… ' (James 3:11-12 NIV). Complaints are verbal expressions of negative beliefs. They cancel positive intentions and confessions, rendering you powerless to reap the gains God offers. Complaining focuses on a past you can't change. It keeps you scavenging in yesterday's debris, searching for evidence about 'who did what' and 'when' and 'why', while your present slips fruitlessly away.
Second, complaining is toxic to your relationships: '… Do you not know… a little leaven leavens the whole lump?' (1 Corinthians 5:6 NKJV). Complaining invites others to complain. Injected poison toxifies every part of the body. Subtly, your relationship, your family, your workplace, your church and your environment become polluted. Complaining polarises relationships. People who don't like stress, anxiety and negativity begin to distance themselves from you. 'The tongue has the power of life and death… ' (Proverbs 18:21 NIV) - your life and death, and the life and death of others. So pray, 'Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord… ' (Psalm 141:3 NIV); help me to avoid complaining.
You say, 'But isn't it possible my complaint might be legitimate?' Yes. Injustice, abuse, betrayal, robbery, gossip, libel, prejudice, physical harm against you or your family, and so on, are legitimate causes. 'And if I don't do something about these, won't I be failing in my responsibility?' Right again! You are called to be salt and light in this world, resolving problems that arise by practising spiritual principles in your daily life. To do nothing at such times makes you irresponsible and disobedient to God. But complaining about it is not doing something, not by God's definition. You say, 'All right, since God is against complaining, how do I handle legitimate complaints?'
First, do nothing until you've talked with God. You'll make the right moves if you take time to get the right counsel. Prayer clarifies your options and adjusts your perspectives. It defuses your anger, restoring you to objectivity and rational thinking. Your second move is more likely to succeed if your first move is to seek God for wisdom: '… he should ask God… ' (James 1:5 NIV).
Second, before you say or do anything, carry out an attitude check. Stop and ask yourself, 'What's my real agenda here? Is it to show them that I'm right and they're wrong? Is it to come away looking good while I make them look bad? Is it to win a personal victory or to solve the problem in a way that glorifies God?' Before you speak, check what's in your heart: '… For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart' (Matthew 12:34 NAS). When your heart attitude pleases God, you're ready to handle any legitimate complaint.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
What Mistakes Are You Making?
By Bob Gass
Words of the wise… should be heard… (Ecclesiastes 9:17, NKJV)
It's a mistake not to ask yourself, 'What mistakes am I making?' One leader writes: 'I gave little thought to what might go wrong. I assumed that the 'right way' would be mistake-free. I did not acknowledge mistakes I made to myself, or others. I was not learning from my mistakes. If I wanted to become a better leader, I would have to stop making the mistake of not asking what mistake I was making.' It's not the number of mistakes you make; it's how often you keep making the same mistake. If you want to turn your mistakes to your advantage:
1) Admit your mistakes. Why don't we? Pride: we've an image to uphold. Insecurity: our self-worth is based on our performance. Stubbornness: we'd rather flog a dead horse than bury it and get a new one. Here's a news flash: People already know about your mistakes. When you admit them they're not surprised, they're relieved. They say, 'Phew! He knows. Now we can quit pretending!'
2) Accept mistakes as the price of progress. Learn to view failure as a healthy, inevitable part of succeeding. Nothing's perfect in life - including you! So get used to it.
3) Insist on learning from your mistakes. When you try to avoid failure at all costs, you never learn, and you end up repeating the same mistakes over and over. Those who are willing to learn from their failures don't have to keep repeating them. Author William Saroyan observed, 'We get very little wisdom from success. Learn from science. In science, mistakes always precede the discovery of truth.'
Don't be afraid to ask yourself, 'What am I missing? What do I not know yet?' Some people expect nothing but trouble; they're pessimistic so they don't look for anything good. But others have a tendency to assume everything is good. Both kinds of thinking can hurt you. Elisabeth Elliot, author of All That Was Ever Ours, points out, 'All generalisations are false including this one; yet we keep making generalisations. We create images; graven ones that can't be changed. We dismiss or accept people, products, programmes and propaganda according to the labels they come under. We know a little about something, and we treat it like we know everything.' Learn to be more discerning! It's easy to make decisions based on what you know, but there are always things you don't know.
It's easy to choose a direction based on what you see, but what don't you see? We learn only when we're willing to ask, 'What am I missing?' That question causes you, and those around you, to stop and think. It's easy to see what's obvious, but asking tough questions brings to the surface things that aren't obvious. Not asking questions is to assume that a project is potentially perfect and that if it's handled with care, there will be no problems. You learn in life, often painfully, that this simply isn't reality. Two things will stop you dead in your tracks: a) over analysing to the point that you're paralysed and afraid to act b) under analysing and moving ahead before you have sufficient knowledge and the wisdom to implement it.
A sign in a high-pressure sales office brings a smile: 'Do you like to travel? Do you want to meet new friends? Do you want to free up your future? All this can be yours if you make one more mistake.' Fear of making mistakes keeps us from reaching our highest potential, from seeking honest counsel and feedback, and from speaking out lest we become criticised or abandoned. To be successful you must give the people around you permission to push back. When you don't get input it can be disastrous. In It's Your Ship, Michael Abrashoff writes: 'The moment I heard about it [the tragic sinking of a Japanese fishing boat off Honolulu by the submarine USS Greenville], I was reminded that, as is often the case with accidents, someone senses possible danger but doesn't actually speak up.
As the Greenville investigation unfolded, I read in a New York Times article that the submarine's crew 'respected the Commanding Officer too much to question his judgement.' If that's respect, then I want none of it. You need to have people that can tap you on your shoulder and say, 'Is this the best way?' or 'Slow down,' or 'Think about this,' or 'Is what we are doing worth killing or injuring somebody?' History records countless incidents in which ship captains or organisation managers permitted a climate of intimidation to pervade the workplace, silencing subordinates whose warnings could have prevented disaster. Even when the reluctance to speak up stems from admiration for the Commanding Officer's skill and experience, a climate to question decisions must be created in order to foster double-checking.'
One day King Zedekiah said to the prophet Jeremiah, "I will ask you something. Hide nothing from me" (Jeremiah 38:14 NKJV). Zedekiah displayed wisdom we don't display often enough. One author writes: 'I changed from someone who avoids potentially bad news to someone who invites it. For many years I've given permission to members of my inner circle to ask me hard questions and give me their opinion when they disagree with me. I don't ever want to make a mistake, and then hear a team member say, "I thought that was going to be a bad decision." I want people to tell me up front, not after it's too late for their advice to help. Pushback before a decision is made is never disloyalty. You need to give them permission to ask hard questions and pushback against your ideas. That decision must be given to others by the leader. Too often leaders would rather have followers who turn a blind eye instead of ones who speak with a blunt tongue. But if all is quiet when decisions are being considered, it probably won't be quiet after it plays out.' Sir Francis Bacon observed, 'If a person will begin with certainties, he will end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he will end in certainties.' Job said, 'Men listened to me and waited, and kept silence for my counsel' (Job 29:21 NKJV). You must constantly ask yourself: What is my attitude toward mistakes? Am I owning up to my mistakes? Am I learning from them? Do I get the best input possible?
Building Relationships as a Leader in the Workplace
By Kent Humphreys
Leadership is the one thing that we talk about constantly, but yet know so little about. Most of us spend time attending seminars and reading the latest books on leadership, but few of us take the time to examine the life of the greatest leader that has ever lived – Jesus Christ. Jesus knew that leadership is all about relationships. It is not something that can be learned in a classroom, but instead is best understood through modeling. Mentoring is a lost art in our marketplace – one of the places where it is most needed! Because of the lack of mentorship CEOs seek out and receive, they may last less than two years in a given high pressure position. Also, many of those whom we consider successful in business or their professional arena have given up their marriage, family, and values in order to achieve “success”. In most cases, this could have been prevented with proper mentorship. I want to examine the foundation for all leadership and share with you what I consider to be the three indispensable qualities for any leader. So, let us get started on our journey to understanding who a leader is and how he or she builds bridges of trust with their followers.
A Crisis in My Business
The year was 1990, and I was facing one of the biggest leadership challenges of my life. My brothers and I had been running a family distribution business since 1972. After several years of failure, we finally turned the business around and were growing at a rate of 50% cumulative annually for seven years in a row. Through acquisitions, we continued to grow in a declining industry. By 1989, we thought that we had peaked. Then, we lost our largest customer – that was 30% of our business! Around that time, one brother left to go into real estate. Seven months later, the second brother left to go into sports broadcasting. I was left with the business and bought back their remaining stock over the next three to four years. We had had a tremendous run of success and had done so with great relationships between the three of us. Yet, we three brothers had really been the sole leadership team, splitting the profits and the responsibilities. The immediate financial burden caused by their departure proved to be minor compared to what further revealed itself as a leadership issue, as I struggled to lead 300 employees in 30 states.
I had to make the adjustment from going from a leadership team dominated by three equity owners to one led by me, but consisting of six senior leaders. I had been close to my brothers and my Dad whom had office space with us. We would go to lunch two or three times a week and discuss major issues. In just seven months that team was gone. I was all alone. I tended to withdraw and spend a lot of time in my office with the door closed. During that time my wife, who had not been involved in the business, became my trusted counselor. I tried to find a couple of employees which I could trust and shared the issues that I was facing. They were all great people with years in the firm, but the leadership situation had completely changed. It was at that time that I learned a major lesson in leadership. I did not realize that lesson until seven years later when I had been asked to speak to a young executive conference. At that time, I questioned my leadership team and asked them to share with me the three or four qualities that they looked for in a leader. Two of those qualities were no surprise, but the third one was a shock to me. I will share it with you in a moment, but first let us talk about relationships which are the foundation for any leader.
Relationships are the key to building a company culture. The leader sets the tone for the company’s culture. That culture is the basis for the long term success of any company. Whether you are the business owner, the CEO, an executive, or just an employee, you as an individual can build relationships regardless of the culture. The key to building relationships is the heart – one of the most popular topics in the Bible and one that Jesus repeatedly talked about. People want to know that you love them and have their best interests at heart. That love can only flow through us as the Holy Spirit helps us to put our own selfish interests behind those of the people around us. The long-term success of your organization will not be primarily determined by anyone’s talent and ability, but instead by the relationships within it. Jesus said-“I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it — the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends.” John 15:12-14 (NLT).
How do we learn to do this? Jesus is the best model for relationships; He uses the example of others, stories from the Bible, and His life. These relationships are the basis for sharing a common vision, valuing people and their gifts, team building, and holding people accountable.
Three Leadership Qualities
My leadership team reminded me that a good leader possesses three characteristics, all of which are learned. They are integrity, accessibility, and servant leadership.
“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” Proverbs 11:3 (NIV). Joseph exemplified integrity time and again as he allowed the Holy Spirit to guide him in the foreign culture of Egypt. From his imprisonment to his rule, this leadership characteristic helped define him.
Accessibility was the most surprising characteristic relayed to me by my leadership team. It is the one quality that we rarely – if ever – talk about under the umbrella of leadership. I had to learn to be accessible to my team; to be available when they needed me. The rest of the time I tried to stay out of their way and let them lead in their respective area of responsibility. Paul reminds us, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12. Jesus is our example as He is readily available to us at the Father’s right hand, and King David was constantly accessible to his men.
The Psalmist reminds us, “You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” Psalm 77:20 (NIV). God the Father is the example of servant leadership as is Daniel in the nation of Babylon. As we spend time with the Father, then we get to know Him. As we do that, then we will become much better leaders. A good leader provides leadership that is clear and timely. This kind of leadership is enabling, encouraging, supportive, and confidence-building. Because this kind of leader is focused on serving others, he or she sees co-workers as real people and not just assets.
The characteristics in reverse are much more obvious in poor leaders. The opposite of integrity is instability and is modeled by Saul and discussed in the first chapter of James. The opposite of accessibility is withdrawal and is shown by Elijah as he ran for his life in 1 Kings 19. The opposite of servant leadership is pride as modeled by Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3. We as leaders can learn much from bad examples. God brings challenges and difficulties into our life normally through family members and workplace relationships in order to build His character and the fruits of the Spirit into our lives. If we resist the lesson that He is trying to bring into our life through one trial, then God will patiently bring another situation into our life until we learn our lesson.
I do not have time to identify for you the three characteristics that you should look for in your leadership team. You can find the entire PowerPoint presentation on our website at www.lifestyleimpact.com. Just remember that we as leaders build long-term relationships of trust in the workplace through integrity, accessibility, and servant leadership. We do this as we are real, spend time with our co-workers, and serve them, allowing them to be all that God intended.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Christianity or Christ?
By Milt Rodriguez
“Let no one therefore judge you in eating and in drinking or in respect of a feast or of a new moon or of the Sabbath, which are a shadow of the things to come, but the body is of Christ.” Col. 2:16, 17
“And He is before all things . . .” Col. 1:17a
The Colossian believers had abandoned their pursuit of Christ to chase shadows. They had heard the true gospel from Epaphras (Col. 1:5 – 7). This gospel was the same gospel preached by Paul of Tarsus. This gospel was not about a thing. This gospel (or good news) was not about an ‘it.’ This gospel was not about anything. This gospel is a Person: the very Person of the Lord Jesus Christ! Paul said that he preached this Person (I Cor. 1:23; I Cor. 2:2; Gal. 1:15 – 16; Phil. 1:18). He preached this Person as the good news to mankind.
But the Colossians left the one true gospel for other things. These “things” were only shadows of the reality, that is, Christ Himself. They got into matters of the Jewish law, holy days, the Sabbath, and so on. And these things or shadows became their new religion.
The Religion of Shadows
Life can never be found in things but only in a Person (John 5:39, 40). And it’s a very sad fact that most Christians still have not discovered this truth.
We have built a religion based upon the foundation of shadows. Pretty flimsy I would say! We have built a religious system based upon teachings, methods, and programs. All of these are ‘things’ and ‘its’ and not the reality of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. When I say “we,” I am referring to most believers down through the centuries who have (unknowingly) built the religion of Christianity. Webster defines Christianity as “the religion of Christians, or the system of doctrines and precepts taught by Christ; conformity to the laws and precepts of the Christian religion.”
Sadly, most Christians today would agree with that definition. And so would I. That is the Christian religion. That is Christianity. So under this definition and description I must declare to you that I have once and for all time rejected Christianity! But Milt, you may be saying, have you rejected the doctrines and precepts taught by Christ? No I have not. But I have rejected the idea that the teachings of Christ can be separated from the Person of Christ. The teachings or doctrines are there to point us to the Person. The teachings within themselves are not the goal. The Person is the goal!
So we have created this system called the Christian religion or Christianity and it has become just another “thing.” Jesus never started the Christian religion. He never started any religion. He only pointed people to the only Way to the Father. And then He told us that He is the Way. The problem with religions is that they all point to a teaching, a concept, a philosophy, a method, or a program to help you reach spirituality or your acceptance with God. But Jesus only pointed to a Person.
The All in All
Paul told the Colossians that all the fullness of God was found in only one place. That place is inside of the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 1:19). He is everything that everyone is looking for. The letter to the Colossians points the believers to this glorious and awesome Person.
This wonderful Person is:
* The allotted portion of the saints
* The Image of the invisible God
* The Firstborn of all creation
* The One in whom all things were created
* Our redemption
* The One in whom, through whom, for whom all things were created
* Before all things
* The One who holds all things together
* The Head of the Body, the church
* The Beginning of the New Creation
* The Firstborn of the dead
* The One who must have first place in all things
* The One in whom all the fullness dwells
* The One who reconciles all things to Himself
* The Word of God
* The Mystery hidden from the ages
* The Hope of glory
* The One in whom are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge
* The Soil we are rooted in
* The Substance of the shadows
* Our Life!
This glorious Christ is so much bigger than any mere religion! No religion can contain Him. No doctrinal system can define or explain Him. No set of things or ‘its’ can ever confine this unlimited Christ. Even your thoughts and ideas about Him can never restrain this all sufficient Person. The confines of man-made religion (including Christianity) can never harness the Christ who is before all things. No thing can contain this vast Christ, and, anything less than Him will never satisfy the human heart.
Yet we continue to settle for lesser things. We continue to settle for things about Him instead of just Him. We continue to live in the shadows instead of the substance. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of living in the shadows. I want to live in reality. I want to grab hold of the substance of this Person. I desperately want to live this Christ who is the All in all!