Category Archives: Dwight’s Family

A Song: “Before All Things (Colossians 1:15-20)”

Our church is enjoying a sermon series through Paul’s letter to the Colossians. At the start of the series, it was suggested that the musicians in our midst might want to compose new songs based on the letter. I immediately thought of the “hymn” in Colossians 1:15-20 and decided I’d like to put it to music. This task has proven difficult however, since the passage doesn’t follow the rhythms or rhymes of English poetry, despite being full of other poetic features.

This week I meditated on the passage again (in Greek and English) until I could more or less say it by memory (in English). On Wednesday some musical lines finally started to come, but I wasn’t very impressed. Thursday morning my wife recalled and played Andrew Peterson’s fine arrangement of this passage (“All Things Together“). Hearing Peterson further opened my musical streams and also gave me the idea of beginning each verse with questions. Finally better music started to come, and that day I composed most of this song.

After a couple more days of adaptations and valuable feedback from my family, I am content with the result. Today–the Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection–my family and I recorded the song. Special thanks to my daughters for sharing their pleasant voices, which made the song so much better, and to my wife for willingly overseeing lights and camera.

I do not pretend this is great music, but I am happy that it meets my original goals of sticking closely to the biblical text and yet being singable by a congregation. I envision a soloist singing the questions at the start of each verse, with the congregation responding. The rest of each verse could be either sung by the soloist or, with a little practice, by the entire congregation. The chorus and bridge are simple for all to sing.

In writing this song I tried to follow the text of Colossians as closely as possible (using the ESV translation), with minor adjustments to ease the rhythm and retain clarity. I also tried to follow the original structure of this “hymn,” which has two stanzas (1:15-16 and 1:18b-20–the two verses of my song) tied together by several transitional lines (1:17-18a–the chorus of my song). There is an “extra” line in the second stanza of the song that breaks the rhythm–an exclamation that Jesus is preeminent (first) not only in the original creation, but also in the new creation. I saved that line for the bridge of my song.

Here is this passage in Greek. This note was written by me in June 2014, when I first became fascinated with the literary structure of this passage. I knew very little Greek at the time, but I shared it on Facebook with this comment: “Sunday school thoughts: Here, from today’s CLP lesson, is the central ‘Christ poem,’ Colossians 1:15-20–in Greek! Even those of us who don’t know Greek can see something of the poetry of Christ’s firstborn status both as creator and as re-creator.”

Bible students may recall that this passage is sometimes called a “Christ hymn”; it is often praised for its “high Christology.” While it is true that this passage describes Jesus in terms fitting for an anointed king, the word “Christ” itself is conspicuously missing from the passage and its immediate context. Instead, we find the language of sonship: “the Father… delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:12-13). This sonship language ties directly into the firstborn imagery in the hymn.

These observations explain the answers I provided to the opening questions in each verse. Who is the One whom the song discusses? “Jesus, God’s own Son”; “Jesus, the Son of God.” 

Here are the lyrics to the song:


BEFORE ALL THINGS
(Colossians 1:15-20)

Verse 1:
Who is the image of the invisible God?
Jesus, God’s own Son
Who is the firstborn of all creation?
Jesus, God’s own Son

For by him all things were created,
In heaven and on earth,
Visible and invisible.

Whether thrones, dominions, rulers
Or authorities
All were created through him and for him.

Chorus A:
And he is before all things
He is before all things
And all things in him hold together
He is before all things
He is before all things
And he is the head of the body, the church.

Verse 2:
Who is the beginning?
Jesus, the Son of God
Who is the firstborn from the dead?
Jesus, the Son of God

For in him all the fullness
Of God was pleased to dwell
And reconcile through him all to him

By the blood of his cross
Making peace with all
All whether on earth or in heaven.

(Chorus A)

Bridge:
He’s the firstborn of all creation
The firstborn of all creation
That in all things he might be first

And the firstborn from the dead
The firstborn from the dead
That in all things he might be first

You’re the firstborn of all creation
The firstborn of all creation
That in all things you might be first

And you’re the firstborn from the dead
The firstborn from the dead
That in all things you might be first

Chorus B: (2x)
And you are before all things
You are before all things
And all things in you hold together
You are before all things
You are before all things
And you are the head of the body, the church.

You are the head of the body—You’re first!

Optional ending: (Repeat as desired)
Jesus, you are first
In all things you are first
In all things you hold first place of all

Jesus, you are first
We worship you as first
We worship you as first over all

Copyright April 9, 2020 by Dwight Gingrich. To be freely used for nonprofit uses only by the church of Jesus. All other rights reserved.


Is there a passage of Scripture that you have wished was set to music? Do you have any feedback on my efforts here? You may share your thoughts in the comments below.


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Churchfunding: 2019 Year-End Report

A new year means it’s time for another update on our “churchfunding” house loan adventure! How is it working for us by now? In short, we are making monthly repayments as planned and remain deeply grateful for all who helped us buy this house.

(Here is the post that officially launched this churchfunding adventure. We purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families.)

At the beginning of 2019, we owed $41,687.50 in house loans.1  By the end of 2019, we owed only $35,062.50.

Here is how that $6,625 difference breaks down. We repaid $5,750 in loans in 2019 at the planned rate of $500 per month. Why is this total not $6000? Several lenders, when offered their promised repayment, declined the 10% interest we had promised. Also, two lenders forgave a total of $750 in principal. In total, we were forgiven $875 in principal and interest in 2019. We are thankful for this generosity! $875 (forgiven) plus $5,750 (paid) equals $6,625. This means our house debt declined by $625 more than we expected in 2019.

Since we began repayments in April of 2016, a total of 28 lenders have receive partial or total repayment. Another 33 lenders are still awaiting their first repayment.

When can the remaining lenders expect repayment? At the promised $500 per month, we should have all remaining lenders repaid within six years—by about October of 2025. As promised, we are using a random number generator (and prayer!) to select who is repaid each month. If you have a financial squeeze, however, feel free to let us know and we will consider prioritizing your repayment as possible.

Cash Flow and House Happenings

Our cash flow is still tight, but slightly better than a year ago, thank God. I continue to work three days a week for Choice Books, but my number of piano students grew in 2019. I temporarily reached 30 students, finishing the year with about 27—about nine more than a year ago! In addition, as was true a year ago, I have more students who hope to resume or begin lessons in January. By now my biggest growth obstacle is time—do I really want to begin teaching Friday evenings or Saturdays?

Our largest expense in 2019 was finally getting three big trees removed from our backyard. What a relief!

One tree was dead, two were unhealthy, and all three were a hazard not only to our house, but even more to our neighbor’s house. Several initial quotes back in 2016 were for $5000 and $6000, so we cut vines off around the base of the trees, waited for the vines to die and drop, and prayed whenever it got windy. A shout-out to Boutte Tree, who gave us a fair deal ($3,240) and demonstrated a lot of expertise getting the job done!

Other “extra” expenses for 2019 included:

  • A 1-1/2 year Greek class I finished in July (highly recommended—see here)
  • Physical therapy for my shoulder (covered under Samaritan Ministries–mention us if you sign up!)
  • Continued cello and violin lessons for our two oldest daughters (see videos below)

House projects in 2019 were very minor,  though I did do some flood-proofing in the basement and also began soundproofing the door between my piano studio and Zonya’s kitchen—a much-needed effort!

House prices in our neighborhood continue to rise. More vacant homes are being refurbished and inhabited, including on our own street. The real estate website Zillow, which estimated our house value at $81,000 back in March 2016 just before we bought it for $65,000, now estimates our house is worth about $215,000.

Church and Witness

As I shared last year, we are no longer actively pursuing a formal church plant in our neighborhood. We have been attending Cellebration Fellowship in Clarkston, GA, for over a year now. The people there have been welcoming, and we have fit in as we are able. I’m recruited to play piano most Sundays and I preached one sermon this year; the girls enjoy Sunday school; and we’ve all been blessed by the various personal expressions of friendship we’ve received. Loneliness is still real for most of us, however, and Zonya and I are experiencing the common midlife awareness that life has not turned out as we once dreamed.

Despite our questions, “the house that God bought” saw ministry opportunities over the past year, such as:

  • Many piano students and a “Living Room Recital”
  • A neighbor girl who often comes looking for our daughters
  • A hungry man who sometimes knocks on our door
  • Several new neighbors glad for friendship and support
  • Our own children, whom Zonya faithfully homeschools
  • A couple who stays overnight when they come to Atlanta for medical appointments
  • My blog writing efforts
  • Praying for God to put his angels around our neighborhood each night
  • International students who came for a vegetarian Thanksgiving

Dad’s Health

At risk of turning this post into a virtual Christmas letter, I’ll mention one more big change in our family in 2019: This fall we learned that my dad’s cancer has returned, with a tumor in his chest (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma). In early December we traveled to Canada, where we helped Dad and Mom and my siblings weigh this sorrow and make decisions about treatment. Dad and Mom have decided not to pursue any chemo, but simply to trust to God the number of his remaining days. Doctors predict less than six months; God knows.

It was a special privilege to spend time with Dad during this visit, joining him and Mom at the medical clinic when the results of his latest biopsy were shared, hearing stories from his boyhood days, and praying together as a family. Thanks to each of you who are praying for Dad!

Me with my parents, Ken and Elaine Gingrich.

We remain deeply grateful for all our churchfunding supporters.  We welcome your prayers as we seek God’s light for the coming year. We want to faithfully steward this house for Jesus in 2020 and be salt and light in our community.

For Christ and his Church,
Dwight Gingrich

  1. Accountant readers might notice that figure is $250 less than what I reported a year ago. That is because on December 31, 2018—after I published my 2018 year-end report—one lender changed his $250 loan into a gift. (Thanks again!)

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Don’t You Know?! (ουκ οιδατε;)

The twenty-first century is a spectacularly bad time to schedule a midlife crisis, particularly if you are by nature skeptical. If you don’t know what I mean, read on.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

As I hover on the brink of my mid-forties, I find that there are a lot of things I don’t know. Take life decisions, for example. I never did know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I’m still not sure sometimes. I don’t know how to sort out the mixture of divine guidance and human fallibility in my various moves, including my move to the United States in 2003 and our move to Atlanta in 2016. I don’t know which of my past actions to count as mistakes and which to read as good decisions, all things considered. I often don’t know the best way to make right the things I do know I’ve done wrong.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Looking ahead, I often don’t know the best ways to help my wife, my daughters, and myself grow into the persons God designed us to be. I don’t know how long we should keep participating in the church we’re going to now or what church effort it would be wise to plug into after that.  I don’t know where finances will come from for our senior years, and I don’t know how I could adjust current financial choices to better prepare for those years—or if God’s preferred preparation is to simply be generous now. Speaking of generosity, I don’t know how to help most of the people around me who need help, partly because I am more aware than ever that I, too, need help.

I don’t know.

I also don’t know a lot about God and the Bible. Although it makes best sense to me, I don’t know for sure that creation happened in six 24-hour days—or why I first typed “six 14-hour days”! I don’t know for sure what Jesus meant by “except for fornication” when he taught about divorce. I don’t know whether John 7:53-8:11 was originally part of John’s Gospel or not, or exactly how we should think about the borders of the biblical canon. I don’t know why God elects to save some and not others, nor how his election interacts with the human volition of potential missionaries and potential converts. I don’t know why he allowed me to hear the gospel while many others haven’t.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I don’t know exactly how gender roles should be expressed in the home and the church. I don’t know exactly how the children of believers fit within the church, or how we best help them transition to make the faith their own. I don’t know why some Christians experience miraculous manifestations more often than the rest of us. I don’t know how, living right here in Atlanta, to best help Jesus’ church become a place where differing gifts, cultures, ethnicities, and more live together in “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

I don’t know.

Oh, I have some reasonably-informed working positions on some of those questions. Most of them don’t exactly leave me troubled—at least not most of them most of the time.

But I don’t know. And I don’t always know how to respond to people who think that they know, and that I should, too.

Worse, I live in a time when it is perhaps harder than ever to know anything for sure. We have access to more knowledge than ever, yes, but we also have access to more articulate counter-arguments than ever. No matter what hard-won conclusion you think you have reached, a simple “Google” will take you to someone who is equally confident you are completely wrong, with mounds of evidence that supposedly defends their conclusions.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

AI (artificial intelligence) experts warn that we are on the brink of a new era when it will be nearly impossible to tell authentic video footage from computer-generated video. Simply by taking a photo or two from your Facebook feed and some random audio of your voice, they (who?) will be able to “record” a video of “you” saying anything they want. If it is hard to be sure about anything now, just wait a decade. It will be even harder.

I don’t know. And I won’t know the answers to many of my questions, either. That, too, is becoming clearer as the years pass and my limitations press in.

Is it possible to truly know anything? Or do we now know (!) that it is arrogant to say “I know”? Is it actually a form of oppression to expect others to know anything and to hold them accountable for their ignorance or uncertainty?

The apostle Paul didn’t seem to think so. As I’m reading through 1 Corinthians, I’m noticing a recurring question: οὐκ οἴδατε; Or, if you prefer English to Greek: “Don’t you know?”

Actually, I suspect Paul’s tone could sometimes best be translated with an exclamation mark added: “Don’t you know?!”

Paul expected his readers to know a lot of things. He didn’t expect them to know everything, for he knew he possessed special apostolic revelation, revelation that could be passed on only through a long process of teaching. But he did seem to think there are certain facts that any follower of Jesus should know.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

In a day when we find it hard to be certain about anything, we need Paul to clear the fog and put some spine in our backs. Yes, there are times when it’s okay to say “We know.” Apparently it’s even okay to say “Don’t you know?” from time to time. After all, when you can say “I know” about the most important things in life, then you can live with only partial knowledge about the rest, right?

What about you? Do you know anything?

Here, for our mutual reflection, are all the passages in Paul’s letters where he asks the question: οὐκ οἴδατε; Don’t you know? Since I can’t generate a video of Paul asking you these questions, you get to read them. In a world of uncertainty, here are a few of the things you can know—and some things you should do based on that knowledge:

Οὐκ Οἴδατε; Don’t You Know?

…that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16)

what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.  (Rom. 11:2-5)

that you [plural] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Cor. 3:16-17)

that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (1 Cor. 5:6-7)

…that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? (1 Cor. 6:2)

that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? (1 Cor. 6:3-6)

that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)

…that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! (1 Cor. 6:15)

…that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (1 Cor. 6:16-17)

that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. (1 Cor. 9:13-14)

…that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. (1 Cor. 9:24)

James uses the same words to begin this question:

…that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

And Paul uses a parallel expression (ἀγνοεῖτε; “Do you not-know?” or “Are you ignorant?”) in these verses:

that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:3-4)

that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. (Rom. 7:1-4)

What do you know? What things do you consider knowable? How do you talk with others about these things? If you know a thing or two, share it in the comments below. And thanks for reading!


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