Tonight, my 10-year old son wanted to go for a walk but didn’t think he could keep up with my wife and I as we were walking the dog, so I told him I would go with him later. He spent the day at home with a headache and wanted to get some fresh air.
I know that these invitations from him to spend time together will eventually fade, but I hope that’s many years away. All the same, I want to take advantage of these opportunities as they come along and as I am able.
As I’ve been on a journey to find community outside normal, traditional religious structures, I’ve come to see the life we live in Christ as a continual invitation. He invites us to spend time with Him, to listen to Him, and to follow Him.
“Come, follow me,” is a continual invitation, not a one-time decision to escape eternal fire and damnation. We tend to replace this ever-present beckoning with a safe and secure structure where we don’t have to depend on God on a daily basis. Jesus never asked anyone to resurrect a monument in his honor or construct a building with his name on it. (In fact, he encouraged the disciples not to at the transfiguration.)
“Dad, will you go for a walk with me?” What if the language that my 10-year old used to ask me to spend time together is exactly what we should ask of our heavenly Father? What if it were that relaxed? That easy?
I can tell you that as I’ve walked this journey over the last couple of years, I tend to make it way too difficult. I knew God could speak anywhere, but I also felt that I had to be in a certain place or do certain things to get Him to do what I wanted – or even just to pay attention to me. A certain time, the right Scripture, the right atmosphere, or even humbling myself by kneeling at the altar or raising my hands in worship.
The truth is (and was) that God loved me despite those things, not because of them. The invitation is always open. God is continually saying, “Come, child, walk with me.”
“I’ll set up my residence in your neighborhood; I won’t avoid or shun you; I’ll stroll through your streets. I’ll be your God; you’ll be my people. I am God, your personal God who rescued you from Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians. I ripped off the harness of your slavery so that you can move about freely. [Leviticus 26:11-13, The Message]
The God that rescued the Egyptians out of captivity wants to walk with you through your neighborhood. He’s already there.
All you have to do is ask.
“Dad, want to go for a walk?”
Throughout Scripture, there are a number of earthly “shadows” that point to realities that are heavenly in nature. Many of these substitutes were fulfilled in Christ when He was upon this earth. Others will be fulfilled upon His return and beyond. These are things such as the temple in the Old Testament, the order of high priests, the Mosaic Law, and the Tree of Life in the garden. The nice thing about these shadows was that they were tangible. You could touch and feel some – the fabric in the tabernacle, the animals for sacrifice. Some you could even smell: the incense burning, oil flowing over the temples and beards of the priests, the burning of the sacrifices.
For all the good that these shadows represented, there are also a number of pitfalls that can ensnare the believer. These dangers are outlined in Colossians 2:16-23, and we can also see how others relate to them (like the Pharisees).
- They can be seen.
The hard notion about the things of Christ is that we can rarely see them. We can often sense them or intuit them, but there is little to “grab hold of”. A shadow can be seen. You might even be able to touch and feel it. The danger is putting a higher priority on things that are seen, as opposed to what is unseen. Why is that a danger? Let’s look at some scripture that will help us:
18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4, NASB)
Why would we want to put more emphasis on things that are temporal? The shadows will pass away leaving the reality behind. As followers of Christ, we must focus on the reality and not the shadow.
- They can be held onto.
Since these things can be seen, they can be held. Remember, I’m not talking about a shadow which you cannot grasp. These shadows are representations (think models) of eternal realities that are not able to be held or touched. These representations (like the temple, high priests, etc.) are physical substitutes that point to a heavenly truth.Again, the danger of holding onto something is not being able to let go to see the greater truth and not being able to let go of what we think is the real thing. Look at what Jesus told the Pharisees,
8 “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! (Mark 7, NIV)
This isn’t the only time the Pharisees were chastised by Jesus for focusing on the wrong thing. They were more concerned about rules and regulations (i.e., religion) than they were about people and the things that God desires including justice, compassion, care for the widow and the poor, and loving one another.
- They can be idolized.
The biggest danger of these shadows is that they can be idolized. We can put them in the very place of God, holding them up and clinging to them as “the things” of God, all the while missing God Himself and God’s true commandments, much like the Pharisees did.They idolized their rules and regulations thinking they were doing God’s work, yet neglected the true compassion and mercy that God intended. Jesus demonstrated this by healing on the Sabbath (something forbidden by the religious leaders of his day); not following the rules of washing; eating with tax collectors and “sinners”; the list goes on and on.
Jesus’ non-traditional approach to people and faith made almost everyone turn their head and take notice. It should be the same with His followers. People should take notice of His disciples not because of what we’re doing, but because of what He’s doing in and through us. This is a subtle shift but a very important one.
We are to be people that cling to the substance that the shadow points to, especially when we can’t see it or touch it. Life is not found in the shadow but in the reality. Funny isn’t it? That the very thing that we can touch and feel won’t provide life, yet what is true and real is the very thing that, for now, we cannot see. Yet we must press in to life, to Him, to restore us, to give us hope, healing, and to renew all the things that He wants to redeem.
We are to be the messengers of the great reality that is found in Kingdom life and living – the reality that says that Jesus is not only our Savior, but our brother and our friend. He calls us to live a life that we cannot live on our own.
A life that reaches beyond the shadows.
A life called out of the shadows and into the Light.
2 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
What shadows have you been clinging to that God is calling you to let go of? How can you help move someone you know out of the shadows and into a greater reality with His Life and Light?
In recent days, the pope made a historic visit to the United States. One of his stops was Philadelphia, where a Catholic priest had built a replica of the Vatican out of Legos. If I took you to Philadelphia and showed you the Lego Vatican and said, “Look! It’s the Vatican.” You might reply by saying, “Well, it’s a model of the Vatican.”
“No, no, no! This is THE Vatican. See the courtyard and the columns? The dome, the piazza, and all the people? The nuns? And look – the Pope is here and he’s even waving to the people.” If I said that you would know that I was either delusional, lying, or maybe a bit of both.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been doing a deep-dive of Colossians. I’ve taken a slow and Spirit-led (and also very non-linear) approach to studying this book. It has long been one of my favorite parts of the New Testament, and I am finding a vast richness and untold treasures as I have dug in and allowed the Holy Spirit to reveal things to me.
One of the more significant passages in Colossians 2 has struck me recently:
16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
With the things of God, there is shadow and there is substance. These themes run throughout Scripture:
- The temple was a shadow of the reality of heaven and eternal life (the presence of God in and around humanity).
- The Old Testament high priests were a shadow of our great high priest, Jesus Christ.
- The Sabbath is a shadow of our eternal rest found in the work that Jesus did on the cross.
There are many more, but I think you get the idea. Now, if this is unfamiliar to you, please bear with me and hopefully it will become more clear.
The Shadow Points to the Reality
The things of God which are a shadow point to the reality. The shadows themselves are not the true things; however, they are often mistaken for things which have true substance. This was the problem with the Pharisees. They took the things of God which were shadows and built a religion out of them. Their understanding was limited and much of what they saw was not the true reality.
Take healing on the Sabbath, for instance. It was forbidden by the Pharisees. Why? Because it was considered work, and God had told them that the Sabbath was a day of rest. There was to be no work. When Jesus came, he healed people on the Sabbath. Again, why? Because he understood the reality of the Sabbath (that it was a shadow of things to come). God is for His people and He is working to restore all things back to Himself (See Colossians 1:20). This is just one way that Jesus demonstrated that truth.
As impressive as the Lego Vatican is (it does have a waving pope, by the way), it is not the real thing – it’s merely a representation of a greater reality. That’s what the shadows are as they relate to the things of God. The shadows are a representation of a much grander reality, and we must come to know the reality, or we will be left (like the Pharisees) holding up the obscure things as those with substance.
The Substance Belongs to Christ
These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ (Colossians 2:17).
Because Christ dwells within us, we have a vast wealth of resources at our disposal. I have said before that although we have an inheritance of princes and princesses, we often live like spiritual paupers. That’s because we live by shadows and forget about the true substance. (The reality is that many Christians have been taught more about shadows than substance. It likely isn’t even your fault.)
The things which have substance are Christ’s alone. Colossians tells us that the great mystery of the ages is not just found in Christ, but it is Christ Himself. If that’s not enough, the mystery is also referred to as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Can there be a greater mystery? How Christ could dwell in us? It is almost unthinkable. But that is the greatest reality. Christ dwelling in His believers.
One of the most challenge things for me in my spiritual journey has been to sift through the shadows to find the true substance. It is a journey that God is hammering into me at this very moment, and it is one of my favorite times in all my years of following Christ.
Leave the shadows behind and follow what’s real. You will not regret it.
What other things can you think of that are mere “shadows” of things to come? What are you holding on to that’s merely a shadow of the truth? (Feel free to share in the comments below.)
I hear this saying quite often. In fact, I just saw a comment on a friend’s Facebook post where someone commented:
I know God is in charge. Some days I get human and get impatient.
Understandable, isn’t it? To know God is in charge but also to become impatient wondering what He is up to.
That statement got me to thinking. What does it mean for God to be “in charge” and what is my view of God in that regard?
When I think of the phrase, God is in charge, a picture not unlike a boss comes to mind. If you’re like me, you’ve had good bosses (that you would work for again in a heartbeat), and horrible bosses (who you couldn’t get away from fast enough.)
It conjures images of a task-oriented, directive, Type-A personality who sits aloof from his workers, barking out orders and people scrambling to do his bidding from his corner office, away from the cube-farm subordinates. [Now you also might have a better image of what I think of human authority and my rebellious nature. :)]
God is not aloof and distant.
The true character of God’s in-charge-ness is the epitome of a shepherd who goes after the one lost sheep. leaving the ninety-nine. (Luke 15:1-7)
It is the story of the Creator of the Universe leaving his throne, descending into a world ravaged by sin and darkness, and ultimately showing us what it means to be human.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2: 5-11, ESV)
It’s the narrative of a Father who loved His children so desperately that He ultimately gave them the greatest gift of all. Restored life with Him.
And, it’s the account of a God who not only worked to set the universe and His redemptive plan in motion but continues to work in and through and with His people to this day.
Our God is not just “in charge” but He is in-volved in every single aspect of your life, of my life, and in the lives of those around us. Even when we can’t see it or know what He’s up to. He is working.
He gives us life through His son and lives that life through us by His Spirit who indwells us. (see Romans 8:11; Ephesians 3:16
For God, this is what it means to be in charge. Not far away on His throne on high, sending others to do his bidding, but actively working by His Spirit to move in your life, to grow you and shape you and mold you to His likeness, and to use you to bring others into the same kind of relationship with Him, all for His glory and His eternal purpose.
He is a God worth following to the ends of the earth.
When you hear the phrase, God is in charge (or say it), what does it mean to you? What image comes to mind? Share in the comments below!
I know that there have been some who have followed my blog posts for a while. As of November 2013, I took a break from blogging on this site.
It wasn’t really a planned thing. It just kind of happened. And, to be honest, it has been hard to get back into the swing of it.
I’ve written a number of posts and tried to return, but none of them seemed to be worthy. Worthy of my audience. Worthy of God. Worthy of what I felt needed to be said. So I decided to stop and not start again until I knew it was time to return.
Another reason is that I went through a season of depression and doubt. For those of you who struggle with depression, you can probably understand. If you don’t deal with it, you probably know someone who does. And, hopefully, you too will understand.
Depression runs in my family, so I know those seasons will come. This season hit me harder than some, but not as hard as others that I’ve dealt with in the past. Again, if you’ve dealt with this kind of issue, you’ll know what I mean.
However, the most defining and important reason that I stopped blogging was that I have been through a season of pruning. And it’s been quite difficult to write during this time.
It’s been a very difficult process of Jesus stripping away everything that wasn’t of Him. When I say everything, I mean everything – even good things – things that could be labelled and considered ministry. Things that I didn’t want to give up – things that I both enjoyed and felt were “good” things.
For some things, I lost the desire (like blogging). For others, I heard the Lord say, “No.” Still others seemed to be more a matter of a slow pulling away.
During the last few months, I’ve been reading a lot. During the first part of this season, I even lost the desire to read. For those of you who know me well, you will know how unusual this is! 🙂 Typically, I will read several books at a time. For several months, I couldn’t bring myself to read much of anything.
I also wanted a new vision for the blog, a new focus. I felt like I needed a new direction and a new purpose. Since I’ve been in this season, I now feel like I’ve found and can commit to for the long haul. I’m sure there will be “tough” days of writing and moments of writer’s block, but with this new purpose, I pray that those times will be less and my commitment to both my readers and to this new vision will be greater.
That purpose (much like my life’s purpose) is to glorify Jesus Christ. And, so I want to begin writing about that journey. What I’ve learned and am learning. I want to bring you into the wonderful things that God has been showing me. i also want to share what I’m reading and have you comment and be part of the discussion.
I want to share insights and revelations with you about the things that Jesus is teaching and what he means, not only to me, but to all of us.
His life. His purpose.
His work on the cross. The blood he shed. His connection with the Father. The life we have (and can have) in Him. And, as Jesus is endless, so will be the topics for discussion.
The site name will change slightly – it will be Faith Brewing – I didn’t necessarily want the “s” at the end originally, but sometimes you take what you can get with domain names. Several months ago, the domain www.faithbrewing.com became available and I bought it.
Lastly, I want to begin a new phase of ministry. This is one big aspect of that. I feel that the Lord has gifted me with writing (more on that later – it’s something I never thought I would say), and also has gifted me with a ministry of teaching. And, I feel like this is to be my new format.
My desire is to create online courses and studies for my readers – in addition to providing resources and free material – things that you want to study more or know more. All of these will be centered on things that I have studied and learned over the years, as well as things that I am currently learning.
I pray that these things may bless you, but most of all lead you into an ever-deepening relationship and revelation of who Christ is. May your faith be strengthened and encouraged.
What’s next? Well, I’d like to hear from you. What do you want to study? What do you want to know of Jesus’ life, ministry, and purpose? What issues do you want me to address that you are struggling with spiritually?
Also, I have created a community on Facebook. If you would like to be a part of that community, click here and “like” the page. You will be notified of posts on your feed (hopefully – Facebook has been changing a lot.)
Lastly, if you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter, click here. You will be notified of new posts, and also be notified when new studies or courses are available.
Thank you. And thank you for your patience. I pray that the Lord may bless you through this blog just as He has blessed me through the blogs and writings of others.
(If you’re interested in what I’ve been reading, check out the box on the sidebar, “What I’m Reading. I hope to do a post soon about the blogs and resources that have helped me in this season.)