Series: Jesus Manifesto
Message: Getting from Captivity to the Cross
Preacher: J. Murdock
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Beyond: J. Murdock
Live Purpose: Lydia Svoboda
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Colossians 2:4-15 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: I am an easygoing, fun-loving, chill, laughing child of Jesus. Who are we kidding? I am child of Jesus, yes! The rest? Hmmm. I have a pretty good sense of humor. I really enjoy laughing and would love to imagine that I am easygoing. There are flashes of this quality, when I get to “let my hair down” so to speak.
But the majority of the time, I am constantly creating and implementing. Is that bad? Depends what you think about who you are called to be as opposed to what your community expects of you. We all have expectations of each other. We all have expectations of ourselves. When I was younger, I was more of a chameleon. I wanted to be accepted. I know that is horrible. Right? To be accepted! To change so that you are accepted. At what point do we cross a line to be accepted—a line of falseness, never behaving as we really are?
While my vocation and call is to be a pastor, I have varied the application of that call and used it in different ways. Serving local congregations or church plants was one way, perhaps the most obvious and expected. Serving in church-affiliated educational institutions, administrative offices, and healthcare are different adaptations of the same call. At this precise moment, I serve Adventist Health. Have I changed myself to be accepted? Is my value and identity in acceptance? Of course there is some of that. Who does not want to be affirmed for what you are or what you deliver? But that is no longer my driving force. That is no longer what wakes me up in the morning.
I began a journey back in 2009 that started with thyroid cancer. It was, for me, what I needed in order to experience my own Road to Damascus. It made me question why I exist even more than I did before I had cancer. I asked myself what I was meant to do with this short ridiculous life, if it should continue to be granted to me. What had Jesus called me to do? Going through a journey with people all over the world who allow me to process faith with them in community has been deeply transformative. It has been revealing. I have a close group of brothers who speak truth into my life—daily, if not more often. I read this passage today and understand how Paul wished for the early church to have an identity that was not formed by changing to be accepted by the whims of others, but that was formed in Jesus. That takes a similar community of people who wish the same for you. For that I am thankful to Alex Bryan, Tim Gillespie, Sam Leonor, Rod Long, and Paddy McCoy (in alphabetical order) for being brothers who are never afraid to speak truth into my life and each other’s lives.
Recalibrate: Pause for a moment and look at your life history. Who are the people, moments, and things that have shaped your identity? What does it look like in Jesus now? Can you claim that identity?
Respond: Ask Jesus today to be the One who transforms you.
Research: Read Psalm 51.
Remember: “Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught. And always be thankful” (Colossians 2:7, ICB).
Japhet De Oliveira is administrative director for the Center for Mission and Culture at Adventist Health in Roseville, California.
With your little one, take a look at a family photo. Talk about how you love this family that you have been born into. When I went to a new church with my one-year-old daughter, who is now thirty-one, Jesus introduced me to our church family. Thirty-something years later I can say wholeheartedly that we love our families. The weirdest thing is that the more we have lived in love in these families, choosing to love when it’s not easy, the more love we have been given to live. Jesus’ love gets bigger the more we use it. Don’t worry—you will not run out of it. It is never ending and abundant.
Can you see a big tree? Is it close to your home or in the park? If you can, go and lie on the ground underneath that tree. What can you see? What are the branches like? Does the tree have leaves? Are there birds in the tree? Does this tree have fruit? How does the tree go into the ground? Does it just go straight down into the dirt or can you see its roots above the dirt? God has a family for us, just like this tree. Jesus’ church family has deep roots that go back to the Garden of Eden in the very first story in the Bible. His church family has room for everyone. In His church family, everyone belongs.
Have you ever thought about what it means to “send up a prayer” for someone? Where do you think it actually goes? Do our words somehow float up towards the clouds so that God can catch them? Is it like a text message that comes from our brain to God’s inbox? Or is it more complicated than that?
Paul sort of addresses this when he writes about the fact that he is “absent in body,” but present with them “in spirit” (Colossians 2:5).
How in the world is that possible?
Aren’t we a body and a spirit?
Or are these two things somehow separate?
I have thought about this a lot this week as I think about the horrible news from El Paso and Dayton. I wish I could be there to comfort all the people hurting as they experience their tragic reality. But I can’t. So, like Paul, I am sending up prayers, in hopes that my spirit, God’s Spirit, will be with them.
What are some ways you could help someone when you can’t be right there with them? When a hug isn’t an option, what’s left? How do you think that all works? And how can you test and see what God’s Spirit can do through you?
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8). Don’t be deceived into believing something of Jesus that isn’t Him, nor into losing faith in Jesus completely. Human tradition and other spiritual forces are designed to distort your view of Jesus. They come from either humans or other forces that are against Him. Don’t fall for anything that makes Jesus out to look like anything but love.
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Lydia Svoboda is a junior theology major at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.