Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Butterflies and Reptiles

These past four months have been a time of reckoning in my life. God began to break me over my sin of pride, discontent, and judgmentalism and gave me a new freedom in my thought life from the fantasy habit that has held me in bondage for so long. But during the last month I have looked back and taken my eyes and affection off my Lover King, the only one who is worthy of my deepest affection and intimacy. I have been choosing to surrender to the enemy rather than stay alert and fight the battle. In desperation I maintain that I cannot go back to the bondage I was in before; I know too well the misery it has brought me. My eyes are more opened to the cost of following Jesus, but also the cost of turning back. I have vowed to do whatever it takes to love Him and follow Him. He is still pursuing me, even while I am pursuing competing affections. The deepest purpose of my heart is that I will not walk away from Him, and I believe He has sealed me so that I cannot. Still there are many fears and much unbrokenness holding me back. Too many times I allow pride to keep me from going to someone else for support and accountability in my battles. I allow fear to keep me from loving in ways that people might think are crazy. I allow the crunch of daily life to drown my desire for intimacy with Jesus. And these only drive me back to my old methods of escape, seeking to fill the relationship void with fantasy relationships, romance, and adventure. Or by losing myself in a book or movie. Life with Jesus is a marathon, but here I am still trying to run the 100 yard dash. Just get over this hump and it'll be smooth sailing. I find myself acquiescing to the hopelessness and wanting to give up after just four months. But what is four months in God's time frame? What is a lifetime to Him, when a thousand years is as one day? Conclusion: it's too soon to quit. And I'm so thrilled by what my amazing Lord showed me today that I want to share it with you! My King of Love has, once again, come to my rescue. I'm sitting there with my journal, bringing my compromises before Him and wondering if I can reclaim the freedom He gave such a short time ago. Suddenly the thought hits me: Butterflies! Yes, butterflies! And I realize that everything in God's creation means something. It's more than just an array of amazing, unique, and diverse creatures. If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, they teach us something about ourselves and our God. So here it is: the truth of transformation. We know the Bible says that if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things are gone; everything has been made new. So why then are we so deeply entrenched in the struggle with dead flesh? Okay, so everybody knows that when the caterpillar is ready to come out of his cocoon, he is already a butterfly. God did the miracle; He made the transformation. The caterpillar couldn't have done it through any struggle of his own. But... have you heard about the fierce struggle the butterfly must undergo to break out of the cocoon? Do you know that if someone comes along, sees the poor thing struggling so bitterly, and simply snips the threads to allow the butterfly to emerge easily, that butterfly will never be able to fly? And that is a pretty effective death sentence, I believe. See, it is in the struggle of breaking the cocoon that the butterfly gets the strength in his wings to soar. That is what makes the blood flow through his veins and bring the crumpled wings to life. He is already a new creature, but now he must fight and labor to break into the freedom of the new life that is his. Even this is not his own doing. Yes, he must struggle, but he can only do this because his Creator gave him what it takes to break out. Are you seeing the connection? Battle and struggle doesn't mean we are not changed. God's word is truth; if you and I are reborn in Christ, we are a new creation. But like the butterfly, we will fight and struggle to break the shell of the old life, and only in this do we receive the strength to soar. Our Redeemer has given us what it takes to fight. And through the battle He is bringing us into the maturity it takes to fly. So don't lose hope in the thick of the fight! It is a sign of new life! Also consider the reptiles; a snake is one that I know of that sheds its skin as it grows. I have often seen my spiritual life as a hamster in a wheel, running round and round in circles, trying to climb higher and never getting anywhere. I think that is what happens when we are enslaved to a particular bondage. But when the Son sets you free, you are free indeed! I am getting the idea that walking in freedom means more battles, not less. But now I must see it as a shedding of the old skin. I grow a little; my spiritual skin becomes too old and small. It must split and shed. Then I grow a little more, and again the skin must split and shed. But each time, I shed a little more of the old dead flesh, and I grow to look a little more like Christ. We may get our focus entangled in the seemingly endless layers of dead skin, but God's work is advancing! That is why He's been stressing to me so much lately the importance of looking at Him. As long as I'm looking at myself or anything around me, ie; the wind and the waves, I flounder and sink. But all the time He is right there, waiting to take me for a stroll on the water! Isn't that incredible?! His love is more than I can stand; I can't understand how or why He loves me that much, to keep on pursuing and calling and showing me kindness and giving me deeper revelations of Himself! But that is Who He is! In my flesh I am weak and prone to wander; I falter before the enemy. But in Christ I am more than a conqueror; I am His chosen, redeemed, justified, beautiful bride! And He is my strong, brave, gentle Shepherd and Warrior and Lover who never changes and never stops longing for me to find my full satisfaction in Him! It amazes me every time how He can so quickly pull me out of my self-imposed pit and set me back on the Rock. Why do I flounder alone so long before turning to Him? I don't know; you tell me. But He loves me! He loves me! He loves me! And HE loves you.... with an EVERLASTING love! That means forever! That means no matter what! That means He will never give up on you! Let us cry out to be overtaken and consumed by this love, that we may freely give our all back to Him and become His agents without fear in this dark and broken world!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. John 12:24

In these first weeks following my visit in Rwanda, I find myself doing the same things in the same way, wanting to keep that spark of vision alive, the vision to truly love and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, yet in danger of letting it die. While spending some long overdue time alone with God today, I went back to one of my favorite passages, Philippians chapter 3, and read what Paul says about how he counts as loss all the things that were gain to him. He said he has suffered the loss of all things for Christ and counts them as worthless dung compared to the priceless treasure of knowing Christ. I was asking myself what things in my life do I consider gain. There are so many. New clothes, new music, entertainment, vacations, health, improved appearance, a better body, a nice place to live, praise, encouragement, successful achievement, the notice and approval from other people. How did Paul count everything worthless? How did he get such a fire in His heart for Jesus that everything else in life took a distant second and became expendible? Too much of the time, Jesus is taking second place in my life, for if I look honestly at my priorities and the way I choose to spend my time, money, and thought, all this other stuff means more to me and defines the image that I want to create. This is the underlying theme of the whole human sin story: man wants to be god. All that glitters in our world, especially in our spoiled American culture, is all about us setting up an image of ourselves and seeking how to get our own glory. This feels like reality; it becomes our highest priority day after day to get the next new or updated or hip thing, to look forward to the next fun time, the next rush. Our world is filled with things, always being increased with the new and improved whatever, the current updated version, the latest fashion trend. There is no end to our production and consumption of more, newer, better, cuter. And it's all about us! God's heart must break over the foolishness of His own children to fasten our eyes on the newest plaything. This "reality" of ours is fools' gold. There's a whole greater and mostly unseen reality out there that revolves around the King and Maker of the universe! He is indescribable, uncontainable, immortal, all-powerful, untameable and unchangeable! I think that most of the time God just goes way over our little pea brains! Yet He made the way for us to live in unbroken fellowship with Himself and to know Him intimately. That totally blows me away! How can we know God like that? And how stupid can we be to keep on letting all this stuff get in the way of doggedly and passionately pursuing this awesome God who loves us so much He gave everything to get us back?!!! I don't mean to offend anybody here, but I sure know my own stupidity! Sometimes I just cry out in frustration, God, why is it so hard to love You? But think about it; if loving God was easy, how could it be love? Real love lays down one's own life for another, and that is not easy! If we would love and live, we must die. There is no way I can do this, I know that! I will never be able to finish the race, to fight the good fight, to stand before God, to receive eternal crowns and rewards, except for Jesus! My only hope is for Him to do it through me. I understand why the Bible tells us that we will lay our crowns at His feet. I see so clearly today that if I'm going to have any reward, it's going to be all His doing; I am nothing! How much more will we know that when we stand in His presence and receive these rewards?!
God really drove it into me that all I have to hold onto of the eternal is Him, His Word, and relationships with people. That's all we have! Everything else is so much kindling for the fire. God, help me to get it! I think that right now He really wants to teach me to die. He's got me in the perfect place! Who else knows that home is the absolute hardest place to die?! When you go on a mission trip or work with a ministry, that's what you are there to do and that's what you focus on. But at home.... I don't live to pour myself out and serve, I live for what I can get out of life. When can I have me time, when can I relax, when can i go shopping again, how can I make myself feel good? I know I'm supposed to serve my family and lay down my life, but my heart has never grasped it. I can go through the motions, but I can't give with abandon, totally letting go of my own ambitions and happily spending myself for the needs and benefits of my family. I keep praying, God, you've got to do it, because I can't! Kari just won't die! But Jesus is faithful! He has gone before me! He knows my heart and He will lead me on; He won't quit no matter how long it takes. I choose to believe that He knows what He's doing with me at home, just as He knew what He was doing with me in Rwanda. It really wasn't much more clear to me why I was there, except that it was a welcome change. But He knows! He knows that each step is one closer to death, and one step closer to an incredible, fulfilling life! My flesh lures me to seek the world's image of myself, but Jesus is gently, persistently working to make me into His image. And He is stronger! i would be lost without Him; I desire to be a living sacrifice, but I am not strong enough to make the offering. Jesus is my High Priest who can and will fulfill all things. When I let His character and His truth override my weakness and the flounderings in my short-sighted wallow of despair, He simply overwhelms me with His unchanging love and faithfulness! Even as I write this the tears of gratitude and hope well up in my eyes. We need to let Jesus be greater in our lives than our own introspective wanderings! HE is LIFE, HE is LOVE, HE is HOPE, HE is EVERYTHING!

There is nothing, there is nothing
More precious, more worthy
May I gaze deeper
May I stay longer
May I press onward to know You Lord! (Laura Story)