Daily Archives: August 7, 2013

the caterpillar and the butterfly

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12.1-2

The joys of being actively involved in ministry in any form are countless. I’ve literally lost count, but none surpass the joy I experience in seeing the life of another believer transformed by the presence and power of God.

A career criminal set free.

An addict finds real release.

A liar finds Truth.

A cynic learns to care.

A suicidal teenager finds life.

Marriages on the road to divorce find healing.

Battered and broken hearts become whole again.

I could spend the rest of my days serving in any aspect of ministry and would never grow tired of seeing real life-change like that.

Every story of redemption is a miraculous and magnificent tale and there are some that are so dramatic in nature an so unexpected that they seem to prove God’s divine power in fresh and unusual ways.

In my mere twenty-eight year existence, I’ve seen such transformation in the lives of those around me. One of my dear friends, Ben, for instance, isn’t the man he could have been had it not been for the saving grace of Jesus Christ and a night at Oasis (which God used) six years ago. Because of the inner transformation he’s gone through since, he is a man of passion; a man of ever-growing wisdom and love and he loves Jesus with all that he is (hear/watch his testimony here).

I used to think that my story didn’t matter; that it paled in comparison. I was raised in a Christian home. I was practically born saved, or so I thought. I’ve discovered that is not how faith and following Christ work. It’s a personal choice. I met Him when I was four, on my mother’s lap during a bedtime story and have encountered Him numerous times since. But lately… I’ll get to that in a moment.

I’d like to take a moment to look at what happens when we conform to the world. Think about nuts – walnuts, pecans, etc. When you crack open the shell of any nut, the nut inside will always be conformed to the shape of its shell. The pressure of the shell on the outside shapes the nut on the inside into its image. The same happens to us when we allow the pressures we face each day to define how we live and how they influence the decisions we make in a world fallen so far from what it was supposed to be.

Temptation is everywhere. The world beckons us to live for ourselves instead of living for Jesus Christ. It lures us towards sensuality, greed, idolatry, complacency and selfishness. If we are not careful, our lives begin to mirror everyone else’s. It’s a slippery slope, this slow fade. into the life of those who don’t know Him.

In the verse from Romans I shared at the start of this entry, God commands believers not to allow the world to form us according to its patterns. Instead, we are to surrender to Him so He can transform us from the inside out.

Transformation comes from the word metamorphosis (the inner English geek in me is smiling with glee at the moment…you have no idea).  Have you ever witnessed a beautiful new butterfly emerge from its cocoon? Did you, like me, wonder where on earth they came from?

It wasn’t until a fourth grade science class project that this metamorphosis became clear to me. Our teacher had brought in a couple of caterpillars – ugly ones – and we monitored their lives with each passing day. Suddenly, towards the end of autumn, they “disappeared” into what she called cocoons. Weeks went by. The poor things were trapped and to my compassionate heart, I couldn’t bear it. Then again, they were ugly critters and yet, I could sympathize. Those weeks were the hardest for me. Waiting.

“What a caterpillar calls the end of the world the Master calls a butterfly.”
– Richard Bach

When it finally broke out from the comfort of that dark place, it didn’t emerge the ugly, slow creature it had been before. It was now a beautiful Monarch butterfly. It did not look like the casing it had been wrapped in for weeks. Instead, it had been transformed; gorgeous in its orange, black and white hues. The blue ones were even more beautiful. The cocoon served as a temporary dwelling place while the real change happened from the inside.

I’ve spent the better part of my life waiting. It’s easy to find yourself feeling like life will never get better or change when things seem dark, still or just not moving forward. There were times when I thought I’d stay wandering through that desert forever. Then there came the faintest stirring of hope, the smallest increase of strength and the urge to break free.

I’ve discovered that I’m currently at that stage. I feel it in every fiber of my being.

It’s happening. I’ve always known it would. And I knew it would be a matter of time before I started seeing the fruits of this internal transformation on the outside, actively affecting every portion of my life.

This summer has been a huge season of growth for me (and it’s not over yet!). I went from not being sure when it came to certain segments of my life (i.e. relating to the opposite sex, being vulnerable with new people, stepping outside the box I’d built for myself, letting some walls crumble, searching for ways to grow and move, seeking more of God, expecting more of Him, etc…This list could literally go on) to being certain of so many things. I’m certain of God’s goodness in my life and in the lives of those I cross on a daily basis. I’m certain of His love for me, although I’m sure I’ll need to be reminded again and again (oh, when will it ever sink in!). I’m becoming more and more certain of what it is He has for me in this life…my dreams are changing.

Every

Day

God has been transforming my heart and my mind. He has been shining His glorious light into the dark, cob-webbed covered corners of my life and giving me the ability to see those areas with eyes of mercy and grace. He’s been teaching me to be kind to myself; to love myself the way He does so that I can love others the same way. He’s been bringing up memories, good ones that I’d forgotten. I’m learning to remember honestly and remember well. So much…it seems my mind is overflowing with the knowledge and realization of it all. I’ll be honest. This has all been a tad bit overwhelming at times and I am so grateful for the body of Christ that surrounds me. They’re supportive, encouraging and, most of all, loving.

I’ve also discovered that I definitely have a heart for the lost and that doesn’t mean I necessarily have to go overseas to serve (although I do have the desire to experience that at some point in the near future); I can do so right here. My desire for serving the women in my church and community has been reawakened (that originally started when I was a sophomore in college, but had lessened greatly shortly after due more to fear than anything else) and I find myself connecting to the beautiful, young, vibrant women in my church. He’s been inviting me to dream and dream big. I want to travel and do so with or for a purpose. I don’t simply want to see the world; I want to serve while doing so. I want to write a book…many, actually. What I desire to do in my free time is changing. Gone are the endless days of watching movies out of the need to selfishly entertain myself and escape for a few hours. It’s literally been months since I’ve had the need to watch a movie. Months. And yes, marriage and children are still dreams I have, they’re just not the most important ones any longer. Even though I currently can’t see the path that will get me there, I know He’ll provide a way.

God has been growing my love for Him in ways I would never have imagined and I’ve found that I can’t keep quiet about it. I desire for others to know Him as I do. People ask the reason for my smile, the reason behind the joy illuminating my face. Conversations I have with complete strangers have gone from surface level conversations about the weather to under the surface discussions about faith and the reason we were created. Amazing. I can’t stop talking about my love for Jesus. I fell for Him when I was four, but this newfound love I have for my Savior…there are no words. It’s ever-deepening, ever-widening, ongoing and it never changes…no matter what my circumstances are in this life.

Does the caterpillar decide to become a butterfly? Does it do all the work to turn itself into one? No. I love the imagery God has given through His creation in this in that caterpillars merely allow God to do His work.

Transformation is not something we can do ourselves. Even among the pressures of this fallen world, we must choose to be still and allow God to do what only He can do. We allow Him to renew our minds daily through His Word. It doesn’t happen overnight and there will be periods of waiting. The struggle is necessary for the development and strength of what God has called me to do in His story. I’m a supporting member…He is the main character. And the cool thing about transformation from the inside out is that it never really ends. It happens again and again until we become what He ultimately created us to be.

What about you? Are you conforming or are you being transformed? Nut or caterpillar/butterfly? Rest in God’s presence today and allow Him to transform you from the inside out.

Shared Post: The End of Denominations? by Tyler Edwards

Food for thought:

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The End of Denominations?  by Tyler Edwards – 08.06.13
Why we need to stop dividing the Church.

What denomination are you?”

When we tell people we are Christians, we tend to get asked this question. A lot. It makes sense. With all the different denominations out there, saying you’re a “Christian” is pretty vague.

Our denominational affiliation tells people, at least in part, what type of Christian we are. Do we like to chant in a spiritual tongue or play with poisonous snakes? Do we sit, stand and kneel in an elaborate service while a man in a robe speaks in Latin? Do we sprinkle or dunk? How we feel about instruments, Mary, the structure of worship and numerous other religious activities can all be communicated by our denomination. There is even a non-denominational denomination. We, as Christians, have fragmented the Church so much that there is a division that says, “We are against divisions in the Church.”

We divide the Church like an OCD kid with a bag of skittles. Rather than enjoying all the different flavors, we compulsively sort them.

We have to admit these denominations are confusing. If you meet someone and they tell you they are third-Baptist-once-removed on their mother’s side, you have to ask: What does that even mean? But the real question that should be addressed is why. Why do so many different denominations exist? We divide the Church because we care more about our comfort than we do about the cause of Christ. We are more interested in what we want than what He wants.

We divide the Church like an OCD kid with a bag of skittles. Rather than enjoying all the different flavors, we compulsively sort them. The Church was created to unite followers in Christ under His mission and banner. We are supposed to be one body with many parts, but what we have become is a stockpile of different parts. We have churches instead of the Church. We have uniformity instead of unity. Apparently, we can’t have people who believe different things about Biblical issues come to the same building to worship the one, true God. That would just be chaos!

In the book of Acts, we see the Holy Spirit constantly working to create unity in the Church. At Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit shows up, illustrating God’s approval. Then in Acts 2, after Jesus has ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit shows up again. He arrives to show God’s support of this new Church. By Acts 8, the Jews were asking if Samaritans (half-Jews) could be a part of the new Church and the Holy Spirit appears to place God’s seal of approval on Samaritan Christians. Then the next time He shows up it is with a Gentile (completely non-Jew). All throughout Acts the Holy Spirit is working to create unity in the Church, to break down social, cultural and economic barriers.

Despite all this, we feel no qualms about dividing and subdividing the Church into more denominations than any reasonable person can keep track of. These divisions of the Church are offensive to God. We aren’t just creating separate institutions; we are defiling His bride.

The Bible tells us to be like-minded, but instead, we tend to become carbon-copy Christians. To a certain point, it makes sense. When everyone agrees, you will have less conflict. Perhaps it’s noteworthy that Jesus invited a tax collector and a religious zealot to be His disciples. That’s like trying putting members of the Ku Klux Klan in a small group with Black Panthers. Why would Jesus do something like that?

Jesus called different types of people to be His disciples because He intended for the Church to be diverse. God made us different. That’s the point. Without the tension of diversity we are not challenged to grow and to constantly dive into His Word. When everyone sees everything exactly the same, there is no healthy conflict. Instead of iron sharpening iron, we get complacent spiritual social clubs. God didn’t create the Church so we could all start acting like one another. He created it so we could all start acting like His Son.

Think of the Church like an army: We have cavalry, archers, swordsmen and various types of units and specialties. An effective army might organize different units in formations based on their strengths, but they still keep them all in the same army. An army consisting of entirely of one type of unit would easily be defeated because every type of unit has strengths and weaknesses. In the denomination divide we have lost one of the greatest strengths. Without diversity working together in harmony, we don’t have unity, we just have conformity.

Instead of fighting with each other over which denomination is best, we should be working together to advance the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Jesus didn’t give us many different churches. He gave us one Church. The more we divide it, the more our attention turns to what makes us different. We lose focus on the mission of Jesus because we are too busy looking inward. It’s time to stop warring over state borders and start focusing on national ones. Instead of fighting with each other over which denomination is best, we should be working together to advance the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

There won’t be denominations in heaven, so why do we make a big deal out of them on earth? The Church is not about how we interpret the Bible—that’s not to say sound theology isn’t important, but our understanding is not the primary focus. The Church is about Jesus. It is ever, only, always about Jesus. Rather than distracting ourselves (and everyone else) with all the different types of churches, we should be showing people what the Church is about: the love of Jesus.

It’s time for the Church to get back on mission. The final command Jesus gave was not “get every nuance of theology right,” it was “go, make disciples of all nations.” We serve the same God, are saved by the same Christ, and were given the same Commission. Instead of focusing on our differences, we should focus on the One who makes us the same. 

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Tyler Edwards currently serves at the Church of Eleven22 in Jacksonville, Fla. He is the author of Zombie Church: Breathing Life Back into the Body of Christ.