Those Moments

Ever had one of those moments when it’s clear the Lord has been working in you all along, changing you, without your being aware of it?  I experienced one of those moments during the last day of my first-ever writers’ conference.

The event began for me with an overload of insecurity and inadequacy as I compared myself to others speaking so confidently about their books and their publishing issues – and this was just in line at check-in!  It required a major talk between myself and Holy Spirit en route to my room.  I declared that I am not in competition with these people, though we may seek the same publishing opportunities at some point.  God has called and anointed me to write, even as He has called them, and He’s given each of us at least one story to tell.  Not only that, He called me to this very writers’ conference, so insecurity and inadequacy could have no further say in the matter!  My perspective began to line up with my Daddy’s.

As the contest winners were announced on the final evening, I was completely at ease.  After all, I had not even entered the writing contest.  One of my tablemates had, however, so I was eager to hear her name called, and disappointed when it wasn’t.  I noticed that I was genuinely excited for each of the winners, though I only knew some from brief conversations, and others not at all.  It was the fullness of Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice . . .”  I truly rejoiced with nothing held back (and hope it will remain that way when I have entered!)  But this was only a precursor to THE moment I mentioned earlier.

During our final morning together, I saw what God has been nurturing in me all along.  As conversations took place around me, as I observed the people, as I learned of publishing opportunities some had just received, I had such a desire for each one to be published and to share what God has given them for others.  I was experiencing God’s desires for them!

1 John 4:7 AMP  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is (springs) from God; and he who loves [his fellowmen] is begotten (born) of God and is coming [progressively] to know and understand God [to perceive and recognize and get a better and clearer knowledge of Him].

It’s nothing less than the power of His love at work in me.  It’s been working all along, and will continue working toward greater degrees of fruitfulness, but it’s as if I arrived at a precipice where I see what He’s done thus far.  Here, I see the people He has created more like He sees them, and I can’t help but love and want the best for them, for that’s His heart.

I haven’t arrived at the top of this mountain, by any means, but I have been brought to a greater revelation of the Spirit working in me than I’ve been before.  Through the power of His love and His Word, I am being conformed to His thoughts, His attitudes, His perspective, and His amazing love.  Because of this, I am encouraged to continue onward and upward as Holy Spirit draws my gaze from this view to see the next climb awaiting me, with more of those moments at its precipice.

Trained or Transformed?

The whole idea for this post is not Kay’s original insight, but came from a message I heard on TV by Creflo Dollar.  I hope the simplicity of the word picture is as powerful for you as it was for me.

Becoming a follower of Jesus isn’t to be a behavior modification program – another set of rules and rituals to follow – though a great majority of the church operates in that mode.  We might work really hard to change a behavior or an attitude that we see is wrong in God’s Word.  Without a heart change to go with it, a situation will occur some day that causes us to fall back to our old ways.  After all, it’s what has been put inside, by others and by our own doing, so it is just a natural thing for us to do.  Let’s call it instinct.

Our well-behaved dog still has instincts that can take us by surprise.  He is trained to sit, heel, fetch, stay, etc.  He follows our commands (rules, laws) every time we utter them.  He may even be so well-trained that he doesn’t require constant reminders to behave appropriately – so it appears the old instincts are gone.  But let a squirrel run past when we haven’t seen it in advance, and his hidden instincts take over.  It’s natural, for he hasn’t been transformed by the words we’ve spoken to him, merely trained to respond a certain way.

(I know it's a tiger, not a lion. Same effect!)

Another illustration would be a circus lion.  He may have been “tamed,” conditioned to respond in certain ways to the actions and commands of the lion “tamer,” but he is still a wild animal.  For this reason, we wouldn’t own one as a pet.  There could come that time when his instincts could kick in, and we would end up being his dinner!  He wasn’t transformed – merely trained.

Romans 12:2 NIV  Do not conform any longer 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.

The pattern of this world is rules and laws to follow.  When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He doesn’t want us to be trained in following a new set of rules, but be transformed by growing in relationship with Him.  He is the Word of God made flesh. (John 1:1, 14)  When we spend time with Him, in His Word, the Word (by His Spirit) transforms our minds, which is reflected in our actions and attitudes. This is done by His grace, not by our efforts to be transformed.  We are simply asked to be in ever-growing relationship with Him, getting to know Him through His Word and by His Spirit.  It’s only in this that we can be transformed, not merely trained.  It’s only in being transformed that we can truly know Christ and make Him known.

Counting the Cost

We have to count the cost of so many things in our day-to-day lives.  Purchase anything from a cup of coffee to a new vehicle.  Before making the transaction, you determine if you have the money, or if you will be able to make the monthly payments.  If you don’t, you don’t make the purchase.  Maybe you have been given a job offer.  If the pay is higher than your current income, but the job would require a move, you might take a piece of paper and make a list of the pros and cons for this offer.  When you total the numbers for each, you make your decision based on whichever is greater.  Is that what Jesus told us to do?

Luke 14:28 “For which of you, wishing to build a farm building, does not first sit down and calculate the cost [to see] whether he has sufficient means to finish it?”

Before we answer the question, let’s apply this concept in a different way.  When the Lord gives you a new assignment, are you to treat it in the same manner as described for the job offer to decide whether to accept or reject His assignment?  God – the omniscient and Holy One – doesn’t present us with a new assignment for our approval or disapproval based on our reasoning.  We need to remember that His best for us is always to do His will, which includes all His assignments.  God does want us to count the cost, but for a very different reason.

Luke 14:26-30 “26 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God] and [likewise] his wife and children and brothers and sisters — [yes] and even his own life also — he cannot be My disciple.  27 Whoever does not persevere and carry his own cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple.  28 For which of you, wishing to build a farm building, does not first sit down and calculate the cost [to see] whether he has sufficient means to finish it?  29 Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to complete [the building], all who see it will begin to mock and jeer at him, 30 Saying, This man began to build and was not able (worth enough) to finish.”  AMP

Let’s consider this in light of Paul’s life.  He was warned about many dangers and perils – shipwrecks, venomous snake bites, beatings, stonings, etc. – awaiting him in every city to which the Lord was sending him.  It wasn’t so he could decide whether to accept the call, but so he would be prepared for the difficulties – not surprised and thrown off track by them.  Had he not had any idea ahead of time, Paul probably would have begun to question (doubt) whether he had really heard God (“I must have missed God”), and would have left the course marked out for him as soon as the troubles began.  Because he knew much of what faced him, and in the all-sufficiency of God’s grace, he remained strong in the Lord, regardless of the fiery darts that came his way.

You might never face anything like Paul did, but it is of utmost importance to count the cost for matters both big and small.  You might have to turn your back on a loved one for the sake of the gospel, or face negative comments because you refuse to watch a TV show or movie that doesn’t help transform you – rather, it causes you to be conformed to the world.  There are also major life changes, like giving up some of your independence to care for a loved one who can no longer live independently in safety.  Whatever it is, when you determine it is the Lord’s will for you, count the cost, then draw on God’s grace.  In that place you will be able to remain strong in the Lord, no matter the difficulties you will encounter on His path for you.

Of Caterpillars, Moths, and Butterflies

As I listened to the sermon during a Sunday service, Holy Spirit did what He does with me from time to time.  He took me down a slightly different path than the one the preacher was traveling, though it still concerned the same subject.  He was talking about metamorphosis, the root word for transformed, and likened it to a caterpillar caterpillarbeing transformed into a butterfly.  That’s all it took for my mind to “flit” away for a few minutes!

Romans 12:2, the main verse in his message, refers to being conformed to the world and its ways, or being transformed to reflect Christ to the world by showing a completely different way of living.  “Do not conform any longer 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.”

I started thinking about caterpillars and how they become either moths or butterflies through metamorphosis.  One comes through the process so pretty that people enjoy watching it both in flight and resting, while the other is not so pleasing to look at and is considered a pest no matter what it does.  For those of you who are science enthusiasts, or at least have more than a passing interest in butterflies, moths, and the whole cocoon / chrysalis thing, I did research before writing this.  I understand moths and butterflies don’t go through exactly the same process in their transformation, and that some moths are not pests.  For the sake of this post, however, I will lump all moths into the dull-looking pest category, while lumping all butterflies into the pretty and harmless group.  One difference between the two I found particularly interesting is that moths are basically night creatures – creatures of the dark – while butterflies are awake and active in the light of day.moth

Neither moths nor butterflies are born to remain caterpillars.  Their destiny is discovered through the process of metamorphosis, in the hidden place, after which their true nature is revealed to the world.  Likewise, we are not born to remain the same.  From the verse in Romans, we see that our mind is the hidden place where our metamorphosis occurs.  What we become is a direct result of what we put in our minds.  If we pour the world’s thoughts, attitudes, and images into our minds, we’ll keep fluttering around in the darkness.  We’ll be just like the world, blending right in.  If, instead, we pour the Word of God into our minds, complete with its attitudes and images, we are actually transformed.  We won’t look, act, or sound like the world, but there will be those in the world who will be drawn to the Light of Christ now visible in us, the transformed ones.  We can remain in His Light, even in the midst of the darkness of the world, when we continue to renew our minds in Christ.

Caterpillars don’t have a choice about whether they will become moths or butterflies.  Therein lies the key difference between human and caterpillar metamorphosis.  We butterflycan choose whether we will be conformed or transformed, and it is done simply by what we put into our minds.  One thing is certain, however.  We will not remain as we were.  So, do we choose the world or the Word?  Do we become a moth or a butterfly?

James 4:4 “. . . Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God.”  (AMP)