Lukewarm Caterpillars

2 Corinthians 5_17

A few weeks ago, we got to experience an up-close view of a bit of a twist on the classic caterpillar to butterfly spiritual analogy. Maybe you’ve heard the classic version in youth group, Bible School, or a devotion book….the idea that we are all new creations if we are Christians. That we start as these creepy, crawly, fuzzy little beings and then as a gift of God, through faith in Christ….voila….we are made completely new into creations of beauty and wonder like a butterfly.

Thanks to our friend, Terri Tschaenn, and her milkweed stash….we have gotten to watch this truly amazing experience of God’s creation several times, and it hasn’t gotten old yet. We’ve gotten to feed those adorably cute little caterpillars as they grow at amazing rates each day. We’ve watched the miraculous chrysalis formation, and we’ve gotten to hold brand new monarch butterflies on our pinky fingers before they fly off. It is amazing. It is beautiful. And, it certainly is representative of the hope of new life and transformation God tells us about in 2 Corinthians 5:17.

But. . .does every caterpillar turn into a butterfly? Hmmm.

Terri told us the unfortunate story of one of her baby caterpillars that accidentally met a predator while she was trying to keep it safe in her school classroom….and….chomp. All gone. No butterfly.  And, recently, we watched our caterpillar which we had been watching grow for several weeks, for some unknown reason, never develop his chrysalis at all. Instead, he slowly wasted away and died. It was rather depressing to watch. He had eaten milkweed like all the rest, had gotten to full size, and had looked “just right” to us from the surface. But, inside….something was wrong. He never experienced the stage of transformation. And, instead of achieving beauty and new life, he died a caterpillar. It is common. It is sad. And, it is also certainly representative of what God tells us about in scripture whether or not it makes for as many Sunday School craft ideas on Pinterest.

The Bible warns us about the Christians who look like Christians, but who haven’t experienced a transformation through repentance and faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. These Christians are lukewarm. Just like the caterpillars who die, they lack something inside. But mind you, these aren’t atheist caterpillars or caterpillars who don’t go to church. These are Christian caterpillars. Ones who look just like us. Ones who go to church with us. Maybe us. They haven’t achieved the transformation of repentance and faith in Christ which leads to obedience. And their demise if they don’t repent? “I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16, NASV).

Truth can hurt, but it matters. It matters because God and Jesus love us. And true love includes speaking honestly and intentionally. It also matters because unless we repent, at the judgment day, we do not become “butterflies” to live eternally with God and his son Jesus in the kingdom of God. The alternative to that option is death. Today, we live in a world telling us that almost any belief imaginable is “Christian”, and it can get quite confusing as we seek to be on the narrow road and not in the lukewarm masses. It requires diligent searching of scripture and faithful prayer on our parts. We cannot rely alone on our teachers, our families, our churches, and traditions of men. We must not just believe “in” God and Jesus, but know what they say and apply those words to our lives. So, if we find ourselves lukewarm and amongst lukewarm believers. . .what does Jesus say to us?

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:19-21, NASV).

Let’s seek and pray to be more than lukewarm this week and to be victorious in Christ.

-Jennifer Koryta Hall

 

 

Advertisements

Begins with Love, Ends with…

gentleness-self-control-against-such-things-there-is-no-law-esv copyWe sometimes get the wrong thing in our mind when we think about gentleness or meekness. We associate meekness with timidity or with shyness. Today, we use the word as a negative character quality, but that’s not what Christ or Paul had in mind when calling on us to be meek. Instead, they are calling on us to have a quiet strength that we are capable of holding under control, even under provocation.

James calls on us to receive God’s word with meekness. It’s a central component to our ability to be faithful. Peter also writes that we should be able to convey our hope to others in meekness,  and James tells us we should be living in meekness and wisdom. Our examples should be gentle. Teaching others should be approached with gentleness. Galatians says we can take a soft approach when standing firm in the truth, and this requires self-control. If we are going to stand firm in the truth under pressure while remaining gentle and meek, we have to develop self-control.

The last item listed in the qualities of spiritual fruit is self-control. These qualities begin with love and end with self-control. Love cascades through all of these qualities, and they all require a foundation of self-control. This is a capacity to restrain our own impulses so we might serve God and others. Whether we’re talking about faithfulness, patience, forgiveness, or any other quality of Spirit living, we require self-control. By contrast, the items Paul lists in Galatians as defining worldly living demonstrate a lack of control.

Romans tells us we should be transformed from this world through God’s renewal.  Self-control allows us to overcome the sinful and self-destructive behaviors that can consume a life without control. When Paul says, in Galatians, that we are called to freedom, we are freed from the bonds created by worldly living, but we can’t grow this self-control by ourselves. We have to accept help from others. As we rejoice together and we sorrow together, we should also be helping each other grow. Ephesians tells us we are to work together to grow in maturity and be more like Christ. Self-control has to be self-contained, but it does not have to grow alone.

-Katie Beth Fletcher

Submit Your Ways to God

Faithfulness-Instagram copy

Do you ever find yourself thinking “I’ll believe it when I see it?”  It’s easy to slip into the mindset of doubt. We live in a broken world, and we may have gone through painful experiences that cause us to lose our trust in others.  For this reason, faithfulness, a fruit of the Spirit, can be a challenging trait to possess. Faithfulness comes from a place of trust and loyalty. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is a confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  As a Christian, it is important to be faithful to God. It is one thing to simply believe in Him, but another to be faithful to Him. When we are truly faithful to God, this shapes the way we live. Faithfulness requires us to submit our ways to God.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” We are to be faithful to God, because He is faithful to us.  In the Bible, the story of Abraham demonstrates the importance of faithfulness. Abraham and his wife Sarah struggled to trust God, but learned the value of faithfulness when they submitted to Him.  For example, Abraham and Sarah waited many years for God to fulfill His promise of giving them a son. Because of her lack of faith, Sarah insisted upon Hagar, her maid, giving birth to her son. This resulted in pain and conflict. However, when Abraham and Sarah put their faith in God, Sarah was able to give birth to Isaac despite being past childbearing age.  Ultimately, the story of Abraham shows how God blesses those who are faithful and trust in His plans.

So, how do we grow in our faithfulness?  We can grow in our faithfulness by having a personal relationship with God. If we are truly faithful to Him and obey His commands, this will be evident in our lives.  My challenge to you is this: Think about the ways you show your faithfulness to God. Are there things that are getting in the way of your faithfulness? What areas of your life have you not given over to Him? Through spending time in prayer, ask God to make these things clear to you, so that He can grow you in your faithfulness.

-Katie-Beth Fletcher

Kind and Good

Kindness & Goodness 2

Some have referred to kindness and goodness as the twin fruits. Kindness and goodness are so closely related that sometimes it is not easy to distinguish between them. A kind person is also a good person; a good person is by nature a kind person. Both of these characteristics stem from love. Some have said that patience is suffering love; kindness is compassionate love; and goodness is ministering love.

Kindness is more about our attitude and goodness is more about the things we do for others.  Some people are born with a kind, gentle personality. This may come natural to them. But others have to lean on the power of the Holy Spirit to help them be nice.

These characteristics which are produced in us by the Holy Spirit have to do with our relationships to others. We usually think of kindness as an expression of love from one person to another, and of goodness as a quality of being pure.  It is striking that parents are forever telling their children to “be good,” but they never need to suggest the opposite to them. Being “bad” seems to come naturally.

Without the Holy Spirit within us, our nature is inclined toward that which is evil and bad. But the Holy Spirit produces in us kindness and goodness, helping us to minister to the world with the love of Jesus. What the world needs is Jesus—that means more love, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and caring generosity.

Katie-Beth Fletcher

How We Respond While Waiting

Patience

Patience is translated as forbearance in some translations of the Bible.  Forbearance has a deeper meaning. It includes self-control, restraint, and tolerance, implying that we have a choice about how we response to God in our times of waiting.  We can, for example, receive patience as a gift that helps us develop restraint or we can become resentful and anxious, bucking against the reality that we have very little control over our circumstances.

While giving in to our impatience can feel good in the moment, it often sends us spiraling downward into frustration—because even if we do send that email to check on the status of a job we applied for or to find out about the grades we’re waiting to be posted, the fact remains that we can’t do much to change the circumstances. We have a choice in moments of impatience: let Jesus cultivate our inner world or escape into destructive behaviors or attitudes.

So what can we do while we’re waiting to embrace the fruits of patience (self-control, restraint, and tolerance)?  We can pray while we work. The world doesn’t stop while you’re waiting for something. There are things and people that still need your attention. Your own soul needs your attention too, as does your body. So, while you’re waiting, pray while you wait by focusing your attention on something you actually do have influence over. Make a date to go bowling with friends, clean your bathroom fastidiously, read a novel, or cook a new food from a different country.  Patience is a virtue and a virtue can’t hurt you. So keep waiting. Work on what you can.

Katie-Beth Fletcher

Real Peace

Peace

What is peace? We often define it in terms of what it isn’t—as in, it’s the absence of conflict or distraction or anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or disturbed. A nation is at peace when they’re not involved in any wars; a person is at peace when they feel relaxed and comfortable.  But what if I told you that the biblical idea of peace sometimes means diving into conflict, choosing discomfort, and being disturbed?

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14-16)


According to Ephesians, Jesus is our peace, and Jesus came to reconcile us both to God and to each other. And the biblical idea of peace is much broader than our modern understanding; it is not simply the absence of conflict but also the presence of harmony. It’s not ceasefire; it’s community.  Sometimes, we get so caught up in seeking peace for ourselves that we create discord for others. Or we isolate ourselves from the problem, so that we can pretend like it doesn’t exist or isn’t relevant to us. But conflict avoidance is not peace.

We can trust Jesus to provide miracles, because Jesus is our peace. And while pursuing perfect harmony and reconciliation may be hard, it is far from hopeless. In fact the truth is just the opposite: peace is promised to us from God.

Katie-Beth Fletcher

Happiness vs. Joy

Joy

Joy is the foundation for a positive life.  Our world lacks joy and has way too much fear, worry, discouragement, and depression these days.  We need to fully trust God and have joy even in the hard moments and seasons of life. It we are not fully trusting our Father, then we will never be able to experience pure joy.

Biblical joy, the true joy, comes from filling the spiritual void with good relationships, mostly the intimate relationship with the One who is pure joy.  Jesus put it this way: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5). That fruit includes much joy!

The Bible speaks much more often of joy than of being happy. “Hap” means chance and is the root of several words— happen, happening, haphazard (dependent on mere chance), hapless, happenstance (a chance circumstance) and happy.

Happiness is a glad feeling that depends on something good happening. God wants you to experience happy times (as long as God approves of what is happening). But His greater desire is that you have unconditional joy. Jesus said His joy would “remain in you” and “your joy no one will take from you” (John 15:11; John 16:22).

Think of joy as a strong foundation that supports a variety of healthy emotions, including happiness. The long-range evidence of joy is general gratitude, contentment, optimism, a sense of freedom and other positive attitudes.

-Katie-Beth Fletcher