Saturday, August 26, 2023

God's Exchange


Photo by Myotus 2022
Would you trade the toaster oven in your hands for what’s behind Door Number 3? It might be a new car or a lump of coal – on a game show, there is no way of knowing. One thing is for sure, though -- you have to give up what you have to get something new.

With God, we have the assurance of knowing that what we will get by trusting Him is infinitely better than what we give up, because you can’t outgive God

When we pray for Him to meet a specific need, He does not just add a little something to what we already have; He takes away a burden and replaces it with a priceless gift (Philippians 4: 4-6). The best gift of all is eternal life (John 3:16), freely given to all who trust in Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). 

What’s the catch? There is no catch, except that we have to release the burden to Him before He will bless us with the gift. If we clutch on to the old and familiar because we’re afraid to let go, we lack the faith that He knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8), and that He will answer our prayer exceeding abundantly beyond what we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20; 1 Timothy 1:14).

This is not a prosperity gospel or a name-it-and-claim-it philosophy, because we should recognize that not all our specific requests are in line with God’s perfect will, and that His blessings are often not in the material realm. As we become more conformed to Christ’s image (Philippians 3:10), and trust Him more and more, He will grant us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4) because those desires become more aligned with His perfect will for us.

When we feel that God is not blessing us as we had hoped, it may be because we haven’t yet asked Him (James 4:2; Matthew 7:8; 21:22; Luke 11:10), or because we’re asking for something to satisfy our fleshly wants rather than our spiritual needs (James 4:3). Or it may be that our heart is not right with God because we have not forgiven those who have wronged us, or we have not repented of our sins, or because we are relying on our own limited resources to solve the problem, instead of trusting in His abundant grace.

But God delights in blessing His children with good things beyond our imagination! (Matthew 7:11; Ephesians 3:20; 1 Timothy 1:14) If we have faith to leave our burdens at the foot of the cross, He will fill us up with blessings beyond measure (Hebrews 11:6). He will exchange:

Our sins for His righteousness (Hebrews 12:11)

Our bondage for His liberty (James 1:25)

Our weakness for His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9; Isaiah 40:31)

Our exhaustion for His rest (Matthew 11:28)

Our loneliness for His presence (Hebrews 13:5; Proverbs 18:24) and for brothers and sisters in Christ (Galatians 6:2)

Our pride for His humility (Philippians 2:5-7; Mark 10:45)

Our limitations for His omnipotence (Luke 18:27; Matthew 19:26; Philippians 4:13)

Our ignorance for His wisdom (James 1:5; Colossians 2:3) and teaching (John 14:26; Ephesians 1:17-18)

Our confusion for His direction (Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 119:105)

Our guilt for His forgiveness (1 John 1:8-9; Romans 8:1; Colossians 1:13-14)

Our doubt and fear for His perfect love, faith, and the peace that passes all understanding (1 John 4:18; Philippians 4:7).

Our sin sickness for His healing (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24)

Our tears for joy in Him (Philippians 4:4; Psalm 5:11; 1 John 1:4)

Our lack for His abundance (Philippians 4:19)

A death sentence of eternity in hell for abundant life now and eternity with Him in Heaven (Ephesians 2:1; John 3:16).

Dying to self for living with and in Him (Galatians 2:20)

Being children of the devil for being children of God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

A story has circulated on the Internet about a little girl who dearly loved a necklace of plastic pearls she bought at the dime store after scrimping and saving her allowance. Her father asked her to trust him to give them to her so he could give her something better, but each time he asked, she turned away defiantly with pouting and tears, clinging to the plastic pearls even though their coating had long since flaked away. After all, she had worked so hard and given up so much to get them.

Finally she realized that her love for her father and her desire to please him outweighed her attachment to her necklace. Reluctantly, timidly, she removed them from her neck and offered them to him. Imagine her surprise and delight when he placed around her neck a string of perfectly matched, cultured pearls of great beauty and value.

How often are we like the little girl, refusing to give up the childish trinkets we acquire by our own efforts, letting them take on the importance of idols in our life? Why are we so often afraid to exchange what we have for what the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer longs to give us?

Copyright Laurie Collett 2012

Edited and reposted from the archives

Saturday, August 19, 2023

View through the Ruin


Photo by Laurie Collett 2017

A few years ago, our family was blessed to visit Ireland, where the joy of spending time together was enhanced by the unusually sunny weather and gorgeous scenery. The lush green landscape there is dotted by many ruins of walls, dwellings, and even castles!

One of our favorites was Minard Castle near Dingle in County Kerry, still stately atop a gentle hill on a boulder beach, its gray stones overgrown with tangled ivy. It was built by the Knight of Kerry in the mid 17th century and was later attacked by the forces of Oliver Cromwell. In the romantic film "Ryan’s Daughter," it was used to film the scene where Rosy met the English Captain, with whom she would have an extramarital affair.

Our son and daughter-in-law were the first to scramble up the steep, winding narrow stairs to view what remained of the bedrooms and watch towers. There was no signage or docent, so much of it was left to the imagination. I followed not too far behind, while my husband chose the safer and broader perspective from below on the castle grounds.

Later he told me that a fellow traveler shook his head while gazing at those of us scampering about on the upper levels of the ancient structure.

“I’m a mechanical engineer,” he told Richard. “All it would take is one stone from that arch to slip a little, or to crumble a little, for that whole building to come tumbling down.”

Richard shuddered as he pondered our fate, wondering why he hadn’t tried to stop us, or if he could even if he had tried.

As I ascended the rough steps, sometimes painfully clinging to thorny vines on the wall for support, I was thankfully oblivious to the conversation below. I paused often to peek through the window openings, and to imagine what it was like for the original occupants to gaze out on that same scenery. The rolling hills, far-off mountain peak, and sea must not have changed much, despite the considerable deterioration of the dwelling itself.

Were there joyful parties in the castle, or grim watches for invading enemies? Were the occupants blessed with marital bliss and happy, healthy families, or plagued by sickness, strife, trials and death? Most likely a mixture of both, as would be true for most lives at different times.

As I paused to snap a photo of one view through the crumbling ruins, I was struck by the contrast of the jagged rocks that framed the window, jutting out into the bucolic landscape and farmhouse in the distance, and the grand yet hazy view of the mountain peak beyond.

The Bible describes the church, or body of called-out believers who trust in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), as a building fitly framed together. Jesus Himself is the Cornerstone and the Foundation on which the church is built (Ephesians 2:20-22). Each believer is positioned uniquely to fulfill the specific function God has predetermined for each of us (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

But what happens if the individual stones in the building, or believers in the church, start to fall apart? As the engineer observed, just one stone slipping in the arch could bring the whole castle tumbling down. If a church leader is found out in adultery or other sin, or begins preaching false doctrine, the entire local church body may dissolve (1 Corinthians 5:6-13).

Even “small” sins or divisions among church members, or erosion as vines and leaks work over time on building blocks, can damage the entire structure. Maintenance and upkeep are therefore crucial for a dwelling, and regular, well-attended services (Hebrews 10:25) and immersion in God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2) even more so for a church.  

Crumbling around the edges of one stone can affect its connection to the others, and similarly, willful sin in the life of one church member erodes the body as a whole, for the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Small wonder that so many churches today are in disarray and even closing their doors altogether!

But the view through the ruin also reminded me of my own body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, as is true for every child of God (Ephesians 2:22; 2 Corinthians 6:16). The outward body is aging daily, yet the soul inside should be growing closer to and in better alignment with Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:16), as long as we build our lives on the solid Rock (Matthew 7:24) and Foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).

Looking out from the jagged borders of the window reminded me that although I am rough around the edges, God still blesses me with the vision to see milestones along my path. As I viewed the nearby farmhouse and heard the far-off laughter of my son and his bride, I remembered God’s blessings of honest labor (2 Thessalonians 3:10), family (Psalm 127:3-5) and shelter in the past and present.

And the mountain peak beyond strengthened my faith that there are still mountains and lands to possess, figuratively speaking, even as we grow older (Joshua 14:9-12; 13:1). Ultimately we will ascend to that holy city, New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12; 21:2,10), on the heavenly hill! (Zechariah 8:3)

Meanwhile, as our physical bodies age and fail, our souls groan to be clothed with the new heavenly tabernacle of our glorified body! (Romans 8:18-23). Then we will view Him through the ruin of our earthly body no more, for we will see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12) and be as He is, in our heavenly body (1 Corinthians 15:40-54) that will never die, sin, age, or experience pain, sickness or sorrow! 

© 2017 Laurie Collett
Edited and reposted from the archives

Photo by Laurie Collett 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Coquinas and Butterflies

Photo by Island Ecology


As we strolled the beach last evening, my husband and I were struck by the vast number of coquina shells at the water’s edge. These tiny, colorful shells are often called butterfly shells because they are bivalves with a wing shape, and when the two halves are still attached to one other they resemble butterflies in flight, particularly given their pastel or jewel-like tones and radiating patterns like the sun’s rays at dawn.

At first I was delighted to be collecting so many of these intact specimens in all the colors of the rainbow. But then I realized that the stretch of shore where these were spread out, like miniature brooches in a jewel box, was the same stretch that we had previously nicknamed “Coquina Beach” because many live coquinas used to burrow into the sand with each incoming wave, only to resurface as the wave receded.

Shore birds, especially long-legged brown ones in the plover family, love to feast on live coquinas, and we have often spotted them fishing for their dinner and gobbling down their prey. But last evening, these nearly tame creatures were curiously absent, except for one dejected loner poking at seaweed with his long beak, apparently to no avail.

It made me wonder if the recent heat wave, with Gulf temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit bleaching out and devastating the coral, was also taking its toll on the delicate coquinas. Perhaps that was why their empty shells were so plentiful, while live specimens and their predators were so scarce.

A saddening thought, and yet the shells we collected were a lasting reminder of the beauty and creativity of God’s intelligent design. It reminded me of the life cycle of the butterfly, perhaps an even greater example of God’s signature in His creation.

A lowly caterpillar crawls along the dirt, often as drab as its surroundings, until one day it spins a shroud-like chrysalis around itself. There it remains, outwardly dormant for some time. In this phase, which resembles death to the casual observer, the caterpillar completely digests itself, and its molecules are rearranged into a nascent butterfly, still entombed within the chrysalis.

But at exactly the right moment, the butterfly struggles to free itself from the chrysalis. Good-intentioned humans, witnessing this struggle, have sometimes cut the chrysalis to “help” the butterfly emerge, only to find that their actions have killed the fragile creature. The struggle for liberation is an essential part of the transition from caterpillar to butterfly, as it pumps fluid into the nascent wings and strengthens them.

This metamorphosis is often used as a symbol of being saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). While we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-5), we are base creatures like the caterpillar, unable to lift our heads from the filth around us (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Before we can be born again (John 3:3-8), we must die to our fleshly sin nature (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5), much as the caterpillar destroys itself within the chrysalis.  

But when the Holy Spirit has completed this process within our heart – often as we struggle to shed the old man (Romans 6:6) and yield to Him-- we emerge as a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), capable of soaring to heavenly places in Him (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6). We are then clothed in the beauty of His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). Our sin-stained garments are washed white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) and replaced with the finest robe, like the one the Father placed on the returned Prodigal Son (Luke 15:22).

The butterfly’s life as a beautiful, flying creature is ephemeral at best, lasting only a short time and ending soon after laying eggs that will hatch into caterpillars and renew the cycle. Hopefully, the live mollusks that left behind the empty coquina shells also had a chance to reproduce, so that one day, perhaps when the weather is more favorable, “Coquina Beach” will once again be teeming with life, providing a nourishing buffet for the shore birds.

Our life on earth as born-again Christians is nearly as transient (James 4:14), perhaps even more so now as plagues, famine, natural disasters, wars, and other labor pains of the End Times increase in frequency and intensity (Matthew 24). But when we die, we are with Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:8), and one day at the Rapture we shall have glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:40-58) more magnificent than we could ever imagine! These bodies will soar through the skies as we rise to meet Him and may even be able to instantly transport us to another place or to walk through walls (John 20:19), as Jesus did in His glorified body!

But in the meantime, may we too be fruitful, like the coquina or butterfly.  Some of us may be blessed with children, a great gift from God (Psalm 127:3-5), and even more blessed when our children accept Christ and we have played some small part in bringing them into God’s family.

Yet all Christians, whether or not we have offspring, can be fruitful by doing all we can in our brief lifespan on earth as children of God and joint-heirs with Christ. May we be good stewards of our time, talent and treasure, to pray for and witness to others, to encourage and uplift the saints, and to serve God wherever He places us until He brings us home or comes again!

© 2023 Laurie Collett

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Revelation of Christ: Triplets of Power


Who is Jesus? The Revelation of Jesus Christ paints a dramatic portrait of our JudgeWarrior and King as we will know Him throughout eternity. In contrast to the helpless Babe in the manger (Luke 2:7,12,16), the humble Servant (John 13:5), and the meek, sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36) portrayed in the Gospels, Christ shows Himself in Revelation in triplets of Divine power.

This unveiling of Christ to the apostle John was given by Godsent by His angel, and signified by His angel (Revelation 1:1; 17:1). As John was caught up in the Spirit in a prophetic vision (Revelation 1:10), he faithfully recorded God’s Word, the testimony of Christ Himself, which is the Spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10) and everything that he saw (Revelation 1:2). Jesus told John to record His Words regarding the past history of the seven churches, His present observations for these churches, and His prophecies of future events (Revelation 1:19).

John makes it clear that his vision came from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who is, and was, and is to come, reflecting His present Priesthood, His eternal past, and His eternal future (Revelation 1:4,8). Jesus describes His own everlasting nature as Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last (Revelation 1:8,11,17).

John refers to Christ by three of His titles: the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. In other words, Christ is the Prophet, Priest and King. John praises Him for three of His noble deeds: He loved us; He washed us from our sins in his own blood; and He made us kings and priests in His Name (Revelation 1:5-6). His triumphal return will be a monumental event seen by allrealized by those who crucified Him, and causing great dismay to all remaining on earth (Revelation 1:7)

John hears the powerful words of Christ as a great voice, as of a trumpet (Revelation 1:10), and as the sound of many waters (Revelation 1:15). Christ wields three symbols of power and holiness: seven golden candlesticks (Revelation 1:12-13) surrounding Him, representing the seven churches (Revelation 1:16,20)seven stars in His right hand, representing the seven angels of the seven churches (Revelation 1:16,20); and a sharp two-edged sword, representing His Word, proceeding out of His mouth  (Revelation 1:16).

Jesus Christ radiates brilliant light, for He is light (1 John 1:5): His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet like fine brass, as if burned in a furnace; and His face shining like the sun (Revelation 1:14-16). He makes three pronouncements about His power over life and death: in His incarnation He rose from the deadHe lives forever in His resurrected, glorified body; and He has the keys of hell and of death (Revelation 1:18). Through faith in His death, burial and resurrection, He promises eternal life to all who trust Him (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 3:16).

Christ is adorned in attire suitable for a PriestJudge, and Ruler. His full-length robe reflects His holiness, authority and majesty, and His golden girdle circling His chest is like the priest’s ephod, breastplate of a mighty warrior, or royal banner. His snow-white hair, like wool, resembles the wigs worn by magistrates to reflect their wisdom, age, and authority (Revelation 1:13-14).

Unlike any other book in the BibleRevelation carries a special blessing for those who read itthose who hear itand those who keep it; meaning for those who carry the promises of this book in their heart, mind and soul to influence their thoughts, words, and behavior (Revelation 1:3). Knowing that Christ will soon come again in judgment, power, and glory, should we not live every moment following His Word, seeking His will, and doing His work?

© 2013 Laurie Collett

Reposted from the archives and edited