Saturday, May 25, 2024

Two Butterflies

Photo by SFAJane 2010

One lovely morning, my husband Richard was reading aloud from our daily devotionals as we sipped coffee on our lanai overlooking the woods.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a pale gold butterfly, delicately traced with black veining and borders, bejeweled with dots of sapphire and ruby. It drifted past my gaze and then soared upward on the breeze.

“Look!” I exclaimed. “A beautiful butterfly!”

“That?” Richard asked doubtfully, pointing at what appeared to be a dried leaf suspended from a twig.

I realized that the swallowtail butterfly I had spotted was no longer in our field of vision, apparently having caught a wind current lifting it gently toward the heavens before Richard could see it. What he was viewing was indeed a butterfly, albeit a dark, shriveled creature suspended on a nearby bush. Was it dead?

It was hanging from a twig, caught in thin strands of silk. We couldn’t see a fully formed web, so we weren’t sure if it was trapped by a spider beyond our view, or if it was a newborn butterfly just having emerged from its chrysalis. At least now there were signs of life – faint, intermittent pulsating of its wings. Was it in the throes of death, or struggling for new life?

Intermittent glances at the butterfly as we continued our readings did not shed light on the situation, but finally, after a few arduous beats of its wings, it flew away! I imagined that perhaps it had joined the butterfly I had seen earlier, both elevated to lofty heights, together enjoying the freedom of flight.

Far from coincidentally, our selection of morning readings had touched on being elevated to heavenly places with Christ (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6), on being born again (John 3:3-8), and on the dangers of falling prey to subtle sins that can ensnare us and keep us from soaring upward with our Lord and Savior (Hebrews 12:1).

To me, the first butterfly epitomized the joy, beauty and liberty of salvation (Psalm 21:1; 35:9) through trusting in Jesus Christ, Son of God Who died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). When we are saved and in His perfect will, the Holy Spirit empowers us to soar with Him on the heavenly mission He has designed specifically for us (Ephesians 2:10).

We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) in all details, and God created the human eye to be attracted to movement, pattern and color. Just as I quickly noticed and was uplifted by the colorful butterfly darting past me, so our spirits are attracted to the believer who is not only saved, but who is fulfilling God’s perfect plan for their life (Jeremiah 29:11). There is an inner beauty, purpose, and freedom in such a soul that acts as a beacon to all who are blessed to encounter them (Matthew 5:14-16).

But the soaring butterfly was once a lowly caterpillar, and the born-again believer emerged from a despairing sinner realizing their need of a Savior. The encumbered butterfly, which could have been in the final stages of metamorphosis, reminded me that only the Spirit can lift the sinner from the pain and darkness in the pit of sin to the healing and light of salvation (Psalm 30:3; 40:2; 143:7).

Like metamorphosis, the process of salvation is not instantaneous or painless. It occurs over time as the sinner hears the Word (Romans 10:14) and is convicted of his own sin, lack of merit, and inability to save himself from the eternal punishment in hell that his sins deserve (Ephesians 2:8-9). Meanwhile, the Spirit works in the heart to save him through processes unknown to us (Ecclesiastes 11:5).

Or was the second butterfly caught in a spider’s web, struggling against the odds to be set free? Even once we are saved, we can easily fall prey to Satan’s traps and to the sins that so easily entangle us (Hebrews 12:1). On casual glance, these may seem innocent enough, and even attractive, like silky strands of web shimmering in the sunlight. But if we let down our guard, we are so easily trapped (1 Peter 5:8), not to lose our salvation, but to lose the joy and freedom of fulfilling God’s purpose for us.

Thankfully, there can be release and restoration, just as there was for the butterfly that may have been freed from the spider’s web. If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us (1 John 1:9) and will renew our fellowship with Him, so that we can wait upon Him to lift us up as on eagle’s wings! (Isaiah 40:31)

May we soar freely with Him, born again as the caterpillar to new life as the butterfly, and restored to heavenly places when He forgives us of our confessed sins! 

© 2017 Laurie Collett

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Be Still, and Know...


Photo by Vian 2018

One night as I Iay awake, my mind churning through dark waves of shoulds and coulds, of “if only I’d…,” and “what if…,” I felt my heart pounding against the rocky cliffs of failure, doubt and despair. But the Holy Spirit brought a verse to mind that calmed me as no other could, as I meditated on it word by word:

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

Be. To be, not to do, that is the answer. As if I could do anything for God on my own merits or in my own strength – without Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5). I had gotten so wrapped up with doing that I forgot that more than anything, God wants me to just be. Be the Shepherd’s sheep (Psalm 23), the Father’s child (Romans 8:16-21;9:26: Galatians 3:26), the Son’s bride, the Spirit’s student (John 16:13). Only then, when I let go of my own identity, my will, and my pride, can He use me as a fully yielded vessel (Romans 9:21; 2 Timothy 2:21) and do works through me for His purpose (Ephesians 2:10), making me an ambassador for Christ (Ephesians 6:19-20).

Still. Not clamoring for worldly attention (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13), not bewailing my fate (Job 2:9), not reciting my shopping list of wants to God (Matthew 6:7-8; James 4:3) and calling it “prayer.” Listening instead for that still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13) Who will guide (Proverbs 3:5-6) and comfort me, leading me beside the still waters (Psalm 23:2). The peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) comes only from stillness, from waiting on Him (Psalm 27:14; 37:34) to reveal Himself and His specific plan.

And. Stillness in and of itself is not enough – God wants more. Stillness is not passively waiting; it is actively seeking His face (1 Chronicles 16:11; Psalm 27:8; 105:4), which requires faith, or knowing that He is Who He says He is and that He will do what He has said He will do (Hebrews 11). He commands us to know Him through faith in His recorded Word, as well as to be still. And yet, being still is a prerequisite to knowing Him. He promises the reward of knowing Him if we are still enough to drink in His presence.

Know. When I pray to God or read His Word, do I hope that He will hear me, or that some of His promises might come true, depending on His whim? If so, I am just performing a religious exercise while denying its power by my own lack of conviction (2 Timothy 3:5). Or do I truly know, in every fiber of my being, that God is unchanging (James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8), faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 Corinthians 1:9), and true to His Word (Titus 1:2), and that if He said it, it is so? Only that degree of resolute faith can tap into the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) that He gave us through the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30) at the moment we accepted Him as our Lord and Savior.

That. What specifically does He want me to know? I could know all the genealogies and prophecies and quote Scripture and verse for any occasion, yet I could miss the point entirely (1 Corinthians 13:1-3), unless I set all knowledge into its proper place in the framework He has so clearly built.

I. It’s all about Him. It’s not about me, what I want, what I can do, how lovable I am, because I’m just a wretched sinner (Romans 3:23) deserving eternal punishment in hell (Romans 6:23), and all my self-righteousness is like filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6). The danger is that any ministry, any service, any act of worship could be directed to the idol of Me (1 John 5:21) if I fail to give Him the pre-eminence (Colossians 1:18). Christ alone is worthy (Revelation 5:12), and I must decrease so that He can increase (John 3:30) and take His rightful position on the throne of my life. Reserving any part of my life for my own selfish desires amounts to partial obedience, which is disobedience (1 Samuel 15:22). He bought me with the priceless sacrifice of His own precious blood (Romans 3:25; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).

Am. He is the great I AM (Exodus 3:14), the eternally existent One (John 1:1), the completely self-sufficient One (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:27), the Beginning and the Ending (Revelation 21:6; 22:13), the timeless One Who was, and is, and is to come (Revelation 1:8). He made me in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), for His pleasure (Psalm 147:11; 149:4), so because of I AM, I can be.

God. God is Love (1 John 4:7-8), which is the framework in which all knowledge, faith and works must rest if they are to have any power or meaning (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). His infinite love led Him to give His only Son (John 3:16) as the perfect sacrifice on our behalf, so that whoever places their faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven will be saved. God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), for He is perfectly holy. And God is Spirit (John 4:24), empowering His love and purity with complete might.

So to be still and know Him, I must walk in love (Ephesians 5:2), in light (1 John 1:7), and in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16,25). Yet these are not deeds or good works, but the source of power for good works, allowing my life to bear fruit as I abide more deeply in Him. The branches do nothing in themselves to grow grapes; it is only their utter dependence on the Vine that accomplishes the purpose for which they are created (John 15:5).

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth (Psalm 46:10).

Ultimately every knee will bow to Him and every tongue will confess that He is Lord (Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10), but for our lives to glorify Him in this short span of earthly time He has allotted us (James 4:14), we must first be still, and know…

© 2014 Laurie Collett

Reposted from the archives

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Human Relationships: Reflecting the Trinity


In today's troubled world, I often wonder how much of the apparent confusion has resulted from ignoring God's plan for human relationships. As many of my readers prepare to celebrate Mother's Day, I thought it would be an appropriate time to repost this article. May all mothers be blessed on this special day and throughout the year!

As we can see throughout Scripture, God’s Triune nature is echoed in His creationHis attributes, His prescribed patterns of worship, and in mankind created in His own image. Even in our relationships to one another in our community, globally, and to Our Creator we again see groups of three playing a central role.

The grammatical construction of all languages describes all relationships in terms of three persons: first person (I and we), second person (you), and third person (he, she, and they). The basic unit of society is the family, which in its simplest complete form is father, mother, and child. Even though Jesus Christ had God as His Father and was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:16-20), He began His earthly life in the family comprised of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. (Luke 2:16).

God has structured these elemental family relationships by commanding children to honor their father and mother (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16); and fathers not to drive their children to anger, but to raise them with the loving care and correction of God Himself (Ephesians 6:4).  This basic pattern should prevail in all our earthly relationships: the person in authority leads not with brute force but with self-sacrificing love and Godly example, and the person under authority respects, honors and submits to the one leading them (Ephesians 6:1-9). 

The marriage itself can be viewed as a relationship among three, with Christ at the Head, the husband submitting to Christ and loving his wife self-sacrificially, and the wife submitting herself to her husband (Ephesians 5:20-33).

Our family should be knit together in obedience, love and prayer. Obeying God's Word demonstrates our faith in Him, for faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). God is love, and we cannot genuinely love one another without first loving Him (1 John 4:8). The apostle Paul urges us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and the sincere prayers of believers for one another are effective (James 5:16).

Our position in the life cycle and in extended family life can broadly be divided into childhood, adulthood, and old age. In childhood, we depend on our elders for our physical and spiritual nourishment (Luke 11:11-13). In adulthood, we may marry and have children, providing care for our loved ones and for others in our community. In old age, we may again depend on adults to care for us if we are physically or mentally infirm (Mark 7:10-13), or we may be blessed to mentor others through our wisdom and experience (Titus 2:2-5).

In other societal groupings, many relationships can be categorized into three levels: self, superiors, and subordinates. For example, a worker reports to his employer, but supervises his secretary. A teacher answers to the principal but is responsible for her students.

Whether applied to the basic family unit, to work or school environments, or to friendships, Solomon’s metaphorical wisdom is that a cord of three strands cannot be easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12). In Old Testament law, two or three witnesses were required before someone could be accused of a crime (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16, etc.). In the New Testament, Jesus promised that God would be present whenever two or three worshippers are gathered in His Name (Matthew 18:20).

The Bible gives many examples of relationships among three persons. The sons of Noah (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) were the progenitors giving rise to the southern, middle, and northern peoples after the flood  (Genesis 10:1). The three Hebrew boys refusing to renounce God and delivered by Him from the fiery furnace were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3). The three apostles in Jesus’ inner circle were Peter, James, and John, as these three witnessed His Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-2) and were invited to go further into the Garden of Gethsemane with Him to pray on the eve of His crucifixion (Matthew 26:33).

Three-person relationships within the human family and within society mirror the association of self to others and to God. If we imagine ourselves as located at our home base on earth, we could draw a circle around that point to indicate others within our circle of influence. The radius of that circle depends on how far we can travel and on the sophistication of our communication devices. Nowadays, anyone with an Internet connection theoretically has a worldwide circle of influence.

Our individual relationships with others may vary, particularly in our local communities, so that we may be in a position of higher authority over some (e.g. our children, our employees) and in a position of submission to some (e.g. our employer, law enforcement, government leaders). But as we travel further away from our home base, those in our circle of influence are more likely to be in positions of equal footing relative to one another (for example, all of us connected on the Internet).

If we think of our circle of influence on earth as a base, and we draw an imaginary line upward from the center extending infinitely high to God, the enclosed space would be a three-dimensional cone symbolizing the meaning of our existence: ourselves in relationship to others and to Our Creator.

No matter how much or how little authority we have in our earthly relationships, He regards us all as equal in His sight (Acts 10:34; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). We must all submit to Him, either in this life by placing our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and in His completed work on the cross (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 15) or at the day of judgment when those who rebelled against Him will bow the knee and confess that He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 17:14; 19:16).

May we all choose in this life to recognize Christ as Lord and enjoy eternal, abundant life (John 10:10) with Him here and in Heaven (John 3:16), rather than once it is too late to avoid the just punishment of eternity in hell (Matthew 10:28; Luke 16:19-31). May our obedience to Him in our Christian life include following His divine plan for human relationships!

© 2012 Laurie Collett
Edited, expanded and reposted from the archives

Saturday, May 4, 2024

The Feast


Photo by DimiTalen 2019

Many decades ago, my father had the opportunity to meet the owner of a castle in Ireland which he had converted to a luxury hotel. Although their meeting occurred in a business-related situation, the two became fast friends. The castle owner was extremely generous, and on several occasions gifted my parents with airfare to Ireland and a week’s stay at his elegant establishment.

Sadly, my parents and the hotel owner are no longer living, but my husband, son, daughter-in-law and I were blessed to visit the castle several years ago, thoroughly enjoying our stay and making many wonderful memories.

With that as background, I recently dreamed that I was staying at the castle and wanted to express my appreciation to the owner for his hospitality to my parents. I decided that I would offer to cook him a special meal, and he accepted the invitation.

But as the day approached, my anxiety grew. What could I possibly prepare that would be a treat for the owner of a Michelin-rated restaurant? Where would I shop for the ingredients, and where would I do the cooking and plating?

I decided to ask the restaurant manager for suggestions. To my relief, he invited me to use his kitchen for my culinary endeavors and assured me that his staff would procure whatever was on my shopping list.

On the appointed day, I prepared dinner for two – simple, yet I hoped it would be tasty. Pleased with my efforts, I was leaving the kitchen when the restaurant manager approached me.

“Have you invited the owner’s family?” he asked.

“Why, no,” I stammered in embarrassment.

“The owner always dines with his relatives and staff, whom he considers to be his extended family,” the manager pointed out.

Crestfallen, I was ashamed of my lack of foresight and inability to provide such a huge repast.

“Don’t worry,” he said gently. “We’ll take the dinner you prepared and make it work!”

So I thanked him and went to my room to change into a formal gown appropriate for dinner at a castle!

That evening, hundreds of guests, all dressed in their best attire, filed into the vast dining hall. Every table was set with crisply starched white linens, fine gold-rimmed china, Waterford crystal goblets, sterling silver flatware, and crimson rose bouquets. The candelabra were all lit, reflecting light from the full suits of armor arranged along the mahogany walls, as if on guard to protect the guests. Flags of many nations hung regally in between each knight’s armor.

The food I had prepared sat in the middle of a long serving table, yet it had miraculously increased to be able to feed the hundreds of guests in attendance. Surrounding it were a myriad of platters, tureens and serving dishes containing roasts, vegetables, seafood, appetizers, desserts and other gourmet delicacies that looked and smelled heavenly!

As I marveled at the abundant provision to which I had made such a minute contribution, I awoke feeling thankful yet humbled by the dream. It reminded me that God will always use what we give back to Him, whether our time, talent, or treasure, and multiply it to bless others.

I believe the castle owner represented God the Father, who blesses us exceedingly abundantly beyond what we could ever imagine or think (Ephesians 3:20), because He gives to us according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). The restaurant manager may have symbolized Jesus Christ His Son, the earthly manifestation of the Father (John 14:7-9) Who draws others to God. In addition, the manager may represent any faithful steward who wisely uses his God-given resources to lead others to the Lord and to encourage them in His work (Luke 12:42; 1 Corinthians 4:2).

Jesus told of a man who ordered his servants to invite guests to his feast from the highways and hedges, because those who should have attended were too busy or had other poor excuses for missing it (Luke 14:16-24). In my dream, the manager was a faithful steward who expanded the attendance of the feast from merely two to a huge crowd, all of whom could be nourished both physically and spiritually.

Jesus fed the multitudes through the miracles of the loaves and fishes, in each case using a humble gift from a person of modest means (Matthew 14:14-21; 15:29-38). He honored the monetary donation of the widow far beyond that of the much larger gifts of the wealthy, even though she gave only a mite worth barely a penny, because it was all she had (Mark 12:41-44).

It doesn’t matter how much or how little we think we have. Once we are 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), we will be rewarded for and others will be blessed by any resources we give back to Him with the right motive (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

At the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9), believers of all nations will dine sumptuously as we celebrate the union of the Church, or body and bride of Christ, with her Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The suits of armor in the dream may represent faithful prayer warriors who fought bravely in the battles of spiritual warfare, putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), and the flags the saints from many kindreds and nations (Revelation 7:9).

When we make it our mission to use what He has given us to glorify Him and show His love to others, He will empower us, opening doors, providing us with what we need, and showing the way. Praise God that His strength is made perfect in our weakness! (2 Corinthians 12:9).

We can’t outgive God! May we use His gifts wisely to honor Him and bless others!

© 2024 Laurie Collett