Transformation

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The transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly is absolutely amazing.

Starting from an egg, the caterpillar grows, traveling on feet,  and feeding on the green leaves and early buds of flowers.  Then it eventually secures itself to a safe place and forms a chrysalis.  Eventually the chrysalis opens to reveal a butterfly, that now travels by flight and feeds off the nectar of the very same plants in which the caterpillar ate leaves off of.

The process that happens in the chrysalis is nothing short of miraculous.  The chrysalis is made up of the external skin of the caterpillar.  It shrinks itself up into this tiny pod and the skin hardens.  Inside, the rest of the caterpillar completely liquefies and it completely restructures into a butterfly, a new body.

This new body is completely different, it functions differently, it has a new purpose.  A new life is born.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ becomes a new person.  The old is life is gone, a new life has begun.

What is fascinating is that scientists have been able to confirm that despite this complete liquefaction of the caterpillar, the butterfly will retain all of the memories of the caterpillar it once was.  It hasn’t forgotten the old life, the lessons it learned, the experiences it had.  Scientists have even proven that some memories are passed through DNA to future generations.  It is why butterflies know what flowers to feed from, what path to migrate, etc.

However, in it’s new form the Butterfly will live a new life, a different life.

When we give our lives to Christ, we too become a new creation.  We shed the skin of our past, even though we remember those days and experiences.  But, like the butterfly, we have been given a new purpose.

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Praying the Bible – Changing My Prayers (part 2)

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I believe I have known for quite some time that my prayer life wasn’t living up to all it could be, or should be.  However, I was entirely uncertain of how to change that.  None the less, I was unsatisfied with my prayer life.  I knew it could be better, and I wanted to make that change.  The book, Praying the Bible, was exactly what I needed to facilitate that change.  It pointed me in the right direction, even giving practical examples to ensure that I understood the intentions & purpose of what I was doing.

I finished the book at the very end of September, and it was time to make two important decisions.

  1.  I was going to challenge myself to follow the concepts of the book for one month.  I was ready to put what I read to the test.
  2. I needed to break the habit of praying the same prayers, which also meant that I couldn’t allow myself to pray the same old prayers in a brand new way.  So, I challenged myself that for the entire month of October, I was not going to pray for anything for myself.  This didn’t include things like my children getting sick.  It did however include the things I typical pray (aka worry) about… finances, for example.

Starting on October 1st, I began praying the scriptures.  Since so many people have recommended praying the Psalms, I decided to start there.  I would pray 1 Psalm a day (the book recommended more than that, but I’m just starting out in this process).  I also decided that I was going to write down my prayers & keep track of how they were answered.  I wanted to be able to reflect upon my prayers to see how they transformed from the same old, same old, into something beautifully new.

It turned out to be an interesting journey.

First, I was shocked at how absolutely relevant every single Psalm was to whatever situation I was dealing with at the time.  I found myself convicted over my own behaviors, recognizing areas where I need to confess and seek forgiveness.  I began to have new insights into situations and seeing them from a perspective outside of my own wants and desires, and instead more clearly and with God-perspective.  Sometimes the Psalm was relevant to something I read in the news that day, about the world…. or even a situation a friend was going through.

Second, I was amazed at how my prayers were changing in content.  I was praying for the world (which I have done before), but in more specific ways.  I was praying for relationships, people, and situations that were NOT part of my normal prayer list.  My horizons were expanding, my view was broadening, and my petitions were a lot less centered around what I wanted, and gaining more and more about what God would want to happen.  These prayers were not always long and drawn out petitions, either.

Third, because I was not praying for myself, I had clued a few people into what I was doing.  I asked them to pray on my behalf.  Not for specific things, I wasn’t emailing or texting a list of things each day.  I just wanted general prayer, if they thought of me.  For the first time in a long time, I was truly dependent on intercessory prayer on my behalf.  I was letting go of self, more and more each day.

Fourth, during the month of October, God gave me opportunity to pray for others.  It wasn’t just the people who came to mind while I was reading the Psalm for that day.  I was getting personal, direct, requests to pray with someone over specific things they were dealing with.  These were not my core group of friends whom which we often pray for each other.  These were new people, or people whom I didn’t share that type of relationship with in the past.  This was truly humbling, that they would seek me out and a blessing to be able to pray for someone else.

Finally, when the month was over, I reflected on something else I noticed.  You see, just because I stopped purposefully praying for myself and praying for others didn’t mean that my month went trouble free.  There were definitely a few moments were I almost prayed for myself, because I was struggling with something or uncertainty.    There were definitely areas where I wanted a God sized intervention, clarity, or a solution to a blunder that I made.  Even though I didn’t speak them, or write them down, there was not one situation where God didn’t answer that unspoken prayer.

What I truly believe is that in order to make this challenge a success, I had to turn everything for my own personal self over to God.  I was saying:

Lord, I’m trusting your Word that you will care for me, provide for me, and guide me.  I believe that you have my best interest at heart, and so I am going to leave all of these things up to your will.  Instead, I am going to spend my time praying as you would have me pray.  I am going to pray for the things that concern you.  I am going to pray for the people whom you love.  I am going to pray for the situations where the world needs You. 

And, that is exactly what I did.  I didn’t worry, nor was I anxious.  I trust that God had things under control.  Instead of focusing on my wants, I focused on God’s.

(Matt 6:25-34, Phil. 4:6-7, Luke 12:24-34)

There is a piece of scripture that reads:  “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14)

Something I have been camped out on, quite a bit, recently is exactly what does that mean to “ask in Jesus’ name”.  Does it mean that we can petition God for anything we want, and by sticking Jesus’ name on the end of it there is instant approval?  Or, does it mean that we will be so transformed by the life changing power of Jesus Christ, that we will change what we are asking for to reflect His will over our own?

It is the difference between walking up to God and saying:

“Hey God, give me a brand new car because mine is broken.  Jesus said just to drop his name, and you’ll make it happen.   Please, and thank you.”

and saying:

“Hey God, Jesus sent me.  There are things He needs me to do, can your provide the means.”

If we wonder why our prayers not being answered, I would challenge any of us to examine what we are praying for, and how we are praying for it.  If we are truly changed by Christ, our desires become His desires.  When I began to actually pray the Bible, I noticed a significant change in what I was praying for, and how I was praying it.

The month of October is over, and I have decided to continue on Praying the Bible.  I am going to finish out Psalms, then I will begin the process over starting in Genesis.  With so many books, chapters, and verses… I think it will be a long time before I find myself repeating the same prayers over, and over again.

I will not be continuing the challenge to NOT pray for myself, as I do believe there are times we need to be praying (on our knees) over our own conviction, discernment, etc.  I do believe though how I pray for myself, and the things I will be praying over will be radically different.

If you are finding yourself in that same rut… praying the same old prayers on repeat,  grab this book.  It will change your prayer perspective in the best way possible.

BOOK REVIEW: The Case for Grace, Lee Strobel

Family Christian offered me the opportunity to review the book “The Case for Grace” by Lee Strobel.  While Family Christian sent me the book for the purpose of the review, the opinions in this review are entirely my own. 

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The first time I read anything by Lee Strobel, it was his book The Case for Christ.  I loved this book because it was practical and pragmatic.  His goal was to determine if there’s credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God.  Thankfully, the truth revealed to Lee Strobel would draw Him to Christ, forming a personal relationship, that would impact not only Lee’s life, but the lives of those He would touch through his writings.  In fact, The Case for Christ and The Case for a Creator are both books I have recommended to people when they are in a marriage where only one of them is a believer.

When Family Christian gave me the opportunity to get my hands on The Case for Grace, I was eager to begin.  Grace has been an issue my heart has been camped out in for quite a while.  I was very excited to get an chance to get Lee’s take on it.  His books, for me, are like sitting down with a wise friend and getting to the heart of an issue.   His writing is comfortable, familiar, and he is able to see things from both sides of the coin. He doesn’t dismiss abruptly those whose opinions differ from his.

In The Case for Grace, Lee Strobel uses his investigative journalist skills to explore the evidence of grace in the live of real people.  Each chapter encompasses a look into the story of a person who was transformed by grace.  Stories that will take us across the globe, into the hearts from those who suffered abuse or addiction, lives transformed as children and adults.   Lee Stroble intermingles those stores with his own quest for understanding grace in his life.

What really stood out to me, from these various stories, was that in each… despite how different from my own… there were elements that I could understand.  They might be a shared feeling of despair, the understanding of hope they found, and sometimes it was just an insight I had not considered for myself.  Very different stories, but they showed that the gift of grace knows no bounds.  It is available for the abandoned orphan turned street kid, the addict curled on the floor, the refugee…. you…. me.  God’s grace is a gift he freely gives to those whom He adopts into his family.

A Father’s love to the fatherless…. in body or spirit.

The book also includes supplemental materials:  discussion questions, scriptures to reference, and books for continued reading.

The Case for Grace makes for a great weekend read, curled up with your coffee… or a group discussion for small groups or book clubs.

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