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Archive for April, 2010

Today I was driving down Highway 49 on my way back to the farm, mindlessly taking the subtle curves and staring at the amazingly blue sky filled with bright, fluffy clouds. Suddenly I was jolted out of my bliss by the sound of something striking my windshield. A large butterfly left an iridescent red streak on the glass, and it got me thinking about what it truly means to live a life in service to God and his kingdom.

Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farm (the community where I live) and author of the Cotton Patch translations of the Scriptures, preached an amazing sermon entitled Metamorphosis.  He explains how the Greek root of the word that we translate as “repent” means much more than simply feeling sorry for something and asking for forgiveness. The Greek Bible uses the word “metanoia” which is the root of metamorphosis. So God is not calling us to simply change our minds or ask for his help. He’s actually calling us to become entirely new.

If I were to look at a caterpillar with no knowledge of its life cycle, never in a million years would I imagine that it would engulf itself in its own cocoon and emerge a week later as a delicate, colorful winged creature that gently sips nectar from flowers. This transformation is nothing short of miraculous.

In the same way, when God calls us to metanoia, he means that we should become entirely new in our relationship with Christ. It takes an incredible leap of faith to go through that sort of change. What’s happening to the caterpillar inside of that cocoon? How on earth does it change its form like that? What does it feel like? If I say yes to the cocoon, how much will I have to sacrifice? Will it be painful? Will I still be me after I “hatch,” after I am literally born a second time around?

We cannot let our fear of the unknown stop us from growing into the awe-inspiring creatures God intended us to be. Likewise, once we have been through this transformation we cannot become so obsessed with preserving our newly transformed state that we never fly out across the highway. So what if our guts get splattered across the proverbial windshield of life? God is there with us, and he will make something lasting and beautiful out of our kingdom work, a calling that might lead is into painful, even deadly circumstances.

I also find myself thinking of the early Koinonians as I write this. They were literally willing to die for their faith, if that’s what it would take to show God’s message to the people of their times. I wonder, as a present member following their incredible legacy, am I following God’s vision for my life so closely that if he called me to lay down my life in his name I would risk that much? From my safe, comfortable couch, clicking away at the keys on my laptop, it’s so easy to say yes.

My prayer tonight is that, when the call comes, I will be ready to risk everything to reveal God’s infinite love and beauty to the world. That when he calls me to fly out over the road and I see the windshield coming at me, I would trust God’s outcome, willing to be the splatter of butterfly guts that could steer one of God’s children back on track.

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Last night during worship at Koinonia we sang what is becoming one of my favorite songs, called Your Love is Strong. Some of the lyrics read:

The kingdom of the heavens
is now advancing
Invade my heart
Invade this broken town
The kingdom of the heavens
Is buried treasure
Will you sell yourself
To buy the one you’ve found?

As we sang, I was overcome with how deep the love of God is for me, and I wept with joy for the care that he has for my life and every single living being in this entire universe. If this is what it means to sell out, I wish I had done it long ago.

These lyrics explore a brief yet powerful parable from Jesus’ time on earth. Matthew 13:44-46 reads:

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.
Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

Likely if we met a person doing the equivalent today, we would write him off as foolish and careless. What we forget is that storing up treasures in the kingdom of heaven is so different from earthly savings. I want to be foolish enough to give up everything I have, to sell it all for the pursuit of the Kingdom.

I’ve been reading daily from My Utmost for His Highest, and in today’s reading Oswald Chambers writes:

Eternal life has nothing to do with time. It is the life which Jesus lived when he was down here, and the only Source of life is the Lord Jesus Christ. Even the weakest saint can experience the power of the deity of the Son of God, when he is willing to “let go.” But any effort to “hang on” to the least bit of our own power will only diminish the life of Jesus in us. We have to keep letting go, and slowly, but surely, the great full life of God will invade us, penetrating every part. Then Jesus will have complete and effective dominion in us, and people will take notice that we have been with Him.

Again, here is the challenge to let go completely, to release everything I have and everything I am to the power of Christ and his infinite love. At first glance the parables of the buried treasure and the pearl seem to be about material goods. But it’s deeper than that. To experience heaven, I must release everything I know, everything I say and do, everything I think into God’s hands.

It’s here that I encounter another great paradox: God desires nothing more than to simply be with me, for me to come into his presence. He will pursue me literally to the gates of hell in order to bring me home with him. Yet, the kingdom of heaven is not about me; God is not pursuing me because of how wonderful and perfect I am. He is in hot pursuit of my brokenness and my sinful nature, begging and pleading with me to allow his spirit to work in my life and heal me. The love and grace of his healing become available to me when I let my guard down, when I’m willing to sell out, to give up even my most closely held ideals and values for the sake of the kingdom.

Sounds contrary to the culture in which I came of age, a culture that taught me lines like “I am woman, hear me roar.” A culture that taught me to fix my outsides and wait for my insides to come around. A culture that taught me to pick my ideals, carry them in my pocket, and never settle for anything less. But the problem is, when I rely on my personal power and my human understanding of these ideals, I sell myself far short of the glory that God’s plan holds for me. I’d rather sell out to the Kingdom of Heaven than sell myself short for a few hours of earthly glory. So today, I leave my broken spirit in the hands of the Lord, ruins to be invaded, plundered by his agents of love and grace.

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