The Diamond Cutter

On November 2, 2011 I had a revelation of Jesus and committed my life to Him. I prayed a prayer in my little white Toyota Yaris, and I prayed with a faith KNOWING that God heard my cry. My words were simple: “Okay, I believe in You! Now change me!” I was desperate. I came to Him in a spiritually battered and abused state. In my own eyes, I was a mess.

It’s now 6 years later and I work at Rick Bonfim Ministries, the very ministry that God used to reach my heart. A LOT has happened between then and now. One day I looked down at the carpet in my office and saw a little stone that looked like a diamond. It wasn’t a real diamond, although that would’ve been awesome. But as I looked at it I remembered that around the time I gave my life to Christ, a man had given me a word from God saying, “Your heart is like a precious stone to Him; like a diamond.” As I looked at this little rhinestone from my floor I heard God say, “You’re my diamond. Precious to my heart.

I then thought about the process it takes for a diamond crystal to become a radiant beauty of great worth. Diamond is formed from carbon-containing minerals beneath the earth under high temperatures and intense pressure. “Heat” and “pressure” are words that we associate with the Lord’s refining process within us. (Job 23:10 Romans 8:29) But now, when the raw diamond crystal is harvested, it takes a diamond cutter to bring forth the “diamond in the rough”.

Diamond is the hardest natural substance on Earth! Wow! It’s both beautiful and strong. But the process of yielding the diamond is both delicate and time consuming. A diamond cutter must be patient. And, I’d argue, so must the diamond! The diamond cutter is committed to seeking out and yielding the largest diamond with the highest clarity from within the rough crystal. At the end of the process, which can take several hours or even weeks, the worth of the stone is determined by size, clarity, color, brilliance, and several other factors.

So God sees within us a worth that is measured by the price He paid to purchase us back: His very Son (John 3:16). When we come to The Diamond Cutter, we come as rough stones with many rough edges. And day-by-day He is conforming us to the image of His Son, Who is perfection. There are going to be many instruments that God uses to yield the diamond within us. (Only diamond can cut diamond, which reminds me of iron sharpening iron in Proverbs 27:17.) The process may be downright painful. And as The Diamond Cutter is committed to finish the process as it says in Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that He Who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus“, so we, as the diamonds being cut and polished, must be committed to allowing The Cutter to finish His work (which will be good: Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11). Matthew 24:13 states, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” And James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” Guess what? The top of a diamond is called the “crown”! When the diamond endures until the end it receives a crown! And that is what we will receive.

But on that glorious day, we will cast every crown before the feet of Jesus along with he four and twenty elders in Revelation 4 and we will say, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

Endure, and let The Diamond Cutter remove the rough edges, the things that aren’t of Him. Then you will truly reflect His light and His glory! (Matthew 13:43) The process may take a lifetime, but our great reward will be Him, and we will be like Him. “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2IMG_4600.jpeg

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A Controlled Environment

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A couple weeks ago I had a delightful reunion with my college roommates just outside of Charlotte, NC. I love these ladies, and I remember that especially when we come together after being apart for a length of time. We spent the weekend eating, laughing, crying, adventuring and praying. As I was about to leave my friend Emily’s house, I saw a cute green caterpillar hanging outside her kitchen window. I exclaimed, “Aw!! You’re going to get to watch that caterpillar become a BUTTERFLY!” Emily, very nonchalantly remarked, “Actually, I think he’s stuck in a spider’s web.

*Blink blink*… Hold up. He IS in a web!

I ran outside onto her deck and yelled, “NOT TODAY, SATAN!!!!!!!” I removed the victim from the source of entrapment…snatched safely away from the jaws of destruction! Just to the right of where I had rescued him I saw another web; in this one was another caterpillar, already dead. I was sad. I couldn’t save that one, but I DID save this one! I put my new little pet on the deck table while I swiftly took down any and all spiders and their associated webs. They wouldn’t be killing any more caterpillars on my watch!

I put my little buddy in an empty water bottle with leaves and a stone. My friends laughed and said, “Only YOU, Britt.” Haha, probably true. But this was MY caterpillar. I had saved him and I would keep him safe through the process of becoming a BUTTERFLY! He made the 3.5 hour trip back home to Athens, GA. I made him a special sanctuary out of a former Animal Cracker box at our office. I filled it with a plethora of leaves, rocks, sticks, and acorns. (Thanks goes to my friend and co-worker Taylor, aka Tay Tay, for offering his vast terrarium-creating wisdom!)

I named my caterpillar “Renato”, which is Portuguese for Renée (my middle name), meaning “rebirth” or “born again”. (I had met a Brazilian waiter at a French restaurant a couple month back with this name. The restaurant’s name you ask? Bread and Butterfly. Can’t make this stuff up, folks.) My hopes were soaring high for my little Renato.

As time passed, I started noticing something strange. He looked less green, smaller, thinner, and he had FAR less energy. I had done my research, watching every YouTube  video on the process of metamorphosis, and I knew that it would be no more than a couple of weeks from the time I had found him until he entered the chrysalis stage. Maybe his lethargic behavior was normal, like a bear preparing for hibernation.

One morning I looked into his habitat and I couldn’t see him. I could not do anything until I knew his whereabouts and his state of being. I took EVERYTHING out of the container. Finally I found him…wriggling in the dirt with some kind of sticky mass on his back. I panicked…Something’s wrong with my caterpillar!!! This isn’t normal. This is not the way it was supposed to go. I took him out and poured water on him to wash off the dirt. Then I began trying to help with the sticky mass on his back…only to find that it was most likely him beginning to wriggle out of his skin to form the chrysalis. I had been trying to pick off, not a parasite, but his true self trying to be birthed!

I immediately began searching YouTube again, but this time for what to do when your caterpillar is metamorphosing on the ground. I found that he could make the change on the ground and that I could suspend him after the fact. So, I waited. He was on a leaf on my desk. I kept looking at him, prodding him when he seemed weak…I wasn’t sure what was happening, but something didn’t seen right. He was supposed to keep trying to change, make the effort, ya know? But he seemed like he was giving up….No. NO. NO!!!!

My friend Raymond came into my office as I was borderline crying at the situation. He said, “Brittany, put him back in the container and let nature take it’s course. You can’t MAKE him change, he has to make that choice. No one can make it except for him. He’s just like us; he’s at a crossroads and he must choose life or death.” I listened, stunned. I felt utterly helpless. But I knew he was right. I couldn’t make Renato change. I had saved him. I had given him a home. I had great plans for him and his future life as a BUTTERFLY. I put him back in the container and took him home with me for the weekend.

I prayed for him. I begged God to heal him and give him the energy to change. I said, “I know you’re able God! Please. Please. Please, don’t let him die.

The next morning I found him virtually lifeless, with a chunk of black-what-would-have-been-cocoon hanging out of his back. In a couple more hours, he died. I knew God could have healed him, but I also knew I needed to trust that God had a lesson in this. I brought him, on a leaf, to a park where I sent him down a stream and gave him back to God…and, let’s be real, probably to a bird for food.

I know this is a long story about a caterpillar. But let me explain. I fight for life with all that is within me. I fight for the best…to a fault I see the best in people. I BELIEVE God for the miraculous. 2 Samuel 14:14 has become one of my favorite Scriptures, thanks to my roommate and friend, Kathy, for highlighting it for me. But what do I do when things don’t work out happily like I want them to? What if the people I love never turn to Jesus, no matter how hard I share with them about His goodness and His love? What if I do everything in my power to influence them for good…to no avail? What happens when my brother in Christ (whom I’ve been praying and fasting for for the past year) dies from the cancer I believed God to heal him of?

Firstly, I would say no good goes unseen by God. But people must choose their response to Christ’s love for themselves. We are to share and show the love of Christ, and we do not get to control the response. Love doesn’t control. It sets free. I think of our Savior as He looked over the land of His people saying, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37) Jesus was heartbroken over the people who rejected His love, and He still is today. But sometimes we can do more harm than good if we prod people too hard. The Agape Love of Christ then becomes twisted into a conditional, earthly love. That’s no good. Sometimes sad things happen and we don’t know what went wrong. But we look to God, where our help comes from. And we trust He is moving and His character has never changed.

So little Renato, I’m sorry. But your life was not in vain. Your short-lived life taught me these lessons. I want to be used to save many more lives from the web of lies that the enemy spins to capture those created in the image of God. But then, I want to love the ones God uses me to liberate (and the ones He doesn’t) with a heavenly love; a love that sets them free to serve Christ out of reciprocated love, not out of fear or control. I will always encourage people to be what God has created them to be, but I will not push and prod. God, thank you for this lesson, and help me to put this into practice. Amen.

Protect the Pollinators

A couple of weeks ago, Betty McKinney (aka “Bible Betty”) shared her heart for persecuted Christians during our Morning Bible Study here at RBM (watch here!). She told us that Christians are the most persecuted people group in the world. There are Christians fearing for their very lives, even in their own families, in Yemen and the Arabian peninsula. In North Korea there is a Christian Holocaust. There is more persecution of Christians in 2017 than there has ever been in the history of the world.

We were challenged by Betty to create Voice of the Martyrs’ “Action Packs”: packages filled with goods such as sweaters, jackets, soap, mittens, socks, etc. for persecuted believers around the world who live in hiding and are in desperate need. (Learn how to give one here!) I made an Action Pack, put it in a copier paper box, wrapped it up with packing tape, and headed to the Post Office.

I brought my package up to the woman at the counter and told her how excited I was to be sending it to a Christian in need. I shared with her about this brutality that is a reality around the world. She smiled and nodded politely. Then I exclaimed, “Oh! I need a book of stamps while I am here!” She asked, “What’s your flavor?” I laughed, “Something girly. Flowers, I guess.

She pointed to a couple different designs and neither interested me. The she said, “Oh, you might like the Pollinator ones.” I thought, “Huh? What does that mean?” Then she pulled out the most beautiful book of stamps, covered with flowers and…you guessed it…BUTTERFLIES! My eyes lit up and I said, “Yes! Those are the ones!” I then shared with her my testimony and 2 Corinthians 5:17. She smiled, bigger this time! I paid and we said our goodbyes.

I got into my car and looked at the stamps. The book said on the top, “Protect Pollinators”. Then, God gave me a revelation as He so often does. PROTECT POLLINATORS. Butterflies are pollinators. Butterflies carry pollen from flower to flower which helps to proliferate them. In short, BUTTERFLIES ARE CARRIERS OF LIFE.

In Genesis 1:28 and 9:7, God commands His creation to “be fruitful and multiply“! In my first post (read here) I showed how Christians are like butterflies. So just as the butterflies carry the seed of life, Christians carry the Gospel of Life in Christ! Jesus’ last command to His disciples was similar to God’s first command to mankind: “Therefore GO and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you“, Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus commanded us to multiply!

Our assignment by God is to reproduce. We must reproduce, creating children of God in all nations! We must carry the Gospel everywhere! But we will meet obstacles and enemies throughout that assignment. We must protect and care for fellow Christians around the world, the pollinators of the Gospel! This is the only way life will be reproduced. My Action Pack was doing the very thing my book of stamps was urging me to do: Protect Pollinators.

Look at God. He is AMAZING. He is in the little things…even a stamp, a package…as well as the big…the protection of His Church and the proliferation of the Gospel. I stand in awe once again. Look for Him. He is in everything!

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Unity in Diversity

Every morning here at RBM, we meet at 8:00 am for a time of prayer. Some people cry out to the Lord with a loud voice, some pray tender, quiet prayers, some pray silently; I often pray in the form of drawing a picture.

I’ve attended many churches where a person paints during worship – creating a prophetic image that God is showing the individual. Sometimes it’s a ship in a storm, a flower blooming, a tree bearing fruit. I began this practice of drawing for the Lord in prayer a few years ago. It is my own prayer journal. And to look back upon the images God has given me through the years is a blessing.

So in morning prayer time I ask God, “What are You saying?” One morning last week, I stared down at the colored pencils that I use and He said “Look at all of the colors. Aren’t they beautiful?” I said, “Yes!” (I LOVE color.)

As I looked at all of the colors of the pencils I saw a rainbow. Then I heard “Unity in Diversity”. I drew and colored a rainbow. Now, we all know that this symbol is highly controversial. This post has absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality. This is about the beautiful visual expression of God’s covenant with Noah, saying that He would never again flood the Earth. He created the rainbow; He clearly defined it’s purpose and meaning in Genesis 9. (See! God draws too! “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1)

A rainbow has 7 colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. (7 is the number of completion and perfection.) All white light is actually composed of these 7 colors. The light that enables us to see is composed of these colors! Amazing! It’s only when light goes through a prism that the colors separate. This is what happens when it rains; raindrops act as prisms and they reveal the individual colors that make up the light.

Jesus said in John 8:12“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” I John 1:5 says, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” Then Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world.” So God puts His light in us and it shines…in diverse ways!

You can’t take red out of light and it still be light as God made it. Each individual color is crucial to it’s composition. Each color is individually beautiful and unique. However, a rainbow wouldn’t be as beautiful if it were just blue…the colors together are what make it whole. So it is in us. The same one Spirit flows through many people and gives many gifts, for the common good! 1 Corinthians 12:4 says, There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.” Romans 12:4-5 says, For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We must see the necessity of every gift of the Spirit and every part of the Body. We are indivisible; together we fulfill our purpose as God intended. 

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Metamorphosis

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This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice an be glad in it!

My name is Brittany Renée Shewbridge, and I work with media here at RBM. Pastor Rick has asked me to begin sending out weekly posts of what God is putting on my heart. Here goes.

Two summers ago I was painting a table my carpenter brother had built for me. I asked God to take my hand and paint whatever He wanted. In the center I painted the word “Believe” and proceeded to paint flowers around the perimeter. Then, on the tip of the word “Believe”, I painted a butterfly. I didn’t know why! I always thought they were a rather cliche creature to see: on tattoos, calendars, etc.

I Asked God,

“Why a butterfly?”

And He said,

“THAT’S WHAT YOU ARE.”

Then He showed me. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” I had declared this Scripture over myself time and time again, and here was a visual of the meaning! My belief in Christ and in His resurrecting power had made me new; He had placed His Spirit in me and I was a new creature, just like a butterfly.

A butterfly begins as a tiny caterpillar. The caterpillar is a fuzzy, earth-bound bug that isn’t a whole lot to look at. It has to go through a metamorphosis to become what it’s purposed to be. It must enter into the cocoon and allow time and pressure to complete their work. It must be alone in the protective shell where the change is produced. It must not be helped out of the cocoon prematurely – it must struggle and push it’s way to break free. It is in the struggle that it becomes strong enough to fly. After it escapes the cocoon it must hang upside-down for a time and allow the blood to reach the very tips of it’s wings. Then, and only then, can it fly with confidence, strength, and beauty.

We are butterflies, aren’t we?

We begin as a fleshly human being, driven by our own desires and lusts and will, yet with the seed of potential for a greater purpose given by our Creator. When we come to Christ He begins the process of metamorphosis. In Him, from the moment we turn to Him, we are the new creature. Yet, at the same time, we are becoming it. When the Father looks at us He sees the righteousness of His Son (2 Corinthians 5:21). But we are also being sanctified day-by-day and working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Life does it’s work and takes away the “old us” and transforms us into the new in Christ. We must struggle to become what He has made us to become. We must suffer and consider it joy! He is working! It is through Him alone that we are strengthened to do what He asks of us. We can have confidence in Him in us. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. And the “flight” will be an adventure: unpredictable, free, and beautiful.

So now what? We go and make more butterflies.

Fly, Butterfly! Fly!

BRS

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