Power and Grace for Challenging Holidays

by Jennifer Slattery

Do thoughts of the holidays fill you with joyful anticipation, anxiety, or both? We probably all have that one family member who seems adept at pricking at our insecurities, challenging our peace, and poking at our emotional bruises. It makes the holidays challenging every year.

Years ago, someone I interacted with seemed angered by me and everything for which I stood, only this individual never told me this directly. Instead, after each encounter, she’d flood social media with posts regarding the hypocrisy or “hatred” displayed by Christ-followers–whether or not we’d talked religion or discussed personal beliefs. Feeling as if this person was passive-aggressively attacking me, I shared my hurt with a mentor, who replied, “She’s not fighting with you. She’s wrestling with God.”

Her words reminded me of Ephesians, where it states, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:12-13 KJV).

Every action and reaction has a spiritual root. We, and all we encounter, are either living yielded to Christ or in opposition to Him. It’s about living His love and grace or giving in to self-obsession.

Galatians show both possibilities: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (Galatians 5:19-26 KJV).

When I am driven by “the flesh” rather than God’s Spirit, I’m not to sink into condemnation. Instead, He wants to reveal places in my soul where His love and grace haven’t reached, so that He can heal every wound, expel every lie, and illuminate every lurking shadow with His glorious light.

A light that will push back the darkness, within me and also around me.

Whenever a Christ-follower enters a room, she carries with her the light of Christ. She changes the dynamics, on a supernaturally spiritual level, whether she speaks or remains silent. She becomes a strategic weapon against the evil seeking to devour her, when she remains in step with His Spirit.

Every encounter stems from the same over-arching battle. Scripture makes it clear, we have an enemy whose desire is to tarnish and destroy. But Christ is calling us to life. To hope. To healing, freedom, and eternal impact.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published novelist, speaker, ministry leader, and one of the hosts of the Faith Over Fear Podcast and the Your Daily Bible Verse podcast. Visit her at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com to learn more about her.

Join the conversation: As you anticipate Christmas, is it with joy or angst? How is God speaking to you in regard to this? Share your thoughts, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!


You’ll Never Attend This Kind of Wedding

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. Zephaniah 3:17 NASB

You are at a wedding. After the bride and bridegroom are pronounced husband and wife, the groom turns and with a solemn face announces, “Now we all will mourn. Don’t expect any food at the reception, because we will be fasting.”

You look around to see confused and sad looks on the guests’ faces. A dirge fills the church as the bride and groom drag themselves down the aisle. After the dreary reception where there’s no food, dancing, or singing, everyone is given a little baggie of dirt. As the newly married couple leave the reception, everyone throws dirt on them.

No way! And yet the metaphor is a modern explanation for what John the Baptist’s followers want when they arrive at a party Matthew is hosting (Matthew 9:9-17). Jesus, his disciples, and other party guests are feasting and having a great time. Even those terrible “tax collectors and sinners” are joining in—at Jesus’s invitation. Can’t you just envision Jesus having the biggest smile of them all?

But the disciples of John the Baptist aren’t rejoicing. They look over the crowd with a judgmental scowl and demand, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” (Matthew 9:14 NASB). Wow, they are on the prowl to let others know everyone should follow the rules as they do.

We can understand the question considering their teacher is in prison, and they are mourning. They could be thinking everyone should be mourning along with them. They might be thinking Jesus should especially be concerned, because John is his cousin. Plus, John was the one who launched Jesus’s ministry as Messiah with an announcement as he baptized Him. Might they even be thinking Jesus wouldn’t have been successful without John? We don’t know.

Jesus interjects, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” (Matthew 9:15 NASB). Jesus reminds them who he is. He tells them that while He is with them, everyone should rejoice. He completely trusts his Father’s plan for his cousin. Plus, Jesus wants to enjoy the party because he is truly joyful in nature.

For many years, starting in childhood, I never pictured Jesus laughing, partying, and having joy. I believed he was a demanding taskmaster who was always on the prowl to squash any fun.

But as I began studying Jesus’s attributes in the Bible, I realized he is joyful. After all, the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 includes joy. It’s impossible for Jesus to not be joyful since the Holy Spirit and Jesus are one along with the Father: the same in essence and character. As I realized this, my perspective began to change and I could actually visualize Jesus having a great time—with the biggest grin!

Adapted from God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature, copyright 2020, Kathy Collard Miller.

You’ll Never Attend This Kind of Wedding – insight from @KathyCMiller on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to study God’s attributes. As a result, her latest two books are devotional books about God’s nature: God’s Intriguing Questions: 40 Old Testament Devotions Revealing God’s Nature and God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature. These are co-authored with her husband, Larry, and make a wonderful couples’ devotional study. Kathy is also the author of 55 other books and has spoken in 9 foreign countries and over 35 US states. Check out her website: www.KathyCollardMiller.com and YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2SwiL03 or Facebook.

Kathy’s most recent book is God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature from which this devotion is excerpted. Kathy and her husband, Larry, of 50 years, co-wrote God’s Intriguing Questions.

Join the conversation: What other words would you describe for Jesus’s joyful nature and is it easy or hard for you to envision Jesus as joyful?

Deep Roots, Abundant Fruit

by Kathy Howard  @KathyHHoward

The first time my husband and I visited New York City, we played the ultimate tourists. We took in a concert at Madison Square Garden, two Broadway plays, a walking food tour through Greenwich Village, and a Yankees game. We even rode the subway.

One of the highlights of our time in Manhattan was the four hours we spent on a Sunday afternoon exploring Central Park, an oasis in the city. Although we did not plan it, our trip coincided with the blooming of the cherry trees.

The first cherry trees planted in Central Park were brought from Japan about a century ago. Today, two different varieties stand on a gentle slope named Cherry Hill, overlooking a large lake. People come to admire the blooms and relax on the scenic hillside.

Year after year, the trees bloom in season. Year after year, the people enjoy their beauty.

The sight of the blooming cherry trees reminded me of one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Psalm 1 likens those who delight themselves in God’s Word to a tree that faithfully bears its fruit each season.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners of sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.  Psalm 1:1-3, NIV

Those Central Park cherry trees don’t worry about whether they will bloom and produce fruit each year. What they produce is a natural outflow of what they take in. Their location provides everything they need to fulfill their God-ordained purpose. Their roots soak up water and nutrients from the surrounding soil. The result is both beautiful and fruitful.

These cherry trees illustrate a vital spiritual truth for believers. Spiritual fruit is not a result of our valiant effort to produce it. We don’t have to try hard or worry whether our lives will be of use to God or benefit others. The spiritual produce of our lives will be a natural result of what we take in.

Our task is to turn away from following the world and its ways and instead delight ourselves in God’s Word. To “plant” ourselves in His truth. To remain in it long enough for it to permeate our hearts and minds. When our lives are saturated by the Word of God, when every pore is filled with His truth, the results will be beautiful and fruitful. God will produce His purposes in and through us. He will bring the results. Green leaves. Beautiful blossoms. Nourishing fruit. The natural result of a life rooted in God’s Word.

Deep Roots, Abundant Fruit – encouragement from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest.

Kathy’s book “Before His Throne” leads you on a 9-week journey through the book of Malachi to discover what godly fear looks in our daily lives and how this biblical attitude will help you find deeper intimacy with God.

Join the conversation: Do you have some tips on getting into the Word on a regular basis?


Signs of Life

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

The days are getting longer, and the sun is getting warmer. The daffodils are up a good eight inches, their sunny blooms ready to pop. Sap in the trees is obviously flowing, because the buds on the maples have swollen and changed to a bright red. Anyone with eyes can see the daily evidence: what lay dormant all winter is coming to life. Spring has arrived.

It reminds me of God’s work in us. God took what was dead and brought us to life when we believed in Jesus. Paul wrote: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-6 NASB). Where only death existed, the Holy Spirit now exists.

And where the Spirit is, there is life.

A young man came into our church at the urging of his live-in girlfriend. He liked the love and enthusiasm of the church community, and so began to attend regularly. One of our young couples had he and his girlfriend for dinner one evening. They plainly laid out the truth of the gospel: sin had separated us from God, and Jesus died to pay for our sin. By believing in Him, we would forever be in relationship with God, never having to fear punishment or rejection from Him. Ever. It is salvation that comes only through grace, totally undeserved and unearnable. What did he think about that?

“Who wouldn’t want that?” he responded. “But if I commit to that, we will have to change our living situation, which I really love. And I would have to give up partying.” There was too much of his life that would have to change. And he didn’t know if he could do it. Or even wanted to do it.

“None of that has anything to do with your salvation,” his new friend assured him. “All God wants from you is your trust.”

“Well, that’s a no-brainer then,” the man exclaimed. “I’m in.” He bowed his head right there at the table and called upon the name of Jesus to be saved.

The next Sunday we could all see something had changed. He was full of joy and worshiped with all his heart. A few weeks later, I got the chance to talk with him. He told me about his new relationship with God. “I had no intention of changing anything. But something crazy happened,” he said. “Within two weeks, my girlfriend and I knew we needed to begin living apart, because we want our relationship to please God. I no longer feel a desire to get drunk or live the wild life. He has seriously changed my heart. In spite of me, really.”

Signs of life. Where only death and darkness once existed had been filled by the Spirit of light and life. And our new friend would never be the same. The more He learned about His God, the greater his love for Him. The more he loved Him, the more He yielded to the Spirit within.

And the result of that profound new relationship was fruit that the Spirit in him produced: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). All of them evidence of the life that existed inside him.

The Hebrew word translated as “Spirit” is ruach. It was normally used for the breath of an individual or sometimes air in motion. The Ruach moved over the waters at creation (Genesis 1:2). The ruach of God changed a lifeless form into a living soul (Genesis 2:7). The arrival of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost sounded like a rushing wind as He came upon each one in the Upper Room (Acts 2:2).

The very definition of ruach involves movement. Which is a great way to describe the Spirit of God. He is always moving, urging us forward into a more intimate knowledge of Him. And as we learn to love Him more, we are better enabled to yield to His Spirit.

Those fruits that the Spirit produces are evidence of life. Something that is dead cannot move. Or be transformed. But note that the fruit is not something we produce. It is the fruit of the Spirit. And undeniable evidence of His life within us.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.  2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NASB

Signs of Life – insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Can you see evidence of the Spirit of life in you?


Under the Influence

by Julie Zine Coleman

He was a scary drunk. Normally a fun-loving, gentle man, when alcohol was in his system, he transformed into a frightening spectacle. The teens in the house hid the knives when they knew their uncle was out at the bar. Then they would lie in their beds, dreading the moment he would come roaring home. His fits of rage and abusive tirades would inevitably have them and their widowed mother cowering before him. Yet always the next morning, he would return to his old self: loving, kind, and ready for a good laugh. It was like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Life with an alcoholic is a rollercoaster ride. When a person you love submits themselves to the influence of a substance, it often involves a personality change. It is like they become someone else.

“Do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,” Paul wrote the Ephesians (5:18 NIV). Paul was contrasting two very different influences that can considerably alter a person. The first influence was wine.

This was a familiar metaphor for Paul’s readers. In Roman culture, abuse of alcohol peaked around the mid-first century, just about when Paul penned his letter. Drunkenness was common at festivals and other celebrations. This abusive drinking was modeled at the top: all four emperors who reigned from A.D. 37 to A.D. 69 were known for it.

But the point of this passage is not excessive drinking, however. Paul is merely using drunkenness as a contrast to being filled with the Holy Spirit, the second potentially altering influence.

The Holy Spirit indwells every believer. His presence in our lives and physical bodies began at the moment of our salvation: “After listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise…” (Ephesians 1:13 NASB) God placed the Spirit in us as a permanent seal and guarantee that someday our redemption will be complete.

So why would Paul urge Christians to be filled with the Spirit if He is already present within every believer?

The idea behind the original Greek word (translated be filled) is completion. We bring the Spirit’s presence to completion when we allow Him to dominate every thought and action.

Paul wrote to the Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [and] self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB). These are traits that naturally occur when we place ourselves under the Spirit’s influence. He alone produces that fruit in us.

Our job is simply to be yielded to Him.

When our minds and hearts are in sync with God’s leading, the fruit will inevitably come. And we cannot produce that fruit in any other way than remaining in Him.

I am the Vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Join the conversation: What helps you to live under the Spirit’s influence?


Congratulations to our first week winner: Allyson King!!