The Security Faith in a Good Father Provides

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

I woke up at 4 a.m. questioning a decision I’d made that afternoon. I’d told the designer, who’d drawn out a closet plan, we wanted to work with her. In my sleep I had second thoughts.

“Lord, I’m too tired to figure this out. I don’t know if we made the right decision.” Immediately an Old Testament passage came to mind.

“If a young woman makes a vow…and her father hears of the vow or pledge and does not object to it, then all her vows and pledges will stand. But if her father refuses to let her fulfill the vow or pledge on the day he hears of it, then all her vows and pledges will become invalid. The Lord will forgive her because her father would not let her fulfill them” (Numbers 30:3-5 NLT).

Relief filled me. I didn’t have to figure it out. Like a good father, my Abba would protect me. Father, you heard our words. If we jumped too soon, please rescue us. I’m giving this to You and trusting you to lead.”

I told the designer to wait while we did some more research. She understood. In the end, we chose a different option that saved us money. Once I let go of bearing the burden of making the perfect decision and trusted my Father to lead me, I enjoyed the adventure.

We believers know that we are saved “by grace through faith,” but sometimes we forget we were created to live by faith (Romans 1:17). We tend to rely on ourselves in our everyday decisions. But God wants us to include Him in every aspect of life. Jesus modeled how to live. He relied completely on His Father (John 14:10). Jesus wants us to walk that closely with Him (John 15:4-5).

Living by faith saves us from a wasted life and wasted opportunities. It protects us from regret. It pleases God and satisfies us (Hebrews 11:6John. 15:11). Our heavenly Father longs to show up in the mundane tasks of life. When we lean on Him in every area, life becomes an awesome experience.

I find robust faith requires two necessary ingredients. We need a knowledge of the Word and a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

The Word

The Bible says we’ll be molded by the world if we’re not transformed by the Word. Without renewing our minds we won’t be able to recognize God’s perfect will.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2 NLT).

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17 NIV).

The Spirit

Jesus said His Father would send the Holy Spirit to live in us to be our helper in life (John 14:17). “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (Galatians 5:16 NLT).

What wakes you up in the middle of the night and steals your rest? What would trusting Jesus look like for you in that area? How would it be to know it all doesn’t depend on you?

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?                                                                                                                                             Matthew 6:25-26 NIV

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debbie wilsonAbout the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog. debbieWwilson.com

Join the conversation: What keeps you up at night?

Better Than New Year Resolutions

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Maybe it’s always this way, or perhaps I’m just more alert this year, but everywhere I look, I see stress. Anxiety. Depression. Grieving. Hard stuff. And coming straight out of Christmas with a slew of unmet expectations, many people feel depleted and defeated.

There’s a lot of pressure over the holidays, isn’t there? Not just on Christmas day, but the entire month of December and bleeding into January. Actually, the pressure increases exponentially in the new year, when, after coming to terms with all our faults, all our failed efforts to do better or love more or spend less or whatever–we determine to try again. To make a plan this time, and maybe even to write that on a slip of paper, turning our goals into New Year’s resolutions.

Because then we’re sure to keep them, right? Ha!

Am I the only one that finds this cycle exhausting and self-defeating?

What if we did away with resolutions all together, and instead determined to walk just a little closer to Jesus each day. What if, instead of drawing a line in the sand promising that 2019 will be different, we focused on moving forward? Taking small but steady steps?

Because, honestly, that first step is the hardest. In fact, it’s hard enough, without adding a bunch of expectation to it.

But once we take that first step, every step after becomes easier.

So what’s the first step? For me, meditating on and praying Scripture, because I’m convinced, the more I think like Jesus, the more I act like Jesus. Perhaps you’ve heard it this way: Right thinking equals right actions.

Romans 12:2 reveals this when it says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will” (NIV).

Meditating on Scripture is more than reading a passage in the morning then going about one’s day. It means pausing to really take God’s Words in, praying that He’ll help us live it, and repeating these steps throughout the day.

Eventually, God’s Words will become a part of us–internalized, and He’ll use them to speak to us, to guide and correct us, and before we know it, our behaviors have changed and we’ve become a bit more like our Savior.

This year, this is my plan, and I’m not waiting until January first to begin. Starting today, I’m determined to lean in a bit closer to Christ, to carve out consistent time throughout the day to connect with Him, and to allow His Words to penetrate deeply, changing me from the inside out. I invite you to join me.

On the glorious splendor of Your majesty And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.                                                                                                                             Psalm 145:5 NASB

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Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team partner Healing Love by [Slattery, Jennifer]with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Join the conversation: Do you have any tips about meditating on Scripture that you can share with us?

 

What Does It Mean To Love God With All My Heart?

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

At the moment Bill caught his first glimpse of my friend Beth, he was a goner. On their second date, the young Air Force officer made an early declaration: he loved her. But rather than the response for which he hoped, Beth merely rolled her eyes. “You don’t even know my middle name,” she told him. “You can’t love someone you don’t know.”

Jesus identified the greatest commandment as “You shall love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27) All your heart? How’s that one coming along in your life?

Western thought identifies the heart as the seat of our emotions. So the idea of loving God with all my heart has always challenged me: how am I to be consistent in feeling that strength of emotion, even one so appropriate as loving God? At the risk of sounding judgmental (which I do not intend) I am always uncomfortable when I am in a worship service where people seem to be intent on working themselves into a frenzy in an effort to love God. It seems so…contrived. More for the lover than the One being loved. At least it would be for me.

But recently I read something that helps me make sense of this command. In Hebrew thought, the heart (levav) was considered the seat of the intellect. Very often, the word heart meant “mind and thoughts.” Solomon is said to have “largeness of heart” (literal translation) in 1 Kings 4, which translators have interpreted as “breadth of understanding.” To the Hebrew, heart and thoughts were intrinsically entwined.

We in the west often separate the emotions and the intellect. I’ve even heard people caution that we don’t make the Bible our “idol.” Intellectual study is given a back seat in deference to worship and prayer, things which better help us “experience” God. But in Jesus’ time, study was considered the highest form of worship.

Studying the Scriptures is the way we get to know God. He’s revealed what we need to know in its pages. And the better we know him, the more our thoughts are occupied by him. Knowing God is the key to loving God. Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. As we “feed” our minds with thoughts/information about God, we provide fodder for God’s transformative work within us.

I’m happy to report, Bill did in the end get the girl. They’ve been happily married for over three decades and raised a beautiful family. But Bill, that passionate young guy who so quickly declared his love, would tell you now that the more he got to know pretty little Beth, the deeper his love did grow. What he feels for her now doesn’t hold a candle to what he felt back in the 80’s. The more he knows, the better and more completely he loves.

To know God is to love him. With all your heart.

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…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.   Ephesians 3:17-19 NASB

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: What helps you to grow in your love for God?

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

by Julie Zine Coleman

During my semester as a student teacher, a kindergartner at my school carefully brought a monarch chrysalis to class. He had discovered it in one of the marshes dotting the Gloucester seacoast. His teacher put it into an aquarium, and over the next few days, the class excitedly observed the changes visible within the semi-opaque cocoon.  All eyes were on the chrysalis as the children waited for the special moment when a beautiful butterfly would emerge.

One Monday morning before school, as we all converged on the coffee pot, the kindergarten teacher shook her head in disgust. “It hatched over the weekend,” she sighed. “The kids are going to be so disappointed.”

While in this case a bit uncooperative, the life cycle of the monarch butterfly is a science lesson most elementary school teachers have taught at one time or another. The insect begins as an egg which hatches into a caterpillar. This little guy goes on an eating rampage, and after a few weeks, forms a cocoon around himself. The beautiful chrysalis hangs from a milkweed for several days while astounding changes occur within its walls. Finally, when the metamorphosis is complete, a beautiful monarch butterfly emerges.

Paul uses that same word, metamorphosis, to portray what God is doing in us. Paul describes the ongoing process in Romans 12:2. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. . .” (NASB)

What was dead has been brought to life: you are a new creation! To stay steeped in our old habits and ways of thinking doesn’t make sense in light of our new identity. So God, in His love and grace, continues our transformation, working to gradually conform us to the image of Jesus Christ.

Transformation sometimes requires complete destruction of what was in order to build something new. A house on our street, owned by a reclusive old lady, was showing serious signs of neglect and ruin when we first moved onto the block. A construction company bought the place in order to flip it. Some of the workers told us that raccoons had nested in the attic for years, chewing through electrical wiring and staining the interior upstairs walls with excrement. The smell was unbelievable.

In order to make the house habitable again, the builders had to completely gut it. The whole interior was stripped down to studs. Only then could it be rebuilt into a beautiful home, with new wiring, drywall, and flooring.

Our metamorphosis can involve major demolition as well. It can be a painful process! But only deconstruction can make room for what we will ultimately become. Where sin once dwelt will eventually be inhabited by godliness. Foolishness will be blasted away to make room for wisdom. A life made helpless by out-of-control desires will be transformed to allow the peaceful control of the Spirit.

The process may not always be pleasant, but the outcome outshines any temporary discomfort that may be necessary.

Each of the stages in a monarch butterfly’s life is a movement toward the final, mature phase. God has the same purpose in our transformation. He is interested in making us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4 NIV).

Out with the old. In with the new. It is a process that may at times be distressing. Yet the end results will be worth it all.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NASB

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.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 2.39.03 PMfrom today’s comments. To enter our contest for Julie’s book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Looking back over the past several years, what are changes you can see that the Lord has worked in you?

I Have Spiritual Dementia

by Kathy Collard Miller

My 91-year-old mother-in-law, Audrey, wagged her finger at me, exclaiming, “I still can’t believe you did that, Kathy. You dropped me off yesterday several blocks from here and I had to walk all that way in the hot sun. You are so mean.”

I was stunned how to answer. Of course, I hadn’t done that, but because of her dementia, she believed it to be true. She had a form of dementia called Lewy-Bodies and with that came paranoia, delusions and hallucinations.

In that journey of caring for her, my husband and I learned a lot. And to my shock and dismay, I learned that in many ways, I have spiritual dementia. I am like Audrey in many ways—within my spirit and soul.

Audrey had delusions which were very real to her. That day I supposedly made her walk in the sun actually happened in her mind. She either dreamed it or envisioned it, but to her, it was real. Nothing Larry and I said ever changed her mind about anything. Even if we offered “proof” of what we were saying—the truth—it had no effect on her. She couldn’t even entertain another perspective. Her mind was deceived by the dementia.

That was very frustrating to us though we learned to largely let it go. In the beginning we kept thinking if we would just tell her the truth, it would make a difference. At one point, she believed  her second husband killed his first wife so that he could marry her and steal her money. Of course, she had only been married once to Larry’s dad and the money they’d acquired came from him working until he retired. He had passed away four years earlier.

But if we were to show her their marriage certificate revealing the date they married—proving there was no time for her to have had a “first” husband—she wouldn’t accept it.

I knew the Lord was speaking to me as I saw her rejecting truth—that I can be just like her. I am faced with spiritual truth constantly, and some of it I reject. I read the Bible and mentally cast away anything that is not within my already determined theology.

Most of the time, I don’t even realize I’m doing this. I just neatly categorize something that isn’t comfortable as “not necessary.” It’s not that I’m saying it’s wrong, it’s just not relevant to me. I can discard it.

In living through Audrey’s “example,” I began to evaluate more carefully: am I casting away truth? Am I rejecting God’s ideas because of a spiritual dementia that can’t acknowledge I don’t know everything?

Audrey was blocked by a disease that made it impossible for her to believe the truth. But I can choose the truth. I can ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten me and empower me to receive the truth. I’m so glad nothing is impossible, even my mind being transformed by my great God.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 ESV

Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller is a wife of one (for almost 50 years), mom of two, grandmother of two, speaker, author and lay-counselor. She and Larry live in Southern California. Her newest book is her story of God’s deliverance over being an abuse mom and about God’s healing of their marriage: No More Anger: Hope for an Out-of-Control Mom. Kathy has shared her story world-wide and on The 700 Club. www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner51ORMj3+bSL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Kathy’s book, No More Anger: Hope for an Out-of-Control Mom, please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Do you have spiritual dementia? What truths have you unconsciously avoided in the past?

Words Matter

by Kolleen Lucariello

Recently, as our daughter and son-in-law prepared to head south for the week, the thought of 18-hours in a van with two kids and two dogs brought them some angst. They decided to drive through the night, in hopes that their two children (ages four and six) would sleep through a good part of the journey.

All was quiet as they traveled along the highway in the early morning hours until two cars began to pull some reckless stunts. This angered my son-in-law to become frustrated, and in anger, he said out loud, “These guys are idiots! This guy is an idiot and that guy is an idiot!”

After letting his irritation out, the car remained silent for the next few moments. But then a little voice from the back said, “Maybe the guy in the first car is calling you an idiot, Daddy.” Whoops! Who would ever imagine his little four-year-old daughter in the seat behind him was awake and listening at 2 a.m.?

Those around us can easily be forgotten when we are frustrated and feel a need to vent. That’s what happened to Miriam and Aaron when they became angry with their brother, Moses. The words they spoke to each other’s ears also reached the Lord’s. Whoops! He wasn’t happy and “suddenly said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, ‘Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!’ So the three came out” (Numbers 12:4, NKJV). That’s when they, and the entire camp, would discover the Lord’s distaste for hasty speech. Miriam would suffer from leprosy and be shut out of the camp for seven days as a consequence of her careless words (Numbers 12:15).

What we say matters. Proverbs has a lot to say about the destruction words can cause; they can be used to ambush, cause tempers to flare, and crush the spirit.

But the words we choose can also build up rather than tear down. A word carefully spoken can turn away wrath and bring healing to a relationship. We can encourage, strengthen others, and even save lives by what we choose to say. Proverbs calls those kind of words “honey to the soul” (Proverbs 16:24 NKJV).

How can we guard our tongues to be used for good rather than destruction? According to Jesus, our words flow out of what has been stored up in the heart (Matthew12: 35-37). We can’t transform our hearts, but God can. Spending time in His Word and in conversation with Him will renew our minds. And that will lead to the transformation of our hearts (Romans 12:2).

When we learn of and experience the love, kindness, and grace of God, those things will overflow though our words into the lives of others. What’s in your heart?

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, NKJV).

Kolleen LucarielloKolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional book, The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am. Kolleen shares her struggle with identity authentically, bravely with compassion and humor as she seeks to help others change their identity – one letter at a time. Kolleen and her high school sweetheart, Pat, make their home in Central New York. She’s mother of three married children and five beautiful grandkids. For more information about Kolleen, visit her at www.speakkolleen.com.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator toabcs of identity pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Kolleen’s devotional book,  The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am, please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Share a time when God used your words for good.