Fighting Enslaving Behaviors

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Though I trusted in Christ for salvation as a child, you never would’ve believed this, had you encountered me in my young adult years.

It was like I’d grabbed hold of the fringes of eternal life but not the full expression of it.

I had a tainted, partial view of God. I saw Him as lofty, for sure. The One who not only set the rules but had every right to do so. I also knew I didn’t deserve the gift of grace He’d given me. In fact, I felt so undeserving, I was certain that was how He viewed me as well. As if He tolerated me on occasion but was mostly just disappointed.

He certainly had cause to be. I wasn’t living anything like my Bible said I should. I went to church on Sunday and Bible study on Tuesday, then got drunk with my friends on Friday. I took my daughter to play dates and acted the responsible and emotionally stable adult. Then, while my husband and daughter slept, I spent the quiet night hours binging and purging in a desperate attempt to fill all my empty places inside.

I was trying to live the Christian life in my own strength, apart from Jesus, and I was failing miserably. Each night, I’d promise God the next day I’d do better, only to find myself falling into the same self-destructive behaviors.

Then one day, I stumbled upon Jesus’ response to temptation. You may be familiar with the story. Scripture tells us the Spirit led Him into the wilderness where He was bombarded, again and again, by the forces of darkness. Yet, He remained strong. Unshakable. Victorious. As I read Matthew 4:1-11 and all the ways Christ engaged in a more intense spiritual battle you and I ever will, it was as if He were holding His hand out to me, saying, “Come on. Watch what I do. Follow Me.”

So I began to do just that. I started to look at my faith differently; less about what I needed to do or not do and more about what God wanted me to learn. My first and most important lesson: discovering who He was. Gaining full knowledge of His love and glory, because only then could I truly live in Him.

In John 14, shortly before His death, Jesus spoke to His disciples. He left them final instructions regarding a rather overwhelming assignment—launching His church during a time of intense persecution. This by a group of men who, in a few short hours would abandon Him. In other words, individuals who, like me, were nowhere near strong enough or wise enough for the task.

But Jesus said to them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:1 NIV). In fact, He used the word believe six times in the span of fourteen verses. A paraphrase of the whole passage might read: “Believe not in yourself, your might, or plans, but in Me.”

As I fought against old behavior patters, it was as if Jesus was saying the same to me. “I have so much more for you, Jennifer. I’ll show you precisely what that is, in due time. But today, believe in Me. Lean on Me, and learn from Me (Matthew 11:28). We’ll take this journey together.”

That was just under twenty years ago, and I’m grateful to say, Christ conquered each one of those enslaving habits and more, as He’s molded me, slowly but steadily, into His image. This transformation hasn’t been quick or easy, but it’s been freeing and sure.

He’ll do the same for you.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 NIV

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Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s also a Crosswalk featured blogger and maintains a devotional blog found at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events that help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. (They just released their first Bible study, Becoming His Princess, which you can grab for free HERE.) When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Jennifer’s latest book is Restoring Her FaithShe left belief behind…but could this family change her mind?

With two boys to raise, a fledgling contracting business to run and a family ranch to keep afloat, widower Drake Owens finds that his hands aren’t just full, they’re overflowing. When Faith Nichols is hired to help him renovate the church, he’s drawn to the beautiful artist, but he can’t fall for a woman who isn’t a believer. Can love restore her faith and his heart?

Join the conversation: Have you been set free from an enslaving behavior? Please share!

Building Redemptive Relationships

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

I’m forty-four, and I’m still learning how to maintain healthy relationships. God recently sparked a major mind-shift in me on this, one that arose smack in the middle of tension, confusion, and heartache.

But in the end, the situation resulted in incredible hope and peace.

My two most important relationships are with my husband and daughter. Naturally, I am motivated to love them well, in a way that deepens intimacy, creates wholeness, and builds trust. I’ve discovered that being purposeful in those things long term has a greater impact than a quick solution for an immediate problem.

As the saying goes, we can win the battle but lose the heart.

This past week, my daughter has been dealing with some hard stuff. It’s been crazy-difficult to watch her struggle. My instinct is to want to immediately “fix” the situation. Whenever I give in to that tendency, however, not only am I getting in God’s way, but I miss out on opportunities to participate in His transformational work.

When I seek His heart and will, not for the problem, but for the person, my vision becomes clearer. More Christ-like. God is much more concerned with His work within us than external problems.

But our natural inclination is to focus on the now. We want solutions, to alleviate the pain of today. It’s easy to forget how often God uses our struggles to bring about His greatest and deepest work. This was my mind shift—to focus on growth rather than behavior. In short, to reach, protect, and equip the heart.

Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” To the ancient Jew, the heart involved much more than a person’s emotions. It was the core of their being and encompassed their will and intellect as well.

My daughter is facing the prospect of merging two families from different cultures. As her mom, I was tempted to center on the small, immediate solutions. But God impressed on me: This conflict is a good thing. You have an opportunity to show her what healthy dialogue looks like and how to communicate with others who may not share her perspective.

So, setting aside my “fix-it” tool belt, I chose a mentorship role. I planned a picnic for her, her future fiancé, and my husband. Together, we simply talked. We addressed tough issues, shared thoughts and feelings, and honestly…solved nothing.

But something greater was built that afternoon. A foundation of trust was laid, hopefully one that that will enable a lifetime of good communication. They got a chance to experience healthy discussion and learned how to persevere through hard conversations with a balance of love and truth. This will have a much greater impact on her future marriage than any decisions she and her boyfriend make today.

It’s easy to believe the immediate problem is the problem. But God’s vision goes so much deeper. Scripture says He uses all things for our good (Rom. 8:38)—to mold us into the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:39).

God’s goal is never merely behavior modification. He works toward our transformation. The process is more important to Him than any quick fix. I’m learning to keep the big picture in mind. I want to trust in His wisdom, know He has a plan, and is even now working that out in those I love.

Resting in who He is frees me to love well, focusing on long-term growth.  This is what it means to develop redemptive relationships.

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Building Redemptive Relationships – insight on #GodsLove on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s also a Crosswalk featured blogger and maintains a devotional blog found at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events that help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. (They just released their first Bible study, Becoming His Princess, which you can grab for free HERE.) When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Jennifer’s latest book is Restoring Her FaithShe left belief behind…but could this family change her mind?

With two boys to raise, a fledgling contracting business to run and a family ranch to keep afloat, widower Drake Owens finds that his hands aren’t just full, they’re overflowing. When Faith Nichols is hired to help him renovate the church, he’s drawn to the beautiful artist, but he can’t fall for a woman who isn’t a believer. Can love restore her faith and his heart?

Join the conversation: Have you ever had a role in someone’s long-term development?

 

Rethinking My Priorities

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

Years ago, the little booklet “My Heart, Christ’s Home” challenged me to move from viewing Christ as a guest in my heart to giving Him full ownership and control of my life. One morning I woke up with that analogy on my mind.

I thought about my literal house as a picture of my soul. I imagined how my priorities might clash with His if He came to help me bring order to my home.

Here is my imagined interaction with Christ:

“Let’s attack the front porch. Everyone sees it,” I said. “We can power wash and freshen the paint for instant impact.”

Christ shook His head and looked in the direction of my desk.

“No one sees my desk,” I pushed back.

“But you spend a lot of time there,” He said. “Your life will flow better if you cleaned out the distractions and organized your priorities.”

“My desk overpowers me,” I whined. “I don’t know how to bring order to it.”

“Will you let me help you?” His warm eyes sparkled.

 I wanted order. He’d offered to help. “Yes,” I nodded. 

 We dove in together. He held up papers and asked what I planned to do with the thoughts listed. We laughed and compiled heaps to be filed and tossed. The tedious task flew by as we worked together. He helped me separate the useful from the useless.

The work from my desk flowed the following weeks with ease. Jesus was right. Even though no one saw my desk, they sampled the work that came from it.

“Now are we ready to tackle the porch?” I asked one morning.

“I’d like to see your pantry.”

“My pantry? No one sees the pantry. The porch is front and center.” When I saw He wasn’t budging I asked, “Could we at least talk about new window treatments for the family room?”

Jesus smiled and said, “I thought you wanted more energy. Let’s look at what you’re eating.”

Inwardly I groaned but accompanied Him to the space. He zeroed in on a shelf of brownie and cake mixes.

“For company,” I stammered. “Look at these.” I pointed to a box of vitamins.

He held up a bottle. “Expiration date: 2002.”

“Uh, did you see my cookbooks?” I whispered.

He thumbed through one, and I noticed that only the dessert section showed use…

As I imagined this exchange, I realized my priorities were in areas other people would see and appreciate. I wanted my efforts to show. But my Lord wants better. He wants me to prosper. He addresses my weak spots, not to shame me but to free me, so I will soar.

Why would I settle for a spiffy renovation when I can experience lasting transformation?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2 NLT).

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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: How might inviting Christ to overhaul your heart improve your life?

Worth It

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

I never look forward to walking the dog. Each morning, as my alarm goes off, Sasha paws eagerly at the side of my bed, anxious for our daily constitutional to begin. I longingly glance at the coffee maker on the way out and give a regretful sigh as we emerge through the front door into the great outdoors.

Weather conditions can be uncomfortable– the winter air is bitingly cold and the summer air too warm and humid. But that’s not the worst of my discomfort. My neurotic dog excitedly barks at the sight of any other dog along the way and practically pulls me off my feet in her frenzy. It’s downright embarrassing. (A neighbor once condescendingly informed me I should get her formal training. I quickly assured her that we had: this is Sasha, trained, I laughingly tried to explain. She was not amused.)

One thing on our walks remains a constant: I am always delighted to round the last bend and spot my house, knowing the effort is at an end.

Yet, despite the negatives, I know the walks are so good for me. My doctor called to report my cholesterol is down, along with my blood pressure. She specifically requested I pat the dog on the head for her.

It is psychologically good for me as well. Spending a half-hour in the sunshine boosts my morale. I have gotten to know many neighbors while walking in the community that I would never have otherwise met. The splendor of nature and the gradual change of seasons always lifts my spirits and each day the beautiful surroundings in which we live uplifts me.

But even knowing all this, getting up and out the door never gets easier. On any given morning, I would much rather roll over and go back to sleep. Sad to say, I have not once hopped out of bed in eager anticipation. Yet once it is accomplished, I am never sorry I did it.

My dread of exercise is similar to my dread of painful situations. No one looks forward to those. But it is in those times that God does His best transforming work. The metaphors that we use to describe God’s process for change are largely painful in character: like the hot flames of a refiner’s fire or chipping off the rough edges of rock to reveal the beauty of a diamond within. Transformation seems to almost always bring pain to the one being transformed.

But always the outcome is worth the struggle.

Hard circumstances are frequently not all bad, but mostly just hard. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Light and momentary troubles? Several times Paul was beaten to within an inch of his life and left for dead! He had been imprisoned, thrown out of synagogues, faced angry mobs, and rejected by his own kinsmen. Not so light, right?

My guess is that he classified his suffering as light and momentary only in comparison to the resulting glory they would accomplish. The glory being produced in him was eternal. And worth the momentary pain.

We can count on facing tough circumstances many times in our lives. But one thing is certain: the destination will be worth the journey, even when forced to travel a rocky, pothole-filled road. We might not ever voluntarily choose that path, but even as we place one foot in front of the other, we can know we will not be sorry when the trip has reached its conclusion. The outcome is worth the struggle.

Our God is faithful and will not waste one minute of our pain. He will reap the benefits from it for us and use every moment to make us better reflectors of His glory. He is transforming us into the image of Jesus Christ. Just like the faithful God that He is.

“For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifest in our mortal flesh… Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”                                                                                                                                   2 Corinthians 4:11, 16

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“Always the outcome is worth the struggle” wisdom from author @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: How has God used pain to transform you?

A Cinderella Story

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

When I was a little girl, my favorite fairy tale, hands down, was Cinderella. You remember: Cinderella spends her youth scrubbing floors and catering to the demands of her nasty stepmother and stepsisters. When an invitation comes to the prince’s ball, the privileged of the household go off to attend, leaving Cinderella alone and dejected. But the fairy godmother arrives in the nick of time, and with a wave of her wand, changes Cinderella’s clothing from itchy, woolen homespun rags into a dress of finest silk. Cinderella effortlessly wins the prince’s heart, but then must hurry out before midnight, leaving a glass slipper behind in her retreat.

You know the ending, of course: the prince uses the glass slipper to find his one true love again, and whisks Cinderella away to live as his princess happily ever after.

I used to pretend I was Cinderella. I wasn’t so hot on the housework part, but I did love catching the eye of the handsome prince. Wearing the ball gown ranked right up there as well. The transformation process of going from drab and needy to dramatically beautiful has great appeal for many of us. All of the makeover shows now playing, from fashion to homes, is evidence of this. We all love a good Cinderella story.

Assuredly, the best Cinderella story on record is the very real transformation that God has accomplished in us. We were destitute and without hope when He reached down and grasped us from the jaws of death. Like the father welcoming the prodigal son, He replaced our rags with the finest of robes, befitting of our new status as sons and daughters of the King.

Isaiah puts it this way: “My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10 NASB). We who were once alienated and hostile toward God now are presented as holy and blameless (Colossians 1:21-2 NASB).  He transformed us from being slaves of sin to the bride of Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB).

What an amazing transformation! In light of this, it is hard to understand how we so easily turn our backs on what God has given us, only to invest our time and energy on opposing interests!

Paul instructed the Christians in Colossae: “Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed . . . Put aside anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth” (Colossians 3:5, 8 NASB) Instead, he urges: “Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience . . . beyond all these things put on love” (Colossians 3:12, 14 NASB).

Too often, we exchange our new, costly garments for the old, scratchy sackcloth we discarded at our salvation. But we are new creatures! The old garment just doesn’t fit right anymore. It is certainly not befitting to our new title of prince or princess of the King.

Can you imagine if Cinderella, after marrying her prince, decided to shed her princess-befitting gowns of finest silk to don the old rags she wore as a scullery maid? The servants in the palace would think she had lost her mind. Why would anyone choose rags over the finest garments? Did she not understand that she was a princess now?

The angels think the same of us each time we choose our own agenda over the opportunity to participate in the Kingdom of Light. It is no less than absurd that we would ever willfully choose the old over the new, especially in light of what we have been given.

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering an a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. . . For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of the Light.”  Ephesians 5:1, 2, 8  NASB

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Remembering our own Cinderella story – @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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 Women, was 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 is your favorite piece of the new wardrobe that God has given you?

A Diamond in the Rough

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

I stared in horror at the empty setting on my engagement ring. My diamond was gone.

This called for immediate action. I turned to my classroom full of second graders. “I will give five dollars to the person who finds my diamond,” I promised. Twenty-five children scrambled across the carpeted floor, determined to locate the prize. It wasn’t three minutes before one of the boys shouted, “I found it!”

I handed the reward over gratefully. Getting my stone back was well worth the incentive price. Of course, its value to me was sentimental, but replacing it would have been beyond what we could have afforded at the time. Diamonds are not cheap.

There’s a reason that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. They are the hardest natural substance found on the earth. They can only be scratched by other diamonds and hold a polish indefinitely. Their ability to reflect light has always made them highly desirable gemstones.

Diamonds were originally carbon-bearing material which was chemically changed by heat and pressure one hundred miles beneath the surface of the earth. This means the atoms which formed the original substance formed new chemical bonds within each molecule. The change is permanent. Many diamonds have imperfections, which are actually pieces of carbon which remain unaltered from their original state.

Scripture tells us that at the moment of our salvation, a tremendous change takes place in us as well. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV). We have been permanently altered from our old state. We used to walk according to the flesh, but now we walk according to the Spirit, because He dwells within us. We went from slaves to sin to adopted sons of the Living God (Romans 8).

But God is not yet finished with us. The point at which we became a new creation was only the beginning. Just like with a diamond, there are imperfections, left-over parts of us that He is transforming into the image of Jesus Christ. Paul told the Philippians, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV).  Like a skilled diamond cutter, God is continually chipping off our rough edges, cutting facets in His precious “stones” to allow His glory to be reflected in ever-increasing volume.

Sometimes those cuts can be painful. We don’t like the process. But eventually we can look back to the circumstances which contributed to our sanctification and marvel at how God worked to change us. “He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:10-11 NASB).

And the beauty of what He is creating far surpasses even the most brilliant of diamonds, because the result will be the ability to perfectly reflect the brilliance of His glory.

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 3:18 NASB

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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 changes have you seen in yourself that are a result of God at work in you?

The Transforming Breath of God

by Edie Melson

“Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations . . . God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.”  Genesis 17:5, 15 CSV

So often we become God’s children long before we allow Him to breathe life into our lives. Our hearts belong to him, but we fight against the changes He wants to make in us.

I think the same thing was true of Abraham and Sarah. They followed God for quite a while before they actually let Him make the changes He wanted. These verses are the outward evidence of the changes they finally allowed God to make.

The changes God made to their names held great significance. He added an H to both their names. If you make the sound that an H makes, it’s an exhalation of breath. It’s a great picture of the fact they had finally allowed God to breathe life into their lives.

When He filled them with His breath, they were transformed.

God also breathes into our lives. In this day and time He speaks to us in many ways. We have much more of Him than those we read about in the Bible. We have His Holy Spirit, and we have His Living Word. But the truth is, if we don’t allow Him to make some much-needed changes, it’s just head knowledge.

Without transformation, information is just extra baggage.

It is our responsibility to apply the things God speaks into our lives. This realization has caused me to think more about how life would change if I allowed Him to breathe His life into my current circumstances.

I believe allowing Him to fill every space in my life with His breath would bring so much. I would be able to experience peace beyond circumstances, joy in the midst of sorrow, and live out love no matter the hatred that surrounds me.

This is becoming my prayer and the thing I’m seeking. Every day I ask God to reclaim a little bit of the atmosphere inside me and fill it with His life-giving breath. Care to join me?

Edie-MelsonAbout the author: Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, whether she’s addressing parents, military families, readers of fiction or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker, she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her latest book, While My Child is Away; Prayers for While Were Apart is available at local retailers and online. Connect with her further at www.EdieMelson.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Edie’s book, While My Child is Away,  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: What in your life needs the breath of God?

Photo by Cristobal Baeza on Unsplash

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?

Son and Truth

by Joy Anisa

School was cancelled for three days. The first day was due to snow. For Georgia, that’s almost a miracle. The second day was somewhat expected because the temperatures did not rise above freezing. However, day three surprised us. Apparently, some roads were still an icy hazard.

By the second day, our family just had to get out of the house and go somewhere, anywhere, to shake off cabin fever. As we drove, it was amazing to me how the road could be completely clear, then suddenly there would be large areas of ice. As I thought about this, I was reminded of my heart.

All of us have areas in our lives that are completely surrendered and softened toward the Lord. We are flexible and bend to His will and His way. But there are other areas in which we have stubbornly remained hardened toward Him. Just as sun and temperature are the necessities to melt ice, we need the Son and His truths to soften our hearts.

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26 NASB

God spoke these words to Ezekiel about a nation of people. His presence in us has that same power, capable of creating permanent change within. He promises to continually work on those hardened areas (Philippians 1:6).  But it is when I am open to the Lord and His work in me, that He does His best heart-work. He softens my heart and bends my will to His. The truths of His Word are a part of His process; they expose unhealthy preferences and reveal the lies for which I have fallen.

Some of the hard areas can be easily removed, like ice on the roadway, where sunshine and warmth is all that is needed. Other roads need salt and maybe even a jackhammer to break through. Those stubborn heart issues have become such a part of our lives that the healing process is lengthy and even painful. But whatever it is in your life that needs to be dealt with, you can trust the Lord and His course of action.

Finally breaking free of the things that weigh us down will bring a new-found freedom in Christ. We will be released to grow, serve, and love others so much more effectively. We will also experience the fruit of His Spirit as we yield to Him. It’s definitely worth the process.

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 3:18 NASB

joy anisaAbout the author: Joy Anisa speaks for women’s retreats, MOPS, and Single Mom conferences. Her book, Identity Crisis: Moving from Crisis to Credibility,  offers an invitation to hope in the God who loves deeply, heals wounds, and offers His joy when life around us crumbles. You can find Joy on FB, Twitter, and Instagram. Joy lives with her husband, Jeff and their son, Caid, in Conyers, GA.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Joy’s book, Identity Crisis: Moving From Crisis to Credibility,  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: Where are the hardened areas in your life?