Compelling Love

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV

Years ago, whenever I came for a visit, my sister, my mom, and I frequently shopped together at our favorite Connecticut venue: Marlboro Country Barn. An old farmstead house and barns had been converted into a group of country shops that sold furniture and other home accessories.

As we were browsing one day, I noticed a cute little boy alone.  He was mesmerized by some magnetic figurines “skating” around a mirror pond. His attention was so focused, he was unaware when his parents moved on to another room. Suddenly he looked up and realized he was alone.  In a panic, he began to whimper, “Mommy? Where are you?”

My heart went out to him. I stooped down and gently asked, “Honey, did you lose your mom and dad?”

But before I could offer to help find them, he looked at me in horror and screamed at the top of his lungs: “NO! GET AWAY FROM ME!  YOU… ARE… A… STRANGER!!”

Embarrassed, I backed away, trying to assure the other shoppers now condemning me with their stares that I was only trying to help. Of course, my sister and mom were of no assistance; they were hiding behind the candles doubled over with laughter. Fortunately, the mother came quickly at the sound of her son’s cry, and the little guy was rescued. 

That boy was so convinced that all strangers were a threat to him, he was absolutely compelled to reject my offer of help. And not a person in that room had any doubt of his conviction!

As believers, we have convictions, too. “For Christ’s love compels us,” Paul wrote the Corinthians, “Because we are convinced that one died for all…that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV). 

The Greek lexicon defines that word, compels, as urging or providing impulse for some activity. It can also mean occupied or absorbed, or involved in intensive engagement. You get the picture. What we have experienced of the love of Christ has provided a life-altering insight.

What we know to be true, then, compels our response.

The night Jesus was arrested, the disciples scattered. They went into hiding, afraid for their lives. Yet forty days later, those same men are found preaching on the streets and in the temple, boldly proclaiming the name of Jesus. What happened? They had witnessed the resurrected Christ. They now understood why He had come and what He had accomplished on the cross. There was no doubt in their minds as to what was true. And that truth compelled them to spread the word, even at the risk of death.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear,” Ambrose Redmoon once observed. The disciples stood ready to risk everything, because they knew something more important than their lives was at stake.      

What we know compels a response. Like that little boy at Marlboro Country Barn whose conviction moved him to scream at the advances of a stranger, our conviction moves us to respond just as strongly to what we know to be true. We owe Him everything. The great love that He has lavished upon us demands a response. It only makes sense that we would choose to live for Him.

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Compelling Love – insight and encouragement from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About 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. 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.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What knowledge compels you into action?

Make the Plunge

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake… Philippians 1:29 NASB

The water was COLD. Driven into the ocean after becoming overheated in the hot sun, I stood in it up to my knees, wincing as the periodic waves drenched me a little higher with each step forward. I knew a quick dip would put an end to the painful, slow progression. But I just couldn’t do it. Avoiding the shock, I continued to inch my way in. I couldn’t bring myself to make the plunge.

We all hate pain. We’ll do anything to avoid it.

Paul told the Philippians that God had granted them suffering. Granted? Could providing an opportunity to suffer be some kind of benevolent gesture, a giving of something desirable?

Wait…what?

No one likes to suffer. Neither did Paul! Yet he regarded his suffering as a favor from God. He looked past the temporary to the eternal. Paul saw suffering as a means to invaluable and eternal benefits.

1. Suffering is a path to knowing Jesus better.

“I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” (Philippians 3:8 NASB).

We follow a suffering Savior. It only makes sense that walking in his footsteps will involve suffering in our journey as well. Sharing that common experience will develop an intimacy in our relationship with Him that would not have possible without it.

Paul saw sharing the sufferings of Christ as a means to intimacy with Christ.

2. Suffering produces glory.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” 2 Corinthians 4:17 NASB

God has purposed to conform all believers to the image of Jesus Christ. Transformation requires change, but change does not come easily. Suffering can force us to abandon old habits or ways of thinking and move us forward into the new.

The end result of sharing Jesus’ suffering will be sharing in his glory as well! Romans 8:17 (NASB) tells us “if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”  

3. Suffering teaches us how to access the power of Christ.

“He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB

God makes His amazing power available to us. Sometimes accessing that power can only come after finding our own resources insufficient. Paul saw his “thorn in his flesh” as a means to that end and so embraced his weakness. Suffering reveals the reality of our insufficiency and drives us deeper in our sense of dependency on God. When we are weak, then we are strong in the Lord.

4. Suffering makes us more effective for God’s Kingdom.

“[God] comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted…” 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NASB).

My daughter was blind-sided four years ago with a debilitating illness. For three years, her life was completely interrupted. As our family crawled through that torturous time, we clung to two facts: the pain would enable us to know Jesus far better, and our experience would give us insight (and a resulting empathy) into other people’s pain. She is now able to minister to people I can’t touch, because she has been in their shoes.

When suffering comes along, and it does more often than we wish, it can be overwhelming. But instead of thinking “Why me?”, we must choose to keep our eyes focused on the Savior, who, through suffering, made a relationship with God possible for us. Now God is using pain once again, this time to bring us further along in that relationship.

We must look past the temporary to the eternal. We must choose to trust in His good intentions. Taking that plunge will not only give relief but peace throughout the process.

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Make the Plunge – encouragement on #FollowingGod from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About 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. 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.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: How has suffering or hard times changed you for the good?

Look Up, Child!

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory and the One who lifts my head.                                                                                                                                                        Psalm 3:3 NASB

I was having trouble sleeping at night. Over the past several weeks, the world had become a very dark place. Headlines continually warned of thousands dying and the crumbling economy. Anger aimed from one side of the related issues toward the other was rampant all over the internet. How would this all end?

At one point in his life, King David struggled with grim circumstances. His son, Absalom, had staged a coup in an effort to take the throne. He’d rallied tens of thousands of citizens to his support and was now a viable threat to David’s reign and life.

Upon hearing the news, David gathered his household and fled the city. Among them were the Levites, carrying the Ark of the Covenant from the Tabernacle.

When they came to the natural border at the Brook Kidron, David sent the Ark back into the city. The rest of the group passed over the water and started up the mountainside on their way to the wilderness, where they would go into hiding and wait for word from sympathizers remaining behind.

Upon seeing David’s entourage pass by, a man named Shemei came out of his house, shouting curses and throwing stones in disgust. “Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless scum! The Lord has returned on you all of the bloodshed you caused the house of Saul and has given the kingdom into the hand of your son. You are only getting what you deserve!” (my paraphrase of 2 Samuel 16:7-8).

David no longer had the Ark, the physical representation of the presence of the Lord.  The malevolence of his son (whom he still loved), the rejection of his countrymen, and the loss of his throne was completely devastating. David and his entourage wept in despair as they continued to trudge up the mountainside, with heads covered and feet bare.

He was sick with grief and fear. In desperation, he called out to God with Psalm 3. “O Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.” But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head.” (Psalm 3:1-3 NASB)

As David looked around at ground level, there was no hope to be found. His adversaries were increasing. People were saying that God was not on David’s side. But that was only what David could see. So he called to the Lifter of his head.

In response, God lifted David’s gaze to the many times He had previously come through for David. Many times in the wilderness, God had protected him from King Saul, who sought to destroy him. He’d rescued David from invading enemies during his reign as king.

it was a needed reminder: God blesses the people who take refuge in Him.

As David raised his gaze, he also remembered the character and power of God. With that reassurance, he then knew there was no reason to doubt God now. So on that terrible night, as he lay down his head, David was able to sleep in peace.

As I struggled to sleep, I thought about Psalm 3. I decided to make a list of the things I continued to fret over while in quarantine, things I had not yet surrendered to God. When I did, I found every item on my list of concerns was fear-based: insecurity about family members and their situations, money issues, concern about the future of our country and way of life. How could I let it all go?

I needed to appeal to the lifter of my head. And put my gaze where it belonged. Not on what I could see, but on the unseen powerful and merciful God.

What is keeping you up at night? Covid-19 fears? Insecurity about your financial future? Concern for the health and safety of your loved ones? What do you think the Lord would say to you?

Look up, child. When we look up, we remember what’s temporary and what eternal glory we will one day see. We remember a God who is powerful, working every situation to further His plan for the world. We remember the big picture.

We don’t need to fear. We just need to keep looking up.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NASB 

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Look Up, Child! – encouragement when life is hard 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. 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.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What is weighing you down today?

 

Come Alongside

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman
You would think it wouldn’t be so hard, remembering your wife’s birthday when it falls just two days before yours. But more often than not, in our early married years, Steve forgot. Many times. It became a thing for us. I was hurt, even angry, each time I ended up having to remind him half-way through the day that it was my birthday.
Finally, one year, I waited to see how long it would be before he finally remembered on his own. The day went by quietly, no gift, no well-wishes. And the next. Finally, on the morning of Steve’s birthday, the phone rang. From a nearby room, I heard him answer his mother’s happy birthday phone call.

“What? Today? Wait a minute…” he rushed over to the wall calendar. “Oh no! Oh no!”  He hung up the phone and cautiously entered the living room. “I’m so sorry,” he said, looking close to tears. At that moment, I knew that Steve’s forgetfulness was not because he didn’t care. He wanted to remember my birthday. But he couldn’t even remember his.

It was to be a great lesson for us in learning to respond to potentially divisive issues as one. We often share that story as we teach marriage classes to illustrate the importance of working together.

It is also an important concept that should guide us in operating as a church. Paul had some good advice for Timothy on dealing with differences. Timothy was a young guy whom Paul sent to pastor the Ephesus church. There were some bad teachings infiltrating the ranks. It was time to clean house.

Paul begins chapter five with these words: “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters…” (1 Timothy 5:1-2 NASB).

There are two ideas worth noting here. First, Paul is contrasting rebuke with appeal. The Greek word translated rebuke was a strong word. It literally meant to strike with blows. (Paul was using it figuratively here, pummeling with words rather than fists.) Interaction between believers should never be done in that kind of spirit. Instead, Paul urged Timothy to appeal. The original Greek is the word parakaleo, the verb form of the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit (paraclete), which carries a sense of comforting and encouraging while guiding. Quite different than striking out, it is a coming alongside to help.

Second, Paul tells Timothy to think of his fellow believers as family: fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers. Your family remains your family, no matter what the issues. They are an extension of who you are. Their joy is yours, as well as their shame. So you do the right thing by them, even when it is not easy; this often necessitates sacrificial love.

Steve uses a clever two-part graphic in our premarital/marital classes. The first part pictures two people with a problem between them. The issue is divisive, driving the two apart. The second is the better option. Rather than the problem sitting between them, the two stand together and aim their energies at the problem as one.

I think this concept is exactly what Paul was communicating to Timothy. 

When correction is needed, it can be handled one of two ways. The first is to verbally chastise with a me-versus-you kind of mentality. The end result is insult and alienation, quite the opposite of what should be our intentions.  In the second option, we approach with humility and love. Rather than point an accusing finger, we come alongside and face the problem together. The presenting issue can now serve as an opportunity to develop unity within the family, rather than tear the church apart.

It’s how Steve and I solved the birthday thing. We decided on a strategy that would put us on the same team rather than adverse sides. About a week before the birthdays, I casually mention the coming dates. “What do you want to do for our birthdays this year?” I ask. We make plans together. Win-win. It works for us.

Jesus prayed that his church would be one, and that our unity would show Christ in us to the world (John 17:21). How we deal with problems matters. When we appeal rather than rebuke, come alongside rather than point the accusing finger, we are moving toward that end.

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2 NASB

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Come Alongside – encouragement from @JulieZColeman on @EdieMelson (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. 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.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Has someone ever “come alongside” you?  Or–have you had an angry confrontation aimed at you? How did your situation work out? Do you think how we approach someone in conflict matters?

Parenting Can Have Its Moments

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

One Sunday afternoon, as I tackled the pile of dishes in the kitchen, I heard a distinct dripping sound coming from the foyer. Upon investigation, I found a large puddle on the tile floor. The ceiling above it was bowed with water. Where was all that water coming from?

I dashed up the stairs to find the hallway bathroom sink running full-force, plug down, water cascading over the edge like Niagara Falls. The bathtub was also plugged up and nearly filled to capacity. I shut the faucets off but could still hear water running. A quick check revealed the master bathroom had been rigged to overflow as well.

I knew there could be only one culprit—make that two—THE TWINS. I marched into their room to find them up on the top bunk surrounded by every stuffed animal in the house. “Hi Mommy!” my four-year old daughter cheerfully greeted me. “We’re playing Noah’s ark! Joseph is Noah, and I’m his wife!”

Apparently, with the animals safely aboard, they were just sitting back, waiting for the flood.

Motherhood has its moments, right? We had four children in the space of 3 ½ years. I could curl your hair with stories from those early days. Someday I’ll write a book.

Whenever I read James, I have to wonder if he was a parent. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4 NASB).

This verse should be stamped on the forehead of anyone attempting to raise a family. Experiencing trials? It’s not a question of if, but when.

Consider it all joy, my brethren…

How much joy did I experience as I mopped the floors that day? There was no cheerful whistling nor a single happy thought as I repeatedly wrung out my mop, I can assure you. But is that what James meant by joy?

A look into the grammar of the original language reveals that James was identifying the type of joy a person should have. It is a state of being, not an emotion. If it were, we could equate joy with happiness. But seriously—who could possibly be happy about spending time reserved for a Sunday afternoon nap soaking up gallons of water? Not this girl.

Joy is something deeper, more consistent than what certain circumstances would allow. It can be had in any situation, because it is a steady, thankful trust in a God who uses even the hard things for His glory. It is not so much of an emotion, but rather a way of thinking. It is the lens through which we should view everything this world throws at us.

Trials are an opportunity for us to put the viewpoint of joy into practice.

The testing of your faith produces endurance…

There’s something else in James’ exhortation worth noting: “…the testing of your faith produces endurance…” How do trials like water dripping out of a ceiling test our faith?

What we believe about Him is the content of our faith. In His kindness, God allows trials for the purpose of testing those ideas and revealing what we need to reevaluate—in a good way! Trials grow our understanding of Him.

So, next time a trial comes down the pike, think: how is God revealing Himself? What He may be showing you can produce endurance in your ability to trust Him. Even the little challenging moments of parenting can have a real impact on our spiritual well-being.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.                                                                                             2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NASB

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Parenting Can Have Its Moments – 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. 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.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Do you have a parenting trial story? Please share! (Surely I’m not the only one!!)

 

 

Persuaded  

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee…when the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come. His mother said to the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it.”                                                                                                                 John 2:1-4 NASB

The supply of wine had been depleted. Not one drop left. And the party was still going strong.

Mary shuddered at the embarrassment the oversight would bring on the hosts. She instinctively turned to her son to relate the news. He would know what to do. But Jesus seemed impervious to the problem. “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” he queried. “My hour has not yet come.”

Unfazed, Mary turned to the servants. “Do whatever he says,” she simply told them. And Jesus turned the water into wine.

This story has its puzzling moments. But one big question towers over the rest: why would Jesus refuse to help, even going so far as to state his reason for not helping, then turn around and do the miracle anyway?

There were other times Jesus refused to perform miracles.

We are told in Mark 6 that in his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus “could do no miracle there except that he lay his hands on a few sick people and healed them.” Why? “He wondered at their unbelief.” (Mark 6:5-6 NASB).

Several times, religious leaders (and also Pilate) asked Jesus to perform a miracle for them. He flatly refused, for they had not asked in faith (Mark 8:12 NASB).

His miracles were not meant to create faith; they merely served to confirm it. Faith is a necessary component to any request we make of God. Jesus would not perform a miracle without it.

When two blind men asked for healing, Jesus asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” When they affirmed their trust, Jesus gave them their sight (Matthew 9:29). He asked a father to confirm his belief before ousting a demon that controlled his son. Why? He explained, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23).

In these and many other cases, belief in Jesus’ mercy and power was required before He would help them. When faith is expressed, God responds.

Mary’s instructions to the servants at the wedding of Cana were brim-full of faith. Whatever he says, do it. She trusted Jesus would do the right thing. Jesus responded by turning water into the finest of wines.

The Greek verb pisteuo, translated as believetrust, or to have faith often carries the qualifying connotation of being persuaded or convinced. The Greek lexicon defines it as “to cause to come to a particular point of view or course of action.” Trust comes as a result from what one has found to be true.

Mary raised Jesus. He had always lived in unfailing obedience to the Father. What she had observed of him in the past persuaded her to trust him now.

When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, He demonstrated his power and faithfulness to them over and over, first with the plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, provision of water and manna, and the dramatic giving of the Law. In short, he was teaching them to trust him. But the months they spent in the desert weren’t enough—they balked at entering the Promised Land, refusing to trust God for his provision.

So God spent the next 40 years proving to the new generation just how trust-worthy he was. And when it again came time to go into the land, they were ready to follow Him anywhere. Knowing truth about God is foundational to trusting Him.

Trust doesn’t come naturally to us. So God brings along hardship, times when we struggle to perceive his presence or guidance, times when everything seems hopeless or overwhelming. We hate those times and dread their appearance. But He will use them to give us a deeper understanding of just how faithful He is. We will emerge from the darkness with a better capacity to trust him. And the conduit of trust opens the way for his blessing and mercy.

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Persuaded – thoughts from @JulieZColeman when trust doesn’t come naturally, 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. 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.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What do you know about God that gives you the ability to trust Him?

It is Finished! (And it really is.)

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

 “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” John 19:28-30 NASB

The day of my first book’s deadline, I was up until midnight, using every last second to check and double check my final draft before submitting to my publisher. Finally, my time was up. I dashed off a cover email and loaded the manuscript file as an attachment. But just before sending, I realized that it was now several minutes past midnight. So I added a quick tongue-in-cheek note to the email: “So sorry I am six minutes late with this manuscript.”

The vice president of Thomas Nelson replied, “We’re on Central time. You are actually fifty-four minutes early!”

It was a momentous moment for me, hitting that send button. With one click I was announcing a finished product. After six months of intense, consuming work, there was now nothing more to do until the edits came back to me. I woke up the next morning feeling a heavy burden had been lifted from my shoulders. What an immense relief to finally be done!

On this and every Good Friday, we remember the darkest day in history, when the Son of God suffered and died on the cross, bearing unspeakable agony and shame for the sake of us all. But now, in His final moments, knowing He had done what He had come to do, He uttered His final words: It is finished.

The original Greek word translated as “finished” denotes the carrying out of a task. An artist might have said Finished! to announce his painting was perfect. A servant might have confidently replied Finished! when asked by his master if his assigned work was complete. A judge might have said Finished! when issuing a ruling that a prison sentence had been completed and justice had been served. And finally, a merchant might have written Finished! on a bill to indicate a debt was paid in full. 

Jesus used the Greek verb tense that denoted a completed action that did not need to be repeated. Done, once and for all. Finished.

Jesus actually used this word three times during the 24 hours before and during his crucifixion.

While in prayer, as the Passover meal reached its conclusion, Jesus said, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which you have given me to do” John 17:4 NASB).  He had come to fulfill the Law. He came to do the Father’s will. He’d come to preach the kingdom. And finally, He’d sought out and saved the lost. As Jesus looked death in the face, he was satisfied He had done everything He came to do. His bucket list was complete.

He used the word again on the cross. “Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28 NASB). There were over 300 prophecies, spanning thousands of years, that Jesus fulfilled in His lifetime. His coming fulfilled God’s promise of a messiah to the patriarchs, kings, and the nation. His acts and words were exactly what many prophets had foretold hundreds of years before.

Then finally, Jesus uttered that word one last time just before He gave up His Spirit: “It is finished!And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” (John 19:28-30 NASB). The suffering was over. The wrath of God had been spent on Him. The sins of mankind had been nailed to the cross. His blood had paid the price once and for all.

The fact that Jesus used finished to describe His life and death should bring joy to every believer’s heart. Because of His completed work, no sin would ever stand between us and God again. Payment for us has been made in full. “But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God…” (Hebrews 10:12 NASB). He sat down because there was nothing left to do.

And here’s the best news of all: Paul tells us that God has “raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 2:6 NASB). We have already been seated, because there is nothing left for us to do, either. It is finished.

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It is Finished! (And it really is.) – 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. 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.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: How does knowing the work of our salvation is already complete affect you in the here and now?

Surprised by Suffering 

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

 

An old friend of mine recently suffered a medical problem which required extensive surgery. The whole ordeal caught her off-guard. “I never expected to have to go through anything like this,” she sheepishly confessed to me. “I assumed that the Lord would protect me from suffering.” Psalm 121 had been her mantra for many years: “He who watches over you will not slumber… the Lord will keep you from all harm…”(Psalm 121:3, 7 NIV).

 

My friend had it half-right. We can count on the presence and care of a God who misses no detail. Nothing can separate us from his love or the salvation we received through his grace. But to expect a life devoid of suffering would necessitate ignoring a large portion of Scripture.

 

Whether we like it or not, suffering is part of God’s plan for his people.

 

In the pivotal point of Mark’s gospel, Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was. Peter jumped in with a breakthrough revelation: “You are the Messiah.” Jesus quickly cautioned him not to tell anyone.

 

Jesus knew the disciples’ understanding of the nature of his messiahship was still inaccurate. The common Jewish messianic expectation was based on Old Testament Scriptures promising a conquering hero. He would come to liberate Israel from her oppressors, set up a kingdom, and reign from Jerusalem. The disciples were excited about this. So they anxiously awaited the day Jesus would come into his own.

 

Many prophecies do reveal him as a conquering hero and ruling king. Yet others portray him as a suffering servant, facing rejection by men and even by God. Isaiah wrote, “It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer… He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:10, 5 NIV).

 

Suffering would be part of the messianic plan. In fact, it was The Plan.

 

Peter then actually took the Lord aside and rebuked him. Jesus recognized Peter’s emotional reaction for what it was: personal disillusionment. The life of ease and power the disciples anticipated was quickly fading away as Jesus revealed what the future had in store.  

 

Peter needed to adjust his messianic expectations. “You do not have in mind the things of God,” Jesus told him, “but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23b NIV).

 

Jesus then took the disciples a step further. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” he told them. Suffering would be part of the plan for them as well.

 

We will experience suffering on many levels. Physical pain, disease, and the effects of old age will intrude into our lives. Grief will drive us to our knees as we struggle to survive great losses. All of us will experience hurts and offenses that are difficult to forgive. But as believers, those things are not without purpose; suffering is a perspective-changing crucible. The unimportant details that would have distracted us in our walk with Him become trivial. With everything stripped away, we find that God is all that matters.

 

Peter eventually understood the purifying opportunity suffering presents. In his later years, he wrote: “He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2 NIV). 

 

Someday, suffering will no longer exist for us. We will no longer need suffering in our lives, because we will finally be complete. But until that time, count on suffering to be a part of your life. Embrace it as best you can, for it is evidence of a loving God at work in you.

 

“He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”                                                                                                                                                              2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV

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Surprised by Suffering  – encouragement 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. 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.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: How has suffering affected your priorities and understanding of God?

The Secret to Unity

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

I am blessed with a happy marriage. Don’t get me wrong-we have our ups and downs. Steve and I enjoy a close relationship, developed over years of great times and laughter, but those years have also been sprinkled with hard times we wish we could forget. We are two very different people: personality tests reveal we are exact opposites in personality type.

Unity in spite of diversity can be challenging. It’s easy to bond with someone who always agrees with us. But it is a supernatural accomplishment to bond with those with whom we have nothing in common–and especially those with whom we vehemently disagree. Jesus told his disciples, “Love your enemies… For if you love [only] those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:36 NASB)

My church is an interesting collection of people. From Charismatic to Presbyterian to Baptist to Catholic, our spiritual backgrounds run the gamut. How can such a diverse group of individuals achieve unity and function as one body?

The world would tell us that the answer is “embracing diversity.” Rather than bemoan the theological and stylistic differences that exist between us, they suggest we celebrate them. Sounds good on the surface, but there is one problem with this idea. The focus is all wrong. When we direct our attention away from the Head of this body onto the individuals in fellowship, we are actually moving away from oneness. Moving our focus from God and onto each other is a recipe for unity disaster.

So what is the answer? How do we achieve unity in a relationship with diverse individuals: in a church, marriage, or any other setting?

A.W. Tozer observed that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same tuning fork are automatically in tune with each other. They are of one accord by being tuned to another standard outside of themselves.

In the same way, as each of us sets our mind on Christ, we will be drawn together in heart.

Paul spent a lot of time in his letter to the Romans explaining the appropriate use of spiritual gifts. He begins Romans 12 encouraging a very personal commitment to God, urging us to offer ourselves as individual living sacrifices. Why the stress on individual commitment to God in a chapter dedicated to the church operating as a unified body? When each member devotes themselves to the same cause, unity is inevitable.

This year marks forty years since Steve and I wed. People ask Steve and I if we have a secret to having remained happy all this time (or at least most of it!!). Our secret to obtaining oneness in marriage is absolutely dependent on our personal relationships with God. As we have both individually kept our focus on Christ, over the years that sameness in purpose has inexorably drawn us together.

We can only hope for unity despite differences when we set aside our own agendas and jointly focus our gaze on our Savior. Supernatural unity is a by-product of individuals determined to walk with Him.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you   will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2 NASB

TWEETABLE
The Secret to Unity – 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. 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.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What relationships do you have in your life where you love despite diversity?

Progress, Not Perfection

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

He was a powerhouse of a student, filled with energy, brains, and confidence: all a little too much for his second-grade self to handle at times. One morning he stepped on my last nerve. And I lost my temper.

It was more than unprofessional. It had the potential to be damaging. I couldn’t let him leave for the day without trying to make amends. I found a moment to speak with him alone. “I’m so sorry,” I told him with tears in my eyes. “I was wrong for losing my temper. I was wrong to make you feel unloved. You are important to me, and so very important to God. Will you forgive me?”

He impulsively threw his arms around me, totally sympathetic to my struggle. “It’s alright, Mrs. Coleman,” he assured me. “I was being bad. You are supposed to straighten me out when that happens.”

It was the start of a beautiful friendship. Knowing his teacher readily admitted her failures opened the heart of that precocious little boy.

If you are like me, your standard on living before others may be nothing less than perfection. Not an especially realistic expectation. But don’t despair, because in reality, it’s not perfection, but the demonstration of our spiritual growth that actually touches hearts.

Paul’s first letter to Timothy emphasizes this. “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather show yourself an example of those who believe,” he told Timothy. “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:12, 16 NASB).

Paul wanted Timothy to be an example to the church at Ephesus. But Timothy would not inspire through perfection. Rather, people’s hearts would stir in seeing God at work in Timothy. Living transparently before them, willing to admit his failures and openly acknowledging his humble dependence on God, would encourage them the most.

Not the pretty picture we might assume an example should be, right? Transformation can be a messy business. But Timothy’s transparency through that process would best serve to inspire and instruct the body of Christ.

Years ago, I heard a Bible college president urging his young protégés to keep themselves one step above those in their future congregations. Don’t let them see your faults, he warned them. In order for you to be an effective leader, you need to be revered.

This idea couldn’t be less biblical! The apostles were very open about their weaknesses. Paul named himself the chief of sinners. Yet the Chief of Sinners led hundreds to the Lord and God is still using his writings in the lives of believers today. Peter’s impulsiveness and infamous denial are laid out for all to see in the gospels. But God used him to lead people into the truth and to build His Church. Our testimony is not in keeping up appearances. Our most effective witness is in the demonstration of our progress.

God reveals Himself through us as He moves us forward in our relationship with Him.

Being candid in the struggle gives those around us an opportunity to watch God’s transforming power in action. It gives them hope that they, too, can be used by God, even with their own imperfections.

Stop feeling pressure to be perfect. Embrace what you can learn and ultimately teach others in response to your failures. It’s the perfect opportunity to reveal a God who is alive and active in you.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB 

TWEETABLE
Progress, Not Perfection – encouragement 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. 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.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: How has transparency led to inspiration for those around you?