Resurrection Victory

by Julie Zine Coleman

O Death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?… Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:55, 57 NASB
 
Once only inhabited by a small Japanese civilian community of sulfur miners and sugar farmers, the island of Iwo Jima became a stronghold of pivotal importance in World War II. As the war progressed, Japan evacuated its citizens from the island and prepared for the inevitable Allied forces invasion. A huge number of bunkers, hidden artillery, and an amazing eleven miles of tunnels were in place by 1944. Twenty-one thousand soldiers were at the ready when Allied forces began firing on Iwo Jima.
 
On the fourth day of the battle, the first objective was captured: Mount Suribachi. Five marines and a Navy corpsman were photographed raising the American flag at its summit. That moment is now immortalized in the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington, VA.
 
Once the high ground was secure, the invasion slowly moved northward. Very heavy fighting continued as Allied forces eventually took the airfields and remainder of the island. The Japanese fighters considered surrender dishonorable and most tenaciously fought to the death. A month into the invasion, 300 Japanese soldiers launched a last-ditch effort counterattack. The casualties were heavy on both sides, but the next day, the island was officially declared secured by the Allies.

Even so, over 3,000 Japanese troops remained in the island’s maze of caves and tunnels. More American lives were lost as they worked their way through the tunnel system routing those Japanese that refused to surrender. The battle may have been won, but the enemy continued to fight, determined to take as many with them in their demise as possible.

Yesterday on Easter Sunday we celebrated the greatest victory the world has ever witnessed. The Son of God, after three days in the grave, rose from the dead. No longer are we under condemnation for our sin. It was dealt with, paid for, and cast from us as far as the east is from the west. The victory is already ours because Christ has already won. “When you were dead in your transgressions,” Paul wrote, “He made you alive together with Him . . . having canceled out the certificate of debt . . . having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-15 NASB). Sin no longer holds us slave in its power.
 
The enemy has also been soundly defeated. Satan’s future final demise is already recorded in the Bible, when he is cast into the lake of fire to suffer torment for eternity (Revelation 20:10). The war is over.
 
Yet while victory has been recorded with indelible ink, the skirmishes still go on. While we were given new life at our salvation, we still struggle against our old sinful nature which relentlessly demands satisfaction, and we fight the enemy ever-tempting us to sin. As Paul wrote the Galatians, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Galatians 5:17 NASB) The war may be over, but the fighting continues on.
 
These skirmishes are a part of the life God expects us to live. In fact, He carefully equips His soldiers to fight the good fight. Satan may have lost the war, but he is deadly serious about taking as many down with him as possible before the last nail is driven into his coffin. So we have been issued a belt of truth (a great thing when you are up against the Father of Lies!), a breastplate of righteousness, and shoes bearing the gospel message in which to stand firm. Our shield is one of faith, which can deflect every fiery dart of doubt and accusation the enemy can launch at us. Our head is protected by the helmet of our salvation. And last but not least, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, contains all the knowledge we need to win each skirmish, which mostly, after all, takes place in the mind.
 
We may even lose some of these skirmishes, especially when we attempt to fight in our own strength. But it is important to remember in those moments of depressing defeat: the war’s victor has already been determined. The Good Guy won. Our hope is not in the circumstances of this world. It is in the future God has prepared for us, “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4 NASB). Nothing that happens to us on earth will impact the surety of our salvation. The battle belongs to the Lord.

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

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About the authorJulie Zine 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 crafting. 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: What has been the most meaningful to you this Easter Sunday?

His Terms, Not Ours

by Julie Zine Coleman

“It is a fundamental principle in the life and walk of faith that we must always be prepared for the unexpected when we are dealing with God.”      D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The stream of pilgrims entering the city had been steady for several days. It was time for Passover, and every male living within fifteen miles of the city was required to come to celebrate in Jerusalem. One particular group of travelers stood apart from the rest.

As they ascended into town from the Mount of Olives, some of the men began to spread their coats or freshly cut palm branches on the road before them. The object of their tribute came into view, astride a donkey. As He neared the city gate, the surrounding crowd began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” This was obviously no ordinary pilgrim.

The scene was reminiscent of another historical triumphal entry. Antiochus, King of Syria, had desecrated the Temple by offering swine flesh to Zeus at the altar of God. After the battle in which Antiochus was soundly defeated, the victorious Simon Maccabaeus was welcomed into Jerusalem with shouts of joy and branches of palm trees. Now, 150 years later, history seemed to replay itself as Jesus rode into the city. Waving palm branches and shouts of acclamation announced the arrival of another conquering hero.

The crowd believed that Jesus had come to oust their enemies and lead them to political independence. Their expectations were reflected in the very words they shouted. “Hosanna” literally means “save now!” It was a conqueror’s welcome they gave Jesus, but they did not comprehend the kind of conqueror He came to be.  He would score victory over an oppressor, but the oppressor was not Rome. It was the death-grip of sin. He came on His terms, not theirs.

Days later, the crowd was shouting at Jesus again. But this time the words were vastly different: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” He had failed to meet their expectations. And so they rejected Him as their Messiah.

Has God ever failed to meet your expectations? In the two years my mother was dying, I had expectations of God. I would not suffer grief like most people. I had the Lord in my life. I assumed He would be there for me and hold me close and shield me through the process. So I cried out to Him in anticipation, waiting for Him to reveal Himself to me and fill me with peace.

It was like shouting into the wind. I got nothing.

His silence shook my faith to its very foundation. Where was God? This was the hardest trial I had ever encountered. Why was He silent when I so desperately needed Him?

I was hurting so badly I could hardly see straight. I wanted out from the pain. But God had plans for my pain. He would use it to mold me more closely into the image of Christ. I would learn to identify with Him by going through the process of grief and suffering. Most importantly, I would experience a deeper intimacy with Him as I learned to lean on and trust Him on a whole new level. He proved Himself faithful through the crisis. But He came to me on His terms, not mine.

When God seems to let you down, it’s time to look at why you are disappointed. Maybe it’s time to adjust your expectations.

The crowd on Palm Sunday those many centuries ago was looking for a temporary fix. They wanted peace and an easier life. God had something bigger and far better in mind for them. What He would accomplish over the next few days had eternal implications. They would be given a chance of peace with Him, a cure for their sin, and a hope for an eternity in heaven. His goals were far superior to any the crowd could have imagined.

We are limited in our understanding of God’s plan for us. We go for the temporary fix quite often, begging for relief from our temporary discomfort or pain. But He has higher goals for us than that. He will use the pain to accomplish what will afford eternal benefit. His terms are superior to ours. And we can trust Him to deliver far greater things than we can even know to ask.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”       2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NASB  

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

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About the author: Julie Zine 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 crafting. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Did you know Arise Daily has a book that just released? Arise to Peace is a compilation of devotionals from 72 well-loved authors in the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Julie Coleman served as General Editor for the project. Order your copy today!

Join the conversation: How has God surprised you with better than you could have imagined?

The Humblest Man Alive

by Julie Zine Coleman

“Now Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth…” Numbers 12:3

There it was, in black and white, posted on the high school music director’s door: my name at the top of Sound of Music‘s cast list. Maria: Julie Zine. I could hardly wait to get home and share the awesome news. Mom was thrilled. But when I told my dad, his response was less than enthusiastic. “How are you ever going to pull that off?” he moaned. 

I was crushed. It wasn’t like I hadn’t already held big parts in school plays. The choir director thought my voice good enough to handle several solo parts. Why didn’t Dad think I could do this? Later, I again approached him and demanded: Why didn’t he believe in me?

Dad smiled sheepishly. “I just want to keep you from getting a big head,” he confessed. “I want you to be humble.”

My dad was a good father, and I appreciated his concern for my character. Humility is important and most desirable. But I think my dad had the wrong idea of what humility truly is, at least from a biblical point of view. It’s not about thinking less of who we are.

We can get a better idea of humility from the leadership example of Moses. It wasn’t a position he sought after or even ever wanted. But God called Moses to lead his people out of slavery and into the Promised Land.

As he stood before the burning bush, Moses resisted God’s call. Who am I, asked he, to be the deliverer for the Hebrews? They won’t have anything to do with me! I have never been eloquent. I’m obviously not the man for the job. Pick someone else, God, please!

Didn’t any of that self-abasement and degradation qualify as humility? Apparently not. Humility is a good thing; God loves the humble. But Moses’ qualms about his qualifications did not please God one bit.

The job was as difficult as Moses had imagined and then some. When Pharaoh finally released the Hebrew slaves, the desert in which they traveled was a harsh, inhospitable environment. The people themselves were hard-hearted and stiff-necked, frequently complaining, ever-distrusting of God and His appointed leader. Eventually even his own family members spoke against him, demanding a bigger part of the leadership action. “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?” they questioned. “Has He not spoken through us as well?” (Numbers 12:2 NASB).

God immediately responded to their rebellion and pride with an angry rebuke. As the cloud of his glory dissipated, Moses’ sister Miriam found herself covered in leprosy. Most leaders at that point would likely have felt validated and somewhat satisfied to see a threat to their leadership and power being squelched by God in such dramatic fashion.

But Moses cried out to the Lord, “Oh God, heal her, I pray!”(Numbers 12:13 NASB).

Even when threatened by his family’s desire to take him down a peg, Moses’ concern was not for himself. It was for those he loved. Putting aside any self-interest or indignant response, Moses prayed for his sister’s restoration. And God called him the humblest man on the earth.

C.S. Lewis once wrote: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.”

Jesus Christ was our ultimate example in godly humility. He did not regard His equality with God something to tightly clutch, but instead forfeited power and privilege for servanthood. His service ultimately led to a terrible death on the cross. Christ’s humility was not about self-abasement. It was in a willing sacrifice, generously given in the interest of those he loved. (Philippians 2:5-8)

Somewhere along the way, we in the 21st century have gotten the idea that humility involves self-depreciation, a devaluing of ourselves, deciding that others are better than us. But you won’t find it defined that way in the Bible. Biblical humility is a choice to treat the needs and interests of those around us as more important than our own. It is a decision to go with God’s agenda and not ours. It’s really part of what it means to die to self.

And in the end, in looking past our own noses, we will find ourselves closer to God and ironically more fulfilled than ever before.  We will have gotten ourselves out of the way and become more and more yielded to the Spirit. And in return, God honors the humble.

Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time. 1 Peter 5:6
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

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About the authorJulie Zine 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 crafting. 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: What examples have you seen in people you know practicing biblical humility?

Time to Lay Down Your Burdens

by Julie Zine Coleman

He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. Psalm 23:2b-3a NASB

The longest river in the world, the Nile, flows 4,130 miles from its headwaters in Africa’s mountainous lakes region to the Mediterranean. Sediments from as far away as Rwanda are carried northward by the force of the water as it plummets over falls and sweeps through channels in relentless movement toward the sea. Near the mouth, the river meets the sea. Suddenly the water slows down, and at the loss of energy drops its sediment to the river bottom. Thousands of years’ worth of these deposits have resulted in the famous Nile Delta, an enormous landform easily seen from space.

Sometimes it takes slowing down before a burden can be deposited. David knew this fact well. He wrote about his Good Shepherd: “He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.” Before David could be restored, he had to be brought to a place of rest.

I didn’t used to be much on slowing down. As I raced through each day, tyranny of the urgent ran my agenda. We were raising four children, and I was working full time, throwing my energy into my fifth graders. Even my service in the church held the same frantic urgency. The busyness eventually took its toll on me, and I began to experience physical problems related to stress. But even then, slowing down didn’t seem like a viable option.

Then I went to seminary. One of the classes I was required to take was on spiritual disciplines. I was a bit skeptical from the first time I walked in the door. I wanted to do biblical exegesis; I wasn’t big on topical study. I took it because I had to. But I wasn’t going to like it.

As the class dragged on, I began to count the sessions until it would be over. Then one morning, as the class neared its end, we were told to go find a quiet place in nature and sit there for one hour, just listening to what God had to say to us. An hour? Of listening? Seemed a bit ridiculous to me. I reluctantly collected a notebook and a pen to record all of those messages I would supposedly receive and headed out to find a tree.

“OK, here I am,” I begrudgingly informed God. “Fire away.” My mind was full of the papers I had to write, the books I had to read, the Greek I had to translate. I could use this hour so much more effectively. I could hardly sit still. My frame of mind was anything but conducive to listening.

But as the hour dragged on, I tried to relax and at least appreciate the peace and quiet. I began to perceive the Lord’s presence. Not that he hadn’t been there all along, mind you. I was just too preoccupied to notice.

I started to bask in the love and grace he has lavished on me. My thoughts went to his greatness and power and faithfulness, his mercies that were new every morning. I began to thank him for loving me and for the blessings he has put into my undeserving life. Suddenly, my former agenda seemed very shallow. I prayed again, this time with an open heart and mind. “Lord, show me what you desire,” I pleaded.

God began to invade my thoughts. He wanted my heart more than my efforts. I was carrying too many burdens. It was time to put them down. So I did. I gave him my worries about finishing my studies successfully. I gratefully handed over concerns about my fledgling adult children awkwardly spreading their wings. My fears and anxieties fell off my shoulders as he impressed on me his power and ability to handle it all. And when the hour was up, I walked away feeling freer than I had been for a very long time.

We Americans are busy people. In our drive for productivity, we pick up burdens we don’t have time to lay back down. The Covid crisis has temporarily knocked a lot of that out of us. If you haven’t already, embrace the reduction in activity.

Find a quiet corner in your house. Sit down unencumbered by routine distractions and open your heart to him. As we embark on a new year, make it a priority to give God the time he deserves. Don’t go to him with an agenda. Let him set the pace. And as he leads you beside quiet waters, you will be restored.

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

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About the authorJulie Zine 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 crafting. 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 do you create quiet time to spend with the Lord?

Looking Past Our Imagination

by Julie Zine Coleman

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think…” Ephesians 3:20 NASB

Every Christmas Eve, our kids carefully chose the best Christmas cookies and arranged them on a plate alongside a glass of milk. One year we even left hay for the reindeer. I can only hope Santa brought that hay up on the rooftop to them, rather than invite them into our family room. But in any case, it made the holiday that much more fun while my children were young.

Like it or not, Santa is a big part of the American traditional Christmas. He is pictured as a benevolent old man, working all year up at the North Pole with his elves to prepare for his delivery of Christmas gifts to the children of the world. Unless, of course, you have been naughty. Then it is coal for you.

I personally love Santa. I don’t mean to offend any of you Santa-haters out there. I just had such wonderful memories of rushing down the stairs as a child to discover if HE had come. I wanted my kids to experience the same magic for a least a few of their early years. So we always left a snack and a note of encouragement for the old guy before snuggling under the covers on Christmas Eve. And we were never disappointed when morning arrived.

Where our many ideas of Santa come from? How did the original St. Nicholas, very real and very human, morph into a sort-of omnipresent being who sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake? Since when did the benevolent man, known for his generosity toward the oppressed, start making a list on who is naughty or nice? How did he get the magical ability to slip unhindered down the flu into the fireplace below, only to rise back up to the rooftop with a twitch of his nose? I suspect many of our current traditions on Santa have come from the poems, stories, and songs written about old Kris Kringle in the last few centuries. In short, he is a product of our collective imaginations and bears little resemblance toward the original third century character.  

I wonder if we have reduced the meaning of Christmas story details in much the same way. Our remembrance and understanding of a quaint manger scene and angels’ pronouncements can bear little resemblance to what God was revealing about Himself through them.

In reality, the events surrounding the birth of Christ speak volumes about the power of God.

Let’s start with the angels. While we might tend to think of angels as harmless characters, fluttering their wings to hover over the roof of a stable or fields of a shepherd, they are really quite the opposite. For example, in 2 Kings 19, God sends an angel to destroy the army of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, killing 185,000 men. An angel killed the first-born in every Egyptian household the night of Passover in Exodus. Jesus referred to angels as a formidable army when he asked Peter, “Do you think I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53 NASB). These are no cherubic, impotent beings. Yet God uses these frighteningly powerful creatures to announce the good news. His very messengers displayed the power of God.

Another power-revealing aspect of the Christmas story is in how God orchestrated circumstances to fulfill prophecy given hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. He prompted the great Caesar Augustus, the most powerful man alive, to require every family to go to the city of their family origin to register for a census. Thus Joseph and Mary were forced to go to Bethlehem from Nazareth, just as she was preparing to give birth, in obedience to this decree.

How did the Wise Men know where the Savior had been born? God placed a sign for them in the night sky prompting their trip to Israel in recognition of the birth of a king. We don’t know if the “star” was a super-nova, planets in alignment, a comet, or even some supernatural event. We do know God performed the supernatural in the heavenlies at other times, such as the day the sun stood still in Joshua 10 or actually moved backward in 2 Kings 20. Whatever it was, God placed “the star” in the sky as an unmistakable sign guiding the wise men to come and worship.

Circumstances of the first Christmas were perfectly arranged by one very powerful God.

St. Nicholas had a real history, but that reality has been replaced by the whims of our imaginations. Let’s not miss the intended impact of the details in the Christmas story. While the quiet manger scene pictured in nativity sets around the world is dear to our hearts, it should remind us of more than the generosity and goodness of God. The coming of Christ was more than a sweet baby asleep in the hay at the edge of town. It was an unmistakable display of the power of God.

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

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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: What fun traditions does your family practice around Christmas?

Wear the Uniform

by Julie Zine Coleman

Our family arrived at the Roosevelt Hotel the day of my cousin’s wedding late and flustered. We had experienced great difficulty navigating our car caravan through the busy Manhattan streets. Our cars pulled up in tandem under the marquis, hoping for assistance and directions to get us to the front desk quickly.

Two uniformed doormen stood watching us, but did not come to help with the large pile of luggage we pulled from the cars. They didn’t even hold the doors open for us as we struggled to bring our belongings up the stairs and inside. So much for New York hospitality. Miffed at their lack of assistance, I sent a meaningfully dirty look their way.

“I hope they are not thinking we are going to tip them,” I indignantly told my daughters-in-law.
 
Bethany looked over at the men. “Mom, I think they are airline pilots,” she said.
 
Uniforms identify the wearer with his place of business. For those observant enough to see the difference between a doorman and an airline pilot’s uniform (!!!), there is no question as to where they serve and what one can expect.
 
Jesus wanted His disciples to be easily identifiable in the world. He gave us a uniform of sorts to wear as well. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me,” He said (Luke 9:23 NASB).  What did that mean? How would that identification look when fleshed out in His followers to the rest of the world?
 
The concept of being marked as God’s was not a new one. God directed Abraham in Genesis 17:10 to do this very thing. Every male was to be circumcised, beginning with Abraham and continuing down through the generations of descendants that would follow. It was a physical sign that revealed the people’s covenantal relationship with God. Yet it was not just an outward sign that God desired. “Circumcise your heart,” Moses told Israel, “And stiffen your neck no longer… You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.” (Deuteronomy 10:16, 20) Israel’s “uniform” of trust in and obedience to God would identify them as different from the surrounding nations.
 
To anyone living in the Roman Empire, Jesus’ instruction to “take up his cross and follow me” would have brought to mind a familiar, horrific image. Crucifixion was a brutal form of execution. Once condemned, the criminal would be made to put a crossbeam on his shoulders at the site of sentencing and carry it to the place where he would be crucified. Carrying the cross would be the final act of one’s life. Therefore, Jesus was clearly using this as a metaphor, since He instructed His disciples to carry their cross  on a daily basis.
 
Christ’s first century followers knew crucifixion was a death sentence. Any possessions or wealth, along with rank or entitlement, were also forfeited at the time of sentencing. A crossbeam on one’s shoulders symbolized to the world that the carrier was under the authority of Rome.
 
When Jesus instructed his disciples to “take up [their] cross daily and follow me,” he was describing how his followers would identify with Him and thus be identified by others. Rather than an outward, physical sign, taking up the cross was an inward attitude that considered oneself dead to sin and alive in Christ. No longer would the disciples live for purely self-serving reasons. Theirs would be a life of surrender, yielding entitlement and self-interests to God, willingly placing themselves under His authority.

When surrounded by a world seeking to exalt itself, anyone with a uniform like that would be very easy to pick out of a crowd.
 
Christ calls us to take up our cross daily. It is not a once-in-a-lifetime commitment. Rather, it is a daily determination to put God’s priorities as first in our lives. It happens one small decision, one singular action at a time. We will not always succeed; in fact, we may well fail more than succeed. Yet our goal remains to make the fact we have been crucified with Christ a reality in our lives. Why? Because it is what identifies us as His.
 
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” 1 Peter 1:14-16

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

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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 does taking up your cross on a daily basis look like in your life?

Expressing Gratitude

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

…Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.  Ephesians 5:18-20 NASB

From the outside, my friend Peter seemed to have it all together. He was a bright, gifted young man, who became a Christian during his college years. Immediately he began to study and grow, and soon discovered he had an incredible gift for teaching. After graduation, Peter spent his first two post-college years in full time work for the Lord, teaching Scripture and mentoring students at several local colleges and universities.

Yet as he progressed in his ministry, Peter began to be plagued with doubts. He may have been a dynamic teacher on the outside, but on the inside, he was a mass of conflict. So much of what he preached was coming back empty for him on an emotional level. He began to doubt about even the existence of God. Finally one evening, after much inner turmoil, he decided he could not live with the doubt any longer. He would abandon his faith for good.

A half-hour later, there was a knock on his door. A young college co-ed stood outside with tears in her eyes. As she entered, she explained that she had serious doubts about the existence of God. “I want to believe,” she told Peter. “Please help me.”

Peter stood in his doorway, uncertain of his response. He knew exactly what this girl was experiencing, since his own struggle had just come to a head. Yet at the same time, he knew Jesus said: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6 NASB).

So he sat down and shared with her from God’s Word. In Romans, they looked at many witnesses who saw the resurrected Christ. In Matthew, they saw how over one hundred prophecies written eight hundred years before Christ’s birth were fulfilled during His lifetime. Too much evidence was contained in Scripture to be denied. It just didn’t make sense NOT to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.

As Peter saw his young friend out the door, he knew he had just talked himself back into believing. By teaching the truths he already knew, those truths became even more compelling for him. There is a power that comes in verbally expressing our faith.

Paul tells the Ephesians that they should live lives yielded to the Spirit (Ephesians 5:17-21 NASB). What he suggests to foster this is to make verbal expressions of their faith: speaking to one another in psalms, singing hymns and spiritual songs, as well as giving thanks for all things. There is something powerful about truth, that when shared aloud with others, it benefits the one speaking as much as the recipient.

Perhaps that is why Paul makes sure to mention giving thanks in many of his letters. We should be faithful to express thanksgiving aloud. And as the words come off our tongues, what they express becomes real to us in a fresh way. When we remind others about the faithfulness of God, we also remind ourselves and are enabled to trust Him more fully.

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

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Expressing Gratitude – 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 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: Does verbalizing what you believe strengthen your faith?

The Best Kind of Role Model

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

Blogger Kathi Mascias told a story years ago about Rosey Grier, the former NFL defensive tackle. She wrote: “A mountain of a man with a heart of gold, he was always aware of being in the public eye.” Rosey once spoke to a group of NFL recruits about this very topic. A recruit protested. “I don’t want to be a role model,” he told Rosey.

Rosey replied, “Son, when you accepted the NFL draft, you stepped into that position. The only thing you have to decide now is what kind of role model you’re going to be.”

That reality has a particular ring of truth for believers in Christ. God has decided to reveal himself in this present age through his Church. We are called to live lives that reflect who we are in Christ to the world around us. Paul urged the Philippians to live as “… children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…” (Philippians 2:15-16).

Paul also wrote the Ephesians: “… the manifold wisdom of God [is] now made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10 NASB). It’s not just our fellow man  getting an education. Even the angels and demons are learning about God through the lives of those who believe in him.

Kind of a heavy responsibility, don’t you think? What’s especially sobering is the fact that it is not the words we preach, but our actual lives that are doing the talking.

We often equate our witness to words we speak. There are all kinds of books and programs out there, telling us exactly what to say when sharing the gospel. There’s nothing wrong with studying these things, for Peter encourages us to be ready “to give an account for the hope that is in you.” But if we think our primary witness is in our impressive speech, we’d better think again.

Note Peter urges us to be ready with a response. When others see Christ in us, through the way we are living our lives, they will be intrigued. The genuineness of our walk will naturally raise questions. So we must be ready for when they inquire as to what makes us different.

Actions pre-authenticating words. It really is a genius plan.

In the absence of validating action, words can be mistakenly perceived. I remember a fellow camp staff member who had a requirement to fill during his summer job. He had signed a promise to his Christian college that he would share the gospel at least three times a week. Desperate to keep his obligation, he embarrassed us several times in public places, preaching at anyone who made eye contact. I never did see him lead anyone to the Lord. But I did see him repulse some people. Words come across as preachy judgment when they are not authenticated by actions.

We show God’s love for others by loving them ourselves. Our kind acts demonstrate God’s kind intentions toward them. Humility and brokenness allow them to see our common reality: without Christ, we stand guilty, condemned, unworthy. Extending grace and mercy reflects the cure we’ve been granted: God’s unmerited forgiveness and acceptance.

How we live determines how effectively we fulfill our role as God-revealers. Whether we like it or not, when we believed, we stepped into that position. It’s up to us what kind of role model we are going to be.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 NASB

TWEETABLE
The Best Kind of Role Model – 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 do you think is most important in a role model?

Swamp Smoke

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

As I stepped out to walk my dog a few years ago, a pervasive smell in the morning air accosted me. Something was clearly burning, but I could not see smoke. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the odor’s point of origin. Apparently, lightning had ignited a fire in Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp the previous week. The ensuing fire was still going strong. The afternoon preceding our walk, the wind began to blow from the south. The entire Washington, D.C. area was now the unhappy recipient of dismal air quality, thanks to the smoke blowing over us. 

You may be surprised to learn the Great Dismal Swamp is not even close to where I live. It is 250 miles away, a good five hour drive from here. We couldn’t see the flames or the smoke. Yet we were suffering effects, just the same. Pollution can be pervasive.

When Moses was leading the people of Israel through the desert, three men, named Korah, Dathan, and Abiriam challenged his and his brother Aaron’s authority. You can imagine how it began: three men sitting around a campfire, discussing the day’s events. Soon careless remarks became angry in tone as they encouraged each other on. Others joined in, and it wasn’t long before the discontentment had infected a sizable group. Bitterness quickly spread, resulting in a rebellion 250 men strong. Sin had infiltrated the camp.

With such encouraging support, Korah publicly confronted the leaders. Who did they think they were, putting themselves in charge? Moses humbly responded by suggesting they assemble at the Tent of Meeting the next day. There God would indicate whom he desired to lead.

God let them know alright, and in no uncertain terms. The ground opened up to swallow Korah and his cohorts, their families, and all their possessions. Then fire came down from heaven and consumed the 250 followers as well.

You would think that would have been the end of that, and the rest of the people would have been scared straight. Not so.

The next day, the entire congregation voiced their anger at Moses and Aaron for the terrible judgment they had witnessed. At this point, the Lord had had enough. He sent a plague; immediately people began dropping like flies. In three days’ time, the sin of three men was now affecting thousands.

Moses, desperate to save the people, ordered his brother to take incense and make atonement for their sin. Numbers 16:48 (NASB) tells us: “He took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was checked.” Sin’s egregious effects had finally come to a halt. (Read the story in its entirety in Numbers 16.)

Yes, sin will spread its insidious swamp smoke every time. But as we face its far-reaching pollution, we are not without hope. The remedy to stop the damage in its tracks has already been provided. Our High Priest Jesus has also taken his stand between the living and the dead. He’s made atonement for our sin. No longer are we helpless under its fierce onslaught of destruction (Romans 7:13-15).

After a few days of smelly air, a cold front went through Maryland. We awoke the next morning to fresh, clean air, all traces of the Dismal Swamp fire swept away by a northwesterly wind. God has offered us the same kind of new beginning. He is waiting for us to invite Him into the mess sin has caused to bring healing and restoration for all involved that place their trust in Him.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32 NASB  

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Swamp Smoke – encouragement and insight from author @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: Have you seen sin cause destruction in those who never knew about the original event?

Skip the Checklist

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

As a young bride, I determined to be an excellent cook. I collected and experimented with recipes from my mother, magazines, and potluck dinners. There were a few disasters early on: my husband still remembers with fondness a certain tuna casserole we had to choke down.

But over the years, I learned enough to eventually deviate from the recipe cards in my file and create my own. It’s always a little scary cooking without a recipe; I don’t stop worrying until that first sampling bite. I guess I will always be a rule follower at heart.

We, as humans, love our checklists. We yearn for a formula to follow. The internet, books, and magazines are filled with how-to articles listing step-by-step directions to get a job done.

A checklist may work for many things, but it’s not especially effective when it comes to spiritual life. We long for a blueprint that will guarantee our children will follow Christ, give us successful marriages, or make our ministry effective. Just tell me what to do, Lord. I want the A plus B plus C that will guarantee D.

The problem is that even if a formula is perfection itself, the ones attempting to carry it out are imperfect at best. Life is messy, and not much about humans is cut-and-dried. Formulas also tend to put God in a box, presuming that we obligate him should we do the right things. Finally, most lists are inevitably us-centered, which is always a bad place to start. In short, the checklist approach is frequently a recipe for failure.

Mind you, the Bible is not short of instructions. But I find it revealing that Jesus identified the most important command as “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30 NIV). Fellow rule lovers will note nothing specific enough there to accomplish and check off; it’s really a more of a general principle to guide every action.

When the children of Israel left Egypt behind, God led them to Mt. Sinai, where he issued 613 Laws to set them apart as his people. The famed 10 Commandments were just the tip of the iceberg! But God later qualified his expectations by zeroing in on the intent of their hearts. “Now Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you,” Moses reminded the people, “but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer” (Deuteronomy 10:12-16 NASB).

What God truly desired was an undivided devotion to him. Yet a checklist mentality persisted through many generations and eventually led to the nation’s downfall. God told Isaiah, “This people draw near with their words and honor me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from me, and their reverence for me consists of tradition learned by rote” (Isaiah 29:13 NASB). When it comes to God, following a formula or a checklist just doesn’t cut it. He wants our hearts.

Jesus worked to get this across in his Sermon on the Mount. With every example, he revealed the true intent of the Law, how it was always meant to be observed. The Law wasn’t some finite checklist. It was intended to reach deep and affect the very hearts of God’s people.

How can we cultivate that kind of heart today? When it comes to God, the old adage is true: to know him is to love him. The more we learn about God, his nature, his character, and his kind intentions toward us, the more we fall in love. This in turn stirs a desire to please Him, to respond in gratitude to what he has done. Every action is a mere overflow of what we know to be true about Him.

So put down the checklist and pick up your Bible. Get to know and love the God of the Universe. He gave everything for you. All he wants in return is for you to love him back.

The eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth, that he may strongly support those whose heart is completely his. 2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB

TWEETABLE
Skip the Checklist – encouragement on #FollowingGod from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

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: Are you a checklist kind of person? How does that affect your relationship with God?