Cryptic Jesus

by Julie Zine Coleman

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.   Ephesians 3:20-21 NASB

The town was several days into the wedding feast. The food and wine had flowed in abundance, provided by the groom’s parents. But then the wine ran out. And Mary, in concern for the hosts’ embarrassment of not having enough, went to Jesus, who was in attendance with several of his disciples. “They have no more wine,” she anxiously informed him. She knew him better than anyone, as only a mother knows her child. He had always shown himself to be wise and capable. Maybe he would have an idea to help their hapless hosts.

But his response was not so warm and fuzzy as we might expect. In fact, it gave me pause as I studied this passage for a book I was writing. He replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”

Some commentators suggest Mary was overstepping her bounds, and Jesus was drawing a line in the sand. But would Jesus treat his mother with such callous disregard, especially in light of the concern she had just expressed for the wedding hosts? Not likely: Jesus actually rebuked the Pharisees for neglecting their parents (in light of the fifth commandment: Honor your father and mother). It is inconsistent to think that Jesus would turn his back on Mary when he qualified others’ disregard for their parents as erroneous.

A closer look at the story provides a different purpose to Jesus’ puzzling words.

The literal translation of his response is “What to me and to you?” It was an idiom of the time. Other idioms are common today, like: “he has a chip on his shoulder”, or “to rub someone the wrong way”. We don’t take the words literally, but understand the meaning behind the metaphor.

So what then was Jesus doing with his cryptic response?

It is helpful to compare this conversation with another mother, the Syrophoenician Woman (Matthew 15:21-28). She also came to Jesus with a request: that he would deliver her daughter from demon possession. He also refused her at first. Then he gave a reason why he should not help, just as he did at Cana. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:24, 26 NASB).

What turned the tide in both conversations? Expressions of faith. The Syrophoenician Woman said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table” (Matthew 15:27 NASB). Jesus commended the Syrophoenician woman for her great faith. He then granted her request.  

Same with Mary. She told the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it” (John 2:5 NASB). With this instruction, Mary was expressing faith in Jesus. She trusted him to work things out in his perfect way, in his own time. And as he did with the Syrophoenician woman, Jesus responded to her faith with a miracle.

Jesus’ initial refusal in both accounts were really a means to an end. He drove both women further in their trust relationship with him. His puzzling words were merely a way to move them forward. The wine he provided through his first miracle was of superior quality, better than anything the hosts had already produced. Faith was the conduit for God’s abundant blessing.

Hebrews tells us: “Now faith is the assurance of things not seen…and without faith it is impossible to please Him…” (Hebrews 11:1, 6 NASB). When we ask in faith, we are acknowledging that God is capable and powerful enough. But we are also submitting to his good and perfect will, which might not necessarily align with our request. We are trusting him to do the best thing, no matter how that might look in light of our specific desire.

Trust is what God wants from us. We tend to think that our actions are most important to God. But how well we behave or how many accomplishments we achieve for him cannot be the basis for any request. Jesus miraculously changed water into the very best wine. It came through someone choosing to trust him, no matter what he did.

Trust in the integrity, wisdom, and goodness of our capable God. He will always do the best thing.

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 her new website JulieZineColeman.com and Facebook.

Many Christian women are torn between the church’s traditional teachings on gender roles and the liberty they experience in secular society. But what if the church’s conventional interpretations aren’t really biblical at all? Julie’s new book, On Purpose, releases today!! It is a careful study of the passages in the Bible often interpreted to limit women in the church, at home, or in the workplace. Each chapter reveals timeless biblical principles that actually teach freedom, not limitation.

Join the conversation: What is the biggest challenge to your ability to trust God?

When Failure is Turned to Victory

by Julie Zine Coleman

God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong . . . so that no man may boast before God. 1 Corinthians 1:27, 29 NASB

During the annual missions conference at Capital Bible Seminary, we had the pleasure of sitting under the teaching of Dr. Lewis Sutton. He told a great story about his college experience.

Dr. Sutton had committed himself to getting up early each morning to spend time in God’s Word as well as in prayer. Being a typical young adult, he was not very disciplined about getting to bed at a decent hour. So, the early risings were often difficult to manage. One morning, after too little sleep the previous night, Dr. Sutton sat at his desk, trying to focus on his Bible propped up in front of him. His brain too foggy to think clearly, he decided to spend the rest of his time in prayer before getting ready for class. With his roommate still asleep, Dr. Sutton rested his head on his folded hands on the desk, started to pray, and promptly fell asleep. Two hours later he awoke with a start to find himself late for class.

A few weeks later, Dr. Sutton and his roommate attended a Christian fellowship, and his roommate was asked how things were going. “Just great!” the roommate enthused. “I’ve been having great quiet times with the Lord.” When asked if something had happened to make that difference in his life, the roommate gave a ready answer: “The other day, Lewis spent two whole hours in prayer. I was so impressed I decided to do exactly what he was doing. And the Lord really turned my life around!”

Of course, Dr. Sutton later shared exactly what had gone on during that “prayer” session his roommate had observed, and together they had a good laugh. But he had discovered an interesting truth about God: He can use even our greatest weakness or failure in a good way in us and in the lives of others.

We worry about having it all together before we try to serve God. But God doesn’t tend to use people who have it all together. He wants people who again and again curl up at His feet, aware of their sin and begging for the grace to carry on.

When we blow it, we are suddenly aware of the ugliness that still exists inside us. The façade is shattered, and we come face to face with what really was true all along: We are too needy and unworthy to deserve to be used in the service of the King. Yet amazingly, God delights to work through those who are a big mess (like me). After a failure, we are aware once again that we need grace as much as ever. God’s response to this awareness is to compassionately wrap His arms around us. Psalm 34:18 assures us: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (NASB).

While the world considers things like self-sufficiency, confidence, and competence to be worthy and admirable, these are not what God desires for us. Instead, He wants us to be dependent on His strength, reliant on His power, and wholly leaning on Him for all aspects of our life. The more aware we are of our faults, the more we understand that if we were left to fend for ourselves, it would not end well.

That is what our weaknesses do for us. They keep us grounded in the truth, so that God can do His most mighty work through us. And in the end, His glory shines out through the cracks in the vessels He has chosen to use.

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 her new website JulieZineColeman.com and Facebook.

Many Christian women are torn between the church’s traditional teachings on gender roles and the liberty they experience in secular society. But what if the church’s conventional interpretations aren’t really biblical at all? Julie’s new book, On Purpose, is a careful study of the passages in the Bible often interpreted to limit women in the church, at home, or in the workplace. Each chapter reveals timeless biblical principles that actually teach freedom, not limitation.

Join the conversation: How dependent are you on God’s grace?

No Wrath, Ever

by Julie Zine Coleman

Journalist Lewis Hind once wrote of an epiphany about his father. Mr. Hind was a stern parent who administered discipline with an iron hand. Lewis respected his father, but even more, he feared him. One Sunday morning that all changed.

He was sitting in a church pew next to his father when the urge to sleep overtook him. Try as he might, young Lewis could not keep his eyes open. As he began to nod off, movement next to him startled him awake. His father raised him arm. Lewis flinched, sure his father meant to shake or strike him. Instead, Mr. Hind stretched his arm over the back of the pew and drew his young son close to his side, encouraging him to snuggle up and relax. In that moment, Lewis now understood that his father loved him.

Sometimes what we think we know as truth turns out to be dead wrong.

From early on, Jewish theology carried the idea that sickness was a result of sin. In the time of the patriarchs, a friend of Job demonstrated this in his judgment of Job’s troubles: “Remember now, whoever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed? According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it. By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger, they come to an end” (Job 4:7-9 NASB).

In Jesus’ day, the assumption persisted. His disciples questioned Jesus about one man’s blindness. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (John 9:2 NASB). Obviously, if you were blind, you were experiencing the wrath of God for some grievous sin. Or so they thought.

Jesus knew otherwise. He corrected their false belief by telling them it was neither. “It was so the works of God might be displayed in him,” he said. (John 9:3b).

Mark tells the story in his gospel of a paralytic whose friends lowered him through a hole in the roof to be healed by Jesus. Jesus’ first words to him are puzzling. He said, “Your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5 NASB).

Wait…he came to be healed! What would “your sins are forgiven” have meant to that man?

For however long the man had been paralyzed, he had lived under the condemning stares of others, silently accusing him (or his parents) of committing some terrible sin, evidenced by his ailment. Worse, he had experienced the rejection and wrath of God himself. Or so he thought.

Jesus told him otherwise. He cleared away the man’s guilt with one statement: Your sins are forgiven. Upon hearing those words and their implication, the burden of despair fell off the man’s shoulders. He was spiritually healed.

Then, for good measure, Jesus commanded the paralytic to walk. And so he did. He picked up the mat on which he had so recently been carried and left the premises. With that physical healing, Jesus made his point. He was the Son of God. He had the authority to forgive sin. And this miracle proved it.

Have you ever wondered if your difficult circumstances are God’s punishment for your sin? That if you could be a better person, God wouldn’t be angry with you any more? Don’t buy into the lie. It’s bad theology.

Jesus bore the wrath of God for our sin on the cross. He endured God’s rejection and anger. If we believe in Christ, trusting him for our salvation, we will never be condemned for a single sin. Ever.

Jesus already paid the debt. God is not angry with you. True, sin makes him angry. But he placed that wrath for our sin on Jesus. As believers, we will never experience the wrath of God.

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9 NASB

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

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

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 her new website JulieZineColeman.com and Facebook.

Many Christian women are torn between the church’s traditional teachings on gender roles and the liberty they experience in secular society. But what if the church’s conventional interpretations aren’t really biblical at all? Julie’s new book, On Purpose, is a careful study of the passages in the Bible often interpreted to limit women in the church, at home, or in the workplace. Each chapter reveals timeless biblical principles that actually teach freedom, not limitation.

Join the conversation: Have you ever mistakenly judged someone by the external?

The Big Reveal

by Rebecca Price Janney

Don’t you just love a good makeover story? You’ve probably watched many shows in which a couple buys a derelict house with a jungle-like yard because a team of experts promises to turn this nightmare into a dream home. The professionals go to work, relentlessly tearing down walls and ripping out cabinets. They load dumpsters, spackle, paint, roof, rebuild, and replant. At the end of the show, the couple stands before a huge “before” photo of their house, and when the makeover gurus slide the rolling billboard away, the husband and wife leap into the air, screaming and crying when their once dilapidated house is revealed to be the nicest on the block.

There are other shows in which individuals, who seem barely acquainted with a comb or brush and think wearing sweatpants to a wedding is appropriate, encounter fashion consultants who triage the woman’s wardrobe, casting most of it into a trash can. They take her shopping for clothes to complement her body type, then hair and makeup stylists go to work. In the end, they turn the woman around in a salon chair to reveal her new and incredibly beautiful self.

Even if we live in clean houses and our clothes/makeup don’t require an intervention, most of us know there’s a better us hidden under layers of lingering sin and distorted ideas about ourselves. Those things may have sabotaged our relationships or cut our potential short. We long to be free, to have Jesus toss out our personal rubbish.

As a matter of fact, Jesus has already begun to do that, to give us an amazing makeover. When we put our trust in Him to save us from our sins, we became God’s very own children, a new creation, and we started to bear the Family resemblance. This divine makeover doesn’t end in our lifetime, however. It is an ongoing-process that continues throughout our lives and will culminate with the Lord’s Second Coming. First John 3: 2 (ESV) says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” 

What exactly will we look like when our grand reveal happens? Many people believe our transformation results in us becoming angels. You hear it all the time; someone dies, and others say, “Heaven has gained a new angel.” This is a false idea, however, because Scripture shows us angels are a separate race of beings from humans.  

So, if we don’t become angels, what will we be like at the culmination of our heavenly makeovers? John, the author of this letter, didn’t speculate or try to describe this future condition. Just that we will be like Jesus. And what was He like? Perfect in every possible way, beautiful beyond anything we know here on earth. Flawless. Reflecting the glory of our awesome God.

For now, as we live on the expectant edge of eternity, the divine makeover process is underway. We can wait with eager longing for that grandest of all reveals, when Jesus rolls back the clouds and returns in all His splendor, and gazing upon Him, we will be completely, utterly transformed.

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

About the author: DR. REBECCA PRICE JANNEY is the author of twenty-five books, including her beloved Easton Series. Books three and four, Easton at the Crossroads and Easton at the Pass, captured 2019 and 2020 Golden Scroll Awards for Historical Novel of the Year, and the first book in her Morning in America Series, Morning Glory, took second place. Award-winning Sweet, Sweet Spirit: One Woman’s Spiritual Journey to the Asbury College Revival, is a compelling read for such a time as this. Her latest novel is Easton at Christmastide.

Rebecca began writing professionally at the age of fourteen, and by the following year, was covering the Philadelphia Phillies. She earned degrees in history from Lafayette College, Princeton Seminary, and Missio Seminary. Rebecca is a popular speaker at civic and patriotic organizations, historical societies, schools, libraries, churches, and synagogues, and appears regularly on radio as well as her podcast, “American Stories.” She resides with her husband, son, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley where her family has lived since the 1740s.

Join the conversation: What do you imagine our completed selves will be like at the second coming?

Is it Sin?

by Julie Zine Coleman

“… God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NASB

He was a teen in all-out rebellion and dressed the part: longish hair, shredded jeans, and an offensive graphic t-shirt. Even the way he sauntered past my house made a statement. I gave him a friendly wave and a greeting as he passed by.

It wasn’t long before his mom came down the street for a visit. “Did you see my son?” she asked. “I can’t believe how he was dressed. When I told my husband how horrified I was when I saw him walk out the door like that, he just said, ‘Is it sin for him to dress that way? We need to pick our battles with him.’”

Wise words for teenage parents. It became a thing for Steve and I even as we parented our young children. When one gave us pause, we automatically considered: Is it sin? The answer to that question made a difference in our response.

Now that our kids are grown and have children of their own, I’m so glad we had that perspective. Too often, we react to what is culturally different than our standard rather than looking to the heart of the matter. For example, I can remember the horror my church community had at the thought of drums or guitars leading worship in the 70’s. They assumed it to be sin—the beat of drums was satanic—they even had a verse or two to back that belief up.

Rob Parsons, in his book Bringing Home the Prodigals, tells the story of some German Christians that noticed a group of American Christians wearing gold and diamonds. The Germans were so shocked, they dropped their cigars into their beer. What is acceptable in one culture can be unacceptable to another. But culture is culture, and not necessarily sin.  

We waste a lot of time and energy pushing back on differences that really don’t matter at all.  

What is God’s perspective? In his time on earth, Jesus shocked a lot of traditionalists with how he lived. “Why are you picking grain or healing people on the Sabbath?” they demanded. “How come you do not ceremonially wash your hands before eating? Why would you eat in the company of sinners?”

Mind you, Jesus was not disobeying Mosaic Law, originating from God himself. He was ignoring the Pharisaic Oral Law, human-created in the previous century. Those strict standards and overwhelming restrictions burdened the people of Jesus’ day and kept them in fear of offending God at every turn. It contained rules based on external activities, much more about appearances than what was in the heart (Romans 9:31-33).

But Jesus offered something different: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and You will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB). Even keeping all of the Pharisees’ many rules would not necessarily bring them any closer to God.

Jesus warned a crowd at the temple, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24 NASB). They had been judging Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath. But they were missing the heart of God revealed in that act of mercy. They’d been distracted by the external.

We will never bring someone to Jesus through rules and being judgmental. But we can win them over with love, by extending grace and mercy. It’s exactly how God won us over, after all. “Freely you received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8 NASB).

Appearances are often a mere reflection of culture. Instead of judging by the superficial, reach for the heart. That perspective will make all the difference.

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 her new website JulieZineColeman.com and Facebook.

Many Christian women are torn between the church’s traditional teachings on gender roles and the liberty they experience in secular society. But what if the church’s conventional interpretations aren’t really biblical at all? Julie’s new book, On Purpose, is a careful study of the passages in the Bible often interpreted to limit women in the church, at home, or in the workplace. Each chapter reveals timeless biblical principles that actually teach freedom, not limitation.

Join the conversation: Have you ever mistakenly judged someone by the external?

The Most Famous Love Words

by Sheri Schofield

The harsh realities of paganism surrounded Ruth in the land of Moab—until the day she met Mahlon, a young Jewish immigrant. Ruth’s people worshipped Chemosh, known as “the destroyer.” Her people offered human sacrifices to Chemosh, usually young children and babies. But when she met Mahlon, Ruth was introduced to the living God, Jehovah, whose laws required love and life, not fear and death. It was revolutionary!

Mahlon and Ruth were soon married. Mahlon’s brother, Chilion, married another Moabite woman named Orpah. But their joy was cut short when Mahlon, Chilion and their father died, leaving behind their three widows. Their mother-in-law Naomi decided to return to her hometown. She urged her daughters-in-law to return to their families. Orpah eventually did.

But Ruth refused to be parted from Naomi. Why would she want to stay in Moab and suffer under the worship of Chemosh? She told her mother-in-law, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God,” (Ruth 1:16 NIV).

Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, Ruth worked in the barley harvest to gather grain to feed Naomi and herself. The people of Bethlehem grew to respect the young widow for her faithfulness to Naomi. Eventually Ruth married a local landowner, Boaz, and provided a son to inherit Mahlon’s land, a son who was laid in Naomi’s lap, to bring joy to the widow.

While Ruth’s words to Naomi are often used in wedding ceremonies between a bride and groom, those words were originally meant to show the devotion of a young woman to her mother-in-law. Ruth became Naomi’s caretaker, her provider. She did it out of love.

Caretakers often support and provide for others who cannot live on their own. Older women care for husbands whose health is failing. Husbands care for wives who are incapacitated in some way. Parents care for handicapped children. Many caretakers work without thanks, for their loved one cannot speak or understand or express words of love. Yet those caretakers give unselfishly day after day, year after year, serving those whom they love.

Most people do not understand or even think about the sorrows of those who have taken up the role of caretaker in their homes. Often, those who give care do so out of an inner strength, upheld by the Holy Spirit. They have learned to stand alone, in God’s strength.

Valentine’s Day is very hard for many caretakers. Do you know anyone who serves in that capacity? Have you considered sending him or her a Valentine this year? How about a card signed by many, letting this lonely worker know they are loved and appreciated?

Let this Valentine’s Day be the beginning of a pattern among us. May the Lord help us seek out and recognize the Ruths who patiently and quietly serve others. Let’s tell them they are loved and treasured. We can lift their spirits with our encouragement. Let this Valentine’s Day go beyond romantic love and touch the servant-hearts of those in need of joy.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

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

About the author: Award-winning author, illustrator, and Bible teacher Sheri Schofield ministers to children and their families through her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids. After serving Jesus through children’s ministries and personal evangelism for many years, she understands how to communicate God’s plan of salvation clearly to those who are seeking God.

God? Where Are You?: Answering Your Questions About God and How You Can Find Him by [Sheri Schofield]

Her first book on salvation, The Prince and the Plan, was designed specifically for children. But during COVID, Sheri sensed the need to also provide help for adults. Her new book for adults, God? Where Are You?, tells tells who God is, how we became separated from him, and what he is doing to bring us back to himself through Jesus. At the end of each chapter is a section called “Food For Thought”, which answers questions many unbelievers have, such as—If God is good, why do terrible things happen?—Is anyone too “bad” for God to want to rescue them from sin? This biblically based book is short and easy to read. 

Join the conversation: How can we show love and support for those in a caretaker role?

The Tool of Time

by Julie Zine Coleman

“We are going, we are going to a home beyond the skies, where the fields are robed in beauty, and the sunlight never dies” (Bright Home Above, public domain). With this stanza, Fanny Crosby ventured into the world of hymn writing. She was 43 years old. Her first attempt was set to music by William Bradbury, who days later played it as a Sunday school song in a New York church. Her song writing career had begun.

Flip through any hymn book, and you’ll soon see the name Fanny Crosby. Some of our most loved hymns, like “Blessed Assurance,” “To God Be the Glory,” and “The Old Rugged Cross” were penned by this gifted poet. Her words reflect an intimately close relationship between her and her Savior.

Fanny was prolific in her work; over the second half of her lifetime she wrote the lyrics for more than 8,000 hymns. She was eventually forced to use pseudonyms because publishers were reluctant to put so many hymns by one writer into the same hymn book.

Why did God wait for her to begin this ministry until she was 43? I had a similar thought in 2006 as I packed my years of school teaching materials away and closed my plan book for the last time. At the age of 49, I was finally moving toward my dream of speaking and writing full time. I had wanted this for more than a decade. Why did God have me wait so long?

When Samuel anointed David as the next king of Israel, David was a mere lad. He was so young, his father didn’t even think to bring him inside to meet Samuel upon his arrival. God had already picked David out of the crowd as the one after his own heart. But David was not ready to take on the responsibilities of leading a nation. He had a lot of growing up to do.

So God placed David in an unusual leadership training course: Desert Survival Tactics 101. David spent some of what could have been the most productive years of his life hiding in caves and running from King Saul, who was out to kill him. God was taking a very long time to fulfill his promise. Several times, David could have killed Saul and ended his desert torture. His mighty men balked at the wait. But David knew God’s time table was best. So he insisted on waiting for God to make it happen.

David finally took the throne over a decade after his initial anointing. Only now was he ready. God used those many years in the desert to prepare his servant for the task.

We see the same process repeated in several biblical characters. Moses spent 40 years in the desert before God put him in charge over his chosen people. Joseph spent 13 years as a slave and then a prisoner waiting for God. Paul spent three years in the desert of Arabia after his conversion in preparation for ministry to the Gentiles. Not one minute of discomfort or suffering would go for naught. As James 1:4 promises, “Let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

The fact of the matter is, while we tap our foot impatiently waiting for God to move on our behalf, he is not idly sitting back. He is at work in us. He uses every circumstance to teach us, strengthen us, and prepare us for what lies ahead. Time is not our enemy. When it comes to God, time is our friend.

I learned the hard way it is a mistake to bake bread before it is finished rising. The yeast needs time to feed off the sugar and give off the gases which give bread lightness and texture. Bread baked too early is heavy and sits like a weight in your stomach. Some processes need time. To rush them is to sacrifice quality in the end. I wonder if Fanny Crosby could have written those beautiful words while in her 20’s. The depth of her writing reflects a relationship and trust in God that took half a lifetime to develop.

God often is not in a hurry with us, because some things require time.

“With the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you…” 2 Peter 3:8-9 NASB

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 in God’s 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 God used time as a development tool in your life?

So Much for Good Intentions

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

“There is no more powerful motivation for holiness than loving God in response to the revelation of his redeeming character and eternal promises.” Bryan Chapell, Christ Centered Preaching

How are you at keeping resolutions? I am the world’s worst. Mind you, I am full of good intentions. I will keep a cleaner and more organized home. I will lose weight. I will get serious about an exercise program. At the start, keeping a resolution is a breeze. Why did I live like I did before turning over this new leaf? Life is so much better this way! I will never go back. Sometimes I even try to convert others to my cause. How could they not follow in my steps? This way is infinitely better.

But it’s not long before I begin to wobble. This is too hard. I miss the convenience of doing things the old way. It wasn’t so bad before. And before long I have fallen back into my old ways once again.

Living for Jesus can fall along similar lines. We read or hear something that convicts us. So we resolve to act on that conviction. We will be more diligent about reading our Bible. Pray more. Get control of our tongue.

But soon the enthusiasm wanes. The high priorities of yesterday diminish in light of the new urgencies of today. And the resolution dies a quiet death.

Where can we find motivation that will last longer than our good intentions?

Guilt is usually my chief motivation, a powerful force in my life. I attempt to change something because I foolishly think that God will somehow love me more if I can get a handle on this thing in my life. This, of course, is a very faulty assumption. He knew every selfish act I would commit before I was even born. But He chose to love me anyway. My relationship with God is based on grace. So trying to earn love or acceptance from God really is flawed thinking.

In the end, anyway, guilt fails to produce a lasting result. As soon as I have worked long enough at change to ease my guilty conscience, the motivation is at an end. And I regress.

But what if, instead, I acted in response to the unconditional love and grace God has lavished on me? Donald Miller, in Blue Like Jazz, suggested that if an ordinarily lazy man were to fall in love, he could swim the English Channel for the sake of his beloved. Love is a huge motivator.

Our greatest incentive for change comes as a response to the grace and love the Father has already poured out on us. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…that those who live should no longer lives for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV). The greater our understanding of who God is and what He has done for us, the greater our motivation to love and serve him in return.

So rather than focus on my behavior and what I need to accomplish, I will choose to focus on the God that I serve. I will focus on His great love for me and on His perfect character. And my behaviors and attitudes, the ones which so desperately need to change, will suddenly be revealed for the dark, damaging habits they are, inappropriately existing in a life which has already been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.

The stronger my love for Him, the stronger my motivation. Less of me, more of Him.

“For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for he Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14:7-8 NASB

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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. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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Join the conversation: What have you resolved to do in the coming year?

Managing Expectations

by Julie Zine Coleman

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee.
(Charles Wesley, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus)

The year my daughter left for college, she came home for Christmas break brimming with excitement. The house was decorated for the season and goodies were baked in anticipation of the big day. Expectation filled the air.

The family gathered downstairs on Christmas morning to open gifts and celebrate together. After the gift exchange was finished, I noticed my daughter quietly sitting on the couch, looking kind of glum. When I asked if something was wrong, she shrugged her shoulders. “I guess I was expecting too much. I feel so let down this Christmas.”

That’s the problem with holding unrealistic expectations. It dooms us to disappointment.

Expectation was a key component regarding the first Christmas morning, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. For many centuries, God, through his prophets, reinforced what God promised to Adam and Eve just after the first sin. He would send a Savior to set humankind free from the bondage of sin (Genesis 3:15).

The promise was reiterated many, many times, sometimes giving further information about his coming.

  • Abraham was told it would be his descendant who would bless all nations (Genesis 12:2-4).
  • Moses knew he would be a prophet greater than him (Deuteronomy 18:15).
  • God told David that he would sit on David’s throne and have an eternal reign (2 Samuel 7:12-16).
  • Daniel prophesied when he would come (Daniel 9:25).
  • His birthplace would be the small town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

In fact, over three hundred prophecies in the Old Testament foretold many details about his coming and ministry on earth. So was he expected? You bet he was! When he came, the people had all they needed to know to enable recognition when they saw Him.

So then why did so many people miss it?

Because the prophecies were all mixed together, people didn’t understand that there would be two comings. The first would be to rescue people from the bondage of their sin and clear the path to a relationship with God. He would accomplish this by suffering on a cross, dying, then rising again. The second coming is still to come, when Jesus will finally rule the earth and every knee will bow to him. But for those waiting for the Messiah, it was hard to comprehend that the suffering servant and the victorious king could be the same person.

The people assumed the suffering servant in prophecy was Israel. They were looking for a messiah to lead them out of political oppression and restore their nation to peace and prosperity. A baby born in a stable to innocuous parents from Nazareth did not fit their expectations. So they missed him the first time around.

The same kind of blindness exists today when it comes to expectations. Some of our ideas about God are straight out of our imaginations. And when He doesn’t measure up to those ideas, we are disappointed. We are stunned when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer or whose life is cut short unexpectedly. But God never promised we would be protected from difficulties. His Word assures us that suffering will be part of his plan for us. We shake our fist at heaven when he does not give us what we ask. But we must ask in accordance to his will.

To avoid having our expectations crushed, we must inform what we think about God with what He tells us in His Word. When we base our expectations on His promises, His character, and His history as revealed in Scripture, we will never be disappointed.

One day, He will return. And no one will miss it this time around. “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27 NASB). Come, thou long expected Jesus. We await you in glorious expectation. And you will not disappoint.

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 in God’s 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 God disappointed you? What were you expecting?

Irreversible

by Julie Zine Coleman

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  Ezekiel 36:26 NIV

Some changes cannot be undone.

One of the science concepts I taught my fifth graders every year was the difference between a physical change and a chemical change. One is reversable and one is permanent. A physical change is a change in the state of matter. Applying heat to ice will melt it to liquid and eventually turn it into gas. But no matter in what state we find it, water remains H2O.

A chemical change is quite different. Heat actually causes a chemical break down of the bonds that hold atoms in a molecule together. They then rearrange to form new molecules that are completely different substances. For instance, the eggs you mix into cake batter, when baked, become something different. You can’t unbake a cake and retrieve those eggs again. What they were no longer exists. An irreversible molecular change has occurred.

There is another kind of irrevocable change: the transformation that God works in us at the moment we believe in Jesus Christ. Paul tells us that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV).

Just as a new substance has new properties, what once was true about us is true no longer. Where there was only death, now there is life (Ephesians 2:1). The Holy Spirit has come to permanently dwell in us as a guarantee of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13). Our status has gone from condemned to free, from people who once walked in the flesh now walking in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-2). Once alienated from God, we have now been permanently adopted into His family (Ephesians 1:5). Our spiritual blindness has been irrevocably altered to an ability to see and understand spiritual truth (Romans 8:5-6). We have been rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13, Philippians 3:20).   

And again, just as in chemistry, where a substance cannot change itself (heat is responsible for any transformation), the transformation that happened at our salvation was nothing we could do ourselves. It was something only God could do for us.  

The best news of all: God’s changes are permanent. We didn’t make it happen, and we cannot undo what He has done. We can rest in His work with confidence. Like most children that grew up in Christian homes, I prayed every night for Jesus to come into my heart, just in case the last prayer didn’t take. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood it was God’s doing: He was already there.

Every other religion bases a relationship with God on what they DO. But followers of Christ trust in what God has DONE. Jesus told His followers: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).

Do you worry that you can out-sin the grace of God? That somehow you can undo His work in you and change yourself back into what you were before He healed you? Lean into what you know He has already accomplished in you. Trust that His work is sufficient to save. We didn’t do it, and we cannot undo it. He has made us new.

The change is unalterable.

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 of God’s changes mean the most to you?