Surprised by Suffering 

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

TWEETABLE
Surprised by Suffering  – encouragement from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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

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

The Secret to Unity

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TWEETABLE
The Secret to Unity – insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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

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

Progress, Not Perfection

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TWEETABLE
Progress, Not Perfection – encouragement from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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

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

Proper Framework  

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

“According to His great mercy [He] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:3-4

Parent-Teacher conferences were always a challenge when I was teaching. By the end of the first marking period, my students had made themselves known. The honeymoon was over. The good, bad, and the ugly had all come to light.

Through the years, I found that a positive parental response to what I had to share depended on the delivery. So I always began the meeting with three positive things I saw in the child: maybe an excellent work ethic, or a soft heart toward God’s Word; things that went beyond behavior to the content of their character. I wanted parents to know I noticed the positive and had sincere concern for their child’s welfare. We were on the same team.

Of course, every child had areas that needed improvement. But when delivered within a carefully laid framework of the positive, parents received the negative as constructive. They were more than willing to join forces with me in guiding the child to positive change and growth.

Proper perception is dependent on a proper framework.

Paul sets up a proper framework for us in his letter to the Romans. He wanted his readers to view their present struggle within the proper framework of hope. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 NASB). Hard times are an inevitable part of following a suffering Savior. But when understood within the context of the larger picture, they have meaning and purpose.

What is the big picture, the framework in which we should contextualize our struggles? Our hope of glory. “[We] groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body… we hope for what we do not see” (Romans 8:23b NASB).

Life on earth is no picnic. Struggle is a part of reality, especially for those who have believed in Jesus Christ. We have several enemies working against us. There is the ever-present Satan, tempting and accusing us at every turn. There is the world, deriding us as we hold to the truth and follow Christ, both things which they have soundly rejected. But the enemy within is our own flesh. Paul describes the struggle between good and evil within us in Romans 7. We struggle. We fail. Again and again. There are days when we wonder: is it worth it?

It’s easy to lose sight of the forest when we are surrounded by the trees. The struggle may be what’s easily seen at the moment. But there is more than what presently meets the eye.

God has promised an unbelievable future for those that believe. He has adopted us and given us a hope: we will share in the inheritance of His Son. Someday our flesh will be redeemed. It will finally fully match the new life God has created in us. Unimaginable glory will be ours-we will share in the glory of Christ!

He has left a deposit, a guarantee of this glorious future: the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. Our future is secure.

In that context, our present struggle becomes tolerable. When viewed within the kind intentions of God, knowing what he has already done in the past and will do for us in the future, the pain suddenly pales. We follow him willingly through the hard, knowing the framework of the big picture.

After all, it’s exactly what Christ did. Philippians tells us he “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Why? He understood the bigger picture, the reality of what was not yet seen: “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 NASB).

Future glory. The promise of God. The framework makes all the difference.

TWEETABLE
Proper Framework – insight and encouragement from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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

Join the conversation: What part of God’s framework is the most important to you?

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

by Julie Coleman @JulieZColeman 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NASB

Ironic to the beauty that was characteristic of the Hawaiian Islands, the leper colony Molokai was home to some of the most deplorable and wretched conditions on the earth.  Missionary Father Damien arrived on the scene in 1873 to spread a message of hope and to minister to those who had been sent to the island to die.

He erected a church and worked tirelessly to provide decent shelters and improve the quality of life for the lepers who lived on the peninsula. Those suffering with leprosy politely attended the church services, out of respect for this man who selflessly gave of his life. But in their minds, religion remained something for those who did not suffer from the disease. Damien began every sermon the same way: “My dear lepers . . .”

Years passed. One morning as Damien prepared breakfast, he accidentally spilled boiling water on his foot. There was no pain. Damien realized that the dreaded had happened. He had finally contracted the disease. That Sunday morning, he began his sermon differently: “My fellow lepers . . .”

The news that Damien was now one of them spread like wildfire throughout the leper community. As the curious lepers watched, Damien continued to live out the rest of his life in dedication to the God he trusted. Religious revival swept the colony. God had suddenly become very real to the lepers while displayed in the life of one who suffered as they did.

God can turn our pain into an avenue of His grace and mercy. Knowing they are not alone is a balm to those who suffer.

When painful circumstances strike, our first prayer is for the Lord to take them away. Much of our prayer times sound like a Christmas wish list, as we tell God what to “fix” in order for life to be more comfortable for us. While there is nothing wrong with bringing our concerns before the Lord, we should also be praying about our own response should the Lord choose to allow that circumstance to remain. We need to pray for endurance and grace. Our goal should be that God might be glorified through us and that we would remain faithful to Him through the trial.

“…The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4 NIV). One of the reasons God brings painful circumstances along is so we can effectively minister to others. After walking in someone else’s shoes, we can listen and respond with an empathy we could not have had without going through the experience ourselves. Having been there gives credibility to our spiritual counsel.

Knowing this should revolutionize our prayer lives. In the midst of the pain, we should be looking for ways God makes Himself real to us through the struggle. We must ask God to make us sensitive to what He is endeavoring to teach us. Because one day we will be given an opportunity to pass on what we learned in the experience to another who is in the midst of the battle. And they will need what we can give them.

Are you struggling right now? Julie shares what God is revealing to her in her current battle with breast cancer on her blog. Check it out!

TWEETABLE
Walk a Mile in Their Shoes – insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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

Join the conversation: What has God revealed to you in a struggle that you have been able to use to encourage others?

No Looking Back

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

…Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:13 NASB

It was dark, and I was late. I was on my way last night to speak at a Christmas Tea just north of Lancaster, PA. Sitting in stop and go traffic in Baltimore had used up all of my smoodge time. There was no time for mistakes.

I took a wrong turn.

I didn’t panic until I ran out of civilization and realized something was very wrong. So I stopped at a convenience store to get help. Eight kind people gathered around my set of Google directions, trying to figure out where I was supposed to be headed. No one had heard of the cross street I was seeking. Finally, one man in the crowd recognized my destination. He pointed me in the correct direction. I left the store amid warm wishes of good luck.

I found where I made my mistake, and gratefully resumed my course. The tea started at 7:00. It was now 7:10. Turning on to an even smaller rural road, I heard a clunk. My rear view mirror had just fallen off the windshield. Oh, come on.

Once I arrived at the church, my time with the ladies at the Community Chapel was well worth the trip. They were warm, friendly, and ready for a good time. I shared with the women about the Light of the World, Jesus, who had come to bring light into a world walking in darkness. I even won a door prize! It was a very nice evening.

But now I faced the long trip home. In the dark. Without a rear-view mirror.

Suburban girls like me get a little shook riding on dark country roads. I’m sure I would have enjoyed the scenery immensely if it had been daytime. But at night, the isolation and darkness seemed a little scary. And how would I ever make it home without a rear- view mirror??

Yet as I drove my way south, to my surprise I discovered I hardly missed it at all. Which was remarkable, considering how much I depended on that mirror in normal circumstances. I began to wonder if I have spent a little too much time looking into my rear-view mirror.

The Apostle Paul wasn’t guilty of looking backwards, at least not too often. He wrote the Philippians: “I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus… forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-13 NASB). Paul indicates the two directions he has trained his eye toward: forward and upward. Forward to what God has called him to do. Upward toward his power source and promise of reward.

Note the two directions Paul does not allow himself to gaze. Downward, at his own two feet and obvious fallibility. Backward, at his past accomplishments and regrets.

If we are to fulfill the purpose God has for our lives, we need to be careful at where we aim our gaze. I have the tendency to gaze into the rear-view mirror. I should have done things differently, better than I did. I worry over past conversations and how I might have been offensive or foolish in what I said. I also like to gaze at my own two feet. How could God use such a weak and faulty individual? Who am I to stand in front of women like I have it all together?

The problem with both directions is that they are all about me. What I did. What I said. What I can do.

Yet God’s will for me is to continue forward, with arms outstretched, step by purposeful step, moving toward the prize which has been promised me. My gaze must remain on Jesus, who has already walked on my path and now sits at the right hand of the throne of God. Resting in Him will provide the power to keep moving. The mistakes and regrets of my past are water under the bridge. Jesus died to release me from the burden of sin. He’s got it covered– washing me clean in His precious blood. His power working through me is all I need.

I really don’t need that rear-view mirror as much as I thought. This first day of the new year, I have decided to keep my eyes trained ahead—no looking back.

TWEETABLE
No Looking Back – @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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

Join the conversation: What is your new year resolution?

Let There Be Light

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

...God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  1 John 1:5b

A wonderful part of the Christmas season is the plethora of lights on houses, trees, and shining from windows. The Christmas tree in our home glitters with white lights, reflecting off the ornaments and giving the room a festive glow. Light is a very appropriate symbol to be used at Christmas, since the holiday is all about the birth of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

God’s glory has been revealed in light since the beginning of time. In His first recorded words, God said, “Let there be light.” With a blinding flash, creation was revealed.   Genesis tells us that the sun, moon, and stars were not created until the fourth day. What was the source of light that lit up the formless, watery creation that existed at that command? Revelation 21 gives us a possible answer when it describes the future New Jerusalem: “And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it.” Creation was made to reveal God’s glory. Maybe God’s glory revealed creation as well.

We read of many examples where God’s glory is revealed as light. When Moses spoke with God on Mt. Sinai, his face had to be veiled when he came down the mountain because it shone. God’s presence filled the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, revealed with a pillar of fire that glowed throughout 40 years’ worth of nights. At the Transfiguration, Matthew tells us Jesus’ garments became as white as light. The light of God’s glory stunned anyone in Scripture who was privileged enough to experience it.

When the world was new, God’ glory continued to be revealed at the creation of Adam and Eve. Were they reflectors of a literal light? We do know that God made them in his “likeness.” As originally created, they certainly reflected God’s glory. Then came the moment when they submitted to the temptation placed before them by the Prince of Darkness. At the first bite of that forbidden fruit, the light went out. The curse of sin had descended on creation. Adam and Eve looked at each other, saw their nakedness, and for the first time, knew the sting of shame.

The world plunged into darkness. The sun, moon, and stars continued to provide physical light, but the darkness this time was much more crushing. Man was now spiritually blind. It would take a miracle for him to be able to “see” once more.

The people lived in darkness for many years until God once again gave the command: “Let there be light.” This time, instead of a blinding flash of brilliance, the command was fulfilled in the quiet, unseen miracle of the Holy Spirit planting a baby within a young girl. In a dirty animal stall one night in Bethlehem, the light snapped on for the lost. The Light of the World had come to a people who were blind and hopeless.

As he lived here on earth, he lit up the darkness around him. With his glory he exposed the sin of the proud, hard-hearted religious leaders. From place to place he traveled, healing all kinds of sicknesses and even reversing death, freeing fortunate ones of the consequences of living under the curse of darkness. His teachings exposed the darkness of the burden of sin and revealed the glory of God that had come to save.

Those living in darkness hated the Light and finally managed to orchestrate his death sentence. Even the skies went dark that day as the Light of the World hung on a cross, suffering under the unimaginable burden of the sin of the world. At his death, for a short while it seemed the light had been snuffed out and darkness had finally won.

But in a sunburst of glory that first Easter morning, the Light of the World banished the darkness, dealing Satan a fatal blow. No longer would darkness have the victory. Death had lost its sting.

The command continues today: “Let there be light.” Those who seek him are rewarded with the light of spiritual vision when they are given the priceless gift of salvation. Then they, in turn, are charged to be light reflectors to those within their sphere of influence. They bear witness to the truth, endeavoring to live lives of love while guiding others who remain in the darkness to come into the light.

As we string the lights around the tree and place candles in our windows, let us give thanks to the Light of the World whom these lights represent. The glory that is God’s continues to shine in the hearts of those who love him, made possible by his coming to Israel over two thousand years ago, when God said, “Let there be light.”

TWEETABLE
Let There Be Light – encouragement from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailydevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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

Join the conversation: Is there another symbol present at Christmastime that reminds you of spiritual truth?

More Gratitude = More Faith

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalm 136:1 NASB

Turning onto the main highway through Annapolis, I knew I needed to spend the next half-hour’s drive in prayer. Several things were weighing heavy on my mind. But before beginning my list, I decided to spend a couple of minutes thanking God for how He had already blessed me. I thanked Him for my family, naming them one by one. I thanked Him for my church, His provision in my ministry work, for the people in my life who were so important to me. I thanked him for our home, our neighborhood, and provision for our physical needs.

There was so much to be thankful for. Before I knew it, I had arrived at my destination. And I was still thanking God. I hadn’t even gotten to naming my requests! Those urgent items I had been stewing over? Suddenly they didn’t seem so urgent after all. My heart now brimmed with trust in a God of provision and love.

In Luke 17, we find three passages that together remind us that gratitude is vital to trust.

Jesus encountered ten lepers on the road to Jerusalem. In response to their desperate request for mercy, He told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” It was an odd thing to say, because lepers were not welcome in the temple. But the men turned and in faith did exactly what He said. And on the way, they suddenly realized they had been healed.

Most of them continued on to finish doing what Jesus commanded. One turned around and headed back to Jesus. His heart was too full of gratitude to continue forward.

Jesus had just finished talking with His disciples about their need to forgive. If someone sinned against them seven times a day, they were to forgive them seven times. The disciples were taken aback. “Lord, increase our faith!” they cried.

So Jesus told them a parable about a slave who spent all day working in the field. He returned to the house exhausted and hungry. But his master told him, “Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink.”

Jesus finished: “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to do.’” (Luke 17:7-10 NASB).

The very next thing Luke records is the story of the ten lepers. Are we supposed to connect these three sections? I believe we are. Luke tends to group his stories together to make a point.

The disciples had asked for more faith. Without it, what Jesus was telling them to do would be impossible. When the one leper came back to fall at His feet and thank Him, Jesus told him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” That was the kind of faith the disciples had just begged for. Where did it come from? A heart full of gratitude.

Why is gratitude so key to increasing our faith?

Gratitude supplies the correct perspective. Remembering what God has done puts Him at the center instead of us. When we thank Him, we are expressing belief that the good things in our life are evidence of a God who is at work on our behalf (James 1:17). We are acknowledging that our lives are in His hands. He is in control. That puts everything else we have been focusing on in proper perspective.

Gratitude teaches us to trust. When we remember His past faithfulness, we are empowered to trust Him for the future. Psalm 136 is a great example in this. As the psalmist recalls the works of a mighty God, the audience repeatedly responds: “His love endures forever” (Psalm 136: NIV). What better way to increase their faith in Him?

We need to stop thinking like a slave, and start thinking like a leper. A slave focuses on obligation: what he needs to do to keep his master happy. But a leper focuses on what he has been rescued from—and his heart overflows with gratitude.

So in these days before Thanksgiving, remember who He is to you and what He has done. Then spend time thanking Him from the bottom of your heart. The very act of expressing gratitude will provide an accurate perspective on his power and help you to go deeper in your trust.

Be that leper—the one whose full heart makes doing anything but adoring Him impossible. Start with simple gratitude.

TWEETABLE
More Gratitude = More Faith – insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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

Join the conversation: For what are you most thankful today?

 

To Know and Make Known

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His
sufferings, being conformed to His death… Philippians 3:10 NASB

My husband has many wonderful qualities. But the night I began to fall in love with
him, something bigger captured my heart. It was on a walk around the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool one chilly fall evening. Strolling arm in arm, we shared our amazingly
common experiences growing up in the Plymouth Brethren assemblies. We laughed over our camp stories, so similar in substance though experienced in different places.
He may have been from Virginia, and I from New England, but it was like we had known each other our whole lives. And something clicked.

Our mutually familiar backgrounds proved to be a great foundation for an excellent
marriage. Our shared experiences furnished an ability for good communication and
understanding. On a profound level, we got each other, and still do to this day.

When God sent Hosea to prophesy to his people, he prepared him in a most unconventional way. He didn’t send him to study at seminary or into some kind of prophet-internship program. Instead God told Hosea to find a woman prone to unfaithfulness and marry her. “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord,” he commanded. (Hosea 1:2 NASB). Hosea’s painful relationship with Gomer would furnish a visible picture to Israel of God’s grace: choosing a nation that would ultimately prove unfaithful to him. Knowing it would bring heartbreak in the long run. Doing it anyway.

That much is plainly spelled out in Scripture. But I believe there was an even deeper,
unspoken purpose in God’s unusual requirement. Hosea, through his personal suffering,
would learn first-hand about God. Through the pain of his own rejected love, he
would gain insight into God’s heartbreak over his people. That insight would inject
a passion into his message delivery not otherwise possible.

The Navigators, an international Christian ministry, have a motto appropriate for
every believer: “To know Christ and to make him known.”  The latter can only follow
the former. We cannot make someone accurately known without personal knowledge of them.

Some of that insight cannot be gained through anything but shared experience.

We follow a suffering Savior. One way we can know him is through experiencing a
bit of what he did on earth: insight that can only be gained through pain. Our heartache,
our hurt, gives us a glimpse into his. In turn, that new intimacy and insight into
God’s heart ignites a passion for him. The more we love him, the more effective
message bearers we become.

Has God called you into painful circumstances lately? Grief over the death of a
loved one, rejection from a spouse, hearing the word cancer, watching your children
suffer; the list could go on and on. Our first response is often to demand: Why?
Surely God would not allow this into the life of someone he loves!

The Bible shows us God’s love is precisely why he allows suffering into our lives.
God is all about the relationship. Suffering is one tool that effectively draws
us into to his open arms.

“Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for my glory… you
are my witnesses,” declares the Lord… “so that you may know and believe Me and
understand that I am He…and there is no Savior beside Me” (Isaiah 43:7 NASB). In the hard and sometimes inexplainable, God is at work to reveal himself to us and through us, His glory-bearers.

Someday, as the last tears are wiped from our eyes, we will understand the suffering
that was a part of our lives. Standing in his glory, we will be grateful to have been used to reveal a small portion of that glory on earth. So worth it.

TWEETABLE
To Know and Make Known – @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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

Join the conversation: What have you learned about Jesus through suffering?

Impatient with the Process

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

The year my husband spent abroad after graduating college, he taught for several months at a Bible school in the Fiji Islands. There was a missionary there who was much-revered for his wisdom and excellent teaching. After one particularly inspiring class, the students surrounded the godly man and asked: how long did it take him to prepare for such a profound lesson?

The old missionary smiled at the eager students. “Oh, about 45 years and a half-hour,” he told them.

Some things take time. A long time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a godly Christian. Yet often, we struggle with impatience at our lack of maturity. Why can’t we be wiser with our words? When will we ever feel confident in our Bible knowledge? Will there come a time when our foolishness is at an end?

When are we finally going to get it all together?

A look at scriptural examples of God’s time frame in transformation to maturity can also be discouraging. Moses spent the first forty years of his life in the Pharaoh’s palace. Then, after murdering an Egyptian guard, Moses fled into the wilderness. There he remained for forty more years. It wasn’t until Moses was the ripe old age of 80 that God called him to lead his people out of Egypt.

Then there is the story of David. The prophet Samuel anointed him to be the next king when he was quite young, still tending the family sheep out in the fields. While David knew what the future held for him, few others did. Life did not change quickly for David after the anointing. But eventually King Saul saw him as a threat, forcing David to flee into the wilderness. There he remained in exile for many years, continually pursued by Saul and his army. It was a long wait before God would finally fulfill His promise.

Even Jesus spent time in the wilderness in preparation for His public ministry. For forty days, He fasted and endured temptations flung at Him by Satan.

Clearly, preparation takes time. And it is in the wilderness that God often does His most important work in preparing people for their purpose.

Why the long wait in the wilderness for each of these future leaders? The writer of Hebrews gives us a clue (in reference to Jesus): “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:8-9 NASB).

Jesus perfected His obedience through experiencing suffering in the wilderness, as did Moses and David.

Being in the wilderness, with its isolation and difficulties, can have a valuable outcome. Through our experience there, we see the reality of just how much we need Him. When we do, it is only then that we are best equipped to do His work: our hearts fully open to His leading and ready to choose His will over our own.

Time in the wilderness grows us into much more effective servants. Paul learned this when dealing what he considered to be a thorn in his flesh. “Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me,” he wrote. “And He has said to me, ‘My power is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9 NASB). Paul learned the power of Christ through his “wilderness” experience.

Are you suffering in the wilderness today? Hang in there. God is doing a work in you as you wait on Him. Someday you will be able to look back and see what He accomplished in you during that time. And you will count it worth the cost.

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

TWEETABLE
Impatient with the Process – insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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

Join the conversation: How has God used a wilderness experience to transform you?