God of Second Chances

by Julie Coleman @JulieZColeman

“…Where sin increased, grace increased all the more… Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 5:20, 8:1, NIV

He was a golden boy, loved in part for his sincere heart for Jesus. After seminary, he took a position as pastor of a small church. It was a good life. But then one day, he fell. During a counseling session with a church member, in the heat of the moment, he committed adultery. He was immediately ashamed. After confessing, he was asked to step down from his position, to take time to heal and devote attention to his devastated family.

We wondered: how do you come back from that? Were his days of ministry over? Had his failure disqualified him for good?

Of all the accounts of failure in the Bible, the night of Peter’s denial rates right up there at the top. Three times he denied knowing Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest. It was too dangerous to be linked to the man being tried for blasphemy. Peter simply lacked the courage to let his relationship be known.

We can relate to Peter’s shortcoming, can’t we?  Who of us hasn’t had a big fail in one time or another? A moment in which we did the wrong thing and continue to regret, even years later?

Up until his big fail, Peter was slated to be a leader in the Kingdom of God. Jesus had affirmed this on several occasions. But now? I’m sure Peter had his doubts. In fact, the next time we see Peter, he has gone back to fishing in the Sea of Galilee. Did he think that in his failure, he had forfeited any chance of the leadership for which Jesus had groomed him?

We can’t be sure, but the indications are there that he did. As the fishermen rowed toward the shore, they realized Jesus was there. John tells us Peter jumped into the water. But rather than eagerly swim to shore, I believe Peter jumped into the water on the other side of the boat.[1] And busied himself with the net and fish.

He was avoiding the moment he would have to look Jesus in the eye.

Jesus told them to bring some of the catch to the fire. John tells us Peter came up out of the water with the fish. Until that moment, he’d avoided stepping up onto the beach. He was dreading his moment of truth.

After breakfast, Jesus took Peter aside. And he asked him: “Do you love me?”

Three times he asked Peter that question. Three chances to set the record straight. But what about Peter’s denial? If I were Jesus, I would have sat him down for a little talk. What did he learn from his mistake? What would he do next time?

But Jesus didn’t do that. He just reconfirmed Peter’s Kingdom assignment: Feed my lambs.

Many commentators are hard on Peter. They feel his story is told as a stern warning. After all, Jesus had said early on that if someone denied Him, He would deny them.

Is that why his story is featured in all four gospels? I don’t think so. I think that hearing of  Peter’s failure would have been a huge encouragement to first century readers. They were facing terrible persecution. If God could forgive Peter and use him in leadership, then there was hope for them. Hope even if they caved and denied Jesus under the threat of the sword. God’s forgiveness was not based on how well they stood the test. It was based on grace alone.

God is a God of second chances. No matter what we have done, even if we do it over and over again, His grace is greater. There is nothing we can do to make us love Him more. And there is nothing we can do to make Him love us less. We can’t disqualify ourselves. We never did anything to earn God’s favor in the first place. He loved us when we were in total rebellion. He died for us while we were His enemies.

My pastor friend? He now works in a prison ministry, encouraging the inmates with the story of his failure and God’s redemption.

Do you need a second chance? Are there things in your past that seem unforgivable? God’s abundant grace covers that sin. Jesus nailed it to the cross. Put the guilt into God’s capable hands and let it go. We cannot out-sin His grace.

[1] The NIV says the boat “followed” Peter into shore. But the Greek verb is literally “came,” not followed.

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God of Second Chances – 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 story of redemption has God given you to share?

What NOT to Say to a Drama Queen

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

I recently had a conversation with someone who volunteers in a nonprofit organization. Something she said sent up red flags for me. She was complaining about her clients, who were so dramatic over trivial problems. “Everything that happens to them sends them into a tizzy, even the smallest things. So I just tell them: you need to have more faith.”

Not the best response.

First off, the people she is serving have not had easy lives. Many have experienced major trauma somewhere along the way. Many have only recently come to know the Lord and are only now learning what healthy looks like. From my (albeit brief) foray into counseling training, I learned that trauma victims react strongly to “small” things for a reason. On a scale of 0-10, what would barely register at a 1-2 for a healthy person can be a 10 for the traumatized. Why? While a normal baseline is 0, the traumatized are living life at a steady 7 or 8. Unresolved trauma keeps them on continual fight-or-flight mode. So it doesn’t take much to get them to 10.

In ministering to someone in the healing process, one of the least compassionate things we can say is “you have to have more faith.” Because in doing so, we will only add to their burden, which is already too much to bear. It’s just one more way they are not measuring up. So while “you need to have more faith” might sound like good advice, it’s actually more damaging than helpful.

Second, Jesus said if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, “you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (Matthew 17:20). Faith as small as a mustard is enough. Faith is not quantified in the Bible. You believe or you don’t. It is the line in the sand that sets believers apart from those who have not believed. It’s the only difference between saved and perishing.

Where believers struggle is not in how hard they believe. The problem is in doubting the object of our faith, in thinking Him to be only selectively involved in our lives. That while He may be capable, He is not concerned with the little things that matter to us. After all, we all prioritize what deserves our attention. You can’t jump at every little thing.

That’s true for us…but not for God. He knows the number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30). He knows when a sparrow, the commonest of birds, falls (Matthew 10:29-31). He knows what we are about to say before we say it (Psalm 139:4). He holds our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). He is a Heavenly Father who delights in His people and gives good gifts to His children (Psalm 149:4, Matthew 7:11). He is a God who is INVOLVED. In all of it. Even the things that might seem too trite to bring before Him. (Because really, what would seem big to God, anyway?)

So the answer to trusting Him in the “little” things is to learn about His intimate care for us. That He is not only capable, but interested. The better we know Him, the better we can trust Him.

After the conversation, I started thinking about what would have been a proper response to that volunteer. How should I have responded to  her frustration? (I am very good at “I should have said”s. In fact, it may be my spiritual gift.) What could she say to help someone on the path to healing? What would I have said if I were confronted with the same drama?

Thinking through what I know about God gave me the answer. I could encourage them with what I just listed about Him above. I could let them know that what is important to them is important to Him. That we can trust Him, no matter what is smacking us in the face at the moment. Because He is a God of details. And He is good.

There’s no burden in knowing God better. There’s no guilt induced for someone in hearing how deserving He is of our trust. And maybe, after receiving that encouragement, they will gain ability to place what has sent them into crisis into His capable hands.

Incline your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me. For you are my rock and my fortress, for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. Psalm 31:3-4 NASB

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What NOT to Say to a Drama Queen – @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 do you know about God that could be an encouragement to others?

The Skirmishes Go On

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

“O Death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?… Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:55, 57

Once only inhabited by a small Japanese civilian community of sulfur miners and sugar farmers, the island of Iwo Jima became a stronghold of pivotal importance in World War II. As the war progressed, Japan evacuated its citizens from the island and prepared for the inevitable Allied forces invasion. A huge number of bunkers, hidden artillery, and an amazing eleven miles of tunnels were in place by 1944. Twenty-one thousand soldiers were at the ready when Allied forces began firing on Iwo Jima.

On the fourth day of the battle, the first objective was captured: Mount Suribachi. Five marines and a Navy corpsman were photographed raising the American flag at its summit. That moment is now immortalized in the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington, VA.

Once the high ground was secure, the invasion slowly moved northward. Very heavy fighting continued. The Japanese fighters considered surrender dishonorable and most tenaciously fought to the death. But the Allied forces eventually took the airfields and remainder of the island. A month into the invasion, the island was officially declared secured.

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

While the Allied victory was a great triumph, Jesus Christ won the greatest victory the world has ever witnessed. The Son of God, after three days in the grave, rose from the dead. No longer are we under condemnation for our sin. It was dealt with, paid for, and cast from us as far as the east is from the west. The victory is already ours because Christ has already won.

The enemy has been soundly defeated. Satan’s future final demise is already recorded in the Bible, when he is cast into the lake of fire to suffer torment for eternity (Revelation 20:10). It is just a matter of time before God finally ends his reign on earth.

Yet while victory has been recorded with indelible ink, the skirmishes still go on. While we were given new life at our salvation, we still struggle against our old sinful nature which relentlessly demands satisfaction, and we fight the enemy ever-tempting us to sin. Paul described him as “the prince of the power of the air…the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2 NASB). Peter warns “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NASB).

The war may be over, but the fighting continues on.

These skirmishes are a part of the life we live until Jesus returns. In fact, God has carefully equipped His soldiers to fight the good fight (Ephesians 6:10-18). Satan may have lost the war, but he is deadly serious about taking as many down with him as he can before his reign of destruction comes to an end.

We may even lose some of these skirmishes, especially when we attempt to fight in our own strength. But it is important to remember in those moments of depressing defeat: the war’s victor has already been determined. The Good Guy won. Our hope is not in the circumstances of this world. It is in the future God has prepared for us, “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:4 NASB)

Nothing that happens to us on earth will impact the surety of our salvation. The victory belongs to the Lord.

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The Skirmishes Go On – insight on walking with God 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: Have you been involved in a skirmish lately? Please share!

It All Starts in the Mind

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

You’d never know it to look at me, but I am an expert at dieting. I’m on a first name basis with the ladies at Weight Watchers. Sugar-free Jell-O jumps off the shelf into my grocery cart as I walk by. I can recite the points value of most foods on demand. My overweight status is not a reflection of dieting ignorance, believe me.

So far I am down 17 pounds since April. For some reason, I am sticking with it this time around. I think it has a lot to do with discovering that dieting is really a two-step process. The first step is to gain the proper mindset. Vegetables are our friends. Exercise is a good thing. Hunger means fat is burning. Once the brain is in gear, now the dieter is ready to begin taking actual measures to lose weight. Exercising portion control, reducing fats and carbs, and planning ahead are all actions that will move the dieter toward her goal.

What started in the mind must become a lifestyle.

This two-step process rings true for our spiritual lives as well. Jesus demonstrated this for us. Philippians 2:5-6 (NASB) shows us how Christ’s mindset played a key role in His coming: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped…” Before descending to earth, Jesus completely gave up His privilege, rank, and honor. All that He had and deserved He set aside for the sake of His mission: redeeming those He loved.

Step One: Get the right mindset. As we follow Christ’s example, we, too, must give up our claim to rights and privileges. Like Jesus, the desire for things like proper recognition and standing, all those things that make us special in man’s eyes, must be voluntarily set aside. As Americans, this is almost foreign to us! We prize our rights highly. When they are ignored, we feel victimized. Yet when we follow Christ, the right mindset—complete humility with no thought to ourselves—is crucial.

Paul did not stop there. For Jesus, thought led to action. “[He] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). Christ’s actions were a reflection of His attitude. He did not come as a king or a member of any privileged class. When the magi came from the east to find the king, they went straight to the palace. Where else would a king be born? Certainly not in some dirty stable.

But Christ left privilege and rank completely behind. He was born to common folks from a town of no consequence. He lived out His ministry with “no place to lay His head.” Paul calls Him a bond-servant (Philippians 2:10), the lowest of ranks. When it happened, the climax of Christ’s ministry was what you would least expect from the King of Kings. It was not when He rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. It was when He hung on a cross several days later, like a common criminal, bearing the crushing load of the world’s sin. Crucifixion was considered a shameful death, and an embarrassment to family and all who knew Him.

Christ’s every action was governed by His complete submission and obedience to the Father. In our imitation of Him, our actions must flow out of that same attitude. What will following Christ’s example look like in our lives? How will an attitude of surrender be fleshed out as we live?

It will be seen in the small, every day decisions we make to put others ahead of ourselves. We will serve, not to get acknowledgement, but simply in response to what God has done for us. Our own agenda will be put aside in the interests of God’s purposes. We will voluntarily submit our will to His.

It all starts with a mind-set of submission and humility. Challenging, to be sure. We are much more prone to look out for number one. But it can be done. Jesus showed the way with His perfect example of obedience to the Father’s will. He is not asking anything of us that He has not already done Himself.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 NASB

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It All Starts in the Mind – 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 close look at the conversations Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What other facets of Jesus’ example mean the most to you?

The Testimony of Faithfulness

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

When my husband and I were dating, we often took advantage of the many free things to do in nearby Washington, D.C. One night he brought me to the Lincoln Memorial, which is impressive during the daylight hours, but truly awesome by night. After viewing the statue and writings of Lincoln, we stood at the top of the steps and admired the images of the Washington Monument and Capitol Building reflected in the long rectangular pool below.

Steve then took me around the back of the monument and pointed out the dark hillside which was Arlington National Cemetery, located just past the Memorial Bridge. We could see a light flickering on the hill in the distance very clearly. I asked Steve what it was, and he told me it was the eternal flame at President Kennedy’s grave. The next day we walked through that cemetery and came to the site of the eternal flame. To my surprise, the light we had seen from a mile or so away was just a small gas flame about eight inches high.

That small light could be seen from a great distance when surrounded by darkness.

We live around people who are living in darkness. God has called us to be light. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven,” Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 5:16 NASB). We are tempted to believe that the opportunity to shine comes only in infrequent great moments, like when getting a chance to share the gospel with someone or speaking before a large crowd.

Yet a light that flares only briefly in the darkness before flickering out is much less useful than the kind of light that burns with a steady glow.

We are to be light in every moment of our lives. Paul wrote the Colossians: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men…it is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23-24 NASB). Our testimony’s effectiveness to the world around us is determined by ordinary moments: the small decisions we make, the words we choose, or the attitudes we hold.

We can have a huge impact on neighbors and friends by simply being faithful in what God has given us to do, choosing contentment in where God has us. People will quickly spot peace in our attitudes and joy in our hearts. For those living with nagging thirst, our lives will look like a cool refreshing glass of water. They will begin to think: I want what they have. Our very lifestyle will make them thirsty for the Living Water we can offer.

J. Gregory Mantle, a British preacher who lived in the late 1800’s, wrote: “It is far harder to live for Christ moment by moment than it is to die once for Him; and if we wait for great occasions in which to display our fidelity, we shall find that our life has slipped away, and with it the opportunities that each hour has brought of proving our love to the Lord, by being faithful in that which is least.”

When my kids each began their first job, I shared what I had learned in my own career: Just do your job and do it well. You will stand out from the crowd if you do.

We don’t have to be Billy Graham to inspire others to seek God. Just by being faithful to what God has called us to do, whether it is customer service, teaching school, or mothering small children, God can use our simple desire to serve to glorify him as a beacon of light.

And you can be sure our faithful obedience will be seen and noticed by those still living in darkness.

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give and account for the hope that is in you…with gentleness and reverence. 1 Peter 3:16 NASB

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Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. 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 conversations Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Have you ever been approached by someone who wants to know why you are so different than the world around you?

The Number One Rule of Engagement

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

The day my littlest grandson was born was excruciating. It had been a difficult pregnancy for my daughter-in-law. Joseph had arrived ten weeks early, but barely alive. He was resuscitated three times in the first few minutes of his life outside the womb. He had a myriad of severe complications, including underdeveloped lungs, RH factor problems, extreme fluid issues, and most likely Down Syndrome. I could scarcely take it all in. My first reaction was shock, but it wasn’t long before my emotions morphed into full-fledged outrage.

God, how could you allow this to happen to our grandson and his precious family?

Attempting to muster up strength to even get out of bed the next morning, I found I could barely pray. And I wondered: Was it sin that I would question God at all?

If it is, I can at least know that I had good company. Plenty of people doubt God in light of their confusing circumstances. The prophet Habakkuk, for example, was full of questions about the violence and evil flourishing around him. “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and you will not hear? I cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ Yet you do not save…the law is ignored and justice is never upheld,” Habakkuk complained. (1:2, 4 NASB)

God quickly assured Habakkuk that He was indeed working to rectify the situation. “I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth…All of them come for violence…They will sweep through like the wind and pass on” (1:6, 9 NASB).

Hang on, Habakkuk, justice is coming.

But Habakkuk found this to be even more disturbing than God’s previous silence. He was sending the Babylonians, an empire far more wicked than Israel, as His tool of judgment? THAT was justice?

“Why are you silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?” he pressed (1:13 NASB). God was making no sense at all.

But God did not get angry at Habakkuk’s questions. I believe the reason is that in his struggle, he never forgot what God had already revealed Himself to be. “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and you can not look on wickedness with favor” (1:13 NASB).

Habakkuk asked his questions from a place of faith.

We’ve all had circumstances in our lives that are impossible to understand in light of the merciful, holy, good God we love. The honest dialog recorded by Habakkuk through his struggle is a wonderful prototype for anyone with questions for God.

The principle the book of Habakkuk demonstrates is simple: when finding a need to question God, don’t give up too soon. Stay in the conversation.

Warning: God may not ever directly answer your questions. More likely, He will use the exchange to teach you more about Him rather than explain our circumstances. That’s why hanging in there with God, interacting with Him through the doubt and fear, is so worth it. In the end, we walk away with a more mature faith and a deeper relationship with Him.

Warren Wiersbe assures us: “To avoid tough questions, or to settle for half-truths and superficial pat answers is to remain immature, but to face questions honestly and talk them through with the Lord is to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ.”

At the end of his interactions with God, Habakkuk declared a renewed understanding of the God he loved. And so will we.

Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.                                                                                                                                Habakkuk 3:19 NASB

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Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. 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 theKingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the conversations 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 taught you about Himself during a struggle?

A Predetermined Victory

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

When surveyed about the 20th century’s most memorable sports moment, Americans most often cited the 1980 Olympic hockey game between the United States and the USSR. Steve and I watched the game with friends by the fire that February evening. The match had actually taken place earlier in the afternoon, but ABC made the decision to delay its airing and announcement of the score until the evening, so fans could enjoy it during viewing hours.

The USSR came into the Olympics favored to win the gold.  They were a force with which to be reckoned. No one expected any team to pose a threat to them on their way to the top.  Yet as the game wore on, it quickly became apparent that the U.S. was going to give the Russians a run for their money. It was a hard-fought contest. Finally, in the third period, for the first time in the game the Americans pulled out ahead with a shot into the goal, making the score 4-3. Ten minutes remained left to play.

When the TV station cut to a commercial, I left to get a drink. While I was absent, the local news channel did a promo clip of the news show which would immediately follow the game. Someone made a big mistake.  To thousands of viewers on the edge of their seats, waiting impatiently to see the final ten minutes, the newscaster announced: “More on the exciting USA 4-3 victory over the USSR at eleven!”

I heard the room erupt in anger from where I was in the kitchen. The suspense and thrill of victory had been eclipsed by the premature announcement. The game was ruined for those who now knew the end. Of course, the TV station apologized profusely after realizing their mistake when the news aired at 11. But the damage had been done. So while I continued to be blissfully ignorant and on the edge of my seat until the end, my fellow-viewers remained passive. Knowing the outcome made all the difference.

The anxiety evaporates if we already know the ending. I know someone who always reads the last page of a new book first. She says she enjoys the book more when she doesn’t have to deal with the suspense.

As Christians, we are in a contest of sorts. Scripture tells us we fight a war on two fronts: against the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6) and against our own sinful flesh (Romans 7).  We discourage easily and give in more often than we should. It is easy to do in light of what we see around us. Just channel surf through what’s available on TV; the shocking lack of moral standards is evident within minutes of watching. Truth is now relative and no more a black and white absolute. Human life has become cheap, as we see murders on a daily basis in the news.

Satan gives all appearances of winning the war. We often don’t seem to fare any better on a personal front, either, as time and time again our lusts and ungodly desires lead us by the nose and we sin and sin again. It can seem hopeless. We seem to be fighting a battle we can never win.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” Paul wrote to the Corinthian church. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NASB)

We too easily forget that the outcome is already written in indelible ink. The victory is already ours because Christ has already won. “When you were dead in your transgressions,” Paul wrote the Colossians, “He made you alive together with Him . . . having canceled out the certificate of debt . . . having nailed it to the cross, having disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.” (Colossians 2:13-15 NASB)

Author Chip Ingram put it this way his book, The Invisible War: “When we fight, we’re not trying to win. We’re enforcing the victory that Jesus has already secured. In His power, we are invincible.”

Knowing the end score should make all the difference in how we live. Jesus conquered sin and death with His resurrection! Victory has already been determined. The Good Guy won. Knowing this, we can face the enemy without and within with confidence. The battle belongs to the Lord.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.                                                                                                         1 Corinthians 15:57 NASB

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A Predetermined Victory – 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 conversations Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What does Jesus’ victory mean to you?

Always Welcome

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

My sturdy little old Ukrainian grandmother was quite a character. In her old age, she came to despise anyone in the medical profession, especially nurses. During a brief stay in the nursing home, she once mistook my mother for a nurse when Mom entered my grandmother’s room. Grandma grabbed my mom and threw her across the floor; “Get out of here!” she snarled.

Shaken, my mom retreated. Standing outside in the hall, she began to wonder if maybe my grandmother hadn’t recognized her. So she attempted to enter again, this time announcing her arrival. “Mama, it’s me, Roberta,” she hesitantly called.

My grandmother greeted her with a big smile, arms opened wide. “Roberta!” she cried. We began to understand why the nurses were not crazy about Grandma.

While Grandma wasn’t fond of nurses, she was always warmly enthusiastic when a family member came to call. I never once doubted my welcome with her. Even the night that my grandfather died, as I arrived at midnight to spend the night with her, she welcomed me enthusiastically and with open arms. “You look hungry,” she told me. And got working right away to make me a poached egg.

I never doubted a warm reception from Grandma because I knew she loved me, unconditionally. Yet there have been times in my life I have doubted my reception with God. Usually it was after I had put my relationship with Him on the back burner and hadn’t talked to Him in days. Now I needed Him, and barely knew how to approach Him without embarrassment. Surely He would see right past any apologies I might offer as to my neglect—and look right into my selfish motives in approaching Him now.

Maybe this time he has had enough of this self-centered, unfaithful daughter of His.

That may be how a fallible human might receive me. But it is not how God, as revealed in the pages of Scripture, will interact with one He loves. James tells us “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5 NASB).

Did you catch that? Without reproach.

I might have been neglecting God, but He will not neglect me, nor will He ever. Like the father of the prodigal son, He patiently waits for us to turn to Him, ready to receive us back into open arms after we ignore or disobey Him. Later in his letter, James wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you… humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4: 8, 10 NASB).

Not once in Scripture, when someone approaches God in humility, are they ever rejected. Even the worst of sinners are freely forgiven and welcomed back into the fold. Every time.

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness… the Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.  Lamentations 3:19-23, 25 NASB

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With God, I’m Always Welcome – 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 conversations Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What makes you hesitant to approach God?

Don’t Be Fooled

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.                                                                                                                                  Psalm 31:3 NASB

In early 1970, comedian Flip Wilson became a household word when his sketch “The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress” aired on the Ed Sullivan Show. Wilson played a minister’s wife who is trying to justify recently buying another new dress. She was walking downtown, minding her own business, she explains. The devil started whispering things in her ear. She saw the dress in the window, resisted, but then he shoved her in the door. He made her try it on. Then he held a gun to her head until she signed the check.

The minister asks his wife: how come when the devil is at work, she is the one who always benefits, and he is the only one who pays a price?

“I asked him that,” the wife assures him. “He said you owe him. He told me that if it wasn’t for him, you wouldn’t have a job.”

In reality, we really are largely guided by our thoughts. But who guides what we think?

Of course, it could be ourselves. Our beliefs and ideas do provide a framework for our actions. What we desire can be a strong influence on choices we make—either for good or bad.

Then, there is the Holy Spirit. In the evening of His impending arrest, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit following His departure. He described Him as the “Spirit of Truth.” The world would not see Him or know Him. But Jesus’ followers would. The Holy Spirit would come and live within each of them. He would teach them all things and guide them into all truth. His presence would be a driving force; and when yielded to Him, believers would be inspired to speak and act (John 14).

Paul assures us that every believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling within them as a guarantee of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). Many of our thoughts are directly from Him.

But there is a third influence on us. That person is Satan. He tries to function like the Holy Spirit by suggesting thoughts and attempting to guide. But his guidance is not based in the truth. He whispers lies into our ears, twisting truth just enough to throw us off the path and into the dark. Exactly where he wants us to head.

How can we tell which of these three is the originator of a thought that occurs to us?

I struggled with this when I was trying to decide if I should leave a rewarding ministry (teaching elementary school) to pursue writing and speaking full time. The idea of going to seminary nagged at my thoughts frequently. But I worried: where did all this passion come from? How could I know for sure it was God who had planted the desire in my heart?

I shared my struggle with my friend Beth. “Why would you think it was anyone but God who wants you to do this?” she asked.

I confessed it was because I wanted it so badly. It was so exciting and new and would fulfill a dream that had been mine for a very long time. But it would require abandoning an ongoing ministry that God had provided. Would He really direct me away from that now?

Then Beth asked a question that would settle the matter for me. “Will God be glorified if you do this?”

Of course He would. I wanted to teach His Word and teach it well. I wanted people to understand His love and grace and mercy. All I wanted was to bring glory to His name.

“Then do it,” she commanded. I knew she was right. I resigned from twenty years of teaching and enrolled in seminary. And have never looked back.

We have a lot of thoughts. We have strong desires. But before we act on them, we need to compare that idea with the truth of God’s Word. It is consistent with its wisdom? Would it enable us to reflect the character of Jesus? Would it bring glory to His name?

Don’t be fooled. God would not direct us to do anything in opposition to His Word. As Jesus told His accusers, a house divided against itself will not stand (Mark 3:25). Scrutinize your thoughts and desires against His truth. And you won’t be led astray.

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Don’t Be Fooled – 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 conversations Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Have you struggled with knowing from where a thought or idea has come?

 

 

Keeping Focus

By Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

You may have heard of Eric Liddell, whose story was portrayed in Chariots of Fire. But there was a second runner in the film, Harold Abrahams, who was no slouch athlete either. He broke a world record in the hundred-meter dash and won both gold and silver medals in the 1924 Olympics.

Early on, Abrahams learned an important lesson. While out front in a race, he had made the mistake of glancing back at the other runners, costing him precious tenths of a second. He vowed to never do it again. On the day of his gold medal run, he kept a short reminder in his pocket written by his coach. It read: “Only think of two things, the report of the pistol and the tape. When you hear the one, just run like hell until you break the other.”

There are plenty of things to look at when you are headed down the track. Abrahams looked back at the other runners. Other racers might focus on the track itself, noting its imperfections and possible difficulties. Still others might look back at the distance already covered. But to run most efficiently, a runner must focus on one thing: the finish line. A runner’s focus makes all the difference.

We, too, are in a race of sorts. As we run, we also benefit from where we train our gaze. My tendency is to look at my fellow runners. From the outside looking in, they always seem to have it together, at least more than I do. They are wiser and so much more spiritual than I can ever hope to be. They have such a large platform and have been published so many times. Comparing myself to them can be downright discouraging.

Sometimes I focus on the track. Where I am headed is uneven and contains hazards and pitfalls. I am fixating on the logistics of the race instead of the reason I am running.

Another misguided focal point is where we have already been. The runner who continually looks back on the distance he has covered is looking in the wrong direction. As he congratulates himself on his progress thus far, he loses sight of the remaining race yet to be run. It is a temptation for us to rest on past laurels rather than continuing to move forward.

Peter experienced the damage a lack of focus can have. When Jesus called him out of the safety of the boat to walk across the water to him, he quickly obeyed. Things went swimmingly well at first (forgive the pun) as Peter set out toward the Lord. However, when he began to be distracted by the howling wind and mounting waves, his steps began to falter. Peter began to sink, until the Lord reached out and saved him. Had Peter kept his focus on the One who had already calmed a storm, the One who created the water and waves to begin with, his trek would have ended much differently (Matthew 14:22-33).

Hebrews 12 urges us: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” (NASB). Jesus stands at our finish line, having already run and completed the race before us. He alone provides perfect inspiration for the runner. He faced the same rough track with all its pitfalls and never lost sight of his end goal: the joy of crossing the finish line.

Keeping our focus where it belongs is a discipline to be learned and practiced. Harold Abrahams sliced off tenths of a second in mastering that skill, and it won him a gold medal. Our reward for doing the same is this: “Consider Him… so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim…  1 Corinthians 9:24-26 NASB

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

Join the conversation: What most often discourages you as you “run”?