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.”

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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.

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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.

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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

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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?

Simple Obedience

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

On a September morning in 1853, young Hudson Taylor departed England for Shanghai, China. He was just 21 years old, but possessed a God-given passion for the Chinese people. At that time, there were only a few dozen missionaries bringing the gospel to this great empire largely unknown to the west. During Hudson’s fifty-year ministry, that would all change.

Unlike the established missionary presence which largely kept to coastal areas, Hudson traveled deep into China’s interior. He eventually established the China Inland Mission, which would sponsor over 1,000 new missionaries to China in Hudson’s lifetime. His lifetime of dedicated service continues to be an inspiration to Christians everywhere even today.

And now for the rest of the story… I wish I could tell you that God blessed Hudson with a life free of trouble as he ministered so tirelessly among the Chinese. Not so. Hudson contracted a serious illness, probably hepatitis, and was forced to return to England for an extended time. For the rest of his days, he would struggle with poor health. Hudson also suffered several long bouts of serious depression. His beloved wife died at age 33. Four of their eight children died before the age of ten. In 1900, exhausted and overwhelmed, Hudson suffered a complete physical and mental breakdown. His was no “charmed” life.

The Chinese church is most likely the fastest growing church on earth today. Largely underground due to oppressive government policies, it has been estimated that 234 million Chinese are now believers. Much of the success in reaching the Chinese with the gospel is a result of the seeds sowed by Hudson Taylor in the nineteenth century. I wonder if he could have ever imagined how amazingly God would use his efforts.

We are called to be faithful in doing what God has called us to do. We are not given any guarantees or even insight as to the eventual success of our efforts. Our lives will not be free of problems and obstacles. Yet we are called to persevere, operating in faith that God will use our meager and faulty efforts to build His kingdom.

The prophets faced this same challenge. 1 Peter 1:12 tells us, “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you…”  As the ancient prophets recorded God’s words to them, it was not for themselves or even their contemporaries, but for those of a future generation, which would use their writings to confirm the messiah’s identity and comprehend the plans of God. The prophets simply did as God asked, never seeing the fruit of their labor in their own lifetimes. It was obedience in faith.

What has God called you to do?  It probably does not appear to be a world-impacting ministry. Our efforts rarely do. Like Hudson Taylor, we will face hardship and discouragement as we attempt to obey. Our responsibility is only to do what we are called to do. Simple obedience is all that is required.

God will take our efforts and use them for his kingdom, generously allowing us to participate in his glorious cause.

“Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth… Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”                                             1 Corinthians 3:7-8 NASB

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Simple Obedience when #FollowingGod – 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: Have you felt discouraged at the effectiveness of your efforts? Please share your experiences!

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 tiny mustard seed 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.

TWEETABLE
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

TWEETABLE
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

TWEETABLE
The Testimony of Faithfulness – wisdom 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 ever been approached by someone who wants to know why you are so different than the world around you?