The Best Kind of Role Model

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join the conversation: What do you think is most important in a role model?

What’s Your Story?

by Terri Clark @TerriClarkTCM

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. Revelation 12:11 NIV

We all have a story to tell. Even as a child, biographies were my favorite reads. I love hearing about the journey that made people into who they eventually became. Some stories are adventurous, some rags to riches, others are sad, and still others victorious. It is amazing to hear how someone we know now became the person we know them to be. Their former lives are such a stark contrast to what we see.

A few days ago, a dear friend of mine told me her story. I’ve known her for decades, but only knew bits and pieces. But after hearing the whole story, God can easily be seen in her journey. She now knows that even when walking through many years of pain and hardship, knowing nothing about God or the Bible, He always had his loving hand on her life.

Some of my friend’s pain was brought on by her own bad choices, some because of someone else’s actions, and some from circumstances beyond her control. But once she found true love in Christ, her life was transformed, and she became the person I know and love today.

Every part of our life’s story is important—even the hard times and bad choices. Good or bad, each are part of a whole: small bricks that together build your life. A brick by itself isn’t worth much more than a doorstop, but when laid side by side with other bricks, one upon the other, a house emerges.

Once we discover and receive the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross, our eyes are opened, and suddenly we can see that the mortar holding it all together is the love of God. That’s when our story becomes a testimony to God’s faithfulness. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

While living out their lives, many know nothing about God or His great love for them. They might even hate Him or are hardened atheists. But God continually pursues us until we find Him. It may be years before we can look back and see His thumbprint on our lives, but when we do, it is a testimony of His great love.

Some people think their story isn’t worth telling. They might be ashamed of their past or embarrassed by it. But if you look around at the people you meet every day, you’ll find someone who is hurting or struggling with some of the same things you did. Your story can bring hope to someone who has no hope. In Revelation 12:11 it says we conquer Satan, the accuser of the Brethren, by the Blood of the Lamb of God, (Jesus), and the word of our testimony.

No one can argue with your story. It is your own personal experience. We can encourage and lift others up by sharing our story with them. We don’t have to preach, just tell anyone interested in listening, how God worked it out in your life.

Today, take some time and look back. Make some notes on how God’s hand was on you, how He protected you, guided you, etc. Write it down and ask God to bring people across your path that would benefit from hearing your story.

God can reveal Himself to others though your relationship with Him. As John wrote: “The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself” (1 John 5:10a NASB).

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What’s Your Story? – encouragement from @TerriClarkTCM on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Terri ClarkAbout the author: Terri Clark works with women to prepare and equip them to receive God and the blessings He wants to produce in their lives. She began to answer God’s call on her life in 1994 and has since impacted women all over the world with His news of salvation, edification, and healing.

Her book, Fanning the Flame: Reigniting Your Faith in God, identifies and addresses the issues which most affect a believer’s spiritual flame: the busyness of life, Christian service, pride, and worldly temptations. Join her in this pilgrimage and reignite your spiritual lamp with a fresh, empowering faith–a faith that will stand through a time of testing.

Join the conversation: Have you been able to see God’s hand in your story? Please share!

 

Your Witness Lives On

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

I was blessed to have close relationships with my mother’s two unmarried sisters. Ours was a combination child/sister/friend experience. When my aunt Marge died, I delivered the eulogy at her funeral.

Marge had been in a care facility for several years, and as is often the case, had a number of roommates during her time there. The day Marge died, her roommate and the roommate’s daughter, Linda, cried with us.

When we gathered for Marge’s celebration of life service, Linda attended. Following the service, she came to me in tears, telling me how much the eulogy meant to her and how she wished she’d known Marge better. I assumed the account of my aunt’s faith, humor, and love for family and friends touched a nostalgic place in Linda’s heart. But several weeks later, she contacted Marge’s sister, Marilyn, and told her the eulogy caused her to experience a spiritual awakening.

“I haven’t been to church in years,” Linda said. “But hearing about Marge’s life has caused me to question my own approach to things, my attitudes, my actions, and my faith. I want to know more.” Marilyn sent her a devotional book and invited her to attend our church.

Weeks passed without response, but one day, Linda came to Marilyn’s house and talked for over an hour about what God had done in her life since Marge’s death. The changes in Linda’s life included reading the Bible daily and watching our church service on TV.

I’ve often heard the unattributed quotation, “Your life is the only Bible some people will ever read.” Linda knew Marge only as someone who shared her mother’s room at the care facility, until Marge died. God used the testimony of Marge’s life, presented in the form of a eulogy, to touch this woman’s heart and move her to embark on a faith journey.

God can use any means, even a funeral, to draw people to himself.

The story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection is still as powerful and life-changing today as it was to early converts to Christianity. Faithful disciples relayed the Good News then, and now it is up to us to share the gospel by various means.

Often we’re hesitant because society conditions us not to push our beliefs on others, and fear tells us we’re not equipped. So your living example of God at work in your life may be the only gospel some people ever hear. Paul reminds us not to hold back on sharing the gospel with others. “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16 NLT

Do people watch us to see how we speak, act, and react? Can our lives convey a message of Christ’s love? Can the testimony of our lives reach beyond the grave? I’m confident the answer to these questions is yes, and that’s why it is important to live in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Above all else, you must live in a way that brings honor to the good news about Christ.                                                                                                                                    Philippians 1:27 CEV

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Candy ArringtonAbout the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: What examples have you seen that have inspired you in your faith journey?

Testimonies Transform

by Jennifer Smith Lane

 “Leaving her water jar, the [Samaritan] woman went back to town and said to the people, ‘Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’” John 4:28 NIV

Like the Samaritan woman who sought love and rescue from life’s problems in the arms of men, a dark season of life led me into the counterfeit arms of an eating disorder, hoping it would save me, fix my problems, make me feel loved and accepted.

But it was the worst kind of cheater…instead of rescuing me, it enslaved me. I desperately tried to hide it, but my failing health exposed my secret. My pride could hardly bear the looks of surprise, disappointment, and disapproval I received. I lost friends over it. I lost my spark for life in it. I lost myself in the midst of it. My shame encompassed me.

It became hard to discern truth from the lies. I felt hopeless and alone. I longed for someone to come along and rescue me from the darkness that engulfed me.

No one ever did.

Then one day in my desperation, I cried out to the Lord and He heard my cry. His light exposed the darkness and freed me from my shame, my strongholds, and my sin Just like He did for the Samaritan woman. I walked away from that moment with dignity as she did, because I was transformed from being known as a sinner to a sinner saved by grace.

Why am I telling you my story? Not because I’m proud of it, but because it’s important that we testify just like the Samaritan woman did in the story.

After her encounter with Jesus, the Samaritan woman went back into the village where she was scorned and told the townspeople what happened to her that day. “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of her testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did’” (John 4:39 NIV).

Her story was so compelling that the townspeople went out to meet Jesus. After a while, they said, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world” (John 4:42 NIV). Jesus used her hard story of a sinner, an outcast, saved by grace to draw others to know or desire to know Him.

Your testimony is important too. Maybe you’re thinking: you wouldn’t say that if you knew my story. Or: I couldn’t, what will others think of me if they knew? Or: I’m in the midst of my trial now, so I’ll wait until it’s better. Maybe you have resigned yourself to: I couldn’t do that; I’ll mess up the whole thing.

Lies. All lies.

Don’t let the enemy persuade you to keep silent. Sharing your story of weakness, becoming vulnerable to those who may well be struggling with the same issues, and how Jesus is bringing you out of it will invite others into personal contact with Jesus. Then then Jesus will do the rest.

Mark 13:11 says, “Do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.” The Samaritan woman was in the thick of it and everybody knew her backstory. But when she proclaimed the Messiah, she allowed God to use her story to transform her whole town.

Imagine what could happen if you allow God to use yours?

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Testimonies Transform – insight from Jennifer Smith Lane on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

jennifer smith laneAbout the Author: Jennifer Smith Lane is the president and co-founder of the Michigan Eating Disorders Alliance whose mission is to provide education programs to prevent eating disorders. In addition to her non-profit work, she leads an eating and body image ministry walking alongside women on their recovery journey and empowering them to find freedom in Christ. Jennifer and her husband live in Michigan where she enjoys most her role of mom to her three children.

Jennifer’s new book, Transformed: Eating and Body Image Renewal God’s Way, helps women identify the underlying spiritual issues that keep them stuck in eating and body image issues, studies what Scripture has to say about them through inductive Bible study techniques and teaches tools to turn to God for rescue through the spiritual disciplines.

Join the conversation: Have you ever hesitated to share your story? What held you back? Could your journey with Jesus help others on theirs?

 

The Ripple Effect

by Donna Sparks @Donnasparks28

Most of us have experienced the simple act of tossing a pebble into a pond to see what happens. I remember the amazement I experienced as a child when I tossed a stone and watched the circles appear on the glassy surface. Little by little, they would expand farther and farther across the lake.

We refer to this as the ripple effect. One tiny sudden impact on the surface of still water can send out ripples that eventually reach the opposite shore.

We may think that a tiny pebble tossed into a giant lake can’t have much of an impact, but it obviously does. The same kind of effect happens when one life is touched by Jesus. Recently as I was ministering in the local jail, a precious young lady gave her heart to Christ.

As I worked with her, Angel became hungry for more of God. It was obvious that He had impacted her life in a powerful way. I could sense a strong call to ministry on her life, and she wanted everything God had to offer her.

Angel called me when she was released. She was so excited as we talked about her long drive home with her father. She related to me how she had told him everything she learned in the jail services. She talked about the Bible lessons I had shared with them and how my testimony had inspired her to follow Jesus. I was so thrilled to hear the excitement in her voice.

But it kept getting better. She said, “Miss Donna, when I got home, I sat down with my family and read the Bible to them! But that’s not all! I prayed with them, and they accepted Christ as their Savior.” I almost shouted right then and there!

She continued, “And, Miss Donna, we have found a wonderful church just seven miles from our house. We are all going this Sunday!” I was overjoyed! She shared the name of the church with me, and I told her I would give the pastor a call on Monday.

When I called him, he told me that she and her parents did come to church on Sunday. He said that their church had just started a new program for former addicts and those still struggling with addictions.

He also shared his plans with me to get Angel involved.

And he did. Angel called me back bursting with excitement, as she told me how the pastor was getting her planted in several areas of ministry! Both of her parents are attending church with her, and she is absolutely thrilled to see what future plans God has for her. She hopes to minister in jails and share her own testimony someday.

Sometimes we may feel that we are having little to no impact in what we are doing for Christ. But that is nothing more than a lie from the enemy. The smallest thing can make the biggest impact. Just like a tiny pebble causing ripples across a lake, our testimony shared with another individual can change a life. When that changed individual shares their testimony, other lives are changed. The ripples keep reaching outward.

We have to remember that the impact we make on one person can extend farther than we can even imagine. Oh, the stories we will share in Heaven when we meet those whose lives were changed as an indirect result of our ministry. Small beginnings yield huge results in eternity!

So, keep casting those small pebbles out into the lake. You never know how far those ripples may travel. You could well make an impact far greater than you will ever know.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth. It will not return to Me empty without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.                                                                                           Isaiah 55:10-11 NASB

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donna sparksAbout the author: Donna Sparks is an evangelist and author of  Beauty from Ashes: My Story of Grace. A sought-after speaker for women’s conferences and retreats, Donna travels extensively to minister in churches and other venues. She also leads a vibrant and fruitful women’s jail and prison ministry, through which she has seen God perform countless miracles in the lives of the ladies to whom she ministers. Donna has been married for twenty-one years to the love of her life, Bryan, and they are raising their two daughters to know and experience the reality of God, the fullness of His love, and His power to lead them. Her newest book No Limits: Embracing the Miraculous, released on Oct. 1st.

Join the conversation: Have you seen the ripple effect happen in your life or ministry?

 

 

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?