Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Do you see God in your life every day?

When we can sense and feel and therefore know the presence of God, it is the tangible presence of God in our lives. We touch, feel, perceive, sense, recognize, and notice God around and within us; God’s presence is something that is obvious, evident, and plain. I want a passionate faith where I deeply sense God’s presence in my life. Passionate is a confusing word, especially for people who are introverted. Passionate often implies a proscribed way in which one experiences God: a jumping up and down, raising your hands, and shouting out loud way of experiencing God. That may be unfair to the word passionate; its true meaning describes something that is ardent, fervent, and deeply felt. I want to deeply feel and experience God’s presence. I want my expression of it to be authentic to whatever it is that I perceive, sense, and notice about God’s presence in my life. Today. Any day. Any time.

But why is it that sometimes we feel the presence of God and sometimes we don’t? Why is it that some people seemingly sense God’s presence in their lives more readily than others?

N. Graham Standish suggests that just as there are multiple intelligences, such as emotional, musical, and intellectual intelligences— or ways of knowing—so there is a mystical intelligence “which has to do with how aware we are of God’s purpose, presence, and power.”* It’s intriguing to think that just as people have varying degrees of intellectual, emotional, musical, and other intelligences, so we might also have a varying degree of mystical intelligence. A mystical intelligence simply means that we have a way of knowing God’s presence through our mind, our senses, our feelings, and our intuition.

Initially it might sound like we either have it or we don’t, but Standish doesn’t describe it that way. Likewise, the theory of multiple intelligences doesn’t suggest that we either have one or another, but that we have a degree of any of the intelligences and we can cultivate them in our lives so as to enhance our ways of knowing, learning, and experiencing life.

Experiencing the passionate presence of God means that we seek to sense, notice, and perceive God around us. We stop confining God to some activities, such as going to church, reading the Bible, and praying, and begin to sense God’s presence in anything or anywhere.

As Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase of Romans 12 calls it, giving my “everyday, ordinary life” as an offering to God means that God meets me where I’m at whether or not it’s a place I would expect to see or experience God. It means that as a result of God meeting me where I’m at, God transforms the way I see the world around me—my friends and family as well as strangers, my work and daily tasks of life, the beauty of creation, and the world’s suffering.

Years ago my extended family experienced a horrible tragedy that resulted with two members of our family dying. It was a devastating experience that forever impacted us. But as we prepared for this double funeral, my mother shared a list she had made of how God had been in the midst of it. My definition of tragedy is that God doesn’t intend for it to happen—I would never say that God willed or intended for this tragedy to happen—but I believe in the midst of the worst of life, even in dying, God is present and sometimes even more palpable because in our darkest times we look for every glimmer of light.

God’s goodness may be in the silence rather than the speech, in the edges rather than the center of things, in the healing rather than the untouched.

Where do you need to practice seeing the presence of God?

Taken from A Faithful Heart: Daily Guide for Joyful Living by Sally Dyck (Abingdon Press, 2010)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cultivating Contentment

Dear Friends,

Statistics show that a large percentage of ministry wives don’t like what they do! If there is that much discontentment, there is no question there will be discontented spouses as well. We cannot go cold as a Christian without lowering the temperature of everyone else around us.

Discontented believers do not encourage unbelievers to believe! They do not excite believers to develop an exuberant faith. What’s more, discontentment shows and that’s not good. You can’t hide unhappiness of soul. You may be going through the motions of ministry because you know how to do it, but if there’s no joy there’s not much hope of infectious multiplication in evangelism or spiritual growth in the church. What can we do to find contentment in ministry?

Confess your discontentment. Paul said “learn to be content” in Philippians 4. And confession is a good place to start.

Order your private life. Check your priorities, talk them over with your partners or close friends.

Nourish your relationships. Do you have a friend who can encourage and challenge you? Will she call you on your discontented attitude?

Try counting your blessings, not your troubles! Counting “a blessing a day keeps the devil away!”

Expect the devil to whisper discouraging things in your ear. Answer him with words of Scripture – like Jesus did (Matthew 4).

Nurture your prayer life. This is where the battle is won.

Trust God. Let resentment go. Forgive your enemies (and your friends). Accept adversity cheerfully. Don’t play God!

How can a child of the King have a sour face? Live royally – it’s your birthright.

In His Joy,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Your Lifestyle Needs to be Different!

Dear Friends,

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind. ~ Ephesians 4:17

A warning is necessary if you are a new Christian living among old pagans. Your lifestyle has to be different! How do the pagan nations live? People wander in a world of illusion and futility (see Eph. 4:18). Love has become lust, and their darkened understanding says that what is temporal is eternal, and what is eternal is irrelevant. Spiritual experience is not for people living in the real world, they say!

This worldly thinking is the result of a callousness of heart (see Eph. 4:18). People sin and get away with it, then stick out their chins and say, “See, the sky didn’t fall on my head!” They are greedy, wanting more of everything even though they have most everything. They indulge in outrageous conduct, living without care for high personal standards or social sanctions, and they have a passion for sexual indulgence at the expense of others. This is how the nations without Christ walk about this earth. They become so indifferent even to the sanctity of human life that they reduce everything to the mighty dollar.

The story is told of a man’s watching another man drown in Hong Kong harbor. The drowning man begged the observer to jump in and save him, but the man refused until a passer-by offered him some money! Not every unbeliever behaves in such a callous way, but every unbeliever, with no mighty checking power within, has the potential for all of the above. Alone against the foe, the Christless one is easy prey.

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe

Monday, August 23, 2010

Spiritual Gifts for the Church

Dear Friends,

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” ~ Ephesians 4:7-8

Did you know you have a spiritual gift that was given to you for the church’s benefit? My husband was asked to visit a family who was thinking of joining our church. “Pastor Briscoe,” began the father, “what does your church have to offer my family?” “What does your family have to offer to my church?” replied my husband. He explained that the policy of our fellowship is to help people discover their spiritual abilities and exercise them for the good of the whole.

Paul explains that persons are gifts (see Eph. 4:11). There have been apostles who had a distinctive position, prophets with inspired utterance, evangelists with the ability to spread the Good News, pastor-teachers to shepherd the flock under Christ the chief Pastor. All these men are there to teach the saints (rank-and-file members) to do the work of ministry (see Eph. 4:12). The greatest mistake people can make is to think of church as a spectator sport.

Paul also writes that gifts are given to all Christians. Unto every one of us is given a gift (see Eph. 4:7). Each gift is different, and there is a diversity as subtle and beautiful as the spots on a leopard, snowflakes on the grass, grains of sand on the seashore. Each personality with its matching gifts is unique, but, like a note in a chord of music, or an instrument in an orchestra, it is intended to blend with others so that the message of salvation becomes the loveliest symphony of all.

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

God of My Pleasant Places

Dear Friends,

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance. ~ Psalm 16:6

The Bible tells us that when the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, Joshua, Eleazar, the priest, and the heads of the tribes divided the land for inheritance by their borders (see Josh. 19:49). The “lines” in our text were the boundaries around those pieces of property. David, thinking about this, was able to look at his life and say, “the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.”

I once found myself raising my voice in praise to God for exactly the same reason. I thanked God for the “pleasant places” of our home, our marriage, and our relationship with our grown children. I praised Him for our ministry, and for our friendships. I thought about the pleasant place around our dining table, and our bank balance with enough money to buy clothes and necessities. Like King David, I could truly say “Yes, the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places!”

Then another thought came to mind, engendering petition. This time it was a warning.

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land,…..When you have eaten and are full,…..Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God….When your heart is lifted up…then you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.” And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth. (Deut. 8:7-18)

It was quite simple, really; I had been reminded not to make my pleasant places my God, but rather to worship the God of my pleasant places!

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe

Monday, August 16, 2010

Making Your Programs Work

Dear Friends,

The crooked cripple waited outside the temple gate called Beautiful. Peter and John came along. It was time for a prayer meeting. It would have been easy to walk right on by, but the man looked at them expectantly so they stopped. His expectation wasn’t very high. A mite or two would do – Peter and John didn’t appear to be flush. What a shock he got! What a glorious, fabulous, stupendous shock! After 40 years of immobility the man walked – leapt up and down for joy. He asked for alms – but God gave him legs! (My husband’s line!) Peter and John saw their program work!

It’s a sad commentary on the church that people don’t expect much from us. Just a mite or two. A handout – the usual meager token – the nothing-very-much-giving they’ve grown to expect. But to receive ‘life more abundant’ – to be straight instead of crooked, to stand tall instead of groveling on the ground, and to be independent instead of dependent – now there’s a story! It got everyone’s attention of course, as such a miracle should, and more and more people asked to join the program.

Peter and John’s program worked because it wasn’t theirs, it was His. It was the living, loving, healing, resurrected Jesus’ idea.

What sort of people is the Lord Jesus looking for to run His program of gospel-telling and radical life change? People like Peter and John. Now before you begin the killing game of comparisons – wait! Peter and John are described in the narrative as “unschooled and ordinary men.” Well now, that’s good news for those of us (me included) who have never had the chance to go to Bible school or seminary. (Some of us were too busy putting our partners through.)

Many of us women qualify as “unschooled” – no Master of Divinity for us. The leaders of Israel (schooled men) took note of the fact “that they (the disciples) had been with Jesus!” (Acts 4:13). Ah, so they didn’t need a Master of Divinity – they had been with the Master of Divinity! Now that’s very good news for those of us unschooled and ordinary women who feel inadequate and less than ideally equipped to make our programs work. And of course, it’s obvious to me, the more ordinary we are the more extraordinary He will be seen to be. That way we can make sure that He gets all the credit. Incidentally, you can accomplish anything if you don’t have to take the credit!

So far as I can see from this incident, God can use poor, unschooled, and ordinary people to lend a hand to help this crooked, crippled world up onto its feet for the glory of God! And, after all, that’s what His program is all about. What a joy to be a part!

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Women are Hungry for the Truth!

By Jill Briscoe

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.. ~ Ephesians 5:16

We must buy up the opportunities we have before the night comes.

This is the day of opportunity. Our church took a survey of two thousand women in our community to find out what they were thinking, and how our women’s ministry could best meet their needs. Out of all of those interviewed, only a handful of women were hostile or refused to talk with us. We need to buy up these opportunities.

Colossians 4:5 tells us to walk in wisdom toward those who are “outside” – redeeming the time. Paul goes on to explain that in this wise walk our speech must be salty (there will be a tang to it) so that we may know how to answer every person. Redeeming the time means cultivating the “know-how” of argument and debate. Redeeming the time means that by our very lifestyle, we will engender some questions from others.

Once in a train full of rowdy, drunken football fans, a young Christian was sitting quietly, reading. An old gentleman, observing first the drunks and then the young man, said to him “You seem to have found the secret to life – do you want to share it?” Our young friend lost no time “redeeming the time”!

Paul even goes so far as to warn the married that “the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none”! (I Cor. 7:29). We must ask God for a great sense of urgency.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Worry and Prayer Can't Coexist

Dear Friends,

One paraphrase of 1 Peter 5:8 says “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon Him for you are His personal concern.”

Prayer and worry cannot live together. You cannot worry and pray at the same time. Prayer is the place to let your anxieties go – to hand them off to someone else, someone well able to carry them for you. God!

It’s hard to throw the whole weight of our anxiety upon Him isn’t it? How do we do that?

When I’m traveling, which seems to be constantly, I carry a briefcase full of files and books with me. It’s heavy. When I’m on the road alone my back hurts by the end of the day. Often I’m with my husband, Stuart, or daughter, Judy, who hurry to take my briefcase to lift the load. I want to help so it’s not an extra burden for them. Sometimes I say, “Let’s both carry it. Let’s share it.” But the handle isn’t big enough and it doesn’t work. I’ve even been tempted to open the bag and take out some of the books to carry myself so it’s lighter for them! But their backs are strong and well able to carry the case while my back is hurting, unable to carry it. So I throw my burden gratefully into their hands! They always smile at me because they love me and are concerned.

Occasionally I refuse their kind offer of help. Why? For all sorts of reasons. I get to thinking they have their own burdens, and I should be able to carry a little briefcase filled with a few books. Or I begin to worry that they’ll dread having me along because I’m such a nuisance with my moving library! I always reap the consequences of carrying the stuff myself, when guilt, self-effort, pride, or stupidity lead me to refuse their helping hand.

I’m sure Stuart and Judy consider me very foolish when they are walking right beside me and are willing and able to help, but I insist on going it alone. I think God thinks we are very foolish, too, when He has told us to hand off our heavy issues to Him and we don’t. So don’t forget: God is your constant travel companion along life’s road. His back is big enough and strong enough for your case load of worries. And don’t be opening the bag and keeping a few books to carry for yourself to make it easier on Him. Throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon Him for you are His personal concern.

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Monday, August 2, 2010

Would We Want People Imitating Us?

By Jill Briscoe

Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children. ~ Ephesians 5:1

Our son Pete wanted a bird! His sister had left for college and he was feeling lonely. Without giving the matter much thought, I bought him a cockateel.

When Pete emerged bleeding from the bathroom after the first and last training session with his new-found friend, “Cornbread” (we found out later he should have been called “Cornelia”) was relegated to a life within the walls of the cage in Pete’s room. “Talk to him, Pete,” I urged my son over the next few weeks; but the novelty of the pet wore off and my urging was to no avail.

We donated Cornbread to a friend (now an enemy!) and told her, “Don’t worry when you hear deep breathing in the middle of the night!” The poor bird had heard nothing more than Pete’s deep slumbering sighs and so had imitated them! Have you ever heard a cockatiel deep-breathe? It’s eerie.

But all of us learn by imitation. Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (I Cor. 11:1). We are to watch carefully, listen acutely, and pick up every inflection of our Master’s voice!

Would we want people imitating us? The very fact that we are being watched should force us to deal with our erratic behavior and not cause others to stumble.

Jesus had some hard words about people who cause others to fall. He said it would be better if stones were tied around their necks and they were cast to the bottom of the sea! (see Lukas 17:2).

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