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 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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