Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are You Feeling Discouraged?

Dear Friends,


I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles. ~ Isaiah 42:6

Jehovah promises to direct His Servant in such a way that He shall have Him as His protector and keeper and shall know His presence in all things.  “I will keep You,” Jehovah promises. “And I will hold Your hand” (hold it fast), He says.

There must have been many wearisome days when Jesus of Nazareth, the Servant of Jehovah, thought of that verse.  Did He recite: “He will not fail nor be discouraged, / Till He has established justice in the earth” (v.4), as He wrestled with ornery disciples, rebuked pious Pharisees, or dealt with the rank unbelief of the people?  When the process was slow and the days were long, Jesus Christ experienced the immediate assistance of God.  And so may we!

We too are His servants.  If we have been born from above, we are dressed in His Spirit.  We too must bring a right answer to a wrong world, and we too can know He will hold our hand and give us His immediate assistance in the face of frustration and persecution.

If Christ is not discouraged, knowing His kingdom has come in the hearts of men and will one day come universally, then we need not be discouraged either.  God gave Jesus a “covenant to the people,  As a light to the Gentiles” (v.6).  The word covenant means “promise.”  God promised us light in place of darkness (see v.6).  He promised prisoners would be free (see v. 7).  The death of discouragement and true spiritual freedom begin here and now for Jehovah’s servants!

In Him,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor


Monday, April 25, 2011

Miracles Take Time

Dear Friends,


Recently, Stuart and I listened to the amazing reports of New Tribes missionaries telling how they have taken their families, moved into unreached primitive tribes, and begun the persistent and patient translation work required to take the gospel and plant a self-reproducing church.  It takes years to accomplish this.

Years ago, we served in a mission with a saying, “Go where you’re sent, stay where you’re put, and give what you’ve got!”  The leaders of New Tribes told us that the hard part of this philosophy in missions today is the middle part, “Stay where you’re put.”  It takes perseverance to “stay put” in such places.

There is no way around it.  Even with today’s technology, unknown to the founders of this mission, this hard and dangerous work takes time.  It means taking on the hard work of waiting - waiting it out sometimes in life-threatening situations.

At the same time I was listening to the reports of these wonderful servants of God, I was preparing to speak at a C. S. Lewis convention.  As I worked on my presentation, I was reminded of something I heard years ago.  It was a simple, but profound statement: “Miracles take time.”  The words “miracles” and “time” seem at first to be an oxymoron.  But Jesus Himself was proof of it.  Think of the Incarnation.  That miracle of miracles took nine months!

When we first came to America, we learned we had the oldest oak tree in our front yard.  As we raised our three teenagers to know and love the Lord, I would sometimes go outside, looking at that towering tree, and pick up some acorns to encourage my heart.  It takes time to grow an oak tree, I would say to myself!  I think I heard a whisper, “Hope on; “miracles take time,” and a miracle that takes time is no less a miracle.”
 
Have you been pleading for God to intervene in your child’s life?  A child perhaps who is making bad choices? Are you praying for instant godliness, for quick transformation?  Are you waiting for a marriage to heal? Are you trying to find out the will of God for your life?  Are you impatient for the Lord to lay it all out?  The end of it, the middle of it, as well as the very next step? 
 
This is not to say miracles cannot happen “all in a moment of man-time.”  I have experienced it.  Others bear witness to it, too.  But God’s clocks, I have learned, keep perfect time, and I must keep my little fingers off the face of His “timepiece” and trust Him with the schedule.  The Bible tells us, In the fullness of time God sent forth His Son (Gal. 4:4).  There will be a fullness of time according to His wisdom and knowledge.
But God, unlike us, is in no earthly hurry.  His purposes transcend our little clocks and watches. And I’m glad about that.  Be encouraged.  Who knows what we and those we pray for would lose if we received instant answers to our prayers?  Certainly our character would lack luster!  Our faith would remain weak.

Persist. Pray on, and on, and on. Don’t lose hope.  Ask for your miracle, of course, then trust God for it according to His will and in His time.  One day you will be able to see in retrospect the love of God in His puzzling delays.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor


Miracles Take Time

Waking to Grace at the light of the dawn
Feeling depressed and a little forlorn
Needing a miracle
Needing it now
Impatient and worried, I bowed.

“My child, I have heard your repeated request
And at the right moment, I’ll do what is best
Take this time to know Me
In a way never known
And we’ll talk when I get you back home!

“Then you’ll praise me and see in the heavenly sphere
That the timing was right though the pain was severe,
You would never have known
What My presence could be
If you trod not this path with me.”

 Jill Briscoe - 2009

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Think About the Cross

Dear Friends,


Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. ~ Luke 23:9

Perhaps you would never play such cruel word games with Jesus as Herod did, but there are other games just as hurtful to the Savior.  Human beings can play the games of indifference, of rejection, or of willful ignorance.  Modern man has grown “tolerant” - he simply walks over “the pavement” of his Savior’s sorrows and goes on his way untouched, unreached, and unregenerate.

“Behold the man!” cried Pilate, displaying the tortured Christ, sure His sufferings would engender pity.  Instead, like beasts smelling the blood of a kill, the chief priests and officers cried out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (John 19:6).  And what was Jesus doing while all this was going on?  Nothing!  He who had the power to summon ten thousand angels to His help chose to stand helplessly, resigned to die because there was no other way to reconcile the world to God!  He who had the power to consume His enemies with the breath of His mouth answered Herod “never a word,” though every effort was employed to make Him talk.  Jesus didn’t play games with His enemies; He was tall and straight and true.  He told us He was the truth, the way, and eternal life - and then rested His case.  He neither teased us with the unattainable nor taunted us with the irresistible, but simply offered us salvation.  Behold the Man!  The Man of men - God Himself in human form!

Then dare to play your games if you will!  As for me, I am sold - devastated by the story of the God-man subjected to humiliation that defies description.  I am captured, reduced to tears - I worship!


In Him,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Cross of Easter

Dear Friends,

Another Good Friday.  Time to wonder anew at the price of my redemption.  Oh God, only through the cross can we enter heaven.  Don’t let me ever forget it!

Shadows dress Him like a shroud
Stones that watch Him cry out loud;
Trees a thousand years in age
Bow their heads in silent rage.

Earth refreshed by Jesus’ grief
Quakes in angry unbelief.
Birds restrain their song in awe
Little creatures play no more.
All creation holds its breath
As He who gave life faces death!

See Him now –
A broken-hearted Christ upon a cross, bent in the shape of my sin.
Eternity’s vaults emptied of their greatest treasure,
Aching with the pain of purchase,
Wait for the long journey down, down and down to be
Done!

Darkened with death’s breath, the world waits.

God’s child arched in agony refuses to stop loving us all.
Wrapped in swathing bands of pain,
Careless of hell’s happiness, He hangs, He hurts, He dies.

After penning my thought, I looked at The Front Door.  Why had I never noticed it before?  It was in the shape of a cross!

Lord, only through the cross can I enter;
Only through the cross
am I saved. You are the
door of the sheepfold.
ThankYou. Your loving child. Jill.


Have a Blessed Easter!

Jill Briscoe 
Executive Editor

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Does Your Soul Delight in Christ?

Dear Friends,

Most commentators point to Jehovah’s servant as the two heroes of the drama described for us.  Who is this  servant?  Some say Isaiah speaks of the Jewish people in exile; others, the prophets.  Others say the servant is Cyrus, whom the Scriptures acknowledge as an elect instrument.

The role of the Servant of the Lord is fulfilled only in Jesus Christ.  The Servant is described as upheld by Jehovah even while He lays a charge upon Him, as masters do with faithful servants.  He is elected for the service to which He came and He dwells deeply in God’s love.  Peter described Christ Jesus as a precious cornerstone of God’s building (see 1 Pet. 2:6-7).  “This is My beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17), God announced at Christ’s baptism.  “To you who believe, He is precious” (1Poet. 2:6), Peter says.

Is God’s Servant, Jesus Christ, precious, beloved, to you?  Or is He merely a name in a book, a founder of a church, a historical character; or a nice idea?  If Jesus is chosen and precious to God, than it follows He should be chosen and precious to us.

Do our souls delight in God’s Servant?  I have heard people say, “I love God, but I have no time for Christ.”  But how can you love God and yet have no feeling for Him in whom His soul delights?  Jesus said, “You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).  He also said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).  To love God is to love Christ.  They are one and the same Person!


In Him,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Finding Joy When the Storms Get You Down

Dear Friends,


It was a few weeks before our annual mission's festival when the chairman and his family decided to jump ship, leaving the church.  My husband, who oversaw this area, was left scrambling to pull things together in the waning hours before one of the biggest events of the year.  Shortly afterwards, we experienced another major ministry disappointment, then another, and yet another.  Disappointments were raining in on us from all directions.  Caught without my umbrella, I was getting wet - no drenched - in the ministry and I didn't like it.  Without warning, huge ministry‑threatening waves of discouragement engulfed me and I, too, wanted to jump ship.

Six months later discouragement was still following me around as I mechanically and methodically went through the ministry motions.  There was no joy in the ride, no delight, no excitement as there had once been.  I was sinking lower and lower into the discouraging waters below, so I began crying out to God, “Lord, renew this cold heart of mine, along with David in Psalm 51:12 I earnestly prayed, ‘Restore to me the joy of your salvation.’”  How often I have echoed that prayer for personal renewal along the course.

Now I was realizing that there was a need for another type of renewal: ministry renewal and restoration.  So here I began, just the Lord and me with a very simple heartfelt prayer and desire, “Restore again to me the joy of serving You.”  Interestingly, personal renewal and ministry renewal are linked.  There cannot be restoration of the ministry without, first, restoration of the soul.  When I began to fix my eyes on the lover of my soul, ministry restoration slowly began to occur.

The ministry storms had come, as they always will, but I had made the mistake of fixing my eyes on the people and events of ministry instead of the Lord.  All of my attention was directed to the torrid waters raging around me, instead of the only One Who could offer me stillness in the eye of the storm.  Like Peter walking on the water to Jesus, I too, began to sink when the stormy winds struck - my eye on the storm and not the Lord. I, too, wanted to run back into the safety of the boat instead of walking through the storms with simple faith.

Ministry will be full of ups and downs; storms of all magnitudes are always going to rage and sometimes it's going to feel like we’re regressing on the course instead of forging ahead.  But as long as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus we won’t drown.  Yes, we will get wet - even soaked - but underlying it all will stand the unchanging God who will see us through every wave.  He promises, afterall, not to let us drown, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you (Isa. 43:2a, NIV).”

Real joy comes only as we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind.  He is the reason we keep on keeping on. He is the reason we don’t lose heart and abandon ship.  Serving God, afterall, is being faithful when your flesh wants to run the other way.  He is the reason we can have genuine joy in service even in the midst of the storm.

I had it all backwards - I was focusing on the crew instead of the captain, and any time you do that you’re bound to grow discouraged.  Colossians 3:23‑24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

“Yes, that's it,” I thought.  It is the Lord Christ I am serving.  The emphasis in this verse is on who - the Lord Christ, not men.  How exciting!  So often we get our priorities all mixed up.

It’s when we begin to serve men instead of God that we lose heart, we lose our joy, we become discouraged.  Why?  Because men will always disappoint us at one time or another.  Our service must always be motivated from our love for Jesus, and it’s in loving Jesus that we will discover joy in our service for Him for it’s out of our love for Christ - not men - that we do what we do.  Yes, we love the crew along the way, but not more than the captain.  Paul said of his ministry, “it is the love of Christ that compels me,” and so it must be for us.  That’s where genuine, lasting joy will be found. Oswald Chambers said, “The thing that tells in the long run for God and for men is the steady persevering work in the unseen, and the only way to keep the life uncrushed is to live looking to God.”

Discouragement, if left unchecked, will eventually threaten our ministry and usefulness to God, and it will certainly destroy our joy.  In fact, one of the results of discouragement is the temptation to keep ourselves isolated inside the boat, never trusting, never risking, and never getting out into the water.  But we must learn to walk in obedience with Jesus through the storm, doing His will, His way.  Otherwise, we may miss some of God’s greatest surprises in ministry.

One of the ways God answered my prayer for ministry restoration came through a member of the crew.  A friend who needed to be discipled was sent into my little boat.  Being quite wet, I didn’t  know if I wanted to set myself up for another disappointment, but I trusted God anyway.  As I got out of the boat, in obedience, and began to trust again, He began to use this woman powerfully in my life.  As I watched her growth and excitement, my own joy began to return.  “This is what it’s all about,” I thought, God working and transforming lives and allowing me to be a part of it.”  Through her life, God has reminded me what walking and serving Him is all about - doing His will in the eye of the storm, and it’s as we obey that He surprises us with joy and His unchanging presence and peace.

No matter how rough the waves and how bumpy the ride, we can still experience a deep inner joy that comes from loving and serving God.  Sure there will be down days, wet days and dark days, but genuine joy isn’t tossed to and fro by our feelings.

“Restore to me again the joy of serving You - of being called by you to this place, to these circumstances, to this crew, at this time.”   This has been my prayer and He has proved faithful.  For it is the Lord Christ we are serving,” - and there is no greater joy and privilege - even in the storms.

Blessings,

Shelly Esser
Editor


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Finding Peace as You Trust & Obey Christ

Dear Friends,

And His name will be called…Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6

When Jesus Christ has authority over us and when the government of our lives is upon His shoulder, then the Rule of Peace ensues.

Once Stuart and I were invited to go snorkeling in the Cayman Islands.  We ventured out beyond the reef, accompanied by some young experts who swam as well as the fish they chased to the depths with their spear guns.  “Don’t worry, Mrs. Briscoe,” they said, seeing my frightened face. “We’ll be your guardian angels!”  So saying, they threw the anchor overboard and followed it!  Hastily abandoning ship to keep up, Stuart and I followed suit.  Never having snorkeled, I drank lots of ocean and met lots of fish I never knew existed.  Ever so often I came up for air.  It was rough being on top of the waves, but on the other hand, it was peaceful in the depths!  Our “guardian angels” had disappeared, chasing their prey and leaving their prey chasing us!  As soon as I panicked and tried to stay on top of the water, I nearly drowned.  When I obeyed the scanty instructions I had received and dived deep, I had peace-even among my new “friends.”

That’s how it is when you follow Jesus.  If you go deep enough, it will be still enough.  We need to do what we are told!  “In the world,” Jesus said, “you will have tribulation” (that’s like being battered to bits on the top of the ocean), but “in Me, ye shall have peace” (that’s like obeying instructions and diving deep!) (John 16:33).

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rendezvous with God

Dear Friends,


The day of our much-awaited rendezvous arrived.  I packed, shunned the piles on my desk, and inched toward the door, hoping I could steal away.  I had planned a getaway with the one I loved, and I would let nothing stop me - not the “to do” lists, not the projects, and not the unanswered letters. 

As I arrived at the retreat center, peace descended upon me like sunlight casting golden
shadows upon the hills.  A courtyard garden blossoming with pink roses beckoned.  I delayed no longer, meeting Him by the fountain in the garden, my heart and body weary.

“It is so good to be here, so good to be alone with You,” I whispered as hot tears trickled down my cheeks.  The guilt that had hounded me before I came no longer bound my heart as I heard Him whisper, “I have been waiting a long time for you to come.”

Too long.  Although I spent time alone with God daily, I had begun to approach our morning meetings as any other appointment.  Even while we met, I would catch myself planning my grocery list or deliberating over a problem, rather than truly listening to Him.  I had not made enough time to rest quietly in God’s presence, listen to His voice, or read His Word as love letters to relish rather than textbook chapters to learn.

The Secret of Passion

When I took my first personal spiritual retreat, I discovered a secret:  Just as husbands and wives who interact daily still need time away to revitalize their love, so we, too, need extended time with the Lover of our souls to nurture our passion for Him.  We are Christ’s bride (Rev. 21:2), and He is our Husband (Is. 54:5).

A Day in His Courts

Taking a personal spiritual retreat not only invigorates our relationship with God, but – most important – it honors him.  When we have no agenda other than waiting upon Him, it tangibly expresses our conviction that He is worth our time.  When God calls us to slow down and sit before Him in silence – whether He prompts us to take an afternoon or a few days – we must be willing to obey.  On a personal spiritual retreat, we cultivate the spiritual discipline of waiting upon God.  As our “soul waits in silence for God only” (Ps. 62:1, NASB), we discover that “a day in His courts is better than a thousand outside” (Ps. 84:10, NASB).

Common Questions

Where should I go?  Though you can take a spiritual retreat anywhere you can find solitude – even in a quiet corner of your backyard or a park, at some point I recommend planning a retreat at a convent, monastery, or some other retreat center.  I look for locations where I can avoid the temptation to interact with others, and especially enjoy places where I can walk and enjoy nature.

What should I bring?  Pack light.  Don’t bring stacks of material that might distract you.  I recommend bringing a Bible, a journal, and perhaps a devotional guide or reflective book on deepening our intimacy with God.  Pack your most comfortable clothes, an extra sweater, shoes for walking or hiking, and a blanket to sit on outside if weather permits.

How long should I plan to stay?  I’d encourage you to begin with as much time as you can reasonably spend.  If you can initially spare only a few hours, that’s a great!  Or try beginning with one day.  If time alone in silence is new to you, you may not want to plan a weeklong retreat your first time out.

I’ve found it usually takes me two or three days to quiet my spirit and to become still enough to listen to God.  But on a longer retreat, sometimes I also experience great temptation to flee the silence and return to activity after several days.  Some of my greatest times communing with God have come only after I have resisted the urge to “cut and run.”

What should I expect?  Try to leave your agenda at home.  God may want to address something totally different from what’s on your mind.  Let go of your expectations of receiving a “word” from God, getting an area of your life totally resolved, or having a burning-bush experience.  Think of your retreat as a rendezvous with God, a time simply to be together with Him.

What happens after I arrive?  Remind yourself why you have come and who is waiting to talk with you.  I like to begin my retreats by walking around the grounds.  I pray that God will open my heart to His plans and open my ears to His “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12, KJV).  As I walk, I also ask God to show me what I can learn about Him from creation.

Time Well Spent

However I spend those precious days or hours, I always seek to be open to the Spirit of God.  Ironically, all those things that demanded my attention before leaving lose their grip on me during a retreat.  I often return to my responsibilities with fresh perspective, greater discernment regarding God’s priorities for me, and the strength to do what He’s called me to.  For “in returning and rest you shall be saved.  In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Is. 30:15, NKJV).

Reprinted with permission from Discipleship Journal, issue one hundred twenty, 2000.

Blessings,

Stacey Padrick


P.S.  Books for Your Retreat

You may enjoy one of the following books during your retreat.  They’ll help you explore what it means to experience God in silence and solitude.

The Practice of the Presence of God
By Brother Lawrence
(Various publishers)

Making All Things New
By Henri J. M. Nouwen
(HarperSanFrancisco)

The Pursuit of God
By A. W. Tozer
(Christian Publications)

Celebration of Discipline
By Richard Foster
(HarperSanFrancisco)

The Imitation of Christ
By Thomas a Kempis
(Various publishers)

The Soul at Rest
By Trician McCary Rhodes
(Bethany)

Quiet Places
By Jane Rubietta
(Bethany)

Listening to God
By Jan Johnson
(NavPress)