Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Accepting What We Can’t Change

Dear Friends,

Some years ago, I heard a well-known Christian leader talking about his eldest son, who had a heart condition.  The young man was suddenly taken seriously ill at college and was rushed to the hospital.  As the parents sped toward the emergency room, the father said to his wife, “Pray hard; maybe God will be good and our boy will live.”  His wife replied, “Isn’t God good if he dies?”  That world-renowned Christian leader spoke quietly about the affirmation of faith in God’s character and about ways that he was made anew at that moment of personal crisis.  “God is good,” he said to his wife, “whether our boy lives or dies.”  The boy died, but his parents were able to say with Job, “The Lord gave me everything I had, and they were his to take away.  Blessed by the name of the Lord.”

When we accept that the “unacceptable” has come to us with the full knowledge and permission of a God of integrity, we can stop trying to push the trouble away.  The sooner we can accept what we cannot change, the sooner we are ready to experience the peace and healing that we need.

When I was young, I used to play with caterpillars.  There were cute little ones and ugly ones and furry ones and smooth ones.  Such variety!  But they all had one thing in common: They all formed a chrysalis and spent time becoming a beautiful butterfly. When the time came, the struggle would begin as the little bug fought its way out into the world, a new creature.

One day I saw one little chrysalis jumping around on the tray.  I felt so sorry for the little bug inside its “prison,” obviously wanting to escape, and I wanted to help.  So, running to the house, I found a pair of scissors and carefully cut off the top of the chrysalis to help it out.  When the bug popped out, I discovered by mistake.  Its wings were deformed, and it was colorless!

How was I to know the color came into the little thing’s wings in the triumph of the struggle?  How was I to know that it took the deathly struggle to release the wings in order for the little bug to soar above the earth that had been its natural habitat?  When I have been unable to save my children the hard things in life, I have observed that in the struggle the color of their Christian character has come into their wings, and they have risen above their dire dilemmas.

It’s through our tragedies that we become like gold.  And it’s often in the things that we fear that anchors us to Christ.


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Here I Am: Send Aaron!

Dear Friends,

When God called Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, he answered, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant.  I am slow of speech and tongue.”  To which the Lord replied, “Who gave man his mouth?  Who makes him deaf or mute?  Who gives him sight or makes him blind?   Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”  Moses was not convinced and replied, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it” (Exo. 4:10-13).  In other words, Moses’ response to the call of God was, “Here am I; send Aaron!”

Have you ever felt like Moses did, that you are not good with words?  That you are not capable of the task He is asking of you?  Or that you are too young or too old?  I have.  I was twenty-one when I began to work with teenagers.  Not only was I young, I was a new believer.  As opportunities began to open up, I found myself teaching adults also.  Sometimes an older person would challenge me, not about what I was teaching, but about my age.  Feeling insecure, I asked the Lord if I should back off.  He said no.

If only God would do it on His own, we think.  Why does He use people and not angels?

It seems really risky to me to trust a teenager with conveying the Word of God to the world or someone who doesn’t have a seminary degree, or “official” training.  I have found myself pleading with God to speak as He spoke in the old days and shake my society into God-consciousness.  Then I have clearly heard His voice from Scripture saying, “I have put my words in your mouth” (Jer. 1:9).  I have had to learn all over again that God has a way of making His views and feelings known, and that is not by leaning out of heaven and hollering at us.  His plan is to put His words in our mouths!  His method is to tell us, so we can tell others.

There is an imaginative story that says that after Jesus went back to heaven, the angels gathered around to ask Him how He had left things on earth.  “Things are in good shape,” He replied.  “I have left my work in the hands of twelve men.”

“Only twelve?” the angels asked, considerably surprised.

“Yes,” Jesus answered.

“What happens if they fail?” inquired the angels.

“I have no other plans,” said Jesus.

That’s scary.  His work is in our hands, and His Word is in our mouths.  And the good news is that He asks us to pass it on even when we don’t necessarily have the gift of gab.  He asks us to speak on His behalf, and the power of His Spirit working with us and through us will take care of our inadequacies.     

Think of the shepherds in Bethlehem.  God sent His angels and told them about Jesus. They ran to Bethlehem to see if the angels’ message was true.  When they found everything “just as they had been told,” they went everywhere spreading “the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (Lk. 2:20, 17).  Do you think that these men were eloquent preachers?  Do you think they were too young or too old?  What training had they had?  They were simply obedient, and God spoke His words through them.  And God expects the same of us. God will give us the words we need to take to the people He has called us to!

With Joy,


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Loving Those Who Drive Us Crazy!

Dear Friends,

Most of us find that we can love those who are easy to love, but what about those who are hard to love or those who drive us up the wall?  Paul writes, “Love is patient and kind” (1 Cor. 13:4).  But how is that possible?  You don’t know the person I have to love, you’re thinking. 

We have been told to love, for love is not an option.  We have been given by the Spirit the ability to love with agape love.  Patience is another name for love, for Paul explained that “love is patient.”  Therefore, as we work through our difficult relationships, we will need to be patient.  The meaning of the word patience (in Greek, macrothumea) is “long-suffering” or “slow to anger.”  Love suffers because it is the nature of love to suffer. Remember what C.S. Lewis said: “Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken!”   But there is no alternative. We are not only called to love, we are also commanded to love.

Such love means loving not only when your heart is whole, but loving when your heart is broken.  It means loving when the person you are trying to love is continuously hurting you afresh.  Long-suffering means that love suffers well.  Being inordinately fond of myself, I don’t “do” pain very well.  In fact, I don’t do pain at all if I can help it!  Do you?  Who’s for pain?  The whole ethos of our society, as C.S. Lewis said, is to “embrace pleasure and eschew pain.”  It takes a radical act of God in our lives to so change our hearts that we are willing to embrace pain and eschew pleasure – to suffer for the sake of love!  Yet, if that’s what it takes to love someone, it must be done.

God is very good at loving people who hurt Him and are very hard to love.  When Jesus was frustrated with the disciples one time, He said to them, “How long must I suffer you” (Matt. 17:17)?  He then went on “suffering” them for a considerable time because He knew that this was God’s will for Him and He willed to do God’s will.  Long-suffering means being patient with an insufferable situation or person – even when you are hurting badly yourself – because it is the will of God.  It hurts terribly to love at times like that, but that is what agape love does.  Love gives us the power to suffer long when we desperately want things to change.

Kindness is Patience in Action

Paul says that not only is love patient, it is also kind.  Kindness is the active part of patience.  Patience is being good, while kindness is doing good.  Kindness is goodness showing.  Love is kind to those who would do it harm.  Jesus said that we are to love even our enemies.  To do that, we definitely need Him!

Being Kind to Those Who Hurt Us

I think of an incredible example of such kindness in the life experience of Tania Rich, a young mother serving the Lord with her husband in the jungle.  Read her story:

      January 31, 1993, was “just a regular day in the village.” …Suddenly,

      Tania heard loud noises, gunshots, and shouting.  Guerillas had

      surrounded the village and had entered each of the three missionaries’

      homes.  A gunman came into the bedroom where Tania was with the

      sleeping girls.  She came out with him, and saw that Mark (her husband)

      was with two other guerillas who had him facedown, his hands tied

      behind his back.  Mark shouted in Spanish for the gunman to leave Tania

      alone and not harm her.  The gunman approached Tania and demanded

      money, and she complied.  Then he asked for coffee and sugar.  In recalling

      the incident, Tania laughed, “When the gunman fumbled with the money

      and the packages of food, I found myself asking, ‘Would you like a bag

      for that?’  He just stared at me incredulously!”

Now there you have it!  A practical act of love!  Love does good to those who would do it harm.  Tania found that what was inside of her – the love of Jesus – came out in a terrible time of crisis.  She offered something to her husband’s persecutors.  (There were three missionary families living in the village, and the guerillas took the three men.  Sadly, the men were never found but were declared dead in 2001.)  Tania loved the people she and Mark had gone to help find the Lord.  When the big test came, she reacted out of that love in an astonishing act of kindness. Love does good to those who do it harm.

Being Kind to Those Who Don’t Deserve It

Let’s bring this closer to home.  Not too many of us are asked for such displays of endurance and courage.  But many of us have teenagers.  Those of us who have teenagers or have raised them know what a difficult stage this is.

Our daughter and I got into difficulties when she would not pick up her room.  Try as I might to threaten or cajole, she would not clean it.  The issue became a flash point. One day I was asking advice from a wise woman at church. “Just try being kind to her,” she suggested.

“She doesn’t deserve it!”  I replied.

She smiled understandingly. “That’s what kindness is for.  Anyway, you have tried everything else, why not pick up her room for her and see if that will work?”

I had nothing to lose, so I did.  Four days later there was no response, and I was just about to give up.  Then my daughter burst into tears and said she was sorry.  “What made you say you’re sorry?”  I asked.

“You’ve been so kind to me, Mom,”  she replied.

It might not work for you, but in the face of such resistance to persuasion, being patiently kind when someone doesn’t deserve it may actually get you somewhere.  After all, “God’s kindness led you toward repentance” (Rom. 2:4).  So the kindness of God through you may lead others to repentance, too!

The Gift of Frustration

It is important to recognize that any frustrating situation that requires patience is God’s gift to you.  You win half the battle already when you recognize the problem is a gift.  It is a gift because these types of situations enable you to experience the love of God in a special way.  People are receptive when they are struggling with frustration.  If they are expecting others to act with frustration, they cave in if you exhibit kindness.  If you can go beyond sounding kind to being kind and doing an outrageous act of kindness, this speaks louder than a thousand words.  It can open people up to hear about the Lord. Think of Mother Teresa and how her practical acts of love on the streets of Calcutta spoke about the love of Christ to the dying and destitute.

Is your love patient and kind?  Remember, the Holy Spirit dwells in your hearts to be all the things you are not.  Draw on this resource.  Love that works, works at love.  There is no other way.



Monday, February 13, 2012

Compassionate Prayer

Dear Friends,

When you read of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, you hear His heart. You hear His tears talking: “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matt. 23:37).  Prayer is the place where God softens our hearts toward difficult people. And our prayers soften their hearts, too.

Have you ever prayed “I’ve had it with them” prayers?  When we stay in the presence of God long enough, we’ll begin to catch the heart of God for the difficult people in our lives, and soon we’ll be weeping for them instead of wanting vengeance.  There is little hope of nursing a heart of vengeance if you are engaging in a viable prayer ministry.  A heart for people is developed on your knees.

The secret of a heart of compassion is a secret prayer life that no one else knows about. What are you and God secretly doing together?  Are you talking to Him regularly about all the people who are lost and without a Savior or could you care less?  You don’t grow compassion in public; you grow it on your face before God in the secret place.

Not long ago I spent some time asking God to show me an area of my devotional life in which He wanted me to grow.  Unmistakably the answer came back, I want you to care.

“But I do care, Lord,” I remonstrated.  “I spend every living moment attending to your work.”

Where are the tears? He asked me quietly.  I had no answer because I had no tears.  It was time to let Him do His work in me in the secret places of my heart.

If there are no tears, I will not be putting my life on the line.  I will not be taking risks, pushing boundaries, attaining heights, taking new initiatives, I will not be giving my life away for others.  There will be no late-night candles burning at both ends because people are dying without Christ.  Lamentations 3:22 says, “His compassions never fail.”  It doesn’t say they “sometimes” fail but that they “never” fail!

Compassion moves you from the comparative safety of your own home into the marketplace of the world to shout out the message of hope from the housetops.  Compassion gets you off the evangelical donkey and into the ditch or, if you like, into the trenches.  If you are moved with compassion, you don’t ride past someone in trouble as the scribe or Pharisee did in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37).  You get down from your high horse and attend to the one who has been robbed and beaten by thieves.  We must not leave this sort of compassion to others. We all need to develop a heart for people.

The challenge for every one of us is to let God break our heart so that we begin to see the world as He does ─ and it begins with compassionate prayer.



Monday, February 6, 2012

Getting God and Life Mixed Up

Dear Friends,

   Do you ever get God and life mixed up? If you do, you may be suffering from faith distress. Our concept of God can take such a hammering in adversity that our faith faints and our prayer becomes impossible. Ever been there? Maybe you’re there now!? Faith distress is horrible! We don’t feel like trusting God anymore because God doesn’t appear to be the loving, kind, and merciful God we have always believed Him to believe. We blame God for all the evil we see or experience in life. In an illogical thought progression, we see cruelty in the world, we find ourselves thinking about the apparent cruelty of God, and then wrongly conclude that God is cruel. God is not cruel, however; life is cruel.

   Have you ever done that? Jeremiah did. He described God as being like a bear who has mangled him and left him half dead by the side of the road: “He dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help” (Lam. 3:11). “Life is a bear,” he may have said in our modern vernacular. “God is attacking me.” Jeremiah had God and life mixed up.

   Jeremiah needed to realize that it was not God who had used him for target practice but the priests of Anathoth. It was not God who thought Jeremiah was a big joke; it was Jeremiah’s own people. It was not God who manhandled him but the temple police.

   Similarly, you must realize that it was not God who walked out on you, it was your spouse. It was not God who took advantage of you at the office, but your coworker. It was not God who was driving the car that killed your child, but a drunken driver. We must not get God and life mixed up. You may need to sit your soul down, give it a good talking to, and make it listen! Life may be cruel, but God never is.

With love,