Friday, June 29, 2012

Face-to-Face


“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.” ~ 1 Cor. 13:12

Dear Friends,

Is it possible to see God face-to-face?  Obviously Paul believed that to be true.  He told us that though we don’t see everything very clearly right now, one day all will be made clear and we shall see God face-to-face.

That makes me wonder.  Remember when Moses asked to see God’s glorious presence?  God told him, “You may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live” (Ex. 33:20).  But God said He would make His goodness pass in front of Moses.  “As my glorious presence passes by, I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed” (Ex. 33:22).

Yet earlier in that same chapter, the Bible tells us that “inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face-to-face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11).  Do we have a contradiction here?  I don’t think so.

When the word face is applied to God, it often refers to God’s presence.  It is not that God has a face like you and I.  The human face is the part of our anatomy that we use to convey our feelings.  God transcends the merely human, but it helps us to use anthropomorphisms (interpretations of what is not human in terms of human characteristics).  Moses was allowed to speak with God face-to-face, but he was not permitted to see God’s face lest he die.  To see God face-to-face is reserved for believers in the life to come!

What an incredible thought it is!  You and I will have that privilege when Jesus comes or when He calls for us at our deaths—a privilege that even Moses was denied while here on earth.  We will know and see the very presence of God, “the brightness of the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).    

When we are in heaven, we shall fall at His feet when we see His face.  But He will, without a doubt, put out His right hand and strengthen us to stand in His holy presence.  And what is more, He will enable us to look into His face!

So the best is yet to come!  But in His grace, God gives us little previews along the way.  But “now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).  Mirrors were made in Corinth.  In fact, Corinth was famous for some of the most beautiful bronze mirrors in antiquity. In those days mirrors consisted of a metal surface made of copper, silver, gold, electrum, or bronze.  You can imagine how imperfect the image must have been, no matter how beautiful and polished the surface.  Paul contrasts the imperfect image in one of those mirrors without seeing a person face-to-face.  

The idea is to become as like Christ as it is possible down here but to allow the future appointment with God to motivate our behavior and give us hope.  So how are we doing when we look in the mirror?  When we get discouraged about ourselves and our spiritual progress, we can think a little bit about the fact that one day we will really understand ourselves.  I will understand myself as God understands me.  And one day I will even like myself!  I will be like Christ!  Do you have a hard time liking yourself?  Well, one day there will be a lot to like and accept.  One day.

John tells us that when we see Jesus face-to-face, “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).  So full knowledge of ourselves will come only when we see Jesus and know Him as perfectly as He knows us now.  Full knowledge of Him will not be ours until that day. Now we live with the imperfect, but one day the perfect reality will be ours.

Peace,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine  



Monday, June 25, 2012

Traveling with Jesus


“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.  The Twelve were with Him, and also some women…” ~ Luke 8:1-2

Dear Friends,

While in Indonesia in 2008, I taught a series for women on “Women in the Life of Jesus.”  In countries where women do not always feel valued or appreciated, or are treated in such a way that they believe their contribution doesn’t amount to much, even in the church, this particular teaching brings affirmation and joy to their hearts.  Here’s a glimpse of our teaching and one-on-one personal time with the people God put in front of us.  

Jesus was Radical.

When Jesus started His ministry, He called twelve men to be Apostles.  As He began His work, He traveled about not only with male disciples—a common practice for a teacher or a Rabbi—but with women, too.  In His day and culture, this was radical.  But then Jesus flew in the face of His culture all the time.

Jesus included women on His team.  Some of them were women He had healed of various ills, including demon possession.  He addressed women in public when His culture didn’t permit an Orthodox Jew to even speak to his own wife while out and about.  It is said that an Orthodox Jew would pray each morning, “I thank Thee God that I am not a slave, I am not a Gentile, and I am not a woman.”  Yet Jesus always treated women with dignity and respect, using examples of women in His teaching and parables (always positive), as He taught along the way.  This was the first for a teaching Rabbi, and He even allowed women to touch Him.  (Even “those” sorts of women!)  See Luke 7:36-50 and John 4:4-26.  He doubtless was criticized for all of it.

The Bible says that some of the women mentioned in Luke 8:1-4 who traveled with Jesus were influential, prominent women who were “helping to support Him out of their own means.”  

Jesus loved women as much as He loved men.  He came to die for them and included them in His ministry.  As far as He was concerned, women were worth creating, redeeming, gifting, and blessing.  At Pentecost, there were women, along with the men, waiting for the Spirit in the upper room.  They, too, shared in the Gospel in Jerusalem after the Spirit empowered them (Acts 2).

Women were first at His birth, last at His cross, first to see Jesus after He rose from the dead, and first to tell of His resurrection.  It is my joy to tell women all over the world that there is a place at His side for them.  He calls and equips us women for service—as in His day, so in ours.  We too can travel with Jesus.

Women Are Good at Ministry

Women are good at ministry.  Ministry above all is serving, and we know how to do that. Women are flexible and adaptable.  They are nurturers.  They manage and organize well, as a general rule.  They are brave and courageous.  The women who traveled with Jesus in those early days needed to be all these things and more.  They never knew if there would be 20 people on the traveling team to house and feed, or 40!  Would a particular day mean feeding just the team, or 5,000?  They never knew.  What challenges of faith and compassion, words or deeds awaited them on any given day?  They would doubtless need to “multitask,” but women are good at that!   

And what would they need to explain to the people who came for help to Jesus?  Should they tell how they themselves met Jesus?  What Jesus had done for them, for others?  What had the last sermon they had heard Jesus give said about the authorities, the poor, the oppressed, prisoners, or rich people?  They had to be careful what they said in some places or they could get the team or Jesus Himself into trouble.  It was dangerous traveling with Jesus.

And not only did they need to lovingly serve and be available to them, as well as to Jesus and His disciples, but they would be able to share some of the stories they had heard Jesus tell, the teaching they heard along the way, or the good news that the King of the Kingdom had indeed come!  There was forgiveness for sin and power to be transformed for all people!  Both men and women they would tell—all who would listen!

Peace,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine  



Monday, June 18, 2012

Busy Being Busy


Dear Friends,

Stuart and I are busy people.  People constantly say to us, “We don’t know how you two do it.”  Look at our lives as we travel to different areas, preaching, speaking, praying, writing, listening, counseling, crying, laughing, giving, receiving, planning, getting sick, getting well, worrying, wondering, worshipping, and working hard.  It’s busy stuff!  But are we too busy?  What does it mean to be too busy?

There seems to be a whole spiritual industry that has grown up.  It is the “how to be un-busy” industry.  There are books, CDs, T-shirts, and places to go to unwind.   I understand why.  People are burning out, and we need to help.  But to lay the reason at the feet of busyness alone is dangerous.  You can be busy, very busy, or over busy.  On the other hand, you can be just downright idle.  Stuart has said for decades that ministry affords you the grand opportunity to either be so busy you burn out, or downright lazy and check out!  So what’s the balance?

All this emphasis on being too busy is okay, unless we are being so busy reorganizing, analyzing, going to small group meetings about all of our busyness, we have forgotten something.  Busyness isn’t bad in itself!  If you’re being un-busy when you ought to be busy that’s bad.  You don’t burn out by being busy with the work He has given you to do for one reason:  That “busy burden” is easy and light because His grand cosmic shoulder is under it!  If He has given you something He wants you busy doing, it will not wear you out.

“Faithful is He that calls you who also will do it!”  If He has called you to a hard day’s work, He will be waiting in the dawn with the energy you need to accomplish it.  He is the energy for the work at hand.  He said to the apostle Paul, “I will show you how many things you must suffer for my sake.”  He didn’t say, “I’ll show you how many holidays you’ll need or hours off in the week to finish the course set for you.”

Surely the whole thing rests on what we are busy doing!  Jesus was busy.  Look at His life.  For 30 years, He was busy doing a tradesman’s job, running a small business in a small town, supporting a large family as the eldest son of a widowed mother.  Then He went into “full-time” ministry.  Was He busy?  Follow Him through the Gospels.  See Him sit at the well, exhausted, “weary in the way.”

But you can be weary in well-doing and rejuvenated in spirit.  As was Jesus, who lost all interest in the lunch His body needed badly when, He out of His tiredness, ministered anyway to the Samaritan woman.  There is inner food that is the most important nourishment sometimes. You get your energy from the people you help.

To rest isn’t always to rest the body first, though it might be.  For each, the inner rest that energizes us for the work He has called us to do is the Sabbath of the heart that should happen every seven days of the week, 24 hours of the day and night.  It is the tranquility of order in the midst of chaos, the whispers of His grace heard by our soul above the cacophony of the world and its troubles, the church and its turmoil, and our personal inner foes flee.  It is the “yes” of the soul to the call of Christ.  “Yes, Lord! Anytime, anyplace, anywhere!”  That’s where the joy that is our strength lies.  That’s where the rest is to be found.

Get into the habit of receiving busyness of the day from Jesus’ hand, the earlier the better.  Every day—the Sabbath included.  This will mean you cannot be “too busy.”  He will not allow that.  It comes down to how well we hear His voice as we follow Jesus’ example in Mark 1:35 and “come early” before Him.   

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine  


Monday, June 11, 2012

Down in My Life


Dear Friends,

As I look ahead daily with all its known and unknown challenges, I remind myself that what transpires for God and for good, as far as my small life is concerned, depends on what happens “down in my life.”  How do I go deeper, reach further, climb higher, cling closer, dream bigger, and be seen to be empowered by the Spirit, in touch with the risen Christ, with an unmistakably evident relationship with the Father—deep down in my life?  How do we, in other words, live in the present reality of the living God?

I know there is absolutely no way I can do the work I’ve committed to do on the ‘outside’ of me, unless God is doing the work He has committed to do on the ‘inside’ of me.  I simply need to give Him permission to be who He is, as deep down as He wishes to go!  This is my prayer not only for me, but also for you, my friends.


Down in My Life

Down in my life where it’s restless and wild,
Down in my life where the adult’s a child,
Down in my fears and worries and care
Suddenly Jesus is there.
Touching my heart strings He sings me a song,
Quiets the child till she’s stead and strong,
Banishes worries—just smiles them away
Turning my night into day.

Down in my life where the troubles run deep,
Down in my life when I can’t get to sleep,
Down in my life when life isn’t fair,
Suddenly Jesus is there.
Rebuking the turmoil He sends it away,
Gives peace in the panic and helps me to pray,
Turns sorrow to praising, surprises my pain,
And bids me to face life again.

Down in my life where I’m lonely and old,
Deep in my heart when my spirit is cold,
Down in my life when I don’t know what’s best
Suddenly Jesus gives rest.

“Gift doesn’t age” He remarks with a smile,
“I’ll set your soul dancing and make life worthwhile,
I’ll guide you in righteousness: wisdom’s delight:
And nerve your faint heart for the fight.”

He stands in my shadows and the light on His face
Reflects all His love and His mercy and grace
Right down in my life where nobody goes:
Deep in “this” heart the Lord knows.
Down in my life where it’s restless and wild,
Down in my life where the adult’s a child,
Down in my soul I’m acutely aware
Suddenly Jesus is there!
                                    ©Copyright 2007 Jill Briscoe

Peace,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine  


Monday, June 4, 2012

Doing the DO NOTS


Dear Friends,

I had just written a booklet on worry.  It was helping a lot of people and I was glad.  I was reminded of this as I rose to meet a new day of challenges and mused that I should probably read it again!  The older you get, the more booklets on worry you need to write!

That day, I read Matthew, chapter six, and was struck with how negative Jesus seemed to be.  There were so many “do nots!”  We think of “no” as negative, don’t we?  However, Jesus was saying we have to be negative on some things in order to be positive!  Let me highlight some of the “do nots” of Jesus.  You can look up the verses over a cup of coffee.

When you give to the needy:
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full (Matt. 6:2).  And, But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing… (Matt. 6:3).  

When you pray:
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matt. 6:7-8).

When you forgive:
But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matt. 6:15).  

When you fast:
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full (Matt. 6:16).

When you store up treasure:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal (Matt. 6:19).

Next, take a colored pencil and go through these verses again and write in the “dos.”  For example, in Matt. 6:2-3: “Do your giving in secret and your Father will reward you.” What do you think that reward will be?

But it was the next lot of “do nots” that especially got to me that day.  Verse 25 starts, “Do not worry.”  Oh dear!  Then it follows with a list, just in case I’m using the excuse that my particular worry isn’t mentioned in so many words.  However, these “do nots” cover the waterfront don’t they?

Do not worry about:
  • Your life (You can’t add or subtract one birthday!).
  • What to eat and drink.
  • What to wear.

Jesus gives an example of the birds that do not worry but let God do the worrying for them.  He says: “So, do not worry about all these things” (Matt. 6:31).  He then gives us three reasons we shouldn’t’ worry:

  1. Pagans worry like this, and we are not pagans.
  2. Our Heavenly Father knows our needs. (Not wants…needs.)
  3. Anxiety will hamper our Kingdom work, the main reason He has left us in this worried world.  Read John 17:18!  AGAIN Jesus said, “Therefore DO NOT WORRY about TOMORROW for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:33-34)!
My eye went to Matthew 7, which starts with a “do not” about judging others.  I hastily returned to the chapter in hand.  I had enough to keep me going for the rest of my troubled day!  I knew if I read on, I would feel worse than I already did about all my disobedience. You see, a “do not” is serious business.  It’s not an option for the believer.  Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”  In other words, “Do not the ‘do nots!”  Does Jesus count our worry as disobedience?  Yes!  Well, now we must deal with this.  Do you know we grieve the Spirit when we are willfully disobedient?

So how do we “do not the ‘do nots’”?  Consider the birds!  Get on with building your nest, hatching your eggs, watching out for predators, singing a song, and generally flying around in grand abandon to the will of God that you know to do for the day at hand.  And every time you begin to do a “do not,” DON’T!  Stop wherever you are and whisper, “I won’t go there in my mind.  I’ll go to the commands and promises of God instead.  My Heavenly Father knows what to do, so I’ll just sing on.”

You mind your mind, and God will mind your heart.  Philippians 4 tells us we can choose what we think about.  Which reminds me of another “do not!”  “Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6).  And the God of peace will be with you.

So how do we tackle worry?

1.  Have a plan for today.  “Sufficient unto the day.”
One of the things that helps me the most is to have plan when worry appears on my mind’s radar screen, calls me on my cell phone, or sends me an email.  I try to identify which part of time this worry belongs to – past, present, or future.  Then I tackle the part of the worrisome situation that has to be tackled that day and ONLY that part.  I harness my mind, which keeps bolting out the door of today into either the past or the future, and give Him the reins.

In The Message by Eugene Peterson, Matt. 6:34 says: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

2.  Memorize Scripture.  “Think on these things.”
Memorize a verse or verses that have helped you today.  For example, Peterson’s paraphrase of either Matthew or Philippians.  I committed both to memory.  You can do this – however old you are!  Scribble the verse out on a piece of paper and take it with you.  Put it above your mirror in the bathroom or in your kitchen, or over your work desk. Chew it over.  That’s what meditate means.

3.  Don’t steal the worry back.  “Pray about it, commit it to Him, and then don’t steal it back.” 

Enjoy.  Be a bird. “Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God.  And you count far more to him than birds” (Matt. 6:25-26, The Message). 

Peace,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine