Sunday, September 30, 2012

God Speaks Through Other People


Dear Friends,

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.   Hebrews 3:13

During the days when the Old Testament was being written, God often spoke through other people.  Unbeknownst to them, as they shared the message God gave them to speak, they were writing those messages to us.  We call those men (and women) prophets (and prophetesses).  Many might believe that God no longer speaks through prophets, and perhaps He doesn’t use this method of communication as much as He used to because we have the written Word of God.  Still, He speaks through other people today.

Here’s how He does this.

God puts a Bible verse or a thought into the mind of one of His followers during his or her quiet time.  Immediately that person knows the message is for another.  So, in obedience to the sense of urgency that person gets from God, they share what was received.  It might be through a phone call, e-mail, or in person.

Someone did this to me today.  I received an e-mail with a two-sentence message and a Scripture reference.  When I receive messages like this I either know that they are in direct response to one of my prayers or questions, and I immediately know how to apply what they are telling me.  If I’m not sure how their message relates to what I’m going through, I “put it on the back burner” (this is what one of my messengers tells me to do with his messages) and wait for what might be coming into my life in the near future.  Most often I eventually understand what God has said to me through that other person.

Face to Face

Another way God speaks through other people is during conversation.  I have several very good friends who I like to call my “kindred spirits.”  They “get” me.  They’re the ones who I let my guard down with, the ones I can truly be myself with.  They don’t judge me harshly because I’m a pastor’s wife, and they don’t necessarily hold me to a higher standard because I write books and speak at retreats (although they’d be justified to do so because God holds teachers to a higher standard).  When I am going through a period of confusion, these are the friends who I share with.

In turn, they share with me what they’ve learned from their own walks with God.  We talk about Scripture and share how God’s kept His promises in our lives.  One of these friends in particular is my faith-builder-upper.  My husband Tom can always tell when I’ve spent time with Karen.  She has a way of refreshing and reviving my spirit.  I believe again when I talk with Karen.

I want to be a faith-builder-upper for others.  Don’t you?  I want to be a woman who other women can trust – one who is safe and one who has such a dynamic walk with God that just the time I’ve spent with Him encourages others.

Not only do we hear God’s message to us through others, but God also delivers messages through us.  When you communicate God’s messages to others, be sure to qualify what you have to say with this, “While God might use me to communicate to you, know that I am an imperfect vessel.  Be sure to verify what I’m saying with Scripture and talk to God about it yourself.”  You need to do the same when others speak to you.

Sometimes we are in such a difficult place that our pain penetrates the hearts of good people, and they, in their attempt to encourage us, might share with us “a message from God” that didn’t come from God.  I had one friend who was terribly shaken by this experience.  She was infertile for years, and she suffered through her infertility much like I did – with lots of wailing, gnashing of teeth, and arguing with God.  Finally, after giving quite a public testimony at our church, she discovered she was pregnant.  But several months into her pregnancy, she was told that her baby had a serious issue.  The prognosis was not good.  Without a miracle he would most likely be born prematurely and die soon after.  She and her husband (along with her family, friends, and church) prayed that God would perform that miracle.  I argued with God that she was in the perfect posture to really shout out His glory!  We believed, trusted, claimed Scripture, and basically did everything we could to walk with her through her trial.

But one well-meaning, generous-hearted saint did more than that.  He took her aside one night after church and gave her “a word.”  He assured her that her baby would indeed live and that God had great plans for that child’s life.  She clung to his words like a lifeline.  It kept her hoping and trusting and walking in faith through every doctor’s visit and all the test results.  But when her baby died forty-five minutes after his premature birth, she was devastated.  And the highest hurdle to jump was the “word” this well-meaning prayer warrior had given her.

When she came to me asking what she was to do with that man’s “word”, I told her that she had to understand that he was merely dust and that his heart was certainly right while his interpretation of what he’d heard from God was unfortunately (obviously) wrong.  I explained that most likely his heart got in the way of God’s real word.  After all, what would she have thought had he told her that her baby would die?  I assured her that God did have a plan for her baby’s short life and that He certainly had a plan for hers, but that she’d have to find her answers in God.  I encouraged her to take hold of God for herself and not let go – and to always put other people’s “words” secondary to her own understanding of what God was saying to her.

God does speak through other people, but that method of communication needs to be secondary to God’s message that comes directly to you through the reading of His Word.

Father, thank You for giving us the “one anothers” in our lives who encourage us and build us up.  Help me to recognize Your voice when You choose to deliver a message to me through another believer.  Use me as a voice of encouragement and as a speaker of truth to others as well.  Oh God, speak to me, for I am eager to hear Your voice.  Amen.

Blessings,

Leighann McCoy


Leighann McCoy, our guest blogger, is a Prayer and Women’s Minister at Thompson Station Church and author for Lifeway Christian resources. Additionally, she is also the author of Spiritual Warfare for Women:  Winning the Battle for Your Home, Family, and Friends and Oh God, Please! The Heart Cry of a Burdened Soul, Pray Right! and How to Develop Your Prayer Life with a companion book, three personal Bible studies for women, and one devotional book.
 
To find out more about Leighann’s books go to amazon.com


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What's Worth Getting Worked Up About?


Dear Friends,

Writing about football is definitely a first for me and I’m sure you’re thinking right about now, “Why do I want to read about football in a woman’s blog?” – but stay with me! Being a Wisconsinite I recently was reminded again about just how rabid Green Bay Packer fans are especially when the Packers play on Monday Night Football. (I’m sure the whole world now knows about this past Monday night’s game!)  I couldn’t believe it when I awoke to hear how the entire social media universe was ablaze with outrage over a call “replacement referees” made that cost the Packers the game. To say people were angry is an understatement. They were worked up on every level. Twitters and Facebook pages were devoted to passing out phone numbers you could call in protest, interview after interview showcased shocked fans, and anger permeated the airwaves. 

What troubled me as I looked at how much news time, both locally and nationally, was devoted to this and the urgency people felt to do something about this injustice (the Packers should have won) is how little most of us are really moved to this same degree about the things that really do matter in this life – the genuine injustices in our world. When was the last time Twitter was ablaze by outraged people about the thousands of people dying on a daily basis who will enter a lost  eternity, or the millions of babies who are regularly discarded like garbage, or the 2.1 million AIDS-orphaned children in Africa alone who will never feel the embrace or love of a Mommy or Daddy, or the thousands of young girls robbed of their innocence being sold into sex slavery right here under our noses and around the globe? Where are the Twitter messages, phone numbers, and outrage for these injustices? When is the last time local and national airtime was devoted to such life and death issues? Instead, we’re using all of our valuable energy and resources to get upset over a game. It’s not life and death, it doesn’t affect eternity, and it won’t make a difference in changing the world for Christ.  

In the aftermath of all of this, I have felt the Holy Spirit’s conviction in my own heart. Have I just been sleeping my way through life and the things that break God’s heart preoccupied with things that really don’t matter? My heart should be broken by the things that break God’s heart and moved to take action, much like the crazed and upset fans are doing in the aftermath of this “injustice” of a lost football game. Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Now these are things to get worked up about – the real injustices around us.  But we get so distracted, don’t we?  It’s so easy to get worked up about the “temporal” things of this world at the grave expense of the eternal things that really matter. Jesus was all about living with eternity in focus. Everything He did with His time, His energy, His interactions with people was all about the things that lasted, not the things that eventually pass away.  Especially today, we need to devote our lives to causes that make a difference, we need to take to the airwaves and social media fighting the real injustices that will change or save a life for eternity. 

What things are you getting worked up about? It’s a question we all need to wrestle with. May God give us the courage and commitment to give our lives to the things that really matter!

For His cause,

Shelly Esser   
Editor/Just Between Us Magazine
www.justbetweenus.org 



Monday, September 24, 2012

The Seasons of Marriage


Dear Friends,

I was browsing through one of the books I wrote at least twenty-five years ago.  The book was about growing older—not growing old, but growing older.  There is a difference!  Under a lovely picture of a sunset I had written, “God paints His choicest colors in His latest sunsets.”  I thought about that.  He wants to use His renewing paintbrush not only in your life, but also in your marriage.  He wants you to discover love in its entire grand dimensions, the longer you live and the longer you are married.

God has certainly painted His choicest colors in our marriage.  The reason?  We have tried—imperfectly, but we’ve tried anyway—to follow His rules of love.  We have sought to submit our human love for each other to the rule of agape.  We have tried to be obedient to God’s rules of marriage.  We have found all the power and all the love we need for each other in Him!

Once Stuart and I were busy speaking at different venues in the course of ministry.  He was in the South trying to get to California and I was in Milwaukee trying to get to Boston.  We both ended up with canceled planes and a five-hour layover in Chicago’s O’Hare airport.  Neither of us knew this, of course.  We sat down and got out our work to pass the time.  It was one of those days that has been a part of our lives for over forty years in ministry.  We were apart from each other once again.

After I had worked on a manuscript for a good thirty minutes, I started to think about Stuart.  I wish he were here with me, I thought.  I got out my cell phone and thought I would try to reach him.  As the phone rang, he got up opposite of me.  I screamed out, “Oh, it’s you!”  We laughed and laughed, and he came up and gave me a big kiss!

This really set people looking as we had both sat there for at least a half an hour!  Seeing these apparent strangers kissing and laughing got their attention.  How good of God to work out this wonderful serendipity for us!  We spent a wonderful afternoon together and I can’t tell you how my heart leapt just to see “my man” there so unexpectedly!  Truly, when Christ governs your life and your marriage, it gets better and better as time goes on.    
   
Where are you on your life’s cycle?  Have you just gotten married?  Has God begun to paint your marriage on His canvas?  Then you are living in springtime.  Have you been on the way a little while?  Have you been blessed with a couple of kids, a good job, and a nice place to live?  Then summer is upon you.  Or maybe you are in what seems like autumn—the leaves have begun to turn brown, and an ominous wind has arisen.  Or perhaps you are living in full-blown winter, and everything is frozen, miserable, and cold.

To those of you living in springtime, be alert!  Know that you have an enemy of your souls and an enemy of your marriage.  It is not for nothing Jesus called Satan “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).  Satan wants to kill your marriage.  Make sure that you build into your relationship a spiritual dimension and make it the most important aspect of your lives.  Is Jesus the Master of your marriage?  If not, make Him so by inviting Him to be in control.

If you are in summer mode, revisit the things that really matter but may be neglected.  Reexamine your values and your lifestyle, and see if they are compatible with your profession of Christianity.  Maybe plan to have a spiritual or marital checkup.  Read a good marriage enrichment book together.  Go to a couple’s conference, or see a counselor to help you discern any warning signs.

If you are in the autumn of a relationship, take action!  Don’t wait.  Turn around and run to the waiting arms of God.  Do your part in saying your “sorrys” to Him, and then say them to your spouse.  Own your part and remember that you are responsible only for your response and reactions, not anyone else’s.  Agape doesn’t wait for the other person to make the first move.  Agape runs to make amends.  Don’t give up, for the best is yet to come.

God would save us from winter—from the frost and cold and misery.  He has better things in mind.  All of us know about the miracles of the springtime.  We expect it, don’t we?  Then expect the miracle of resurrection in the winter of your marriage.  God is a God of miracles.    

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine  



Monday, September 17, 2012

Boldness in the Name of Christ


Dear Friends,

I have been in many countries and watched people pray.  And there have been incantations, a lot of hocus-pocus, and genuine (though misplaced) faith in gods of wood and stone.  But it isn’t the amount of faith you have that makes a difference.  It’s the object of your faith that matters.

Stuart and I live in a country area on a small fishing lake.  It’s weedy and reedy and it is pretty shallow, freezing over in the winter.  It is called Henrietta Lake after a young girl who put all of her faith in very thin ice and drowned by faith.  If she had only put a tiny bit of faith in very thick ice, she would have been saved by faith.  It’s not the amount of faith you have, but the object of it that makes a difference.  My heart goes out to people all over the world who are drowning by faith in false gods, because I know where they could get their help if they only knew the Lord.

Elijah, facing off with the prophets of Baal, egged them on.  He began taunting them. “‘You’ll have to shout louder,’ he scoffed, ‘for surely he is a god!  Perhaps he is deep in thought, or he is relieving himself.  Or maybe he is away on a trip, or he is asleep and needs to be wakened!’” (1 Kings 18:27).

You can imagine how this incensed the prophets of Baal.  “So they shouted louder and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out.  They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no reply, no voice, no answer” (vv.28-29).

When we are taking on the enemy, the first thing we have to do is affirm our belief in the one true God.  Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord says loudly and clearly, “I alone am God. There is no other God; there has never been and never will be.  I am the Lord, and there is no other Savior.”  Then the Lord says, “You are witnesses that I am the only god…From eternity to eternity I am God” (Isa. 43:10-13).

This was where Elijah started, and this is where we must start.  As Elijah built his altar and made the sacrifice, he prayed aloud.  This is what he prayed, “O Lord,…prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant.”  And then again, “O Lord, answer me!  Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself” (1 Kings 18:36-37).

The prayer that affirms that God is God in heaven above and on earth below is a prayer that God affirms.  And when we pray that prayer for others, trusting God to convince those we pray for of His sovereignty, we can know that He will let the fire fall on our altar and the sacrifice we have prepared.  Somehow, some way, He will answer that prayer.  So when we are taking on the enemy, we must loudly declare that there is but one God and that He is the only Savior.

Then we need to stand up to the servants of the enemy.  Elijah taunted them.  He had no sympathy for the men who were decimating Israel’s culture and faith.  He boldly confronted them and challenged them to a contest.  He knew he was on safe ground, because what he knew of the truth he knew to be the truth, and what he knew of the power of God, he knew to be superior to all the power of the enemy.

I’m sure that Elijah was well aware of Satan’s existence and that his cohorts could do much magic.  But only God can do a miracle.  And there was one thing that the prophets of Baal could certainly not do and that was answer their own prayers.  No matter how much hocus-pocus they used, Satan could not answer their prayer; only God could do that.  So these things gave Elijah boldness to confront error in the name of the Lord.  Knowing you are right give you holy boldness.  We are not half right, but all right when it comes to the Word of God.  It is not arrogant to believe in the truth; it is rather arrogant not to believe it.

The thing that gave me holy boldness in our mission youth days was the belief that we were right and our young opponents were wrong or perhaps just ignorant of the truth.  It was such faith in the Word of the Lord that drove Elijah to take on the prophets of Baal single-handedly.      

Peace,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine