Monday, December 30, 2013

Love Seeks to Trust

Dear Friends,

We need to thoroughly understand what the word trust means before we can proceed to trust those who continue to let us down. It may be there are those who have hurt one of our children or disrupted other relationships. We should know what we are shooting for as we work for love and unity.

The word that Paul uses here, pistuo, means “to rely on,” “to trust,” “to depend on.” It means to not be cynical or suspicious. We need to speak out of our love and not out of our hurt. Listen to yourself talking about the person who has hurt you. Are you speaking out of your hurt? Do you sound cynical or suspicious? Do you hear yourself saying, “What did he mean by that remark?” Suspicion kills love. Loving trust, on the other hand, gives the other another chance to hurt us all over again. This way love lets the perpetrator know: “I will trust you again.”

We get the best picture of what this means when we think of how God is so trustworthy. We can trust that He is always wanting love and unity among us, and He is actively engaged in making it happen. Love doesn’t only want unity; it actively tries to make it happen.

God is on our side. He is in our corner. He is active on our behalf, even when He appears to have His hands tied behind His back and His feet shackled. As we begin to build trust where it has been destroyed in a relationship that has gone bad, it may appear we are on our own, but this is not so. We need to hang on to faith when our best efforts seem to be in vain.

Have you ever asked, “God, just whose side are you on?” I have, many times, and we are not the first to pose that question to the Almighty. The psalmist asked the same question: “I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. They seem to live such a painless life; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They aren’t troubled like other people or plagued with problems like everyone else” (Psalm 73:3-5).

Contrasting that to his own life at the moment, David complains, “Was it for nothing that I kept my heart pure and kept myself from doing wrong? All I get is trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain” (Psalm 73:13-14). In other words, “What’s the good of my being good? Lord, whose side are you on?”

Yet as David goes to the temple to look for some answers to this universally asked question, he reminds himself that the wicked have their day coming. He decides he can trust God to sort it all out in the end. “But as for me,” he says, “how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do” (Psalm 73:28).

In other words, I am responsible only for my reactions, not for those of the wicked. It could be I will never see some things resolved this side of heaven, but I will live with this end in sight. I can determine to do my part, so I have no regrets that I didn’t give it my best shot.

Trusting God to put all wrongs right in our final future helps us to deal with ills allowed in our present now. It will be all right because God is on our side. It might not feel like it, and it might not look like it, but God is trustworthy! He can be my refuge now and will be my reward later. Meanwhile, I will believe that the person I am at odds with will respond to all the prayers that are being prayed on his or her behalf.

If we reflect the trustworthiness of God in our attitude, those we love who are hurting and struggling with failure and sin may make a beeline for the safe haven of our hearts. We can be a refuge for them. We may even do the same for the people who are close to us but have failed or hurt us.

In His Joy,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Time for Giving

Dear Friends,

What are you giving for Christmas?

God the Father scattered the Milky Way across the skies, hung Saturn’s rings in place, and thought about Christmas. God the Son, working in unity with the Father, fashioned the lumbering oxen and the gentle cow with His creative power, and thought often of the day when the Father would speak the Word, and He would become flesh. On that day He would gaze with “baby eyes” upon the very creatures He had made. God the Holy Spirit, moving as a shadow upon the face of the waters in Genesis days, knew one day it would be necessary to move again. This time He would overshadow Mary’s womb, that “the Holy thing” to be born of her should be called the “Son of God.”

Adam, walking with God in the Garden of Eden, oblivious to such names as Bethlehem, Herod, Egypt, Gethsemane, and Calvary, chose in one appalling moment the company of Satan rather than God. Adam opted for the kingship of self rather than the kingdom of God, and the bondage of sin rather than the glorious liberty of God’s children. But even at that time Adam heard the Maker’s promise: The promised Seed would bruise the serpent’s head. God was saying, “Christmas is coming, Adam.” And I believe that, even there is the Garden, the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—celebrated the Christmas redemption that would come someday.

Many of God’s people throughout time thought about God’s special gift, and offered their own gifts in thankful response. These gifts are not boxes decorated with tinsel, silver bells, and Father Christmases, but unique contributions to the tremendous story of God’s special gift. In quiet sadness Jeremiah contemplated the massacre of the infants. Hosea joyfully thanked God for the escape to Egypt. Micah let the world know where Jesus would be born. And Isaiah told us that God’s gift would come special delivery, a son born of a virgin. This son would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Four hundred years later, as an elderly Elizabeth was thinking about those promised gifts, God was busy wrapping His Christmas present from heaven in human flesh. Christmas came early for Elizabeth. When Elizabeth welcomed her cousin Mary, the outcast, ostracized, pregnant young girl, God pulled back the wrapping paper just a little, to let her have a peek at His present. Elizabeth’s own baby leaped in her womb for joy, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit, and said: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:42-45).

Encouraged and strengthened by her cousin, Mary also prepared. She believed the anointed One must come and soon, and by her holy character made ready to acknowledge her Messiah and yield her allegiance to Him. God couldn’t have a Christmas without a Mary. He needed more than just a devout person, someone who attended synagogue and said her prayers. The child C Christ needed a body to live in!

When God became a baby, He knew He’d to compress,
His vastness, glory, all that power, into littleness.
A baby was the answer, but where to find the one,
The one who’d say, “Be born in me—“
Oh, let me bear your Son”?

Would Mary be the earthly vehicle for God’s divine action?

“Now wait a minute,” the devil must have whispered to Mary.

“You’ve got everything going for you—

You’re engaged to be married, what will people say,
When you say that your baby is conceived a new way?
Just imagine their startled incredulity,
When you say so sincerely, “God gave it to me!”

But Mary offered the gift of her body. She whispered, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38, KJV).

Christmas is a time for giving. The prophets gave their promises. Elizabeth gave her praise. Mary gave her body. Joseph gave his reputation. The innkeeper gave his stable, the shepherds, their time. And God gave His Son. Tell me, do you see your present there?

What are you giving for Christmas?

Have a Blessed Christmas,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor          

Just Between Us Magazine

Monday, December 16, 2013

Winter without Christmas

Dear Friends,

While walking around the shopping mall during the Christmas season one year, I was reminded of our trips to the Holy Land. These were whirlwind trips, and we would be exhausted by the end of each day. I recall asking an older gentleman, “Did you enjoy the tour today?” He replied, “Today I ran where Jesus walked!” And Christmas time at the mall can make you feel just like that. Worst of all, most of the time it’s winter without Christmas.

Despite the charming Christmas music and bright displays, winter sometimes prevails. While people race through this holiday period, disillusionment, anxiety, and depression often tighten their icy grip on human hearts. Many people don’t’ realize that we can choose to have Christmas in the winter of our hearts, right now.

I remember years ago my mother traveling from her beautiful home in England’s lake district to visit us in our tiny cottage. We were serving a youth center at the time, and we didn’t have much money. Yet when my mother left, she quietly and wistfully said to me, “God lives here, doesn’t He, Jill?” I said, “Yes, Mom.” And I went on to say, as gently as I could, “I’d rather live in my cottage with Jesus than in my castle without Him.” She and I both knew that I had lived in a beautiful manor house—like a castle. But we were both learning that a person is more than the things he or she possesses.

We are more than what we buy and possess. We are more than our celebrations. When we worry over the Christmas expenses and exhaust ourselves trying to keep everything up and running for all the family events, let us remember that this is merely winter. The cold winds of winter constantly whirl around us. But we can invite Christmas into our hearts during this and all other seasons.

Pause in the midst of the frantic holiday pace and praise God for Christmas. Make room for Christmas in winter.

In His Joy,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Just Between Us Magazine

Monday, December 9, 2013

Love Endures Forever!

Dear Friends,

Hope for Christians means that we are sure as we face the future. Paul says in Romans 5:5, “Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (NIV).

A spouse may disappoint us, a child may disappoint us, an employee may disappoint us, or a church leader may disappoint us, but God will never disappoint us. We can have New Testament hope--overwhelming confidence--that God will be God at the end of the day. Love stimulates certainty of Christian hope.

Paul says that love believes all things, trusts all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Hope looks to the final victory of Jesus Christ that Scripture promises. Love endures to the end.

Yet endurance does not set due dates. Endurance is the power to keep hoping without an end in sight. Despair comes from deadlines set too early and hope defined too narrowly. Love always endures.

What happens if after all the believing and all the trusting and all the hoping, the ones we pray for still fail? We hang in there anyway. We endure to the end. We say, “Lord if they never make it, I will. If they never love you, I will. If they never love each other as I long for them to love each other, I will love them all anyway.” The word translated “endure” is hupemono and is a military term. The idea is to endure hardship like a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

During the Second World War, the HMS Eskimo was torpedoed and literally sliced in half. Half of it sank immediately. The boat had been built in two halves for this very reason, so half a ship came home.

It seemed that all of England was waiting on the dockside to welcome what was left of the HMS Eskimo! The surviving half of the shop limped into port with the sailors standing erect and saluting as the national anthem was played.

So shall some of us come home to God. As we live our lives for Jesus, motivated and activated by love, we shall endure to the end because that’s what love does. Love never gives up! When we arrive at home port, standing erect and saluting our Commanding Officer, the bands will be playing and the flags will be flying for us. What a royal welcome that will be!

There is a story of a husband and wife who gave their lives for the Lord in a hardship post on the mission field, far from home and family. At the end of their career, with their health broken, they returned on a shop with many other passengers from foreign parts. They had served their mission with distinction and were excited to come home to their reward.

But the messages about the time of their return were lost, and the reception party and their remaining family members mistook the day of their arrival. When the boat drew near the dock, the old couple scanned the waiting crowds eagerly, looking for a familiar face or a mission banner welcoming them home. They watched the red carpet being rolled out for some entertainers who were on board. Still they saw no one they knew.

Now the rest of the passengers were being greeted and feted. Bands played, fireworks were set off, and flags flew. But not for them.

The old couple, bewildered and hurt, was the last to disembark. Not one person greeted them. There were no medals, and no speeches were made in their honor. There was no reception after a lifetime of service. Overcome with grief, they held each other tightly, trying to make sense of it all.

“What a welcome home,” sobbed the wife. The husband, his own heart breaking, put his arms around her, and they stood there together swaying in their disappointment and grief. Then each of them individually heard an unmistakable voice deep in their heart. It said the same thing to both of them as clear as a bell, as only the still small voice of God can.

You’re not home yet!

They looked at each other with joy dawning. “Did you hear it?” they asked each other. And then they both were crying tears of gratitude. There would be another journey on another day, not too far in the future, when they would steam into port looking like HMS Eskimo! Half their lives blown away on the mission field for the love of Jesus, and that would be all right. They would be truly home! This then would be their exceeding and great reward.

Love always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. Do you need to learn to love and trust again? Look to God who alone can give you that love. For this you need Jesus. For this you have Jesus.


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Just Between Us Magazine

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We All Need an Elizabeth

Taken from NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”     
~ Luke 1: 45 NIV

By Renee Swope

It seemed I’d just dropped off a thank-you note at my neighbor’s house and now she was standing on my front porch. “This is the most amazing thank-you note I’ve ever read,” Janet said. “God’s given you a writing gift and you need to use it.”

Janet’s words of affirmation kept me company all afternoon. I’d never written much of anything before, but I wondered if God might want to use my words to touch others’ lives.

I was so grateful for this friend who saw something I couldn’t see in myself. It’s one thing to sense God is calling you to do something but to have it confirmed by a woman who will pray for, encourage and remind you of his calling – that’s a gift.

Several weeks later I attended a women’s outreach dinner my church hosted three times a year. Afterward, I got the craziest idea while driving home: Maybe I could write a follow-up study guide to give to women who attend these dinners so they can apply the messages in their lives.

Immediately, doubt shot down my idea, quickly reminding me I had no writing training. But God kept persistently nudging me. Eventually, I told Janet, who served in our women’s ministry. She said they had spent months praying for something to give to women after the dinner series.

They asked me to write a study guide, and I hesitantly said yes. Without Janet’s encouragement, without her reminders that God was nudging me and without her prayers, I might have backed out. But she helped me believe that what God had promised would be fulfilled.

I wrote the study guide and over 1,000 women received it. I still call Janet my “Elizabeth,” because she recognized God’s gift in me and helped me believe his promises to me.

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