Monday, September 30, 2013

The World That Broke God's Heart

Dear Friends,

As I have traveled this world from east to west and have seen God’s fingerprints in His marvelous creation, I have had to conclude that this is God’s world!  As I have looked with awe and delight at His creative handiwork in China, Europe, and the Americas, I could almost hear Him say to me as He said to Job:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me, if you understand.  Who marked off its dimensions?  Surely you know!  Who stretched a measuring line across it?  On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:4-7)?

Yes, this is my Father’s world.  Yet, the pain and evil I have seen help me to understand a little bit better why this, my Father’s world, broke my Father’s heart.  I understand in a new way why it says in Genesis 6:5-6, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of His heart was only evil all the time.  The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.”

I have visited prisoners in Taiwan, stood in the killing field of Cambodia, heard a bomb blast close at hand in Croatia, watched British SWAT teams hunt for terrorists in Northern Ireland, and returned home to the “good old U.S. of A.” to hear of hundreds of our own kids killing each other on the streets.  As I look and listen in all these situations, the violence, the victimization, as well as the victory of the book of Job begins to make sense to me.  There is so much pain, not only in our extreme physical dilemmas, but also in the emotional and relational realms.  Husbands and wives beat and devour each other, children agonize over what they did wrong to cause Daddy or Mommy to leave the family, mental and verbal abuse are meted out to tiny children, the old, and infirm.  Even churches and some of their leaders self-destruct, bringing spiritual pain to hundreds of disillusioned people.

But I am a Christian.  And so I believe that this, my Father’s world that broke my Father’s heart, has not been abandoned.  This is God’s world, and He wants it back!  He will not allow it to blow itself to pieces.  As Job puts it, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).  God does have a plan – a purpose for this hurting world.  It is to reconcile people to Himself through Christ, to give humanity a chance to know Him, to be forgiven, and to learn how to forgive in return. 

Our heavenly Father wants us to live empowered by Him in this life, with the certain hope of living with Him in glory in the next.  To this end, the Father calls individuals to Himself and makes them a family, entrusting His own to make this good news known to those who have never heard it.


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Monday, September 23, 2013

Make "Calvary Love" a Reality in Friendships

Dear Friends,

We can learn from the Bible what strengthens relationships and what kills them.  For example, taking offense easily kills friendship.  Amy Carmichael, in her little booklet If, says, “If I take offense easily–if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”  Again Amy says, “If I do not give a friend the benefit of the doubt but put the worst construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”  And, “If I can hurt another by speaking faithfully without much preparation of spirit and without hurting myself far more than I hurt that other, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

Ruth Bell Graham is often quoted as saying, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”  Good forgivers make good friends too.  This is not contradicting what I have said about saying things that need to be said.  Remember, “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6, KJV).  But when necessary hard things are said, afterward forgiveness is needed to heal the rough edges of those painful conversations.  Sometimes we even have to forgive our friends for being faithful friends and telling us the truth!

David had two good friends, Jonathan and Nathan.  Jonathan loved David to death.  In Jonathan’s eyes, David could do no wrong.  We all need that sort of friend.  Nathan loved David too.  But when David did something wrong, Nathan called him on it!  We need a “Nathan” too.

Encouragement isn’t always “soft.”  I well remember a great friend of mine listening to my litany of woes and then saying firmly but kindly, “Have a good cry, then wash your face, get up, and get on with it.”  It worked.  The word “encourage” means to “put courage into.”  She surely put it into me!

We also need to be a Jonathan and a Nathan for others, as well as looking for those types of friends for ourselves.  In fact, if we try to offer these two elements of friendship we will probably find the friends we are looking for.  In other words, be a friend and you will find a friend!

A friend loves at all times, and it is this element of “Calvary love,” as Amy Carmichael puts it, that helps us listen to our friends’ loving encouragement and act on it.  Paul said, “I have you in my heart” (Phil. 1:7) and then proceeded to correct and rebuke his friends.  When you know someone loves you and has you in their heart, you can hear their words of correction.  It’s called “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) or sometimes we call it “leveling in love” but when it happens you aren’t “leveled.”

Friendship needs to be based on biblical principles, and it also needs to be practical.  For example, we can offer words of encouragement but we also need to think of concrete ways to help.  It’s more than talk–it’s offering a meal if your friend is sick, a ride in your car if she needs it, help with her kids if she is exhausted and needs a break.  Sometimes your help will be verbal.  As Ecclesiastes warns, however, there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak” (3:7).

 A friend of mine took a risk on our friendship by talking to me about a problem that had arisen.  First (she told me afterward), she fasted and prayed about whether to talk to me at all.  That is a good start.  Second she told me she decided she would not say anything more than she had to say.  The old saying, “The less said, the sooner mended” is a very sound principle!  My friend did it right, and said it right, and I was pleased to respond to her.  What does “Calvary love” mean to you?  What are some ways you can make this a reality in your life and relationships?


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Confess Anything That Grieves the Spirit

Dear Friends,

As we confess our sin to God, He will apply the benefits of Christ’s death on our behalf.  He will apply the wood, that is, the cross on which Christ gave His life for us.  The Cross has an application for us every day of our lives.  Because Christ died for whatever it is I am confessing, He can forgive and cleanse me on an ongoing basis.  He can give me clean hands and a pure heart–a heart that loves Him and wants to make a difference.

The Spirit helps us to pray all the right prayers, the prayers that say “Christ is everything,” while the devil works to get us to say, “Anything but Christ!”  God’s Spirit through God’s Word will show us the place where we lost the will to want His will, and then we must be obedient to the things He shows us.  As we practice the will of God on a daily basis, it should become almost second nature to know when things are not the way they ought to be.

As we come to love God more and more, we will want to grieve Him less and less.  Grieve is a love word.  You can’t grieve one who doesn’t love you.  As we spend more and more time with the Lord, we will acquire a knowledge that cannot be learned any other way.  We will become sensitive to the things that bring Him pleasure and the things that bring Him grief.  Paul says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Eph. 4:30).

It’s like being married.  When I first got married, I didn’t know what brought my husband joy and what brought him grief.  I thought I knew, but I really didn’t.  Now, after forty-two years of marriage, I know instinctively.  To the extent that I have taken the trouble to get to know my husband, I have grown to know what makes him happy and, conversely, what upsets him.

Likewise, the longer I “live with God,” the more instinctively I know what brings Him pleasure.  I cannot emphasize enough that there is no shortcut to living effectively for God.  Prayer that doesn’t work, doesn’t work.  But even though it is work, it doesn’t feel like work at all, because it is love work.  For those who do it, it is all joy!

What does the Scripture specifically say about the things that grieve the Spirit? Ruth Paxson, in her book Life on the Highest Plane, says it well:

To grieve the Holy Spirit means that we are causing pain to someone who loves us.  What, then, in us causes the divine One grief?
  • He is the Spirit of truth (Jn. 14:17) so anything false, deceitful, hypocritical, grieves Him.
  • He is the Spirit of faith (2 Cor. 4:13) so doubt, unbelief, distrust, worry, anxiety, grieve Him.
  • He is the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29) so that which is hard, bitter, ungracious, unthankful, malicious, unforgiving, or unloving grieves Him.
  • He is the Spirit of holiness (Rom. 1:4) so anything unclean, defiling, or degrading grieves Him.
  • He is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph. 1:17) so ignorance, conceit, arrogance, and folly grieve Him.
  • He is the Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Tim. 1:7) so that which is barren, fruitless, disorderly, confused, and uncontrolled grieves Him.
  • He is the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2) so anything that savors of indifference, lukewarmness, spiritual dullness, and deadness grieves Him.
  • He is the Spirit of glory (1 Pet. 4:14) so anything worldly, earthly, or fleshly grieves Him. As long as we are indulging known sin we are living in the same abode with a grieved Spirit who is thereby hindered from manifesting Himself fully in and through us (22-23).

It is a helpful exercise to take a good look at this list on your knees and ask “What do I do that is at odds with who God is?”   When the Lord sees our contrite hearts, He will make sure we know how to get back on track.  Realize that you live by grace on borrowed time with borrowed gifts and borrowed opportunities.  Ask Him to forgive you and cleanse you.

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
 Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cultivate a Servant Spirit

Dear Friends,

Jenny, the girl who led me to Christ, told me to wake up every morning and go out into a new day looking for people to bless.  I didn’t know what she meant as I had been somewhat of a curse before my conversion!  “How do you ‘be a blessing’ instead of a curse?” I asked her.

“Just go out into each day, and every time you meet someone ask, ‘What can I do for you?’” she answered.

Now this was pretty radical for me as I was used to asking people, “What can you do for me?” not “What can I do for you?”  But I found out that it worked!  And that was the way I learned to be a blessing and cultivate a servant spirit.

One of the first times I asked the question was in a church I joined when I was a student teacher.  There was a sad-looking girl sitting in the pew in front of me.  One day I introduced myself to her, and after talking to her for a bit, I asked “the question.”

“What can I do for you?”  I inquired with a bright but somewhat false smile.

Immediately she brightened up and said, “Oh, do you really mean you want to do something for me?”

“Yes,” I answered, feeling a bit apprehensive at her eager response.

“Well,” she said, “I am my mother’s caregiver.  She is an invalid, and though I care for her, I have to work as well.  Could you come and do some housecleaning for us?  I never have time to do any of the extra things that need doing around the house.”

My heart sank.  I had never liked housecleaning.  I didn’t want to do my own, never mind hers!  I had expected her to say, “Will you come and read the Bible to my mother and tell her about the Lord?”  That would have been fine, but not this!

She didn’t seem to notice my apprehension as by now she was so excited and saying, “Tomorrow?  I’ll tell you how to get there, and I’ll leave you a list.”  And she was gone.

The next day I apprehensively approached the house.  What would she ask me to do?  I had thought a lot about the list she had promised me, and I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to go inside and read it.  The list was long, the lady was not particularly appreciative of my efforts, and I left feeling decidedly dejected.  I determined to have a word with Jenny as soon as possible and tell her what I thought about her great idea of asking “the question.”  I also decided to stay out of the girl’s way at church.

Jenny merely laughed when I told her the story, remarking that God would use the effort even if my spirit had been less than sweet!  Sure enough, the girl found me again, happily gave me another list, and said she would expect me every Tuesday from then on!

Struggling with the whole thing, I turned up the next Tuesday, and then the next and the next. One day, long after I had given up expecting it, someone thanked me.  It was the old lady’s brother.  “Why should a young lady like yourself make yourself a servant to strangers?” he asked me.

I told him, “Because I am a Christian and Jesus said we should be servants of all.”  I must admit I felt like a huge hypocrite.  But from then on, all sorts of relatives appeared when I was working through my list, and the Lord began a ministry through me that spilled out beyond the walls of the old lady’s room.

Then I understood that what was happening in me as the Spirit of God began creating a servant spirit, was just as important as what was happening through me–the witnessing to the family.  He was making me like Him.  It was a little time before I dared ask “the question” again!  But through the years I have never been out of work for the Lord by using that very simple question.

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine