Monday, February 25, 2013

In God's Waiting Room


Dear Friends,

Are you in God’s waiting room?   How is your patience?  What are you waiting for?  Are you waiting for a marriage to be mended or a mother to get well?  Are you waiting for a misunderstanding to be rectified or a job to materialize?  Perhaps you are waiting for someone to be released from his or her pain and suffering.

Years ago I watched my own mother fight with cancer to the death.  I cried out in agony, “Lord, release her now!”

“Soon,” he replied.  And two days before she died she put her trust in Jesus.  I am so glad he said “soon” and not “now.”

Another time my husband called to tell me he was extending his evangelistic tour.  “But it will soon be over,” he assured me.  His absence afforded me the extra waiting time to join a mission team and catch a big fish!

Waiting on the Lord does not mean waiting on everything else in life until the prayer is answered, the situation is fixed, or the nightmare is over.  Waiting on the Lord gives us a chance to grow trust while we busy ourselves with whatever personal responsibilities we have.

The devil loves to slow us to a dead stop, telling us we need to wait until things are okay again before we can serve, teach, preach, or take up our daily duties.  He would paralyze us with the pain of waiting.  The devil says, “Wait until things are normal.”  God says, “Keep working while you’re waiting.”

Next time a problem arises in your life and you are tempted to ask, “Are we nearly there?” settle in for the long haul and learn patience.  How can we learn it unless God gives us a reason to use it?

It is hard to be in God’s waiting room, but love accepts a difficult situation without giving God a deadline to remove it.  God wants to see us grow patience and trust in the soil of our suffering.

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, February 18, 2013

Spilling Grace


Dear Friends,

Spilling grace is “the Spirit’s” work.  There was a problem that had arisen in the ministry.  People appeared to have been unjustly handled.  I didn’t want to go into the space where people I loved and respected were hurting, talking in whispers, frightened – in tears. I needed to have a “conversation” about that.  So, as my habit is, I went to the “steps” of my soul and met Him there.

“Lord, God how do I respond to this atmosphere of fear?  This sense of betrayal?”
“Spill Grace.”
“How do I do that?”
“Be full of the Holy Spirit.  He is the Spirit of Grace.  Stay in touch with the thoughts He brings to mind: The ideas He will give you of ways to touch a hand or say: “I’m so sorry, what a loss!” or “would you like a cup of coffee, I’m praying, want to talk?  I’m a good listener: try me!”  Offer your heart.”

“I can do that.  But Lord, when we are at the table face-to-face, and my friend is talking about how she’s been treated and I’m hearing things that make me boil or weep, what do I do?”

“Remember, you’ve only heard one side of the story.  I’ve heard it all.  In fact ‘before a word was spoken I knew it all together!’  Give people the benefit of the doubt.”

“How do you stand it, Lord?  Listening to all this stuff a million times a minute?”
“I am God.”
“Oh!  Of course.  Problem is Lord, I’m not!”
“Remember that!”
“Got it!  So, I’m to listen remembering You know all the twists and turns in the matter.  All the past doings and sayings and all the future yet-to-be doings and sayings too?”

“Yes.  Read Psalm 139.”
I stopped and read the psalm.  It’s one of my favorites!  Then I continued the conversation.  (Why don’t you stop and read it, too?)

 “So when I’ve finished listening to her?”
“Give all parties the benefit of the doubt.  Be generous of spirit. It’s not your job to judge people’s motives.  That’s my work!”

“They don’t sound as if they deserve the benefit of the doubt, Lord—oops sorry.  “Err: Do I say anything to her about the people in question?”
“If it’s full of grace.”
“Bother!  What about full of truth?”
“You can’t know the truth here.”
“Well then that sort of limits the conversation!”
“Limit it then!  The time may come when you more fully understand the truth.  Then you may need to speak it in love.  But that is not now.  Grace finds many words.”

“How will I know if what comes out of my mouth is full of grace or is coming from a critical judgmental attitude?”

“You’ll know.”
“Yes, I suppose I shall!  So – you’re suggesting offering words someone doesn’t really deserve? Something kind: forgiving?”

“I’m not ‘suggesting’ Jill!”
“Oops, sorry Lord!”
“Grace gave you what you didn’t deserve. Now let that grace spill over.”
“But isn’t that condoning a wrong?”
“Offer a word of grace that has nothing to do with the situation at hand.  Remind your friend of my grace for all people.  Say things like: ’you know often such words are said or deeds happen because there is deep anger or unresolved pain behind the offense.  We don’t know the motivation.  We don’t understand the ‘why of the situation yet.’”

“Then what?”
“Focus your conversation on what you DO know.”
“But what do I really know, Lord?”
“That I am God and I am good – all the time. I am in control even when it seems all evidence is to the contrary.  That I have the matter in hand.  I am not absent, unaware, or unconcerned about all the tears and heartache.  I love you all: both offenders and offended.  Start there.”

So I invited my crushed friend to coffee and I did my best to be a true friend.  After we had read Psalm 139 and talked for a long time I heard the Spirit say:
“Now it’s time to pray.”

“Here?”
“Here.”
“What do I pray?”
“That your friend responds with grace to the situation as God would have her respond. Grace in word and action. Grace offered when grace has been offended.  Grace knows how to handle offense.  He does it all the time!”

“The unfairness of it all rose up inside me. ‘But why should she Lord?  They should be spilling grace over her, and not expunging her character! It’s not fair.’”

“Right, that’s what grace is for – when life isn’t fair!”
“Well they should do it first!”

“Let there be a race. A race to trust Me, to obey Me. I know the heart of the matter, most thoroughly. I know all the whys and wherefores. I have a plan to bless and not to harm. Tell your friend to kneel down in her heart before Me. You come too: right here, right now.


“In Starbucks?!”

No answer!  So I reached across the table and took her hand and we bowed our heads in that crowded room and found ourselves “beneath the praise of angels.” (You can you know even in a coffee shop!)  Above all the commotion we both clearly heard His voice.

“Praise Me.”
“But how can we praise You for a wrong thing?”
“I’m not asking for your praise for a wrong thing: not for ‘it’ but for ME!”
“Oh.”
“When you can’t praise Me for what I allow, praise Me for who I am in the midst of what I allow!”

“We can do that.”

“I remembered He had said to me at another time in a similar situation, “When you’re lost for words it helps to borrow others.  So we followed His advice (good move) and used His servant David’s words.

Search me oh God and know my heart
Try me and know my ways.
See if there is any wicked way in me
And lead me in the way everlasting.
  
So there at the table we walked right into the throne room.  And
we worshipped the One who “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.”
Then we ordered another cup of coffee and talked about “the way” forward.

I listened amazed at my friend.  She talked of an idea that had come into her head as we had prayed that prayer.  An idea how she could “spill grace” over the perpetrator of the hurt.  It was a great idea, a sweet idea, an “Amazing Grace” idea! And I bowed my head and wondered greatly at the Spirit’s work.

Would you like to have a conversation too?  Where do you need to spill grace? Spend some time journaling your thoughts today.
Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us magazine



Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Great Attraction of Answered Prayer


Dear Friends,

I have traveled the world and found people on every continent who pray.  It is a fact that there are a growing number of people who do not believe in any sort of god; this is an alarmingly large group.  But still, the majority of people believe in something.  They seem to know that someone out there is bigger and more powerful than they are. 

If you ever find yourself getting nowhere when you are witnessing to someone, try sharing some answers to prayer.  People who pray want their prayers answered.  Even people who are not in dire distress would like to find what seems to them the magic formula.  Of course, we know that prayer is not a matter of getting God to do what we want Him to do but rather one of God getting us to do what He wants us to do.  But the topic of answered prayer can open up an opportunity to explain the gospel.

I was on a plane going to the East Coast.  It was a long flight, and I was just settling down to read when the well-dressed man by my side said, “It’s hot in here.  I can’t wait to get to my house on the beach.”  He then proceeded to tell me all about this house and that house of his, this boat and that boat, this vacation and that vacation.  It was going to be a very long flight!  Then it was as if the Lord nudged me and said, “Tell him about Me.”  He wouldn’t be interested, Lord,” I replied confidently.  “Haven’t you noticed, he’s a self-made man who worships his creator!”  “True,” the Lord replied, “but how do you know he wouldn’t worship Me instead of himself if he ever got to hear the truth?”

Let me pause just long enough to point out that this inner conversation I was having with the Lord was prayer.  I was having a dialog with the Almighty.  This sort of praying is like a conversation in your mind.  I love this sort of conversation with God.  This kind of prayer can go on all day long.

The man on the plane talked happily about himself almost all the way to our destination.  I listened as well as I could, figuring he would have to run out of words and give me a turn!  At last he turned to me and said, “And what do you do?”  I was delighted to tell him and in the course of my explanation managed to explain why I do what I do.

“Well,” he responded, “some people need God, but my life is just fine as it is.”

“Wouldn’t you like it to be better?” I asked.

“Everyone would like it to be better,” he conceded, “however good they have it.”

“Then let me tell you how it could be better.”

Talking very fast as we began to land, I recounted true stories of answered prayer.  “Do you mind my asking you if you pray?” I ventured to inquire as we collected our things.

“Not very often,” he admitted.

“Life will be better even than it is when you do.”

“I wouldn’t know where to start.”

“Start at the beginning,” I suggested.

As we walked down to the baggage claim area, I told him where the beginning was.  He would need to examine the Christian’s claims about Jesus, stop wavering between two opinions, and make a decision one way or another.  In essence, I told him, “If the Lord be God, then serve Him, but if Baal (or the mighty dollar), then serve him.”  He left then.  But I pray on for him whenever the Lord brings him to mind.  I pray that one day he will pray a prayer of faith and, finding that prayer works, give his life to the Lord.  Yes, people really do believe that any gods worth their salt will be able to answer their people’s prayers.  And when people see prayers answered, they are often willing to cast their vote for the God who did the answering.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoee planned for Jeremiah, Moses, Abraham, David, Matthew, Mark, L
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine



Monday, February 4, 2013

Marriage is God's Idea


Dear Friends,

The thing about loving your spouse is that you can know that God is on your side.  That is because marriage is His idea.  All God’s ideas are good and gracious.  Marriage matters to God.  And if God matters to you, then the things that matter to Him should matter to you.

Jesus sanctified marriage not only by talking about it but also by going to a wedding.  It happened right at the beginning of his ministry (see John 2: 1-11).  In fact, it was the occasion of His first miracle.  It was a happy miracle at a happy occasion, and it gives us a good analogy.

Jesus and the disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  Jesus’ mother was there as well.  The ritual at an Eastern wedding in Jesus’ time was very different from our way of doing things today.  The master of ceremonies (John 2:9) was responsible for all the proceedings.  He ran the show.  Not only would he lose face, but the bridegroom’s family would be subject to jesting for years to come if anything went wrong with the food or the wine at such an event.  At this particular wedding, that’s what happened.  The wine ran out!

Jesus was a guest. He was not the master of ceremonies.  But when Mary learned that the wine had run out, she told the servants to “do whatever [Jesus] tells you” (John 2:5).  Basically she was telling the servants that if they put the whole situation in Jesus’ hands and obeyed Him, He would take care of it.
They took her advice, and Jesus took charge.  He told the servants to fill the large empty water pots with water.  Then He instructed them to dip some out and take it to the master of ceremonies.  Jesus had turned the water into wine!  The master of ceremonies was astounded (and surely relieved).  “Usually a host serves the best wine first…But you have kept the best until now!”

He said to the bridegroom (John 2:10).  Neither of them had any idea what was happening back in the kitchen!

Here is the analogy.  Many people invite Jesus to their wedding, but only as a guest.  They want God to bless but not to boss!  They want a church wedding in a church building.  They want God to attend and even want to borrow His house for the ceremony.  In England many people still want church weddings even though they never darken the doors of a church for the rest of their days apart from baptisms and funerals!  This is a long way from wanting Christ to be the Master of their marriage. 

When Stuart and I served a local church, which we did for thirty years, my husband often got calls at the parsonage from people looking in the yellow pages for a church for the wedding ceremony and a pastor to officiate.  We used to call these “yellow-pages weddings”!  “Do you do weddings?” they would ask.

“No,” he would reply, “but I institute Christian marriages!”  This often proved to be a great opportunity to explain both what a real Christian was and what the biblical idea of marriage is all about.  It was also a great opportunity to minister to young couples and lead them to Christ.  This way the couple had a chance to build their marriage on the best possible foundation.

So is Jesus the Master of your marriage?  Is He in charge?  Are you in a difficult marriage today?  Has the “wine run out”?  Turn it over to Jesus.  He’ll know what to do, just as Mary said.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine