Monday, June 24, 2013

Love is Kind


Dear Friends,

The words kindness, goodness, and gentleness are all closely allied. Another word for kindness is sevanthood. Love is a servant. Just look at Jesus. Jesus washed feet. Would we?

I remember seeing a movie where a woman was being interviewed for a job. “I don’t do windows,” she said, to no one’s surprise. I think the church is full of people like that. They call themselves servants, but they don’t do windows, or they don’t do feet!

Think about children. How much energy does it take to get them to do their chores? They don’t do windows. The ability to serve to that degree comes with maturity, or it should. Children by nature are not kind and serving creatures. When I was a teacher in Liverpool in a pretty tough school in a tougher neighborhood, teachers were assigned playground duty. We used to call it “vice patrol.” As I took my turns, I was amazed at how cruel those children could be to each other. I saw kids bullying little kids or excluding others or mercilessly teasing them till they were reduced to tears.

Servanthood means doing a practical loving act for someone who needs it—maybe visiting an elderly neighbor who is alone and cooking her a good meal, perhaps pitching in and cleaning up the kitchen after a women’s meeting at church (even if you were the speaker!), or deliberately taking another turn in the nursery even if you’ve done your bit in the past.

Servanthood looks for a way to do the things that are menial. A servant takes out the trash or pours water in a bowl and washes feet (in Jesus’ day this was the job of the lowest level of slaves). Servanthood is helpful all the time, looking to bless, heal, and encourage those less fortunate. Servanthood welcomes the opportunity to be a servant not only when it’s voluntary but also when it’s not an option.

Maybe some of us need to do some growing up in this area of servanthood. Growing up in the Lord and in His agape love means growing in patience and kindness. Agape love gives you the power to be patient and kind to all sorts of frustrating people. Love suffers all sorts of indignities. In fact, love suffers longer than you think you can. J.B. Phillips paraphrases I Cor. 13:4: “This love of which I speak is low to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive.” That is another way of saying “Love is kind.”

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, June 17, 2013

What Does God Want From Us?


Dear Friends,

What then does “surrender” look like or, rather, sound like? When it comes time to talk to God about what He wants from us, how should we approach the Lord and what should we say?

Before we do anything else, we need to ask God what He requires for an offering. This is not for us to decide. When you read the Old Testament, particularly the Pentateuch, you are left in no doubt as to what God wants. Whole pages of Scripture are dedicated to spelling out God’s requirements in the most minute detail. It would have been unthinkable for an Israelite to offer God a pig or an unclean animal, because they were forbidden sacrifices. Even some clean animals were not allowed for temple offerings because, for God’s sovereign reasons, He had designated other animals or birds for such use. Cain got into big trouble because he offered God something God had not asked for, and he didn’t offer God something He had asked for! (Gen. 4:2-17).

Perhaps we kneel down in prayer and offer God an hour of our time on a weekday to help with the youth group. Well, what’s wrong with that, you ask? Nothing—if you are responding to what God has asked you to do. But if you have decided that out of the goodness of your heart that is what you can do for God and no more, even though the church needs help in social work or administration, then God will not accept your sacrifice or answer your prayers! Anyway, God does not want us deciding what we will do for Him, and when, and where. He wants to tell us what He has in mind.

When you think about it, it’s silly to offer God an hour of our time as if it is ours to offer. As David the psalmist observed, our future is in God’s hands (Ps. 31:15). All our moments are His, so we should in fact be asking Him for an hour of His time to use.

Surrender is an attitude of mind. We need to remind ourselves that everything we have, everything we are, and everything we do is a matter of borrowed time or borrowed resources. It’s God’s time. Our talents are God’s talents on loan to us. Our money is certainly God’s money. Our very lives are borrowed. So if we are living on borrowed time, with borrowed lives, exercising borrowed gifts, what we should be asking in our prayers is when God would like for us to do what! We should be praying, “What would you like that is yours today, Lord?” Even our sacrifices are lent to us to give! The bull on Elijah’s altar belonged to God first.

Elijah stepped forward on Mount Carmel “at the customary time for offering the evening sacrifice” (1 Kings 18:36). There was a time for each specific offering. I have discovered this principle to be at work in my Christian life. God will tell when it’s time for what. All I have to do is do it.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine



Monday, June 10, 2013

Speaking the Truth of God's Word


Dear Friends,

As we receive both the Word that is a joy and the Word that is a challenge, we need to pass on both the Word that delights and the Word that directs. The false prophets were masters at passing on only the pleasant word, the soothing word. In fact, they passed along only words the people wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear: “‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is peace” (Jer. 6:14). This was not so of Jeremiah. Surely he was tempted at times to pick and choose the messages he passed along to the people. But God reminded him of his mandate one day when he was about to deliver a particularly strong message in the temple: “Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word,” warned the Lord (Jer. 26:2). The New English Bible renders this: “You shall tell them everything that I command you to say to them, keeping nothing back.”

The word omit is interesting. The same Hebrew word is also used in Isaiah 15:2 to describe the clipping of a beard, or shaving off a piece of something. “Every head is shaved and every beard cut off.” How descriptive. God was warning Jeremiah not to “clip off” any of the words he had instructed Jeremiah to say!

Now I can certainly relate to that! How often I have been talking to a stranger on a plane and told that person only that portion of the Word of God that was a joy and delight to tell. Yet I’ve been aware of the still small voice urging me to share the bad news as well as the good news.
Once a man I was talking to seemed to be really interested in the gospel. As I talked to him, the voice of God kept whispering in my soul’s ear, When are you going to tell him about hell?
Not yet Lord, I whispered back. It would put him off.

Back came the answer: You must go to everyone I tell you to and tell them everything I tell you to. Do not omit a word!

I was so tempted to clip off some of the message. However, I took a deep breath and introduced the subject into the conversation. He looked at me in amazement and said, “I can’t remember having met anyone in this day and age who actually believes in a hell. They don’t believe in hell in my subdivision!” He was a little irritated with me from that point on, but I felt relieved in my spirit for not “omitting” or “shaving off” any of the message.

At least I was not subjected to the same treatment as Jeremiah was when he was careful not to “omit” a word. “As soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, ‘You must die!’” (Jer. 26:8). Of course, we hope that this will not be the result at the end of your conversations! In fact, it is very unlikely that you will face such treatment in your country. But you may well lose friends and family by faithfully passing on the truth of God’s Word to them. Fear of that possibility makes it easy to get out those beard clippers and shave away.

 “As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Is. 55:10-11). Thus says the Lord!

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, June 3, 2013

The Secret Weapon of Prayer


Dear Friends,
How many of us live with unbelievers and struggle to know how to pray prayers that work for them? Many of us have a problem because we are too close to the situation. It’s hard to pray rationally when you love people so much and you are desperately concerned about their spiritual well-being. Maybe you have done your best to lead them to Christ over the years, and everything you have said has fallen on deaf (or worse, indifferent) ears. You may even have given up talking about it at all.
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, is quoted as saying, “People may resist our advice, spurn our appeals, reject our suggestions, and not accept our help, but they are helpless against our prayers.” I believe that with all my heart. God took the Old Testament prophet Elijah from a safe spiritual environment, put him in the middle of what was very likely a Baal-worshipping family, and said, “Let’s see what this hot spot will do not only for your relationship with me but your relationship with your family. Undoubtedly it will do great things for your prayer life for unbelievers!” God wanted Elijah to know that he possessed a secret weapon, the secret weapon of prayer. Prayer is our secret weapon in these situations. Remember what James said about fervent prayer: He said it was dynamic in its working. Prayer is in fact, dynamite. In his book, Prayer, Ole Hallesby said, “The work of the Sprit can be compared to mining. The Spirit’s work is to blast to pieces the sinner’s hardness of heart and frivolous opposition to God. The period of the wakening can be likened to the time when the blasts are fired to the time when the deep holes are being bored with great effort into the hard rock. To bore these holes is hard and difficult and a task which tries one’s patience.”  
This is a pretty graphic picture. The idea of prayer boring holes into hard hearts so the dynamite of the Spirit can be buried there helps me realize two things. First, my job is to do the boring. Second, it’s God’s job to blast away the hardness of people’s hearts. The problem is that it’s boring to do the boring! But it must be done.
I imagine that, day after boring day, Elijah did the work of prayer, having faith as he did his part, God would do His. Mining can be tiring, but the results can be spectacular. Before long, Elijah would learn never to underestimate what the Holy Spirit had been doing before he arrived on the scene.
When God looks into the hearts of men and women and sees a heart looking for Him, He makes sure one of His servants is sent to help them find Him. This should cause us to get up each and every morning of our lives and go out into our day with a huge sense of expectation. We can be assured that someone, somewhere has been “mining” and that the Holy Spirit has been at work in the circumstances in order to bring the seeking soul and the servant of the Lord together. How can life be anything but exhilarating for the disciple of Jesus! So in this matter of prayer, we must never discount what the Holy Spirit has been doing before we arrive on the scene. He will use our “boring” work for His eternal purposes!

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us magazine