Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Deep Down in My Life

Dear Friends,
We’ll soon be celebrating New Year’s Day.  As I look out across another year with all its known and unknown challenges, I remind myself that what transpires for God and for good as far as my small life is concerned, depends on what happens “deep down in my life”.  How do I go deeper, reach further, climb higher, cling closer, dream bigger, and be seen to be empowered by the Spirit, in touch with the risen Christ, with an unmistakably evident relationship with the Father – deep down in my life?  In other words, what does it mean to live in the present reality of the living God?
I know there is absolutely no way I can do the work I’ve committed to do on the “outside” of me, unless God is doing the work He has committed to do on the “inside” of me.  I simply need to give Him permission to be who He is, in each and every area of my heart and life!  This is my prayer not only for me, but also for you my friends.
Dear Lord, hear my heart.  I give You full permission to be who You want to be, as “deep down” in my life as You wish to go!  Amen.
Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, December 22, 2014

Going to Bethlehem

Dear Friends,
It was the Christmas season and I was thinking about all the tinsel triviality around me.  The Grinch was winning big time!  I had been frantically rushing around my world in ever-decreasing circles.  Have you ever been like this at Christmas?  So hectic that you miss what it’s all about?  I was sitting on The Front Door step at last, when it opened and He whom my soul loves joined me.
“Lord,” I began as my soul stopped rushing around inside me and sat down for a few saving moments – “Speak to me.  Do whatever it takes to touch the quiet place within me where You live. Whatever it takes, Lord, do what it takes to renew my faith and set my spirit dancing, so I can do whatever it takes to tell my world why You came at Christmas.”  He smiled at me thoughtfully as if remembering something.  Then He spoke.
“One day I said to my Father, ‘Whatever it takes Father, I’ll do it.  Whatever it takes to bring them all home to our house.’  And my Father said to me:  ‘Go to Bethlehem!  That’s what it takes!’  And so I came!  As a baby, born to a woman who barely counted her age in double figures.  Go to Bethlehem, Jill.”
I knew at once what He was telling me.  I needed to go to Bethlehem. 
Lord, I worship You, I am in awe!  I am reduced in spirit, Lord, overcome with remorse that I have for far too long allowed my faith to lie low at Christmas of all times!  I have allowed the Grinch to steal my Christmas.  Forgive me!
I had been to the mall, to the outlets, to visit the family, but I hadn’t been to Bethlehem!  I had fallen foul of the Christmas rush.  I went – right then and there.  You can too, you know.  It changed my Christmas.  It will change yours!
Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Life that Bears Much Fruit

Dear Friends,
Jeremiah spoke of a stream from God that gives nourishment to our life (our “tree”) in times of drought (Jer. 17:7,8).  He tells us that that a life rooted in God’s stream “never fails to bear fruit.”

There are many varieties of trees.  But the Lord’s trees are fruit trees.  As if it is not enough to have your roots in the river and your leaves ever green, the trees of the Lord described here have their branches laden with fruit.  Life in the Spirit is healing life, green life, and fruitful life. It is the life of the Spirit as described in Gal. 5:22-23:  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  Paul had already told the Galatians, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Gal. 5:6).  Love is being primarily concerned with others’ well-being, regardless of the cost to yourself.  Love shows itself in service.

At a Bible conference the guests were asked to help with the chores.  They were paying guests, but the school was short on staff.  As the guests arrived, they were asked to sign up for a chore to do.  The chores ranged from serving at tables to cleaning or vacuuming the rooms to helping in the kitchen.  These chores were called “privileges.”  I was fascinated to watch this play out.  We were served with love, care, and big smiles by staff and guests alike.  Everyone’s leaves shone, and the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, patience, and kindness – were evident.

A Christian counts service a privilege.  It is the fruit of the Spirit!  To become a person who lives a life totally focused on God is to become a person who “has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit,” the fruit of the Spirit (Jer. 17:8).  This will manifest itself in serving others – even strangers – instead of being served oneself.

When you are bearing the fruit of the Spirit, you will express love in action to a spouse who doesn’t “love” you anymore, or a child who doesn’t “like” you anymore, or a mother-in-law who doesn’t talk to you anymore, or a workmate who doesn’t respect you anymore.  And all this because your branches are laden with the fruit of the Spirit.  You can be patient with the impatient, kind to the cruel, good to the bad, consistent with the unfaithful, gentle to the rough, forgiving to the ones who have hurt you, and able to control your temper when all of those around you have lost theirs.

In John’s grand vision of the trees in heaven he notes that these trees are “bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month” (Rev. 22:2).  This is a picture of God’s everlasting, constant presence.

Has there been a new crop of fresh fruit growing in your life?

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, December 8, 2014

A Healing Place for Others

Dear Friends,
In Rev. 22:1, John saw “the river of the water of life… flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”  John noticed that the leaves of the trees that lined the river’s banks were used for “the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2).  What a beautiful picture.  We may borrow the picture and apply it to ourselves, for Scripture uses the same symbol to describe the happy person who is planted by the river of God with her roots in the river of life.

Our lives should offer relief from the heat and shelter from the storm to those who need it.  People should take one look at our ever green lives and make a beeline for us.  Our lives should be full of healing, relief, and balm.

Are your leaves used for healing?  You can be a tree of life for others.  If I think about my life in recent days and years, I ask myself, “Have people beaten a path to my door because they know where help can be found?”  I want to be a tree Like Jeremiah describes with its roots in the river, its leaves ever green, and fruit that never fails.

When I heard about my father’s cancer, I knew the heat was on.  Coming from a family with little evangelical background, I knew there would be lots of opportunities to offer my leaves for healing in the days to come.  But this was my great test, too!  This was my beloved father who was entering the valley of the shadow.  I would be struggling with my own huge sense of loss.  How could I help others when I needed such a lot of help myself?

The answer was the river, the river of life.  Life in the Spirit offered a source of life to me in the very face of death.  My job would be to keep my roots in the river, my leaves full of sap, and stay ever green.  It was a hard, hot, desert experience for me, but the Spirit of God was sufficient to supply all I needed, not only for myself, but also for others.  God was indeed a life-giving spring.

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor 
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, December 1, 2014

Soaking Up the Word of God

Dear Friends,

Jeremiah spoke of a stream from God that gives nourishment to our life (our “tree”) in times of drought (Jer. 17:7, 8).  How will you know your roots are firmly planted in God’s river?  By the color of your leaves!  If you look into the river to see your reflection, you will notice leaves that are ever green and healthy.  A favorite verse of mine says, “The trees of the Lord are full of sap” (Ps. 104:16, KJV).  I like to think of the sap as Scripture.

As my roots are in the river of God and my mind is soaked in the Word of God, something sprouts.  What is inside comes out.  Evergreen trees ignore the seasons.  When the summer heat is on or the winter winds blast, their leaves shine on.  So with my roots in the river and my mind in the Word, I can shine on too.  I can bring color to a drab landscape.  People can find relief from the heat under my evergreen tree in the summer, and shelter from the storm in the winter. 

An evergreen tree is a tree for all seasons, and so are Christians who determine to dress themselves in faith’s foliage.  Not only in the book of Jeremiah but also in David’s psalms the happy person is described as one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.  That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers” (Ps. 1:2-3).

The more the sap of Scripture fills my branches, the more my leaves shine.  The sap must flow unhindered through the branches.  It is my job to confess and abandon sin so there will be no blockages hindering the flow of life.  This life, given through the Word of God, will produce an ever green tree.  “It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green” (Jer. 17:8).

Read the Bible every day, and obey it every moment.  Then your leaves will be ever green.

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Just Between Us Magazine

Monday, November 17, 2014

Finding Refreshment in Times of Drought

Dear Friends,
Jeremiah contrasts the tree on the bank of the flowing stream with a bush in the wastelands.  This bush is just a little scrub bush that sits in the sun and burns up “in a salt land where no one lives” (Jeremiah 17:6).  This is not to say there were no other scrub bushes around; it was just that no bush “lived” there – really lived there.  You may be a scrub-bush person surrounded by hundreds of other scrub bushes but feel as lonely as if you were absolutely on your own in the desert.  It is not pleasant to be a scrub bush in the wastelands.

It is possible to be a Christian and yet feel as isolated and cut off from anything fresh and living as the scrub bush in the wastelands.  I have met such little scrub bushes in the far corners of the world as well as in North America.  Do you feel as if I am describing you?  Let me ask you some questions.

Do you ever go to church and feel lonely even though you are in a crowd?  Do you look around at your Christian friends and find that they are all as dead and dry as you feel?  Above all, do you feel alone?

One characteristic of life in the Spirit is the consciousness of the presence of God so you never feel alone.  As you live life in the Spirit, you might be alone physically, but you will never be lonely spiritually – and there is a difference.  Jeremiah certainly felt alone.  He was abandoned by his family and his people, but he wrote about an experience of obedience in his relationship with God that led to his roots’ being in the river of life.  He discovered that God was nearer than breathing, closer than hands and feet.  He was a person who had no worries in a year of relational drought.

So has this been a year of drought for you?  Perhaps your friendships shriveled or funds dried up.  Maybe you got passed over for a promotion that you had waited all your life to win.  It could be that you moved to a different city because of your husband’s job and your marriage has taken a beating because of the move.  Is your child doing poorly in school?  Is the heat on for your Christian child who is getting laughed at by her schoolmates?

When you have experienced a year of drought in any of these areas, it is bound to bring worries into your life.  But worries are drowned in the river of God!  The tree planted by the river has “no worries in a year of drought” (Jer. 17:8) because its roots reach into the river of healing and help.  That river of life provides renewed trust in the God who can give you refreshment.

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Just Between Us Magazine



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

God Calls You to a Relationship with Him

Dear Friends,
The plan of God is first and foremost for you to have a relationship with Him.  He wants you to identify with His will and work in this world, but He wants you first to identify with Him.  He invites you to be forgiven and enjoy His life in you.  He wants to be your Father and desires that you be His child.  This relationship with God can happen only when you realize that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ (2 Cor. 5:19).  This reconciliation can come to pass only when you realize that your sin has separated you from God.  Only the death of Christ on your behalf can put that right.  When you believe that God can make you right with Him, when you repent of your sin and ask His forgiveness, then He grants you His Holy spirit.  At that point your relationship with Him begins.  Notice I didn’t say that a “religion” begins.

The fact that God calls us to a relationship rather than to a religion was a pleasant surprise to me.  Religion itself had a bad connotation in my thinking.  I believed that religion would get in the way of my relationships.  In fact, I had the idea that religion would mess up any exciting relationship I had!

I was eighteen, at college, and having a wonderful time on the outside.  But I was miserable on the inside because my life revolved around my relationships.  If my relationships were going well, I was going well.  Most of the time, however, they weren’t going well, so I was miserable.  Religion didn’t interest me one little bit, but relationships did.

Then I met a girl who was, appropriately, named Grace.  She obviously had a relationship with someone special – I was sure of it.  She had a little secret smile playing around her mouth and a twinkle in her eye that made her look as though someone was loving her to death.  Actually, someone was loving her to life!  She was a Christian, the first one I ever remember meeting.  Imagine my chagrin when I found out that she was “religious”!  Yet she didn’t act, talk, or behave as I had imagined religious people do.  How on earth did she have religion and a relationship at the same time?  She set me thinking.

The next Christian I met was the girl who told me that I needed a relationship with God.  I remember thinking she was just like Grace.  In fact, I was sure they were relatives!  Once she explained the Gospel to me, I went for it with my heart and soul.  This was the relationship that would make all the other relationships in my life make sense.  My sin was forgiven, and I put all my earthly relationships in God’s hands from that point on.  Those two girls showed me what it meant to relate to the living God, who alone could fill the inner longing for someone special in my life.

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, November 3, 2014

Faith Cheerfully Perseveres

Dear Friends,

Scripture tells us, “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5).  We cannot grow spiritually until we exhibit a healthy faith that our troubled night will not last forever.  Lamentations 3:31 says that “men are not cast off by the Lord forever.”

As we wait out the storms of life, will we assert that God’s compassion and mercy will come to our aid and that our loving God will not “willingly bring affliction” (Lam. 3:33)?  Will we speak up for Him instead of speaking against Him?  Will we say loudly and clearly that we believe He is fully aware of our suffering and the injustice done to us and that nothing escapes His notice?

Above all, will we be willing to accept hardship and testing, knowing that they strengthen our faith?  If our answer to that question is, “I will, the Lord helping me,” then we are well on the way to experiencing a faith that works morning by morning for every moment of our days!

I suppose it comes down to a new willingness to be broken by the circumstances of life that God in His sovereign grace permits.  When you do that, your faith distress becomes faith developed, which can then be gloriously displayed by God to a hungry world.  You can have faith in the loving compassion of a merciful God, who will, moment by moment and crisis by crisis, supply all the grace you need.

“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love” (Lam. 3:32).


Blessings,
  

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Genuine Faith Stops Whining

Dear Friends,

I had some friends who lost a child in an accident.  They moved into a “faith distress” mode.  Then they allowed God to develop their faith in Him in the crisis.

The thing that impressed me about my friends was their refusal to complain.  They refused to complain about the expense of the funeral or the inappropriate remarks of people who offered glib comments on things they really didn’t understand.  They cheerfully persevered in their ongoing ministry, not without appropriate tears, but with a stubborn affirmation in God’s sovereign goodness.  In other words, they refused to whine!

What are you busy whining about at the moment?  In our son and daughter-in-law’s kitchen, they have put up a plaque for their seven children.  It simply says:  No Whining!  God wants us to put one of those up on the wall of our minds, too.

None of us likes to suffer in silence.  We like to lament loudly!  Sometimes I think Christians are the world’s worst whiners!  Why is it that believers so often portray such a piqued attitude?  It is as if we feel we have an inalienable right to a charmed life!  God wants us to stop whining when we face difficulty.  Instead, He wants us to humbly submit to the difficulty and bear it patiently, knowing that He has permitted the situation. 

Jeremiah wrote of a man who should “bury his face in the dust” (Lam. 3:29).  He used this familiar picture of a person submitting himself to another by falling prostrate in the dirt in complete submission.

The aspect of humble submission has been incredibly hard for me.  I just love to gripe and complain.  It just comes naturally.  And that is the problem, of course.  It comes naturally.  It is part of our sinful nature.  We can monitor our growth in grace by our willingness to stop it.

God hates whiners!  He was constantly telling the children of Israel to stop it.  In fact, He is still telling us in the New Testament how He felt about all the grumbling His people did in the Old Testament:  “Do not grumble, as some of (the Israelites) did – and were killed by the destroying angel” (1 Cor. 10:10).  If the destroying angel meted out such drastic punishment to whiners today, I wonder how many of us would be left?

The spirit of humble submission to hardship will display a faith that is working in a Christian’s life.  That is faith to display to our world!

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine




Monday, October 20, 2014

Faith Displayed - Belief in God's Goodness

Dear Friends,

Genuine faith believes in God’s goodness!

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him,” we read in Lamentations 3:25.

I had some friends who lost a child in an accident.  They moved into a “faith distress” mode.  Then they allowed God to develop their faith in Him in the crisis.  As the parents rushed to the hospital, one prayed out loud, “Oh God, will you be good to us and save our child?”  The other parent said, “There’s something wrong with that prayer.  Isn’t God good if the boy dies?”

Together they came to the realization that God was good whether the child lived or not!  Bad things that happen do not change the character of God!  The child did, in fact, pass away, but my friends displayed a faith in the goodness of God despite the bad outcome of the incident.

Unwavering faith in God’s goodness is a display of faith that amazes the world and brings great glory to God.

Blessings,
  

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, October 13, 2014

Did I Miss God's Will?

Dear Friends,

Finding the will of God for our lives should be easy. After all, we know and love the Lord and want to serve Him. Yet around the corner of our surrender to the Lord we sometimes find confusion and regrets. “Did we miss the turn in the road?” a young pastor asked me. “Things have not been as we were led to believe they would be.”

Around our glad, “Yes Lord, anytime anywhere any way,” may be a day that finds us saying, “Oh no Lord, I never expected this!”

My husband was addressing the questions of a crowd of British teenagers who wanted to know just how they could know the will of God for their lives. He gave a great illustration. “Life is like a runway,” he said. “Before a plane lands it helps to have the lights that lead up to the runway lit before you land.” Then he talked about some of those landing lights. 

The advice of Christians. Seek out Christians who are a little bit further along the road of faith than you are. It also helps if they know you well.

Inner convictions. This is different than feelings. The Holy Spirit does not come into our lives to do His deepest work in the shallowest part of us, which is in our emotions. He comes to do His illuminating work in the deepest part of us which is in our knowings - our convictions.

The Word of God. Principles from the Word will help us know His will. As we diligently keep our head in the Book a line of action will be confirmed.

Circumstances. How are the circumstances pointing?

Common sense. God expects us to use our reasoned judgment, which is another word for common sense.

Honesty. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to know the will of God whatever it is?”

Once as many of these lights as possible are lit, then land on the runway, asking God to, if you have misread the lights, abort your landing! 

“What happens if you land and you find you shouldn’t have?” inquired a young girl. 

“The Christian life is like a freeway not a tightrope,” my husband explained, changing the analogy. “There is plenty of room to crash, bump up against the fence, right the car and continue on your way a little bruised, but sadder and wiser!”

I have found that God is far more anxious to have us get it right than we are! Just because things are difficult doesn’t necessarily mean that you took the wrong turn. Jesus said, “I am the way.” Follow Him as best as you can and He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine