Tuesday, February 25, 2014

God Can Transform Our Lives

Dear Friends,

Friendship is a great place to grow up into love!  Selfishness can safely be worked out in the arena of friendship.  Perhaps you can learn to watch sports with your husband or go shopping with your wife.  Work on learning something new together.

Stuart and I chose a hobby neither of us knew anything about—bird watching.  We learned it together.  It was fun and relaxing and totally different from anything else we had done.  We were on level ground; one of us was not an “expert” helping the other.

You may not have a marriage that is falling apart, but if you are honest, you might not be able to say that you and your spouse are good friends.  This may be because you don’t play together, find a common goal, laugh together, or just plain have fun.  You may need to give yourselves time to rediscover friendship.

When our daughter Judy wanted to get engaged, she called home to talk to us.  She and Greg were at Wheaton College and had been dating for three years.  They had put their eros love on the back burner for obvious reasons and had been working hard at their friendship.  Now they were facing graduation, and it was time to talk about marriage.

“Daddy,” she began, “can I marry my best friend?” I would venture to say many parents would have welcomed that question!  We were grateful for Judy and Greg’s maturity and integrity.

“There has to be attraction, too,” Stuart ventured, “but if there is, then you have one of the most important things in place for a good marriage—your abiding friendship with Greg.”  Nineteen years of marriage and three children later, their friendship is deeper and more multifaceted than ever.  It had been an anchor for the soul of a marriage that has real substance and satisfaction.

A good marriage needs to build on more than just friendship and attraction, however.  Greg and Judy have Jesus, and so they have learned to show agape love as well.  Friendship love—phileo—alone cannot sustain a marriage; hot romance—eros—will eventually cool.  Every marriage that is as God intended it to be needs to submit its human loves to God so that He can transform them.  Let phileo submit to agape; let eros submit as well.  If they don’t, then when friendship wanes or sexual satisfaction fades, marriage walks out the door.  Agape must rule and fuel a marriage.  Agape can hold a marriage together when the friends are in a fight or when the lovers feel ice cold.  Agape alone can stir the dying embers back into flame.

If we are divorced from the source of love, God Himself, we do not have what it takes to sustain self-sacrificial love.  Of course, we all know couples who do not believe in God and yet have stayed happily married all their lives.  We may know the love of parents or siblings who don’t believe.  But even in their finest moments, phileo and eros are tinged with selfishness.  They need the help of agape to reach outside themselves to others and give themselves away.

The fact is, when the wind blows and trouble comes, we need a source of love well beyond our human capacity.  If we submit our human loves to God, He will transform them because He transcends them.  If we let Him govern our marriages, we will find a reservoir of love we didn’t believe could exist.  If He rules our lives, He will fuel our loves.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine



Monday, February 17, 2014

God's Love - The Secret to Battling Selfishness

Dear Friends,

As I take a backward look at my life and a forward look at my future, lacing all this together is my love for God and His precious Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  My poor, human love has been fanned into flame by His grace and His Spirit.  He is the secret and source of all my other loves.  Loving God comes first.  Loving Him is our primary calling.  To love Him in the happy times and the sad times, the rich times and the poor times, the young and the old times is the key to everything of worth in life.

And what of the battle to love?  What about the selfish core of my heart that loves only me. Supremely and arrogantly?  Will I write of that?  How can I not?  For this is the battle of all battles; it is where we experience our greatest victories and our worst defeats.  The problem is that we were born with a spy in the camp, an enemy within.  We were born with a bias in our soul—a bias to self-centeredness, self-aggrandizement, self-absorption, self-indulgence, and self-destruction.  This center core must be subdued by love—the love of God.  Until I figure out how to let God get the victory in this battle over self, till love dominated my thinking, my actions, and my very soul, I will find no release.

This wretched bias to self-gratification needs a counterbias.  But we can’t do it on our own.  We need the presence of Jesus within us.  When He lives His life in us, sin will not have dominion over us.  A change will take place that gives us the power to love God and love others.  What joy!  What release and relief!

You see, we cannot live the Christian life.  There is only one person who ever did, and that person is Jesus Christ.  We can try to imitate His life—the way He worked, the way He thought, the way He cared for people, and above all, the way He loved people—but we will severely fail.

There is a story told of a small boy who was given a hen as a pet.  The small hen produced small eggs.  One day the boy was at the zoo, where a large ostrich had just produced an egg.  It was a large egg, but then what would you expect from a large bird!  The little boy took a picture and had it developed.  He took his photo down to the little hen, propped it up in front of her, and said, “Look at this and try harder!”

It is useless to prop up a picture of Jesus in front of people and say, “Look at this and try harder!”  For this they need Jesus.  Once He is resident, He needs to be president.  He must be King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  He must master you so you can master yourself capable of doing things you have given up hope of ever doing.  Things like loving Him back, and loving your friends and enemies alike.  Things like knowing the reality of God’s love for every person you know!

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor,

Just Between Us Magazine



Monday, February 10, 2014

Love Never Fails

Dear Friends,

Everyone wants to be loved—that’s a given.  But not everyone is loved—that’s a fact.  Do you know how to give and receive love?  Do you know what real love is, how love behaves, and where love is to be found?  Have you experienced what love feels like, how it works, and how it can last?

How is your love life?  As you look around at your relationship, which of them could be described as really “loving”?  Do you know how to express love, protect love, offer love, and love on to the end?

Many times love begats love; in other words, we love and that opens the door for others to love us in return.

My father met my mother and fell deeply in love with her.  He decided that if he couldn’t have my mother by his side forever, he would never marry anyone else.  However, she did not respond to his advances and, in fact, rather disliked him.

My father persisted in pursuing her.  “Give me a chance,” he pled.  “If you will go out with me for six months, I will abide by your decision at the end.”  She reluctantly agreed.  So my father got to work, for “love that doesn’t work, doesn’t work!”  He courted my mother with everything he had.  He made the investment, not sure that his heart would be intact at the end of the day.  He took the risk.

At the end of the six months he had become my mother’s constant companion and her best friend.  She discovered that she could not live without him.  She was irrevocably “in love.”  He won her to himself through his self-giving love.  They married and loved each other for thirty-eight years until his death.  I’m so glad my father was willing to have his heart broken or I wouldn’t be here!

Of course, this may not happen to everyone.  But even in cases where hope has died and all seems lost, you can still put love’s principles and actions into practice.  Even if your love elicits no response, you will be a healthier person for having loved.  “Love never fails,” wrote the apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 13:8.

That does not mean that love never fails to get a response, but that love never fails to go on loving, whatever the reaction.  This sort of love loves on in all circumstances, whether it is reciprocated, rejected, or received.  To love others no matter how they respond to you is to love as God loves.  After all, God loved a world full of people who hated him—loved them so much that He died for them.  This is the greatest love story of all!

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Just Between Us Magazine


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Love is Not an Option

Dear Friends,

Sometimes the Lord will use the strangest circumstances to put us together with people that we need practice loving.  I do have a right to choose who my friends are, but not the right to tell God who my sisters and brothers in Him will be.  That is His business, not mine.  His to choose them, mine to love them.  Of course, it doesn’t always work out that we end up loving (or even liking) everyone we work within the church, but God intends for us to do a whole lot better than we have been doing!  He intends for us to love with His love—agape love.  He has given us His Holy Spirit and told us that “God has poured out His love into our hearts” (Rom. 5:5).  Our job is to learn to use all that available love to love the church!

Why is it so important to love the church?  Because love opens people up to God.  Love listens!  Love learns!  Love loves!  People know if you love them; they know if you don’t.  When we were working with unchurched youth, we had no expertise, training, or even gifts that we were aware of for this work.  I asked that God would give me His love for these young people.  He did, and they knew it.  Love makes a bridge into someone else’s life, and then God can use it as a highway into their hearts.

Years later, I found myself in the United States.  I was asked to work with women.  I didn’t like women; I liked kids.  However, out of duty, I complied.  I taught a Bible study and began to organize a women’s ministry and saw them both grow.  One day a friend of mine pulled me aside and said, “You are very good at what you do.  You have a lot of shepherding gifts, but you do not love these women!”  Ouch!  She had caught me.  She was right.  I knew it, and I felt humiliated that apparently the flock knew it too.

So what should I do about it?  I wondered.  I could continue doing this job efficiently, all the while waiting for someone who had the “gift” of love to come along and love them.  Or I could come to terms with the fact that love is not an option but a necessity!  Jesus commanded that we love one another, so I needed to obey.  If my gifts in women’s ministry were to amount to more than a hill of beans, I needed to do what I had done years ago when I worked with youth: Ask God for the love I was incapable of myself.  So I asked, and He gave.  I look back on thirty years of women’s ministry with joy.  I could never have done it if I had not submitted my poor human love to Agape’s control.  He fueled my love for women all these years.

Who are you trying to love in the church?  Are you coming up short?  Submit your human love to Agape, and watch Him transform it into a life-changing agent in other people’s lives!

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Just Between Us Magazine