Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Into Jesus' Steps, Into His Presence


Women's Trip to Israel 2014

I’m not very good at memorizing. I’m in God’s Word a lot, but it doesn’t seem to stick word-for-word in my mind. But God is good, and He saturates my heart with His Word as I yield my heart to His.

When women find out about my travels to Israel, their comments most typically include something about stepping where Jesus stepped, walking where He walked. I nod and smile and assure them seeing the places we read about in the Bible is definitely a beautiful experience…but walking where Jesus walked doesn’t begin to reflect the fullness of journeying through Israel. Visiting Israel isn’t about looking back in history, checking locations off a map and destinations off an itinerary. It’s about seeking God. It’s a journey into His presence.

Of course, God is alive and active in you no matter where you are. Your place doesn’t determine your faith. But I can certainly say that yielding to God and stepping into His presence in the Holy Land illuminated my life and intimacy with Him with an unrivaled brilliance. He seeped into my thoughts, assumptions, expectations, knowledge, and beliefs in ways that boldly encouraged me through both affirmation and conviction. And I’m not alone. As our small group of women shared physical steps and experiences, our journeys were personal. Consistent with God’s magnificent provision, He met us where we each spiritually arrived and nourished us with every step we yielded.

If you journey with me this November, you’ll see many things—Ceasarea, Tiberias, Cana, Nazareth, Yad Vashem Jewish Holocaust Memorial, Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, Jerusalem’s Old City, Western Wall, Jordan River, Dead Sea, Masada, and much more. You’ll stand atop the rolling Judean Hills and descend to the lowest place on earth. You’ll see lush, productive groves of many fruits and miles of parched desert. But you won’t just follow the steps of Jesus; you’ll step into His presence.

Because we travel with a fairly small group of women, we’ll take time to savor our experiences, digging into God’s Word, and reflecting on how He’s revealing Himself to us. And while it’s a personal journey with Him, you’ll find the relationships you build with the other women are rich and rewarding. We come together from many places and experiences but our hearts will entwine in similar purpose.

We’re not just journeying for ourselves. We’ll come together and build relationships, and we’ll serve others, too. Our trip includes several days of serving others, setting aside our assumptions and expectations and letting God use us as vessels to pour His love abundantly on others.

Will you journey with me? For more information, visit PurePurpose.org or LifetreeAdventures.org.

Please keep in mind space is very limited (and registration requires only a small deposit to secure your spot). Keeping the size of the group small helps us build relationships as well as allows us to travel more easily and invites us into more intimate, personal experiences as we take time to reflect.
(Lifetree Adventures will handle your registration process, and once you are registered, I will add you to a closed Facebook group, so you'll get to know others who are part of the group, have access to suggested reading and daily Bible reading plans, as well as get tips along the way as we all prepare!)



Susan Lawrence is a Women’s Ministry Consultant who is passionate about encouraging and equipping women to build healthy relationships with God and each other. She’s written several Bible studies and regularly contributes to several online sites and print publications. She loves to travel to speak and train women around the world…or to lead adventure/service trips to Israel! You can connect with Susan at PurePurpose.org, where she blogs daily.


Being Versus Doing

Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.  Mary represents the Christians among us who make little pools of stillness in the middle of their busyness and take time to find out just what it is Jesus wants them to learn.  Mary knew what it meant to be a follower of Christ. Every day you and I can choose whether to do like Martha or be like Mary. 


Dear Friends,

Many of us remember the story of the time Jesus visited two sisters who were equally beloved of him but who represented two different kinds of Christians.  “Martha,” the Scripture says, “was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” (Lk. 10:40).  She loved the “work of the Lord” more than the “Lord of the work’!  Although she was very busy serving Him, this was not as He wished.  At that particular moment, Jesus wanted her to be still, not frantic—worshiping, not worrying.  “Martha, Martha,” He said, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (vv. 41—42).  Mary represents the Christians among us who make little pools of stillness in the middle of their busyness and take time to find out just what it is Jesus wants them to learn.  Mary knew what it meant to be a follower of Christ.

Every day you and I can choose whether to do like Martha or be like Mary.  For those of us who love doing rather than being, it will be very hard to change our attitude.  But change we must if we are to fulfill His plans for us and be fulfilled ourselves.  Martha, for all her busy serving, was worried and upset.  There was no peace in her heart.  Jesus rebuked her for worrying about her activities, not the activity itself.  When we are in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing as far as the Lord is concerned, there will be peace and serenity inside of us. 

We must stop so much doing and practice being a child of God.  Make it a top priority.  As you spend time in God’s Word He will give you principles and pointers to help you understand your daily place and actions.  For example, we are not to leave God out of the reckoning when we move, change our job, or do our business.  We should listen to Him.  We should, as James tells us, say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will do this or that.”

When Stuart and I got married, we put our time into God’s hands, and He put His will into ours.  For three years we worked in the secular world—Stuart as a banker, me as a teacher.  That was what God wanted us to do!  Then God’s timing called for us to serve a youth mission.  That was what God wanted us to do!  So we moved from the city to the country.  Ten years later God’s clock struck the hour for us to uproot, move across the Atlantic, and take the leadership of Elmbrook Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  That was what God wanted us to do!  Thirty-four years later we are still here and for one reason only: That is what God wants us to do!  God brought us here, and until He leads us out, as surely as He led us in, we will stay and do our best to fill our days with praise and service.
Where are you on the Mary/Martha spectrum? Be intentional this week about doing less and being more in His presence so you can listen to His voice and hear what it is that He wants you to do!

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine




Monday, March 17, 2014

Certain of God's Presence

I thought of all the times I believed myself to be alone—alone with my pain and suffering.  I decided I would try to do a better job of looking up into my Father’s face at times like that.  When trouble comes, we can either  “curse God and die”—or trust God and grow!

Dear Friends,

A little while ago I was chasing our two-and-a-half-year-old grandson around our daughter’s house.  I was the “childcare” for the day, and I was finding it hard!”  “What do I do?” I inquired of my daughter as she left the house.  “Just stay on him!”  She replied with a grin, and then she was gone.  It sounded easy enough, but by 11 a.m. I was done!  Keeping up with that little dynamo was for athletes, not grandmas!  I made myself a nice cup of tea and sat down.  Lulled into complacency, I suddenly “heard” silence!  Galvanized into action, I tore around the house calling his name, “Drew, where are you?” 

I found him almost immediately, about to do something he shouldn’t.  “Drew, don’t”—I began.  Drew stopped and looked at me with something skin to wonder in his eyes.  “Youse evwewhere, Gwanma!” he murmured in awe.  “Right, Drew, omnipresent Gwanma!” I replied.  Though Drew thought he had escaped me, he learned to his chagrin that he hadn’t!

I thought of all the times I believed myself to be alone—alone with my pain and suffering.  I decided I would try to do a better job of looking up into my Father’s face at times like that, and I promised myself that  I would say, “Youse evwewhere, Father,” in wonder, love, and praise.  Such faith grows us up.  When trouble comes, we can either “curse God and die”—or trust God and grow!

The Bible talks so much of walking by faith and not by sight.  The Word of God uses metaphors of light shining in the darkness of our minds.  This is the light of knowledge that God is, that God is there, that God is good, and that God is concerned with our well-being even when “being well” is not part of the big plan.  God’s face is really turned toward us, not away from us.

The story is told of a little boy who was fearful of going to bed.  He was afraid of the dark.  Instead of giving him a nightlight, his father decided to stay with him in the room, in the dark, until his son fell asleep.

“Are you there, father?” asked the little boy, with a quiver in his voice.

“Yes, my son,” replied the father.

“I can’t see your face,” said the son.

“But I am looking at you, and I am smiling,” the father replied.  Then the boy fell asleep.  He couldn’t see his father or feel his father’s touch, but he heard his father’s word, and he believed it and rested in the good of it.

No matter what your circumstances, remember that you are never alone!

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, March 10, 2014

Avoiding the "Me" Trap

Christ never allowed Himself to fall into the “me” trap.  He has always known how to avoid it, and He can lend us the inner wisdom to know how to do it, too. 

Dear Friends,

One long-ago day I was busy mothering our three lively toddlers as my husband came home from work and said, “The Boss has told me he wants me to go to the States for a time and do some preaching and teaching.”

I was excited.  “What an opportunity,” I enthused.  “When are you going and for how long/”
I expected him to say, “In a month or so and for just a couple of weeks.”  Instead he replied, “Next month and for twelve weeks.”

I stopped mopping up children and gazed at him dumbstruck.  “What about me?”  I wanted to cry out.  “How can you go and leave me with three kids for so long?  It isn’t fair.”  I felt the “me” trap snap painfully over my heart, so tightly I could hardly breathe.  The next few weeks I struggled to free myself from the self-pity and panic that was waiting for me as I woke up every morning.  How could I escape?  Who could change my feelings?  As I turned to God’s Word, I read, “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor. 5:15).  I realized that God was not asking me to do this lonely thing primarily for my husband, but for Him!  What’s more, it was for Him who died for me!  Jesus left His family for the sake of my family.  He knew all about loneliness.  Now our family could do something for Him.  And not only could I live for Him who died for me, I could live out this coming period of separation form Stuart in the power of the risen Christ, for as the apostle Paul had reminded me, “It was for Him who died and was raised again.”  I knew there was no other way.  That particular trial (which incidentally was followed by years of long separations) gave me space and time to be involved in all kinds of service!

How do we resist the temptation to eat the easy cheese that will catch us in the “me” trap?  First of all, recognize that the devil is neither original nor creative.  His devices do not change.  The same old egocentric deceptions will appear throughout everyone’s short life.  Let’s learn to recognize them.

Second, we should be on special alert when, in God’s will, trouble comes calling.  These will be special moments when we are particularly susceptible to self-preservation above all other considerations.  Try to welcome these “trials,” as James calls them, as friends rather than intruders.  Remember that friends can make us strong and ready for anything.

Third, run to God often, and know what to do when you get there.  Be familiar enough with Scripture so you know where help can be found in its pages.  Learn to pray and try not to panic.

Finally, be super conscious that people are watching how you—a Christian—respond to trouble.  Let them see you receive God’s comfort, and then let them watch you pass on that comfort to others in need.  In other words, let them observe how sorrow leads you to service rather than to self-pity.

Christ never allowed Himself to fall into the “me” trap.  He has always known how to avoid it, and He can lend us the inner wisdom to know how to do it, too.  All we have to do is ask.  For, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (Jas. 1:5).

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine



Monday, March 3, 2014

Singing the Comfort Song

There is the fear of losing the familiar and loved one, and yet the joy of knowing that for those who have gone to be with the Lord, there is an incredible environment waiting for them where Jesus Himself is and where loved ones who have preceded us wait for us.  Our comfort is to know that those we love so very much are seeing our Lord’s face.  Though they are out of our arms, they are into His. 

Dear Friends,

Paul knew what it was to suffer the “loss of all things.”  Several hundred years after the Babylonian captivity, a new church in Corinth was encountering grave difficulties.  Christians were being persecuted, hunted down like animals, and killed.  Some of the men, women, and children would have been Paul’s own converts.  Yet Paul knew they were with Christ, which was “far better.”

Sitting by my dying mother’s bedside, I realized she would soon be released into life—real life, eternal life.  As I sat there, I picked up my New Testament and went to my internal “waiting room.”  As I listened to my mother’s labored breathing, I reread in John’s Gospel the story of Jesus standing outside the tomb of Lazarus.  He shouted,

“Lazarus, come out!”  And Lazarus came—bound up in the grave cloth, his face muffled in a head swath.  Jesus told [those watching], “Unwrap him and let him go!” (John 11:43-44, TBL)

As I read these words, I looked up.  My mother’s face was still.  I was suddenly searingly aware that her labored breathing had stopped.  I looked down at my Bible, huge tears of grief splashing onto its pages.  Through my tears I read again that great shout of the Lord’s: “Lazarus, come out!”—and then I saw in my mind’s eye what had just happened.  I saw, in my terrifying “now.”  My mother had “come out” as Jesus had called her name, and in my mind’s eye I saw that one she’d given me birth, who had been bound hand and foot with the grave clothes of cancer.  Jesus was telling those who stood around her tomb—the angels themselves—to “unwrap her and let her go”!

“And she that was dead came forth,” I murmured, my eye following the story in John 11.  A great flood of joy began to immerse me in its warm waves of praise.  The nurse came into the room.  “She’s home.  No more might, no more pain, no more tears, no more dying!” I said simply.  The nurse cried.  And so I sang her my song born out of my grief and overwhelming loss.  A song of comfort and of joy.  The words of my song were: “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.”

The tomb can be a place of both fear and comfort for the believer.  There is the fear of losing the familiar and loved one, and yet the joy of knowing that for those who have gone to be with the Lord, there is an incredible environment waiting for them where Jesus Himself is and where loved ones who have preceded us wait for us.  Our comfort is to know that those we love so very much are seeing our Lord’s face.  Though they are out of our arms, they are into His.  The Christian has this song to sing!

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine