Tuesday, August 26, 2014

God Enables

Dear Friends,

That was twenty years of memories-a lot of words on a scroll and a lot of remembering! If I had been the Prophet Jeremiah, I can imagine how many excuses I would have made. I have written a few autobiographical books and know how hard it is to remember that many years back. I have said, as I’m sure Jeremiah did, “Lord, I can't remember. Help me.” And God Himself brought the necessary words and incidents to mind.

Have you ever had a hard time remembering things? Have you said, “But, Lord, I can’t possibly remember all those things. What happens if I get it wrong?” Yet God Himself enables us to fulfill all of His demands. If you, like Jeremiah and Baruch, simply are obedient to whatever God is asking of you, you will find you have the capacity to do it.

The Bible simply records the men's obedience. “So Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and while Jeremiah dictated all the words the Lord had spoken to him, Baruch wrote them on the scroll” (Jer. 36:4). Together they accomplished this incredible task. What seemingly impossible thing has God called you to do? Do you know that God himself by his enabling Spirit will do it?  “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).

Facing a big writing project that asked for daily Bible study notes for a year, I felt overwhelmed and quite inadequate. I sat miserably in my study, berating myself for taking on the assignment. It required remembering many thing from the past. Bible notes were lost, outlines of sermons long gone, and yet these were the very things I needed to do the job. “I can’t remember enough,” I complained to the Lord. "I should have been better organized and kept better files. I'm old, and it's hard to remember all those verses and lessons of the past."

You are as old as you should be, He reminded me. You certainly should have kept better notes, but you didn't.

“So what shall I do now? I can't remember!” I whined .

I can remember, He replied. Ask me! I called you to this task, now rely on me to do the work in you and through you. And God enabled me to remember. I finished the project and, incidentally, with material left over!

As the two men took the opportunity to work on the scrolls, Nebuchadnezzar was marching toward their city. Yet Jeremiah and Baruch never gave up. They didn't throw their hands up and say, “What's the use? It’s all over,” or, “Well, these obdurate people have had their chances to hear Jeremiah’s preaching. Why should we believe they would read his book?” They had faith enough to try one more thing, take one more risk, and finish the work they were doing. They had faith enough to believe that it is never over till it's over.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine




Monday, August 18, 2014

Living Well in Tough Circumstances

Dear Friends,

Jeremiah and Baruch continued their work with the Word of God, and the opposition did their level best to silence them, even putting Jeremiah under house arrest. They did not, however confine Baruch. Perhaps Baruch’s friends put in a good word for him. Maybe there were sympathetic people in the government than we know about who could pull a few strings. In any case, surely God’s hand kept Baruch free for the job He wanted him to do. Having Jeremiah confined to his quarters did not stop the men from doing their work. In fact, it was in this restricted situation that they accomplished their work, and precious scrolls were written.

I think of the apostle Paul in prison saying, “What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Phil. 1:12). Would the prison epistles have been written without the prison? Hardly. Imagine doing without the book of Philippians! Would the book of Jeremiah be in our Bible today if Jeremiah had remained a free man? Jeremiah and Baruch learned to see an opportunity in every difficulty and used their time of forced inactivity to good advantage.

Do you find yourself confined to the house? Do you feel as if you are under house arrest? You can feel like that if you have small children and you are a stay-at-home mom. You can identify if you are fighting a chronic disease and you are home for a long recuperation. Perhaps you are a caregiver and restricted by your responsibilities. There are myriad ways you can understand the feelings of Jeremiah and Baruch. There is so much to do, and yet you have been put under house arrest! Use the time. If God wanted you out and about you would be out and about. The Lord gave the two men a gift of grace when He game them this period of forced confinement.

I remember feeling as though I was under house arrest when I was a young mother and my husband was traveling. I was shut up for endless days and nights in a small house with three children below school age. One day in the middle of my quiet time a still small voice said, It’s a gift. Why don’t you say thank you? If I had failed the test of treating this period of time as a privilege rather than as a punishment, I would have missed the opportunity to begin to develop my writing skills. Looking back, I have never since had such a sweet time of productivity. Listen to God's voice. He is saying, “It’s a gift!”

God gave “house arrest” to Jeremiah, and he accepted it and exploited it for the Lord. “’Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now,’ the Lord instructed Jeremiah” (Jer. 36:2). So the two servants of the Lord used the tough circumstances of arrest as a time to work hard to finish the scrolls.  Jeremiah had to remember, perhaps with the help of notes, twenty years’ worth of messages, and Baruch painstakingly wrote them down.

How does God want to use your “house arrest”?

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor 
Just Between Us Magazine



Monday, August 11, 2014

Difficult Choices

Dear Friends,

One fateful day I tremblingly got down on my knees with my brand-new Bible open on the bed in front of me. I couldn’t pray! All I could do was will myself to stay there as my best friend looked at me in shock. Then I heard the door open, and she called out to the girls down the corridor, “Come here and look at this! She's gone cuckoo!” As I heard the footsteps coming along the corridor to “look at this,” a huge sense of joy engulfed me. I think joy is feeling God’s pleasure.

So many people think joy is experiencing their own pleasure. But it doesn’t work like that. When we bring joy and delight to the heart it doesn't work like that. When we bring joy and delight to the heart of God, He lets us know that deep down inside us, and our heart smiles. When Jesus sent the larger group of His disciples out to minister in His name for the first time, they returned full of excited stories of what had happened. They also “returned with joy” (Lk. 10:17). “Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure’” (Lk. 10:21). When we are doing the Father’s good pleasure-the things He has called and gifted us to do-His joy is transferred to our hearts, strengthening us to please Him. After all, “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). When Olympic sprinter Eric Liddell ran, he experienced the joy of God. “God made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure,” he said.

As I knelt there by my bed in college, I felt his pleasure. I knew I was exactly where I ought to be, doing what I should be doing. It would be alright, even though I was sure this was the end of those friendships. I was right about that. My friends never spoke to me again, and I was left to find out whether God would give me other friends. I know now that if I had not passed that basic test, I would not have been ready for the next one, and the next and the next. Whatever small challenge you are facing as a Christian in a hostile world, never underestimate its importance. God is strengthening you along the way for the bigger challenges ahead.

It might be that you do His will and your heart smiles but other hearts frown, or worse, scowl! You may feel God's pleasure while others are incensed. In the same passage that Jesus talks about the disciples knowing His joy and their joy being full, He talks about the world hating them (Jn. 17:13-14). The forces of evil are not moved by our joy. In fact, their fury knows no bounds when they come across joyful Christians, and they set about wiping the joy off our faces. They do this by entering the arena of our testing and trying to use it to their advantage. But God is on our side, and we shall not be moved, even in the greatest trials.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who, in the face of Nazism, said, “When a person has completely given up the idea of making something of himself-then one throws himself entirely into the arms of God, then one no longer takes seriously his own sufferings, but rather the suffering of God in the world” (Broadman’s Commentary on John, p. 372).

Bonhoeffer took his prison term as a gift of God to him and an opportunity to minister to other victims in the prison. Bonhoeffer lost his life to gain it in a better place. He became so identified with the "fellowship of Christ's sufferings" that his life stands as a beacon and an example for the suffering church around the world. We need to give up the idea of making something of ourselves. As we focus on the things that matter to God and not the things that matter to us, we’ll be able to buckle down to the task at hand.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine





Monday, August 4, 2014

Finding the Joy of Jesus in Life Under the Sun


Dear Friends,

When God came to earth in Christ; when He walked in our fields, and ate at our tables; when He wore our clothes, and went to our weddings and cried at our funerals – He wanted us to know His joy.  The cry of the human heart is for happiness.  Our hearts are crying when they know they should be laughing.  They are in turmoil and they know they should be at peace.  Something is very wrong.

Jesus wanted us to know serenity despite heartache caused by life under the sun.  Joy that flows from a heart untroubled by the troubles of life was intended to be a characteristic of His people.  So one day He gathered His disciples around Him and said to them, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (Jn. 16:24).  Then He prayed to His Father that “they” (the disciples) “May have the full measure of my joy with them (Jn. 17:13, italics mine).

Jesus also said, “My peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives (Jn. 14:26).  He gives peace as only He can give it!  So when you can’t praise Him for what He allows, praise Him for who He is, “in” what He allows.  Receive His joy and peace.  Often we think of prayer as giving.  We give God information.  We tell God all about it.  (Although of course, He knows more about it than we do already!)  Or we think of prayer as “asking” – reciting our shopping list for God.  We need to learn to enter the presence of the Lord to receive as well.

Usually we rush into God’s presence and talk our heads off.  We have limited time and we want to make sure we have our say.  This leaves little time for God to respond!  We finish praying and move on with our day – without allowing Him to give us something.  Maybe He wanted to show us a word of encouragement in the Scriptures, or to bring to mind a person who might help us with a problem.  Or perhaps just to settle our frantic spirits and give us tranquility.  God is left with His blessing in His hands as He watches us rush away and resume our activities.  God always has something for us.  Make sure you take the time to receive it.

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine