Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Have a Go!


Dear Friends,

In Britain we have a saying: “Have a go!” It means you may not think you have a chance of making something work, but if the “something” is worth the chance, you should “have a go!” I have found Americans reticent about “having a go.” If they can’t do it well, they must not do it at all, or so the argument goes.

It takes more grace to say yes to such opportunities than it does to say no. It takes the grace of God to “have a go” at a spiritual challenge that seems totally beyond us. I have found, however, that in trying to meet needs that I have felt I was not qualified to meet, I have had to depend more on God. When I depend more on God, I receive even more grace than when I worked within my own gifting!

Shortly after coming to America and taking the pastorate, I found myself facing so many needs I thought I was not gifted for, and I became greatly discouraged. I wanted to go back to England! But we don’t have the luxury of “going back to England” every time we feel discouraged! I realized I couldn’t choose to respond only to the things I knew I could do well because I was gifted to do them. This was especially true in the area of evangelism. The need is so great that evangelism is a situation that requires “all hands on deck.” The world is going to hell in a hand basket, and whether I am gifted or not, I can at least raise my voice above the noise and warn people where they are headed. My voice may not be pretty, but it can be loud! After all, if you see someone about to walk blindly over a cliff, it doesn’t matter how well you shout to warn them of the danger but only that you shout!

Any one of us can do the same. If we can read, we can read the Word of God to people who need to hear it. If we can talk, we can speak the Word of God. Have a go, don’t be afraid to fail, ask God to show you what risk He wants you to take today and say yes!

With joy,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, September 22, 2014

Work Outside Your Gifting

Dear Friends,   
  
When Jeremiah was put under house arrest, he realized he needed a messenger. His work was finished, and it was time to read the scroll to the people. He couldn’t do it because he was imprisoned in his own house. Someone else would have to go for him. So Jeremiah did the obvious thing: He sent Baruch. “You can do it. I cannot go to the Lord’s temple, but you can,” I can hear him saying encouragingly to the scribe. “So you go to the house of the Lord on a day of fasting and read to the people from the scroll the words of the Lord that you wrote as I dictated” (Jer. 36:6).

Jeremiah had great confidence in his friend. He had spent hours of prayer with him, and he knew his heart. Jeremiah also knew that “heart” was more important than “gift.” It would be Baruch’s heart for the Lord and for the people that would give him the courage to go to the temple and work outside of his gifting. Baruch could have offered all sorts of excuses. Above all, he could have objected, “It’s not my gift.” But he didn’t. He set off and just “did it.”

Have you ever used the excuse that you can’t do something that needs doing because it’s not your gift? Have you had some really good teaching on spiritual gifts and been quite excited that you have actually discovered yours? The only danger in that is you might abdicate your responsibilities if you don’t believe you are gifted for them! Maybe you have been exercising your gifts happily within the church or in the community. Then a need has arisen, and someone has asked you to volunteer to meet it. Have you ever said, “Sorry [you are really highly relieved], but it’s not my gift?” Even if it is not your gift, it may still be your responsibility!

As a pastor’s wife I have needed to listen to people’s troubles and try to say something to help them. Some would call that counseling. I do not count this as one of my gifts. I do it because there are not enough ears to listen to the hurts out there. At the end of my teaching meetings people want to talk and ask questions. Often these talks turn into “counseling sessions.” I find myself working outside of my gifting a lot of the time. At times like these I try to have a ministry of silence (listening) and a ministry of tears. Anyone can listen, and anyone can cry! That is, anyone who has asked God to break his or her heart with the things that break the heart of God. Only after I have tried to exercise a ministry of silence and tears do I use words. Try it. It is amazing the helpful thoughts that come to you in silence. A talker like me needs to exercise self-control in order to be a good listener, but God is delighted to help you with this if you ask Him to!

Baruch was willing to work outside of his gifting when it was necessary. How about you—are you willing to do the same? Pray about it.

With joy,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, September 15, 2014

Developing a Heart for People

Dear Friends,
When you read of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, you hear his heart. You hear his tears talking: “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matt. 23:37).  We can pray about people’s stubborn pride. Jesus and Jeremiah did.
Prayer that is effective is prayer that is specific. Jeremiah didn’t get on his knees and pray fervently, “Bless Israel!” He got down to specifics. He prayed about the root problem, and he prayed about the repercussions of the problem. If we will be effective in our prayers, we must do our homework so we can intercede with an intelligent understanding of the situation.
Prayer also prepares the ground before the seed is scattered on it. The sowers scatter the seed, and our tears water it. Prayer is the place where God softens our hard hearts toward difficult people who may be giving the sowers a hard time. And our prayers soften their hearts, too.
Jeremiah prayed plenty of “I’ve had it with them” prayers. When he stayed in the presence of God long enough, however, he began to catch the heart of God for these same people, and soon he would be weeping for them instead of wanting vengeance. There is little hope of nursing a heart of vengeance if you are engaging in a viable prayer ministry. A heart for people is developed on your knees.
I am struck with Jeremiah’s likeness to God. The prophet’s heart yearned for the people to repent and turn to the Lord, just as Jesus’ heart did. Jeremiah’s troubles were chiseling him into the likeness of God. “Perhaps they will bring their petition before the Lord, and each will turn from his wicked ways, for the anger and wrath pronounced against this people by the Lord are great,” he says (Jer. 36:7). God’s tears were on Jeremiah’s face. God’s compassion was in Jeremiah’s heart. God’s mercy was evident in the words Jeremiah was praying. God’s love was being offered freely to His people throughout Jeremiah’s life.
The secret of a heart of compassion is a secret prayer life that no one else knows about. What are you and God secretly doing together? Are you talking to Him regularly about all the people who are bound for destruction if they don’t repent, or could you not care less? You don’t grow compassion in public; you grow it on your face before God in the secret place.
Not long ago I spent some time asking God to show me an area of my devotional life in which He wanted me to grow. Unmistakably the answer came back, I want you to care.
“But I do care, Lord,” I remonstrated. “I spend every living moment attending to your work.”
Where are the tears? He asked me quietly. I had no answer because I had no tears. It was time to let Him do His work in me in the secret places of my heart.
If there are no tears, I will not be putting my life on the line.  I will not be taking risks, pushing boundaries, attaining heights, taking new initiatives. There will be no late-night candles burning at both ends because people are dying without Christ.
Compassion moves you from the comparative safety of your own house into the marketplace of the world to shout out the message from the housetops. Compassion gets you off the evangelical donkey and into the ditch or, if you like, into the trenches. If you are moved with compassion, you didn’t ride past someone in trouble as the scribe or Pharisee did in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37). You get down from your high horse and attend to the one who has been robbed and beaten by thieves. We must not leave this sort of compassion to the Jeremiahs of this world. We all need to develop a heart for people.   
When’s the last time you shed real tears for the people around you? Ask God to give you a heart of compassion for others—and start on your knees!
With joy,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, September 8, 2014

Overtime

Dear Friends,

My birthday was coming up. A rather significant one. There was nothing I could do to stop it happening! I could wring my hands or stamp my feet; pout or fume, pray for hours, even call an all-night prayer meeting with sympathetic friends to stave it off—it would do no good. It would happen anyway. As Jesus said 2,000 years ago, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (or subtract one!) (Matt. 6:27).

A few years ago I was speaking at a women’s event and my hostess had left me a basket of fruit in my room and a little note card with a greeting and a verse of Scripture. After reading the note and the verse I went to look in the mirror. Better get a better publicity picture, I thought! The verse was Psalm 71:18. It said: “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”

After sitting on the edge of my bed and meditating on the idea, I realized this was more than a kind note from the committee wishing to encourage an aging warrior who looked a little the worse for wear. This was a word from God!

Carefully I read the verse again and noted the one that came before it. “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.” I remembered my youth and my conversion at college in the UK. The wonder of discovering Jesus—or rather of Jesus discovering me—flooded over me. Pictures danced in my mind—of my friend’s shocked faces as I struggled to explain whose I was and whom I now served. My friends, most of whom found it impossible to reconcile the new Jill with the old familiar one, left me.

I thought about my rich heritage, having heard John Stott and C. S. Lewis (a professor at Cambridge the same period I attended college there.) I thought of my amazing opportunity to attend the famous Keswick convention and listed to celebrated British preachers, and I played back the memories of being taken along to hear a young and vibrant Reverend Billy Graham preach at the renowned Harringay Crusade in London.

I thought of meeting and marrying the love of my life and fellow “declarer of His might and power” and how we left the business world and worked on staff at a youth mission together. I remember roaming the streets of the UK and talking to kids who had never heard that Jesus was alive and had the power to change their lives as He had changed ours. And I thanked God all over again for my heritage of life and service. Yes, the verses from Psalm 71 walked off the pages and into my life that day years ago, making themselves at home. I took out my Bible and marked the place, so I would know where it was when I needed to remember it.

We—Stuart and I—I had just been in countries where freedom for the church was curtailed. Sitting on the floor in a hot humid upper room with thirty pastors’ wives, teaching the book of Philippians—the words of an aged man in a prison 2,000 years ago, restricted, yet declaring His power and might to the next generation of believers—I watched the careful attention and eager note taking. Some of those women are younger than my own children, I thought. In fact two of them were the age of our eldest grandchildren! These servants of Jesus were the next generation who would need to carry the torch to their children and grandchildren after them. They had no heritage like I had. They had few biblical helps, teachers or Bibles. Things were just plain difficult. Yet there was so much joy and laughter. Worship was whispered, prayer intense; hunger for the Word of God evident. Don’t stop, they asked me wordlessly after an hour and a half teaching session.  What joy to be there! What privilege.

They knew about my birthday and had prepared a special cake. There was little commotion downstairs and suddenly all the Bibles disappeared and a table appeared with my birthday cake on it decorated with my name. I was gently nudged into the center of a circle of women and a cake knife was put in my hand poised over the cake. My new friends gathered round and offered a hearty rendering of something that sounded vaguely like “Happy Birthday to You.” We celebrated. A little time passed and all was peaceful again and they said they were ready to finish Philippians 2. The cake disappeared—in case it was needed again. I will not soon forget that birthday!

The time came for me to return to the hotel, and a sweet young woman came to me shyly, struggling with her English. She said, “This last Sunday we honored our elderly people. And we gave them a verse of Scripture to encourage them. I want to encourage you too. Please come back someday. This verse if for you from the Lord.”

I knew without looking where she had turned in her Bible, before she read, “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” I cried. She cried.

We are told in the Word of God that our allotted lifespan is “threescore years and ten” (Psalm 909:10, KJV), so in one week’s time I would have completed my allotted span and joined my husband in “Overtime”! Later, I asked a friend who is a soccer coach to tell me what he said to his players if they tied a game and found themselves in overtime. Without hesitation he said, “If my players find themselves in overtime I tell them: ‘Take risks and go for the goal. Give it all you’ve got. Never give up!’” I realized: that’s what Stuart and I are doing. We are busier than ever, taking risks, going for the goal, giving it all we’ve got. We are sharing the wisdom God has so graciously granted us through the years. Hey, it’s okay—in fact; it’s a grand place to be! Hurry up and join us—the next generation is waiting! 

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Don't Give Up

Dear Friends,

As he worked, he prayed for the people to whom he was writing. The Prophet Jeremiah’s prayers fill his writings. They permeate his work, and he included them in his manuscript. If you want to learn how to pray for hard-hearted people, study the prayers of Jeremiah. If you want to learn how to pray for yourself, look into the prayer life of this man. Jeremiah prayed stubbornly, consistently, and with perseverance that the people of God would yet repent so that God would relent in sending disaster.

God’s intent is always to offer people every possible chance to come back to Him. Jeremiah and Baruch knew that. They believed that “his compassions never fail. They are new every morning” (Lam. 3:22-23). “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.” Because Jeremiah believed it was never over till it was over, he labored on.

Have you given up on someone? Have you quit praying for her? Has she given you little hope of her turning back to the Lord? Listen, it’s never over till it’s over. Call her on the phone one more time. Invite her to church. Send her that book or tape. Do battle on your knees for her. Weep before the throne. That person may yet repent, even if Nebuchadnezzar is knocking at the door. Jesus said that we “should always pray and not give up” (Lk. 18:1). We must not give up. Jesus said so.

Who do you need to keep praying for? Make a renewed commitment to not give up!

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine