Monday, January 26, 2015

Forgiveness Means Freedom from Keeping Accounts


Dear Friends,
Paul tells us that love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5).  Love doesn’t pick fights, but it also doesn’t keep a running record of someone else’s wrongs.

When someone has hurt us, perhaps verbally, and those cruel words have been said and have lodged in our thinking, it is hard not to keep a running record on the one who caused us so much pain.  Now here is a chance to really see ourselves as others see us.  Do kids remember the evil said or done to them on the school playground – or worse, said by a parent who tells them they are no good and they never should have been born?  Yes.  Do adults remember hurtful words?  Yes!  But Paul said we need to mature past this.  As we grow up in Christ, we should be able to learn the art of forgiving those who hurt and harm us, not keeping them accountable forever.  This is certainly easier preached than practiced.  It is awfully hard not to harbor a grudge, yet love lets go of the wrongs done to it.  Forgiveness relinquishes the right to vengeance.  Vengeance belongs to God, and He will repay.  Justice needs to be done, and we can expect people to be accountable for crimes and wrongs done, but vengeance is not our business.

The Bible says, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them” (Lk. 17:3).  But what if he doesn’t repent?  Then I hold myself ready to say, “I forgive you” if the time ever comes; but in the meantime, I refuse to harbor anger, bitterness, or resentment.

I was teaching in a Bible college not too long ago, and a young girl was assigned to look after me.  She was beautiful, godly, and bright.  She was a chartered accountant and was putting herself through college while keeping her career going.  At the end of my week, I was eating dinner with her and teased her about not being married.  “How did you escape?” I kidded her.

She didn’t reply for a moment; then she said hesitantly, “I was married.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said.  “I didn’t know.”

“That’s all right,” she said.  And I could see that it was.  It wasn’t all right that her husband had walked out on her in a particularly cruel way, but it was “all right” in her heart.  It was well with her soul.  Peace like a river flowed there.  She had been able to let go of the terrible wrong done to her.  What was more, the Lord had helped her to look at the future as God’s future for her, and she insisted on seeing a better day ahead.  True love from God keeps you from being discouraged.

This young woman at Bible college shared very few of the salient points of her story with me.  She gave me the bare bones and spared me, and herself, the details.  I knew she had left a multitude of information out of her brief account, but she refused to wallow in self-pity, and she had not kept an account of every sin.  She had forgiven him.  Not that he had sought her forgiveness, but she stood ready to say, if he ever did get around to asking her, “I forgive you fully and freely as Christ has forgiven me!”

Forgiveness is truly freeing!


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Singing the Comfort Song in a Time of Grief


Dear Friends,
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.  “Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to [those watching], ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’” (Jn. 11:43,44)
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 the other side of death, right then, even as I still sat on this side, 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 who’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”!
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 night, 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.
The problem is that what is best for them is worst for us!  We cannot but mourn their passing.  Like Martha and Mary weeping at Lazarus’s tomb, we believe the only thing that could ever bring some vestige of peace and comfort to our life would be to have our beloved “Lazarus” returned to our arms again.
But think of it from Lazarus’s perspective.  The story is told in John’s Gospel.  Lazarus gets sick and dies.  Probably in that day and age his was a premature and painful death.  It appears the illness was sudden.  Within a week of the sisters’ alerting Jesus to Lazarus’s illness, their brother was dead.  Actually, he was dead to Martha and Mary, yet more alive than he had ever been!  He was in a place where flowers never fade, no one ever gets sick again, and things beyond his wildest dreams or imaginings were happening.  The Bible says, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no mind has conceived—the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).  Lazarus was surely thinking, It’s heaven to be in heaven!
Then Jesus came to his tomb and shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”  Can’t you hear Lazarus groan, “Oh no!” I’m sure he said, “Not again.  You mean go back to suffer and die a second time?  Must I leave ‘here’ to go ‘there’?”  Yet he had to respond to the voice of Resurrection and Life standing outside his earthly tomb – so he obeyed. 
But who benefited?  Lazarus, or Martha and Mary?  Sometimes we have a very poor view of heaven, don’t you think?
In the hospital room on my knees, I knew that what was worst for me was best for my mother and I took down my harp from the grief tree and got ready to sing a song.
I sang my song many times in the days following my mother’s death.  I sang it to the people of God, and I sang it to nonbelievers.  And many listened to me, because even nonbelievers have loved ones who get sick and die.  Even nonbelievers have to sit beside their parents waiting for their breathing to stop.  They need to know there’s a waiting room where God is to be found.  There is a sanctuary inside a forgiven sinner, where comfort is given, hope is birthed, and joy – incredible joy – is waiting for us.
Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Don't Try to Figure Out Why


Dear Friends,
One thing we should avoid as best we can is wasting too much energy trying to figure out the whys.  “But that’s impossible,” I hear you say.  “I have so many questions.”  Perhaps you could ask God a different question.  How about asking how instead of why?

When Mary was visited by Gabriel and told she was to have a baby – and not just a baby but the baby, the one every Jewish girl hoped she would be privileged to bear – she didn’t ask why but rather how.  She could quite understandably have asked, “Why?  Why now?  Why here?”  Instead, she simply asked, “How?”  The answer to “How can I possibly do the will of God in this incredible situation?” was quite simple, given by the angel visitor:  “The Holy Spirit…” Immediately Mary responded with a glad “I am the Lord’s servant.”

I have tried to train my reactions to behave in such an exemplary fashion.  When my husband was needed to travel around the world as a leader and evangelist, I was tempted to ask, “Why?  Why now? [We had small children and widowed mothers to care for.]  Why here, far away from family to help me – why?”  It was a struggle, but I managed to start asking, “How?  How will I find the strength to live above these difficult circumstances, Lord?  How will I be able to be a mother and a father to three small children?”  When a “Why couldn’t other men on the team take their turn on the road, why does it have to be my husband?” sort of question would raise its head, I’d counter it with, “Why shouldn’t it be my husband?  Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of being married to someone you are using so greatly!  How can I be a partner at this time?  How can I be both a mom and dad so he can go in peace, knowing things are taken care of at home base?”  God’s answers to my how questions were always the same.  They were the answers Mary received from Gabriel.  The Holy Spirit would overshadow me, and in His power the challenge would be faced and His will would be done.

So next time a why starts demanding to be heard, try running instantly to the waiting room in order for the how to begin.  It is in our internal “still point” – our waiting room – that, as we worship, we will be helped to lay down our whys at His feet.

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine



Monday, January 5, 2015

Learning to be Content

Dear Friends,
Many people believe contentment is a feeling – and you can’t learn a feeling.  Yet, contentment isn’t primarily a feeling.  It is a spiritual environment, a state of being – an ordering of our internal chaos:  Contentment is inner peace.  Augustine defined peace as the “tranquility of order,” and in a sense that is what contentment is.  However, peace and contentment are not the absence of outward conflict but rather peace in the middle of conflict – tranquility in the storm!  Contentment isn’t getting your own way either, it’s a settled peace when you don’t get your own way!
Paul was living out his last days in prison, stripped of every comfort we take so much for granted.  Fettered to a guard, Paul testified to the fact he was quite content!  Deprived of his freedom – possibly facing lions or sword, Paul penned words that centuries later shout with superb serenity.  These are words that are really amazing.  After all, most of us are not looking for contentment when all is well with our world and our soul, but when all is ill with both!  When the apostle wrote Philippians 4, he was going through one of the darkest parts of his career.  Yet, as my husband puts it, “Prisoner though he was, he was ‘bound for joy’!”  Paul found that the secret of happiness was not in his circumstances but in the loving God who had permitted those circumstances to happen.  Paul was concerned the Philippians might think he was dependent upon their generous gifts for contentment and peace.  He wanted them to know that in every situation Christ would help him to maintain an attitude of trust and confidence in Him (Phil. 4:12-14).
As far as Paul was concerned, the content of contentment was Christ.  He said it this way:  “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).  He really didn’t care very much what happened to him – not because he had given up hope or was depressed or suicidal, but because he counted both options (life or death) as wonderful!  It’s hard to hurt a man with such a resilient philosophy.  It’s called contentment.
But I notice to my relief that this same grace, this virtue, can be acquired!  Paul says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil. 4:11).  We are enrolled by a loving God in the school of hard knocks and are expected to learn our lessons well.  We can all be home schooling ourselves in the art of being content.
Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine