Sunday, March 29, 2015

Receive the Mantle Well When it's Given to You


Dear Friends,

Have you ever thought about what a good job Elijah did in training his successor, Elisha?  If we want to see our work remain, we must pass on the mantle at the right time and in the right way.  It will be the fervent prayers of righteous men and women that accomplish this.

But perhaps the situation is turned around, and the mantle is being passed to us.  Let’s learn from Elisha’s example how to receive mentoring.

Elisha was minding his own business when Elijah appeared in the field where he was working.  Elisha was plowing with the last team of oxen (1 Kings 19:19).  Not too many people saw what Elijah did to Elisha.  This was a quiet summons, but a summons Elisha was prepared for.  He asked if he could say good-bye to his family, a request that was granted.  He then gave a feast for his plowmen, chopping up his plowing equipment to make the fire to cook the meat.  He literally “burned his bridges” behind him.  He knew that that’s what it was going to take to accept Elijah’s mantle.  Just as in marriage, there will need to be a leaving of the old life as we take up the new, so in ministry there needs to be a leaving and a cleaving as well.  We must burn our plows in order to give ourselves fully to the next task the Lord has for us.

Once you have reordered your priorities to accommodate whatever it is God is asking of you, then, like Elisha, you will need to begin with a willingness to learn all you can from your mentor.  A teachable spirit is of great price in the eyes of the Master.  Elisha became Elijah’s assistant (1Kings 19:21), serving in whatever capacity Elijah asked him to.  Good followers become good leaders.  Do we know how to assist?  Do we know how to be humble and to submit to leadership?  Then we will make good leaders when our turn comes.

And do we know how to love those who lead us?  It appears that there was genuine affection between the two men.  Read the account of their last day on earth together, and see how Elisha’s loyalty comes through.  He refused to leave his teacher, even though Elijah gave him every opportunity (2 Kings 2:1-12).

Do we know how to be loyal?  Loyalty is a great virtue and one that can make a team strong.  When conflicts arise, do we refuse to talk about our leaders behind their backs, but rather go to them in person and talk things through?  Somehow I cannot imagine these two biblical colleagues backbiting!

And do we know how to pray together as we do the work of the Lord?  I can imagine that, being such a man of prayer, Elijah prayed a lot with his young assistant.  It is praying together that will bind us together.  It is as we seek the face of God and the will of God that we shall see the fire of God in our joint ministries.  One person praying is good; two people praying is better.  Jesus said, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20).  There is power in having a prayer partner.  And those of us privileged to experience this can testify not only to the blessing in our own lives but, more important, the blessing in the work of the kingdom.

It was nearly time for the transfer of power to take place.  I’m sure Elisha didn’t feel he knew enough, was prepared enough, or could do enough to make a difference in his world.  But he knew what to ask for.  He knew that without the spirit of the living God he would be totally inadequate to carry on the work.  And so he asked Elijah, “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit” (2 Kings 2:9).  Elijah replied that this was not his to grant.  It was God’s gift.  As we know, God gave Elisha all he asked for.  God always equips His people to do the things He calls them to do.  We, too, can count upon Him for the same enabling when our turn comes.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pain Helps Us Get Closer to God

Dear Friends,

C. S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  But our society has convinced us—Christians and non-Christians alike—that we will be content only if we can avoid trouble.  Some of the most discontented women I know have the most trouble-free lives!  On the other hand, Joni Eareckson Tada has testified, “My paralysis has drawn me close to God and given a spiritual healing which I wouldn’t trade for a hundred active years on my feet!”  How could she say that?  Because the God of grace has visited her world of suffering, and He and she have become the best of friends!  It was trouble that introduced Joni to God.

A few years ago, our church invited Joni to speak to our community.  The night before we were to have the meeting, Joni and her caregivers stayed in a local hotel.  I called to take her to the meeting the next morning.  When we got on the elevator with a large group of businesspeople, I asked Joni. “What subject are you speaking about?”  “Grace,” she replied.  “But I’m going to sing first.”  Seemingly oblivious to all the people crowded around her wheelchair in the elevator, Joni sang “Amazing Grace” right through!  I looked around the elevator.  Some folks were staring at the ceiling, but most of the men and women were staring at “grace” personified.  They saw a beautiful woman paralyzed from the neck down but more whole than most of us in that small box with our bodies in good working order.  There were not a few tears as we reached the ground floor and went on our way.

How can you be content in a refugee camp with your husband a prisoner of war?  How can you be content in a wheelchair?  Only by knowing the God of grace, who sent Jesus to be Prince of Peace and who can give us the peace “which transcends all understanding’ (Phil. 4:7).  Anyone can understand having peace of heart when all is well, but it “transcends understanding” when you experience peace in the midst of disaster.

I often find myself listening to a litany of trouble detailed and recounted by Christian brothers and sisters who are in immense pain.  I marvel at the endurance and perseverance of so many who go through those deep, dark tunnels of affliction.  They do not have it easy.  But they do have it licked!  Trouble is beating down on them, but they are beating trouble!  Christ does that for them, and Christ can do that for all of us.  What is more, these people talk of the blessings these troubles have brought along in their pain.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe 
Executive Editor 
Just Between Us Magazine



Monday, March 16, 2015

The World that Broke God's Heart

Dear Friends,

As I have traveled this world from east to west and have seen God’s fingerprints in His marvelous creation, I have had to conclude that this is God’s world!  As I have looked with awe and delight at His creative handiwork in China, Europe, and the Americas, I could almost hear Him say to me as He said to Job:

Where were you when I laid the Earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.  Who marked off its dimensions?  Surely you know!  Who stretched a measuring line across it?  On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy (Job 38:4-7)?

Yes, this is my Father’s world.  Yet the pain and evil I have seen help me to understand a little bit better why this, my Father’s world, broke my Father’s heart.  I understand in a new way why it says in Gen. 6:5-6, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.  The LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.”

I have visited prisoners in Taiwan, stood in the killing fields of Cambodia, heard a bomb blast close at hand in Croatia, watched British SWAT teams hunt for terrorists in Northern Ireland, and returned home to the “good old U.S. of A.” to hear hundreds of our own kids killing each other on the streets.  As I look and listen in all these situations, the violence, the victimization, as well as the victory of the book of Job begin to make sense to me.  There is so much pain, not only in our extreme physical dilemmas, but also in the emotional and relational realms.  Husbands and wives beat and devour each other; children agonize over what they did wrong to cause Daddy or Mommy to leave the family; mental and verbal abuse are meted out to tiny children, the old, and the infirm.  Even churches and some of their leaders self-destruct, bringing spiritual pain to hundreds of disillusioned people.

But I am a Christian.  And so I believe that this, my Father’s world that broke my Father’s heart, has not been abandoned.  This is God’s world, and He wants it back!  He will not allow it to blow itself to pieces.  As Job puts it, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).  God does have a plan—a purpose for this hurting world.  It is to reconcile people to Himself through Christ, to give humanity a chance to know Him, to be forgiven, and to learn how to forgive in return.  Our heavenly Father wants us to live empowered by Him in this life, with the certain hope of living with Him in glory in the next.  To this end, the Father calls individuals to Himself and makes them a family, entrusting His own to make this good news known to those who have never heard it.


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine



Monday, March 9, 2015

God's Plan Above All Other Relationships

Dear Friends,

Because your relationship with the living God is God’s primary call on your life, it has to take precedence over all other relationships in your life.  In the case of Jeremiah, this relationship with the living God affected all his major decisions about other relationships, including marriage.

God told the prophet that he must not get married.  He didn’t say, “I would rather you didn’t get married.”  He said, “You must not marry” (Jer. 16:2).  Remember, God’s plan has a “mustness” about it.  God had a good reason for telling Jeremiah this.  He knew what was about to happen to the nation and was sparing him the agony of watching a wife and children suffer the unspeakable horrors that were about to happen (Jer. 16:3-4).

As with all major decisions about the relationships of life, God will guide us and tell us what He wants for us.  We are free to choose to either obey or disobey the promptings of the Spirit.  We are not free, however, to choose the consequences of our actions!  If Jeremiah had not allowed his relationship with God to rule all his other relationships, he would have faced even more intense personal loss and suffering.

Before I became a Christian, the girl who led me to the Lord asked me whether I was willing to stay unmarried if I became a follower of Jesus.  “Why would I need to stay unmarried?”  I inquired, startled.  “Aren’t there any Christian men around?”

“Not many,” was the reply.  “So by the law of averages you won’t find a Christian partner.”

“Then I will marry an unbeliever and win him to Christ,” I answered promptly.

“That’s the problem, Jill,” my friend replied.  “The Bible says you shouldn’t do that; it’s not the will of God.”  She explained that if marriage was in the plan of God for me, it must be only with a believer (2 Cor. 6:14).

So right at the beginning of my Christian life I realized that my relationship with God had to be more important than any other relationship in my life.  And how could it be more important if I was disregarding what He had clearly stated in His Word?

A young girl once confided to me that she was dating an unbeliever.  “But I’m praying about it,” she added hastily.

“Save your breath,” I replied.  “God has already told you not to do that.  In fact, it says in Ps. 66:18, ‘If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”  So save your breath and be an obedient child,” I advised her.  The plan of God should supersede your plans for yourself where other relationships, especially marriage, are concerned.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine