Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Self Worth Bank

Dear Friends,

What you do and how you live matters to God, because you matter to Him and so do the people who need our help.  One way He will evaluate our lives will be according to the way we invest ourselves in the poor and needy.  He appreciates what we do for those less fortunate than ourselves and will reward us for it.

We live in a “look good – feel good” culture, so it’s easy to miss the point that a “God culture” is all about “being good – doing good.”  Want to know the path to joy?  “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8).  Solomon shares his own life experiment in this regard.

“I thought in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.’  But that also proved to be meaningless.  ‘Laughter,’ I said, ‘is foolish.  And what does pleasure accomplish?’” (Eccl. 2:1-2).  Another translation reads, “Laughter is silly.  What good does it do to seek pleasure?” (NLT) It’s not that we shouldn’t seek pleasure and laughter at all, but rather we shouldn’t seek only those things.

A God culture is a “see that good is done to others” culture.  You can have fun doing that!  It’s a different kind of fun that the tinsel triviality of silliness.  Deep joy that cannot be troubled by trouble is found in doing justice where there is no justice being done; loving mercy where cruelty rules; and walking humble with your God instead of drawing attention to your good deeds.

I was a very selfish teenager.  Looking back, I can’t understand how I had any friends!  I remember once in French class I was acting up and being disruptive.  My teacher stopped the whole class and said to me in front of everyone, “Jill Ryder, you must be the most selfish creature on God’s green earth!”  I turned bright red and was totally humiliated and angry at her, but I knew she was right.  I thought I was making a lot of fun for my friends and me – but actually I deserved the rebuke.  It got me thinking that I ought to put my time to more profitable use!

But try though I would, I could not get that egocentricity out of my life.  It took the saving life of Christ to get me thinking about others rather than myself.  It may not sound like much fun, but joy comes through knowing the Living God who gave Himself for us.  He wants to give Himself – through us – to help others.

Satisfaction comes from the experience of getting down and dirty in the ditch with the person who’s been beaten up by life on this crazy planet.  It’s in binding up the man’s wounds, putting him on your own donkey, taking him to a place of safety, looking after him until he heals – and paying the innkeeper’s bills on top of it all – that you find purpose!  (See Luke 10:30-35).

As you tend to the physical needs of one beaten up by robbers, joy comes in telling them that they are made for another world – a world where there will be no more pain, tears, death, sickness, poverty or despair.  There is great joy in promoting justice, mercy, and grace in a world where, as in Qoheleth’s world, injustice lives in the courts and cruelty survives in the streets.

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, May 11, 2015

The Look of Real Love

Dear Friends,

The Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8,16).  But what sort of love is He made of?  Warm fuzzy feelings?  Love that quits loving when it is not reciprocated?  Is His love conditional – “I’ll love you if you love me”?  Does He promise to love me only if I’m good, if I don’t sleep with my boyfriend or girlfriend before marriage, or if I’m pretty?  Does He expect me to say my prayers, go to church, and read my Bible before He will love me back?  What does the love of God look like?  How does it behave?  How can I describe it?

The young women listened attentively as I explained that the Greek language has several different words that English translates simply as “love.”  Those words describe different kinds of love.  The word that Paul uses to describe love in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape.  This word refers to unconditional love.  It means that God loves without conditions, irrespective of our reaction or response.  It is love “God style,” not love American style, or Western style.  It is a love that is willing to be rejected and still love on.  It is a love that loves the unlovely.  It is a love that lays down its life for its friends.  Human beings are incapable of loving this way.  In order to do this, we need the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Other Greek words describe the kinds of love that we experience.  For example, there’s phileo, which pictures friendship love.  And there’s eros, the “feeling too big for words” sort of love, the love we feel for a boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse.  But rarely do we experience agape love. 

Imagine what it would be like if we could love others as God loves us.  Why, that would revolutionize the world!  Yet this is exactly what God requires of us.  When we become His children, the Holy Spirit enters our hearts and begins to grow His “fruit,” one of which is love – agape love (Gal. 5:22).  The Holy Spirit within us then enables us to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and to love our neighbor as much as we love our selfish selves.  God does not tell us to do anything that He does not enable us to do!  He Himself is the enabling of all of His commands.

So how do we respond to this news?  How does the love of God get into our hearts in the first place?  Well, not without an invitation!  “Love has good manners” (1 Cor. 13:5).  The love of God comes into our hearts when we invite Jesus by His Spirit to come into our lives.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Plan to be Part of God's Will

Dear Friends,

Job lived in God’s world, spent time in God’s waiting room, and found out that it was all part of God’s will.  It is God’s will that we live in the right way in a world gone wrong, and we can’t do that unless we understand a little of God’s plan.  Job talked about the plan of God.  He believed with all of his heart that there was one.

When trouble comes to you, it can often seem as if confusion reigns and there are no orderly workings anywhere in the whole universe.  And yet Job insisted there was a plan.  When someone messes up your plans, it’s a great joy to believe no one can mess up God’s plan for you!

What do we mean by “God’s plan”?  It’s the same as His will – what He wants to happen.  It’s what He has in mind.  The apostle Paul told us that God’s will is “good, and acceptable, and perfect” (Rom. 12:2), but therein lies the trouble.  How can you possibly believe you are in God’s will and that it is good when you are nursing a terminally ill patient, standing in horror in the killing fields of Cambodia, or reading about the genocide in Rwanda?  What’s good, perfect, or acceptable about any of that?  What’s good, perfect, and acceptable about a marriage that ends, a child who goes off the deep end, or a church that splits?

The only logical conclusion you can come to is that we must be talking about something else when we talk about the good, perfect, and acceptable will of God.  Again, in Philip Yancey’s words, we mustn’t “confuse life with God.”

First of all, we need to believe that God is an orderly God, that He does have a purpose, and that His purpose hasn’t changed.  He is a purposeful God.  He is not haphazard or random.  His universe works like heavenly clockwork.  There are laws of nature in the universe that the life of other worlds depends on, and the Bible claims that God wrote, implements, and controls those laws.  In the same way, the laws of human behavior that God has ordained will bring order to the chaos of our relationships if we let Him control us.  He has a purpose and plan for the creatures of His universe as surely as He has a plan for that universe.

Second, God has the power to maintain the created order of things that submit to His control.  He is omniscient and omnipotent and “all things were created by Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16).  There is an overarching purpose for it all:  that all of creation brings glory to the Creator, and rightly so.  When we order our lives according to the God of order, good and glory are the results.

Third, it is God’s plan that everything out of control be brought into subjection to Him to honor and praise His name.  What, then, does He have in mind for the wicked and for this world gone mad?  A plan of renewal, regeneration, and redemption.  This plan includes that creatures having a free will – namely, human beings like us – willingly accept His way to that renewal or reflect it.  One way or another God’s plan is, in the end, a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1), where righteousness dwells and where all who plan to be part of His plan will live together in harmony.  To this end, all things are working together for that ultimate good (Rom. 8:28).

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine