Monday, June 29, 2015

Your Roots in His River

Dear Friends,

Will we ever get over succumbing to the devil’s notion that a tree planted by the river should be an object of pity—that a scrub bush has a much better handle on life?  The devil wants us to believe he can supply all we need to deal with life itself if we will only bow down and worship him.  That’s nonsense!  Look at the lives of scrub bushes, and pity them, for they have no roots and no river, no leaves when the heat comes, no fruit.  What’s so beautiful about that?

The simple principles are as follows.  First ask yourself, Do I possess the Spirit?  If not, or if you are unsure, make sure.  Pray, “Please, God, will you forgive my sin and invade my life?”  Then thank Him for answering your prayer.  Second, having made sure of His Spirit in you life, ask yourself, Do I know anything of living in the power of spiritual truth and producing spiritual fruit?  If not, examine your roots.  Next, spend time deciding which river you are placing your roots in. Change the situation if need be.

Think about the “sap” of Scripture.  Does it fill your branches? What will you do about that if the answer is no?  Will you purchase a good study Bible, sign up for a Bible course, buy some teaching tapes, or join a Bible study?  Ask God to show you your tree as He sees it.

Is there any fruit on your tree?  Are your branches laden with it, or is there a lone orange hanging on a twig?  Read Galations 5:22-23.  Pray about this description of the fruit of the Spirit.  Finally, as you put out your roots in the direction of the river, let them down into its depths.  Be done with dabbling in the shallow streams at Easter and Christmas!  Then leave them there, and see what God will grow in your life and show in your life.  May Jeremiah’s parable be the blessing to you it has been to me.


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, June 22, 2015

How to Listen and Respond to Criticism

Dear Friends,

Do you respond, or react, to criticism?  I must confess I usually react first and respond later, but I have learned some lessons along the way!  First of all I ask myself, Is it true?  Isaac D’Israeli said, “It’s much easier to be critical than correct.”  If it’s a correct criticism, try to humble yourself and own it.  Then ask the Lord how to proceed in dealing with it.  If it isn’t true, you need to let it go rather than mull it over, rehearsing it late into the night or sharing it with friends on the phone, thereby keeping it alive.

Second, commit yourself to the Lord who judges fairly.  After he had been judged by various people in varying degrees of hostility and accusation, the apostle Paul finally had to say, “It matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority” (1 Cor. 4:3).  Sometimes we have to leave the record in God’s hands, because we can’t control what others think and what they say about what they think, and how many people they tell, and whether or not what they tell is true.  Often, when we try to go back and clean up our record, it only muddies the waters.

Third, Paul urges us not to spend valuable time judging ourselves on the matter.  If we have endless postmortems over a situation, no kingdom work will ever get done!  We need to take it to God and let His holy light into our hearts.  We must open up the secret springs of our motivation for Him to examine, for He alone knows us through and through.  Then as we commit our actions to His scrutiny, we need to rely on His judgment of the matter and, if it is possible, put right our part and leave the rest to Him.

Job found out that the one thing he needed to do above all else was to consider the source.  Sometimes a critic is motivated by jealousy (do you ever get the feeling that a person wants to see you fail?) or has some other spiritual ax to grind.  So when someone says to you, “I have a word from the Lord for you,” check it out against what you know about the person bringing you the message.  Then check it against what you already know about God.  And don’t ignore what your own experiences of life have taught you.  Job’s general knowledge of life had enabled him to say, in essence, “Were you just born yesterday?  Open your eyes!  Good people have trouble all the time.”

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Dashed Expectations

Dear Friends,

If I hear one thing above all else from ministry wives it’s this phrase:  “I never expected this!”  I can’t count the numerous times I’ve heard such things as, “When I signed up for missions I did not have this in mind.”  Many ministry wives get where they’re going, and then look around and say, “You mean this is what we left the business world for?”  Or “This is what all those years in seminary have led to?”

When men enter the ministry after having had secular careers, they bring a lot of positives to their work.  They can bring their educational expertise or vocational experience with them.  But I am often faced with the wives of these men who say something like, “Hey, I married a CPA.  I didn’t marry a Christian education director.”  A pastor’s wife said to me not long ago, “I’m married to a man I didn’t marry.  I did not marry a pastor, and if I’d known this is what he was going to do, I wouldn’t have married him at all,” and she meant it!  So in some cases there are deep, deep conflicts that are not easily resolved, exacerbated by unfulfilled expectations, the other side of the move into ministry.

Add to this the frustrations of a spouse who has been working with lots of resources he doesn’t have available to him anymore.  I know Stuart struggled with adapting to a very different world from that of a top bank executive when he tried to reorganize the mission offices and finances.  He badly wanted to use his knowledge gained from the working world, but he discovered that many mission organizations don’t have access to needed resources.  The money is not there to hire more staff and update the equipment – or even to possess the equipment necessary to do the job!  Somehow we can enter the world of ministry in rose-colored spectacles, never expecting the standard of operation to be as low as we find it.  Then we have to work at a level well below our training or capacity.

We need to pull together at this point, giving each other a sympathetic hearing but encouraging each other with love and Scripture and, above all, cheerfulness.  What Stuart and I learned during that time was that people are God’s most precious resources.  In the middle of my dashed expectations I needed people to fill the lonely hours when my husband was away, while Stuart had to remind himself that we were in the right place, even if the equipment was lacking.  God wasn’t limited by the absence of a computer.


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, June 8, 2015

A Promise of Power

Dear Friends,

Can’t you imagine Peter asking the Lord after their breakfast by the sea, “How can I be sure I won’t fail You again?  Where will I find the power to find the sheep and shepherd the lambs?” And can’t you almost hear Jesus’ reply to His inquisitive apostle, which was in effect, “Wait, and the power will be given to you”?

The disciples were told this after Jesus’ death and resurrection, while His followers were still trying to grasp the miracle that He was alive.  He explained to them some things about His kingdom and the role they were to play in it.  And then He told them, “Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49).

Now, that must have sounded like good news to Peter and the others. Power was just what they needed! And the Lord Jesus promised that empowerment would come soon:  “In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).

The disciples were reminded of this promise of power right after Jesus ascended into heaven. Two angels appeared and told the watching disciples to stop gazing up into the sky, because “this same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). In the meantime, the angel implied, there were things to do!

So the disciples obeyed the angel’s injunction and the Lord’s command. They waited in Jerusalem, busying themselves with prayer until they were empowered for their ministry.

The disciples were gathered together to celebrate the Jewish Feast of Pentecost when it happened.  The sounds of heaven announced the Spirit’s grand arrival, and all the people in Jerusalem were drawn to the vicinity to see what all the commotion was about.

The Spirit touched each man and woman gathered together in turn, igniting them all with the flame of God’s love and power.  And then they tumbled out of their meeting place into the streets of the city, sharing the gospel in languages they had never even learned.

This miracle, witnessed by hundreds of people of all tongues and nations who were gathered from all corners of the Roman Empire for the feast, gave Peter a golden opportunity.  Standing up unashamed and unafraid, endued with power from heaven, he preached a powerful message which resulted in three thousand people committing their lives to Christ Jesus.

Not bad for a day’s work! And what a fulfillment to Jesus’ promise of power.


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Faith to Handle Conflict

Dear Friends,

Who hasn’t had difficult people in their lives?  How many of us have come unglued when called to work with someone who drives us crazy?  Some people find it really hard to work with people!  They would rather fly solo and be their own boss.  Perhaps they have a difficult personality, hold strong opinions, can’t delegate, or feel they need to do everything themselves.  I don’t know how Jeremiah and Baruch felt about working with other people, but I do know that God had a partnership in mind for both of them.  Among other things, He has companionship and mutual encouragement in mind.  “It is not good for the man (or woman) to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

In marriage you have a choice about the one with whom you will spend the rest of your life.  In ministry, however, other people often choose our partners for us.  The church gives us our colleagues.  And so often it seems that the church would be a fun place except for the people in it!  How often does the women’s ministry place two women who can’t abide each other together on committee?  How often do the elders call a new member to the staff without checking with the rest of the team?  And whether we choose our partners or not, it is in both marriage and ministry that Satan sees his chance to work a whole lot of mischief.  He knows if he can’t get us from outside the camp, he will get us from inside.

Edinburgh castle in Scotland had never been captured in its history until a traitor let down the drawbridge from within and the enemy ran amok.  So it is with us.  Satan works with the enemy within us – our old nature – to bring us down.  We need to learn not to let the drawbridge down!  He knows very well that strong personalities clash.  He is the father of dissension.

They say that opposites attract.  It was certainly true in Stuart’s and my case.  My husband is laid back, and I am habitually uptight.  He is full of fun whereas I have to enter “Have fun – Thursday” on my schedule, or it doesn’t happen!  He is very precise where details are concerned while I am a dreamer and love to exaggerate.  Opposites do indeed attract, but give the marriage time, and opposites begin to irritate!  If this is true in marriage, it is all the more true where strangers are put together in ministry, and if it is true in our time, then it was certainly true in Bible times.

In the New Testament, Paul and Barnabas had their disagreements.  They had a falling out over giving young John Mark another chance after he had let them down on a missionary journey (Acts 15:37-40).  And look at Jeremiah and Baruch in the Old Testament.  Jeremiah’s temperament is legendary, for he has gone down in history as “the weeping prophet”.  All who knew him said he was a melancholy individual.  Whether he started off life this way or not, we don’t know.  By the time he linked up with Baruch, he had wept his way through not a few laments and was well on his way to earning his reputation of weeping.  It could be that life in all its harshness caused the sadness in his soul, or he may have just been made that way.

Our oldest son, David, was not an early talker.  When he did utter his first words, however, they were clear and concise:  “oh dear,” he sighed!  Guess who he had been hanging around – his mother!  David’s sober side surfaced first, and we discovered that he was certainly influenced by his mother’s moans and groans.  (I am melancholy too!)  His temperament was a truly serious one.  God had given him his personality.

Baruch, on the other hand, was named “Blessed.”  Let us presume the name speaks for his character or personality.  God, having a wry sense of humor, put this weeping prophet and blessed scribe together.  We could call them “Weepy” and “Happy”.  God told them:  “Just do it, and do it together!”  Now that was quite a challenge.  There is no doubt that the two men had little in common but the Lord, but that was quite enough to make their partnership work.

Did Baruch, the meticulous scribe, and Jeremiah, the mystical dreamer, ever struggle with putting it all together?  You can be certain that they did.  But they found their common ground, compromised where necessary, and celebrated their differences with God’s help and so can you!


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine