Monday, November 30, 2015

Hanging On To Hope



Dear Friends,

Not too long ago I was concerned about two of our grandchildren. Instead of panicking and praying about every new problem that arose, I took a step back and began to pray the “bigger thing” for them. I started to pray for them that they would so love the Lord that they would end up either on the mission field making waves for God or being change makers--instruments of change--in the marketplace. I began to thank God in advance for hearing and answering this prayer.

Almost at once I noticed a difference. As I refused to be intimidated by my concerns for them and began to claim God’s best, I witnessed a turnaround in their choices, behaviors, and ambitions. I refused to major on the minors, worrying about every little crisis along the way, but turned my prayers to the major things in their future. I prayed about the positives and quit praying about the negatives. I loved and trusted them on my knees before God. Try it!

Lord God of my grandchildren, I am aching for those I love. Turn them around for your sake. Direct their feet into the path of life. Make of them mighty forces for your kingdom. Call them into such a vibrant relationship with you that people will find Christ through them. May they love you more dearly and know you more nearly, moments by moment and day by daily day. May they love you as you love them. And may this spiritual renewal in their hearts and lives spill over into their family and their world. Lord, I trust you to do this new work of grace in their lives, and I trust them to respond. Lord, I believe in them. I believe the best about them. I refuse to think about the worst but leave you to take care of those dark things. Have your own marvelous way in their lives. Thank you, Lord, in advance for doing this. How I love and praise you for these things that shall come to pass. I love and trust you, Lord. Amen.

Hope is overwhelming confidence in the God who can do anything with anyone at any time in any place. In Greek though, hope was essential for man’s well-being. The Greeks had a myth that Zeus gave humankind all good things for life and put them in a jar. Curiosity lifted the lid, and all the food things in the jar escaped back to the gods. The lid was slammed shut, and hope was trapped. The gods knew that hope was essential for the well-being of humankind. That’s a nice fable, but they got one thing very right. Hope is essential for the well-being of humankind! “Where there’s life there’s hope,” the saying goes. The converse is also true. Where there’s hope there’s life.

Hope is something that belongs very particularly to the Christian. The New Testament talks about a “living hope” (1 Peter 1:3, NIV). Psychologist Sigmund Freud said we needed to look to the past for hope. So everyone began to dig up their past. Then came the people who said, “No, hope is to be found not in the past but in the present.” Then existentialism ruled the day. Now with people’s hearts failing them for fear because of international situations, many are looking towards the future, trying to find hope in these uncertain days. This is where Christians come into their own! Christian love always has hope for the future.

Christians actually have the best of all worlds. We can look back on the past and know we are forgiven; we can cope with the problems of the present because we have hope for the future. This hope enabled us to keep an eye on what’s ahead while being a blessing to people in our here and now. This living hope enables us to cope with all eventualities and sets us free to love people to faith along the way.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Cultivating a Thankful Heart

Dear Friends, 

I wonder for how many of us Thanksgiving sneaks up without the opportunity for us to take the time to reflect on what the day is all about.  Or maybe we’ve just gotten too busy with all the preparations.  As you start this Thanksgiving week, I encourage you to take some time out to cultivate a thankful heart.  Many years ago we featured an article entitled “Returning Thanks” by author Paul Thigpen that I thought would be a timely piece for us to re-visit again as it provides some help in cultivating a grateful heart, especially when the circumstances in our lives are less than ideal.  Enjoy! 
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At times, we may find ourselves in wintry spiritual seasons, when a frost settles on our hearts and our sense of gratitude freezes over.  During these times, I’ve learned that gratefulness is a habit to be cultivated, a labor of the soul that seeks God.  As with the other virtues, we can’t employ a mechanical technique to make us thankful.  But we can learn to direct our attention to those things that draw us to God in appreciation for who He is and what He has done.

In that regard, here are some insights I’ve discovered along the way:
  • Give thanks as a holy discipline independent of feelings.  True gratitude involves the heart as well as the lips.  But sometimes when our hearts are cold our words can be sparks that kindle our gratitude.  That’s why the Bible repeatedly commands us to thank Him (Ps. 136, Eph. 5:19-20, Col. 3:17).
  • Give thanks for the small and ordinary things.  With blessings, as with relationships, familiarity often breeds contempt.  We should keep in mind how the world would have seemed to that grateful leper Jesus healed.  Ever after that miracle, he must have given thanks for all 20 fingers and toes, for the power to run and leap again, for the smiles of children who once would have hid in horror.
  • Look for the hidden blessings.  Paul told the Colossians to be “watchful and thankful” (Col. 4:2).  Sometimes we must keep ourselves alert to the graces God gives subtly or indirectly.       Sometimes we grumble that the gifts we have are different from the gifts we would have chosen for ourselves.  For example, we hear people complain about their physical appearance or other natural endowments, wishing they were prettier or stronger or smarter.  Sometimes we fail to realize that not every gift we seek would be to our benefit.     
  • Thank God especially in the midst of adversity.  God doesn’t ask us to be thankful for the sorrows that come our way, but He does want us to demonstrate trust in His care by thanking Him in spite of them.  The Apostle Paul said, “Give thanks in all circumstances,” not for all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18).
  • Turn your attention from your problems to God’s priorities in your life.  We may have to take a step back to see the big picture if we want to be grateful for what God is accomplishing in us.  Jesus gave the Father thanks for His last meal just hours before the horrible death He knew was waiting (Matt. 26:26).  Jesus was grateful because He saw the bigger picture of God’s plan—that “the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God” (Jn. 13:3).
  • Give your attention and care to those whose lives make your particular blessings stand out by comparison.  Have you been grumbling that you can’t afford a new couch for the living room?  Go serve in a soup kitchen for the homeless. Have you found it hard to thank God for your boss?  Talk a few minutes with the folks in the unemployment line. Do you complain about minor aches and pains?  Pray for someone with a terminal illness. Your gratitude to God is sure to grow.
  • Set aside time daily to express thanks to God.  In ancient Israel, a daily habit of thanksgiving was so important to the life of the nation that the Levites were officially appointed to stand in the temple every morning and evening to thank God (1 Chron. 23:30).  In a more private context and a later generation, we find Daniel kneeling to thank God three times a day (n. 6:10).
  • Keep a record of God’s faithfulness to you.  “Count your blessings,” as the old song says.  Try listing them in a regular journal that you review periodically. One family I know keeps a “Thank You Book,” complete with pictures, dedicated exclusively to recording answers to prayer and other blessings from the Lord.
  • Show gratitude toward others as well as God.  Make it a point to tell family and friends how grateful you are for their kindness.  Stock up on thank-you notes and use them generously, even for small favors.  Thank the folks involved in your daily affairs: the bus driver, the office janitor, the grocery store clerk.  The more you appreciate all these people, the more you’ll appreciate the One who put them in your life.

If we cultivate the discipline of gratitude, we can overcome the temptation to turn our backs on the Lord in self-absorption.  Instead, we’ll be sure to run toward the Lord, fall at His feet, and whisper often the words He delights to hear: Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jill Briscoe 
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Patience of Unanswered Prayer


Dear Friends,

Are you struggling with your prayer life right now – or perhaps getting weary as it seems so many prayers leave your lips unanswered? 

Remember Past Experience

I find it especially helpful to think of some experiences in the past that God has turned around for me.  I go over them bit by bit, reminding myself how dark and hopeless it all seemed and then the way God moved in turning the whole thing around.  I let myself savor the memory of those incidents and then simply pray, “Do it again, Lord, do it again!”

“Do it again prayers” are a great way to go when you get discouraged.  Once I was impatiently waiting for answered prayer for a family member.  It was a case of praying for conversion.  In this instance, I began to doubt that God would “do it again.”  So I spent some time lying on my bed reliving my own conversion experience.  I came from a background similar to that of the person I was praying for.  As I thought about it, I marveled at the perfect timing of the events leading up to my conversion.  After I had revisited that experience, I found myself praying “do it again” prayers with renewed confidence.  As we persistently remember the mercies of God from the past, we will find it easier to persist in the present.   

Pray for Endurance

Most of us quit before the answer comes, but we should pray about quitting before we actually do it.  If you find yourself about to quit, stop right there and say, “Lord, I am just about to stop praying because I am very discouraged.  I see nothing at all in answer to all the praying I’ve done already.  There is not a cloud in the sky, and so I am about to give up.  If you want me to continue, please give me some help; give me some hope.”  I have found that when I pray like this about quitting, I don’t!  Somehow help comes, and I put my head down and go on. So if you’re having trouble persisting, first remember past mercies and then pray for endurance.  

Why don’t you make my prayer your prayer as you continue to wait and trust the Lord with the things on your heart? 

A Prayer About Unanswered Prayer

Tender Jesus,
caring for the ones who care not anymore ~    
for those beaten by circumstances
and driven by sorrow
to believe that they are lower than dogs,
bereft of a reason to live~
hear our prayers.

Tender Jesus,
moved with compassion for the sorrowing ~
teach us the work of prayer.

Tender Jesus,
teach us the perseverance of prayer
in the face of a silent heaven
when  you ask us to wait awhile
for the answers to our petitions.
See us ~
those who would see you smile
and  feel your hand of blessing.
Touch awake faith in a Father who cares;
a Father who will never reject,
who is active on our behalf.
Oh Lord, teach us the patience of unanswered prayer!

Amen.    

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine



Monday, November 2, 2015

Giving Thanks

Dear Friends,

One aspect of prayer is saying thank you. Like the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus, only one came back to say thank you. We believers, cleansed from sin are all too often counted among the nine.

While in Asia, Stuart and I were staying with two of our veteran missionaries, Ken and Stephanie, who had served 19 years in tribal work in Papua New Guinea. One day we were talking about their family and how hard it had been for them to be, “always missing someone.”

Ken, one of six children, told us that he had a ninety-year-old mother in the United States and when her ninetieth birthday approached he realized he couldn’t get away from his remote location to be with her for this special occasion. What could he do he wondered? God gave him an idea of saying thank you in a very special way. He sat down with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s words in his heart; “How do I love you—let me count the ways” and wrote down ninety ways he loved his mother! Ninety things he loved about her that he wanted to thank her for. Then he sent the list to his daughter in the States.

The birthday came. It was an unforgettable time and Ken’s family spent it with her. On the hour throughout the day the doorbell rang and ten beautiful roses arrived from Ken with a thank you attached to each—until ninety roses resided in vases around his much loved mother!

That night I thought about this very moving story and realized this was something I could do—not for a ninety-year-old mom—mine is long gone to glory, but for the One whom my soul loves to distraction—the Lord Jesus Christ to whom I owe so much. I determined to send Him ten thank yous an hour that day and my heart’s thanks for ALL the ways He had loved me. 

Years ago, Andre Crouch composed a wonderful song,

“How can I say thanks for the things you have done for me?

Things so undeserved yet you give them to prove your love to me

The voices of a thousand angels could not express my gratitude

All that I am and ever hope to be—I give them all to thee

TO GOD BE THE GLORY FOR THE THINGS HE HAS DONE!”


Ken had given me a reminder from Phil. 4:6 where the Scriptures tell us “In everything give thanks.” 

God granted Ken his lifelong prayer that he could be with his mother at the end. How like the Lord! What a Savior! One aspect of prayer is thanksgiving. Send Him some roses today!

Give God a Bouquet of Roses

Make sure you deliver your thank-you bouquet to God on the hour today.

Today I offered God 10 roses for JBU…

1. Thank you that I am literate so I can read JBU.

2. Thank you for the gifts of creativity so our writers can bless us.

3. Thank you for the gift of encouragement this magazine is to women

all over the world.

4. Thank you for the dedicated staff and volunteers.

5. Thank you (in advance) for the funds needed to cover our expenses.

6. Thank you for women who are praying for the ministry of JBU.

7. Thank you that JBU is getting launched in Japan via the web.

8. Thank you for prayer in launching this redesigned website.

9. Thank you for Jesus who alone is the focus of our lives and service.

10. Add your own note to this last rose!


In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor  
Just Between Us Magazine