Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Deep Down in My Life

Dear Friends,
We’ll soon be celebrating New Year’s Day.  As I look out across another year with all its known and unknown challenges, I remind myself that what transpires for God and for good as far as my small life is concerned, depends on what happens “deep down in my life”.  How do I go deeper, reach further, climb higher, cling closer, dream bigger, and be seen to be empowered by the Spirit, in touch with the risen Christ, with an unmistakably evident relationship with the Father – deep down in my life?  In other words, what does it mean to live in the present reality of the living God?
I know there is absolutely no way I can do the work I’ve committed to do on the “outside” of me, unless God is doing the work He has committed to do on the “inside” of me.  I simply need to give Him permission to be who He is, in each and every area of my heart and life!  This is my prayer not only for me, but also for you my friends.
Dear Lord, hear my heart.  I give You full permission to be who You want to be, as “deep down” in my life as You wish to go!  Amen.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Going to Bethlehem


Dear Friends,
It was the Christmas season and I was thinking about all the tinsel triviality around me.  The Grinch was winning big time!  I had been frantically rushing around my world in ever-decreasing circles.  Have you ever been like this at Christmas?  So hectic that you miss what it’s all about?  I was sitting on The Front Door step at last, when it opened and He whom my soul loves joined me.
“Lord,” I began as my soul stopped rushing around inside me and sat down for a few saving moments – “Speak to me.  Do whatever it takes to touch the quiet place within me where You live. Whatever it takes, Lord, do what it takes to renew my faith and set my spirit dancing, so I can do whatever it takes to tell my world why You came at Christmas.”  He smiled at me thoughtfully as if remembering something.  Then He spoke.
“One day I said to my Father, ‘Whatever it takes Father, I’ll do it.  Whatever it takes to bring them all home to our house.’  And my Father said to me: ‘Go to Bethlehem!  That’s what it takes!’  And so I came!  As a baby, born to a woman who barely counted her age in double figures.  Go to Bethlehem, Jill.”
I knew at once what He was telling me.  I needed to go to Bethlehem.  
Lord, I worship You, I am in awe!  I am reduced in spirit, Lord, overcome with remorse that I have for far too long allowed my faith to lie low at Christmas of all times!  I have allowed the Grinch to steal my Christmas.  Forgive me!
I had been to the mall, to the outlets, to visit the family, but I hadn’t been to Bethlehem!  I had fallen foul of the Christmas rush.  I went – right then and there.  You can too, you know.  It changed my Christmas.  It will change yours!

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Healing Place for Others

Dear Friends,
In Rev. 22:1, John saw “the river of the water of life… flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”  John noticed that the leaves of the trees that lined the river’s banks were used for “the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2).  What a beautiful picture.  We may borrow the picture and apply it to ourselves, for Scripture uses the same symbol to describe the happy person who is planted by the river of God with her roots in the river of life.
Our lives should offer relief from the heat and shelter from the storm to those who need it.  People should take one look at our ever green lives and make a beeline for us.  Our lives should be full of healing, relief, and balm.

Are your leaves used for healing?  You can be a tree of life for others.  If I think about my life in recent days and years, I ask myself, “Have people beaten a path to my door because they know where help can be found?”  I want to be a tree Like Jeremiah describes with its roots in the river, its leaves ever green, and fruit that never fails.

When I heard about my father’s cancer, I knew the heat was on.  Coming from a family with little evangelical background, I knew there would be lots of opportunities to offer my leaves for healing in the days to come.  But this was my great test, too!  This was my beloved father who was entering the valley of the shadow.  I would be struggling with my own huge sense of loss.  How could I help others when I needed such a lot of help myself?

The answer was the river, the river of life.  Life in the Spirit offered a source of life to me in the very face of death.  My job would be to keep my roots in the river, my leaves full of sap, and stay ever green.  It was a hard, hot, desert experience for me, but the Spirit of God was sufficient to supply all I needed, not only for myself, but also for others.  God was indeed a life-giving spring.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Soaking Up the Word of God

Dear Friends,

Jeremiah spoke of a stream from God that gives nourishment to our life (our “tree”) in times of drought (Jer. 17:7,8).  How will you know your roots are firmly planted in God’s river?  By the color of your leaves!  If you look into the river to see your reflection, you will notice leaves that are ever green and healthy.  A favorite verse of mine says, “The trees of the Lord are full of sap” (Ps. 104:16, KJV).  I like to think of the sap as Scripture. 

As my roots are in the river of God and my mind is soaked in the Word of God, something sprouts.  What is inside comes out.  Evergreen trees ignore the seasons.  When the summer heat is on or the winter winds blast, their leaves shine on.  So with my roots in the river and my mind in the Word, I can shine on too.  I can bring color to a drab landscape.  People can find relief from the heat under my evergreen tree in the summer, and shelter from the storm in the winter.  

An evergreen tree is a tree for all seasons, and so are Christians who determine to dress themselves in faith’s foliage.  Not only in the book of Jeremiah but also in David’s psalms the happy person is described as one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.  That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers” (Ps. 1:2-3).

The more the sap of Scripture fills my branches, the more my leaves shine.  The sap must flow unhindered through the branches.  It is my job to confess and abandon sin so there will be no blockages hindering the flow of life.  This life, given through the Word of God, will produce an ever green tree.  “It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green” (Jer. 17:8).

Read the Bible every day, and obey it every moment.  Then your leaves will be ever green.

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanking God in Suffering

Dear Friends,

As I begin to count my blessing each year in anticipation of Thanksgiving, I am careful to put my suffering – more importantly, what I have learned from it – at the top of my list.  Yes, you heard right.  I am thankful for my suffering, not just in spite of it.  

Often, we want to question God’s goodness when we endure difficulties or disabilities, diseases, death, or destruction.  We ask “Where is God in all of this?”  In years past, I have raised that question myself many times.

When tragic circumstances arise, I remember something I’ve learned over the years.  God doesn’t sit up in heaven and say, “Into each life a little rain must fall,” and then aim a hose in earth’s general direction to see who gets the wettest.  Instead, He screens the trials that come our way, building spiritual fences between us and the enemy’s onslaught.  His filter is guided by His wisdom and compassion, and He allows through only what is ultimately for our good.

Now you may be wondering how God is able to accomplish this.  Well, welcome to the world of finite beings trying to understand an infinite God.  The fact is, God permits all sorts of things He doesn’t approve of.  We don’t like to hear that, but think of the alternative.  Would we rather have a God who took a hands-off policy toward the evil that seems to run rampant in the world?  I don’t think so. If we did, we’d be a lot worse off.  Evil would come barreling at us uncontrolled.  That would be hell on earth.  It’s why we can thank God that he curbs evil and suffering.

Decades in a wheelchair have not made me an expert, by any means.  There are still many mornings I don’t want to get up and face my wheelchair.  “I can’t do this,” I moan, “I have no resources to face another day dealing with paralysis.”  But that’s when I remember God has resources to spare.  “Lord, you have the strength I lack,” I plead.  “I can’t do this, but you can.  Please help me make it through this day with your strength and your patience and joy.”  And He does.

Those who start their mornings on automatic cruise control, without needing God, are the truly handicapped ones.  James 4:6 says that “God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.”  Who are the humble?  Just people like you and me who recognize our desperate need of our Savior.  And thankfully, He gives strength to all who cry to Him for help.

We live in scary times when the lines between the forces of good and evil have never seemed so clear.  The world, battered and bruised as it is, has never before seemed so fragile, so unstable.  Even our personal world feels unstable.  Suffering seems to be pandemic with record numbers of people in counseling for depression or in therapy for dependency on pain-relievers.  And sometimes in this craziness, God feels so distant.

But is He?  Could He be allowing these desperate times to force us to seek Him more earnestly?  Forty-six years ago when God answered “no” to my prayers for physical healing, He was answering “yes” to a better, deeper healing.  His “no” answer made me reach out urgently for his nearness and presence.  My suffering taught me so much about myself and has bound me to other believers who deal with pain and affliction.  The day-to-day suffering that never goes away has forced me to depend on His grace, strengthened my commitment to Him and purged sin from my life.  Times of difficulty have deepened my prayer life, refined my faith, and stretched my hope.  Most of all, I have gleaned a deeper appreciation for the sufferings that my Savior endured to secure my salvation.  And there is nothing sweeter than finding yourself “in the fellowship of sharing Christ’s sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).

So, each year around this time, I make a point to thank God, not in spite of my suffering, but for it.  I thank Him for the better choice, the wiser answer, and the harder yet richer path.  I thank Him for showing me that there are more important things in life than walking.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Joni Eareckson Tada
Joni and Friends

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Saying Thank You

Dear Friends,

When the Scriptures say, “This is God’s will for you,” we need have no doubts that what is being said is indeed God’s will for us!  

Are you in the habit of saying thank you no matter what?  Notice the verse doesn’t tell us that it’s God’s will for us to give thanks for all circumstances, but in all circumstances.  Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, who were suffering difficult things in difficult times.  Yet he told them to give thanks!

In the middle of a nightmare, we can give thanks that “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).  In the pain of bereavement, we can thank God for the comfort of his “rod” and “staff” in our “dark valley of death” (Psalm 23:4).  When others reject us for our beliefs, we can thank God that He accepts us fully and unreservedly, and we can be thankful for friends who believe as we do.  In all things there will be something for which we can praise and thank God.  When we can’t praise Him for what, in His sovereign will, He has allowed, we can praise Him for who He is in the middle of it.

Dare we thank God for such things?  Yes!  No matter what happens, give thanks!

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18 

Lord, in this Thanksgiving season, I have so much I truly thank You for.  But there are also some situations I cannot understand, and I struggle to utter “Thank You” over them.  Help me to remember that You are a powerful God, You are in control, and that I can praise You and thank You for Your comfort, presence, and working in even the rough times of my life.  Thank You.  Amen.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Presenting our Questions to God


Dear Friends,

If I have questions for God, they need to be the right ones, and I need have no doubt whatsoever that God will answer me and tell me what I need to know and do in order to tap into his power to endure.  What I will certainly need to learn is to trust him more and not less, to stop depending on my feelings, and to develop my faith.  And what I must ask the Lord is, “What do I say to others who question me about my misfortunes?”  If I ask God these sorts of questions, I can have every assurance that he will answer me.

It’s quite all right to ask God any question under the sun, but there are questions we need to ask in order to get the answers to proceed with our lives.  If we can dare to ask God to help us ask him the hard questions, he will direct us to some things that will maximize the blessings suffering can bring to us.  For example, we can ask him, “How can this trouble you have permitted make me more like you?” instead of “Why aren’t you removing this trouble?”  God listens to every word we say, and we mustn’t doubt his eager attention.

But if I doubt he’s even there, that he’s listening, or that he is interested in making a wise person out of me in the middle of the mess, then I will be “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man,” says James, “should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:7-8).

It’s easy to feel as if our little craft of faith is being tossed about like a cork in the storm, isn’t it?  Job felt just like that.  Yet, when the storm was at its height, God spoke to Job above the sound of the tempest and asked him why he had a problem with the problem!

Chapters 38 through 42 of Job are glorious chapters.  After an uncanny silence, Job at last hears the voice he has been longing to hear.  After seeing nothing – he sees God!  And, hearing and seeing, he worships in a way he has never worshipped before.  He lays his questions down at the feet of the Lord and kneels there, stunned in wondering abandonment.  “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you,” he cries (Job 42:5).

Ruth Bell Graham was a wonderful poet.  I love to read her work.  One of her poems particularly caught my eye:

I lay my “whys”
before Your cross
in worship kneeling,
my mind too numb
for thought,
my heart beyond
all feeling.

And worshipping,
realize that I
in knowing You
don’t need a “why.”

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus

Dear Friends,

Most of us know the story about Peter’s walking on the water.  When he and some other disciples were on the Sea of Galilee and a storm arose, they were terrified.  They were seasoned enough sailors to recognize that they were in severe danger.  Their fear, however, was heightened when they saw what they supposed to be a ghost, walking on the water toward them.

Jesus (for it was he, and no apparition) calmed their fears.  Peter was so encouraged that he decided to leave the boat and walk on the water himself.  But he began to watch the winds and waves instead of watching Jesus.  As the disciple began to sink into the sea, Jesus said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31).

I remember facing a storm of separation.  We had been invited to emigrate to America in order to serve Elmbrook Church.  I had to tell my recently widowed mother.  I remember driving very slowly down to Liverpool in order to break the news to her.  I cried all the way there, stammered through my information, hugged my beloved “Peggy,” and cried all the way home again.

On the way down, all I could hear were the winds, and all I could see were the waves.  I knew Jesus was there, encouraging me, but I could hardly see him through my tears.  It was hard enough to try to cope with the storm of my own emotions at such a time, but I knew that my news would bring a tempest down on my own mother’s head – one she could well do without at that particular time.

As I drove home again, I thanked the Lord for helping me to tell her and for letting her see the deep pain our parting would bring to me.  I had honestly feared I could not do this to her – that I couldn’t find the words – that she and I, together, would sink in the tempest of our grief.  I thought of Jesus’ words to Peter:  “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  What had I doubted?  I had doubted I could tell her, doubted we could survive the pain of parting, doubted that God could bring us both to acceptance and peace.  I had even doubted he would get in the boat with us and still the storm in our hearts.  On that long drive home up the English motorway, I could still hear the wind, and my eyes kept wandering to the waves; but now I sensed his arm under my elbow, guiding my feet over all I had been sinking under.  Some partings have to be, but one parting never has to be.  Nothing can part me from Jesus!

James addresses this subject of doubt in his letter to the believers of his day, who were facing many trials.  “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  Then James says that if any of you don’t understand what is happening and why the test is testing you – if you lack wisdom – you should ask God the right questions, and he will give you the right answers.  Such a person should ask questions like “How on earth can I consider this trial ‘pure joy,’ Lord?”  or “Is this test doing what you want it to do in my life, Father – namely, develop my character and grow endurance so that I can be a mature believer and walk through the storm?” (James 1:2-5)

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Feeling God with Your Faith

Dear Friends,

A friend of mine has just died of cancer.  Shortly after she was diagnosed, I spent a day with her.  She was such a wonderful lady.  She was emotional and relational in personality.  She kept saying, “Jill, I can’t feel him near me anymore.  All my life I’ve been able to feel him near me, but now, just when I need him the most, he’s not there!”

At this point, my friend found out that, like Job, she had a clear choice.  As Warren Wiersbe says, she “could ‘curse God and die’ or ‘trust God and grow’!”  Grow how?  Grow in the area of her faith.  She was to learn that when she couldn’t feel God with her feelings, she could feel him with her faith – and that felt different!  The “feelings” of faith are feelings of knowledge –or “knowingness”.  The Holy Spirit, after all, doesn’t come into our lives to do his deepest work in the shallowest part of us – our emotions.  But rather he comes into our lives to do his deepest work in the deepest part of us – our knowings.

And that’s the test that suffering brings.  God doesn’t test our feelings for him, but rather our faith in him.  He tests our trust!

At the end of Psalm 139, David prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart:  test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  He knows that God knows everything about him.  After all, God has created him – knitting him intricately together in his mother’s womb.  He believes that God sees his thoughts even before he, David, gets around to thinking them!  So he opens up his life before God, acknowledging that God knows everything, and asks God to show him if there is any “offensive way” in him.  “You can see my anxious thoughts, Oh God,” he says.  “Do these offend you?”  Why would our anxious thoughts offend God?  Perhaps because God expects us to trust him with our anxieties.

God doesn’t worry – but if he did, he would possibly worry about our worrying!  He wants us to stop being anxious.  He has promised to supply our needs.  When our feelings grow anxious, our faith can calm our fears.  We have a decision to make.  God wanted Job to say, “I know you are there – even though, at this time, my feelings deny your very existence.  I feel so desolate.”  Our feelings about God can get in the way of our knowledge of him.  We can begin to believe he isn’t there at all, simply because we can’t sense His presence.

Yet, if by faith we can affirm what we know deep down in our souls, this will calm many of our frantic fears and bring the tranquility of order to our confusion.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Monday, October 17, 2016

Thankful Hearts

Dear Friends,

Do you want to do the will of God? Then “cultivate a thankful heart.” So often we think that doing the will of God means sacrifice, or going to a far-off culture with the gospel, or being persecuted, etc. The will of God can be all these things, but it will only be some of those things for some of us. Developing a thankful heart is the will of God for all of us who profess to love and serve Jesus. 
         
My husband, Stuart, preaches a wonderful sermon called “the gratitude attitude.”  I need to listen to it regularly. I find my rebel heart much more engaged with the “gratitude attitude.” Being discontent comes naturally to the race from Eden who weren’t content with paradise! Living with resentment is quite understandable in the sinner, but what part does it play in the lives of the redeemed? How can sinners saved by grace dare to whine and mutter their way through life? It all started in Eden when Eve, having bitten into the apple, began to whine about it being too sour, or not hard enough, or not as nice as a Granny Smith’s! Her dissatisfaction was catching and she hastened to find a recruit for her cause. Adam bit – and so it began.

I call it the G virus or the grumble germ. From the moment man moved outside the garden gate, grumpy human beings have grumbled their way through the centuries.  And neither does it stop when we are lost to grace. The forces that tempted man at the dawn of ‘man time’ are the same forces that tempt us to be unthankful and resentful today. Satan still whispers, “If you can’t think of anything to whine about because you’re trying to cultivate a thankful heart, I’ll give you a hand. Have an apple!”

He tempts us to think we never have enough of anything or anybody. “You poor thing,” he hisses. “That husband of yours is always out looking after other people. He doesn’t have anything left for you! I’d complain if I were you. When he comes in tonight try pouting until he notices and then when he asks you what’s wrong say, ‘Nothing!’ Make him guess what’s wrong.” We whine about the fact that we don’t have enough money, or time for ourselves, our church, our friends. Have you noticed it’s not that we have nothing? It’s just that something in our hearts called the ‘greed need’ is telling us we would like just a little bit more! The devil is into this “little bit more” thing. Have you noticed nothing is ever enough? But then paradise wasn’t enough for Adam and Eve, so what’s new?  Next time you hear the hiss of the snake in your garden, resist him and say “thank you Jesus” out loud – he will disappear in a hurry. The evil can’t stand being around thankful Christians. If you’re going to cultivate a thankful heart, try going to sleep singing hymns and spiritual songs.  Allow the wind of His Spirit to grace you with a “gratitude attitude.”

Having traveled extensively in Third World countries these last years, I have been greatly convicted by the attitude of my sisters and brothers who live incredibly difficult lives with much to complain about. But what we would call hardship, they call inconvenience. While teaching in a restricted country where a knock on the door could mean imprisonment for daring to gather to study the Scriptures, I thought about all the whining we do in the West. We, who are drowning in our freedoms, comforts, and materialism get hardship and inconvenience mixed up. These people don’t! I asked the Lord to show me how to, like them, cultivate a thankful heart. Here are a few practical suggestions: Stop whining! Go on, you can do it; it’s a decision. Count your blessings.  Choose one blessing a day to thing about. Share something you are thankful about with your husband, parents, or friend. Write a personal note to someone you’ve never thanked for something. And Smile at God. That’s called praise!

And remember “a thank-you a day keeps the devil away!” He hates it when you’re thankful, but God loves it!  Who do you want to please?

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Flying Free

Dear Friends,

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  Matthew 6:26
My husband Stuart and I love God’s birds. So does God. We love to take a hike and revel in the Father’s finger work. He loves and cares for His creatures, feeding and clothing them. He watches their flight with joy, knowing when each one falls to the ground. None falls until it is time, and none falls without the Father in its falling. When one is trapped, He rescues it. When it is hungry, He feeds it. When it is attacked, He defends it. When it is trapped, He releases it.  He clothes it in color and softness and watches over it all day long. His eye, He tells us, is on the sparrow.
I was a little scared about something. That’s nothing new, but I was anxious and knew my help lay in His word. That’s nothing new either. I read again about the birds of the air. Years ago, I wrote a children’s book about sparrows and thought it might do me good to read my own book again! It had comforted me during the writing.  But I was far from home, and anyway, His Book is always the best. 
While reading that morning, Jesus talked to me about sparrows again, and it helped me again. He reminded me once more that I was of more value than many sparrows. He doesn’t promise there will not be a time to fall to the ground, but until then, He does promise there will be no falling without the Father if it is not His time and His will. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without the will of Your Father.” 
All this reminding was comforting to me. I thanked God for His life lesson. I thanked Him that I was of more value to Him than many sparrows and asked Him to help my little faith. Jesus often talked to anxious people…people who were living under occupation of the Romans - poor people, mistreated people, frightened people, and people who felt trapped and imprisoned. He was teaching in the open air and used the little creatures, busy with their “bird-ness,” as an example of the Father’s care. “Trust me, just like they do,” He said. “You are of more value than many sparrows.”
We were staying with a family in Germany at the time. They were Russian German immigrants and conservative believers whose families had been persecuted first by their own countrymen and then by the Communists in the former Soviet Union in a long and painful history. I listened with huge respect to the man of the house telling us a little of his story in halting English and wondered at the faith and strength God had given him in the labor camp.  
Then, I listened to his wife, who was born in Siberia, as she described her grandparents going into the woods after World War II to find berries and flowers to eat so they wouldn’t starve. I thought about them, weak and helpless and trapped in cruel times so they couldn’t fly free. But God had released them, it wasn’t their time. He, after all, is the one who has “numbered our days.”
After a while I went to our bedroom, thinking about the stories we had heard of the man’s amazing release and the long-awaited permission to emigrate from Kazakhstan. They were only allowed to bring a few hundred dollars and a suitcase or two.  But they left everything and came.  Then these groups of Russian German immigrants formed their Baptist churches all over again and flew free. They are the fastest growing evangelical denomination in Germany. 
“Consider the birds,” the Lord advised me as I climbed the stairs to our bedroom at the top of the house. As I walked into the room, I was startled by a flying object—a little bird! It flew frantically this way and that, panicked and frightened. As I stood watching it in amazement, our hostess came to see. “It’s never happened before,” she said. The window was only open a little bit. How it found its way into our bedroom, none of us knew! 
“Consider the birds,” said a voice in my ear! Well now, how good of God to give me a live visual aid to emphasize the words He had been speaking to my soul all day! I smiled. 
“Ok, ok, I get it,” I said softly. “Here is your beautiful little bird trapped in a frightening situation, but we just opened the window and it flew free. Nothing can happen to it without your permission and your will. It isn’t its time!
Then I heard, “Aren’t you of much more value than many sparrows?”
Do you need to “consider the birds”? Take a walk in the woods or just outside your garden gate. Look up and marvel at His watchfulness and care. Take heart. Consider the birds.
Blessings,
Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Seasons of Marriage

Dear Friends, 
I was browsing through one of the books I wrote at least twenty-five years ago.  The book was about growing older—not growing old, but growing older.  There is a difference!  Under a lovely picture of a sunset I had written, “God paints His choicest colors in His latest sunsets.”  I thought about that.  He wants to use His renewing paintbrush not only in your life, but also in your marriage.  He wants you to discover love in its entire grand dimensions, the longer you live and the longer you are married.
God has certainly painted His choicest colors in our marriage.  The reason?  We have tried—imperfectly, but we’ve tried anyway—to follow His rules of love.  We have sought to submit our human love for each other to the rule of agape.  We have tried to be obedient to God’s rules of marriage.  We have found all the power and all the love we need for each other in Him!
Once Stuart and I were busy speaking at different venues in the course of ministry.  He was in the South trying to get to California and I was in Milwaukee trying to get to Boston.  We both ended up with canceled planes and a five-hour layover in Chicago’s O’Hare airport.  Neither of us knew this, of course.  We sat down and got out our work to pass the time.  It was one of those days that has been a part of our lives for over forty years in ministry.  We were apart from each other once again. 
After I had worked on a manuscript for a good thirty minutes, I started to think about Stuart.  I wish he were here with me, I thought.  I got out my cell phone and thought I would try to reach him.  As the phone rang, he got up opposite of me.  I screamed out, “Oh, it’s you!”  We laughed and laughed, and he came up and gave me a big kiss!
This really set people looking as we had both sat there for at least a half an hour!  Seeing these apparent strangers kissing and laughing got their attention.  How good of God to work out this wonderful serendipity for us!  We spent a wonderful afternoon together and I can’t tell you how my heart leapt just to see “my man” there so unexpectedly!  Truly, when Christ governs your life and your marriage, it gets better and better as time goes on.       
Where are you on your life’s cycle?  Have you just gotten married?  Has God begun to paint your marriage on His canvas?  Then you are living in springtime.  Have you been on the way a little while?  Have you been blessed with a couple of kids, a good job, and a nice place to live?  Then summer is upon you.  Or maybe you are in what seems like autumn—the leaves have begun to turn brown, and an ominous wind has arisen.  Or perhaps you are living in full-blown winter, and everything is frozen, miserable, and cold. 
To those of you living in springtime, be alert!  Know that you have an enemy of your souls and an enemy of your marriage.  It is not for nothing Jesus called Satan “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).  Satan wants to kill your marriage.  Make sure that you build into your relationship a spiritual dimension and make it the most important aspect of your lives.  Is Jesus the Master of your marriage?  If not, make Him so by inviting Him to be in control. 
If you are in summer mode, revisit the things that really matter but may be neglected.  Reexamine your values and your lifestyle, and see if they are compatible with your profession of Christianity.  Maybe plan to have a spiritual or marital checkup.  Read a good marriage enrichment book together.  Go to a couple’s conference, or see a counselor to help you discern any warning signs. 
If you are in the autumn of a relationship, take action!  Don’t wait.  Turn around and run to the waiting arms of God.  Do your part in saying your “sorrys” to Him, and then say them to your spouse.  Own your part and remember that you are responsible only for your response and reactions, not anyone else’s.  Agape doesn’t wait for the other person to make the first move.  Agape runs to make amends.  Don’t give up, for the best is yet to come. 
God would save us from winter—from the frost and cold and misery.  He has better things in mind.  All of us know about the miracles of the springtime.  We expect it, don’t we?  Then expect the miracle of resurrection in the winter of your marriage.  God is a God of miracles.    
Blessings, 
Jill Briscoe 
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine  


Monday, September 26, 2016

Boldness in the Name of Christ

Dear Friends, 

I have been in many countries and watched people pray.  And there have been incantations, a lot of hocus-pocus, and genuine (though misplaced) faith in gods of wood and stone.  But it isn’t the amount of faith you have that makes a difference.  It’s the object of your faith that matters. 

Stuart and I live in a country area on a small fishing lake.  It’s weedy and reedy and it is pretty shallow, freezing over in the winter.  It is called Henrietta Lake after a young girl who put all of her faith in very thin ice and drowned by faith.  If she had only put a tiny bit of faith in very thick ice, she would have been saved by faith.  It’s not the amount of faith you have, but the object of it that makes a difference.  My heart goes out to people all over the world who are drowning by faith in false gods, because I know where they could get their help if they only knew the Lord. 

Elijah, facing off with the prophets of Baal, egged them on.  He began taunting them. “‘You’ll have to shout louder,’ he scoffed, ‘for surely he is a god!  Perhaps he is deep in thought, or he is relieving himself.  Or maybe he is away on a trip, or he is asleep and needs to be wakened!’” 
(1 Kings 18:27). 

You can imagine how this incensed the prophets of Baal.  “So they shouted louder and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out.  They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no reply, no voice, no answer” (vv.28-29). 

When we are taking on the enemy, the first thing we have to do is affirm our belief in the one true God.  Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord says loudly and clearly, “I alone am God. There is no other God; there has never been and never will be.  I am the Lord, and there is no other Savior.”  Then the Lord says, “You are witnesses that I am the only god…From eternity to eternity I am God” (Isa. 43:10-13). 

This was where Elijah started, and this is where we must start.  As Elijah built his altar and made the sacrifice, he prayed aloud.  This is what he prayed, “O Lord,…prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant.”  And then again, “O Lord, answer me!  Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself” 
(1 Kings 18:36-37).

The prayer that affirms that God is God in heaven above and on earth below is a prayer that God affirms.  And when we pray that prayer for others, trusting God to convince those we pray for of His sovereignty, we can know that He will let the fire fall on our altar and the sacrifice we have prepared.  Somehow, some way, He will answer that prayer.  So when we are taking on the enemy, we must loudly declare that there is but one God and that He is the only Savior. 

Then we need to stand up to the servants of the enemy.  Elijah taunted them.  He had no sympathy for the men who were decimating Israel’s culture and faith.  He boldly confronted them and challenged them to a contest.  He knew he was on safe ground, because what he knew of the truth he knew to be the truth, and what he knew of the power of God, he knew to be superior to all the power of the enemy. 

I’m sure that Elijah was well aware of Satan’s existence and that his cohorts could do much magic.  But only God can do a miracle.  And there was one thing that the prophets of Baal could certainly not do and that was answer their own prayers.  No matter how much hocus-pocus they used, Satan could not answer their prayer; only God could do that.  So these things gave Elijah boldness to confront error in the name of the Lord.  Knowing you are right give you holy boldness.  We are not half right, but all right when it comes to the Word of God.  It is not arrogant to believe in the truth; it is rather arrogant not to believe it. 

The thing that gave me holy boldness in our mission youth days was the belief that we were right and our young opponents were wrong or perhaps just ignorant of the truth.  It was such faith in the Word of the Lord that drove Elijah to take on the prophets of Baal single-handedly.      

Peace, 
Jill Briscoe 
Executive Editor 
Just Between Us Magazine  


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Loving with Patience

Dear Friends,
We have been told to love, for love is not an option.  We have been given by the Spirit the ability to love with agape love.  Patience is another name for love, as Paul explained that “love is patient.”  Therefore, as we work through our difficult relationships, we will need to be patient. 
The meaning of the word patience (in Greek, macrothumea) is “long-suffering” or “slow to anger.”  Love suffers because it is the nature of love to suffer.  Remember what C.S. Lewis said: “Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken!” (The Four Loves, 169).  But there is no alternative.  We are not only called to love, we are also commanded to love. 
Such love means loving not only when your heart is whole, but loving when your heart is broken.  It means loving when the person you are trying to love is continuously hurting you afresh.  Long-suffering means that love suffers well.  Being inordinately fond of myself, I don’t “do” pain very well.  In fact, I don’t do pain at all if I can help it!  Do you?  Who’s for pain?  The whole ethos of our society, as C.S. Lewis said, is to “embrace pleasure and eschew pain.”  It takes a radical act of God in our lives to so change our hearts that we are willing to embrace pain and eschew pleasure—to suffer for the sake of love!  Yet, if that is what it takes to love someone, it must be done. 
Patience is love waiting out a suffering situation.  If pain cannot be avoided, then pain must be accepted.  What we need to do is go with the pain and allow the pain to drive us to God. 
Don’t waste the pain, let it prove thee.  
Don’t stop the tears, let them cleanse thee. 
Rest, stop the striving, soon you’ll be arriving in His arms.
Don’t waste the pain, let it drive you
Deeper into God.
He’s waiting—and you should have come sooner!

Let pain drive you toward God and not away from Him!  Once you are deeper into God, you will find a bigger capacity to love even those who cause you pain. 

God is very good at loving people who hurt Him and who are hard to love.  When Jesus was frustrated with the disciples one time, He said to them, “How long must I suffer you?” (Matt. 17:17).  He then went on “suffering” them for a considerable time because He knew that this was God’s will for Him, and He willed to do God’s will.  Long-suffering means being patient with an insufferable situation or person—even when you are hurting badly yourself—because it is the will of God.  It hurts terribly to love at times like that, but that is what agape love does. 

So how patient is God with people?  The Old Testament tells us that “the Lord observed the extent of the people’s wickedness, and he saw all their thoughts were consistently and totally evil.  So the Lord was sorry he ever made them.  It broke his heart” (Gen. 6:5-6).  Fortunately, He didn’t wipe the entire race off the map immediately, but first He patiently waited for people to repent.  Noah, who had found grace in His eyes, preached forgiveness while building the ark.  The New Testament, referring to this incident, says that “God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat” (1 Pet. 3:20).  God is surely patient!  In fact, He waited 120 years and prepared a way for anyone sorry for his or her sin to find His grace and forgiveness. 

In London there is a famous place called Hyde Park Corner.  Anyone can get up on a soapbox there and talk about anything.  Crowds usually gather to listen and heckle.  It is all pretty humorous, whatever the subject—politics, religion, and sex are the favorites. 

One day a famous preacher named Theodore Packer was preaching.  He had his say through good-humored heckling, and then it was the turn of the atheist to give an opposing argument.  That meant it was Theodore’s turn to heckle.  The unbeliever waxed strong and at one point, as he was finishing up blaspheming God, he shook his fist at heaven and said, “God, if you’re there, I give you five minutes to strike me down dead for what I have been saying about you!”

Theodore Packer spoke up, “Does the gentleman think he can exhaust the patience of God in five minutes?”

How long does your patience last?  Does it last 120 years, 120 minutes, or 120 seconds?  To have the patience God wants us to have, we need Jesus. 

Love waits well!  Don’t you just hate that?  I hate waiting for anything, especially for a circumstance to change or a person to say she is sorry.  Patience loves on to give time for God’s redemptive power to do its work.  Love gives us the power to suffer long when we desperately want things to change.     

Peace,

Jill Briscoe 
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine