Monday, May 23, 2016

The Secret Weapon of Prayer

Dear Friends,

How many of us live with unbelievers and struggle to know how to pray prayers that work for them? Many of us have a problem because we are too close to the situation. It’s hard to pray rationally when you love people so much and you are desperately concerned about their spiritual well-being. Maybe you have done your best to lead them to Christ over the years, and everything you have said has fallen on deaf (or worse, indifferent) ears. You may even have given up talking about it at all.

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, is quoted as saying, “People may resist our advice, spurn our appeals, reject our suggestions, and not accept our help, but they are helpless against our prayers.” I believe that with all my heart. God took the Old Testament prophet Elijah from a safe spiritual environment, put him in the middle of what was very likely a Baal-worshipping family, and said, “Let’s see what this hot spot will do not only for your relationship with me but your relationship with your family. Undoubtedly it will do great things for your prayer life for unbelievers!” God wanted Elijah to know that he possessed a secret weapon, the secret weapon of prayer. Prayer is our secret weapon in these situations. Remember what James said about fervent prayer: He said it was dynamic in its working. Prayer is in fact, dynamite. In his book, Prayer, Ole Hallesby said, “The work of the Sprit can be compared to mining. The Spirit’s work is to blast to pieces the sinner’s hardness of heart and frivolous opposition to God. The period of the wakening can be likened to the time when the blasts are fired to the time when the deep holes are being bored with great effort into the hard rock. To bore these holes is hard and difficult and a task which tries one’s patience.”   

This is a pretty graphic picture. The idea of prayer boring holes into hard hearts so the dynamite of the Spirit can be buried there helps me realize two things. First, my job is to do the boring. Second, it’s God’s job to blast away the hardness of people’s hearts. The problem is that it’s boring to do the boring! But it must be done. 

I imagine that, day after boring day, Elijah did the work of prayer, having faith as he did his part, God would do His. Mining can be tiring, but the results can be spectacular. Before long, Elijah would learn never to underestimate what the Holy Spirit had been doing before he arrived on the scene. 

When God looks into the hearts of men and women and sees a heart looking for Him, He makes sure one of His servants is sent to help them find Him. This should cause us to get up each and every morning of our lives and go out into our day with a huge sense of expectation. We can be assured that someone, somewhere has been “mining” and that the Holy Spirit has been at work in the circumstances in order to bring the seeking soul and the servant of the Lord together. How can life be anything but exhilarating for the disciple of Jesus! So in this matter of prayer, we must never discount what the Holy Spirit has been doing before we arrive on the scene. He will use our “boring” work for His eternal purposes!


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Finding God Sense

Dear Friends,
Practical down to earth “life skills” are in much demand today. Wisdom, or God-sense, is a priceless commodity. Have you ever needed to know what to do or say? I’m sure you have! In this crazy world we often find ourselves in human dilemmas that need far more than our small human effort to solve. We need wisdom.
I’m not talking about world-shattering problems, either. Family problems need as much mature diplomacy as do tribal disputes or all-out wars around the planet! For example, have you ever faced a teenager asking if he can go with his friends for a bike ride or a jaunt in a car, to a movie or party, and not known what to say? When our family came to live in the U.S., our children were eleven, nine, and seven. As they roared into their teenage years we were in a very different and, to me, frightening culture. I felt very unsure of myself. I would have known if it was safe in England. What is a mother to do when the kids learn to drive so early here and want to go cruising around town? (They didn’t even have access to a car until they were working in the UK.)  I needed wisdom from on high! I needed God-sense. Looking back on the years of winging those “Help Lord, give me wisdom” prayers heavenward, I thank God for protection, correction, and direction. He gave me wisdom well beyond my years and experience. Not that I always got it right – ask my kids!
Have you had to face a spouse who you have just discovered has betrayed you? What do you say? Where on earth do you start? Have you needed to terminate an employee? Have you anguished over a move, a letter that must be written, a church squabble that needs to be resolved? And what about sorting out things after a death in the family? Where there’s a will there’s a quarrel, so they say. Whoever “they” are – they are so often right!   
So where do we start learning these spiritual street smarts? In the spiritual realm. We can turn to the wisdom of Ecclesiastes in the Word of God. “And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16, KJV).  He is! For this we have Jesus, who is our wisdom. 
To keep our heads and live lives of sanity in a world gone crazy, we need the wisdom of Solomon. Wisdom is spiritual intelligence. It’s being savvy about managing your life choices and behavior. It’s deep knowledge that copes with your fallenness, and learns how to relate to fallen people living alongside you in a fallen world. It’s down-to-earth good advice. It’s being part of working out difficult relationships and helping others to do the same. It is far more than human intelligence, people skills, or a good education. It is the “know how” to know “when and what” to say or do in a complicated situation. Wisdom is given by the Spirit of God when we are converted to Christ and become a Christian. And God is faithful to keep on increasing our wisdom as we continue asking – and studying His Word. Ask God for some God-sense as you face all of the unknowns today!  
Blessings,
Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

If Only

Dear Friends, 

I was at a typical gathering of church women. I asked a leading question to get the women talking. “What would make you more content than you are at this present time? Start your answers with ‘If only,’” I suggested.
 “If only I could live in a bigger house,” a middle-aged woman sighed. I could understand that. I remembered living in a really tiny house when Stuart and I were in youth ministry, and longing for more space. After all, the other youth workers seemed to have more space than we did, and they didn’t need it as much as we did! There I was, wanting the space in my home that others had in theirs. After all, we were going to use it for ministry.
 “If only I were as pretty as my sister,” responded another woman. I could certainly relate to that! I grew up in the shadow of a stunning sister. I remembered how fed up I was with all the boys wanting to get to know me so they could get to know her!
 “If only I had the chance to go to college,” still another chipped in. “All my siblings got to go but me.” I could understand. I never had the chance to go to Bible school.
 “I’d be happy if I could go skiing with the family like my brother and his kids do instead of only being able to afford to go camping,” added a young, upwardly mobile homemaker. Who of us has not grown envious hearing about the exotic vacations someone else takes!
 “If only I had a husband and family. I’d be content never to go anywhere!” a single girl said softly. And so it went on. It seemed each woman was urged on by another’s discontent.
I thought how easy it is to live our lives in the shadow of “if only.”
But it’s high time we realized that coveting is a sin! I realized that fact when I first read the Ten Commandments. There it was in black and white for all of us spoiled, discontented people to read.  God has said loudly and clearly, “Do not covet.” Every time we break the commandment, God says, “And what part of ‘do not’ do you not understand? Even if we say “if only” silently in our hearts, God hears us loud and clear!
I grew up playing the “if only” game. Not growing up as a Christian, I had never read the Bible and didn’t know Jesus could satisfy me. I had this gnawing sense of discontent, and I assumed that it was because I had not found the person, thing, or situation that would satisfy me. So I played the “if only” game. It seemed I never got to the end of the game.
And then I found Christ!
Now, many of my “if onlys” have been answered. The Son of God walked into my heart, and the day dawned! How could I have lived in so much darkness and never known it? The day dawned and the birds sang and my world was changed!
Yet it wasn’t long after I had come to faith and the first euphoria passed that I began to hear the urgent “if only” voices again. How could I still be saying, “If only”? I felt more guilt than I had ever felt before I became a Christian. Christians aren’t supposed to be unsatisfied. They are not supposed to envy other Christians who appear to have all their “if onlys” satisfied. What was wrong with me?
Wanting what other have is a disease. What’s more, it’s catching! If you are around people who are never happy and are always grumbling, you’ll find yourself infected with the same “grumble germ.” Yet love is the medicine that cures the ailment.
Paul told the Corinthians that coveting was childish and dangerous behavior and they needed to grow out of it. He wrote, “Love is not jealous” (1 Cor. 13:4); “Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have” (The Message). Love loves God supremely and one’s neighbor as oneself. This is possible because we are satisfied with the Beloved alone.
Do you struggle with the monsters of jealousy and discontent? Do you feel you have never really found true satisfaction in this life whatever your circumstances? Have you ever asked yourself, is this all there is? And are you concerned about it? Good! Then we can hope that you will pursue the art of contentment. It can be learned.
Paul wrote that he had learned the secret of contentment, and the secret was Christ. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  Or in The Message:  “Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am” (The Message).
Paul said he had learned how to be content whether full or empty, happy or sad, abased or abounding. He wrote his epistle of joy from prison! We might be in the prison of a bad marriage, of a chronic illness, of a heartbreaking circumstance. We may feel we are shut up to old age, poverty, or ignorance. Whatever prison God has allowed in our lives, His love can flood that cell and bring peace, contentment, and even joy.

Bring your “if onlys” to God and let Him teach you the art of contentment. In learning the art of contentment, your “if onlys’” will disappear as you discover Christ as the content of your contentment.

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine