Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Life in a Bowl of Cherries - or Life in the Pits?


Dear Friends,

It was the late comedienne Erma Bombeck who wrote a book titled, If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?  There is a certain rhythm to life lived here, life after the Fall.  Sometimes it is a bowl of cherries, and sometimes it is the pits.  That’s life under the sun!

For some, it’s the pits at the moment.  Nothing is going right.  There is just one bad thing happening after another.  Perhaps you are in a pain pit, or a pressure pit.  Maybe you are in a parent pit, or a pity pit.  It could even be a poverty pit.  As far as you are concerned, life under the sun is “the pits”!

Life “In the Son,” on the other hand, can be like living in a bowl of cherries.  Life “under the sun” takes on a whole new meaning when you experience life “in the Son.”  If you get to know Christ, even if you are in the pits, the unacceptable becomes acceptable.  The thorn in the flesh, as the apostle Paul puts it, is tolerated and even welcomed.  Paul found himself as happy with it as without it – because Christ gave him strength.  I’m not saying you won’t have problems.  In fact you will probably have a whole new set!  But when you live in a deep and growing relationship with Christ, you live well with them.  You can live contentedly in your problems – and above them.

So what is it for you?  Are you living in a relationship with the living God, through Christ?  Life not simply “under the sun” but “in the Son”?  If you are, you will know.  He comes to our pits and offers us outrageous joy and a peace that passes understanding.  He gives us an inner settled assurance that tells us that one day, He will make everything beautiful in its time (see Eccl. 3:11).  Not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but one day!  Such God-given assurance and serenity comforts the mind!  This is indeed what it means to have a song in your heart.

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Monday, June 13, 2016

We're Not Home Yet

Dear Friends,
Paul knew that the prize was at the finish line.  So often we want the prize now—as we run along the way.
I heard a true story about an elderly missionary couple who had spent their entire adult lives on the mission field.  They had paid a heavy price with regard to their health and their family, but they stayed the course.  The time came for retirement.  It was in the days when missionaries went away and returned by boat.
When they had left England at the beginning of their missionary career, the platform at Euston Station had been packed with friends and church people, who gave them a grand send-off.  A band played hymns and the group of believers prayed and sent them on their way with flags flying.  It was a fabulous memory.  Now they were sailing home after a lifetime of faithful work.
There was a celebrity on board, and when the boat came into the harbor, they could see that the dockside was crowded with people.  Banners were flying, and the band was playing.  They watched as the gangplank was lowered, searching the crowd for the mission welcoming committee.  The celebrity was welcomed with due pomp and circumstance, and then it was over, and the rest of the passenger’s began to disembark.  Still the two old servants of the Lord searched the dock.  They didn’t see one familiar face.
Unfortunately, the dates had gotten mixed up, and the reception had been mistakenly set for the following day.  Of course, the two old-timers had no way of knowing this.  So there they were, standing alone on the dockside with their trucks and all their worldly goods.  They sat on their trunks and cried.  They had come home to this?  As they sat there holding onto each other, bewildered and hurt beyond measure, the husband said, “Let’s be quiet and try to hear what God is saying.”  So they held each other right and stood in the Lord’s presence on the quayside, oblivious of the activity around them.  The old man opened his eyes, and they were shining.  “Darling,” he said, “God spoke to me.  He told me, ‘You’re not home yet.’”
They began to laugh—a great, glad joy-laugh.  It wasn’t over yet.  There was still time to serve the Lord.  There were people to encourage and candidates to train and send out in their place.  One day the band would be out, and the Lord would be on the quayside of heaven to welcome them home—but not yet, and not now.  They picked up their things and set off for the train station, light of heart, to finish their journey to the village where they would live.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Challenges of Ministry

Dear Friends,
Have you ever realized that ministry is something you do primarily at night? I don’t understand how a couple can go all the way through seminary and not have that figured out. But I do know that once you get out of seminary and into the ministry, stress and problems between couples erupt, often because of the time the wife spends alone in the evenings. I hear it all the time: “He’s out every night of the week.”
“But what did you expect?” I ask. “after all, you’re dealing with volunteers—with lay people.  When are they going to be there for your husband? At night. So the very nature of the job requires that there will be a good amount of evening work.” You can get very frustrated about that, and the tensions can spill over into bad attitudes toward the church, towards those who are keeping your husband away from you or the family.
Eventually, you will have to temper such demands. I have had young women say, “We need him home at six or seven in the evening to help put the children to bed.” Or, “Since he’s a pastor, maybe one night or even two nights a week are all right, but absolutely no more.” As ministry wives, we need to be very flexible. There are some very practical things that go along with being called into Christian partnership, and one of them is a schedule that has to be regularly reorganized. Priorities will need to constantly re-evaluated.
Another special challenge to the vocation of ministry is the emotional investment necessary.  There is an enormous energy drain as you give to others. Other professionals, such as psychologists, doctors, teachers, and counselors, also have a lot of emotional investment in the people they serve. But most of those professional go home at night, leaving their clients behind them. There is a separation between work and home for them, however fine the line. I know that some of these good people put in plenty of overtime, and many, in fact, care much more than their professions require, but it is never really “expected” of them to be on call day and night, all hours, indefinitely. In the ministry, it is expected. Why? One reason is that the church is a family.  Your relationships are more or less permanent. Let me clarify that. As far as God is concerned, the people to whom you have gone to minister to are a permanent part of your life, sort of like your spiritual family members. You never get away from them completely. You can take vacations and put a little distance between you, get away to clear your head and your heart, but until you move away to the next full-time, all-hours, all-days ministry, these people consider themselves closely related to you. In their minds your own family is just part and parcel of the bigger extended group you all belong to.
The best advice I ever got on this point came from Ruth Graham. I asked her how she had balanced family and ministry. She thought for a moment and then said, “The problem, Jill, is that we have two families! God’s family—the church family—and our own.” Jesus experienced the struggle too. Shortly after going into ministry after staying home with His earthly family for 30 years, He began working so hard He didn’t have time to eat! His mother and brothers came to take Him home by force! When someone told Jesus they had come and couldn’t get near Him for the crowds, He said, “Who are My family?” Jesus then looked at those around Him and said, “Here are My mother and brothers and sisters” (se Mark 3:33-34). How hurt His earthly family must have been! Yet Jesus showed us we need to listen to God, who will tell us on a daily basis which family must come first that day!
Before you get too discouraged over this and decide that ministry is not for you, or that you don’t know if you even like this family that God has foisted on you, let’s remember that God promises you that His strength will always match any responsibility, however overwhelming it might seem. He says, “The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24), and he encourages Paul by saying, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”  Paul adds, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
God’s faithfulness will uphold you in the best and worst times of your ministry. He’ll never let you go. Sometimes I think he wants us to feel inadequate so He can show us how steady and strong He is. One of the circumstances he has used most in my life to keep me dependent is change, and there’s always plenty of that in the ministry.
Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive editor
Just Between Us Magazine