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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Are You Ready For the Joy of God?

Dear Friends,

In the end, joy dies when we do not practice it.
Joy is produced by praise glancing heavenward, feeling its soul begin to smile.  Joy is Jesus – God in Galilean cloth, walking our earth, bearing our cross, burying our sin with Him, and rising again to offer us life.  “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne”  (Heb. 12:2).  He is busy preparing a place for you and me and anyone who will thank and praise Him for His salvation.  There is such joy in realizing we’re headed home – especially if our homes down here are hard and loveless places to be.  Joy is first and foremost produced by praise.
Joy is produced by perseverance, too.  We must deliberately joy in the journey, however dark the night or rough the road.  That takes an act of the will – to reach out a hand to find Him and grasp His heavenly help, to seek in the dark until we see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.  As we persevere, there is joy in finding our frantic spirit held in His arms.
Joy is presence – His precious presence.  As we practice the presence of God moment by moment and day by day, month by month and year by year, our life will find meaning and rest.  It is hardest to practice His presence when the sun comes out and the spring flowers cover the earth.  But our joy will fade like the flowers of the field if we do not.
I have a problem with my lower back (who doesn’t!).  Sometimes it’s fine, and sometimes it’s not, and occasionally it puts me in bed or in the hospital.  I have found I need to look after my relationship with my back when it’s well, not when it’s in poor shape – and that’s hard.  Why sit properly, refuse to lift heavy stuff, and ask for help when I’m feeling just fine?  Yet if I don’t pamper it when it’s good, it’s only a matter of time till I’m in trouble again.  Likewise, we must care for our relationship with God when things are good and not just when life is painful.  This way, when trouble comes, we feel so good that we hardly notice the bad spell at all.  It’s as if we’re held above it on a cushion of joy.
Joy is produced by praise, perseverance and practice, and it is sustained by God.  He has placed His ever-loving hand upon our life, guiding and keeping us, connecting and blessing us.  Joy is something only God can give, for joy is His heart!
So are you ready to joy in God?  Start by being grateful for who He is.  Then think of all the things you are grateful for.  I am grateful for life and health and a roof over my head.  I am grateful for our children, who love the Lord, and our nine grandkids, who are learning to do the same.  I am grateful we came to America thirty years ago, and I’m grateful for my roots and heritage in our beloved England.  I’m grateful for my church and my Christian friends and the gifts God gave me to serve with.  I’m grateful for the thousands and thousands of miles flown safely in the friendly skies and for God’s forever family I’ve met around the world.  And believe it or not, I’m even grateful for the dark times, too:  for pain and hospital stays, suffering, and the death of loved ones.  I’m trying to be grateful for problems that haven’t yet been solved and perhaps never will be, and even for pain that doesn’t quit, because these things make me more grateful than ever that I’m a believer, that I’m a forgiven child of God.  The hard times make me so grateful for Jesus, my Companion, Helper, Friend, and Brother, my Savior, Lord and King.  He is the lifter up of my head and my heart and my highest hope.  He is the light of my life and the joy of my soul!  I have determined I will not hang up my harp on the ungrateful tree, for then I would be choosing death rather than life, chains rather than freedom, tears rather than laughter, despair rather than hope.
May God grace us with the grace to be continually, everlasting grateful, for therein lies joy!
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