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  


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Calling Good Things to Mind


Dear Friends,
Have you ever felt that all your hopes and dreams lie under the rubble of a divorce, job loss, or child problems?  Perhaps it is your faith that lies in ruins, and you feel betrayed by the very God who promised you so much, a betrayal much like what Jeremiah felt: “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord” (Lam. 3:18).  Jeremiah felt that God had let him down—badly.  All his hopes and dreams—personal hopes, political hopes, prophetic hopes—lay buried under the rubble that had been the holy city of Jerusalem.
Stuart and I had given up our careers to cast our lot with a work among teenagers.  After we arrived at a Christian youth center, things did not turn out quite the way I expected.  I felt betrayed.  I felt that God was unfair and unjust.  All I had hoped from the Lord was gone. 
But this was most unfair and unjust of me.  We had mistaken the job description we had been given.  It was no one’s fault, certainly not God’s!  Once I began to unmix God and life, this period of our lives became the perfect opportunity to develop our faith. 
The first step to renewing your faith at the low points of your life is to recognize the symptoms of faith distress.  The second step is to take charge of your spiritual life and realize that the conditions you are living in are ideal for God to develop your faith. 
This process has two sides to it.  I am responsible for “mind work,” and God is responsible for “heart work.”  Listen to Jeremiah as he does his mind work, “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” (Lam. 3:19-21).  How do we do this mind work?  By taking responsibility for what we “call to mind.”
I can remember discovering this principle early in my Christian faith.  The truth that I could do something about my thinking was a huge step in my own faith development.  I did not need to be a victim of my own negative thinking or of the thoughts that the devil planted in my fertile imaginings.  I could take charge of my own thought patterns. 
My part was to select the right channel and choose the right tape.  I could truly be selective in what I drew out of my memory bank.  I could constantly call bad memories to mind, and the result would be despondency.  Or I could call good things to mind, and the result would be renewed faith and hope. 
There is a good example of this in Lam. 3:52-54, “Those who were my enemies without cause hunted me like a bird.  They tried to end my life in a pit and threw stones at me; the waters closed over my head, and I thought I was about to be cut off.”  Notice how Jeremiah corrals his thoughts.  Instead of dwelling, he “calls to mind” his desperate cry for help and here’s what happened next: “I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: ‘Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.’ You came near when I called you, and you said ‘Do not fear.’ O Lord, you took up my case; you redeemed my life” (vv. 55-58).
When you are in the pit with people throwing stones at you, don’t think about the stones; think about how God will help you out of it by remembering how He has helped you in the past!  When I am in a pit, I have learned to use my mind to remember an answered prayer.  This is the one reason I keep a prayer diary, because in the heat of the moment I don’t always have a good memory.  It is good to have recorded incidents in my life when God has answered specific prayers for my children.  When they are in urgent need of prayer again, it helps to be reminded of answered prayer.  That gives me hope to pray, “Do it again, Lord!”
After you have thought about how God has helped you in trouble, don’t stop.  It’s tempting to start thinking about the trouble again.  Think about God.  Think about His character.  That’s what Jeremiah did.  “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).      
God is a consuming fire, but because of His love He will not consume us.  God is a forgiving God, full of mercy and grace.  This will never change!  People will change, circumstances will change, but God will never change!  He is faithful to us even when we are not faithful to Him.  Practicing remembering these positive things about the Lord will start to develop our faith muscles, using our mind to let the Lord work in our hearts.
Blessings,

Jill Briscoe 
Executive Editor 
Just Between Us Magazine  


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Beware of Holy Substitutes

Dear Friends,

At most places I speak, I am asked to address leaders and followers alike about the present urgent need of personal reality that sustains and empowers us to live well in sometimes impossible situations.

On Christian campuses (one of the hardest places to live in the present reality of the living God) I will say something like: “This wonderful Christian school is one of the hardest places to stay in vital touch with the Lord. We have so many holy substitutes. It’s so easy to be friends with Jesus’ friends rather than friends with Jesus!” I see acknowledgement in the eyes of the students or in their body language as they quit being bored and sit up a little bit straighter!

We all do it, of course – teacher and student alike. We substitute aids to spiritual reality for the reality itself. Here in the West we are drowning in holy substitutes. There are devotionals, computer courses, CDs, DVDs, and radio messages meant to be aids to a deeper relationship with God, and yet, there is a danger that they are taking the very place of that relationship! Being an author myself, I hate to think I am contributing to this problem! Does what I write leave readers knowing how to connect with the Lord themselves? Does what we record for radio lead people to dare to wrestle with concepts and be alone with God to a deeper and greater degree than ever before?

“How should I pray?” one will ask. “I’ve forgotten, settling for a few words from a devotional or a fix from my favorite radio preacher.” Others have said to me: “I can’t wait to meet with my Christian mentor in the morning.” Not, “I can’t wait to meet with Christ!” Often, I have had people ask me, “Would you mentor me, Jill?” I usually answer, “No, Jesus will mentor you, but I will meet with you a few times to show you how to let Him do that. And once in a while, we can meet to share the lessons He is teaching us both.” We must not become holy substitutes for the Holy Spirit! Or people will lean on us instead of on Him!

I am aware that I may well be working myself out of a job. In fact, I present messages about how to go deeper with God, how to read the Bible, and how to hear His voice. Please, God, let my efforts to encourage people to connect with the dynamic of the Spirit never become a holy substitute for the real thing.

We must first personally substitute all our own great resources for the real deal. I need to do the work I need to do in order that He can do the work He needs to do within me. I want to help people toward a moment-by-moment conscious awareness of His hand on our shoulder, His love in our life, His breath in our spirit, and His grace in our soul. “God and God alone,” as the song says it. I must make sure that all our God-inspired resources lead people to take the responsibility to nourish their own interior life.

So, walk into the throne room early in the morning, all by yourself, and just talk! Learn to listen, too…to discern the still small voice of God above the cacophony of noise around you. Don’t just watch other do it – you do it!

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine