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