Thursday, April 27, 2017

Start at the End to Find the Beginning

Dear Friends,
When reading the book of Ecclesiastes, you need to start at the end in order to understand what it is all about, since the style of this book is in a genre far removed from today’s “fast food” type of literature. I drive my husband crazy because I always read the end of a book first. It sort of makes up my mind if it’s worth my time reading it at all. Ecclesiastes makes a whole lot more sense when you go to the end to find out about the beginning.
It’s at the end of chapter 12 that the whole thing is summed up. “Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing whether it is good or evil” (verses 13-14).
Solomon concludes his work with a summary of the results of all his heart searching, experimenting and discovering. It has been hard work for Solomon.  I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven,” he explains (2:3). It took a lot of his life to find the answers but at the end he came to a satisfactory conclusion: Keep His commandments. This is the meaning to our existence. It’s the whole thing. The Message renders Ecclesiastes 12:13-14: “Fear God. Do what He tells you. And that’s it.” That’s what? The reason we are here—the whole purpose of life in this place, in this time.
There is an old saying: Fear God and live as you like. It makes sense that if you live in the fear of God you will live as He likes you to live. This is the only certain pathway to extreme joy, to living a life that makes perfect sense. Ecclesiastes teaches us that the pathway to an exuberance of living is realized by those who live within the boundaries set by His love. Those limits are simple. We don’t “do this” and we so “do that.” This and that being the ten rules God wrote in His own handwriting on a couple of slabs of rock on a mountain on fire. We call them the Ten Commandments.
Man’s wonderings and wanderings find their end in a relationship with our Maker, pleasing and serving Him. That’s the whole thing! Wisdom is coming to that conclusion as soon as possible, in order not to live a wasted and frustrated life. It is the only path that makes sense of life on planet earth. It’s God-sense. This advice comes to us from numerous places in the Word of God including from the wisest man who ever lived—King Solomon.
Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine





Friday, April 21, 2017

Laying Down Your Dreams

Dear Friends,
What do you do when your fondest dreams have to be laid down? When you discover that you will never realize those dreams? When, in fact, your dreams turn into nightmares? When God begins to make it plain that you are to spend your life playing on that second fiddle, functioning in a supporting role? Well, if you are like Jeremiahs’ scribe, Baruch, you might get a little depressed! Hidden conflict takes its toll. But Baruch’s struggles were, he thought, well hidden from the world and from his partner. We may learn to hide conflict from those closest to us, but we can’t hide it from God—as Baruch was to find out.
There is no doubt that the scribe’s noble family was unimpressed by the decisions he had made.  We all know that family pressure can be the strongest cause for discouragement. Many a family has tried to discourage a child from, as they see it, “throwing his life away in missions or ministry.” To go into a life’s work that promises to bring little worldly remuneration seems such a waste to those who see things from a worldly point of view. When parents have spent lots of money on a child’s education and given him or her privileges and status, it seems uncalled for that the child would “throw it all away.” Apparently Baruch did not have to put up with the dangerous antagonism that Jeremiah faced from his family, but he had enough family pressure to add to his misery.
Jeremiah’s relatives and “friends” in Anathoth had warned him, “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord or you will die by our hands” (Jer. 11:21). How incredibly painful this must have been to Jeremiah! He dealt with his private pain by sharing it with his scribe, who wrote down his personal laments. Baruch also recorded God’s reply to him: If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan? Your brothers, your own family—even they have betrayed you; they have raised a loud cry against you. Do not trust them, though they speak well of you. (Jer. 12:5-6)
It was time to play with the big boys. God knew there was trouble enough ahead for Jeremiah, and He encouraged His servant to toughen up and face the battle.
Sometimes this is just the message we need, a “toughen up” message. Even though God was concerned about Jeremiah’s pain, God did not allow His servant to wallow in it. “That’s how it is, Jeremiah,” He told him. “Sometimes following me carries with it a cost—a cost that hurts—but in the end a cost that is eminently worth it!”

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Bit at a Time

Dear Friends,
Giving your life away a bit at a time is a lifelong occupation. It starts with a full surrender to the will of God in your life—and doing so before you know what it entails. “Whatever, Lord; whenever, Lord; however, Lord” are good words to use. It is a mind-set that asks, “What do I possess that I did not receive?” A mind-set that is ever grateful for Jesus. A mind-set that regards everything I have as a trust for the kingdom. I am simply a steward, not only of the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1), but also of anything God gives me here and now to use for Him. That includes my property, my home and garden, my cars, my bank balance, and so on. Everything. Jesus didn’t say to the rich young ruler, “Leave some of it in escrow and follow me.” He said, “Sell everything you have…Then come, follow me” (Luke 18:22).
The amazing thing is that when you live like this, you ind your own needs being met. Paul says to his generous friends in Philippi, “My God shall supply all your needs as you supply other people’s needs. That’s how it works. You supplied mine; God will supply yours” (Phil. 4:19).
I want my life to be characterized by generosity. I want people to see me giving it all, all the time, all the way. I want to because that’s what Jesus did for me. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” says Paul, “that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
When you know the grace of Jesus, then it’s easy to respond in kind. Ask yourself: “How can I become poorer for Jesus?” This may not sit well in some circles today. I hear a lot of, “How can I become richer for Jesus?” Ask instead, “What can I give away? What would really cost me?”  Do you get rid of all your loose change in the offering, or do you empty your purse into the plate and walk ten miles home because you have no money to pay for a bus ride, as a friend of mine did one day in response to a missionary offering? Extreme? Maybe. But did I hear a laugh? A great, grand cosmic laugh? Does God love the one who learns the spiritual art of generosity in all its dimensions? Oh yes, very much!

“Well, Jill,” I hear you say, “I can’t do that. That’s taking this Christianity you talk about too far.” It’s a question of “Will you?” not, “Can you?” You can do anything God calls you to do.  “Well,” you say with relief, “God hasn’t ‘called’ me to be irresponsible with money.” True enough—God has simply asked you to give it all away. Come, follow Him. Like the rich young ruler, you will go away sad if you refuse to abandon your life—all you have and all you are—to God. It’s a choice. If you take the challenge, then you’ll be able to say with Paul, “I can do everything through Christ Who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine