Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Trusting Through Trouble

Dear Friends,
If trusting God during the trouble He allows to visit my life teaches me something new about Him, it also teaches me something new about myself. Learning trust (which I can never learn unless I have something to trust God for) shows me how far I have to go in my own growth and development. It shows me the caliber of my faith. Sometimes, in our daydreams, we run through some possible scenarios of suffering in our minds and imagine ourselves coping.  I have often done this. First, you set the scene. Someone you love has just been killed in a car crash. The policemen knock at the door to bring the bad news. I see myself receive it with grace and ask them in, give them a cup of tea (the English always do that in times of crisis), and witness to them of life after death. Somehow, we dream away and see ourselves doing a halfway decent job!  But I have found that reality is another thing altogether.
When I was a child, the Second World War drove my father to move his family to England’s Lake District. A particularly vicious air raid resulted in our piling into the car and running as far away from the bombs as we could. Seeing that everyone was doing the same thing, my father purchased a sturdy little cabin cruiser and deposited us on it until he could find suitable housing in our new environment. We two children loved living on the beautiful lake. We learned to be up early in the morning, dive over the side for a quick bath, and be ready for breakfast and school in no time flat.
I will never forget breaking the thin film of ice on the lake as winter came. It made us gasp and splutter, and mother would cook extra bacon and eggs, knowing what the experience would do to our appetites! No matter that, we knew how cold that water was and no matter how equipped we believed we were to face it; no amount of mental preparation could help us with the actual experience of jumping into that cold water.
In the same way, no matter how well we think we have prepared ourselves for the troubles we know will be our lot, no matter how much we’ve rehearsed our part, the actual experience takes our breath away. It’s like diving into that ice-cold water. You know exactly what ice-cold water must feel like. You are prepared to pay the price and plunge in anyway, believing that, once submerged, you are equipped to cope. As soon as you hit the water, however, the shock takes your breath away, and you find yourself sputtering and gasping. You are surprised at yourself, but you are learning something new.
Pain really hurts. Bodies really bleed. And trauma is traumatic! The mind can do its best to prepare us, but when we are in over our heads, we will find out exactly who we are and what our trust is made of!
So in what spirit will we accept these dark, difficult days and moments? We can grit our teeth and hunker down to wait out the storm with something akin to fatalism, or we can begin to trust God to bring something good out of a bad situation!

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Obeying God

Dear Friends, 
The will of God is not always easy. Sometimes it is kittens and robins, koala bears and woolly lambs. But at other times it’s snakes and reptiles, lions and tigers, and whales! And what if Jonah couldn’t swim and feared fish—especially big fish?
Or, if we can’t identify with Jonah, perhaps we can identify with the little worm God sent to eat the vine. He certainly found that obedience doesn’t always taste sweet! Just think of that poor little worm. The job God chose for him was no piece of cake—nor a piece of vine to be more precise! Worms don’t usually eat six-foot vines! But the Word says, “God provided a worm.”  He specially prepared the little thing, for He never calls without equipping. Even a worm can do what God wants him to do if he’ll obey his Maker.  Perhaps we cannot identify with Jonah—after all, we don’t think of ourselves as mighty prophets—but what about identifying with the little worm?
Have you ever looked at Nineveh as Jonah looked at it—or at the vine as the little worm did—and wanted to turn tail and run? What right thing has God called you to do? What words must be written, what phone call made, what relationship mended, what peace made? What teenager needs confronting, or what elderly person needs to be cared for? What action has God’s voice been directing you to take? Will you obey?
Do you even know how to start? For if you do not start, it is certain you will never finish! Why not take a lesson from the little worm? Just take the first bite. Do the first obvious thing. Even if you think it will poison you, do it anyway. Don’t worry about the second bite, or the third, or the fourth. Just start, and soon you will have finished the whole thing.
Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Supporting Obedience

Dear Friends,
You and I are Christians today, because somebody somewhere left his or her family to come and bring the Gospel to America. An unknown. A Mr. or Miss Nobody. Maybe he or she never got back to the homeland. Maybe they never saw their families again. But you and I know Christ, and we’re going to heaven because somebody left his or her own family to make that possible for our families. There are some people in the Christian body gifted by God to be evangelists, missionaries, and traveling teachers. In our modern context, there are all of the above engaging I all sorts of travel who are called to be away from their homes to do kingdom work in order to finish the Father’s business.
Our job is to support those families specifically, to pray for them continually and sympathetically, and to fill up that which is lacking while they are away. Above all, we need to encourage them and not criticize them.
A man came a long distance to see me just after Stuart had left for a three-month trip. He was a godly man; in fact, he’d been one of the men who had encouraged us to leave the business world and go into the ministry in the first place. That godly man, whom we looked up to, came all that way to tell me, “Jill, this way of life you and Stuart are leading cannot be right. This is unbalanced.”
That did not help me. In fact, it just about finished me off because I was struggling anyway with what I needed to do; what I knew I had to do.
That very day a marvelous Canadian missionary happened to be visiting me. She’d come to keep me company, knowing that Stuart had just left. She listened very quietly to what this gentleman was saying to me. When he’d left, she said, “You know, Jill, don’t worry about it. I know you’re concerned about the children. What are they seeing? They’re seeing cost and sacrifice modeled.  They’re seeing two parents who love each other to death and hate to be apart but do it for one reason: it’s the right thing to do for Jesus. And these kids are absorbing all that.” I dared to believe she was right. I don’t think there’s any doubt about one of the reasons all our kids are in ministry today. They all modeled after us.
Just don’t expect the world to stand up and applaud. Remember that people thought Jesus was crazy. Not only did He preach a radical message of forgiven sin and new life, He lived radically, too. He drew criticism by just doing what He was supposed to do. When He stayed home and did the expected, He was fine. But as soon as He started the radical stuff they all said, “He’s absolutely out of His mind.”
So you’re not going to get any help from the world or even from church people sometimes. But remember that your resource for encouragement, courage, and strength is in the care and provision of God.
Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

How to Listen and Respond

Dear Friends,
Do you respond, or react, to criticism? I must confess I usually react first and respond later, but I have learned some lessons along the way! First I ask myself, is it true? Isaac D’Israeli said, “It’s much easier to be critical than correct.” If it’s a correct criticism, try to humble yourself and own it. Then ask the Lord how to proceed in dealing with it. If it isn’t true, you need to let it go rather than mull it over, rehearsing it late into the night or sharing it with friends on the phone, thereby keeping it alive.
Second, commit yourself to the Lord who judges fairly. After he had been judged by various people in varying degrees of hostility and accusation, the apostle Paul finally had to say, “It is a very small thing if I am judged by you.” Sometimes we have to leave the record in God’s hands, because we can’t control what others think and what they say about what they think, and how many people they tell, and whether or not what they tell is true. Often, when we try to go back and clean up our record, it only muddies the waters.
Third, Paul urges us not to spend valuable time judging ourselves on the matter. If we have endless postmortems over a situation, no kingdom work will ever get done! We need to take it to God and let His holy light into our hearts. We must open up the secret springs of our motivation for Him to examine, for He alone knows us through and through. Then as we commit our actions to His scrutiny, we need to rely on His judgment of the matter and, if it is possible, put right our part and leave the rest to Him.
Job found out that the one thing he needed to do above all else was to consider the source.  Sometimes a critic is motivated by jealousy (do you ever get the feeling that a person wants to see you fail?) or has some other spiritual ax to grind. So when someone says to you, “I have a word from the Lord for you,” check it out against what you know about the person bringing you the message. Then check it against what you already know about God. And don’t ignore what your own experiences of life have taught you. Job’s general knowledge of life had enabled him to say, in essence, “Were you just born yesterday? Open your eyes! Good people have trouble all the time.”
Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine