Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Self Worth Bank

Dear Friends,

What you do and how you live matters to God, because you matter to Him and so do the people who need our help.  One way He will evaluate our lives will be according to the way we invest ourselves in the poor and needy.  He appreciates what we do for those less fortunate than ourselves and will reward us for it.

We live in a “look good – feel good” culture, so it’s easy to miss the point that a “God culture” is all about “being good – doing good.”  Want to know the path to joy?  “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8).  Solomon shares his own life experiment in this regard.

“I thought in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.’  But that also proved to be meaningless.  ‘Laughter,’ I said, ‘is foolish.  And what does pleasure accomplish?’” (Eccl. 2:1-2).  Another translation reads, “Laughter is silly.  What good does it do to seek pleasure?” (NLT) It’s not that we shouldn’t seek pleasure and laughter at all, but rather we shouldn’t seek only those things.

A God culture is a “see that good is done to others” culture.  You can have fun doing that!  It’s a different kind of fun that the tinsel triviality of silliness.  Deep joy that cannot be troubled by trouble is found in doing justice where there is no justice being done; loving mercy where cruelty rules; and walking humble with your God instead of drawing attention to your good deeds.

I was a very selfish teenager.  Looking back, I can’t understand how I had any friends!  I remember once in French class I was acting up and being disruptive.  My teacher stopped the whole class and said to me in front of everyone, “Jill Ryder, you must be the most selfish creature on God’s green earth!”  I turned bright red and was totally humiliated and angry at her, but I knew she was right.  I thought I was making a lot of fun for my friends and me – but actually I deserved the rebuke.  It got me thinking that I ought to put my time to more profitable use!

But try though I would, I could not get that egocentricity out of my life.  It took the saving life of Christ to get me thinking about others rather than myself.  It may not sound like much fun, but joy comes through knowing the Living God who gave Himself for us.  He wants to give Himself – through us – to help others.

Satisfaction comes from the experience of getting down and dirty in the ditch with the person who’s been beaten up by life on this crazy planet.  It’s in binding up the man’s wounds, putting him on your own donkey, taking him to a place of safety, looking after him until he heals – and paying the innkeeper’s bills on top of it all – that you find purpose!  (See Luke 10:30-35).

As you tend to the physical needs of one beaten up by robbers, joy comes in telling them that they are made for another world – a world where there will be no more pain, tears, death, sickness, poverty or despair.  There is great joy in promoting justice, mercy, and grace in a world where, as in Qoheleth’s world, injustice lives in the courts and cruelty survives in the streets.

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, May 11, 2015

The Look of Real Love

Dear Friends,

The Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8,16).  But what sort of love is He made of?  Warm fuzzy feelings?  Love that quits loving when it is not reciprocated?  Is His love conditional – “I’ll love you if you love me”?  Does He promise to love me only if I’m good, if I don’t sleep with my boyfriend or girlfriend before marriage, or if I’m pretty?  Does He expect me to say my prayers, go to church, and read my Bible before He will love me back?  What does the love of God look like?  How does it behave?  How can I describe it?

The young women listened attentively as I explained that the Greek language has several different words that English translates simply as “love.”  Those words describe different kinds of love.  The word that Paul uses to describe love in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape.  This word refers to unconditional love.  It means that God loves without conditions, irrespective of our reaction or response.  It is love “God style,” not love American style, or Western style.  It is a love that is willing to be rejected and still love on.  It is a love that loves the unlovely.  It is a love that lays down its life for its friends.  Human beings are incapable of loving this way.  In order to do this, we need the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Other Greek words describe the kinds of love that we experience.  For example, there’s phileo, which pictures friendship love.  And there’s eros, the “feeling too big for words” sort of love, the love we feel for a boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse.  But rarely do we experience agape love. 

Imagine what it would be like if we could love others as God loves us.  Why, that would revolutionize the world!  Yet this is exactly what God requires of us.  When we become His children, the Holy Spirit enters our hearts and begins to grow His “fruit,” one of which is love – agape love (Gal. 5:22).  The Holy Spirit within us then enables us to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and to love our neighbor as much as we love our selfish selves.  God does not tell us to do anything that He does not enable us to do!  He Himself is the enabling of all of His commands.

So how do we respond to this news?  How does the love of God get into our hearts in the first place?  Well, not without an invitation!  “Love has good manners” (1 Cor. 13:5).  The love of God comes into our hearts when we invite Jesus by His Spirit to come into our lives.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine