Monday, September 22, 2014

Work Outside Your Gifting

Dear Friends,   
  
When Jeremiah was put under house arrest, he realized he needed a messenger. His work was finished, and it was time to read the scroll to the people. He couldn’t do it because he was imprisoned in his own house. Someone else would have to go for him. So Jeremiah did the obvious thing: He sent Baruch. “You can do it. I cannot go to the Lord’s temple, but you can,” I can hear him saying encouragingly to the scribe. “So you go to the house of the Lord on a day of fasting and read to the people from the scroll the words of the Lord that you wrote as I dictated” (Jer. 36:6).

Jeremiah had great confidence in his friend. He had spent hours of prayer with him, and he knew his heart. Jeremiah also knew that “heart” was more important than “gift.” It would be Baruch’s heart for the Lord and for the people that would give him the courage to go to the temple and work outside of his gifting. Baruch could have offered all sorts of excuses. Above all, he could have objected, “It’s not my gift.” But he didn’t. He set off and just “did it.”

Have you ever used the excuse that you can’t do something that needs doing because it’s not your gift? Have you had some really good teaching on spiritual gifts and been quite excited that you have actually discovered yours? The only danger in that is you might abdicate your responsibilities if you don’t believe you are gifted for them! Maybe you have been exercising your gifts happily within the church or in the community. Then a need has arisen, and someone has asked you to volunteer to meet it. Have you ever said, “Sorry [you are really highly relieved], but it’s not my gift?” Even if it is not your gift, it may still be your responsibility!

As a pastor’s wife I have needed to listen to people’s troubles and try to say something to help them. Some would call that counseling. I do not count this as one of my gifts. I do it because there are not enough ears to listen to the hurts out there. At the end of my teaching meetings people want to talk and ask questions. Often these talks turn into “counseling sessions.” I find myself working outside of my gifting a lot of the time. At times like these I try to have a ministry of silence (listening) and a ministry of tears. Anyone can listen, and anyone can cry! That is, anyone who has asked God to break his or her heart with the things that break the heart of God. Only after I have tried to exercise a ministry of silence and tears do I use words. Try it. It is amazing the helpful thoughts that come to you in silence. A talker like me needs to exercise self-control in order to be a good listener, but God is delighted to help you with this if you ask Him to!

Baruch was willing to work outside of his gifting when it was necessary. How about you—are you willing to do the same? Pray about it.

With joy,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, September 15, 2014

Developing a Heart for People

Dear Friends,
When you read of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, you hear his heart. You hear his tears talking: “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matt. 23:37).  We can pray about people’s stubborn pride. Jesus and Jeremiah did.
Prayer that is effective is prayer that is specific. Jeremiah didn’t get on his knees and pray fervently, “Bless Israel!” He got down to specifics. He prayed about the root problem, and he prayed about the repercussions of the problem. If we will be effective in our prayers, we must do our homework so we can intercede with an intelligent understanding of the situation.
Prayer also prepares the ground before the seed is scattered on it. The sowers scatter the seed, and our tears water it. Prayer is the place where God softens our hard hearts toward difficult people who may be giving the sowers a hard time. And our prayers soften their hearts, too.
Jeremiah prayed plenty of “I’ve had it with them” prayers. When he stayed in the presence of God long enough, however, he began to catch the heart of God for these same people, and soon he would be weeping for them instead of wanting vengeance. There is little hope of nursing a heart of vengeance if you are engaging in a viable prayer ministry. A heart for people is developed on your knees.
I am struck with Jeremiah’s likeness to God. The prophet’s heart yearned for the people to repent and turn to the Lord, just as Jesus’ heart did. Jeremiah’s troubles were chiseling him into the likeness of God. “Perhaps they will bring their petition before the Lord, and each will turn from his wicked ways, for the anger and wrath pronounced against this people by the Lord are great,” he says (Jer. 36:7). God’s tears were on Jeremiah’s face. God’s compassion was in Jeremiah’s heart. God’s mercy was evident in the words Jeremiah was praying. God’s love was being offered freely to His people throughout Jeremiah’s life.
The secret of a heart of compassion is a secret prayer life that no one else knows about. What are you and God secretly doing together? Are you talking to Him regularly about all the people who are bound for destruction if they don’t repent, or could you not care less? You don’t grow compassion in public; you grow it on your face before God in the secret place.
Not long ago I spent some time asking God to show me an area of my devotional life in which He wanted me to grow. Unmistakably the answer came back, I want you to care.
“But I do care, Lord,” I remonstrated. “I spend every living moment attending to your work.”
Where are the tears? He asked me quietly. I had no answer because I had no tears. It was time to let Him do His work in me in the secret places of my heart.
If there are no tears, I will not be putting my life on the line.  I will not be taking risks, pushing boundaries, attaining heights, taking new initiatives. There will be no late-night candles burning at both ends because people are dying without Christ.
Compassion moves you from the comparative safety of your own house into the marketplace of the world to shout out the message from the housetops. Compassion gets you off the evangelical donkey and into the ditch or, if you like, into the trenches. If you are moved with compassion, you didn’t ride past someone in trouble as the scribe or Pharisee did in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37). You get down from your high horse and attend to the one who has been robbed and beaten by thieves. We must not leave this sort of compassion to the Jeremiahs of this world. We all need to develop a heart for people.   
When’s the last time you shed real tears for the people around you? Ask God to give you a heart of compassion for others—and start on your knees!
With joy,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine