Monday, August 18, 2014

Living Well in Tough Circumstances

Dear Friends,

Jeremiah and Baruch continued their work with the Word of God, and the opposition did their level best to silence them, even putting Jeremiah under house arrest. They did not, however confine Baruch. Perhaps Baruch’s friends put in a good word for him. Maybe there were sympathetic people in the government than we know about who could pull a few strings. In any case, surely God’s hand kept Baruch free for the job He wanted him to do. Having Jeremiah confined to his quarters did not stop the men from doing their work. In fact, it was in this restricted situation that they accomplished their work, and precious scrolls were written.

I think of the apostle Paul in prison saying, “What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Phil. 1:12). Would the prison epistles have been written without the prison? Hardly. Imagine doing without the book of Philippians! Would the book of Jeremiah be in our Bible today if Jeremiah had remained a free man? Jeremiah and Baruch learned to see an opportunity in every difficulty and used their time of forced inactivity to good advantage.

Do you find yourself confined to the house? Do you feel as if you are under house arrest? You can feel like that if you have small children and you are a stay-at-home mom. You can identify if you are fighting a chronic disease and you are home for a long recuperation. Perhaps you are a caregiver and restricted by your responsibilities. There are myriad ways you can understand the feelings of Jeremiah and Baruch. There is so much to do, and yet you have been put under house arrest! Use the time. If God wanted you out and about you would be out and about. The Lord gave the two men a gift of grace when He game them this period of forced confinement.

I remember feeling as though I was under house arrest when I was a young mother and my husband was traveling. I was shut up for endless days and nights in a small house with three children below school age. One day in the middle of my quiet time a still small voice said, It’s a gift. Why don’t you say thank you? If I had failed the test of treating this period of time as a privilege rather than as a punishment, I would have missed the opportunity to begin to develop my writing skills. Looking back, I have never since had such a sweet time of productivity. Listen to God's voice. He is saying, “It’s a gift!”

God gave “house arrest” to Jeremiah, and he accepted it and exploited it for the Lord. “’Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now,’ the Lord instructed Jeremiah” (Jer. 36:2). So the two servants of the Lord used the tough circumstances of arrest as a time to work hard to finish the scrolls.  Jeremiah had to remember, perhaps with the help of notes, twenty years’ worth of messages, and Baruch painstakingly wrote them down.

How does God want to use your “house arrest”?

Blessings,


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor 
Just Between Us Magazine



Monday, August 11, 2014

Difficult Choices

Dear Friends,

One fateful day I tremblingly got down on my knees with my brand-new Bible open on the bed in front of me. I couldn’t pray! All I could do was will myself to stay there as my best friend looked at me in shock. Then I heard the door open, and she called out to the girls down the corridor, “Come here and look at this! She's gone cuckoo!” As I heard the footsteps coming along the corridor to “look at this,” a huge sense of joy engulfed me. I think joy is feeling God’s pleasure.

So many people think joy is experiencing their own pleasure. But it doesn’t work like that. When we bring joy and delight to the heart it doesn't work like that. When we bring joy and delight to the heart of God, He lets us know that deep down inside us, and our heart smiles. When Jesus sent the larger group of His disciples out to minister in His name for the first time, they returned full of excited stories of what had happened. They also “returned with joy” (Lk. 10:17). “Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure’” (Lk. 10:21). When we are doing the Father’s good pleasure-the things He has called and gifted us to do-His joy is transferred to our hearts, strengthening us to please Him. After all, “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). When Olympic sprinter Eric Liddell ran, he experienced the joy of God. “God made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure,” he said.

As I knelt there by my bed in college, I felt his pleasure. I knew I was exactly where I ought to be, doing what I should be doing. It would be alright, even though I was sure this was the end of those friendships. I was right about that. My friends never spoke to me again, and I was left to find out whether God would give me other friends. I know now that if I had not passed that basic test, I would not have been ready for the next one, and the next and the next. Whatever small challenge you are facing as a Christian in a hostile world, never underestimate its importance. God is strengthening you along the way for the bigger challenges ahead.

It might be that you do His will and your heart smiles but other hearts frown, or worse, scowl! You may feel God's pleasure while others are incensed. In the same passage that Jesus talks about the disciples knowing His joy and their joy being full, He talks about the world hating them (Jn. 17:13-14). The forces of evil are not moved by our joy. In fact, their fury knows no bounds when they come across joyful Christians, and they set about wiping the joy off our faces. They do this by entering the arena of our testing and trying to use it to their advantage. But God is on our side, and we shall not be moved, even in the greatest trials.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who, in the face of Nazism, said, “When a person has completely given up the idea of making something of himself-then one throws himself entirely into the arms of God, then one no longer takes seriously his own sufferings, but rather the suffering of God in the world” (Broadman’s Commentary on John, p. 372).

Bonhoeffer took his prison term as a gift of God to him and an opportunity to minister to other victims in the prison. Bonhoeffer lost his life to gain it in a better place. He became so identified with the "fellowship of Christ's sufferings" that his life stands as a beacon and an example for the suffering church around the world. We need to give up the idea of making something of ourselves. As we focus on the things that matter to God and not the things that matter to us, we’ll be able to buckle down to the task at hand.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine