Monday, April 21, 2014

Grace in Our Time of Need

If only I had suffered more, I thought, then I would have something to say.  Yet I had not come in my own name with my own words.  I knew I was an ambassador for Christ, who had suffered.  I had been invited by these people to bring a word from my King about His heart and His kingdom—a kingdom where one day there would be no more pain or sorrow and where all tears would be wiped away.  Walking up the steps to the pulpit and looking at those faces,  I prayed I would truly represent the one who had sent me.

Dear Friends,

Pacing up and down at the back of the church in Croatia, my heart racing, I felt something close to panic tighten around my heart as I viewed the people I had been invited to come and “teach.”

They had been through the fires of affliction along the Serbian border.  Having just arrived in a safe haven, many were in a state of shock.  Some had seen their husbands’ or sons’ throats cut, daughters torn away from them, crammed into trucks and driven out of sight.  Others came to our meetings from boxcars they shared with dozens of other displaced people.  These temporary accommodations would turn into semi—permanent “residences.”  Still others had on their minds family homes that had been taken over by the enemy.  Strangers slept in their beds, wore their clothes, sat at their tables, and sifted through their private papers and photographs.

I had come to speak to these afflicted, harassed people.  I looked at my notes, carefully and prayerfully prepared, and decided to scrap them!  What could I say to these people?  What right had I to offer anything, coming to them for a temporary visit from far away, in my own clothing with my stomach full?  Our family lived in a safe home that was protected by an efficient police force.  Somehow, “God loves you and I do too” sounded a little inadequate.

If only I had suffered more, I thought, then I would have something to say.  Yet I had not come in my own name with my own words.  I knew I was an ambassador for Christ, who had suffered.  I had been invited by these people to bring a word from my King about His heart and His kingdom—a kingdom where one day there would be no more pain or sorrow and where all tears would be wiped away.  Walking up the steps to the pulpit and looking at those faces, I prayed I would truly represent the one who had sent me.

The words came then, swiftly, the interpreter’s voice hardly interrupting the flow.  I told them, “Jesus’ parents had to escape murderous soldiers who tried to kill their baby.  They fled in the night with their precious little boy who was barely two years old.  They became refugees in Egypt, a foreign land.”  Eyes brightened in the pews.  Arms of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, tightened around their precious children, and they paid close attention.  The Holy Spirit gave me more gentle words.  I told them Jesus had a big family.  He was poor, by trade a craftsman.  His father died, and He cared for a widowed mother and many sisters and brothers.  He worked hard.  But there came a day when He had to leave His home and let others care for His family.  That must have been very difficult for Him.  Heads nodded.  These people understood such loss of control.

“Jesus knew what it was to be homeless,” I continued.  “One day He said, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but I, the Messiah, have no home of my own—no place to lay my head.’  Sometimes He was hungry; sometimes He was thirsty.  Sometimes He didn’t have time to sleep—even under the stars!  Then one day, evil men hammered Him to a cross—naked.  He was tortured, and yet He forgave His tormentors.  He was cursed, yet He prayed for those who cursed Him.  He was rejected and abandoned by His friends, but He didn’t hold it against them, and He died of His terrible wounds and a broken heart.”  Tears began to fall down those worn faces, etched with grief.  It was very quiet in the church.  I went on to apply the truth I was telling.

“Some of the things that happened to Christ have happened to you.  You could not avoid them.  You could not stop them from happening.  Pain and sorrow have come, and you could not escape them.  You have had no choice in the matter.  But this Jesus—this King—this One sent from heaven, had a choice!  He did not need to come and be treated in such a way.  What’s more, He knew before He came what He was in for.  He was God, and so He had power to resist, to hit back, to get even.  He had the power to save Himself. Yet He chose not to. Why?  He had a reason, a purpose for allowing Himself to be crucified: He loved us.  He came to us in our terrible world and experienced our trials, our problems, and our pain.  He died in order to forgive us and reconcile us to God and to each other.”

A hymn began quietly.  Some men and women stood; others knelt, lifting their hands toward God.  Many wept openly.  Then the meeting was over, and we went out to the medical, feeding, and clothing distribution centers—the day’s work had only begun.

When trouble comes, it’s important to ask the right person the right questions.  God is shown in the book of Job as not only accessible but also greater than Satan and stronger than the sin that so easily besets us.  God is able to sustain and supply His own people when trouble comes.  When we learn how to turn to God and ask the important questions, we will hear the answers loud and clear—and in the hearing “find grace to help us in our times of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Blessings

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, April 14, 2014

The Content of Contentment

What’s going on inside you?  Are you sitting under the gripe tree griping?  Are you holding together or are you falling apart?  When we are content with the choices God makes for us, we can respond rightly to everything life throws at us in all its shades and shadows.  In other words, when we say a loud YES to God’s decisions for us, we will find ourselves content! 

Dear Friends,

Our life does not have to be in turmoil for us to be discontented and griping.  One thing that can get us griping so that we lose our joy is not crisis but comparisons.  These usually begin with the words if only.  Think of the Israelites.  They lamented: “If only we were back in Jerusalem!”  “If only” is the language of discontent.  If only I lived there instead of here, I’d be happy.  If only I was pretty, sporty, or clever like so—and—so.  Or, if only I was married.  Then, if only I wasn’t married!   (Someone said that marriage is like a besieged city—everyone inside is trying to get out, and everyone outside is trying to get in!)  “If only I had a baby, “lamented a woman who was struggling with infertility.  She found she was comparing herself to her classmates, who all seemed to be pregnant.  She had never suspected that she could not get pregnant when she wanted and how she wanted.  As a result, she lost her joy.  “If only I had a more interesting job—like my best friend,” complained another woman.  But contentment isn’t dependent on outside circumstances (good or bad, men or women, jobs, or even having children.  I have come to believe that the content of contentment is Christ!

We must be in the will of God to be content.  When you believe you are exactly where God wants you to be, you won’t be happy anywhere else in the whole wide world!  Even if you feel you are sitting by the waters of Babylon as the Israelites were, you should know you cannot be truly happy outside the will of God.  When we lay our complaints down about His workings in our life, we will be held together inside.  In fact, the dictionary defines contentment as “to hold in or contain together”!

As I struggled as a young wife with being content with a husband who traveled a lot, I realized I would only be fully content if I and he were in the center of God’s will.  Since I believed it was God’s will for Stuart to be doing what he had been called and commissioned to do, I knew I would not be happy if he were home!  That mental acceptance helped my heart to begin its journey toward the peace I had been seeking.  Peace of heart and mind, after all, is not dependent on a person but on being in the center of God’s calling on your life.  Therein lies peace and therein lies an inner cohesiveness that only the Holy Spirit can engineer.

What’s going on inside you?  Are you sitting under the gripe tree griping?  Are you holding together or are you falling apart?  When we are content with the choices God makes for us, we can respond rightly to everything life throws at us in all its shades and shadows.  In other words, when we say a loud YES to God’s decisions for us, we will find ourselves content!  In fact the word aye (yes) is used in the British House of Commons as an affirmation vote.  It has often been hard for me to glance heavenward and say aye to God’s plans and purposes for my life.  But a life of saying “yes, Lord” makes it easier to accept God’s no’s when they come.  So to be content, we must determine to stay in the will of God, accepting what the will of God allows.

Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Just Between Us Magazine