Monday, April 18, 2016

Sometimes the Small Meeting is the Big Meeting

Dear Friends,

I am frequently invited to speak at church gatherings, women’s group meetings, and conventions, and even to travel to faraway places as a featured Bible teacher.  I was getting so many invitations that it was tempting to go for the “big” opportunities.

Praying about it one day, I asked god for something I could do to check this tendency.  At once I knew what to do.  Whenever I took a “big” opportunity, I would accept a small one.  If I spoke to thousands one weekend, I would travel to the middle of a small state to meet with a group of women in a farmhouse the next.  And I discovered many things about God, myself, and other people this way. 

It happened in a place called Boondocks.  Yes, it did—there really is such a place.  The meeting was in a farmhouse in a cornfield, and a few women met to hear me teach the Bible for a day.  At the end of the day, one of the women asked me about our radio program.  “What can we do to get it on the radio in our area?” she asked.  I told her that we buy radio time, which is terribly expensive, and that we would have to find a station that broadcasts into the area.  I was pretty sure there wasn’t one near them.

She didn’t say anything else, but after I had gone home, she made some calls and found a Christian radio station.  She asked how much it would cost to broadcast a half-hour of our radio program.  He told her.  It wasn’t cheap.  A few weeks later, we received a check to cover the cost for a trial run.  We did it.  She has supported us ever since.  That whole area of the country, which is out of the orbit of the Christian circuit, has been able to listen to Bible study on the radio every day as a result of this “small” opportunity.

These kinds of things seldom happen in a crowd—in the big events.  So something I did to keep my pride in check ended up being a blessing to me, giving me “heart partners” in ministry, and bringing the gospel to an area bereft of Christian teaching—thereby blessing others.

We need to die to the nonsense of controlling our own lives and ministry, in fact, our own anything—our own schedule, time, money, status, and the trappings of self-importance.  Jesus left everything behind Him.  All His things.  Do we have our “things” in perspective?  Cultivating a spirit of humility will help us keep ourselves the “right size” in our thinking.

Paul said that we shouldn’t allow a spirit of rivalry to cause divisions among us.  Rivalry about ministry.  Even rivalry about material things.  Do we have these things in perspective?  What kind of car do we drive?  How do we spend our money?  Where do we go for our leisure time?  Do we easily say no to legitimate pursuits in order to serve people?  Are we dead to the lure of our things and alive to the things of Jesus?

Jesus died on the cross. He died to a career—He was only about thirty-three years old when He died.  He died to fame and fortune.  He insisted that those He healed not tell anyone (see Matt. 8:4, for example).  He died to a career as a super-rabbi, spending His days on earth debating in the schools of Hillel and Shammai—prominent religious teachers of the day.  He died to companionship among the elite and chose to spend His time with tax collectors and sinners.  So Jesus modeled humility for us. 

One of the things that will really keep us humble is to spend time with the disenfranchised, the poor, the oppressed, the prisoners, and the outcast.  Such experiences as serving with my friend in a maximum security prison, visiting a relief center at a garbage dump in the Philippines, helping displaced people find a toilet or some water to wash themselves, and talking to beggars in Peru have changed my life and humbled me beyond measure.  As I learn to wash the feet of suffering people, I cry.  How rich and spoiled I am.  How soft.  How unworthy to serve these people—to give a cup of cold water to the persecuted or a blanket to the naked.  Why should I have the privilege to be fed and warm, well and strong?  Why do I live in a country with police protection, a country that is comparatively safe?  Why is my stomach full?  Why do I have a bed to sleep in and so many clothes in my closet?  I am humbled by my wealth.  I am humbled by the poverty of many in this country and around the world.

We so often rate and value events, ministry, and even people according to their importance in the eyes of the world.  Instead, we need to think about their importance in the eyes of God.  In a society that is market driven and filled with “people worshipers,” the church needs to be careful that it doesn’t allow the world’s values to drive ministry.


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, April 11, 2016

Meeting Us Around the Corner of Our Tomorrow

Dear Friends,

Sometimes in our response to rejection, we find ourselves doing things we find difficult to live with afterward.  Guilt compounds the problem.  How can you feel good about yourself when you know you have used other people to your own selfish ends?

Yet however hurt she was, however guilty she felt, Leah never stopped talking to God.  Her hurting heart didn’t stop her, her guilt didn’t stop her, her disappointment in herself didn’t stop her.  If the Bible says that God listened, then Leah must have kept on talking to Him, and therein lay her salvation.

Despite this, Leah’s lot in life never really changed.  She had to learn to live with something she could never change.

Rejection in the short-term is hard enough to cope with, but rejection over the long haul is a killer.  To be able to sustain long-term rejection—to live with it day in and day out—necessitates lessons well-learned in the short-term.

Though Rachel died in childbirth—the birth of her second son, Benjamin—Leah never replaced her sister in Jacob’s affections.  We don’t know just when Leah died, but she may still have been living when her sons, wild men, sold Rachel’s son Joseph—Jacob’s favorite—into slavery, having narrowly been diverted from murdering him.  If her children were a comfort to her when they were small, they don’t sound like they were very good company once they were grown!  Poor Leah!

There are many “poor Leahs” in this life.  Perhaps you know such a person, or perhaps you are one yourself.

Though Leah’s circumstances were trying beyond measure, God cared for her.  He sustained her, watched out for her, and listened to her prayers.  He provided her with companionship when her husband was no companion, love when her husband was no lover, and friendship when he was no friend.

We can learn much from Leah.  We can learn that even when we face rejection, we must resist letting it turn us into its slave.  We must refuse to obey its commands, and refuse to sink to the depths it tempts us to.

Above all, remember that God alone knows what rejection is all about.  He was rejected by the very world He made—His family, His friends, and His closest disciples.  In our extremity we can lay our head on His breast and say, “You understand.”  He will succor us, fill us with the assurance of His sustaining presence, and enable us to keep on keeping on, though we be married to Jacob, have Rachel as our sister, and raise children like Reuben, Judah, and Levi.  No matter how difficult our living situation, tomorrow is another day, and He has promised He will meet us around the corner of tomorrow with balm in His hands!


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine