Thursday
Dec272018

The Weekly Encourager – December 27, 2018 – Ring Out, Wild Bells

As 2018 draws to a close, some of us are grieving the loss of loved ones. Others are disturbed by the direction our society is moving in, dismayed by the seeming loss of Christian virtues. This stirring poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (published in 1850, as he grieved not only the loss of his dear friend, but social injustice in his country) seems particularly appropriate for this week between Christmas and New Year's.

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

   The flying cloud, the frosty light:

   The year is dying in the night;

Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

 

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

   The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

 

Ring out the grief that saps the mind

   For those that here we see no more;

   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,

Ring in redress to all mankind.

 

Ring out a slowly dying cause,

   And ancient forms of party strife;

   Ring in the nobler modes of life,

With sweeter manners, purer laws.

 

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,

   The faithless coldness of the times;

   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes

But ring the fuller minstrel in.

 

Ring out false pride in place and blood,

   The civic slander and the spite;

   Ring in the love of truth and right,

Ring in the common love of good.

 

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;

   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

   Ring out the thousand wars of old,

Ring in the thousand years of peace.

 

Ring in the valiant man and free,

   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

   Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be.

 

- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

 

As we approach a new year, let us do so with renewed hope in Jesus Christ. He alone can console us in our private grief. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” - Psalm 34:18 ESV. Know that “God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.” - Philippians 1:6 TLB.

 

Christ alone can bring kindness, cooperation, and equity to the nations. “Look at my Servant...he will proclaim justice to the nations.” - Matthew 12:18 NLT. As 2019 begins, let's renew our commitment to pray regularly for all those in authority. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” - Galatians 6:9 ESV.

 

Know that Christ will strengthen us, the weak yet faithful, until He comes again to wipe away every tear and to reign in glory forever. Thanks be to God!

 

Happy New Year!

j

 

Friday
Dec212018

The Weekly Encourager – December 21, 2018 – The Christmas Marathon

Are you running the Christmas Marathon? Between planning, decorating, shopping, wrapping, making, cleaning, cooking, baking, hosting, serving, singing, greeting, visiting, writing, sending, etc., most of us are pretty busy this time of year. There will always more to do, yet we can make the choice to do less. For many years, I've made a conscious decision to drop some activities in order to have a little more time to rest and think about the significance of this holiday. What I don't need is more Christmas lights. What I do need is more of Jesus, who is the Light.

Last Sunday the Scripture reading at our church was a beautiful juxtaposition of old and new testaments. I'd like to share these verses here from John 1 and Isaiah 9.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given.

And we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

For from His fulness we have all received, grace upon grace.

What a beautiful interweaving of prophecy and fulfillment. An artist depicted a similar interweaving in her amazing portrait of the Virgin Mary consoling Eve. Eve is depicted as downcast, holding the remains of an apple in one hand, with a serpent winding around her legs. By contrast, Mary is shown smiling, fully pregnant with Jesus, with the head of the serpent under her foot. One hand is resting on Eve's shoulder, while the other guides Eve's hand to feel the divine child move in the womb. The sorrow and shame of Eve is wonderfully contrasted with the mercy and hope of Mary. This is Genesis 3 in action. Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free!

This portrait has been especially meaningful to me lately, as I've been cast down with the horrible effects of my own sin: how I hurt others and myself, and how poorly I reflect the light of Christ to the world. This is one reason why I haven't written many Encouragers for several months. I just feel like, I'm such a sinner, how can I possibly encourage someone else? Then, I finally wrote the Gender Bender piece, which I recently learned was not encouraging, but discouraging to two people dear to me. Therefore, seeing the portrait of Eve and Mary for the first time was a balm to my wounded soul.

The beauty of Christmas is that Jesus left all the glory of His heavenly home to come to earth as a child and die as a man. He did this for me, a sinner. Have you ever thought about how long that journey must have been? That's the Real Christmas Marathon.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for hope! For forgiveness! For such a great love! As I think of You running such a great distance for me, equip me to run my own race with endurance, carrying the shining torch of Joy!

Merry Christmas!
j

Copyright 2018 Janet A. Marney

To see the portrait “Virgin Mary and Eve” by Sister Grace Remington, visit https://www.monasterycandy.com/Detail?prod=99

 

 

 

 

 

Friday
Dec142018

The Weekly Encourager – December 14, 2018 – Little Things Mean a Lot

Today's Encourager features a guest writer, Davide Marney. He writes about The Small Jewel of Christmas.

"Recently a good friend of mine did me a favor, for no other reason than they knew I would like it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Happens every day. Friends do nice things for their friends all the time.

"But it just so happens that in this case, the favor was totally unlooked for, in an area that I never expected to experience again.

"Imagine walking out onto a forested mountain slope recently flattened by some huge natural catastrophe such as a volcanic eruption. Everything around you as far as your eye can see is moonscape, complete devastation. Then, as you step over a tree, you come upon a single flower growing in a crook of a branch.

"At that moment you realize in a flash that this entire mountainside is going to be covered in forest again. That one, little flower is not just a sign of hope, it’s proof. That flower is a promise, an unstoppable promise of what will be.

"The Small is the Large.

"The entire universe, the largest thing we can ever know, is in fact made up of the smallest particles. The creation of the very first particle is the real miracle of creation. Out of it flowed all that we are and know. From nothing to something.

"This is the point of a Baby Jesus. He is the small jewel of Christmas, the unstoppable promise of what will be. The seed is the future of the tree. You can hold it in the palm of your hand, even hide it deep in the soil, but it will grow and cover the earth.

"Every small act of kindness is a jewel. To restore one relationship; to speak one kind word; to grant one mercy; to forgive one slight; these are the small jewels of Christmas. These are the seeds that are planted by God within our hearts.

"Merry Christmas, everyone. May you shine like stars in the smallest – and most meaningful -- of ways."

- By Davide Marney

What my husband wrote ties in well with last week's sermon by Pastor James Forsyth. In his exposition of Micah 5:1-5, James noted the contrast between little Bethlehem, an irrelevant town in the middle of nowhere, and the largeness of Jesus, who came to be our Shepherd, Security, and Peace. God takes what is little and uses it for great things, to show bright flashes of His glory.

While listening to this sermon, I thought of a dear friend whose life, by God's providence, is particularly challenging right now. I wrote her what I hoped would be words of encouragement. But then I thought of several other people who are going through their own difficult trials. And somehow, the Christmas holidays seem to magnify their impact.

Here's what I wrote to my friend; see if it applies to you. "Pondering Bethlehem's insignificance, I immediately thought of your situation.  You've indicated that you feel that way now – that no one listens to you or is aware of what you desperately need, that you feel invisible, unappreciated, even unloved.  

"But, viewed in the light of Eternity, you have been chosen to share in the sufferings of Christ!  He also was neglected, ignored, misunderstood, betrayed, mistreated, cursed, despised, and rejected, and by His own family and close friends!  Hearing this sermon reminded me that you have been given the great privilege to follow in His footsteps. 

"Therefore I say God has some great plan for your life to be an influence which we cannot begin to fathom at this time.  You will shine forth the light of Christ from the very suffering you endure now.  You will be His witness.  Believe it.  Your very 'insignificance' in the eyes of the world is what will make your testimony bright.  You will NEVER be insignificant to God.  You are one who is beloved by the King of Glory.  You will give glory to God and sing to His praise, even if you have to croak it out with your dying breath. 'Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.'  Believe it.  You have been crucified with Christ.  You are no longer living for yourself, but for the One who loves you with an everlasting love."

This Christmas, I am praying that we all may see the Light in the midst of darkness, the Large in the midst of the mundane. I have this quote by Helen Keller on my frig: "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” Press on, noble saints! Keep on doing what is right, and don't be discouraged. Read God's word and pray each day, then tackle the To-Do list. Your little day has a much larger purpose for a much larger God.

God is faithful,
j

As always, I welcome your comments below.

To hear the sermon by Pastor James Forsyth, visit
http://mcleanpres.org/sermon/2-the-bethlehem-candle/

 

 

 

Monday
Sep242018

The Weekly Encourager – September 24, 2018 – Gender Bender?

I apologize in advance, for today I'm going to share thoughts on a controversial topic: homosexuality and “gender reassignment.” I know that in many circles this is politically incorrect, but sometimes as Christians we are called upon to speak the truth. Read or delete as you wish.

I start with this irrefutable fact: “God created man in His own image...male and female He created them….God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good.” - Genesis 1: 27, 31. Just let this soak in.

I'm not an expert on the topic, but here's what God says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” - I Corinthians 6: 9-11 ESV

Note that, after listing a bunch of sinful lifestyles, the Bible says, “And such were some of you.” It doesn't say, “such ARE some of you,” but “such WERE some of you,” indicating that they have changed, by God's grace. Every one of us is a sinner, so we can't judge homosexuals as being any worse than idolaters, thieves, or drunkards. We still love these people just as much. BUT, those who have met Jesus and chosen to follow Him will repent of evil and try to reform bad habits with the help of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we slip and fall into old patterns sometimes, but our hearts have been changed in a fundamental way. These sinful acts are no longer our chosen lifestyle, but aberrations we regret. The church is made up of sinners of every stripe who are not perfect, but forgiven. We have received mercy, thus we have a new desire to live righteous lives which bring glory to God. Therefore, if we have homosexual thoughts, we try not to act upon them, but direct our minds to something else. If we are alcoholics who feel like getting drunk, we step away from the bar.

I know several teenagers and young adults personally who are “identifying” as homosexuals and/or pursuing changes in gender. By the way, most of these dear children come from “good Christian homes” with parents who believe in Christ. These parents have tried to live by faith and raise their kids in the faith. I cannot begin to understand the grief of these parents, who are my dear friends. My heart goes out to you, and my prayers go up to God on your behalf. My love for you and your children remains as strong as ever.

What's happening to these young people is beyond sad. And it's just Wrong. No matter what you do to your body, you can't change your DNA. This is a scientific fact. Therefore, I cannot bring myself to call a boy “she” or a girl “he.” I could change my name to Butch S. Manly, get surgery, take hormones, act like a man, and dress like a man, but I will never BE a man inside. Every cell in my body cries out, “I am a woman.” “Gender reassignment” is ridiculous on the face of it. God gives gender assignments, not people. If you are required to pass a Spanish class and the teacher gives you the assignment to learn a certain set of Spanish verbs, you don't answer back, “No, I'd rather learn some Chinese verbs instead.” It should be obvious that the teacher gives the assignment, not the student. Our job as students is to do the work to get comfortable with those verbs, to practice and become fluent in the assigned language, whether it's our first choice or not.

The underlying problem here is not the child's gender, but the overall unhappiness with his/her life in a sinful world. Most often, the person seeking a gender change is depressed and not getting help for it. The person believes that changing gender will be the solution to his/her problems. Often, the child is going through the typical “I don't fit in” feelings of youth. They struggle with perfectly normal feelings of not belonging, being rejected by peers, etc. As parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, relatives, and friends, our role is to help these struggling children to navigate the difficult phases of growing up. At the risk of being overly simplistic, we do this by providing unconditional love along with positive male and female role models. We must foster an environment where the child feels safe and accepted, loved and listened to. We must help the child find his/her God-given gifts, so that he/she can feel the satisfaction of doing something well, finding some place to fit in. We also must provide age-appropriate rules and boundaries, with firm discipline when necessary. We get pastoral or professional help when needed. No matter what our fallen world says, we never let the child set his own agenda. That is a fool rearing a fool.

I am reminded of a young boy I know, who got up early one Saturday and ate an entire box of a dozen donuts himself. His parents awoke in time to see their son vomit up the sugary treats. I assure you that if he had asked first if he could eat a dozen donuts in one sitting, his parents would have refused. A parent is given the responsibility of helping the child distinguish between Want and Need. Train the child in the right way to go, so he/she can make healthy choices later. We can't give a child everything a child wants, but we try to give everything a child needs.

Our role is to help these sad children to find Jesus, for He alone holds the answers. He alone can give meaning to life, ease real suffering, and bring joy to troubled hearts. Even if a child asks for a stone (thinking it to be a box of donuts), good parents will give him nourishing whole-grain bread. As the Proverbs say, there is a way which looks appealing to a person, but it leads to death. Remember Adam and Eve, the original disobedient children. Trying to become the opposite sex is like eating a bad apple full of worms or a box of donuts which will make you vomit over and over. Eating a stone will only drag you down further. Suicide rates are twenty times greater in people who have artificially “re-assigned” their gender through surgery.

Sometimes it's an issue of authority. Remember that we have been given the sacred duty to supervise and superintend our kids' growing years. We must cultivate healthy relationships with the children God has placed in our lives, so that they are able to confide in us. We are wiser than they. We try to cultivate good sense and emotional awareness, so that they can make wise decisions as they mature. We must build trust. We must build faith. We must affirm, encourage, and celebrate the gender God chose for them.

What if it's too late? If you are a parent, this situation may not be your fault, but a result of living in a broken world. It's never too late to change your relationship with your child. Get godly help. For your child, this may not be his/her fault, but a result of living in a broken world. It's never too late for God to change a heart. Get godly help.

In any case, keep on praying, for God is faithful. Keep on loving the person, no matter what, yet speak Biblical truth and maintain boundaries. Refuse to call good evil and evil good. Truth is a part of love. Maintain your integrity, finding your strength in the Lord, who is our only Rock. Stay close to the Lord, His word, and His people. These are the same things we all must do to fight our daily battles. Stand firm! God is more than able to overcome any problem, to forgive any sin, to reach any reprobate. “They who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true.” - Frances R. Havergal.

Have hope! Remember that love covers a multitude of sins. Above all, do not hate sinners, but love them to Christ.

God is faithful,
j

For further reading: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/06/15145/

 

 

Wednesday
Sep052018

The Weekly Encourager – September 5, 2018 – God's Timing is Perfect

It's been a long time since I've posted here, but today I have some encouragement that needs to be shared. After all, the Scriptures remind us to tell others what God has done.

I mentioned a while back that my husband Dave lost his job last Thanksgiving. Due to a change in management at that company, Dave's department was mostly eliminated. This was bad news: a 61-year-old white male losing his job right before the holidays, with no guarantee that he'd ever get a similar position again. Although he was not excited about it, that was the job that Dave had planned to do until retirement. But God had other plans.

Of course no one was hiring during the holidays, so Dave ended up out of work for four months in total. During that time he kept a daily job journal and spent a fair amount of time in God's Word, prayer, and self-examination. What a wonderful opportunity to reboot his life! It was a time of spiritual growth. One of the fruits of this time was the decision to make a major life change via bariatric surgery. Thus he began the long process of preparation and paperwork. It's important to note that if he had not been laid off, he would not have had time or energy for all this.

Meanwhile, he accepted a temporary job for six months with low pay and no benefits. As the six months were ending, the employer was impressed with his work and broadened the scope of the project, asking Dave to renew for another six months. Dave reluctantly agreed, but told them that, after that additional period, he would seek something more commensurate with his abilities and experience. A week later they called him to say that they had created a new position for him! This would be a permanent job with more appropriate salary and some benefits, too.

In answer to our prayers, Dave was approved for the surgery under COBRA and was able to schedule it just at the end of the first six-month contract! Therefore, he had two weeks of (unpaid) recovery time before beginning his new permanent role. God is so good!

The surgery went well, with lots of prayer support from many Christian friends. Yesterday, Dave had his two-week follow-up appointments, and the doctors were very pleased with his progress. He's healing well and feeling well! Yay! I've been so impressed with his dedication to the new program of healthy diet and exercise. He's lost 35 pounds since the spring, his blood sugar is in the normal range, and he looks much better. We even took a two-day getaway together.

After the doctor visits yesterday, he took the metro downtown to begin the new job. Interesting note: our new medical insurance does NOT COVER bariatric surgery, so it's a good thing he had it done while still on COBRA. We are so grateful for the job loss last November that led to this chain of events. God's timing is perfect.

These verses from Psalm 118 seem to sum up our situation now:

“The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous….
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly!
I shall not die, but I shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord….
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his steadfast love endures forever!”
- from Psalm 118 ESV

How much happier we pilgrims would be if we would just remember that everything God brings is for our good! What may look like a huge stumbling block in our way can turn out to be the hill we climb that strengthens our legs for new hikes ahead. God loves us! We shall not die, but live to tell the story! If we fall into a pit, the Lord's arm is strong enough to pull us out. God loves us with an everlasting love!  His covenant love, bought with the blood of Christ, endures forever.

Gracious Father, help us to trust in You despite huge obstacles in our path. Teach us to give thanks in all things as we walk along day by day. Remind us to share Your good deeds with others whom You have placed in our path. Fill our hearts with joy that we may sing praise to You!

God is faithful,
j

Copyright 2018 Janet A. Marney
I welcome your comments below.