Wednesday
Mar142018

The Weekly Encourager – March 14, 2018 – When God Says No

Dave did not get the job. This was quite a let-down since he was one of the final two candidates, and the position seemed “perfect” for him. Here's what he wrote today to a person who had given him a recommendation, “I just heard yesterday that I do not get the position. I wish they hadn't taken a full month to reach that decision, but it was a very cool opportunity. You know me, I'm always 110% in, so I gave it everything I had, no regrets. On to the next!”

Although his tone was upbeat, I can tell you that when we found out last night we were both sad and tired. Dave had worked really hard preparing for all the interviews. He spent many hours researching the company and many more hours developing a new web site to show what he could do for them. So many people have been praying faithfully, which has been a big encouragement to him over the last four months, but God said No to our request. Again.

I know we're not the only ones who have prayed in faith and worked diligently for a worthy goal. Some of you have been in far worse situations. I know one man who loved a woman and wanted to marry her. He was one of the final two candidates, but the woman chose the other man. God said No to our friend. Why? Was it a lack of faith on this man's part? Not enough prayer power?

The apostle Paul pleaded with the Lord for healing, but the Lord said No. Was Paul a man who could have had his wish granted if only he had enough faith? No, Paul was a giant of faith, held up for our example. And then there's Jesus. In the garden, the Lord Jesus pleaded with God to take away the horrible agony of the cross, but God said No. Was Jesus low on faith? Did he not have enough friends praying for him? That is laughable. Jesus was fully God, and therefore the ultimate example of true faith in His heavenly Father. Friends, if anyone preaches to you that you can have anything you want if only you pray hard enough with real faith, reject that false doctrine!

Nowhere in the Bible does God promise He will give us everything we want. What He does promise is that He will give us everything we need. Nowhere in the Bible does God promise His people perfect happiness, but He does promise perfect holiness. We are being refined. God will use whatever process He deems appropriate to work holiness into us. That job seemed “perfect” for Dave from our perspective, but it obviously wasn't perfect from God's perspective. What we need most is not the perfect job, perfect spouse, perfect health, or perfect house, but perfect holiness. God's ways are higher; His plans are divine. He who began a good work in us will complete it, and we will find our joy in Christ alone and give Him the glory. We will thank Him for every No answer!!

This season of waiting has been a test of our faith. Will we stay close to the Lord and keep on trusting Him to provide? Will we learn humility and contentment? All I know is that last night I heard my husband thank God for this latest No answer, and I agreed with that prayer. It's not always easy to be thankful in all things, especially when the answer is No. But then the Scripture reminds us that God is a faithful and good Father who loves us. He always does what is best for His children, even if it's trudging through the wilderness for forty years...or four months. We can trust in Him! And if we have Christ, we have all we need.

God is faithful,
j

Copyright 2018 Janet A. Marney
As always, I welcome your comments below.

 

Friday
Feb162018

The Weekly Encourager – February 16, 2018 – Lessons from David vs. Goliath

Guest writer today! I have not been able to write for a while, but my husband has been writing about what he's learning through his job search. Today I'll share his thoughts about the account of David vs. Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.  I hope we are all encouraged to fight our giants with God on our side!

Be Bold and Unafraid

Saul replied to David, 'You aren't able to go against this Philistine and fight him! You're just a boy!' David replied to Saul, 'Your servant has been a shepherd for his father's flock. Whenever a lion or bear would come and carry off a sheep from the flock, I would go out after it, strike it down, and rescue the sheep from its mouth...Your servant has struck down both the lion and the bear. This uncircumcised Philistine will be just like one of them.'”

Fear saps the will.The longer the job search stretches on, the more you begin to think there is something wrong with you, people don't want you, that you are insufficient or defective. But this is not how David acted. When facing a difficulty, he stepped out and set things right, bold and unafraid.

 David knew that the past is prologue. We, too, need to learn to draw on our past victories and remind ourselves that there is something "there" there. As David drew a parallel between killing a bear, a lion, and Goliath, so we need to draw a parallel from a past job we've done well or a past difficulty we overcame, and our job to be. If we did it once, we can do it again.

Likewise, we have to overcome the discomfort of having to always put ourselves "out there", meeting new people, introducing ourselves, explaining our accomplishments, and all the rest. It's uncomfortable because we don't like bragging about ourselves, and we like to stick with who and what we already know. But when the bear drags your sheep out of your own field, you have to go after it! Take up your staff, run to meet your challenge, and snatch it back, right out of its very jaws, if need be.

 Be Yourself

Then Saul clothed David with his own fighting attire... but he was not used to them. David said to Saul, 'I can't walk in these things, for I'm not used to them.' So David removed them. He took his staff in his hand, picked out five smooth stones from the stream ... took his sling in hand, and approached the Philistine.”

Especially when preparing for an interview, don't try to second-guess what people will ask you, or what you think they are looking for. Be ready with what you know, your own version of a staff and smooth stones, and then use them at the time they are needed, just as you always have in the past.

Try not to rehearse in your mind how the conversation is going to go: she'll say THIS, and I'll respond with THAT, etc. While it's good to have some sense of what will be discussed, being over-scripted is like wearing someone else's armor, shield, and sword. It can't help but come off as being clumsy and inept.

Have your OWN reasons for fighting for the job you are interviewing for, and be prepared to let your own stones fly when the time is right.

 Look With The Eyes Of God, Not Man

When the Philistine looked carefully at David, he despised him….The Philistine said to David, 'Am I a dog, that you are coming after me with sticks?' But David replied to the Philistine, 'You are coming against me with sword and spear and javelin. But I am coming against you in name of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel's armies ... This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand! ... and all the assembly will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves! For the battle is the Lord's, and he will deliver you into our hand.'”

An extended job search is a crucible, a time of testing. If you are a sincere believer, it will drive you to your knees in prayer and supplication. At the same time, you are being bombarded with advice on how to build your job seeking network, how to craft the perfect resume, how to ace that interview, how to leverage the vast resources of the Internet, not to mention the anxious queries of all your Christian friends and family members.

All those things are swords, spears, and javelins. They are useful but not necessary instruments of God's plan of salvation. God can get you a job using nothing more than a casual remark, or a shared request for prayer. God wants you to be faithful in all the small things so you can experience to the full all the means of His grace.

God is in command of your future. The job you are getting is something he desires you to have so that you might do good works. It is not by stint of our attempting to be perfect that God brings blessings. He brings them because he loves us, He wants to deliver us, He delights in showing us grace.

God cares about relationships above all things, especially our relationship to Him, and our relationship to one another. It may be that God is getting you a new job because He wants you to be salt and light to someone. It may be that God is making you go through the experience of losing and finding a job so your own heart might be softened up and you can grow closer to him. 

We need to look with the eyes of God on our situation, not with the eyes of the world.

 Yes, You Have To Fight! But God Gives The Victory

The Philistine drew steadily close to David to attack him, while David quickly ran toward the battle line to attack the Philistine....David prevailed over the Philistine with just the sling and the stone. He struck down the Philistine and killed him. David did not even have a sword in his hand.”

When we are confronted with something that must be overcome, then we must fight. We must gather up our courage, collect our smooth stones and advance right into the teeth of adversity. We should do all that we have prepared to do to get the job. But God gives the victory. Not us.

Look at it this way: if God did NOT want you to have a particular job, is there any power on heaven or earth who could thwart His will in the matter? Impossible! And the reverse is equally true. When Paul teaches in Romans 8:28 that "all things work together for good for those who love God", note he doesn't say that things will just fall into our laps. Rather, he says all things "work together" for good. We are to keep on working.

God delights in small acts of humble obedience. He delights in taking our puny efforts and achieving great things through them, not so much by them. He does so, I suspect, because he respects us as people made in his own image, people who make and do and create. We are not just puppets on a string. 

So, we must advance, boldly and unafraid, using our own gifts as God has provisioned us, seeing with the eyes of God, not man, trusting to Him the victory, and trusting that He will, indeed, work all things together for our good.

 

Wednesday
Jan102018

The Weekly Encourager – January 10, 2018 – Joy in Thankfulness

If you slip in the mud and fall down, what is your first thought? Earlier today I slipped and fell. Being fully aware of my past history of breaks and sprains, my first thought was, “Thank You, Lord, that I didn't break anything or sprain anything this time.” The human tendency we all share is to be angry, upset, or annoyed when something bad happens. But over the past couple of years, God has been teaching me a different tendency. A habit of thankfulness has transformed my life, leading to so much joy!

After acknowledging God's goodness to me in that nothing was broken, it was only a few steps away to think of many more reasons to be thankful. First, I was glad that I had just read an article on “how to fall safely” so I remembered to fall on the “meat” of my body rather than on a bone. There's plenty of meat to fall on since I'm so well fed. Although all my clothes got muddy, how fortunate that this is not my only outfit: I have other clean clothes to put on. And how nice that I have a washer to do the job, and electricity to run it. Knowing that many people around the world struggle to find clean water, I already thank God on a regular basis for the blessing of fresh water. Mud in the yard means that the ice has melted, and I do appreciate warmer temperatures after the frigid weather we've had. Also, having a yard in the first place is a great gift from God. I could go on, but you get the idea.

I was not born with the tendency to be thankful. I was born with original sin like everyone else, plus I grew up in a family that tended toward negativity. But that was my family of origin. My new family is the family of God, those who are called by Jesus Christ to live in a radically different way, a way of life absolutely transformed by grace. He who has begun a good work in me is bringing it to pass, molding godly character, changing my heart and mind. Not feeling it? We can't do it on our own, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. He is the one who gives the ability to be thankful, yet our obedience plays a part.

Being thankful is a discipline. The more I read and study the Bible, the more I learn about God's love, power, wisdom, kindness, mercy, and every other fine aspect of His holy nature. The more I learn, the more I pray that I will see His character at work in my own life. The more I ask God for eyes to see His supreme beauty, the more I see. The more I see, the more I thank Him. God inhabits the praises of His people, so when I thank Him, I feel Him right there with me, filling my upheld cup with joy. I have just begun to learn how central thanksgiving is to the Christian life. Thankfulness is the cup held out to receive whatever the Lord brings. It is confident trust that whatever happens, be it a simple fall in the mud today or cancer last spring, it comes from the hand of God, because He is sovereign. It is an essential part of my journey and therefore to be sanctified unto Him. And because He is not just sovereign, but good (always and forever), how blessed we are to receive each thing from such a loving Father!

His mercies are new every morning. Shouldn't our thankfulness be new every morning, too? This is how we find God in the tough situations, by small but heartfelt acknowledgments of gifts He is happy to bestow. And when He's happy, we're happy! Over a year ago, I began posting a positive quote on Facebook each morning – my own tiny effort to counteract some of the harsh political posts of others. After a couple of months of that, I started posting “inspiring art of the day” and got an overwhelming reaction. People didn't want more quotes. People love to see these works of art. Our world can be so ugly, so full of hate, that people are longing for the good, the true, and the beautiful. They are crying out for justice, compassion, rightness, honesty, respect, cleanliness, hope. We as Christians have a wonderful opportunity to bring beauty to our little corner, wherever God has placed us. We can draw people's eyes up. But we are unfit to lift the eyes of others if our own eyes are stuck on the ground.

He brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a Rock. God pulled me out of a deep muddy hole when He called me to be His own. He has given such beautiful blessings that I can't help but thank Him from the heart. He continues to bless every day of my life. Let him who has eyes to see contemplate the perfect essence of God in all things, for He holds it all together, and it's all about Him. May our first thought be thankfulness each day, each hour, each moment. May we open our hearts to receive all the good gifts of the One who loves us best. Thank You, Lord!

God is faithful,
j

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

Friday
Jan052018

The Weekly Encourager – January 5, 2018 – The Crown

Have you seen “The Crown” on Netflix? It's an absorbing drama about Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip. After Season 2 was released, some people were eager to correct mistakes in the Netflix rendition. While it was based on historical events, I had no illusions about every detail being entirely factual. This is entertainment, folks, not fact.

Halfway through Season 2 of “The Crown,” it was Christmas Eve. That evening, a good friend wore a shirt with a large, colorful crown on it. After the year I've had, seeing the Crown of Life depicted in such a beautiful way brought tears to my eyes. Like “The Crown,” this rendition was only an artist's interpretation of events. But the concept was based on fact from an unerring irrefutable source, the Holy Bible. No media personality is going to write a blog post pointing out inaccuracies. This art was not entertainment, but edification: a reminder of truth to give us hope.

No matter what kind of year you've had, there is hope! God promises “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” - James 1:12 How appropriate to consider the crown of life on Christmas Eve! This is what it's all about, all the grief and all the joy: living for the crown. Because the King of Kings came to earth to wear – for us – the horrible crown of thorns, we can look forward to a royal crown of life in eternity. From His suffering will come our joy.

I've been comparing and contrasting Queen Elizabeth's crown with the one God promises. In the Netflix series, the writers depict the constant duty of a modern monarch. Service rules her entire life, influencing every decision. As followers of Christ, diligent service to God should permeate our whole life. Also, the queen's calling is stressful: her life seems full of landmines both political and personal. In a broken world, you can expect problems from your closest relationships to the most distant parts of your realm. That much is similar to what we have in our lives. However, worldly kings and queens will not carry their crowns into eternity. They work “with strict discipline...for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable.” - 1 Corinthians 9:25.   In Heaven, the first shall be last. If Queen Elizabeth has a high rank in that place, it will a reward from God for faithful service to His crown. She must bow to a higher throne.

One interesting aspect of the Netflix series is the essential importance of Balmoral Castle in Scotland. This royal home is where the queen retreats for short periods to rest. The highlands seem to be the one place where she can relax and truly be herself. For us, the prayer closet is our Balmoral.  To live for the crown, it is essential that we go there on a regular basis. We retreat to the “high places” to find God “in the mountain of His holiness.” Private prayer is the one place where we can truly be ourselves in every aspect, free to express any thought or feeling or desire or heartache. In God's holy presence we are fully known, yet fully forgiven and fully loved. We dwell on the holy mount now only in prayer, but one day we will dwell there in body and soul. We will enjoy the privileges of royalty forever!

How can this be true? That is the miracle of Christmas: God loves us. In the Bible we read that the Lord “made [us] a little lower than the angels and crowned [us] with glory and honor.” - Psalm 8:4; Hebrews 2:7. This is the God “who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.” - Psalm 103:4. Jesus, the High King, says, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer….Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” - Revelation 2:10.

O Lord, “You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance.” - Psalm 65:11

Happy New Year!  Live for the crown!

God is faithful,
j

 

 

 

Thursday
Dec212017

The Weekly Encourager – December 21, 2017 – Joy in Giving

Do you consider yourself to be a generous person? Would others say that about you? What would God say?

It's Christmas; have you pondered God's extraordinary generosity in sending His only Son?

I was not raised to be generous. My parents grew up poor and worked hard for everything they got. Accordingly, I was taught to shop carefully, to take good care of possessions, and to save everything possible for later use. There was an unspoken sense of fear that we might not have enough at some point in the future, so we'd better stock up now and never give anything away. Hard work, self-reliance, and saving are good traits in many circumstances, but not helpful in others. I'll never forget wanting to share a snack with the girls from next door, and my mother saying, “We're not feeding the neighborhood.” It was only as an adult that I figured out that other people routinely offered food and drink to every visitor!

When I became a Christian and started reading the Bible, I got new input. The New Testament gives several examples of Christians who gave generously both to support the work of the gospel and to provide for the practical needs of fellow believers locally and in distant lands. The people who gave were not always the wealthy members of the congregation, but regular folks who gave sacrificially out of loving hearts. They didn't wait for “a better income” to give to the church. Whether giving “the widow's mite” or feeding dozens in large, well-appointed homes, all were commended for liberality.

In studying Jesus' life, I learned that generosity is one of God's traits, and therefore to be emulated. This “Prodigal God” is generous with resources, calling men to “come ye buy and eat, without money.” Salvation is full and free for any who desire it. Certainly at Christmas we see how generous God was with His Son. We see the preeminent model of sacrificial giving. Love was the motivation of the triune God. This love would demand the highest price, yet it was given willingly. One of my favorite hymns is often sung at Christmas:

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor.

When I became part of a church as a teenager, I saw many examples of generosity in action, from the wealthy people in the congregation who established large funds to help people in need, to the dear saintly older widow who gave Dave a “love gift” to help him pay some bills he could not afford. She said she didn't want him to pay her back, but to help someone else down the line. What a fabulous witness that “love gift” was to us when we were dating! And yes, he has paid back that gift many times.

Our pastor at the time, Steve Smallman, preached a series of sermons on Money which made a big impact on me and Dave. He gave a Biblical rationale for tithing which became our standard practice. Of course, tithing is not to be a forced, legalistic task, but a jumping off point, a place to start. “God loves a cheerful giver.” The spiritually mature will desire to give more and more, and God will bless their labors to that end, so that they are enabled to give more. Steve also said that what we do with our money reveals our priorities in life. Hearing that at age 20 was interesting, and now at age 60 I can testify that it's true. I've seen that, even when your resources are quite low and every human instinct says to hoard what you have, the more you give, the more God will provide. He is able! He is faithful! He is generous!

Marrying Dave was another way the Lord used to transform my stingy habits. At first I was pretty disturbed at how much my new husband wanted to give away, but I learned over time to respect this godly quality that the Lord had given him. Meanwhile, Dave respected the good training I had received in saving and managing money; he soon delegated the bill-paying to me. [This is one example of how opposites can benefit from one another in marriage.] I began to pray that the Lord would make me more generous with my money and possessions. Sure enough, He who began a good work in me is working to complete it.

Fast forward to Christmas 2016, one year ago. God had prospered us tremendously over the years. Yes, we started with next to nothing (“a bed and a piano”), but with hard work and God's provision, we saw our capital grow. Two key Biblical principles of careful management and generous giving can go hand-in-hand. Last Christmas I had the most wonderful time writing a bunch of checks! Instead of my fleshly nature filling me with fear for our future, the Lord of the Universe filled me with great joyfulness. Instead of a duty, it was a privilege to bless others. I'm not saying I have learned this concept perfectly yet (I am hanging on way too tightly to way too many things), but I can see the Holy Spirit working in me.

This Christmas is a bit different, since Dave's job ended just before Thanksgiving. Here is a test of faith, and what will we do? We're giving the same amounts as last year, and I get to write the checks! It is my JOY to tithe and to support various missions and causes in the community. It is my JOY to trust that God will provide a new job for Dave. It is my JOY to be obedient to Christ. It is my JOY to try to model my life after the Scripture, and to carry on the tradition of saints who were generous to me. He who did not spare His own Son will give us everything else we need. If I can trust Him with my salvation, I can trust Him with my money.

Are you generous with what God has given you? May this be a season of joy in giving, to the glory of God.

A Blessed Christmas to you all,
j

Copyright 2017 Janet A. Marney. As always, I welcome your comments below.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour, written by
FRANK HOUGHTON (1894-1972).