Have I Forgotten Him?

The Canadian Rockies-Photo By: Mark J. Booth

During this time of year, everybody is busy.  Maybe, we are too busy.  We can easily forget Jesus Christ in all that we are doing.  Jesus longs to keep us close to Himself.  He longs to walk with us daily.  We get busy with family, friends, work, and even church and we can quickly forget Jesus Christ.

  • I look for salvation, but I forget the Savior.
  • I look for comfort, but I forget the Comforter
  • I look for blessings, but I forget the One who Blesses.
  • I look for promises, but I forget the Promised One
  • I look for guidance, but I forget the Guide.
  • I look for provision, but I forget the Provider
  • I look for protection, but I forget the Protector
  • I look for love, but I forget the Lover of My Soul.
  • I look for strength, but I forget the All-Powerful One.
  • I look for peace, but I forget the Giver of Peace.

The early church also had a tendency to forget the Lord Jesus Christ.   The Book of Revelation was written to seven churches.  Five of these churches showed some definite signs of forgetting Jesus.  Here is a verse that can refocus our thoughts and affections upon Our Lord Jesus Christ.  “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” (Revelation 1:5)

1. Jesus Christ is Our Deliverer.  “And from Jesus Christ”  The name “Christ” is the word “Messiah” in Greek.  This word has the idea of deliverer.  Jesus came to deliver us from sin, death, and the devil.  We no longer have to live under the penalty and dominion of sin because we have a new life in Jesus Christ.  We have new life in order to pursue a close love relationship with Jesus Christ.

2. Jesus Christ is our Faithful Witness.  “who is the faithful witness”. Jesus came to earth primarily to die on the cross for our sin; however, He also came to teach us the truth.  Through Him, we learn the truth about God, ourselves, the future, the way of salvation, and many other important subjects.  Our relationship with Christ enables us to see God and life more clearly.

3. Jesus Christ is the Conqueror of Death. “the first begotten of the dead”.   As a pastor, I have done many funerals.  These funerals are sad occasions; yet because of Christ’s resurrection, we know that there is hope.  Death, for the believer in Christ, is the doorway to the presence of the Lord and Heaven.  We don’t need to fear death when we walk with the One who conquered death.  

The Garden Tomb-Jerusalem: Photo by Mark J. Booth

4. Jesus Christ is Sovereign.  “the prince of the kings of the earth.” Jesus is greater than  any earthly ruler.  No matter what happens in our nation, we know that Jesus is ultimately in control.  One day, Jesus Christ will return to earth to reign over all those who have believed upon Him.  The whole Book of Revelation is about the events before and after His coming.   No matter what happens in our lives, we can remember that Jesus is ultimately in control.

5. Jesus Christ is the Source of Love.  “Unto Him that loved us,”  We don’t deserve His love; yet He loves us.  The more we know Him, the more we will understand His love and the ways of His love.  When we are full of anxiety, fear, discontentment and discouragement, these are signs that we have forgotten Jesus Christ and His great love for us. 

6. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World.  “And washed us from our sins in his own blood.”  As the song writer wrote: “Nothing can wash away my sins, but the blood of Jesus.”  Jesus took our place on the cross.  His love is a love of action.  He not only tells us that He loves us, but He showed His love by dying on the cross for our sins.  He alone saves us from our sin. “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

Many in the early church were religious, but they had forgotten Jesus Christ.  Have we forgotten Him?  Have we forgotten all that He is and has done?  “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face and the things of the earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

“Dear Lord, I have the tendency to forget you amidst all that goes in my life.  I may seek what you can give me, but I forget you.  Help me, to seek you above all else.  Thank you for all that you are and all that you have done. Amen”

Preparing My Heart for Thanksgiving (Psalm 95)

Near Cascais, Portugal-Photo by: Mark J Booth

The food has been bought.  The guests have been invited.  The television is ready for NFL football.  Preparations are being made for the Black Friday sales.  However, something is missing in our Thanksgiving preparations.  Have we prepared our hearts to give thanks unto our Lord God?

One person has defined gratefulness as: “Making known to God and others in what ways they have benefited my life.”  We prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving by taking the time to reflect upon God’s blessings and then give thanks unto Him for those blessings.  It is also an opportunity to thank others for the ways they have benefited our lives.

Psalm 95 helps us to prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving.  The focus of this Psalm is upon giving thanks to God.  “Let us come before His presence with Thanksgiving.” (Psalm 95:2)  God desires thankfulness in His people.  Thanksgiving is not a once year reflection upon God’s blessings, but it is a daily giving of thanks to God for his blessings and provision.

We prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving as we reflect upon the reasons we can give thanks to God.  Take a few moments to meditate upon the following verses in Psalm 95. These verses will encourage us to give thanks to God for all that He is and all that He has done.

1. We give thanks to God for His Greatness. “For the Lord is a great God.” (Psalm 95:3a)  God demonstrates His Greatness in all that He is and all that He does.  We find it easy to lose the wonder of God as we grow older.  Our faith becomes routine and ritualistic.  It is time that we meditate upon God’s greatness again, and thank Him for His attributes and all that He has done.

Cabo Da Roca-Portugal; Photo by: Mark J Booth

2. We give thanks God for His Sovereignty. “A great King above all gods.” (Psalm 95:3b) God is in control.  Yes, he sometimes refines us as by fire, but we can thank Him  that nothing passes into our lives apart from His loving will and plan. When we understand that He is in control: then we can commit the trial unto Him and see Him work.  We can thank Him not only for the good times, but also for the difficult times because He is working in our lives.

3. We give thanks to God for His Power.  “The strength of the hills is his also.” (Psalm 95:4) Our God brings spiritual, emotional and physical strength to our lives.  We can give thanks in a difficult situation, because God is there to give us his strength.  Paul understood this as he was in prison when he wrote: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) 

4. We give thanks to God because He is Personal.  “For He is our God.” (Psalm 95:7a)  God desires to have a personal relationship with us.  He wants to walk with us, talk with us and listen to us.  He loves His children with an everlasting love.  He will never forsake us, in spite of the situation.  We can give thanks that we have a vital relationship with our Living God.  

5. We give thanks to God because He is our Provider. “We are the people of his pasture.” (Psalm 95:7b) We can be confident that the Lord is our loving Shepherd who will provide for our needs, whether they be spiritual, emotional, social or physical.  The Lord Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount reminds us that God will take care of the smallest matter in our lives.  When we focus on how the Lord meets our every need, we are eager to give thanks unto Him. 

6. We give thanks to God because He is our Guide.  “and the sheep of his hand.” (Psalm 95:7c)  Our Good Shepherd not only provides for us, but also leads us.  We can thank the Lord for the times that He gave us direction through His Word in some important decision.  As we look back upon our lives, God’s hand can be seen in His guidance and through the circumstances that He allowed in our lives.  Likewise, as we look forward to the future, we know that He will continue to guide us. 

Return of the Flock” by Anton Mauve (19th Century) From the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The first step to turning away from the Lord is to develop an ungrateful heart.  As we prepare our hearts for this Thanksgiving, let us look upon our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and all of His blessings.  Yes, there may food, family, and football for this Thanksgiving, but don’t forget the most important “f” for Thanksgiving, which is focusing upon the Lord and His Blessings.

“Dear Lord, I so often go through my days without thinking about all the blessings that I have as your child.  Thank you for all that you are to me.  Thank you for my great salvation and all the blessings that come with my salvation.  Thank you for your desire to have a personal relationship with me.  Help me not to forget you this Thanksgiving, but to focus upon you and all that you are. Amen.”

Aubrey Oberlin: In the Everlasting Arms

Aubrey Joy Oberlin

What can you learn from a six-week old baby?  I would have never thought about this question until I met Aubrey Joy Oberlin.   I met her for the first time a bit over two years ago. when I heard about her plight. She was born with a genetic disease called Junctional EB (Epidermolysis bullosa).  This disease was painful as it affected all parts of her body.   Her parents, family and friends did a great job of loving her and taking care of her for her six short weeks of life.  Aubrey’s life on this earth ended on November 17, 2010. However, she is far from being forgotten.

1. The first lesson that I learned from Aubrey is contentment. When I visited Aubrey, she always had her eyes opened.   I knew she had trouble breathing and she was in pain, but in all my visits I never detected a complaining or angry spirit. Her eyes were saying: “Could you please help me. I don’t feel well.”   Her eyes convicted me of how easily I complain when things don’t go my way.  Though she didn’t say it with words, her eyes showed me a form of contentment that I need to experience more often in my life.  “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:11-12)

2. A second lesson that I learned from Aubrey is my need of dependence upon God.  “I just want to hold her one last time.  Aubrey loves to be held!”  As I heard these words from Aubrey’s grandma the day of Aubrey’s entrance into God presence, I couldn’t help but feel sorrow and compassion for a dear family who would never again be able to hold their beloved daughter in their arms.  It also brought to remembrance a verse in the Bible that has brought comfort to many people: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms:” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

Aubrey’s loved ones had a great desire to hold her in their arms and show their great love for her.   Likewise, Our Heavenly Father loves us and longs to keep us close unto Himself.   His arms are all-powerful arms, yet His arms are also tender.  His arms bring great comfort and protection through whatever trials and pains that we face. His arms will never tire in holding us.

Aubrey did love to be held in the arms of those who loved her.  She felt the love and comfort from those loving arms.  As I thought about this,  I realized that at times I haven’t longed to be held by Our Heavenly Father.  I choose to go my own way.   Yes, His arms are reaching out for me, yet I often resist those loving arms.   May I learn to rest assured in the arms of Our Loving Heavenly Father, even as Aubrey rested so comfortably in the arms of those who love her.

3. A third lesson that I learned from Aubrey is priority.  Being with Aubrey during her last day on earth was very difficult.  She would labor to breathe.   This went on throughout the day until finally later in the evening her heart stopped beating.  Aubrey showed me that truly I need to remember to place the things of God first in my life.  Life is brief.  Every day is a gift from God. Will I live each day for God’s purpose and His Glory?  If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)

4. A fourth lesson that I learned from Aubrey is gratefulness for God’s salvation.   As I would speak to Aubrey’s loved ones, I was glad that I could share Bible verses about Christ’s love for the world and how he died on the cross for our sins. Aubrey never had an opportunity to believe (because of her age), but the Bible does make it clear that she is present with the Lord.  David expected to see his baby in heaven.   “Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?  But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12: 21-23)

Two years ago, we said goodbye to Aubrey.  She is now in God’s presence.  I can’t always understand the ways of God, but I am thankful that I had the opportunity to get to know Aubrey.  She was an excellent teacher while she was with us!

P.S. For further information on Epidermolysis bullosa please see: http://www.debra.org

Imagine….Being with Jesus

The Garden of Gethsemane-photo by: Mark J. Booth

Imagine…being with Jesus!  What would my life be like, if I had walked with Jesus two thousand years ago? Yesterday, I read 1 John 1:1: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;” As I read this verse, I had the desire to place myself in the Apostle John’s sandals.  I imagined walking and living with the Savior during His time upon the earth.

“Which we have heard.”  Imagine the things that John heard as he walked with Jesus.  He heard the Sermon on the Mount, the Parables, Christ’s teachings about His Second Coming, and the Upper Room Discourse.  Can you imagine what it was like to hear Jesus praying.  As John travelled with Jesus, he probably heard Jesus talk about His Father, His creation, history and many other topics.  John never lost the wonder of listening to Jesus.  What about me? Have I lost the wonder of listening to Jesus?  Am I eager to listen to the His words in scripture.

Which we have seen with our eyes.”  Imagine the things that John saw as he walked with Jesus.  He saw the feeding of the five thousand, the calming of the storm, many healings, the resurrection of Lazarus, and many other miracles.  He would have also seen Jesus embracing the little children, and showing love to the outcasts.  What about me?  Have I lost the wonder of the works of Christ.  Am I able to imagine seeing those wondrous deeds of Jesus that John saw?

“Which we have looked upon”.  Imagine joining John and looking upon Jesus on the cross.  John saw the suffering, the ridicule, the crying out from the cross, the words of encouragement to the one thief.  Then three days later, he would behold this same Jesus, who had conquered death.  John witnessed the most important act in human history. Jesus died for the sins of the world. His life would be forever changed.  What about me?  Have I lost the wonder that God, the Son, came to earth and died on the cross for me?  Have I lost the wonder of the resurrection of Christ?  Have I lost the wonder of the greatness of my salvation?

“Our hands have handled, of the Word of life.” Imagine John leaning on the Lord’s breast during the last supper.  Imagine the embraces that Jesus gave John during their time together.  Imagine Jesus holding John up with his hand as John stumbles while walking.  What about me?  Have I lost the wonder of the fact that Jesus touches my life in many ways, whether through His Word, through His Holy Spirit, or through other believers?  Am I looking forward to one day when Jesus will embrace me in heaven?

“Lord, thank you for these words of the Apostle John.  You used them to help me see that I often lose the wonder of all that you have done, said, and promised.  Teach me, to imagine being with you as John was with you.  Help me not to read the gospels as a disinterested bystander, but as one who is walking with you.  Amen”

Moving Beyond Bitterness to Forgiveness

Canadian Rockies-Photo by: Mark J Booth

“I can’t forgive them.” “What they did to me is unforgivable.” “I won’t ever speak to them again.” ” I can’t forget how much they hurt me.” What do all these statements have in common?  They show an individual who has a bitter spirit.

Bitterness has destroyed many people because it enslaves them to the object of their bitterness.  They have no freedom to enjoy their walk with God and others.  A bitter person can infect their family, their workplace or even their church with their attitude.  “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;” (Hebrews 12:15)

God has not only given us a cure for bitterness, but He has also modeled this cure.  This cure is called forgiveness.  The word forgiveness means “to send away”.  The idea is that we throw the bitter attitude out of our lives; never to retrieve it again.  “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:” (Ephesians 4:31)

God gives us three reasons to cast out bitterness and embrace forgiveness.

1. Christ has forgiven us.  “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)  No matter what anybody has done to us, it is nothing compared to all of our sinful offenses towards God.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is a great illustration of the above truth.  The landowner forgives his servant an enormous debt; yet this forgiven debtor is unwilling to forgive his follow servant a very small debt. (Matthew 18:21-35)  How can we talk about God’s mercy and not share that mercy with others?

2. Christ commands us to forgive others. Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.(Colossians 3:13)  A bitter spirit is a disobedient spirit.  When we forgive a person in our heart, we are walking in obedience to Christ.  

3. Christ is our example of demonstrating forgiveness.  When Christ was being mocked upon the cross, He didn’t respond with anger and bitterness.  He called out to His Father: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) When we forgive those who have hurt us, we are acting like our Savior.  These people didn’t ask Christ to forgive them, but yet Christ poured out His forgiveness towards them.

Forgiveness is difficult for us because we think that the offended party  is “let off the hook”.  In reality, we are let off the hook.  We are now free to live our lives without being controlled by our bitterness.  God shows us the following blessings of extending forgiveness to others.

  • We have a testimony before others. “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11)
  • We show God’s love towards others.  Charity “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7)
  • We will have a joyful heart. Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
  • We will enjoy true Christian fellowship. “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;” (2 Corinthians 2:10)

Forgiveness is our choice.  We can continue to feel hurt and embittered, or we can choose forgiveness.  The offending party may never ask for forgiveness, but we can forgive them in our heart.  Many persons have lived a miserable life because they chose not to forgive someone.  Is your bitterness worth it?

“Dear Lord, you felt the pain of rejection, hatred, misunderstanding and ridicule; yet you forgave.  Help me, to forgive those who have hurt me.  My bitter spirit has not only hurt me, but those around me.  I have lost the joy in my life.  Lord, in my heart I now forgive _____________.   Thank you for your forgiveness towards me when I don’t deserve it.  From now on, help me to exercise love towards even those who have hurt me. Amen.”

NOTE: This is the sixth post in the series “Moving Beyond”.  Please check out the other posts in this series.

Prayers of Comfort from Psalm 37

Near Marshall, MI: Photo by: Mark J Booth

Trials are a part of every person’s life.  These trials can be self-induced or they can be caused by events beyond our control.  The question isn’t if we will have trials, but how will we face these trials.  Psalm 37 is written from the perspective of a man filled with trials.  God shows him the way he is to navigate through these trials.  Here are some prayers that go along with this very encouraging Psalm.  May God use Psalm 37 to help give direction and comfort to each of us.

“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.” (Psalm 37:1)  “Lord, I find myself filled with worry.  I worry about my walk with you.  I worry about my family, and the church.  I worry about my future.  I sometimes look at others and feel as though I am lacking something.  I also fret because evil seems to be gaining ground every day in our nation.  Help me to gain perspective upon the things that trouble me.  I need to grow in faith; so that I know in my heart that you are in control of everything.  I can trust you with my life and with what is happening in the world around me.  Amen”

“Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4) “Lord, I often focus on my circumstances instead of focusing upon you. I forget to take delight in all that you are. Help me to focus upon all that you are and all that you do. May I delight in you today regardless of my circumstances. Amen.”

“Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5) “Lord, I often want to chart my own course in life.  I look at my future from my perspective and not from yours. Why do I find it difficult to commit my way to you? Lord, you do know what is best for my life. Your love for me is beyond question.  For this reason, I need to commit unto you everything I do.  Help me to trust you regardless of what may happen in my life. Amen”

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7) “Dear Lord, I often live in anxiety because I don’t place my burdens upon you. I often run ahead of you instead of waiting for your perfect timing. Help me, to trust you enough to allow you to work in and through my life.  In the midst of my busyness, enable me to stop and remember that you are right here with me. Thank you for allowing me to rest in your everlasting arms! Amen”

“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath:fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” (Psalm 37:8)  “My Lord, when I face difficult circumstances and people, I can easily become angry.  Usually I keep this anger within, but it does affect me.  It keeps me from pleasing you and ministering to others.  Thank you for your great example on the cross how you forgive those who placed you upon the cross.  Teach me to respond to others with graciousness and love.  Teach me to yield my rights unto you, because my anger is often a warning sign of some right that I haven’t yielded unto you.

“Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:24) “Lord, I have stumbled and even fallen many times in my life; yet, you are always there to pull me up with your loving hand. Help me to never let go of your hand as I walk through this life. Thank you for your great love in watching over me. Amen.”

“And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked,and save them, because they trust in him.” (Psalm 37:40)  “Thank you for the concluding words of this Psalm of comfort and guidance.  Thank you for the times that you have delivered me from myself and others.  Thank you for all that you are, because you are truly worthy of my trust.  I gladly commit my ways to you today. Amen”

P.S. I often write prayers with the verse that I write out in my Journible.  If you are interested in learning more about the Journibles, here is my post about this excellent Bible study tool.
https://markjemilbooth.com/2012/07/29/how-to-profit-more-from-your-bible-reading-the-journibles/

Five Things that Will not Change after Today’s Election

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Election Day is finally here. The money has been spent by the candidates,  The commercials are done.  The phone calls have ended.  Now, it is up to the American people to decide who will lead our nation for the next four years.

Tomorrow, there will be joy for many people and there will be sadness for many others. Whether your candidate wins or loses, it is important that we remember that the most important things in life will not change after today.

1. Jesus Christ has not changed. He is still the Savior of the world.  He is still the Good Shepherd that cares for His sheep.  He still is “the way, the truth and the life.”  Our presidents change, governmental policies change, but Jesus Christ is our Rock who will never change.  “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:7)

2. The Word of God has not change.  The laws of our land may change.  The Supreme Court may uphold laws or reject them. However in the midst of our changing laws, God’s Word never changes.  The promises of God do not change.  The doctrines of the Word of God do not change.  The Word of God should always remain in our hearts. “O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97)

3. The Promise of Christ’s Second Coming has not changed.  One day, there will be no elections. There will be only one ruler, Jesus Christ.  The promise of His coming is seen throughout the Word of God.  “And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”  (Revelation 19:16)  When Jesus reigns, it will be with total righteousness!

4. The Mission of the Church has not changed.  The mission of the church is not to change society by political means.  We often get carried away with politics that we forget that our main mission is to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Christ’s final command has not changed.  “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”  (Matthew 28:19) The Gospel changes people, but we mustn’t let people change the Gospel.

5. God’s plan for the family has not changed.   Our laws may change concerning marriage, but we can still follow what God’s Word says concerning our family.  Yes, husbands and wives are to love another. We can still be committed to the permanance of our own marriage. The family can still worship the Lord together. The family can still be a place of learning about the Lord and life itself.  God’s view and purpose for your family will not change after this election.  

No matter who wins the election tonight, I am fully confident that God is on the throne.  His Word has not changed.  His plan has not changed.  This is a great time to put our focus back on those things that are above.  “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God!”

‘Dear Lord, help me to keep my eyes on you.  I do not what the future holds for my life or for our nation, but I do know that your ways are best.  Help me, to surrender my heart completely unto you. Amen”