Marriage and the Supreme Court Decision (One Pastor’s Thoughts)

Marriage handsRecently, the Supreme Court weighed in on the subject of Gay Marriage.  Their decision was no surprise to me, nor should it be to any person who claims to be a Christian.  This decision reflects our culture and where we are as a nation.  Yes, we would like the laws of our country to follow our beliefs, but many of them do not.  Our nation is not a Christian nation, though in past times it followed Christian principles.

What should be our response to this decision by the Supreme Court?  First of all, we as Christians should forsake once and for all the idea that we can see people change through government action.  Should we expect people to live and believe like a Christian when they are not Christians?  The early church didn’t demand laws to show their beliefs. The early church understood the sinfulness of man.  The way the early church changed the culture was to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Gospel changes the heart of a man.  Unlike Jesus Christ, no government can give a man a new heart.

Secondly, we need to remember that Jesus made it clear how we are to relate to the culture around us.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He said; “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.  Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” (Matthew 5:13-15)

Our lives should shine forth as a testimony of our love for the Lord Jesus Christ.  A light shines brighter as the darkness increases.  There are two extremes in dealing with the sin that is so clearly accepted in our society.  One extreme is to compromise our beliefs so that we become more acceptable to our society.  The other extreme is to totally withdraw from our society.  A light needs to be in the darkness to shine, but it doesn’t allow the darkness to overcome its light.

Thirdly, we need to think about our own personal lives and our walk with God.  Yes, our culture has embraced sin and rebellion against God.  In the midst of our concern, have we forgotten our own walk with God?  When we get caught up with confronting our culture, it is easy to forget our own sin before God.  The early church at Ephesus did a great job of separating themselves from the evil of their culture.  Christ says of them: “Thou canst not bear them which are evil.” (Revelation 2:2) This church hated the evil that was a reality in the Roman Empire, but they had forgotten something in the process.

Jesus continued to speak to this church with some very convicting words: “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against, because thou hast left thy first love.” (Revelation 3:4) Have we left our first love?  Have we forgotten our daily walk with God?  If we are walking close to the Lord, we will have a greater impact upon the lives of those around us.

Fourthly, the Supreme Court ruling has no bearing upon our own marriages.  Why is it that professed Christians have a divorce rate that is equal to those who don’t claim to be Christians?  Yes, we have no control over the Supreme Court decisions concerning its view of marriage, but we can make our marriage one that honors God and His Word.

When God gave His instructions about marriage in Ephesians 5, He did so in the midst of a culture that allowed all sorts of immoral activities.  God’s focus is upon our own marriage.  We need to seek to love each other within our marriage and seek to fulfill Psalm 34:3 as a married couple. “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.” 

Fifthly, Jesus Christ made it clear that we shouldn’t be surprised if we face persecution from the society around us.  Before His death, He said: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”(John 15:18)  Our culture has no interest in the Biblical Jesus.  Yes, it wants a Jesus who loves everybody, but they have rejected the true Jesus of the Bible.  The Biblical Jesus loves, but He also is holy and He hates sin so much that He died on the cross for our sins.

Persecution can become very real as our society departs from any kind of Christian worldview.  The early Christians were persecuted because they were different from those around them.  God’s Word proclaims truths that our culture rejects and mocks.  Will not our culture eventually reject anybody who believes on God’s Word and chooses to live their lives according to His Word?

One last response to this decision is that we can say with the Apostle Paul: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) We realize that death will be our entrance into the presence of Jesus Christ.  It will be a time of joy and worship.  We will no longer be exposed to the wickedness of this present world.

We can also say with the Apostle John at the end of Revelation: “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”  One day there will be a government which will exalt righteousness, holiness and truth.  Jesus will one day return to reign as the King of Kings.

“Dear Lord, I see your Word being trampled underneath the feet of our culture.  I know that this is only natural because of the fact that we are born into sin.  Thank you for sending your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the World.  Please work through your people so that we can be an effective witness to those around us.  Thank for your love that is patiently waiting for people to turn to you.  Amen.”

When There is No One Else (Confiding in God)

Cabo da Roca, Portugal Photo by: Mark J. Booth

Cabo da Roca, Portugal
Photo by: Mark J. Booth

“In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” (Psalm 18:6)

“Will anybody listen to me?”  Have you ever caught yourself thinking this very thought?  Yes, throughout life there are times when we feel alone.  We think no one understands.  When these times occur, we must not forget that there is One who is always available to listen.  He understands exactly how we feel.  Are we prepared to confide in Him?

When we confide in the Lord, we are saying:  “I trust you, and I know that you care about me.  I pour out my heart to you, because I know that you understand.  Please show me what I need to do.”

Why do we need to confide in the Lord?

Has a situation ever come our way and we don’t know what to do?  We feel helpless in the midst of what is happening around us.  Many years ago, King Jehoshaphat of Judah faced the near certain defeat of his army.  Within himself there was no strength or wisdom to handle this dire situation.  He did what we all must do when we are confused and helpless. He went to the Lord. “O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.” (2 Chronicles 20:12) God is waiting for us to confide in Him in the midst of our confusion.  At times, we don’t confide in God because we are reluctant to admit our need of Him.

Another reason we need to confide in the Lord is that our own viewpoint can lead us astray.  You have heard the saying: “Let your heart be your guide.”  However, God tells us why our heart is not a reliable guide for our life. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? ” (Jeremiah 17:9)  God makes it clear that our heart is not to be trusted.  We often make decisions based upon our own selfishness or bias.  When we confide in God, we will see life from His perspective.

Trials, heartaches, and difficulties fill our life.  We can’t travel the hard road of this life without continually confiding in our Lord.  Jesus said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  When tribulations come, do we forget that the Lord is greater than any trial that comes into our life?  When we cry out to Him in midst of our pain, He responds to us.  When an emergency happens in this life we call 911.  Why are we so reluctant to cry out to the Lord in the midst of our pain?

People say: “I  would be a good Christian, if it wasn’t for other people.”  Yes, other people may hurt us, misunderstand us, ignore us and dislike us, but there is a friend who is always there.  His name is Jesus!  David confided in God when he faced powerful enemies; so can we. “Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;” (Psalm 55:2) The Lord is a Friend who will never leave us or disappoint us.  Will we learn to confide in Him when we have problems with others?

Finally, we need to confide in God because of His Greatness.  He is worthy of our faith.  God is our all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful Lord and Friend.  He is our High Priest to whom we can go at any time. He is a refuge in the midst of any storm. “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8) God’s greatness is like a magnet that draws us to Him.  He can handle any situation that we take to Him. 

How do we confide in the Lord?

Confiding in the Lord is simply to share our requests openly with Him. He already knows what is happening in our lives, but He wants us to come before Him in complete faith and honesty. “Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God.” (Psalm 59:1)  The Psalmist understood that he could share any request with God, and He would hear him.  Our God desires us to seek Him.  His love means that His ears are always open to our cries unto Him.

As we confide in Him, we must also remember the importance of having a grateful heart. Gratitude is a way of confiding in the Lord that we are totally dependent upon Him.  In Philippians 4:6, Paul writes: “In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving.” When we cry out to God, we thank Him for all that He is doing in our lives, and all that He will do in our lives.

Confiding in God is also demonstrated when we come before Him in desperation.  We don’t see God as part of the solution, or maybe a possible solution. No! God is the only solution.  The Psalmist writes: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6) Our desperate cry is saying: “I need you, Lord.  You alone can help me.”  God will respond to this humble cry.

We are often tempted to seek to handle life in our own wisdom and strength.  Yet, the Lord is always there. He is always ready to listen.  Why do we choose failure in our own strength and wisdom, instead of choosing success in His strength and wisdom?  God is waiting to hear from us today!  Will we confide in Him?

Am I Suffering from Spiritual Amnesia?

A Boca do Inferno in Portugal.  Photo by: Mark J Booth

A Boca do Inferno in Portugal. Photo by: Mark J Booth

“They forgot God their savior, which had done great things in Egypt;”
(Psalm 106:21)

The terror of forgetting not only affects people with dementia, but also people who experience amnesia. The word “amnesia” comes from two Greek words which mean “without memory”. When a person loses their memory, they lose not only their past, but also they often forget recent events. This can create confusion, a lack of peace and problems with others.

In the spiritual realm, we can also suffer amnesia. This amnesia is much like the physical amnesia that people suffer.  A person with spiritual amnesia may feel confused spiritually.  They may become anxious. This person has some vague memory of God, but they have lost the vibrancy of the Christian faith.

The nation of Israel witnessed the power of God when He poured out the ten plagues upon Egypt. They saw his salvation during the night of Passover. They also saw God’s power when He parted the Red Sea. Throughout their wanderings in the Wilderness, God constantly provided for them. Would they remember these blessings from God? No! God says of His people: “They forgot God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt;” (Psalm 106:21). 

Israel suffered spiritual amnesia. They had forgotten God, His blessings, His promises and His commands. How did this happen? Israel had taken their eyes off of the Lord. Their focus was upon the heathen nations around them. They conveniently forgot God; so that they could live their lives as they pleased.

Today, we often suffer spiritual amnesia. We conveniently forget God and His Word when we choose to live our lives to please ourselves and not to please God. We open the door to sin when we suffer from spiritual amnesia. Thankfully, God has provided a cure for our spiritual amnesia.

Jonah, God’s prophet, had a case of spiritual amnesia when he decided to forget God’s command to go to Nineveh by going the other direction. God disciplined Jonah when He placed him in belly of the great fish.  While there, Jonah repented of his spiritual amnesia with these words: When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.” (Jonah 2:7)

Like Jonah, we find ourselves experiencing tough times as a result of our spiritual amnesia. We realize that forgetting God has brought us to a place of desperation. We often make matters worse by trying to resolve the matter without God. We feel that we are quite distant from God. What can we do in this situation?

First of all, like Jonah, we need to see our desperate situation. Jonah understood that his spiritual amnesia had created this problem. He was now awake to the fact that God was His only hope. He was suffering the consequences of his sin. We begin to experience the cure for our spiritual amnesia when we see our hopelessness without the Lord.

After recognizing our hopeless situation, we need to remember God. Jonah chose to remember God in the most difficult time of his life. Remembering God means that we remember not only who He is, but also all that His has done for us. The list below gives us some truths that we often forget when we suffer from spiritual amnesia. How many of these have we forgotten? Will we choose to remember these?

  • God’s attributes
  • God’s presence
  • God’s power
  • God’s promises
  • God’s commands
  • God’s love for us
  • The Gospel of salvation
  • God’s view of man
  • The Indwelling Holy Spirit

Thirdly, Jonah remembered the gift of prayer. From inside the fish, Jonah found a prayer closet and poured out his heart to God. Jonah’ s prayer was not casual or flippant. It  was desperate and dependent. Spiritual amnesia results in little or no prayer. God places us in a tight spot; so that we can not only remember Him, but that we also remember the gift of fervent prayer. If our prayers are dry, it is a sure sign that we are suffering from spiritual amnesia.

Have we seen the reality of spiritual amnesia in our life? God will go to great extremes to bring back our memory. He is waiting for us to turn back to Him, and remember Him!

“Dear Lord, I often choose to suffer with spiritual amnesia. I forget your presence in my life, as well as your commands and your blessings. I focus upon myself and my desires. I have a fear of man instead of a fear of you. Anxiety fills my life because I have forgotten your peace. Despair fills my life because I have forgotten your joy. Like Jonah, I need to remember you again. I need to seek you with my whole heart. Thank you for your forgiveness. Please keep me close to you so that I may not suffer from spiritual amnesia again. Amen”

What is a Dad?

Dads come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Some dads have lots of money. Others don’t.  Some dads are quite handsome and energetic. Others are rather ordinary looking and a bit lethargic. Some dads like the outdoors. Others like to read, or watch television. Some dads make amazing things with their hands. Others don’t.

Every dad is different! The qualification for being a dad goes beyond being the physical father of a child. There are many men who are fathers but have never been a dad. A dad is a special title for a father who has graduated to the name “Dad”.

A dad is a person who takes you in his arm when you are born and has that special smile on his face that says: “I love you. You are God’s special gift to me.” He shows your photo to everybody he knows, because you are the most beautiful baby ever born.

When you get home from the hospital dad makes sure everything is ready at home.  He already has bought a sleeper for you of his favorite sports team.  He starts to dream of what you will be like as you grow up. He may avoid changing your diaper, or giving you a bath, but he is patiently waiting for the day when you can do fun things with him.

As you become a toddler, dad makes sure that you have the most important thing in life which is a ball. He teaches you what to do with the ball.  If you throw well, he sees you playing in the World Series. If you kick well, he sees you eventually playing in the World Cup.

When school begins, dad will tell you how important an education is.  He may even say: “You don’t want to grow up to be like me.” The funny thing is that if he is a true dad, you do want to grow up and be like him.  Dad sometimes embarrasses you when he cheers for you loudly at a soccer or a baseball game.  He means well, but you wish he would be a bit quieter with his cheering.

Dad may not only care for your physical, educational, financial, and emotional needs, but He may also teach you from the Word of God. Dad has found wisdom, guidance, and comfort from the Word of God, and he wants to share this aspect of his life with you.

In the teenage years, dad finds his role changing. You no longer look up to him as an expert in everything. Dad tries to adjust to this new role. He continues to tell you what is the best thing to do, but something has changed, and dad knows it.  He feels the pain of seeing you reject his wise counsel.  He may respond in anger, silence or in prayer.  In whatever way dad responds, he still loves you and longs to keep you from the pain of making bad decisions.

During the teenage years, dad is still willing to support you financially. Often, dad accepts the fact that you are not grateful. A dad’s love stays strong though you may not appreciate it during this stage of your life. Dad will love you no matter how many mistakes you make, because you are his child.

When dad says goodbye to you as you leave home as an adult.  It is a day of mixed emotions.  Dad is happy to see you able to make wise choices, but he will miss hearing his beloved child say: “Dad” every day. He will miss playing catch, riding bikes, the family vacations, and just those times of being together. Above all, dad will miss saying: “This is how you do it.”

As the years pass, and we become parents, we soon understand what being a dad is all about. When the time comes for us to say goodbye to dad, as he leaves this life. We think back upon all the things we wish we had said. We wish we could have one more day with him and say: “I love you” one last time. Now, we are left with our memories, photos and those famous words that we learned from dad that we now say to our children: “This is how you do it.”

Remembering Mom: June Solomon Booth (1923-2003)

Mom and I shortly after my birth.

Mom and I shortly after my birth.

June 9, 1923 was a very special day for me. This was the day that Annie Solomon gave birth to the last of the many children that she and Charles brought into the world. They would call this last child June Leona Solomon. June spent the first eighteen years of her life in the small coal-mining town of Patton, Pennsylvania. However, there weren’t many opportunities in Patton; so June followed her married sister, Frances, to Detroit.

Mom as a young child in Patton, PA.  She is the one in the middle.

Mom as a young child in Patton, PA. She is the one in the middle.

The big city was a contrast to the small laid back life back in Patton. She often spoke about working in the Guardian Building and living on Grand Blvd. In time, June would meet Arthur Booth and in 1950 they would become husband and wife. I would be the last child born to my parents in August of 1955.

Dad and Mom before I came on the scene.

Dad and Mom before I came on the scene.

In life, we can choose whom we marry, we can choose our friends, but we can’t choose our mothers. I am very grateful for the mother that God gave to me. She wasn’t a perfect person, but she was the perfect mother for me.

My mother was able to stay home with the three of us because my Dad sacrificed by working two jobs. Mom took her role as mother quite seriously. She took care of all of our basic needs. She always fixed our meals without complaints. She packed my sack lunch with loving care  She took care of our clothes. I still remember her ironing in the dining room as she would spray water on the clothes before she would pass the iron over them.  She also took us to all the places that we needed to go.

Mom did much more than take care of our basic needs. She loved us. She showed her love in how she sacrificed her time for us. She made it a point to give each of us special attention. Often, we would gather around the table with Mom and play Scrabble, Password or Jeopardy. The highlight of my day was bedtime, because Mom would tuck me into my bed and then read a story to me. She started with stories from Uncle Remus or Dr. Seuss.  When I was older she would read biographies and historical novels. She taught me to have a love for reading and history.

My Mom also enjoyed being involved in different community organizations.  She was involved in the Midland Elementary School PTA. She also was a den mother for the Cub Scouts for a couple of years. I still remember her working on the craft projects that her pack would do that day. Mom also taught Sunday School for a couple of years at the Highland Park Congregational Church. I was proud to be in her Junior High class.

Holidays and birthdays were always special to Mom. She would decorate our house special on each holiday. She enjoyed hiding the Easter baskets for Easter. She also was right there cleaning out the pumpkin for Halloween. Thanksgiving dinner was always a special treat. To this day, I can still taste her stuffing that would come right out of the turkey.

As for birthdays, she always prepared a big party. One year when Batman was popular on TV, she gave me a Batman party with Batman hats, plates, and cups.  She always invited our rather large extended family to the party as well as my friends.  She made each birthday like one gigantic celebration.

Mom enjoying hosting one of my birthday parties.

Mom enjoying hosting one of my birthday parties.

Mom also had a real gift of hospitality. She always seemed to have some family member at our house. She always welcomed my friends into the house. I never heard her complain about the noise that we made while we were playing.  She never said, “I wish you and your friends would go somewhere else.”

Mom was not always comfortable driving. She didn’t mind Woodward Avenue or Oakland Avenue, but the Davison and the Lodge expressways were off-limits in her mind. One day, Mom made a wrong turn and somehow she was driving on the Davison Expressway entering the Lodge. I was standing in my usual position in the back seat (Remember no seat belts or car seats in those days). I felt the panic of Mom as she asked me what to do?  As a seven-year old, I sure didn’t have the answer. Somehow, we made it off the Lodge Expressway. I never again remember Mom driving on one of the expressways. If she did, I am glad that I wasn’t with her.

The greatest contribution that Mom made in my life was that she taught me about God.  She didn’t read the Bible to me, but she did take me to church and gave me a prayer to repeat when I went to bed. She always told me not to put anything on top of the Bible because it was God’s Word. Because of Mom’s influence, when I was in high school, I started to read my Bible in search of God and how I could be right with Him. By the time, I was a student in college, I had placed my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior.

After accepting Christ, I took Mom to Coltman Memorial Baptist Church which was a small Baptist church on Hamilton near Puritan. The people in the church really loved Mom and she loved them. She would soon accept the Lord as her Savior and she was also baptized.  Being younger than most of the people in the church, Mom would have a ministry of helps to many of the older women in the church. She would learn much from the Word of God as result of the good teaching she would receive.

Mom with the ladies of Coltman Memorial Baptist Church

Mom with the ladies of Coltman Memorial Baptist Church

When we left to minister in South Africa in 1983, Mom found it difficult to adjust. She would miss us, especially as her grandchildren would grow up in another land. Mom would send us cassette tapes of her thoughts and memories, as well as having Dad read a story to our children. This helped the children to relate to family back in the States. We would visit every couple of years. This would be a special time for our children to bond with their grandparents.

In 1996, we would return to the States. Mom was finding it difficult to get out, but she still found a certain joy when we would come and visit her. She loved our three children. With sadness, we would say goodbye to Mom in July of 2003. It has been ten years since I have been able to kiss Mom and say: “I love you.” I probably didn’t do this enough in this life.  However, I thank God that I could call June Booth, “Mom”.