A Spiritual Inventory for 2015

Bennett Park, Charlotte, Michigan, USA  (Photo by Mark J Booth)

Bennett Park, Charlotte, Michigan, USA (Photo by Mark J Booth)

The year 2015 has arrived. Perhaps, we have already made some goals for this year. We may plan to do more exercise or eat less food. Perhaps, we want to travel more, or have a goal to get out of debt. In light of our goals for 2015, will we take the time to do an inventory of our spiritual lives?

God says in Haggai 1:5: “Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.” God’s people had returned to their land, but they had neglected to rebuild the temple. They were too busy with their own affairs. to concern themselves with God and His priorities. Today, we often neglect our spiritual lives because we become preoccupied with all the activities in this world. Like the Israelites, have we neglected to take an inventory of our relationship with God?

The word “consider” means to note thoroughly, to perceive clearly, to think deeply. This word is used sixty-six times in the Bible. Why does God place such a priority on this word? Is it because He knows that we have the habit of keeping busy so that we don’t take the time to consider our walk with Him? Here are some questions to help begin an inventory of our spiritual lives.

1. How well do I know God? “That I may know Him.” (Philippians 3:10) These words show Paul’s great desire to know the Lord in a personal way. He didn’t just want to know about God, but to know Him as His Father, Lord and Friend. To know God means to spend time with Him in His Word. This means that we study His Word to learn more about His character, His works, and His promises. To know God means to spend time in prayer with Him. To know God also means to spend time meditating upon Him in order that our love and desire to please Him will grow.

2. How well do I know myself? “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:” (Psalm 139:23) We often find it difficult to allow God to search every aspect of our lives. We like to focus on all of our “good points” and we tend to ignore our sins or weaknesses. God gives us His Word to enable us to see areas that we need to change in our lives. When we read the Word of God, do we allow God to convict us of our sins? Do we allow Him to show us areas in our lives in which we need to improve? Do we allow Him to show us our apathy in spiritual matters? Examining our lives may not be pleasant, but it is a great step in moving forward in our spiritual lives in 2015.

3. How well do I use my time? “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) Time is a gift that we often waste on matters that are not very important. We have many tools today to save time; yet we seem to have less time than ever to do those things that are important.

The Apostles Paul understood that his greatest priority in life was to mature in his faith. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) His time, efforts and focus were upon his spiritual well-being. We spend a lot of time taking care of our physical bodies, but what about our spiritual life? Time is a gift that we can invest in those things that promote our spiritual well-being.

4. How well do I encourage those around me? We often focus upon our own lives and we forget the impact that our lives have upon other people. One of my favorite Bible characters is Barnabas. He was a man who was always encouraging others.

     He encouraged others by his example. He did this with his generous gift to the church (Acts 4:36-37). The Bible also says about Barnabas: “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith:” (Acts 11:23) If people followed our example what kind of Christian would they be?

     He encouraged others by his friendship. Barnabas extended the hand of friendship to Paul when nobody else did. (Acts 9:26-27) People need friends, but our culture of isolation has kept us from reaching out to others with the needed hand of friendship.

     He encouraged others with his words. Barnabas was a leader who encouraged the early church in Antioch with his words (Acts 11:23) We can use our words to discourage a person or to encourage them.

     He encouraged others by giving them a second chance. John Mark had failed on the first missionary journey. Paul didn’t want to take the chance to take John Mark on the second journey. Barnabas choose to give John Mark a second chance. This same John Mark would later write the Gospel of Mark. People will fail us, just as we fail others. Will we give them a second chance?

5. How well do I glorify God in all that I do? The greatest purpose of our life is to bring glory to God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) God wants to be glorified in all that we do. Do we glorify God in our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions? De we glorify God in our family? Do we glorify God at work or school? Do we glorify God with our plans and goals in life?

We have come to another crossroads in our lives. We have a great opportunity before us. What will we do with this opportunity? We can move forward in our spiritual lives or we can remain stagnant. God desires us to move forward in our spiritual lives. Will we take the time to make an inventory of where we are spiritually?

“Dear Heavenly Father, I am entering a new year. I know that I have fewer years ahead of me than behind me. It is critical that I allow you to clearly show me, what I need to do in this coming year. Help me to know you more intimately. Guide me as to the use of my time. Use me to encourage the people you bring into my life. Above all, I want to glorify you in all that I am and do. Thank you for the blessings of 2014. Thank you for continuing your work in and through my life. Amen”

A Love Letter to My Heavenly Father

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Dear Heavenly Father,

I am sorry that I couldn’t find a card for you for Father’s Day, but there are none available  here on earth. As you know, my earthly father is no longer here; so I thought it would be proper to write you a love letter of appreciation on this Father’s Day.

First of all, I would like to thank you for adopting me into your family. I know that it was at a great cost for you because your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ died in my place. The amazing thing about this adoption is that there was absolutely nothing in me that made me desirable to you. After all these years, I still can’t believe that I have the privilege to call you Abba, Father!

As my Heavenly Father, you have blessed my life in so many ways that it is impossible to express all that you have done in one letter. You have been so very patient with me throughout the years. Yes, I have failed you many times, and yet you continue to show me love and mercy through your forgiveness. Not only do you forgive me, but you also choose to forget every sin that I have done against you.

One of the greatest gifts that you have given to me is your Word in order to teach me more about yourself. I have enjoyed learning all about you. Your Word has revealed your beauty which is evidenced in your love, faithfulness, mercy, holiness, and grace. Your Word has revealed your great power, wisdom, and majesty. In the Word, you have taught me the way that I should I go. Even when I depart from that way, you redirect me and place me back on the right path.

Dear Father, thank you for being with me at all times. You have always fulfilled your promise that you will never leave me nor forsake me. In the good times, you are with me. In the difficult times you are with me. Your presence has given me strength to continue on in spite of times when I felt like quitting. I find no greater joy than taking a walk and being aware of the fact that you are walking with me.

There are many times when I need to cry out to you and you always listen to me. You listen to my cries of desperation, but you also listen when I just want to say thank you for the many blessings which you have given to me. I am grateful that your ears are always open and you recognize my voice.

Father, when no one else understands, you do! You know everything about me. You know my thoughts, my actions, my desires, and my attitudes. You know when I get up in the morning and you know when I go to bed. As the Psalmist writes, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me”!

For this Father’s Day, I really don’t have anything to give to you, except I want to say once again, “I love you!” Yes, it is an imperfect love, but it is all that I have to give. Again, thank you for being my Father who loves me with an everlasting love! I don’t know where I would be in this life without you.

From Your Loving Child,

Mark

Restoring the Wonder in Our Spiritual Lives

His Name is Wonderful

Do you remember when you first became a Christian? Everything was new. The Bible was like an open book filled with treasures. Prayer was an exciting experience as we spoke to the Living God. Singing in church and hearing the Word of God was a fresh new blessing. Everything about God, the Word and the Christian life produced great wonder in our hearts.

As the years have passed, have we lost the wonder? Do we now read the Word; so we won’t feel guilty? Is prayer a habit without any fervency? Has church become a bore? We know that we are saved, but have we lost the wonder of God? Without the wonder, our Christian life loses its excitement, joy and delight.

Have we lost the wonder of His person? “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God,The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) His name is called “Wonderful”. There are several ways that His very person should naturally create wonder in our hearts.

  1. The Wonder of His Deity
  2. The Wonder of His Incarnation
  3. The Wonder of His Names
  4. The Wonder of His Love

Have we lost the wonder of His Word? “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (119:18) The Psalmist understood how easy it is to take the Word of God for granted. His prayer was that he would once again approach the Word of God with great wonder. We find it easy to casually read the Word. We approach the Word like a textbook instead of retaining the wonder that God is actually speaking to me! Here are some ways that the Word of God creates wonder in our hearts.

  1. The Wonder of His Truth
  2. The Wonder of His Promises
  3. The Wonder of His Commands
  4. The Wonder of His People.

Have we lost the wonder of His works? “For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.” (Psalm  86:10) Many of us have heard the Bible stories since we were children. When we read about God’s works in the Bible, we no longer view them with childlike wonder. This lack of wonder causes our faith to diminish. When we look at God’s works from a fresh perspective the wonder will be restored. Here are some of His works that we can view with renewed wonder.

  1. The Wonder of His Creation
  2. The Wonder of His Salvation
  3. The Wonder of His Miracles
  4. The Wonder of His Judgment
  5. The Wonder of His Providence

“Dear Lord, I find it easy to lose the wonder in my spiritual walk with you. I have lost the wonder of your person, your Word and your works. Please forgive me for this. I need to restore this wonder. Help me to view all that you are with great wonder once again. Please restore the thrill of my spiritual walk with you. Amen”

Eighteen Blessings from Our Heavenly Father

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“Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all of His benefits.” (Psalm 103:2)

One of the greatest results of our salvation is that we are adopted into God’s family. We now can call God, Our Father! The Fatherhood of God is more than a doctrine, it affects every aspect of our lives. Being God’s child places us in a position to enjoy many blessings from our new relationship. Sometimes, we forget these blessings because we become too busy, or we focus on ourselves instead of our Father. Let’s look at just a few of the blessings that our Father gives to us. May our hearts abound in love and thanksgiving to Our Heavenly Father for all that He has done, and is doing in our lives.

BLESSINGS FROM MY FATHER
1. His Great Salvation-“Whosoever believes in Him (Jesus) shall have eternal life.”
2. His Adopting Us into His Family. “We cry, Abba, Father”
3. His Constant Presence-“He never leaves us, nor forsakes us.”
4. His Listening Ear-“Ask and it shall be given unto you.”
5. His Mercy-“For His mercy endures forever.”
6. His Patience-“The LORD is longsuffering.”
7. His Love-“Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love.”
8. His Forgiveness-“Who forgives all your iniquity.”
9. His Strength in My Weakness-“My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
10. His Word-“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”
11. His Family-“For ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”
12. His Promises-“For all the promises of God in Him are yea.”
13. His Discipline-“For whom the Lord loves, He chastens.”
14. His Home in Heaven-“In my Father’s house are many mansions.”
15. His Cleansing us from Our Sins. -“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
16. His Abundant Joy-“Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice.”
17. His Knowledge of My Life and My Heart-“O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
18. His Grace is Sufficient for Every Need-“My grace is sufficient for thee.”

“Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for adopting me as your child through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. You have blessed me above and beyond anything that I deserve. Help me never to take your blessings for granted. Thank you for being my Father, today, tomorrow and forever! Amen.”

Sweet Meditations upon Christ

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“My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord.” (Psalm 104:34)

Many thoughts pass through our minds every day. Some thoughts are innocent. Some thoughts are good. Some thoughts are sinful. Other thoughts are destructive, such as worry, fear, discouragement and discontentment. However, the most pleasurable thoughts  are upon Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

How often have we spent a day with very few thoughts upon Jesus? Yes, we pray, but are we meditating upon Jesus? Yes, we read our Bibles, but are we meditating upon Jesus?

The Psalmist shares his experience of meditating upon Our Lord. He describes this experience as “sweet” Why would the Psalmist use this word? Why doesn’t he use the word “uplifting” or “blessing”? The Psalmist uses the word “sweet” to describe the pleasure He derives from His meditation upon the Lord. He shares that there is no greater pleasure in this life than to meditate upon the Lord. He wants us to join him in this sweet time of meditating upon the Lord.

The word meditate has the idea of contemplating or focusing upon with all of our mind. Our mind is often going in several directions at the same time. We live in a society of multitasking; however, when we multitask in our meditation of God, the sweetness disappears. Our awareness of God’s presence diminishes. The pleasure is gone.

What makes meditating upon God a sweet experience?

1. Meditation upon God develops an intimate relationship with Him. Can you imagine if we were to walk in the sandals of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David? These men knew the God they served. They enjoyed His presence. They enjoyed His love. They enjoyed hearing His voice. They enjoyed seeing Him work in their lives. They confidently talked with God because of this intimate relationship with Him.

2. Meditation upon God increases our faith. One of the greatest struggles in our life is the struggle of faith. We walk by sight and our own wisdom instead of walking by faith. Our struggle with faith occurs because of our ignorance of God. The more we meditate upon God, the more we will know His attributes and His promises. This knowledge will help us to put our confidence in Him.

3. Meditation upon God changes our focus from ourselves unto God. We have the habit of viewing life through our own eyes. Our focus often becomes self-centered. We become filled with the “selfs” of life, such as self-pity, self-centeredness, self-glorification, and self-gratification. When self becomes the focus, joy leaves our lives. However, when we develop the habit of meditating upon the Lord soon our focus will change from self to God.

4. Meditation upon God gives perspective to our trials, heartaches and suffering. Life is filled with tribulations. We feel hopeless in the midst of a deep trial. What can we do in the midst of this great difficulty? When we meditate upon God and His promises, we see His strength, power and love. We understand that no matter how great the difficulty, God is greater than any trial that comes our way. The disciples had to learn this lesson often. However, David when he faced Goliath, he had great confidence because He had the habit of meditating upon God and His Word.

Meditating upon God means that we take the time focus upon His person.  Here are a few ways that we can enjoy the sweetness of meditating upon God.

  1. Meditate upon the attributes of God. Perhaps, every day focus upon one attribute of God. This will enable us to find sweetness in every one of God’s attributes instead of focusing on only two or three of His attributes. When was the last time we meditated upon the immutability of God, or the jealousy of God? The more we know who God is, the sweeter He will be to us.
  2. Meditate upon the works of God. The Bible is full of God’s work in the lives of people as well as nations. We see God’s wisdom, power, justice, power and love flow through the deeds that God performs throughout the Word of God.
  3. Meditate upon the promises of God. We become discouraged and worried because we have forgotten God’s promises. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian finally escapes the Castle of the Giant Despair when he remembered the key in his bosom that opened every look in Doubting Castle. This key was called “Promise”. Meditating upon God’s promise helps remove doubts that haunt us quite often in this life.
  4. Meditate upon the names of God. The Bible is full of various names of God. They are like beautiful jewels waiting to be discovered.

“Dear Lord, I often read your Word and pray, but yet I don’t take the time to meditate upon you. Help me to develop a habit of meditating upon you each day. My thoughts upon you bring a rich reward of bring great pleasure to my soul. Thank you for bringing sweetness to my life. Amen”

A Prayer for the Heavy-Hearted

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My Dear Heavenly Father,

    I come before you in great heaviness of soul. I feel the burden of my inadequacy, as well as the burden of my lack of faith. I feel the burden of an unknown future, as well as the burden of my past failures. I am walking by my feelings instead of entrusting myself to the facts of your Word. In other words, my life doesn’t fit in a nice little package.

  Father, I need you desperately. Please do not be silent towards me. Please answer my prayer. Please come and be near to me. Please open the truths of your Word unto me. May your light reveal the dark crevices of my life. May your peace overcome the anxiety that is in my heart. May your comfort overcome the disquietude of my soul. May your love permeate every area of my life. 

   Father, I need to gaze upon your beauty as David did in the midst of his tough times:  Help me to gaze upon the beauty of all that you are. Help me to gaze upon the beauty of all that you have done. Help me to gaze upon the beauty of your promises.

    Thank you for listening to me, as I pour out my heart before you. You have never left me nor forsaken me. Your love has never failed. Your mercies are new every morning. Your grace has been sufficient for all my needs. I love you, Lord. Thank you for allowing me to call you, My Father. Take my life and use it as you please.  Amen.

Verses for the Valley

Cape Verde-Photo by: Mark J Booth

Cape Verde-Photo by: Mark J Booth

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.” (A Tale of Two Cities: By Charles Dickens)

These words by Dickens can typify the valleys that we face in our lives. We can say with Dickens that the valley is the worst of times, but it is also the best of times. It is an anxious time. It is a comforting time. It is a time of sorrow. It is a time of joy. It is a time of discouragement. It is a time of encouragement. It is time of confusion. It is a time of direction. It is a time of silence from God. It is a time of closeness with God.

The valley is a place of contradictions. If our lives were without valleys, there would be very little spiritual growth. The valleys expose our need for God. The valleys expose the many things that need to be changed in our lives. The valleys teach us faith.  Though the valley may not pleasant, there are many verses that bring refreshment to us as we go through the valley. These verses have refreshed me as I have traveled through a valley.

1. GOD IS WITH ME  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

In life we often face very dark valleys. How can we keep going as we travel through a valley filled with the unknown, with dangers, and with pain of heart?  The loneliness of the valley can become suffocating. There is no one who understands. There is no one to help us get through this rough patch. However, David understood that the Lord’s presence is with us even in the darkest valley of all, death. God never forsakes His children. Though we don’t see Him, we know that he is with us every step of the way as walk through the dark valley.

A Prayer  “Dear Lord, as I walk through a very dark valley. I don’t know how long I will be here in this valley, but I know that you are with me. You are teaching me. You are guiding me. You are comforting me. You are walking alongside me enabling me to enjoy your presence. Please enable me to honor you while I am walking through this valley. I love you, My Shepherd. Thank you for loving me. Amen”

2. GOD DOESN’T CHANGE.  For I am the Lord, I change not.” (Malachi 3:6)

Changes are reality in life. We change. People change. Our surroundings change; Our circumstances change. Our life can often feel like a boat adrift in the ocean; yet amidst the uncertainties of life, God doesn’t change! His Salvation, His Word, His love, His mercy, His comfort, His faithfulness, His holiness never change. These unchangeable truths give us hope as we trod through the valley. Yes, our world may be changing before our eyes, but God never changes.

3. GOD STRENGTHENS ME. “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed:for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9)

We need strength and courage for what lies ahead. The path before us looks impossible to tread. We feel tired. We lack sleep. We are emotionally and spiritually exhausted. We want to quit.  We think we can’t go one step further. Where can we find the strength and courage to continue moving forward?  The same strength and courage that Joshua found from God before crossing the Jordan River and confronting Jericho is available to us.

A Prayer “Dear Lord, the path before me seems filled with difficulties and dangers. I feel tired. I don’t know how much further I can go. I have lost the will to continue in the struggle; however, I thank you for your presence. I thank you for giving me the strength and courage to go forward. Amen

4. GOD IS MY FOCUS.  “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:3) “

Have you ever found yourself so engrossed in a situation that all you can do is think about it? There is little sleep.There is little peace. There is little joy. What are we to do?  When we take our eyes off of the situation and place them upon Jesus, our perspective becomes totally different. When we focus upon the people who may have placed us in this valley, we start to become like them. When we place our eyes upon Jesus, we become more like Him.

A Prayer:
There is no wisdom in myself, but in you.
There is no compassion in myself, but in you.
There is no courage in myself, but in you.
There is no peace in myself, but in you.
There is no joy in myself, but in you.
Thank you, Lord, for always being with me, so that when I look to you, you are always there. Amen.

5. GOD IS MY BELOVED (Deuteronomy 33:27) “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

The valley can be a place of opposition. You may feel unloved. You may feel alone. This is a time to remember God’s everlasting arms are waiting to embrace and draw you unto Himself. Like a child runs into the arms of a loving parent, We also can run into the arms of our loving Father. The valley produces great needs in our life.  As a result of our needs our love increases for the Lord.

A Prayer: “Dear Lord, I come to you whose arms are wide open. I need you to embrace me and hold me tight because:
I need your love.
I need your comfort.
I need your understanding.
I need your peace.
I need your wisdom.
I need your forgiveness.
Thank you for always being ready to embrace me when I come to you with a broken and contrite heart. Amen”

6. GOD IS MY DELIGHT. “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

In spite of situations that are not delightful, we can still delight in the Lord. When we delight in the Lord, He will change our desires to match HIs desires. Delighting in the Lord will enable us to find peace and joy in the midst of the valley.

God’s Word has always brought comfort to His people. These verses have brought comfort to me in the midst of my valley. May you find comfort in them as you travel through your valley.

 

Lessons from the Valley

Cape Verde Islands- Photo by Mark J Booth

Cape Verde Islands- Photo by Mark J Booth

Recently, I have entered into a deep valley. This valley is not of my choosing, but it is of God’s choosing. God knows exactly what He is doing in my life. The process of becoming more like Christ is not always pleasant. The valley is a place where we meet fire, pressure, and the unknown. The great thing about the valley is that we are not traveling this valley alone. David, who faced many valleys, wrote: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: FOR THOU ART WITH ME; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

As I have reflected upon these past days, I am learning several lessons. As James wrote: “My brethren, COUNT IT ALL JOY when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4) There is joy in the midst of the valley because the Lord is still working in our lives.

At fifty-eight years old, I find myself having to learn new lessons and review old lessons. I am a slow learner, but God is a very patient teacher. He knows what to bring into our lives; so that Christlikeness becomes a reality in our lives. Every valley is different and there are new lessons to learn in each valley. Here are some of the lessons that the Lord is teaching me as travel through this valley.

1. I have learned that every valley is God’s special plan for my life. Joseph didn’t choose to become a slave, but it was God’s special plan. He understood this very clearly when he told his brothers. “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20) Joseph’s brothers did evil when they sold him into slavery; yet God took that evil deed and used it for good.

As I plod through this valley, I am thankful that God is still working in my life: Paul understood this when he wrote: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) I am an object of God’s working. He knows the right instrument to use to make me more like Jesus!

2. I have learned that the Valley is a Place of Fellowship with Christ. Communion with Christ can elude us in the good times; however, in the valley, it is essential. The valley shouts to us: “Go to Christ! Go to Christ!” Our need for Christ increases our desire for him. David wrote: “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.” (Psalm 63:1) When we thirst for Christ, He is always there to satisfy our thirst. When we run from the valley of His choosing, we lose those very intimate times of fellowship with Him.

3. I have learned that I can show my vulnerability before others. The valley has a way of causing us to be broken and humble before God and others. As a result, people see that we are vulnerable. Those who love us will see this vulnerability and try to bring comfort, healing and encouragement into our lives. Naomi showed her vulnerability before Ruth. As a result, Ruth left all and became her dearest friend.

Sometimes, we try to show how strong we are while traveling in the valley. There are people who would be eager to help us in our travels, if only we expressed our need. There is nothing wrong in letting people know that you are traveling through a valley. I am thankful for those members in our church who have seen our vulnerability and have ministered encouragement and love to us. Jonathan had a great ministry of encouragement to David because David showed his vulnerability to Jonathan.

4. I have learned that I need intercessory prayer. When things are going well, we don’t ask people to pray for us. However, when we enter the valley, Paul’s words: “Brethren, pray for us,” easily fall from our lips. I still don’t understand how prayer works, but I do know that it does work. There are many pitfalls in this valley, and yet the prayers of others have taken me through each pitfall.

5. I have learned that tears are perfectly appropriate. I very rarely cry, but when something or someone you love is hurting, tears flow naturally. Jesus said: “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) Comfort comes from the Savior who shed His tears for the people of Jerusalem. He sorrows for the same things which causes us to have sorrow. The tears show that I love those things which Jesus loves.

6. I have learned the great comfort that comes from the Word of God. The valley causes us to have a greater desire to read the Word, but it also gives us a greater ability to allow the truths of God’s Word to speak to our hearts. When things are going well, we may read the Bible, but when we are in the valley the Bible becomes a life-preserver. We hold unto its truths as though our lives depend upon it. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:71)

As I continue to travel this valley, I am thankful that I don’t have to travel this valley alone. Not only is Jesus walking with me, but my wife is walking right beside me. There will be more lessons to learn and relearn; however, I have the greatest teacher who ever walked the earth. His name is Jesus!

When Disappointment Comes, Twenty Truths to Remember

Guincho Beach in Portugal (Photo by Mark J. Booth)

Guincho Beach in Portugal (Photo by Mark J. Booth)

Life is filled with disappointments. People disappoint us. We disappoint ourselves. Circumstances disappoint us. The question isn’t: “Will disappointments come, but how do we respond in the midst of our disappointments. When we view God in the midst of our disappointments, the disappointment will become a means of a greater love and appreciation for our Great God. Here are twenty truths to remember in the midst of our disappointments.

1. God is on the throne.  “That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah,art the most high over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:18)

2. God still loves me. “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
(Jeremiah 31:3)

3. God won’t ever leave me, nor forsake me. “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have:for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5)

4. God is my Shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:1-2)

5. God is my Father. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

6. God hears me when I cry out to Him. “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6)

7. God is my defense. “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” (Psalm 18:2)

8. God is my guide. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” (Psalm 32:8)

9. God will bring comfort. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

10. God is merciful (He forgives me even when others don’t). “It is of the Lord ‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

11. God has a purpose for my life. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

12. God makes all things work together for good. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

13. God teaches me new lessons. “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:3-5)

14. God gives me a testimony to others (I need to remember my testimony in spite of what others do.) “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

15. God gives me His strength. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

16. God gives me His grace in times of great need. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

 17. God encourages me. “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters:but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. (1 Samuel 30:6)

18. Christ is interceding for me. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)

19. Christ is preparing a place for me in heaven. “Let not your heart be troubled:ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions:if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

20. Christ will take my burden upon Himself because I can’t carry it. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)

Why Me? (A Good Friday Meditation)

cross 2I have always had the habit of saying: “Why me?” when things go wrong.  For some reason, deep in my heart, I feel that nothing bad should come my way. Why should I get sick? Why should my plane be delayed? Why should I have an expensive car repair?

Why is it that I don’t ever say: “Why me?” when I think of all the undeserved blessings that I have received. On this Good Friday, I need to say: “Why me?” in regard to Christ’s death on the cross. I don’t deserve the love of God. I don’t deserve my Lord Jesus Christ dying on the cross to take away my sin. Why does He love me? Why did He die for me?

A couple of years ago, I was able to spend twenty-four hours in Jerusalem. It was a whirlwind trip, but one of the things that stood out was my visit to the possible place where Jesus died. There is a road that passes outside the old city and the rock formation above the road forms into the shape of a skull. This sight was a serious reminder of all that Christ suffered on the cross for a world of lost sinners, of which I am a part.

The Place of the Skull (Golgotha or Calvary).

The Place of the Skull (Golgotha or Calvary).

Reflecting upon Christ’s death causes me to cry out: “Why me?” Christ suffered physically upon the cross, but more importantly He suffered spiritually. He took all of our sin upon Himself. For this reason, He cried out to God, the Father. “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) Christ felt the full force of the Father’s wrath on the cross because He became sin for us; so that we could have His righteousness upon ourselves. The perfect Son of God took my place! “Why me?”

There are many other people in history who could say:”Why me?” They knew their sin before God. They knew that they deserved God’s wrath; yet they could say: “Why me?”

  • Matthew, the crooked tax collector, could have said: “Why me?”
  • The repentant thief on the cross could have said: “Why me?”
  • Saul (Paul), the persecutor of the church, could have said: “Why me?”
  • The Ethiopian Eunuch could have said: “Why me?”
  • Countless Christian slaves in the Roman Empire could have said: “Why me?”
  • Those who have died for their faith could have said: “Why me?”
  • Countless millions of believers through the centuries could say: “Why me?”

“Dear Heavenly Father, I still don’t understand: “Why me?” You sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for me. You gave me your Word which showed me all that Christ did on the cross for me. You sent your Holy Spirit to convict me of my sin. Father, you adopted me into your family. You have promised me a place in heaven. “Why me?!!” Though I may never know the answer to this question, I thank you for your great, undeserved love towards me. Help me never to forget the question: “Why me?”

WHY SHOULD HE LOVE ME SO? By Robert Harkness (1925)
Love sent my Savior to die in my stead;
Why should He love me so?
Meekly to Calvary’s cross He was led;
Why should He love me so?

Nails pierced His hands and His feet for my sin;
Why should He love me so?
He suffered sore my salvation to win;
Why should He love me so?

O how He agonized there in my place;
Why should He love me so?
Nothing withholding my sin to efface;
Why should He love me so?

CHORUS
Why should He love me so?
Why should He love me so?
Why should my Savior to Calvary go?
Why should He love me so?