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.

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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 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?

God: The Lifter Up of My Soul (Psalm 3)

The Canadian Rockies (Photo by Mark J. Booth)

The Canadian Rockies (Photo by Mark J. Booth)

Hurt and discouragement are realities in every person’s life. We have felt the painful arrow of someone’s words. We have experienced being misunderstood or betrayed.  Discouragement settles into our lives as an unwelcomed guest. Even our friends can do nothing to relieve us of our painful hearts. We don’t know where to turn.

King David had these very same experiences in his life. He had enemies who were out to get him. His few remaining friends pushed him into a deeper despair by saying that God had abandoned him. He shares his experience in Psalm 3. This Psalm begins with David expressing the helplessness of his soul: “Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.” (Psalm 3:1-2)

The words: “There is no help for him in God.” cry out for an answer. We have all faced discouragement because of circumstances, people who don’t like us, and our own actions. However, when those who are closest to us give up hope for us, what are we to do? We often crawl into our shell and nurse our broken heart alone.

In the midst of the darkness of his soul, David looks up to God. Has God abandoned him?  No! He finds his hope and encouragement once again in God. He reaffirms his faith and trust in God: “But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” (Psalm 3:3)

  1. God is his protector (shield) in spite of his enemies.
  2. God will be glorified, in spite of his circumstances.
  3. God will lift up his soul unto joy and encouragement in spite of his despair.

After David reaffirms his trust in God, he then cries out for God to act in his behalf. “I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah” (Psalm 3:4) God is waiting for us to cry out to Him. Our Heavenly Father knows all about our enemies, pain, trials, and discouragement; however, He chooses to wait until we humble ourselves before Him. Our crying out to Him is saying: “Lord, I have no where else to turn. I desperately need you. Please come and deliver me.” God will hear our cry and respond.

David’s situation has yet to change, but he has changed. He knows that God is working everything for His glory. David no longer faces sleepless nights turning his bed. “I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.” (Psalm 3:5) We don’t have to lie awake at night worrying about our enemies, future and tribulations. Sleep comes when we remember that the Lord is our shield. Nothing can enter our lives that doesn’t first pass through his loving presence.

The dread of each day would no longer be a part of David’s life. “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.” (Psalm 3:6) We don’t have to wake up in the morning filled with fear of what will happen. God is in control. He is the One who restores our confidence and hope. Each day is a new opportunity to bring glory to God who has lifted up our soul

David concludes with confidence that God will show His justice upon his enemies. “Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone;thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.” (Psalm 3:7) When we turn to God, we are free to allow Him to deal with those who have committed evil, whether it be against us, or others. We are free from bitterness when we commit them completely to the justice of God.

Turning to God has caused a transformation in David’s life.  In the beginning of the Psalm, David’s soul is downcast and hopeless, but at the end of the Psalm, he proclaims that he is greatly blessed by God. “Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.” (Psalm 3:8)

God transforms our despair into joy, peace, comfort, courage and blessing. God’s ears are always open to our cry. Are we ready to cry out to Him?

“Dear Lord, I have a heavy heart. My life seems hopeless. Those around me say that I am beyond your help. Yet, I know that you hear my cry unto you. Your Word tells me that you are my Protector. Help me to hide behind your shield. Give me the grace to live for your glory. Thank you for lifting up my soul no matter how low it may go. You alone can restore my hope, my joy, my courage, and my purpose in life. Thank you for hearing not only my cry, but the deepest sighs of my soul that I can’t express outwardly. Amen.”

Under the Shadow of His Wings

Free Photo provided by: www.sxc.hu

Free Photo provided by: http://www.sxc.hu

“How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.” (Psalm 36:7)

Often, as a pastor, I minister to people facing tough times. We have all experienced the death of a loved one, a serious sickness, issues within the family, financial setbacks, sin problems, and many other forms of pain and trials. Many times, these problems are unsolvable from a human perspective: however, there is a place of security, love, comfort and peace. The Bible calls this place, “under the shadow of His wings.”

David often faced great difficulties in his life. In Psalm 36, David writes about those who would bring harm to his life. He realizes that he is helpless in face of these schemes; so he chooses to find refuge under the wings of his Lord God.

The words, “under His wings”, refer to how a young bird finds protection from danger within the shadow of his mother’s wings.  Whatever danger that comes to the young bird must first pass through the ever vigilant mother. God is like that mother bird. He gives us a place of refuge under the shadow of His wings. Nothing will enter our lives until it first passes through His ever vigilant eyes and protection.

Here are some examples of times when we need to seek the security that God provides for His children.

  •  Fear. (Even groundless fear is still painful.)
  •  Danger. (Self, sin, Satan, and foes)
  •  Inability to defend or overcome without help
  •  Foresight that sees the storm coming and looks for safety.
  •  Prudence to hide before the storm.
  •  Times of fatigue, discouragement, or temptation.

David fled to the safety of the shadow of the Lord”s wings because He knew God personally; thus, he could trust Him. How well do we know God? In Psalm 36, David focuses upon five attributes of God that will help us to know Him better.

1. God is merciful. We don’t deserve His forgiveness, compassion and protection; and yet  He shows mercy unto us.  “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens;” (Psalm 36:5a)

2. God is faithful. People may come and go in our lives. People may not want to help us. Sometimes, others may get tired of helping us, but God demonstrates His faithfulness by His presence in our lives. He never leaves us, nor does He forsake us.
“Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.” (Psalm 36:5b)

3. God is righteous. We can trust God because He can do no wrong. When God makes a promise to us, He keeps His word. There is great comfort and strength when we flee to God’s Word to claim one of His promises. God will never fail us, nor wrong us. “Thy righteousness is like the great mountains.” (Psalm 36:6a)

4. God is just. Everywhere we look we see injustices occurring. We wonder, “where is the justice?”  When we flee to God, we will receive justice. God’s justice is perfect and impartial. “Thy judgments are a great deep:” (Psalm 36:6b)

5. God is love. God knows our weakness. He knows our need of Him, more than we do. His love says to us: “Come unto me, I will take care of you” “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God!” (Psalm 36:7)

When we find refuge under the shadow of His wings, we will find abundant peace, protection and guidance from our Heavenly Father. David testifies of God’s provision in the life of those who live under the shadow of His wings. “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Psalm 36:8-9)

“Dear Father, instead of finding refuge under your wings, I try to solve my problems on my own. I know that I should come to you. I know that you love me; yet, I seek to go my way. Help me to trust you when hard times come. Place me under your loving wings; so that I will know the warmth of your love, peace and protection. Amen”

When No One Cares

Canadian Badlands in Alberta, Canada (Photo by: Mark J. Booth)

Canadian Badlands in Alberta, Canada (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)

“Does anyone care?” “If only I could find someone who will listen to me!”  Have you ever caught yourself thinking these thoughts? Yes, throughout life there are times when we feel alone.  We think no one cares. When these times occur, we must not forget that there is One who is always available. He loves us and is ready listen to us. He understands exactly how we feel. Are we ready to confide in our Lord?

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

Why did Moses stay faithful in spite of his trials? He confided in the Lord. How did Joshua lead God’s people? He confided in the Lord. How did David receive forgiveness of his sin? He confided in the Lord. How did Paul rejoice in the midst of his persecution and difficulties? He confided in the Lord. How will we stay faithful through life’s tribulations?  We will need to confide in the Lord.

Why do we need to confide in the Lord?

1. We need to confide in the Lord because we have no wisdom or strength within ourselves. When King Jehoshaphat faced the near certain defeat of his armies, he confided in the Lord. He knew that God alone could handle this situation.  “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) Jehoshaphat demonstrated a spirit of humility before God which enabled him to confide in the Lord. We choose not to confide in God because we don’t want to admit our need of Him.

2. We need to confide in the Lord because we have a deceitful heart that can often lead us astray.  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? ” (Jeremiah 17:9) People often say: “I can’t go wrong if I just follow my heart”. However, God makes it clear that we can not trust our own hearts. We often make decisions based upon our own selfishness, bias or lack of knowledge. We need to confide in the Lord because He will direct us in the right path.

3. We need to confide in the Lord because difficulties come into our lives. We can’t travel the road of 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 may come into our lives.

4. We need to confide in the Lord because of problems with others. People say: “I could 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)

5. 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. 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)

Elbow Lake in Alberta, Canada (Photo by: Mark J. Booth)

Elbow Lake in Alberta, Canada (Photo by: Mark J. Booth)

How do we confide in the Lord?

1. We share our requests openly with God. “Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God.” (Psalm 59:1)  The Psalmist understood that he could share any request with God, and that God would hear him. He is ready to listen to all of our requests.

2. We are to show gratefulness unto the Lord as we confide in Him. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) God loves to hear and answer our prayer requests, but He also loves to hear us give praise and thanks unto Him.

3. We are to show desperation when we confide in God.  “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.” (Psalm 102:1) Our desperate cry shows our total dependence upon Him. Our cry also shows that He is our only hope. When desperate times come, God is waiting for us to cry out to Him.

4. We are to confide in God thoughtfully. Confiding in God means that we don’t repeat the same words without thought. God wants us to share our mind, will and emotions with Him.  When Jesus taught about prayer, He said: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do:” (Matthew 6:7)  

We have a choice each day. Will we openly confide in our Lord or ignore the opportunity of pouring out our hearts to our dearest Friend? We should not only confide in the Lord when we have sorrow and trials, but also in our times of blessing and joy. God wants us to confide in Him in every decision that we make. Confiding in God increases our love for Him because we find complete satisfaction in Him.

“Dear Lord, I often live my life without sharing it with you. You have blessed me with your presence and yet I ignore you. Why are you so patient with me? Help me to have the desire to confide in you completely. Thank you that you do care and that I can trust you with my whole heart. With my love, from your child. Amen”

What about Bad Tidings in the Season of Good Tidings? (Psalm 112:7)

Storm brewing over Downriver Area of Metro Detroit.

Storm brewing over Downriver Area of Metro Detroit (2011)

“He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” (Psalm 112:7)

“We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” is a Christmas Carol that people sang since the 16th century in England.  If is a song of joy as expressed in the words: “Good tidings we bring to you and your kin. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”  However, not everybody receives good tidings during this time of year.  We still face trials, sorrow, and pain.  Many people even feel a deeper sense of loneliness during this time of year than at any other time of the year.  Yes, evil tidings don’t stop during this time of year: however there is good news from God in the midst of evil tidings that may come our way.

In the Bible, we see many people who triumphed over the evil tidings in their lives.  Joseph overcame many evil tidings, including betrayal, slavery, and prison, to become the prime minister of Egypt.  Ruth overcame the evil tidings of the death of her husband and living in poverty.  She would soon marry Boaz and become the great-grandmother of King David.

God gives us his Word to encourage us as we face the evil tidings of life that may come our way.  Every day, “bad news” can surprise us. We don’t ask for it, but it is a package delivered to the doorway of our lives.   How can we triumph even in the midst of bad news?  How can we see good news come out of the bad news?  Psalm 112:7 gives us some answers to these questions.

Normally, our first response to bad news is to be afraid or fearful.  Fear paralyzes us.  It causes us to focus upon the bad news instead of our Great God.  God tells us that we do not have to be afraid of the “evil tidings” that enter into our life.  God knows that fear will keep us from seeing Him clearly.  Fear causes us to doubt the goodness and the power of God.  For this reason God gives us many verses that command us to “fear not”.

  • But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob,and he that formed thee, O Israel, FEAR NOT: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
  • ” FEAR THOU NOT; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)
  • “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, NEITHER LET IT BE AFRAID.” (John 14:27)

When fear departs in the midst of the bad news, then we are able to do the next step in facing our bad news.  We now can “fix our heart” upon the Lord.  Our bad news is an opportunity to focus upon God.  We can focus upon all of His attributes and promises.  When we fix our heart upon the Lord, it may not change our circumstances, but it will change how we face our circumstances.  We will understand with the Apostle Paul that
God’s grace is sufficient for the “evil tidings” that may come in our life.

Once fear has departed and we have fixed our heart upon the Lord, then we can have faith in Him.  Faith is responding to all that we know about God.  The more we know the Lord, the more we will be able to trust Him.  True faith knows that God will never leave us, nor forsake us regardless of the “bad news” that may come our way.  His love is an unchanging love.  He loves us with an “everlasting love.”.  Faith in our Lord will dispel any fear in our life.  It will enable us to bear whatever “bad news” that comes our way.

In summary, when we receive bad news, Psalm 112: 7 tells us three ways to respond to the “evil tidings”

  1. Do not allow fear to dominate our thoughts and actions.
  2. Fix our heart upon the Lord.  Let our thoughts focus on the Lord.
  3. Place our faith in the Lord.  He will carry us as we face the “bad news’ in our life.

When the “evil tidings” enter into our live, God has a way of turning those evil tidings into an opportunity to see Him work in our life and in the lives of those around us.  God will turn those “evil tidings” into “good tidings” that will draw us closer to Him, and bring glory to His name.

“Dear Lord, the news that I receive is not always good.  I see people who are suffering.  I visit those who have marital problems.  I talk with those who have a loved one who is dying.  I see people who have turned away from you.  I also face difficulties from time to time in my life.  My tendency is to face the bad news with fear.  Help me, to turn my eyes off the “bad news” and fix my heart upon you.  Please, increase my faith.  Help me to believe that you will take this “bad news” and make it into something good. Thank you for your great plan for my life. 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.”

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/

A Heart to Walk with God

Sleepy Hollow State Park-Michigan USA-Photo by: Mark J. Booth

Imagine taking a walk with God. One of the most unusual people in the Bible is Enoch.  He is one of two Old Testament characters who never died.  What is it that makes Enoch unique?  The Bible says:  “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” (Genesis 5:24)  Enoch loved listening to God.  He enjoyed sharing his heart with God. He made his relationship with God the number one priority in his life.  Enoch’s walk with God meant that he had an intimate relationship with God.

We often find ourselves too busy to take time to walk with God.  Our culture focuses on  instant gratification.  We don’t like to slow down.  We have fast food, fast cars, instant photos, instant communication and microwave ovens.  We think that we can also have a microwave relationship with God.  We  read a few verses, and say a quick prayer and think that we have a close relationship with God.  We have lost the joy and the benefit of slowing down and learning to walk with God.

How can we develop a heart that longs to walk with God?  Here are five ways that we can cultivate a heart that desires to walk with God.

1. We need to develop a heart that agrees with God.  Agreeing with God enables us to view our life from His perspective.  We enjoy our time with God because we aren’t arguing with Him. We are learning from Him.  The nation of Israel had a problem of agreeing with God.  They wanted to go their own way.  The prophet Amos said: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3) Do we agree with God concerning our goals, our future, our family, our time, our money and other areas of our lives? We can’t walk in our own way and walk with God at the same time. 

2. We need to develop a heart that is humble before God.  Pride causes us to think that we don’t need to walk with God.  We are able to handle our life without God.  The prophet Micah says:  “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?(Micah 6:8) A humble spirit is a dependent spirit.  A dependent believer sees their great need to walk very close with God.

3. We need to develop heart that is pure before God.  Because God is holy, sin keeps us from walking with God.  The Apostle John says: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.(1 John 1:6-7) Sin is choosing to walk in darkness, instead of walking in God’s light.  However, God has provided the way of restoration in our walk with Him. “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) A pure heart is a heart that enjoys walking with God, who is Light. 

4. We need to develop a heart that loves as God loves.  When our hearts are full of anger, bitterness, hatred, and selfishness, we are unable to walk with God, who is love.
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” A believer that loves God and others feels very comfortable walking with God.  They look for opportunities to pour out the love they receive from God unto others. 

5. We need to develop a heart that is quiet before God.  God’s Word encourages us to slow down and be still.  We need to learn the art of waiting upon God. “Be still, and know that I am God:” (Psalm 46:10) A patient and quiet heart is saying to God: “I am ready to walk with you with my undivided attention.” 

Woldumar Nature Center-Lansing, Michigan (Photo by: Mark J. Booth)

Enoch made a choice that he would walk with God.  This meant the sacrifice of his time.  It meant that he would be misunderstood by others.  However, he desired a close walk with His God. God took pleasure in His time Enoch. As a result, He just took Enoch right up to heaven to be with Him.  What about us?  How is our walk with God?

“Dear Lord, I am tempted to hurry my time with you.  I find myself walking this life without you.  Then something happens and I wonder where are you.  Help me, to see my need to walk close with you.  I know that the greatest enjoyment in life is when I take the time to walk with you.  Thank you for always being available to walk side by side with me.  I love you, Lord. Amen”