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”

 

 

Three Truths to Start the Day

Sunrise-Photo by Jonathan Snow (By Permission)

How we start the day often dictates how the rest of our day will go.  When we start our day with anxiety, worry and fear, these emotions likely will continue to affect us during the rest of the day.  David faced many trials and obstacles; yet he could be encouraged by focusing upon His Lord in the morning.  Starting our day with a focus upon God enables us to walk with confidence, peace, and joy.  Our life will not be dictated by the events of the day, but by our faith and confidence in our living God.

David shares his faith and confidence in God by writing Psalm 31:3:  “For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.” (Psalm 31:3) David  didn’t start his day alone.  He was aware of God’s presence throughout the day.   Here are three truths about God that gave David peace, joy, strength and direction each day

1. “My Rock”-David understands that God brings stability to his life.  We don’t know the future.  There are many dangers and pitfalls that we face each day.  We are tempted to worry.  We feel unable to handle what is happening.  We feel like we are drowning; however, we can find stability in the midst of the instabilities of life.  God is our rock!  He is there to steady us. He is there to enable us to withstand any storm.  Like Peter, when you feel like you are drowning allow the Lord to take your hand and place you on the Solid Rock.

2. “My Fortress”-David understands that God brings security to his life.  Worry, fear and anxiety can control our days because of our insecurity.  We feel insecure about our relationships, our finances, our health, our future, and our reputation.  We can say “goodbye” to these insecurities when we flee to our Fortress, the Living God.  He can protect us from whatever “enemies” or destructive thoughts that may be attacking us.

3. “Lead me and guide me”-David understands that God brings direction to his life.  Each day presents its challenges.  Often, we face situations which confuse us.  We don’t know what to do.  God is our Shepherd.  He desires to lead us each day.  As we start each day, God will guide us as we seek Him in His Word and in prayer.  James shared with his readers: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5)

“Lord, every day has new challenges, problems and unexpected trials.  Thank you for bringing stability, security and direction in my life.  Help me to begin each day focusing upon you as my Rock, my Fortress and my Guide.  Thank you for taking a special interest in me and what happens in my life throughout each day.  Amen”

 

Our Own Debate with God

 

This evening many of us will be watching the big debate between President Obama and Governor Romney.  We will be pulling for our favorite candidate in the debate.  In the end, we will probably conclude that our candidate has won.

Debating has been around since the fall of man.  When Adam and Eve fell in sin, they debated God by blaming Him for their sin.  Moses debated with God when He had called Moses to go to Egypt.  Peter debated with the Lord Jesus when Peter told Jesus that he wasn’t suppose to die on the cross.  Satan also debated with God when he discussed Job’s life.  We also have had our debates with God.  We have questioned God about various areas in our lives.  Here are a few of our debate questions for God and His answers.

1. Why did you give me the family you gave me?  God answers: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalm 139:14)

2. Why did you allow this tragedy in my life? God answers: “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)

3. Why don’t you get rid of this problem in my life? God answers: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

4. I don’t understand what you are doing in my life. Can you tell me? God answers: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9)

5. How should I respond to those who have hurt me? God answers: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:44)

6. Have you really forgiven me of my sin? I still feel guilty! God answers: “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12)

7. Why aren’t you answering my prayer? God answers: “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1)

8. Where can I find satisfaction in my life? God answers: “For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” (Psalm 107:9)

God always has the right answer for each of our questions. Don’t be afraid to take your own questions to God.  He is always ready to answer them.  By the way, He doesn’t need any prep time!

 

Delighting in God in Stressful Times

 

God’s is waiting for us to come to Him. Photo by: Mark J Booth
The cares of this life often seem to build up until we feel overwhelmed. We become discouraged and feel stressed about life. Is there a place of comfort in the midst of the cares of this world? “In the multitude of my thoughts within me (cares of my heart) thy comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19). The Psalmist is saying: “No matter how stressful life is, God is here not only to bring comfort, but delight to my soul.”
There are many things that can be overwhelming and bring stress upon us:
  • the stress of our own failures, sins, and worries.
  • the stress from our concern for our loved ones.
  • the stress from people who oppose us.
  • the stress of work
  • the stress of growing older
  • the stress of keeping up with others
  • the stress of trials in our lives
  • the stress of loneliness
  • the stress of not knowing the future.
  • the stress of making decisions
Stressful situations fill our lives.  However, In the midst of the stresses of life, we can always flee to the “God of all Comfort”.  We can flee to Him:
  • by prayer and praise unto Him
  • by opening up the Word of God and listening to Him
  • by submitting our lives completely to Him
  • by confessing any known sin unto Him
He is always available to bring comfort, peace and hope to the soul who is coping with stress in their lives. Will we flee to Him in midst of the cares and stresses of life? Yes!
GOD WILL CHANGE OUR STRESS INTO DELIGHT IN HIM!