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”

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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”

An Unexpected Friend, Carl Seestedt (1954-2009)

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Friends enter into our lives in different ways. Many of our friends we have had since childhood, high school or college. Other friends come into our lives through work, church or some other organizations. Other friendships “seem” to come about by accident. Carl Seestedt entered into my life in a very unexpected way.

One day in 2008, Carl received a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. I had known Carl only casually through playing tennis with him on rare occasions. However, when I heard about Carl’s diagnosis, I decided to visit him to show interest in him and to encourage him. He had a great desire to be assured of his salvation in Jesus Christ. I shared some verses with him and he received that assurance. At that time, I offered to do a weekly Bible study with him. He seemed quite pleased with this offer because he had a great desire to study God’s Word.

We spent every Tuesday studying the Gospel of John. Carl was quite enthusiastic to learn the Word of God. Because of his tumor, he would find it difficult to get his thoughts into words, but he made every effort to do so. He was almost always upbeat. He rarely talked about himself and his circumstances, but he continually talked of his love for his wife, Vicki and his two daughters Julie and Jana.

Every Tuesday after the Bible study, we would eat lunch together at Carl’s house. During our lunch we would talk about life and even death. Those were very special times of conversation for me. I soon could understand what made Carl a very special person.

After lunch, I would take him to his tennis lesson which he had with two of his close friends Jack Griffin and Doug Atkinson. During this time, Carl continued to play tennis. Yes, his skills started to deteriorate, but he was persistent. He still had a great time with these lessons as well as teasing his friends while playing. Yes, Carl had a way of living his life to the fullest even to the end.

As the months passed by Carl’s conditioned worsened. We would still get together for a Bible Study, but the tennis time had ended. As Carl was nearing his time to enter into God’s presence, he never lost his interest in the lives of others. His kind, friendly attitude never escaped me.

As I reflect upon my one year friendship with Carl, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to know Carl as a friend. His enthusiasm for life and people was a great inspiration to me. Carl taught people how to live their lives with enthusiasm and interest. Also, I am thankful that as Carl faced death, he taught people how to die because he knew that he would be with his greatest friend Jesus Christ.

 

 

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.”

Worship from the Heart (Seven Truths about Our Worship)

Psalm 95:7

Psalm 95:7

How often have we gone to church and return home without worshiping God. Yes, there is music. Yes, there is some praying, Yes, there is the preaching of the Word of God. Yet, we feel an emptiness in our heart. What is the problem? Our worship is superficial. We forget that worship begins with our hearts. We get caught up with a form of worship, but our hearts are far from the Lord.

Jesus saw the hearts of the religious leaders of His day. He rebuked them directly with these words: “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (Matthew 15:7) What would Jesus say about the worship in our churches today? Would He complement us on the quality of music? Would He complement the content of our prayers? Would he complement the “great” preaching? Would he be happy with all the conversations that occur in the church?

The above questions are important to me because as a pastor I can see how I can easily fall into the trap of seeing worship as something we do instead of being an expression of our hearts before God.

Many of the Psalms express the worship of an individual believer; however, Psalm 95 is about corporate worship. Psalm 95 answers the question: How do we worship Our Great God together? Here are seven elements of true heart worship that God wants to see in our churches today.

1. God desires worship music to come from our hearts.  “O come, let us sing unto the Lord:” (Psalm 95:1) God is the creator of music. We honor and please God when our singing focuses upon Him. He wants us to enjoy the worship of Him in song. When we sing unto the Lord with our whole heart there will be a certain joy that brings our soul closer to God. Singing is not a performance, but an opportunity to express our love to God.

2. God desires joyful worship from His people.  “Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. (Psalm 95:1) The religious leaders of Jesus day could never be described as people of joy. Is that true of churches today? Are we joyous in our singing? Are we joyous in our interaction with one another? Are we joyous in responding to the Word of God? We think spirituality and a frown go together; however God wants us filled with joy as we worship Him. 

3. God desires worship filled with the awareness of His presence.  “Let us come before HIS PRESENCE with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 95:2) Haven’t you experienced attending a “worship” service and not even think about the fact that God is present. We think about who isn’t in church. We observe some people who need the sermon more than we do. We may criticize the special music in our heart. However, we have forgotten the very person we have come to worship. As a pastor, I have found it very difficult to focus on God’s presence and do all the things that I need to do during the service. I have to just stop for a moment and say to myself: “God is here!”

4. God desires worship with grateful hearts. “Let us come before his presence WITH THANKSGIVING.” (Psalm 95:2) The great antidote for a complaining Christian is to become a grateful Christian. Every church should have time during the service when believers can share a word of testimony. Gratefulness expressed among other believers is an opportunity to give God the glory for all that He has done in each life.

5. God desires worship with attentiveness to the Word of God. “Make a joyful noise unto him WITH PSALMS.” (Psalm 95:2) The Psalmist is expressing the enthusiasm the people have for the Psalms. Do we have the same enthusiasm for the Word of God. Are we excited about the opportunity to hear God’s Word proclaim? One person defined attentiveness as: “Showing the worth of a person by giving sincere heed to their words.” How attentive are we to what God is saying to us.

6. God desires worship with reverence.  “O come, let us worship and bow down:” (Psalm 95:6) Yes, worship is a joyful experience; yet it should not be worldly, man-centered, or superficial. We are to enter God’s presence with respect and honor. We shouldn’t take lightly anything we do in the worship service. Our goal is to honor God and give Him the glory that He alone deserves.

7. God desires worship with humility.  “Let us kneel before the Lord our maker.” (Psalm 95:6) One of the great problems in our worship is that we are ignorant of God. We don’t truly believe in His Greatness. The reason for our humility in worship is seen in Psalm 95:3: “For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” God is great in all of His attributes. The goal of worship is not to elevate ourselves, but elevate our God.

When every member of a church begins to worship God from the heart, we will be surprised what God will do in our churches and in our lives. The greatest worship war doesn’t involve the type of music within a church, but the war within hearts to worship God as He would desire.

“Dear Lord, we often come to you without any real effort. We go through the motions and we neglect the real heart matters of worship. Please help us to focus upon you with loving, joyful hearts as we worship you. Help us to see your greatness as the Shepherd of our soul. Help us not to wander from you in our worship. Thank you for all of your blessings. 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.

God’s Seven Medications for Pain

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With a voice of desperation, I recently called my wife from church. “Please come and get me.” A pain was gripping my abdomen and it wouldn’t let go. I soon was in such great pain that I kept moving about the house in great agony. Finally, I realized the need to go to our local emergency room. What had caused such pain? A four millimeter kidney stone! Yes, something so small can cause such pain!

Pain is a universal experience. We enter into the world with pain and we exit this world with pain. Pain comes in many forms and levels of severity. We all know about physical pain, but there are also other kinds of pain. There is emotional pain, which can include depression, anxiety and sorrow. There is also social pain, which includes loneliness and rejection by others. Spiritual pain is often evident as we experience the effects of sin in our lives.

The Apostle Paul felt various kinds of pain in his life. How did Paul handle this pain? The Book of 2 Corinthians is Paul’s most autobiographical letter. In this letter, he opens up his heart concerning the pain he has experienced. However, he also shares how God ministered unto him in the midst of his pain. Let’s look at seven medications that Paul found to heal his pain.

1. The Medicine of God’s Salvation.  “Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:2) The greatest pain that every person has is the pain of sin. We may not always be aware of this pain. We may try to cover it up with activity, entertainment, and denial, but we still have a deep need for a relationship with God. This pain is an emptiness of heart. Paul understood the importance of God’s saving grace in his life. Paul tried to cover up his spiritual pain by persecuting believers and being self-righteous. However, when he met Jesus, he found instant healing of the pain he had in his soul. Have we ever experienced this healing in our lives?

2. The Medicine of God’s 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)

A person in pain normally seeks comfort. During my bout with the kidney stone, I found many comforters, including my wife, my daughter, and the Emergency Room staff. Sometimes, we feel alone in our pain. No one seems to bring comfort to us. However, the God of all Comfort is with us. He desires to minister His comfort no matter what kind of pain we are facing. If we have emotional pain, He will give us His peace. If we have social pain, He will give us His presence. If we have physical pain, He will give us His strength to bear it. His arms are waiting to wrap themselves around us. Will we accept His comfort?

3. The Medicine God’s Faithfulness.  “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;” (2 Corinthians 1:9)

Pain has a way of taking away our self-sufficiency. As I was writhing in pain in the ER, I didn’t know any of the people who were attending me, but I completely entrusted myself to them. I knew that I needed them to do something with my pain. Likewise, we often become self-sufficient. God allows pain in our lives; so that we would become God-sufficient. Pain has a way of driving us to our Faithful God. Paul was close to a violent death; yet he discovered healing by trusting in His Faithful God who would never fail him.

4. The Medicine of God’s Promise. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:” (2 Corinthians 5:1,2)

All of God’s promises have a healing balm to them. For example, the pain of death is the most severe pain we face in this life. Death separates us from our loved ones. Death will one day take a hold of us. However, we can find a cure for this pain in God’s promise of heaven. One day, we will have a life without pain, without tears and without death. When we focus on this great promise, and other promises of God, they give us hope in the midst of our pain.

5. The Medicine of God’s Love.  “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:” (2 Corinthians 5:14).  Love is a great medicine in our lives, especially when we are talking about God’s infinite love. Whatever pain we are facing, we know that God loves us and that He is walking with us through the pain. His loving plan will use the pain to draw us closer to Him.

6. The Medicine of God’s Grace and Strength. “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.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10)

Pain weakens us. Pain paralyzes us. Pain dominates our thoughts. Where can we find strength in the midst of our sense of weakness and pain? Paul found his strength in the Almighty God! Pain creates a great sense of need. When I was in great pain in the ER, I needed something to get me through this pain. It came in the form of a powerful drug. God’s strength and grace are powerful.  We find that God is greater than any pain. His grace will carry us through even the deepest heartache that we are experiencing.

7. The Medicine of God’s People. Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;” (2 Corinthians 7:6) The feelings of depression, discouragement and heartache may not be physically painful, but they are spiritually and emotionally painful. God often chooses to heal us of these painful feelings by placing people in our lives who encourage us with their example, words, help, and presence. We often allow our pain to isolate us from the very people who God wants to use as His agents of healing. Will we allow pride to keep us from allowing others to administer healing to our pain?

Pain reveals a need.  Yes, the medical professionals have medicines to help us with our physical pain, but what about the other kinds of pain that we experience. God has several types of medications that are made for our deepest pain, the pain of our soul. God’s medicine is available. God’s medicine is free. God’s medicine has only beneficial side-effects. However, God’s medicine is only effective if we take it. Will we?

The Wonder of the Babe in the Manger

This post is reblogged because it helps us to focus upon the true wonder of Christmas. Thank you for subscribing to my blog. I know that I haven’t written lately, but I do hope to remedy that soon. May each of you have a blessed Christmas.

MarkJemilBooth's Blog

Christmas in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1983 was quite different for our family of three. I had always been accustomed to cold weather and snow in Michigan.  In Johannesburg, it was the middle of the summer.  What could we do special with our toddler?  We ventured out one evening to nearby Joubert Park to see the annual Christmas displays.  We were surprised that the displays had nothing to do with Christmas.  Each display depicted a fairy tale story.  What did the Three Blind Mice and Little Jack Horner have to do with Christmas?   Where was Jesus in the manger?  Where was the Christmas music?  Finally, in a quiet corner, we found the manger scene lost in the midst of the fairy tales.

Today, those displays remind me of how easy it is to forget Jesus in the midst of all the activity, lights, music and shopping of the season…

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Fear and Pride

Here is a post by our daughter-in-law, Sarah. She shares some of her challenges in moving to Portugal, especially learning to communicate in a different language. Join Sarah as she shares some very important lessons!

Booths in Portugal

Recently Sarah wrote this article as a guest writer for another missionary’s website. These are Sarah’s reflections about the challenges she faced when we first came to Portugal in 2008 and what God taught her through it all.

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Once upon a time, I was a capable American adult. I knew two languages, taught in a public school, did my own banking and grocery shopping, drove my car, and served in my church. I was competent.

And then I moved to Portugal.

I stepped off the plane, and all I heard was, “Mush, mush, mush.” I couldn’t drive the car, didn’t know how to read the signs, wasn’t sure what I was buying in the store, and had to give strangers kisses on both cheeks. Church was a two-hour struggle to stay awake through messages I didn’t understand. I was lost and nervous. I wanted to hide in a corner…

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