Sweet Meditations upon Christ

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

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

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

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

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

What makes meditating upon God a sweet experience?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Five Important Questions for the New Year

Winter Scene-Michigan USA
Winter Scene-Michigan USA

The year 2014 is upon us. Perhaps, we have already made some goals for the new year.  We may plan to do more exercise or eat less food. Perhaps, we want to travel more, or get out of debt. In light of our goals for 2014, 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 that make demands on our time. Like the Israelites, have we neglected to take an inventory of our spiritual life?

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 five important questions that will help us to “consider our ways.”

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 he wanted to know God intimately as His Father, Lord and Friend. Intimacy comes by spending time with God in His Word. We will study His Word to learn more about His character, His works, and His promises. Intimacy comes by spending time with God in prayer. Intimacy also comes by spending time meditating upon God. This will cause our love for Him to 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 life. 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 2014.

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. We allow the urgent to crowd out the important.

Big Ben-London England (Photo in Public Domain)

Big Ben-London England (Photo in Public Domain)

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 9:23) 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 9:23)  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.

“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 2013.  Thank you for continuing your work in and through my life. Amen”

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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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Twenty Daily Blessings from Our Heavenly Father

Sunrise in the Smokies
Sunrise in the Smokies

“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah” (Psalm 68:19)

Our Heavenly Father demonstrates His love towards us every day. These daily blessings are often not seen or appreciated by His children. Why is this? We often focus upon our past, instead of living out today. We often worry about the future instead of enjoying the blessings of today.  God not only gives us blessings for today, but he gives them abundantly!  What are some of these daily blessings? Will we enjoy these blessings today?

1. God gives us the gift of a brand new day to love and serve Him.

2. God gives us the privilege of opening His Word and hearing His words of truth, encouragement, promise and exhortation.

3. God give us the opportunity to speak to Him at any time during the coming day. He is never too busy to hear our prayers.

4. God promises to love us throughout the day regardless of what happens.

5. God’s Holy Spirit dwells within us. He brings guidance, comfort and spiritual fruit into our lives.

6. God gives us the confidence that whatever comes into our lives today must first pass through His loving hands.

7. God gives us His forgiveness .  When we confess our sins to Him, He restores us to a right relationship with Him.

8. God gives us what we need for today not necessarily what we want.

9. God brings people into our lives each day to fulfill His plan for our lives.

10. God gives us the privilege of His presence throughout the day. He is always with us!

11. God gives us the strength we need to bear what may happen throughout the day.

12. God gives us His comfort when sorrow, rejection or pain may seem to overcome us.

13. God gives us the assurance of eternal life if die today. We are confident that death is  an entranceway to heaven.

14. God is always available to hold us up when we seem ready to fall. Fathers do this for their children.

15. God knows all that is happening in our lives today. Nothing that happens today is a surprise to God.

16. God gives us wisdom to face whatever situation may arise in our life.

17. God gives us the opportunity to enjoy His creation.

18. God gives us the ministry of encouraging others and praying for others.

19. God enables us to escape the snares of Satan’s temptations.

20. God gives us a restful night sleep if we trust in Him.

“Dear Lord, I often forget the blessings that you give to me every day of my life. Yes, I see particular answers to prayer, but I often forget what you give to me every day. I thank you for all of your blessings that you give to me each day; however, the greatest blessing is that you sent your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to die for my sin. Help me to keep looking up to you instead allowing myself to focus on the past or the future. Today is the gift that you have given me. Help me not to forget how you have loaded me up with great blessings today. I love you, Lord. Amen.”