When Disappointment Comes, Twenty Truths to Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Prison of Mine Own Making: Am I a People-Pleaser?

old-prison-2-1093527-mA prison is a place of confinement, a place without freedom, a place of loneliness. Nobody would voluntarily enter a prison. However, many people have entered into a prison of their own making.  This prison is the prison of being a people-pleaser.  A people-pleaser is one who desires to please others before pleasing God. By trying to please others, they face the great problem of trying to please competing interests.  A people-pleaser doesn’t make decisions in light of what God says, but what others expect.

We are susceptible to become a people-pleaser. It is natural for us to want others to like and accept us. Being a people-pleasure is difficult because there are many competing interests that are coming from various directions. What one person thinks is the right decision; another person takes the opposite view. As a people-pleaser, we live our lives by the opinions and demands of others, instead of seeking to please our Lord God.

One Christian who found freedom from the prison of being a people-pleaser was the Apostle Paul. In his ministry, Paul constantly received criticism from others. Paul could find acceptance with various people by surrendering his ministry to the opinions of others. However, Paul chose not to enter the prison of being a people-pleaser. He found freedom by desiring to please only one person, God, His Father. “Even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

The Lighthouse at Port  Sanilac, Michigan.  Photo by Mark J. Booth

The Lighthouse at Port
Sanilac, Michigan. Photo by Mark J. Booth

How can we find the freedom that Paul found?  First of all, Paul understood the danger of being a pleaser of men. He knew that it would be impossible to please God, if he was always seeking to please people with their ever-changing opinions, desires and goals. He also understood that men, being sinners, could not always see life from God’s perspective. Paul knew that when he kept his eyes upon what men thought, he would soon forget to keep his eyes focused upon God.

Secondly, Paul understood that God was his Master. We don’t serve ten masters or twenty masters. No, we serve one Master. Our goal is to please the very One who loves us and knows what is best for us. We submit to Him as Lord. Yes, in living for our Master, we may serve others, but our eyes are always upon pleasing Him. When we become a people-pleaser, we no longer are submitting to the Lord as our Master. Many people have ruined their lives because they sought to please others at the cost of pleasing the Lord God

Thirdly, people are very quick to wrongly judge our motives; God knows our motives because he knows our every thought and attitude. Paul understood that God is the One who will ultimately test our hearts. God knows not only what we do, but why we do it. A people-pleaser can’t please everybody thus they feel frustration and guilty. People are often quite harsh in their judgment of our actions. God sees our hearts. If our hearts are clear before God then we will be free from being a people-pleaser.

Fourthly, people tend to be selfish. They want to control or even bully others to follow their desires, opinions and goals. Their desire is self-focused instead of God-focused. God’s will is not only for His own Glory, but for our benefit. Others can’t see the big picture, God sees it. He loves us and wants what is best for us. When we focus on God’s wisdom and plan, we will be free from the limited understanding of those around us.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we ignore the people we love and serve, but it does mean that their opinions should not imprison us. God can use the thoughts of others to give us direction, but we must not take our focus from the One whom we are truly serving. Yes, we can try to make those around us happy, but it must never be at the cost of displeasing our Master. When we become imprisoned by the desires of others, we will never be free to serve our True Master.

“Dear Lord, I find myself tempted to be a people-pleaser. I don’t enjoy the criticism that comes my way when I make decisions. I want you to use me in the lives of others. However, I realize that when I become imprisoned by the desires of others, I can no longer be useful to you or to others. Please help me to keep my focus upon you. Help me to discern the difference between my will and your will. I know in my heart, that in pleasing you that I will reach my full potential of being a blessing to others.

 

Why Me? (A Good Friday Meditation)

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

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

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

The Place of the Skull (Golgotha or Calvary).

The Place of the Skull (Golgotha or Calvary).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lord, I Believe, Help My Unbelief

Cabo da Roca, Portugal (Photo by Mark J. Booth)

Cabo da Roca, Portugal (Photo by Mark J. Booth)

Why do I find it difficult to believe in the person and promises of God?  Yes, I believe in my head, but my heart has a lack of complete trust in Him. Recently, God brought this to my attention while reading the account of the man whose child had an unclean spirit.

“And he said, Of a child.And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:22-24)

The father is in a desperate situation. He has no hope for his son; however, he pleads with Jesus that if He can help, please do something for his child. Jesus catches the doubt in this man’s heart as he said: “If thou canst do anything.” This man was speaking to God in the flesh; and yet doubted His ability to heal his child.

I have fallen into this same trap. I believe in who the Lord is, but deep down, I don’t think, He is able to do what seems impossible to me. I can’t see how he can save a loved one. I don’t see how He can change a person’s life. I don’t see how He can help me in a very difficult situation.

After the man speaks, Jesus encourages him to have faith: “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” Jesus is saying that there is nothing too hard for Him. How often, I have looked at circumstances, at others or at myself, and felt overwhelmed. My heart says: “Can God handle this?” Doubt brings torment. Yes, I know in my head that God is All-Powerful, but doubt fills my heart. James says that “A doubleminded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8)

In this story, God speaks to my doubting heart. He is saying: “Don’t look at the difficulty in front of you, but look to me. I am God. I am All-Powerful. I know what I am doing. I do have compassion upon you. Your mind says you can trust me, let your heart trust me as well.”

The man responds in tears with words that resonate in my heart: “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” These words could come right from mine own mouth.  At times, my head says: “I believe.” However, my heart says: “I can’t believe”. God wants me to be open about my doubts; so that He can change my heart into a heart that believes in all that He is and all that He says.

I am not the only person who is double minded when it comes to trusting the Lord. The disciples once came to Jesus and made this important request: “Increase our faith”. They saw their need in light of their doubts that were overwhelming their hearts. Likewise, I need to constantly pray with the disciples: “Lord, increase my faith.”

In the end, Christ honors the man’s wavering faith and heals his son. This man’s struggle with doubt brought him to a greater faith in Christ. His struggle also helps me to see that Christ understands my struggle with trusting Him with my heart. There is great peace, comfort, and strength when I trust Him with both my mind and my heart.

“Dear Lord, I believe in all that you are in my mind. I know in my mind that you are All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-Wise, and All-Loving. I believe your Word from Genesis to Revelation. I believe in the miracles that you have done. However, when times get tough, when people don’t seem to respond to you, I begin to doubt in my heart. Please forgive me for my unbelief.  Bring me to a belief not only in my head, but also in my heart. Thank you for your patience in all that you are doing in my life. Amen.”

The Preciousness of Christ

Sunset over Lake Michigan (Photo by Mark J Booth)

Sunset over Lake Michigan (Photo by Mark J Booth)

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner.”
(1 Peter 2:7)

The word “precious” means of great value or of high price. It also means to be dear or beloved in the eyes of the beholder. Peter makes it clear that believers in Jesus Christ should naturally have a great passion for Christ. He should be pursued with all of our hearts, because there is nothing more precious than he.

Is Jesus Christ precious in our eyes today? Perhaps, the world no longer sees Christ as being important, because believers have slowly lost sight of the preciousness of Jesus Christ. When Peter wrote the words: “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious.”
(1 Peter 2:7), he was writing to believers who were facing great persecution. These believers had a great passion for Christ, in spite of the great persecution they faced. They understood there was nothing of greater value in this life than having Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The Bible clearly shows us the preciousness of Christ in many ways.

1. Jesus Christ is precious because He is God in the flesh.  The Book of John  shows Christ’s deity in his works, his words, and his holiness. John wrote:
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) His Deity means that He has all the attributes of God the Father.  Our worship, our words, our attitudes and actions should reflect our love and submission to Christ, who is God in the flesh.

2. Jesus Christ is precious because He is the only way of salvation. Mankind is under God’s condemnation. We are all born in sin and in rebellion to the Holy, Righteous God. However, God the Son came to earth to satisfy the Father’s justice. He took our sins upon Himself when He died upon the cross. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) Jesus is the object of our love because He took the punishment of our sin upon Himself.

3. Jesus Christ is precious because His love never ends. As Jesus was preparing to leave the earth, his disciples felt lonely. Despair had overcome them; yet Christ encourages them with words concerning His eternal love. Christ’s love for us isn’t based upon our performance, it is a love that never ends. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35)

4. Jesus Christ is precious because He is the Good Shepherd. Life presents many challenges. We face important decisions, immovable obstacles, sicknesses, and loneliness. Do people really care? Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” (John 10:14) Jesus knows our hearts. He leads us in the way we should go. He carries us with tenderness when the path seems impossible. He takes away our fears. He walks with us even in the valley of the shadow of death. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11)

5. Jesus Christ is precious because of His great promises. Christ not only gives us promises to encourage and exhort us, but He also keeps all of His promises. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4) Reflect upon His promises and know that Christ is more precious than anything else in this life. Here are just a few samples of His promises.

  • “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.” (Psalm 91:15)
  • “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
  • “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)
  • “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” (Isaiah 46:4)
  • “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

With our finite minds, it is impossible to completely comprehend the preciousness of Christ.  He is precious in all of His attributes, words and deeds. The more we know Him, the more precious He will become to us. When others see how precious Christ is to us, perhaps, they will start to take the claims of Christ seriously in their own lives.

“Dear Lord, I often take you for granted. I know that you are my Lord and Savior; yet, I don’t treasure my relationship with you. You are precious beyond all of my understanding. Help me to gaze upon you and see how precious you are to me. Amen.”

 

The Wonder of the Babe in the Manger

The Canadian Rockies-Photo by: Mark J Booth

The Canadian Rockies-Photo by: Mark J Booth

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.

An Old Photo of Joubert Park without the Christmas displays.

An Old Photo of Joubert Park without the Christmas displays.

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.  We may give Jesus a little corner of our lives as the baby in Bethlehem, but are we willing to allow Him to rule in our hearts and lives?

Seven hundred years before Christ’s birth, the prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning the birth of Jesus Christ.  He not only spoke of His birth, but revealed the character of the coming Deliverer of Israel.  These words are quite well-known; yet do we know the meaning of this description of Jesus?

“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)

This description of Christ creates a spirit of prayer, worship and praise unto Jesus.  Yes, He came to earth as a baby, but He is unique.  He is God in the flesh.  Do we take the opportunity to pray, honor and glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?  Will you join me in the following prayers based on the greatness of the baby in the manger.

“And His Name Shall be Called:

  1. Wonderful-“Dear Lord Jesus, As I read the Bible, I often treat it as textbook from which to learn truth.  I can lose the wonder of being in your presence.  I can lose the wonder of all that you have done in my life.  Please restore the wonder of your birth, life, death and resurrection in my life. With wonder comes true worship. You are worthy. Amen”
  2. Counsellor-“Lord, you are always there to guide me. When I don’t know what to do, you show me the way. When I need to pour out my heart to someone, you are always ready to listen. Thank you for being my counselor always and in every situation. You are truly the All-Wise God! Amen”
  3. The mighty God-“Dear Lord, I often find myself trying to live the Christian life without you. I try to deal with life’s difficulties on my own. I forget that you are all-powerful and that nothing is too hard for you. Help me to lean upon your all-powerful arms. Help me to trust you in every situation and to remember that nothing is impossible with you. Thank you for your patience towards me. Thank you that you are the mighty fortress to whom I may always flee. Amen”
  4. The Everlasting Father-“Dear Lord, because you are the Father of Eternity, you are always with me. You love, protect and provide for me. Thank you for giving me eternal life. Help me to love you even in a small way as you love me. Help me to learn at your feet and be quick to obey you. Thank you that I can call out to you as My Heavenly Father, and you always answer! Amen”
  5. The Prince of Peace-“Lord, thank you for dying on the cross for me, so that I may have peace with you! I also thank you that when I cast my cares upon you, I may also experience your peace every day. Please work in the hearts of the many people who don’t know you as THE PRINCE OF PEACE. Amen.

This time of year is a great opportunity to renew our wonder in the attributes and works of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.  Let’s not view Jesus as the babe in the manger, but as the Savior of the world and the Lord of our lives. Let’s do more than keep in Christ in Christmas.  Let’s keep Christ in the center of our lives.

If I Loved Jesus, I Would …

Sunset at Guincho Beach (Cascais-Portugal) Photo by: Mark J Booth

Sunset at Guincho Beach (Cascais-Portugal) Photo by: Mark J Booth

“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”  (John 21:16) This question addressed to Peter three times, is perhaps the most searching of all questions made by Jesus Christ.  This question also penetrates the deepest recesses of my soul.  Yes, I may say I love Jesus.  Yes, I may think I love Jesus, but do I truly love Him?  He first loved me, but am I loving Him in return?

  • If I loved Jesus, I would believe and trust in His Word..
  • If I loved Jesus, I would repent of my sin and accept Him as my Lord and Savior.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would enjoy walking with Him every day.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would pour out my heart to Him.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would enjoy opening up His Word and listening to Him every day.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would share His love with my family, friends and others.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would seek to please Him in all that I say, think and do.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would forgive others as He has forgiven me.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would obey Him, no matter the consequences.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would trust him with every area of my life.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would love others as He has loved me.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would serve Him wherever He would call me
  • If I loved Jesus, I would live each day to bring honor and glory to Him.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would love my wife, as He loves the church.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would raise my children to know Him and love Him.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would look forward to being with Him in heaven.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would quickly confess my sins unto Him.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would give him thanks for all of His blessings in my life.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would meditate upon His words, His titles and His attributes.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would be content and not have a complaining spirit.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would love His church, of which He is the Head.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would make him the priority relationship in my life..
  • If I loved Jesus, I would sing praises unto Him because He is worthy.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would seek His guidance in every decision I make.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would find refuge in Him during the trials of my life.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would learn to wait upon Him when I get impatient.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would cast all of my cares upon Him because He does care.

“Dear Lord Jesus, your love is beyond anything I can comprehend.  I don’t deserve to be loved by you. You have been extremely patient and merciful unto me.  As I reflect upon my love for you, I can see that I have fallen far short of loving you with all of my heart, my soul and my mind.  I know that you are easy to love; and yet I find it so difficult to love you as I ought.  My selfishness, my pride, my desires and my lack of faith keep me from pouring out my love to you.  Please forgive me for my lack of love towards you. Thank you for not quitting on me. Thank you for your continued work in my life.  Thank you for the fact that one day when I see you face to face, I will love you as I ought.  Though I know my love is incomplete now, I want to say: “I love you, Lord.”

Jesus is Knocking. Will I Answer? (Enjoying the Presence of God)

Rogue River Trail-Rockford, MI (Photo by: Mark J Booth)

Rogue River Trail-Rockford, MI (Photo by: Mark J Booth)

The Christian life encounters many pitfalls. One unsuspecting pitfall is that we lose the joy of being a Christian.  We become lukewarm in our relationship with Christ.   Prayer is routine.  Bible study is a chore.  Our worship has become cold and formal. What has happened to our lives?

There was a church in the New Testament that had these same problems.  Jesus spoke these words to the church at Laodicea: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”(Revelation 3:15-16)  This church was religious, but they no longer enjoyed Christ’s presence. They had lost a vibrant relationship with their living Lord.

What was Christ’s answer to their problem? “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20) Christ was telling the church that they were leaving Him out of their lives.  He politely was knocking on the door of their hearts; so that they would once again enjoy having fellowship with Him.

Chateau-Abbadia (Southwestern France)Photo by: Mark J Booth

Chateau-Abbadia (Southwestern France)
Photo by: Mark J Booth

 A meal in Bible times was a time-consuming event where people enjoyed talking and listening to one another.  Jesus longs for this kind of communion with us.  Have we opened the door?  Christ has prepared a meal for us with His presence and blessings. Have we sat down and taken the time to enjoy His presence?  He is waiting. 

When we take the time to enjoy Christ’s presence, we will view life and our circumstances from a totally different perspective.  We will see life as God sees life.  We will see our problems as God sees our problems.  God has prepared a banquet for us. Here is what He offers to us as take time to enjoy His presence.

1. We have guidance in our life.  “O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me;” (Psalm 43:3a) The question is often asked: “How can I know the will of God?”  To understand the will of God means more than following a formula, but we follow the Lord.  As we commune with the Lord, we will discover what pleases Him and what doesn’t please Him.  God’s greatest priority for our lives is that we know Him.  His light and truth will guide us. 

2. We enjoy true worship of God. “let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.” (Psalm 43:3b) The Psalmist in the midst of all that was happening in his life saw the importance of worshiping God. Worship is not to please ourselves, but to please our Lord.  He desires worship because He is worthy of our worship.  Our worship is bringing glory to God in all that we say and do.  When we worship God, we recognize His presence and majesty.  

3. We have joy in spite of the circumstances in our life.  “Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy:” (Psalm 43:4a) The Psalmist faced many trials in his life which caused him to become to discouraged and depressed.  He understood that in God’s presence there is great joy.  No matter what is happening in our lives, if we remember that God is with us, we can experience a joy that is not based upon circumstances, but based upon a relationship.

4. We have an attitude of praise.  “yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.” (Psalm 43:4b)  We often give praise for the blessings that we receive from God, but what about giving praise to the giver of those blessings.  When we enjoy God’s presence, we will focus upon all that God is.  We will praise HIm for His attributes and titles.  Every day, we should take the time to praise God for all that He is and does.

5. We have a contented spirit.  They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.” (Psalm 36:8)  A lack of contentment is a warning sign that we are not enjoying God’s presence.  When we are walking with God, we will be totally content. When we are close to the Lord, everything else will fall in place. 

6. We receive comfort from God. I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) Comfort is not based on circumstances, but upon our relationship with our Living God.  His rod shows his protection against our enemies.  His staff shows His guidance and help in our lives.  When we have His protection and guidance, we are sure of His comfort and love even in the most trying times. 

Enjoying God’s presence begins with salvation, but it continues for all eternity.  We enjoy His presence as we listen to him, communicate with Him, meditate upon Him and pour out our heart unto Him.  Are enjoying His presence today?

“Dear Lord, my life often becomes filled with the routine.  I have lost the joy of being Christian. I haven’t taken the time or effort to enjoy your presence.  Thank you for knocking on the door of my heart.  Thank you for your desire to fellowship with me.  I now open up the door of my heart to you.  Please come in!  I know that the greatest joy in life comes from being in your presence.  Amen.”

Have I Forgotten Him?

The Canadian Rockies-Photo By: Mark J. Booth

During this time of year, everybody is busy.  Maybe, we are too busy.  We can easily forget Jesus Christ in all that we are doing.  Jesus longs to keep us close to Himself.  He longs to walk with us daily.  We get busy with family, friends, work, and even church and we can quickly forget Jesus Christ.

  • I look for salvation, but I forget the Savior.
  • I look for comfort, but I forget the Comforter
  • I look for blessings, but I forget the One who Blesses.
  • I look for promises, but I forget the Promised One
  • I look for guidance, but I forget the Guide.
  • I look for provision, but I forget the Provider
  • I look for protection, but I forget the Protector
  • I look for love, but I forget the Lover of My Soul.
  • I look for strength, but I forget the All-Powerful One.
  • I look for peace, but I forget the Giver of Peace.

The early church also had a tendency to forget the Lord Jesus Christ.   The Book of Revelation was written to seven churches.  Five of these churches showed some definite signs of forgetting Jesus.  Here is a verse that can refocus our thoughts and affections upon Our Lord Jesus Christ.  “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” (Revelation 1:5)

1. Jesus Christ is Our Deliverer.  “And from Jesus Christ”  The name “Christ” is the word “Messiah” in Greek.  This word has the idea of deliverer.  Jesus came to deliver us from sin, death, and the devil.  We no longer have to live under the penalty and dominion of sin because we have a new life in Jesus Christ.  We have new life in order to pursue a close love relationship with Jesus Christ.

2. Jesus Christ is our Faithful Witness.  “who is the faithful witness”. Jesus came to earth primarily to die on the cross for our sin; however, He also came to teach us the truth.  Through Him, we learn the truth about God, ourselves, the future, the way of salvation, and many other important subjects.  Our relationship with Christ enables us to see God and life more clearly.

3. Jesus Christ is the Conqueror of Death. “the first begotten of the dead”.   As a pastor, I have done many funerals.  These funerals are sad occasions; yet because of Christ’s resurrection, we know that there is hope.  Death, for the believer in Christ, is the doorway to the presence of the Lord and Heaven.  We don’t need to fear death when we walk with the One who conquered death.  

The Garden Tomb-Jerusalem: Photo by Mark J. Booth

4. Jesus Christ is Sovereign.  “the prince of the kings of the earth.” Jesus is greater than  any earthly ruler.  No matter what happens in our nation, we know that Jesus is ultimately in control.  One day, Jesus Christ will return to earth to reign over all those who have believed upon Him.  The whole Book of Revelation is about the events before and after His coming.   No matter what happens in our lives, we can remember that Jesus is ultimately in control.

5. Jesus Christ is the Source of Love.  “Unto Him that loved us,”  We don’t deserve His love; yet He loves us.  The more we know Him, the more we will understand His love and the ways of His love.  When we are full of anxiety, fear, discontentment and discouragement, these are signs that we have forgotten Jesus Christ and His great love for us. 

6. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World.  “And washed us from our sins in his own blood.”  As the song writer wrote: “Nothing can wash away my sins, but the blood of Jesus.”  Jesus took our place on the cross.  His love is a love of action.  He not only tells us that He loves us, but He showed His love by dying on the cross for our sins.  He alone saves us from our sin. “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

Many in the early church were religious, but they had forgotten Jesus Christ.  Have we forgotten Him?  Have we forgotten all that He is and has done?  “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face and the things of the earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

“Dear Lord, I have the tendency to forget you amidst all that goes in my life.  I may seek what you can give me, but I forget you.  Help me, to seek you above all else.  Thank you for all that you are and all that you have done. Amen”

Aubrey Oberlin: In the Everlasting Arms

Aubrey Joy Oberlin

What can you learn from a six-week old baby?  I would have never thought about this question until I met Aubrey Joy Oberlin.   I met her for the first time a bit over two years ago. when I heard about her plight. She was born with a genetic disease called Junctional EB (Epidermolysis bullosa).  This disease was painful as it affected all parts of her body.   Her parents, family and friends did a great job of loving her and taking care of her for her six short weeks of life.  Aubrey’s life on this earth ended on November 17, 2010. However, she is far from being forgotten.

1. The first lesson that I learned from Aubrey is contentment. When I visited Aubrey, she always had her eyes opened.   I knew she had trouble breathing and she was in pain, but in all my visits I never detected a complaining or angry spirit. Her eyes were saying: “Could you please help me. I don’t feel well.”   Her eyes convicted me of how easily I complain when things don’t go my way.  Though she didn’t say it with words, her eyes showed me a form of contentment that I need to experience more often in my life.  “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:11-12)

2. A second lesson that I learned from Aubrey is my need of dependence upon God.  “I just want to hold her one last time.  Aubrey loves to be held!”  As I heard these words from Aubrey’s grandma the day of Aubrey’s entrance into God presence, I couldn’t help but feel sorrow and compassion for a dear family who would never again be able to hold their beloved daughter in their arms.  It also brought to remembrance a verse in the Bible that has brought comfort to many people: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms:” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

Aubrey’s loved ones had a great desire to hold her in their arms and show their great love for her.   Likewise, Our Heavenly Father loves us and longs to keep us close unto Himself.   His arms are all-powerful arms, yet His arms are also tender.  His arms bring great comfort and protection through whatever trials and pains that we face. His arms will never tire in holding us.

Aubrey did love to be held in the arms of those who loved her.  She felt the love and comfort from those loving arms.  As I thought about this,  I realized that at times I haven’t longed to be held by Our Heavenly Father.  I choose to go my own way.   Yes, His arms are reaching out for me, yet I often resist those loving arms.   May I learn to rest assured in the arms of Our Loving Heavenly Father, even as Aubrey rested so comfortably in the arms of those who love her.

3. A third lesson that I learned from Aubrey is priority.  Being with Aubrey during her last day on earth was very difficult.  She would labor to breathe.   This went on throughout the day until finally later in the evening her heart stopped beating.  Aubrey showed me that truly I need to remember to place the things of God first in my life.  Life is brief.  Every day is a gift from God. Will I live each day for God’s purpose and His Glory?  If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)

4. A fourth lesson that I learned from Aubrey is gratefulness for God’s salvation.   As I would speak to Aubrey’s loved ones, I was glad that I could share Bible verses about Christ’s love for the world and how he died on the cross for our sins. Aubrey never had an opportunity to believe (because of her age), but the Bible does make it clear that she is present with the Lord.  David expected to see his baby in heaven.   “Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?  But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12: 21-23)

Two years ago, we said goodbye to Aubrey.  She is now in God’s presence.  I can’t always understand the ways of God, but I am thankful that I had the opportunity to get to know Aubrey.  She was an excellent teacher while she was with us!

P.S. For further information on Epidermolysis bullosa please see: http://www.debra.org