Under the Shadow of His Wings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

Moving Beyond Covetousness to Contentment

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

Discontentment is found everywhere, including our own hearts.  People are discontent with their marriages, with their jobs, with their health, with their relationships, as well as their possessions.  The root of discontentment is covetousness.  Covetousness is defined as the inordinate desire to have something.  It is also defined as the desire to have something that belongs to another.

Covetousness is a sin that creates a warped view of God.  We feel that God has cheated us out of something.  Satan used this approach with Eve when he told her that God was wrong to withhold the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Eve coveted the fruit and ate it.  The tenth commandment says: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” (Exodus 20:17)

God’s gives this commandment for two reasons.  First of all, God hates covetousness because it places the coveted object above Him, which is a form of idolatry.  It also causes us to have the wrong view of His person and blessings. “For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire,and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.” (Psalm 10:3)

Secondly, covetousness brings harm to us and to those around us.  The Bible teaches us that covetousness leads to:

  • injustice: “And they covet fields, and take them by violence;and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.” (Micah 5:2)
  • harm to ourselves: “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
    (1 Timothy 6:9)
  • departure from the faith: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)
  • many sorrows-See the above verse
  • family problems: “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house;”
    (Proverbs 15:27)

Covetousness is clearly a problem many of us face.  The solution to this problem is having a spirit of contentment.  The secret of a growing, joyful Christian life is being content in our relationship with God in spite of the circumstances.  One person defined contentment as: “Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness.”  How do we go from a spirit of covetousness to a spirit of contentment?

We move beyond covetousness to contentment when:

1. We know that our Heavenly Father will take care of us.  Covetousness says: “I want something beyond what God gives me.”  Contentment says: “My Heavenly Father loves me and He takes care of all of my needs.” “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” (Matthew 6: 31-32)

2. We know that God is with us even in the most difficult situations we face.  Covetousness looks at others and thinks that they have a better situation than we have.  Contentment doesn’t look at others, but looks to God.  God is with us.  What more do we need?  “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)

3. We focus on our spiritual lives above all else.  A covetous person focuses upon the physical realm.  He doesn’t make his spiritual life a priority.  Jesus reminded His hearers; “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)  A contented person understands that in this life we will have difficulties, but he knows that life is more than this material world.  His desires are focused upon his soul and his relationship with God.

4. We give God all of our burdens.  A covetous person attempts to find security through their own efforts.  They always feel that there is something missing in their life to have total security.  A contented person gives all of their cares and burdens to the Lord.  He is their security. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Our Heavenly Father has blessed us beyond what we will ever know or understand.
“Dear Father, thank you for your many blessings.  Help me to see you in every circumstance in my life.  Help me to trust you to meet all of my needs.  May your presence, love, and provision be the focus of my daily life.  Thank you for adopting me into your family.  Amen.”

How Great Thou Art (Have We Forgotten God’s Greatness?)

Have we diminished the Greatness of God in our lives? Are we making God into the image of man? Do we view God as we desire Him to be; or do we view Him as He reveals himself in His Word? The Psalmist understood the greatness of God “FOR THOU ART GREAT, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.” (Psalm 86:10) ”

God is Great in His Attributes. “For thou art Great.”

Do we ever meditate upon who God is?  Do we think about each of His attributes?  I would encourage us to take time each day to meditate upon one of God’s attributes.  For example, one day, meditate upon the omnipresence of God (God is present everywhere).  Read verses that show His omnipresence.  Think about His presence as you work.  Remember His presence as you spend time with family. No matter what happens during the day, remember “God is here”.   The next day, do the same thing with another attribute of God.  Often God loses His Greatness in our eyes because we don’t really know Him.

God is Great in His Works. “and doest wondrous things” 

The word wondrous has the idea of producing “awe”.  Have we lost the wonder of God’s work of creation, His miracles in the Bible, and His working in our lives?  God loses His Greatness in our eyes when we forget that He still is working in our lives and the lives of the people around us.  Paul wrote about the believers in Philippi. “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  Take the time to meditate upon God’s work in the past and the present.

God is Great in His Uniqueness. “Thou art God alone.”

Have we placed anything or anyone above God?  Anything can become an idol in our life if it comes before God.  God is truly above all.  He alone is God.  He alone merits our worship and our obedience.  God says in Isaiah 44:8: “Fear ye not, neither be afraid:have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.”  Sin, fear and worry enter into our lives when we fail to see the uniqueness of God.  He alone is worthy of our worshipful.

A Prayer to Our Great God

Lord, help me to bow in submission before you. Help me to know you in all of your glorious attributes. Help me to see your wondrous works in creation and all that you do around me. Help me not to place anyone or anything before you. May I see you as you are and not as   I want you to be. Amen”

Four Great Promises to Conquer Fear (Isaiah 41:10)

 “What’s wrong with you Mark?”  This was almost a weekly question from Mrs. Randall, the nurse at Midland Elementary School.  Every Tuesday, I would literally develop an upset stomach because I was afraid to go to swimming class.  My fear of water was affecting me both emotionally and physically.  This fear would not abate until later in my life.

Fear comes in many forms, but it still has the same effect.  Our fears can dominate us spiritually, emotionally, mentally and even physically.  As our fears increase, our faith in God decreases.  We lose confidence in His promises, presence and power.  Fear keeps us from enjoying our daily walk with God and others.

Isaiah 41:10 gives us four great promises from God that enable us to conquer whatever fear is crippling our lives.  “Fear thou not; for 1) I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:2) I will strengthen thee; yea, 3) I will help thee; yea,4) I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”  

1. When I am lonely, He promises his presence.  He will never leave me. How can I be fearful, if I know that my loving Father is with me?

2. When I am weak and feel that I can’t continue, He will strengthen me. How can I be fearful when I remember that: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)? He will give me His strength to bear whatever comes into my life.

3. When I am in need of spiritual, emotional or physical help, He will help me.  How can I be fearful when I know that I am not facing this situation by myself?  The Lord is right there with me.  He is my help no matter how fearful the future is.

4. When I stumble or fall, He will pick me up.
How can I be fearful when I know that God will pick me up when I fall or stumble?  When Peter sinned, stumbled and fell, Jesus picked him up and restored him.  Our fear of failure often keeps us from moving forward in our spiritual lives.  This promise assures us that when we stumble, God is right there to keep us going.

In times of great fear, He is there.  God is greater than any fear that may be dominating our lives. He is our God. He will never forsake us.  The decision is ours.  Will I allow God to conquer my fears with His presence, promises, strength and great patience; or will I continue to allow my life to be controlled by my fears?  “Lord, help me to believe your promises.  May I  know that you are greater than any fear that is dominating my life.  Thank you for your presence and power that conquer my fears. Amen”

Note: A special thanks to Karla Da Silva for the photo.  The photo was taken
at Waterfall Gully in South Australia.

I Will Never Leave You (The Presence of God in the Dark Times)

Photo by: Karla Da Silva (By Permission)

Nineteen years ago, I said goodbye to my father.  He had  suffered a stroke and I returned to the States to see him one last time.  He probably recognized me, but he couldn’t communicate with me.  My heart was heavy as I returned to Portugal. I would never  see me father again.  My father didn’t leave me by choice, but he was gone.  I miss my father greatly.

In life, we all face separation from one that has loved us.  This separation is painful; however, there is One who will never leave us.  Our Heavenly Father is always with us.  Hebrews 13:5 says: ” 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.”  God is with us in the good times and He is with us in dark times.  How does His presence affect our lives?

God’s presence gives us a contented heart in dark times. The tendency in life is to complain about everything.  We want more.  We want it faster.  We want it our way.  When things don’t happen the way we desire, we become bitter and complain.  Our lack of contentment is saying that God is doing a poor job of taking care of us.

Contentment means that we find our joy and happiness in a right relationship with our Living Lord.  In spite of the tough times, we know that He is right there with us.  He will not leave us.  He will walk with us through any valley.  As the Psalmist says: “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”

God’s presence gives us strength in the dark times. The Word of God informs us that Our Heavenly Father will never leave us. “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper. ” (Hebrews 13:6) The dark times in this life weaken us spiritually, emotionally and even physically.  We may feel like quitting.   God’s presence gives us strength to carry on.  God told Paul: “For my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  (Hebrews 13:6) Our weakness says to God:  “I need your strength.”  God will respond.

God’s presence gives us courage in the dark times. Dark times can bring out the coward in us.  We become fearful of people. We become fearful of the future.  We become fearful of failure.  Where do we find the courage to move forward.  “I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”  (Hebrews 13:6) God’s presence and love will cast out the fear that so easily torments us.

As a child,  I developed a fear of crossing the street.  The one street that brought out the most fear was Woodward Ave. This street had three lanes of traffic each way.  However, when my Dad had my hand the fear dissipated.  Likewise,  no matter how difficult a road we travel, Our heavenly Father has us by the hand.

My Dad has left, but my Heavenly Father will never leave me.  He is with me in the good times and the dark times.  Yes, the clouds of darkness may dim my view of God, but He is still with me.  May I lean upon Him in the darkest night so that I may see his presence in midst of the darkness.

-Mark J. Booth-

Hope in the Midst of the Ruins (What to do When Everything Falls Apart)

Photographer: Roehnert

Ruins tell the story of decay, neglect and destruction.  Our spiritual lives can also face times of ruin and decay.  We feel hopeless and in despair.  The Prophet Jeremiah faced a time in his life when he was in the midst of the ruins of Jerusalem.  Babylon had completely destroyed the city.  All hope was gone.  How did Jeremiah handle this hopeless condition? How can we handle our hopeless condition?

Jeremiah, in the midst of the ruins of Jerusalem, looks up to God.  He says in Lamentations 3:21:  “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.” He knows in himself there are no answers: ” My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:” (Lam 3:18) However, he knows that his hope is in God alone.

When we are facing hopelessness in our lives,  our only hope is in the Lord alone.  We must take our eyes off the ruins around us and in us, and focus on the Lord.  Jeremiah focuses on five attributes of God that brings great hope in his life in spite of the ruins around Him.
1. God is Merciful– “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, ”  (Lamentations 3:22) We find hope in His forgiveness, as we come to Him with a repentant heart.
2.  God is Compassionate. “because his compassions fail not.” (Lam. 3:22b)
We find hope in his compassion.  He does love us even in the midst of our hopeless situation.
3. God is Faithful“They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness“. (Lamentations 3:23) We find hope in His faithfulness to keep all of His    promises.
4. God is Omnipresent. (He is with me) ” The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” Lamentations  3:24 We find hope in His presence.  He walks with us in the midst of the ruins and the rebuilding thereof.
5. God is Good.  “The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.”  Lamentations 3:25 We find hope in the will of God, which is always for our good.

What will we do in the midst of our hopelessness?  Will we stay defeated and discouraged or will we look up to our great and mighty God?  Jeremiah discovered great hope in a hopeless situation and so can we!!