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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Ten Reasons to Thank God for the Valley

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The valley is a place that we never choose for ourselves, but God chooses it for us. His plan for our life doesn’t just include the blessings and the mountaintop experiences.  His plan includes the valleys. At times, we are so deep in a valley that we forget God and His promises.

The valley challenges our faith in many areas, including our trust in God, our steadfastness in Christ, and our love for God and others. When we enter the valley, we struggle with having a grateful heart before God. We look at our dire circumstances and feel numb. We feel as though we are watching a tragedy unfold and we are one of the main characters. We lose our focus upon God as we travel deeper into the valley.

After the initial shock of entering the valley, we realize that we need to cry out to God. We ask for deliverance. We ask for relief. We ask for strength. We ask for wisdom. However,  worry and fear are still affecting us spiritually. Why is there no relief? Have we neglected to thank God for our valley?  How can we travel through the valley with an ungrateful heart? Giving thanks to God helps to give us perspective concerning the valley. Gratefulness enables us to see the valley as a place of abundant blessings from God.

As the song writer wrote: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed; when you are discouraged thinking all is lost; Count your many blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” What are some of the reasons that we can thank God for the valley.

1. The valley gives us a thirst for God. Nothing can satisfy our soul in the valley but God Himself. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” (Psalm 42:1) The valley causes us to run into the arms of our loving Father. The valley creates a thirst that only our Heavenly Father can fulfill.

2. The valley gives us a broken and contrite heart. The valley has a way of bringing us down to our knees. The valley shows us our weakness and need for God’s help. Our heart becomes broken and humble before God. Nothing is more special in God’s eyes than when His children come to Him in complete desperation.  “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

3. The valley gives us an eternal perspective concerning life. Often we are so involved in the things of this life that we forget our glorious future with the Lord. When God takes us into the valley, our perspective on life is changed. The eternal suddenly becomes much more important in our lives. “Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

4. The valley causes us to search our hearts. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: (Psalm 139:23) The busyness of our lives often keeps us from reflecting upon our hearts. We go through the motions and neglect to take inventory of our lives. When God takes us into the valley, we find ourselves looking for answers. This helps us to search our hearts as to our past, present and future.

5. The valley can often bring marriages and families closer together. “Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he (Lazarus) whom thou lovest is sick.”
(John 11:3) Tragedy and heartache can bring families closer together or further apart. In the case of Lazarus, his death brought his family closer together. When one member of a family enters into a valley, it is a great opportunity for others in the family to travel with their loved one.

6. The valley tests our friendships. “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17) The valley exposes the true loyalty of a friend. A true friend doesn’t run away when their friend enters into the valley, but they encourage him. They do whatever they can to help their friend. There are many so-called friends who are exposed in the valley because they watch from the sidelines as their “friend” travels the painful road in the valley.

7. The valley gives us a hunger for the Word of God. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:71) When times are going well, we read our Bibles out of obligation, but when we enter the valley we read our Bibles out of necessity. The Word of God opens up to us with its promises, comfort and even conviction.

8. The valley is a place where Jesus becomes our sweet companion. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) The valley is a place where we may feel lonely, but we are never alone. We have a companion who walks every step of the way in the valley with us. The walk in the valley is difficult, but we can find it pleasant because we experience a closeness to the Lord that we don’t normally.experience.

9. The valley broadens our ministry towards others. “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 1:4) God’s ministry of comfort, strength and encouragement in our valley enables us to have compassion upon others who are in the valley. When we respond to the valley in God’s way, we will find many doors of ministry that will become open to us.

10. The valley enables others to minister unto us. “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:” (2 Timothy 1:16) The valley enables others to reach out to us. We become thirsty for encouragement and people see this need and refresh us. They can refresh us with their presence, with their words, and with their prayers.

Yes, the valley doesn’t seem attractive when we first enter; however, as time goes by, we learn the secret of the valley. This is a place of great blessing. This is a place of experiencing God’s love. This is a place of spiritual growth. The key to having the valley become a very positive experience is to thank God for this time in our lives.

“Dear Lord, I didn’t ask for this valley. I didn’t expect this valley. Yes, this valley has been difficult; however I thank you for this valley. It has been an experience that I wouldn’t trade. You have used this valley in my life in so many ways! Please don’t ever stop your work in my life. Thank you for the your wisdom, tenderness, strength and love that I am experiencing in this valley. Amen.”

Verses for the Valley

Cape Verde-Photo by: Mark J Booth
Cape Verde-Photo by: Mark J Booth

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.” (A Tale of Two Cities: By Charles Dickens)

These words by Dickens can typify the valleys that we face in our lives. We can say with Dickens that the valley is the worst of times, but it is also the best of times. It is an anxious time. It is a comforting time. It is a time of sorrow. It is a time of joy. It is a time of discouragement. It is a time of encouragement. It is time of confusion. It is a time of direction. It is a time of silence from God. It is a time of closeness with God.

The valley is a place of contradictions. If our lives were without valleys, there would be very little spiritual growth. The valleys expose our need for God. The valleys expose the many things that need to be changed in our lives. The valleys teach us faith.  Though the valley may not pleasant, there are many verses that bring refreshment to us as we go through the valley. These verses have refreshed me as I have traveled through a valley.

1. GOD IS WITH ME  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

In life we often face very dark valleys. How can we keep going as we travel through a valley filled with the unknown, with dangers, and with pain of heart?  The loneliness of the valley can become suffocating. There is no one who understands. There is no one to help us get through this rough patch. However, David understood that the Lord’s presence is with us even in the darkest valley of all, death. God never forsakes His children. Though we don’t see Him, we know that he is with us every step of the way as walk through the dark valley.

A Prayer  “Dear Lord, as I walk through a very dark valley. I don’t know how long I will be here in this valley, but I know that you are with me. You are teaching me. You are guiding me. You are comforting me. You are walking alongside me enabling me to enjoy your presence. Please enable me to honor you while I am walking through this valley. I love you, My Shepherd. Thank you for loving me. Amen”

2. GOD DOESN’T CHANGE.  For I am the Lord, I change not.” (Malachi 3:6)

Changes are reality in life. We change. People change. Our surroundings change; Our circumstances change. Our life can often feel like a boat adrift in the ocean; yet amidst the uncertainties of life, God doesn’t change! His Salvation, His Word, His love, His mercy, His comfort, His faithfulness, His holiness never change. These unchangeable truths give us hope as we trod through the valley. Yes, our world may be changing before our eyes, but God never changes.

3. GOD STRENGTHENS ME. “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed:for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9)

We need strength and courage for what lies ahead. The path before us looks impossible to tread. We feel tired. We lack sleep. We are emotionally and spiritually exhausted. We want to quit.  We think we can’t go one step further. Where can we find the strength and courage to continue moving forward?  The same strength and courage that Joshua found from God before crossing the Jordan River and confronting Jericho is available to us.

A Prayer “Dear Lord, the path before me seems filled with difficulties and dangers. I feel tired. I don’t know how much further I can go. I have lost the will to continue in the struggle; however, I thank you for your presence. I thank you for giving me the strength and courage to go forward. Amen

4. GOD IS MY FOCUS.  “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:3) “

Have you ever found yourself so engrossed in a situation that all you can do is think about it? There is little sleep.There is little peace. There is little joy. What are we to do?  When we take our eyes off of the situation and place them upon Jesus, our perspective becomes totally different. When we focus upon the people who may have placed us in this valley, we start to become like them. When we place our eyes upon Jesus, we become more like Him.

A Prayer:
There is no wisdom in myself, but in you.
There is no compassion in myself, but in you.
There is no courage in myself, but in you.
There is no peace in myself, but in you.
There is no joy in myself, but in you.
Thank you, Lord, for always being with me, so that when I look to you, you are always there. Amen.

5. GOD IS MY BELOVED (Deuteronomy 33:27) “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

The valley can be a place of opposition. You may feel unloved. You may feel alone. This is a time to remember God’s everlasting arms are waiting to embrace and draw you unto Himself. Like a child runs into the arms of a loving parent, We also can run into the arms of our loving Father. The valley produces great needs in our life.  As a result of our needs our love increases for the Lord.

A Prayer: “Dear Lord, I come to you whose arms are wide open. I need you to embrace me and hold me tight because:
I need your love.
I need your comfort.
I need your understanding.
I need your peace.
I need your wisdom.
I need your forgiveness.
Thank you for always being ready to embrace me when I come to you with a broken and contrite heart. Amen”

6. GOD IS MY DELIGHT. “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

In spite of situations that are not delightful, we can still delight in the Lord. When we delight in the Lord, He will change our desires to match HIs desires. Delighting in the Lord will enable us to find peace and joy in the midst of the valley.

God’s Word has always brought comfort to His people. These verses have brought comfort to me in the midst of my valley. May you find comfort in them as you travel through your valley.

 

Marriage and the Supreme Court Decision (One Pastor’s Thoughts)

Marriage handsRecently, the Supreme Court weighed in on the subject of Gay Marriage.  Their decision was no surprise to me, nor should it be to any person who claims to be a Christian.  This decision reflects our culture and where we are as a nation.  Yes, we would like the laws of our country to follow our beliefs, but many of them do not.  Our nation is not a Christian nation, though in past times it followed Christian principles.

What should be our response to this decision by the Supreme Court?  First of all, we as Christians should forsake once and for all the idea that we can see people change through government action.  Should we expect people to live and believe like a Christian when they are not Christians?  The early church didn’t demand laws to show their beliefs. The early church understood the sinfulness of man.  The way the early church changed the culture was to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Gospel changes the heart of a man.  Unlike Jesus Christ, no government can give a man a new heart.

Secondly, we need to remember that Jesus made it clear how we are to relate to the culture around us.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He said; “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.  Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” (Matthew 5:13-15)

Our lives should shine forth as a testimony of our love for the Lord Jesus Christ.  A light shines brighter as the darkness increases.  There are two extremes in dealing with the sin that is so clearly accepted in our society.  One extreme is to compromise our beliefs so that we become more acceptable to our society.  The other extreme is to totally withdraw from our society.  A light needs to be in the darkness to shine, but it doesn’t allow the darkness to overcome its light.

Thirdly, we need to think about our own personal lives and our walk with God.  Yes, our culture has embraced sin and rebellion against God.  In the midst of our concern, have we forgotten our own walk with God?  When we get caught up with confronting our culture, it is easy to forget our own sin before God.  The early church at Ephesus did a great job of separating themselves from the evil of their culture.  Christ says of them: “Thou canst not bear them which are evil.” (Revelation 2:2) This church hated the evil that was a reality in the Roman Empire, but they had forgotten something in the process.

Jesus continued to speak to this church with some very convicting words: “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against, because thou hast left thy first love.” (Revelation 3:4) Have we left our first love?  Have we forgotten our daily walk with God?  If we are walking close to the Lord, we will have a greater impact upon the lives of those around us.

Fourthly, the Supreme Court ruling has no bearing upon our own marriages.  Why is it that professed Christians have a divorce rate that is equal to those who don’t claim to be Christians?  Yes, we have no control over the Supreme Court decisions concerning its view of marriage, but we can make our marriage one that honors God and His Word.

When God gave His instructions about marriage in Ephesians 5, He did so in the midst of a culture that allowed all sorts of immoral activities.  God’s focus is upon our own marriage.  We need to seek to love each other within our marriage and seek to fulfill Psalm 34:3 as a married couple. “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.” 

Fifthly, Jesus Christ made it clear that we shouldn’t be surprised if we face persecution from the society around us.  Before His death, He said: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”(John 15:18)  Our culture has no interest in the Biblical Jesus.  Yes, it wants a Jesus who loves everybody, but they have rejected the true Jesus of the Bible.  The Biblical Jesus loves, but He also is holy and He hates sin so much that He died on the cross for our sins.

Persecution can become very real as our society departs from any kind of Christian worldview.  The early Christians were persecuted because they were different from those around them.  God’s Word proclaims truths that our culture rejects and mocks.  Will not our culture eventually reject anybody who believes on God’s Word and chooses to live their lives according to His Word?

One last response to this decision is that we can say with the Apostle Paul: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) We realize that death will be our entrance into the presence of Jesus Christ.  It will be a time of joy and worship.  We will no longer be exposed to the wickedness of this present world.

We can also say with the Apostle John at the end of Revelation: “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”  One day there will be a government which will exalt righteousness, holiness and truth.  Jesus will one day return to reign as the King of Kings.

“Dear Lord, I see your Word being trampled underneath the feet of our culture.  I know that this is only natural because of the fact that we are born into sin.  Thank you for sending your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the World.  Please work through your people so that we can be an effective witness to those around us.  Thank for your love that is patiently waiting for people to turn to you.  Amen.”

Remembering Mom: June Solomon Booth (1923-2003)

Mom and I shortly after my birth.
Mom and I shortly after my birth.

June 9, 1923 was a very special day for me. This was the day that Annie Solomon gave birth to the last of the many children that she and Charles brought into the world. They would call this last child June Leona Solomon. June spent the first eighteen years of her life in the small coal-mining town of Patton, Pennsylvania. However, there weren’t many opportunities in Patton; so June followed her married sister, Frances, to Detroit.

Mom as a young child in Patton, PA.  She is the one in the middle.
Mom as a young child in Patton, PA. She is the one in the middle.

The big city was a contrast to the small laid back life back in Patton. She often spoke about working in the Guardian Building and living on Grand Blvd. In time, June would meet Arthur Booth and in 1950 they would become husband and wife. I would be the last child born to my parents in August of 1955.

Dad and Mom before I came on the scene.
Dad and Mom before I came on the scene.

In life, we can choose whom we marry, we can choose our friends, but we can’t choose our mothers. I am very grateful for the mother that God gave to me. She wasn’t a perfect person, but she was the perfect mother for me.

My mother was able to stay home with the three of us because my Dad sacrificed by working two jobs. Mom took her role as mother quite seriously. She took care of all of our basic needs. She always fixed our meals without complaints. She packed my sack lunch with loving care  She took care of our clothes. I still remember her ironing in the dining room as she would spray water on the clothes before she would pass the iron over them.  She also took us to all the places that we needed to go.

Mom did much more than take care of our basic needs. She loved us. She showed her love in how she sacrificed her time for us. She made it a point to give each of us special attention. Often, we would gather around the table with Mom and play Scrabble, Password or Jeopardy. The highlight of my day was bedtime, because Mom would tuck me into my bed and then read a story to me. She started with stories from Uncle Remus or Dr. Seuss.  When I was older she would read biographies and historical novels. She taught me to have a love for reading and history.

My Mom also enjoyed being involved in different community organizations.  She was involved in the Midland Elementary School PTA. She also was a den mother for the Cub Scouts for a couple of years. I still remember her working on the craft projects that her pack would do that day. Mom also taught Sunday School for a couple of years at the Highland Park Congregational Church. I was proud to be in her Junior High class.

Holidays and birthdays were always special to Mom. She would decorate our house special on each holiday. She enjoyed hiding the Easter baskets for Easter. She also was right there cleaning out the pumpkin for Halloween. Thanksgiving dinner was always a special treat. To this day, I can still taste her stuffing that would come right out of the turkey.

As for birthdays, she always prepared a big party. One year when Batman was popular on TV, she gave me a Batman party with Batman hats, plates, and cups.  She always invited our rather large extended family to the party as well as my friends.  She made each birthday like one gigantic celebration.

Mom enjoying hosting one of my birthday parties.
Mom enjoying hosting one of my birthday parties.

Mom also had a real gift of hospitality. She always seemed to have some family member at our house. She always welcomed my friends into the house. I never heard her complain about the noise that we made while we were playing.  She never said, “I wish you and your friends would go somewhere else.”

Mom was not always comfortable driving. She didn’t mind Woodward Avenue or Oakland Avenue, but the Davison and the Lodge expressways were off-limits in her mind. One day, Mom made a wrong turn and somehow she was driving on the Davison Expressway entering the Lodge. I was standing in my usual position in the back seat (Remember no seat belts or car seats in those days). I felt the panic of Mom as she asked me what to do?  As a seven-year old, I sure didn’t have the answer. Somehow, we made it off the Lodge Expressway. I never again remember Mom driving on one of the expressways. If she did, I am glad that I wasn’t with her.

The greatest contribution that Mom made in my life was that she taught me about God.  She didn’t read the Bible to me, but she did take me to church and gave me a prayer to repeat when I went to bed. She always told me not to put anything on top of the Bible because it was God’s Word. Because of Mom’s influence, when I was in high school, I started to read my Bible in search of God and how I could be right with Him. By the time, I was a student in college, I had placed my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior.

After accepting Christ, I took Mom to Coltman Memorial Baptist Church which was a small Baptist church on Hamilton near Puritan. The people in the church really loved Mom and she loved them. She would soon accept the Lord as her Savior and she was also baptized.  Being younger than most of the people in the church, Mom would have a ministry of helps to many of the older women in the church. She would learn much from the Word of God as result of the good teaching she would receive.

Mom with the ladies of Coltman Memorial Baptist Church
Mom with the ladies of Coltman Memorial Baptist Church

When we left to minister in South Africa in 1983, Mom found it difficult to adjust. She would miss us, especially as her grandchildren would grow up in another land. Mom would send us cassette tapes of her thoughts and memories, as well as having Dad read a story to our children. This helped the children to relate to family back in the States. We would visit every couple of years. This would be a special time for our children to bond with their grandparents.

In 1996, we would return to the States. Mom was finding it difficult to get out, but she still found a certain joy when we would come and visit her. She loved our three children. With sadness, we would say goodbye to Mom in July of 2003. It has been ten years since I have been able to kiss Mom and say: “I love you.” I probably didn’t do this enough in this life.  However, I thank God that I could call June Booth, “Mom”.

Does Jesus Care? (1 Peter 5:7)

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

Does Jesus care about what is happening in my life? Does He care about me personally? Many believers to whom Peter wrote had these same questions, because they were facing a period of great persecution for their faith. Their safety and well-being were in peril.  Peter understood persecution.  He had endured imprisonment, and misunderstanding. Jesus had clearly prophesied that one day Peter would die a violent for His sake.

Peter encouraged these beleaguered believers with a letter of a great hope in Jesus Christ. Peter reminded the believers that Jesus does know and care about what is happening in their lives.  The words: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) brought great comfort to the readers of Peter’s letter. Today, these same words bring comfort, encouragement and hope to each one of us.

What does it mean “to cast our care upon Jesus”. First of all the word “care” has the idea of a burden, worry, or an anxious thought. There are many causes of “care” in our lives.

  1. We have the “care” for things that are outside of ourselves.  These include natural catastrophes, rejection by others, and political conflict in our nation.  Our news media has a great knack of creating anxiety upon those who are watching or listening to what they have to say. We feel helpless in the midst of a world that seems to be spinning out of control.
  2. We have the “care” for our loved ones. Many a parent lives a life filled with worry because of their children. We worry about their safety, their future, and their health. Perhaps, we have loved ones who have turned aside from the Lord. This also creates anxiety.
  3. We have the “care” concerning our own lives. We have anxiety over our future, our finances, our failures, our sins, and our health.  As we grow older we become anxious about death and leaving our loved ones behind. If a person doesn’t have the assurance of their salvation, there is the worry about life after death.

Peter admits that we have “cares” but he also tells us what to do with these cares.  Our cares are to be “cast” upon Jesus. The word “cast” has the idea of throwing a weight and placing it upon an object that can bear the weight. Perhaps, the idea can be seen by throwing a bale of hay on a wagon. Why carry the bale of hay when the wagon can do the work?

Why do we carry our “cares” with us when Jesus can carry any load that we place upon Him. He wants us to “cast our all of our cares” upon Him because He cares about what happens in our life. He died for us when we were his enemies. Will He not take care of us, now that we belong to Him?

What keeps us from casting all of our cares upon Jesus?  Could it be pride?  Could it be stubbornness? Could it be a lack of faith? Jesus’ arms are open. He is saying: “Give me that “care” that has you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and discouraged. I can handle anything you give me. Will you not trust me today?”

Render Unto God the Things that are God’s

Coins

This week, I  read the account of the Jewish leaders trying to entrap Jesus with their questions. One question has to do with paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus responds by asking for a coin. He than asks whose inscription is on the coin. His questioners answer Caesar’s. Jesus than surprises them all with His answer: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)

When I read this account, God convicted me about my life. I had always read these words with the understanding that we are to pay our taxes, but I never paid much attention to the second part of Jesus’ statement. God wants me to give all things unto Him because I belong to Him.

One question that comes to my mind: “Have I rendered unto God the things that belong to Him?” I realize that my answer is “no”.  I still am dealing with selfishness in several areas of my life. I often don’t recognize in my heart that belonging to God means I surrender every area of my life to Him. Surrender is the true essence of defining what it means to be a servant (bond-slave) of Jesus Christ.

“What are the things that I need to render unto God?” First of all, I need to render my life unto God. I often grab hold of my life and try to take it back from God. I can do this as I make decisions concerning my future, or the use of my time. I also have the tendency to allow my worries and anxieties to remain in my heart instead of giving them over to the Lord as He desires: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

My reputation is an area in my life that I need to give unto God. It is difficult not to defend oneself when others may not agree with you or even worse when they oppose you or try to tear you down. Jesus Christ is the great example of one who surrendered His reputation to His Heavenly Father. God’s reputation is more important than my reputation.

A second area of my life that I need to render to God is my family. Marriage can easily bring out my selfish bent.  Instead of looking at my wife in the same way as Christ loved the church. I seek to please myself. A marriage surrendered to God demonstrates a selfless love that seeks the best for one’s spouse.

Also, I am grateful for the three children that God has given to us. Our two sons are serving the Lord in Portugal and our daughter and her husband are making plans to minister in England. When we give our children unto God, it is difficult when the Lord takes them to distant place to live. This is a great reminder that our children ultimately belong to God.  They are his gift to us to raise them to honor and glorify Him.

A third area of my life that I need to render to God is the church.  As a pastor of a church, I need to remind myself that Christ is the Head of the church. I am His servant, who needs to minister to those that God brings into our local church. Patience is a necessity in dealing with people.  The Bible reminds me: “that it is God who worketh in you both to will and do of His good pleasure.”  In myself I can’t make anyone grow spiritually.  I can’t  make anyone confess and forsake their sin. I need to constantly “turn my eyes upon Jesus.”

Almost every day, the Lord reminds me of some area of my life that I need to surrender to Him. He is my Lord and Master. He knows what is best for me. What keeps me from surrendering every area to my Loving Lord?

“Dear Lord, thank you for using your Word to show me my need to give every area of my life to you. I know that I attempt to grab from you some part of my life that belongs to you. Help me to see those areas of my life, my family and the church that I have yet delivered unto you.  Sometimes transferring the ownership of some area of my life is difficult, but I know that your peace, guidance and wisdom come when I render everything to you.  Thank you that I belong to you because your Son took my place on the cross, Amen.”