God’s “911”

Photo of Lake Huron by Rachel Drury.
Photo of Lake Huron by Rachel Drury.

An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police , fire department or ambulance. When these emergencies arise, we call “911” with the expectation that help will come quickly. Sometimes, there is a failure in the system and help is delayed to the peril of the caller.

However, where do we turn when everything is falling apart in our life?  God has provided a “911” number for us to call. Psalm 120:1 says: “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me.” Yes, God is always available to accept our call. There are no delays. There is no indecision. God is ready and able to help us when we are in distress. Let’s take a closer look at how God’s “911” works in our lives.

1. The cause of our cry– Life can become overwhelming at times. We feel that we are drowning in the midst of our very difficult circumstances. We do not know what to do. We feel helpless. There is no human resource that seems to help. We wonder where is God in all of this. We realize that the only hope we have is to cry out to God in faith.

2. The content of our cry– Crying out to God means that we are desperate. Our cry  reflects total dependence upon God. Our cry says that we surrender the control of our life to Him. Our cry says that we have faith that God alone will know what to do in the midst of our distress.

3. The object of our cry– We often pour our hearts out to others. Sometimes, we keep everything to our selves. However, God alone is able to handle our situation when everything seems to be falling apart. We cry to Him because of who He is. He is all-wise. He is all-powerful. He is love. He is merciful. Yes, God alone is the one to whom we should cry when there is no place to turn.

4. The response to our cry– What more encouraging words can we hear in the midst of our pain than: “and He heard me.” God is not deaf to our cry. His ears are wide open to hear our cry. He is eager and ready to respond to our cry. It isn’t a question: “Will God hear my cry?” but “Will I cry out to Him?”

When we dial God’s “911”, we will receive help, strength, guidance, and hope in the midst of our difficult situation. In life’s emergencies, don’t forget to call God’s 911. He is waiting for our call.

A Prayer for the Heavy-Hearted

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My Dear Heavenly Father,

    I come before you in great heaviness of soul. I feel the burden of my inadequacy, as well as the burden of my lack of faith. I feel the burden of an unknown future, as well as the burden of my past failures. I am walking by my feelings instead of entrusting myself to the facts of your Word. In other words, my life doesn’t fit in a nice little package.

  Father, I need you desperately. Please do not be silent towards me. Please answer my prayer. Please come and be near to me. Please open the truths of your Word unto me. May your light reveal the dark crevices of my life. May your peace overcome the anxiety that is in my heart. May your comfort overcome the disquietude of my soul. May your love permeate every area of my life. 

   Father, I need to gaze upon your beauty as David did in the midst of his tough times:  Help me to gaze upon the beauty of all that you are. Help me to gaze upon the beauty of all that you have done. Help me to gaze upon the beauty of your promises.

    Thank you for listening to me, as I pour out my heart before you. You have never left me nor forsaken me. Your love has never failed. Your mercies are new every morning. Your grace has been sufficient for all my needs. I love you, Lord. Thank you for allowing me to call you, My Father. Take my life and use it as you please.  Amen.

Five Important Questions for the New Year

Winter Scene-Michigan USA
Winter Scene-Michigan USA

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

God says in Haggai 1:5: “Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways”. God’s people had returned to their land, but they had neglected to rebuild the temple. They were too busy with their own affairs. to concern themselves with God and His priorities. Today, we often neglect our spiritual lives because we become preoccupied with all the activities that make demands on our time. Like the Israelites, have we neglected to take an inventory of our spiritual life?

The word “consider” means to note thoroughly, to perceive clearly, to think deeply. This word is used sixty-six times in the Bible. Why does God place such a priority on this word? Is it because He knows that we have the habit of keeping busy so that we don’t take the time to consider our walk with Him?  Here are five important questions that will help us to “consider our ways.”

1. How well do I know God?  “That I may know Him.” (Philippians 3:10) These words show Paul’s great desire to know the Lord in a personal way. He didn’t just want to know about God, but he wanted to know God intimately as His Father, Lord and Friend. Intimacy comes by spending time with God in His Word. We will study His Word to learn more about His character, His works, and His promises. Intimacy comes by spending time with God in prayer. Intimacy also comes by spending time meditating upon God. This will cause our love for Him to grow!

2. How well do I know myself?  ”Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:” (Psalm 139:23) We often find it difficult to allow God to search every aspect of our life. We like to focus on all of our “good points” and we tend to ignore our sins or weaknesses. God gives us His Word to enable us to see areas that we need to change in our lives. When we read the Word of God, do we allow God to convict us of our sins? Do we allow Him to show us areas in our lives in which we need to improve? Do we allow Him to show us our apathy in spiritual matters? Examining our lives may not be pleasant, but it is a great step in moving forward in our spiritual lives in 2014.

3. How well do I use my time?  “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16)  Time is a gift that we often waste on matters that are not very important. We have many tools today to save time; yet we seem to have less time than ever. We allow the urgent to crowd out the important.

Big Ben-London England (Photo in Public Domain)

Big Ben-London England (Photo in Public Domain)

The Apostles Paul understood that his greatest priority in life was to mature in his faith.  “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) His time, efforts and focus were upon his spiritual well-being. We spend a lot of time taking care of our physical bodies, but what about our spiritual life? Time is a gift that we can invest in those things that promote our spiritual well-being.

4. How well do I encourage those around me?  We often focus upon our own lives and we forget the impact that our lives have upon other people. One of my favorite Bible characters is Barnabas. He was a man who was always encouraging others.

  • He encouraged others by his example. He did this with his generous gift to the church (Acts 4:36-37). The Bible also says about Barnabas: “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith:” (Acts 9:23) If people followed our example what kind of Christian would they be?
  • He encouraged others by his friendship. Barnabas extended the hand of friendship to Paul when nobody else did. (Acts 9:26-27) People need friends, but our culture of isolation has kept us from reaching out to others with the needed hand of friendship.
  • He encouraged others with his words. Barnabas was a leader who encouraged the early church in Antioch with his words (Acts 9:23)  We can use our words to discourage a person or to encourage them.
  • He encouraged others by giving them a second chance. John Mark had failed on the first missionary journey. Paul didn’t want to take the chance to take John Mark on the second journey. Barnabas choose to give John Mark a second chance. This same John Mark would later write the Gospel of Mark. People will fail us, just as we fail others. Will we give them a second chance?

5. How well do I glorify God in all that I do?  The greatest purpose of our life is to bring glory to God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)  God wants to be glorified in all that we do. Do we glorify God in our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions? De we glorify God in our family? Do we glorify God at work or school? Do we glorify God with our plans and goals in life?

We have come to another crossroads in our lives. We have a great opportunity before us. What will we do with this opportunity?  We can move forward in our spiritual lives or we can remain stagnant. God desires us to move forward in our spiritual lives.

“Dear Heavenly Father, I am entering a new year. I know that I have fewer years ahead of me than behind me. It is critical that I allow you to clearly show me, what I need to do in this coming year. Help me to know you more intimately. Guide me as to the use of my time. Use me to encourage the people you bring into my life. Above all, I want to glorify you in all that I am and do.  Thank you for the blessings of 2013.  Thank you for continuing your work in and through my life. Amen”

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The Struggle of Faith in the Valley

Charlotte, Michigan Photo by: Mark J Booth
Charlotte, Michigan Photo
by: Mark J Booth

The valley is a place of the unknown. The future is unknown. The next step to take is unknown. The reason for being in the valley is unknown. The unknown causes us to develop fear and anxiety. Faith seems to disappear in our lives. We know that God is with us. We know the promises of God. We want to trust God. We need to trust God! Yet we only see the dark road ahead of us. Why is faith so difficult when we need it the most?

I have tried to understand the answer to the above question. Why can’t I trust my loving God? Why can’t I trust my all-wise God? Perhaps the answer lies in the verse where Jesus tells us that we are to become as little children. “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) A little child has great faith and trust, which is essential for us in our walk with God.

When I was very small, I trusted my parents in everything. I didn’t doubt anything they said.  When they said Santa Claus was coming, I believed them. When they took me to the doctor for a painful shot, I believed them when they said it was for my own good. They were my parents; so I trusted them.

As I grew older. I started to doubt what my parents said. I doubted their rules. I doubted what they thought was best for me. I doubted the way they raised me. I still loved them, but I thought I knew better. I lost my childlike trust of them. I weighed everything they did from my very narrow teenage viewpoint.

In my relationship with God, I find it easy to lose my childlike faith. I see my life from my viewpoint. I try to understand what God is doing instead of trusting what He is doing. I try to interfere in what He is doing, instead of submitting to his way of working in a certain situation.

As a child, my parents would take me to various places in our car. I never doubted that I would arrive there safely. I never doubted that they had my best interest at heart. I never complained about the journey. I would sit in the back seat and look around at the scenery and accept that this is what my parents wanted.

Why is it when God is taking me through a valley experience, I don’t trust Him? Does He not know what is best for me? Does He not use the valley experience for my benefit and for the benefit of those to whom I minister? I need to have a childlike faith and believe that God knows what is best. Romans 8:28 is still true: “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.”

The struggle of faith exists because we act too much like adults. We need to see before believing. We need to understand before we believe. We need to know the results before we believe. We need to feel like there is something that we can do to resolve the trial. The more we think like an adult, our faith diminishes.

How can we grow in faith in the midst of the valley? The valley challenges our faith. It batters our faith. We need faith desperately. The first step of faith is to return to a child-like view of God. We don’t have to understand what God is doing. We don’t have to understand what will happen in the future.  We don’t have to know why all of this is happening.  We can look unto our Heavenly Father and know that He has everything under control. His path is always the best way to go; even if it takes us through a dark valley.

“Dear Father, I thank you for your patience with me. I approach you quite often with the attitude that I need to understand everything. I need you to explain everything to me. This has hindered my faith. Please help me to trust you with the heart of a little child. I know that you will resolve my struggle of faith when I surrender my perspective, my ideas, and my dreams unto you. Thank for being my loving Father in whom I can place all of my trust. Amen”

Lessons from the Valley

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

Recently, I have entered into a deep valley. This valley is not of my choosing, but it is of God’s choosing. God knows exactly what He is doing in my life. The process of becoming more like Christ is not always pleasant. The valley is a place where we meet fire, pressure, and the unknown. The great thing about the valley is that we are not traveling this valley alone. David, who faced many valleys, wrote: “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)

As I have reflected upon these past days, I am learning several lessons. As James wrote: “My brethren, COUNT IT ALL JOY when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4) There is joy in the midst of the valley because the Lord is still working in our lives.

At fifty-eight years old, I find myself having to learn new lessons and review old lessons. I am a slow learner, but God is a very patient teacher. He knows what to bring into our lives; so that Christlikeness becomes a reality in our lives. Every valley is different and there are new lessons to learn in each valley. Here are some of the lessons that the Lord is teaching me as travel through this valley.

1. I have learned that every valley is God’s special plan for my life. Joseph didn’t choose to become a slave, but it was God’s special plan. He understood this very clearly when he told his brothers. “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20) Joseph’s brothers did evil when they sold him into slavery; yet God took that evil deed and used it for good.

As I plod through this valley, I am thankful that God is still working in my life: Paul understood this when he wrote: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) I am an object of God’s working. He knows the right instrument to use to make me more like Jesus!

2. I have learned that the Valley is a Place of Fellowship with Christ. Communion with Christ can elude us in the good times; however, in the valley, it is essential. The valley shouts to us: “Go to Christ! Go to Christ!” Our need for Christ increases our desire for him. David wrote: “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.” (Psalm 63:1) When we thirst for Christ, He is always there to satisfy our thirst. When we run from the valley of His choosing, we lose those very intimate times of fellowship with Him.

3. I have learned that I can show my vulnerability before others. The valley has a way of causing us to be broken and humble before God and others. As a result, people see that we are vulnerable. Those who love us will see this vulnerability and try to bring comfort, healing and encouragement into our lives. Naomi showed her vulnerability before Ruth. As a result, Ruth left all and became her dearest friend.

Sometimes, we try to show how strong we are while traveling in the valley. There are people who would be eager to help us in our travels, if only we expressed our need. There is nothing wrong in letting people know that you are traveling through a valley. I am thankful for those members in our church who have seen our vulnerability and have ministered encouragement and love to us. Jonathan had a great ministry of encouragement to David because David showed his vulnerability to Jonathan.

4. I have learned that I need intercessory prayer. When things are going well, we don’t ask people to pray for us. However, when we enter the valley, Paul’s words: “Brethren, pray for us,” easily fall from our lips. I still don’t understand how prayer works, but I do know that it does work. There are many pitfalls in this valley, and yet the prayers of others have taken me through each pitfall.

5. I have learned that tears are perfectly appropriate. I very rarely cry, but when something or someone you love is hurting, tears flow naturally. Jesus said: “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) Comfort comes from the Savior who shed His tears for the people of Jerusalem. He sorrows for the same things which causes us to have sorrow. The tears show that I love those things which Jesus loves.

6. I have learned the great comfort that comes from the Word of God. The valley causes us to have a greater desire to read the Word, but it also gives us a greater ability to allow the truths of God’s Word to speak to our hearts. When things are going well, we may read the Bible, but when we are in the valley the Bible becomes a life-preserver. We hold unto its truths as though our lives depend upon it. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:71)

As I continue to travel this valley, I am thankful that I don’t have to travel this valley alone. Not only is Jesus walking with me, but my wife is walking right beside me. There will be more lessons to learn and relearn; however, I have the greatest teacher who ever walked the earth. His name is Jesus!

When There is No One Else (Confiding in God)

Cabo da Roca, Portugal Photo by: Mark J. Booth
Cabo da Roca, Portugal
Photo by: Mark J. Booth

“In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” (Psalm 18:6)

“Will anybody listen to me?”  Have you ever caught yourself thinking this very thought?  Yes, throughout life there are times when we feel alone.  We think no one understands.  When these times occur, we must not forget that there is One who is always available to listen.  He understands exactly how we feel.  Are we prepared to confide in Him?

When we confide in the Lord, we are saying:  “I trust you, and I know that you care about me.  I pour out my heart to you, because I know that you understand.  Please show me what I need to do.”

Why do we need to confide in the Lord?

Has a situation ever come our way and we don’t know what to do?  We feel helpless in the midst of what is happening around us.  Many years ago, King Jehoshaphat of Judah faced the near certain defeat of his army.  Within himself there was no strength or wisdom to handle this dire situation.  He did what we all must do when we are confused and helpless. He went to the Lord. “O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.” (2 Chronicles 20:12) God is waiting for us to confide in Him in the midst of our confusion.  At times, we don’t confide in God because we are reluctant to admit our need of Him.

Another reason we need to confide in the Lord is that our own viewpoint can lead us astray.  You have heard the saying: “Let your heart be your guide.”  However, God tells us why our heart is not a reliable guide for our life. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? ” (Jeremiah 17:9)  God makes it clear that our heart is not to be trusted.  We often make decisions based upon our own selfishness or bias.  When we confide in God, we will see life from His perspective.

Trials, heartaches, and difficulties fill our life.  We can’t travel the hard road of this life without continually confiding in our Lord.  Jesus said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  When tribulations come, do we forget that the Lord is greater than any trial that comes into our life?  When we cry out to Him in midst of our pain, He responds to us.  When an emergency happens in this life we call 911.  Why are we so reluctant to cry out to the Lord in the midst of our pain?

People say: “I  would be a good Christian, if it wasn’t for other people.”  Yes, other people may hurt us, misunderstand us, ignore us and dislike us, but there is a friend who is always there.  His name is Jesus!  David confided in God when he faced powerful enemies; so can we. “Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;” (Psalm 55:2) The Lord is a Friend who will never leave us or disappoint us.  Will we learn to confide in Him when we have problems with others?

Finally, we need to confide in God because of His Greatness.  He is worthy of our faith.  God is our all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful Lord and Friend.  He is our High Priest to whom we can go at any time. He is a refuge in the midst of any storm. “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8) God’s greatness is like a magnet that draws us to Him.  He can handle any situation that we take to Him. 

How do we confide in the Lord?

Confiding in the Lord is simply to share our requests openly with Him. He already knows what is happening in our lives, but He wants us to come before Him in complete faith and honesty. “Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God.” (Psalm 59:1)  The Psalmist understood that he could share any request with God, and He would hear him.  Our God desires us to seek Him.  His love means that His ears are always open to our cries unto Him.

As we confide in Him, we must also remember the importance of having a grateful heart. Gratitude is a way of confiding in the Lord that we are totally dependent upon Him.  In Philippians 4:6, Paul writes: “In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving.” When we cry out to God, we thank Him for all that He is doing in our lives, and all that He will do in our lives.

Confiding in God is also demonstrated when we come before Him in desperation.  We don’t see God as part of the solution, or maybe a possible solution. No! God is the only solution.  The Psalmist writes: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6) Our desperate cry is saying: “I need you, Lord.  You alone can help me.”  God will respond to this humble cry.

We are often tempted to seek to handle life in our own wisdom and strength.  Yet, the Lord is always there. He is always ready to listen.  Why do we choose failure in our own strength and wisdom, instead of choosing success in His strength and wisdom?  God is waiting to hear from us today!  Will we confide in Him?

When No One Cares

Canadian Badlands in Alberta, Canada (Photo by: Mark J. Booth)
Canadian Badlands in Alberta, Canada (Photo by: Mark J. Booth)

“In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” (Psalm 18:6)

“Does anyone care?” “If only I could find someone who will listen to me!”  Have you ever caught yourself thinking these thoughts? Yes, throughout life there are times when we feel alone.  We think no one cares. When these times occur, we must not forget that there is One who is always available. He loves us and is ready listen to us. He understands exactly how we feel. Are we ready to confide in our Lord?

When we confide in the Lord, we are saying to Him: “I trust you, and I know that you care about me. I pour out my heart to you, because I know that you understand. I also know that you will show me what I need to do.”

Why did Moses stay faithful in spite of his trials? He confided in the Lord. How did Joshua lead God’s people? He confided in the Lord. How did David receive forgiveness of his sin? He confided in the Lord. How did Paul rejoice in the midst of his persecution and difficulties? He confided in the Lord. How will we stay faithful through life’s tribulations?  We will need to confide in the Lord.

Why do we need to confide in the Lord?

1. We need to confide in the Lord because we have no wisdom or strength within ourselves. When King Jehoshaphat faced the near certain defeat of his armies, he confided in the Lord. He knew that God alone could handle this situation.  “O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.” (2 Chronicles 20:12) Jehoshaphat demonstrated a spirit of humility before God which enabled him to confide in the Lord. We choose not to confide in God because we don’t want to admit our need of Him.

2. We need to confide in the Lord because we have a deceitful heart that can often lead us astray.  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? ” (Jeremiah 17:9) People often say: “I can’t go wrong if I just follow my heart”. However, God makes it clear that we can not trust our own hearts. We often make decisions based upon our own selfishness, bias or lack of knowledge. We need to confide in the Lord because He will direct us in the right path.

3. We need to confide in the Lord because difficulties come into our lives. We can’t travel the road of life without continually confiding in our Lord. Jesus said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) When tribulations come, do we forget that the Lord is greater than any trial that may come into our lives.

4. We need to confide in the Lord because of problems with others. People say: “I could be a good Christian, if it wasn’t for other people.” Yes, other people may hurt us, misunderstand us, ignore us and dislike us, but there is a friend who is always there. His name is Jesus! David confided in God when he faced powerful enemies; so can we. “Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;” (Psalm 55:2)

5. We need to confide in God because of His Greatness. He is worthy of our faith. God is our all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful Lord. He is our High Priest to whom we can go at any time. He is a refuge in the midst of any storm. “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8)

Elbow Lake in Alberta, Canada (Photo by: Mark J. Booth)
Elbow Lake in Alberta, Canada (Photo by: Mark J. Booth)

How do we confide in the Lord?

1. We share our requests openly with God. “Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God.” (Psalm 59:1)  The Psalmist understood that he could share any request with God, and that God would hear him. He is ready to listen to all of our requests.

2. We are to show gratefulness unto the Lord as we confide in Him. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) God loves to hear and answer our prayer requests, but He also loves to hear us give praise and thanks unto Him.

3. We are to show desperation when we confide in God.  “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.” (Psalm 102:1) Our desperate cry shows our total dependence upon Him. Our cry also shows that He is our only hope. When desperate times come, God is waiting for us to cry out to Him.

4. We are to confide in God thoughtfully. Confiding in God means that we don’t repeat the same words without thought. God wants us to share our mind, will and emotions with Him.  When Jesus taught about prayer, He said: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do:” (Matthew 6:7)  

We have a choice each day. Will we openly confide in our Lord or ignore the opportunity of pouring out our hearts to our dearest Friend? We should not only confide in the Lord when we have sorrow and trials, but also in our times of blessing and joy. God wants us to confide in Him in every decision that we make. Confiding in God increases our love for Him because we find complete satisfaction in Him.

“Dear Lord, I often live my life without sharing it with you. You have blessed me with your presence and yet I ignore you. Why are you so patient with me? Help me to have the desire to confide in you completely. Thank you that you do care and that I can trust you with my whole heart. With my love, from your child. Amen”