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.”

Preparing My Heart for Thanksgiving (Psalm 95)

Near Cascais, Portugal-Photo by: Mark J Booth

The food has been bought.  The guests have been invited.  The television is ready for NFL football.  Preparations are being made for the Black Friday sales.  However, something is missing in our Thanksgiving preparations.  Have we prepared our hearts to give thanks unto our Lord God?

One person has defined gratefulness as: “Making known to God and others in what ways they have benefited my life.”  We prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving by taking the time to reflect upon God’s blessings and then give thanks unto Him for those blessings.  It is also an opportunity to thank others for the ways they have benefited our lives.

Psalm 95 helps us to prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving.  The focus of this Psalm is upon giving thanks to God.  “Let us come before His presence with Thanksgiving.” (Psalm 95:2)  God desires thankfulness in His people.  Thanksgiving is not a once year reflection upon God’s blessings, but it is a daily giving of thanks to God for his blessings and provision.

We prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving as we reflect upon the reasons we can give thanks to God.  Take a few moments to meditate upon the following verses in Psalm 95. These verses will encourage us to give thanks to God for all that He is and all that He has done.

1. We give thanks to God for His Greatness. “For the Lord is a great God.” (Psalm 95:3a)  God demonstrates His Greatness in all that He is and all that He does.  We find it easy to lose the wonder of God as we grow older.  Our faith becomes routine and ritualistic.  It is time that we meditate upon God’s greatness again, and thank Him for His attributes and all that He has done.

Cabo Da Roca-Portugal; Photo by: Mark J Booth

2. We give thanks God for His Sovereignty. “A great King above all gods.” (Psalm 95:3b) God is in control.  Yes, he sometimes refines us as by fire, but we can thank Him  that nothing passes into our lives apart from His loving will and plan. When we understand that He is in control: then we can commit the trial unto Him and see Him work.  We can thank Him not only for the good times, but also for the difficult times because He is working in our lives.

3. We give thanks to God for His Power.  “The strength of the hills is his also.” (Psalm 95:4) Our God brings spiritual, emotional and physical strength to our lives.  We can give thanks in a difficult situation, because God is there to give us his strength.  Paul understood this as he was in prison when he wrote: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) 

4. We give thanks to God because He is Personal.  “For He is our God.” (Psalm 95:7a)  God desires to have a personal relationship with us.  He wants to walk with us, talk with us and listen to us.  He loves His children with an everlasting love.  He will never forsake us, in spite of the situation.  We can give thanks that we have a vital relationship with our Living God.  

5. We give thanks to God because He is our Provider. “We are the people of his pasture.” (Psalm 95:7b) We can be confident that the Lord is our loving Shepherd who will provide for our needs, whether they be spiritual, emotional, social or physical.  The Lord Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount reminds us that God will take care of the smallest matter in our lives.  When we focus on how the Lord meets our every need, we are eager to give thanks unto Him. 

6. We give thanks to God because He is our Guide.  “and the sheep of his hand.” (Psalm 95:7c)  Our Good Shepherd not only provides for us, but also leads us.  We can thank the Lord for the times that He gave us direction through His Word in some important decision.  As we look back upon our lives, God’s hand can be seen in His guidance and through the circumstances that He allowed in our lives.  Likewise, as we look forward to the future, we know that He will continue to guide us. 

Return of the Flock” by Anton Mauve (19th Century) From the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The first step to turning away from the Lord is to develop an ungrateful heart.  As we prepare our hearts for this Thanksgiving, let us look upon our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and all of His blessings.  Yes, there may food, family, and football for this Thanksgiving, but don’t forget the most important “f” for Thanksgiving, which is focusing upon the Lord and His Blessings.

“Dear Lord, I so often go through my days without thinking about all the blessings that I have as your child.  Thank you for all that you are to me.  Thank you for my great salvation and all the blessings that come with my salvation.  Thank you for your desire to have a personal relationship with me.  Help me not to forget you this Thanksgiving, but to focus upon you and all that you are. Amen.”

Prayers of Comfort from Psalm 37

Near Marshall, MI: Photo by: Mark J Booth

Trials are a part of every person’s life.  These trials can be self-induced or they can be caused by events beyond our control.  The question isn’t if we will have trials, but how will we face these trials.  Psalm 37 is written from the perspective of a man filled with trials.  God shows him the way he is to navigate through these trials.  Here are some prayers that go along with this very encouraging Psalm.  May God use Psalm 37 to help give direction and comfort to each of us.

“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.” (Psalm 37:1)  “Lord, I find myself filled with worry.  I worry about my walk with you.  I worry about my family, and the church.  I worry about my future.  I sometimes look at others and feel as though I am lacking something.  I also fret because evil seems to be gaining ground every day in our nation.  Help me to gain perspective upon the things that trouble me.  I need to grow in faith; so that I know in my heart that you are in control of everything.  I can trust you with my life and with what is happening in the world around me.  Amen”

“Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4) “Lord, I often focus on my circumstances instead of focusing upon you. I forget to take delight in all that you are. Help me to focus upon all that you are and all that you do. May I delight in you today regardless of my circumstances. Amen.”

“Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5) “Lord, I often want to chart my own course in life.  I look at my future from my perspective and not from yours. Why do I find it difficult to commit my way to you? Lord, you do know what is best for my life. Your love for me is beyond question.  For this reason, I need to commit unto you everything I do.  Help me to trust you regardless of what may happen in my life. Amen”

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7) “Dear Lord, I often live in anxiety because I don’t place my burdens upon you. I often run ahead of you instead of waiting for your perfect timing. Help me, to trust you enough to allow you to work in and through my life.  In the midst of my busyness, enable me to stop and remember that you are right here with me. Thank you for allowing me to rest in your everlasting arms! Amen”

“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath:fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” (Psalm 37:8)  “My Lord, when I face difficult circumstances and people, I can easily become angry.  Usually I keep this anger within, but it does affect me.  It keeps me from pleasing you and ministering to others.  Thank you for your great example on the cross how you forgive those who placed you upon the cross.  Teach me to respond to others with graciousness and love.  Teach me to yield my rights unto you, because my anger is often a warning sign of some right that I haven’t yielded unto you.

“Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:24) “Lord, I have stumbled and even fallen many times in my life; yet, you are always there to pull me up with your loving hand. Help me to never let go of your hand as I walk through this life. Thank you for your great love in watching over me. Amen.”

“And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked,and save them, because they trust in him.” (Psalm 37:40)  “Thank you for the concluding words of this Psalm of comfort and guidance.  Thank you for the times that you have delivered me from myself and others.  Thank you for all that you are, because you are truly worthy of my trust.  I gladly commit my ways to you today. Amen”

P.S. I often write prayers with the verse that I write out in my Journible.  If you are interested in learning more about the Journibles, here is my post about this excellent Bible study tool.
https://markjemilbooth.com/2012/07/29/how-to-profit-more-from-your-bible-reading-the-journibles/

Moving Beyond Anger to Meekness

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

Anger is a common human emotion that negatively affects us and others.  Anger often leads to emotional, social, spiritual and physical problems in our lives.  We would like to control our anger, but we constantly fall back into the same trap.

Anger is a choice.  We may blame others for our anger, but we can move beyond our anger and live a life of meekness.  Meekness is: “Yielding all of my rights and expectations to God.”  Whenever we become angry, it shows that there is an area in our life that we have yet to yield to God.  Here are three ways that we can move beyond anger and live a life of meekness.

UNDERSTAND GOD’S VIEW OF OUR ANGER

1. God’s commands us to put aside anger. Psalm 37:8 says: “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” Anger leads to wrath which leads to evil actions.  Anger destroys our Christian testimony. Our anger shows that we are defending our rights.  Our focus is not upon Christ, but upon ourselves.

2. God tells us that anger causes strife with others.  “A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.” (Proverbs 15:18) Anger creates strife in marriages, in parent-child relationships, in friendships, in work relationships as well as church relationships.  Our anger is divisive and very self-centered.  This is the very opposite of love.

3. God tells us to avoid friendship with angry people.  “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.”  An angry person not only causes strife, but he also causes others to take up his angry cause.  Anger is like a contagious disease that goes from one person to another.  For this reason, we are not to develop close friendships with this type of person.

TRANSFORM YOUR ANGER TO MEEKNESS

1. Meekness is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)  Anger is often the symptom of something seriously wrong in our lives.  When the Holy Spirit controls us, anger will no longer control us.   Meekness must come from the Holy Spirit because it isn’t natural for us to yield up our rights to God.  

2. Meekness learns to pass over a transgression against us.  When somebody wrongs us, we react in anger.  Yes, this is natural, but it is also very destructive to us and to others.   Jesus Christ said: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:44) This is only possible when we yield the right to our time, possessions, reputation, etc. unto God.   Is this not what Joseph did in response to the treachery of his brothers?

3. Meekness remembers who we are in the eyes of God.   Angry people have an inflated view of their own importance.  We develop meekness when we look at ourselves from God’s perspective.  Paul didn’t become angry throughout his trials with others because he remembered that he was the greatest of all sinners, whom God saved.

4. Meekness is seen in the life of Christ “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5)  When Christ came to earth, he gave up many of His rights “  He would experience hunger, pain, rejection and eventually death.  Why did he do this?  Christ demonstrated meekness because He saw that His rights were much less important than His mission to die on the cross for our sin.

Our anger says that my rights are more important than ministering to others.  Where would we be if Christ choose not yield his rights?  When Christ prayed to the Father, he laid down his rights.  “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) Can we say the same prayer?

FOCUS ON THE FRUITS OF MEEKNESS

1. We will enjoy God’s presence and teaching: “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.” (Psalm 25:9)

2. We will walk in God’s peace and joy. “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Psalm 37:11)

3. We will respond eagerly to God’s Word. “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21)

4. We will experience contentment. “The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him:” (Psalm 22:26)

“Lord, I find it easy to become angry with difficult circumstances and difficult people.  My anger keeps me from enjoying your presence, peace and power.  I need to learn to yield all of my rights to you.  Please help me to develop a meek spirit.  Thank you for sending Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who yielded His rights for my salvation. Amen”

 

Three Truths to Start the Day

Sunrise-Photo by Jonathan Snow (By Permission)

How we start the day often dictates how the rest of our day will go.  When we start our day with anxiety, worry and fear, these emotions likely will continue to affect us during the rest of the day.  David faced many trials and obstacles; yet he could be encouraged by focusing upon His Lord in the morning.  Starting our day with a focus upon God enables us to walk with confidence, peace, and joy.  Our life will not be dictated by the events of the day, but by our faith and confidence in our living God.

David shares his faith and confidence in God by writing Psalm 31:3:  “For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.” (Psalm 31:3) David  didn’t start his day alone.  He was aware of God’s presence throughout the day.   Here are three truths about God that gave David peace, joy, strength and direction each day

1. “My Rock”-David understands that God brings stability to his life.  We don’t know the future.  There are many dangers and pitfalls that we face each day.  We are tempted to worry.  We feel unable to handle what is happening.  We feel like we are drowning; however, we can find stability in the midst of the instabilities of life.  God is our rock!  He is there to steady us. He is there to enable us to withstand any storm.  Like Peter, when you feel like you are drowning allow the Lord to take your hand and place you on the Solid Rock.

2. “My Fortress”-David understands that God brings security to his life.  Worry, fear and anxiety can control our days because of our insecurity.  We feel insecure about our relationships, our finances, our health, our future, and our reputation.  We can say “goodbye” to these insecurities when we flee to our Fortress, the Living God.  He can protect us from whatever “enemies” or destructive thoughts that may be attacking us.

3. “Lead me and guide me”-David understands that God brings direction to his life.  Each day presents its challenges.  Often, we face situations which confuse us.  We don’t know what to do.  God is our Shepherd.  He desires to lead us each day.  As we start each day, God will guide us as we seek Him in His Word and in prayer.  James shared with his readers: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5)

“Lord, every day has new challenges, problems and unexpected trials.  Thank you for bringing stability, security and direction in my life.  Help me to begin each day focusing upon you as my Rock, my Fortress and my Guide.  Thank you for taking a special interest in me and what happens in my life throughout each day.  Amen”

 

Our Own Debate with God

 

This evening many of us will be watching the big debate between President Obama and Governor Romney.  We will be pulling for our favorite candidate in the debate.  In the end, we will probably conclude that our candidate has won.

Debating has been around since the fall of man.  When Adam and Eve fell in sin, they debated God by blaming Him for their sin.  Moses debated with God when He had called Moses to go to Egypt.  Peter debated with the Lord Jesus when Peter told Jesus that he wasn’t suppose to die on the cross.  Satan also debated with God when he discussed Job’s life.  We also have had our debates with God.  We have questioned God about various areas in our lives.  Here are a few of our debate questions for God and His answers.

1. Why did you give me the family you gave me?  God answers: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalm 139:14)

2. Why did you allow this tragedy in my life? God answers: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

3. Why don’t you get rid of this problem in my life? God answers: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

4. I don’t understand what you are doing in my life. Can you tell me? God answers: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9)

5. How should I respond to those who have hurt me? God answers: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:44)

6. Have you really forgiven me of my sin? I still feel guilty! God answers: “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12)

7. Why aren’t you answering my prayer? God answers: “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1)

8. Where can I find satisfaction in my life? God answers: “For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” (Psalm 107:9)

God always has the right answer for each of our questions. Don’t be afraid to take your own questions to God.  He is always ready to answer them.  By the way, He doesn’t need any prep time!

 

Delighting in God in Stressful Times

 

God’s is waiting for us to come to Him. Photo by: Mark J Booth
The cares of this life often seem to build up until we feel overwhelmed. We become discouraged and feel stressed about life. Is there a place of comfort in the midst of the cares of this world? “In the multitude of my thoughts within me (cares of my heart) thy comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19). The Psalmist is saying: “No matter how stressful life is, God is here not only to bring comfort, but delight to my soul.”
There are many things that can be overwhelming and bring stress upon us:
  • the stress of our own failures, sins, and worries.
  • the stress from our concern for our loved ones.
  • the stress from people who oppose us.
  • the stress of work
  • the stress of growing older
  • the stress of keeping up with others
  • the stress of trials in our lives
  • the stress of loneliness
  • the stress of not knowing the future.
  • the stress of making decisions
Stressful situations fill our lives.  However, In the midst of the stresses of life, we can always flee to the “God of all Comfort”.  We can flee to Him:
  • by prayer and praise unto Him
  • by opening up the Word of God and listening to Him
  • by submitting our lives completely to Him
  • by confessing any known sin unto Him
He is always available to bring comfort, peace and hope to the soul who is coping with stress in their lives. Will we flee to Him in midst of the cares and stresses of life? Yes!
GOD WILL CHANGE OUR STRESS INTO DELIGHT IN HIM!