Afflictions, Trials, and Heartaches

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Afflictions, trials, and heartaches are all part of this life. We never choose to enter into the storms of life, but they come. They may occur suddenly or gradually, but all the same, we must deal with the afflictions that come our way. What are we to do in the day of tribulation and heartache? Jeremiah, the prophet, shares an answer from God. “O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction.” (Jeremiah 16:19) God shows us three truths about Himself that bring hope amid our trials. 

1. God gives us His strength to endure the storms of life. (My strength) Trials and heartaches have a way of weakening our resolve to move forward with life. Our energy has disappeared. We want to quit. However, God tells us amid our weakness, His strength is always there. God says to the Apostle Paul in his time of weakness: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

2. God gives us His protection to stay faithful to Him during the storms of life. (My fortress) The fortress shows stability and security. During our afflictions, we are tempted to depart from the Lord. However, the Lord keeps us firm in our walk with Him. We may stumble, but He will not allow us to fall. 

3. God gives us His refuge for rest and hope amid the storm. (My refuge) In the midst of our trials, we can become weary. We feel that we have nowhere to go. The affliction causes worry and anxiety. God says to us in our weariness: “Come unto meall ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:29) God’s rest is available. Are we ready to lay our weary souls in His loving arms?

A Prayer. “Dear Father, I did not seek this heartache that is an unwelcome guest in my life. I know that I can not handle this storm on my own. I feel weak, vulnerable, and anxious. You alone can take me through this trial. I look up to you as my strength, my fortress, and my refuge. Thank you for holding my hand as I go through this challenging time in my life. Please help me to glorify your name because of all that you are doing in my life. Amen”

 

A New Year: A New Look at Life

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The year 2020 has arrived. Perhaps, we have already made some goals for our life. However, this is an excellent opportunity to take 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. The people placed God on the back burner of their lives. Their priority was building their own lives without any thought of God.

Today, we often neglect our spiritual lives because we become preoccupied with all the activities in this world. Like the Israelites, have we neglected to take an inventory of our relationship with God?

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 some questions to help begin an inventory of our spiritual lives.

1. 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 to know Him as His Father, Lord, and Friend. Will we sacrifice our time and effort so that we can know God better?

2. 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 lives. We tend to excuse our sins and follies. God sees all and knows all. His examination not only shows us our sins and failures but also the way to move forward in 2020.

3. Do I use my time wisely?  “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. Do we sacrifice the important things in life for the urgent? Time is a gift that we can invest in those things that promote our spiritual well-being.

4. 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. (Acts 4:36-37)
  • He encouraged others with his friendship. (Acts 9:26-27)
  • He encouraged others with his words.  (Acts 9:23)
  • He encouraged others by giving them a second chance. (Acts 15: 35-41)

5. Do I glorify God in all that I do? The highest 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 desires us to bring glory to Him in all that we do. Do we glorify God in our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions? De, we honor God in our family? Do we glorify God at work or at school? Do we glorify God with our plans and goals in life?

“Dear Heavenly Father, I am entering a new year. I need to consider my ways as I look forward to 2020. Please 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 2019. Thank you for continuing your work in and through my life. Amen”

Finding Love in an Angry World

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Photo by: Mark Booth

Where can we find love and mercy in this world filled with selfishness and bitterness? The Psalmist David found the answer! “I trust in the mercy (lovingkindness) of God forever and ever.” (Psalm 52:8)

God’s love is a breath of fresh air in a world of insensitivity, anger, and a lack of compassion. God’s mercy never ends. His love carries us through the hurts, pain, and hatred that is all around us. His mercy is like a plane that flies above the storm. With His loving hand, God can lift us above the animosity within the world. Will we take His hand, today?

“Dear Heavenly Father, we need to focus on your love and mercy in this world that has turned its back on you. We see the selfishness, anger, and bitterness all around us, yet we know that your love and mercy never end. Please help us to share your lovingkindness and mercy with others who need you. Amen”

OVERWHELMED!

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Are you feeling overwhelmed with all sorts of negative thoughts about yourself, people, your situation, and even your relationship with God? These thoughts can bring about depression, anxiety, and fear. What does God say to us when we are feeling overwhelmed? “In the multitude of my thoughts within me, THY COMFORTS DELIGHT MY SOUL.” (Psalm 94:19)

God, with His loving arms, says to us: “Come unto me, I will bring my comfort unto you and bring delight to your innermost being.” When God’s comfort enters into our lives, the negative thoughts will be turned inside out into positive and comforting thoughts focused upon Him.

“Dear Lord, you understand how life seems overwhelming to me. I can’t cope with everything that comes my way. However, your comfort carries me through these times and brings joy out of depression. You also bring peace out of anxiety. I thank you that you are always available with your loving arms outstretched to me. Amen”

Have We Lost the Wonder of Jesus?

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The Canadian Rockies-Photo by: Mark J Booth

Christmas in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1983, was quite different for our family of three. I had always been accustomed to cold weather and snow in Michigan. In Johannesburg, it was the middle of the summer. What could we do with our toddler? We ventured out one evening to nearby Joubert Park to see the annual Christmas displays. We were surprised that the displays had nothing to do with Christmas. Each display depicted a fairy tale story. What did the Three Blind Mice and Little Jack Horner have to do with Christmas? Where was Jesus in the manger? Where was the Christmas music? Finally, in a quiet corner, we found the manger scene lost amid the fairy tales.

Today, those displays remind me of how easy it is to forget Jesus amid all the activity, lights, music, and shopping of the season. We may give Jesus a little corner of our lives as the baby in Bethlehem, but are we willing to allow Him to rule in our hearts and lives?

Seven hundred years before Christ’s birth, the prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning the birth of Jesus Christ. He not only spoke of His birth but revealed the character of the coming Deliverer of Israel. These words are quite well-known, yet do we know the meaning of this description of Jesus? “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

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

“And His Name Shall be Called:

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

This time of year is an excellent opportunity to renew our wonder of the attributes and works of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Jesus is more than the Babe in the manger. He is the Savior of the World and the Lord of our lives. Let’s do more than to keep in Christ in Christmas. Let’s keep Christ in the center of our lives.

Bad Tidings in the Season of Good Tidings

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Storm brewing over Downriver Area of Metro Detroit.

“He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” (Psalm 112:7)

“We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” is a Christmas Carol that people sang since the 16th century in England. It is a song of joy as expressed in the words: “Good tidings we bring to you and your kin. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” However, not everybody receives good tidings during this time of year. We still face trials, sorrow, and pain. We may feel a great sense of loneliness. Yes, evil tidings don’t stop during this time of year: however, there is good news from God.

In the Bible, we see many people who triumphed over the evil tidings in their lives. Joseph overcame many evil tidings, including betrayal, slavery, and prison, to become the prime minister of Egypt. Ruth overcame the evil tidings of the death of her husband and living in poverty. She would soon marry Boaz and become the great-grandmother of King David.

God gives us his Word to encourage us as we face the evil tidings of life that may come our way. Every day, “bad news” can surprise us. We don’t ask for it, but it is a package delivered to the doorway of our lives. How can we triumph even amid heartbreaking news? Psalm 112:7 gives us an answer to this question.

Typically, our first response to bad news is to be afraid or fearful. Fear paralyzes us. It causes us to focus on the bad news instead of our Great God. God tells us that we do not have to be afraid of the “evil tidings” that enter into our life. God knows that fear will keep us from seeing Him. Fear causes us to doubt the goodness and the power of God. For this reason, God gives us many verses that command us to “fear not.”

  • But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob,and he that formed thee, O Israel, FEAR NOT: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
  • ” FEAR THOU NOT; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)
  • “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, NEITHER LET IT BE AFRAID.” (John 14:27)

When fear departs amid the bad news, then we can do the next step in facing our bad news. We now can “fix our heart” upon the Lord. Our bad news is an opportunity to focus on God. We can focus upon all of His attributes and promises. When we fix our hearts upon the Lord, it may not change our circumstances, but it will change how we face our situations. We will understand with the Apostle Paul that God’s grace is sufficient for the “evil tidings” that may come in our life.

Once fear has departed, and we have fixed our heart upon the Lord, then we can have faith in Him. Faith is responding to all that we know about God. The more we know the Lord, the more we will be able to trust Him. True faith knows that God will never leave us, nor forsake us regardless of the “bad news” that may come our way. His love is unchanging. He loves us with an “everlasting love.”. Faith in our Lord will dispel any fear in our life. It will enable us to bear whatever “bad news” that comes our way.

In summary, when we receive bad news, Psalm 112: 7 tells us three ways to respond to the “evil tidings.”

  1. Do not allow fear to dominate our thoughts and actions.
  2. Fix our hearts upon the Lord. Let our thoughts focus on the Lord.
  3. Place our faith in the Lord. He will carry us as we face the “bad news’ in our life.

When “evil tidings” enter, God has a way of turning those evil tidings into an opportunity to see Him work in our lives. God will turn those “evil tidings” into “good tidings” that will draw us closer to Him, and bring glory to His name.

“Dear Lord, the news that I receive is not always positive. I see people who are suffering. I visit those who have marital problems. I talk with those who have a loved one who is dying. I see people who have turned away from you. I also face difficulties from time to time in my life. I tend to meet the bad news with fear. Help me to turn my eyes off the “bad news” and fix my heart upon you. Please, increase my faith. Help me to believe that you will take this “bad news” and make it into a blessing. Thank you for your excellent plan for my life. Amen”

Forgetting God in a Busy World

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With all of our activities, worries, and work, we can find it quite easy to forget what is most important in our lives. We are focusing on the minors and ignoring the primary purpose for our lives. Majoring on the minor things does not just happen today, but it happened in the lives of God’s people in the Old Testament. Jeremiah made this clear: ” (Jeremiah 2:32)

Why do we allow activities to crowd God out of our lives? Many times we are not even conscious of God’s absence. Each day passes, and God becomes more and more distant. How do we return to God?

Our return to God begins with God. He will often bring things into our lives that will humble us and make us see our need for God once again. He breaks us to remake us. God always has His hands wide open, saying: “Come back to me.” Will we?

“Dear Lord, we get so busy doing many things that we find it easy to forget you. We don’t want to forget you, but it just happens. Thank you for your patience with us. Please help us to return to you with a heart of humility and love.