A Rescued Saint in the Midst of Storm

Do you ever have the feeling that you are sinking deeper and deeper into the sea of sin, doubt, despair, and discouragement? Do you feel that you are in the midst of a storm, and there is no end in sight? The Apostle Peter understood the storms of life. He also experienced sinking deeper and deeper into the sea. Let’s join Peter and see how he handled his sinking deeper and deeper into the sea.

The disciples are in a boat in the midst of a storm. Jesus comes to them, walking upon the water. He tells them: “Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid. (Matthew 14:27)  Jesus always desires to calm our fears. He comes to us out of love and compassion. Jesus arrives in the powerful storm that caused such panic in the disciples.

Peter was taking an opportunity to demonstrate faith asked if he also could walk on water. Jesus answers with one word: “Come.” Jesus wants us to join him in the adventure of faith. However, Peter’s faith disappears in light of waves coming upon him. He must cry out immediately, “Lord, save me.”

We can describe Peter’s cry in three ways:

1. It was a desperate cry. Peter knows that death is near. He has only one hope. Likewise, God is waiting for our call of desperation to Him. The Psalmist wrote: “This poor man CRIED and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.”  (Psalm 34:6)

2. It was a cry of faith. Peter calls out to the Lord in faith. He knows that the Lord alone can save him from sinking to the depths of the sea. Faith believes that the Lord hears our cries and that he will respond. “I sought the Lord, and he heard me.” (Psalm 34:4)

3. It was a cry based on his knowledge of Christ. Peter knows that the Lord can save him. He knows that the Lord is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. As we know the Lord intimately, we can cry out to him with greater confidence and freedom.

The Deliverance by the Loving Lord

Jesus hears Peter’s desperate cry, and he immediately responds: “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they entered into the ship, the wind ceased.” (Matthew 14:31-32)

Yes, there will be times when we seem to be sinking deeper and deeper. All hope seems lost, but Our Lord is waiting for us to cry out to Him. His hand is always ready to pull us out of the storm.

“Dear Lord, there are many times that we seem to sink deeper and deeper into sin, despair, or discouragement. Our circumstances seem too difficult to bear. Please help us to learn to cry out to you in the times when We are sinking. Thank you for always being ready and willing to pull me up from whatever is causing me to sink. 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.

Does Anybody Really Know Me?

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Return of the Flock” by Anton Mauve (19th Century) From the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
    Why do we feel alone? Does anybody care? Does anybody understand what we are going through? Where is God in all of this?

In this life, we often feel that people do not know the “real me.” They know us superficially, but they do not our real person. We go days on end, feeling as though we are an unknown cog in the wheel of life. What does God say about this?

“He calleth HIS OWN SHEEP BY NAME, and leadeth them out.” (John 10:3) What a comforting thought! Our Good Shepherd knows us! In God’s eyes, we are not a number, but we are the objects of His love! He knows what we are thinking. He knows our sorrows and joys. He knows our defeats and victories. He knows our loneliness and confusion.

His love and His commitment are the basis of His knowledge of us. For this reason, He takes us by the arm and says: “This is the way, walk ye in it.” (Isaiah 30:21) God knows us intimately, and He knows the pathway that is best for us. Not only does He show us the way, but He walks with us as we travel the path that He has laid out for us.

As Christ’s sheep, we do not have to walk alone. Jesus knows us, and He knows the way! The question is: “Will we travel with Him, as He leads us each day?”

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 Disappointment Comes, Twenty Truths to Remember

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

Life is filled with disappointments. People disappoint us. We disappoint ourselves. Circumstances disappoint us. The question isn’t: “Will disappointments come, but how do we respond in the midst of our disappointments. When we view God in the midst of our disappointments, the disappointment will become a means of a greater love and appreciation for our Great God. Here are twenty truths to remember in the midst of our disappointments.

1. God is on the throne.  “That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah,art the most high over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:18)

2. God still loves me. “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
(Jeremiah 31:3)

3. God won’t ever leave me, nor forsake me. “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have:for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5)

4. God is my Shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:1-2)

5. God is my Father. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

6. God hears me when I cry out to Him. “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6)

7. God is my defense. “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” (Psalm 18:2)

8. God is my guide. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” (Psalm 32:8)

9. God will bring comfort. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 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 1:3-4)

10. God is merciful (He forgives me even when others don’t). “It is of the Lord ‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

11. God has a purpose for my life. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

12. God makes all things work together for good. “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)

13. God teaches me new lessons. “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:3-5)

14. God gives me a testimony to others (I need to remember my testimony in spite of what others do.) “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

15. God gives me His strength. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

16. God gives me His grace in times of great need. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

 17. God encourages me. “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters:but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. (1 Samuel 30:6)

18. Christ is interceding for me. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)

19. Christ is preparing a place for me in heaven. “Let not your heart be troubled:ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions:if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

20. Christ will take my burden upon Himself because I can’t carry it. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)

God’s Waiting Room

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A doctor’s waiting room is not a pleasant place. Yes, there are comfortable chairs, a TV, and magazines. However, somebody is sitting in the office waiting for test results that will bring bad news.  Another person is waiting for a procedure that may or may not work. Another person is fidgeting because they are growing very impatient. Another person is anxious because they don’t know how they will pay their large medical bills. Another person looks completely bored as they continually look at the clock.

God’s waiting room is much like a doctor’s waiting room.  As we wait upon God, fear and anxiety can creep into our lives.  We don’t know what plans God has for us. For this reason, we worry about our future.  We are filled with pain, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual. We wonder how long must I continue with this pain. We can become upset with God because He is keeping us in His waiting room longer than we would like.

God’s waiting room is one of the most difficult places for a believer. We want God to come and relieve us of our fear and anxiety quickly. We want God to change our lives now and make us a super Christian.  We get tired of the daily drudgery of our lives. The pain is constant and no relief is in sight. We feel like we are drowning and coming up for air one last time, and God’s hand is not there to pull us out.

David had some of these feelings throughout his life. He faced a lengthy time of persecution by King Saul. He struggled with his own guilt over his sin with Bathsheba.  He faced many other fearful, anxious and painful situations. How did David respond to being in God’s waiting room?  Psalm 40 helps us to join David in God’s waiting room.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.  And he hath put a new song in my mouth,even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)

David understood that there are times in life in which we must spend time in God’s waiting room.  In David’s case, it was a deep pit from which he couldn’t escape. God often makes us wait so that He can teach us some very important lessons about ourselves and His person. He makes us wait because it is part of His perfect plan for our lives. God’s waiting room is also a place to teach us faith and patience.

God in His timing will take us out of His waiting room and respond to our cries. God heard David’s cry and took him out of the pit and placed him upon the solid rock. God gave David the grace to continue serving Him and ministering to others. Likewise, our waiting room experience will enable us to have a greater capacity to serve the Lord and minister to others. We will have learned the art of dependence upon God in the waiting room.

The greatest blessing of being in God’s waiting room is to share our experience with others. David’s experience caused him to give praise unto God. When people saw David’s response to God’s working in his life, they learned the lesson of trust for their own lives. They understood that if God was with David in the waiting room, He will also be with me.

John Bunyan spent several years in the Bedford jail. His crime was that he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. While in jail, Bunyan produced one of the greatest Christian books ever written, called “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”  Even today, many people have been blessed by John Bunyan’s waiting room experience.

Like Bunyan, God will give us a message to share with others while we are in His waiting room.  It may not be a book, but it will be a message about God’s faithfulness, love and deliverance.  Faith means that no matter what happens in my life, God is in control and He will ultimately use it for His glory and the benefit of others.

Today, if you feel as though you would like to escape God’s waiting room, don’t!  God is right there with you in the waiting room though you may not see Him working or understand what He is doing. The waiting room is a place of patience and faith. God’s timing is not always our timing, but it is the best timing.

“Dear Lord, I am in pit that is dark, deep and hopeless. I know that you tell me to wait, but I can’t stay in your waiting room much longer. Please give me the faith to see that this waiting room is your will for my life. I know that you hear my cry. Help me to believe that one day, you will set me on the solid rock. Thank you for being with me in this waiting room.  Thank you for the opportunity to give praise to your name and have a ministry to others. Even in this waiting room, I love you, Lord. Amen.”

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.”