If I Loved Jesus, I Would …

Sunset at Guincho Beach (Cascais-Portugal) Photo by: Mark J Booth
Sunset at Guincho Beach (Cascais-Portugal) Photo by: Mark J Booth

“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”  (John 21:16) This question addressed to Peter three times, is perhaps the most searching of all questions made by Jesus Christ.  This question also penetrates the deepest recesses of my soul.  Yes, I may say I love Jesus.  Yes, I may think I love Jesus, but do I truly love Him?  He first loved me, but am I loving Him in return?

  • If I loved Jesus, I would believe and trust in His Word..
  • If I loved Jesus, I would repent of my sin and accept Him as my Lord and Savior.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would enjoy walking with Him every day.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would pour out my heart to Him.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would enjoy opening up His Word and listening to Him every day.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would share His love with my family, friends and others.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would seek to please Him in all that I say, think and do.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would forgive others as He has forgiven me.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would obey Him, no matter the consequences.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would trust him with every area of my life.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would love others as He has loved me.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would serve Him wherever He would call me
  • If I loved Jesus, I would live each day to bring honor and glory to Him.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would love my wife, as He loves the church.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would raise my children to know Him and love Him.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would look forward to being with Him in heaven.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would quickly confess my sins unto Him.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would give him thanks for all of His blessings in my life.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would meditate upon His words, His titles and His attributes.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would be content and not have a complaining spirit.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would love His church, of which He is the Head.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would make him the priority relationship in my life..
  • If I loved Jesus, I would sing praises unto Him because He is worthy.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would seek His guidance in every decision I make.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would find refuge in Him during the trials of my life.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would learn to wait upon Him when I get impatient.
  • If I loved Jesus, I would cast all of my cares upon Him because He does care.

“Dear Lord Jesus, your love is beyond anything I can comprehend.  I don’t deserve to be loved by you. You have been extremely patient and merciful unto me.  As I reflect upon my love for you, I can see that I have fallen far short of loving you with all of my heart, my soul and my mind.  I know that you are easy to love; and yet I find it so difficult to love you as I ought.  My selfishness, my pride, my desires and my lack of faith keep me from pouring out my love to you.  Please forgive me for my lack of love towards you. Thank you for not quitting on me. Thank you for your continued work in my life.  Thank you for the fact that one day when I see you face to face, I will love you as I ought.  Though I know my love is incomplete now, I want to say: “I love you, Lord.”

Imagine….Being with Jesus

The Garden of Gethsemane-photo by: Mark J. Booth

Imagine…being with Jesus!  What would my life be like, if I had walked with Jesus two thousand years ago? Yesterday, I read 1 John 1:1: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;” As I read this verse, I had the desire to place myself in the Apostle John’s sandals.  I imagined walking and living with the Savior during His time upon the earth.

“Which we have heard.”  Imagine the things that John heard as he walked with Jesus.  He heard the Sermon on the Mount, the Parables, Christ’s teachings about His Second Coming, and the Upper Room Discourse.  Can you imagine what it was like to hear Jesus praying.  As John travelled with Jesus, he probably heard Jesus talk about His Father, His creation, history and many other topics.  John never lost the wonder of listening to Jesus.  What about me? Have I lost the wonder of listening to Jesus?  Am I eager to listen to the His words in scripture.

Which we have seen with our eyes.”  Imagine the things that John saw as he walked with Jesus.  He saw the feeding of the five thousand, the calming of the storm, many healings, the resurrection of Lazarus, and many other miracles.  He would have also seen Jesus embracing the little children, and showing love to the outcasts.  What about me?  Have I lost the wonder of the works of Christ.  Am I able to imagine seeing those wondrous deeds of Jesus that John saw?

“Which we have looked upon”.  Imagine joining John and looking upon Jesus on the cross.  John saw the suffering, the ridicule, the crying out from the cross, the words of encouragement to the one thief.  Then three days later, he would behold this same Jesus, who had conquered death.  John witnessed the most important act in human history. Jesus died for the sins of the world. His life would be forever changed.  What about me?  Have I lost the wonder that God, the Son, came to earth and died on the cross for me?  Have I lost the wonder of the resurrection of Christ?  Have I lost the wonder of the greatness of my salvation?

“Our hands have handled, of the Word of life.” Imagine John leaning on the Lord’s breast during the last supper.  Imagine the embraces that Jesus gave John during their time together.  Imagine Jesus holding John up with his hand as John stumbles while walking.  What about me?  Have I lost the wonder of the fact that Jesus touches my life in many ways, whether through His Word, through His Holy Spirit, or through other believers?  Am I looking forward to one day when Jesus will embrace me in heaven?

“Lord, thank you for these words of the Apostle John.  You used them to help me see that I often lose the wonder of all that you have done, said, and promised.  Teach me, to imagine being with you as John was with you.  Help me not to read the gospels as a disinterested bystander, but as one who is walking with you.  Amen”

Moving Beyond Covetousness to Contentment

Woldumar Nature Center (Lansing, Michigan USA) Photo by: Mark J. Booth

Discontentment is found everywhere, including our own hearts.  People are discontent with their marriages, with their jobs, with their health, with their relationships, as well as their possessions.  The root of discontentment is covetousness.  Covetousness is defined as the inordinate desire to have something.  It is also defined as the desire to have something that belongs to another.

Covetousness is a sin that creates a warped view of God.  We feel that God has cheated us out of something.  Satan used this approach with Eve when he told her that God was wrong to withhold the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Eve coveted the fruit and ate it.  The tenth commandment says: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” (Exodus 20:17)

God’s gives this commandment for two reasons.  First of all, God hates covetousness because it places the coveted object above Him, which is a form of idolatry.  It also causes us to have the wrong view of His person and blessings. “For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire,and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.” (Psalm 10:3)

Secondly, covetousness brings harm to us and to those around us.  The Bible teaches us that covetousness leads to:

  • injustice: “And they covet fields, and take them by violence;and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.” (Micah 5:2)
  • harm to ourselves: “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
    (1 Timothy 6:9)
  • departure from the faith: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)
  • many sorrows-See the above verse
  • family problems: “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house;”
    (Proverbs 15:27)

Covetousness is clearly a problem many of us face.  The solution to this problem is having a spirit of contentment.  The secret of a growing, joyful Christian life is being content in our relationship with God in spite of the circumstances.  One person defined contentment as: “Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness.”  How do we go from a spirit of covetousness to a spirit of contentment?

We move beyond covetousness to contentment when:

1. We know that our Heavenly Father will take care of us.  Covetousness says: “I want something beyond what God gives me.”  Contentment says: “My Heavenly Father loves me and He takes care of all of my needs.” “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” (Matthew 6: 31-32)

2. We know that God is with us even in the most difficult situations we face.  Covetousness looks at others and thinks that they have a better situation than we have.  Contentment doesn’t look at others, but looks to God.  God is with us.  What more do we need?  “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)

3. We focus on our spiritual lives above all else.  A covetous person focuses upon the physical realm.  He doesn’t make his spiritual life a priority.  Jesus reminded His hearers; “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)  A contented person understands that in this life we will have difficulties, but he knows that life is more than this material world.  His desires are focused upon his soul and his relationship with God.

4. We give God all of our burdens.  A covetous person attempts to find security through their own efforts.  They always feel that there is something missing in their life to have total security.  A contented person gives all of their cares and burdens to the Lord.  He is their security. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Our Heavenly Father has blessed us beyond what we will ever know or understand.
“Dear Father, thank you for your many blessings.  Help me to see you in every circumstance in my life.  Help me to trust you to meet all of my needs.  May your presence, love, and provision be the focus of my daily life.  Thank you for adopting me into your family.  Amen.”

Moving Beyond Fear to Courage

Sleepy Hollow State Park, MIchigan- By Mark J. Booth

When fear takes its grip upon our lives, it affects our view of circumstances, of others and of the future.  Fear causes us to doubt the love of God, the presence of God, the provision of God, and even the protection of God.  Fear keeps us from doing what God has called us to do.  How can we move beyond our fears and approach life with courage?

Courage is the willingness to move forward with our lives in spite of the obstacles and dangers that we face.  The nation of Israel, including King Saul, was paralyzed by fear on account of Goliath.  His size was overwhelming.  However, David had moved beyond his fear to courage.  David didn’t see the power of Goliath. He saw the power of His God. His courage has inspired us to face life’s situations with the understanding that God is greater than anything that is happening in our life.

How Can I Move Beyond Fear to Courage?

1. Remember the presence of God.  God is with us as we travel through this life. His presence brings courage because we know that we are not alone.  If we are passing through the shadow of death. we are not alone.  If we are facing some great trial, we are not alone.  If we are facing an unknown future, we are not alone.  “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)

2. Enjoy the love of God.  God’s love was clearly demonstrated upon the cross of Christ.  The fear of death was removed when Jesus died upon the cross for our sins.  His death and resurrection conquered death.  If his love has removed our greatest fear, it can also take away all other fears.  A baby in the arms of its loving mother has no fear.  Likewise, we are in the arms of our loving God.  Why should we be ruled by fear? “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) 

3. Develop a fear of God.  The fear of God has been defined as: “Realizing that God is watching and weighing every one of my thoughts, words, actions and attitudes.”  The fear of God places God in His rightful place in our lives.  When our walk with God is right, we can live our life with courage instead of fear. “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence:and his children shall have a place of refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26)

4. Walk by faith, not by sight.  When walk by faith in our loving, all-wise, and all-powerful God, we can face life with courage.  Fear cannot exist together with faith.  Fear flourishes when we see life from our perspective, instead of trusting our Great God.  When faith rules in our heart, we will have the courage to conquer any mountain that is before us.  “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Christ).” (Ephesians 3:12)

5. Study and memorize the Word of God.  Fear often is the result of ignorance.  When we study the Word of God, we see God working in the lives of people such as Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David and Daniel.  These people faced fearful situations; yet they faced them with courage because they knew their God. “But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” (Daniel 11:32)  When we study the Word, we get to know God better.  The more we know Him, the more we will be able to trust Him.  Our fear will turn into courage, not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

6. Become familiar with the “fear nots” in the Bible. God knows our heart.  He knows that we are prone to fear.  We are prone to walk by sight and not by faith.  He encourages us with many of His “fear nots” in the Bible.  Here are just a few.

  • Fear not in your life’s journey. “And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee,” Genesis 26:24
  • Fear not concerning your daily needs. “And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.” (1 Kings 17:13-14)
  • Fear not when in danger. “And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”  (2 Kings 6:16)
  • Fear not in times of weakness. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee;” (Isaiah 41:10)
  • Fear not in times of trials. “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee,I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee;and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned;” (Isaiah 43:1-2)
  • Fear not in times of failure.  Here is what God said after the Israelites’ failure at Ai. “And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed:” (Joshua 8:1)  God did bring the victory after their previous failure.  
  • Fear not in times of sickness or nearing death. “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)

“Dear Lord, thank you for assuring me that you are with me throughout this life and for all eternity.  Thank you that you give me the courage to move forward in my life in spite of the obstacles that are before me.  Please, give me the courage to live each day for you. ”

Author’s Note: This is the second article in the series called “Moving Beyond!”

A Sunny Way to Start the Day(Psalm 19)

The early morning sky over Sydney, Australia: Photo by: Mark J. Booth

How we begin each day not only affects us, but also affects those around us.  How can we start the day in the right way?  In Psalm 19, God shares the example of one of His greatest creations, the sun.  The sun as it begins each day teaches us many lessons.

Once, Sharon and I had the joy of staying a couple of days in a bed and breakfast on the shores of Lake Huron.  One morning, we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise over the lake.  The sunrise brought the hope of a new day. It brought a renewed sense of the glory of God, and caused us to reflect anew upon the beauty of God’s creation.

A sunrise is one of God’s masterpieces.  Psalm 19:4-6 says: “In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,  Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it:and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.”

The sun begins the day with great joy and purpose.  It fulfills God’s plan every day. Also, it brings warmth to all of us who live upon the earth.  The sun glorifies God in all that it does.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament showeth his handiwork.” (Ps. 19:1)
What about us?  How can we live each day like the sun? How can we bring glory to God?

The heavens declaring God’s Glory from the sky: Photo by: Mark J. Booth

1. The sun rejoices as it begins each new day.  (“Rejoiceth as a strong man”)
How do we begin our day?  Do we begin the day with dread?  Do we begin the day with anger?  Do we begin the day with a complaining spirit?  Have we tried rejoicing as a way to start the day?  Our joy is not based upon circumstances, but upon our relationship with Jesus Christ.  A joyful start to the day will help us through the difficulties of the day, will bring glory to God, and will brighten the lives of other people.

2. The sun fulfills God’s purpose for each day.  (“His circuit unto the ends of it”)
The sun willingly performs the task that God has given unto it.  The sun doesn’t complain.  It doesn’t get praise.  It doesn’t doubt God’s plan.  How about God’s purpose for our lives?  Are we seeking to fulfill God’s plan for our lives?  God has a great plan for each of us.  It began with our salvation in Jesus Christ and will continue for all eternity.  Daily, we have a choice: “Will I fulfill God’s plan for my life, or will I fulfill my plan for my life?”

3. The sun ministers unto others. (“There is nothing hid from the heat thereof”)
The sun brings warmth, light and a sense of beauty to all of us.  Every day, we have an opportunity to bring warmth into the lives of those around us.  We can encourage others with our words and actions.  We can share God’s love with those that God brings into our lives.  Every day is an opportunity to brighten the lives of those around us.

Each new day is a gift from God.  We have the opportunity to rejoice in the Lord, to follow God’s plan and to brighten the lives of others.  Don’t let the clouds of fear, doubt, anger and self-pity keep you from shining brightly before God and others.  Whose life will you brighten today?

Where Can I Go?(Psalm 18:2)

 

Photo of the Alps by Mark J. Booth

I am drowning in the midst of a storm.  I feel alone.  I don’t know where to go?  What does the Word of God say: “The Lord is MY ROCK, and MY FORTRESS, and MY DELIVERER; MY GOD, MY STRENGTH, in whom I will trust; MY BUCKLER (shield), and the HORN OF MY SALVATION, and MY HIGH TOWER.” (Psalm 18:2)

Jesus reminded the disciples that in this life they would experience tribulation.  We have all experienced tribulation.  We try to resolve the situation.  We try to cope.  We try to ignore the storm; yet we feel like we are sinking deeper and deeper into the raging waters.  David experienced many storms in his life.  Where did he go for deliverance and relief?  He went to “his God”.  Likewise, we can go to our God regardless of how strong the storm.

1. We can go to Our God because He is our Rock.  When a person is sinking into the water, they are looking for something solid on which to find their footing.  We often stumble and fall because we don’t stand firmly upon our solid rock, the Lord God.  Do you feel like you are wavering in every direction, then go to the Rock.  

2. We can go to Our God because He is Our Fortress.  A fortress is a place of refuge from the enemies we may have in this life.  Many people talk about being hurt by others.  Yes, others may try to hurt us, but we have a fortress to whom we can run.  We don’t have to be hurt by others, we can go to the Lord God, Our Fortress.

3. We can go to Our God because He is Our Deliverer.  The disciples were fearful in the midst of a terrible storm.   They were without hope until they cried out to the Lord.  The Lord stopped the storm.  No matter how awful the storm, the Lord is ready and able to deliver us.  No matter how strong the temptation the Lord will deliver us.

4. We can go to Our God because He is Our God.  David knows that he has a personal relationship with the Lord God.  He can go to His God at any time.  When we know God, we can trust Him.  We know that He loves us with an everlasting love.  We know that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

5. We can go to Our God because He is Our Strength.  David couldn’t handle his enemies in his own strength, but he knew the All-Powerful God.  We can do nothing apart from God.  As Paul stated: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13).  We may get tired and want to quit, but God’s strength enables us to carry on.

6. We Can Go to Our God because He is our Shield.  Satan throws his fiery darts of doubt, denial, guilt, temptation, discouragement, and rebellion against God.  In ourselves, we have no defense against these darts; however God is Our Shield.  He comes between us and the fiery darts of Satan.  There is no safer place than behind God, Our Shield.

7. We can Go to Our God because He is Our Savior.  Our salvation solves the greatest problem in life, which is how can a sinful person approach a Holy God.  Jesus took our place upon the cross and paid for our sin.  Through Him, we have eternal life.  If God has taken care of our greatest problem in this life, why can’t we trust Him with the storms that pass through our lives?

8. We can Go to Our God because He is Our High Tower.  We often see a bird flee into the sky as we approach it.  The bird knows that there is safety in the heights.  Likewise, our Lord places us in the heights to keep us away from the traps and snares of this life.  The storms have little effect upon us when we are safe and secure in the Lord.

As a result of all that God is, David says: “In whom I will trust.”  David knows the Greatness of God.  He trusts God because he knows Him.  Do we know our Great God.  Yes, the storm may be strong, but we do have One to whom we can go.  Will we?

 

The Pleasure of Morning Prayer (A Great Way to Start the Day) (Psalm 5)

Sunrise on the Canadian Prairie: by Mark J Booth

How we start our day often dictates how we view the rest of the day.  There are many days when I feel confused or even anxious.  I feel like I am running on empty.  What is the problem?  Perhaps, I have forgotten the pleasure of starting my day with the most important person in my life, my Heavenly Father.  The Psalmist, David, understood the importance of starting the day with a time of prayer with the Lord.  “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” (Psalm 5:3)

1. Morning prayer is a pleasure because it reminds us of our need of God.  David lived his life with one trial after another.  These trials were a constant reminder to him that he needed his Heavenly Father daily.  When we start our day with prayer, we are saying to God: ” I need you throughout this day.  I need your wisdom.  I need your strength.  I need your protection.”  Morning prayer enables us to come to God with all humility

2. Morning prayer is a pleasure because it reminds us of the greatness of God.  David recognizes the greatness of God when he writes: “Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God.” (Psalm 5:2)  David constantly writes about the attributes of God.  Morning prayer enables us to start the day focusing upon God.  We remember that our God is faithful, merciful, loving, holy, just, all-powerful, omnipresent, all-knowing, and wise.  We also remember that He is our Father, who wants to take care of us throughout the coming day.

3. Morning prayer is a pleasure because it enables us to sort out our priorities.  David says: “I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” (Psalm 5:3)  David was a man after God’s own heart because he had the proper priorities in his life.  David started his day by seeking direction from God.  His relationship with the Lord was the top priority of His life.  When we start the day with the Lord, we are saying to him:  “My relationship with you is the most important priority in my life.”  Wrong priorities create confusion and very anxious days.  When our relationship with the Lord is right, everything else will fall into its proper place.

4. Morning prayer is a pleasure because we can share our burdens with the Lord.     David writes: “Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies: make thy way straight before my face.” (Psalm 5:8)  David faced many enemies.  These enemies were a great burden upon David.  We begin our day with many burdens.  We have burdens in our family.  We have burdens at work.  We have financial burdens.  We have health burdens.  We have many other burdens.  Our morning prayer time is a great opportunity to cast these burdens upon the strong arms of our Heavenly Father.  “Cast thy burden upon the LORD and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”  (Psalm 55:22).

Every day begins with a great opportunity to talk to our loving Heavenly Father.  When you love someone deeply, it is a pleasure to start the day with them.  Prayer is not a chore, but a pleasure.  God is always available to listen to us, but are we ready to speak to Him?

“Dear Heavenly Father, there are many mornings that I forget to take the time to talk with you.  I have forgotten the pleasure I derive from spending this time with you.  You are patiently waiting for me every morning.  You are always ready to listen.  Help me to come to you each morning with an open heart, remembering that you also take pleasure in hearing from me. Amen”