Waking Up with Jesus (The Joy of Morning Prayer)

150213_147036572009877_2933800_n
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”

Finding Delight in God

The Sun Breaking through the Clouds over Sydney, Australia.
The Sun Breaking through the Clouds over Sydney, Australia.

“DELIGHT THYSELF IN THE LORD” (Psalm 37:4) Why can we Delight in Him??
When we go astray, He is the seeking Shepherd.
When we are lonely, He will never leave us, nor forsake us.
When we are confused, He is our wisdom.
When we are weak, He is our strength.
When we are full of guilt, He is the merciful God who forgives.
When we need direction, He is our Light.
When we are sorrowful, He is our Comforter.
When we are without Hope, He is our hope.
When we need love, He loves us with an everlasting love.
When we are misunderstood, He knows our heart.
When we are anxious, He is our Peace
When we face death, He is the Resurrection and the Life.

“Dear Lord, we thank you for all that you are in our lives. Because we focus on our problems, pains, and the people in our lives, we often lose our delight in you. Please rekindle our delight in you! Help us to remember that you delight in us. How can we not delight in you! Amen”

A Love Letter to My Heavenly Father

securedownload

Dear Heavenly Father,

I am sorry that I couldn’t find a card for you for Father’s Day, but there are none available  here on earth. As you know, my earthly father is no longer here; so I thought it would be proper to write you a love letter of appreciation on this Father’s Day.

First of all, I would like to thank you for adopting me into your family. I know that it was at a great cost for you because your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ died in my place. The amazing thing about this adoption is that there was absolutely nothing in me that made me desirable to you. After all these years, I still can’t believe that I have the privilege to call you Abba, Father!

As my Heavenly Father, you have blessed my life in so many ways that it is impossible to express all that you have done in one letter. You have been so very patient with me throughout the years. Yes, I have failed you many times, and yet you continue to show me love and mercy through your forgiveness. Not only do you forgive me, but you also choose to forget every sin that I have done against you.

One of the greatest gifts that you have given to me is your Word in order to teach me more about yourself. I have enjoyed learning all about you. Your Word has revealed your beauty which is evidenced in your love, faithfulness, mercy, holiness, and grace. Your Word has revealed your great power, wisdom, and majesty. In the Word, you have taught me the way that I should I go. Even when I depart from that way, you redirect me and place me back on the right path.

Dear Father, thank you for being with me at all times. You have always fulfilled your promise that you will never leave me nor forsake me. In the good times, you are with me. In the difficult times you are with me. Your presence has given me strength to continue on in spite of times when I felt like quitting. I find no greater joy than taking a walk and being aware of the fact that you are walking with me.

There are many times when I need to cry out to you and you always listen to me. You listen to my cries of desperation, but you also listen when I just want to say thank you for the many blessings which you have given to me. I am grateful that your ears are always open and you recognize my voice.

Father, when no one else understands, you do! You know everything about me. You know my thoughts, my actions, my desires, and my attitudes. You know when I get up in the morning and you know when I go to bed. As the Psalmist writes, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me”!

For this Father’s Day, I really don’t have anything to give to you, except I want to say once again, “I love you!” Yes, it is an imperfect love, but it is all that I have to give. Again, thank you for being my Father who loves me with an everlasting love! I don’t know where I would be in this life without you.

From Your Loving Child,

Mark

A Prayer for the Heavy-Hearted

250673_433682370011961_928658990_n-2

My Dear Heavenly Father,

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

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

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

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

Lessons from the Valley

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

Recently, I have entered into a deep valley. This valley is not of my choosing, but it is of God’s choosing. God knows exactly what He is doing in my life. The process of becoming more like Christ is not always pleasant. The valley is a place where we meet fire, pressure, and the unknown. The great thing about the valley is that we are not traveling this valley alone. David, who faced many valleys, wrote: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: FOR THOU ART WITH ME; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When There is No One Else (Confiding in God)

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

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

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

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

Why do we need to confide in the Lord?

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

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

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

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

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

How do we confide in the Lord?

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

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

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

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

Am I Suffering from Spiritual Amnesia?

A Boca do Inferno in Portugal.  Photo by: Mark J Booth
A Boca do Inferno in Portugal. Photo by: Mark J Booth

“They forgot God their savior, which had done great things in Egypt;”
(Psalm 106:21)

The terror of forgetting not only affects people with dementia, but also people who experience amnesia. The word “amnesia” comes from two Greek words which mean “without memory”. When a person loses their memory, they lose not only their past, but also they often forget recent events. This can create confusion, a lack of peace and problems with others.

In the spiritual realm, we can also suffer amnesia. This amnesia is much like the physical amnesia that people suffer.  A person with spiritual amnesia may feel confused spiritually.  They may become anxious. This person has some vague memory of God, but they have lost the vibrancy of the Christian faith.

The nation of Israel witnessed the power of God when He poured out the ten plagues upon Egypt. They saw his salvation during the night of Passover. They also saw God’s power when He parted the Red Sea. Throughout their wanderings in the Wilderness, God constantly provided for them. Would they remember these blessings from God? No! God says of His people: “They forgot God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt;” (Psalm 106:21). 

Israel suffered spiritual amnesia. They had forgotten God, His blessings, His promises and His commands. How did this happen? Israel had taken their eyes off of the Lord. Their focus was upon the heathen nations around them. They conveniently forgot God; so that they could live their lives as they pleased.

Today, we often suffer spiritual amnesia. We conveniently forget God and His Word when we choose to live our lives to please ourselves and not to please God. We open the door to sin when we suffer from spiritual amnesia. Thankfully, God has provided a cure for our spiritual amnesia.

Jonah, God’s prophet, had a case of spiritual amnesia when he decided to forget God’s command to go to Nineveh by going the other direction. God disciplined Jonah when He placed him in belly of the great fish.  While there, Jonah repented of his spiritual amnesia with these words: When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.” (Jonah 2:7)

Like Jonah, we find ourselves experiencing tough times as a result of our spiritual amnesia. We realize that forgetting God has brought us to a place of desperation. We often make matters worse by trying to resolve the matter without God. We feel that we are quite distant from God. What can we do in this situation?

First of all, like Jonah, we need to see our desperate situation. Jonah understood that his spiritual amnesia had created this problem. He was now awake to the fact that God was His only hope. He was suffering the consequences of his sin. We begin to experience the cure for our spiritual amnesia when we see our hopelessness without the Lord.

After recognizing our hopeless situation, we need to remember God. Jonah chose to remember God in the most difficult time of his life. Remembering God means that we remember not only who He is, but also all that His has done for us. The list below gives us some truths that we often forget when we suffer from spiritual amnesia. How many of these have we forgotten? Will we choose to remember these?

  • God’s attributes
  • God’s presence
  • God’s power
  • God’s promises
  • God’s commands
  • God’s love for us
  • The Gospel of salvation
  • God’s view of man
  • The Indwelling Holy Spirit

Thirdly, Jonah remembered the gift of prayer. From inside the fish, Jonah found a prayer closet and poured out his heart to God. Jonah’ s prayer was not casual or flippant. It  was desperate and dependent. Spiritual amnesia results in little or no prayer. God places us in a tight spot; so that we can not only remember Him, but that we also remember the gift of fervent prayer. If our prayers are dry, it is a sure sign that we are suffering from spiritual amnesia.

Have we seen the reality of spiritual amnesia in our life? God will go to great extremes to bring back our memory. He is waiting for us to turn back to Him, and remember Him!

“Dear Lord, I often choose to suffer with spiritual amnesia. I forget your presence in my life, as well as your commands and your blessings. I focus upon myself and my desires. I have a fear of man instead of a fear of you. Anxiety fills my life because I have forgotten your peace. Despair fills my life because I have forgotten your joy. Like Jonah, I need to remember you again. I need to seek you with my whole heart. Thank you for your forgiveness. Please keep me close to you so that I may not suffer from spiritual amnesia again. Amen”