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?

 

Lean Hard! What to Do When the Burdens are Heavy.

Outside of Mexico City from a plane: Photo by Mark Booth

Is your burden too heavy to carry?  Are you facing difficult times?  Are you without hope? Are you without direction?  Does anybody care?  Yes, there is One who does care. His name is Jesus Christ.  What does God say: “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) God is ready and waiting for us to place our burdens upon Him.

Here is a devotion written by Octavius Winslow that expresses God’s desire for us to Lean Hard upon Him.  Octavius Winslow was a pastor during the 19th century who was known for compassionate and doctrinally sound preaching.  He is one of my favorite authors.  I would encourage any of my readers to look up his books and download them for free.  Enjoy the following devotion and don’t forget to Lean Hard! 

Lean hard!

(from Winslow’s, “The Burden Cast upon God”)

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord; and
He shall sustain thee.” (Psalm 55:22)

It is by an act of simple, prayerful faith we
transfer our cares and anxieties, our sorrows
and needs, to the Lord.

Jesus invites you come and lean upon
Him, and to lean with all your might upon
that arm that balances the universe, and
upon that bosom that bled for you upon
the soldier’s spear!

But you doubtingly ask, “Is the Lord able to do this
thing for me?” And thus, while you are debating a
matter about which there is not the shadow of a
shade of doubt, the burden is crushing your gentle
spirit to the dust.

And all the while Jesus stands at your side and
lovingly says, “Cast your burden upon Me and
I will sustain you. I am God Almighty. I bore
the load of your sin and condemnation up the
steep of Calvary, and the same power of
omnipotence, and the same strength of love that
bore it all for you then, is prepared to bear your
need and sorrow now. Roll it all upon Me!”

“Child of My Love! Lean hard! Let Me feel the
pressure of your care. I know your burden, child!
I shaped it- I poised it in My own hand and made
no proportion of its weight to your unaided strength.
For even as I laid it on, I said I shall be near, and
while she leans on Me, this burden shall be Mine,
not hers. So shall I keep My child within the circling
arms of My own love. Here lay it down! Do not
fear to impose it on a shoulder which upholds the
government of worlds! Yet closer come! You are
not near enough! I would embrace your burden,
so I might feel My child reposing on My breast.
You love Me! I know it. Doubt not, then. But,
loving me, lean hard!

Will we LEAN HARD upon Him??

P.S  Here are a couple of websites with more writings by Octavius Winslow.  Enjoy!
http://www.gracegems.org/BOOKS/Octavius%20Winslow%20books.htm
http://octaviuswinslow.org

 

 

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”

How Great Thou Art (Have We Forgotten God’s Greatness?)

Have we diminished the Greatness of God in our lives? Are we making God into the image of man? Do we view God as we desire Him to be; or do we view Him as He reveals himself in His Word? The Psalmist understood the greatness of God “FOR THOU ART GREAT, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.” (Psalm 86:10) ”

God is Great in His Attributes. “For thou art Great.”

Do we ever meditate upon who God is?  Do we think about each of His attributes?  I would encourage us to take time each day to meditate upon one of God’s attributes.  For example, one day, meditate upon the omnipresence of God (God is present everywhere).  Read verses that show His omnipresence.  Think about His presence as you work.  Remember His presence as you spend time with family. No matter what happens during the day, remember “God is here”.   The next day, do the same thing with another attribute of God.  Often God loses His Greatness in our eyes because we don’t really know Him.

God is Great in His Works. “and doest wondrous things” 

The word wondrous has the idea of producing “awe”.  Have we lost the wonder of God’s work of creation, His miracles in the Bible, and His working in our lives?  God loses His Greatness in our eyes when we forget that He still is working in our lives and the lives of the people around us.  Paul wrote about the believers in Philippi. “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  Take the time to meditate upon God’s work in the past and the present.

God is Great in His Uniqueness. “Thou art God alone.”

Have we placed anything or anyone above God?  Anything can become an idol in our life if it comes before God.  God is truly above all.  He alone is God.  He alone merits our worship and our obedience.  God says in Isaiah 44:8: “Fear ye not, neither be afraid:have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.”  Sin, fear and worry enter into our lives when we fail to see the uniqueness of God.  He alone is worthy of our worshipful.

A Prayer to Our Great God

Lord, help me to bow in submission before you. Help me to know you in all of your glorious attributes. Help me to see your wondrous works in creation and all that you do around me. Help me not to place anyone or anything before you. May I see you as you are and not as   I want you to be. Amen”

John McKay (1943-2010) My South African Friend in the Ministry

“He praised the Lord-then went to Heaven!  PASTOR DIED IN A PULPIT!” This front page headline was printed in the Daily Sun, the largest daily newspaper in South Africa.
Pastor John McKay had entered the pulpit to preach on a January morning in 2010. He had introduced his topic as “The Sermon that Must be Preached”.. After the introduction, he entered into the presence of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Two days later, I would hear the news about death of my friend, John McKay. He was sixty-six years old. Six weeks after John’s death, I would serve the Lord’s Supper and preach the Word of God at the Maraisburg Family Fellowship Church, which John McKay had started several years ago. I enjoyed the time with his family and church; yet John was greatly missed in my visit there.

I had met John McKay in 1983. Sharon and I had recently arrived to minister in a church in Hillbrow, Johannesburg.  I had a desire to start an Awana youth program in the church.   At the time, The Evangelical Bible Church of Bosmont had an Awana program. I decided to visit their Awana club. Their Awana Club was impressive, but I also met their pastor, John McKay. His love for the Lord and the Word of God was very clear to me. From this first meeting, our friendship grew rapidly.

God used John McKay in my life in many ways. One blessing was that he introduced me to several other pastors who were like-minded in the faith. We would gather each week for a Bible study and then a meal. I found these times of fellowship extremely helpful. Even to this day, I have never enjoyed being with a group of pastors as much as I did with these South African pastors.

John McKay also came to my rescue in a very difficult time in my ministry. In 1987, our family planned to return to the States to fulfill our furlough responsibility of visiting our supporting churches. A recent Bible College graduate had agreed to minister in the church for the year I was away. Two weeks before we left, he said he was unable to  minister in our church. John came to my rescue as he assured me that he would oversee the church.  I  scheduled many of our pastor friends to preach as well. John did a great job of caring for our people. The church was ready for its next growth spurt when I returned. His help was a very sacrificial gift because he had his own church as well.

John was also a blessing when he invited our church to have joint baptismal services with his church. Our people in Hillbrow always looked forward to these joint services. The singing at the Bosmont church was very uplifting for our people. John and I would baptize each person together. These services created an even closer bond in our friendship.

John McKay and I doing a joint baptismal service.

In 1990, we would leave South Africa to minister in Portugal. In 1996, we returned to the States to minister. During those years, John and I didn’t do much communication with one another.   In 1999, Sharon and I visited South Africa. We were glad to renew our friendship with John and his family. At this time, John and I participated in the ordination council for Grant Hoyland, whom God greatly used in the Hillbrow church until his death three years later.

This is at the Farewell Dinner for us in 1990

John made his first visit to see us in June of 2003. This was a difficult time in my life. My mother was in the hospital living out the last couple weeks of her life.  John went with me on the one hundred sixty kilometer trip to visit my mother. It was an encouragement to have my friend with me for several days during this very trying time. Our church in Charlotte also enjoyed hearing John preach.

The last time, I would see John was in 2005. He invited me to preach a series of messages at his church. John was excited because his church had been able to purchase their own church building. I remember his joy as he showed me each part of the church. Little did I know that this trip would be the last time I would see him.

In the Daily Sun article, John’s son, Marlin (who is presently the pastor of the Maraisburg Family Fellowship Church) said these words. “My father wanted me to become a pastor…but it gives me goosebumps to think that I could fill his shoes.  He was an incredible man–we will miss him.  It (John’s death) was not a mistake that God took him.”

Yes, John is with the Lord. He is not only missed by his family, and his church, but he is also missed by the many people he had greatly influenced. I am one of those lives. I thank the Lord for the privilege of having known John as my friend in the ministry.  “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

Note: This is number five in a series of posts on the people who have greatly influenced my life.

How Can I Go from Despair to Delight? (Psalm 13)

Photo by: Karla Da Silva (Used by Permission)

Despair creates a feeling of hopelessness. This affects our  life and the lives of others.  God seems distant.  The joy of our walk with God has disappeared.  Guilt permeates our life.  We are confused.   We don’t know what to do.

David, the Psalmist, was filled with despair.  He had fought the enemies of God’s people. He was also fleeing from King Saul.  God seemed very distant to David.  He was weary.  What was David to do?

Psalm 13 shows us how to move from despair to delight.  David starts out the Psalm in great despair.  He ends this Psalm with great delight in God.   What changed in David’s life.  What must change in our lives to go from despair to delight in God?

BE OPEN WITH GOD: THE FIRST STEP OF MOVING FROM DESPAIR TO DELIGHT
David shares his feelings with God in total honesty.  God wants us to be open with Him.  We think we can hide our feelings from God, but He knows all about us.  When we are open with God, it enables God to begin his work in our lives. Here are some ways that we can pour our heart out before God.

1. I am impatient with God “How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever?”  (Psalm 13:1)  We wonder when is this all going to end?   We silently say to ourselves: “Why isn’t God answering my prayer?”  We soon develop a spirit of complaining.   We hang on to our faith, but we are becoming weary of waiting.

2. I feel deserted by God. “How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?”(Psalm 13:1b)  God’s face doesn’t shine upon us as it once did.  It seems  like a dark cloud has come between God and us.  This dark cloud can be caused by our sins, our circumstances, or our  doubts.

3. I am confused. “How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?” (Psalm 13:2a) We don’t know what to do?  There are no answers in ourselves. We don’t know where to go for help?  God’s  Word doesn’t seem to help in giving us direction in our lives.

4. I am defeated. “How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:2 )  We quit living our lives with joy.  We are going through the motions.    We feel as though we have been kicked to the ground. We can’t get up.  We just want to quit.

BE FOCUSED UPON GOD: THE SECOND STEP OF MOVING FROM DESPAIR TO DELIGHT.
Despair has overtaken David’s life; yet he remembers that God is alive.  He hears our cry.  God has the only answer to his despair.  After pouring out his heart to God,  he makes his plea unto God.  David remembers certain truths about God in his prayer that enable him to move from despair to delight.

1.God remembers me. Consider and hear me, O LORD my God.” (Psalm 13:3) When we pray unto God, we face the reality that God hasn’t forgotten about us.  We are His children.  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  Even the worst of circumstances can’t separate us from the love of God.

2. God hears me.  Prayer not only acknowledges that God remembers us, but we also know that He hears us.  God is always available to hear our cries unto Him.  He hears even the most silent cry from our heart.

3. God enlightens me.  “Lighten mine eyes.”  (Psalm 13:3b)  We despair because we stop seeing life from God’s perspective. We start to view life from our perspective.  We don’t see the big picture.  We allow our circumstances to affect our view of God,  instead of allowing God to affect our view of circumstances.   When God is in the picture, we view everything from a different perspective. (See Psalm 13:4)

BE FULL OF PRAISE UNTO GOD: THE THIRD STEP OF MOVING FROM DESPAIR TO DELIGHT.
David’s circumstances haven’t changed, but he has changed.  He has moved from  despair to delighting in God.   We long for God to change our circumstances, but God’s goal is to change us.   David expresses his delight in three ways.

1. I trust in God’s loving-kindness.  “But I have trusted in thy mercy;” (13:5a)  David’s faith is renewed in God’s love towards him.   We often speak of the love of God, but forget to live in accordance to His love.  When we climb out of the depths of despair, we see the sunshine of His love again.  We delight in all that He is.  Our despair dissipates in the warmth of His love.

2. I rejoice in my salvation.  “My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.” (13:5b)  When we move from despair to delight, our hearts are open to the joy of the Lord.  We realize that our salvation not only gives us forgiveness and eternal life, but we also are a child of God.   Our Father is always ready to carry our burdens and hold us in His arms.

3. I give thanks unto the Lord.  “I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.” (13:6) David’s song is one of thanksgiving unto the Lord.  When we delight in the Lord, we recognize the many blessings that we receive.  We agree with the song writer who says: “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”

David’s despair turned to delight when he turned his eyes upon the Lord.  Yes, the Lord seemed distant and uncaring to David; however, David demonstrated faith in reaching out to God even when God seemed beyond his reach.  Our despair can also become delight when we reach out to our Heavenly Father who cares for us.

 

Reflecting upon an Unexpected Death-George Comrie (1958-2012)

George Comrie (1958-2012)

“Pastor Mark,  have you heard about the accident on I-69 (The freeway by our home)?”  This question came over my phone from a young lady in our church.  “Yes, I have heard about the accident.” I responded.   Everybody knew about this accident on August 6th in the evening because traffic was backed up for miles in each direction.

“My Aunt Trixie is in the hospital with injuries from the accident. ”  the young lady continued.  There was a pause and then she added: “My Uncle George didn’t make it.”  I was in my chair sitting and quite  stunned.  I had seen George yesterday in church and now I hear the news that he is dead.

The next day, The Lansing State Journal published the details of the accident.  A truck had run into George and Trixie’s car.  The traffic was already stopped on the freeway because of another accident.  George had no way to escape as the truck smashed into the line of cars without braking.

I don’t always understand the ways of God, but this whole event has helped me to focus on the Lord, death and my life.  A sudden death has a way of making one think about eternity and one’s relationship with God.

1. George’s death reminds me to be grateful for my salvation.
Several  months before, I had heard George share his testimony of how he had come to know Jesus Christ as Savior.  When I saw him the day before his death, he didn’t know that the Lord would call him home the next day.  One of the most difficult things to do as a pastor is to do a funeral of a person who dies without the knowledge of the Savior.  I am glad that when I do George’s funeral later this Friday, I can say: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  George is in the presence of the Lord because of the saving grace of His Savior, Jesus Christ.

2. George’s death helps me to see the reality of God’s grace.
In recent days,  I have visited Trixie a few times in the hospital and now in rehab.  Thankfully, she is improving physically.  I am amazed by the peace of God that is radiating from her life.  She grieves for the temporary loss of her husband, but God’s grace and comfort is obvious in her life.   God has used Trixie to show me that He is real in times of great hardship and pain.  Trixie’s faith has encouraged me to know in a fresh way that God’s grace is real.  As the Lord said to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

3. George’s death helps me to see that each day is a gift from God.  George had invested his life in helping others.  He had a gift of helps and service which he used in the lives of others.  I definitely have different gifts and talents than George, but am I using what God has given me for His glory each and every day?  Paul near the time of his death was able to say:  “I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) Will I be able to say these same words?

In the coming weeks, I will have more thoughts concerning George’s entrance into the presence of the Lord   I am glad for the words of Christ: “I am the resurrection and the life.”  For the believer, death is the entrance unto eternal life.   This is only made possible by the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.  “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Some people may feel that George’s death is a waste, but from God’s perspective this is far from true.  George affected many people’s lives while he was alive, but he is now affecting many lives in his death, including myself.  I thank God for the privilege of having known George.

George and Trixie’s wedding six years ago.
George helped a lot of people with construction and landscaping needs.
George and his dog!