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 Spiritual Inventory for 2015

Bennett Park, Charlotte, Michigan, USA  (Photo by Mark J Booth)
Bennett Park, Charlotte, Michigan, USA (Photo by Mark J Booth)

The year 2015 has arrived. Perhaps, we have already made some goals for this year. We may plan to do more exercise or eat less food. Perhaps, we want to travel more, or have a goal to get out of debt. In light of our goals for 2015, will we take the time to do an inventory of our spiritual lives?

God says in Haggai 1:5: “Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.” God’s people had returned to their land, but they had neglected to rebuild the temple. They were too busy with their own affairs. to concern themselves with God and His priorities. Today, we often neglect our spiritual lives because we become preoccupied with all the activities in this world. Like the Israelites, have we neglected to take an inventory of our relationship with God?

The word “consider” means to note thoroughly, to perceive clearly, to think deeply. This word is used sixty-six times in the Bible. Why does God place such a priority on this word? Is it because He knows that we have the habit of keeping busy so that we don’t take the time to consider our walk with Him? Here are some questions to help begin an inventory of our spiritual lives.

1. How well do I know God? “That I may know Him.” (Philippians 3:10) These words show Paul’s great desire to know the Lord in a personal way. He didn’t just want to know about God, but to know Him as His Father, Lord and Friend. To know God means to spend time with Him in His Word. This means that we study His Word to learn more about His character, His works, and His promises. To know God means to spend time in prayer with Him. To know God also means to spend time meditating upon Him in order that our love and desire to please Him will grow.

2. How well do I know myself? “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:” (Psalm 139:23) We often find it difficult to allow God to search every aspect of our lives. We like to focus on all of our “good points” and we tend to ignore our sins or weaknesses. God gives us His Word to enable us to see areas that we need to change in our lives. When we read the Word of God, do we allow God to convict us of our sins? Do we allow Him to show us areas in our lives in which we need to improve? Do we allow Him to show us our apathy in spiritual matters? Examining our lives may not be pleasant, but it is a great step in moving forward in our spiritual lives in 2015.

3. How well do I use my time? “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) Time is a gift that we often waste on matters that are not very important. We have many tools today to save time; yet we seem to have less time than ever to do those things that are important.

The Apostles Paul understood that his greatest priority in life was to mature in his faith. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) His time, efforts and focus were upon his spiritual well-being. We spend a lot of time taking care of our physical bodies, but what about our spiritual life? Time is a gift that we can invest in those things that promote our spiritual well-being.

4. How well do I encourage those around me? We often focus upon our own lives and we forget the impact that our lives have upon other people. One of my favorite Bible characters is Barnabas. He was a man who was always encouraging others.

     He encouraged others by his example. He did this with his generous gift to the church (Acts 4:36-37). The Bible also says about Barnabas: “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith:” (Acts 11:23) If people followed our example what kind of Christian would they be?

     He encouraged others by his friendship. Barnabas extended the hand of friendship to Paul when nobody else did. (Acts 9:26-27) People need friends, but our culture of isolation has kept us from reaching out to others with the needed hand of friendship.

     He encouraged others with his words. Barnabas was a leader who encouraged the early church in Antioch with his words (Acts 11:23) We can use our words to discourage a person or to encourage them.

     He encouraged others by giving them a second chance. John Mark had failed on the first missionary journey. Paul didn’t want to take the chance to take John Mark on the second journey. Barnabas choose to give John Mark a second chance. This same John Mark would later write the Gospel of Mark. People will fail us, just as we fail others. Will we give them a second chance?

5. How well do I glorify God in all that I do? The greatest purpose of our life is to bring glory to God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) God wants to be glorified in all that we do. Do we glorify God in our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions? De we glorify God in our family? Do we glorify God at work or school? Do we glorify God with our plans and goals in life?

We have come to another crossroads in our lives. We have a great opportunity before us. What will we do with this opportunity? We can move forward in our spiritual lives or we can remain stagnant. God desires us to move forward in our spiritual lives. Will we take the time to make an inventory of where we are spiritually?

“Dear Heavenly Father, I am entering a new year. I know that I have fewer years ahead of me than behind me. It is critical that I allow you to clearly show me, what I need to do in this coming year. Help me to know you more intimately. Guide me as to the use of my time. Use me to encourage the people you bring into my life. Above all, I want to glorify you in all that I am and do. Thank you for the blessings of 2014. Thank you for continuing your work in and through my life. Amen”

God’s “911”

Photo of Lake Huron by Rachel Drury.
Photo of Lake Huron by Rachel Drury.

An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police , fire department or ambulance. When these emergencies arise, we call “911” with the expectation that help will come quickly. Sometimes, there is a failure in the system and help is delayed to the peril of the caller.

However, where do we turn when everything is falling apart in our life?  God has provided a “911” number for us to call. Psalm 120:1 says: “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me.” Yes, God is always available to accept our call. There are no delays. There is no indecision. God is ready and able to help us when we are in distress. Let’s take a closer look at how God’s “911” works in our lives.

1. The cause of our cry– Life can become overwhelming at times. We feel that we are drowning in the midst of our very difficult circumstances. We do not know what to do. We feel helpless. There is no human resource that seems to help. We wonder where is God in all of this. We realize that the only hope we have is to cry out to God in faith.

2. The content of our cry– Crying out to God means that we are desperate. Our cry  reflects total dependence upon God. Our cry says that we surrender the control of our life to Him. Our cry says that we have faith that God alone will know what to do in the midst of our distress.

3. The object of our cry– We often pour our hearts out to others. Sometimes, we keep everything to our selves. However, God alone is able to handle our situation when everything seems to be falling apart. We cry to Him because of who He is. He is all-wise. He is all-powerful. He is love. He is merciful. Yes, God alone is the one to whom we should cry when there is no place to turn.

4. The response to our cry– What more encouraging words can we hear in the midst of our pain than: “and He heard me.” God is not deaf to our cry. His ears are wide open to hear our cry. He is eager and ready to respond to our cry. It isn’t a question: “Will God hear my cry?” but “Will I cry out to Him?”

When we dial God’s “911”, we will receive help, strength, guidance, and hope in the midst of our difficult situation. In life’s emergencies, don’t forget to call God’s 911. He is waiting for our call.

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

Restoring the Wonder in Our Spiritual Lives

His Name is Wonderful

Do you remember when you first became a Christian? Everything was new. The Bible was like an open book filled with treasures. Prayer was an exciting experience as we spoke to the Living God. Singing in church and hearing the Word of God was a fresh new blessing. Everything about God, the Word and the Christian life produced great wonder in our hearts.

As the years have passed, have we lost the wonder? Do we now read the Word; so we won’t feel guilty? Is prayer a habit without any fervency? Has church become a bore? We know that we are saved, but have we lost the wonder of God? Without the wonder, our Christian life loses its excitement, joy and delight.

Have we lost the wonder of His person? “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God,The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) His name is called “Wonderful”. There are several ways that His very person should naturally create wonder in our hearts.

  1. The Wonder of His Deity
  2. The Wonder of His Incarnation
  3. The Wonder of His Names
  4. The Wonder of His Love

Have we lost the wonder of His Word? “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (119:18) The Psalmist understood how easy it is to take the Word of God for granted. His prayer was that he would once again approach the Word of God with great wonder. We find it easy to casually read the Word. We approach the Word like a textbook instead of retaining the wonder that God is actually speaking to me! Here are some ways that the Word of God creates wonder in our hearts.

  1. The Wonder of His Truth
  2. The Wonder of His Promises
  3. The Wonder of His Commands
  4. The Wonder of His People.

Have we lost the wonder of His works? “For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.” (Psalm  86:10) Many of us have heard the Bible stories since we were children. When we read about God’s works in the Bible, we no longer view them with childlike wonder. This lack of wonder causes our faith to diminish. When we look at God’s works from a fresh perspective the wonder will be restored. Here are some of His works that we can view with renewed wonder.

  1. The Wonder of His Creation
  2. The Wonder of His Salvation
  3. The Wonder of His Miracles
  4. The Wonder of His Judgment
  5. The Wonder of His Providence

“Dear Lord, I find it easy to lose the wonder in my spiritual walk with you. I have lost the wonder of your person, your Word and your works. Please forgive me for this. I need to restore this wonder. Help me to view all that you are with great wonder once again. Please restore the thrill of my spiritual walk with you. Amen”

An Unexpected Friend, Carl Seestedt (1954-2009)

207386_1707720368670_133317_n

Friends enter into our lives in different ways. Many of our friends we have had since childhood, high school or college. Other friends come into our lives through work, church or some other organizations. Other friendships “seem” to come about by accident. Carl Seestedt entered into my life in a very unexpected way.

One day in 2008, Carl received a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. I had known Carl only casually through playing tennis with him on rare occasions. However, when I heard about Carl’s diagnosis, I decided to visit him to show interest in him and to encourage him. He had a great desire to be assured of his salvation in Jesus Christ. I shared some verses with him and he received that assurance. At that time, I offered to do a weekly Bible study with him. He seemed quite pleased with this offer because he had a great desire to study God’s Word.

We spent every Tuesday studying the Gospel of John. Carl was quite enthusiastic to learn the Word of God. Because of his tumor, he would find it difficult to get his thoughts into words, but he made every effort to do so. He was almost always upbeat. He rarely talked about himself and his circumstances, but he continually talked of his love for his wife, Vicki and his two daughters Julie and Jana.

Every Tuesday after the Bible study, we would eat lunch together at Carl’s house. During our lunch we would talk about life and even death. Those were very special times of conversation for me. I soon could understand what made Carl a very special person.

After lunch, I would take him to his tennis lesson which he had with two of his close friends Jack Griffin and Doug Atkinson. During this time, Carl continued to play tennis. Yes, his skills started to deteriorate, but he was persistent. He still had a great time with these lessons as well as teasing his friends while playing. Yes, Carl had a way of living his life to the fullest even to the end.

As the months passed by Carl’s conditioned worsened. We would still get together for a Bible Study, but the tennis time had ended. As Carl was nearing his time to enter into God’s presence, he never lost his interest in the lives of others. His kind, friendly attitude never escaped me.

As I reflect upon my one year friendship with Carl, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to know Carl as a friend. His enthusiasm for life and people was a great inspiration to me. Carl taught people how to live their lives with enthusiasm and interest. Also, I am thankful that as Carl faced death, he taught people how to die because he knew that he would be with his greatest friend Jesus Christ.