REFRESHMENT FOR THIRSTY SOULS

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Imagine wandering in the desert. You are hot, tired, and extremely thirsty. As you are in despair, you come upon a spring of water! There is joy, strength, and encouragement because of the water! YOU ARE REFRESHED. Are we like that spring of water in the lives of others? Do we bring refreshment to their lives? “For they (Stephanus, Fortunatus, and Achalcus) HAVE REFRESHED MY SPIRIT AND YOURS.” (1Co 16:18): God used these three men to REFRESH others. Will we be a spring of water to someone in despair, discouragement, or depression? Here are ways that we can bring refreshment to others.

1. We can refresh others by our presence.
2. We refresh others by our words
3. We refresh others by our prayers
4. We refresh others by our example
5. We refresh others by our kind deeds
6. We refresh others by forgiving them.
7. We refresh others with our love.

“Dear Lord, help me to look beyond myself and see the needs of others. There are people around me who need to be encouraged. Others need emotional healing. Some people need a friend. Guide me so that I can be a refreshment to others as you daily refresh my soul. Amen”

Waking Up with Jesus (The Joy of Morning Prayer)

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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”

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 Prayer for the Heavy-Hearted

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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.

Five Important Questions for the New Year

Winter Scene-Michigan USA
Winter Scene-Michigan USA

The year 2014 is upon us. Perhaps, we have already made some goals for the new year.  We may plan to do more exercise or eat less food. Perhaps, we want to travel more, or get out of debt. In light of our goals for 2014, 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 that make demands on our time. Like the Israelites, have we neglected to take an inventory of our spiritual life?

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 five important questions that will help us to “consider our ways.”

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 he wanted to know God intimately as His Father, Lord and Friend. Intimacy comes by spending time with God in His Word. We will study His Word to learn more about His character, His works, and His promises. Intimacy comes by spending time with God in prayer. Intimacy also comes by spending time meditating upon God. This will cause our love for Him to 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 life. 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 2014.

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. We allow the urgent to crowd out the important.

Big Ben-London England (Photo in Public Domain)

Big Ben-London England (Photo in Public Domain)

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 9:23) 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 9:23)  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.

“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 2013.  Thank you for continuing your work in and through my life. Amen”

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The Struggle of Faith in the Valley

Charlotte, Michigan Photo by: Mark J Booth
Charlotte, Michigan Photo
by: Mark J Booth

The valley is a place of the unknown. The future is unknown. The next step to take is unknown. The reason for being in the valley is unknown. The unknown causes us to develop fear and anxiety. Faith seems to disappear in our lives. We know that God is with us. We know the promises of God. We want to trust God. We need to trust God! Yet we only see the dark road ahead of us. Why is faith so difficult when we need it the most?

I have tried to understand the answer to the above question. Why can’t I trust my loving God? Why can’t I trust my all-wise God? Perhaps the answer lies in the verse where Jesus tells us that we are to become as little children. “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) A little child has great faith and trust, which is essential for us in our walk with God.

When I was very small, I trusted my parents in everything. I didn’t doubt anything they said.  When they said Santa Claus was coming, I believed them. When they took me to the doctor for a painful shot, I believed them when they said it was for my own good. They were my parents; so I trusted them.

As I grew older. I started to doubt what my parents said. I doubted their rules. I doubted what they thought was best for me. I doubted the way they raised me. I still loved them, but I thought I knew better. I lost my childlike trust of them. I weighed everything they did from my very narrow teenage viewpoint.

In my relationship with God, I find it easy to lose my childlike faith. I see my life from my viewpoint. I try to understand what God is doing instead of trusting what He is doing. I try to interfere in what He is doing, instead of submitting to his way of working in a certain situation.

As a child, my parents would take me to various places in our car. I never doubted that I would arrive there safely. I never doubted that they had my best interest at heart. I never complained about the journey. I would sit in the back seat and look around at the scenery and accept that this is what my parents wanted.

Why is it when God is taking me through a valley experience, I don’t trust Him? Does He not know what is best for me? Does He not use the valley experience for my benefit and for the benefit of those to whom I minister? I need to have a childlike faith and believe that God knows what is best. Romans 8:28 is still true: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

The struggle of faith exists because we act too much like adults. We need to see before believing. We need to understand before we believe. We need to know the results before we believe. We need to feel like there is something that we can do to resolve the trial. The more we think like an adult, our faith diminishes.

How can we grow in faith in the midst of the valley? The valley challenges our faith. It batters our faith. We need faith desperately. The first step of faith is to return to a child-like view of God. We don’t have to understand what God is doing. We don’t have to understand what will happen in the future.  We don’t have to know why all of this is happening.  We can look unto our Heavenly Father and know that He has everything under control. His path is always the best way to go; even if it takes us through a dark valley.

“Dear Father, I thank you for your patience with me. I approach you quite often with the attitude that I need to understand everything. I need you to explain everything to me. This has hindered my faith. Please help me to trust you with the heart of a little child. I know that you will resolve my struggle of faith when I surrender my perspective, my ideas, and my dreams unto you. Thank for being my loving Father in whom I can place all of my trust. 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!