Ten Reasons to Thank God for the Valley

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The valley is a place that we never choose for ourselves, but God chooses it for us. His plan for our life doesn’t just include the blessings and the mountaintop experiences.  His plan includes the valleys. At times, we are so deep in a valley that we forget God and His promises.

The valley challenges our faith in many areas, including our trust in God, our steadfastness in Christ, and our love for God and others. When we enter the valley, we struggle with having a grateful heart before God. We look at our dire circumstances and feel numb. We feel as though we are watching a tragedy unfold and we are one of the main characters. We lose our focus upon God as we travel deeper into the valley.

After the initial shock of entering the valley, we realize that we need to cry out to God. We ask for deliverance. We ask for relief. We ask for strength. We ask for wisdom. However,  worry and fear are still affecting us spiritually. Why is there no relief? Have we neglected to thank God for our valley?  How can we travel through the valley with an ungrateful heart? Giving thanks to God helps to give us perspective concerning the valley. Gratefulness enables us to see the valley as a place of abundant blessings from God.

As the song writer wrote: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed; when you are discouraged thinking all is lost; Count your many blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” What are some of the reasons that we can thank God for the valley.

1. The valley gives us a thirst for God. Nothing can satisfy our soul in the valley but God Himself. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” (Psalm 42:1) The valley causes us to run into the arms of our loving Father. The valley creates a thirst that only our Heavenly Father can fulfill.

2. The valley gives us a broken and contrite heart. The valley has a way of bringing us down to our knees. The valley shows us our weakness and need for God’s help. Our heart becomes broken and humble before God. Nothing is more special in God’s eyes than when His children come to Him in complete desperation.  “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

3. The valley gives us an eternal perspective concerning life. Often we are so involved in the things of this life that we forget our glorious future with the Lord. When God takes us into the valley, our perspective on life is changed. The eternal suddenly becomes much more important in our lives. “Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

4. The valley causes us to search our hearts. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: (Psalm 139:23) The busyness of our lives often keeps us from reflecting upon our hearts. We go through the motions and neglect to take inventory of our lives. When God takes us into the valley, we find ourselves looking for answers. This helps us to search our hearts as to our past, present and future.

5. The valley can often bring marriages and families closer together. “Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he (Lazarus) whom thou lovest is sick.”
(John 11:3) Tragedy and heartache can bring families closer together or further apart. In the case of Lazarus, his death brought his family closer together. When one member of a family enters into a valley, it is a great opportunity for others in the family to travel with their loved one.

6. The valley tests our friendships. “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17) The valley exposes the true loyalty of a friend. A true friend doesn’t run away when their friend enters into the valley, but they encourage him. They do whatever they can to help their friend. There are many so-called friends who are exposed in the valley because they watch from the sidelines as their “friend” travels the painful road in the valley.

7. The valley gives us a hunger for the Word of God. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:71) When times are going well, we read our Bibles out of obligation, but when we enter the valley we read our Bibles out of necessity. The Word of God opens up to us with its promises, comfort and even conviction.

8. The valley is a place where Jesus becomes our sweet companion. “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) The valley is a place where we may feel lonely, but we are never alone. We have a companion who walks every step of the way in the valley with us. The walk in the valley is difficult, but we can find it pleasant because we experience a closeness to the Lord that we don’t normally.experience.

9. The valley broadens our ministry towards others. “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4) God’s ministry of comfort, strength and encouragement in our valley enables us to have compassion upon others who are in the valley. When we respond to the valley in God’s way, we will find many doors of ministry that will become open to us.

10. The valley enables others to minister unto us. “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:” (2 Timothy 1:16) The valley enables others to reach out to us. We become thirsty for encouragement and people see this need and refresh us. They can refresh us with their presence, with their words, and with their prayers.

Yes, the valley doesn’t seem attractive when we first enter; however, as time goes by, we learn the secret of the valley. This is a place of great blessing. This is a place of experiencing God’s love. This is a place of spiritual growth. The key to having the valley become a very positive experience is to thank God for this time in our lives.

“Dear Lord, I didn’t ask for this valley. I didn’t expect this valley. Yes, this valley has been difficult; however I thank you for this valley. It has been an experience that I wouldn’t trade. You have used this valley in my life in so many ways! Please don’t ever stop your work in my life. Thank you for the your wisdom, tenderness, strength and love that I am experiencing in this valley. Amen.”

When Disappointment Comes, Twenty Truths to Remember

Guincho Beach in Portugal (Photo by Mark J. Booth)
Guincho Beach in Portugal (Photo by Mark J. Booth)

Life is filled with disappointments. People disappoint us. We disappoint ourselves. Circumstances disappoint us. The question isn’t: “Will disappointments come, but how do we respond in the midst of our disappointments. When we view God in the midst of our disappointments, the disappointment will become a means of a greater love and appreciation for our Great God. Here are twenty truths to remember in the midst of our disappointments.

1. God is on the throne.  “That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah,art the most high over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:18)

2. God still loves me. “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
(Jeremiah 31:3)

3. God won’t ever leave me, nor forsake me. “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have:for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5)

4. God is my Shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:1-2)

5. God is my Father. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

6. God hears me when I cry out to Him. “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6)

7. God is my defense. “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” (Psalm 18:2)

8. God is my guide. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” (Psalm 32:8)

9. God will bring comfort. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

10. God is merciful (He forgives me even when others don’t). “It is of the Lord ‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

11. God has a purpose for my life. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

12. God makes all things work together for good. “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. (Romans 8:28)

13. God teaches me new lessons. “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:3-5)

14. God gives me a testimony to others (I need to remember my testimony in spite of what others do.) “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

15. God gives me His strength. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

16. God gives me His grace in times of great need. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

 17. God encourages me. “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters:but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. (1 Samuel 30:6)

18. Christ is interceding for me. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)

19. Christ is preparing a place for me in heaven. “Let not your heart be troubled:ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions:if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

20. Christ will take my burden upon Himself because I can’t carry it. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)

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?

When I am Afraid

Guincho Beach outside of Cascais, Portugal (Photo by Mark J Booth)
Guincho Beach outside of Cascais, Portugal (Photo by Mark J Booth)

“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” (Psalm 56:3)

“Mom, please leave the hall light on and don’t close the door.” These words were almost a nightly ritual when I was a child. Growing up I was afraid of many things. When I went to bed, I was afraid of the dark. When I went to school, I was afraid of failure. When I tried to become friends with someone, I was afraid of rejection. When I heard about somebody having cancer, I was afraid that I would get cancer. Being afraid is something that we struggle with throughout our lives.  We may outgrow some of our childhood fears, but we replace them with new fears.

As adults, we may suppress our fears before others, but deep down, we have to admit that we are still afraid of many things. We are afraid of what the future holds in our lives.  We fear rejection by people around us. Fear can overtake us as we contemplate death.  Sickness or financial reversal always seem to be lurking around the corner. We dread what will happen next.

Being afraid has been a reality since the fall of man. Adam and Eve were afraid of God after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. Abraham was afraid of Pharaoh when he and Sarah fled to Egypt to escape a famine. Moses was afraid of being executed for murder; so he fled to the wilderness. The disciples were afraid of the storm, and cried out to the Lord. Peter was afraid of those who were warming up by the fire; so he  denied the Lord.  John Mark was afraid of persecution for preaching the Gospel; so he abandoned his mission work.

David faced several events in his life that caused him to be afraid.  How did he handle those times of fear. In Psalm 56:3, David writes: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”  David understood the reality of his fear, but he also remembered the reality of God. Let’s join David and see how we are to handle those times when we are afraid.

Before we can share our fear with God, we must recognize that we are afraid. Most of the time we are afraid of the “What ifs” in life. “What if something happens to me?” “What if I lose my job?” “What if I can’t complete my assignment?” Our fears often creep up upon us in an unexpected way. Soon, we become paralyzed by our fear, like a deer staring into the headlights of an oncoming car.

Other times, we become afraid of something that is not imaginary, but very real. We receive bad news from the doctor. We receive a notice in our mailbox that our house will soon be repossessed. David recognizes these times of being afraid. He doesn’t face his fear with a false bravado, but he recognizes his fear. He knows that the relief from his fear doesn’t come from within himself, but in the Living God.

After recognizing his fear, David focuses upon the One who can take care of his fear. God alone has the power, strength, love, and wisdom to carry us through our fear.  When the disciples were afraid of the storm, they went to Jesus who was sleeping in the boat. They knew that He alone could calm the storm about them. Yes, the storm was threatening. Yes, the storm was violent, but they knew that the Lord would carry them through this storm.

Our fears often control us because we forget the greatness of our God. David, as he faced Goliath, recognized that there was One greater than Goliath. Our God can deal with whatever Goliath we are facing. The more we grow in our knowledge of God, the more we will live a life free from fear.

After recognizing his fear, and focusing upon God’s greatness, David now entrusts his life to God. The word “trust” in Psalm 56:3 has the idea of leaning upon. David understands that the only way to conquer his fear is to totally lean upon God as he walks through the dangerous path that is before him.

As David wrote in Psalm 23, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;” Even in the most dangerous road of all, death, David is not afraid because he is leaning upon the Lord who is walking with him through this very dark valley.

Like David, we face many dangerous roads. Yes, some of the dangers are imaginary, but many of the dangers are real. If we choose to walk those dangerous roads alone. our fears will consume us. However, if we choose to lean upon Our Loving, All-Powerful Lord, we can walk upon the most dangerous road with courage.

“Dear Lord, we live in a world filled with danger. We find it easy allow fear to control us.  especially when we forget you. Help us to lean upon you completely, as we travel every dangerous road that is before us.  We do not ask to live a life without danger, but please be with us as we travel into danger. Thank you for allowing us to lean upon you no matter how dark the path is before us. Teach us that we don’t have to be afraid, because you are greater than any fear. Amen”

Under the Shadow of His Wings

Free Photo provided by: www.sxc.hu
Free Photo provided by: http://www.sxc.hu

“How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.” (Psalm 36:7)

Often, as a pastor, I minister to people facing tough times. We have all experienced the death of a loved one, a serious sickness, issues within the family, financial setbacks, sin problems, and many other forms of pain and trials. Many times, these problems are unsolvable from a human perspective: however, there is a place of security, love, comfort and peace. The Bible calls this place, “under the shadow of His wings.”

David often faced great difficulties in his life. In Psalm 36, David writes about those who would bring harm to his life. He realizes that he is helpless in face of these schemes; so he chooses to find refuge under the wings of his Lord God.

The words, “under His wings”, refer to how a young bird finds protection from danger within the shadow of his mother’s wings.  Whatever danger that comes to the young bird must first pass through the ever vigilant mother. God is like that mother bird. He gives us a place of refuge under the shadow of His wings. Nothing will enter our lives until it first passes through His ever vigilant eyes and protection.

Here are some examples of times when we need to seek the security that God provides for His children.

  •  Fear. (Even groundless fear is still painful.)
  •  Danger. (Self, sin, Satan, and foes)
  •  Inability to defend or overcome without help
  •  Foresight that sees the storm coming and looks for safety.
  •  Prudence to hide before the storm.
  •  Times of fatigue, discouragement, or temptation.

David fled to the safety of the shadow of the Lord”s wings because He knew God personally; thus, he could trust Him. How well do we know God? In Psalm 36, David focuses upon five attributes of God that will help us to know Him better.

1. God is merciful. We don’t deserve His forgiveness, compassion and protection; and yet  He shows mercy unto us.  “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens;” (Psalm 36:5a)

2. God is faithful. People may come and go in our lives. People may not want to help us. Sometimes, others may get tired of helping us, but God demonstrates His faithfulness by His presence in our lives. He never leaves us, nor does He forsake us.
“Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.” (Psalm 36:5b)

3. God is righteous. We can trust God because He can do no wrong. When God makes a promise to us, He keeps His word. There is great comfort and strength when we flee to God’s Word to claim one of His promises. God will never fail us, nor wrong us. “Thy righteousness is like the great mountains.” (Psalm 36:6a)

4. God is just. Everywhere we look we see injustices occurring. We wonder, “where is the justice?”  When we flee to God, we will receive justice. God’s justice is perfect and impartial. “Thy judgments are a great deep:” (Psalm 36:6b)

5. God is love. God knows our weakness. He knows our need of Him, more than we do. His love says to us: “Come unto me, I will take care of you” “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God!” (Psalm 36:7)

When we find refuge under the shadow of His wings, we will find abundant peace, protection and guidance from our Heavenly Father. David testifies of God’s provision in the life of those who live under the shadow of His wings. “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Psalm 36:8-9)

“Dear Father, instead of finding refuge under your wings, I try to solve my problems on my own. I know that I should come to you. I know that you love me; yet, I seek to go my way. Help me to trust you when hard times come. Place me under your loving wings; so that I will know the warmth of your love, peace and protection. Amen”

When No One Cares

Canadian Badlands in Alberta, Canada (Photo by: Mark J. Booth)
Canadian Badlands in Alberta, Canada (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)

“Does anyone care?” “If only I could find someone who will listen to me!”  Have you ever caught yourself thinking these thoughts? Yes, throughout life there are times when we feel alone.  We think no one cares. When these times occur, we must not forget that there is One who is always available. He loves us and is ready listen to us. He understands exactly how we feel. Are we ready to confide in our Lord?

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

Why did Moses stay faithful in spite of his trials? He confided in the Lord. How did Joshua lead God’s people? He confided in the Lord. How did David receive forgiveness of his sin? He confided in the Lord. How did Paul rejoice in the midst of his persecution and difficulties? He confided in the Lord. How will we stay faithful through life’s tribulations?  We will need to confide in the Lord.

Why do we need to confide in the Lord?

1. We need to confide in the Lord because we have no wisdom or strength within ourselves. When King Jehoshaphat faced the near certain defeat of his armies, he confided in the Lord. He knew that God alone could handle this situation.  “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) Jehoshaphat demonstrated a spirit of humility before God which enabled him to confide in the Lord. We choose not to confide in God because we don’t want to admit our need of Him.

2. We need to confide in the Lord because we have a deceitful heart that can often lead us astray.  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? ” (Jeremiah 17:9) People often say: “I can’t go wrong if I just follow my heart”. However, God makes it clear that we can not trust our own hearts. We often make decisions based upon our own selfishness, bias or lack of knowledge. We need to confide in the Lord because He will direct us in the right path.

3. We need to confide in the Lord because difficulties come into our lives. We can’t travel the road of 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 may come into our lives.

4. We need to confide in the Lord because of problems with others. People say: “I could 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)

5. 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. 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)

Elbow Lake in Alberta, Canada (Photo by: Mark J. Booth)
Elbow Lake in Alberta, Canada (Photo by: Mark J. Booth)

How do we confide in the Lord?

1. We share our requests openly with God. “Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God.” (Psalm 59:1)  The Psalmist understood that he could share any request with God, and that God would hear him. He is ready to listen to all of our requests.

2. We are to show gratefulness unto the Lord as we confide in Him. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) God loves to hear and answer our prayer requests, but He also loves to hear us give praise and thanks unto Him.

3. We are to show desperation when we confide in God.  “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.” (Psalm 102:1) Our desperate cry shows our total dependence upon Him. Our cry also shows that He is our only hope. When desperate times come, God is waiting for us to cry out to Him.

4. We are to confide in God thoughtfully. Confiding in God means that we don’t repeat the same words without thought. God wants us to share our mind, will and emotions with Him.  When Jesus taught about prayer, He said: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do:” (Matthew 6:7)  

We have a choice each day. Will we openly confide in our Lord or ignore the opportunity of pouring out our hearts to our dearest Friend? We should not only confide in the Lord when we have sorrow and trials, but also in our times of blessing and joy. God wants us to confide in Him in every decision that we make. Confiding in God increases our love for Him because we find complete satisfaction in Him.

“Dear Lord, I often live my life without sharing it with you. You have blessed me with your presence and yet I ignore you. Why are you so patient with me? Help me to have the desire to confide in you completely. Thank you that you do care and that I can trust you with my whole heart. With my love, from your child. Amen”

What about Bad Tidings in the Season of Good Tidings? (Psalm 112:7)

Storm brewing over Downriver Area of Metro Detroit.
Storm brewing over Downriver Area of Metro Detroit (2011)

“He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” (Psalm 112:7)

“We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” is a Christmas Carol that people sang since the 16th century in England.  If is a song of joy as expressed in the words: “Good tidings we bring to you and your kin. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”  However, not everybody receives good tidings during this time of year.  We still face trials, sorrow, and pain.  Many people even feel a deeper sense of loneliness during this time of year than at any other time of the year.  Yes, evil tidings don’t stop during this time of year: however there is good news from God in the midst of evil tidings that may come our way.

In the Bible, we see many people who triumphed over the evil tidings in their lives.  Joseph overcame many evil tidings, including betrayal, slavery, and prison, to become the prime minister of Egypt.  Ruth overcame the evil tidings of the death of her husband and living in poverty.  She would soon marry Boaz and become the great-grandmother of King David.

God gives us his Word to encourage us as we face the evil tidings of life that may come our way.  Every day, “bad news” can surprise us. We don’t ask for it, but it is a package delivered to the doorway of our lives.   How can we triumph even in the midst of bad news?  How can we see good news come out of the bad news?  Psalm 112:7 gives us some answers to these questions.

Normally, our first response to bad news is to be afraid or fearful.  Fear paralyzes us.  It causes us to focus upon the bad news instead of our Great God.  God tells us that we do not have to be afraid of the “evil tidings” that enter into our life.  God knows that fear will keep us from seeing Him clearly.  Fear causes us to doubt the goodness and the power of God.  For this reason God gives us many verses that command us to “fear not”.

  • But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob,and he that formed thee, O Israel, FEAR NOT: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
  • ” FEAR THOU NOT; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)
  • “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, NEITHER LET IT BE AFRAID.” (John 14:27)

When fear departs in the midst of the bad news, then we are able to do the next step in facing our bad news.  We now can “fix our heart” upon the Lord.  Our bad news is an opportunity to focus upon God.  We can focus upon all of His attributes and promises.  When we fix our heart upon the Lord, it may not change our circumstances, but it will change how we face our circumstances.  We will understand with the Apostle Paul that
God’s grace is sufficient for the “evil tidings” that may come in our life.

Once fear has departed and we have fixed our heart upon the Lord, then we can have faith in Him.  Faith is responding to all that we know about God.  The more we know the Lord, the more we will be able to trust Him.  True faith knows that God will never leave us, nor forsake us regardless of the “bad news” that may come our way.  His love is an unchanging love.  He loves us with an “everlasting love.”.  Faith in our Lord will dispel any fear in our life.  It will enable us to bear whatever “bad news” that comes our way.

In summary, when we receive bad news, Psalm 112: 7 tells us three ways to respond to the “evil tidings”

  1. Do not allow fear to dominate our thoughts and actions.
  2. Fix our heart upon the Lord.  Let our thoughts focus on the Lord.
  3. Place our faith in the Lord.  He will carry us as we face the “bad news’ in our life.

When the “evil tidings” enter into our live, God has a way of turning those evil tidings into an opportunity to see Him work in our life and in the lives of those around us.  God will turn those “evil tidings” into “good tidings” that will draw us closer to Him, and bring glory to His name.

“Dear Lord, the news that I receive is not always good.  I see people who are suffering.  I visit those who have marital problems.  I talk with those who have a loved one who is dying.  I see people who have turned away from you.  I also face difficulties from time to time in my life.  My tendency is to face the bad news with fear.  Help me, to turn my eyes off the “bad news” and fix my heart upon you.  Please, increase my faith.  Help me to believe that you will take this “bad news” and make it into something good. Thank you for your great plan for my life. Amen”

 

Jesus is Knocking. Will I Answer? (Enjoying the Presence of God)

Rogue River Trail-Rockford, MI (Photo by: Mark J Booth)
Rogue River Trail-Rockford, MI (Photo by: Mark J Booth)

The Christian life encounters many pitfalls. One unsuspecting pitfall is that we lose the joy of being a Christian.  We become lukewarm in our relationship with Christ.   Prayer is routine.  Bible study is a chore.  Our worship has become cold and formal. What has happened to our lives?

There was a church in the New Testament that had these same problems.  Jesus spoke these words to the church at Laodicea: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”(Revelation 3:15-16)  This church was religious, but they no longer enjoyed Christ’s presence. They had lost a vibrant relationship with their living Lord.

What was Christ’s answer to their problem? “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20) Christ was telling the church that they were leaving Him out of their lives.  He politely was knocking on the door of their hearts; so that they would once again enjoy having fellowship with Him.

Chateau-Abbadia (Southwestern France)Photo by: Mark J Booth
Chateau-Abbadia (Southwestern France)
Photo by: Mark J Booth

 A meal in Bible times was a time-consuming event where people enjoyed talking and listening to one another.  Jesus longs for this kind of communion with us.  Have we opened the door?  Christ has prepared a meal for us with His presence and blessings. Have we sat down and taken the time to enjoy His presence?  He is waiting. 

When we take the time to enjoy Christ’s presence, we will view life and our circumstances from a totally different perspective.  We will see life as God sees life.  We will see our problems as God sees our problems.  God has prepared a banquet for us. Here is what He offers to us as take time to enjoy His presence.

1. We have guidance in our life.  “O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me;” (Psalm 43:3a) The question is often asked: “How can I know the will of God?”  To understand the will of God means more than following a formula, but we follow the Lord.  As we commune with the Lord, we will discover what pleases Him and what doesn’t please Him.  God’s greatest priority for our lives is that we know Him.  His light and truth will guide us. 

2. We enjoy true worship of God. “let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.” (Psalm 43:3b) The Psalmist in the midst of all that was happening in his life saw the importance of worshiping God. Worship is not to please ourselves, but to please our Lord.  He desires worship because He is worthy of our worship.  Our worship is bringing glory to God in all that we say and do.  When we worship God, we recognize His presence and majesty.  

3. We have joy in spite of the circumstances in our life.  “Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy:” (Psalm 43:4a) The Psalmist faced many trials in his life which caused him to become to discouraged and depressed.  He understood that in God’s presence there is great joy.  No matter what is happening in our lives, if we remember that God is with us, we can experience a joy that is not based upon circumstances, but based upon a relationship.

4. We have an attitude of praise.  “yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.” (Psalm 43:4b)  We often give praise for the blessings that we receive from God, but what about giving praise to the giver of those blessings.  When we enjoy God’s presence, we will focus upon all that God is.  We will praise HIm for His attributes and titles.  Every day, we should take the time to praise God for all that He is and does.

5. We have a contented spirit.  They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.” (Psalm 36:8)  A lack of contentment is a warning sign that we are not enjoying God’s presence.  When we are walking with God, we will be totally content. When we are close to the Lord, everything else will fall in place. 

6. We receive comfort from God. I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) Comfort is not based on circumstances, but upon our relationship with our Living God.  His rod shows his protection against our enemies.  His staff shows His guidance and help in our lives.  When we have His protection and guidance, we are sure of His comfort and love even in the most trying times. 

Enjoying God’s presence begins with salvation, but it continues for all eternity.  We enjoy His presence as we listen to him, communicate with Him, meditate upon Him and pour out our heart unto Him.  Are enjoying His presence today?

“Dear Lord, my life often becomes filled with the routine.  I have lost the joy of being Christian. I haven’t taken the time or effort to enjoy your presence.  Thank you for knocking on the door of my heart.  Thank you for your desire to fellowship with me.  I now open up the door of my heart to you.  Please come in!  I know that the greatest joy in life comes from being in your presence.  Amen.”

Preparing My Heart for Thanksgiving (Psalm 95)

Near Cascais, Portugal-Photo by: Mark J Booth

The food has been bought.  The guests have been invited.  The television is ready for NFL football.  Preparations are being made for the Black Friday sales.  However, something is missing in our Thanksgiving preparations.  Have we prepared our hearts to give thanks unto our Lord God?

One person has defined gratefulness as: “Making known to God and others in what ways they have benefited my life.”  We prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving by taking the time to reflect upon God’s blessings and then give thanks unto Him for those blessings.  It is also an opportunity to thank others for the ways they have benefited our lives.

Psalm 95 helps us to prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving.  The focus of this Psalm is upon giving thanks to God.  “Let us come before His presence with Thanksgiving.” (Psalm 95:2)  God desires thankfulness in His people.  Thanksgiving is not a once year reflection upon God’s blessings, but it is a daily giving of thanks to God for his blessings and provision.

We prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving as we reflect upon the reasons we can give thanks to God.  Take a few moments to meditate upon the following verses in Psalm 95. These verses will encourage us to give thanks to God for all that He is and all that He has done.

1. We give thanks to God for His Greatness. “For the Lord is a great God.” (Psalm 95:3a)  God demonstrates His Greatness in all that He is and all that He does.  We find it easy to lose the wonder of God as we grow older.  Our faith becomes routine and ritualistic.  It is time that we meditate upon God’s greatness again, and thank Him for His attributes and all that He has done.

Cabo Da Roca-Portugal; Photo by: Mark J Booth

2. We give thanks God for His Sovereignty. “A great King above all gods.” (Psalm 95:3b) God is in control.  Yes, he sometimes refines us as by fire, but we can thank Him  that nothing passes into our lives apart from His loving will and plan. When we understand that He is in control: then we can commit the trial unto Him and see Him work.  We can thank Him not only for the good times, but also for the difficult times because He is working in our lives.

3. We give thanks to God for His Power.  “The strength of the hills is his also.” (Psalm 95:4) Our God brings spiritual, emotional and physical strength to our lives.  We can give thanks in a difficult situation, because God is there to give us his strength.  Paul understood this as he was in prison when he wrote: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) 

4. We give thanks to God because He is Personal.  “For He is our God.” (Psalm 95:7a)  God desires to have a personal relationship with us.  He wants to walk with us, talk with us and listen to us.  He loves His children with an everlasting love.  He will never forsake us, in spite of the situation.  We can give thanks that we have a vital relationship with our Living God.  

5. We give thanks to God because He is our Provider. “We are the people of his pasture.” (Psalm 95:7b) We can be confident that the Lord is our loving Shepherd who will provide for our needs, whether they be spiritual, emotional, social or physical.  The Lord Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount reminds us that God will take care of the smallest matter in our lives.  When we focus on how the Lord meets our every need, we are eager to give thanks unto Him. 

6. We give thanks to God because He is our Guide.  “and the sheep of his hand.” (Psalm 95:7c)  Our Good Shepherd not only provides for us, but also leads us.  We can thank the Lord for the times that He gave us direction through His Word in some important decision.  As we look back upon our lives, God’s hand can be seen in His guidance and through the circumstances that He allowed in our lives.  Likewise, as we look forward to the future, we know that He will continue to guide us. 

Return of the Flock” by Anton Mauve (19th Century) From the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The first step to turning away from the Lord is to develop an ungrateful heart.  As we prepare our hearts for this Thanksgiving, let us look upon our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and all of His blessings.  Yes, there may food, family, and football for this Thanksgiving, but don’t forget the most important “f” for Thanksgiving, which is focusing upon the Lord and His Blessings.

“Dear Lord, I so often go through my days without thinking about all the blessings that I have as your child.  Thank you for all that you are to me.  Thank you for my great salvation and all the blessings that come with my salvation.  Thank you for your desire to have a personal relationship with me.  Help me not to forget you this Thanksgiving, but to focus upon you and all that you are. Amen.”

Prayers of Comfort from Psalm 37

Near Marshall, MI: Photo by: Mark J Booth

Trials are a part of every person’s life.  These trials can be self-induced or they can be caused by events beyond our control.  The question isn’t if we will have trials, but how will we face these trials.  Psalm 37 is written from the perspective of a man filled with trials.  God shows him the way he is to navigate through these trials.  Here are some prayers that go along with this very encouraging Psalm.  May God use Psalm 37 to help give direction and comfort to each of us.

“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.” (Psalm 37:1)  “Lord, I find myself filled with worry.  I worry about my walk with you.  I worry about my family, and the church.  I worry about my future.  I sometimes look at others and feel as though I am lacking something.  I also fret because evil seems to be gaining ground every day in our nation.  Help me to gain perspective upon the things that trouble me.  I need to grow in faith; so that I know in my heart that you are in control of everything.  I can trust you with my life and with what is happening in the world around me.  Amen”

“Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4) “Lord, I often focus on my circumstances instead of focusing upon you. I forget to take delight in all that you are. Help me to focus upon all that you are and all that you do. May I delight in you today regardless of my circumstances. Amen.”

“Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5) “Lord, I often want to chart my own course in life.  I look at my future from my perspective and not from yours. Why do I find it difficult to commit my way to you? Lord, you do know what is best for my life. Your love for me is beyond question.  For this reason, I need to commit unto you everything I do.  Help me to trust you regardless of what may happen in my life. Amen”

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7) “Dear Lord, I often live in anxiety because I don’t place my burdens upon you. I often run ahead of you instead of waiting for your perfect timing. Help me, to trust you enough to allow you to work in and through my life.  In the midst of my busyness, enable me to stop and remember that you are right here with me. Thank you for allowing me to rest in your everlasting arms! Amen”

“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath:fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” (Psalm 37:8)  “My Lord, when I face difficult circumstances and people, I can easily become angry.  Usually I keep this anger within, but it does affect me.  It keeps me from pleasing you and ministering to others.  Thank you for your great example on the cross how you forgive those who placed you upon the cross.  Teach me to respond to others with graciousness and love.  Teach me to yield my rights unto you, because my anger is often a warning sign of some right that I haven’t yielded unto you.

“Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:24) “Lord, I have stumbled and even fallen many times in my life; yet, you are always there to pull me up with your loving hand. Help me to never let go of your hand as I walk through this life. Thank you for your great love in watching over me. Amen.”

“And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked,and save them, because they trust in him.” (Psalm 37:40)  “Thank you for the concluding words of this Psalm of comfort and guidance.  Thank you for the times that you have delivered me from myself and others.  Thank you for all that you are, because you are truly worthy of my trust.  I gladly commit my ways to you today. Amen”

P.S. I often write prayers with the verse that I write out in my Journible.  If you are interested in learning more about the Journibles, here is my post about this excellent Bible study tool.
http://markjemilbooth.com/2012/07/29/how-to-profit-more-from-your-bible-reading-the-journibles/