Gratitude

Today marks a special day on the calendar: the midpoint between Thanksgiving and Christmas. What a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on how much we have to be thankful for!

Two weeks ago, on Thanksgiving Day, we had an opportunity to look back over the year and remember the faithfulness of God’s provision.  We gave God thanks, as the pilgrims did on that first Thanksgiving, for the blessings that sustained us throughout the year. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, reminds us that God pours out those blessings on us so that we, in turn, will be able to bless others:

“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).

Two weeks from now, on Christmas Day, we can reflect on the fact that God has even greater, eternal blessings in store for us. His greatest gift, the gift of His Son, goes beyond the sustaining provision and grace which we experience in this world, ushering us into an abundant inheritance and life with Him in eternity:

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4-5).

That’s reason to celebrate! God has given us so many reasons to be grateful. May we never let go of the spirit of gratitude.

Otis A. Fortenberry

A Special Tribute

 “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).

A few of you met her once or twice, some of you have heard about her, and many of you prayed for her. Terry Boucher’s mom, Angeline (Hafner) Sorbo, passed away Monday, November 26th, around 1:30 in the afternoon. Two of her daughters, who were able to make it to the hospital quickly, were singing to her at her bedside. Angie went to be with Jesus hearing the hymn, “It is Well with My Soul.” What a beautiful song to usher Mom into the presence of the One she loved and served! As a son-in-law there are so many wonderful memories I could share about her. One that stands out to me is when Terry and I were dating, and I had a chance to visit her mom and dad at their house. Mom and I were talking in the kitchen and I dared to venture the question, “Do you think I’m the right one for your daughter?” She looked straight at me and said, “Yes, I think you are.” After being married to Angie’s daughter for over 40 years, I look back with great appreciation for her “vote of confidence.” Also, I am so grateful to Mom for the godly qualities she helped develop in her beautiful daughter, Terry. Mom loved Jesus and centered her life around prayer and worship. She also loved people and made time to talk and pray with anyone who sought her counsel. In a day when “in-laws” get a bad rap, I can say that God blessed me with the best mother-in-law I could ever imagine. At her bedside last week, I read from the Word of God in Psalm 37. Verse four says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This was Mom’s favorite verse, and it helped her focus on what really matters—especially in times of stress and difficulty. The world will hardly notice the passing of this 84-year-old woman. She was not famous, didn’t have a lot of money, wrote no books, and held no important titles. Yet, for us who knew her, her impact will always be deep and profound. She was a woman who feared the Lord and…she will be praised! Thank you, Mom, for showing us Jesus!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Truth That Renews!

It has taken me a while, but I’ve learned something about myself. When I look at life as merely a lot of tasks and goals to accomplish, something deep inside of me starts to shrivel up. Focusing on just the work—even good work—causes my soul to feel dry and empty. Then, as I go to prayer and consider the Word of God, the Lord reminds me again about what is most important—truth that renews and rejuvenates my spiritual health. I was reading one such reminder yesterday from Ephesians 5:1-2: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” So, we are called to be “imitators” of God! The Greek word for imitate is where we get “mimic” from. As God is and does, so we are to follow His example. Of course, there is much about God that only He can do. I can’t know everything or have inexhaustible power. However, I can do what God has called me to do…through Christ. I am most fulfilled in life when I love others and do my daily work in the love of Jesus. Love is a simple concept to hear, but so elusive to live in the context of everyday interactions with people. These verses in Ephesians reveal this about love:  We can love because we are loved! God commands us to love, knowing that we can do this by first realizing how much He loves us. If I just try to love others in my own limited strength, I quickly give up if I don’t see or feel love being returned to me. But, if I am secure in knowing that I am loved unconditionally by the Father, the oversights and even rejections of others do not derail me. I can still experience a life a love because the Lord (not other people) is the One who replenishes my “supply” of love. So, we are to live a life of love “just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (v. 2). A quick read of 1 Corinthians 13 also reminds us that our best efforts without love amount to a big zero with God. As we work and journey through the holiday season, adding tasks and goals to our sometimes already crowded schedules, let’s remember the greatest thing. Know that Jesus loves you, and that you can love because you are loved!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Overcoming Spiritual Gravity

The famous 19th-century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “We are too prone to engrave our trials in marble and write our blessings in sand.” This Thursday, November 22, we get to celebrate a day declared as “Thanksgiving.” Of all the special days of the year, Thanksgiving is in the top three of my favorites (right behind Easter and Christmas). As we do a mental review of our lives, it’s easy to obsess and complain about what we don’t like. Karen Carpenter (a singer back in the 1970s) sang a hit song entitled, “Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down.” Life’s trials can feel like “spiritual gravity”—trying to keep us pressed down and feeling defeated. And then comes the Word of God! If you take some time in Psalms, you quickly discover how God’s people rose above the “gravity” of inconsistencies and the seeming unfairness of life. They made a choice, saying, “I will praise the Lord and be grateful!” Psalm 107 begins the last “book” of Psalms (which is divided into five books). This last section is all about praising the Lord, the true hero of life, who gives us himself and provides us with all we need.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1).

Many of the previous psalms express lament and grief—expressions of honest hearts. However, this fifth and last section, Psalms 107 to 150, ascends into a magnificent crescendo of worship. Here’s a reminder: Even though we go through hard times, in the end we can rise above our problems and find our joy in the Lord. We give thanks to our Lord because of His love which endures forever. This Hebrew word love describes God’s never-ending riches of His daily mercy and kindness. If you woke up today and realized that the Lord is in your life, you have reason for thanks-giving! So, when tempted to “stay down,” hold your tongue, and instead, praise the Lord for His amazing grace. Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Prepared!

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15).

It’s a great feeling to be prepared. When I prepare my heart and mind to preach the Word, I am excited to bring the message. When I am doing a project that requires tools and I have all I need, I look forward to the work. What about being prepared every day to share the hope of Christ with people? Are we prepared? Opportunities to share Christ don’t come with an announcement like, “Get ready. Someone with a need is coming to talk to you, and you need to point them to Christ.” God’s Word through Peter helps us to make the most of daily opportunities. Peter first stresses the need for us to “honor Christ the Lord as holy.” Being prepared begins with our walk with Jesus…how we love Him and talk to Him in our hearts. Witnessing doesn’t start with “knowing five steps to convince someone.” It begins with our relationship with the Lord himself. As we walk in His Spirit, people will come across our path, and the Lord will nudge us to share with them the hope we have been given. The other day I got a haircut, and the barber and I were the only ones in his shop. We started talking about life and the importance of good values. He asked me questions, and it was a joy to point him to the Lord Jesus as the source of wisdom, peace, and hope. After the barber cut my hair, I asked him if I could pray for him and he agreed. We bowed our heads, and I prayed for him to get to know Jesus and experience His presence! As I left the shop, I remembered praying in my devotions earlier that morning that the Lord would open doors for me to share Jesus. I thanked the Lord for answering prayer! A major part of being prepared is simply praying that we would be ready to see the opportunities when they come. I confess that I have missed many of these opportunities, but I know that the Lord is merciful and helps me be more sensitive as I walk with Him each day. And, Peter tells us one last thing about being prepared. Make sure you share “with gentleness and respect.” If we come across as “above others” or “knowing it all,” people will react to our pride and will miss the message. The truth is that we who witness are just as needy of the grace of God as the one with whom we share. May the Lord prepare us today to always be prepared to be His witnesses.

Pastor Mark Boucher

What Are We Afraid Of?

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

There is healthy fear and unhealthy fear. I remember one day standing on the edge of a cliff hundreds of feet high and feeling the wind blowing hard around me. A wave of fear swept over me and I stepped back away from the edge. This was healthy fear! The Bible speaks of fear many times as something good. For example, Proverbs 19:23 declares, “The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied.” Fearing God through reverence and worship is critical to our growth and blessing. However, we also need to be aware of the effects of unhealthy fear. Many people avoid seeking or encountering the Holy Spirit, as if he were some Halloween figure. Why is this? Some answers I have heard go like this: “The Holy Spirit may ask me to do something I don’t want to do,” or “I’m afraid of releasing control of myself to anyone or anything,” or “The Holy Spirit might embarrass me in front of my friends.” The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to his son in the faith, Timothy. From the letter we discern that Timothy struggled with timidity and fear. But, Paul encouraged Timothy by reminding him of what the Holy Spirit is about, and what the Spirit deposits into our spirit. He is not the author of unhealthy fear! The Spirit is the one who desires to fill us with the wonderful fruit of power, love, and self-control. Through the Holy Spirit, the power that controlled Jesus as He lived and rose triumphantly from the grave dwells in us! Don’t let “I was afraid” be the excuse you give to God for not letting Him give you all you need to live full and fruitful. Pray today (as I do) and say, “Lord, fill me with the Holy Spirit right now. Help me to depend on You and not to make any decisions outside of Your will. Use my life as a witness that Jesus is alive!” Don’t be afraid of the Holy Spirit. He knows what is best for you…and he knows what he is doing!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Accomplishing God’s Mission

Talk about a mission! Read the life of David and see amazing events unfold! David received a call from God to lead the nation of Israel into a relationship with the Lord in order that it would become a great witness to the nations of the world. The Bible summarizes the events of David’s life and mission at the end of 2 Samuel. It is interesting to note here that almost a whole chapter is devoted to naming David’s “mighty men.” Of Benaiah, for example, it is written, “And David put him in charge of his bodyguard” (2 Samuel 23:23). There is no way David could accomplish the mission by himself. He had to learn to delegate and put others in charge, trusting that God could accomplish more when he viewed the mission as “team work.” As we look around us today, we see a vast harvest field ready for workers. Amazing events lie just on the other side of obedience! So many people are waiting for someone to bring them the hope of Jesus. None of us can do everything, but together, we can do great exploits. During the past two weeks, missionaries shared with us about their mission…and ours. After listening to them and praying about what they said, I believe the Lord’s message to us is: “Be willing to be a witness of Jesus.” Be open and available to tell others about the hope you have in Christ. May Jesus open our eyes to see the ripened harvest field all around us. God has an assignment just for you. There’s someone to whom God wants you to speak, to share hope, to demonstrate the love of Jesus. Together, let’s pray for God’s kingdom to be seen and experienced! May we work together with other missionaries to share Jesus and build up believers!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Sharing Hope

How can something so good be a cause for guilt? In Acts chapter one, we see Jesus leaving the earth and taking His place beside God the Father. His task is finished and now He “passes the baton” to His disciples. He said to them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (v. 8). The assignment is not complicated or impossible. We are to be witnesses. A while ago I was called into court to “be a witness.” I didn’t have to search for information, or worry about what people would think; I simply told what I saw and heard. I believe the Lord is speaking to us who are part of His church. He is challenging us not to be overcome by the problems of sin and darkness. He is calling us to make a difference. The mission we are given is not beyond us or too difficult. We are to simply to tell what we know to be true. Jesus rose from the dead and is willing to forgive the sins of every person who comes to Him! He gives the gift of eternal life to all who believe in Him! This is Good News! So, the question is, “Why don’t we witness more?” I ask myself the same question, and here is what I come up with. We walk in fear more than faith. We’re afraid of what people may think of us, or that we may not know an answer someone may ask. Also, we don’t witness much because we are distracted by the “tinsel and glitter” of the world. The things of this life get so much of our attention that we hardly even think about the things that matter most. During our Missions Convention, the Lord is speaking to us about witnessing more. He is faithful because He not only tells us what to do, but He empowers us! We need to ask Him for more of the Holy Spirit, so that His power would replace our weakness and fear. God doesn’t want us to be filled with guilt because of our silence. We can do what He calls us to do!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Something To Live For!

Sometimes we do things over and over and forget the reason why. This Sunday we begin a special Missions Convention. Why? Is it just because it’s “something we’ve always done”? Is this just an event on the yearly calendar? Why emphasize missions at all? The answer comes from the life of Jesus. His whole life was a mission. He came from God to hurting, lost people and made a way for us to know God! Then, in a dramatic moment before leaving this world to go back to the Father, He turned to his disciples and proclaimed, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). We don’t have a missions convention just to give you the opportunity to meet special people who serve locally or share the gospel in places all over the globe. The greater purpose is to ignite the love of Christ within you for the mission He has given you! If you are wondering what your mission may be in life, read the account of Jesus calling His first disciples. He was walking beside the Sea of Galilee and saw Simon (Peter) and Andrew, and said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Here Jesus presents the mission of life for a disciple of His: to follow Him and to help others know and follow Him. The specific details of our personal mission in life are as different as our gifts and talents. However, the core remains the same. Jesus loves us and wants us to walk with Him…so that we may know His heart and His ways. From this relationship, He gives us the mission to love others and influence them toward the Savior. So, the focus of missions at Highway Mission Tabernacle is not “out there” somewhere; it is inside your heart. May our love for Jesus connect us to His heart, fulfilling His mission to share the hope we have in us with those without hope. Our vision: “Following Jesus, loving people, sharing hope!”

Pastor Mark Boucher

Don’t Let It Happen to You!

“But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said” (Exodus 8:5).

While considering again the account of Moses and Pharaoh, I kept asking myself, “How could Pharaoh have such a hard heart?” You remember the story…. God called Moses to command Pharaoh to stop enslaving the Israelites and let them go. Moses and Aaron performed miracle after miracle in the presence of the Egyptian king. At times Pharaoh gave in when the heat was on, but when the immediate effects of judgment cooled off, it was back to ignoring God. Here was a man who had a front row seat to some of the greatest miracles recorded in the Bible, but still he turned his back on God! Just before sending His final judgments, God gave Pharaoh and Egypt another chance. Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and proclaimed, “This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me’” (Exodus 10:3). In the bitter end, Pharaoh refused to listen, instead leading his soldiers into the watery grave of the Red Sea. This story helps us understand something about God and ourselves. First, God will allow us to harden our hearts if that’s what we want. Along with a hard heart comes stinging consequences and harsh results. We can “play God,” but we can’t determine the outcome. As someone noted, “Play stupid games, get stupid prizes.” Second, this story helps us understand something about our own hearts. The reason we end up with a hard heart is because we refuse to humble ourselves. In our deception, we somehow think we’re smarter than God—that we really don’t need Him. Will we learn from Pharaoh? His life shouts to us, “Don’t harden your heart…trust and obey God.” The choice is ours.

Pastor Mark Boucher