Faith & Imagination

Your imagination is a precious gift; be careful how you use it. An imagination filled with faith brings glory to God and great fruitfulness. An imagination filled with fear brings shame and defeat. Consider the event of the twelve Israelites who spied out the Promised Land (from Numbers 13). These twelve leaders (the “spies”) spent a month surveying the land while Moses and the Israelites remained in the desert area to the south of Israel. All twelve leaders saw the same things in the Promised Land: the bountiful fruit, the fertile soil, the walled cities, and the native peoples. They all saw in common, but they did not all imagine in common. After they returned to Moses and the Israelite community, they gave their reports. Ten of the spies imagined the worst. “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are…we seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Num. 13:31-33). Through their imagination, devoid of faith, the ten spies “spread among the Israelites a bad report” (v. 32). Only Joshua and Caleb “saw” through the eyes of faith. In their imagination, they saw themselves victorious over all odds, through the mighty power of God! Attempting to transfer their faith-filled imagination to the people, they proclaimed, “Do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (Num. 14:9). What a contrast: the ten spies see the enemy as giants and themselves as grasshoppers; Joshua and Caleb see the enemy as bread and themselves as victors! So, the question comes down to this: “What are you imagining about the challenges you face?” Will you include God and His Word in your imagination or tremble in fear over all the things that “may go wrong”? Everyone faces “giants,” but through our Lord Jesus Christ, we are declared “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37)!

Pastor Mark Boucher

What about Sacrifice?

Through the years I have wondered why some people really enjoy serving the Lord and others act like it’s a great burden and major inconvenience. It always comes back to the heart. When we serve God out of a heart of love for Him, serving is a joy and brings a “sweetness” to our soul. However, when we serve merely out of obligation, just going through the motions, we derive no joy. God, in His wisdom, knows that serving is important for us, so He allows us the privilege of giving back to Him. He gives us the opportunity to sacrifice to Him in such ways as praying, giving, or working. To receive God’s blessings, such sacrifices are not merely to be done, but to be done God’s way. The Book of Leviticus has a lot to teach us about sacrifices. The repeated theme of Leviticus is how to live holy before God. Since this book was part of the Law given by God for the people of Israel before the coming of Christ, we understand that we do not offer the same types of sacrifices as they did. But, the principle of giving to God and God receiving our sacrifices is still the same. God wants us to give in the right way and with a right heart. For example, Leviticus 19:5 says, “When you sacrifice a fellowship offering to the Lord, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf.” In the next few verses, God gives specific instructions about how to carry out the fellowship offering. So, the Lord is revealing here that our actions need to be in the right way and the “right spirit.” As I consider my life as a pastor, I don’t want to just be “busy” doing a lot of things for God. I want to be led by the Holy Spirit to invest my life in sacrificial labor, AND, to do this in the right way and with a right heart. The most important aspect of sacrifice is for it to be accepted by God. For example, some people give time, money, or “lip-service” to God, hoping their sacrifice will somehow prompt God to overlook their sinful and selfish lifestyle (trying to make “the good outweigh the bad”). Our feeble attempts to cover our guilt or sin don’t work. Jesus died as The Sacrifice to save us from sin. Our sacrifices are simply responses to His grace, the giving of gratitude to the One who gives us life and peace. The Psalmist summarizes the desire for God’s acceptance by saying, “May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings” (Psalm 20:3). Serve the Lord with gladness and holiness.

Pastor Mark Boucher

There’s a Better Way

No one said it would be easy. I’m reading through the Book of Exodus about the Israelites. They are “out on the road” after being delivered from slavery in Egypt and are crossing the wilderness to the Promised Land. God loves His people but does not “immunize” them from trials and difficulties…as they soon discovered in the harsh desert. Their response to the challenges reveals much about their faith and character. “The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin…In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death’” (Exodus 16:1-3). We seem to think of sin in categories of severity, with some sins as really bad, and others as not so bad. Complaining is not that bad of a sin is it? After all, we’re not stealing anything or physically hurting another person. Surely, it’s such a small thing. But, I ask, if grumbling and complaining are so minor, why would God’s Word bring it to our attention again and again? Complaining takes aim at God and says, “You don’t care. You are not a good provider. You cannot be trusted.” This is serious indeed! Such whining kept Israel out of the Promised Land for 40 years. Imagine if the Israelites had prayed and asked God for help when facing their problems? Can we learn from their example and turn from the fleshly reaction of complaining? Can we learn to trust God by turning to Him in prayer, presenting our needs to our faithful Father?

Pastor Mark Boucher

The Journey of Transformation

The Book of Genesis introduces us to a fascinating person named Jacob. As you may recall, Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah and the twin brother of Esau (the older one). As a young adult, Jacob (with the help of his mother) tricked his brother Esau out of the family inheritance. An enraged Esau determined to kill Jacob. So, Jacob hit the highway and ran to his mother’s relatives in the land of Haran. God’s plan, however, was not just a change of Jacob’s location, but a change of Jacob’s heart. After enduring 20 difficult years, Jacob heard God speak to him saying, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you” (Genesis 31:3). I can imagine Jacob thinking, “Now, I can leave all my troubles behind and move back home, where things will be much easier.”  But little did he realize the surprise that awaited! His brother Esau found out that Jacob was on his way back home, and came to meet him with 400 men…not exactly a “welcome wagon”! Jacob was confused. He knew God called him to go back home, but it seemed like he was about to lose everything, maybe even his life. But Jacob had one thing going for him—he knew how to pray! So, he humbled himself before God and said, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper. I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant…’” (Gen. 32:9-10). Through a night of restless prayer, Jacob yielded his heart completely to God. And, the Lord gave Jacob amazing grace. He and his brother Esau reconciled and Jacob lived and prospered in Israel. What blessed me from this story is this thought: Just because God leads you to do something doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. However, God provides His grace, which is more than enough to change our heart and our circumstances!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Filled with Hope!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Wow, what an amazing request by the Apostle Paul! This prayer, written for the Christians in Rome in the first century, echoes down the canyons of “then and there” into our “here and now.”  As we turn the page to start a new chapter of life entitled “2018,” we are not blind to the seemingly hopeless wounds of our nation. Problems like racism, violence, poverty, political disunity, moral confusion, and the emptiness of life without God threaten to erode our hope and steal our joy. Even as believers in an Almighty God, we can fall into the trap of fixating on our personal negative circumstances and trials that don’t seem to change. But, don’t lose hope! The God we serve is called “the God of hope”! In Paul’s prayer, we notice “as you trust in him,” sandwiched between the phrases “God of hope” and “overflowing with hope.” The Lord reminds us that we must exercise faith in Him if we are to experience hope. Also, choosing hope doesn’t mean we ignore the plight of people without God. Hope is not turning away from need and pretending that “all is well in the world.” Hope flourishes in Jesus, in spite of the tremendous need all around us every day.  Jesus teaches us that we can cry tears for the lost, but need not feel depressed or hopeless. Hope believes in a God who keeps on loving and keeps on offering grace. Hope believes that God is bigger than anything we will ever face in life. Hope believes in a God who answers prayer and changes hopeless circumstances. Hope holds fast to the promise that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). As we look ahead in this new year, may we “overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” In God we trust!

Pastor Mark Boucher