He was just a young boy. His older “brothers” and adopted father were not good role models, and yet, into this bleak upbringing, God spoke into Samuel’s life. When Samuel first heard God speak, he thought it was Eli, the priest, who slept in the next room. Three times God spoke to Samuel, and each time he went to Eli saying, “Here I am, you called me.” Finally, Eli gave Samuel the advice he needed to hear. “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9). Samuel obeyed and God spoke. As a young boy, Samuel started to learn how to discern the voice of God. This account challenges me because I want to be the kind of person who hears God as well. Here are a few principles I have learned about listening to God. First, don’t insist on your own method of how God speaks. If you wait around for an audible voice, you will be disappointed. The audible voice of God sometimes breaks into people’s lives, but this is rare. Instead, we need to listen within our spirit. Cultivate your inner life by removing the clutter. Get comfortable with quietness. How can we hear God if we constantly flood our ears and minds with a never-ending parade of noise? By following Jesus in the disciplines of prayer and the Word of God, we learn to discern the voice of God. Whenever God has spoken to my heart, His directives have never gone against His revealed Word, the Bible. Next, to hear from God, we need to want to hear. Many have no interest in hearing God speak, because it interferes with “their” lives. God speaks to those who are willing to obey. Yes, God speaks to non-believers, but mainly concerning the challenge for repentance and restoration. Finally, God often chooses to speak through other servants of the Lord. Going to church and participation in the Body of Christ is not just a suggestion from church leaders, but an expectation from the Lord. I can’t tell you the number of times God has spoken to my life through godly pastors and friends. In summary, if you want God to speak to you, place yourself in a position to hear. Pray as Samuel prayed, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Pastor Mark Boucher
There’s a difference between living in a free country and living with freedom in our heart. Freedom, as taught from the Scriptures, is more than the ability to worship, vote, travel, or choose our own career. The Bible teaches us that freedom on the inside starts with truth. Jesus declared, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). In my devotions, I am reading through the Book of Judges. This book is so named because God raised up “judges” to help the Israelites break free from self-imposed defeat. When the Israelites first entered the Promised Land under Joshua, they served the Lord. But, as time went by, they became careless and treated sin and disobedience to God as “no big deal.” They didn’t set their heart to know God or seek Him.
“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger… in his anger against Israel, the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist” (Judges 2:10-15).
Slavery follows sin! Jesus said, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). Here in America we do not find ourselves at the mercy of other countries who would like to harm us. However, we choose to destroy ourselves from within by ignoring God and promoting things which He abhors. As believers, we live in the world, but cannot be like the world. In truth we are a “counter-cultural” movement, and we value what God says above all else. We all serve something in life, and a life without God serves the sinful nature and ends up in the worst kind of bondage: addiction to sin. Pursue Jesus and stay free! Then, you will be able to help others find the way to freedom.
Pastor Mark Boucher
A long time ago, I was praying for people at the altar on a Sunday morning. A young man approached me asking for prayer as he was approaching the day when he was leaving home for the first time to enter college. He was a believer but needed assurance and encouragement. Feeling led by the Lord, I turned to Joshua chapter one and let him read the Word out loud from Joshua 1:6-7.
“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”
Years later after he had graduated and married, I saw him again. He reminded me of the special time at the altar and how God had repeatedly used the Scripture from Joshua to give him courage and faith to persevere. By God’s grace, he has enjoyed many years of fruitful ministry as a pastor and district leader. God’s Word is powerful! Imagine the task ahead of Joshua. Moses, his mentor and leader, was dead. The Israelites (estimated at over two million) needed to be led into the Promised Land to claim their inheritance. There were many enemies and obstacles, and the believers had bad habits of complaining and giving up. Joshua needed God! He needed to remember what God had spoken, especially during times of testing. I wonder how many times Joshua quoted to himself the words, “Be strong and courageous”? As you read the book of Joshua, you discover how God used Joshua’s life and example to move the people from wandering in the desert to victory in the Promised Land. The Lord wants to use you and me to lead others to Christ and into a life of spiritual growth. The reality is that we can only give them what we receive and put into practice. Take from the grace of God and freely give. In Philippians 4:13, Paul reminds us, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Pastor Mark Boucher
While talking with someone the other day, I asked him if he was following Jesus. His answer was, “Sort of, I think.” I challenged him by saying, “To be a follower of Jesus, you need to settle the authority issue. Ask yourself, ‘Who is really in charge of my life…me or God?’.” As I read in my devotions about the journey of the Israelites in the desert, I notice the struggle they had with authority. They wanted God’s blessings and favor but didn’t want to follow God’s ways. Why is our human nature so resistant to submission to God? It’s because we believe a lie deep in our heart which rationalizes, “No one is going to watch out for me better than me. I know what’s best for me, and I don’t need God telling me what to do.” In Deuteronomy, Moses preaches God’s Word to the people reminding them of the dangers of a stubborn heart. He tells them to love God, obey Him, be careful not to forget the covenant, and seek Him with wholehearted devotion. The Lord gives us an amazing verse revealing His primary reason for His insistence on being their authority.
“Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!” (Deut. 5:29)
If we choose to give in to our selfish nature and “do our own thing” we also reap the bitter consequences of our godlessness. To fear God and follow Him opens our lives to His presence and all the goodness which flows from His grace and favor. Although life still presents difficulties and trials, when we are surrendered to the Lord, we never go it alone! So, the biggest choice we make in life is either following the Lord wholeheartedly or trusting in the idol of “the big I.” As for me, I gladly choose to repent of my inclination to self-idolatry and humble myself before the Lord. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (James 5:5b-6). Settle the authority issue!
Pastor Mark Boucher