Growing Through Difficulties

The Book of Job fascinates me. God himself declared Job as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Although deeply devout, Job suffered the greatest trials recorded in the Bible. When I read about and meditate on Job, I want to gain insights about how my own heart handles life’s sufferings. For example, we know that Job was a godly man, but he was not a perfect man. Gold that goes through fire becomes even more pure. Job was in the fire! As the chapters of Job’s suffering stretched on, Job caved in to feelings of anger and despair. His responses to his friends grew more combative and self-righteous. Finally, we read in 31:40, “The words of Job are ended.” After Job stopped his verbal barrage, God began to speak to him—first through a man named Elihu. Consider what Elihu said in response to Job’s arguments: “But you have said in my hearing—I heard the very words—I am pure and without sin; I am clean and free from guilt. Yet God has found fault with me; he considers me his enemy” (Job 33:8-10). Elihu recognized that Job struggled with sin—just like we all do. In times of great stress and struggle, we easily defend ourselves, and we tend to blame God. During times when nothing seems to go right, we are tempted to imagine God as our enemy…certainly not our friend. I’m so glad that I live in the time after our Lord Jesus came to earth. He showed us God’s great love, and that he is the Good Shepherd who cares for the sheep. Even though we are not spared from life’s problems, Jesus promised to be with us and carry us all the way home! So, instead of giving in to our sinful tendencies of self-justification and blame, may the Lord give us the grace to entrust our souls to Him. May we believe that God is for us and not against us. And remember: “Life is sometimes hard, but God is always good!”

Pastor Mark Boucher

Changing the Future

I really like this statement: “We teach a little by what we say, more by what we do, and most by what we are.” Sometimes I wonder what the world will be like in the future, if the Lord doesn’t come soon. Then, I look at the youth and children and say to myself, “This is the future of our world…where they are pointed will determine the destination.” Is there any task greater than investing in the next generation? Is there any job more important than working with children, getting to mold their hearts and minds? The “right now need” is for authentic adults who are willing to teach by word, deed, and life! The Apostle Paul knew well the value of investing in those who follow. Although he probably never had any biological children, he considered himself a father figure to many. Consider his words in 1 Timothy 1:2, “To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” The other day Terry and I had the opportunity to visit the workplace where our daughter, Nicole, is employed. The office supervisor told us how Nicole’s character and work added so much to her personally and to the company. As parents, we are “proud” of Nicole, but we recognize that the power in Nicole’s life to live right comes from God’s grace and mercy. As parents, we can’t force our children to follow the ways of Jesus. But, we can lead in such a way that our children (spiritual as well) desire what we have. This morning we honor the staff and leaders of Spring Garden Academy and Next Generation Ministries. Their desire is to lead in such a way that those growing up will want to live honorably…experiencing peace from the Father and the Lord Jesus. Please pray for those who influence our children every day inside our two churches. And, if you want to change the future, do your part to influence a child and invest in a young person.

Pastor Mark Boucher

The Power of Influence

Saving faith in Jesus can never be passed down like some family possession. However, we must never underestimate the power of parental influence. When Paul wrote to Timothy, he reminded him of his special heritage. He told Timothy, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Because Dad is left out, he may have died or perhaps was an unbeliever. What matters most is that Timothy had godly people around him as he grew up. His mother (and grandmother) made a huge difference in Timothy’s life and the path he chose. On this Mother’s Day, I pray for all you moms who desire to live and model godliness. As I look back, it was my mother who first introduced me to Jesus. Her faithfulness (through many challenging tests) is a major reason I am saved and in the ministry. I thank God for her! So Moms, keep on loving and giving and going after God. Although you may not see results right now, be assured you will reap a reward!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Do Your Part!

The other day I was chatting with someone about God. He seemed to have a sincere desire to follow God, yet he was trapped in some crippling addictions. He said to me, “I don’t understand why God allows this to happen. Why doesn’t He just take these habits away?” As he spoke, I could tell he was clearly blaming God for his failures. With gentleness, I tried to explain to him the “dual relationship” between God’s sovereignty and our choices. There are things in our lives that only God can do, but there are also things in our lives that God expects us to do. For example, we can’t expect God to take away a sexual addiction if we choose to stay up at night watching porn movies. Also, how will we overcome an alcohol addiction while hanging out with the same drinking buddies at the bar? As I observe the spiritual landscape of America, I see a lot of people interested in God and spiritual life. However, I notice a huge gap. We want the blessings and benefits of God, but we don’t want to discipline ourselves or lead our soul to seek Him. We conveniently put all the responsibility on God. While reading about the kings of Judah in the Book of 2 Chronicles, I discovered something powerful. Those kings who set their hearts on seeking God enjoyed victory and blessing. The kings who were careful to get God’s Word in their hearts and sought to practice His precepts experienced blessings. For example, 2 Chronicles 26:4 declares of Uzziah king of Judah, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord…he sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.” Life is a battle. Victory is not easy or automatic. The Lord is willing to give us the power to win. BUT, WE MUST SHOW UP! Faith is the pathway, and every pathway requires walking forward. Do your part!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Good Reminders!

There’s a phrase in the Bible which says, “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34, KJV). This means that God does not show favoritism based on a person’s appearance or apparent success. In the Old Testament we read that David experienced many trials in his life and was finally exalted to the position of king over Israel. In his heart he wanted to build a temple for the Lord, but this was not the Lord’s plan for him. After David proclaimed his desire to build, God spoke through the prophet Nathan to him saying, “I took you from the pasture and from following the flock, to be ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone…” (1 Chronicles 17:7-8a). While David was enjoying the peak of his splendor and prosperity, God reminded him, “I took you from the pasture.” Let this speak to your heart about always remembering God’s grace and goodness. He is the One who takes us from our “going nowhere” past. He is the One who spares us from the empty and vain life we could have pursued. And, no matter how blessed we are, we need to be reminded of the source of all these blessings…and not trust in them but in the Lord himself. In our self-centered tendencies, we sometimes fantasize that we are the reason for our success and blessings. But then, God reminds us of the pastures! In Israel, being a shepherd was the most humble and lowest of occupations. When I was in Africa, we stopped at a large field where goatherds were watching their goats. They were young people from 10 to 14 years old. Apparently, no one thought this job worthy of an adult’s attention. David’s days of humble beginnings were replaced by favor and blessings beyond his wildest imagination. God, who is no respecter of persons, gently warned His son to remember where he came from. May we never forget the grace of the Lord Jesus who saved us from an empty life of ultimate destruction. Along with the Apostle Paul, may we say, “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

Pastor Mark Boucher

Where the Heart Is

It was another Friday morning, but nothing was “typical” about it. I was at a hotel in India a couple of weeks ago (on the coast of the Indian Ocean) waiting for our ride to the morning seminar. As I looked around, I noticed a man walking up to a Hindu shrine in the center of the property. He bowed before it several times with his hands folded close to his chest. No doubt, he was asking for blessings and success in his life for that day. My heart went out to him, and, even though I could not speak his language, God could hear my prayers for him. As I watched him pray, questions came to my mind: “Do people think of Christianity as just another religion?” and “What was the reason Jesus came?” As I read the Bible, I discover that Jesus did not come just to offer people another religion to choose. God’s Word declares Jesus is the Good News, and He came to this world because God loves sinful, lost people. Jesus came to reconcile us to God that we might be a “dwelling place” for His very presence! Religions may need shrines and statues —along with many “works”—in order to appease their gods, but Jesus came to give us life in Him. Just before He died on the cross, Jesus prepared the disciples by praying with them and giving them promises about what really matters in life. In John 17:24, He prayed, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” The mission of Jesus is not to create a “religion.” He creates a “new humanity”—a people that belong to God through faith in the life and merits of Jesus. Jesus prays that we might be with Him where He is. Our true home is not found in this world; it is discovered in the presence and person of Christ. Someone once said, “Home is where the heart is.” My heart is not trusting in some religion but in the One who loves me and gave himself for me. Happy Resurrection Day!

Pastor Mark Boucher

My Right Arm

Last Thursday I returned from an amazing journey of ministry to Africa, India, and Sri Lanka. Dr. Neil Chadwick and I traveled thousands of miles by plane, train, bus, and taxi to minister to over 620 pastors. This was definitely the most difficult and arduous journey I have ever attempted! India was especially challenging as the temperature rose to 104 with high humidity (we ministered all day without a/c). There were days when the trips were so long that we just barely arrived in time to begin the evening sessions. Along with the teachings, I preached twice (once in Rwanda, Africa and then in Hyderabad, India). Throughout these two and half weeks I kept thinking about the wonderful people of Highway and the many prayers offered up to the Father for me. I could feel the power of these prayers, especially when I got a severe cold and struggled with it for four days. As I reached out to the pastors, I saw myself as a hand extended and God’s people as the arm holding the hand. Thank you again for your love and support! Over and over, the Lord brought this verse to my remembrance as I was about to teach or preach: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13). No matter what the Lord calls us to do, He wants us to see our need for the Holy Spirit. Our prayers and steps of obedience open the doors of heaven for us to receive the enabling power of the Spirit…in order for us to accomplish what we could never do in our own limited strength. May the same Holy Spirit guide and empower us into a future of fruitfulness and effectiveness here in our churches in Philadelphia!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Anticipating the Future

The Israelites spent 40 years wandering through the desert on their way to the Promised Land, mostly because of their own disobedience. During that journey, they often gave in to despair—losing sight of the inheritance that God was preparing for them. But not Caleb. The story of Caleb is told, in a nutshell, in Joshua 14:6–15. At the age of 40, Caleb was ready to claim the land that God had promised, but because of the people’s disobedience and lack of faith, he had to endure a 45-year delay before he saw that promise fulfilled. What was it that kept him going, year after year, until, as an 85-year-old man, he finally entered into his inheritance? I believe he could not have made it through unless he had kept his eyes focused on the glories of the future, rather than on the difficulties of the present.

We need to keep a clear view of the promises into which God is leading us as we head through difficult, challenging times here on earth. Keeping our eyes on the prize makes it easier for us to endure the hardship and struggles of the present. Every church has struggles; every church goes through growing pains; every church experiences highs and lows. During those lows, we can find encouragement in the promise that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). There are opportunities all around us! Within two blocks of the church, there are two public schools and a community college, several high-rise apartments and rowhomes, two union halls, and countless stores and restaurants. All of these buildings are full of people who need to hear the gospel message and know the love of God. If we shrink back, as the Israelites did on the cusp of the promise, we will spend our years in frustration, spinning our wheels. Instead, let us move forward in the faith of Caleb, proclaiming, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Numbers 13:30)! Highway Tabernacle has a long, glorious past. We have a wonderful present, filled with God’s miraculous provision. And God is calling us to press on boldly toward a guaranteed future, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

This year, Highway Tabernacle celebrates 125 years of ministry to the city of Philadelphia. The theme for our celebration is, “Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Present, and Anticipating the Future.”

Otis A. Fortenberry

Celebrating the Present

“The Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’” (Numbers 11:4–6). When the Israelites faced difficulties as they journeyed through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, their hearts were quick to turn back to Egypt. Their experience shows us that, while nostalgia can be a good thing, there are two problems with it. First, nostalgia makes us gloss over the problems of the past. When the Israelites pined over how well they used to eat in Egypt, they ignored that they were slaves there—beaten when they didn’t meet their daily quotas and forced to throw their newborn male children into the Nile. Were they really better off? The second problem with nostalgia is that it makes us forget the blessings of the present. All the while that the Israelites were complaining, they were enjoying daily miracles. The Spirit of God was leading them in visible form, as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). The manna that they were complaining about was daily bread that miraculously appeared six days a week—concrete, tangible proof that God was providing for them. In the 40 years that they traveled by foot, their clothes never wore out and their feet didn’t swell (Deuteronomy 8:4).

Sometimes we find it easy to complain about the things that our church is not or that it doesn’t have—especially when we compare what we see today with the past. We need to take a moment to consider what we do have and to recognize God’s miraculous provision. Although we are a small church, we support 52 missionaries—here in Philadelphia and all over the world. At a time when it’s impossible to take the Bible into schools, we have a thriving school where over 150 children and their families experience the love of God daily. In the past year, four people came to salvation, fifteen were baptized, and two received the baptism in the Holy Spirit at our churches. Praise the Lord! Despite our challenges, God is truly with us! Let us strive to maintain thankful hearts before the Lord, never forgetting all the blessings that He pours out on us day by day!

This year, Highway Tabernacle celebrates 125 years of ministry to the city of Philadelphia. The theme for our celebration is, “Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Present, and Anticipating the Future.”

Otis A. Fortenberry

Honoring the Past

The Old Testament records the story of how God delivered Israel from Egypt “with a mighty hand and outstretched arm” and “great and awesome deeds” (Deuteronomy 4:34). Throughout their 40-year journey through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, He established reminders for them to ensure that they didn’t forget His power and the miracles that He had performed. God told them to collect stones from the riverbed, after He led them through the Jordan River on dry ground; to wear tassels on their clothes and let the hair grow on the side of their heads; to observe memorial feasts and sacrifices. He gave them these reminders not only to build up their faith, but also so that there would be something that their children would ask about…to perpetuate that faith into the next generation. Sadly, in spite of all of these reminders, the Israelites were quick to forget God’s deliverance when they were in distress—when they came under attack, when they were hungry, or when they grew weary of traveling through the desert for 40 years. As Christians, it’s important for us to have a healthy sense of history. Without that sense, it becomes too easy for us to panic and lose faith when we face difficult times. The God who delivered and established those who came before us is still alive and active today! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!” (Hebrews 13:8).

Highway Tabernacle has had a tremendous history, going back to Thanksgiving Day in 1894, when seven individuals came together hungry for a greater move of God in Philadelphia. In the 125 years since, God has shown His faithfulness by raising up pastors, missionaries, and ministries. The church has endured two world wars, the Great Depression, a devastating fire, urban flight, and urban renewal. And the light of the gospel still shines brightly through our church! You can find a brief recap of the church’s history at http://youtube.com/HighwayTabernacle. If you aren’t familiar with Highway’s history, I encourage you to check out the video and thank God for His faithfulness. It’s certain to give your faith a boost!

This year, Highway Tabernacle celebrates 125 years of ministry to the city of Philadelphia. The theme for our celebration is: “Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Present, and Anticipating the Future.”

Otis A. Fortenberry