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
In my prayer time this morning, I asked the Lord for a “word for the day.” This is what came to my heart: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Now, I ask myself, “How can I ‘lean not’ on my own understanding”? So much of my life is made up of “common sense” decisions. I have invested years in classes (both learning and teaching) trying to learn to think maturely and godly. Am I to toss aside all I think and reject or hold suspect all my thoughts as being opposed to God’s thoughts? I believe what Proverbs is teaching me is this: I must trust God above myself. What God says in His Word and what God speaks to my heart in the circumstances of life is more important than what I can figure out on my own. In fact, sometimes my thoughts, which I may consider sound and right, may actually veer me away from God’s will. Consider Joseph, the husband of Mary. When he learned that Mary was expecting, and knowing he was not the father, “he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19b). From Joseph’s understanding, divorcing Mary quietly not only made sense, but showed the quality of godly mercy. But, God’s thoughts were higher than Joseph’s thoughts! In a dream, the Lord revealed to Joseph his need to trust God ahead of his own logic and reasoning. And, because Joseph obeyed God, he experienced the wonder-filled life of living with Jesus, the Son of God! So, when it comes to our common sense and natural thinking, God doesn’t judge this as always bad and evil. After all, He is the one who gives us the ability to think and reason. However, our thoughts and understanding must also come under His Lordship. We must give Him the right to “overrule”. All of us will face times when our reasoning is tested by God’s will. At these times, may we receive His grace, enabling us to trust Him, even when we can’t “figure Him out”!
Pastor Mark Boucher
Last year I was speaking with a former member of Highway who lives far away. During our conversation, she said she would be sending a financial gift to the church. The check didn’t come the next day or even the next week, but…it did come. I had no doubt it would come because she is a person of character and keeps her promises. If we can count on people of character, how much more can we trust the character of God! God doesn’t make mistakes, and He is never late or negligent. However, we must be prepared for divine delay. God’s timing and our timing are usually not the same. Ask Abraham! “When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.’ And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised” (Hebrews 6:13-15). What if every time God promised something, it was sent FedEx the same day!? That’s not the real world, or the way God’s Kingdom works. We sometimes get discouraged because we don’t see the answers to our prayers right away. But, God does answer us…with His promises! While you are waiting, remember: God’s promise is God’s answer. Since God’s character is perfect, His promise is as good as done. We just have to trust and wait (combined with faithful obedience). What are you waiting for? Abraham and Sarah waited in faith and received what God promised. He won’t let you down. Hold to His promise while you live in the gap between promise and fulfillment. It’s our “faith gap.”
Pastor Mark Boucher
As a pastor, I often ask myself questions about other people. For example, I ask, “How can I be an instrument in this person’s life to help them grow in God?” I also ask, “Why do some people seem to grow quickly, and others seem to grow painfully slowly…or not at all?” While discussing these questions the other day with a relative, we concluded that discipleship in this current “spiritual climate” doesn’t just happen. God has provided all we need to grow and overcome all obstacles. However, He will not force us to obey Him, to seek Him, to read His Word, or to attend church. The hunger and desire for progress in our faith comes from Jesus as we take practical (and sometime small) steps in response to His grace. In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus distinguishes between two types of servants to whom He invested grace and provision (symbolized as property and money). There are those who work to increase the investment given to them and those who do nothing with the investment. The Master’s grace was given freely; the response was the free choice of the individual servant. Those who received “Well done!” from the Master combined faith and action. The Bible says, “The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work, and gained five more” (v. 16). The servant judged by the Master only offered lame excuses for buried resources. As a pastor, my joy is watching and helping God’s people love God and grow as disciples of Jesus. Be careful because the distractions of the world will try to diminish your devotion to Christ. The cultural mindset today says, “God exists for me…to make me happy and give me a good time.” Stay in the Word of God! Jesus deserves our best, and He waits to reward His good and faithful servants.
Pastor Mark Boucher
Hard hearts plague only those without God, right? The truth is, anyone can develop a hard heart, even those closest to Jesus. One day while Jesus and his disciples were crossing the lake, he asked them some soul-searching questions: “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see and ears but fail to hear?” (Mark 8:17-18) What was the problem here? Just before entering the boat, the disciples witnessed an amazing miracle of the multiplication of seven loaves and a few small fish. Thousands of people “ate and were satisfied” (Mark 8:8). Now, on the boat, Jesus warned his disciples about the “yeast of the Pharisees”, referring to the danger of religious people who know about God but just pretend to follow him. So, the disciples picked up on the word yeast, and, in their minds, went from there to bread, and from there to their lack of food in the boat. They had not planned very well and only had one loaf on hand. So, they thought Jesus was rebuking them (by mentioning “yeast”) for putting them in a predicament of need! In other words, they were stressing out over their lack of provision, while the Creator of the world was in the boat with them! No wonder Jesus was upset with their hard hearts. Sometimes I feel the same “spiritual amnesia” of the disciples in my own heart. When I recall the great faithfulness of the Lord in my past, I am encouraged and filled with faith for the present “tests.” However, when I forget his faithfulness, I start to stress and worry. In these times, I need to confess my hard-heartedness and receive his grace to live in his confidence. With God, there is no lack! He is the provider of all we will ever need! May our hearts be soft to understand his ways in order to trust him more.
This past Thursday in youth club we discussed the call of Moses in Exodus 4. Even after God’s assurances and demonstrations of power, Moses offered God several excuses as to why he was the wrong choice to free the Israelites from Egypt. From this event, we explored our own “go to” excuses which seem to hold us back from full obedience. When asked to name their biggest excuse (for sometimes failing to follow the Lord), a couple of the youth answered, “Because I didn’t feel like it.” I appreciated their honesty. Feelings and emotions are powerful and can dominate our choices and determine our future. As believers, how can we get our feelings to work for us and not against us? How can we overcome our negative emotions and still say yes to God, even though feelings of laziness and disobedience desire to rule us? I believe the victory begins with our relationship with God. We need to be honest with God, especially when our emotions are acting like three year olds in a bad mood! When I don’t feel like going after God, I try to simply tell God how I’m feeling, and ask him to “stir my heart by the Holy Spirit.” My fleshly nature is no different from yours. Our emotions try to trick us into feelings of “woe is me” or “Why bother…God really doesn’t care.” We don’t have to sit down and accept these excuses! Through practice, I have discovered that God’s Word provides the spark I need to grow the fire of love and obedience. Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Negative emotions are not overcome by simply trying in our own efforts “to think our way out.” When we embrace God’s truth and decide to be ruled by his Word rather than our feelings, we are on the path of Jesus. Through his Spirit, we are given the desire and will to do God’s will! And remember, “When you do right, you feel right.” With Jesus, you can learn to enjoy healthy emotions, while at the same time learning to conquer the negative ones. There’s hope for all of us!