Tuning in to God’s Voice

A few weeks ago I was trying to have a conversation with a friend in a crowded room. I remember looking at him moving his lips, but I wasn’t hearing a word he said. The noise all around me drowned out his voice. So, I called “time out” and stepped closer to him and put my ear closer to his mouth, and then asked him to repeat what he just said. I really focused on his voice alone…and I got it! Listening to God is something like my experience in the crowded room. To hear God’s Word, you must focus your heart and attention on God and His Word, and “tune out” other voices. Let me connect this with a man from the Bible named Zedekiah. I just finished the Book of Jeremiah. As you may remember, Jeremiah’s task from God was to warn the people of Judah about coming judgment if they continued doing evil. The king at this time was a young man named Zedekiah. He started ruling at the tender age of 21 and reigned in Jerusalem for 11 years (Jeremiah 52:1). On several occasions King Zedekiah and the Prophet Jeremiah spoke person to person. Jeremiah repeatedly told the king what he needed to do to avert disaster. Because of all the evil done in Judah during the reign of Zedekiah, God allowed the nation of Babylon to surround Jerusalem for a siege that lasted one and a half years. At a critical moment, God spoke through Jeremiah to Zedekiah saying, “If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live” (Jer. 38:17). Did Zedekiah listen? He heard and understood exactly what Jeremiah said…but did just the opposite! Zedekiah, his family, and the people of Judah came to a horrible end, all because they refused to listen. The most important lesson from the fall of Judah is this: nothing else matters more than listening to God and doing what He says. Do what you need to do to tune out the noise and focus on God’s will for your life. God delights in blessing us, not in having to bring discipline.

Pastor Mark Boucher

Why Judgment?

Have you heard anyone say, “I don’t read the Bible because it is filled with judgment”? Well, let’s talk about that. Yes, judgment of various types is recorded in the Bible. For example, the Book of Jeremiah is filled with warnings about coming judgment. In Jer. 18:11, we read, “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you.’” So, why would God threaten to prepare disaster? First, we must understand something about Jeremiah’s ministry. He was called as a prophet to warn God’s people, Israel, about the consequences of sin. Jeremiah preached and prophesied about 50 years, showing that God is extremely patient! Furthermore, God spoke through Jeremiah on several occasions about His willingness to turn from judgment if the people would respond with repentance. Continuing on in Jer. 18:11, we read, “So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.” Sadly, their response was, “It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart” (v.12). Even after God’s repeated warnings, the people continued to follow their evil inclinations. As a result, God judged Israel through Babylon. He removed His hand of blessing and protection, allowing the nation of Babylon to invade and destroy the land of Judah. The Bible reveals that God never enjoys judgment, but does allow people to experience the consequences of sin. But, you might ask, “What about us as believers in Jesus?” Yes, Jesus died on the cross and took the judgment for our sins! By trusting in Jesus, we relate to God as our Father and not as our Judge. This amazing truth should humble us and create in us a heart of worship and gratitude! However, we must never presume that Christ’s death gives us an excuse to pursue evil. To truly love Jesus means we learn to hate sin.

Pastor Mark Boucher

Your Most Overlooked Ministry

Has this happened to you? Someone says something about you that is hurtful and insulting and then adds the lame excuse, “I was only joking.” I know of a youth group which adopted the slogan “no hateful words.” Previously, the youth were cutting each other apart, trying to see who could get the loudest laugh, at the expense of the one being “stabbed.” Whether we realize it or not, our words release power to destroy or build up. The Apostle Paul spoke about the power of words by saying, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29). Throughout my ministry, I have heard people lament, “I don’t think I have a gift or a ministry.” My answer is usually, “Begin where you are.” Ministry is not a title or the attainment of a position, but is more a consistent practice of the servant ministry of Jesus each day. How we use our mouth, for example, is a form of ministry. The responsibility of bearing good fruit in ministry begins by guarding the words which come out of your mouth. Paul’s phrase “unwholesome talk” is the word used for rotten fruit. The opposite of these rotten words are words that “benefit those who listen.” This means we minister grace (the Greek word translated “benefit” in verse 29). So, through the “ministry of our mouths” we get to become vessels of the Holy Spirit, pouring out His grace to others! The other day I was reading about Isaiah the prophet. He spoke about the ministry of his words. “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught” (Isa. 50:4). Isaiah reminds us that speaking God’s words is first preceded by listening. The principle here is this: If we are good listeners and are filled with God’s thoughts and His Word, then we will “spill over” words of life and grace. Find someone who needs an encouraging word and say something to help them. Don’t overlook the ministry of your words. You can start right now!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Keep Believing!

This past Monday evening I watched as President Trump announced his choice for the next member of the Supreme Court. After a while, I “surfed” through various news stations, watching the reactions of different commentators. Some liked the president’s choice and some vehemently disagreed. All agreed, however, on the extreme importance of this position. A Supreme Court judge serves for as long as they want and makes decisions that affects us all. I find it quite alarming when I hear people condemning the president’s choice of Brett Kavanaugh just because he believes in God and practices his faith. It’s a sad day in America when a man or woman is judged as unfit to lead simply because they profess faith in God. Imagine how the founding fathers would perceive this intolerance! It seems the biggest reason given for those rejecting Kavanaugh is that he might vote against some aspects of “women’s reproductive services” (abortion of the unborn). As a Christian, I ask you to pray for the upcoming process with the Senate. More importantly, pray for our nation. Even though our nation is deeply divided in many ways, let us be examples of loving God, commitment to His Word, and patience with those who disagree. May we, with grace and dignity, exercise our “dual citizenship” in God’s Kingdom and our country. This morning, while reading Isaiah, I discovered this Scriptural gem from God which spoke to my heart concerning America: “I will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure” (Isaiah 33:6). May we never stop honoring and fearing God, no matter what others say or do.

Pastor Mark Boucher

We Need the Father!

I remember speaking to a parent a while ago about his children. He mentioned one child who had not spoken to him in years! The father’s heart was broken and longed for closeness with his son and son’s family. As I considered this, I realized that these parents had been good parents and showed love kindness to each child. I was amazed at how this son could treat his parents with utter disrespect. Then, I thought of the Word of God. In Isaiah chapter one, God describes Himself as a parent who “brought up” the children of Israel. In spite of God’s parental love and care, His children ignored Him and did the opposite of what He asked. The Lord called them out on their behavior. “Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: ‘I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand’” (Isaiah 1:2-3). Think about our great country. Whether we acknowledge God or not, He has blessed America with abundant resources. He has protected us from foreign oppression and invasions. We are blessed with the freedom to read and proclaim the Word and are still the envy of the world.  And yet, with all these blessings from our Father, most Americans ignore God. Some even do all they can to proclaim evil as good, and push God out of school, government, and business. They don’t understand that God, as a loving parent, waits patiently for our change of heart. He wants a relationship with each person and is willing to forgive all sins and give us a clean start. As Christians, we must show our neighbors and friends how to honor and respect our heavenly Father. Even as our society continues to veer away from God, we, as believers, can receive the blessings of righteousness. These come through the sacrifice of God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ. By our trust and faith in Jesus, God declares us righteous. And, from the fullness of His grace we receive one blessing after another (John 1:16)! In these trying times, hear God’s encouragement through Isaiah, “Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds” (Isa. 3:10).  How wonderful to love and obey our heavenly Father!

Pastor Mark Boucher

I Need A Counselor!

It’s no shame to need a counselor. We read of the kings of Israel who sought advice and wisdom from counselors. I have a counselor I seek out regularly…in fact every morning. “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors” (Psalm 119:24). Each morning I ask the Lord to teach me and guide me by the Holy Spirit as I read and think about God’s Word. Of course, there is an important place for human counselors. However, the counsel from the Bible doesn’t require an appointment or cost you money. The price you pay is time, discipline, and attention. The rewards you will reap are out of this world! We don’t “have to read the Bible”; we get to read the Bible, and make it our primary source of counsel for life. There are many who try to attack the Bible, claiming it is full of discrepancies and errors. When I read articles by skeptics, I wonder how often they actually read and study the Bible. Personally, I discovered wisdom, purpose, and insight into my own nature when I started reading God’s Word. The counsel of the Bible lifts me out of discouragement, shakes me out of lethargy, and fills me with great joy. A sadness comes into my heart when I think of how many people will go through their entire life and never know the life-giving counsel of Scripture. As a pastor, I don’t read the Bible just to get sermon thoughts. I read because I need what God has to say to me. As a sheep first (and under-shepherd second), I need to hear God speaking to me, keeping me on the good path and sparing me from self-destructive behavior. My prayer for every person connected to Highway Tabernacle is for you to delight in the Word and develop a great hunger to think God’s thoughts. If you are new to the Bible, I suggest you open to the Book of John. Before reading chapter one, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand and obey what God says. In areas where you are confused, don’t give up. Believe that as you grow in the Lord, these areas will become clearer. The counsel of the Bible is right in front of you…waiting for you to mine its treasure. Enjoy!

Pastor Mark Boucher

The Gap

I’ll never forget the time I was driving down the highway toward Boulder, Colorado. I had never seen the Rocky Mountains and there they were…straight in front of me! They were so large, it seemed like they were just minutes away. However, it took almost an hour of driving to get there! Sometimes, between what we see and the reality of the situation, there is a “gap.” The gap may be distance or time, and the only way to cross it is to keep on going. Consider with me a “gap” scenario from the Bible. In Luke chapter one, the angel Gabriel brought Mary astounding news: “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32a). So, Mary knew the promised Messiah was coming! It would only be a matter of nine months and God’s promised Son could be seen and held! Gabriel then went on to say, “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32b-33). Now, imagine what probably went through Mary’s mind: The Messiah is coming in nine months and when He’s grown up, He will set up His great kingdom for the whole earth to see! There’s only one problem…God’s plan wasn’t going to work like that. God’s plan included a “gap.” Jesus would come through Mary, live a sinless life, die for the sins of the world, send back the Holy Spirit, and establish His spiritual kingdom in the hearts of those who follow Him. Yes, the Lord Jesus would rule and reign over all the earth, but that was to come later. The only way to experience the final fulfillment of God’s Kingdom is to travel through the gap. I wonder how many of Jesus’ disciples were totally confused when Jesus ended up dying on the cross, instead of sitting on the throne. Make no mistake, the throne is coming, but the gap must be crossed. From the reality of the gap, let us remember this: When God promises something to us, we should not be discouraged or surprised at the passing of time which may follow. Just keep traveling down the highway of faithfulness toward the majesty of God’s mountains. You will cross the gap and arrive at the destination. God’s grace and your perseverance will bring you all the way home!

Pastor Mark Boucher

The Battle of Truth

“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12).

Memorial Day has come and gone. This day reminded me to be thankful for those willing to defend our country and fight, if necessary, for our freedom and safety. As I consider the daily life of a Christian, I realize how warfare and fighting are absolute necessities. The Apostle Paul often compared our walk in this world as a fight…not with other people, but with evil and anti-Christ “forces.” The clash is described as light verses darkness. As Christians, our challenge is not to see how close we can live to darkness, but to “cast off the works of darkness.” Let’s make the resolve that “darkness will have no hold over me.” Creation teaches us that darkness can only be displaced by light. Paul tells us to “put on the armor of light.” How do we do this? As I read the Word of God, I see that God’s Word is light. Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” My first piece of armor is the Word of God. It’s amazing to me how many who proclaim themselves followers of Jesus rarely get into the Word…or should I say, get the Word into them. The enemy has deceived us into thinking that reading the Bible is just a chore and obligation. It’s like the attitude toward vacuuming the floor. I’ll put it off until it really needs to be done. The truth is that reading and studying the Bible is God’s gift to you! His Word brings light to our spirit and truth to our understanding. Professor Howard Hendricks, said, “Many of us want a word from God, but we don’t want the Word of God. We know enough to own a Bible but not enough for the Bible to own us. We pay the Bible lip service, but we fail to give it ‘life service’”(Living by the Book, p. 26). So, the big question is, “How serious are we about living in the victory of Christ?” We’re in a battle where many are falling to the right and left. God has victory in store for you…but, it won’t happen without you. You must do your part to “put on the armor of light.” Start today. Get God’s strategy for victory. Read the Word!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Don’t Overlook Them!

Every day, here at Highway, I get to see the hard work and dedication of those who work with children. They wear “many hats” and exercise great patience as they counsel, comfort, teach, and correct the children. And, they do this for a very modest salary. Imagine how important this is to God! They get to shape the minds and attitudes of the next generation. Yet, the culture in our country hardly notices those who sacrifice so much for others. For example, compare the insane salary difference between a children’s worker and an athlete or an actor. Our country elevates and almost worships those who can elicit cheers from adoring masses. God’s values are often the opposite of ours. To follow the Lord means we must let God rearrange our values and learn to look at others the way He sees them.  In Psalm 68, God speaks about those whom the world overlooks. The Lord proclaims himself, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land” (Psalm 68:5-6). So we see that people are important to God, and He seeks out the lowly and overlooked…to give them hope and a future. This begs the question, “What is important to me?” Are children just annoyances to be brushed aside? Are those who are poor invisible to us? Are people in prison just forgotten? Do we care about widows or children without parents? How easy it is to entertain ourselves by simply watching the actors and athletes…but when was the last time we actually did something to help a lonely or hurting person? As followers of Jesus, we believe that our hands and feet belong to Jesus. As we love and serve the overlooked and underappreciated, so we serve the Lord Himself. Serve well. Love well. This is why He saved you.

Pastor Mark Boucher

Receive Correction!

I have decided to read a chapter from the book of Proverbs each day of the month of May. With 31 chapters in Proverbs and 31 days in May, the plan is easy. Because Proverbs was written by Solomon to impart wisdom to his children (and all of us), there are major themes repeated. For example: the gain of wisdom, the fear of God, the use of words, the value of hard work, etc. Another theme that catches my attention is this: be willing to receive discipline and instruction from God and others. If I could rewind the clock, I would have avoided some painful mistakes in my life by humbling myself and asking for help. So, how can we grow from correction today, no matter how old we are? Here are a few insights: 1) Invite discipline and advice. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid” (Prov. 12:1). The only way to learn is to admit our ignorance and ask questions…and not pretend we know it all. 2) Repent of our pride. “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice” (Prov. 13:10). “No one’s gonna tell me what to do!” is the motto of many who misunderstand independence and respect. Criticism from others often hurts, but we can gain from it, if we are willing to grow and improve. 3) Keep the end in mind. To those who refuse correction, Solomon warns, “At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors” (Prov. 5:11-13). God loves us so much that He brings correction and discipline when we need it. Sometimes He uses the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Other times, He may correct us through circumstances. And, He often uses other people in our lives, especially those in authority. Welcome correction and discipline as loyal friends! “Do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Prov. 3:11). Change is often uncomfortable, but it yields good fruit to those who seek God’s ways!

Pastor Mark Boucher