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
Talk about big news: the story of Jesus the Messiah coming to planet Earth doesn’t get any bigger! Luke, one of God’s “news reporters” takes two full chapters to describe this once-in-eternity event. Interestingly, within “The Story” are some smaller stories we don’t expect. Some obscure man named Simeon is suddenly introduced into the narrative. He is described as “waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Luke 2:25b). As I am reading about Simeon, suddenly it dawns on me: the story of Christmas is not just about Christ coming, but also about people responding…people like you and me. After all, great stories often include glimpses of personal eye-witness accounts. Ponder Luke’s “breaking news” about Simeon’s amazing encounter with Jesus: “Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts…Simeon took him (baby Jesus) in his arms and praised God…” (vv. 27a-28a). This man got to hold the very Son of God, Creator of life itself, all because he was at the right place at the right time! Simeon’s encounter with Jesus encourages me. God shows us that He actually wants us to experience Him and enjoy His presence! Let’s remember that Simeon was not some “super-human action figure” and neither are we. Let the story headline sink in: God seeks to bless those who yield “their life story” to the “Greatest Story Ever Told”. Simeon released his grasp from the “pen” of his own life and invited God to write His story through Simeon! Because of Simeon’s desire to do God’s will, millions of believers through the ages of time have been inspired by his life. A Christian football coach and I were talking one day about how to discover God’s will. I will never forget his simple words of wisdom: “Just love God and He will show you His will.” To me, this advice sums up the life of Simeon. He loved God and walked with the Holy Spirit…and the Lord directed him to the right place at the right time. Let God write your story!
Pastor Mark Boucher
This morning I was reading Isaiah 55 and pondered the following verses: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:6-9). From this Word to Isaiah, I come to the painful realization of how “earthbound” I am. Too often, my first reaction to life’s challenging circumstances is opposite of how God would think. What can I do to change this? I need more of Him! Jesus told His disciples He would not leave them as orphans but would send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to be with us. The only hope I have to think the thoughts of God and to walk in His ways is by the power of the Spirit! Pentecost is not simply a reminder of “something extra” God provides for our enjoyment. Pentecost is the celebration of God’s new way of life, made available to us through Jesus and brought to us by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the power by which I live an overcoming Christian life. So, the question goes back to, “How do I learn to think God’s thoughts and live God’s ways?” The answer is by submission and dependency on the Spirit. God our Father provides as much of the Spirit in our lives as we are willing to receive. Jesus told us, “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). Let’s ask our Father, “Please fill me with your Spirit…more of You, less of me.”
Pastor Mark Boucher
That which costs us nothing tends to be little appreciated. In 1 Chronicles 21, King David is seeking to buy some land in Jerusalem from a man named Araunah. He wants the land because of a grievous sin he committed. The Lord directed him to Araunah’s land in order for David to offer sacrifices and offerings. When Araunah hears David’s request, he says, “Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him. Look…I will give all this” (1 Chron. 21:23). Someone else might have responded, “My lucky day! I’ll take it!” But not David. He knew that serving God required his best. He replied, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” What is David teaching us here? The “big idea” is this: Our relationship with God costs us. But you might say, “Salvation is free, isn’t it?” Yes, it is true that we can’t buy or earn our salvation. Jesus purchased us at the supreme price, His own blood. But, the same Jesus who died on the cross told us we are to pick up our cross daily and follow Him. If we are saved, the quality of our service and relationship with God is demonstrated by how we “spend” our lives. Too many Christians today are stingy toward God. Somehow, in their minds, God is not worthy of our best but just gets the leftovers from “our busy lives”. We find time to indulge ourselves by spending time on what we want but can’t seem to find time to pursue God and His mission for us in this world. God’s presence and His Word are the most amazing gifts we can imagine, and yet we look at them as a chore or bother, not worthy of more than a passing glance. We want God’s blessings flowing from a Christ-like life, but all with no cost to us…no time, no money, no struggle. The word repent means literally, “to change our mind”. Let’s change our thinking and say to ourselves, “God is worthy of my sacrifice of time, treasures, and talents. It’s my privilege to be able to give. After all, He gave me everything.” I want to say to the Lord what David said, “I will not sacrifice that which costs me nothing.” Thankfully, Jesus did not hold back from us but sacrificed that which cost Him the most so that we could enjoy forever the riches of His grace!
Monday night at our “Week of Prayer” meeting at Northeast Assembly of God, I felt the Lord speaking to my heart. The impressions that kept coming to me were, “Allow yourself to be poured out.” I looked up “poured out” in the Bible and made some beautiful discoveries. In the Old Testament, poured out is most often used to refer to both the pouring out of sacrifices by God’s people and to the pouring out of God’s wrath. The New Testament uses the expression “poured out” eight times. After the time of Jesus, we do not read of God’s wrath poured out, (although we read of God’s judgment coming on sin and evil coming…read Revelation). Seven of eight occasions of pouring out in the New Testament have to do with the Lord pouring out for us and our need. Jesus poured out His blood. He told His disciples in the “first communion”, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you (Luke 22:20). Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit. “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). Jesus poured out his grace. “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly” (1 Tim. 1:14). In the prayer meeting I mentioned, Jesus challenged me to pour out my praise to Him, to pour out my life to Him in focused worship, and to pour out my obedience to Him. Jesus never asks us to do what He has not already done. It is our great privilege to surrender all to Him. The Apostle Paul said, “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you (Philippians 2:17). Pouring out our lives to Jesus is the least we can do for the One Who gave us His all!
Here is a critically important question to ask yourself about life: “Who are you trying to please?” God made us with a free will, so you have options. You can say, “I am living to please myself.” Most people take this “broad road” and live for self-advancement, self-satisfaction, and self-indulgence. There are many others, who may not outwardly say it, but live to gain significance in the eyes of others. Their motto becomes, “I am living to please others.” This is the person who strives for recognition and applause and is devastated over being disrespected or ignored. The best answer to “Who are you trying to please” is “I am living to please God!” This person receives salvation as a free gift and then embraces a life of self-discipline in order to experience the fullness of this salvation. Yielding to the presence of the Holy Spirit becomes the desire of the heart leading to actions which reveal the character of the Lord Jesus. In Luke 9:23-25, Jesus summarized the life which pleases God. He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” You can’t live without making choices. The greatest choice starts with who you decide you are living for. May we say “Yes” to Jesus and “No” to everything else. Proclaim your declaration of faith: “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, You are my God” (Psalm 31:14).