Do Something to Remember!

In order to live well in the present, we must learn how to deal with the past. While visiting our daughter and son-in-law (Nicole and Tirus) a few weeks ago, Terry and I heard a wonderful sermon about “Stones of Remembrance” from Joshua 4. I credit Pastor Joel for key thoughts for this article. In Joshua 4 we find the children of Israel crossing the Jordan River after wandering 40 long years in the wilderness. This crossing was no ordinary fording of a river! God miraculously dried the Jordan, allowing the people to pass over to the Promised Land, even during the rainy season when the river was at its peak. During the crossing, God instructed Joshua to have some men gather 12 stones from the middle of the river and bring them to shore (see Joshua 4:3). These stones were to serve as “a sign among you” (v. 4) and “a memorial to the people of Israel forever” (v. 7b). The wonders of God must not be forgotten…especially for the next generation! God proclaimed, “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord” (vv. 6-7a). So, what does God want us to remember? What has He done in the past year (and years) that we must call to mind and share with others? He is the faithful God who saves us and keeps us! He proves His love and kindness by providing for us and answering our prayers. May we not forget Him by whining and complaining when we experience trials. Do something tangible to remember the Lord. It may not be stones that you set up, but at least write down answers to prayer and blessings that have come your way in 2018. In the sermon next week, during our vision-casting Sunday, I will be sharing some of these “stones of remembrance” so we can remember and rejoice in the Lord and His grace toward us.

Pastor Mark Boucher

Now I Know

I think about “the fear of God” a lot. People have told me, “Fearing God is not healthy or good for us.” That’s not what the Bible says. Don’t get me wrong, I know there’s an “unhealthy fear,” where we try to run from God (think Adam and Eve after sinning). But, the good kind of “the fear of God” is connected with all kinds of blessings. Let’s consider Abraham. His son of promise, Isaac, was the joy of his life. Born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, Isaac (whose name means laughter), brought praise and laughter to all who knew them. Suddenly, in the very next chapter after the rejoicing over Isaac’s birth, we see Abraham immersed in the greatest test of his life. It came down to this: would Abraham fear the Lord and obey Him—even if it meant giving up his son? What meant the most to him in this earthly life? The intensity of the drama continues to the very moment of Abraham raising his hand to bring the knife down on his son Isaac. Suddenly, the angel of the Lord speaks out, “Do not lay a hand on the boy…do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (Genesis 22:12). The “angel of the Lord” is a designation for the Lord himself. Why would the Lord say, “Now I know”? Is this because the Lord did not know of Abraham’s devotion and needed to find out by this test? Not at all. The Lord does not test us for His information but for our revelation. His tests reveal the grace of God working in us and through us. Abraham realized through this experience that God was truly first in his heart and that he feared God more than anything else. So, how do we know if we truly fear God? Can we honestly say that nothing is more important to us than the Lord? When put to the test, will we be willing to release what is near and dear to us? Or, will we say no to God and perhaps turn from Him? His grace is available to us and will carry us through every test. We can come out on the other side of the test and say, “Yes, I fear the Lord because He is first in my life”…and be blessed!

Pastor Mark Boucher

A New Year of New Beginnings

I’m glad God believes in new beginnings. I’m reading in the Book of Genesis about how God created the earth and mankind. It doesn’t take too long before we discover people corrupting themselves and the earth. “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain” (Genesis 6:5-6). God had seen enough. The floods came and destroyed what God created. However, that wasn’t the end of the story. “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark…” (Genesis 8:1). All life was not extinguished. God’s grace gave us a new beginning through Noah and his family. They were protected from the flood and stayed on the ark for many months. Finally, it was time to leave the ark. “By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth” (Genesis 8:13). There’s something in this verse I had not noticed before. God dried the earth for Noah and his family at the beginning of the new year! It’s as if God is saying, “I’m giving you another chance by giving you a brand new year.” While reading about Noah this morning, the Lord put the words of Jesus on my heart: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37). Yes, we are living in times that resemble the world before the flood. Wickedness is growing. Violence is increasing. Most people live as if there is no God. Be sure that God is the righteous Judge and all evil will be accounted for. His plan, however, is not to simply destroy the earth through judgment, but to provide a new beginning for His people! Be among the faithful—like Noah, who found favor in the sight of God (Genesis 6:8). May the beginning of this new year remind us of Noah. We are given a new opportunity in this new year to follow Jesus, love people, and share hope!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Keep Your Mind at Ease

“What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me” (Job 3:25). Job, a magnificent man of faith, allowed one particular fear pertaining to his children to consume his thought process. Job was extremely devoted to the Lord, and his faith (as we would later learn while hearing his story) was steadfast and solid. However, even with his unwavering faith in God, Job allowed a fear (the behavior of his children when not in his presence) to fester in his mind to the point where he thought of the consequence that would be bestowed upon him by God had these fears been actuality. When calamity struck in his life, Job conceded that his initial unnecessary fear was what brought tragic turmoil in his life. The God of the universe never promises that our lives will be without obstacles and extreme circumstances. The Bible actually states that on Christ’s behalf we are to “not only believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him” (Philippians 1:29). All must understand that there is a distinct difference between suffering and fear. These two often seem to be confused. Major aspects of suffering for Christ have to do with sacrifice and denial of our inherited sinful nature as well as dealing with the rest of the world’s reaction to us as we express our Christian faith. Fear is derived from either internal or external influences. Fear is the exact opposite of peace, and peace of mind and spirit is one of the qualities that Jesus promises for all of His followers. Upon seeing their Savior for the first time after His resurrection, the disciples were experiencing a mixture of emotions—awe, confusion and earthly fear. Jesus responded to them (as the angel said to the women at the tomb), “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:10). Difficulties in life happen.  The stance of our mind and spirit before, during, and after the difficulties should be what separates us as Christians from the rest of society. Our responsibility is to entice the rest of the world by how we respond to every situation while rebuking fear. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petitions, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Pastor John Bailey

On Time God!

“When the time had fully come, God sent His Son…” (Galatians 4:4).

God kept His promise! The prophets clearly predicted the coming of the Messiah, the One who would do amazing works and save His people from their sins. But much time had passed after the last prophet, Malachi, and many became restless and discouraged. The promise seemed like a distant memory. Will God remember? Will He act? But we must remind ourselves, God is not a man that He should lie or “conveniently” forget His promises. What God says, He will do. It is wise for us to exercise patience and wait for God. He promised to come back. We know it has been a long time since His promise to return. But He is the same God who sent Jesus the first time, and He spoke through the angel, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back…” (Acts 1:11). We live in a world where people lie and easily back out of their promises. Not God! He has great plans for all who put their faith in Him. You can trust Him to be the ultimate promise keeper! He came and He’s coming back. Count on it!

Pastor Mark Boucher

“Lord, Teach Me!”

It’s back to school time! I’m glad I live in a country that values education. Learning and expanding knowledge add so much to the adventure of life. Today, I also went back to school…to teach students at the University of Valley Forge about the Bible and ministry. The saying is true, “If you want to really learn something, then try teaching it.” Through the years, the preparation for preaching and teaching has enhanced my life more than I can adequately describe! When I think about the foundation of learning, Psalm 25 comes to my mind. From God’s perspective, true education is not merely the accumulating of information, but the experience of transformation. Ponder what the Psalmist wrote: “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths” (v. 4). “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways” (v. 8). “Who then, is the man that fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him” (v. 12). A while ago, I was looking for a rubber band and reached for one that had been sitting on a shelf for a long time. When I stretched it a little bit, all of a sudden it broke. It had been on the shelf too long. Rubber bands are not made to sit around; they are made to be stretched. God believes in “stretching” us—not to break us through stress, but to bring us into a greater place of faith in Him. When we stretch our minds through learning and education, we grow in God and experience a greater sense of usefulness. Adopt the attitude of a learner, and let the Lord teach you His ways…and enjoy the adventure of growing!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Our Amazing Father

The word “father” evokes strong emotions in many people. At just the very word, some may feel love, support and acceptance, while others feel abandonment, anger, deep sadness and longing. Others may even feel nothing, a deep-seeded apathy that has been a way to cope through disappointment and disillusionment. I have been blessed with a father who is godly, faithful, wise, supportive and loving. Praise God for the fathers out there who consistently give their children the gift of their presence. Fathers, this is often a thankless society, degrading of fatherhood and manhood in general, but please don’t give up! We need you more than we probably even know.

Whatever our earthly experience with fathers may be, it is a comfort to know that there is a Father who will never fail us. In the Old Testament, we see hints of God’s Fatherhood in that He creates, guides, disciplines, defends and saves His children. “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isa. 64:8, NIV). In the New Testament, God’s Fatherhood is even more explicitly stated. Jesus’ favorite term for God was “Father.” He sometimes even used the intimate word Ἀββᾶ (Abba), an Aramaic term that is warm and endearing, an almost baby-like term. That relationship isn’t exclusive to the Son of God and His Father, but God is our Father, as Jesus said in Matt. 6:9. As a Father, God gives good gifts (Matt. 7:11), He disciplines because He loves (Heb. 12:6), He is compassionate and comforting (2 Cor. 1:3), He is glorious and holy (Eph. 1:17), He is constant and unchanging (Jas. 1:17).

God wants us to encounter Him as our Father. I remember an experience I had in Mozambique, Africa a few years ago. I was attending a two-month long mission school and during a time of worship one day, I glanced over at an interaction a father was having with his baby. The little boy was sitting at his father’s feet, extending his arms, and the father was holding a water bottle and letting some drops trickle into the baby’s mouth. A simple scene, but God spoke to me in that moment and said, “That baby is you, Nicole, and the father is Me. I want you to always realize your dependence on Me, even for something as simple as a drop of water.”

Putting our trust in God as our Father is the best decision we can make. He knows best how to care for us, guide our steps, and correct us when we need it! This Father’s Day, we honor and thank our earthly fathers, and we express our thanks to our heavenly Father who has been so gracious to us. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a).

Nicole Boucher

Life on a Mission

In my years as a pastor, I never recall a “bad” missions convention. God seems to pour out a special blessing when we prioritize what is close to his heart. In this life, there is no end to the miscellaneous things we can do with our time. Missions pulls us back to the center of his purpose and reminds us that we are here to accomplish something special…God’s will. “Your Kingdom come, your will be done” is the prayer Jesus wants us to pray as we walk in our world. Along with helping us to center on the main thing in life, missionaries challenge us to live with courage. Karen Miller, one of our missionaries this week, told us about the area to which God has called her. It usually takes as much as five years to build relationships with people in order for them to accept the message of salvation in Christ. How easy it would be to lose heart! This week in my devotions I started reading about a courageous man Joshua. As you know, Joshua followed Moses (that would be intimidating!) and had the responsibility of leading God’s people to possess their inheritance in the Promised Land. God knew what Joshua needed and spoke to him saying, “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” (Joshua 1:6-7). From the Bible, I understand the foundation of courage as believing what God says, rather than what your fears tell you. Courage is not the absence of fear, but a power that pushes fear under your feet, enabling you to walk confidently into the future with God. Most people in life are trapped in boring lives that never risk anything for God. To say YES to God launches you on the great adventure of faith! His mission may not lead you to move to another country, but it will lead you to places which will require you to grow in courage.

“Be strong and very courageous!”