Lasting Change

Last week I went into Home Depot looking for some mirror hangers. After asking for help (saves time), I went to the proper area. I grabbed a small plastic box of hangers, but kept on looking for what I thought was a better fit for what I needed. After several minutes of scanning other items, I closely examined what I had already picked up at first. Then I discovered my first choice was exactly what I needed! I didn’t need to choose something different, as much as I needed to understand what I already had in my hand. This Sunday we begin a series of preaching messages on the subject of “Lasting Change” from the Book of Ephesians. The greatest change in my life happened when Jesus saved me. “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…” (Eph. 2:4-5). This wonderful salvation was not a “finish line” for me, but more of an open door to a new life. I have a little booklet in my office I often give to people whose lives are saved by Jesus. It is called, “Now What?”. We don’t receive Christ…just to stay in old habits and patterns. “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). After Jesus raises us up from our deadness in sin, His plan for us involves learning to overcome sin and walk in resurrection power! When it comes to our salvation, we don’t move away from it over time, but we learn to grow deeper in the One who saved us. Some believers in Jesus act like they are bored with their relationship with God. They are “window shopping” the world, trying to test the other “products.” But, take a closer look at what you already have in Christ. To really know Jesus and to seek Him daily satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts. Paul describes this connection with Christ as being “seated” with Him in the heavenly realms. To sit down means the job is done. Jesus did the hard work, making a way for us to get right with God. Now, we rejoice in Him and receive His salvation power in order to become like Jesus every day. Lasting change starts with Jesus and continues in Him. If you are a Christian, look more closely at what you have. You don’t need to “try other things.”

Pastor Mark Boucher

In Vain?

You know the feeling. Someone asks you do something. So out of the kindness of your heart, you spend hours on it. And then you get “the call.” They don’t need your help after all! You feel as if all your work has been IN VAIN! Now, let’s consider the amazing words and deeds of Jesus. Did His death render “null and void” all His accomplishments? After all, He died on a cross as a crucified criminal. But, here’s what changes everything: He didn’t stay dead! The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s stamp of approval that He was, indeed, God in the flesh! Without the Resurrection, Jesus of Nazareth would be considered merely a blip on the radar of history, an odd character shrouded in mystery. Although accomplishing many miracles and acts of kindness, if He does not rise from the dead (as He promised), His life is just a passing breeze. No Resurrection also completely changes our lives. Without the risen Son of God, our lives are also in vain. Let the Apostle Paul explain: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Cor. 15:17, 19). Without the Resurrection of Jesus, our desires to be good, our acts of love, and our deeds of service all add up to zero! Our faith is futile…empty and meaningless. Worst of all, without the Resurrection we have no future or hope. If Christ did not rise from the dead, we do not rise either. As a pastor, I have preached at about 100 funerals. All my words of comfort and promises of heaven for Christians have been a cruel hoax…if Jesus is still in the grave.

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…” 1 Cor. 15:20a

The grave could not keep Him and death could not hold Him! As a follower of Jesus, you do not live in vain. Every day has purpose. You are serving the Lord. As a follower of Jesus, you do not die in vain. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). His Resurrection assures your resurrection, and His future assures your future. Let us worship God and stand in awe before the greatest act in human history…the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Pastor Mark Boucher

It’s Not a Burden!

So, you ask someone to do you a favor. They say yes, but all the time they are helping you they complain and act irritated about the favor. How does that make you feel? Now, let’s apply this to serving God. How do you think God feels when we act like our service to Him is such a burden? This morning, the Lord reminded me of the importance of my attitude toward sacrifice. In Matthew 13:44, Jesus gives us the parable of the hidden treasure. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” We see here that for the man to experience the full ownership of the treasure, he needed to sell what he owned. To gain the greatest thing, he had to be willing to sacrifice the lesser things. Did he resent having to do this? Did he say, “I don’t see why I need to take the time to sell all my stuff! It seems unreasonable to have to let go of these things I like.” No, there was none of that. The Bible says, “in his joy went and sold all he had.” Why complain about the small stuff when he had the treasure waiting for him! Everything in this life is a “trade off.” We spend our time, talent, and energy on what we feel is important to us. If serving Jesus is important to us, we should not complain about the time and effort it takes. For example, if I am starting to pray, and wish in my heart that I didn’t have to pray, but would rather be watching TV, then it would be better to get my attitude right or just stop praying and watch TV. God is after our heart. He doesn’t want “reluctant obedience.” We need to see that it’s our highest privilege to give to the Lord. When it comes to prayer, reading the Word, attending services…it’s not that I have to do these things, but that I get to do these things. When my attitude is right, the sacrifices of life fill me with the joy of Jesus. Nothing is better than that! The Lord can help us develop an attitude that pleases Him. Psalm 100:2 tells us, “Serve the Lord with gladness”!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Determined

Who said it would be easy? The person who receives Christ and expects a smooth, carefree cruise into the Kingdom will be sadly disappointed. Growth, advancement, and progress in the ways of God in the midst of this world take great focus and determination. Consider our Lord Jesus. Isaiah prophesied of the coming Messiah saying, “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7). To accomplish the mission of God, Jesus needed tremendous focus and determination. Although tempted many times toward lesser things, He succeeded in finishing the “main thing” God called him to do. Luke 9:51 declares, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” His face was set and His determination was firm. No other priorities or responsibilities would sidetrack Him from His mission to die for the sins of the world. Aren’t you glad He stayed on mission? If Jesus is in you, He has called you to do something…to trust Him and obey His will. In the midst of this unpredictable and rapidly changing world, our biggest temptation will be to “crowd out the call.” Too many believers have drifted away from Jesus. They don’t hate Jesus or curse Him; they just don’t pay much attention to Him. The superficial has replaced the eternal. Don’t let it happen to you! Pay attention. Stay determined. Pray often for the heart of a true disciple, steadfast and focused. The rewards for obedience are worth it! Isaiah says, “I will not be disgraced” (50:7).

“I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. The decision has been made. I have stepped over the line. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, or back away. I won’t give up, shut up, let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, spoken up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till he stops me. And when he comes for his own, he will have no problem recognizing me. My banner is clear: I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed!”

Anonymous

What is the “main thing” God wants you to do?

Pastor Mark Boucher

Love Beats Hate!

Is there someone you know who seems to delight in making your life miserable? You’ve tried being nice, and other times you’ve lost your temper…but still the problem persists. Well, you’re in good company. For years David had to deal with Saul. For about ten years (while David was in his 20s), he fled from King Saul and lived like a refugee in his own country. As those reading the story, we have pity on David and wish life could be easier for him. But, we need to remember, our trials are often for the benefit of others. God’s Word records this difficult trial of David to help us. Through Saul’s antagonism, God taught David how to handle conflict through the power of God’s Spirit and not rely on his own ability. In 2 Samuel 1 we read of David (at the age of 30) finally getting the news of Saul’s death at the hands of the Philistines. Did David rejoice at this news and call for a party? Just the opposite…David and his men mourned. He also composed a “lament” for Saul and Saul’s son Jonathan (who was also killed that day). As I read David’s lament this morning, I was amazed at David’s kindness and love toward Saul. This is the same man who twice tried to kill David with a spear. This is the man who hunted David obsessively for years. Here is a portion of what David wrote after hearing of Saul’s death: “Saul and Jonathan-in life they were loved and gracious, and in death they were not parted” (1 Sam. 1:22). How could David call Saul “gracious”?! The only possible answer is because of God’s love inside his heart. David responds like Jesus even in an age when the normal procedure was to hate and eliminate your enemies. By demonstrating the love of Jesus toward his enemies, David was way ahead of his time. His actions demonstrate a powerful example of Paul’s teaching from Romans 12:19, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.’” So, if you find yourself the target of someone’s anger or hatred, take heart. God will work His love in your heart and deal with the antagonist in His way. Don’t take revenge. Pray for the love of Jesus to flow from your heart toward your enemies. He is able!

Pastor Mark Boucher

I’m Listening

He was just a young boy. His older “brothers” and adopted father were not good role models, and yet, into this bleak upbringing, God spoke into Samuel’s life. When Samuel first heard God speak, he thought it was Eli, the priest, who slept in the next room. Three times God spoke to Samuel, and each time he went to Eli saying, “Here I am, you called me.” Finally, Eli gave Samuel the advice he needed to hear. “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9). Samuel obeyed and God spoke. As a young boy, Samuel started to learn how to discern the voice of God. This account challenges me because I want to be the kind of person who hears God as well. Here are a few principles I have learned about listening to God. First, don’t insist on your own method of how God speaks. If you wait around for an audible voice, you will be disappointed. The audible voice of God sometimes breaks into people’s lives, but this is rare. Instead, we need to listen within our spirit. Cultivate your inner life by removing the clutter. Get comfortable with quietness. How can we hear God if we constantly flood our ears and minds with a never-ending parade of noise? By following Jesus in the disciplines of prayer and the Word of God, we learn to discern the voice of God. Whenever God has spoken to my heart, His directives have never gone against His revealed Word, the Bible. Next, to hear from God, we need to want to hear. Many have no interest in hearing God speak, because it interferes with “their” lives. God speaks to those who are willing to obey. Yes, God speaks to non-believers, but mainly concerning the challenge for repentance and restoration. Finally, God often chooses to speak through other servants of the Lord. Going to church and participation in the Body of Christ is not just a suggestion from church leaders, but an expectation from the Lord. I can’t tell you the number of times God has spoken to my life through godly pastors and friends. In summary, if you want God to speak to you, place yourself in a position to hear. Pray as Samuel prayed, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Pastor Mark Boucher

Stay Free

There’s a difference between living in a free country and living with freedom in our heart. Freedom, as taught from the Scriptures, is more than the ability to worship, vote, travel, or choose our own career. The Bible teaches us that freedom on the inside starts with truth. Jesus declared, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). In my devotions, I am reading through the Book of Judges. This book is so named because God raised up “judges” to help the Israelites break free from self-imposed defeat. When the Israelites first entered the Promised Land under Joshua, they served the Lord. But, as time went by, they became careless and treated sin and disobedience to God as “no big deal.” They didn’t set their heart to know God or seek Him.

“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger… in his anger against Israel, the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist” (Judges 2:10-15).

Slavery follows sin! Jesus said, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). Here in America we do not find ourselves at the mercy of other countries who would like to harm us. However, we choose to destroy ourselves from within by ignoring God and promoting things which He abhors. As believers, we live in the world, but cannot be like the world. In truth we are a “counter-cultural” movement, and we value what God says above all else. We all serve something in life, and a life without God serves the sinful nature and ends up in the worst kind of bondage: addiction to sin. Pursue Jesus and stay free! Then, you will be able to help others find the way to freedom.

Pastor Mark Boucher

Give What You Get

A long time ago, I was praying for people at the altar on a Sunday morning. A young man approached me asking for prayer as he was approaching the day when he was leaving home for the first time to enter college. He was a believer but needed assurance and encouragement. Feeling led by the Lord, I turned to Joshua chapter one and let him read the Word out loud from Joshua 1:6-7.

“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.”

Years later after he had graduated and married, I saw him again. He reminded me of the special time at the altar and how God had repeatedly used the Scripture from Joshua to give him courage and faith to persevere. By God’s grace, he has enjoyed many years of fruitful ministry as a pastor and district leader. God’s Word is powerful! Imagine the task ahead of Joshua. Moses, his mentor and leader, was dead. The Israelites (estimated at over two million) needed to be led into the Promised Land to claim their inheritance. There were many enemies and obstacles, and the believers had bad habits of complaining and giving up. Joshua needed God! He needed to remember what God had spoken, especially during times of testing. I wonder how many times Joshua quoted to himself the words, “Be strong and courageous”? As you read the book of Joshua, you discover how God used Joshua’s life and example to move the people from wandering in the desert to victory in the Promised Land. The Lord wants to use you and me to lead others to Christ and into a life of spiritual growth. The reality is that we can only give them what we receive and put into practice. Take from the grace of God and freely give. In Philippians 4:13, Paul reminds us, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Pastor Mark Boucher

The Authority Issue

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

Faith & Imagination

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