Let’s Get Grace!

Why is it that we as humans have this terrible tendency to take something good and turn it into something bad? Let’s take God’s grace for example. The grace of God is the amazing display of His steadfast love and mercy toward the repentant sinner. God could hold a grudge and withhold His grace, but the Bible repeatedly promises us of His willingness to forgive and restore us. Personally, grace is one of my favorite words! Someone described grace as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” I receive comfort and find rest in my heart knowing that I am forgiven and accepted by God through faith in my Lord Jesus! But we must be aware of our carnal nature. We can sometimes think of grace as an excuse to sin. We think, “I know this is wrong, but God promised to forgive me. His grace will cover me…so why not just give in to the temptation?” Trying to use God’s grace in this way is dangerous! My uncle, a pastor for over 40 years, used to say, “Watch out for greasy grace—the kind where you can slide right into hell!” So, how do we prevent ourselves from slipping on this greasy grace? The Psalmist comes to our aid: “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:3-4). Here the Psalmist expresses gratitude that, because of His grace, God does not hold a “record” of our past sins. But the Psalmist also connects the blessing of forgiveness with the healthy fear of God. Someone who is forgiven realizes how much it cost God through the sacrifice of Jesus. True repentance produces a tender, broken heart which wants to please God and stay clear of sin. This is the opposite attitude of “go ahead and sin because God will forgive you.” May the Lord shape our hearts and minds to adopt a healthy, biblical attitude toward our failures. Thank God that He forgives…and may fear and reverence of Him make us want to stay far away from sin. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Let’s get grace!

All Day Long

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night” (Psalm 92:1-2).

The truth is that days are neither long nor short. They were 24 hours back in the beginning and they are 24 hours now. What if we lived a 24-hour day as a “microcosm” of a lifetime? My rising in the morning would be like my birth to a new life…and laying my head on my pillow at night like my death. If this day was all I had, how would I think about life? What would I do with my hours? When I read Psalm 92, I gain insight into a life well lived. Instead of getting up and crowding our thoughts with fear and stress, we should immediately turn our thoughts to God and say, “Lord, I thank You for another day…to walk with You and do Your will!” The life of faith is a constant discipline of turning our thoughts away from ourselves (and our natural self-centeredness) to the glory and majesty of the Lord. The Psalmist committed himself to “declare your steadfast love in the morning” (v. 2). Think about it…no matter what happens this day (and in this life), our hearts and minds are covered with the truth that we are loved and precious to our Lord! We are not alone and never forsaken! And, even though our heart should desire to constantly do right, we realize that absolute perfection of thoughts and motives eludes us. Our sinful nature, however, does not cancel the love of Jesus. He died for us, taking upon himself our sins, and then sending His Holy Spirit to give us victory over sin. His steadfast love is the source of true hope! Sometimes the days seem long, and we may doubt the Lord in the moment. But at the end of the day, we can declare as the Psalmist “your faithfulness by night!” As we look back, we gain a “faith perspective.” “Great is Thy Faithfulness” becomes our anthem as we sing, “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.” Psalm 92 reveals the beauty of a well-lived life. In the morning we rise to give thanks, all day long we rely on His steadfast love, and in the evening we proclaim His never-ending faithfulness! Praise the Lord!

Pastor Mark Boucher

When I Am Afraid

To be human is to know fear. Who, in their right mind, can say, “I am never afraid of anything”? During the pandemic, as I talk to people and read the news, I am seeing a spike in fear. The greatest fear in most people’s hearts is the fear of death. The writer of Hebrews describes those who are in bondage to this universal fear as “those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:15). But, there’s hope for us! One day Jesus and the disciples were traveling across the lake, and a furious storm broke out. Jesus was resting and “the disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’” (Mark 4:38). As the water was rising in the boat, fear was rising in their hearts. They imagined themselves in the cold dark waters all alone with waves crashing over them. They saw themselves sinking into a watery grave, choking on the water until they were gone forever! Fear is like a video we play in our minds entitled, “The Worst That Could Happen.” Notice how Jesus responds to the disciples. He doesn’t reject them because they fear; He helps them build a bridge between their fear and His faith. After Jesus calmed the wind and waves, He asked them, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). Do we catch the lesson here? The power over fear is faith! We don’t have to pretend that we never fear. But we must learn from Jesus to replace our fear with trust. Someone once said, “Don’t doubt in the dark what you know is true in the light.” Instead of letting our imagination run wild with “what might go wrong,” faith grabs ahold of Jesus and listens to what He says—even in the midst of howling winds and crashing waves! The Lord gets to the root issue of our fear by asking, “Why are you so afraid?” Through such honest questions, we learn to doubt our fears and trust our Lord. We discover that Jesus is bigger than any problem we will ever face! After Jesus performed the miracle of bringing peace to the storm, the disciples found themselves trading their paralyzing fear of death for the healthy fear of Jesus. They asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41). So, let’s remember that when we fear, we can be honest with Jesus and bring our fears to Him. The Psalmist David summarizes our victory when he wrote, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).

Pastor Mark Boucher

A Mother’s Power

A few years ago, a contractor we hired poured some concrete slabs on the sidewalk outside the parsonage. The morning after the work was completed, I noticed someone had carved a “design” in the concrete. It’s still there today. When I think of the power of a mother, I think of the imprint on wet cement. For both good and bad, the imprint of a mother on her children remains for years…and even for the rest of their lives. The Apostle Paul alluded to this power when he wrote to the believers at Thessalonica: “As apostles of Christ, we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:6b-8). Paul is saying here that his motive for challenging the people was like a mother who loved and cared for her children. He knew people respond more to love than to brute force. In other Scriptures, we discover the Lord is our Shepherd. He doesn’t drive us like cattle, but He leads us like sheep. If you had the blessing of a caring mother (and she is still alive), let this day be a reminder of your opportunity to express gratitude. If memories of your mother are filled with pain and grief, ask the Lord to help you forgive your mother from your heart. Try to remember the good that came through her life to yours. Because of our sinful nature, there is no such thing as a “perfect family” or “perfect mother.” If you are a mother, please never belittle or underestimate your role. You get to shape your children, eternal souls, who will in turn shape the world around them. Thank you, mothers, for your patience with your imperfect children! Like the Apostle Paul taught, you don’t just share your possessions and provisions—but your very lives as well. Your love is the greatest power of influence! Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, “The second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half.” While this quote doesn’t factor in the power of Jesus to change us, there is some truth to the reality of living what we have learned.  I thank the Lord for a godly mother who taught me godly life-lessons and habits which are still with me today. Happy Mother’s Day!