I admit it…. I like a good war movie. A while ago I watched a movie based on a real-life event. The plot unfolded around a group of courageous soldiers who persevered against evil and oppression in the face of overwhelming odds. There’s something inspiring about a story that starts with struggle and defeat but ends with the triumph of good over evil. I don’t like wars, but sometimes they are necessary to avoid enslavement by evil regimes and maniacal “misleaders.” We all face a very real battle every day. There are forces in our fleshly sinful nature that would enslave us to passions and practices which are opposite the nature of God. The Apostle Paul, in the Book of Romans (especially chapters 6-8), clearly addresses this battle of the heart. He speaks of the agony of the struggle by proclaiming, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (7:24). Paul was brutally honest with himself. He recognized the tendency to turn from God and live only for his own evil desires. But Paul does not give up hope or give up the fight. He answers his own question, “Who will rescue me…?”, by declaring, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:25). We must understand the mission of Jesus. He did not come just to give us good advice or merely to provide an example for how to live. He came that we might experience His death and resurrection! “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6:10-11). So, the fight we fight each day with our sinful nature is won through the power of Jesus in us. Our part is to yield each day to the resurrected Christ! He gives us the power to choose the things of the Spirit over the fleshly nature. We “feed our faith” and become strong in the Lord by praying, walking with God, thinking on His Word, and fellowshipping with one another. Our sinful nature, a formidable opponent, has already been defeated by Jesus. Let’s experience this victory by remaining in Him!
The Book of Acts challenges me to the core! This morning I pushed the pause button in chapter 23. Here we see the Apostle Paul in Jerusalem toward the end of his ministry. Warnings were sounded from other believers about the persecution and difficulties that awaited him, but Paul is unshaken. He knows God wants him to press ahead—no matter what. Suddenly Paul gets arrested (for no reason) and is forced to answer to the Jewish leaders (the Sanhedrin). Allowed to speak, he answers, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 23:6b). The Sanhedrin is split down the middle between the liberals (Sadducees) and conservatives (Pharisees). The Pharisees are willing to release Paul, but the Sadducees want to kill him. Those responsible for guarding Paul whisk him out of harm’s way. They were afraid he would be torn to pieces (verse 10)! Talk about drama! Serving the Lord as a pastor for most of my life, I have discovered something about the will of God. As Christians, we are sometimes called on by the Lord Jesus to place ourselves in the bull’s eye of drama. Think about Paul. He could have easily avoided the missionary life and settled down to some cushy position. He could have kept quiet about his faith—avoiding all controversy. I wonder how many believers settle for “secret service Christianity”? Had Paul opted for an easy, boring life, we would not be reading about him right now. The Kingdom of God is too important to play it safe and avoid drama. The will of God is at stake! After Paul is removed from the Sanhedrin, he still finds himself under arrest…and alone with his thoughts. But he is not alone! The Lord shows up in Paul’s drama and says to him, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11b). Jesus knows what we go through for His name and meets us at our place of need. Read the Gospels. Jesus understands drama! So, if you listen carefully in the middle of the storm, hear Him say to you, “TAKE COURAGE!” The same Lord who kept Paul to the very end is the same God who will carry you through your drama. Don’t give in or give up. Jesus is Lord!
Pastor Mark Boucher
“And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will’” (Acts 13:22). While reading the Scriptures this morning, this passage seemed to jump off the page at me. First, let me set the background. The Apostle Paul is speaking in a Jewish synagogue in a place called Antioch. He is on his first mission trip and begins his message by rehearsing a little of their common history. As a good preacher, he is leading them to Jesus the Messiah by connecting with them to what they have in common. David takes center stage. Paul holds David’s life up before his hearers and reminds the Israelites of their amazing heritage. David is described in immortal words as, “a man after my (God’s) heart.” Notice here that Paul goes further to quote the Scripture by adding, “…who will do all my will.” Here’s what I get from this. To be a person who knows God involves the full surrender of what we call the “will.” Think of your will as the “control center” of your existence. It’s where you process your thoughts and make your decisions. As you remember from the Bible, King Saul ruled Israel before David. Although possessing a knowledge of God and having some degree of outward respect for Him, Saul clung to his own will. This ultimately destroyed him. To surrender our will to God means that we seek Him and invite Him to take control over our whole being…including all our thoughts and choices. The “heart after God” doesn’t separate big choices and small choices, as if to say, “God, you get to have my big choices, but I still want to run my own life my own way.” This doesn’t work. There can never be two masters of one life. If Jesus is Lord and is dwelling in us, His Spirit helps us to pray, “Not my will, but yours be done.” My prayer for all of us is, “Lord Jesus, You have lived and died for us and have given us the gift of eternal life. In light of this supreme gift, may we have the courage and faith to give You the small gift of our will. Help us always to say yes to You and Your will—whatever that may require and wherever that may take us.”
Pastor Mark Boucher
I can recall a time many years ago when I was a young boy growing up in New York City. On Saturdays my friends and I would travel from one city park to another—practically from sunup to sundown—playing basketball on the scorching hot blacktops of the playgrounds. We knew we’d be tired and beat down by the sun at days end, but the happiness and pleasure we received from playing ball made it all worthwhile. However, there was another key factor we had to consider each time we went out to play. In the inner city, most of the parks either had no water fountains or fountains with water that was unsuitable for consumption. We would be so thirsty when we were finished playing…so thirsty that we would run home, even in our fatigued state, just to get a sip of ice-cold water. But, like clockwork, each week the same routine was established because of our urgent desire to enjoy the pleasure of playing ball and our same desire to find the only thing that could quench our thirst…water. Can you honestly say today that you thirst for God in such an extreme manner? The psalmist writes, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you” (Psalm 63:1-3). The same drive that impels us to seek a drink of water, secure that dream job, or wholeheartedly court that significant other should be there on a consistent basis in our pursuit of God. Just as my friends and I were aware that our ballplaying would give rise to a thirst for water, we as followers of Christ should pursue the Lord with expectancy that He will quench our thirst as only God can! Most importantly, we need to ask ourselves if the thirst is there. This should not be difficult to answer. If we are honest with ourselves, much as our bodies evoke a tangible thirst for water, our spirit and mind produce a thirst for God. However, unlike those park fountains that provided unsuitable or no water at all, God will always give us an unceasing flow of the Spirit—available to all who earnestly desire Him. Thirsty, anyone?
Pastor John Bailey