Something To Live For!

Sometimes we do things over and over and forget the reason why. This Sunday we begin a special Missions Convention. Why? Is it just because it’s “something we’ve always done”? Is this just an event on the yearly calendar? Why emphasize missions at all? The answer comes from the life of Jesus. His whole life was a mission. He came from God to hurting, lost people and made a way for us to know God! Then, in a dramatic moment before leaving this world to go back to the Father, He turned to his disciples and proclaimed, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). We don’t have a missions convention just to give you the opportunity to meet special people who serve locally or share the gospel in places all over the globe. The greater purpose is to ignite the love of Christ within you for the mission He has given you! If you are wondering what your mission may be in life, read the account of Jesus calling His first disciples. He was walking beside the Sea of Galilee and saw Simon (Peter) and Andrew, and said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Here Jesus presents the mission of life for a disciple of His: to follow Him and to help others know and follow Him. The specific details of our personal mission in life are as different as our gifts and talents. However, the core remains the same. Jesus loves us and wants us to walk with Him…so that we may know His heart and His ways. From this relationship, He gives us the mission to love others and influence them toward the Savior. So, the focus of missions at Highway Mission Tabernacle is not “out there” somewhere; it is inside your heart. May our love for Jesus connect us to His heart, fulfilling His mission to share the hope we have in us with those without hope. Our vision: “Following Jesus, loving people, sharing hope!”

Pastor Mark Boucher

Don’t Let It Happen to You!

“But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said” (Exodus 8:5).

While considering again the account of Moses and Pharaoh, I kept asking myself, “How could Pharaoh have such a hard heart?” You remember the story…. God called Moses to command Pharaoh to stop enslaving the Israelites and let them go. Moses and Aaron performed miracle after miracle in the presence of the Egyptian king. At times Pharaoh gave in when the heat was on, but when the immediate effects of judgment cooled off, it was back to ignoring God. Here was a man who had a front row seat to some of the greatest miracles recorded in the Bible, but still he turned his back on God! Just before sending His final judgments, God gave Pharaoh and Egypt another chance. Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and proclaimed, “This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me’” (Exodus 10:3). In the bitter end, Pharaoh refused to listen, instead leading his soldiers into the watery grave of the Red Sea. This story helps us understand something about God and ourselves. First, God will allow us to harden our hearts if that’s what we want. Along with a hard heart comes stinging consequences and harsh results. We can “play God,” but we can’t determine the outcome. As someone noted, “Play stupid games, get stupid prizes.” Second, this story helps us understand something about our own hearts. The reason we end up with a hard heart is because we refuse to humble ourselves. In our deception, we somehow think we’re smarter than God—that we really don’t need Him. Will we learn from Pharaoh? His life shouts to us, “Don’t harden your heart…trust and obey God.” The choice is ours.

Pastor Mark Boucher

Celebrating God’s Faithfulness!

Do you know what the most often repeated event is in the Old Testament? It’s so important that an entire book is named after it…Exodus! The exodus of God’s people from bondage and slavery is the “big story” of the Old Testament. Just after the people left Egypt, God instructed Moses to make sure the people never forgot this amazing event. “Then Moses said to the people, ‘Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand…’” (Exodus 13:3). So, every year the Israelites were to celebrate the Passover and thank God for their salvation and freedom. From this Scripture, I understand that God wants us to go out of our way to remember and celebrate His power and faithfulness. Now, let’s consider something closer to home. Ten years ago, Pastor Wegner and the family of Highway Tabernacle decided to adopt Resurrection Life Church (RLC). God gave the dream, the vision was cast, and the work began! From out of the ashes, God raised up a church. People from all over answered the call to donate funds, labor, and materials. Today, RLC is a light and ministry center for the Tioga neighborhood. Through the church, Spring Garden Academy, and the pre-school program, dozens of families are blessed every day! The reason we gather together on the tenth anniversary of RLC is similar to why the Israelites gathered for the Passover…to commemorate God’s goodness! It is vital for our spiritual health never to forget both God’s power and the sacrifice of God’s people. Our anniversary celebration, however, is not just to thank God for the past, but also to pray for God’s blessing and increase for the future. I would like to give special thanks to Pastor Otto and Pat Wegner and the people of Highway for their vision and faithfulness, and for Pastor Finney and Liza Kuruvilla, their sons, and the people of RLC for their diligence and perseverance. May the Lord surround the people of Resurrection Life with grace and favor. We will not forget what the Lord has done!

Pastor Mark Boucher

Bigger Than Failure

Here’s a quiz question: “In order for God to work through your life, you have to be flawless. True or false?” I’m glad the answer is false! God doesn’t call people to serve Him because they are perfect; and the Bible never tries to “sanitize” people’s stories. From the Scriptures we get to see the reality of God’s people, with all their strengths and failures…their mixture of dirt and divinity. Take Abraham as an example. He trusted God. When God said “go,” he obeyed. He believed God could give him a child—even though he was 100 years old! Even with such great faith, Abraham’s fear also showed itself. His wife Sarah was good looking, and Abraham worked out a “deal of deception.” Wherever they would travel, Sarah was to lie and say Abraham was her brother and not her husband. Abraham feared that one of the local leaders might notice Sarah, take her for his wife, and kill Abraham. Well, their little disguise did not serve them well. In Genesis 20 we see Abraham and his family traveling south and coming to Gerar, governed by King Abimelech. Sure enough, Abimelech took Sarah as his wife. But God spoke to him in a dream saying, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife” (Genesis 20:3). Greatly alarmed, the king confronted Abraham about his lie and immediately released Sarah back to him. This was a great embarrassment for both Abraham and Sarah, not to mention, a terrible witness of Abraham’s faith. From this story, I realize something extremely important. God’s plan is bigger than my failures. His sovereign will can be accomplished through us in spite of the struggle we all have with perfect obedience. Abraham and Sarah will always be remembered and commended for their faith—not for their occasional lapses into fear. Be encouraged by the message of the Bible. You don’t need to “bat a thousand” to be in the game. God shows His power by using ordinary people, who sometimes strike out or drop the ball. The best we can do is learn from our past sins and mistakes, ask God’s forgiveness…and believe He can still use frail humans to accomplish His will. And remember, only One lived a perfect life, and we worship Him as Lord and Savior!

Pastor Mark Boucher

When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

He not only had a difficult name, but Habakkuk also lived in difficult times. Habakkuk was a prophet of God during a time when godly prophets were barely tolerated and often persecuted. Years of rebellion toward God had taken their toll on the nation of Israel. The people hardened their hearts. Sin and violence grew like an infectious mold. As a prophet called by God to speak to his generation, Habakkuk didn’t know quite what to think, let alone what to do. So, he poured out his heart to God by way of “complaints.” The first complaint went like this: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? …Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds” (Hab. 1:2-3). God gave Habakkuk an answer to his complaint, but it didn’t comfort him. Because of Israel’s sin, God was raising up the ruthless Babylonians to attack and defeat the Israelites. In dismay Habakkuk poured out another complaint: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (Hab. 1:13). Habakkuk was confused because God didn’t seem to make sense. It’s not hard to compare the times we live in right now to the chaos of Habakkuk’s day. As Christians, we also wonder, where is God in all this? Why does evil grow and godliness seem to decline? Keep reading Habakkuk. In spite of not understanding the world, or even the ways of God, he determined to stay faithful. He declared, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint” (Hab. 2:1). As a “soldier” of the Lord, Habakkuk determined to wait on God…while others slept. He would keep his eyes open and learn to watch and wait on God. Habakkuk knew that only God would one day, and in His own way, make right all that is wrong. The message from Habakkuk is clear: trust in God and wait on Him in prayer even when life makes no sense. You’ll be glad you did!

Pastor Mark Boucher

The Heart of the Matter!

When I woke up this morning, this verse popped into my mind: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The sad truth is that you can be religious…yet have a heart far from God. In Matthew 15, we discover Jesus being confronted by some Pharisees and teachers of the Law of God. They were offended because Jesus didn’t follow their rules. He allowed His disciples to eat without first going through certain ceremonial cleansing rituals. The Pharisees judged Jesus and the disciples as “unclean” due to their carelessness. Jesus turned the tables on them and used this incident to teach about “the heart of the matter.” He said to the crowd, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean’, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’” (Matthew 15:10b-11). He later explained, “…the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’” (v. 18). Jesus teaches us something extremely important here: “God is more concerned with what goes on in your heart than in outward appearances and ceremonies.” The Pharisees obsessed over “looking right” in the eyes of others. They prided themselves on their meticulous details of religious observation…but they missed the main thing! Their hearts were not right with God. While doing the outward actions of “piety,” they neglected the evil stuff going on in their hearts. That’s why Jesus challenged them, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (vv. 8-9). Let’s recognize the danger in ourselves. It’s easy to condemn the Pharisees of old and criticize them for their blindness. However, this very action of condemnation of others can expose our own hypocrisy. How often do we excuse the evil thoughts that go on in our hearts? How easily do we justify the ungodly images and words that flood our hearts? How carelessly do we allow words to flow from our hearts that hurt, discourage, and belittle others? The only way to “guard our hearts” is to take full responsibility to present our hearts continually to the Lord. No one can do this for us. What we allow to go on in our hearts determines our nearness or distance from God. Thank God for the grace of Jesus! Let’s cooperate with His grace by guarding our hearts!

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

Learning from the Past

“Through the process of repeated exposure, what is at first hated, becomes tolerated, then accepted, and finally embraced” (Anonymous). It’s interesting, when you study history, to see how we make the same mistakes as previous generations over and over again. Our actions today prove we really don’t learn over the centuries…that evil brings us down, and goodness lifts us up. The prophet Amos witnessed the decline of Israel, and God spoke through him in warnings to the nation. The leaders, priests, and people cast off the restraints of the sinful nature and did whatever they pleased. Amos tried to convince the people they could change, even in the midst of evil times. He preached, “Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph” (Amos 5:14-15). The people paid no attention…and went into captivity. Make no mistake…where evil is unleashed and embraced, the consequences are always deadly and destructive. Loving and obeying God are not just “good ideas,” but they are absolutely essential for peace and blessing on a nation. The call is clear, “Hate evil, love good.” To hate evil means to adopt the same attitude toward evil as God does. Hating evil doesn’t mean we hate people who do evil. It means we have a settled faith that God is the ultimate one who defines right and wrong, and we agree with Him. If others are upset by our beliefs, so what? The most important witness we can demonstrate to this world is proving we are God’s children by loving the Lord and loving to do good. It’s hard for people to condemn us if our “track record” is serving and helping others. Let’s make up our minds to find our joy, not in evil, but in the Lord and in doing his will. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

Pastor Mark Boucher

Choose Life!

When my friend’s dog got caught stealing chocolate cupcakes from the trash can, she knew that she was in trouble. Bailea knew that she had done something wrong, but she couldn’t have understood why my friend so upset about it. The cupcakes were in the trash; no one else was going to eat them. Why should my friend deny her something good? But Bailea didn’t realize that chocolate can be fatal to dogs. My friend wasn’t upset because Bailea had broken the rules; she was upset because Bailea could have died. We as Christians sometimes chase after things that seem appealing, even though we know that God isn’t pleased with them. We tell ourselves that the behavior is harmless and that it doesn’t impact anyone else. Although we only see the short-term appeal, God sees that it’s deadly. Never forget that “sin, when it is fully grown, leads to death” (James 1:15). We see this all throughout history: spiritual death…death of marriages, families, and friendships…death of communities, cities, and nations. God tells us “no”—not to punish us, but to bring us life (see 1 John 5:3; Deuteronomy 32:47; Leviticus 18:5). Moses challenged the Israelites this way: I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20). Bailea, by the way, was fine. My friend got there in time. Still, Bailea would have been better off had she left the cupcakes alone. It’s the same with us. God can rescue us from sin’s curse of death, but we’re so much better off avoiding evil and walking in obedience from the beginning.

Otis A. Fortenberry

Faith Doesn’t Give Up!

Luke 18 is an amazing chapter. It begins with Jesus sharing a parable to teach his disciples to “pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1) and ends with a real-life story of someone doing just that.

The blind beggar whose story Luke recounts in the closing verses of the chapter called out to Jesus for mercy. The more those around him tried to quiet him, the more he persisted in pleading until, ultimately, Jesus acknowledged him and answered his prayer.

It’s a common question: Why does God, who knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8), ask us to persevere in prayer? We can see part of the answer in Jesus’ response to the blind beggar: “Your faith has healed you” (Luke 18:42). What Jesus is pointing out is that the blind man, by continuing to call even after he was rebuked and told to be quiet, was demonstrating not only persistence but, more importantly, faith as well. God wants us to persist in prayer because persisting requires faith – “and without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).

Let’s be honest: Prayer is easy, but persistence is not. It’s not easy to stay faithful in prayer when we’re not seeing any progress, or when things seem only to be getting worse. At those times, everything around us seems to be shouting, as the crowd did to the blind beggar, to dissuade us from praying. If we’re trusting God for a healing, the aches and pains in our bodies scream at us to be quiet and not trouble him anymore. If we’re looking for wisdom or direction, our friends or family may rebuke us for putting our trust in an unseen God instead of listening to the experts around us. And if we need some kind of major breakthrough, it may be our own doubts and fears that try to convince us that the need is too big to pray for; something too far out of reach.

It’s striking that Jesus uses the example of an unjust judge to illustrate our need to be persistent. His point is clear: If persistence is rewarded even by an unjust judge, how much more will it rewarded by the righteous God who loves us? But Jesus’ question at the end of the parable gets to the crux of the matter: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

God makes us persist because, as much as he’s concerned about our earthly needs, he recognizes that our need for faith is greater. It’s not easy to hold on to God’s promises when we’re going through hard times, but the faith that we build in those times is worth it.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (I Peter 1:6,7)

Jesus Christ will be revealed in our circumstances.  Let’s keep the faith while we wait!

Otis A. Fortenberry