Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Love In Action

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” I John 3:18

A few years ago, right after my daughter turned two, I considered getting her a professional speech assessment. I was convinced she had an expressive language delay and should see a therapist qualified to help. Then seemingly overnight she began speaking in full sentences. Now, at the age of three, my little girl quite literally never stops talking. I’ve heard that the average woman speaks some 13,000 more words per day than the average man; my daughter gives credibility to this claim.

For her, words come easy; following them up with actions is much harder. There are many instances, after being unkind to her brother, that I’ve asked her to apologize. She obeys. Through gritted teeth and a clinched fist she says the words but sometimes acts in a way that reveals what is really in her heart.

Real love requires more than lip service. Thankfully, we possess a blueprint for how to love well. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” God doesn’t just say He loves us. He showed us. Over 2,000 years ago the Creator of the universe stepped out of heaven into the earth He created to demonstrate and prove that His love is real.

Furthermore, Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The mind blowing truth is that Jesus loved us when we were distant, selfish, and messy. He loved us still when we were promiscuous and prideful. Where the stench of sin is strong His love is stronger. God’s love is unconditional. We are now invited to love in the same extravagant way. Loving well without condition. Not loving others for who we hope they become but for who they are right now. Laying down our hammer and chisel and trusting the Lord to be the master sculptor.

Jesus loved well and He loved often. His love for humanity drove Him to action. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, forgave the sinner, raised the dead, and died on the cross for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God forever. His sacrificial death is still the most powerful expression of love the world has ever seen.

God is love. It’s necessary then, as children of God, that we abide in His presence learning the way of love from the One who is love. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, the manifestation of God’s glory in flesh, we are transformed into His likeness. By dwelling in His presence we allow the mighty sword of God’s word to pierce into our deep places and do the heavy lifting of change.

As we increase in His likeness may we increase in His perfect love. Let’s rock a baby to sleep for an exhausted new mom. Let’s pay for the coffee of the stranger behind us in the Starbucks drive thru. Let’s invite someone into our home and cook them a meal. Let’s put the phone away and look people in the eyes when they speak to us. Let’s call instead of texting. Since God dwells within us we have access to a limitless source of love. Let’s pour it out on the thirsty souls that God has strategically placed in our path. For love, in its purest form, has the amazing capacity to heal, cover, comfort, unite, and restore. Love is not invisible. Real love, the kind that stirs your soul and sets your heart on fire, leaves evidence of its presence all around. May we follow up our words with actions and love, this week, like we’ve been loved.

“How” Shall We Sing

Psalms 137:4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

Contextually, we see the Israelites perplexed and in a place unfit for their spiritual pedigree. After nearly two years of Babylonian besiegement, the worst has come to the most envied nation of the world. Continued sin and cold hearted rebellion has Jerusalem’s inhabitants exiled 500 miles away, confined to a heathen city steeped in paganism and idolatry.

And, as if the shame of captivity was insufficient judgment, the heathen required them to harmonize on the delightful songs of Zion and their King! (For worship, melodies and instrumentation from the Jewish Temple were known universally and universally unmatched.)

Thus the lament, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”

Not, “how can we sing with a broken heart?”, but rather a question crafted and framed with incomprehensible grace came (unauthorized version of course!),”How shall we then sing from this strange and painful place? Not “can”, mind you, but “how” shall we sing. So, in some new way, we must, and will, sing! Yes, even in tears we will sing! For even in our backslidings, You never left us! Even in our abject worst, You walked with us! You gave promises and made covenant with us. And even in our well-deserved judgments, You cannot deny Yourself, nor excuse Yourself from bringing us to a glorious destiny! So even though this is uncharted territory, and this is painfully awkward in every way, we’ll return to our roots …and sing!”

Say what you will about Israel’s foolishness concerning sin and disobedience. They experienced what was prophesied, and divinely received what they deserved. But more importantly, we have to believe God’s loving covenant anchored them, even in unspeakable tragedy.

So what do we say to the circumstances of our own condition? Are we immune to tribulations? Read the rest of this entry »

Purity

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9

This will not be your favorite devotional. It will be challenging to read at points. However, I believe it will be helpful and in the end encouraging, if received. Faith, like anything precious, will be tested. Simply because we are on pilgrimage in a fallen world, there will be instances, people, and occasions that are in opposition to our forward movement in Christ. Some arise quickly and immediately pass, while others linger longer and seem to nag constantly. The strain of this resistance is frequently difficult to navigate through and even to understand at times. It can cause even the strongest of believers to look to Heaven for answers and explanation.

In the middle of this experience, the scriptures include instruction that seems beyond capability. The Bible does not give us permission to be destroyed, deterred, or defeated by these tests. In fact, Paul declares that even in great contradiction we are “more than conquerors.” Furthermore, we are not even allowed to simply survive or manage these happenings. The writers of the New Testament on several occasions link two seemingly distant ideas; trials and rejoicing.  With the correct perspective and the proper placement of our trust, joy is the result of a child of God walking through tests.

This perspective begins with the understanding that trials are common for all people. No one is exempt or avoids this process. Rain, storms, and adversity are not punitive; they are a supposed and ordinary reality of our human existence. Jesus declares unequivocally that “in this world you will have tribulation.” The house built on the rock is not subject to differing weather or an atypical environment. It will be exposed to the same peril as the house built on sand. The result will just be different!

Additionally, our perspective must be fashioned by what we know concerning the goodness of our Father. He oversees what He purchased and He does not waste anything in our journey. He uses everything to bring about glory from our lives. Yes, even our trials.

Trials expose; not the pretty, decent parts of our life that we put out front for everyone to see but the deep parts that we purposefully endeavor to keep hidden. Trials provide heat and pressure. When those unwanted weights are applied, impurities are uncovered. Again, this is where trust is required. Our Father is not exposing contaminations for the sake of condemnation or denunciation. He unveils these carefully protected blemishes so He can heal and remove them. The removal of corruption makes us more like Jesus, more suitable for His service, and more prepared for the day we will stand before Him.

So, rejoice when you are tried. You are being purified! Your motivations, behaviors, and purposes are being refined. You are maturing and being perfected. Impurities are being removed and glory is being manifested! Your faith is being revealed as genuine and true!

Glory to God!

The Forgotten Doctrine of the Ascension

The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. (Psalm 110:1

Every Christ-follower can attest to the significance of Jesus’ incarnation celebrated at Christmas. If enough songs of praise were not penned about His miraculous birth, hundreds more rightfully followed hailing His death, burial and resurrection and their unmistakable importance in the redemption of man.

But how many hymns or worship choruses have you sung recently (or how many sermons have you listened to, for that matter) celebrating the day Jesus returned to His rightful place at the right hand of the throne of God?

The ascension of Christ — when our Risen Lord majestically rose off the ground He created and disappeared into the clouds 40 days after walking out of a borrowed tomb — is one of the key pieces in the giant puzzle of God’s eternal plan of redemption!

The triumphant day when the Son of God, the Redeemer of fallen man, would take His seat of authority and power at His Father’s right hand had been anticipated and even prophesied throughout the pages of the Old Testament. And David’s short 110th Psalm was quoted by Jesus Himself some 1,000 years after it was penned and was also referenced by Luke, Paul and John later in the New Testament.

Interestingly, the oft-missed magnificence and magnitude of Christ’s ascension can be summed up in four common directional words: up, down, right and under. Most Christians get fired up about the first two and almost totally disregard the latter couple.

When the Savior slipped the grip of gravity and went up into the heavens, angels appeared and assured onlookers that the same Jesus who was taken up would also come back down one day. For two millennia, the Church has clutched that promise of the Second Coming of our Lord! To this day, we still await that “divine descension”!

But the real power of the ascension lies in what happened between the “up” and “down” and the absolute assurance of what will come ultimately. Jesus assumed the seated position of honor, power and authority at the right hand of God, essentially putting the exclamation point on His “It is finished!” declaration from the cross of Calvary! The ascension to the throne room of Heaven solidified the Deity of the Bethlehem-born son of a carpenter: Jesus proved Himself to be the Messiah, the victorious Seed of the woman promised where it all began in Genesis 3:15. “Tetelestai!” indeed!

One may wonder what could possibly be left after the Master has declared His work “finished.” For those of us who have staked our lives on the reliability of the Bible, the only part of redemption’s plan that needs to be unfolded is a foregone conclusion: Read the rest of this entry »

Holy Invitation

“When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed Him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Matthew 14: 13-14

On an exceptionally cold day in February 1988 a couple, and their three teenage sons, experienced the interruption of a lifetime. They were enjoying a typical Friday evening until there was a knock at the door and God disrupted the rhythm of their daily life in a dramatic way. A four-month-old baby was dropped off at their home with only a trash bag full of personal belongings. This ordinary family was suddenly presented with an extraordinary opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus and love a baby in need. I’m thankful they said yes to God’s wild plan for their lives; the baby was me, and this family became my very own.

Jesus was constantly interrupted. He was interrupted when speaking to crowds, conversing with His disciples, performing miracles, sleeping, traveling, and even while praying. In Matthew 14, His cousin and dear friend, John the Baptist had just been beheaded. Jesus tried to get away to mourn but the crowds followed Him there. When He saw the people the word says, “He had compassion on them, and healed their sick.” He then goes on to feed the multitude with the five loaves and two fish. Jesus was always attentive and available to the needs of those around Him.

I love making lists and am especially fond of my planner. I meticulously manage my time and prefer for my days to be both tidy and predictable. I cherish routine and am not a fan of spontaneity. I sport an invisible do not disturb sign while hustling to accomplish the many things on my to-do list. I am a goal setter and go getter. The reality, however, is that life doesn’t always cooperate with my to-do list.

As believers we should be good stewards of all that God has blessed us with- including our time. Yet God alone knows who we need to see, where we need to go, what we need to do, and who we are meant to speak with. So when things don’t go our way we have a choice. We can get annoyed or we can respond graciously knowing that our Heavenly Father is in control and we can trust Him.

When my husband tells our daughter to put her shoes on so we can go I’ve never once heard her say, “Well, dad, I’m kind of in the middle of something right now.” She’s never listed all that she hoped to accomplish that day like building a block tower, having a tea party, or coloring a picture of Sofia the First. She’s simply excited that her daddy asked her to go somewhere with him. She drops whatever she’s doing without a moment’s hesitation. Sweet friends, God extends holy invitations to us daily. You see interruptions are not obstacles; they are actually opportunities for us to release our plans and submit to His.

Welcoming interruptions may cause us to say yes when we receive an invitation to lunch last minute. It could urge us to answer that phone call when we’re in the middle of doing something else. We may stop to speak to a stranger even if we’re running late to an appointment. It means looking for God in every moment of our day and choosing to honor Him and not our schedule.

May we become increasingly more like Jesus, and more like my parents, welcoming interruptions and recognizing them as the precious opportunities they are to walk out the Lord’s glorious purpose for our lives. Life with Jesus as our pilot is an exciting adventure! We get to be willing participants of what God is actively doing in the earth. So if something doesn’t go as planned this week let’s remember His planning skills are second to none.

Sword Play

Ephesians 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…

At a recent bible study, the discussion centered on a believer’s strategy to overcome the ever present temptation to doubt. Defining doubt as, “to be uncertain, be apprehensive, to question or be hesitant to believe something or someone”, doubt was dubbed a major player in Satan’s arsenal to subvert the underpinnings of faith and love.

Not to be outwitted or outdone by Lucifer’s poisoned arrows of doubt, we returned that night to faith as our shield of defense and the Scriptures as our sharpened sword. And what a powerful and proven panoply of weaponry it is! For with such armor, we found every insidious device to dissuade or devise doubt was forthrightly disarmed by the power of God’s word. And for practicality and courage sake, we found that power residing presently in the castle of our own hearts!

So with renewed confidence and warrior mind, we bivouacked that night in the land of God’s eternal promises. Withstanding the usual anxiety and frustration of present circumstances (and some situations, trust me, bordered hopeless and impossible!), we countered our foe by feasting copiously and fearlessly in the Land of indescribable milk and honey!

Was every hurt remedied that night as we meditated on the Word? Did every situation meliorate as the scriptures were expounded? Did every distressing circumstance improve immediately as we prayed and trusted the faithfulness of God? Did the group fall out in a trance, or everyone have an out-of-the-body experience?

Nope. Sure didn’t.

But you know what did happen? Read the rest of this entry »

Poem For the Fathers

Through you we learn about the Heavenly Father’s love. You’re a clear reflection of Him though He’s seated above.

You are His hands and feet on the earth; made in His image, created for purpose from birth.

You lead your family with wisdom and the utmost care. You hold things together on your knees in prayer.

You sacrifice to provide without recognition. You’re devoted and consistent; truly a man on a mission.

You’ve taught your arrows the gospel story- that their lives were created to ultimately bring Him glory.

You protect and defend your family. Your presence and support is our beautiful reality.

You’ve shown your children that in the face of any giant they have the courage to be bold as lions.

They learn so much by watching you. Through your life they see real life rescue.

They see that when you fall and begin to call, God always shows up and His strength isn’t small.

We know you juggle a lot and carry much weight. Please know our respect for you is exceedingly great.

Our heroes are often the strong and silent type with no gold medals or social media hype.

They don’t get a parade or the front page in the paper but make no mistake their reward will be greater.

For our heroes this morning may not wear red, white, or blue. Our heroes this morning are all of you.

From the bottom of our heart, thanks. Impact Church stands to applaud you.

What Amazes the Amazing One?

“When Jesus heard it, He marveled…” (Matthew 8:10)

Ever thought about the wonder-inspiring life of Jesus? We sing about His amazing grace, and rightfully so, but let’s reflect for a bit on His days with dusty feet and sweaty brow as a First Century human.

Time and time again through the gospels, we read that Jesus left people speechless with their jaws dropped open! When He made crippled men walk and dumb men speak and blind men see, the Jewish multitudes marveled. The villagers who watched Him grow up as a carpenter’s son were dumbfounded at this common man’s education and knowledge. “We’ve never seen anything like this in Israel!” they said.

Even those who set themselves against Jesus, the religious leaders of the day and their hired henchmen, were astonished at His authoritative teachings and had no answer for Him. “Nobody has ever spoken like this man speaks!” they said.

While others were amazed with Jesus’ words, Pontius Pilate marveled at His silence and self-control.

And those closest to Jesus, His own hand-picked disciples, repeatedly were left scratching their heads when their Master defied their expectations by talking to an unclean woman at a Samaritan well or by cursing a barren fig tree or by rebuking turbulent winds and waves. “Wow! What kind of man is this?!?”

Needless to say, the Greek word “thaumazo” (meaning to marvel or wonder) was used more than 30 times by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If Jesus were walking in flesh among us today, we might say He “dropped the mic” on a regular basis and left audiences stunned everywhere!

But have you ever wondered what makes the One called Wonderful wonder? What amazes the Author of amazing grace? What makes Jesus say “Whoa!”? Read the rest of this entry »

Well-Watered

Isaiah 58:11 “The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

I prefer to water my flowers early in the morning as the sun is rising to take its prominent position in the sky. I pour from the watering can until water overflows from the bottom and spills across my sidewalk. I fill to the point of excess because I know the afternoon is coming. The temperatures will inevitably rise and before the day ends the sun’s harsh rays will have direct access. There is nowhere to hide from the heat once afternoon arrives, but when the roots are well-watered they endure the heat with remarkable resilience.

As I was reading Isaiah 58 I was struck by the beauty of the promise found in verse 11. It says, “you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”  As I studied the scriptures my heart leapt and I thought, “I want to be like a well-watered garden, too!” If I am totally honest though, I haven’t always run to the right source to satisfy my thirsty soul. I’ve ran to Instagram and popular Christian blogs to read good words when my Bible offers me God’s words. I’ve ran to people to receive affirmation when God’s approval of me is settled. Running to anything but God will always leave us spiritually dehydrated.

There is a better way.

There is hope for every dry place in our hearts. There is bread and water to receive from God’s word. Read the rest of this entry »

Yet Not I, But the Grace which was with Me

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain: but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Ah, firsthand stories arrive from the battlefield, and we lean in as decorated soldiers describe in detail the outwitting or demise of their enemies. Describe the dangers and moment to moment decisions required to survive – and our hearts beat faster, our throats gulp, and our eyes moisten.

Stories of human conflict and struggle weave for us precious tapestries, unforgettable and priceless. For the color of their character is highlighted in attributes true soldiers respect – valor, courage and sacrifice!

Yet, even with such earthy heroism rewarded and honored, no warfare is more dramatic than those engaging in Kingdom matters. The conflicts these soldiers enter are of another ilk and nature. Yes, these enemies are far more subtle and challenging, but their victories are sweeter and their rewards far richer!

So how exhilarating are the testimonies of the battle-scarred when their stories began and end with the grace of God! While soldiers of this life are promoted for skill and decorated for bravery, soldiers of the Cross take no personal credit for accomplishments. They know their strength, their ability and their victories are only testaments to the power and presence of another.

Otherworldly are the praises that flow from those who know their Captain has already defeated the enemies they confront.

Whether we’re given advance notice of spiritual skirmishes, or perhaps we’re even presently in the midst of hostile circumstances, or whether we’re relishing, post-war, the sight of Pharaoh’s chariots upside down in the sea – the soldiers of the Kingdom live only to magnify the grace that made them victorious!

Experiential boldness comes when God’s chosen grasp Grace’s full impartation to their communal psyche and assignment. Read the rest of this entry »