Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

This Grace in Which We Stand

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1,2

“In the whole Bible there is hardly another chapter which can equal this triumphant text!” Those were the words of Martin Luther describing the fifth chapter of Romans.

Thank God for Romans 5! After spending the better part of four chapters convincing us that we all, Jews and Gentiles, stand guilty before a holy God and are in need of a Savior, the Apostle Paul seemingly turns his pen into a laser of welcome sunlight. Not only has Jesus Christ satisfied the demands of the Law and paid the debt we could not pay on our most self-righteous day, but His atoning work on Calvary has given us benefits beyond our comprehension!

Sadly, many Christians seem to be content with being forgiven and saved from hell. But Paul clearly declares here that our salvation is not the top rung of the ladder; indeed, it is the starting point of a whole new life in Christ. A mind-blowing, intimate adventure with the Creator of the universe is now ours since we are justified (put in right standing with God) by believing that Jesus lived, died and rose again so that we might be reconciled to His Father.

The power and authority of sin has been defeated in our lives as we accept Christ’s righteous sacrifice in our place! Brethren, we are not just forgiven,…we have been made sons and daughters of the King! And this royal new birth comes with privileges! It’s time to get excited,…Hallelujah!

Paul spends the whole chapter developing the “Ok, we’re saved,…Now what?” theme. Let’s just look quickly at the first two verses for a few fringe benefits of being a follower of Jesus: Read the rest of this entry »

Believe That Even Now, God Will Still Help Us

Acts 27: 21) ..Sirs, you should have hearkened to me… 22) and now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. 23) For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve.

No imagery arises as quickly and vividly as the breaking news of a ship lost at sea. Throw in nature’s raw violence of hurricane winds and the brooding psychological maelstrom associated with days without seeing the sun and stars – and there is narrative and drama sufficient for a full feature movie.

Inherently infused in the fury of any disaster are personal stories – some of heroism and valor, others of fear and selfishness, and always some of faith, courage and wisdom. It was in a setting of such terror that Paul became the single voice of reason and hope. His wise approach to crisis became fruitful when he overcame three major temptations: 1) when he renounced any victimization of circumstance, 2) when he rejected repeatedly the temptation to be a jaundiced critic of inferior intellects, and 3) when he refused to be an angry finger-pointer when he could well have been justified by those scorning his advice.

Divine wisdom rooted in the heart of the righteous rises to prominence when those of lesser character are losing hope. And when crushing regrets become centerpieces of conversation, or when condemnation and guilt set the present but dour mood, it’s there that the mind of those born of God is at its heavenly best.

So remember that after losing much of the ship’s cargo, much of its rigging and tackling, much of the confidence common to rugged sailors, and while much of the storm was still raging and inflicting damage – Paul declared before 275 shipmates that things were going to be okay. Not in pride’s fleshly and arrogant boast, but in the calmness of faith in a heart that had experienced God’s presence in previously dire situations. There is no inherent logic or iPhone weather map that inspired Paul’s confident report; only the presence of an angel confirming God’s instruction through the crisis. We’re going to make it; it won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick; but we’ll make it! Be of good cheer!

Yet, Paul didn’t ignore the disobedience and failed attempt of those who sailed against his counsel; neither did he allow it to be the focus. Wisdom made its point, placed the faulty decision squarely on those who missed it, and moved forward with revived hope and courage! Isn’t that so like God? God never overlooks our sin, selfishness or stupidity, nor does He ignore us because of such; but exposes their weakness and impropriety, so that our next step is based on God’s constant care and clarifying purposes! How kind and merciful is God’s grace that after we’ve royally flubbed up, He brushes us off and sends us back in the battle!

Delinquent and overworked parents often spawn delinquency and distance in their children. Never intentionally, no; but disciplined lives diminish such opportunities.

Careless spouses often create crisis in marriages. Never intentionally, no; but intentional connection times are a simple antidote for coldness and apathy.

Unguarded youth are susceptible to undue temptation. Never intentionally, no; but holding a hand, guiding the steps and teaching a heart may save some from falling through the cracks of an uncaring culture.

Devastating affections and destructive addictions seldom scream “Run” when in the flirting and winking stage. We’d never intentionally be entrapped, no; but hearing and considering the end of their pain and anguish may redirect an awakened life.

So to wise men, teach. Be an example of righteousness and character. Inform, educate, counsel and embrace. Be diligent in explaining the long term effects of another’s behavior, whether proper or improper. Wear the mantle of knowledge and wisdom with confidence and compassion. Love others enough to speak the truth in love; and allow what’s offered time enough to process and obtain a positive course of action. The Holy Spirit is expert in such occasions.

And to the wise, teach the fallen and the falling, the failures and the failing, equally. Be available to the undiscerning, to those less adept at life, those drowsy with temporal interests, and those who seem to have run out of grace. Don’t condemn with finality or disconnect with harshness from those in our “boat community” who’ve messed up… again! We are in this race together, we are our brother’s keeper, and we are the saving voice and loving care so many need to move their lives forward!

Remember: whatever Jesus has done and been for us in our experience, may we be the same to others in theirs!

Stay With The Bunch

Two are better than one,…and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Ever seen an episode of “Wild Kingdom” or a National Geographic special? Think about the moments leading up to the lion pouncing on his prey. There is usually a herd of animals clambering near a waterhole, but the hungry lion doesn’t have his eyes on the potential smorgasbord. Instead, he is locked in on the antelope who has wandered off from the pack.

To avoid the unsavory scene about to unfold on your mental screen, let’s consider another one of nature’s lessons. Picture stepping into your kitchen and spotting a bunch of ripe, yellow bananas,…and a separate one that has already been pulled from the rest. Which one is about to get peeled?

What is true in the Serengeti and in your kitchen is often true in the church world as well. It’s the one who splits off from the rest that is an easier target for the predator. Now, after you get over the shock of having been just compared to a ravenous lion, consider who the Apostle Peter says is stalking isolated Christians who start to sever their ties to a local body of believers.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9, ESV)

Which believer do you think is an easier target for Satan: the one who is entwined with like-minded brothers and sisters in the weekly life of the congregation, or the one who shows up only for worship services on a somewhat regular basis? There is no wonder that Peter warned us that a big part of our resisting and standing steadfastly in our faith is to remember that we are not isolated members of Christ’s body but part of a worldwide brotherhood!

Jesus knew we needed to belong to something bigger than ourselves. If anyone ever could have accomplished His purposes as a Lone Ranger, certainly the Master could have done it. But He hand-picked what Millennials today would call a “posse,” a group of followers with whom He shared His life and ministry. He enjoyed intimate fellowship with His friends, investing in them and sending them out in pairs to proclaim His life-transforming Gospel!

Sounds like Jesus knew well the principle that the wise King Solomon laid out in Ecclesiastes 4. Two are better than one – not the worst philosophy when you’re considering that banana sandwich, by the way – …and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Earlier, Solomon praised the countenance-lifting virtues of simple friendship and brotherhood, even when adversity arises. (Proverbs 17:17, 27:6,17)

What the two wisest men who have ever walked this earth knew is this: life is better lived in fellowship and loving relationship – Paul calls it “koinonia” in the Greek – with others who share the common bond of faith, love and devotion to the Godhead.

Sadly, many believers run from the church when they should be running to it. They hit the rough patches of life: Read the rest of this entry »

Not Yet

7:1 After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. 2 Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near.

3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him.

6 So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. 8 Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” (John 7:1-8)

Making Jesus and the Church attractive to the world and popular with everyone is a worldly temptation.

Jesus healed the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda in John 5. After 38 years of futile waiting, the man had no man to place him in the healing waters. Jesus sees him. Asks if he wants to be healed. It’s the Sabbath. The man believes and Jesus commands him to get up, take up his mat, and walk. 3 verbs. After that many years waiting, Jesus could have waited for another day to heal the man. He chose to heal him on the Sabbath, the 3rd miracle in the Gospel, to solicit a challenge with the Jewish leaders.

The next feast is Passover referenced in John 6. Jesus never made it to Jerusalem for that important feast. Instead, He spent His time around the Sea of Galilee, feeding 5,000 and walking on the water for His disciples. He told the Jews following Him, looking for another free meal, “I am the Bread of Life.” By the end of the chapter, Jesus offended the multitudes with His command to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. At the sound of the hard sayings, all but the 12 disciples abandoned Him. Peter offered the reason why they stayed – even Judas; “”Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Right on the heels of Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Holy One of God”, John takes us to the Feast of Booths, and Jesus’ unbelieving brothers. They offered 3 points of counsel:

#1 – 7:3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing.
MAKE A SHOW OF YOUR WORKS!
#2 – 7:4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.”
PUBLICIZE YOURSELF TO THE WORLD
#3 – 7:5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him.
UNBELIEF LEADS TO WORLDLY COUNSEL

Long before radio, TV, social media, web sites, page views, followers, likes, etc. the temptation of impressing the world with spiritual truth has been present. Jesus’ brothers are an example of following the worldly counsel of unbelief.

Jesus had three responses to their sinful counsel: Read the rest of this entry »

Stay the Course. Be the Light.

Acts 27:14 But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. 15) and when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.

More often than not, counsel neglected in calm waters is remembered with remorse when waves get choppy. For as the soft breezes promoted the Captain’s unwise decision to depart Lasea and sail to Phenice, so a menacing storm roared in, confirming Paul’s clear advice to stay put. Yet, what can the godly do when the ungodly hold the wheel of the boat we board? And what recourse do the wise have when the unwise have the numbers, the clout, and the might?

Well, when we find ourselves aboard a ship hell-bent to enjoy the wrath of a hurricane, the first inclination of the wise is to jump! But in the scheme of life, the wise and the foolish somehow find themselves doing the storms of life together. And sometimes the discerning get greasy, get hurt or held hostage by the decisions and directions of the unspiritual. And if they could leave the aftermath of those rejecting wisdom, then the astute could wag the finger and walk away…

But the wise live together with the unwise on the same planet, same nation, community, church, business, family, or in Paul’s case, same boat. So as inequitable it may be that life is done with those who leap from tall buildings and sleep on train tracks, God has chosen such interactions as introductions of grace to those distant from it.

A husband unchecked by the peril of credit card abuse, may bring his family under oppressive clouds of debt or bankruptcy. A promising young man may trivialize his education, trashing his scholarship and academic future with a concupiscent college lifestyle. And an intelligent young lady may forfeit her career plans with an unplanned pregnancy, impeding the dreams she and others possessed. And a business-minded mom may bring untold pain thru ill-advised substance abuse, losing interest in her family and enterprise while dealing with diminishing health.

But in any of these cases, do families forthrightly dissolve the connectivity and commitments due to foolish errors in judgment of those they love? Read the rest of this entry »

This Changes Everything

“…Ye must be born again.” John 3:7 

If ever there were someone who could earn his way into heaven, Nicodemus was the one.

Here was a man who undoubtedly studied the Scriptures, attended every church service and walked the line of personal morality and integrity as much as humanly possible. As a rule, Pharisees get a bad rep with our 20/20 hindsight on this side of Calvary, but make no mistake: they were the bona fide religious leaders of their day who devoted their lives to memorizing, keeping and teaching the most minute detail of the Law of Moses.

This Nicodemus was apparently a leader of the Pharisees, a ruler or teacher of the Jews. His story of a nighttime visit to Jesus – recorded only by the Apostle John two or three decades after not even a mention in the Synoptic Gospels – is reminiscent of another “ruler” who will forever be known for his youth and riches (Luke 18). Both men seem genuinely earnest in their desire to please God and had indeed kept the Law to the best of their ability. What more could a just God require, right?

Being a top-of-the-line Pharisee, Nicodemus would have scoffed at honoring only the “Big Ten” commandments, taking pride in obeying all 613 mostly ceremonial regulations of the Torah and knowing every jot and tittle of the written Law and oral tradition. If you had debated him on the Old Testament, you would have been embarrassed.

Even Nicodemus’ name bears witness that he was “the people’s champion,” deriving from the Greek words “nikos” or “nike” (victory) and “demos” (people). If a famous shoe company had a marketing campaign dating back to the first century, ol’ Nic would have been the “Just do it!” poster boy! When it came to good works, they didn’t come any better.

And yet this overtly devout man came to the upstart Rabbi, Jesus, apparently aware there must be something he was missing. Recognizing that the same God he had tried to appease all his life was the One who sent the Galilean, Nicodemus never even got to the same “What else can I do?” question that the rich, young ruler asked.

“Except a man be born again (or, from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God…. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ‘Ye must be born again.’” Jesus’ simple, profound words – the only time in the King James Version that the Master uttered “Ye must…”Read the rest of this entry »

A Spring Storm and the LORD’s Peace

Psalm 29

1 A Psalm of David.

Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name;
Worship the LORD in holy array.

3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters; The God of glory thunders, The LORD is over many waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful,
The voice of the LORD is majestic.
5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, And Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the LORD hews out flames of fire.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; The LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve And strips the forests bare; And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”

10 The LORD sat as King at the flood;
Yes, the LORD sits as King forever.
11 The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace

This Psalm of David is divided in to three scenes, the first one is in the heavens. The translation, “O sons of the mighty” refers to angelic beings in the original language. David calls for the angels to worship the LORD in His heavenly splendor.

The second scene is a panoramic scene of the geography of David’s life. He lists the “voice of the LORD” seven times, representing the Divine and challenging the pagan cultic worship of nature, and that voice is moving across the terrain with a powerful sound. In verse 3, pictured as a thunder storm, “the voice of the LORD” begins over the Mediterranean Sea and then moves inland by verse 5. Once over the land, the trees and lands are affected by the power of the LORD’s storm. By verse 7, the lightning has struck and the resultant thunder (8) rattles through the open country areas. Lastly, Read the rest of this entry »

Acts 27:13

3rd in a series of wisdom points drawn from Acts 27

“And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.” 

Invariably and strangely, the warmest breezes seem to comfort those who resist their rudder of conscience. The soft winds of consolation and convenience blow; and with subtle persuasion soothing breezes coerce the shallow and distant heart. So that weak hearts in moments that demand a choice, often allow the presence of some comforting circumstance to cast its decisive vote.

Exactly why the ship’s captain, centurion and passengers rejected Paul’s sharp admonition to remain at the port of Lasea is open to debate; but it’s certain the decision to leave port and sail further came from their sense-driven logic. Certainly they discussed at length their reasoning. And certainly they justified their decision to lift anchor and sail on. And certainly they had serious misgivings and trepidation on their course of action. And isn’t it fortuitously nice sometimes when outside confirmation tips the scale in our fleshly favor? Even when we know, oh yes we know, we ought to slow down and rethink?

Maybe Paul’s unsolicited advice, he being prisoner under the centurion’s care, was deemed rude. Maybe his prophetic words were unwarranted and unmerited, they being ignorant of his spirituality. Maybe his words were pompous intrusions into the world of sailing of which he possibly had little expertise. Or maybe he, being older, was simply viewed as uninformed and insensitive to the younger guy’s interests. Or maybe, their decision to loose anchor and journey on came from casting lots. Or maybe, they even appealed to Lady Luck. Or maybe, and most likely (from a red blooded American male perspective, of course), just the thought of being holed up an entire winter in a small town with few bright lights, drinking holes, beautiful ladies or Wifi, was sufficient reason to sail on to the more pleasured port of Phenice.

But may the consequences of choices be remembered and analyzed; for the results of a decision determine the wisdom of it. And a grain filled ship with 276 passengers headed to Rome has a lot to lose. Should you read ahead, the tragedy awaiting this ship is worthy of a world-class documentary. History books should include the details. And students of life should read it a second time. It’s that invaluable to the sincere. So consider well the risks and rewards of life, and consider the entire volume of wisdom and available information before choices are rashly made.

Either way, whether with logic or lust, the decision to leave port was supported by the providence” of those southern soft winds. Wow! So that any remaining doubts as to the decision to sail to Phenice were removed by the convincing evidence of favorable winds! Thus how easily we leverage our actions with circumstances that bolster our predetermined decisions. How quickly we assuage our troubled conscience when other things around us advance our cause! And how assured we are of our own unpublicized uncertainties when a few positive circumstances come alongside to console us!

However, the world we now inhabit demands the virtue of faith for our success, not sight and externals. To prevail and overcome, a more sure and stable source of wisdom is needed. The Word to us is that unmovable Rock! Read the rest of this entry »

Matthew 14:23

And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart, to pray; and when the evening was come, He was there alone.

There’s just something about the mountains. Wouldn’t you agree? Whether it’s a whirlwind weekend in the Blue Ridge hills of western North Carolina or a weeklong sabbatical in northern Georgia or visiting friends in the Colorado Rockies, the majestic scenery and the pure air just seem to clear our heads and give us a fresh perspective.

Time and time again in the Scriptures, we see Jesus getting away to the mountains. Granted, they were within walking distance for the Master, but still it was His conscious decision to scale the rocky hillsides – sometimes with his full entourage of disciples, occasionally with only His closest companions, and often alone.

At times, it may have been out of simple practicality: when Jesus was ready to share His longest recorded message, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), the natural amphitheater created by the topography undoubtedly gave the Savior’s voice the ability to carry so that thousands could hear.

But there has to be more than mere acoustics that drew Jesus to the higher elevations. Consider just a few of the momentous events in His life that happened on or around a mountain:

  • The Transfiguration (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9) when Jesus reveals His glory to his inner circle of Peter, James and John.
  • The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, where Luke specifically records that the King of the Jews rode a colt “at the descent of the Mount of Olives” (Luke 19:37).
  • The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) when the greatest Prophet who ever lived foretells signs of the end times to His disciples.
  • The Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed on the night before His arrest and crucifixion was located on the western slope of the Mount of Olives.
  • The Ascension into heaven was from the Mount of Olives, as confirmed by Luke in Acts 1:9-12.
  • The Second Coming of the Lord when He victoriously returns to earth in triumph over His enemies will be to the Mount of Olives, as foretold by Zechariah 14:1-4.

Yes, there’s definitely something about those hills! Just think about it: The One who created the mountains is Himself referred to Read the rest of this entry »

The Eternal Value of a Delay

John 2:3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus *said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus *said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”

John 7:3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him. 6 So Jesus *said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune.

John 11:6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.

  • A mother’s assessment of a need, implying that He should address it, goes unheeded.
  • His brothers’ challenge to reveal Himself to the world, unbelieving as they were, was refused by comparison to His sense of time and theirs.
  • A beloved friend lays deathly sick and He knowingly prolonged His stay two more days, separated from the assumed loving action of healing.

His mother, His brothers, and His beloved friend’s circumstances were not enough to prompt Jesus to change His action to fit the urgency of human needs. God operates on a different clock than we do. Solomon taught, “There is an appointed time for everything… He has made everything appropriate in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11).

Divine delays to our human travails creates anxiety in our lives. Actually, and more precisely, the anxiety was already there. It remains in our minds because we have either not prayed, imagine that we didn’t pray the right way and just worry from the difficult experience or, we expectantly prayed and have not yet seen an answer. God is delayed by our expectation.

The three events in the Gospel of John reveal that Jesus did not immediately respond to the people of need. He wasn’t on their time schedule. He was waiting for the Father’s will. To their credit, Read the rest of this entry »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 42 other followers