Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Faith that Obeys

Hebrews 11:8
It was by faith that Abraham obeyed……

We are saved by faith; justified solely because of our belief in the finished work of Jesus. However, an element of faith that is frequently overlooked or discounted in our salvation is the obedience that associates with and accompanies faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an influential theologian who was martyred under the Nazi regime states the relationship as thus, “faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience.”

Obedience to Jesus is not a step of sporadic or inconsistent agreement with a command. Jesus is very specific in what He asks us to do. He does not invite us to simply follow a list of general principles or submit to a certain doctrine. Jesus does not present a plan for positive thinking or suggest seven simple steps to obedience. He invites us on a transformative, revolutionary adventure that begins with two simple words; “follow me.” This is the offer of a lifetime and if accepted, changes everything! It is a summons to walk with, alongside, and near the Savior. To surrender our agenda and itinerary and willingly walk where He walks, talk with whom He talks, and acquiesce to His desires many times at the sacrifice of our own.

This relationship is not a business agreement or constructed on the basis of demand or obligation. It is built on the most powerful of all foundations; love. Jesus encourages His disciples in the Gospel recorded by John that “If you love me, obey my commandments.” Our obedience is rooted deeply in our love for Him. Obedience is reasonable sacrifice because of His initial love for us. Authur W. Pink said that love is “a principle of action, and it expresses itself …. by deeds which please the object loved.” To obey God means to relinquish what we want and to choose to do what He asks.

There is no limit to obedience constructed on love. If there is a resistance to following Jesus, allow the words of Oswald Chambers to bring provocation and clarification: “The Lord does not give me rules, but He makes His standard clear. If my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says …… If I hesitate, it is because I love someone I have placed in competition with Him, namely myself.”

Authentic, genuine faith obeys.

Whether Abased or Abounding

“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound…” (Philippians 4:12)

Sitting in a dark prison cell in Rome and writing to encourage the church he had planted at Philippi a few years before, the Apostle Paul probably couldn’t help but manage a wry smile at the irony. Here he was again, shackled and confined, for preaching the gospel.

Different town, different time. Same message, same result.

The last time he had been in Philippi, Paul and his cellmate, Silas, must have sounded like drunken fools singing praises to God with metal stocks around their ankles and with fresh blood running down their whip-lashed backs during the darkest hour of the night. You’ll remember the miraculous conversion story of the jailer that night (Acts 16).

“I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content,” Paul writes from prison. “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound.”

Contentment is a word — indeed, an attitude — we don’t hear much today. In our “bigger is better” capitalistic culture, the concept of contentment has become synonymous with settling. Why settle for an iPhone 5 when the new 7 is out? Why settle for driving a Chevy when you can spend a little more every month and cruise in a Lexus? Why settle for that 2013 model when the new ones have more gadgets?

Let’s face it. Even in a non-consumer-driven economy like the 1st Century, being at peace with what one has is just not natural. It’s a basic human desire to improve our station in life. That’s why Paul said he had to learn contentment whether in regard to his circumstances or material possessions. Here’s a man who had gone from an almost aristocratic, well-heeled, highly educated past to his present life as a habitual convict for the sake of the gospel.

What is the temptation when we are “abased” — suffering lack or poverty or simply enduring hard times? (Ever been there?) The tendency during such seasons of life is to think that God has forgotten us, that either He doesn’t see our need or, worse yet, that He doesn’t care what we’re going through or can’t do anything about it.

What about when we “abound” — just got that raise, everyone’s healthy, life is good? The temptation during such times of prosperity is for us to forget God! Scripture warns us to be careful not to let pride arise and think that you alone have brought blessing on yourself and your family (Deuteronomy 8:10-17).

The Apostle gives us the key to finding lasting joy, peace and contentment no matter what life brings our way: Read the rest of this entry »

Called To Courage

“Lord, if it’s you” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” He said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” (Matthew 14:28-29)

As a child I was afraid of the dark. In an effort to maintain complete transparency I’ll tell you- I slept in my mom and dad’s floor until I was thirteen years old. Unfortunately my daughter, now three, exhibits some of my same trepidation about the dark. Every night, like clockwork, I hear her cry into the monitor asking for “mommy” so paralyzed by fear that she won’t even get out of her bed. Once I go in and remind her I’m there the fear dissipates and she falls back asleep. I never turn on the light during this exchange. The darkness doesn’t change but my being with her in it changes the way she perceives it. When I’m there her fear of the unknown loses its power. The same was true for Peter in the passage noted above.

This portion of scripture occurs right after Jesus performs the miracle of feeding the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus goes up on a mountaintop to pray and sends the disciples ahead of Him in the boat to the other side. Later Jesus is still on land when the boat begins to be tossed around by the wind a considerable distance from the shore. Jesus walks out to them on the water and while all twelve disciples see Jesus Peter is the only one that seizes the opportunity that surely was extended to each of them- to do something extraordinary with The Lord. Here’s the truth – Jesus has extraordinary things for each of us to be a part of; those things which are mind-blowing, miraculous, that defy all logic. Undeniably, this was one of those types of things. The invitation to come wasn’t limited to Peter. Jesus issues each of us the same invitation today.

Be aware, however, that our enemy means to keep us from accepting the invitation to come by entangling us with fear. Read the rest of this entry »

Come Before Winter

“…Come before winter…” 2Timothy 4:21

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all. Ecclesiastes 9:11

The two sided coin of the world’s religions are essentially dogma and deeds. Teachers, preachers, rabbis and clerics beat as it were a drum the systematic indoctrination of belief systems and the human behaviors flowing from them.

Yet, in Christianity, a sublime element is added. For tho it be not explicit in the doctrine, or in the lyrics of songs or titles of sermons, it’s always in the Spirit of what’s done, said or thought.

Time matters.

Opportunities matter.

The brief clause, “Come before winter”, is highly pregnant with urgency, love, emotion, premonition, compassion, time, and opportunity. Paul is imprisoned in Rome now, his life hanging in the balance by the deranged Emperor, Nero. From a dank prison cell, he writes his second letter to Timothy, his dear protégé who is pastoring hundreds of miles away in Ephesus.

Incarcerated, but with poignancy, persuasion and conviction, Paul bares his soul and pens his farewells and final instructions.

“I’ve fought a good fight, Timothy, I’ve finished my course. Be strong, Pastor! Preach the Word! You’ll face many obstacles in declaring it, but that’s to be expected.. I can only say it’ll be worth any suffering you experience to hear Him say, “Enter in, good and faithful servant”! I pray for you always, and I’m well aware of your tears. And by the way, I’d really love to see you! Could you get away and sail to Rome? I’d really love to see you… And if so, come before winter…” (This version yet to be named or edited)

And as softly as fog rolls into lowland meadows after a warm evening rain, so are we slowly aware of the element of time and opportunity in Paul’s plea, “Come before winter”. For some opportunities come once, and the window of time in which they’re offered is tight.

Time and opportunities matter.

Is it possible Paul simply wants Timothy to sail soon, knowing the Mediterranean Sea is treacherous after October? Read the rest of this entry »

Five Rewards of Generosity

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

What are the rewards if we trust God’s promises, give lavishly, and open our homes to each other and the needy?

1. The suffering of the saints will be relieved or at least diminished. That is what this verse means when it says, “Contribute to the needs of the saints.” We lift a burden. We relieve stress. We give hope. And that’s a reward!

2. The glory of God is displayed. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Lavish giving and open homes display the glory and the goodness and the worth of God in your life. The reason God gives us money and a home is so that by the way we use it people can see it is not our God. But God is our God. And our treasure.

3. More thanksgiving to God is unleashed. “The ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12). God has given us money and homes not just so that we are thankful, but by our generosity and hospitality to make many people thankful to God.

4. Our love for God and His love in us is confirmed. “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). In other words, when we give generously and open our homes, the love of God is confirmed in our lives. We are real. We are not phony Christians.

5. Finally, we lay up treasure in heaven. “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail. . . . For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:33–34).

Lavish giving and open homes are close to the center of life in Christ. The reasons we don’t open our checkbooks and homes as often as we should are rooted in the bondage of fear and greed. The remedy is the pleasure of Christ’s presence and the certainty of Christ’s promise: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Our reward is the display of God’s glory, the good of others, and the joy of treasuring Christ together forever. Therefore I exhort you, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

Priorities

“You shall have no other gods before Me…” (Exodus 20:3)
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matt. 6:33)

New year. Blank calendar. A fresh, unspoiled, unlived 357 days — more than 8,500 untapped hours — still before us…

While we are not advocates of flimsy resolutions and soon-to-be-forgotten promises of good-deed-doing, we are indeed grateful for January’s snowy white (😉) pages of opportunity and for the gift of uncharted time we have been granted.

Just a few days into 2017, can we pause to thank the Timeless One who created time for our sake? And can we surrender our wills afresh and anew to honoring His commands, walking led by His Spirit and simply being the light and the salt our Master has called us to be?
Maturing spiritually, bearing fruit and developing Christlikeness do not happen by one-time decisions or repeating “the sinner’s prayer.” They are the product of daily disciplines that lead to day-in-and-day-out decisions to follow the Spirit over the flesh. In short, the priorities of seeking first God’s kingdom!

Let’s take a beginning-of-the-year look at a trio of well-known areas where we can become more like Jesus as individuals and more like the triumphant Church that He has called us to be: our time, our talents and our treasure. Read the rest of this entry »

Total Trust

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

It’s now January and a new year has dawned. Not long ago the presents were unwrapped, the family dinners were eaten, and the “thank yous” were exchanged. The smell of evergreen still lingers in the air. Perhaps your decorations have already been tucked back into their storage bins and pushed to the back of the attic to eagerly await December 2017’s arrival. Nearly half of all Americans are busy making New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight, save money, and get more organized. But without a doubt all of us are thinking about this new year and what the future may hold. My prayer for us is that 2017 be the year we experience Proverbs 3:5-6 “trusting in the Lord with all of our hearts” like never before.

The weeks before our daughter’s due date were filled with more doctor appointments and fear, on my part, than I would like to admit. The doctors believed that she may be born with complications and as a result we were monitored closely and her scans were sent to neonatal specialists for further review. One night I selected a random book off of our shelf in an attempt to occupy my restless mind temporarily. It fell open to a page with this verse in the center- “Don’t be afraid. Just believe, and your daughter will be well.” (Luke 8:50) Immediately I knew that God was speaking truth to my fearful heart. In this scripture reference, Jairus had just been informed by a servant that his only daughter was dead. In response Jesus gave him this simple, illogical, seemingly inconsiderate instruction. Terror screamed from one side while hope beckoned from the other. Two voices were calling and he had to choose which to believe. He chose to find refuge in the promise of God’s word. He decided to walk in total trust. We did as well. I am thankful to report that our daughter was born with no complications in her body. And in case you were wondering, Jesus did what He promised for Jairus as well. Luke 8:54-55 bears out that Jesus “took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up.”

While the Christmas holiday is over, God’s gift to us remains. In Genesis 3:15 God says to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head and you will strike His heel.” This was God’s first promise that a Savior was coming. And come He did just as God had said. God’s greatest gift to us will always be His Son. It’s through Jesus that we are saved, relationship with The Father is restored, and we are set irrevocably free. But may I submit that Christmas provided one other gift for us as well – proof that God is completely trustworthy.

Trust is defined as a Read the rest of this entry »

That’s My King

2Cor8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich.

To the earthly wise, the manger that held the Christ-child was an inappropriate accouterment and incompatible to the finery of royalty. For if He were to be King and the Jews’ Messiah, then no barnyard could be the place of His birth. And a carpenter family in the little town of Bethlehem could never bring what the prophets said would be a Counselor, Prince of Peace, and the One whose shoulder the government would eternally rest.

But leave it to the wisdom of God to be glorified through small things and elements the world despises. For He revels in things men abhor and uses things men detest. And He dethrones things we enthrone and shatters things we painstakingly construct. So that the merits of eternal good are not lauded to mortals, but to One who forever transcends them.

There is no premise truer than that God is faithful to His Word. And should flesh attempt to obtain credit where His Word is at work, He ensures the origin and integrity of His work remains intact by allowing debilitating conditions to surface. And if that be true, nothing is truer in the unobtrusive introduction of His Son. Birthed apart from the trappings of nobility, honor and respect, His ministry must bypass the conventional protocol of kingdom building in order to establish one that must never cease!

Be assured. He did. And how He came to us, is as important as who He was, and what He did.  Read the rest of this entry »

Wait, I say, On the Lord

Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalm 27:14

I have a lot of dear memories from my childhood around this time of year. I love family and there is nothing better than being together at the holidays. We were not abundantly wealthy growing up but my parents were always intentional about teaching us about generosity and Christmas time was no different. They gave us gifts. Not extravagant gifts but they always loved to give and bless the three of us as much as they could. The more I read the Bible and learn about God’s nature, the more I learn their attitude of generosity stemmed from the character they saw in their Heavenly Father. He loved and therefore, He gave. (John 3:16)

My mom would have three plastic bags with the kid’s name on them. They looked a lot like trash bags but with Christmas decorations on them. She would keep them in her closet and throughout the year would periodically buy gifts for me and my sisters and begin to fill those bags. Most were small gifts or things that we needed for school. By the time Mid-December rolled around those bags were full and it was difficult for her to get in and out of her closet.

We were a busy family so we did not have much time to wonder or think about the bags until school let out. However, when school was out our anticipation began to get the best of us. We would intentionally walk by her closet to try to sneak a peek at the bags or we would try to bribe our siblings into telling us all they knew that Mom had bought for us. We had waited almost all year, almost 12 months, 51 weeks but that last week felt like it was going to be the end of us. We did not think we could wait any longer!

My baby sister was the worst. She could not stand the wait. She was so full of anticipation that she would lose sleep thinking about the presents. Sarah would begin around December 20th asking Dad every night, “can we open presents tonight?” Dad would first respond with resolution and conviction, “No, baby. Not tonight.” However, because of his soft spot for his baby girl and because no one can say “no” to her little pouty voice for long, it was just a matter of time before his resolve begin to diminish. I do not remember any year that we waited until Christmas Day to open our presents. At the latest Christmas Eve or even a few days before we would end up sitting in the living with our bags. Sarah had won, again!

Everything about this season is centered around waiting. We anticipate family, friends, lights, presents, and carols. However, the true meaning of Christmas is filled with waiting, as well. For thousands of years the world was awaiting the manifestation of God’s promise that a Son would be born. He would reign and bring justice. They waited by faith. They waited as a man became a family and a family became a nation. They waited from Abraham to Moses to David. They waited through the commandments and through the prophets. Lastly, they waited through 400 years of silence. They waited. Until they did not think they could wait anymore.

Finally, in a stall in Bethlehem their wait was over. The faith of generations was realized in one moment. God put on flesh and chose to dwell among us. Jesus, Emmanuel, our Savior was born! The wait was long but what we were waiting on was worth it. He is everything that was promised and prophesied. He is the fulfillment of every desire and hope!

Christmas shouts that although waiting is difficult, God is not just a promise-maker but He is a promise-keeper! Waiting on the Lord is never a waste of time. I know it feels like your anticipation is getting the best of you and you cannot wait any longer. We want it fast and we want it now. Before you give up or attempt to move in your own strength, remember God is not slack concerning His promises and His timing is perfect. Rest and trust. Wait on the Lord! The gifts are going to be there Christmas Day!

Living, Loving and Serving

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. Peter 4:8-10

Ahhhh, December! There’s something about feeling the sting of a bitter blast of cold on your cheek and hearing the kettle bells amid the soft strains of Christmas carols as you walk around The Shoppes at Friendly, isn’t it?

No doubt about it, there seems to be a renewed energy among many people at this time of the year. But while holiday cheer abounds in some folks, we acknowledge the all-too-real truth that the Yuletide is not filled with joyful cheer and jolly good humor for everyone.

We believers know the real meaning of the season is not found under a tree, but in the birth of a Savior who eventually would die on a tree. Our steadfast hope in the Resurrected Christ and His indwelling Spirit gives us peace all year ‘round. But maybe we need to be reminded occasionally that we – flesh-and-blood, dust-to-dust humans – are now the tangible Body of the Lord Jesus that the world sees, hears and touches.

What is a hurting, hopeless-without-Christ world seeing in our lives during this season? What are our friends and family members hearing from our conversations? Perhaps most importantly, are our neighbors feeling our touch as we reach out in love and compassion?

Have you noticed how easy it can become during these chilly days when the sun sets early to simply hibernate into our warm, cozy homes after work and repeat that process day after day? Often when we do get out, we’re on a mission and don’t want to be bothered with distractions. We pull up our scarves and pull down our hats as much to protect ourselves from being recognized as to protect ourselves from the cutting wintry wind. If we’re not careful, the coldness of the season can infiltrate and numb our hearts to the needs of humanity all around us.

Read this Fox News statement from four months ago quoting actor David Schwimmer (we know all you closet “Friends” groupies out there love Ross): Read the rest of this entry »