Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Ordered Steps

In America, virtually anyone has access to the Word of God; sadly, many remain that have no idea what it says. As host of The Tonight Show, Jay Leno frequently executed “man-on-the street”interviews. On one particular episode, he decides to ask questions concerning the Bible. The first question was, “Can you name one of the Ten Commandments?” The person responded, “Freedom of Speech.” Another question was, “Complete this sentence: Let he who is without sin ____.” The response was, “Have a good time.” Though considered humorous, such responses are tragic. We, as believers, understand that the Bible is far more than just a book. It is the breathed Word of God that provides us information pertaining to true life. Its importance is expressed plainly in Romans 10:17,where it says, “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” This tells us that the Word is very important to know, but just as important to sow.How many of us have thought of feet as being beautiful? 

Feet aren’t something we commonly regard as points of beauty, but they can be more beautiful than all the gold in the world when used for the proper purpose. Romans 10:15 states, “…How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”

What would it be like to receive an invitation from the most important person alive to join Him in the most important venture on the planet?

Perhaps He would get your attention by referencing what He has done in the past, and how He connects with this initiative; how He became a servant to show God’s “truth.” He might even outline the mission by reiterating the fact that there are other sheep not of His fold that need to be brought in so that there may be one flock, one shepherd (John 10:16). He would probably also remind you that,though it appears joining Him has drawbacks, the reward is GREAT. That no one who leaves home,spouse, children, brother or sister will be without compensation (Mark 10:28-30). If the invitation is TRULY authentic, the person may even broadcast the extent of His authority, under which the endeavor will operate; that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. He would remind us that as we carry out His mission, He doesn’t solely promise His oversight, but His own presence and intimate involvement.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve given you the resume/heart of Jesus Christ.

As you step, remember these key components of the “mission-minded” believer:

Please Read Luke 15:1-4, 8

Ingredient 1: Compassion

Jesus had the “tax collectors and sinners” gathering around him. These are lost people who were not running from Jesus but rather running to him. They were not avoiding him, ignoring him, or even hostile towards him. Verse 1 says that they were “gathering around to hear him.”Why were sinners so willing, and even eager, to listen to Jesus? It certainly wasn’t because Jesus had an easy message that tickled people’s ears. I believe the answer is his compassion.Jesus loved them and showed that love with a compassionate heart instead of condemning attitude. How’s your attitude?

Ingredient 2: Effort

In these two parables, Jesus emphasizes the effort that went into finding the lost. In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus said that the shepherd would “leave the ninety-nine sheep in the open country and go after the lost sheep. . .” In the parable of the lost coin, the woman lights a lamp, sweeps the whole house and searches carefully for the lost coin, according to verse 8. Note: Though “effort” is great, be sure to operate in obedience to the Holy Spirit. Be a “broom.” A broom consists of 2 components: a brush and handle. The brush does the sweeping, but only in response to the direction in which the handle is moved.

Ingredient 3: Persistence

In both these cases Jesus notes specifically that the person continued seeking the lost item until he or she found it. In other words, Jesus seems to be pointing out that persistence was a needed quality for success. After all, lost sheep among spacious fields and hills, and lost coins on the dirt floor of a Jewish home would not have been easily or quickly found. It’s the same way with reaching the lost. It is not always easy to reach people’s hearts so that they receive Jesus. Sometimes it takes years and years of persistence, but we should never be discouraged or give up when key ingredient #2, effort, doesn’t pay off quickly.

Have you responded to His call?

You first received it when you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. We all know that He conquered sin and death, and that He now leads the mission from the control room of the universe:His Father’s Right Hand. By His Spirit, through His own people, He is extending His offer of life to every tribe, tongue & nation. You have been summoned to cover yourself in His armor/uniform and step onto the field with the greatest team this world has ever known; all who dress in His garments have His provision.

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Change of Plans

Have you ever made the perfect plans? Plans that were so flawless in theory that you even impressed yourself. It took you days, maybe weeks, to consider all the possibilities and parties involved. You made sure everyone was accounted and accommodated for. The schedule was tight and every minute was packed to the limit but if everyone stuck to the plan, it would work perfectly. You emailed it out and copied everyone that needed to be made aware. You followed up with the important people to ensure they understood your email and even doubled back to over communicate. The plan was set. The schedule and itinerary was established. All you need now is execution!

But then the unthinkable happens! Someone is late and someone else decided to drive their own car. The baby gets sick and messes up her brand new outfit. There is accident on 1-85 and the GPS says it is going to be a 35 minute wait. All that planning and preparing is ruined! All that time spent is wasted! You get frustrated and frazzled (which is just a nicer way of saying you’re mad!). You get short with your spouse and snap at your children. This is not what you had planned!

I am sure some of your heart rates went up just reading that hypothetical situation. We have all been there and know the helpless feeling of being out of control. That is the whole reason we made the plans in the first place, so that we could control as much of the narrative as possible. Every aspect that we could troubleshoot, we did. However, even after all our planning, situations like these remind us of our limitations. So before you get too agitated, let’s pause and take a moment to reevaluate what is actually happening when our plans are upset.

Selah.

You confessed as a child of God that your life is not your own. You are the sheep of His pasture and He is your good Father. However, in moments such as this, we assume He is distant and without compassion. We quickly conclude that if He truly loved us, He would have ensured our plans went off without a hitch or mishap. That the flawless execution of our carefully constructed schedule would have been a sign of His favor and divine will being accomplished in our lives.

I would like to submit another possible conclusion for your consideration. What if the change of plans was a sign of God’s providence not His carelessness? Maud Manohan penned these words about Mother Janet Stuart, the well-known nun and educator from London, England in the book The Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart….

“She delighted in seeing her plan upset by unexpected events, saying that it gave her great comfort, and that she looked on such things as an assurance that God was watching over her stewardship… she was joyfully and graciously ready to recognize the indication of God’s ruling hand, and to allow herself to be guided by it.”

Wow! So instead of becoming anxious and fretful when her plans were derailed; she delighted and found comfort. Not some superficial, shallow optimistic outlook on her circumstance masking the frustration she actually felt. The change of events literally encouraged her faith and brought an awareness that God was in her midst and had greater and higher plans. She submitted to the change and acknowledged God’s hand in redirecting her path.

One instance where this truth is found in scripture is in Mark 5. Jesus is compelled by a synagogue official named Jairus to come to his house because his daughter was very sick and close to death. While on the way to Jairus’ house, a woman who had been suffering with a hemorrhage for 12 years came near to Jesus and touched His clothes by faith. Jesus stopped and began to heal and speak to the woman. Most of us may know the end of the story but imagine if you are Jairus and your daughter is at the point of death. You made the perfect plan to get Jesus’ attention and get Him to your house. However, on the way your plan was averted. While Jesus talked to the hemorrhaging woman, Jairus receives news that his daughter is dead. His plan was perfect but unexpected events happened and now his daughter is dead. Jesus still insisted on going to the house. When He arrives, he removes everyone from the room except a few disciples and the little girl’s family. He then speaks to the young girl and says “Talitha kum” meaning “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” Jairus’ plan was to see his daughter healed, however, his plans needed to be thwarted for the purpose of God to be accomplished. Jesus’ purpose was different. He saw a lady healed and a young girl raised from dead. Jesus’ purpose was better than Jairus’ plan.

Maybe next time the plans change be intentional about looking for God’s hand. It may not be a disturbance but rather God’s leadership. It’s okay to sometimes not be in control!

Attitude of Christ

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” Philippians 2:4

Just yesterday I asked my darling four-year-olds to please pick up the magna-tiles from
the middle of our living room floor. They complied but not without making sure I knew
how disgruntled they were. They huffed, scowled, and complained as if I had requested
they clean the entire house from top to bottom. When they were finished this momma did not gush over what a fantastic job they did. Instead we had a necessary conversation
about how important it is to have a good attitude.

I, as a mom, care about my children’s attitudes. I believe our Heavenly Father cares
greatly about the attitudes of His kids, too. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord said to
Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have
rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart.”’

God cares more about how we do something than what we actually do.

While we can put on a mask and hide our truest self from others there is absolutely
nothing hidden from God. He sees the unfiltered version of our thoughts, feelings, and
motives. If I’m being embarrassingly honest- I sometimes resemble my kids. Sure, I am
obedient. But not without doing my fair share of grumbling and whining about how hard
it is.

If you can admit the same about yourself- take courage. Having the attitude of Christ is
possible! God would not ask us to do something we cannot. We are invited to have the
mind of Christ. But how?

1 John 1:9 says, “But if we freely admit our sins when his light uncovers them, He will be
faithful to forgive us every time. God is just to forgive us our sins because of Christ, and
he will continue to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Let’s trust God’s faithfulness
enough to quickly confess when our attitude is not matching our identity. We are
confident that giving Him permission to purify us is for our good and His glory.

Furthermore, we must be intentional about having the Word of God rooted deep in our
hearts and minds. When we are meditating on His Word our actions and attitudes will
likely follow suit because the Word changes us. More specifically, it gives us clear
instructions about where to park our thoughts. The apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:8,
“So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and
admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your
thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.”

When we confess our sins and fix our thoughts on the truth of God’s Word our attitudes
will begin to agree with His. Praise God! “And the Lord- who is the Spirit- makes us
more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Got Milk?

As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word… 1Peter 2:2

Consider the unforeseen risks before booking a family flight that includes a four month old. It’s likely moments will come you can never prepare for, nor predict. For when mom and little “bambino” are thirty five thousand feet up and squeezed between two corpulent characters highly blessed with heavy breathing – well, it will not be like mom’s comfy living room with a blanket between a Fisher Price Baby Bouncer Seat and Kick n Play Piano. Believe me, been there, and it’s just not the same.

And things can get a little testy if mom is seated mid-cabin in a middle seat and little precious gets noisy and rambunctious. Cause it’s likely folks boarding the flight didn’t sign up for, “hey guys, not-a-prob, we-family, we-all-in-this-thing-together, we-totally-understand,” when little angel-face has a few things to say at decibels, and with inflections, and in tones the human ear is yet to appreciate.

And be further advised that a couple hundred sleep-deprived travelers in an airtight cabin with people they don’t know (or care to know), have little time for cooing at someone else’s baby, whether she’s fretful or not. You’ll notice that when passengers cross the aircraft’s entry door threshold, turn right at the cockpit, and double-check the seat number on the boarding pass – from there, it’s every man for himself. Once seated, folks want to be left alone. They’ll read something, do a crossword, or don the buds for some music. But mostly folks want to sleep. Undisturbed sleep.

Such are the potential hazards for flying high with a diaper-clad newbie. That little bundle of sweetness, with all her various eccentrics and oddities, can make or break a parent’s trip, or those traveling with her. If she gets feisty and fussy, the whole journey can turn into a nerve wracking, humbling, regrettable experience. And within minutes, a calm, personable “hi, y’all” mom can become a veritable persona non grata as onlookers slice her up with steamy, head-turning glares and muttered outrage!

Knowing then the capriciousness of newborns, is there an absolute, time-honored answer for appeasing a baby’s irritableness? Is there something out there (or up there!) that’ll ease baby’s disquietude when she’s struggling?

Yes! Yes there is! And it’s the same answer that satisfies the quirks and idiosyncrasies of all babies – and get this, including young believers,  yes, even those born of God! Life, whether in flesh or spirit, will not always provide pleasant surroundings, and the journeying of both never promise calm winds and smooth sailing; but the prescription for both, works miracles for both!

— It’s the milk, friends, it’s the milk! To the moms with ill-humored babies – it’s the milk! It’s. The. Milk!

— It’s the milk, friends, it’s the milk! To the pastors with occasional crotchety congregants – it’s the milk! It’s. The. Milk!

For context, I’ll allude momentarily to the above mentioned family flight: it was an amazing lesson learned in motherhood, as my daughter stilled any fidgetiness little KJ may have been experiencing by bringing her up close and personal with mother’s milk! Regardless the unfamiliar surroundings, unexpected turbulence, strange noises, or new faces – mom and the milk were the miracle cure for keeping her calm and content! Not a whimper, nor a whine that mom’s milk didn’t quickly quieten!

Likewise, the antidote for anxious and out-of-sorts children of the faith has a proven remedy in the highly potent “milk of the word”. Whatever ails the soul of those conceived and born of the Word find their solace and healing through an ingestion of the same. It’s in the wise design of the Creator that the sustenance and strength of the young are drawn from the origin and source of their birth.

There is no confusion, division, frustration, question, or situation that the Word doesn’t have an available solution. And there is no functioning principality or power that doesn’t readily flee from the superior agency of the Word when it’s applied by a child of God. And whether the soul of the elect is drowsy through religious business, drugged through infatuations of a material world, or derailed by envy, pride, offence, or unforgiveness – the temptations and enticements of a temporal world are but an early morning fog dismissed forthrightly by a rising sun – a Son more perfectly known as the Word of God!

  • Facing a seemingly uncrossable chasm requiring obedience?
  • Prodded to ditch some entrenched habit or attitude?
  • Challenged to renew the rigors essential for effective ministry?
  • Sick and tired of living too far from the available promises?
  • Noticing some dreaded anxiety, possibly some fear creeping in?
  • Wondering where the joy of everyday living has gone?
  • Despise critical or gossipy people, and find you’re becoming one?
  • Consumed by partisan cultural, religious, or political bickering?
  • Aghast that social media has become a shameful fetish?
  • Remembering nostalgically the days of unconventional service?

To those who’ve risen with Christ and have their affection set on heavenly things, the richness and power of scripture is their ever present weapon of choice. In whatever tempting turbulence or distraction they find themselves, they hear the Spirit’s “come up higher” appeal, and rest in the Word to rise in that glorious ascent. Reorientation, peace and strength remains the blessed outcome for those found centered and confiding in the Word of God.

Miraculous Rain

I have received a few inquisitive texts and emails from members of our congregation and others who follow our ministry regarding our recent sermon series after this week’s Hurricane Michael. For those who are not aware, we have been ministering on the metaphor of rain in scripture as it relates to the Word of God. Many biblical authors show the correlation of the nation of Israel’s dependence on God to supply rain from Heaven with our reliance on Him to nurture and supply for us by “every word that proceeds from His mouth.” In other words, the same way their whole well-being was contingent on the faithfulness of God to supply rain for their crops and livestock our lives are also reliant on the sustenance that is supplied by God’s Word.

I believe the initiators of those texts and emails are receiving the teaching really well but all in good fun they requested, due to the the abundance of physical rain we have already received here in North Carolina, that maybe we should consider switching topics for a period. I promise we are almost done with topic of rain. Just one more quick thought. (Haha)

Have you ever watched it rain? It is a beautiful sight to see! I realize it’s messy and inconvenient. I understand that rain can delay scheduling and mess up plans. It destroys new hair-dos and gets your new outfit wet but isn’t it amazingly breathtaking?

Have you ever considered “how” it rains? I know we have been talking about “why” it rains but the “how” is a completely different subject. The “how” is so fascinating that Job names it as one of the great miracles that God performs.

“”If I were you, I would go to God and present my case to him. He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles. He gives rain for the earth and water for the fields.” (Job 5:8-10)

If you said to someone: “My God does great and unsearchable things; He does wonders without number,” and they responded, “Really? Like what?” would you say, “Rain”? Maybe after this short devotional you will.

Is rain a great unsearchable wonder performed by God? Imagine you are a farmer in the Middle East and you are not located near a water source. The fact that God would bring water from hundreds of miles away and drop it directly over your crops to ensure your family is fed and your needs are met sounds like miraculous provision to me.

But how does He do it? Obviously, we do not have the time to detail the entire process exhaustively and neither do I have the intelligence to fully describe it but I believe the Cliff Notes version will be sufficient for us to understand how wondrous it is.

First, He must cause the water in the nearby ocean and lakes to become light enough to be transported. This process is called evaporation. Heat causes water to be changed into a gas called water vapor.

The water vapor rises in the atmosphere and there it cools down and forms tiny water droplets through something called condensation. These then turn into clouds. One cloud can carry over a billion gallons of water.

All of these tiny droplets begin to combine together through a process called coalescence where they collide with each other until they become too large to remain in the cloud. At this point, the droplets begin falling to earth. However, it would be destructive for the cloud to simply drop a billion gallons of water at once. The droplets are the exact size needed to make it through the atmosphere without evaporating but still being small enough that when they fall they do not destroy the crops. They also fall at the exact speed of 1-18 mph to ensure no damage is done.

Maybe Job was onto something. And maybe I have been missing the wonder of God’s handiwork all this time. Maybe rain isn’t just an inconvenience. Maybe it’s a miracle. And yet another reason that I have to be amazed by the God I serve and thankful for His provision.

Beauty to Behold

“Let joy be your continual feast. Make your life a prayer. And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God’s perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I was seventeen years old when I started college. I was still mourning the sudden loss of my father, emotionally bankrupt, and desperate for acceptance. I was engulfed in guilt, shame, and insecurity. I found myself in, what should have been, an exciting new season of freedom and responsibility. Instead, I felt overwhelmed, alone and terribly ill-equipped.

Just this week my mother discovered a stack of notes she thoughtfully hand-wrote, attached to care packages, and delivered to my dorm throughout my freshman year. As I read each one I could not keep the tears from welling up in my eyes and escaping down my face. Because the truth is this- I don’t remember receiving these. I was so consumed by what I lost and how I felt that I couldn’t see what I had. I stopped looking for beauty in my life. I ceased counting my blessings. I didn’t notice His goodness.

I wonder how often we fail to perceive the show-stopping beauty of the season we are in. Psalm 23:6 says, “God’s beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.” I did not discern it then but in retrospect it’s crystal clear- His beauty was there all along, relentlessly chasing me down. It was in my warrior of a mother, grieving the recent death of her husband, still gracefully releasing her baby to grow. It was in her faith-filled prayers, Holy Spirit drenched words, and daily “I love you” messages. It was in the miraculous way the Lord mended our fractured relationship during the most painful time of our lives. It was in His gracious exchange of beauty for all of our ashes.

The seasons of life change quickly but make no mistake- the goodness, consistency, and love of our Heavenly Father never will. “Jesus, the Anointed One, is always the same- yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) As His beloved children we are invited to give thanks in every season. Not because every season is perfect but because He is good and worthy in every single one. Whatever season we find ourselves in, today, is blessed and beautiful because He is in it. He is the One masterfully weaving the fabric of our lives together to create something truly spectacular. It’s more than optimism. It’s certainly not wishful thinking. When we believe and receive who He is and what He says we will inevitably find ourselves giving thanks, which is God’s perfect plan for us.

This week, let’s EXPECT to see Him show up. Look, confidently, for His mercy, favor, and grace. May we count our abundant blessings, and remember His everlasting goodness. I’m willing to bet that when we seek to see Him we will not be left disappointed. There is, indeed, beauty to behold! “This is the very day of the Lord that brings gladness and joy, filling our hearts with glee!” (Psalm 118:24)

Not In A Hurry

“Jesus is perfect theology” is a statement I commonly repeat when studying and teaching the scriptures. It is simply a reminder that the life of Jesus was an exact representation of the will, thoughts, and actions of God. He completely demonstrated in visible, tangible form the nature of God that before Jesus’ incarnation was hidden and mysterious. Jesus asserts this truth to the Jews as they attempted to kill Him stating, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19) God had presented Himself through types and shadows for brief segments of time and to a select group of people. However, God’s glory was on full display in the 33 and a half years Jesus walked the earth. Therefore, before arriving at any conclusion on the characteristics and qualities of who God is and how He thinks, I must be able to observe it in the life of Jesus Christ.

Undoubtedly, when reading and understanding this truth our minds immediately began to think of the miraculous events that Jesus performed. It is logical to conclude on the greatness and might of God when confronted with the power and authority that Jesus walked in on earth. His authority over sickness, sin, and demonic force is clearly evident. However, the subtle decisions and movements of Jesus’ life recorded in scripture, that most people simply breeze past, speak just as loudly about the nature of God and what He values. Veritably, those instances are perfect places to study God.

One of the main aspects of the life of Jesus that consistently draws my deliberation is the unhurried manner in which He chose to live. In light of the knowledge that He only had a brief amount of time to accomplish His purpose and the reality that He was always aware of His imminent death at the hand of His persecutors, He still remained deliberate, measured, and calm. The scriptures never record Him anxious, rushed, or impatient. Only 33 years of life and a little over 3 years of Spirit-filled ministry, comparatively speaking, does not seem adequate to complete divine and supernatural design. Naturally, it would be common to expect rushed movements, hastened conversations, and urgent reactions. Jesus never lived that way.

In fact, we often find Him eating with His friends, leaving the masses to speak to seemingly insignificant individuals, attending festivals with His family, sneaking away to spend time with His Heavenly Father, and other activities that appear to be unwise usages of His fleeting earthly existence. If He were to make the most of His time, it would seem He should have made more efficient and productive utilization of His opportunities. Or maybe His approach to life and ministry was the truest representation of God’s nature. Even in a world where He was consistently tempted to do more, to go further, and to be urgent, He refused to be governed by reactions, external motivations, and driving ambition of time-sensitive, natural perspectives. He was solely under the authority of the One who sent Him. Time did not rush Him, opinions did not deter Him, and pressure did not move Him.

I have found that one of the enemy’s most common tactics to distract the gifted and the chosen is to force them into a pace that is set by another source than the One who gave them the call.  Frequently, we even cloud this motivation under “godly” guises and call it ambition or passion.  We run around accomplishing all we can, striking while the iron is hot, keeping up with the pressure of external impulse, all the while neglecting the beat of the drummer that sets our rhythm from His eternal viewpoint. This approach, although appearing spiritual, is as far as you can get from Christ-like living.

Living unhurried and patient is a sign of trust. Sneaking away to pray when there is so much work to be done is a declaration that the work is not done by might or earthly power but only by His Spirit. Resisting the pressure to do it all and be everything to everybody announces our belief in His oversight. We play a part in His plan. Our identity is found in understanding the significance of our portion in the grand scheme of all God is accomplishing. Run your leg of the race. Do it wholeheartedly and with everything you have! However, refuse the temptation to live outside of the graceful rhythm of His leading.

Fixed

Psalms 112:7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.

Epictetus, the Greek Stoic philosopher of two millennium ago, authored and taught the highly quoted adage, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters”. In view of the scripture text above, perhaps the Stoics extracted their “maxim” from the Holy Scriptures inspired by the Holy Spirit many centuries prior.

In any case, the anointed writer of the 111th and 112th psalm wrote boldly of a people flourishing under the care of extraordinary promises, ever-present protection, and unlimited provision. Intentionally profuse and verse upon verse, the love and wisdom of God is seen shepherding His chosen nation’s return to their favored land through hearty repentance and an incalculable restoration.

Thus, the only way that God’s people are freed from myriad inadequacies, idolatrous indifference, self-loathing and spineless insecurities is because of God infinite grace. And we are privileged to bless and worship God as He rescues us from sin, self-dug dungeons of doubt, pride-produced pains, and all-too-often poor decisions.

But what of a redemptive grace that addresses, not only our known deficiencies, but the nagging native weights of fear, worry, anxiety and stress? You know, those imaginative thoughts, the ones we eventually rebuke Satan for when we think them. Yes, the ones we oft store in our untidy, subliminal warehouse – that darkened basement where unanswered questions and things not yet understood are unloaded for later inquiry.

It’s a grand and glorious place to be confident, to be completely assured that we’re unconditionally loved and never alone. That’s good news! And without such knowledge we never succeed. And it’s nice to know our material needs of food, shelter and clothing are already ours by faith. Yes, seriously, those things promised and provided in advance changes the way we think, and do, daily life. We get it. And we’re always thankful.

But life isn’t always cut and dried, and it’s not always neat and in straight rows. Life can be messy and come at us in spectacular and unexpected ways! And quick answers to the “whys” and “what’s next” of our unanticipated predicaments can be at best elusive, or worse, unavailable. And we don’t function well as humans when our hearts are troubled and our minds confused.

But it’s comforting to know that God addresses life’s unexpected things, the things uncertain, and especially when they pop up on our mental screen as evil tidings or bad news!

From experience, that snarky tongue and mindset of “what if”, is the indicator of many fears and anxieties. That reactive catch-all phrase, when open to discussion, creates more questions and friction than gray duct tape on a groin pull. Invariably, when told of some new way of alleviating some issue or providing some helpful solution, we throw out our quippy default line – “what if”? And from there the dialogue dies, the remedy is untapped, and the dilemma remains.

To what length, then, will God go to remove the strength of a bad report from a trusted pediatrician or from some unmerited accusation? What brand of Divinity transcends the universal facts of war, violence, division and disloyalty – the very fabric constituting our sin-caused culture? Who can assuage the depressing angst fueled by toxic 24 hour “news” cycles permeating strife in most every facet of life? What “greater power” can remove the sting of foreboding financial crisis, looming shutdowns, dangerous weather forecasts, premonitions, intuitions, omens, prophecies, prognosticators, and “expert” opinion?

The above text, without apology or sense of shame, points us singularly to the simplicity of a God-approving faith. A heart that trusts the faithfulness of God, whether his outer circumstances are found to be favorable or not, his fixation on the Author and Finisher of all he believes to be true, overcomes any temptation to fear and dread!

So, to those dreading the possible news of the plant’s shutdown, the teacher’s phone call regarding the child’s evaluation, the mechanic’s report on that “clanging sound under the hood”, even the prophesied persecution of those loving Jesus – regardless the tenor of the reports, news, or “vibes”, we have an anchor that connects us to the One who changes not!

Going forward, let’s be confident in our responses to life’s quandaries by fixing our gaze on the God who unconditionally cares for us! So that whether our path is clear and comprehensible, or clearly muddled and as incomprehensible as a maze, fears and anxieties will no longer torment our hearts and avert our purpose!

If God be for us (and He is!), nothing else really matters

We Belong

“And realize what this really means- we have the privilege of worshiping the Lord our God. For He is our Creator and we belong to Him. We are the people of His pleasure.” Psalm 100:3

As humans we have a basic fundamental need to belong. We all desire a place where we can be our true selves and still be unconditionally loved and accepted. Perhaps we’ve experienced a complete sense of belonging in our homes, families, friendships, or churches. However, far too many of us have heard the enemy of our souls whisper, “you don’t belong” and believed the lie. We’ve wrestled with feeling like we are too much or not enough. We’ve battled feeling alone, insignificant and unwanted. We have
wondered if our mistakes disqualify us and if our weaknesses define us.

Let’s be encouraged today by the beautiful truth of the living, active Word of God. “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over these people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Beloved, we do belong.

We belong to Him.

1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “You were God’s expensive purchase, paid for with tears of blood, so by all means, then, use your body to bring glory to God.” We were ransomed because we were wanted by the God of the universe. He didn’t require us to change a single thing about ourselves before crossing the divide, sacrificing His life, and inviting us to have an intimate relationship with Himself.

When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior we are, then, adopted into the family of God as sons and daughters. We are certainly not outsiders. Romans 8:17 says, “Now if we are children, then heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” As His child we dwell in His limitless love and live with unhindered access to His presence.

Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Have you forgotten that your body is now the sacred temple of the Spirit of Holiness, who lives in you? You don’t belong to yourself any longer.” In ancient times a seal was used to verify the authenticity of who sent a letter or signed a document. A king’s decree would have the king’s special stamp on it. If something belonged to a king it would have a royal seal. In the same manner, 2 Corinthians 1:22 proclaims, “He has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment of everything He will give us.” The Holy Spirit is our King’s seal. As believers we are eternally marked by God as His precious property.

May we remember, this week and always, that Jesus spent significant time throughout His earthly ministry reaching out to people who felt like they didn’t belong and offering them a place in His Kingdom; outcasts, lepers, tax collectors, and sinners were all offered a seat at His table.

We can rejoice in the promise found in John 10:27-28. Jesus declares, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” The Gospel is good news! We belong to Him forevermore!

Summer Rains

Isaiah 58:11 …and thou shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

With decades of firsthand knowledge in the rural life of farming and gardening, and having recorded some good and not so good years in the process – unquestionably, no element stands as instrumental in producing good yields like an available water supply.

And no source is more proficient in providing H2O for crops like the heavens – those dark, heavy clouds filled with water roll in, soaking the thirsty soil as they unload their precious commodity, reviving the dehydrated roots and satisfying the fears and anxieties of sweaty and sleep-deprived farmers. (I’m sorry, but it’s real – there’s something pricelessly magical about the downpours of summer rains!)

But in many regions, nature’s commitment to consistent rainfall is at best, illusory. For nature is unpredictable and volatile – seasonally temperamental and whimsical, and in the day-to-day, unsteady and unreliable. So don’t take it personally if the caretaker of the cosmos doesn’t water some hobby gardener’s 3 rows of peas from which he hoped his green thumb would be celebrated. (No seriously, nature has a gargantuan workload!)

So what is a farmer to do when he can’t trust completely the clouds to moisten the soil and the precious seeds he’s planted? What can he do to mitigate weather’s ups and downs, and by extension, those inevitably worrisome economic swings?

What is the agriculturist’s response should capricious clouds skirt around his planted fields? Will he allow erratic circumstances to determine his economic well-being? Will he jeopardize the wealth of his many homes, barns, and livestock by neglecting research in ways of combating weather’s fickleness? Will he leave to chance the dreams of a flourishing enterprise?

No, of course not! An astute farmer will devise a strategy! With his farming skills and his business mind as lifelong partners, he’ll build ponds and purchase irrigation systems that assure annual planting efforts are not in vain. He knows the peculiarities of climate and weather patterns, and wisely prepares for extended dry seasons. Even in unthinkable times, in seasons of long term drought, he constructs systems ensuring planting efforts will be profitable. And from his foresight a successful operation is built; and for his ingenuity, generations to come will inherit an undeniable debt of appreciation.

How much more then, does the One who plants us as His offspring provide things essential for our promised well-being? Is not our Father, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the ultimate source of wisdom regarding sowing, investing, caring, and reaping? Will He leave to chance the harvest intended from the planting investment of His Son? No way! Our God had our needs in mind even before the world began!

According to Scripture, we know the Father of Glory is best glorified when His children are fruitful. And from that we know anything hindering His children from developing into the likeness of His Son Jesus is met with timely showers of His own grace and mercy! A God with no limitations will always address the sometimes dusty dryness of His Chosen with a “more than enough”, drenching overflow of His own peace, comfort, care and power!

What then is this watered garden of which the prophet speaks? What is this unspeakable life that springs from within its own space, a river ushering in a quality of life unaffected by the dry and barren wildernesses in which all humanity is relegated? And to whom are these special provisions made available? And when will these divine possessions be accessed, or administered?

“There is a river,” the psalmist declares, a place where God dwells, a place where this flowing, unending, unchanging, life-giving channel of immeasurable grace exists. “Out of your inner most being, rivers of living water will flow,” prophesied The Christ, the One from which all blessings would eternally flow. The life Jesus declared pointed to the Holy Spirit, for the soon coming Comforter would descend and reside in His followers forever!

What the prophet Joel decreed, “that in the last days, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and daughters shall prophesy,” came the birth and empowerment of the New Testament church. It was from God’s merciful heart that His children be no longer subject to the corruption and evil of a world gone awry. “I will put my Spirit in them,” says God, and they’ll walk in my ways and thrive under my protection and provision! “They’ll be like a tree planted by the river; they’ll prosper even in drought, and their leaf will not wither”!

And now, even in things that boggle our finite comprehension, things as odd as Paul’s thorn and such like, things unexpected and things undesirable, even those out-of-the-blue red hot trials, God promises help through an ever-present and all-sufficient grace! The unbounded onboard gift of the Holy Ghost makes our impossible situations possible, and our droughts and deserts veritable fields of beauty and abundance!

So fellow travelers of this common faith, brothers and sisters who face seasons of both exceeding favor and untold adversity, believe again and be established in truth – God waters those He plants! Allow Him to be your constant wellspring, gurgling and bubbling, saturating your own life with grace while splashing a little on those mesmerized by your glory-to-glory journey with God!

To those struggling with loneliness – You’ll never walk alone!
To those overwhelmed with cares – Cast them all on Him!
To those out of focus and directionless – Turn your eyes on Him!
To those sensing relational tensions – Define life as selflessness!
To those experiencing grief – Even in this, He will revive us again!
To those injured through injustice – Be patient, God will avenge us!
To those ministering faithfully – God is not unfaithful to reward us!
To those living, but not joyfully – Let faith go deeper than our trials!
To those blinded by materialism – Rethink! Put your treasures above!
To those deifying their flesh – Full stop! All flesh is as grass!

The Word of God is amazingly accurate in applying water to our dry seeds and unfruitful seasons! Trust the indwelling Holy Spirit to be active with the Word, watering as summer rains our inner lives, even when our outer life is unexpectedly exposed to Saharan-type difficulties!