Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Draw Near

James 4:8a Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you…

James’ writing style, straightforward and unequivocal, refreshes the faith of the pure in heart. Free of innuendo and doublespeak, his insights are uncluttered and uncommonly raw. Nothing is left to the imagination, his openness a precise and uncompromising approach to God’s presence. Do this, do that; and God will do this, or that! (To the guys in the shop, having such an analytical and mechanical approach to God is priceless!)

Conversely, many present day contemporaries have God omniscient and omnipotent, while making His knowledge and power inaccessible. Seems His virtues and character are perfectly described, but He’s simply untouchable. To them, He exists as an imagined, mystical or esoteric One. He’s over there, we’re over here – and in their theology, our arms are a bit too short! Their space between disciple and Master is unbridged, their gap too wide; their cause resting solely on the inherent sinfulness of mankind.

Briefly put – Religion exacerbates our human predicaments, while redemption divinely destroys them!

So, what a breath of faith air James provides- here’s a Father as near as we desire Him to be!

With knowledge of the Gospel we approach God, not timidly as outcasts or distant relatives, but confidently as His very own children. Regardless the climate and condition of our own spirituality (likely, the assessment of our own status must occasionally humor God!), access to the throne of His unfathomable Grace is ours. Not an access merited by our own works or goodness, but an access only possible through the Redeemer’s blood! No human valiancy needed or allowed here, only a valiancy to trust His work as amply sufficient!

At times in the journey, His presence will invariably seem distant. Whether He’s outpacing our stride, whether we’ve sit down, or whether we’ve lost sight of Him through our distractions – He patiently awaits our efforts to get closer. The distance and the causes for distance may vary, but His commitment to draw near to those who long for Him will not vary. He’s made the first and impossible step by coming to our planet… the next step will be ours!

Draw near to God; He ever lives to reward our faith!

The Hypocrisy of the “Hosanna!” Crowd

“And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)

The stage was finally set. Passion Week, the final few days of Jesus’ life on earth, had arrived. The God-Man who had withdrawn from the spotlight and had preferred to keep His ministry rather quiet until then knew that His time had come.

Sometimes we picture the mob hailing Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as simply sweeping the Master onto a donkey’s colt in a whirlwind of frenzied excitement, spontaneously flinging down palm branches and their garments in front of Him. But the Gospels tell us that the Messiah — who had intentionally avoided such public displays before — orchestrated the event in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy 400 years earlier.

Rather than mounting a horse as a conquering earthly king would have done in the First Century, Jesus fulfilled Scripture by sitting on a lowly colt, a sign of meekness, humility and peace instead of war.

Few Christians today realize that when the crowds shouted “Hosanna!” they were actually quoting from Psalm 118, where the original Hebrew word meant “Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord!” It was the beginning of Passover Week, and Passover always reminded the Jews of the time God delivered them from Egyptian oppression and slavery. News apparently had spread fast from Bethany, a small village just a couple miles outside the City of David, that Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from the dead and was making quite an entry into Jerusalem when the city streets would have been filled with perhaps 2-3 million feast observers.

“This is the One we’ve been waiting for!” the crowd undoubtedly buzzed. “He will save us,…He will rescue us,…He will deliver us from the Roman oppression! HOSANNA!”

Sadly, the same crowd who cried “Hail Him!” would, just five days later, cry “Nail Him!” The same mob who shouted “Crown Him!” on Sunday would shout “Crucify Him!” on Friday.

Why? Because they wanted God on their own terms. They wanted to make Jesus a political and military leader who would use His power to overthrow the government. They couldn’t understand that the Messiah’s kingdom was a spiritual one where He wanted to reign in their hearts.

Think about it. Every time Jesus heard someone shout “Hosanna!” it must have hurt His heart. Indeed, it was during Passion Week that the Messiah wept over the City of David because of the people’s unbelief. He heard their “Hosannas,” but He saw their hypocrisy and their selfish motives.

The Master reserved some of His strongest rebukes and teachings for the final days of His life as He exposed and confronted the scribes and Pharisees, the Herodians and Sadducees for their blatant hypocrisy:

  • He compared the religious leaders to the barren fig tree He cursed because it bore no fruit.
  • He overturned the tables of the moneychangers who corruptly “fleeced the flock” with unfair exchange rates when converting Roman currency to Temple shekels. He literally lashed out at those with a whip who would take advantage of worshippers and forget the primacy of prayer.
  • He blistered the Pharisees for saying but not doing, repeatedly blasting them as “hypocrites,…blind guides,…fools,…a brood of vipers” (Matthew 23).
  • He rebuked Judas and others who criticized Mary’s extravagant worship when she poured an alabaster box of precious perfume over her Lord’s feet and intimately dried them with her hair. (When was the last time your worship was so lavish, costly and unbridled that it offended people around you?)

Many Christians want to hurriedly get past the hard-to-swallow parts of Passion Week so that we can celebrate Resurrection Day! Won’t you join us this week as we take time to read through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ final days on earth and make it a time of self-examination? Are we willing to surrender to God on His terms, not ours? Can we examine our religious motives and get serious about forsaking all facades and getting real with our faith?

If we can and will allow selfish intent and hypocrisy to be nailed to the cross of Calvary, the joyous celebration of Resurrection Sunday will reach a whole new level for us!

Open Door

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1John3:1

We hear the key slide into the door and the lock click out of place. As my husband turns the knob and steps into the house our children drop whatever they are doing and run to meet him, hysterical with joy. Their high pitched shrills and shouts of excitement are evidence of how pleased they are to see him; they dance around his feet waiting for their turn to be picked up and hugged. No book reading, park playing, block building, or aquarium visit could compare to the moment daddy arrives home. No matter what they’ve done or where they’ve been it is, without fail, the climax of their entire day.

I don’t have to tell my children to say hi to him when he walks in or force them to smile. I’ve never had to rehearse all the things he’s done or bribe them with gifts in order for them to want to be scooped up into his arms. Even on days they’ve disobeyed they don’t hesitate to run to him. They don’t pause to consider if daddy will unleash condemnation upon his arrival. They’ve been around him long enough to know he loves them. They are familiar with his nature. They’ve experienced his kindness. They know he is a safe place. The truth is this- I couldn’t keep them from running to him even if I tried. Their relationship with their daddy is established, easy, and without formality. When he is here they just want to be wherever he is.

Dear friends- I have great news. We too can experience relationship with our Heavenly Father in this same precious way. Ephesians 1:5 says, “He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the one He loves.” Because of the cross sin no longer separates us from our Father. Read the rest of this entry »

Who Can Stand Against Us

Thessalonians 1:18 “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.”

Outside of Paul’s thorn in the flesh, no verse provokes conjecture as quickly as this one. The possibilities here are too varied, the context too vague, and the purposes for leaving out such detail too divine to make what’s not scripted the focus.

What’s critical is that Satan is positively identified as the hinderer. And for a believer to tag Satan as the opposer to good deeds is perfectly comforting. For had it been negligence or lack of desire for visiting the Thessalonians, then apathy, not faith would have reigned. But the Chosen know their Foe well, and they take consolation that their ministry work merits Satan’s attention. And it’s an honor to have the Accuser of the brethren seek to stymie their great work of love!

For the Elect know the limitations and allowances of demons; and are certain that though Satan often opposes our efforts in the short term, the long term purposes of God will prevail! The window and tenure of demon opposition is small and short; a truth believers revel in, even in temporal setbacks and unanticipated tribulations!

So think it not strange, as Peter exhorts the believing Church, that we experience fiery trials, myriad delays and multiple attacks. Rejoice exceedingly when things are topsy-turvy and “out of the blue” roadblocks pop up! Faith is tried greatest when the furnace is hottest… but so is the resultant glory!

God never promised us a trouble free journey; neither does faith carry “exemption from suffering” privileges, or “get out of jail” coupons. But we are promised that wherever we go, we’ll not go alone! And we’re confident that if God goes with us, He’s for us! And if God is for us, who can stand against us!

We always triumph with Christ at the helm!

Let’s get this week started with unshakable faith, and get our God some well-deserved glory!

The Priority of Time with Jesus

“… And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

While reading a blog about the priorities of ministry work this week, I was struck with the simple idea that what is good for the shepherd is good for the sheep.

That’s not a new concept for Impact Church; we have faithfully declared for years that every member should be and indeed is a minister. It’s not just our pastors who we believe are called to “passionately serve God and His people.” That is the mission of the church as a whole.

You’ve probably heard the declaration that God has no grandchildren, only children. He deals with each one of us as a loving Father who wants what is best for us. He doesn’t play favorites, but never forget that He is sovereign. He doesn’t make mistakes; His callings are sure. He gives different abilities and gifts, but what He wants is undistracted devotion.

The ministry blog stated that the priorities of ministry leaders should be prayer, people and paperwork, in that order. I wholeheartedly agree and would like to embellish that thought and expand it to all of us as followers of Christ.

(1) PRAYER … Let’s call it our devotional life: our individual, personal, daily walk with the Lord. Certain disciplines of the faith like prayer, Bible study and worship are so crucial to our spiritual health that we dare not live without them. While nobody would deny their importance, many in the church world today would question their priority above serving the needs of people. After all, ministry is all about people, right?

Well, even the Master Himself knew that meeting the surface needs of lost humanity — filling their stomachs, healing their hurts — would accomplish little if their souls were still craving an encounter with their Creator. That’s why Jesus, God in mortal flesh, never lost sight of His intimate relationship with His Father. Often in the midnight hours of Scripture, we find the Messiah making His way to a mountain to spend some time alone with God.

Indeed, God seems more interested in preparing the messenger than the message. “But I don’t have a good testimony,” some say. “I’m not ready to be used by God to lead others to the Lord.” In defending his ministry in 2 Corinthians 3, Paul declared that believers were a living epistle — the handiwork of the Spirit of God. You and I, dear Christian, are not just carriers of the Gospel,…we ARE the “good news” that the living Christ can transform a life from the inside out!

When the Sanhedrin confronted Peter and John over their preaching in Acts 4, they didn’t talk about their eloquence or their mastery of the Law. They were astonished at their boldness and power, and they knew that came only from time spent with Jesus before His ascension and the Holy Spirit since the Day of Pentecost.

Before we preach and teach, before we lead and disciple people, we must adopt a Mary mindset and sit at the feet of Jesus. Not only will people know when we’ve spent time with the Master; Read the rest of this entry »

Grace Upon Grace

“And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:16

“Today will be different,” I declare to myself while staring at my tired reflection in the bathroom mirror. For once I will get it right. I will not lose my patience or raise my voice. My words will be full of kindness and compassion. If something goes wrong I will pause to pray and then handle each scenario with grace and poise. Yes, today I will do better. I turned to walk into the living room only to find a plant knocked over and my son gleefully throwing dirt everywhere. Just then my oldest, the self proclaimed substitute disciplinarian, yells at her brother to “stop!” He despises being bossed around by her so by the time “stop” rolls off her tongue he’s already pushed her down. Next thing I know I’m pulling them off of each other like a certified referee and yelling for them to “just go to time out right now!” Within 30 seconds I’ve lost both my patience and hopes of “getting it right.”

Motherhood has been the most sanctifying and humbling season I have ever walked through. I imagined that I would be the perfect mother. They would be the perfect children. It would be butterflies and rainbows 24-7 while a chorus of angels sang heavenly music in the background. What I’ve discovered is that I am a sinner saved by grace. I learned that I like control and when something is out of my control I have a tendency to get cranky fast. I found out that lack of sleep affects me more now than when I was in college. I learned that while I enjoy a spotless house toddlers have zero concern for such things. And the kicker – I discovered that I am not perfect in my own strength no matter how hard I try.

I need Jesus.

Sweet friends, know this, God is good at being God. He knew we would work, strive, and pursue the illusion of perfection. He knew our commitments to pull ourselves up by our boot straps and “do better” would end in disappointment. He knew trying and failing would leave us exhausted. He knew we were sinners and that we would need help. So He planned our rescue before we ever took our first breath. He sent Jesus. Jesus took the punishment we deserved for our sins and shortcomings and we received credit for His perfection. This is the greatest exchange that has ever taken place.

We can rest now.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Grace has nothing to do with us but everything to do with God and His unchanging nature. Grace is defined as “the free and unmerited favor of God.” In other words, Read the rest of this entry »

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 »