Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Category: April Devotion 2017

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 »