Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Category: August Devotional

Love In Action

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” I John 3:18

A few years ago, right after my daughter turned two, I considered getting her a professional speech assessment. I was convinced she had an expressive language delay and should see a therapist qualified to help. Then seemingly overnight she began speaking in full sentences. Now, at the age of three, my little girl quite literally never stops talking. I’ve heard that the average woman speaks some 13,000 more words per day than the average man; my daughter gives credibility to this claim.

For her, words come easy; following them up with actions is much harder. There are many instances, after being unkind to her brother, that I’ve asked her to apologize. She obeys. Through gritted teeth and a clinched fist she says the words but sometimes acts in a way that reveals what is really in her heart.

Real love requires more than lip service. Thankfully, we possess a blueprint for how to love well. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” God doesn’t just say He loves us. He showed us. Over 2,000 years ago the Creator of the universe stepped out of heaven into the earth He created to demonstrate and prove that His love is real.

Furthermore, Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The mind blowing truth is that Jesus loved us when we were distant, selfish, and messy. He loved us still when we were promiscuous and prideful. Where the stench of sin is strong His love is stronger. God’s love is unconditional. We are now invited to love in the same extravagant way. Loving well without condition. Not loving others for who we hope they become but for who they are right now. Laying down our hammer and chisel and trusting the Lord to be the master sculptor.

Jesus loved well and He loved often. His love for humanity drove Him to action. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, forgave the sinner, raised the dead, and died on the cross for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God forever. His sacrificial death is still the most powerful expression of love the world has ever seen.

God is love. It’s necessary then, as children of God, that we abide in His presence learning the way of love from the One who is love. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, the manifestation of God’s glory in flesh, we are transformed into His likeness. By dwelling in His presence we allow the mighty sword of God’s word to pierce into our deep places and do the heavy lifting of change.

As we increase in His likeness may we increase in His perfect love. Let’s rock a baby to sleep for an exhausted new mom. Let’s pay for the coffee of the stranger behind us in the Starbucks drive thru. Let’s invite someone into our home and cook them a meal. Let’s put the phone away and look people in the eyes when they speak to us. Let’s call instead of texting. Since God dwells within us we have access to a limitless source of love. Let’s pour it out on the thirsty souls that God has strategically placed in our path. For love, in its purest form, has the amazing capacity to heal, cover, comfort, unite, and restore. Love is not invisible. Real love, the kind that stirs your soul and sets your heart on fire, leaves evidence of its presence all around. May we follow up our words with actions and love, this week, like we’ve been loved.

Give Me This Mountain

Now, therefore, give me this mountain ~ Joshua 14:12

Few there are who have not experienced frustration in waiting for the fulfillment of a dream or promise. The faith of a former time visualized a possibility: maybe a grasp of reality through a divine promise; or maybe some sense of a rightful possession through a divine connection or relationship; or perhaps the fruition of time awaiting an inevitable inheritance. Whatever was believed, whatever faith had made deposit for that season, faith would likely be introduced to undesirable interruptions, delays and complications.

From faith’s anticipation of fulfillment to the anxiousness of where’s the promise, the testing elements of space and time appear. And from wondering why, how, and how long will it be, the experiential virtue of hope waits to come alongside as faith’s support. Lest faith grow weary, an endearing ally to faith arrives; a brother of the same spirit, of the same courage, of the same vision. A friend to faith that encourages faith to endure, to persevere, to patiently learn contentment till faith has overcome every opposition. So that where faith is engendered, so the inseparable friendship of hope is also found. Hope becomes the constant lifter and confident lover of those who believe life beyond the periphery of natural sight. And though time and trouble may seek the demise of faith’s invisible substance, hope stills the angst and assures faith that the journey will reach completion. Hope underwrites what faith saw from the heart, making disappointment an impossibility and joy a guarantee.

Consider then today’s scripture. Caleb never lost vision for his life, legacy, destiny, or his nation. Time rolled on, but he never gave up on his rightful place in the Promised Land. Forty-five years before, Caleb, one of twelve spies under Moses’ leadership, explored the land of Canaan and found it a highly desirable land. It’s likely the territory Caleb personally spied out, was in fact the Mt Hebron region he was emphatic about taking when he returned from the reconnaissance detail he’d been assigned. Brimming with confidence and assured of God’s help, he declared: “we should take this land! Right now! I know there are some tough guys over there, but that’s our home and God will see us through!”

May we not forget that the Hebron region of the Promised Land was known for the home of the giants. Not the San Francisco Giants, but the sons of Anakim, the largest and fiercest of mountain dwelling warriors. May we also remember that though 12 spies ventured into the land, only two returned with reports of courage, faith and confidence. And sadly, their fellow spies turned the hearts of the Jewish people against conquering the land, and forty years of wondering and wandering were the dishonorable and tragic aftermath of a nation in utter unbelief.

But let us dwell on the good part, the Caleb part, the faith part; yes, the part where, in several scriptural occasions, Caleb wholeheartedly follows his God! His commitment, his faith-filled words, his patience, his unmoved trust in God’s promises for his chosen people- those virtues lifted him above the clamor of the fearful and declared his qualifications for receiving whatever his faith desired! Through decades of Israel’s seemingly fruitless existence and innumerable temptations to forget their purpose and call, Caleb remained resolute in trusting God’s care over His promises for His people.

So after so long a time, forty years in the wilderness and five years more as the Promised Land is being inhabited, Caleb implores Joshua to “give me that mountain! I saw it as mine when I was 40 years old, and though I’m now 85, I’m just as capable of taking that land now as I was then!” And Caleb got what he asked for! The tribe of Judah finally got a place they called home! (A real home for sure, for Hebron was the burial site of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the matriarchs Sarah, Rachel and Leah. Jewish tradition also places the bodies of Adam and Eve being buried there!)

“Give me that mountain” has been the rallying cry of many who’ve fought against time and elements to achieve a goal or receive a promise or experience a dream. The ageless spirit that dwelled with Caleb has never left the hearts of those who’ve caught a glimpse of God’s promised favor and glory! That Spirit now indwells the Church, the Body; the people Christ gave His blood to redeem! May that indomitable Spirit be forever abundantly visible in the thoughts, words, and deeds of those who call on the name of Jesus!

Read the rest of this entry »

This Grace in Which We Stand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Believe That Even Now, God Will Still Help Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wisdom From His Early Years

Luke 2:40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him.

Luke 2:51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Ever thought of the adolescent years of Jesus? You know those early years of scraped knees, tantrums, mud puddle jumping and first day of kindergarten? It’s a period of His life we seldom give consideration, but to the interested there’s a lot of wisdom and life hidden in the obscure years of Jesus’ childhood.

Ever envisioned Jesus giving Mary an ugly face to steamed squash; or face-planting on his first attempt at walking; or, God forbid, in Joseph’s carpenter’s shop hitting the wrong nail? Ouch! WWJD!? Blasphemous!? Be honest here saints. Yet, this perfect One of whom we speak came in the likeness of sinful flesh; a condescension of sinless mercy to the untouchable essence of our sinfulness; for our sakes He came and for His glory we believed. For it’s from the reality of His own raw humanity that we can even relate to Him, and from His divinity we’re made partakers of a divine life we’d otherwise never dream!

We possess volumes of His adulthood, some in glorious settings and some quite inglorious (according to our own perception of course). But in His early years, other than getting mischievously separated for a few days from His parents at twelve, we have little of the day-to-day affairs of Jesus’ childhood.

Drawing from the scriptural texts at the outset, Jesus’ development as a child in character, ethic, wit and personality, were apparently the product of strategic and purposeful care, and most through wise associations. And though the particular manner in which He was groomed and acculturated as a young child are oft but supposition and surmising (drawn from the scant sketches of Jewish history, generational storytelling and recent archaeology), we know Joseph, Mary and Jewish life afforded a plethora of friends, teachers, mentors and coaches- all necessary for social, academic and religious excellence.

We find now a single word in the text from which the foundation and root of favor, growth, character and confidence were grown in Jesus as a child- and are now by faith in us and in our children! In the world, it’s a word scarcely found Read the rest of this entry »

Look For Them

I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.  If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now…” (Numbers 11:14-15)

In the book of Numbers it is recorded that Moses told God that the assignment he had been given had become too large and overwhelming for him.  God’s response of mercy was an instruction to find seventy men with leadership capability. God said “I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put [it] upon them; and they shall bear the burden…with you” (v.17 NKJV). It is important to understand that none of us will be able to fulfill the God-given purpose on our lives by ourselves. God has strategically designed our assignment to require the gifts, abilities, and talents of others to accomplish and complete.

It is naïve to think that simply because our dream is worthwhile, people will automatically flock to be part of it. Through experience, I’ve learned building and growing a team requires intentionality and humility. The same dream that is God-given, for our good and to bless others can also become a detriment to our physical and spiritual well-being if we are not intentional about surrounding ourselves with the right people.  Moses said, “I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now” (vv. 14-15 NKJV). Don’t wait until you’re facing depression, having health issues, or things are falling apart to understand the importance of this reality.

When God assigns someone, He always prepares others to stand with them! ALWAYS! I encourage you to start praying, looking and anticipating God to bring into your life the people whom He has chosen to walk with you. Depending on your assignment, you may need just one person, or you may need several, or you may need many.  In most cases, the greater the dream, the larger the team must be.  Therefore, the greater the dream the more people God will cause to align with you. No matter the size of our assignment, let’s be intentional about connecting with others, inviting others in, communicating the vision and then releasing them. The completion of our assignment is dependent upon it!

For Now and Forever

3:1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. 2 And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. 4 But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” 5And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene-walk!” 7 And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. 8 With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God; 10 and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. Acts 3:1-10 

Living with a chronic, debilitating physical ailment will defeat anyone faster than anything else. Whether it is a toothache, a splinter, or a blister there are several things that will cause us great discomfort and change our view of the world. Most of the drug industry is fueled by the simple need to relieve pain. But an ailment that no drug can remove is a real test for one’s faith.

In Acts 3, the story of the lame man begging for alms, or as we know it, money, highlights the plight of man in the natural world: he is broken down by the things that occur in life. No explanation for its cause and no solution for its remedy, all that the family could hope for was money to attend to their basic needs for food. A lame man cannot work to support himself or his family, so he begs on the street.

Someone carried the chronically lame man to the same place in Jerusalem every day. Ironically, he was placed at the Beautiful Gate near the Temple. There was nothing Beautiful about his condition and God, as symbolized by the Temple, had not made a difference in his life. While people may have helped in the days before, his need remained and every day his family carried him to the place to beg.

In a change in world history and with the institution of a new economy, the apostolic team of Peter and John walked by the lame man. Headed to the Temple, these two stars of the Apostolic troupe looked hard at the beggar and called out, “Look at us!” Expecting to receive alms, or money from the two, the man looked at the men. What he expected would be the same old gift that only comforted his ailment and didn’t heal his body.

Peter, by the authority of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit told the man to do the same thing Jesus Christ had said in John 5 to the lame man at the Sheep Gate, “Walk!” Read the rest of this entry »

When God Asks A Question

It’s common for people who suffer a difficult time or experience to ask, “God! Why is this happening?” That question is often a complaint and rarely gets an answer. The question can be the opening expression of a hurting heart that turns into a prayer. David’s prayer in Psalm 22 is the easiest to see: in verse 1 he cries out, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” By verse 19, David is petitioning God for deliverance, “hasten to my assistance…deliver my soul from the sword…save me from the lion’s mouth.” David takes comfort not that God immediately answered his prayer because God didn’t do that. Instead, David takes comfort in knowing that God knows his plight and hears his cry for help (22:24). Not until the last verse, 31, does David give us an indication that God answered him, “They will come and will declare His righteousness to a people who will be born that He has performed it.”

So, we complain, then we pray, there is a delay and we learn to trust and then in His goodness, God answers the prayer. Our faith in Him deepens. Our dependency upon Him grows. And our praise of His love extends into the assembly. We praise Him.

There is another very important communication form between God and His people. It doesn’t get as much attention but in the life of Jesus it is actually much more common. Jesus asks a question. Throughout the Gospels we repeatedly see Jesus asking questions of His disciples, His opponents, the generally inquisitive, and even His family. He asked a lot of questions. Sometimes people got the right answer. After asking the disciples who people were saying Jesus was, he asked the disciples who THEY thought he was and Peter rightly answered, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29). He would use a question to defend himself and win any argument as He did in Mark 12:15-17 with the Pharisees and Herodians: “What are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at. And they brought one. And He said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ And they said ‘Caesar’s’.” He ended the inquisition with a bold statement destroying their attack and indicting the Pharisees: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”.

Jesus asked heavy theological questions of those who studied the Hebrew Scriptures and they didn’t know how to respond. Read the rest of this entry »

Leave the Big Stuff to the Big Guy

2 Kings 5:9-14

One of the great hindrances to deliverance, whether spiritual, physical or otherwise, oft lies in the absence of an expected complex answer. It’s commonly held that humanity’s method of solving problems has a corresponding price tag. The greater degree of difficulty we ascribe to our issues, the more complex and expensive we assume the remedy requires. Thus, in almost everything, we assign compensation and wage scales relative to the tasks required.

For example, though both babysitter and pediatrician have vested and common interests in a child’s care, the pay scale for the two child care services are miles apart. The differing compensation packages are based primarily on the child’s needs. To expertly change a messy diaper is one thing, to expertly change a sickly child’s diet or medication carries a far greater responsibility! A mistake from one is corrected by warm water and another Huggie; an error from the other could be life threatening. The deeper the possible consequences, the greater we expect to pay for alleviating them.

Return to the scripture for a moment with Naaman’s leprosy and Elisha’s simplistic command to dip in the Jordan seven times for his cleansing. With the usual pomp and sophistication of a Syrian commander and with an eloquent appeal to the rigorous and intellectual framework from which true professionals operate, Naaman staked his reputation Read the rest of this entry »

Mind the Gap

There is none who does good, no, not one.

Romans 3:12

“Mind the gap!”

Anyone who has traveled by rail abroad, particularly in the UK, has probably heard those words and read them on signs more times than they can remember. For the uninitiated, the friendly warning posted at train stations and repeated verbally at every stop is the equivalent of American signs cautioning travelers to “watch your step!” The “gap” is the narrow, deep opening between a train and the concrete platform several feet above the tracks.

So a man known only as “Andy” created quite a stir last week by getting his leg stuck in the gap in Perth, Australia. What made bigger news – and subsequently went viral on a video viewed by millions around the world – was that Andy was rescued when scores of fellow travelers used their collective weight and strength to tilt the train enough to pull him out to safety.

It was a “feel-good” story with a happy ending, for sure, but the prevailing media reaction was one of overwhelming back-patting of mankind.… “Humans are awesome!” shouted one headline.… “Proves good people still exist!” declared another. Read the rest of this entry »