Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Category: December Devotion 2015

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.

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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 »

Heaven Smiles

Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

Maybe in the sending of His Son, the Father had a disproportionate sense of humor alongside His usual matter of fact forthrightness. Or, maybe He simply wanted to make a statement of His own purpose and will, contrasting creation’s attempt to reform itself. Or, maybe just to spit in the eye of the Devil, He’d make a scene with the one who’d been the major antagonist in the saga of human existence since, forever. Or, maybe He came to expose the foolishness of human wisdom by the very things the wisdom of the age scorned. Each “maybe”, with the exception of the first, is scripturally apparent. The first though, may have greater significance. For the pseudo standards of a tilted world needed a Truth realignment.

Remember that any divine act has intent, purpose. and consequences; and the supernatural birth of Jesus is at the center of them all.

And, God has both privilege and platform to express Himself without limitations, and in ways that He alone is credited. He simply has that power, and He exploits that virtue randomly, and in the raw. Despised, trivialized, and marginalized; those are essentials for a God moment.

In any case and in any way, bottom line- the Father sent the Savior because of His love for the beings He created. And Love’s strategy for mankind’s salvation was radical and in the extreme. A love story unparalleled in history and a redemptive effect far beyond human reformation. And, yet deeper, a story entwined in the fabric of creation and riveted to the soul of every man.

So His birth, an anomaly, apart from social norm and eons from the narratives of earthy kings, became the cornerstone of faith. But should we have expected anything status quo from the power of an infinitely powerful God? A nobody girl? A baby? And she a virgin? Without a man? Are folks talking?

Heaven smiles.

And who would’ve thought that little town of Bethlehem, the smallest among the places of Judah, would be the birthplace of this King of kings! Were there not more sophisticated cities, cities of renown and far more populous? But Bethlehem, Read the rest of this entry »

Good News

We love hearing good news, especially when we’re the first to know. There’s a big difference between getting a phone call from your best friend about their pregnancy, engagement or new job and finding out about it on Facebook. We cherish being invited to participate in the lives of the people we love instead of simply being spectators.

Today, the ability to share exciting news with others is quick and easy. With one tweet, post, or group text, we can communicate with the masses. But things were obviously very different in the time Jesus was born. When something important happened, such as the birth of a child, heralds often spread that news. Families welcoming new babies, if they had the means to do so, would hire someone to go throughout the community and announce their happy news. Mary and Joseph, of humble means, did not have the ability to do this. But God Himself provided a company of heavenly heralds to proclaim the birth of His one and only Son.

Imagine the scene: shepherds on the midnight watch, ears and eyes open for signs of danger, sheep bleating in the background. And then, out of nowhere, an angel of the Lord bursts onto the scene with the news of the Savior’s birth. It is amazing that God chose this group of men as the first to hear the good news. In the time of Jesus’ birth, people regarded shepherds as liars and thieves. Because they were nomadic, moving from place to place to graze their flocks, people didn’t readily trust them. Yet it was to men such as this that God announced the Messiah’s coming. He told them first! Not royalty, not the religious leaders of the day, but shepherds—lowly and insignificant. He invited them into His story and then mobilized them as the very first evangelists.

As soon as they heard news of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds felt compelled to act. They went with haste, leaving their flocks behind, to find Mary, Joseph and the Savior Child lying in a manger. And once they beheld the One through whom salvation would come, they spread the word of all that had taken place. We are like these men—unlikely recipients of an unbelievable reality. Just as God called the shepherds to witness and testify to Christ’s birth, so we are called to herald the saving work of His death and resurrection. As believers, we have been invited into His story, sent out as heralds of both Jesus’ first coming and His second. As we consider the shepherds, let us respond as they did to this good news of great joy—with amazement, belief and action.

Merry Christmas!

 HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest heav’n adored:
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of the favored one.
Veil’d in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail, th’incarnate Deity:
Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail! the heav’n born Prince of peace!
Hail! the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings
Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

From Heaven, to a Manger, to a Cross, to Save Sinners

1:15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…”

Christmas is the universal holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Most of the attention paid to the event focuses on a baby that became the leader of a religious variation of Judaism. Who can resist the birth of a baby to a young woman traveling away from home while under an oppressive government? Today, a similar parallel might be a young Syrian woman refugee who has come to term and is suffering the labor pains that demand immediate attention. There is no Hyatt Regency. No Holiday Inn. Only a shelter used for caring for animals.

Beyond the human challenges for a divine delivery, the passage above reveals that Jesus’ birth, the Incarnation, was intentional for more than the biography of a religious leader. There was a predetermined plan for the coming of Jesus. Jesus was born to save sinners. Jesus came into the world to reveal Himself to the world and then go to the Cross and die. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, became a man to be borne of a young woman to die for sinners.

The Apostle Paul reflected upon the Christmas story and considered his own life. In light of the fact that Jesus was born to save sinners, Paul confessed his sinful life, as “I am foremost of all”. Seeing the Eternal plan of God revealed in the birth of Jesus, Paul was in the present tense in describing his life, “I AM foremost of all.” Paul’s confession of his condition was not about his past condition from which he was saved, but from the present tense reality; he was, at the moment of his writing, after his conversion, the foremost of sinners. Jesus’ incarnation led Paul to consider who he is and to give praise for what Jesus did.

Paul showed that as the foremost of sinners he received mercy, not because he deserved it, Read the rest of this entry »

Night Musings, Daily Blessings

 

6:1 During that night the king could not sleep so he gave an order to bring the book of records, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. 6:2 It was found written what Mordecai had reported concerning Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who were doorkeepers, that they had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. 6:3 The king said, “What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” Then the king’s servants who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.” Esther 6:1-4

Have you ever been unable to get to sleep because you had too much on your mind? Ever sought sleepy refuge by reading a book, your Bible, turning on a TV movie, or ESPN sports highlights? Ever replayed your day or taken a long look back at tough days or the good old days, recounting your history with its lows and highs? Ever realized you’ve done something wrong and fell under conviction, or in the case of the passage above, something you haven’t done for someone who did something good?

In the story of Esther, an exiled Jewish woman married to a Persian king, it was an occasion of her husband suffering from insomnia that would become a turning point in the murderous threat of the Jewish people. Planted in the Ahasuerus’s kingdom was Haman, a Persian administrator who was conspiring to have the Jewish people massacred. Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, learned of the threat.  And as it just happened, it was Mordecai who had done a kind thing for the King, written in the king’s history book, by alerting him to a plot by his two conspirators, his own doorkeepers, to have him killed.

All of the unrelated elements in the four verses come together to form a divine intervention to save Yahweh’s covenantal people. Hard to see how a sleepless king, a book of records, an early version of an audio book, and a good deed unrewarded can align to do all of that, but they did.                        

God reveals Himself in the Bible, which is the ultimate standard of all truth. But to those people who don’t have a Bible or to make the Bible truths very personal, Read the rest of this entry »