Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Category: July Devotional

Stay With The Bunch

Two are better than one,…and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Ever seen an episode of “Wild Kingdom” or a National Geographic special? Think about the moments leading up to the lion pouncing on his prey. There is usually a herd of animals clambering near a waterhole, but the hungry lion doesn’t have his eyes on the potential smorgasbord. Instead, he is locked in on the antelope who has wandered off from the pack.

To avoid the unsavory scene about to unfold on your mental screen, let’s consider another one of nature’s lessons. Picture stepping into your kitchen and spotting a bunch of ripe, yellow bananas,…and a separate one that has already been pulled from the rest. Which one is about to get peeled?

What is true in the Serengeti and in your kitchen is often true in the church world as well. It’s the one who splits off from the rest that is an easier target for the predator. Now, after you get over the shock of having been just compared to a ravenous lion, consider who the Apostle Peter says is stalking isolated Christians who start to sever their ties to a local body of believers.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9, ESV)

Which believer do you think is an easier target for Satan: the one who is entwined with like-minded brothers and sisters in the weekly life of the congregation, or the one who shows up only for worship services on a somewhat regular basis? There is no wonder that Peter warned us that a big part of our resisting and standing steadfastly in our faith is to remember that we are not isolated members of Christ’s body but part of a worldwide brotherhood!

Jesus knew we needed to belong to something bigger than ourselves. If anyone ever could have accomplished His purposes as a Lone Ranger, certainly the Master could have done it. But He hand-picked what Millennials today would call a “posse,” a group of followers with whom He shared His life and ministry. He enjoyed intimate fellowship with His friends, investing in them and sending them out in pairs to proclaim His life-transforming Gospel!

Sounds like Jesus knew well the principle that the wise King Solomon laid out in Ecclesiastes 4. Two are better than one – not the worst philosophy when you’re considering that banana sandwich, by the way – …and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Earlier, Solomon praised the countenance-lifting virtues of simple friendship and brotherhood, even when adversity arises. (Proverbs 17:17, 27:6,17)

What the two wisest men who have ever walked this earth knew is this: life is better lived in fellowship and loving relationship – Paul calls it “koinonia” in the Greek – with others who share the common bond of faith, love and devotion to the Godhead.

Sadly, many believers run from the church when they should be running to it. They hit the rough patches of life: Read the rest of this entry »

Not Yet

7:1 After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. 2 Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near.

3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him.

6 So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. 8 Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” (John 7:1-8)

Making Jesus and the Church attractive to the world and popular with everyone is a worldly temptation.

Jesus healed the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda in John 5. After 38 years of futile waiting, the man had no man to place him in the healing waters. Jesus sees him. Asks if he wants to be healed. It’s the Sabbath. The man believes and Jesus commands him to get up, take up his mat, and walk. 3 verbs. After that many years waiting, Jesus could have waited for another day to heal the man. He chose to heal him on the Sabbath, the 3rd miracle in the Gospel, to solicit a challenge with the Jewish leaders.

The next feast is Passover referenced in John 6. Jesus never made it to Jerusalem for that important feast. Instead, He spent His time around the Sea of Galilee, feeding 5,000 and walking on the water for His disciples. He told the Jews following Him, looking for another free meal, “I am the Bread of Life.” By the end of the chapter, Jesus offended the multitudes with His command to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. At the sound of the hard sayings, all but the 12 disciples abandoned Him. Peter offered the reason why they stayed – even Judas; “”Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Right on the heels of Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Holy One of God”, John takes us to the Feast of Booths, and Jesus’ unbelieving brothers. They offered 3 points of counsel:

#1 – 7:3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing.
MAKE A SHOW OF YOUR WORKS!
#2 – 7:4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.”
PUBLICIZE YOURSELF TO THE WORLD
#3 – 7:5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him.
UNBELIEF LEADS TO WORLDLY COUNSEL

Long before radio, TV, social media, web sites, page views, followers, likes, etc. the temptation of impressing the world with spiritual truth has been present. Jesus’ brothers are an example of following the worldly counsel of unbelief.

Jesus had three responses to their sinful counsel: Read the rest of this entry »

Fashion By Grace

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8) And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9) And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. Rev. 21:7

Regardless the event attended, eventually the greater focus becomes, “What should I wear”? Few attend functions oblivious or unconcerned of attire; for the subtle pressures of peers, conformity and tradition demand attention to one’s dress. And if coolness or uncoolness is determined by the clothes one wears, then knowing what’s “in” must be a major concern.

And since the hipsters of fashion convince us that “clothes make the man”, we max the plastic to keep up with the commerce driven nuances of Madison Avenue. Interestingly, the marketing scheme of such constant change is genius. For if “clothes make the man”,… and they decide what’s cool,… and they make the clothes- then the garment industry is out like a bandit!

Oh ok.  But what’s your point?

Thanks for the segue!

Did you know we’ve been invited to the greatest marriage ever?

It’s true! It’s actually true! The King of kings has called us, not as attendants to His wedding, but as His Bride! You’re talking upgrade? We just got one!

I know, it’s preposterous! It’s beyond the human mind, I know, but yes, He’s chosen us to live and reign with Him forever! Married to our Redeemer! A love story beyond words! Cinderella’s slipper story is relegated now to the compost pile!

Flabbergasted? Absolutely yes! Flattered? What do you think! Gonna take Him up on the invite? You bet your last dollar we are!

But a wedding of this type requires some specially tailored clothes! Read the rest of this entry »

The DEFs of PMA

“What are five things our human body must have to thrive?” the chiropractor asked a handful of patients. The top 3 – nourishment, exercise and rest — were no surprise. And No. 5 should have been expected considering who was asking the question. “Adjustments.” You know, those manual manipulations of the spine to correct the horrors of subluxations (slight misalignments of the vertebrae, for the uninitiated).

Odd how back-cracking made the list,…but oxygen did not. But we digress.

It was Necessity No. 4 that stirred us to pondering for days to come. When Dr. Matt wrote “PMA” on his whiteboard, everyone in the room gave a nodding sigh. Positive mental attitude. Solomon, the wisest human who ever had a BC birthday, said it this way: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)

Consider Paul’s instruction to the church at Ephesus. Smack in the middle of his encouragement to “put off” the old self and “put on” the new self is this fascinating fulcrum: “And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind (having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude),…” (Ephesians 4:22-24, Amplified Bible).

The human mind is capable of extraordinary things. When surrendered to the mind and attitude of Christ, the miraculous is possible. How we look at our circumstances – not the circumstances themselves – will determine the path of our lives. Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl summed up his experience like this: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Let’s look at seven mental filters that we can exercise to not only survive but thrive in this journey called life. The ABCs certainly have been overused,…so let’s call these “The DEFs of PMA”: Read the rest of this entry »

What’s In A Name

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? 19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1 Peter 4:12-19

Over the last few years, there has been a move from certain national church leaders to distance themselves and their congregations from the word “Christian”. Most of the desire to drop the use of the term was to distance the church from the bad behavior of “Christians” in the media and politics. The alternative most preferred is to be called a “disciple of Jesus”, which means “follower of Jesus”. The move is also bolstered by noting that in Acts 11:26, it was those outside the church that supposedly coined the term: “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” And in Acts 26:28, the unbelieving Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”

In the simplest of definitions, “Christian” (from the Greek word, Χριστιανός – Christianos) actually means “Christ ones” or “followers of Christ”, which is the same as “Christ’s disciple”. The church leaders attempting to avoid the name of “Christian” are actually more interested in marketing to the world than teaching what the Bible actually teaches. One well-known preacher is actually attempting to rebrand the church away from the use of the word. The concern about avoiding calling oneself “Christian” is a market place concern rather than a biblical use of the word and its meaning in the Christian life, worship, and testimony to the world.

The third and last use of the word “Christian” is used not by an outsider or a Roman leader, but by the Apostle Peter. What he thinks about the name is important for people who value their Bible over the market place. Peter wrote to the Church in perilous times, calling them “the fiery ordeal, which comes upon you for your testing”. The testing is defined as: 1) a sharing in the sufferings of Christ (note Peter didn’t use the name “Jesus”); 2) a cause for rejoicing; 3) and an eventual revelation that will cause greater rejoicing.

Sharpening his focus on “the name of Christ” – once again not using the name “Jesus” – Peter in verse 14, is clear to say if you are reviled in that name, “Christ”, you are blessed. Why? Because “the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you”.

After ensuring that the sufferings the Christians were experiencing are NOT for any wrong they might have done (4:15), he says, “but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” Note: “glorify God in THIS NAME”! Peter teaches that suffering of Christians, those who go by that name and who claim that name, are actually glorifying God by that name. It was a lesson he learned from Jesus after He asked them who people thought He was. Peter is the one who said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. And it was that statement of faith upon which Jesus said He would build His church and that He would suffer and die for (Matthew 16:13-23). The name Christ meant everything to the Lord Jesus, to Peter, and to the Church.

In 1 Peter, Peter used the name “Jesus” 8 times. He used the name 8 times in 2 Peter. The name “Christ” he used 20 times in 1 Peter and 7 times in 2 Peter and each time it was joined as “Jesus Christ”. And once he used “Christian” as noted in 1 Peter 4:16. Why does Peter focus on the name “Christ” more than the name “Jesus” and why would he tie the name “Christian” to the glorification of God? A reading of Peter’s epistles reveals that the church was going through hard times and more difficulty was coming. The promised Jewish Messiah was going to come and put an end to the evil in the world one day. The church’s name for Messiah is “Christ” and those who are living through hard times and being called “Christian” were glorying God when they endured the sufferings. They were rejoicing in sharing in the sufferings of Christ. And they looked forward to the day when their “Christ” would reveal Himself and put an end to sin, evil, and death.

The church does not need a marketing campaign to make a better appeal to the world. The Church would do well to rejoice in being called “Christians” as the Bible teaches and in so doing the Church will glorify God.

His Mercy Endures Forever

An Introduction to the seemingly trivial phrase:

“For his mercy endures forever” Psalm 136

Some things in life are overlooked and undervalued, not for their unworthiness, but for their consistent presence and immeasurable abundance. And though life be sustained through an obvious dependence on them, there’s a tendency to waltz through life assuming their presence commonplace and neglect to appreciate their presence. A strange premise to begin perhaps, but elementary truth is often stranger than elevated fiction.

For a moment, consider the parts and essential elements factored into our daily lives. And give special attention to those things that are deeply integrated, yet separate from conscious awareness. For so it may be with spouses, friends, health, family, peace, job, home, happiness… or maybe, and certainly, that overarching, catch-all word, Grace. They’re undoubtedly the threads and colors woven intimately, intricately, seamlessly and indispensably in the pattern of life; so that without them there’d likely be no fabric or canvas at all.

But the wise would never allow such an earthy, derelict label be attached to such a righteously acute conscience! For to recognize and grasp anything complex is to first acknowledge the parts and pieces comprising it. Then through intentional dismantling and breakdown of sophistication, an appreciation of the Creator’s genius and purpose is measured. Essentially, it’s in elevating the unnoticed and oft assumed elements of life that life is better valued, appropriated and maintained.

That small word “mercy” and the phrase “for His mercy endures forever” is so copiously embedded in the Bible that it’s easily overlooked as filler material, and especially in the 26 verses of Psalm 136! But let’s slow down for a moment and digest the part we rush through to get to the meaty substance. Read the rest of this entry »

More Blessed

It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)

According to 1 Corinthians 13:3, it is possible to give without love, but according to John 3:16 it is impossible to love without giving!  For the next few weeks in our series entitled “More Blessed: A Culture of Generosity”, we will focus on the joy and honor of the Body of Christ to be cheerfully and extravagantly generous.  Generosity is an equal opportunity blesser; it blesses the giver, the recipient, and it honors God! As you should expect, one way we will emphasize the importance of generosity is by sharing from the Word of God.  The Bible is not silent concerning the privileges that we have to worship God with our resources.  Additionally, we will highlight the pleasure of generosity by sharing stories from the lives of generous people. Sometimes it is impactful to read accounts of people just like you who have been transformed by God’s Word. If they can, so can we! Read the rest of this entry »

God Shows Up When We Praise Him

But you are holy, O you that inhabit the praises of Israel. (NKJV) …
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. (NLT)
Psalms 22:3

If you have been a part of any vibrant, worshiping church for more than a week or two, you’ve probably heard the declaration that “God inhabits the praises of His people.” How many times at Impact Church have we felt the tangible presence of our wonderful Lord as we are exalting Him through our singing and proclaiming His truth!

Don’t be thrown off by the fact that the phrase found in Psalms 22:3 was penned by King David about a thousand years before Jesus was born. Read the rest of this entry »

Remove Your Sandals

Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” The captain of the LORD ‘ S host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:13-15

Finally, the wandering people of Israel made it to the Promised Land. After 40 years of enduring the wilderness, eating their daily manna and shaking off their Egyptian past, they stood in the place of God’s promises, a land of plenty, Read the rest of this entry »