Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Category: June Devotional

Spiritual Formation 101

You’re probably familiar with the Pareto Principle. In general, the principle states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes. The takeaway is that it is most efficient to focus primarily on the few causes that make the greatest difference.

When it comes to discipleship, it turns out that a few behaviors make a disproportionate difference in our personal growth. In his book No Silver Bullets, Daniel Im summarizes the results of studies that analyze the effect of certain behaviors on spiritual maturity. Three practices consistently predict a higher score when it comes to measuring spiritual maturity.

Shockingly those three behaviors are amazingly elementary:

  1. Read the Bible
  2. Attend regular worship services
  3. Get connected with small classes or groups

In other words, if you want to grow, it’s important to read the Bible and to get involved in worship and community at a local church. Few things matter more than these in our personal spiritual maturity.

These findings even shape us as church leaders and pastors as we attempt to cut through the superfluous and the trendy to rightly encourage the congregation in their walk with Christ. If we want to help people grow, we must primarily encourage them to focus on reading Scripture and participating in the worship and community life of the Body of Christ.

Sometimes we look for new insights and approaches that will help people grow. I’m struck by how ordinary these key practices are. I’m also struck by how easy it is to underestimate them.

At Impact Church, we offer many opportunities to grow and increase in our relationship with Christ. However, our foundational strategy for the individual maturity of the members in our stewardship is to insist upon the faithful reading of God’s Word, regular attendance in corporate worship, and consistent involvement in biblical community.

Never underestimate or neglect the basics. Our spiritual growth is dependent on them!

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Revival of Fatherhood

Malachi 4:6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

It’s convenient for the gatekeepers of a social group to blame internal turbulence or embarrassing foolishness on its rowdy and rascally children.

Some of their common platitudes may slip out this way:

“I can’t believe kids these days; they got no respect for nothing and nobody!”
“I don’t know if there’s any hope left for this bunch of snotty-nosed brats!”
“I know one thing, if I’d done that (or said that) to my daddy, I couldn’t a sit down for a month of Sundays!”

But remarks of such triteness contribute no more than knee jerk reactions to systemic issues, issues for which few have time, energy, nor a redemptive strategy. In a nut shell, whatever seems to be wrong with the structure of a family, community, culture, or even the Church, the fault seems to inextricably shift to those unruly, unchecked, ungovernable, “kids”!

Ah, but there’s those pesky little scriptures!

For if not for scripture, we’d shove those young ‘uns behavioral issues right back on themselves, and piously place society’s burden on the soft shoulders of the “pimply faced”, “ain’t even shaving yet”, “still wet behind the ears”, that awkward-stage, know-it-all demographic – those rebellious little preteens and adolescents!

But slow down, stop, and reread this beautifully corrective, prophetic Malachi text. Before there’s any showdown with juveniles and their delinquency (a contagion that’s both easy to observe and even easier to critique), consider Malachi’s emphatic as He speaks first to the heart of the fathers. In Holy Spirit shorthand: “hey, address the head, and the body will work fine”.

Progenitorial and paternal, fathers are designed to lead, protect, provide, and bear responsibility for a family’s wellbeing. Numerous studies reveal (as though we needed statistics to prove what scripture and prior centuries of experience prove), that a direct correlation exists between diligent fatherhood and the relational health of family, community, and church.

Given the sacred heaviness of a father’s influence and presence within the family structure, a hearty return to such a mentality would provide immeasurable results. It is wise, worthy and clear, that the original paternal design was and will continue to bring glory to the Creator when faithfully adopted.

So consider, even in the throes of present relational and social angst, the generations that will ultimately arise triumphant from today’s generation of faithful fathers – fathers that sow daily in the rich soil of commitment, compassion, discipline, love and physical presence!

So what can today’s fathers do to ensure tomorrow’s families are fulfilled and edifying?

Will today’s dads follow in the dark shadows of previous fathers that lived selfishly, randomly, and without purpose?

Will this generation of fathers live wasted, void of investment in the generations to come?

What can today’s dads do to exercise their divine influence in seeing their wives and children enjoying life, and their Creator honored and glorified?

Here are a few random points for fathers, and since they’ll require more of our hearts than our wallets, why not jump on them!

1) Love the mother of your children, your wife! The kids will know!
2) Be playfully affectionate! They love it, and they’ll never forget it!
3) Be physically present- at meal times, bedtime, and game time!
4) Pray with them about everything – they believe better than we do!
5) Make nature a veritable classroom – hikes, oceans, flowers, dogs!
6) Make the Bible the most honored piece of literature ever penned.
7) Build that sandbox – it’s more fulfilling than cartoons and games!
8) Show them compassion through injured pets or elderly grandparents.
9) Cultivate a love for reading – words, knowledge, and critical thinking matters!
10) Make church attendance a thing of joy – they’ll perceive your authenticity, and in time believe your God!

The day that precedes the great Day of the Lord will experience a holy return to honor and respect among fathers and families – a renewal of such proportion the world will only marvel and admire. If that is to be, and it will be according to prophecy, then why should we not be part of that glorious appearing of Christ, even as it begins in the families of those who believe?

Happy Father’s Day, Impact Church!

Eyes Wide Open

“And Elisha prayed, Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” 2 Kings 6:17

In a few days my daughter will dance on stage at The Carolina Theatre for the first time. She’s anticipated recital weekend since she first started dancing ten months ago. With this special event finally here, she has been talking about it nonstop. Just the other day she was sharing who she hoped would attend, where she’d like her pictures taken, and how she prefers for her hair to look. Smack in the middle of her many recital thoughts the following truth bubbled up from her heart and fell out of her mouth. “I don’t have to be scared on the stage because Jesus will be right there with me.” It pricked my heart. She didn’t pause for me to confirm if it was so. There was no question mark or shred of doubt in her words. It was simply a confident proclamation about what she believes to be true.

Faith looks like a four-year-old believing Jesus will be with her even if she can’t see him.

In 2 Kings 6 the King of Aram sends a huge army to find the prophet Elisha. Once they find him they surround the city where he is staying. Upon waking up the following morning, Elisha’s servant sees the army surrounding them and is terrified. Elisha assures him in verse 16 that, “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” He then prays for the servant’s eyes to be opened so that he can see. Immediately the Lord opens the servant’s eyes and he sees “the hills full of horses and chariots of fire.”

Hebrews 11 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” We won’t always see, with our natural eyes, what we believe. In fact, our close proximity to our problems can often limit our ability to see supernaturally. Yet this remains – God is who He says He is and He will do what He says He’ll do. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not so.

In 1 Timothy 6:12 we are instructed to “fight the good fight of faith.” So we know, up front, it will sometimes be a fight. Rest assured, however, it’s a fixed fight and our victory is secure. We are God’s possession, purchased with the blood of Christ, full of the Holy Spirit and armed with knowledge about how this story ends. Our hope is alive and well because He is. So when we are facing something difficult and faith doesn’t come naturally, I admonish us to war for it. May we ask the Lord to open our eyes so that we may see Him at work.

We refuse to back down or give up. Read the rest of this entry »

Sword Play

Ephesians 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…

At a recent bible study, the discussion centered on a believer’s strategy to overcome the ever present temptation to doubt. Defining doubt as, “to be uncertain, be apprehensive, to question or be hesitant to believe something or someone”, doubt was dubbed a major player in Satan’s arsenal to subvert the underpinnings of faith and love.

Not to be outwitted or outdone by Lucifer’s poisoned arrows of doubt, we returned that night to faith as our shield of defense and the Scriptures as our sharpened sword. And what a powerful and proven panoply of weaponry it is! For with such armor, we found every insidious device to dissuade or devise doubt was forthrightly disarmed by the power of God’s word. And for practicality and courage sake, we found that power residing presently in the castle of our own hearts!

So with renewed confidence and warrior mind, we bivouacked that night in the land of God’s eternal promises. Withstanding the usual anxiety and frustration of present circumstances (and some situations, trust me, bordered hopeless and impossible!), we countered our foe by feasting copiously and fearlessly in the Land of indescribable milk and honey!

Was every hurt remedied that night as we meditated on the Word? Did every situation meliorate as the scriptures were expounded? Did every distressing circumstance improve immediately as we prayed and trusted the faithfulness of God? Did the group fall out in a trance, or everyone have an out-of-the-body experience?

Nope. Sure didn’t.

But you know what did happen? Read the rest of this entry »

Poem For the Fathers

Through you we learn about the Heavenly Father’s love. You’re a clear reflection of Him though He’s seated above.

You are His hands and feet on the earth; made in His image, created for purpose from birth.

You lead your family with wisdom and the utmost care. You hold things together on your knees in prayer.

You sacrifice to provide without recognition. You’re devoted and consistent; truly a man on a mission.

You’ve taught your arrows the gospel story- that their lives were created to ultimately bring Him glory.

You protect and defend your family. Your presence and support is our beautiful reality.

You’ve shown your children that in the face of any giant they have the courage to be bold as lions.

They learn so much by watching you. Through your life they see real life rescue.

They see that when you fall and begin to call, God always shows up and His strength isn’t small.

We know you juggle a lot and carry much weight. Please know our respect for you is exceedingly great.

Our heroes are often the strong and silent type with no gold medals or social media hype.

They don’t get a parade or the front page in the paper but make no mistake their reward will be greater.

For our heroes this morning may not wear red, white, or blue. Our heroes this morning are all of you.

From the bottom of our heart, thanks. Impact Church stands to applaud you.

What Amazes the Amazing One?

“When Jesus heard it, He marveled…” (Matthew 8:10)

Ever thought about the wonder-inspiring life of Jesus? We sing about His amazing grace, and rightfully so, but let’s reflect for a bit on His days with dusty feet and sweaty brow as a First Century human.

Time and time again through the gospels, we read that Jesus left people speechless with their jaws dropped open! When He made crippled men walk and dumb men speak and blind men see, the Jewish multitudes marveled. The villagers who watched Him grow up as a carpenter’s son were dumbfounded at this common man’s education and knowledge. “We’ve never seen anything like this in Israel!” they said.

Even those who set themselves against Jesus, the religious leaders of the day and their hired henchmen, were astonished at His authoritative teachings and had no answer for Him. “Nobody has ever spoken like this man speaks!” they said.

While others were amazed with Jesus’ words, Pontius Pilate marveled at His silence and self-control.

And those closest to Jesus, His own hand-picked disciples, repeatedly were left scratching their heads when their Master defied their expectations by talking to an unclean woman at a Samaritan well or by cursing a barren fig tree or by rebuking turbulent winds and waves. “Wow! What kind of man is this?!?”

Needless to say, the Greek word “thaumazo” (meaning to marvel or wonder) was used more than 30 times by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If Jesus were walking in flesh among us today, we might say He “dropped the mic” on a regular basis and left audiences stunned everywhere!

But have you ever wondered what makes the One called Wonderful wonder? What amazes the Author of amazing grace? What makes Jesus say “Whoa!”? Read the rest of this entry »

Well-Watered

Isaiah 58:11 “The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

I prefer to water my flowers early in the morning as the sun is rising to take its prominent position in the sky. I pour from the watering can until water overflows from the bottom and spills across my sidewalk. I fill to the point of excess because I know the afternoon is coming. The temperatures will inevitably rise and before the day ends the sun’s harsh rays will have direct access. There is nowhere to hide from the heat once afternoon arrives, but when the roots are well-watered they endure the heat with remarkable resilience.

As I was reading Isaiah 58 I was struck by the beauty of the promise found in verse 11. It says, “you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”  As I studied the scriptures my heart leapt and I thought, “I want to be like a well-watered garden, too!” If I am totally honest though, I haven’t always run to the right source to satisfy my thirsty soul. I’ve ran to Instagram and popular Christian blogs to read good words when my Bible offers me God’s words. I’ve ran to people to receive affirmation when God’s approval of me is settled. Running to anything but God will always leave us spiritually dehydrated.

There is a better way.

There is hope for every dry place in our hearts. There is bread and water to receive from God’s word. Read the rest of this entry »

Stay the Course. Be the Light.

Acts 27:14 But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. 15) and when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.

More often than not, counsel neglected in calm waters is remembered with remorse when waves get choppy. For as the soft breezes promoted the Captain’s unwise decision to depart Lasea and sail to Phenice, so a menacing storm roared in, confirming Paul’s clear advice to stay put. Yet, what can the godly do when the ungodly hold the wheel of the boat we board? And what recourse do the wise have when the unwise have the numbers, the clout, and the might?

Well, when we find ourselves aboard a ship hell-bent to enjoy the wrath of a hurricane, the first inclination of the wise is to jump! But in the scheme of life, the wise and the foolish somehow find themselves doing the storms of life together. And sometimes the discerning get greasy, get hurt or held hostage by the decisions and directions of the unspiritual. And if they could leave the aftermath of those rejecting wisdom, then the astute could wag the finger and walk away…

But the wise live together with the unwise on the same planet, same nation, community, church, business, family, or in Paul’s case, same boat. So as inequitable it may be that life is done with those who leap from tall buildings and sleep on train tracks, God has chosen such interactions as introductions of grace to those distant from it.

A husband unchecked by the peril of credit card abuse, may bring his family under oppressive clouds of debt or bankruptcy. A promising young man may trivialize his education, trashing his scholarship and academic future with a concupiscent college lifestyle. And an intelligent young lady may forfeit her career plans with an unplanned pregnancy, impeding the dreams she and others possessed. And a business-minded mom may bring untold pain thru ill-advised substance abuse, losing interest in her family and enterprise while dealing with diminishing health.

But in any of these cases, do families forthrightly dissolve the connectivity and commitments due to foolish errors in judgment of those they love? Read the rest of this entry »

This Changes Everything

“…Ye must be born again.” John 3:7 

If ever there were someone who could earn his way into heaven, Nicodemus was the one.

Here was a man who undoubtedly studied the Scriptures, attended every church service and walked the line of personal morality and integrity as much as humanly possible. As a rule, Pharisees get a bad rep with our 20/20 hindsight on this side of Calvary, but make no mistake: they were the bona fide religious leaders of their day who devoted their lives to memorizing, keeping and teaching the most minute detail of the Law of Moses.

This Nicodemus was apparently a leader of the Pharisees, a ruler or teacher of the Jews. His story of a nighttime visit to Jesus – recorded only by the Apostle John two or three decades after not even a mention in the Synoptic Gospels – is reminiscent of another “ruler” who will forever be known for his youth and riches (Luke 18). Both men seem genuinely earnest in their desire to please God and had indeed kept the Law to the best of their ability. What more could a just God require, right?

Being a top-of-the-line Pharisee, Nicodemus would have scoffed at honoring only the “Big Ten” commandments, taking pride in obeying all 613 mostly ceremonial regulations of the Torah and knowing every jot and tittle of the written Law and oral tradition. If you had debated him on the Old Testament, you would have been embarrassed.

Even Nicodemus’ name bears witness that he was “the people’s champion,” deriving from the Greek words “nikos” or “nike” (victory) and “demos” (people). If a famous shoe company had a marketing campaign dating back to the first century, ol’ Nic would have been the “Just do it!” poster boy! When it came to good works, they didn’t come any better.

And yet this overtly devout man came to the upstart Rabbi, Jesus, apparently aware there must be something he was missing. Recognizing that the same God he had tried to appease all his life was the One who sent the Galilean, Nicodemus never even got to the same “What else can I do?” question that the rich, young ruler asked.

“Except a man be born again (or, from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God…. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ‘Ye must be born again.’” Jesus’ simple, profound words – the only time in the King James Version that the Master uttered “Ye must…”Read the rest of this entry »

A Spring Storm and the LORD’s Peace

Psalm 29

1 A Psalm of David.

Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name;
Worship the LORD in holy array.

3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters; The God of glory thunders, The LORD is over many waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful,
The voice of the LORD is majestic.
5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, And Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the LORD hews out flames of fire.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; The LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve And strips the forests bare; And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”

10 The LORD sat as King at the flood;
Yes, the LORD sits as King forever.
11 The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace

This Psalm of David is divided in to three scenes, the first one is in the heavens. The translation, “O sons of the mighty” refers to angelic beings in the original language. David calls for the angels to worship the LORD in His heavenly splendor.

The second scene is a panoramic scene of the geography of David’s life. He lists the “voice of the LORD” seven times, representing the Divine and challenging the pagan cultic worship of nature, and that voice is moving across the terrain with a powerful sound. In verse 3, pictured as a thunder storm, “the voice of the LORD” begins over the Mediterranean Sea and then moves inland by verse 5. Once over the land, the trees and lands are affected by the power of the LORD’s storm. By verse 7, the lightning has struck and the resultant thunder (8) rattles through the open country areas. Lastly, Read the rest of this entry »