Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Category: November Devotion

Change of Plans

Have you ever made the perfect plans? Plans that were so flawless in theory that you even impressed yourself. It took you days, maybe weeks, to consider all the possibilities and parties involved. You made sure everyone was accounted and accommodated for. The schedule was tight and every minute was packed to the limit but if everyone stuck to the plan, it would work perfectly. You emailed it out and copied everyone that needed to be made aware. You followed up with the important people to ensure they understood your email and even doubled back to over communicate. The plan was set. The schedule and itinerary was established. All you need now is execution!

But then the unthinkable happens! Someone is late and someone else decided to drive their own car. The baby gets sick and messes up her brand new outfit. There is accident on 1-85 and the GPS says it is going to be a 35 minute wait. All that planning and preparing is ruined! All that time spent is wasted! You get frustrated and frazzled (which is just a nicer way of saying you’re mad!). You get short with your spouse and snap at your children. This is not what you had planned!

I am sure some of your heart rates went up just reading that hypothetical situation. We have all been there and know the helpless feeling of being out of control. That is the whole reason we made the plans in the first place, so that we could control as much of the narrative as possible. Every aspect that we could troubleshoot, we did. However, even after all our planning, situations like these remind us of our limitations. So before you get too agitated, let’s pause and take a moment to reevaluate what is actually happening when our plans are upset.

Selah.

You confessed as a child of God that your life is not your own. You are the sheep of His pasture and He is your good Father. However, in moments such as this, we assume He is distant and without compassion. We quickly conclude that if He truly loved us, He would have ensured our plans went off without a hitch or mishap. That the flawless execution of our carefully constructed schedule would have been a sign of His favor and divine will being accomplished in our lives.

I would like to submit another possible conclusion for your consideration. What if the change of plans was a sign of God’s providence not His carelessness? Maud Manohan penned these words about Mother Janet Stuart, the well-known nun and educator from London, England in the book The Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart….

“She delighted in seeing her plan upset by unexpected events, saying that it gave her great comfort, and that she looked on such things as an assurance that God was watching over her stewardship… she was joyfully and graciously ready to recognize the indication of God’s ruling hand, and to allow herself to be guided by it.”

Wow! So instead of becoming anxious and fretful when her plans were derailed; she delighted and found comfort. Not some superficial, shallow optimistic outlook on her circumstance masking the frustration she actually felt. The change of events literally encouraged her faith and brought an awareness that God was in her midst and had greater and higher plans. She submitted to the change and acknowledged God’s hand in redirecting her path.

One instance where this truth is found in scripture is in Mark 5. Jesus is compelled by a synagogue official named Jairus to come to his house because his daughter was very sick and close to death. While on the way to Jairus’ house, a woman who had been suffering with a hemorrhage for 12 years came near to Jesus and touched His clothes by faith. Jesus stopped and began to heal and speak to the woman. Most of us may know the end of the story but imagine if you are Jairus and your daughter is at the point of death. You made the perfect plan to get Jesus’ attention and get Him to your house. However, on the way your plan was averted. While Jesus talked to the hemorrhaging woman, Jairus receives news that his daughter is dead. His plan was perfect but unexpected events happened and now his daughter is dead. Jesus still insisted on going to the house. When He arrives, he removes everyone from the room except a few disciples and the little girl’s family. He then speaks to the young girl and says “Talitha kum” meaning “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” Jairus’ plan was to see his daughter healed, however, his plans needed to be thwarted for the purpose of God to be accomplished. Jesus’ purpose was different. He saw a lady healed and a young girl raised from dead. Jesus’ purpose was better than Jairus’ plan.

Maybe next time the plans change be intentional about looking for God’s hand. It may not be a disturbance but rather God’s leadership. It’s okay to sometimes not be in control!

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Attitude of Christ

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” Philippians 2:4

Just yesterday I asked my darling four-year-olds to please pick up the magna-tiles from
the middle of our living room floor. They complied but not without making sure I knew
how disgruntled they were. They huffed, scowled, and complained as if I had requested
they clean the entire house from top to bottom. When they were finished this momma did not gush over what a fantastic job they did. Instead we had a necessary conversation
about how important it is to have a good attitude.

I, as a mom, care about my children’s attitudes. I believe our Heavenly Father cares
greatly about the attitudes of His kids, too. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord said to
Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have
rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart.”’

God cares more about how we do something than what we actually do.

While we can put on a mask and hide our truest self from others there is absolutely
nothing hidden from God. He sees the unfiltered version of our thoughts, feelings, and
motives. If I’m being embarrassingly honest- I sometimes resemble my kids. Sure, I am
obedient. But not without doing my fair share of grumbling and whining about how hard
it is.

If you can admit the same about yourself- take courage. Having the attitude of Christ is
possible! God would not ask us to do something we cannot. We are invited to have the
mind of Christ. But how?

1 John 1:9 says, “But if we freely admit our sins when his light uncovers them, He will be
faithful to forgive us every time. God is just to forgive us our sins because of Christ, and
he will continue to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Let’s trust God’s faithfulness
enough to quickly confess when our attitude is not matching our identity. We are
confident that giving Him permission to purify us is for our good and His glory.

Furthermore, we must be intentional about having the Word of God rooted deep in our
hearts and minds. When we are meditating on His Word our actions and attitudes will
likely follow suit because the Word changes us. More specifically, it gives us clear
instructions about where to park our thoughts. The apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:8,
“So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and
admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your
thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.”

When we confess our sins and fix our thoughts on the truth of God’s Word our attitudes
will begin to agree with His. Praise God! “And the Lord- who is the Spirit- makes us
more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Still Thankful

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Oh, the irony of Black Friday following Thanksgiving! How bold! We just had the most thoughtful prayer alongside baked turkey, grandma’s dressing and a living room full of football; and lo and behold, here comes Friday making us forget how thankful we were yesterday!

But hold on, we’re shaming no one, nor the system, for our hyperactive push to engage our purchasing power. For its likely neither Black Friday nor any other marketing scheme is to be blamed for finding great deals. Let’s uncover an issue far deeper and more devilish than the half price of a long awaited recliner or smart TV.

From Eden’s Garden to the merchandise-loaded screens of today’s computers, the invitation to bargain for things we supposedly lack is simple and ageless. From deceiving Eve in thinking that even God was withholding something good, to the never ending task of keeping up with the Joneses, the heart of humanity is ever in quest of possessing “enough”.

Of anything, actually. For from clothes to tools or from food to mobile devices- our wardrobes are tight with new threads, pantries are stocked with staples, garages hang with gadgets, and our phones are quickly short on memory! From education to insurance to transportation to entertainment- we’re always in need of something else, or something more. So, for those under a rock the last few thousand years – hey, welcome to the real world!

Though material-overload and mammon-driven mindsets are the easiest lifestyles to adopt, it’s also true that the spiritual are most awakened when those temptations arrive. It’s then that we determine what’s important and essential. To know that godliness with contentment is great gain is to purify the motive of every goal and aspiration. It’s only then that we prove we “get it”! It’s then that we truly understand this one thing: to possess the eternal virtues and life of Jesus is the true measure of wealth, and to invest that Life through a mortal body set apart for His glory is to bring harvests and increases only Heaven can store!

Regardless then of status or caste, we must somehow digest the truth concerning our short time on earth in these temporal bodies. “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment, let us be content.” There are few verses as profound; and few verses so unilaterally equip us to direct our daily decisions. Through these we resolve to be wise in our choices, and wisdom has chosen well: Christ alone is our treasure!

Convinced through scripture of our completeness, wholeness and “lacking nothing life” in Christ, any rush for another purchase, project, pacifier or pal is summarily checked and filtered. If things advance the purposes of the Kingdom, we go for it! If they distract us from our eternal purposes, we boldly say no to earth’s sideline attractions! We’ve evaluated both time and treasure, and a life surrendered to Christ has no comparison and no regrets!

Ultimately, life’s decisions made with Christ in mind produce the greatest peace, the sweetest joy, and contentment beyond words!

Shift Thankfulness into Overdrive

…Which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1Cor. 2:8

Giving thanks is the expected response when prayers are answered, or when things desired are finally possessed. And it’s natural that pleasant friends, prosperity and positive futures create space for appreciation and thankfulness.

Yet, nothing challenges the heart like a journey chocked with uncertainties and complexities. Life in that lane requires a deep-seated trust in the providence and sovereignty of God. And when we experience things abstract, painful or seemingly unnecessary, it’s then the heart is truly checked. We’re thus comforted by scriptural accounts of those who, after setbacks, rejections and tragedies, are found later restored, elevated or given prominence.

As a witness to faith, Joseph’s life seemed to be a puzzling contradiction to everything planned and prophesied. The dreams of leadership and lofty glory seemed no more than LaLa Land when the realities of his life settled in.

And the contradictions of that young man are many: favored, yet frustrated; anticipating, yet disappointed; hopeful, yet shackled; righteous, yet accused; serving, yet unnoticed; loving, yet forgotten; promised, yet delayed; true, yet misunderstood.

On one axiom we can rely: Life is perplexing, but God is forever constant and faithful!

And as the above text of Jesus states, had Satan and the powers of hell possessed prior knowledge of Calvary’s victorious outcome – well, they would have never treated Him so cruelly! So it is with those simply resting in God’s providence and foreknowledge! We can be assured then that every dark attack, strategy, weapon or scheme is subject to the ability of God to destroy, or be used, for good! And remember, the scriptures admonish us often – that after we’ve done the will of God, we need to exercise patience, knowing we’ll soon receive the full promise!

So what profit does thankfulness bring to the table when life rolls out experiences contrary to faith and hope? How in any meaningful way is a grateful heart helpful, when everything seen and felt smacks of contradictions? Is thankfulness merely a prescription to dull the senses, a subtle distraction from reality, or a sinister bribe with the tinsel of false hopes? Is gratitude no more than busy work, an attempt to sedate the mind, or an alternative medicine to override the natural inclinations of complaints and murmurs?

No! No! No! And a thousand times, No!

Thankfulness is the confident declaration that faith has a strong grasp on God’s innumerable promises! Read the rest of this entry »

I am Enough

I am made in the image of God; fearfully, and wonderfully, fashioned by His loving hands. I am a clear reflection of God’s wild and spectacular creativity. His workmanship is marvelous and after breathing His breath into that which He created He declared once and for all, “It is good.”  I am enough.

I am extravagantly loved. Jesus stepped down into the world He created to show me that His love has no bounds; that there’s nowhere He wouldn’t go and nothing He wouldn’t do to rescue, restore, and redeem the object of His affection. I am the object of His affection. I am enough.

I am entirely free. He willingly died an excruciating, brutal, bloody death while bearing the sin of every person of every generation. When He breathed His last breath He said, “It is finished.” My debt was paid in full and a guilty verdict will never be issued on my behalf. I am enough.

I am victorious. When Jesus took his last breath all of hell rejoiced but all of heaven sat on the edge of their seat for they knew that God would fulfill His word just as He promised. And three days later Jesus loosed His burial clothes and walked out of His tomb. He overcame death, hell, and the grave. He holds the keys of life and death and He reigns in authority, power, and majesty. That same resurrection power lives in me. I am enough.

I am secure. I know that I have eternal life because I believe in the name of the Son of God. I can feel secure because the Holy Spirit is the seal of God’s promises to me and pledge of my inheritance in Christ. He alone is my rock and fortress; I will not be shaken. He is steadfast, stable, and unmoving. I am enough.

I am whole. I am a partaker of His divine nature. The fullness of Christ is now manifesting in me. Because I have Him I have everything I will ever need. There is not a lack in me because no lack exists in Him. I am enough.

Post Thanksgiving Day Meanderings

We all know the drill, but let’s assume our Thanksgiving kitchen counter-tops of sliced turkey, sweet potato casserole and green beans, possess a far richer sense of what the fourth Thursday of November supposedly provides. And that’s not to say our buffets and dessert bars are unappealing. No sir! Cause when you see folks pushing chairs back, loosening belts, asking for coffee, and promising to do better next week– well that’s ample evidence folks are enjoying some sweet, sweet times! And that’s as it should be! So, long live Thanksgiving Day!

Also, it’s heartwarming to see families sacrifice time, travel and resources so cousins, aunts and grand kids can connect and reunite? Hugs, hellos and high-fives are all around! And even in the driveway (I mean just getting out of the car or unloading the baked chicken and potato salad!), there’s a festive, care-freeness about that day that compares with no other. Seems Thanksgiving Day, hands-down, brings the friendliest atmospheres for family get-togethers!

And what about the picture taking frenzy that coincides with the arrival of the baked turkey and cranberry sauce? Seems there’s chatter, smiles and arms wrapped around shoulders that are conspicuously absent at other similar gatherings. Personal schedules and logistics may hinder an extended family’s closeness, and petty personal differences may unnecessarily create apathy and distance; but there’s really something special about Thanksgiving. Seems whatever distance and difference families may experience during the year, they simply fade away at the thought of Thanksgiving. Could it be then that Thanksgiving holds special relational, restorative, even therapeutic powers in bringing families together in love and harmony? Read the rest of this entry »

Divine Limitations

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV)

To be human is to accept the limitations that God in His wisdom has imposed upon us and upon the world into which He has placed us. God has limited the seas (Job 38:10-11), He has limited Satan (Job 1:12; 2:6), and He draws the boundaries of the nations (Acts 17:26). Even our first parents in paradise were limited in what they could do, and because they overstepped the limits, they were cast out (Genesis 3). Individually, you and I are limited in our abilities, our opportunities, our resources, and even the length of our life. God has appointed the limits. Our days are numbered and we cannot go beyond that final day, although we may foolishly hasten it. As far as the law is concerned, all people are created equal, but as far as life is concerned, we are unequal, because human life involves individual limitations.

However, limitation gives us freedoms. I have met the conditions for securing a driver’s license and this gives me the freedom to drive on the public streets and highways. My wife and I have met the conditions for possessing passports and this gave us the freedom to travel the world and minister. The Bible gives us the conditions we must meet if we want to receive answers to prayer, and if we obey, God will grant what we request. This is one of the differences between freedom and license. True freedom isn’t doing what I always want to do but what God wants me to do, and my obedience opens the way to blessing.

We must move a step further: true freedom encourages cooperation. Because my abilities and possessions are limited, there are many things I don’t know and can’t do. There, I need the help of others. God saw that Adam’s loneliness was not good, so He created a mate for him to help compensate for his own limitations (Genesis 2:18-25). Marriage, family, and friends are gifts from the heart of God to help us function in this world of limitations, for we can all help one another…

The conclusion of the matter is this: we must value our lives and the lives of others, for they are limited. We must know that God has appointed our limits, especially our lifespan. We must make the best possible use of the hours and days God gives us, which means knowing and doing His will. Jesus said, “I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). Our limitations are not obstacles; they are opportunities. God has appointed our limitations so we will focus on what He wants us to do.

Lessons From the 2016 World Series

You don’t have to be a fan of baseball or politics to know that the fall of 2016 will be remembered for the historic triumphs of the Chicago Cubs and President-elect Donald Trump.

The plaints of “Wait till next year!” finally ended for Cubs fans, who have waited more than a century to celebrate a world championship. And Mr. Trump shocked political pundits by showing that an outsider can ride the wave of a populist movement all the way to the Oval Office.

While many prophetic voices in the evangelical community have seen significance in the election of a new president, we will refrain from such commentary in favor of several inspirational — yes, even spiritual — lessons learned from the Fall Classic of our national pastime, the enduring game of baseball.

WorldSeries2.jpg

 

Never give up! The “Bad News Bears” of Chicago had not won a baseball title since 1908. And even this year, when they proved to be the summer’s best team by winning 103 games, their backs were against the wall more than once during the postseason.

Everyone will remember their improbable comeback from a 3-games-to-1 deficit against the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. But the Cubs were also down 2-1 to the LA Dodgers in the League Championship Series after their high-powered offense was shut out in back-to-back games. And they trailed the San Francisco Giants by a score of 5-2 going into the 9th inning of a game that looked for sure like they would be facing ace Madison Bumgarner in a decisive Game 5 of the Division Series. But the resilient, quick-striking Cubbies scored 4 runs in their last at-bat to finish off the stunned Giants on their home field.

Never give up, dear saints! No matter how bleak the situation may look, where there is life there is hope!

The curse is broken! Read the rest of this entry »

Get in the Spirit of Christmas

2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

And then, suddenly, Thanksgiving is here and gone! The day set aside for giving thanks with a traditional meal against the backdrop of the deepening fall of leafless trees has been all but turned into a pre-game meal for Black Friday. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ends with Santa Claus reminding everyone that the Christmas shopping season has begun. Imagine a store hosting a parade so that that people will remember to go shopping!

Christmas is 25 days away. The countdown has begun for a Christmas break for teachers and students, a few days off for others, and 23 days before most men begin shopping. It’s ingrained in our mental models that we move from one holiday to the next and have a certain level of expectation along the way. Before everything became an appeal to sell us something, the holidays were timely reminders of spiritual realities that brought our earthly life into alignment with the pattern of God’s truth. As God revealed Himself in the seasons on a large scale, so we acknowledged His work in our life throughout the year in a more personal tribute to His goodness to us.

Philippians 2:5-8 is one of the many Christmas stories in the New Testament. One of the passages that describe when God became a man. Other books tell the story in more expected ways: Matthew used a name, “Emmanuel”, meaning “God with us” to describe the event. Luke’s Gospel is the most searched biblical book on Google throughout the world during December. The reason? It’s the Christmas story we all know about three wise men bringing gifts for their King. In John’s Gospel, the shortest version of the Christmas story is, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. The Apostle Paul saw the Christmas event different than most do. He saw it for its example of humility and a model for believers to have with each other.

In Philippians 2:5, Paul commands the church to take the same approach to one another that Jesus Christ exhibited in His life. And that standard is the greatest example of all. What did Jesus do? Read the rest of this entry »

I Love Impact Worship

I love music, especially music that echoes the Word of God. That music has always played an important role in my spiritual life. It is a reliable place of safety, refuge and sanctuary when the pressures and weight of life seem overwhelming. It has supplied courage, clarity and confidence when facing giants, battles and impossibilities. Music has been used to remind me of His promises; to anchor my soul in the middle of storms; and has even been a weapon to chase away fear.

I have a confession to make though; I wear songs out! Certain lyrics just seem to resonate with me in different seasons, so I just put that particular song on repeat and play it over and over. I apologize to anyone who has to ride in the car with me!

The song that Impact’s worship team introduced this weekend, “Good, Good Father,” is that song for me at this time. Its message has been a place of solace and comfort as I have prayed and believed God for the families and individuals of our church. Everyone’s story is different. The facts surrounding our lives vary tremendously. Some are rejoicing, some are dealing with loss, some are living with uncertainties, and some are celebrating. However, as children of God, we all have a mutual reality.  A reality that carries more weight than anything else in our lives.

We have a Father.

…. Read the rest of this entry »