Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Category: November Devotion

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 »

Two Camps

So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp.” And he called the name of that place Mahanaim. (Genesis 32:1-2)

Everyone loves a good story with lots of plot twists and turns. And in all of literature, it’s hard to find a better narrative than the story of twin brothers that begins in the middle of Genesis, the book of beginnings.

We won’t recount the early years of Jacob and Esau, but undoubtedly you will recall how the younger Jacob (whose name literally means “trickster” or “deceiver”) took advantage of his more brutish brother in securing the elder’s birthright for a song (actually a bowl of soup). Then the scheming younger brother stole the firstborn’s blessing — even a bigger deal in patriarchal days than the material double portion of the birthright — by actually deceiving his aging, blind father, Isaac.

Here’s the 60-second version of how the next 20 years played out… The revenge-minded Esau wanted to kill his brother, causing Jacob to flee to his mother’s family in Paddan-aram, where the trickster met his match in his Uncle Laban, who hired him for seven years in exchange for his daughter’s hand in marriage. (It was not uncommon in those days for your uncle to also be your father-in-law!) But the wily Laban pulled a fast one and sent his veiled, facially challenged daughter into the marriage bed,…forcing Jacob to work seven more years for the fairer Rachel. Then, in six more years of shepherding livestock, Laban changed Jacob’s wages 10 times, always seeking to have the upper hand in the business transaction.

But God graciously had his hand on Jacob, the promised seed of Abraham and Isaac through whom the Messiah would ultimately come. By the time God told Jacob to return to Canaan, he was a wealthy man with a large family, hordes of servants and enough animals to fill a dozen zoos!

Now we come to Chapter 32 and the place called Mahanaim, which literally means “Two Camps” (or Two Hosts, Companies, Bands or Armies, depending on your translation). In this famous chapter where God wrestles with Jacob and gives him a new name and identity, let’s look at five different scenarios involving “two camps” that could represent seasons in our lives. (NOTE: It helps make the story more personal if you substitute your name for Jacob’s!)

  1. The two camps of Jacob & God… When our protagonist first encounters the heavenly messengers, he must have felt quite secure after God had promised to be with him if he returned home. “Oh, hey God,… You’ve sent Your angels here to bless me and protect me? Great!” But Jacob had not surrendered his heart fully to the Lord by this time.

You can almost see him compartmentalizing his life,… “This is my camp over here,… and God, Your camp is over there.” Ever been there? “God, I’ll give you one day a week, but the other six belong to me, OK?” We probably wouldn’t say it that way, but actions speak rather loudly, don’t they? Read the rest of this entry »

Which Came First?

1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. 

Philippians 1:9-11

The Chicken or the Egg? Although the question attempts to demonstrate the apparent inability of determining the relationship of cause and effect, when the interdependency of each is inextricably linked, it isn’t that difficult for anyone who has read the creation account in Genesis to know the answer. The third day account (Genesis 1:11-12) is clear that the plants were created bearing seeds and trees were bearing fruits. And they were doing so in “their kind”. Created mature, the plants were prepared to produce life and fruit. Adam and Eve were created as adults and were able to “be fruitful and multiply”. SPOILER WARNING!!! It was the chicken.

It is common to read the Bible and see a sequence of events and assume that the last thing is the result of the previous things. In the Philippians passage above, Paul prayed for the Philippian church and the order of events appears to be:

  1. An abounding love in real knowledge and discernment
    1. Leading to
  2. Approving the things that are excellent
    1. So that you can
  3. Be sincere and blameless until Christ returns
  4. Being filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God

It appears that Paul’s prayer for love will ultimately result in “being filled with the fruit of righteousness”. However, at times, things in the English Bible translations do not convey the actual meaning of the words Paul actually wrote.

A careful look at the verb tense of “being filled” in verse 11 reveals that it was actually the first event in the sequence above. The Philippian Christians, and all other believers in Jesus Christ – including us! – were declared righteous by only their faith in Jesus Christ. That past event bore fruit in their life. And it is that fruit that Paul prays in faith they would manifest in their experience.

Seeing it from the actual sequence of events, then we can read Paul’s prayer as he intended it:

“Having been filled with righteousness by your faith in Jesus Christ, I pray that that you bear the fruit of your new life, producing an abounding love in real knowledge and discernment, which leads to approving things that are complete in excellence, so that you will be sincere and act blamelessly until Jesus returns. That is done to the glory and praise of God!”

When Christians believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation they are born again and from within them will come the life of Jesus Christ. Christians don’t love to be filled with the fruit of righteousness; rather, they can love as a fruit of the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. Paul’s prayer was for the church to do what new life produces. Love is the fruit of new life in Jesus Christ.

It was your faith in Jesus Christ that led to new life in Him and that new life bears fruit. When you believed, you were recreated and that new life was created with fruit in it. As Paul prayed for the Philippians to do what they could for the first time, we are in the same place: We can now experience the life that He created in His church. It begins with an abounding, immeasurable love. The Love we see in Jesus.