Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Category: September Devotional

Not In A Hurry

“Jesus is perfect theology” is a statement I commonly repeat when studying and teaching the scriptures. It is simply a reminder that the life of Jesus was an exact representation of the will, thoughts, and actions of God. He completely demonstrated in visible, tangible form the nature of God that before Jesus’ incarnation was hidden and mysterious. Jesus asserts this truth to the Jews as they attempted to kill Him stating, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19) God had presented Himself through types and shadows for brief segments of time and to a select group of people. However, God’s glory was on full display in the 33 and a half years Jesus walked the earth. Therefore, before arriving at any conclusion on the characteristics and qualities of who God is and how He thinks, I must be able to observe it in the life of Jesus Christ.

Undoubtedly, when reading and understanding this truth our minds immediately began to think of the miraculous events that Jesus performed. It is logical to conclude on the greatness and might of God when confronted with the power and authority that Jesus walked in on earth. His authority over sickness, sin, and demonic force is clearly evident. However, the subtle decisions and movements of Jesus’ life recorded in scripture, that most people simply breeze past, speak just as loudly about the nature of God and what He values. Veritably, those instances are perfect places to study God.

One of the main aspects of the life of Jesus that consistently draws my deliberation is the unhurried manner in which He chose to live. In light of the knowledge that He only had a brief amount of time to accomplish His purpose and the reality that He was always aware of His imminent death at the hand of His persecutors, He still remained deliberate, measured, and calm. The scriptures never record Him anxious, rushed, or impatient. Only 33 years of life and a little over 3 years of Spirit-filled ministry, comparatively speaking, does not seem adequate to complete divine and supernatural design. Naturally, it would be common to expect rushed movements, hastened conversations, and urgent reactions. Jesus never lived that way.

In fact, we often find Him eating with His friends, leaving the masses to speak to seemingly insignificant individuals, attending festivals with His family, sneaking away to spend time with His Heavenly Father, and other activities that appear to be unwise usages of His fleeting earthly existence. If He were to make the most of His time, it would seem He should have made more efficient and productive utilization of His opportunities. Or maybe His approach to life and ministry was the truest representation of God’s nature. Even in a world where He was consistently tempted to do more, to go further, and to be urgent, He refused to be governed by reactions, external motivations, and driving ambition of time-sensitive, natural perspectives. He was solely under the authority of the One who sent Him. Time did not rush Him, opinions did not deter Him, and pressure did not move Him.

I have found that one of the enemy’s most common tactics to distract the gifted and the chosen is to force them into a pace that is set by another source than the One who gave them the call.  Frequently, we even cloud this motivation under “godly” guises and call it ambition or passion.  We run around accomplishing all we can, striking while the iron is hot, keeping up with the pressure of external impulse, all the while neglecting the beat of the drummer that sets our rhythm from His eternal viewpoint. This approach, although appearing spiritual, is as far as you can get from Christ-like living.

Living unhurried and patient is a sign of trust. Sneaking away to pray when there is so much work to be done is a declaration that the work is not done by might or earthly power but only by His Spirit. Resisting the pressure to do it all and be everything to everybody announces our belief in His oversight. We play a part in His plan. Our identity is found in understanding the significance of our portion in the grand scheme of all God is accomplishing. Run your leg of the race. Do it wholeheartedly and with everything you have! However, refuse the temptation to live outside of the graceful rhythm of His leading.

Advertisements

Fixed

Psalms 112:7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.

Epictetus, the Greek Stoic philosopher of two millennium ago, authored and taught the highly quoted adage, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters”. In view of the scripture text above, perhaps the Stoics extracted their “maxim” from the Holy Scriptures inspired by the Holy Spirit many centuries prior.

In any case, the anointed writer of the 111th and 112th psalm wrote boldly of a people flourishing under the care of extraordinary promises, ever-present protection, and unlimited provision. Intentionally profuse and verse upon verse, the love and wisdom of God is seen shepherding His chosen nation’s return to their favored land through hearty repentance and an incalculable restoration.

Thus, the only way that God’s people are freed from myriad inadequacies, idolatrous indifference, self-loathing and spineless insecurities is because of God infinite grace. And we are privileged to bless and worship God as He rescues us from sin, self-dug dungeons of doubt, pride-produced pains, and all-too-often poor decisions.

But what of a redemptive grace that addresses, not only our known deficiencies, but the nagging native weights of fear, worry, anxiety and stress? You know, those imaginative thoughts, the ones we eventually rebuke Satan for when we think them. Yes, the ones we oft store in our untidy, subliminal warehouse – that darkened basement where unanswered questions and things not yet understood are unloaded for later inquiry.

It’s a grand and glorious place to be confident, to be completely assured that we’re unconditionally loved and never alone. That’s good news! And without such knowledge we never succeed. And it’s nice to know our material needs of food, shelter and clothing are already ours by faith. Yes, seriously, those things promised and provided in advance changes the way we think, and do, daily life. We get it. And we’re always thankful.

But life isn’t always cut and dried, and it’s not always neat and in straight rows. Life can be messy and come at us in spectacular and unexpected ways! And quick answers to the “whys” and “what’s next” of our unanticipated predicaments can be at best elusive, or worse, unavailable. And we don’t function well as humans when our hearts are troubled and our minds confused.

But it’s comforting to know that God addresses life’s unexpected things, the things uncertain, and especially when they pop up on our mental screen as evil tidings or bad news!

From experience, that snarky tongue and mindset of “what if”, is the indicator of many fears and anxieties. That reactive catch-all phrase, when open to discussion, creates more questions and friction than gray duct tape on a groin pull. Invariably, when told of some new way of alleviating some issue or providing some helpful solution, we throw out our quippy default line – “what if”? And from there the dialogue dies, the remedy is untapped, and the dilemma remains.

To what length, then, will God go to remove the strength of a bad report from a trusted pediatrician or from some unmerited accusation? What brand of Divinity transcends the universal facts of war, violence, division and disloyalty – the very fabric constituting our sin-caused culture? Who can assuage the depressing angst fueled by toxic 24 hour “news” cycles permeating strife in most every facet of life? What “greater power” can remove the sting of foreboding financial crisis, looming shutdowns, dangerous weather forecasts, premonitions, intuitions, omens, prophecies, prognosticators, and “expert” opinion?

The above text, without apology or sense of shame, points us singularly to the simplicity of a God-approving faith. A heart that trusts the faithfulness of God, whether his outer circumstances are found to be favorable or not, his fixation on the Author and Finisher of all he believes to be true, overcomes any temptation to fear and dread!

So, to those dreading the possible news of the plant’s shutdown, the teacher’s phone call regarding the child’s evaluation, the mechanic’s report on that “clanging sound under the hood”, even the prophesied persecution of those loving Jesus – regardless the tenor of the reports, news, or “vibes”, we have an anchor that connects us to the One who changes not!

Going forward, let’s be confident in our responses to life’s quandaries by fixing our gaze on the God who unconditionally cares for us! So that whether our path is clear and comprehensible, or clearly muddled and as incomprehensible as a maze, fears and anxieties will no longer torment our hearts and avert our purpose!

If God be for us (and He is!), nothing else really matters

Happy Place

“But you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you”. John 14: 17b

God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.  there is no such thing.  ~ C.S. Lewis

It is in the dryness and barrenness of the human soul that it never rests. And it is in the endless search for climes that supply lack that the soul’s poverty is confirmed. And it is in the certainty that nothing can satisfy that the soul remains temperamental and transient.

Moving, changing, rearranging; restless and discontent- the soul of man is confined to an irritability that creates conflict and confusion, both in community and in the body it dwells. His efforts for control isolates, his search for fulfillment disappoints, and his struggles for independence imprisons. Succinctly put, it’s not easy being human.

But it’s not like there’s been a scarcity of above average people, entertaining places and pleasurable things to discover and experience the soul’s “happy place”. Let’s be honest here: human beings are on record as being extremely blessed with opportunities and experiences!

Consider Eden’s garden in Adam’s day as the near perfect “in” place to be. And with Moses and the Tabernacle, the presence of God was an enviously “cool” place to hang. Likewise, the Temple in Solomon’s day was “off the charts”! God has met with, talked with, and touched humankind in unimaginable ways.

Yet, no discovery, discipline, relationship, or experience ever brought peace to the ever searching soul. And that is as it scripturally should be. No man is created complete apart from God’s indwelling spirit. Though created as a living soul, and though God walked with man in the cool of the day- God’s eternal design was to live in man, not merely with him.

Though sin, through disobedience, entered the human race, and though God’s Law, as good and perfect as it was, could never redeem us, and though the road to get us here was incomprehensible Read the rest of this entry »

The Secret Place

Psalm 91:1 “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

Every year our family takes a trip to the beach. We relish slowing down and feeling the sand between our toes as waves crash against the shore in perfect rhythm. Our days brim over with the therapeutic sound of our children’s carefree laughter as they happily scoop buckets of ocean water and build countless masterpieces in the sand. We wake up early, stay up late, and soak up every minute we’re privileged to spend together. As much as we cherish our time in the sun, after a few days, we must pack our bags, load the van, and begin the drive back home. Vacations, while refreshing, always come to an end.

In Psalm 91, we read about a “secret place” of refreshing where we, as believers, can dwell. Dwell means to “sit down, live, and remain.” In our frantic, busy, on the go society, to sit down seems lazy, unproductive, and wasteful. We have been conditioned, as a generation, to believe that if we aren’t busy then we aren’t being wise stewards of our time.

The truth, however, is that God does not call us to busy; He desires instead that we be fruitful. We each have responsibilities to fulfill but we were never meant to live in a constant state of chaos, overwhelmed, or running in circles. We can be fruitful wherever God has planted us.

Yes, even here.

Even now. In this house. In this season. With our packed planner, overflowing laundry basket, and mile long to-do list. But how?

Psalm 62:1 says, “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him.” When we intentionally slow down and spend time with the Lord we experience ultimate refreshing and soul rest. The opportunity we have to dwell in the secret place of His presence is a precious gift that we could never earn. When Jesus uttered the words, “it is finished,” direct access to God’s presence was re-established forever. The penalty for our sins was paid in full. Read the rest of this entry »

Rejoice Evermore

Luke 10: 21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit…

A clause of such brevity, couched securely between the fruitful obedience of disciples and the foreordained will of God, offers potentially the greatest expression of a soul enthralled with life and truth. Knowing the travail and hurt of Jesus’ journey, to see Him rejoice at all is oddly provocative. For the traditional view of our pious Jesus is that of folded hands in prayer, whispered words of hope, and willing submission to violent men. Yet, to see Him rejoice at the level the text declares is to have both our perception of Him and our perception of difficulty, shattered to smithereens!

Ultimately, the Holy Spirit in breathing such words intends to expand our limited concept of God in order to expand our limited response to the rough and tumble of our own discipleship.

The Greek rendering of our English word, rejoiced, is “agalliao”, and is defined, “to jump for joy, to exalt, to be exceedingly glad with exceeding joy, to rejoice greatly”. And in the Hebrew, “to spin around (under the influence of any violent emotion) to be glad, joyful or rejoice”. Both are quite illustrative and far different than the sedated Jesus of modern academia. It is from these undiluted moments of Jesus euphoria that we gain insight into what true faith looks like! We understand and honor His birth, divinity and purpose; but the action verbs of His day-to-day living teach and inspire us at levels historical sketches never provide.

No scriptural mandate is more pure, emphatic or unworldly than Paul’s exhortation to “Rejoice evermore”, or “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” And they are no more impossible to obey in our own strength than those requiring us to be both holy and perfect. So that similarly, the greatest testimony of today’s discipleship is the consistent display of a glad and rejoicing heart.

Our gifts and talents may well speak of our abilities in Him, but the ability to consistently rejoice in Him declares, and requires, a far greater submission and strength. It’s only from the vantage point of a rejoicing heart that all of God’s prophecies, promises, and provisions are fully trusted and patiently anticipated. And when our circumstances and present surroundings are contrary (as they always seem to be!), Read the rest of this entry »

Do It Again, Lord

The Christian church was born through the power of the Holy Spirit. As we read through the book of Acts and the epistles of the New Testament, we see a picture of the early church the way God intended it to be. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

Here was a community of believers who freely loved the Word of God and were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. No one needed to badger or coerce them to love the Word. Instead, the Spirit within them inspired it. The same Spirit who wrote the Bible created an appetite inside of them for what it said. They shared with one another the deep love the Spirit had put in their hearts. They also became bold witnesses for Christ, filled with wisdom beyond their training. Their hearts were full of the Holy Spirit and they experienced surprises as God did things that no one could anticipate.

Not only had the Holy Spirit been sent to earth, but He acted in and through His people—demonstrating His power to glorify Christ. The early church experienced Him moving in their hearts and in their lives. Because of the hostile environment around them, they were repeatedly driven back to God for a fresh supply of the Holy Spirit, and they were wise enough to yield to His direction. Is the Holy Spirit moving like that in our lives? And in our churches?

I sometimes wonder if the early Christians were around today, would they even recognize what we call Christianity? Our version is blander, almost totally intellectual in nature, and devoid of the Holy Spirit power the early church regularly experienced. How much loss do we suffer because we don’t expect the Spirit to show up as promised? Everything we read about the church in the New Testament centered on the power of the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of the Christian believers. Sadly, for many of us this has not been our experience.

I believe it’s time to return to the kind of faith we see in the New Testament church. They believed God’s Word, they expected the Spirit to do great things, and He came through as promised.

He will do the same for us today.

Is Image Everything?

“Everything they do, they do to be seen of men…”
Matthew 23:5 (NLV)

If you are a sports fan, you may have heard in recent weeks that two of the biggest names in golf — Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy — are looking for new clubs.

Nike, which has supplied these guys with their playing equipment in recent years, has announced that it is scrapping its production of clubs and balls because sales are “underperforming” in the market sector compared to competitors like Callaway and Titleist.

What’s interesting is that Nike isn’t leaving the links altogether. To the contrary, the multibillion-dollar company intends to expand its ubiquitous swoosh logo’s visibility by sponsoring more PGA pros,…but only with its clothing and footwear lines. And the sports giant apparently decided to “just do it” after rival Adidas earlier this year put up for sale its golf-equipment brands of TaylorMade and Adams.

devo(Photo credit: Associated Press)

So what’s the point? Well, one might infer that appearance is more important than performance. Consumers apparently are more than willing to spend their hard-earned dollars to look like Tiger and Rory even if they’re not willing to try to perform like them in making birdies.

Seems like the old PGA Tour adage could be updated to “Drive for show, putt for dough,…but dress to impress!” (Or the Fifth Avenue hucksters might change “These guys are good!” to “These guys look good!”)

Just as in athletics, the religious realm is no stranger to posturing for the public. When it came to image management, the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day were the pros at looking good. But the Master lashed out with laser-like intensity by repeatedly calling them blind, foolish hypocrites: “You are like white-washed tombs, which look fine on the outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all kinds of rottenness.” (Matthew 23:27, Phillips)

Whether that stinging statement makes you laugh or wince, remember that Jesus directed those darts at the religious leaders of God’s chosen people. Read the rest of this entry »

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

Genesis 4:9
And The Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: am I my brother’s keeper?

Matthew 11:28-30
Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The baby-boomer generation, born in hope after the 40’s War that supposedly would end all wars, found itself again in the 60’s entangled with bloodshed in Vietnam abroad, and sliced with bloodshed in civil unrest at home. Yet strangely, the weariness of war and brooding civil turmoil inspired some of the most idealistic songwriting ever to grace secular radio and television. And whether that generation found its way or not, it didn’t come from a lack of inspiration. For some of the greatest of Gospel voices came through that era, and the nobility of man’s potential spoke in myriad venues of talent.

The Hollies 1969 hit song lyrics, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”, became household lines:

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where

But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there

For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Isn’t filled with the gladness
Of love for one another

It’s a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there
Why not share

And the load
Doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

He’s my brother
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

Our play lists may not include this hit, but we should relish the virtues lyrics of such thought espouse. They would have rebuked Cain in his bitterness; Saul in his malice towards David; the Philistines’ revenge against Samson, and the haters of Jesus would have at least reconsidered. Yet, the burden of mankind’s sinful nature is too heavy to shove off with a song; its power far too embedded to think lofty ideals or even God’s divine Laws could bring creation’s highest order to its highest calling.

Humanity without grace is contradictory and self-serving; promoting idealism, while at the same time annihilating it with uncontrollable lusts and lustful control.

Yet, hostility is simply the outflow of being constantly frustrated. And the damning sentence of guilt and condemnation, in which all fallen humanity resides, is the cauldron from which destructive self-interests spawn. And though the sacrifices of slain beasts relieved the people’s angst short term, no resolution or alternative sin-bearer existed. Humankind had reached an impasse – either carry its condemnation and inflict pain and hurt,… or maybe this Jesus guy is who He says He is.

Three progressive questions must be answered in the affirmative for His promises of freedom to come: Read the rest of this entry »

A Call to Worship

“The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,” 

Psalms 19:1-4 NKJV

In 2010, scientists announced a speculation that there are probably 3 times as many stars as they had previously thought to exist.

In an article called “Starry Starry Starry Night: Star Count May Triple”, a new study says that there may be 300 sextillion stars in our galaxy alone. The article attempts to explain the magnitude of that statement by asserting “that is a 3 followed by 23 zeros. Or 3 trillion times 100 billion.” Wow!

That is a lot of stars! These facts are incredible and it is amazing to consider the beauty and majesty that surrounds us daily. As believers, these facts are even more awe-inspiring because our attention automatically elevates to the One who is responsible for its creation. And in that moment, these jaw-dropping facts become more than facts; they begin to speak of Truth.

Psalm 147:4 says “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” Therefore, not only is the existence of these stars incredible to consider, the truth that the Creator knows and named them all, is even more incredible.

I am thankful that this simple article from 5 years ago was brought to my attention this week. Not simply so I can know about astronomy and the newest findings by present day scientists but because it gave me yet another moment and reason to reflect on the greatness and grandeur of God. And it inspired worship!

One of the scientists in the article concludes the numbers of stars “are equal to all the cells in the humans on Earth.” What a unique “coincidence” Our worship can be steadied on the foundation that our God is great and greatly to be praised!

Amen and Amen!

Pomegranates and Honeycombs

“And Saul tarried…under a pomegranate tree,… But Jonathan…put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.” (1 Samuel 14:2, 27)

The ancient land of Palestine in Old Testament days apparently was filled with pomegranates and honeycombs. Prominently mentioned again and again in Scripture, these natural products are rich in symbolism and meaning.

Images of the pomegranate, a reddish-brown fruit resembling an apple, were featured on the hem of the high priest’s robe and adorned the tops of the pillars in Solomon’s temple. It was a symbol of fertility, life and abundance — probably because of what was on the inside. You see, a pomegranate is known more for 600-plus seeds typically found concealed in its core. Its very name means “seeded apple,” while the Hebrew word comes from a verb meaning “to rise up.”

Interestingly, Israeli soldiers use the fruit’s name as slang for a hand grenade (since it sounds like “palm” + “grenade,” perhaps),…but maybe because its real power is in what it possesses inside!

One thing is for certain,…pomegranate bushes were not meant to be shade trees. Yet, we find King Saul in 1 Samuel 14 cowering from his Philistine enemies under such a tree. Instead of “rising up,” Saul — a type of dead, fleshly religion and faithless works — is not tapping into the abundant life and promise to which he has access. He is portrayed as sitting under a “seed tree,” full of the power and life-giving potential of the Word of God, but not doing anything with it.

By contrast, his son Jonathan in this chapter steps out in faith with only his armor-bearer at his side and confronts the heavily fortified and well-armed enemy with an inspired attitude of “it may be that the Lord will work for us” (verse 6). In other words, why don’t we make the first move and give God something with which to work! Our God honors that kind of faith, and the chapter details a miraculous victory for His people that day! Read the rest of this entry »