Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Category: September Devotional

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 »

Pastor Appreciation

October is nationally recognized as Pastor Appreciation Month. Historically, Impact Church has joined thousands of others across the nation in honoring and blessing our Pastors and their families. Although we’re thankful for the cultural establishment of this tradition and the structural reminder of a calendar, our passion and excitement for this opportunity is derived from our spiritual and divine nature.  As we discover the source of our celebration, the joy of this occasion will become enduring and consistent.

So, why do we honor our Pastors? Why do we greet them with reverence? And treat them with courtesy and respect? Why do we give gifts, write cards, prepare meals and offer words of commendation?

To Honor God

Ephesians 4:11 lists the servants given by God to the church – “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…” As the structure of church government is established, we’re encouraged in Hebrews 13 to remember, obey, submit and pray for those who rule over us.  When we yield in reverence to our pastors, we honor the arrangement and structure designed by God.  “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace as in all the churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33

To Honor the Position and the Work

“And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13) When we appreciate our Pastors, we do not idolize the man, but rather we honor the position he holds. Read the rest of this entry »

Creation Inspires Worship of Its Creator

20) For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse: 21) Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Romans 1:20-21

No rendering of Holy Script has a more stinging rebuke for ignorant human behavior than the Spirit does through the Apostle Paul in the Book of Romans! Retracing millenniums of human existence all the way back to creation, a quick keyhole look at the heart of Adam’s descendants uncovers an interesting, but seldom pursued revelation of man’s mind relative to the created world he lived.

Long before Moses and the Law, and certainly before Christ and Grace, God used the visible qualities of a physical creation to unveil the invisible attributes of God to an inquisitive humanity. And according to Scripture, humanity failed miserably in implementing what nature had imparted. And it’s not that nature was such a poor teacher; no, men chose to deny and suppress what their hearts had been made cognizant of!

The scope of divine ingenuity was placed in the tiny grains of sand as equally as the immeasurable constellations of the spacious starry night. In the majesty of the sun and the lesser light of the moon, God declared His glory before the spectators of humankind. The grace of the gazelle and the brute strength of the ox were testimonials of the extremities of the Creator’s abilities and essence. The unceasing waves of the seas and the unmovable permanency of the mountains spoke of His faithfulness and obviously considerable longevity. All of creation stood as a constant witness to an incredibly complex Creator! And man lived as an eyewitness and participant with an indelible experience.

And as a final declaration, nature made an uninvited and unretracted intrusion into the conscience of every single human being! The common presence of nature had preached to its highest form of being, and its highest form of being chose to ignore the Maker of it all! The saddest of commentary ensues from that disclosure, but that’ll be explored for another day! For us, there’s a far better ending! Read the rest of this entry »

Patient With Them All

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. (2 Thessalonians 5:14)

I love the practicality and simplicity of this exhortation from the Apostle Paul to the church and leaders at Thessalonica.  There were many new converts from paganism in the Thessalonian church and the Apostle understood the necessity of instructing and equipping the local assembly to shepherd and direct the early stages of their growth and development.  The seeking and saving of those who are lost is the passionate purpose and resolve of Jesus and of His Church. However, the saving of the lost is costly and carries much responsibility and even joyful consequence. Paul’s sincere and straightforward appeal is filled with applicability for our lives as we minister, care for, and serve one another.

Warn Those who are Unruly:  The word here rendered “idle”, or “disorderly” was originally a military term expressing the character of those soldiers who would not keep their ranks – out of the ranks. Different modes of treatment should be adapted to people in different situations; the unruly are to be brotherly and graciously warned.

Comfort the Fainthearted:  By “feeble-minded” the writer means the despondent or faint-hearted; those who were disheartened by the fate of their deceased loved ones and friends, or those who despaired of the grace of God because of the extent and depth of their sins. These were not to be reprimanded or rebuked, but comforted and encouraged. Read the rest of this entry »

Believe,…Receive,…Drink,…Gush!

If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me,as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. (NKJV) John 7:37-38

Let’s just start with this premise,… Followers of Jesus Christ are to be the most life-filled and life-giving people on the planet! Rather than enduring an existence of severe self-denial and asceticism, Christians should be exuberant with joy as we squeeze life out of every day!

John, who is rightly known as the “disciple of love” because of the emphasis of his writings, could also be labeled the “apostle of life.” His gospel contains more references to life than the other three gospels combined; when his three short epistles and the Revelation are included, he mentions life more than the Apostle Paul does in over half the New Testament.

In Jesus’ life-changing encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and in the verses mentioned above, John captures the heart of the Master as he refers to the abundant, everlasting life offered by Christ as “living water.” Isn’t it just like Jesus to equate His mind-blowing, never-before-experienced essence of life to something as common, plentiful and unstoppable as rushing water?!?

John in 7:39 let us in on the fact that the “rivers of living water” refers to the Holy Spirit who would be given in abundant measure after the Messiah’s death and resurrection. Bible students without a doubt reflect back to Moses striking the rock at Horeb, precipitating the miracle of millions of gallons of water gushing forth in the wilderness. Paul recognized that our spiritual Rock was Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 10:4). The smiting of that Rock on the cross and His ultimate resurrection and ascension to Heaven opened the way for the miracle of Pentecost as the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit was made available to all believers!

If the Holy Spirit lives in and through a Christian – and He does – then we are designed (reborn) to be a wellspring of life-giving joy and peace and hope to those around us. Did you notice Jesus’ word “rivers”? Read the rest of this entry »