Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Five Rewards of Generosity

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

What are the rewards if we trust God’s promises, give lavishly, and open our homes to each other and the needy?

1. The suffering of the saints will be relieved or at least diminished. That is what this verse means when it says, “Contribute to the needs of the saints.” We lift a burden. We relieve stress. We give hope. And that’s a reward!

2. The glory of God is displayed. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Lavish giving and open homes display the glory and the goodness and the worth of God in your life. The reason God gives us money and a home is so that by the way we use it people can see it is not our God. But God is our God. And our treasure.

3. More thanksgiving to God is unleashed. “The ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12). God has given us money and homes not just so that we are thankful, but by our generosity and hospitality to make many people thankful to God.

4. Our love for God and His love in us is confirmed. “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). In other words, when we give generously and open our homes, the love of God is confirmed in our lives. We are real. We are not phony Christians.

5. Finally, we lay up treasure in heaven. “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail. . . . For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:33–34).

Lavish giving and open homes are close to the center of life in Christ. The reasons we don’t open our checkbooks and homes as often as we should are rooted in the bondage of fear and greed. The remedy is the pleasure of Christ’s presence and the certainty of Christ’s promise: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Our reward is the display of God’s glory, the good of others, and the joy of treasuring Christ together forever. Therefore I exhort you, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

Priorities

“You shall have no other gods before Me…” (Exodus 20:3)
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matt. 6:33)

New year. Blank calendar. A fresh, unspoiled, unlived 357 days — more than 8,500 untapped hours — still before us…

While we are not advocates of flimsy resolutions and soon-to-be-forgotten promises of good-deed-doing, we are indeed grateful for January’s snowy white (😉) pages of opportunity and for the gift of uncharted time we have been granted.

Just a few days into 2017, can we pause to thank the Timeless One who created time for our sake? And can we surrender our wills afresh and anew to honoring His commands, walking led by His Spirit and simply being the light and the salt our Master has called us to be?
Maturing spiritually, bearing fruit and developing Christlikeness do not happen by one-time decisions or repeating “the sinner’s prayer.” They are the product of daily disciplines that lead to day-in-and-day-out decisions to follow the Spirit over the flesh. In short, the priorities of seeking first God’s kingdom!

Let’s take a beginning-of-the-year look at a trio of well-known areas where we can become more like Jesus as individuals and more like the triumphant Church that He has called us to be: our time, our talents and our treasure. Read the rest of this entry »

Total Trust

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

It’s now January and a new year has dawned. Not long ago the presents were unwrapped, the family dinners were eaten, and the “thank yous” were exchanged. The smell of evergreen still lingers in the air. Perhaps your decorations have already been tucked back into their storage bins and pushed to the back of the attic to eagerly await December 2017’s arrival. Nearly half of all Americans are busy making New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight, save money, and get more organized. But without a doubt all of us are thinking about this new year and what the future may hold. My prayer for us is that 2017 be the year we experience Proverbs 3:5-6 “trusting in the Lord with all of our hearts” like never before.

The weeks before our daughter’s due date were filled with more doctor appointments and fear, on my part, than I would like to admit. The doctors believed that she may be born with complications and as a result we were monitored closely and her scans were sent to neonatal specialists for further review. One night I selected a random book off of our shelf in an attempt to occupy my restless mind temporarily. It fell open to a page with this verse in the center- “Don’t be afraid. Just believe, and your daughter will be well.” (Luke 8:50) Immediately I knew that God was speaking truth to my fearful heart. In this scripture reference, Jairus had just been informed by a servant that his only daughter was dead. In response Jesus gave him this simple, illogical, seemingly inconsiderate instruction. Terror screamed from one side while hope beckoned from the other. Two voices were calling and he had to choose which to believe. He chose to find refuge in the promise of God’s word. He decided to walk in total trust. We did as well. I am thankful to report that our daughter was born with no complications in her body. And in case you were wondering, Jesus did what He promised for Jairus as well. Luke 8:54-55 bears out that Jesus “took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up.”

While the Christmas holiday is over, God’s gift to us remains. In Genesis 3:15 God says to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head and you will strike His heel.” This was God’s first promise that a Savior was coming. And come He did just as God had said. God’s greatest gift to us will always be His Son. It’s through Jesus that we are saved, relationship with The Father is restored, and we are set irrevocably free. But may I submit that Christmas provided one other gift for us as well – proof that God is completely trustworthy.

Trust is defined as a Read the rest of this entry »

That’s My King

2Cor8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich.

To the earthly wise, the manger that held the Christ-child was an inappropriate accouterment and incompatible to the finery of royalty. For if He were to be King and the Jews’ Messiah, then no barnyard could be the place of His birth. And a carpenter family in the little town of Bethlehem could never bring what the prophets said would be a Counselor, Prince of Peace, and the One whose shoulder the government would eternally rest.

But leave it to the wisdom of God to be glorified through small things and elements the world despises. For He revels in things men abhor and uses things men detest. And He dethrones things we enthrone and shatters things we painstakingly construct. So that the merits of eternal good are not lauded to mortals, but to One who forever transcends them.

There is no premise truer than that God is faithful to His Word. And should flesh attempt to obtain credit where His Word is at work, He ensures the origin and integrity of His work remains intact by allowing debilitating conditions to surface. And if that be true, nothing is truer in the unobtrusive introduction of His Son. Birthed apart from the trappings of nobility, honor and respect, His ministry must bypass the conventional protocol of kingdom building in order to establish one that must never cease!

Be assured. He did. And how He came to us, is as important as who He was, and what He did.  Read the rest of this entry »

Wait, I say, On the Lord

Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalm 27:14

I have a lot of dear memories from my childhood around this time of year. I love family and there is nothing better than being together at the holidays. We were not abundantly wealthy growing up but my parents were always intentional about teaching us about generosity and Christmas time was no different. They gave us gifts. Not extravagant gifts but they always loved to give and bless the three of us as much as they could. The more I read the Bible and learn about God’s nature, the more I learn their attitude of generosity stemmed from the character they saw in their Heavenly Father. He loved and therefore, He gave. (John 3:16)

My mom would have three plastic bags with the kid’s name on them. They looked a lot like trash bags but with Christmas decorations on them. She would keep them in her closet and throughout the year would periodically buy gifts for me and my sisters and begin to fill those bags. Most were small gifts or things that we needed for school. By the time Mid-December rolled around those bags were full and it was difficult for her to get in and out of her closet.

We were a busy family so we did not have much time to wonder or think about the bags until school let out. However, when school was out our anticipation began to get the best of us. We would intentionally walk by her closet to try to sneak a peek at the bags or we would try to bribe our siblings into telling us all they knew that Mom had bought for us. We had waited almost all year, almost 12 months, 51 weeks but that last week felt like it was going to be the end of us. We did not think we could wait any longer!

My baby sister was the worst. She could not stand the wait. She was so full of anticipation that she would lose sleep thinking about the presents. Sarah would begin around December 20th asking Dad every night, “can we open presents tonight?” Dad would first respond with resolution and conviction, “No, baby. Not tonight.” However, because of his soft spot for his baby girl and because no one can say “no” to her little pouty voice for long, it was just a matter of time before his resolve begin to diminish. I do not remember any year that we waited until Christmas Day to open our presents. At the latest Christmas Eve or even a few days before we would end up sitting in the living with our bags. Sarah had won, again!

Everything about this season is centered around waiting. We anticipate family, friends, lights, presents, and carols. However, the true meaning of Christmas is filled with waiting, as well. For thousands of years the world was awaiting the manifestation of God’s promise that a Son would be born. He would reign and bring justice. They waited by faith. They waited as a man became a family and a family became a nation. They waited from Abraham to Moses to David. They waited through the commandments and through the prophets. Lastly, they waited through 400 years of silence. They waited. Until they did not think they could wait anymore.

Finally, in a stall in Bethlehem their wait was over. The faith of generations was realized in one moment. God put on flesh and chose to dwell among us. Jesus, Emmanuel, our Savior was born! The wait was long but what we were waiting on was worth it. He is everything that was promised and prophesied. He is the fulfillment of every desire and hope!

Christmas shouts that although waiting is difficult, God is not just a promise-maker but He is a promise-keeper! Waiting on the Lord is never a waste of time. I know it feels like your anticipation is getting the best of you and you cannot wait any longer. We want it fast and we want it now. Before you give up or attempt to move in your own strength, remember God is not slack concerning His promises and His timing is perfect. Rest and trust. Wait on the Lord! The gifts are going to be there Christmas Day!

Living, Loving and Serving

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. Peter 4:8-10

Ahhhh, December! There’s something about feeling the sting of a bitter blast of cold on your cheek and hearing the kettle bells amid the soft strains of Christmas carols as you walk around The Shoppes at Friendly, isn’t it?

No doubt about it, there seems to be a renewed energy among many people at this time of the year. But while holiday cheer abounds in some folks, we acknowledge the all-too-real truth that the Yuletide is not filled with joyful cheer and jolly good humor for everyone.

We believers know the real meaning of the season is not found under a tree, but in the birth of a Savior who eventually would die on a tree. Our steadfast hope in the Resurrected Christ and His indwelling Spirit gives us peace all year ‘round. But maybe we need to be reminded occasionally that we – flesh-and-blood, dust-to-dust humans – are now the tangible Body of the Lord Jesus that the world sees, hears and touches.

What is a hurting, hopeless-without-Christ world seeing in our lives during this season? What are our friends and family members hearing from our conversations? Perhaps most importantly, are our neighbors feeling our touch as we reach out in love and compassion?

Have you noticed how easy it can become during these chilly days when the sun sets early to simply hibernate into our warm, cozy homes after work and repeat that process day after day? Often when we do get out, we’re on a mission and don’t want to be bothered with distractions. We pull up our scarves and pull down our hats as much to protect ourselves from being recognized as to protect ourselves from the cutting wintry wind. If we’re not careful, the coldness of the season can infiltrate and numb our hearts to the needs of humanity all around us.

Read this Fox News statement from four months ago quoting actor David Schwimmer (we know all you closet “Friends” groupies out there love Ross): Read the rest of this entry »

Having A Mary Heart in a Martha Season

I heard the gleeful laughter as it traveled from its place of origin in the bedroom where my husband neighed, quacked, and barked much to our children’s delight; I was standing in the kitchen washing dishes, alone. As they continued to play I wiped off counters, swept the floor, straightened the slightly off center candle and re-fluffed pillows for the fifteenth time; I would join them once finished. Not wanting to miss another moment I quickly scanned the room one last time to see if anything else needed my immediate attention. It did. Upon completion of this task it was bedtime; I had missed my opportunity to be a part of the laughter.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” If the enemy cannot steal, kill, or destroy he’ll distract. Often our drive for perfection is an attempt of the enemy to do just that. When we are distracted we become inattentive to important things that deserve our consideration. Take the account of Martha and Mary in Luke 10 for example; it resonates with me due largely to a photograph of myself that likely appears next to her most known characteristic- distracted. Martha found herself distracted by her drive for perfection and it threatened to rob her of probably the single most significant moment of her life. She loved Jesus so when He came to her house to visit she wanted to be the perfect hostess. Who could fault her? It was Jesus after all! Her sister Mary didn’t equally share her zeal for cleanliness and the perfect home cooked meal. Mary chose instead to sit still at His feet and be with Him while Martha scurried around working for Him. Jesus said that Mary made the better choice.

What about us? What do we choose? Do we allow the enemy to distract us to such a degree that we forget that God is Emmanuel, God with us? Are we experiencing the unbridled joy that being with Him affords?

Psalm 16:11 says, “In your presence is fullness of joy.” Joy is what we receive in God’s presence; Read the rest of this entry »

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 »