Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

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.

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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 »

No Matter What

It’s 6 am and darkness still covers the ground. I sleepily shuffle to my Keurig and impatiently wait 30 seconds while the water heats up so that I can push that glorious blue flashing button. After my liquid joy, known simply as coffee to some, is made I make my way to the bar stool to sit. I open up my leather bound bible and begin blissfully reading Psalm 81:1, “Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to….” Suddenly the sound of real life shouting from my tiny tribe pierces through the silence and alas my quiet has abruptly come to an end, again.

This is my everyday reality. Waking up early before my children do and spending time alone in God’s word truly is my jam; however, more often than not it just doesn’t happen. I live in a season of noise.

What about you? Perhaps you are in a season where your daily grind is noisy. The kids are crying. The bill collectors are calling. The boss is talking. The dog is barking. You’re being pushed and pulled in 1000 different directions and you long for the tranquility and peace that accompanies the quiet.

If you’re like me you also long for quiet “inside.” Regardless of our external reality we all know what it’s like for it to be noisy internally.

One recent example of the external directly affecting the internal involves my daughter who behaved in an unacceptable manner. As I sat her in time-out her tear-filled eyes searched mine and I knew what she was looking for. The question in her eyes was clear. I have asked my Father the same one; “Do you still love me?”

It’s amazing how much noise arises due to questions concerning love. She’s only two so she doesn’t yet know that from the moment I discovered her existence I’ve loved her fiercely. She doesn’t have to work for it and she could never do anything wrong enough to make me stop. My love will never be dependent on her actions because it was there before I ever held her in my arms. Likewise, my friend, Read the rest of this entry »

Trust is Power

“Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Mark 4:38

Is not this desperate appeal for help a common reaction when our lives or livelihood is in jeopardy? And do we not exercise our ever present right to blame something or someone when others could, or should, intervene and save us from peril and pain? Of course, it’s common to patronize such responses. For we’re conditioned to redirect our fears and uncertainties to outside power sources, in hopes our distresses are alleviated and our fears assuaged.

And do we not often bemoan the fact that few acknowledge or sympathize with our dilemmas, uncertainties, injustices or negative experiences? Does anyone really care anymore? Are we now expected to fend for ourselves? Are we to configure and plan the joy and fulfillment of our lives through social connectedness, perfect timing, or favorable winds? Or far worse, are we winging life by trusting good luck charms, vibes or karma?
Be sure, the parallel of the disciples’ fearful experiences on the Galilean Sea are not so far from our own. For though we may never embark with Jesus on a boat to cross the sea, those who’ve believed in Him have in a figure enlisted with Him on the journey of journeys… Life!

So it’s not strange then to hear fellow believers bewail the downward spiral of our world; of our culture, the breakdown and perversion of morality, the division of religions and races, or the rancorous state of our elected officials. “Where’s God in all this?” we mutter on Monday as our chaotic world tilts and its trusted systems implode. Yet on Sunday and on cue, we sang gustily, “What a mighty God we serve”! Seems we’re not so different from those drenched disciples who woke up Jesus to save them from the perils of the sea!

Our human sympathies extend to these disciples as they, through fear, approach Jesus with, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?”. Yet it elicited a loving reproof from the One who invited them to the journey! He abruptly calmed the storm with a “Peace be still”, but He also quickly challenged their faith. “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”

Moral of the storm? Read the rest of this entry »

Anchored In Christ

My heart was pounding, my hands were shaking, and tears were cascading down my face. I sat paralyzed, staring at my laptop for far longer than I’d care to admit. With each flash of the cursor at the top of the empty word document, my heart was being assaulted. Lies were being hurled my direction at the speed of Chapman’s fastball during the 2010 minor league season. I felt the impact as each pitch hit its intended mark and chipped away at my confidence.

“You are not a real writer. You are not equipped. You have nothing to offer. No one will connect with your writing voice. God can’t use someone like you. Your past is too tainted. Your present is too messy. You are not enough. You should give up.”

“CRACK!” Each pitch struck my vulnerability with such force that my confidence was crippled by the fear that perhaps truth was found in these accusations.

My husband once told me that when an engine is built it is created to support a vehicle of specified weight. If the assembled vehicle surpasses the target weight for which the engine was constructed, the engine will fail. The Holy Spirit gently reminded me that there are some things that are too heavy for me to support. My calling is most certainly one of those things.

I believe that we are each assigned a calling that we will never see come to fruition without the active work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot hone our craft, pad our bank account, or work harder and longer and that be enough. This, sweet friends, is a relief. Our callings are not dependent on our work so much as they are our trust. Read the rest of this entry »

All Things

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
(Romans 8:28)

Few would dare to question that Romans 8:28 is one of the highest summits of Scriptural truth. But, sadly, it is frequently misquoted and misunderstood. Non-pious folks often point to the verse with “It’s all good” nonchalance, while devoted believers sometimes err in the opposite direction by limiting its scope whenever life throws them a curve.

First, let’s look at what the Apostle Paul does NOT declare:

  • “Relax. Everything is going to be all right for everyone. The Bible says so.”
  • “Don’t worry. When you become a Christian, nothing bad will ever happen to you again.”
  • “Well, God can forgive and redeem most of our mess. But if you cross the line, you’re done.”

The incredible promise and declaration of God’s sovereignty in this verse is limited only in its intended audience. Paul’s “we” early in the statement is directly connected to the two “those who” phrases that come later. So the blessed assurance offered by the Apostle is meant only for born-again believers who love God and are called by Him.

To be compassionately clear, the Bible does not say that everything is going to be all right for everyone. Job rightly declared that in a fallen world man’s days are brief and full of trouble (Job 14:1). Yes, Jesus said the sun shines and the rain falls on both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45),…but only God-lovers can rest in His promise that He will redemptively work on our behalf so that life’s circumstances ultimately produce a result that is for our benefit and His eternal glory.

Now, what about children of God who are struggling with their faith because they can’t seem to get past the guilt and condemnation of past sins – or even the immature decisions they’ve made as a carnal Christian? Certainly, there is a natural law of sowing and reaping, but Paul spends the first half of Romans 8 reminding believers that if you are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation because you’ve been adopted into God’s family and hold the high position of His heirs (vv. 1-17)!

Does that mean you will never experience trials, afflictions, heartbreaks and disappointments? No, of course not. The world is still fallen; glory still awaits after the King’s return. Read the rest of this entry »