Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Tag: bible

Our King Has Come

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.” Isaiah 9:6-7

Last week our family was the first to arrive at the Christmas tree lot early Thanksgiving morning. We walked around a few minutes admiring the vibrantly green Fraser firs of various shapes and sizes while breathing deeply of the long awaited Christmas scent that only accompanies real trees. My husband spotted the most symmetrical tree I’ve ever seen and the following day we spent hours hanging green, red, and gold ornaments on its branches. Our afternoon was blissful as the Christmas music played and the scent of apple cider simmering in the crock pot filled the air.

As an adult I cherish the Christmas traditions of my childhood. I am, however, now presented with the profound opportunity to create memories, like those of last week, with my toddlers. I enjoy many things about the Christmas season such as twinkling lights, priceless time with family and friends, the chestnut praline latte from Starbucks, and thoughtfully chosen gifts. But above all I long for our children to collect memories of our family keeping Christ at the center of all our Christmas celebrations. My favorite
tradition, therefore, is remembering the Advent season together.

For many there is confusion surrounding the meaning and purpose of the Advent season. The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “arrival or coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. The Advent season stretches for four Sundays leading up to Christmas day. During this time we, as believers, look back and joyfully celebrate Christ’s coming whilst simultaneously looking forward with great anticipation to His certain return. Advent prepares our hearts to celebrate
the greatest gift humanity has ever received – Jesus Christ.

We are often referred to as the “microwave” generation, said to prefer instant gratification over waiting. Some think, then, it’s impossible for us to imagine how the Israelites must have felt waiting for Jesus to come. After all, the coming of the Messiah was promised thousands of years before He actually arrived.

But He came.

John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” The wait was long but God’s promises were fulfilled. Aren’t we also waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise? Over 2,000 years ago Jesus said prior to ascension, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). As we reflect on Jesus’ first coming we can rest assured of His fulfilled promises in the future. He said He would return for us.

He will come.

Observing Advent does not require elaborate daily activities. We don’t need the stress of adding a ton more to our already full “to-do” lists. The key, here, is simply celebrating a God so wildly in love with us that He humbly sent His only son as a human baby to be born in a dusty stable. It’s remembering a God so trustworthy that we know, without a doubt, that He will send His son once more to get us just because He said He would.

Here are some ways to intentionally celebrate the gospel story in our homes this Christmas season:

  1. Jesus Storybook Bible Advent Calendar Printable + Reading Plan
  2. Unwrapping the Greatest Gift
  3. Bible Verse Advent Cards
  4. Jesse Tree Ornaments
  5. Printable Nativity Set

Remember: Advent is a gift. It’s an opportunity for us to resist the cultural norm of hustle that typically occurs during the holiday season. It’s an invitation, instead, to slow down and savor the miracle that is Jesus Christ! I hope you enjoy the resources provided above and enjoy this Advent season to the fullest!

Advertisements

Still Thankful

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Oh, the irony of Black Friday following Thanksgiving! How bold! We just had the most thoughtful prayer alongside baked turkey, grandma’s dressing and a living room full of football; and lo and behold, here comes Friday making us forget how thankful we were yesterday!

But hold on, we’re shaming no one, nor the system, for our hyperactive push to engage our purchasing power. For its likely neither Black Friday nor any other marketing scheme is to be blamed for finding great deals. Let’s uncover an issue far deeper and more devilish than the half price of a long awaited recliner or smart TV.

From Eden’s Garden to the merchandise-loaded screens of today’s computers, the invitation to bargain for things we supposedly lack is simple and ageless. From deceiving Eve in thinking that even God was withholding something good, to the never ending task of keeping up with the Joneses, the heart of humanity is ever in quest of possessing “enough”.

Of anything, actually. For from clothes to tools or from food to mobile devices- our wardrobes are tight with new threads, pantries are stocked with staples, garages hang with gadgets, and our phones are quickly short on memory! From education to insurance to transportation to entertainment- we’re always in need of something else, or something more. So, for those under a rock the last few thousand years – hey, welcome to the real world!

Though material-overload and mammon-driven mindsets are the easiest lifestyles to adopt, it’s also true that the spiritual are most awakened when those temptations arrive. It’s then that we determine what’s important and essential. To know that godliness with contentment is great gain is to purify the motive of every goal and aspiration. It’s only then that we prove we “get it”! It’s then that we truly understand this one thing: to possess the eternal virtues and life of Jesus is the true measure of wealth, and to invest that Life through a mortal body set apart for His glory is to bring harvests and increases only Heaven can store!

Regardless then of status or caste, we must somehow digest the truth concerning our short time on earth in these temporal bodies. “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment, let us be content.” There are few verses as profound; and few verses so unilaterally equip us to direct our daily decisions. Through these we resolve to be wise in our choices, and wisdom has chosen well: Christ alone is our treasure!

Convinced through scripture of our completeness, wholeness and “lacking nothing life” in Christ, any rush for another purchase, project, pacifier or pal is summarily checked and filtered. If things advance the purposes of the Kingdom, we go for it! If they distract us from our eternal purposes, we boldly say no to earth’s sideline attractions! We’ve evaluated both time and treasure, and a life surrendered to Christ has no comparison and no regrets!

Ultimately, life’s decisions made with Christ in mind produce the greatest peace, the sweetest joy, and contentment beyond words!

Shift Thankfulness into Overdrive

…Which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1Cor. 2:8

Giving thanks is the expected response when prayers are answered, or when things desired are finally possessed. And it’s natural that pleasant friends, prosperity and positive futures create space for appreciation and thankfulness.

Yet, nothing challenges the heart like a journey chocked with uncertainties and complexities. Life in that lane requires a deep-seated trust in the providence and sovereignty of God. And when we experience things abstract, painful or seemingly unnecessary, it’s then the heart is truly checked. We’re thus comforted by scriptural accounts of those who, after setbacks, rejections and tragedies, are found later restored, elevated or given prominence.

As a witness to faith, Joseph’s life seemed to be a puzzling contradiction to everything planned and prophesied. The dreams of leadership and lofty glory seemed no more than LaLa Land when the realities of his life settled in.

And the contradictions of that young man are many: favored, yet frustrated; anticipating, yet disappointed; hopeful, yet shackled; righteous, yet accused; serving, yet unnoticed; loving, yet forgotten; promised, yet delayed; true, yet misunderstood.

On one axiom we can rely: Life is perplexing, but God is forever constant and faithful!

And as the above text of Jesus states, had Satan and the powers of hell possessed prior knowledge of Calvary’s victorious outcome – well, they would have never treated Him so cruelly! So it is with those simply resting in God’s providence and foreknowledge! We can be assured then that every dark attack, strategy, weapon or scheme is subject to the ability of God to destroy, or be used, for good! And remember, the scriptures admonish us often – that after we’ve done the will of God, we need to exercise patience, knowing we’ll soon receive the full promise!

So what profit does thankfulness bring to the table when life rolls out experiences contrary to faith and hope? How in any meaningful way is a grateful heart helpful, when everything seen and felt smacks of contradictions? Is thankfulness merely a prescription to dull the senses, a subtle distraction from reality, or a sinister bribe with the tinsel of false hopes? Is gratitude no more than busy work, an attempt to sedate the mind, or an alternative medicine to override the natural inclinations of complaints and murmurs?

No! No! No! And a thousand times, No!

Thankfulness is the confident declaration that faith has a strong grasp on God’s innumerable promises! Read the rest of this entry »

Pastor Appreciation

Everyone was created to honor and everyone does so naturally. It is an involuntary response to impression and admiration. We subconsciously evaluate everything and simultaneously bestow a measure of worth or merit to that object. This occurs innately based upon a deeply embedded value system. In others words, an individual will inherently give honor to that which they value.

However a problem occurs when the measure of evaluation is skewed because of a flawed or erroneous value system. We begin to honor things that have little value and place little honor on that which has great value. Welcome to 2017, where the tawdry is considered worthy of honor and the nonpareil is neglected. Therefore, to give honor accurately requires a just and true value system.

Those who followed Jesus began to argue on several occasions about which one of them deserved the most honor. “Who is the greatest,” they asked. Is it Peter, or John, or possibly James? They insisted that Christ answer them and validate their desire to know. Instead of answering their questions outright, Jesus used this divine moment as an opportunity to unveil His otherworldly value and priority system.

The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige, and position. In our status-driven culture, we determine a person’s greatness by their ability to demand service from others. Thousands of books have been written about leadership and influence. Everyone wants to lead, be prominent, and have authority. Honor given to these inferior aspects of life unveils our sin-skewed values.

Jesus responded to His disciples with this ethereal reply, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” (Mark 10:43) Greatness, therefore, is not influence, wealth or ascendancy. Greatness is service! With this new paradigm in place, we can now accurately apportion just honor.

After 40+ years of ministry and 20+ years of pastoral leadership, it is evident that Pastor Michael Davis has personified the characteristics of Christlike greatness. In a church culture where most leaders find their validation and satisfaction in their ability to demand and require of God’s people, he has remained vigilant to his responsibility to simply serve. If you spend anytime around Pastor Mike you will quickly learn there is no shred of pretense or the slightest air of ostentation. He has nothing to prove and no one to impress; he does not require our validation nor seek for our approval. He just is. He is pure hearted and authentic; he is generous and forgiving; he is selfless and sacrificial; he is unique and creative; he is fair and pious; he is committed and patient; he is honest and sincere; he is forthright and dependable; he is passionate and insightful; he is brilliant and eloquent. He is simply the greatest man, according to Christ’s definition, I have ever met.

He is a husband, a father, a preacher, a leader, an author, and a theologian but what makes him “great” at all of these responsibilities is because he is first a servant. On this Pastor Appreciation Month, we cheerfully honor the Senior Pastor of Impact Church and the overseer of all Impact Ministries, Pastor Michael Davis, for his Christlike and God-honoring service to the Body and Bride of Christ.

We celebrate your greatness.

Love,

Your Son

The One

“Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.” Psalm 23:6

Researchers suggest that bedtime routines are essential for establishing and maintaining good sleep habits for children. For that reason we’ve kept a consistent bedtime routine since our little ones were a few months old. Our nightly rhythm includes bubble baths, books, and praying together as a family. Just last night I was sitting in the floor, post baths, with one toddler in my lap and the other curled up at my side. We were reading books when one struck me in a fresh and profound way. The book is entitled, “I Promise I’ll Find You” and is written from the perspective of a parent to their child. The parent vows to find the child, if ever it is missing, no matter what. The end of the book reads, “And if I had no other way, I’d walk or crawl or run. I’d search to the very ends of the earth, for you my precious one.” Sweet friends, that’s precisely how our Heavenly Father feels about us.

Throughout all of Scripture the Lord reveals Himself as a diligent seeker of the heart of man. One parable in particular gives us a clear depiction of His heart as He compares Himself to a shepherd who, despite all logic, leaves ninety-nine sheep to seek and save the one lost. Luke 15:4-7 says, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Here’s our beautiful truth – Read the rest of this entry »

The Path to Honor

The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility. 

Proverbs 15:33

Had the scriptures not esteemed humility as a highly prized virtue, it likely would have been relegated to the rubbish heap of epithets and by-words centuries ago. At first blush, humility seems to be at best a counter-intuitive exercise of self-degradation; and at worst, an inhuman effort to desecrate and destroy one’s immeasurable potential and well being for a lifetime. No wonder God alone sustains and glorifies such a divine, yet humanly despicable, virtue.

Honor, on the other hand, is a universally desired quality since the days of Cain and Abel. To be favored, recognized and exalted before God and among peers is to deeply satisfy the inner workings of the human psyche. However, to truly grasp the glory and majesty of honor, we’d be wise to consult King Saul’s record to delve the dark depths men will go to possess such a status.

(Remember: Only things valued are ever counterfeited. Honor and humility are of great value. False humility is a counterfeit producing shallow honorees. These two empty suits produce cheap tinsel crowns, wooden thrones, and fickle kings. So God, please, spare us that potential reality!)

Honor is inextricably linked with humility, but arrives and is unpackaged only after humility’s high cost is paid. And noticing humility’s price tag is never less than a constantly sacrificed ego- few are willing to write and sign that profoundly proverbial check.

But despair no longer, guys! Both honor and humility are what they should be- beyond us and mere myths without grace as our divine helper!

Wisdom teaches that prior to any glorious honoring there’s an inherently inglorious humbling. Armed with that knowledge, humility brings obedience alongside to define and measure humility’s progress. Not a humility that’s measured by convenient contributions and pious words; but a humility measured by painstaking obedience, a counting not my life dear, and a determination to be accountable till the assignment is fulfilled.

We waste our debate breath if we argue who killed Jesus. Unequivocally, it was an unworldly obedience that lead Him full bore to his death on a Roman cross. And since obedience, by definition, requires volition, an act of the will – obedience, in measuring will and ethos, determined ultimately Christ’s degree of reward and honor. And what an honor He received! …And is yet to receive!

  • His Father/Son relationship inspired His humility.
  • His humility inspired His servant mindedness.
  • His servant mind inspired his obedience.
  • His obedience placed him on a shameful tree.
  • His death inspired His Father’s glorification and exaltation! (Heb 5:8) (Phil 2:6-11)

For those who love Him, the spectrum of humility is tightly book-ended by obedience. There’s a confession of faith on one end, and a body presented as a living sacrifice on the other. Now, whether in common self-denial or uncommon martyrdom, we gladly retain the sentence of death day to day for His namesake… All the while we anticipate the glorious return of the One who made humility and obedience an honorable endeavor!

So as opportunities to share life and light are afforded us this week, let’s stretch our collective love and faith muscles and allow God to use us in unanticipated and uncommon ways! There’s no limit to our power and influence when those Holy Spirit nudges are obeyed!

Love In Action

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” I John 3:18

A few years ago, right after my daughter turned two, I considered getting her a professional speech assessment. I was convinced she had an expressive language delay and should see a therapist qualified to help. Then seemingly overnight she began speaking in full sentences. Now, at the age of three, my little girl quite literally never stops talking. I’ve heard that the average woman speaks some 13,000 more words per day than the average man; my daughter gives credibility to this claim.

For her, words come easy; following them up with actions is much harder. There are many instances, after being unkind to her brother, that I’ve asked her to apologize. She obeys. Through gritted teeth and a clinched fist she says the words but sometimes acts in a way that reveals what is really in her heart.

Real love requires more than lip service. Thankfully, we possess a blueprint for how to love well. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” God doesn’t just say He loves us. He showed us. Over 2,000 years ago the Creator of the universe stepped out of heaven into the earth He created to demonstrate and prove that His love is real.

Furthermore, Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The mind blowing truth is that Jesus loved us when we were distant, selfish, and messy. He loved us still when we were promiscuous and prideful. Where the stench of sin is strong His love is stronger. God’s love is unconditional. We are now invited to love in the same extravagant way. Loving well without condition. Not loving others for who we hope they become but for who they are right now. Laying down our hammer and chisel and trusting the Lord to be the master sculptor.

Jesus loved well and He loved often. His love for humanity drove Him to action. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, forgave the sinner, raised the dead, and died on the cross for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God forever. His sacrificial death is still the most powerful expression of love the world has ever seen.

God is love. It’s necessary then, as children of God, that we abide in His presence learning the way of love from the One who is love. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, the manifestation of God’s glory in flesh, we are transformed into His likeness. By dwelling in His presence we allow the mighty sword of God’s word to pierce into our deep places and do the heavy lifting of change.

As we increase in His likeness may we increase in His perfect love. Let’s rock a baby to sleep for an exhausted new mom. Let’s pay for the coffee of the stranger behind us in the Starbucks drive thru. Let’s invite someone into our home and cook them a meal. Let’s put the phone away and look people in the eyes when they speak to us. Let’s call instead of texting. Since God dwells within us we have access to a limitless source of love. Let’s pour it out on the thirsty souls that God has strategically placed in our path. For love, in its purest form, has the amazing capacity to heal, cover, comfort, unite, and restore. Love is not invisible. Real love, the kind that stirs your soul and sets your heart on fire, leaves evidence of its presence all around. May we follow up our words with actions and love, this week, like we’ve been loved.

“How” Shall We Sing

Psalms 137:4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

Contextually, we see the Israelites perplexed and in a place unfit for their spiritual pedigree. After nearly two years of Babylonian besiegement, the worst has come to the most envied nation of the world. Continued sin and cold hearted rebellion has Jerusalem’s inhabitants exiled 500 miles away, confined to a heathen city steeped in paganism and idolatry.

And, as if the shame of captivity was insufficient judgment, the heathen required them to harmonize on the delightful songs of Zion and their King! (For worship, melodies and instrumentation from the Jewish Temple were known universally and universally unmatched.)

Thus the lament, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”

Not, “how can we sing with a broken heart?”, but rather a question crafted and framed with incomprehensible grace came (unauthorized version of course!),”How shall we then sing from this strange and painful place? Not “can”, mind you, but “how” shall we sing. So, in some new way, we must, and will, sing! Yes, even in tears we will sing! For even in our backslidings, You never left us! Even in our abject worst, You walked with us! You gave promises and made covenant with us. And even in our well-deserved judgments, You cannot deny Yourself, nor excuse Yourself from bringing us to a glorious destiny! So even though this is uncharted territory, and this is painfully awkward in every way, we’ll return to our roots …and sing!”

Say what you will about Israel’s foolishness concerning sin and disobedience. They experienced what was prophesied, and divinely received what they deserved. But more importantly, we have to believe God’s loving covenant anchored them, even in unspeakable tragedy.

So what do we say to the circumstances of our own condition? Are we immune to tribulations? Read the rest of this entry »

The Forgotten Doctrine of the Ascension

The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. (Psalm 110:1

Every Christ-follower can attest to the significance of Jesus’ incarnation celebrated at Christmas. If enough songs of praise were not penned about His miraculous birth, hundreds more rightfully followed hailing His death, burial and resurrection and their unmistakable importance in the redemption of man.

But how many hymns or worship choruses have you sung recently (or how many sermons have you listened to, for that matter) celebrating the day Jesus returned to His rightful place at the right hand of the throne of God?

The ascension of Christ — when our Risen Lord majestically rose off the ground He created and disappeared into the clouds 40 days after walking out of a borrowed tomb — is one of the key pieces in the giant puzzle of God’s eternal plan of redemption!

The triumphant day when the Son of God, the Redeemer of fallen man, would take His seat of authority and power at His Father’s right hand had been anticipated and even prophesied throughout the pages of the Old Testament. And David’s short 110th Psalm was quoted by Jesus Himself some 1,000 years after it was penned and was also referenced by Luke, Paul and John later in the New Testament.

Interestingly, the oft-missed magnificence and magnitude of Christ’s ascension can be summed up in four common directional words: up, down, right and under. Most Christians get fired up about the first two and almost totally disregard the latter couple.

When the Savior slipped the grip of gravity and went up into the heavens, angels appeared and assured onlookers that the same Jesus who was taken up would also come back down one day. For two millennia, the Church has clutched that promise of the Second Coming of our Lord! To this day, we still await that “divine descension”!

But the real power of the ascension lies in what happened between the “up” and “down” and the absolute assurance of what will come ultimately. Jesus assumed the seated position of honor, power and authority at the right hand of God, essentially putting the exclamation point on His “It is finished!” declaration from the cross of Calvary! The ascension to the throne room of Heaven solidified the Deity of the Bethlehem-born son of a carpenter: Jesus proved Himself to be the Messiah, the victorious Seed of the woman promised where it all began in Genesis 3:15. “Tetelestai!” indeed!

One may wonder what could possibly be left after the Master has declared His work “finished.” For those of us who have staked our lives on the reliability of the Bible, the only part of redemption’s plan that needs to be unfolded is a foregone conclusion: Read the rest of this entry »

Holy Invitation

“When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed Him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Matthew 14: 13-14

On an exceptionally cold day in February 1988 a couple, and their three teenage sons, experienced the interruption of a lifetime. They were enjoying a typical Friday evening until there was a knock at the door and God disrupted the rhythm of their daily life in a dramatic way. A four-month-old baby was dropped off at their home with only a trash bag full of personal belongings. This ordinary family was suddenly presented with an extraordinary opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus and love a baby in need. I’m thankful they said yes to God’s wild plan for their lives; the baby was me, and this family became my very own.

Jesus was constantly interrupted. He was interrupted when speaking to crowds, conversing with His disciples, performing miracles, sleeping, traveling, and even while praying. In Matthew 14, His cousin and dear friend, John the Baptist had just been beheaded. Jesus tried to get away to mourn but the crowds followed Him there. When He saw the people the word says, “He had compassion on them, and healed their sick.” He then goes on to feed the multitude with the five loaves and two fish. Jesus was always attentive and available to the needs of those around Him.

I love making lists and am especially fond of my planner. I meticulously manage my time and prefer for my days to be both tidy and predictable. I cherish routine and am not a fan of spontaneity. I sport an invisible do not disturb sign while hustling to accomplish the many things on my to-do list. I am a goal setter and go getter. The reality, however, is that life doesn’t always cooperate with my to-do list.

As believers we should be good stewards of all that God has blessed us with- including our time. Yet God alone knows who we need to see, where we need to go, what we need to do, and who we are meant to speak with. So when things don’t go our way we have a choice. We can get annoyed or we can respond graciously knowing that our Heavenly Father is in control and we can trust Him.

When my husband tells our daughter to put her shoes on so we can go I’ve never once heard her say, “Well, dad, I’m kind of in the middle of something right now.” She’s never listed all that she hoped to accomplish that day like building a block tower, having a tea party, or coloring a picture of Sofia the First. She’s simply excited that her daddy asked her to go somewhere with him. She drops whatever she’s doing without a moment’s hesitation. Sweet friends, God extends holy invitations to us daily. You see interruptions are not obstacles; they are actually opportunities for us to release our plans and submit to His.

Welcoming interruptions may cause us to say yes when we receive an invitation to lunch last minute. It could urge us to answer that phone call when we’re in the middle of doing something else. We may stop to speak to a stranger even if we’re running late to an appointment. It means looking for God in every moment of our day and choosing to honor Him and not our schedule.

May we become increasingly more like Jesus, and more like my parents, welcoming interruptions and recognizing them as the precious opportunities they are to walk out the Lord’s glorious purpose for our lives. Life with Jesus as our pilot is an exciting adventure! We get to be willing participants of what God is actively doing in the earth. So if something doesn’t go as planned this week let’s remember His planning skills are second to none.