Impact Church

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Tag: christian teaching

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!

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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 »

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.

Give Me This Mountain

Now, therefore, give me this mountain ~ Joshua 14:12

Few there are who have not experienced frustration in waiting for the fulfillment of a dream or promise. The faith of a former time visualized a possibility: maybe a grasp of reality through a divine promise; or maybe some sense of a rightful possession through a divine connection or relationship; or perhaps the fruition of time awaiting an inevitable inheritance. Whatever was believed, whatever faith had made deposit for that season, faith would likely be introduced to undesirable interruptions, delays and complications.

From faith’s anticipation of fulfillment to the anxiousness of where’s the promise, the testing elements of space and time appear. And from wondering why, how, and how long will it be, the experiential virtue of hope waits to come alongside as faith’s support. Lest faith grow weary, an endearing ally to faith arrives; a brother of the same spirit, of the same courage, of the same vision. A friend to faith that encourages faith to endure, to persevere, to patiently learn contentment till faith has overcome every opposition. So that where faith is engendered, so the inseparable friendship of hope is also found. Hope becomes the constant lifter and confident lover of those who believe life beyond the periphery of natural sight. And though time and trouble may seek the demise of faith’s invisible substance, hope stills the angst and assures faith that the journey will reach completion. Hope underwrites what faith saw from the heart, making disappointment an impossibility and joy a guarantee.

Consider then today’s scripture. Caleb never lost vision for his life, legacy, destiny, or his nation. Time rolled on, but he never gave up on his rightful place in the Promised Land. Forty-five years before, Caleb, one of twelve spies under Moses’ leadership, explored the land of Canaan and found it a highly desirable land. It’s likely the territory Caleb personally spied out, was in fact the Mt Hebron region he was emphatic about taking when he returned from the reconnaissance detail he’d been assigned. Brimming with confidence and assured of God’s help, he declared: “we should take this land! Right now! I know there are some tough guys over there, but that’s our home and God will see us through!”

May we not forget that the Hebron region of the Promised Land was known for the home of the giants. Not the San Francisco Giants, but the sons of Anakim, the largest and fiercest of mountain dwelling warriors. May we also remember that though 12 spies ventured into the land, only two returned with reports of courage, faith and confidence. And sadly, their fellow spies turned the hearts of the Jewish people against conquering the land, and forty years of wondering and wandering were the dishonorable and tragic aftermath of a nation in utter unbelief.

But let us dwell on the good part, the Caleb part, the faith part; yes, the part where, in several scriptural occasions, Caleb wholeheartedly follows his God! His commitment, his faith-filled words, his patience, his unmoved trust in God’s promises for his chosen people- those virtues lifted him above the clamor of the fearful and declared his qualifications for receiving whatever his faith desired! Through decades of Israel’s seemingly fruitless existence and innumerable temptations to forget their purpose and call, Caleb remained resolute in trusting God’s care over His promises for His people.

So after so long a time, forty years in the wilderness and five years more as the Promised Land is being inhabited, Caleb implores Joshua to “give me that mountain! I saw it as mine when I was 40 years old, and though I’m now 85, I’m just as capable of taking that land now as I was then!” And Caleb got what he asked for! The tribe of Judah finally got a place they called home! (A real home for sure, for Hebron was the burial site of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the matriarchs Sarah, Rachel and Leah. Jewish tradition also places the bodies of Adam and Eve being buried there!)

“Give me that mountain” has been the rallying cry of many who’ve fought against time and elements to achieve a goal or receive a promise or experience a dream. The ageless spirit that dwelled with Caleb has never left the hearts of those who’ve caught a glimpse of God’s promised favor and glory! That Spirit now indwells the Church, the Body; the people Christ gave His blood to redeem! May that indomitable Spirit be forever abundantly visible in the thoughts, words, and deeds of those who call on the name of Jesus!

Read the rest of this entry »

This Grace in Which We Stand

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1,2

“In the whole Bible there is hardly another chapter which can equal this triumphant text!” Those were the words of Martin Luther describing the fifth chapter of Romans.

Thank God for Romans 5! After spending the better part of four chapters convincing us that we all, Jews and Gentiles, stand guilty before a holy God and are in need of a Savior, the Apostle Paul seemingly turns his pen into a laser of welcome sunlight. Not only has Jesus Christ satisfied the demands of the Law and paid the debt we could not pay on our most self-righteous day, but His atoning work on Calvary has given us benefits beyond our comprehension!

Sadly, many Christians seem to be content with being forgiven and saved from hell. But Paul clearly declares here that our salvation is not the top rung of the ladder; indeed, it is the starting point of a whole new life in Christ. A mind-blowing, intimate adventure with the Creator of the universe is now ours since we are justified (put in right standing with God) by believing that Jesus lived, died and rose again so that we might be reconciled to His Father.

The power and authority of sin has been defeated in our lives as we accept Christ’s righteous sacrifice in our place! Brethren, we are not just forgiven,…we have been made sons and daughters of the King! And this royal new birth comes with privileges! It’s time to get excited,…Hallelujah!

Paul spends the whole chapter developing the “Ok, we’re saved,…Now what?” theme. Let’s just look quickly at the first two verses for a few fringe benefits of being a follower of Jesus: Read the rest of this entry »

Believe That Even Now, God Will Still Help Us

Acts 27: 21) ..Sirs, you should have hearkened to me… 22) and now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. 23) For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve.

No imagery arises as quickly and vividly as the breaking news of a ship lost at sea. Throw in nature’s raw violence of hurricane winds and the brooding psychological maelstrom associated with days without seeing the sun and stars – and there is narrative and drama sufficient for a full feature movie.

Inherently infused in the fury of any disaster are personal stories – some of heroism and valor, others of fear and selfishness, and always some of faith, courage and wisdom. It was in a setting of such terror that Paul became the single voice of reason and hope. His wise approach to crisis became fruitful when he overcame three major temptations: 1) when he renounced any victimization of circumstance, 2) when he rejected repeatedly the temptation to be a jaundiced critic of inferior intellects, and 3) when he refused to be an angry finger-pointer when he could well have been justified by those scorning his advice.

Divine wisdom rooted in the heart of the righteous rises to prominence when those of lesser character are losing hope. And when crushing regrets become centerpieces of conversation, or when condemnation and guilt set the present but dour mood, it’s there that the mind of those born of God is at its heavenly best.

So remember that after losing much of the ship’s cargo, much of its rigging and tackling, much of the confidence common to rugged sailors, and while much of the storm was still raging and inflicting damage – Paul declared before 275 shipmates that things were going to be okay. Not in pride’s fleshly and arrogant boast, but in the calmness of faith in a heart that had experienced God’s presence in previously dire situations. There is no inherent logic or iPhone weather map that inspired Paul’s confident report; only the presence of an angel confirming God’s instruction through the crisis. We’re going to make it; it won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick; but we’ll make it! Be of good cheer!

Yet, Paul didn’t ignore the disobedience and failed attempt of those who sailed against his counsel; neither did he allow it to be the focus. Wisdom made its point, placed the faulty decision squarely on those who missed it, and moved forward with revived hope and courage! Isn’t that so like God? God never overlooks our sin, selfishness or stupidity, nor does He ignore us because of such; but exposes their weakness and impropriety, so that our next step is based on God’s constant care and clarifying purposes! How kind and merciful is God’s grace that after we’ve royally flubbed up, He brushes us off and sends us back in the battle!

Delinquent and overworked parents often spawn delinquency and distance in their children. Never intentionally, no; but disciplined lives diminish such opportunities.

Careless spouses often create crisis in marriages. Never intentionally, no; but intentional connection times are a simple antidote for coldness and apathy.

Unguarded youth are susceptible to undue temptation. Never intentionally, no; but holding a hand, guiding the steps and teaching a heart may save some from falling through the cracks of an uncaring culture.

Devastating affections and destructive addictions seldom scream “Run” when in the flirting and winking stage. We’d never intentionally be entrapped, no; but hearing and considering the end of their pain and anguish may redirect an awakened life.

So to wise men, teach. Be an example of righteousness and character. Inform, educate, counsel and embrace. Be diligent in explaining the long term effects of another’s behavior, whether proper or improper. Wear the mantle of knowledge and wisdom with confidence and compassion. Love others enough to speak the truth in love; and allow what’s offered time enough to process and obtain a positive course of action. The Holy Spirit is expert in such occasions.

And to the wise, teach the fallen and the falling, the failures and the failing, equally. Be available to the undiscerning, to those less adept at life, those drowsy with temporal interests, and those who seem to have run out of grace. Don’t condemn with finality or disconnect with harshness from those in our “boat community” who’ve messed up… again! We are in this race together, we are our brother’s keeper, and we are the saving voice and loving care so many need to move their lives forward!

Remember: whatever Jesus has done and been for us in our experience, may we be the same to others in theirs!

Stay With The Bunch

Two are better than one,…and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Ever seen an episode of “Wild Kingdom” or a National Geographic special? Think about the moments leading up to the lion pouncing on his prey. There is usually a herd of animals clambering near a waterhole, but the hungry lion doesn’t have his eyes on the potential smorgasbord. Instead, he is locked in on the antelope who has wandered off from the pack.

To avoid the unsavory scene about to unfold on your mental screen, let’s consider another one of nature’s lessons. Picture stepping into your kitchen and spotting a bunch of ripe, yellow bananas,…and a separate one that has already been pulled from the rest. Which one is about to get peeled?

What is true in the Serengeti and in your kitchen is often true in the church world as well. It’s the one who splits off from the rest that is an easier target for the predator. Now, after you get over the shock of having been just compared to a ravenous lion, consider who the Apostle Peter says is stalking isolated Christians who start to sever their ties to a local body of believers.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9, ESV)

Which believer do you think is an easier target for Satan: the one who is entwined with like-minded brothers and sisters in the weekly life of the congregation, or the one who shows up only for worship services on a somewhat regular basis? There is no wonder that Peter warned us that a big part of our resisting and standing steadfastly in our faith is to remember that we are not isolated members of Christ’s body but part of a worldwide brotherhood!

Jesus knew we needed to belong to something bigger than ourselves. If anyone ever could have accomplished His purposes as a Lone Ranger, certainly the Master could have done it. But He hand-picked what Millennials today would call a “posse,” a group of followers with whom He shared His life and ministry. He enjoyed intimate fellowship with His friends, investing in them and sending them out in pairs to proclaim His life-transforming Gospel!

Sounds like Jesus knew well the principle that the wise King Solomon laid out in Ecclesiastes 4. Two are better than one – not the worst philosophy when you’re considering that banana sandwich, by the way – …and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Earlier, Solomon praised the countenance-lifting virtues of simple friendship and brotherhood, even when adversity arises. (Proverbs 17:17, 27:6,17)

What the two wisest men who have ever walked this earth knew is this: life is better lived in fellowship and loving relationship – Paul calls it “koinonia” in the Greek – with others who share the common bond of faith, love and devotion to the Godhead.

Sadly, many believers run from the church when they should be running to it. They hit the rough patches of life: Read the rest of this entry »

Not Yet

7:1 After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. 2 Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near.

3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him.

6 So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. 8 Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” (John 7:1-8)

Making Jesus and the Church attractive to the world and popular with everyone is a worldly temptation.

Jesus healed the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda in John 5. After 38 years of futile waiting, the man had no man to place him in the healing waters. Jesus sees him. Asks if he wants to be healed. It’s the Sabbath. The man believes and Jesus commands him to get up, take up his mat, and walk. 3 verbs. After that many years waiting, Jesus could have waited for another day to heal the man. He chose to heal him on the Sabbath, the 3rd miracle in the Gospel, to solicit a challenge with the Jewish leaders.

The next feast is Passover referenced in John 6. Jesus never made it to Jerusalem for that important feast. Instead, He spent His time around the Sea of Galilee, feeding 5,000 and walking on the water for His disciples. He told the Jews following Him, looking for another free meal, “I am the Bread of Life.” By the end of the chapter, Jesus offended the multitudes with His command to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. At the sound of the hard sayings, all but the 12 disciples abandoned Him. Peter offered the reason why they stayed – even Judas; “”Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Right on the heels of Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Holy One of God”, John takes us to the Feast of Booths, and Jesus’ unbelieving brothers. They offered 3 points of counsel:

#1 – 7:3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing.
MAKE A SHOW OF YOUR WORKS!
#2 – 7:4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.”
PUBLICIZE YOURSELF TO THE WORLD
#3 – 7:5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him.
UNBELIEF LEADS TO WORLDLY COUNSEL

Long before radio, TV, social media, web sites, page views, followers, likes, etc. the temptation of impressing the world with spiritual truth has been present. Jesus’ brothers are an example of following the worldly counsel of unbelief.

Jesus had three responses to their sinful counsel: Read the rest of this entry »

Stay the Course. Be the Light.

Acts 27:14 But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. 15) and when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.

More often than not, counsel neglected in calm waters is remembered with remorse when waves get choppy. For as the soft breezes promoted the Captain’s unwise decision to depart Lasea and sail to Phenice, so a menacing storm roared in, confirming Paul’s clear advice to stay put. Yet, what can the godly do when the ungodly hold the wheel of the boat we board? And what recourse do the wise have when the unwise have the numbers, the clout, and the might?

Well, when we find ourselves aboard a ship hell-bent to enjoy the wrath of a hurricane, the first inclination of the wise is to jump! But in the scheme of life, the wise and the foolish somehow find themselves doing the storms of life together. And sometimes the discerning get greasy, get hurt or held hostage by the decisions and directions of the unspiritual. And if they could leave the aftermath of those rejecting wisdom, then the astute could wag the finger and walk away…

But the wise live together with the unwise on the same planet, same nation, community, church, business, family, or in Paul’s case, same boat. So as inequitable it may be that life is done with those who leap from tall buildings and sleep on train tracks, God has chosen such interactions as introductions of grace to those distant from it.

A husband unchecked by the peril of credit card abuse, may bring his family under oppressive clouds of debt or bankruptcy. A promising young man may trivialize his education, trashing his scholarship and academic future with a concupiscent college lifestyle. And an intelligent young lady may forfeit her career plans with an unplanned pregnancy, impeding the dreams she and others possessed. And a business-minded mom may bring untold pain thru ill-advised substance abuse, losing interest in her family and enterprise while dealing with diminishing health.

But in any of these cases, do families forthrightly dissolve the connectivity and commitments due to foolish errors in judgment of those they love? Read the rest of this entry »