Impact Church

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Tag: devotional

The Secret Place

Psalm 91:1 “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

Every year our family takes a trip to the beach. We relish slowing down and feeling the sand between our toes as waves crash against the shore in perfect rhythm. Our days brim over with the therapeutic sound of our children’s carefree laughter as they happily scoop buckets of ocean water and build countless masterpieces in the sand. We wake up early, stay up late, and soak up every minute we’re privileged to spend together. As much as we cherish our time in the sun, after a few days, we must pack our bags, load the van, and begin the drive back home. Vacations, while refreshing, always come to an end.

In Psalm 91, we read about a “secret place” of refreshing where we, as believers, can dwell. Dwell means to “sit down, live, and remain.” In our frantic, busy, on the go society, to sit down seems lazy, unproductive, and wasteful. We have been conditioned, as a generation, to believe that if we aren’t busy then we aren’t being wise stewards of our time.

The truth, however, is that God does not call us to busy; He desires instead that we be fruitful. We each have responsibilities to fulfill but we were never meant to live in a constant state of chaos, overwhelmed, or running in circles. We can be fruitful wherever God has planted us.

Yes, even here.

Even now. In this house. In this season. With our packed planner, overflowing laundry basket, and mile long to-do list. But how?

Psalm 62:1 says, “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him.” When we intentionally slow down and spend time with the Lord we experience ultimate refreshing and soul rest. The opportunity we have to dwell in the secret place of His presence is a precious gift that we could never earn. When Jesus uttered the words, “it is finished,” direct access to God’s presence was re-established forever. The penalty for our sins was paid in full. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 »

Purity

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9

This will not be your favorite devotional. It will be challenging to read at points. However, I believe it will be helpful and in the end encouraging, if received. Faith, like anything precious, will be tested. Simply because we are on pilgrimage in a fallen world, there will be instances, people, and occasions that are in opposition to our forward movement in Christ. Some arise quickly and immediately pass, while others linger longer and seem to nag constantly. The strain of this resistance is frequently difficult to navigate through and even to understand at times. It can cause even the strongest of believers to look to Heaven for answers and explanation.

In the middle of this experience, the scriptures include instruction that seems beyond capability. The Bible does not give us permission to be destroyed, deterred, or defeated by these tests. In fact, Paul declares that even in great contradiction we are “more than conquerors.” Furthermore, we are not even allowed to simply survive or manage these happenings. The writers of the New Testament on several occasions link two seemingly distant ideas; trials and rejoicing.  With the correct perspective and the proper placement of our trust, joy is the result of a child of God walking through tests.

This perspective begins with the understanding that trials are common for all people. No one is exempt or avoids this process. Rain, storms, and adversity are not punitive; they are a supposed and ordinary reality of our human existence. Jesus declares unequivocally that “in this world you will have tribulation.” The house built on the rock is not subject to differing weather or an atypical environment. It will be exposed to the same peril as the house built on sand. The result will just be different!

Additionally, our perspective must be fashioned by what we know concerning the goodness of our Father. He oversees what He purchased and He does not waste anything in our journey. He uses everything to bring about glory from our lives. Yes, even our trials.

Trials expose; not the pretty, decent parts of our life that we put out front for everyone to see but the deep parts that we purposefully endeavor to keep hidden. Trials provide heat and pressure. When those unwanted weights are applied, impurities are uncovered. Again, this is where trust is required. Our Father is not exposing contaminations for the sake of condemnation or denunciation. He unveils these carefully protected blemishes so He can heal and remove them. The removal of corruption makes us more like Jesus, more suitable for His service, and more prepared for the day we will stand before Him.

So, rejoice when you are tried. You are being purified! Your motivations, behaviors, and purposes are being refined. You are maturing and being perfected. Impurities are being removed and glory is being manifested! Your faith is being revealed as genuine and true!

Glory to God!

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 »

Sword Play

Ephesians 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…

At a recent bible study, the discussion centered on a believer’s strategy to overcome the ever present temptation to doubt. Defining doubt as, “to be uncertain, be apprehensive, to question or be hesitant to believe something or someone”, doubt was dubbed a major player in Satan’s arsenal to subvert the underpinnings of faith and love.

Not to be outwitted or outdone by Lucifer’s poisoned arrows of doubt, we returned that night to faith as our shield of defense and the Scriptures as our sharpened sword. And what a powerful and proven panoply of weaponry it is! For with such armor, we found every insidious device to dissuade or devise doubt was forthrightly disarmed by the power of God’s word. And for practicality and courage sake, we found that power residing presently in the castle of our own hearts!

So with renewed confidence and warrior mind, we bivouacked that night in the land of God’s eternal promises. Withstanding the usual anxiety and frustration of present circumstances (and some situations, trust me, bordered hopeless and impossible!), we countered our foe by feasting copiously and fearlessly in the Land of indescribable milk and honey!

Was every hurt remedied that night as we meditated on the Word? Did every situation meliorate as the scriptures were expounded? Did every distressing circumstance improve immediately as we prayed and trusted the faithfulness of God? Did the group fall out in a trance, or everyone have an out-of-the-body experience?

Nope. Sure didn’t.

But you know what did happen? Read the rest of this entry »

Poem For the Fathers

Through you we learn about the Heavenly Father’s love. You’re a clear reflection of Him though He’s seated above.

You are His hands and feet on the earth; made in His image, created for purpose from birth.

You lead your family with wisdom and the utmost care. You hold things together on your knees in prayer.

You sacrifice to provide without recognition. You’re devoted and consistent; truly a man on a mission.

You’ve taught your arrows the gospel story- that their lives were created to ultimately bring Him glory.

You protect and defend your family. Your presence and support is our beautiful reality.

You’ve shown your children that in the face of any giant they have the courage to be bold as lions.

They learn so much by watching you. Through your life they see real life rescue.

They see that when you fall and begin to call, God always shows up and His strength isn’t small.

We know you juggle a lot and carry much weight. Please know our respect for you is exceedingly great.

Our heroes are often the strong and silent type with no gold medals or social media hype.

They don’t get a parade or the front page in the paper but make no mistake their reward will be greater.

For our heroes this morning may not wear red, white, or blue. Our heroes this morning are all of you.

From the bottom of our heart, thanks. Impact Church stands to applaud you.

What Amazes the Amazing One?

“When Jesus heard it, He marveled…” (Matthew 8:10)

Ever thought about the wonder-inspiring life of Jesus? We sing about His amazing grace, and rightfully so, but let’s reflect for a bit on His days with dusty feet and sweaty brow as a First Century human.

Time and time again through the gospels, we read that Jesus left people speechless with their jaws dropped open! When He made crippled men walk and dumb men speak and blind men see, the Jewish multitudes marveled. The villagers who watched Him grow up as a carpenter’s son were dumbfounded at this common man’s education and knowledge. “We’ve never seen anything like this in Israel!” they said.

Even those who set themselves against Jesus, the religious leaders of the day and their hired henchmen, were astonished at His authoritative teachings and had no answer for Him. “Nobody has ever spoken like this man speaks!” they said.

While others were amazed with Jesus’ words, Pontius Pilate marveled at His silence and self-control.

And those closest to Jesus, His own hand-picked disciples, repeatedly were left scratching their heads when their Master defied their expectations by talking to an unclean woman at a Samaritan well or by cursing a barren fig tree or by rebuking turbulent winds and waves. “Wow! What kind of man is this?!?”

Needless to say, the Greek word “thaumazo” (meaning to marvel or wonder) was used more than 30 times by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If Jesus were walking in flesh among us today, we might say He “dropped the mic” on a regular basis and left audiences stunned everywhere!

But have you ever wondered what makes the One called Wonderful wonder? What amazes the Author of amazing grace? What makes Jesus say “Whoa!”? Read the rest of this entry »

Well-Watered

Isaiah 58:11 “The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

I prefer to water my flowers early in the morning as the sun is rising to take its prominent position in the sky. I pour from the watering can until water overflows from the bottom and spills across my sidewalk. I fill to the point of excess because I know the afternoon is coming. The temperatures will inevitably rise and before the day ends the sun’s harsh rays will have direct access. There is nowhere to hide from the heat once afternoon arrives, but when the roots are well-watered they endure the heat with remarkable resilience.

As I was reading Isaiah 58 I was struck by the beauty of the promise found in verse 11. It says, “you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”  As I studied the scriptures my heart leapt and I thought, “I want to be like a well-watered garden, too!” If I am totally honest though, I haven’t always run to the right source to satisfy my thirsty soul. I’ve ran to Instagram and popular Christian blogs to read good words when my Bible offers me God’s words. I’ve ran to people to receive affirmation when God’s approval of me is settled. Running to anything but God will always leave us spiritually dehydrated.

There is a better way.

There is hope for every dry place in our hearts. There is bread and water to receive from God’s word. Read the rest of this entry »