Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Tag: faith

Growth Requires Change

The church is alive. It moves and breathes. It can even be sick or well.  It can be wise or foolish. The church changes and grows just as believers in Christ change and grow. This is a sign of the church’s life and vitality.

The life of the church described in Acts 6 was exciting. It was in the very early days of the church, and the number of new Christians was growing daily. On one hand, growth was good and on the other it was overwhelming. Because of this rapid growth, it came to the attention of the Apostles, through the “grumbling” of the people, that certain needs within the church ministries were not being met.

The Apostles responded by appointing men to meet the need. It was not enough that the men appointed be hard workers; they needed to be “seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” These seven were chosen by the body, and “laid hands upon” by the Apostles.

The early church was wise and humble enough to change how things were being done so the church could continue to grow. With this change, Acts 6:7 says, “the word of God increased, the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” In addition to this, “signs and wonders” were performed by one of the seven amongst the people.

A living church will grow and change, just as the people who make it up. When a church can adapt like the church in Acts, there is no stopping God’s movement among them.

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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 »

Happy Place

“But you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you”. John 14: 17b

God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.  there is no such thing.  ~ C.S. Lewis

It is in the dryness and barrenness of the human soul that it never rests. And it is in the endless search for climes that supply lack that the soul’s poverty is confirmed. And it is in the certainty that nothing can satisfy that the soul remains temperamental and transient.

Moving, changing, rearranging; restless and discontent- the soul of man is confined to an irritability that creates conflict and confusion, both in community and in the body it dwells. His efforts for control isolates, his search for fulfillment disappoints, and his struggles for independence imprisons. Succinctly put, it’s not easy being human.

But it’s not like there’s been a scarcity of above average people, entertaining places and pleasurable things to discover and experience the soul’s “happy place”. Let’s be honest here: human beings are on record as being extremely blessed with opportunities and experiences!

Consider Eden’s garden in Adam’s day as the near perfect “in” place to be. And with Moses and the Tabernacle, the presence of God was an enviously “cool” place to hang. Likewise, the Temple in Solomon’s day was “off the charts”! God has met with, talked with, and touched humankind in unimaginable ways.

Yet, no discovery, discipline, relationship, or experience ever brought peace to the ever searching soul. And that is as it scripturally should be. No man is created complete apart from God’s indwelling spirit. Though created as a living soul, and though God walked with man in the cool of the day- God’s eternal design was to live in man, not merely with him.

Though sin, through disobedience, entered the human race, and though God’s Law, as good and perfect as it was, could never redeem us, and though the road to get us here was incomprehensible Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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!

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 »

To the Mothers

by Stephen Bowden

Yours is a love that knows no end
For in you the Father desired life to begin.
He chose you as the vessel to share His love,
Receiving from Him the gift that was bestowed from above.

The beauty of your strength is displayed at birth,
His Word tells me far more than rubies is your worth
For you are a virtuous woman in actions and in deeds
To your wisdom sons and daughters take heed.

For God has walked with you, and ever been by your side.
Through imperfections, sorrows, and tears you’ve cried;
Yet He still chose you, a mother to nurture His image.
To pass down the faith, to strengthen His lineage.

Often your love and dedication is presented with no reward,
Please know you are appreciated. Your passion is seen by us and the Lord.
He commanded that we give you honor.
Today, and forever that is what we’ll do.

To the Mothers,
Happy Mother’s Day, From Impact to You.

Draw Near

James 4:8a Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you…

James’ writing style, straightforward and unequivocal, refreshes the faith of the pure in heart. Free of innuendo and doublespeak, his insights are uncluttered and uncommonly raw. Nothing is left to the imagination, his openness a precise and uncompromising approach to God’s presence. Do this, do that; and God will do this, or that! (To the guys in the shop, having such an analytical and mechanical approach to God is priceless!)

Conversely, many present day contemporaries have God omniscient and omnipotent, while making His knowledge and power inaccessible. Seems His virtues and character are perfectly described, but He’s simply untouchable. To them, He exists as an imagined, mystical or esoteric One. He’s over there, we’re over here – and in their theology, our arms are a bit too short! Their space between disciple and Master is unbridged, their gap too wide; their cause resting solely on the inherent sinfulness of mankind.

Briefly put – Religion exacerbates our human predicaments, while redemption divinely destroys them!

So, what a breath of faith air James provides- here’s a Father as near as we desire Him to be!

With knowledge of the Gospel we approach God, not timidly as outcasts or distant relatives, but confidently as His very own children. Regardless the climate and condition of our own spirituality (likely, the assessment of our own status must occasionally humor God!), access to the throne of His unfathomable Grace is ours. Not an access merited by our own works or goodness, but an access only possible through the Redeemer’s blood! No human valiancy needed or allowed here, only a valiancy to trust His work as amply sufficient!

At times in the journey, His presence will invariably seem distant. Whether He’s outpacing our stride, whether we’ve sit down, or whether we’ve lost sight of Him through our distractions – He patiently awaits our efforts to get closer. The distance and the causes for distance may vary, but His commitment to draw near to those who long for Him will not vary. He’s made the first and impossible step by coming to our planet… the next step will be ours!

Draw near to God; He ever lives to reward our faith!