Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Tag: faith

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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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!

The Hypocrisy of the “Hosanna!” Crowd

“And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)

The stage was finally set. Passion Week, the final few days of Jesus’ life on earth, had arrived. The God-Man who had withdrawn from the spotlight and had preferred to keep His ministry rather quiet until then knew that His time had come.

Sometimes we picture the mob hailing Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as simply sweeping the Master onto a donkey’s colt in a whirlwind of frenzied excitement, spontaneously flinging down palm branches and their garments in front of Him. But the Gospels tell us that the Messiah — who had intentionally avoided such public displays before — orchestrated the event in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy 400 years earlier.

Rather than mounting a horse as a conquering earthly king would have done in the First Century, Jesus fulfilled Scripture by sitting on a lowly colt, a sign of meekness, humility and peace instead of war.

Few Christians today realize that when the crowds shouted “Hosanna!” they were actually quoting from Psalm 118, where the original Hebrew word meant “Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord!” It was the beginning of Passover Week, and Passover always reminded the Jews of the time God delivered them from Egyptian oppression and slavery. News apparently had spread fast from Bethany, a small village just a couple miles outside the City of David, that Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from the dead and was making quite an entry into Jerusalem when the city streets would have been filled with perhaps 2-3 million feast observers.

“This is the One we’ve been waiting for!” the crowd undoubtedly buzzed. “He will save us,…He will rescue us,…He will deliver us from the Roman oppression! HOSANNA!”

Sadly, the same crowd who cried “Hail Him!” would, just five days later, cry “Nail Him!” The same mob who shouted “Crown Him!” on Sunday would shout “Crucify Him!” on Friday.

Why? Because they wanted God on their own terms. They wanted to make Jesus a political and military leader who would use His power to overthrow the government. They couldn’t understand that the Messiah’s kingdom was a spiritual one where He wanted to reign in their hearts.

Think about it. Every time Jesus heard someone shout “Hosanna!” it must have hurt His heart. Indeed, it was during Passion Week that the Messiah wept over the City of David because of the people’s unbelief. He heard their “Hosannas,” but He saw their hypocrisy and their selfish motives.

The Master reserved some of His strongest rebukes and teachings for the final days of His life as He exposed and confronted the scribes and Pharisees, the Herodians and Sadducees for their blatant hypocrisy:

  • He compared the religious leaders to the barren fig tree He cursed because it bore no fruit.
  • He overturned the tables of the moneychangers who corruptly “fleeced the flock” with unfair exchange rates when converting Roman currency to Temple shekels. He literally lashed out at those with a whip who would take advantage of worshippers and forget the primacy of prayer.
  • He blistered the Pharisees for saying but not doing, repeatedly blasting them as “hypocrites,…blind guides,…fools,…a brood of vipers” (Matthew 23).
  • He rebuked Judas and others who criticized Mary’s extravagant worship when she poured an alabaster box of precious perfume over her Lord’s feet and intimately dried them with her hair. (When was the last time your worship was so lavish, costly and unbridled that it offended people around you?)

Many Christians want to hurriedly get past the hard-to-swallow parts of Passion Week so that we can celebrate Resurrection Day! Won’t you join us this week as we take time to read through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ final days on earth and make it a time of self-examination? Are we willing to surrender to God on His terms, not ours? Can we examine our religious motives and get serious about forsaking all facades and getting real with our faith?

If we can and will allow selfish intent and hypocrisy to be nailed to the cross of Calvary, the joyous celebration of Resurrection Sunday will reach a whole new level for us!

Open Door

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1John3:1

We hear the key slide into the door and the lock click out of place. As my husband turns the knob and steps into the house our children drop whatever they are doing and run to meet him, hysterical with joy. Their high pitched shrills and shouts of excitement are evidence of how pleased they are to see him; they dance around his feet waiting for their turn to be picked up and hugged. No book reading, park playing, block building, or aquarium visit could compare to the moment daddy arrives home. No matter what they’ve done or where they’ve been it is, without fail, the climax of their entire day.

I don’t have to tell my children to say hi to him when he walks in or force them to smile. I’ve never had to rehearse all the things he’s done or bribe them with gifts in order for them to want to be scooped up into his arms. Even on days they’ve disobeyed they don’t hesitate to run to him. They don’t pause to consider if daddy will unleash condemnation upon his arrival. They’ve been around him long enough to know he loves them. They are familiar with his nature. They’ve experienced his kindness. They know he is a safe place. The truth is this- I couldn’t keep them from running to him even if I tried. Their relationship with their daddy is established, easy, and without formality. When he is here they just want to be wherever he is.

Dear friends- I have great news. We too can experience relationship with our Heavenly Father in this same precious way. Ephesians 1:5 says, “He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the one He loves.” Because of the cross sin no longer separates us from our Father. Read the rest of this entry »

Who Can Stand Against Us

Thessalonians 1:18 “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.”

Outside of Paul’s thorn in the flesh, no verse provokes conjecture as quickly as this one. The possibilities here are too varied, the context too vague, and the purposes for leaving out such detail too divine to make what’s not scripted the focus.

What’s critical is that Satan is positively identified as the hinderer. And for a believer to tag Satan as the opposer to good deeds is perfectly comforting. For had it been negligence or lack of desire for visiting the Thessalonians, then apathy, not faith would have reigned. But the Chosen know their Foe well, and they take consolation that their ministry work merits Satan’s attention. And it’s an honor to have the Accuser of the brethren seek to stymie their great work of love!

For the Elect know the limitations and allowances of demons; and are certain that though Satan often opposes our efforts in the short term, the long term purposes of God will prevail! The window and tenure of demon opposition is small and short; a truth believers revel in, even in temporal setbacks and unanticipated tribulations!

So think it not strange, as Peter exhorts the believing Church, that we experience fiery trials, myriad delays and multiple attacks. Rejoice exceedingly when things are topsy-turvy and “out of the blue” roadblocks pop up! Faith is tried greatest when the furnace is hottest… but so is the resultant glory!

God never promised us a trouble free journey; neither does faith carry “exemption from suffering” privileges, or “get out of jail” coupons. But we are promised that wherever we go, we’ll not go alone! And we’re confident that if God goes with us, He’s for us! And if God is for us, who can stand against us!

We always triumph with Christ at the helm!

Let’s get this week started with unshakable faith, and get our God some well-deserved glory!