Impact Church

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How Much More

Luke 11:13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?

A freshly-baptized disciple, flush with shameless joy and first-day-on-the-job zeal, popped the question bible teachers relish most – “Hey guys, now that I’m saved… what’s next? Where do we go from here?”

And from that childlike inquiry we sat around a bare table that night immersed, fascinated, and turned on: searching scripture, probing, testifying, teaching, encouraging… and praying!

We noticed it was prayer that intrigued the disciples to ask Jesus – “teach us to pray as John taught his disciples”. And it was from that Luke 11 exchange that Jesus spoke of prayer as ultimate access: a privileged connection to power drawn from the grace-provided relationship of earthly children and their Heavenly Father.

Rhetorically perhaps, but quite pointed nonetheless, Jesus challenged His disciples with logic:

  • Do dads give their children a bowl of rocks after they’ve asked for bread?
  • Or is there a relationship between dad and child so evil, that when requesting fish for lunch the child is given a serpent?
  • Or is there a dad so abusive that the eggs the child asks for breakfast is substituted for a dangerous scorpion?

No, of course not! There’s a natural, loving, caring concern for those we bring into the world! And there’s a committed, compassionate regard for those who depend on us for their survival! Parents have an inherent, preferential association with children that has no rival or equal; and that protective oversight flows freely from the perfect bond of love, a far greater caretaker than the oppressive bondage of mere duty.

Thus, in affirming parental affinity as something commonly expected and nothing beyond what any parent would do, Jesus advanced the natural concept and made the case spiritually for those who would believe on His Name.

If our earthly fathers (dads that have shortcomings, disposition shifts, forgetfulness, errors in judgment, etc), freely and gladly satisfy the basic needs of a child because of a father’s natural love – can we not unquestionably trust our Heavenly Father to give us any, and everything, we need? Is not our Heavenly Father love, itself; a Father birthing us after His own will and Word; a Father beyond error, and a Father who supplies needs from the limitlessness of His own creativity and power? Is not the answer to such questions an absolute, unashamed, did-you-hear-me-clearly, YES! YES! And YES!

Consequently, it’s upon this single, simple, time-honored precept of prayer that a believer’s days on earth are providentially safeguarded.

There is nothing lacking, to those who ask.
There is nothing lost, to those who seek.
There is nothing locked, to those who knock.
Whatever things we desire, when we pray, believe that we receive them, and we will have them!

So to the young man still dripping from his Jordan River experience, to the mature disciple serving faithfully in anticipation of the Lord’s return – faith filled prayers lifted to the Father determines the quality of the believer’s earthy, mortal existence.

Do not earthly fathers address their toddler’s late night fears when he hears strange sounds… especially when they’re under his bed? Yes! How much more then does our Heavenly Father assuage fears eliciting from our troubled, violent, and discordant world!

Do not earthly fathers encourage children to rise and redo, especially after that first bike ride results in an inglorious face plant? Yes! How much more then does our Heavenly Father comfort and instill fresh confidence after our “didn’t go as planned” endeavors!

Think then, of the many scenarios where earthly dads would be welcomed and needed, and from there you can count even more so of our Heavenly Father’s presence!

So, through prayer, let us include the Father’s presence and power in every facet of life, whether in the mundane or in the spectacular.

Petition Him for assurance.

Request of Him wisdom.

Call on Him in trouble.

Persist with Him when He seems unhearing.

Bug Him when you’re uncertain and doubtful.

Cry out to Him when you’re sinking.

Talk to Him when you’re lonely.

Thank Him when He listens. And He does.

Worship Him when you don’t understand.

Praise Him when you do.

Above all, pray.

All the time.

In every way.

At every intersection.

And on the open highway.

Just pray.

Just do it.

And, HOW MUCH MORE will He be everything we need… or desire!

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Seen

 “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer.” 1 Peter 3:12

My three-year-old son attended his first soccer practice this week. As he stood center field, sporting his lime green soccer cleats, I noticed him watching me. Every few moments he made eye contact with his momma, ensuring I hadn’t moved from my designated spot on the sideline. He maintained this rhythm for the entire hour of practice. He was striving to keep my attention, but, oblivious to the fact he already had it. I hadn’t taken my eyes off him.

Dear ones, we can live assured, God hasn’t taken His eyes off us. We are never overlooked, alone, or insignificant even in the seasons we feel like we are. Feelings can be poor indicators of truth. Following the fall of Adam and Eve God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) Before we knew we needed saving the Lord had already scripted our rescue plan. He looked more than 2,000 years into the future, saw us, and knew we were in desperate need of a Savior. The truth is this – we were completely seen, lavishly loved, and meticulously “prepared-for” long before our arrival.

Believers across the world gathered, yesterday, in joyful celebration of the single greatest event in all of human history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His death, burial, and resurrection will forever be the culmination of all that our hope hinges on. Romans 5:25 says, “He was handed over to be crucified for the forgiveness of our sins and was raised back to life to prove that he had made us right with God!” We gaze at the cross and empty tomb and are filled with awestruck wonder.

He saw us so He came.

He saw us so He died.

He saw us so He rose.

Every move was a part of His beautiful plan to redeem, reconcile, and restore. We no longer have to wonder if we matter to God. One glance at the cross and empty tomb tells us we do. We have always had His attention. In fact, there is never a moment when God is not paying attention to us. God, completely, meets our need to be noticed. He sees us when we are washing dishes, folding laundry, and tucking in babies. He sees us when we rise early, punch a time card, and work to provide for our family. In both the ordinary and extraordinary moments of life we can be confident that the eyes of the Lord are on us. Hear Him tenderly whisper today, “Yes, beloved, you are seen.”

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.

Wielding Words

“And so the tongue is a small part of the body yet it carries great power!” James 3:5

The power of words is a prominent thread weaved throughout all of Scripture. In Genesis 1 that power is on full display as the Creator God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. The Lord goes on to fashion the entire world using only His words. Then in Genesis 1:26, “God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Afterwards God speaks blessing and abundance over Adam and Eve.

These passages alone should be enough to convince us of how “weighty” words truly are. God spoke into nothing and created the entire universe. Furthermore, we were created in His image. Made to resemble our Father in everything we do and say. We are commissioned to rule in the same manner He does. We are hardwired to speak life, proclaim blessing, and affirm the abundance that is in Christ Jesus. Proverbs 18:21 declares, “Your words are so powerful that they will kill or give life.” We often place significant emphasis on the first portion of that verse. I know as a parent I, too, am guilty of highlighting the same. I have frequently instructed my children about things they shouldn’t say. This week, however, the Holy Spirit has prompted me to change my perspective. Instead of focusing so much on what we shouldn’t do why don’t we celebrate what we GET to do? As ambassadors of Christ we get to speak words that give life!

The people in our lives are precious souls that God has intentionally entrusted to us. We are, therefore, given the responsibility of lavishly loving and speaking life into them. Words properly wielded by a heart submitted to God can be a healing balm. So let’s get loud about speaking life, favor, blessings, and abundance. Let’s proclaim how good God is. Let’s share the truth about His extravagant love and generous grace. Let’s make sure everyone knows that there’s a cure for every ailment of the heart, mind, and body and His name is Jesus!

Jesus says in John 10:10, “A thief has only one thing in mind – he wants to steal, slaughter, and destroy. But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect – life in its fullness until you overflow!” One practical way to speak life is to see and speak about the abundant life we have in Christ.

Jesus came; past tense. Read the rest of this entry »

Snow From Heaven

Isaiah 55:10 For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 11) So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth: it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Perhaps the human soul is never more tranquil than when the senses are engaged with the soothing sound of raindrops, or the silent stillness of a falling snow. It seems falling precipitation possesses a transcendence, an undefinable presence, that overwhelms the disquietude of earth’s care. At any rate, it’s likely the simple, therapeutic value of summer rains and winter snows have yet to be properly quantified, nor truly appreciated.

For example, how subtly the cluttered mind is cleared when a well-bundled body treks in solitude through solitary fields and forests under the pristine silence of falling snow? An hour of contemplation in such an environment releases immeasurable antidotal qualities; and a soul alerted to creation, cause, and Creator, through nature’s cloud-draining refreshment, can avert the missteps common in busyness.

Likewise, when nature itself is overlain with snow, our commonplace landscapes, easily unspectacular through daily routines, are magically transformed from winter’s exposed brown earth, fallen leaves, and drab fields to a seemingly unimaginable, creative display of speechless charm. Though winter cold envelops the slumbering countryside and snow conceals much of nature’s intricacy- yet innumerable, unexpected portraits of creation come into existence.

How embellished, then, are the conifer forests of green, when laden with snow’s complimentary, colorful contrast? And what brisk, gurgling brook is not picturesquely advantaged by fresh snowfall adorning its harsh rocks and sharp edges? And what tufted cardinal, though plumed majestically with the deepest of red, is not gladly photoshopped if juxtaposed on the snow-clad branch of the pine?

So it is with snow that Isaiah metaphorically elaborates on the effects of God’s immaculately delivered Word! Descending in human form to a lifeless and corrupt earth (and it spiraling uncontrollably toward terminal death), the Word became flesh and lived among the deplorable and destitute, engaging personally, impartially, and affectionately with both great and small.

Such was the hopeless ground into which this promised Snow fell. Into a world of fallen humanity, a creation separated from its Creator through disobedience, sin and death- this Life-giving substance was given the assignment of resurrecting the spirits of unworthy masses.

And, oh, what an awakening and reviving this most improbable Snow brought! What the prophet had declared centuries before is now humanity’s reality: the barren earth is now watered, the hardened seeds are now softened, and green buds are emerging all over a parched planet! Now the sowers of seeds have seeds to sow, and eaters of bread have bread to eat! And a land accustomed to poverty and shame is experiencing unmerited favor and blessings unmatched in the history of mankind! Oh, the infinite increase rising from heaven’s most enriching snow!

And there’s more! Yesterday’s foreboding mountains and problematic hills are now singing the praises of the watering One! The trees of the wood and grasses of the field are waving their hands in worship of the Blessed One! The scourging thorns and thistles unrestrained in uncultivated and barren lands are now gone, and in their place the silviculture of firs and myrtles!

And not only is the land materially blessed (sorry, sounding like one of those sleazy infomercials!), so is the crown jewel of His outpouring- The Redeemed- those chosen to inhabit the most envied of all nations, His eternal Kingdom! From that sovereign place of divine blessing- peace, joy, and glorious destinies are the promised, eternal norm! And to see all of this is contingent on descending rain and snow personified in the Son of God!

And as an additional assurance, the Word sent as rain and snow on humanity’s famished heart could never return as an unwise investment! This divine Precipitation must not return void! This Snow, sent in a season appointed by the Father, must accomplish precisely the purpose of its descent! Dust-made humanity, those creatures made in His image, must receive the life giving substance of His incomprehensible grace! And religious systems propping up mankind’s lifeless form must cease and desist under the cleansing and purging powers of an incomparable grace!

And of that Grace have many been healed! And of that Life have millions received forgiveness of sins! And of that Gift have innumerable sinners been born again! All made new for a time such as this- to demonstrate through word and deed this magnanimous life! To the hungry, bread to eat; to the filled, seeds to sow; to the worker, fields to harvest!

Now, according to prophecy and the prayer of Jesus, the glory of heaven has descended to earth; and that single, divine, gracious outpouring has the Church worshiping, angels singing, and heaven rejoicing!

Maximized Living

A few weeks ago we celebrated (if, from a comfy recliner questioning the sanity of Times Square masses huddle in ten degree weather till a ball drops is considered a celebration, then yes, we did!) the ending of one calendar year and the beginning of another. And while calendar-consciousness should never govern worship, in some subliminal way the gift of time is a reminder of grace. Since, according to Scripture a fruit-filled Life, relative to time and chance, is the great pleasure of the Father – so as life affords us opportunity, our eternal purposes are satisfied in maximizing them.

As Christ in His earthen ministry went about doing good, healing those oppressed of the devil, so those in Him are admonished to follow His example. Contrary to fleshly instincts, but true according to scripture, we find Christian duty a rather simple and doable life. So that as God always works in us, both the will and the doing of all that pleases Him, so those indwelt of His Spirit are always in acute demonstration mode!

So let’s slow down and say this little truism together:

It’s… not… that… difficult… to… be… a… spiritual… light!

Yet, should we lack inspiration or direction (it happens sometimes!), here are a few quippy confidence boosters or compass readjusters!

  • Give thanks, not only in agreeable things, but yes, in everything!
  • If it’s to be done… do it wholeheartedly!
  • Rejoice in the Lord always! And for those in the back- Rejoice!
  • Forgive, ok. But how? As God, for Christ’s sake has forgiven us!
  • In giving… Press it down, fill the corners, shake it till it runs over!
  • In blessing, pour it on thick, especially on the few who dislike you!
  • In condemning, don’t! Just don’t go there!
  • In love… it’s pretty simple… Love all, at all times and in all places!
  • And to those perceiving the times and seasons of our present day: Be filled with the Spirit! Be pure! Redeem the time! Stay woke! Be holy! Pray always! Look up! Be honest! Encourage others! Be patient! Avenge not! Grumble not! Go to work! Be like Jesus!

And how amazingly opportunistic this wonderful life becomes when the Holy Spirit is given space to stretch! Knowing the mind of God and recognizing the Day of Grace, the Spirit excels in displaying Christ through those believing! And knowing things will not always be as they presently are, and that fulfillment of all things is nearer now than when we first believed, the Holy Spirit desires, above all, an undeniable manifestation of the children of God!

Have we noticed grace poured out now in desperate places? Yes, we’re witnesses. Is there in our preaching an urgency of reconciliation with creation and Creator? Is there a longing among the Chosen to be nearer to the heart of God – further from the divisions, violence, mistrust, scandals, hate, and the evils that sever the brotherhood? Have we noticed in our churches an increased hunger for fellowship around the Word of God? Are the mists, mysteries and mazes of man-made doctrines and religions being exposed – their authors, followers, falsity, duplicity and entrapments laid bare?

Yes, the Holy Spirit is doing perfectly what Jesus said He’d do!

Do we anticipate joyfully the great day of the Lord? Are we confidently sharing the Good News? Are our fears being overcome by love, our doubts removed through a reminder of His promises? Do we live in such joyful contentment that our sanity could sometimes be questioned by those without? If so (and I believe we do!), the glory inherent in Christ is by inheritance ours through faith, and soon to be our eternal reality! This will be our greatest year ever!

Numbered Days

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”Psalm 90:12

My daughter turns five this year. A truth, that honestly, is inconceivable. As a newborn she was colic. Therefore, she and I shared many mornings watching the sunrise without ever having slept. In the haze of sleep deprivation, her turning five seemed light-years away. Yet here we are. Soon I will leave her in a kindergarten classroom while my sweet husband is tasked with dragging me away. I’ll be the mom  sobbing like some kind of lunatic. I can hear time shouting, with volume I’d prefer to mute, “Like it or not here I come!”

Four years have passed. Four precious years consisting of a collection of moments that are unable to be retrieved. There are no do-overs and the clock simply can’t be rewound. James 4:14 says, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Life, here on earth, is astonishingly brief.

Over the past few weeks I’ve contemplated all I may have missed already. What did my kids want to show me while I scrolled aimlessly on social media? What divine set-ups have I overlooked hurrying through my self-imposed to-do list? Did I miss something of eternal significance when insisting on folding that last load of laundry?

I am thankful for the last 20 days of prayer and fasting. Fasting isn’t a new idea. It has, in fact, been shaping and reshaping individuals for centuries. This intentional stripping away of distractions and wholeheartedly leaning into God’s presence is good for us. Read the rest of this entry »

Fasting Has Promises Too

Isaiah 58:11 The Lord shall guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

The promises above demonstrate God’s care for those fasting for God-honoring purposes. These prophetic declarations, as well as many others found in Isaiah 58, establish comforting guidelines for making the spiritual exercise of fasting a thing of deep beauty and long term benefit.

Remember, God’s displeasure came not from Israel’s lack of fasting (in that, they were dutiful and obedient), but in the enthroning of self by flaunting their dietary restraints. Essentially, their sacrifices had become a means whereby self’s interests could be satisfied – whether notoriety, elevation, vindication, piety or condemnation. And it was for such flagrant indiscretion that God’s blessings became noticeably withheld.

But greater than God’s discerning of Israel’s faulty rituals and ensuing poverties were the abundant blessings awaiting those who fasted properly – for those who withdrew from nature’s course to know and fulfill God’s purposes and interests. To those, a litany of enviable advantages was provided, and an incredible coverage of helps was available to those serving from a pure heart.

Contemplate on the character of God when comprehending His promises to reward obedience. The depth and breadth of His commitments are held together and appropriated by nothing less than His faithfulness! And faithfulness is the cornerstone of all that God is; as faithfulness is shown through nature, through His mighty works, through His clarion words, and above all, through the sacrificial life of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son!

In one single verse, God, in multiple ways, declares blessings that under-gird the revered practice of fasting. Assume also that the path of obedience regarding fasting will entail difficulties, as any positive service for the King is quickly noticed by many detractors. Yet, and according to scripture, it’s through various tribulations that we enter the Kingdom!

So, as we lessen the intake of food, may we expect also the intake of His superior guidance, protection, provision and power! As this period of restraint draws us closer to our Creator and with one another, may this corporate agreement provide innumerable answers and opportunities for an even greater display of Kingdom service!

Fasting 2018

I would like to extend an invitation to our church for a 21 day period of intentional devotion and refreshed commitment to God. It is common to hear about the importance of prayer in personal and corporate revival. However, the Bible includes an additional element of consecration that if done purely, can enhance and intensify our pursuit of God. That element is fasting. Although, fasting is prevalent in the pages of scripture, it is possibly the most overlooked admonition to the New Testament church. Many heroes of our faith were known for their exercise of this practice. Moses, David, Esther, Jehoshaphat, and Jesus himself all had recorded periods of fasting. Jesus instructed his followers to fast and the book of Acts accounts the fasting of the first century church. Lastly, Paul speaks of his time of fasting in a letter to the Corinthian church.

The posture of fasting in its simplest form is about putting God first in our lives. Prayer is the pursuit of God while fasting is the disconnection from things of the world, namely food, to intensify that pursuit more fervently.   In our fast-paced, ever-evolving world, it’s important to take time to remind ourselves of our true priority. Closeness with God is the one and only thing that can bring us true peace, fulfillment, joy, and assurance.

Fasting is not always a comfortable journey for your physical body, but if you commit yourself to prioritizing God for the next 21 days, you’ll find there’s nothing better for the health of your spirit and your relationship with God than to intentionally put Him first.

We are all at different places in our relationship with God. Likewise, our jobs, daily schedules, and health conditions are all different and place various levels of demands on our energy. So, most importantly, whether you have fasted before or this is your first time, start where you are. Your personal fast should present a level of challenge to it, but it’s very important to know your own body, know your options, and most importantly, seek God in prayer and follow what the Holy Spirit leads you to do.  Remember, the goal of fasting is not just to go without food. The goal is to draw nearer to God.

We will be using the Daniel Fast as our basic guideline. However, we encourage you to adapt and modify it according to your schedule, health, and leading of the Holy Spirit. Please consult a physician before determining your personal direction.

The following is a reading plan for you and your family for the next 21 days. We will meet every Wednesday night beginning on January 17th to pray together corporately and encourage one another in this endeavor. The fast will be complete on February 6th and we will all come together for a Night of Worship on February 9th.  I encourage you to make a short list of 2-4 specific prayer requests that you would like to emphasize. Pray over those needs daily with faith and patience. I can not wait to see how God moves in our life and church!

 Reading Schedule:

 1/17 – John 1                     1/24 – John 8                      1/31 – John 15

1/18 – John 2                     1/25 – John 9                      2/1 – John 16

1/19 – John 3                     1/26 – John 10                   2/2 – John 17

1/20 – John 4                     1/27 – John 11                   2/3 – John 18

1/21 – John 5                     1/28 – John 12                   2/4 – John 19

1/22 – John 6                     1/29 – John 13                   2/5 – John 20

1/23 – John 7                     1/30 – John 14                   2/6 – John 21

Night of Worship – Friday, February 9th

The Good News

 “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”” Luke 2:10

I’m a rule breaker when it comes to traditional Christmas décor etiquette. I don’t wait until Thanksgiving is over before I begin transforming our home into a winter wonderland. Therefore, in our home, we’ve spent six weeks decorating the house, counting down days, reading scripture as a family, and doing advent activities with our toddlers. We orchestrated family gatherings, purchased gifts, and prepared the honey roasted ham.

Christmas Day arrived, in all its glorious splendor, and we spent the entire day celebrating the transformative truth that our King has come. We rejoiced over the miracle found in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” Christmas Day is gone and, along with it, all the decorations I love. They have been carefully placed in boxes that will remain in storage until they are opened again in November. While the beautiful decorations are gone, He is not; nor is the miracle of Christmas. His name is still Immanuel; God with us. It’s a relief to relish the truth that He was here on Christmas morning as we celebrated His birth and He’s still here on New Year’s Day as we rejoice over new beginnings. He’s here on every ordinary Monday morning and typical Tuesday night. We don’t have to be sad that Christmas is over and longingly look forward to December 25th, 2018. The Christmas story is just as relevant this morning as it was one week ago.

On this first day of the New Year the good news is still good. Jesus Christ came and changed the course of history for mankind forevermore. He came to demolish our chains, restore relationship, and set things right. Personal revelation of His coming and all that His arrival means yields great joy!

This morning we continue the joyful celebration of a Savior, so wildly in love with us, He willingly laid down His life to purchase our freedom. His extravagant love compelled Him to step into the confines of time and take on our frame just so we could know Him better. He demolished our limited understanding of love with a clear depiction of what love looks like. Love is Jesus outstretched on a cross intent on redeeming and being with His sons and daughters. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:17) The Christmas story is ultimately about His relentless pursuit for you and me.

The Word says that after thousands of years of silence all of heaven rejoiced and announced His arrival on that beautiful night. They knew, full well, the weight of that moment. We are now presented with the opportunity to do the same. We can accept the spectacular gift of Him, the good news that changes everything, and join them in proclaiming “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill towards men!”