Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Tag: spiritual growth

Beauty to Behold

“Let joy be your continual feast. Make your life a prayer. And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God’s perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I was seventeen years old when I started college. I was still mourning the sudden loss of my father, emotionally bankrupt, and desperate for acceptance. I was engulfed in guilt, shame, and insecurity. I found myself in, what should have been, an exciting new season of freedom and responsibility. Instead, I felt overwhelmed, alone and terribly ill-equipped.

Just this week my mother discovered a stack of notes she thoughtfully hand-wrote, attached to care packages, and delivered to my dorm throughout my freshman year. As I read each one I could not keep the tears from welling up in my eyes and escaping down my face. Because the truth is this- I don’t remember receiving these. I was so consumed by what I lost and how I felt that I couldn’t see what I had. I stopped looking for beauty in my life. I ceased counting my blessings. I didn’t notice His goodness.

I wonder how often we fail to perceive the show-stopping beauty of the season we are in. Psalm 23:6 says, “God’s beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.” I did not discern it then but in retrospect it’s crystal clear- His beauty was there all along, relentlessly chasing me down. It was in my warrior of a mother, grieving the recent death of her husband, still gracefully releasing her baby to grow. It was in her faith-filled prayers, Holy Spirit drenched words, and daily “I love you” messages. It was in the miraculous way the Lord mended our fractured relationship during the most painful time of our lives. It was in His gracious exchange of beauty for all of our ashes.

The seasons of life change quickly but make no mistake- the goodness, consistency, and love of our Heavenly Father never will. “Jesus, the Anointed One, is always the same- yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) As His beloved children we are invited to give thanks in every season. Not because every season is perfect but because He is good and worthy in every single one. Whatever season we find ourselves in, today, is blessed and beautiful because He is in it. He is the One masterfully weaving the fabric of our lives together to create something truly spectacular. It’s more than optimism. It’s certainly not wishful thinking. When we believe and receive who He is and what He says we will inevitably find ourselves giving thanks, which is God’s perfect plan for us.

This week, let’s EXPECT to see Him show up. Look, confidently, for His mercy, favor, and grace. May we count our abundant blessings, and remember His everlasting goodness. I’m willing to bet that when we seek to see Him we will not be left disappointed. There is, indeed, beauty to behold! “This is the very day of the Lord that brings gladness and joy, filling our hearts with glee!” (Psalm 118:24)

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Not In A Hurry

“Jesus is perfect theology” is a statement I commonly repeat when studying and teaching the scriptures. It is simply a reminder that the life of Jesus was an exact representation of the will, thoughts, and actions of God. He completely demonstrated in visible, tangible form the nature of God that before Jesus’ incarnation was hidden and mysterious. Jesus asserts this truth to the Jews as they attempted to kill Him stating, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19) God had presented Himself through types and shadows for brief segments of time and to a select group of people. However, God’s glory was on full display in the 33 and a half years Jesus walked the earth. Therefore, before arriving at any conclusion on the characteristics and qualities of who God is and how He thinks, I must be able to observe it in the life of Jesus Christ.

Undoubtedly, when reading and understanding this truth our minds immediately began to think of the miraculous events that Jesus performed. It is logical to conclude on the greatness and might of God when confronted with the power and authority that Jesus walked in on earth. His authority over sickness, sin, and demonic force is clearly evident. However, the subtle decisions and movements of Jesus’ life recorded in scripture, that most people simply breeze past, speak just as loudly about the nature of God and what He values. Veritably, those instances are perfect places to study God.

One of the main aspects of the life of Jesus that consistently draws my deliberation is the unhurried manner in which He chose to live. In light of the knowledge that He only had a brief amount of time to accomplish His purpose and the reality that He was always aware of His imminent death at the hand of His persecutors, He still remained deliberate, measured, and calm. The scriptures never record Him anxious, rushed, or impatient. Only 33 years of life and a little over 3 years of Spirit-filled ministry, comparatively speaking, does not seem adequate to complete divine and supernatural design. Naturally, it would be common to expect rushed movements, hastened conversations, and urgent reactions. Jesus never lived that way.

In fact, we often find Him eating with His friends, leaving the masses to speak to seemingly insignificant individuals, attending festivals with His family, sneaking away to spend time with His Heavenly Father, and other activities that appear to be unwise usages of His fleeting earthly existence. If He were to make the most of His time, it would seem He should have made more efficient and productive utilization of His opportunities. Or maybe His approach to life and ministry was the truest representation of God’s nature. Even in a world where He was consistently tempted to do more, to go further, and to be urgent, He refused to be governed by reactions, external motivations, and driving ambition of time-sensitive, natural perspectives. He was solely under the authority of the One who sent Him. Time did not rush Him, opinions did not deter Him, and pressure did not move Him.

I have found that one of the enemy’s most common tactics to distract the gifted and the chosen is to force them into a pace that is set by another source than the One who gave them the call.  Frequently, we even cloud this motivation under “godly” guises and call it ambition or passion.  We run around accomplishing all we can, striking while the iron is hot, keeping up with the pressure of external impulse, all the while neglecting the beat of the drummer that sets our rhythm from His eternal viewpoint. This approach, although appearing spiritual, is as far as you can get from Christ-like living.

Living unhurried and patient is a sign of trust. Sneaking away to pray when there is so much work to be done is a declaration that the work is not done by might or earthly power but only by His Spirit. Resisting the pressure to do it all and be everything to everybody announces our belief in His oversight. We play a part in His plan. Our identity is found in understanding the significance of our portion in the grand scheme of all God is accomplishing. Run your leg of the race. Do it wholeheartedly and with everything you have! However, refuse the temptation to live outside of the graceful rhythm of His leading.

Fixed

Psalms 112:7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.

Epictetus, the Greek Stoic philosopher of two millennium ago, authored and taught the highly quoted adage, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters”. In view of the scripture text above, perhaps the Stoics extracted their “maxim” from the Holy Scriptures inspired by the Holy Spirit many centuries prior.

In any case, the anointed writer of the 111th and 112th psalm wrote boldly of a people flourishing under the care of extraordinary promises, ever-present protection, and unlimited provision. Intentionally profuse and verse upon verse, the love and wisdom of God is seen shepherding His chosen nation’s return to their favored land through hearty repentance and an incalculable restoration.

Thus, the only way that God’s people are freed from myriad inadequacies, idolatrous indifference, self-loathing and spineless insecurities is because of God infinite grace. And we are privileged to bless and worship God as He rescues us from sin, self-dug dungeons of doubt, pride-produced pains, and all-too-often poor decisions.

But what of a redemptive grace that addresses, not only our known deficiencies, but the nagging native weights of fear, worry, anxiety and stress? You know, those imaginative thoughts, the ones we eventually rebuke Satan for when we think them. Yes, the ones we oft store in our untidy, subliminal warehouse – that darkened basement where unanswered questions and things not yet understood are unloaded for later inquiry.

It’s a grand and glorious place to be confident, to be completely assured that we’re unconditionally loved and never alone. That’s good news! And without such knowledge we never succeed. And it’s nice to know our material needs of food, shelter and clothing are already ours by faith. Yes, seriously, those things promised and provided in advance changes the way we think, and do, daily life. We get it. And we’re always thankful.

But life isn’t always cut and dried, and it’s not always neat and in straight rows. Life can be messy and come at us in spectacular and unexpected ways! And quick answers to the “whys” and “what’s next” of our unanticipated predicaments can be at best elusive, or worse, unavailable. And we don’t function well as humans when our hearts are troubled and our minds confused.

But it’s comforting to know that God addresses life’s unexpected things, the things uncertain, and especially when they pop up on our mental screen as evil tidings or bad news!

From experience, that snarky tongue and mindset of “what if”, is the indicator of many fears and anxieties. That reactive catch-all phrase, when open to discussion, creates more questions and friction than gray duct tape on a groin pull. Invariably, when told of some new way of alleviating some issue or providing some helpful solution, we throw out our quippy default line – “what if”? And from there the dialogue dies, the remedy is untapped, and the dilemma remains.

To what length, then, will God go to remove the strength of a bad report from a trusted pediatrician or from some unmerited accusation? What brand of Divinity transcends the universal facts of war, violence, division and disloyalty – the very fabric constituting our sin-caused culture? Who can assuage the depressing angst fueled by toxic 24 hour “news” cycles permeating strife in most every facet of life? What “greater power” can remove the sting of foreboding financial crisis, looming shutdowns, dangerous weather forecasts, premonitions, intuitions, omens, prophecies, prognosticators, and “expert” opinion?

The above text, without apology or sense of shame, points us singularly to the simplicity of a God-approving faith. A heart that trusts the faithfulness of God, whether his outer circumstances are found to be favorable or not, his fixation on the Author and Finisher of all he believes to be true, overcomes any temptation to fear and dread!

So, to those dreading the possible news of the plant’s shutdown, the teacher’s phone call regarding the child’s evaluation, the mechanic’s report on that “clanging sound under the hood”, even the prophesied persecution of those loving Jesus – regardless the tenor of the reports, news, or “vibes”, we have an anchor that connects us to the One who changes not!

Going forward, let’s be confident in our responses to life’s quandaries by fixing our gaze on the God who unconditionally cares for us! So that whether our path is clear and comprehensible, or clearly muddled and as incomprehensible as a maze, fears and anxieties will no longer torment our hearts and avert our purpose!

If God be for us (and He is!), nothing else really matters

Summer Rains

Isaiah 58:11 …and thou shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

With decades of firsthand knowledge in the rural life of farming and gardening, and having recorded some good and not so good years in the process – unquestionably, no element stands as instrumental in producing good yields like an available water supply.

And no source is more proficient in providing H2O for crops like the heavens – those dark, heavy clouds filled with water roll in, soaking the thirsty soil as they unload their precious commodity, reviving the dehydrated roots and satisfying the fears and anxieties of sweaty and sleep-deprived farmers. (I’m sorry, but it’s real – there’s something pricelessly magical about the downpours of summer rains!)

But in many regions, nature’s commitment to consistent rainfall is at best, illusory. For nature is unpredictable and volatile – seasonally temperamental and whimsical, and in the day-to-day, unsteady and unreliable. So don’t take it personally if the caretaker of the cosmos doesn’t water some hobby gardener’s 3 rows of peas from which he hoped his green thumb would be celebrated. (No seriously, nature has a gargantuan workload!)

So what is a farmer to do when he can’t trust completely the clouds to moisten the soil and the precious seeds he’s planted? What can he do to mitigate weather’s ups and downs, and by extension, those inevitably worrisome economic swings?

What is the agriculturist’s response should capricious clouds skirt around his planted fields? Will he allow erratic circumstances to determine his economic well-being? Will he jeopardize the wealth of his many homes, barns, and livestock by neglecting research in ways of combating weather’s fickleness? Will he leave to chance the dreams of a flourishing enterprise?

No, of course not! An astute farmer will devise a strategy! With his farming skills and his business mind as lifelong partners, he’ll build ponds and purchase irrigation systems that assure annual planting efforts are not in vain. He knows the peculiarities of climate and weather patterns, and wisely prepares for extended dry seasons. Even in unthinkable times, in seasons of long term drought, he constructs systems ensuring planting efforts will be profitable. And from his foresight a successful operation is built; and for his ingenuity, generations to come will inherit an undeniable debt of appreciation.

How much more then, does the One who plants us as His offspring provide things essential for our promised well-being? Is not our Father, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the ultimate source of wisdom regarding sowing, investing, caring, and reaping? Will He leave to chance the harvest intended from the planting investment of His Son? No way! Our God had our needs in mind even before the world began!

According to Scripture, we know the Father of Glory is best glorified when His children are fruitful. And from that we know anything hindering His children from developing into the likeness of His Son Jesus is met with timely showers of His own grace and mercy! A God with no limitations will always address the sometimes dusty dryness of His Chosen with a “more than enough”, drenching overflow of His own peace, comfort, care and power!

What then is this watered garden of which the prophet speaks? What is this unspeakable life that springs from within its own space, a river ushering in a quality of life unaffected by the dry and barren wildernesses in which all humanity is relegated? And to whom are these special provisions made available? And when will these divine possessions be accessed, or administered?

“There is a river,” the psalmist declares, a place where God dwells, a place where this flowing, unending, unchanging, life-giving channel of immeasurable grace exists. “Out of your inner most being, rivers of living water will flow,” prophesied The Christ, the One from which all blessings would eternally flow. The life Jesus declared pointed to the Holy Spirit, for the soon coming Comforter would descend and reside in His followers forever!

What the prophet Joel decreed, “that in the last days, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and daughters shall prophesy,” came the birth and empowerment of the New Testament church. It was from God’s merciful heart that His children be no longer subject to the corruption and evil of a world gone awry. “I will put my Spirit in them,” says God, and they’ll walk in my ways and thrive under my protection and provision! “They’ll be like a tree planted by the river; they’ll prosper even in drought, and their leaf will not wither”!

And now, even in things that boggle our finite comprehension, things as odd as Paul’s thorn and such like, things unexpected and things undesirable, even those out-of-the-blue red hot trials, God promises help through an ever-present and all-sufficient grace! The unbounded onboard gift of the Holy Ghost makes our impossible situations possible, and our droughts and deserts veritable fields of beauty and abundance!

So fellow travelers of this common faith, brothers and sisters who face seasons of both exceeding favor and untold adversity, believe again and be established in truth – God waters those He plants! Allow Him to be your constant wellspring, gurgling and bubbling, saturating your own life with grace while splashing a little on those mesmerized by your glory-to-glory journey with God!

To those struggling with loneliness – You’ll never walk alone!
To those overwhelmed with cares – Cast them all on Him!
To those out of focus and directionless – Turn your eyes on Him!
To those sensing relational tensions – Define life as selflessness!
To those experiencing grief – Even in this, He will revive us again!
To those injured through injustice – Be patient, God will avenge us!
To those ministering faithfully – God is not unfaithful to reward us!
To those living, but not joyfully – Let faith go deeper than our trials!
To those blinded by materialism – Rethink! Put your treasures above!
To those deifying their flesh – Full stop! All flesh is as grass!

The Word of God is amazingly accurate in applying water to our dry seeds and unfruitful seasons! Trust the indwelling Holy Spirit to be active with the Word, watering as summer rains our inner lives, even when our outer life is unexpectedly exposed to Saharan-type difficulties!

Shine Brightly

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Jesus says, we “ARE the light of the world.” That’s His proclamation over us right now. It is not a promise we are waiting to receive. We aren’t eagerly anticipating a day, in the future, when it will become true. Our identity, as light bearers, is an unearned gift graciously given to us by God upon belief in His Son. This truth is unchanging. We do, however, get to choose whether we believe and walk in agreement with what He has spoken.

In John 14:16, we receive assurance about who dwells within us. “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you- forever- the Spirit of truth.” His precious Holy Spirit is light and because He was sent and now dwells within us we, too, possess that marvelous light.

This is not a plea to muster up more light. We are not issued a challenge to work harder to shine brightly. Instead we are invited to believe in who He says we already are. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” We are new creations carefully crafted in His image. As bearers of His image we are, now, beautiful, bright reflections of His light, love, and glory. Could we dare to believe it?

This world is desperately seeking the light of hope during dark, discouraging times. In John 8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” As Christ followers we possess what the world is looking for. Our lives of faith are a blazing arrow that points straight back to the heart of God.

Therefore let’s refuse to hide or dim our light. It’s not time for the children of God to lurk in the shadows trying to conceal our light in an attempt to blend in with the culture. It’s time to put our faith on full display so that His name is lifted high! Let’s get loud about His lavish love and wild goodness. Let’s share our testimonies and make a big deal about what God has done for us! Let’s throw the doors of our homes wide open in uncommon hospitality. When we encounter a dark situation let us be quick to apply the truth of the word of God and illuminate the dark with the light of faith. We will not water down who we are because we are afraid for our light to be seen!

We are strategically placed, by God, within specific realms of influence. Could we then spend significant time, this week, turned towards God in worship? As we do we will become more like Him. The light that is in us will get brighter as we face the source of all light, Jesus Christ.

The Dream Finisher

Psalms 105:18(NLT) until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.

As a student of scripture and closet observer of the many expositors and expounders of them, perhaps no scriptural clause creates a veritable buffet of doctrine, theology, purpose, and understanding like this solitary, psalmic verse. Here, intertwined like the cords of a plaited rope – Creator, creation, and chaos run together – unraveling through life the strength, essence and purpose of each component and part.

Sandwiched strategically and voluminously between Abraham’s faith and Moses’ deliverance, stands a man who lived out extraordinary hope and inspiring perseverance. His place in the establishing of faith has implications and ripple effect throughout bible history, even to the salvific, eternal redemption of God’s chosen. And though few will ever be tested to the degree of severity in which Joseph’s faith was tested, be certain that all will be tested regarding the sincerity of their faith.

Like a porch light to the bugs at night, Joseph’s dream magnetized the envious naysayers of his day. When his ascending pedigree and posterity were openly declared among his brothers, invariably, relational chasms and beastly violence reached commonplace throughout his maturing years.

Though the path of Joseph’s dream and destination was interspersed with adversity and cruelty, the Author of his dream proved to be a far greater Finisher than all the desperate conspiracies and circumstances that sought to abort it.

For the dream, or prophetic words, that inspired Joseph’s life – words that propelled him, humbled him, protected him, and promoted him through numerous setbacks – outlived even him, as they contained words of foreknowledge regarding the inevitable formation of national Israel.

What some silently chafe at when trouble strikes is that there’s more at stake in trials than the mere wellbeing of the one tried. So that events that were ordained for Joseph to endure, in both Canaan and Egypt, were essential for Israel to be center stage in Messianic prophecy. For the coming of Christ and the creation of His redeemed Church were facilitated primarily on the shoulders of a bare few; a few that lived, not for themselves, but for the will of God.

Consider then the wisdom orchestrating the tumultuous years of Joseph’s rise to prominence. No one persists and pushes through difficulties as dark as those entertained by Joseph without possessing a faith that grasps something greater than themselves.

Surfacing quietly from the horrific rejections, accusations, injustices, neglect, wounding, dishonor, loneliness, imprisonment and separations Joseph experienced, four prominent truths arose:

  1. none of Joseph’s troubles were purposeless
  2. none resulted from his own improprieties
  3. none came without the allowances of God’s providence
  4. all things (even tribulations), worked together for his good!

To profit from life’s torrid trials, understand first that what’s valued greater than gold is the deeper faith and spiritual fruit that invariably flourishes, even when storms we experience are ratcheted to inexplicable levels.

While tempests of discouragement and turmoil of disappointment time and again ripped the external foliage from Joseph’s extraordinary dream, the character of a soon-to-be prince was being formed and deeply etched. As to integrity, the trustworthiness required in stewardship was groomed and proven dramatically in Potiphar’s house. And the leadership qualifications needed for the massive role he’d soon fill in Egypt were well satisfied through various other setbacks and testings.

How do we then engage the temptations and fiery trials that crop up in the path of every child of God? And what further purpose or benefit can the consuming fires of God provide us, even when we’re committed to Christ and obediently surrendering to His will?

Check out these three advisements when dreams are not fulfilled, and life doesn’t look anything like we thought it would:

— BE SURE—

  • Determine who and what’s unmovable, decide to be faithful, discern your true foe.
  • Focus on what transcends time; and the temporal things, even the troubles, find their effects lessened, either immediately or eventually.

— BE STILL—

  • Overcomers learn to rest more, not work more. More victories are won in prayer than on platforms and pulpits. Stay low and inside.
  • Only in patience do we review our priorities, and it’s then that we usually adjust and reduce them. And that’s ok. Be transformed.
  • The Holy Spirit is a better comforter than dancer. So receive comfort before we desire deliverance.

— BE SWEET—

  • To God. To oneself. To others. To antagonists.
  • It’s likely someone questioned your authenticity – so prove you, not them.
  • A rose doesn’t know that the suit to which it is pinned is actually worn by the grifter everyone despises. So be you. Do you. Be beautiful.
  • Rejoice in everything. I know, I don’t get it either, it sounds foolish. But He told us, so I’m on it. And if I’m going to grow in Him, I’ve got to believe Him in things I don’t like or understand.

And humorously, if a three-legged bar stool supports day after day the awkwardness of an overweight patron, surely these three practices can support a heavy heart overwhelmed by adversity and life’s unexpectedness.

Love for Outsiders

“But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.'”Luke 10:5-9

Directly in the center of this evangelistic, apostolic narrative, just as Jesus is releasing and sending His followers to share His message with Gentiles for the first time, He introduces a theme that will become essential to the advancement of His Gospel. In the middle of explaining their authority over the enemy, commanding them to preach to sinners, and giving them power to heal the sick Jesus initiates the beginning declarations of a practice that seems inconsequential in this context but will become paramount to the fulfillment of His mission. This principle will become a place of refuge for Christians during persecution, a place of nourishment in times of famine, and a breeding ground for growth and increase. This principle is hospitality. As He sent them out to do His bidding, Jesus commanded them to stay in homes and eat meals with a “son of peace.”

If it were not for the remainder of the New Testament, it would be possible to skim past this instruction as unimportant or simply only necessary for this one occurrence. However as we read the Book of Acts and the Epistles to the early Church, it becomes glaringly clear that this practice was not background noise or peripheral to their mission, it was, in fact, foundational and indispensable.

The writer of Hebrews expounds upon these sentiments in verse 1 and 2 of chapter 13: “Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1-2 NASB) In Romans 12, as the Apostle Paul gives us practical function for how our lives should look as claimers of salvation, he says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Rom. 12:12–13). The Greek word for hospitality is “philozenia,” which comes from a compound of “love” and “strangers.” Otherwise stated, hospitality has its origin in the idea of welcoming and loving outsiders.

It is simple to understand the manifold advantage of gathering in this way with like-minded believers. However, I want to emphasize the importance of this principle as an asset in the Church’s evangelistic efforts. Increasingly, the most strategic turf on which to engage unbelievers with the good news of Jesus may be the turf of our own homes.

What if our homes were not just a place to dwell in or to reside? Not just a location to have bills sent to and a place to sleep? What if our homes were vital in the plan of God for the growth of His Kingdom in the earth? The New Testament announces that our living rooms can be sanctified. They can be sacred locations where the Holy Spirit ministers, serves, and draws mankind back to the Father. They can be strategic settings for welcoming and gathering unbelievers for the purpose of showing God’s love. They can be a breeding ground for enduring fruit and spiritual harvest.

My simple encouragement to the family of God is to create space in our living rooms and our lives to make converts and to make disciples. However, before you feel the need to get a microphone and stand on the street corner or seek ordination papers maybe what God is calling us to do is as fundamental as inviting friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family over to our house for dinner.

This may change the world.

Contentment

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever thecircumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”Philippians 4:11-13

Stomach bugs. Temper tantrums. All nighters. Hospital admissions. Potty training. Resident referee.

Motherhood isn’t always glamorous.

In fact there are days it’s just plain hard. And all the truthful, transparent mommas said, “Amen!” Paul says, however, in Philippians that he “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” Does this mean it is actually possible to be content in every season of our lives? Even the difficult ones? Is it possible to experience contentment even if our external circumstance is chaotic? Can we believe that motherhood is full of glory even when it isn’t glamorous? Could we dare to trust that God is at work in every detail of every day and that He wastes absolutely nothing?

My dear friends, contentment is ours for the taking. We can learn to access it daily. If Paul learned to be content from a prison cell then surely we can learn it while we are living in these glory-filled days of answered prayers. Many of us prayed for the days of marriage, motherhood, and ministry that we are living in right now. Therefore, let us refuse for the enemy to steal one inch of our beautiful, blessed ground. May the Lord not find us complaining and discontented. Let Him find us, instead, exceedingly thankful. He’s been so good to us.

That’s the key. He is good. Wildly, consistently, eternally GOOD.

Contentment has everything to do with what we know to be true about God and absolutely nothing to do with what is going on around us. Contentment, for a believer, begins inward and is independent of any external circumstance. We imagine that contentment is achievable only when our kids are obeying, the house is tidy, and our to-do list is checked off. But that’s a lieand I’m calling us up to clearer, higher, Kingdom-thinking. The Word tells us that contentment is all about Him and that He is our source of strength and joy. He is the ultimate, lasting refreshment we crave. This means we can be content on the ground our feet are planted on right this second. We don’t have to wait until another day to be content. We’re invited to experience it now.

This week, I pray, that we will be deeply satisfied with what we have and where we are. James1:17 says, “Every gift God freely gives us is good and perfect, streaming down from the Father of lights.” Look around. Take inventory. He has lavished us with generous gifts and we have much to be thankful for. Let’s choose, therefore, to celebrate what we have and stop focusing on what we don’t. He is with us and He is working all things together for our good and His glory. What He starts He’ll finish and His goodness will be weaved through every line on every page of our story, amen!?

Spiritual Formation 101

You’re probably familiar with the Pareto Principle. In general, the principle states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes. The takeaway is that it is most efficient to focus primarily on the few causes that make the greatest difference.

When it comes to discipleship, it turns out that a few behaviors make a disproportionate difference in our personal growth. In his book No Silver Bullets, Daniel Im summarizes the results of studies that analyze the effect of certain behaviors on spiritual maturity. Three practices consistently predict a higher score when it comes to measuring spiritual maturity.

Shockingly those three behaviors are amazingly elementary:

  1. Read the Bible
  2. Attend regular worship services
  3. Get connected with small classes or groups

In other words, if you want to grow, it’s important to read the Bible and to get involved in worship and community at a local church. Few things matter more than these in our personal spiritual maturity.

These findings even shape us as church leaders and pastors as we attempt to cut through the superfluous and the trendy to rightly encourage the congregation in their walk with Christ. If we want to help people grow, we must primarily encourage them to focus on reading Scripture and participating in the worship and community life of the Body of Christ.

Sometimes we look for new insights and approaches that will help people grow. I’m struck by how ordinary these key practices are. I’m also struck by how easy it is to underestimate them.

At Impact Church, we offer many opportunities to grow and increase in our relationship with Christ. However, our foundational strategy for the individual maturity of the members in our stewardship is to insist upon the faithful reading of God’s Word, regular attendance in corporate worship, and consistent involvement in biblical community.

Never underestimate or neglect the basics. Our spiritual growth is dependent on them!

Revival of Fatherhood

Malachi 4:6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

It’s convenient for the gatekeepers of a social group to blame internal turbulence or embarrassing foolishness on its rowdy and rascally children.

Some of their common platitudes may slip out this way:

“I can’t believe kids these days; they got no respect for nothing and nobody!”
“I don’t know if there’s any hope left for this bunch of snotty-nosed brats!”
“I know one thing, if I’d done that (or said that) to my daddy, I couldn’t a sit down for a month of Sundays!”

But remarks of such triteness contribute no more than knee jerk reactions to systemic issues, issues for which few have time, energy, nor a redemptive strategy. In a nut shell, whatever seems to be wrong with the structure of a family, community, culture, or even the Church, the fault seems to inextricably shift to those unruly, unchecked, ungovernable, “kids”!

Ah, but there’s those pesky little scriptures!

For if not for scripture, we’d shove those young ‘uns behavioral issues right back on themselves, and piously place society’s burden on the soft shoulders of the “pimply faced”, “ain’t even shaving yet”, “still wet behind the ears”, that awkward-stage, know-it-all demographic – those rebellious little preteens and adolescents!

But slow down, stop, and reread this beautifully corrective, prophetic Malachi text. Before there’s any showdown with juveniles and their delinquency (a contagion that’s both easy to observe and even easier to critique), consider Malachi’s emphatic as He speaks first to the heart of the fathers. In Holy Spirit shorthand: “hey, address the head, and the body will work fine”.

Progenitorial and paternal, fathers are designed to lead, protect, provide, and bear responsibility for a family’s wellbeing. Numerous studies reveal (as though we needed statistics to prove what scripture and prior centuries of experience prove), that a direct correlation exists between diligent fatherhood and the relational health of family, community, and church.

Given the sacred heaviness of a father’s influence and presence within the family structure, a hearty return to such a mentality would provide immeasurable results. It is wise, worthy and clear, that the original paternal design was and will continue to bring glory to the Creator when faithfully adopted.

So consider, even in the throes of present relational and social angst, the generations that will ultimately arise triumphant from today’s generation of faithful fathers – fathers that sow daily in the rich soil of commitment, compassion, discipline, love and physical presence!

So what can today’s fathers do to ensure tomorrow’s families are fulfilled and edifying?

Will today’s dads follow in the dark shadows of previous fathers that lived selfishly, randomly, and without purpose?

Will this generation of fathers live wasted, void of investment in the generations to come?

What can today’s dads do to exercise their divine influence in seeing their wives and children enjoying life, and their Creator honored and glorified?

Here are a few random points for fathers, and since they’ll require more of our hearts than our wallets, why not jump on them!

1) Love the mother of your children, your wife! The kids will know!
2) Be playfully affectionate! They love it, and they’ll never forget it!
3) Be physically present- at meal times, bedtime, and game time!
4) Pray with them about everything – they believe better than we do!
5) Make nature a veritable classroom – hikes, oceans, flowers, dogs!
6) Make the Bible the most honored piece of literature ever penned.
7) Build that sandbox – it’s more fulfilling than cartoons and games!
8) Show them compassion through injured pets or elderly grandparents.
9) Cultivate a love for reading – words, knowledge, and critical thinking matters!
10) Make church attendance a thing of joy – they’ll perceive your authenticity, and in time believe your God!

The day that precedes the great Day of the Lord will experience a holy return to honor and respect among fathers and families – a renewal of such proportion the world will only marvel and admire. If that is to be, and it will be according to prophecy, then why should we not be part of that glorious appearing of Christ, even as it begins in the families of those who believe?

Happy Father’s Day, Impact Church!