Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Tag: spiritual growth

Gift Giver

“Every gift God freely gives us is good and perfect, streaming down from the Father of lights, who shines from the heavens with no hidden shadow or darkness and is never subject to change.” James 1:17

On Christmas Eve, I wrapped gifts for our children and carefully arranged them beneath the tree. I couldn’t wait to give the gifts we chose especially for them. I could hardly sleep from the anticipation of watching smiles dance across their faces upon unwrapping their treasures.

My friend, God feels that way about us every single day! Matthew 7:11 says, “If you, imperfect as you are, know how to lovingly take care of your children and give them what’s best, how much more ready is your Heavenly Father to give wonderful gifts to those who ask Him?” He sits on the edge of His Heavenly seat anticipating the day we unwrap everything selected specifically for us.

God is the ultimate giver. From the beginning of time until now, God has been giving gifts to mankind. He gave us the greatest gift when He gave His Son Jesus. Jesus, then, gave us everything He had by selflessly laying down His life for our redemption. “For this is how much God loved the world- He gave His one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in Him will never perish but experience everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Furthermore, in Ephesians 4 we are told that God has given us spiritual gifts. All of the gifts are provided, ultimately, to “equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:12) The spiritual gifts we’ve received were carefully thought out by our Father. When we recognize and utilize what we’ve been given we can successfully run the race we’ve been assigned.

We’re welcomed, also, to ask God for gifts. We get to not only desire spiritual gifts but to actively pray for them as well. James 4:2 says, “And all the time you don’t obtain what you want because you won’t ask God for it!” God is worthy of pursuit. I believe there’s so much more we could walk in if we’d just be bold enough to ask Him.

Moreover, while His good gifts abound in our lives some may not be packaged the way we expect. Earlier this year I walked through serious health scares with both my daughter and mother. Initially I wouldn’t have called either one of them a gift from God. But now that they are both in my rearview mirror, I have the clarity required to know they were. I’m more convinced, now, that every Word of the Bible is true. That His presence is more than enough. That peace that passes all understanding is real. That He has the power to radically heal. I know Him more intimately than I did before and knowing Him better is the best thing that happened to me this year. The hard, uncomfortable places were a gift in disguise. Perhaps your hard and uncomfortable places are too.

So let’s graciously dance into 2019 rejoicing over all the gifts we received in 2018 and anticipating all the ones still to come. This is going to be an incredible year seeking and serving the giver of every good and perfect gift!

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Hope of All the World

“And his name will be the hope of all the world.” Matthew 12:21 NLT

A bizarre, World War 1 ceasefire on Christmas Day 1914 remains one of the great oddities of modern military history. Mythical in some part due to exaggeration, yet authentic in large part due to reputable eye witnesses, the bloody trench warfare on France’s western Front between British and German troops came to a brief halt on Christmas Day 1914.

Unshouldering their weapons and easing out of protective trenches, soldiers from both sides of this grim conflict traded cigarettes, sang carols, kicked soccer balls, and took photos. And in a rare display of mutual compassion, the impromptu ceasefire provided precious time for attending to the wounded and supplied a somewhat sacred space for the dead to be buried.

It’s unbelievable and inconceivable that trained killers could arrive at such a moment, that war and violence could be forgotten and good will toward sworn enemies be a reality!

Though the bloodshed resumed with a vengeance shortly afterward, the strange agreement between bitter combatants to cease hostilities and experience the calm of a Christmas Day speaks volumes to the innate desire of fellow image bearers to experience peace, no matter how elusive or short term that peace may be. To halt a deadly war, not at the sign of victory or defeat, but at the mere impulse of humanity’s hunger for peace (even when that peace is certain to be fleeting and futile), signifies at least, conceptually, the possibility of the whole of creation at rest.

Though human quests for a cosmos without strife and tension exist, the eerie pallor of discontent, hate, war and violence have marred creation’s symphony since Cain murdered his brother, Abel. From the first family’s dysfunction to the present, remedies for peace have been extensive, varied, and costly. The goals have undoubtedly been noble, and the “ought to” civility taught among differing civilizations is honorable, but any consistent peace among the nations of the world has been woefully scant.

Some thought harmony among the brotherhood of man was possible through religious practice; others deemed the answer to be through advanced political process; while others felt a just and peaceable world was available through military might. At the other end of the human effort spectrum others chose philosophies of passive, non-violence as a means to restoration; others promised togetherness among the nations through economic strategies and expanded educational pursuits. Some have believed wise legislation and virtuous statesmanship possessed the ingredients for equitable and just societies. Historically, all have proven to be ineffective and unsustainable in quelling the turmoil that infests mankind.

Had there been other means whereby nations could reside in peace, and had there been a place where wolves and lambs lay down together, and if a land existed where snakes didn’t strike at the legs of passers-by, then Bethlehem would not have supplied the manger where the Hope of the world was born! But those efforts were proven time again fruitless and vain, nothing more than mere strivings born from troubled, unknown, and ungoverned hearts.

But the God of peace could no longer remain aloof and distant from His creation’s dilemma! It was from the Father’s heart and from the beginning of time that the Hope of the world would be found in Jesus and the realization of that Hope would be fulfilled the day the Lord Jesus Christ was born!

Merry Christmas, then, to all the world! Hope for a restored creation is no longer a mystical, distant thought, for peace and harmony have come in the form of a baby boy! The Messiah, the One prophesied by all the prophets- Immanuel, God with us, the Savior, has arrived! He lived, died, was buried and has risen from the grave, and He accomplished all His Father assigned Him to do! And equally gloriously, He now resides in the souls of those who trust Him!

No longer is peace confined to a temporary stay formed by unstable minds. No longer are we disillusioned by the fickle, unreliable promises of men to halt harsh words and end bitter strife. No longer are truces of peace enacted upon conditions concocted by human standards, nor is unity determined by mere behavior modification!

There is a peace that begins in the heart, from a heart that’s forgiven and a mind that’s cleared! There is a place where wars no longer exist, and there is a place where joy, peace and goodwill towards all mankind spring as naturally as mountain streams flow southward! That place is personal, powerful and productive- a glorious experience and possession possible only through faith in the Prince of Peace!

Will the nations of the world ever experience peace? Will the peoples and tribes of the earth ever live in harmony, be free from injustice, be loosed from envy, or be delivered from discontent? Will governments and rulers of the world ever lay down their arms and despise violence as a means of control? Will manipulation and emotional coercion forever be banned? Will equality among the diverse image bearers of God ever be realized and enjoyed? Will the masses of humanity ever experience economic freedom- content and confident, free from fear and lack?

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes to all of this!

How then is this indescribable reality possible? How will these conditions be fulfilled? It seems so beyond hope! Well, the answer dwells in the hope gurgling from the souls of those born of Peace! One person at a time, one human heart opened to the Gospel, one friend telling another friend of this grace – that’s how “as it is in heaven so shall it be on earth” arrives! Quietly, unadorned, and oft unexpectedly, the King of glory takes His place in human hearts, and with His glorious redeemed Church, promises to rule the earth with righteousness! There will be no end to His peace, His government, and His provision! A concept of this sort is not of this world, but rather originates from God and revives, filling in entirety the emptiness of fallen creation!

And with that hope springing now from purified and enthused hearts, we celebrate forever the very Incarnation of God! Peace was made possible through the birth of the Son, and the entrance of that light has given eternal hope to all that believe!

Are all things He promised now fulfilled and readily visible? No. Not yet. But surely goodness and mercy shall follow all those who’ve received Him! With hope being shed abroad now in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we boldly declare with joy – Merry Christmas to all!

Heart Growth

Admittedly, I haven’t seen The Grinch movie that was just released in the last few weeks. The computer-animated retelling of one of the most beloved Christmas stories is sure to be fun and light-hearted (this is not a movie review) but will undoubtedly never reach the classical influence of the original. I do not know Dr. Seuss’ (Theodore Geisel) spiritual inclinations or beliefs or his exact motivation for writing the book “How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” However, I can never read through this 1957 classic without being reminded of some foundational truths. 

In this children’s book, the author zooms in on the mindset of an isolated, grouchy character who developed a scheme to put an end to Christmas by stealing Christmas-themed items from the home of the nearby town of Whoville on Christmas Eve. He plotted to take their feast food, gifts, decorations, and even the Christmas tree all in an attempt to keep them from being excited and joyful on Christmas Day. He especially hated the noises of Christmastime, particularly the singing. Dr. Seuss gives the reason for the Grinch’s hatred of Christmas; the Grinch has a heart that is “two sizes too small.” 

Isn’t it amazing to consider that the way the Grinch looked at others was not a reflection of their goodness or wickedness but rather a reflection of the size and condition of his heart? Therefore, he was unable to join in the celebration and participate in the festivities with everyone else. In fact, it caused him to resent and despise the sounds of joy in others not because they were wrong for celebrating but because his heart was darkened. Here are just a few characteristics of the Grinch that were byproducts of his small heart: 

  1. He compared himself with his neighbors. The people in Whoville became his enemies rather than his partners. 
  2.  He became a taker. Anytime comparison is given place, it immediately ushers in the attitude of lack and lack always removes the heart of generosity and replaces it with a heart that takes. 
  3.  He became materialistic. He thought that joy came from their possessions! He assumed that if he could steal their possessions then he could quiet their rejoicing. 
  4.  He wished misery on his neighbors. Because he was miserable, he did not want anyone else to celebrate. Misery loves company! The Grinch was not just stealing the items, he was attempting to steal their reason for rejoicing. 

Dr. Seuss drives home the simple lesson of this book as he illustrates the Grinch looking with anticipation at Whoville after he had stole their goods. He expected them to be sad, gloomy, and miserable but when he turned to listen the opposite was actually occurring. The people of Whoville started singing! They sang louder and louder until the noise covered the town. The Grinch thought that without the items they would be discouraged and disappointed. However, it was never about the items that made the people of Whoville sing, it was about the condition of their heart. Your song says more about your heart than it does your possessions! 

That day the Grinch’s heart grew and he ended up returning all the items and enjoying Christmas with the people of Whoville. He even cut the roasted beast! 

My prayer for you this Christmas is that your heart grows. That materialism, bitterness, and comparison are all dethroned and the purity of this season can be enjoyed. Your song is not dependent upon your possessions or your neighbor. God has been good to YOU! Rejoice! 

Attitude of Christ

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” Philippians 2:4

Just yesterday I asked my darling four-year-olds to please pick up the magna-tiles from
the middle of our living room floor. They complied but not without making sure I knew
how disgruntled they were. They huffed, scowled, and complained as if I had requested
they clean the entire house from top to bottom. When they were finished this momma did not gush over what a fantastic job they did. Instead we had a necessary conversation
about how important it is to have a good attitude.

I, as a mom, care about my children’s attitudes. I believe our Heavenly Father cares
greatly about the attitudes of His kids, too. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord said to
Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have
rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart.”’

God cares more about how we do something than what we actually do.

While we can put on a mask and hide our truest self from others there is absolutely
nothing hidden from God. He sees the unfiltered version of our thoughts, feelings, and
motives. If I’m being embarrassingly honest- I sometimes resemble my kids. Sure, I am
obedient. But not without doing my fair share of grumbling and whining about how hard
it is.

If you can admit the same about yourself- take courage. Having the attitude of Christ is
possible! God would not ask us to do something we cannot. We are invited to have the
mind of Christ. But how?

1 John 1:9 says, “But if we freely admit our sins when his light uncovers them, He will be
faithful to forgive us every time. God is just to forgive us our sins because of Christ, and
he will continue to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Let’s trust God’s faithfulness
enough to quickly confess when our attitude is not matching our identity. We are
confident that giving Him permission to purify us is for our good and His glory.

Furthermore, we must be intentional about having the Word of God rooted deep in our
hearts and minds. When we are meditating on His Word our actions and attitudes will
likely follow suit because the Word changes us. More specifically, it gives us clear
instructions about where to park our thoughts. The apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:8,
“So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and
admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your
thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.”

When we confess our sins and fix our thoughts on the truth of God’s Word our attitudes
will begin to agree with His. Praise God! “And the Lord- who is the Spirit- makes us
more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Got Milk?

As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word… 1Peter 2:2

Consider the unforeseen risks before booking a family flight that includes a four month old. It’s likely moments will come you can never prepare for, nor predict. For when mom and little “bambino” are thirty five thousand feet up and squeezed between two corpulent characters highly blessed with heavy breathing – well, it will not be like mom’s comfy living room with a blanket between a Fisher Price Baby Bouncer Seat and Kick n Play Piano. Believe me, been there, and it’s just not the same.

And things can get a little testy if mom is seated mid-cabin in a middle seat and little precious gets noisy and rambunctious. Cause it’s likely folks boarding the flight didn’t sign up for, “hey guys, not-a-prob, we-family, we-all-in-this-thing-together, we-totally-understand,” when little angel-face has a few things to say at decibels, and with inflections, and in tones the human ear is yet to appreciate.

And be further advised that a couple hundred sleep-deprived travelers in an airtight cabin with people they don’t know (or care to know), have little time for cooing at someone else’s baby, whether she’s fretful or not. You’ll notice that when passengers cross the aircraft’s entry door threshold, turn right at the cockpit, and double-check the seat number on the boarding pass – from there, it’s every man for himself. Once seated, folks want to be left alone. They’ll read something, do a crossword, or don the buds for some music. But mostly folks want to sleep. Undisturbed sleep.

Such are the potential hazards for flying high with a diaper-clad newbie. That little bundle of sweetness, with all her various eccentrics and oddities, can make or break a parent’s trip, or those traveling with her. If she gets feisty and fussy, the whole journey can turn into a nerve wracking, humbling, regrettable experience. And within minutes, a calm, personable “hi, y’all” mom can become a veritable persona non grata as onlookers slice her up with steamy, head-turning glares and muttered outrage!

Knowing then the capriciousness of newborns, is there an absolute, time-honored answer for appeasing a baby’s irritableness? Is there something out there (or up there!) that’ll ease baby’s disquietude when she’s struggling?

Yes! Yes there is! And it’s the same answer that satisfies the quirks and idiosyncrasies of all babies – and get this, including young believers,  yes, even those born of God! Life, whether in flesh or spirit, will not always provide pleasant surroundings, and the journeying of both never promise calm winds and smooth sailing; but the prescription for both, works miracles for both!

— It’s the milk, friends, it’s the milk! To the moms with ill-humored babies – it’s the milk! It’s. The. Milk!

— It’s the milk, friends, it’s the milk! To the pastors with occasional crotchety congregants – it’s the milk! It’s. The. Milk!

For context, I’ll allude momentarily to the above mentioned family flight: it was an amazing lesson learned in motherhood, as my daughter stilled any fidgetiness little KJ may have been experiencing by bringing her up close and personal with mother’s milk! Regardless the unfamiliar surroundings, unexpected turbulence, strange noises, or new faces – mom and the milk were the miracle cure for keeping her calm and content! Not a whimper, nor a whine that mom’s milk didn’t quickly quieten!

Likewise, the antidote for anxious and out-of-sorts children of the faith has a proven remedy in the highly potent “milk of the word”. Whatever ails the soul of those conceived and born of the Word find their solace and healing through an ingestion of the same. It’s in the wise design of the Creator that the sustenance and strength of the young are drawn from the origin and source of their birth.

There is no confusion, division, frustration, question, or situation that the Word doesn’t have an available solution. And there is no functioning principality or power that doesn’t readily flee from the superior agency of the Word when it’s applied by a child of God. And whether the soul of the elect is drowsy through religious business, drugged through infatuations of a material world, or derailed by envy, pride, offence, or unforgiveness – the temptations and enticements of a temporal world are but an early morning fog dismissed forthrightly by a rising sun – a Son more perfectly known as the Word of God!

  • Facing a seemingly uncrossable chasm requiring obedience?
  • Prodded to ditch some entrenched habit or attitude?
  • Challenged to renew the rigors essential for effective ministry?
  • Sick and tired of living too far from the available promises?
  • Noticing some dreaded anxiety, possibly some fear creeping in?
  • Wondering where the joy of everyday living has gone?
  • Despise critical or gossipy people, and find you’re becoming one?
  • Consumed by partisan cultural, religious, or political bickering?
  • Aghast that social media has become a shameful fetish?
  • Remembering nostalgically the days of unconventional service?

To those who’ve risen with Christ and have their affection set on heavenly things, the richness and power of scripture is their ever present weapon of choice. In whatever tempting turbulence or distraction they find themselves, they hear the Spirit’s “come up higher” appeal, and rest in the Word to rise in that glorious ascent. Reorientation, peace and strength remains the blessed outcome for those found centered and confiding in the Word of God.

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)

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.