Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Tag: worship

Miraculous Rain

I have received a few inquisitive texts and emails from members of our congregation and others who follow our ministry regarding our recent sermon series after this week’s Hurricane Michael. For those who are not aware, we have been ministering on the metaphor of rain in scripture as it relates to the Word of God. Many biblical authors show the correlation of the nation of Israel’s dependence on God to supply rain from Heaven with our reliance on Him to nurture and supply for us by “every word that proceeds from His mouth.” In other words, the same way their whole well-being was contingent on the faithfulness of God to supply rain for their crops and livestock our lives are also reliant on the sustenance that is supplied by God’s Word.

I believe the initiators of those texts and emails are receiving the teaching really well but all in good fun they requested, due to the the abundance of physical rain we have already received here in North Carolina, that maybe we should consider switching topics for a period. I promise we are almost done with topic of rain. Just one more quick thought. (Haha)

Have you ever watched it rain? It is a beautiful sight to see! I realize it’s messy and inconvenient. I understand that rain can delay scheduling and mess up plans. It destroys new hair-dos and gets your new outfit wet but isn’t it amazingly breathtaking?

Have you ever considered “how” it rains? I know we have been talking about “why” it rains but the “how” is a completely different subject. The “how” is so fascinating that Job names it as one of the great miracles that God performs.

“”If I were you, I would go to God and present my case to him. He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles. He gives rain for the earth and water for the fields.” (Job 5:8-10)

If you said to someone: “My God does great and unsearchable things; He does wonders without number,” and they responded, “Really? Like what?” would you say, “Rain”? Maybe after this short devotional you will.

Is rain a great unsearchable wonder performed by God? Imagine you are a farmer in the Middle East and you are not located near a water source. The fact that God would bring water from hundreds of miles away and drop it directly over your crops to ensure your family is fed and your needs are met sounds like miraculous provision to me.

But how does He do it? Obviously, we do not have the time to detail the entire process exhaustively and neither do I have the intelligence to fully describe it but I believe the Cliff Notes version will be sufficient for us to understand how wondrous it is.

First, He must cause the water in the nearby ocean and lakes to become light enough to be transported. This process is called evaporation. Heat causes water to be changed into a gas called water vapor.

The water vapor rises in the atmosphere and there it cools down and forms tiny water droplets through something called condensation. These then turn into clouds. One cloud can carry over a billion gallons of water.

All of these tiny droplets begin to combine together through a process called coalescence where they collide with each other until they become too large to remain in the cloud. At this point, the droplets begin falling to earth. However, it would be destructive for the cloud to simply drop a billion gallons of water at once. The droplets are the exact size needed to make it through the atmosphere without evaporating but still being small enough that when they fall they do not destroy the crops. They also fall at the exact speed of 1-18 mph to ensure no damage is done.

Maybe Job was onto something. And maybe I have been missing the wonder of God’s handiwork all this time. Maybe rain isn’t just an inconvenience. Maybe it’s a miracle. And yet another reason that I have to be amazed by the God I serve and thankful for His provision.

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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

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.

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!

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

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

No sickness is as untreatable as homesickness. No doctor can cure it, and Walgreens has no prescription for it. And for the unlicensed practitioner, no early warning signs are available. Volatile and capricious, public embarrassment can be the fruit of its emotional shifts. For those with control issues- good luck; for most any little thing can set it off. A song, picture, sound, smell, word, postcard, phone call, or even a distant memory. Yeah, I think memory is actually the most unmerciful instigator for chronic homesickness, because memories are huggers and won’t leave. But for balance, consider that homesickness is only possible when former times were good, when life was full. So here’s to good times, memorably great times, and lots and lots of them! (Hey, we’ll address the aftermath later).

When high school graduation flashed in the rear view mirror, and what to do next was looming like Mt. Everest- I found myself sixty miles away in an unknown city with unknown thousands at a largely impersonal state university. A move of that magnitude may not be recorded as the most courageous of all eighteen year olds, but had you known the socialization womb that formed me, you would have had compassion for the unceremonious uprooting my upbringing was experiencing.

Leaving the fields and forests of youth to assimilate into concrete, traffic and skyscrapers was a process, a rather necessary, but unnatural transition. It’s not to say that travel and discovery didn’t stimulate emotional and mental exhilaration. It did. That new life was action packed- people, places and pleasures of which I’d never experienced was creating new “highs”, and identifying with new surroundings produced a challenging metamorphosis of sorts.

Life continued to unfold after university life, as employment came in our nation’s Capitol with the Federal government. Now, hundreds of miles from the tall pines, rolling hills and dirt roads of rural North Carolina, opportunities to go “back home” were becoming less and less. Yet intuitively, something was amiss in my transition to this supposed “glorious” adulthood.

Something within was yearning to renew something remembered.

Being away, nothing stirred memories of home like December, and especially at Christmas time. The cold and snows of northern Virginia, in both climate and culture, were constant reminders of former times. The faceless masses, concrete sidewalks, blaring sirens and seven lane traffic bombarded my virgin senses; and what was thought to be the “good life”, became the antithesis of what sensibility had engrained. And no matter the efforts to homogenize, a primordial “call of the wild” crept in. Like the proverbial salmon fighting upstream to return to its birthplace, there seemed an instinctive return to native culture and landscape. Existentially, the “home” of my roots had produced a profound effect, and nothing could undo its power.

Lighted trees, creative wreaths, boxed gifts or flashy commerce does not activate the tear ducts. Yet mine did. A lot. And my heart longed for home. Something more than jingle bells and Frosty the Snowman pulled my heart back home; something more internal, something far more spiritual. The trips home for Christmas weren’t mere escapes from the hustle-bustle of city congestion or breaks from work load routine; there was an innate rightness about those returns- the reasonings were meaningful, logical, and a wise alignment with what ought to be.

I was coming home to the truest sense of the word. To what really mattered. To a home of love, of trust, of joy, of peace, of grace; and a life that was created in quietness, was now screaming for a visit.

To mom and dad. To brothers and sister. To family and friends. To fireplaces and fruitcakes. To beagles and pickup trucks. To axes, tractors and wood splitters. To spirited checkers and competitive chess. To skinning deer and squirrel pie. To snowball fights and midnight sledding. To indoor football and hide and seek. To hugs and tears. To singing and scriptures. To pranks and front porches. To pianos, mandolins and guitars. To debates and drama. To dreams and destinies. To love and respect. To hellos and byes. To I really miss you, thank you, and when do I see you again?

Nothing big. Just people. Simple. Real. Life.

T.S. Elliot stated, “Home is where one starts from”; and if true, then no one outgrows his roots. We’re captured by first things, as true as a mother is to a child. I’m persuaded the power of “home” has greater rule than circumstances, or even the will. Two millennia ago, Pliny the Elder said, “Home is where the heart is”; and regardless of human wanderlust, a craving remains for the place remembered as “home”.

Would that everyone had a place called home, but I’m not naive enough to think all have that luxury. So if that holy place has only been a dream, then my prayer is that you with God’s help, create that place- a sanctuary where love reigns supreme. Maybe at home. Maybe at church. Actually, most any place where one could breathe deeply, meditate, and recline. They’d all be perfectly acceptable.

A place where others would come, to hang, to stay. A place to talk, to cry, to remember, to unload, to encourage. A place where timeless simplicity invites the most anxious, fretted, confused, and tired of all God’s creatures. A place where joy is contagious, where making messes lead to laughter, and where old folks and children play with Tonka trucks. A place where life takes precedence over problems, where small talk is delightful, where grace decorates every room.

So go build that home, and watch travelers enter those inviting doors. Engage them genuinely. Feed them with hope. Warm them with compassion. And when time comes, let them leave- it’s ok. Your home became their friend, and their heart will never forget. And as it was intended and should be- neither will you…

And may we remember the gracious words of the One we celebrate, the One who makes all things whole and does all things well: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2-3

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Don’t Stop Short

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

This narrative immediately following the birth of Jesus is straightforward and direct. It is simple to comprehend and understand; Jesus was born, and men came to worship Him. However as is the case with most of scripture, there are so many truths and so much revelation that lies just underneath the easily accessible surface. This passage is full of grace and glory and would take pages to unwrap its fullness. It teaches us of God’s nature, His sovereignty, and of His power. It provokes us out of our convenience and instructs mankind how to appropriately respond to His coming.

To fully understand the depth of what is transpiring we must first understand who these strange travelers are. These “Wise men from the East” are the most unlikely of worship candidates. They are not Jews. They are not students of Judaism culture, they are not well-versed in the writings of the prophets, nor are they fully aware of the generations who have waited in eager expectation for a Messiah. They are called Magi. The same root where we get our word magic or magician. They are sorcerers from Babylon who were very interested in astronomy and astrology. These Magi would study the placement and alignment of stars and planets and use that information to make conclusions about future events and forthcoming happenings. They were known and respected for their wisdom and their learning.

In their study, they came across a star that seemed misplaced and could not be identified. Anything out of the ordinary they would consider to be an omen or a secret message that needed investigation and interpretation. This star lead them to the nation of Israel and then to the city of Jerusalem where they spoke with King Herod and lastly to a little town in the region of Judaea called Bethlehem. As they had anticipated so many times before, they expected that this star would bring revelation, understanding, and wisdom. They were hoping it would answer ancient questions and offer solutions for longstanding uncertainties. Their sight was on the furthest and highest terrestrial actuality they could see; the stars.

Many have stopped here to worship. Much of mankind has ended its search and exploration at the extent of earthbound realities and there we have created idols.  Much of history records cultures who have worshipped the sun, water, or the moon.  Before we criticize their foolishness though, our modern cultures have created gods of our own just as laughable.  Many have chosen to idolize wealth, health, recognition, or fame. However, as is the case here, God only uses the vastness and grandness of the natural world to point to something much more wondrous and astonishing.

The star was not to be the object of revelation or the answer to unsolved ancient queries. God used that which the Magi had looked to for centuries to point to something greater and grander; something, rather a someone, who actually deserved worship. The star was not the object to be worshipped, it was a miraculous sign in the hands of an Almighty God to direct the Magi’s attention to the wonder of the Christ being born into the world He created. On this infant’s shoulders rested the hope of all mankind. He is our savior!

This Christmas do not stop short to idolize the beauty or wonder of the things we can see. They are just signs pointing us to the wonder of all the ages; Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

“How” Shall We Sing

Psalms 137:4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

Contextually, we see the Israelites perplexed and in a place unfit for their spiritual pedigree. After nearly two years of Babylonian besiegement, the worst has come to the most envied nation of the world. Continued sin and cold hearted rebellion has Jerusalem’s inhabitants exiled 500 miles away, confined to a heathen city steeped in paganism and idolatry.

And, as if the shame of captivity was insufficient judgment, the heathen required them to harmonize on the delightful songs of Zion and their King! (For worship, melodies and instrumentation from the Jewish Temple were known universally and universally unmatched.)

Thus the lament, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”

Not, “how can we sing with a broken heart?”, but rather a question crafted and framed with incomprehensible grace came (unauthorized version of course!),”How shall we then sing from this strange and painful place? Not “can”, mind you, but “how” shall we sing. So, in some new way, we must, and will, sing! Yes, even in tears we will sing! For even in our backslidings, You never left us! Even in our abject worst, You walked with us! You gave promises and made covenant with us. And even in our well-deserved judgments, You cannot deny Yourself, nor excuse Yourself from bringing us to a glorious destiny! So even though this is uncharted territory, and this is painfully awkward in every way, we’ll return to our roots …and sing!”

Say what you will about Israel’s foolishness concerning sin and disobedience. They experienced what was prophesied, and divinely received what they deserved. But more importantly, we have to believe God’s loving covenant anchored them, even in unspeakable tragedy.

So what do we say to the circumstances of our own condition? Are we immune to tribulations? Read the rest of this entry »

What Amazes the Amazing One?

“When Jesus heard it, He marveled…” (Matthew 8:10)

Ever thought about the wonder-inspiring life of Jesus? We sing about His amazing grace, and rightfully so, but let’s reflect for a bit on His days with dusty feet and sweaty brow as a First Century human.

Time and time again through the gospels, we read that Jesus left people speechless with their jaws dropped open! When He made crippled men walk and dumb men speak and blind men see, the Jewish multitudes marveled. The villagers who watched Him grow up as a carpenter’s son were dumbfounded at this common man’s education and knowledge. “We’ve never seen anything like this in Israel!” they said.

Even those who set themselves against Jesus, the religious leaders of the day and their hired henchmen, were astonished at His authoritative teachings and had no answer for Him. “Nobody has ever spoken like this man speaks!” they said.

While others were amazed with Jesus’ words, Pontius Pilate marveled at His silence and self-control.

And those closest to Jesus, His own hand-picked disciples, repeatedly were left scratching their heads when their Master defied their expectations by talking to an unclean woman at a Samaritan well or by cursing a barren fig tree or by rebuking turbulent winds and waves. “Wow! What kind of man is this?!?”

Needless to say, the Greek word “thaumazo” (meaning to marvel or wonder) was used more than 30 times by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If Jesus were walking in flesh among us today, we might say He “dropped the mic” on a regular basis and left audiences stunned everywhere!

But have you ever wondered what makes the One called Wonderful wonder? What amazes the Author of amazing grace? What makes Jesus say “Whoa!”? Read the rest of this entry »