Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Tag: worship

More Than Anything

“Do not cast me away from Your Presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Psalm 51:11

By the time I turned thirteen I had mastered the art of the “warm-up.” When I desired a specific response from my parents I would spend time with them. If they were watching “Walker Texas Ranger,” so was I. I appeared interested by “oohing and aahing” at all the right moments. I’d ask questions and give the impression of being invested in the storyline. Once the program was over I would make conversation by asking various questions about their day. Afterwards, I would thoughtfully compliment them and then, at last, ask my question; the real motive behind my charade, finally, revealed. Years later I discovered the truth – my parents always knew. I never had them fooled.

My friends, we don’t have God fooled, either. He knows if our motivation for seeking Him is pure. He is aware if we come for His heart or for what’s in His hand. Let’s pause and perform a heart assessment. Do we tell Him we love Him and rehearse His goodness because we want a specific response from Him or because we just want Him? There is a big difference between the two.

Rest assured – it’s not wrong for us to ask God for things. That’s welcomed, in fact. Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.” We have to be careful, however, to not get so consumed with Him meeting our need that we forget He’s not our genie. He’s our Father; as such, He desires a real relationship with His children.

Parent-child relationships do not thrive if the child only communicates with the parent when they are asking for something. The parent, instead, feels used. They don’t feel loved and cherished. Their relationship, in turn, lacks vibrancy and enjoyment. That’s not what I want for us. Especially when Jesus came and died for us to have a flourishing relationship with our
Father.

In Psalm 51:11 David penned these words, “Do not cast me away from Your Presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” He had witnessed the Lord’s rejection of Saul and the departure of His Spirit. He understood that, more than anything, He desperately needed the Presence of God. It was the single most important thing.

Psalm 73:25 says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth.” This is my prayer for us. That we would desire Him more than anything. I think it begins by laying our agendas aside and coming to Him simply to be with Him. As we do, we will see and experience the truth – He alone is our exceedingly great reward. Serving Him is not a means to an end with the focus on blessings, but rather on the Lord Himself. He has always been more than enough.

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I Am…

For he that comes to God must believe that He is… Hebrews 11:6

There is no scriptural truth greater than God’s appellation of His own divine existence and being. The “I AM THAT I AM”, the name Moses heard at Mt. Horeb when he asked God under whose auspices he’d be sent, that succinct response remains eternally the standard in originality, excellency, and power.

From, “Let there be light” at the beginning of creation, to His final words, “you shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit comes upon you” at the creation of His Church – that voice existed sovereignly and supremely before time, prior to anything ever made or created. And before the Son of God lowered Himself to experience our sin-induced, human condition, His presence filled the empty vacuums of space and time.

Yet, we mortals navigate life through the scope and limitations of time, as the clock and calendar confine and record the length of our earthy stay. And intrinsic to the space we’re allotted are innumerable troubles, days and years plagued with uncertainty, pain, and angst. Sadly, remedies from such dread are absent and beyond us. We search solutions only from our own frailty and failed experience. Whether tethered to the traditional antidotes of societies past, or hitched to the starry, futuristic imaginations of other equally earthy mindsets, life is subject to the unkind, heavy hand of time. And with time as a factor in human existence, mankind is utterly mired in constant flux and contention.

And ever so quietly and inconspicuously, time wearies mankind with the constant, subtle demands of decision-making and ever-shifting adjustments. Nothing stays the same. Everything is in motion. Nothing is anchored down. Nothing is permanent. It’s for that reason the, “you only live once, grab all the gusto you can” motto resonates so deeply with the masses. To earthlings, life is fleeting and fleshly pleasures are life’s only reward.

Since “time waits for no man”, the present, or the now, can never be sustained or held over. We photograph our beautiful moments, knowing we can’t relive them again. We can’t camp out in the present, for the present just slipped away to the archives of yesterday. Our only means to live or redo precious moments and poignant times is through memory or remembrance. We find then the present is an impossible state, as “now” is never a static concept. It seems the present becomes simply a vehicle that transitions life between what was to what will be.

But the “I AM” exists independent of humanity’s conundrum! The “I AM” exists apart from the bookends of time, and the nagging changeableness of the human condition! What we as vile sinners could never do or be, ever, He IS and DOES consistently, eternally! And He does so in accordance only with His own character and will! He is free from whims; He knows no lack or need; and He is supported by no other power or force!

May the following truths strengthen our resolve to live by faith, and not by sight! And may our perspective regarding our days on earth be viewed through the prism of eternity, rather than the temporality of a fallen world!

  • God’s will never fluctuates; His Word never mutates; and His power never vacillates or diminishes!
  • God is never in doubt; He never struggles; and to face a circumstance ill-equipped, never!
  • God’s love is beyond words; His mercies garden-fresh; and His kindness super scandalous!
  • God’s faithfulness is shown clearly through creation; His wisdom is etched in Scripture; and ever on display are His mighty works!
  • God’s promises exceed our prayers; His compassions exceed our understanding; and His presence, priceless!
  • God’s sacrifice purchased our salvation; His grace transcended our lawlessness; and His resurrection triumphed over our grave!
  • God’s incarnation and ascension in Christ to man was an impossibility; and His soon return, though decried stoutly by the scoffers, is an incredulous certainty!
  • The unchanging One, the eternal One, the unvarying One, the matchless One, is now come… For Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever has come to be one with us!

What then do we receive when we believe? Well, many things actually, as we receive firstly Jesus Christ as author and finisher of our faith. Through Him, we receive freely the forgiveness of sins, a right standing with God, and undeserved acceptance into the family of God! And as an ever present accompaniment, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as guide and comfort. Everything old is miraculously removed, and everything new is in place! A new birth of spirit is our new reality, thus God’s divine nature now lives in our mortal bodies! In short, we receive eternal life! A life born of the Word, a life that overcomes, and a life abounding in spiritual fruit and good works! Not a better life, mind you, but a new life! A life made in the very image of Christ: a life beyond the changing of years and seasons, a life created for growth and godliness, and a life flourishing in joy, peace, and love! It is for the possession of these indelible truths that Christ lived, died, and rose again!

Paradoxically, we who possess this endless, unchanging, eternal life reside now in temporal bodies and in a world that will soon pass away. The objective then is to think heavenly, to act in alignment with our new birth, seek the will and purpose of Him who called us out, and to find pleasure in the things that have eternal rewards! Blessed are those who find the “I AM” to be their ever present help and joy! Those who believe that He is, that He exists, find Him to be the triumphant same, even in the variance and deviation of our turbulent world! May we experience and enjoy our God now, in the present, forever!

Adverbially Speaking

“Where unto I also labor, striving according to his working, which works in me mightily.”  Colossians 1:29

The recent Word ministry of Impact Church has been both spring-like refreshing, and introspectively provocative. And it’s not that previous teaching was sub-par. No way! It’s always been biblically sound, delivered in love, understandable, and free from reproach. Maybe it’s more like the Holy Spirit found us hungry to grow in Christ… And He’s leading us into some very interesting and intimate ways! And that’s a good thing! Yes, a very good thing!

It’s one thing to know and teach academically the historical Christ. That’s a must for both evangelism and discipleship. And it’s also essential that we understand who Christ is – His lineage, the fulfillment of prophecy, and the Kingdom over which He presides. And it’s important that we know and believe the amazing work He’s done – in creation, in the miracles, in the teaching, and in the unimaginable work He accomplished at Calvary. And to know the amazing promise of His soon return is an imperative in sharing the Good News.

Yet, there’s an equally important area of Jesus’ life that’s taught and received only by a more “mature” class! That teaching centers on the intensity and passion in which the Son of God lived. That ministry addresses the drive, the zeal, the earnestness, and obedient devotion that set Christ’s journey apart from all other men.  Delve specifically into “how” Jesus lived, and search the “degree” in which His ministry flowed, and you’ll find an uncommon life that separates the milk drinkers from the meat eaters!

For starters: the Christian life is a life born, not for passivity, but for action! Thusly, verbs that describe the Christian’s daily routine are abundant. Believers simply do what Jesus did. They believe. They listen. They pray. They disciple. They give. They love. They teach. They fast. They obey. They minister. They hunger. They prophesy. They suffer. They humble themselves. They deny themselves. And they carry their cross. These verbs depict in part the multifaceted lives of Christ’s followers, lives that demonstrate the things Jesus inaugurated.

But for every verb that describes an activity, there’s an anxious adverb waiting to describe in detail that verb! And, oh my, do the Scriptures possess a treasure house describing the deeds and actions of Bible characters! And be warned, there is no politically correct editor softening or exaggerating the lives found within the holy script! It just is what it is! If a ruler or prophet mismanaged or misspoke, the adverbs called him out! If a person or nation repented and turned to the Lord, the writers gave them due credit.

For example, the Bible records the life of Amaziah, a king of Judah, with an unvarnished epitaph that should humble every Christian. 2Chronicles 25:2 states: “And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart.” It wasn’t that Amaziah’s deeds were all evil, as he accomplished much good in his 29 year reign. Yet the record reflects that in his latter years, his heart was also given to idolatry, displeasing the Lord greatly!

Fast forward to the Messiah of Israel and Redeemer of all things, for the standard of all that is good and acceptable. Consider well the degree, or intensity into which Jesus lived out the short years of His ministry. His reign was, and is, a ministry of superlatives! As we read the scriptures, notice that the placement of adverbs is critical, and they tell His story best! It’s not enough to merely know what He did, it’s vastly important that we also know how He did what He did!

For example – though love is a beautiful noun and God is love, let’s consider love as a verb in the ministry of Christ. Let’s have love as a verb defined simply: “to have passion for, to feel devotion and care for another.” With that in place, how then did Jesus love?

How deep was His love?

To what measure did He love?

What standard did He use in pouring out His love for us?

Was there a limit or condition in His love?

No, in no way at all! His love for us was as pure as His Father’s love for Him! Unsullied, otherworldly, and eternally perfect!

The Apostle John wrote intentionally and extensively on the love that was demonstrated in Jesus. And, oh, the depth and magnitude of our Savior’s love! Here are few verses from the Gospel of John that depict His love for us!

  • “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34
  • “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you: continue in my love.” John 15:9
  • “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15: 12/13

How intentionally and purposefully did the New Testament writers exhort us in how we should live our lives as Christ followers! The Apostle Paul to the Colossians also is a veritable goldmine!

  • “If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:1
  • “And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” Colossians 3:23
  • “And let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom… Colossians 3:16
  • “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how to answer every man.” Colossians 4:6
  • “Children obey your parents in all things: for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord.” Colossians 3:20
  • “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him: …. Abounding therein with thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6/7

What life then should we seek to record and leave as our testimony?

What degree of passion do we exercise in doing the things we do?

According to the recent sermon series – Are we intentionally, cheerfully, and purposefully satisfying the intense longings of God’s will for our lives, families, and church?

The answer to each is self-evident: As Christ has been to us, so we will seek to emulate Him in all we do and say!

May God bless each and every one of you as you seek to please Him in all that He’s purposefully placed in your hands and hearts!

Go Back Home

“Go home to your friends, and tell them how great things the Lord has done for you, and has had compassion on you.” Mark 5:19

The man, Legion, the guy who lived in the graveyard, got a lot of print in the Gospels. Matthew, Mark and Luke are extensive in describing him, elaborating at length on his irrational behaviors and diabolical influences. And that’s understandable. For anyone living under the violent impulses of multiple demons will have bizarre, hair-raising stories worthy of recording.

It’s not every day that a demon possessed man is loose on the streets and centered in the nightly news. And it’s not every community that has to deal with a man so fierce and uncontrollable that neither prison, shackles, nor chains can restrain him. As for Legion, “atypical” would be the grandest and softest of understatements. Consider a town’s dilemma regarding peace and safety to its citizens- knowing that an incorrigibly crazed man might saunter at any time into City Hall, McDonalds, or the local Gadara Elementary.

Such was the town-held-hostage demoniac and Gadarene countryside that Jesus boarded a ship toward which His ministry would take. It was this Sea of Galilee journey that a violent storm arose, the one that had the disciples fearful of death and screaming, “Wake up Jesus! Save us!” It’s also the trip on which the Master at the very outset said, “Let us go to the other side”. Consider well that Jesus was boarding alongside disciples who had no clue what the “other side” was going to look like. And, boy oh boy, did they ever get up-close-and-personal to a side of life none could have ever imagined.

Regardless the disciples’ innocence in situations requiring spiritual confidence and power, suffice it to say the Master was present and in His element! To the storm they were blindsided with while sailing, His words were succinctly powerful – “Peace, be still!” Immediately, the winds ceased and the seas were calm. And to a man, the disciples were astounded and fearful at the exhibition of His power! Why, even the winds and waves obey His commands!

And to Legion, the maniac for which the trip was constituted, the possessed-by-many-demons and man all others feared- He unceremoniously demanded, “Come out, you unclean spirit!” And the demons being cast out entered a herd of two thousand hogs, which all went furiously down a steep place to their certain death in the sea. To the swine herders viewing this miraculous feat, utter fear and incredulous shock had them hightailing it back to town to report their unbelievable story! But when the townsfolk went back to verify the story, well, the notorious raving lunatic was at the feet of Jesus- clothed and in his right mind! Yet, strangely, fear gripped the heart of the townspeople, and the strange effects of His power had them urging Him to leave their region! Please! Leave! Go away!

Well, He left. No hard feelings. No self-pity for their ingratitude. No concern for their open disrespect. He left. Jesus simply left.

He left, but the story didn’t end there. What He left was a far more illustrative testimony and provocative witness than the One they demanded to depart!

Though the delivered man begged to go with Him back across the Lake, Jesus required he go back to his home and show the great things God had done for him. From there, instinctively, Jesus knew His mission was complete. To stay would be wasted, as their lack of faith would not have accepted Him personally. His unique humanity, clothed in fearless grace, was more than their estranged hearts could absorb. Yet, what they could not deny and ignore, was a living, transformed demonstration of redemptive power walking right before their very eyes, every day!

So bash Him and say what you will of Him- the One who seeks and compassionately transforms. Go ahead. It’s ok. You’re free. Speak evil of Him. Be callous towards His presence. Yet, with all that, what you cannot do is not see what you’ve seen in those He’s touched and transformed! They are the resident fruit of a God who came to seek and save the lost, heal the sick, and destroy the works of the devil!

It was the Gadara region then (and Jesus’ first intrusion into Gentile territory), that the healed man was to return. It may be politically incorrect and socially unkind, but the demon possessed man that was healed likely typified the state of the non-Jewish populations of those cities. Paganism and heathenism ruled the Decapolis region, and it was in those ten cities that the healed demoniac was to testify of God’s power and compassion. Thus in ministry, it’s not a small feat at all to go back home, as our former haunted grounds coupled with those closest to us are oft the most difficult to revisit and reengage.

There are times then where those made whole by Christ are better at affecting the hearts of the sick than those that lay hands on or teach. There’s an anointing on everyone transformed by grace. And that anointing may not be visible through special gifts of power or wisdom. It may be found in those who simply live as an example of thankful deliverance. To others, as a model of consistent love. And to others, as a compassionate carrier of hope, pointing all to the One who gives hope. But when Jesus demands one He delivers to go back home, He knows the universal power of a living testimony!

So going “back home” may not be the mission field of our dreams, but it may well be the one we’re found most fruitful!

And “back home” may not be the place we gain respect, but we may be the only ones capable of going there at all!

And it may be that in our thinking “back home” revives too many hurting memories to hurdle and navigate, and maybe we think it’s not worth the effort; but we may find that our promised wholeness is better realized when we try!

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.

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