How to cross the River Jordan in our life? Part-2

January 22, 2021Author: hephzibahgarden

We all have to cross the river Jordan in our own life, one day!

The Israelites successfully crossed the river Jordan before entering the Promised Land of Canaan.. In Part-1 we already saw the first two points of how to cross this river. Here is the second part of the same topic:

Using the mantle to cross river Jordan

Prophet Elijah was an Old Testament saint and a prayer warrior. He was also the one who had brought down rain and fire from heaven. With the mantle, both he and Elisha had crossed the river Jordan, while ministering together. And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. 2 Kings 2:8.

What does the Mantle refer to?

Spiritually, the Mantle refers to the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Without the Anointing, we cannot cross the river Jordan like situations in our life. Moreover, to enter the Kingdom of God we need to have received the Anointing of the Holy Spirit. We need to be people who are always relying on the Anointing.

To face greater trial, we need to have greater unction of the Holy Spirit. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s Anointing, before being taken up. 2 kings 2:9. For this to happen, Elisha had to keep his eyes focused on Elijah. they both didn’t know when the latter would be taken up.

And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; 2 kings 2:11-13.

So by using the mantle, that is, through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we can cross the river Jordan in our life.

By using the staff

Shepherds use a staff for grazing their flock. Old people also use this for walking. However, Jacob also says that he used a staff to cross the river. I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. Genesis 32:10.

Jacob used that staff from the beginning to the end of his life. When he left his Father’s house, he also took the staff along with him. Later on, the staff continued to be with him, even when he was returning from Padanaram (Laban’s place). Finally, in the end of his life as well, Jacob leaned on his staff and passed away. Spiritually, Staff refers to the Promises of God. Dear child of God, use the promises of God to overcome your troubles. May the Lord help us!

Be Blessed!

Turn Your Eyes

By Pastor Jack Hibbs

Luke 2:2

“For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

Heaven’s influence on our lives is never greater than when our sights are fixed upon it. The man or woman with their eyes turned upward is marked by a life lived differently. We know this because the Bible and Church history is replete with the accounts of those who determined to fix their gaze far above the earth.

Take Moses for example. In Pharaoh’s house he had every benefit laid at his feet, yet Moses was not captivated by the security that the Egyptian court afforded him. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebrews 11:26) For him, looking up equated to living beyond the fleeting rewards of playing it safe. And in the deliverance of millions of his people from bondage, he was vindicated.

Missionary to China, Hudson Taylor was another who lived with heaven in constant view. In writing about winning souls to Christ, Hudson said, “China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women.” Through his courageous – and some might say outrageous – trust in God, he inspired thousands to forsake the comforts of the West to bring the Christian message to the vast and unknown interior of China.

The Magi of the Christmas story trained their eye to the heavenly star, in order to find the Christ Child, that they might worship Him. Christian, what will you set your sights on in the months ahead? What will be the driving force in your worship of your King? I pray that you turn your eyes upward to that which will one day be yours – heaven.

– Pastor Jack

Our Republic

Dec 28, 2020 by Pastor Jack Hibbs

Psalm 36:1-4

“Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. They have no fear of God at all. In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are. Everything they say is crooked and deceitful. They refuse to act wisely or do good. They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots. Their actions are never good. They make no attempt to turn from evil.”

As the battle for our Nation’s future continues, I am once again reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s challenge to the American people. At the conclusion of our Founding Father’s Constitutional Convention, Franklin was asked by a woman waiting in the crowd outside, “What kind of government have you given us?” Franklin answered with both a challenge and a rebuke, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Freedom, like the Gospel, must be preached and practiced or else it will grow old and wither away.

“Facts are stubborn things,” said John Adams. But sadly, we have lost our appetite for truth. We have become a nation unworthy of the very freedoms we enjoy in this God-given republic.

Most today, but thankfully not all in the United States, are civically ignorant of their constitutional rights and biblical calling. Uninformed to the point that they have no vision nor understanding of what to do with them. They are willfully blind, having resigned themselves to 15-second sound bites promulgated by those who are themselves blind. To that end, Psalm 36:1-4 speaks to me about those boldly and brazenly committing acts of deception, lying, cover-ups, and fraud. They are, in short, political jihadists.

During these days, I have dedicated my morning hours to intercessory prayer for our Nation. I teach and preach that Jesus Christ could return at any moment for His Church in the Rapture (Titus 2:13), yet I must also occupy in this world until He comes. I must be busy about my Father’s business in all things, obedient to live it out now.

In the next several weeks your life and mine are about to be changed forever. The coming persecution and violence can only be met with an equal resolve to preserve our liberty and freedom for our children and our children’s children.

Truth is active and the pursuit of it is a vigorous ethos. Christian, be ready to defend your faith, family, and freedom. Someday, our children will ask us, “What kind of government have you given us?” May our answer to them be, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

– Pastor Jack


VIDEO My Thoughts On Why America Is In Its Current Situation – Conservative Age Rising!

My Thoughts On Why America Is In Its Current Situation

This post is unlike my other articles. Here are my personal thoughts on why America’s in its current situation:

If churches hadn’t stopped preaching hell, fire, and brimstone, America wouldn‘t be so screwed up right now.

The raw truth puts the fear of God in people! How many of us can truly count on one hand the number of people they know who they believe possess the fear of God? When was the last time you heard someone say they weren’t going to do something because they didn’t want to go to hell? Or how about this one, “I want to do what pleases the Lord”. Conviction is at an all-time low (in the church and the world).

Our ears have been tickled with lollipop and gumdrop teachings to the point where we think and unconsciously view Jesus as a “pushover, hippie genie”!

Read the Book of John and you will find that Jesus was INTOLERANT of ALL sin, EXTREMELY direct, sugarcoated NOTHING, and still was pure love and showed compassion. Did you know that Jesus’ heart races every time He looks at you? He’s madly in love with you.

The reason why He preached more about Hell than Heaven, is because He doesn’t want to lose us and desperately doesn’t want us to go there. He preached warnings for safety! It breaks His heart every time a soul is eternally lost. It’s unfathomable to imagine a life forever without God, lacking EVERYTHING, being void of all that is good. Friends, family, companionship, laughter, hope, rest, and even food are all nonexistent in the abyss.

We all hear the question so many typically ask, “Why would a loving God send someone to hell?” Yet, the truth is, people send themselves there. If you see someone walking toward a cliff and you yell to them, “Wrong way! There’s a cliff! You’re going to fall off and die if you don’t go the other way!” But the foolish person responds with either, “I’ll take my chances”, “I don’t believe you”, or “all roads lead to safety”, then that person who was warned ends up falling off the cliff and dying, who sent them there? THEY DID!

All things good come from God and Him alone. You can know the entire Bible by heart and still end up in H-E-double-hockey-sticks. Now is the absolute WORST time to be uncertain about where you’ll go if you die. Death does not discriminate against age, race, gender, nationality, or religion. You won’t just cease to exist. You’ll exist somewhere forever, but the question is, “Where?”

There’s one of two places to choose from—Heaven or Hell. Heaven will give you a forever warm reception, while in hell, you’d be an eternal unwelcomed guest.

I’ve had four near-death experiences and the first time I was NOT ready and truly uncertain if I’d see Jesus face to face. Oh, and guess what, I was a Christian! By God’s grace, He rescued me every time!

You see, some may have said a prayer at the altar once and thought they were heaven-bound, but if there hasn’t been a TRUE, genuine transformation of your life, thoughts, and speech, then it’d be wise to do a self-examination of the heart, because that’s where it starts. When Jesus enters your heart, there’s an evident transformation and your surroundings will know it. You can’t fool God.

The reason why America is in the state that it’s in today is because of the failure of the church. The church is what leads by example. Things can turn around for the good, but it starts with the church, first.

If you want to be like Jesus, then you’ve got to teach like Jesus!

Hell is the default. Heaven is your CHOICE. Jesus is the WAY! If you haven’t already, receive or rededicate your life to Him today. He’s the ONLY God Who thought you were worth dying for…and ACTUALLY DID! That’s love.


A New Conservative Age Is Rising!


Two keys to withstanding any storm in 2021

January 5, 2021 by Dr. Jack Graham

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? 

Whether you do or not, January is the perfect moment to pause and consider how to lay strong foundations for the year ahead… especially when it comes to your walk with the Lord.

Ask yourself what kind of year you want this to be. Will 2021 be a time when you draw closer to Jesus or drift away from Him? Because spiritually speaking, there’s no standing still… there’s no middle ground. We’re either moving toward Christ or away from Him.

But before you get overwhelmed, let me encourage you that it’s not about coming up with our own plan to follow Jesus closely. It’s about surrendering to His.

If you remember Jesus’ familiar story of the wise and foolish builders, you’ll see what I mean. 

The wise man built his house on the rock while the foolish man built his on the sand. And then the storms came… and you know how it ended for each of them!

So here’s the challenge:

This year, will your life be built strongly on the rock solid promises of God’s Word, enabling you to weather whatever trials may come your way?

Or will your life be flimsy and fragile, built on the shifting sands of circumstance and status, liable to come crashing down when stormy seasons hit?

Of course you’d choose the former! And wonderfully, Jesus tells us how to make it happen.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)

According to Jesus, there are two keys to building wisely in the year ahead:  hearing His Word and doing it! 

So here’s my resolution. 

This year, I will hear God’s Word each day by opening the Bible and listening to Him speak. And I will do God’s Word as I live in prayerful obedience through the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

Will you make that your resolution too?

https://resources.jackgraham.org/resource-library/articles/two-keys-to-withstanding-any-storm-in-2021/

A Special Invitation for You

by Skip Heitzig | December 22, 2020

Christmas is celebrated in a multitude of ways around the world. In Mexico, for instance, homes are decorated with lilies, evergreens, and farolitos, little paper bags lit with candles—an inviting tradition we’ve continued where I live in New Mexico.

In fact, Christmas is all about an invitation. The beauty of the first Christmas gift, given so long ago in tiny Bethlehem, is that the invitation is for everyone, everywhere—or as the angel told the shepherds that historic night, “Good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10). The angel’s birth announcement was an invitation to all humankind to receive the Savior.

It’s noteworthy that Jesus was born not in a large city but in a backwater of the Roman Empire, far from the center of power and influence in Rome and a good walk from the religious epicenter of Jerusalem. He was born in Bethlehem not just because his father had to return to his family home to participate in a Roman census, but because God decreed it in Micah 5:2 and used Roman roads and Roman peace to fulfill it.

But Romans weren’t the first to hear of this monumental birth. That honor was given to a group of shepherds. Think about it: the news of the greatest gift ever given came first to the most overlooked group in the empire. No one cared about shepherds. They were considered the lowest of the low, ceremonially unclean in the eyes of the Jewish religious leaders. They were the humblest and poorest of society.

This set the tone for the life Jesus lived. He regularly hung out with society’s lowest classes. No one was beneath His notice—not shepherds, not lepers, and not the masses of overlooked women and children. When it came to His death, He wasn’t crucified between two candles on an altar but between two thieves. And even in His agony, He forgave the thief who acknowledged Jesus’ innocence and coming glory.

The message? Anyone can come to Christ at any point, even up to the point of death. The accessibility of Jesus is perhaps the most overlooked and unopened gift we have at Christmastime. Remember, He is Immanuel—”God with us” (Matthew 1:23). And the invitation the angel announced at His birth still stands today. Will you receive those “good tidings of great joy”? They’re for everyone, everywhere—including you.

http://www.connectwithskip.com/devomail/read/daily-devotional/2020/12/22/a-special-invitation-for-you

Authentic Discipleship

July 13, 2019 Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Read Romans 16.

Paul’s parting words to the church in Rome disclose three important characteristics of an authentic disciple of Jesus: Christians love one another, protect the Truth, and give thanks to God.

Love one another. Most of Paul’s letters end by emphasizing the importance of participating in genuine, loving relationships with fellow believers. From the list of names in Romans 16, we see the apostle cared deeply about each individual person (not just the church as a whole) and no doubt prayed for the believers of the cities he visited by name.

We can’t properly love people if we don’t also love Truth.

Protect the Truth. Paul also understood we can’t properly love people if we don’t also love Truth. That’s why we must protect Truth and stand against the greatest harm to the Christian community—the undermining of God’s Word. As believers, we must allow the Bible to have authority over our lives. When we give Scripture its proper place, it will weed out any false teaching that threatens to take our eyes off Jesus.

Give thanks to God. Like Paul, whose gratefulness for his salvation and sanctification is apparent in each of his epistles, we too must readily praise God for our redemption and renewal. As authentic disciples, we must daily thank our Lord not only for calling us, but for transforming us day by day into people who reflect our glorious Savior Jesus Christ.

Prayer: God, thank You for Your grace and compassion for me, a sinner. I praise You for the wonder of Your love displayed through Jesus Christ and the precious gift of salvation. May You be glorified eternally! I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil” (Romans 16:19).

Imitate These Things Not Those

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Not everything in church culture is good for us. How can we tell the difference between authentic discipleship and unholy peer pressure?

Katie had a solid Christian pedigree. She’d grown up in the church, committed her life to Jesus at youth camp, attended a Christian college, and married Jeff, her college sweetheart, immediately after graduation. At the church they’d begun attending, the couple served as Sunday school teachers. Katie also made time in her busy schedule to volunteer with a ministry serving the homeless in their new community. Yet after nearly three years at their church, Katie told me she wondered if she’d ever fit in. “I’m still treated as an outsider by the other women, and it’s not because I’m a relative newcomer. It’s because I work full-time outside the home.” She explained that almost all the other women her age in the congregation were stay-at-home moms who homeschooled their children, and a few older women focused most of their attention on nurturing this group. Besides meeting during the day for Bible studies on how to be better wives and mothers, they often arranged informal play dates and field trips. Katie’s work schedule meant she and her young son couldn’t join them. But it wasn’t the lack of invitations from the other women that troubled her.

After nearly three years at their church, Katie told me she wondered if she’d ever fit in.

“When we first came to the church, Jeff and I knew that my job put me in the minority among the stay-at-home moms, but the pastor assured us it shouldn’t matter, as we were all seeking Jesus together. We appreciated his emphasis on discipleship. As the years have passed, however, I’m noticing that most of the women seem to be copying each other in terms of lifestyle, convictions, and calling. It feels more like a clique than a church,” Katie said sadly. She and Jeff were considering leaving the congregation.

Scripture portrays discipleship as the way in which a mature believer lives out faith in the everyday and ongoing companionship of a younger student. This maturity references age, experience, and faithfulness. It’s a description of the ongoing process of spiritual growth, not the arrival at some state of spiritual perfection (Deut. 6:4-9). The late Dallas Willard called this whole-life learning model apprenticeship, a word that is helpful in translating an ancient concept into our modern context.

Like my friend Katie, I’ve found that sometimes a Christianized form of peer pressure takes the place of true apprenticeship. If your church culture implies that all real believers end up looking, acting, voting, or talking the same, pay close attention. It’s possible you’re seeing peer pressure at work. And though it’s simply a more sophisticated version of what you may have experienced in middle school, the social push to conform to a group’s standards can be just as powerful. Some examples:

  • We tell new believers (or inquirers) that they need to learn to “act like a Christian” in order to fit in at church.
  • We subtly (or not so subtly) discourage young believers from pursuing careers in academia or the arts because those vocational paths are “too secular.”
  • We shun or shame people who, on a theological non-essential—such as politics—may not share the prevailing opinion of our congregation.

The challenge for the more mature in an apprenticeship relationship is to remember that learning happens in different ways at different stages of our spiritual development. There is a time and a season in our spiritual life for imitation. Just as young children parrot sounds and words as they’re learning to communicate for themselves, we learn how to walk with Jesus by patterning our lives after those who’ve gone before us. Imitation serves an instructional purpose.

Peer pressure has “fear of missing out” at its root, and not fitting into the group is viewed as a cardinal sin. If you sense everyone around you competing in an unspoken contest to conform to the group’s standards, it’s a pretty safe bet you’re noticing the effects of peer pressure. The imitation of godly women and men, on the other hand, teaches us essential patterns and practices while honoring individual calling and giftedness.

First-century rabbis would assess a potential apprentice via a long period of living and learning together: They would look for someone who had the capacity and desire to mold himself to be like his teacher. Author Doug Greenwold explained, “Throughout the Gospels, the phrase ‘follow me’ is a Jewish idiom used by the rabbis to mean, ‘Come and be with me as my disciple, and submit to my authoritative teaching.’” Jesus’ words “follow Me” mean far more than “join my team.” They are words that tell us He believes we will seek to pattern every aspect of our life after His.

However, His goal isn’t that we remain perpetual infants, repeating basic lessons over and over again as though we’re in an endlessly looping game of Simon Says. Instead, wanting us to move toward maturity, He empowers us to then apprentice others who will delight in imitating Him as we’re learning to do (Matt. 28:18-20). The writer of Hebrews expressed frustration with his readers’ seemingly plateaued spiritual growth: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God” (Heb. 5:12).

We see this pattern in action in Paul’s counsel to the church at Corinth. He urges the young church to imitate him while learning to navigate their lives as immature followers of Jesus: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). However, in the personal greetings he uses to conclude the first letter to the Corinthians—those words we tend to zip past because they seem like personal bits of housekeeping—we see how Paul celebrates the diversity of gifts and ministries among those who’ve been mature leaders among those believers.

He asks the Christians in Corinth to treat his protégé Timothy with respect, because though a different person than Paul, the younger man was carrying on a similar, complementary ministry to the apostle’s (1 Corinthians 16:10-11). Without denigrating Apollos, Paul noted that this co-laborer in Christ didn’t initially want to visit the church but then reconsidered—a recognition that Apollos was his own man, with his own mind and faith (1 Corinthians 16:12). Paul then offers a shout-out to Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus. Their ministry to him came in the form of practical financial assistance (1 Corinthians 16:15-18). Finally, he mentions mature church leaders Priscilla and Aquila, who led a congregation in their home, apprenticing young believers in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:19Acts 18:24-26).

The pattern of follow-the-leader was formalized in the early decades of the church. The Didache, a document that dates from perhaps as early as A.D. 100, is an example of an early catechism—a set of questions and answers new believers had to learn or memorize as part of their membership process in the local congregation. The Didache and eventually other forms of catechesis were Discipleship 101 for the early church, focusing on both the essential teachings of Jesus and the baseline practices of corporate confession, communion, and the authority structure God has ordained for life together. Young Christians learned to follow Jesus by following their leaders.

However, imitation should never result in uniformity. Musician Steve Taylor’s 1983 satirical song entitled “I Want to Be a Clone” named the fear driving Christian peer pressure: “They told me that I’d fall away / unless I followed what they say.” Aping the beliefs and behaviors of the influencers in their church may seem to promise a sort of spiritual insurance policy that will seal their salvation—or at least their place in the group. But a life shaped by a healthy fear of God will produce very different fruit than one shaped by fear of being excluded by the in-crowd. Fear of God offers us freedom. Fear of others enslaves.

A better “discipleship program” will not fix this problem, because it runs as deep in each one of us as our fear of being abandoned or left behind. That unexposed, un-discipled fear leaves us vulnerable to peer pressure whether we’re a young Christian or a seasoned leader. As my friend Katie and her husband assessed their experience at the church, they asked God first to reveal their own fears of being left out or forgotten, and then to confirm that they were being obedient in the ways their family was serving Him through work, parenting, and lifestyle decisions.

Jeff and Katie were asking good questions. Those questions led to them seeking the prayer and counsel of other mature believers—their pastor, a friend at church, and other friends in their social network, including my husband and me. The process clarified for them their own calling at this stage of their lives. It also helped them to better recognize the unhealthy peer-dependent dynamics among many of the young families at church. Instead of feeling excluded or judged by them, Katie told me she found new compassion for them. They decided to stay and brought their concerns to the pastor, who told them he was noticing the same issues as they were.

J. Oswald Sanders said, “No living thing comes to maturity instantaneously. In the attainment of intellectual maturity, there is no alternative to the student painfully working through the prescribed courses. Nor is it any different in the spiritual life. Growth toward spiritual maturity will of necessity involve moral effort, discipline, renunciation, and perseverance in pursuit of the goal. There are no shortcuts.”

Christian peer pressure is a counterproductive shortcut. And recognizing it for what it is becomes a powerful step in an apprentice’s journey toward maturity.

Illustrations by Jack Richardson

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/features/imitate-these-things-not-those

Living the Great Eight

BY DAVID JEREMIAH

“Good is the enemy of great.” Those are the words of Stanford-educated consultant, lecturer, and author Jim Collins. His six books on leadership and corporate growth have sold more than ten million copies around the world and have been translated into scores of languages.

Perhaps his most well-known book was published in 2001: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t. In this book, Collins and his researchers spent five years evaluating the performance of 1,435 companies to find the few that outperformed all the rest. That is, they were seeking to answer one critical question: “Can a good company become a great company—and, if so, how?”

Their conclusion? “Greatness is not primarily a function of circumstance but largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” In fact, Collins co-authored a subsequent book on that very theme: Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All.

I confess I love Collins’ two ideas: “good to great” and “great by choice.” In fact, the idea of “choice” has roots that go deep into biblical soil. Remember Deuteronomy 30:19: “Choose life”? And Joshua 24:15: “Choose for yourselves this day, whom you will serve”?

Combining all of the above threads, in this issue of Turning Points I’m going to challenge you to choose to move your Christian life from good to great. (And challenge myself at the same time.)

Why do we need such a challenge? I’ll borrow Jim Collins’ words again: “Good is the enemy of great.” Let me put it this way: When I think of “good,” I think of average; it suggests doing just enough to get by. And by “getting by,” I mean becoming a Christian and inheriting God’s promise of eternal life. Yes, that’s where we start in the Christian life. We make a conscious choice to ask God for forgiveness and place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. That’s a wise and excellent choice—but that represents only the beginning of the Christian life, not the end. To be a fruitful and flourishing Christian for the rest of our life, we need to keep making choices that help us to go deeper and further with God.

As Collins and his team found in their research, only a small number of companies will make the conscious decisions necessary to take them “from good to great.” The inertia of being good enough to get by—being average—is too great for many to overcome. And if we are not careful, the calendar can turn from year to year without us realizing that we are not making the kind of spiritual progress we should be.

So our challenge this month is to climb out of the rut, to jumpstart our growth engines, and to set our sights on moving from good to great in our walk with God. And just to forewarn you: This is a life-long challenge. There is no definition of “great” that tells us when we’ve arrived. Because God is always doing more and more for us, we want to incorporate that same perspective in our lives (Ephesians 3:20). We want to continually grow more effective, more faithful, and more fruitful for Him. But we have to make that choice!

So, where do we start? We can’t focus on all the ways in which we could become more like Christ. But we can look at eight areas of our walk with Him where we can make measurable progress in the days ahead. In fact, we’re calling them the “Great Eight”—fundamental areas of our spirituality that are the bedrocks of belief, the foundations for faithfulness, and the crossroads of our commitment.

Here are the “Great Eight” disciplines we’ll examine in this month’s magazine: discipleship, love, stewardship, service, holiness, trust, surrender, and boldness. You and I can both think of additional areas of the Christian life to add to this list. But trust me—these eight will keep our knees calloused and our hearts and hands occupied for months to come!

Consider the “Great Eight.” Make a mental list now of the ones in which you’d like to move from good to great for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom. And remember, there is no ceiling. If you’re already doing great in some areas, then set your sights on greater—from “good to great” to greater still!

 

Original here

A Remedy for Imbalance

by Jack Hayford

The Challenge of Anchoring the Charismatic Experience in Biblical Truth

“Kingdom Now,” “Demons and Deliverance,” “Prophets and Prophecy,” “Signs and Wonders,” “Confessing the Word,” “Healing and Prosperity” – these are just half a dozen of the emphases that sporadically ricochet through the charismatic movement. They delight proponents, dismay critics and provide fodder for innumerable questions and fiery suppositions. They also create serious concerns.

Those concerned generally point to a theological imbalance that many charismatics either fail to recognize or choose to accept as normative or even desirable. “It’s as though large segments of the charismatic movement are either indifferent to or unaware of the theological thin ice on which they skate,” one classical Pentecostal leader observed.

Both traditional evangelicals and supportive insiders from the Pentecostal/charismatic community are hoping that the blessing and spiritual advances being realized by advocates of these special emphases will seek to ground their teaching biblically. This doesn’t mean, as some charismatics fear, to ground in the sense of penalizing a careless pilot or punishing a reckless teenager. Rather, it means to ground in the sense of securing or adjusting certain teachings to more solid scriptural foundations—and to do so with a sensible perspective on history’s lessons, while insisting on solid ethics and practical holiness.

This appeal reflects a delicate tension between two realities, one affirmative and the other negative.

First, charismatic life abounds in vital New Testament living, joyous service and surging evangelistic impact. Convinced of the present power of God’s promises, many charismatics make faithful applications of the truth they hold and enter the marketplace of human experience with it. Objective non-charismatics agree that the vibrancy of charismatic meetings is not all “fluff.” They especially welcome the evidence of practical evangelistic impact made in many parts of the world where first-century faith with signs, wonders and transforming power are being displayed.

At the same time, however, we must note that the apparent absence of concern for biblical and theological substance that supports many charismatics’ practices cause observers to suspect the durability of such dynamism. Towers of practical truth rise splendidly, as people are healed, faith is made practical, demon power is broken and the glory of Christ’s kingdom is seen in flashes of momentary splendor. But amid the blessing, we find too seldom the ministry and practices secured on biblical footings. Balance seems to concern only a few, as participants revel in the thrill of God’s power.

Christians practicing certain emphases, such as those we first listed, seem each to have discovered a pillar of New Testament power, as though a theological “archeologist” has found out something about ancient church history. But now that these towering artifacts of functional truth appear to have been recovered, their discoverers haven’t yet uncovered the broad biblical and historical foundations that should lie beneath them. How can this be done?

A good beginning would be to trust more readily the intentions of sympathetic critics. Rather than judging appeals to greater carefulness in theology as a threat to our style or liberty, we might listen to them.

More and more, inquiries by our critics reflect a hunger—a desire to find out how to advance the spread of Bible-based, Spirit-filled renewal. They request a more clearly rooted theology so that the dynamics charismatics enjoy might be more broadly understood, received and applied. But too often the response of charismatic leaders and congregations, who have been burned by past criticism, is outright rejection of such suggestions. Part of the challenge before us is to cultivate a new tolerance and wisdom toward those who question us.

Listen to the Echoes of History

Church history flashes many warning signals about the penalties of extremism. We are not immune to such penalties, so we must resist the common ploy of mocking those who question us, reacting in kind to antagonists. Instead, we can learn from history.

Often it seems that groups with little knowledge of church history mistakenly suppose they are the sole discerner or recoverer of a given truth or practice. Pride and presumption enter subtly, confusion distracts and moves them off course, and often shipwreck results. A pillar, intended for raising up, crashes down instead—and the dust blinds the eyes of all who hoped to see its design and gain the strength of its support.

How can we gain without losing?

First, we must avoid the idea that supposes theology is arthritic or that history is a waste of time. We must take time to investigate the church’s history. We must bother to examine the theological implications of our experiences. If our experiences truly verify the Word, they’ll fit into sound theology. Remember, vital revivalists and reformers of church history—such as Luther, Wesley and Finney—were not theological wimps. Both distant and recent church history reminds us of the folly of freewheeling revelation without foundation.

Listen to the Voice of the Scriptures

No doubt each emphasis that has risen within the charismatic movement has some biblical claim for its thrust—whether, faith, signs, prophecy, deliverance, discipleship or whatever. But charismatic Bible interpretation exhibits a general propensity for looseness, an inclination to strain the limits of God’s “sure Word.” This frightens many Christian leaders who, while welcoming the refreshing that some of these emphases introduce, deeply regret the casual disregard of Scripture by some who claim “revelation” or “prophetic insight” as conclusive or authoritative of their teachings. Without a will to bend our private “revelations” to the plumb line of the Word, trouble is certain.

Protection against such error is assured when we don’t insist on supporting our own insights or emphases with selected proof texts. We must remain willing to accept honest inquiry into apparent weaknesses in our systems of doctrine. To do otherwise is to chart a path to short-lived spirituality.

Not Just Leaders

Meanwhile, the problems we’re describing aren’t limited to charismatic leaders and teachers. Most people tasting the Holy Spirit’s new wine show little interest in the relative durability of what they’re experiencing. Yet disillusion, division and disintegration occur when people disregard the wisdom of building strong foundations.

Sad to say, the practice of many charismatics is to “hitch their wagon to a star” rather than to anchor to the solid base of long-term growth in a trustworthy fellowship. Many pursue itinerant prophetic and healing ministries while neglecting steadfast, accountable commitment to the disciplines of continuity in a local, faithfully pastured congregation. The pastor may not be as exciting a personality as the more visible, eloquent or miracle-graced traveling preacher. But after the more mobile minister has left town, that pastor is the one to be counted on when believers face the tough realities of daily Christian living.

Countless scat-about, undisciplined believers “come for the show but refuse to grow.” Everywhere we see shallowness, unaccountability and a neglect of balancing wisdom. So where can we find the wisdom we need?

Listen to the Heartbeat of the Cross

I believe that the charismatic movement must chart a fresh course to the central point of Christian truth: the cross of Jesus. The remedy for any imbalance is precisely there, where those two crossbars remind us of the need to balance heaven’s requirements (vertical) and human need (horizontal).

We certainly want to retain the vitality of our charismatic experiences, which ought not to be questioned simply because they are experiences. Like the arms of Jesus extended in saving, healing and delivering power on the cross, the charismatic approach in ministry that expects God to act in the now results in vital experience. This is a charismatic hallmark and a righteous goal.

Nevertheless, the cross not only reaches out with life and power, it also stands with authority and stability. It is at the vertical crossbar that we align with Christ’s head and His feet—majestic symbols of His Lordship and His dominion. Too often charismatics lay claim to the cross’s authority for ministry while either forgetting or minimizing the authority of that cross over us.

One recent study of the content of most charismatic worship music indicated that both Christ’s cross and His blood are scarcely mentioned. Does this drift from the biblical and historic center of Christian faith signal a warning? I think so. It’s hard to synchronize this tendency with the theme song of heaven, both now and eternally: “To Him (the Lamb) who loved us and washed us form our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5; see also 5:9).

The cross must command center stage in our lives, ever and always; and as participants in this revival, let us be certain it does in the charismatic movement as well. The cross is the fountainhead of all God’s wisdom, as well as the source of all His power (I Cor. 1:18-25; 2:1-40).

Let’s start signing again, “Jesus, keep me near the cross.” Humility is assured there, which will keep arrogance and pride from gaining ascendancy. Holiness is assured there, which will keep presumption and ungodliness at bay. Love abounds there, which will help us to hear each other and to keep the teachable heart of a child. Finally, the power is there, for the fountainhead of all Christ’s glory-workings toward all humankind was opened there. We must keep that fountainhead as our foundation—resting all our revelations and blessings on the footing Calvary provides.

Original here