God’s Holiness, Your Wholeness

by Skip Heitzig | December 29, 2020

If ever there was a religious sounding word, it’s holy. Regardless of the context, most people probably hear it and think of cathedrals, stained glass, candlelight, and the sound of monks chanting. Step outside, and holiness evokes a desert landscape wandered by bearded men in sandals.

Most of the time, our understanding of God’s holiness makes Him seem unapproachable, even unpleasant. He’s up there, we’re down here, and all we can do is hope He grades on a curve. The prophet Isaiah’s vision of God fits that profile: he saw the Lord “high and lifted up,” His robe spread throughout the temple, with six-winged seraphim crying out, “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:1, 3). Isaiah’s reaction was fitting: he cried out, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” (v. 5).

The apostle John’s vision of the same awe-inspiring scene in Revelation 4 offers a few more details but echoes the same proclamation from the angels: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty” (v. 8). Though we might say that holiness is God’s most unpopular attribute, it is His most noteworthy one to the heavenly hosts, worth the emphasis of triple repetition.

Heaven’s cry is not “love, love, love” or “grace, grace, grace.” It isn’t “wrath, wrath, wrath” or “justice, justice, justice.” Those are all key aspects of God’s character and nature, but His only attribute that merits such a superlative highlighting is His holiness. The Bible calls God holy over 630 times. His holiness separates Him from all of His creation. There is no one like Him, perfect in all His ways. And as Isaiah discovered, His perfection magnifies our imperfection.

But Isaiah also discovered that God is not aloof in His holiness. While Isaiah lamented his “unclean lips” (v. 5), an angel touched his corrupt human mouth with a live coal from the altar. It was a symbolic gesture of purification, and a necessary one, since God’s holiness cannot abide the presence of unholiness. It also pointed to the ultimate cleansing that God would provide through Jesus Christ.

That leads us to an important truth about God’s holiness: He doesn’t destroy the unholy but declares us holy through the blood of Christ. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). In other words, God’s holiness includes paying the price required to allow us into His presence. His holiness informs His love, grace, and mercy, and it satisfies His justice and wrath.

Like Isaiah, when we have the humility to recognize the gulf between us and God, we will respond with repentance and gratitude. We’ll embrace what God has done for us in Christ, and the smoke surrounding God’s holiness will clear: we’ll see that His holiness makes our salvation possible, empowers us with purpose, and guides us to wholeness.

A relationship with God is transformative; He loves us the way we are, but He loves us so much He won’t leave us that way. This is where our sanctification—growing in holiness—comes into play. When you grow in holiness, you’re after not perfection but pursuit. You want to pursue the God who pursued you, and you want to let others know that His holiness leads to our wholeness. And just like the angels in heaven who never tire of God’s holiness, you’ll come to a place where you’re captivated by His perfection, driven to glorify Him in all things.

http://www.connectwithskip.com/devomail/read/daily-devotional/2020/12/29/god’s-holiness-your-wholeness

This Is God

by Skip Heitzig | December 15, 2020

I remember the night I met the woman who would become my wife. I was at a friend’s apartment in Southern California, and I saw her from across the room. She confidently walked up to me, put out her hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Lenya.” On our first date, she told me about her background, her hopes, and her dreams. Thus started a long, lasting, and very satisfying relationship.

The best way to get acquainted with someone is to get firsthand knowledge from them about who they are. Essentially, that is what Moses did to God in Exodus 34. Moses asked to see God’s glory, and God answered his request not with an appearance, but with a list of attributes. In this foundational passage about who God is, we see two aspects of His personality: His designation, or who He says He is, and His description, what He says about Himself.

First is His designation: God began by naming Himself. “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God'” (v. 6)—or Yahweh, Yahweh El in Hebrew. El is the generic term for God, but Yahweh is specific, and it means I am. This is the name God used when He introduced Himself to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3: “I AM WHO I AM” (v. 14). The repetition here was to emphasize to Moses that this was the same God who spoke to him back then.

What does the name I am tell us about God? It means He is the self-existent one, the only noncontingent being in the universe—that is, He doesn’t depend on anybody else for His existence. It also refers to his eternal nature. God is not the great I was or I used to be; He is the great I am. And it highlights His active existence—that He is involved with humanity, not detached or aloof.

In the Bible, a person’s name was far more than just an identity tag. The Hebrew people believed there was a connection between a person’s name and a person’s nature. Whatever they were named was often brought to bear with their character. So this is God’s character, reputation, and authority—His designation: Yahweh, Yahweh El.

That brings us to God’s description of who He is: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (vv. 6-7). What a description, isn’t it?

Here’s how Moses responded: he “made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped” (v. 8). God introduced Himself to Moses—”Hi, I’m God. Here’s what I’m like”—and Moses worshiped. All teaching of the Scriptures should lead to this; good theology is the foundation and impetus for true worship. That’s why I tell worship leaders every chance I get, “Make sure your songs are filled with good theology.”

Do you, like Moses, make haste to worship the Lord every time you learn more about Him? It’s the fitting response, and it’s one of the keys to a long, lasting, and satisfying relationship with Him.

http://www.connectwithskip.com/devomail/read/daily-devotional/2020/12/15/this-is-god

Your Life’s Every Detail

by Skip Heitzig | January 12, 2021

We’re all familiar with the incredible story of Joseph in the Bible. It’s a riches-to-rags-to-riches tale that shows us the massive scope of God’s providence. Providence is when God intervenes in natural law—the chain of cause and effect that governs our lives—to bring about a supernatural result.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Joseph’s story is that, while God was working out the enormous, nation-changing, top-leader-level ramifications of everything that was happening, He was also taking care of the most personal, faith-building character details, too. Nothing is too big for God to handle or too small to escape His notice.

Joseph knew that and believed that. And because he trusted God, he was able to look beyond his circumstances and live with a higher purpose. He lived in tune with God’s faithful sovereignty—but not because the details themselves harmonized; they didn’t. Betrayed by his own brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused and jailed, and forgotten in prison, Joseph couldn’t have looked at everything he suffered and said, “This all makes perfect sense.”

This is where we see the difference between looking at life horizontally and looking at life vertically. Joseph’s brothers looked at life horizontally—within their own tainted hearts and at the turmoil around them. Joseph, on the other hand, lived with a vertical view. He learned to wait on God’s timing and trust God’s sovereignty and goodness, especially when things went wrong. The contrast between these two ways of living is summed up in Proverbs 29:25: “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.”

It’s natural to slip into self-preservation mode when we’ve been wronged, but it’s supernatural to look for God’s hand in the hardship. Joseph overcame the default setting of looking out for himself by instead listening to God, trusting His promises, and obeying His words. And at the end of it all, he could tell his brothers, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

Joseph believed that God was in charge—not him. He believed that God uses bad events to bring about good results. And he believed that God uses people to help other people. He funneled the gracious love God had showered on him to bless his brothers and preserve his father Jacob’s family—through whom the Messiah would eventually come.

God cares about the big picture, but He cares equally about you and your role in His story. Do you believe that He uses your suffering for good? That He is big enough to take the bad things from your past and weave them into something better? God is with you in your pain; let Him use it to bring healing and restoration, redeeming it into something of great value and beauty.

http://www.connectwithskip.com/devomail/read/daily-devotional/2021/01/12/your-life’s-every-detail

Do You Know Your Identity?

 January 21, 2021Author: Nehemiah Zion

Do you know your identity? It shapes our attitude. When you remind yourself who you belong to, you will behave accordingly.

A doctor, is wary of who he is in society. He cares for people, and builds his image on the power of his profession. Same with other jobs. The job shapes you; is it a good thing, to an extent but eventually money and that false imagery destroys the soul. No matter who we become in this world, however educated or get into the highest positions, the word of God must stand tall in our lives. All is vanity, perishable, only the word of God is forever.

What happens when you know your identity, and walk in the realisation of God’s love and power?

You will walk in Him, whether you are a doctor or anyone. God takes precedence; His nature of love and peace, overcomes the false imagery of the profession set by the standards of the earth. As heavenly citizens, we perform the duties of earth, staying focused on the first (love) priority in Christ alone. We begin to walk in the wisdom of God. We begin to walk in the fear of God daily.

A woman of God, the ideal mother, who takes care of the house walks in the power of God. As a comforter, healer, builder, helper, name it all. God presents Himself as our all in all.

Jesus is our all in all! When we deny our self and walk in Him, we live the life God desires. It’s no more about us, it’s about Christ forming in us to meet the mental, emotional and physical needs of the people we are called to serve. It’s impossible for us to do anything good without Jesus (John 15:5).

May God bless us all, Maranatha, praise God and amen!

Do You Know Your Identity?

Stand!

By Pastor Jack Hibbs

Ephesians 6:13

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

Wherever you’re at right now, the sun may be shining and life is good, making the reality of withstanding anything evil seem remote. Yet from the moment Eve plucked the fruit in the Garden, sin entered, and each day came under the sway of the evil one. It’s for this reason that Paul exhorts Christians to be geared up and battle ready.

Our adversary, Satan, will do his best to disarm you because he knows that a wobbly, defenseless Christian cannot stand. If we are to stand in opposition to his schemes, it’s essential that we make daily use of the most sophisticated armament available – the armor of God. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)

It is incumbent upon each of us to be intimately acquainted with each piece of armor and keep it securely fastened. Puritan saint William Gurnall put it this way, “The armor… is to be worn night and day; we must walk, work, and sleep in them, or else we are not true soldiers of Christ.” With your armor firmly in place, you will be able to stand in obedience. Truth will triumph. You will not wobble or waver.

Today, if you are in the midst of personal trials, stand. In grief and sorrow, stand. In temptation, stand. In the chaos of our times, stand. Believer, in the evil day, stand!

– Pastor Jack


God Can Function in Dysfunction

by Skip Heitzig | January 19, 2021

The term “dysfunctional family” came into vogue in the ’70s and ’80s to describe families that struggle to deal with one another and that produce problems that follow children into adulthood. However, dysfunction may be more pervasive than you think. It’s said George Bernard Shaw once quipped, “I don’t know if there are men on the moon, but if there are they must be using the earth as their lunatic asylum.” Maybe you read that and think, He must’ve known my family.

Genesis features a prominent tale of family dysfunction among Jacob, his two wives Rachel and Leah, his father-in-law Laban, and Laban’s sons (see Genesis 29-31). There may have been a little bit of fudge in this family, but there were many more nuts. Jacob had deceived his own father and brother and faced a comeuppance from Laban, who tricked Jacob into marrying both of his daughters and kept him on the payroll for fourteen years to do it.

This particular dysfunctional family points to a greater truth: every family is dysfunctional. Does that sound harsh? Let me explain. Because of sin, we all operate at a certain level of dysfunction, especially compared to how God means for us to live. In some families, of course, it’s worse. Dysfunctional people attract other dysfunctional people, which compounds any issue. Jacob and Laban were two peas in a defective pod, but the reason we have their story is so that we can see how God worked despite their issues.

Jacob, who swindled his brother Esau’s birthright and tricked his aged father into giving him Esau’s blessing, left home, thinking he could escape his family’s issues. He wasn’t the first to do this, nor the last to learn that running away doesn’t work, because wherever you go, there you are. You bring yourself, problems and all. Yet Jacob, we read in the New Testament, ended up being described as a faithful standard bearer for God (see Hebrews 11:20-21). In spite of his messed-up behavior, God still had plans for him.

Every family is affected by sin. That’s because we are all broken, flawed individuals who need a Savior. Jesus spoke of the people He came to save as poor, brokenhearted, captive, blind, and oppressed (see Luke 4:16-19). We are inherently dysfunctional. But here’s the good news: God can function in our dysfunction.

In the midst of family squabbles, God came to Jacob and said, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you” (Genesis 31:3). God blessed Jacob while he worked for Laban, and when Jacob was mature enough to see God’s hand at work, God brought him into a new season. That’s because the perfect God works through imperfect people. Admittedly, there’s no other kind of people for Him to use, but use us He does.

You’ve heard it said that you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. However, you can choose to adjust to your family. And you can choose to add positively to your family. In fact, the only way to fail when it comes to dysfunction is to take failure as the final word. Let God have the final say, and watch Him work even in the midst of family issues.

http://www.connectwithskip.com/devomail

How wonderful is heaven really going to be?

September 14, 2020 by Dr. Jack Graham

Think about the most beautiful places you’ve seen on earth. Maybe you’ve had the opportunity to visit a palm-fringed island in the South Pacific, or ski the Alps of Switzerland, or wander through the stark beauty of the Grand Canyon. 

But even the most beautiful things on earth pale to what we’ll experience when we first see Jesus and the beauty of heaven. He’s been preparing heaven for you and me, for all who believe.

Can you imagine how wonderful, how beautiful it’s going to be?

The apostle John described the beauty of heaven in the Book of Revelation, and chapters 21 and 22 provide a virtual tour of the new heaven and the new earth. You might ask whether these scriptures describing streets of gold, gates of pearl, and a crystal sea are literal or figurative. 

The answer is yes—they are both.

Every image in Revelation illustrates something even more real than we can know or understand. Heaven is beyond our comprehension and imagining, but it should not be beyond our contemplation.

And that is what John shows us in Revelation 21:1: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth has passed away, and the sea was no more.”

Of course, some will say, “Well, I like the ocean.” But this description is actually about separation.

John was in exile. He was a prisoner placed among the insane and the criminals on an island separated from the world by the Aegean Sea. He was alone. And when he saw heaven, he saw a place where he’d never be separated again.

In heaven, we will be with other believers and our loved ones in Christ forever and ever. No more sea… no more separation!

Heaven is going to be more wonderful than anything you can imagine on earth. May the expectation of eternity there give you hope and peace in Jesus Christ today!

https://resources.jackgraham.org/resource-library/articles/how-wonderful-is-heaven-really-going-to-be/

Your Calling: Truth

by Skip Heitzig | December 8, 2020

Toward the end of his life, the apostle Paul foresaw the abandonment of truth, even in the church, and gave his young protégé Timothy this antidote: “Preach the word!” (2 Timothy 4:2). Paul then offered three directives to help us sharpen our spiritual vision and anchor ourselves in God’s Word:

1. Be concerned about knowing the truth. Spiritual blindness is a metaphor for the unwillingness or inability to see spiritual truth. Over time, things we once saw clearly can become hazy, whether that’s because of life experiences or our own sin. This happens easily in a culture in crisis, where the cynical regularly question truth, as Pilate did (see John 18:38). Lines can become blurred in the church, too. That’s not a new development; Satan has always used non-truth as a tactic (see Genesis 3:1).

But we sharpen our spiritual vision when we concern ourselves with knowing spiritual truth. Paul mentioned truth eleven times throughout 1 and 2 Timothy. In 2 Timothy 4 alone, he talked about “the word” (v. 2), “teaching” (v. 2), “sound doctrine” (v. 3), and “the truth” (v. 4). Truth is tied to doctrine, which in its simplest form means strong biblical teaching. Christians are to be people of the truth, because Jesus is “the truth” (John 14:6). That means we are accountable for our knowledge of biblical truth (see Hosea 4:6; Acts 2:42; 1 Timothy 4:13; Titus 2:1).

2. Be cautious about neglecting the truth. Our culture has largely rejected truth, mainly because sensationalism has become more important than facts and truth is considered personal, which means it can shift depending on the situation. But think about it: if someone says, “There is no absolute truth,” they are making an absolute statement, which is a self-contradictory and self-defeating declaration.

Now, we might expect that sort of thinking from our culture, but keep in mind that Paul wrote 2 Timothy as a warning not for unbelievers but for believers who were turning from the truth. Christianity is always one generation from extinction. It starts in the pulpit when pastors who don’t believe the Bible is the literal Word of God don’t preach the full truth of it. This problem leads to “itching ears” (v. 3), as preachers feed the desire for novelty over a need for truth. God’s people starve when pastors pander to what people want to hear rather than what they need to hear.

3. Be careful about nurturing the truth. Paul warned Timothy, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (v. 5). Paul was calling Timothy to hold to truth and sound doctrine, feeding on it for himself and then sharing it. The Greek word for sound is related to our word hygienic; in other words, preaching good, true doctrine promotes healing and health.

And preaching carries the idea of an imperial messenger making a proclamation with authority. Timothy’s mission was to preach the truth of the true King—Jesus. As Christians, this is our calling, too: to believe the truth, love the truth, speak the truth, teach the truth, and live the truth, always pointing others to the one true King.

http://www.connectwithskip.com/devomail/read/daily-devotional/2020/12/08/your-calling-truth

VIDEO He Knows – What We Know For Sure

By Pastor Jack Hibbs

Job 23:10

“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”

Scripture needn’t be lengthy to be powerful, and here in Job’s three-fold declaration is inspired proof.

He knows. What does God know? He knows the beginning from the end and everything in-between (Isaiah 46:10). From first breath to dying day, He knows the storms that buffet and situations that vex. He knows how frail we are (Genesis 3:19) and moves in our lives accordingly. God’s knowledge is intimate and exhaustive (Psalm 139), and He wisely chooses our paths.

He tests. We naturally shy away from discomfort, which leads me to believe that not many Christians venture to pray, “Dear Lord, please test me.” But if we pondered the potential in testing, and trusted the motivation behind it, perhaps we would.

I shall. When testing does come and things are dark, there is a flame of biblical truth to light our way – God’s testing is never for naught. Trials work for us, not against us, and when handled rightly, the outcome is as pure gold. Such knowledge opens wide a sanctuary of courage and strength to every saint.

Believer, live boldly! Our confidence in every challenge circles back to and rests upon the assurance that He, God Almighty, knows.

– Pastor Jack


What We Know For Sure

Today’s message from Ezekiel 38, delivers the promise of things to come, with great confidence and peace to the followers of Jesus. The overwhelming indicators in our current global news of the return of Jesus Christ, our blessed Hope. Get ready. Be prepared.


Three steps to finding hope on your dark days

September 3, 2020 by Dr. Jack Graham

The coronavirus pandemic has brought fear, chaos, grief, and isolation into our lives in a way many of us have never experienced.

Every day, I hear about strained marriages, lonely seniors, anxious students, despairing business owners, and grieving families who’ve lost someone to the virus. Many people are experiencing depression and anxiety because of these unprecedented circumstances.

But when depression and anxiety threaten to overwhelm us, there are three steps we can take that can help us get our bearings back.

First, be honest with God.

Although it may come as a surprise, many people in the Bible struggled with depression. Moses, Elijah, and Jonah—to name a few—all experienced disappointment, disillusionment, and despair. In their darkest moments, they cried out to God in agonizing honesty.

If these men—all of whom were prophets—walked so closely with God and yet so powerfully struggled with their mental and emotional health, then I think God understands when we do too. 

If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, or other mental or emotional health struggles, you’re not alone. Don’t believe the lie that you aren’t fit to be God’s child. Hear and respond to the life-giving, soul-healing truth of God’s Word. He heard the cries of Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah, and He hears yours.

Second, participate in community.

God exists in unity and community, and after He created the first man, He said, “it is not good for man to be alone” and created the first woman (Genesis 2:18). Division and isolation came as a result of the Fall.

Of course, COVID-19 has changed how we participate in community. While some churches are beginning to gather, many people are still not able to meet in person because of health concerns.

But the wonderful thing is that the virus has not canceled community because the church is not a building. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20).

We can stay connected through phone calls, text messaging, video chatting, letter writing, and socially distanced visits. It only takes two to make a church gathering.

And third, ask for help when you need it.

While prayer and community are certainly helpful, there’s no shame in seeking professional help for depression and anxiety. Sometimes, our brains and bodies simply don’t work like they should. Sometimes, circumstances really can be too much to bear.

Talking to a doctor or counselor can be immensely helpful in understanding and managing mental health issues. I know — I have battled depression. Some days are harder than others. And that’s okay. Depression and anxiety are a real part of life in this broken world. God has promised each of us that we can find wholeness, peace, and security in Him no matter what trials we are facing. So in these challenging times, let’s be honest with Him, participate in community, and ask for help when we need it.

https://resources.jackgraham.org/resource-library/articles/three-steps-to-finding-hope-on-your-dark-days/