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/

What is God teaching you in your storms?

October 21, 2020 by Dr. Jack Graham

I vividly remember in 2009 when I found myself in a storm like I’d never experienced before. I had received a cancer diagnosis and was unsure of what the future would hold.   

But what I also remember is what a close friend of mine said to me in the midst of my battle… 

“Jack, I’m praying for you… that you will learn everything you need to learn in the midst of this trial in your life.”  

And God was faithful to do just that. As I prayed, “Lord, teach me what you want to teach me,” He stepped into my storm to do something I never expected. You see, while trials are a painful part of life, they serve to strengthen our faith and build our character.  

That’s what the first chapter of the book of James is all about. James writes in verse 2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” 

The picture James is painting is that we’re walking along, everything is going well, and out of nowhere life hits us like a two-by-four with a trial, test, or storm. 

Now I realize that this is exactly where many of us find ourselves today. Toward the beginning of 2020, we lived blissfully ignorant of the trials that were about to hit us. 

And then over the past several months, we’ve been hit hard.   

We’ve seen sickness and death from a global pandemic. We’ve experienced the isolation that comes with sheltering at home. And we’ve lived through one of the most politically and racially charged climates we’ve seen in decades. 

There’s no escaping it – our world is full of pain and suffering. In Romans 8 we’re told that all creation groans in preparation for the birth of the new earth that is coming when Christ returns. 

But on this side of eternity, we will experience suffering, pain, and heartache. 

And still, James writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”  Seriously? Why would James say this – a difficult, almost impossible command to follow? 

Scripture answers that question for us in Psalm 16:11. The psalmist writes, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  

All who are in Christ share in His eternal joy, even in the midst of seemingly impossible circumstances. It is a unique promise and privilege for believers and followers of Jesus.   

I’d love to share more with you about how you can authentically live out your faith in tumultuous times like these by sending you my book, Visible Faith. It’s my way to say thanks for your gift to help take the Gospel to the world. 

And it gets better, thanks to a $200,000 Matching Grant, your gift today will be DOUBLED to help share the hope of Jesus with more people! 

Thank you for your generosity. I pray Visible Faith encourages and equips you to be a light for Christ – so our darkening world can see the faith that truly saves!

https://resources.jackgraham.org/resource-library/articles/what-is-god-teaching-you-in-your-storms/

How Do You View Your Life?

by Skip Heitzig | January 5, 2021

Every challenge you face in life, every personal hardship, and every frustrating headline should remind you to check the way you look at the world. Which lens will you choose to look through—fear or faith?

I’m not talking about taking life’s lemons and making lemonade from them. Rather, can you look beyond the sour and the sweet and see that God is sovereign? When panic comes knocking, can you access His peace? When worry casts its shadow, are you willing to worship Him?

The best way to check your worldview is to bring your response to trouble in line with what the Bible says. The Bible lays out a distinct way of looking at the world. Here it is in a nutshell: God created everything and called it good; mankind made a bad choice that has had disastrous repercussions for every generation since; death has reigned—spiritually, physically, and morally—but God staged a long-term rescue mission; that mission began when Jesus dealt with sin at the cross, and it will culminate when He returns to rule over a restored creation with those He was sent to save.

If you don’t live with that worldview, most of life will seem senseless, haphazard, arbitrary, cruel, isolating, and frightening. Even if you live with that worldview, life will still hurt and be hard, but the bigger picture of God’s purposes will bring clarity to you and comfort you.

The Bible helps us lean into this perspective. It shows us that even as Christians, we’re not immune to pain. Even Jesus—who knows a thing or two about suffering—said that the Father “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

It might be oversimplifying to say that bad things happen to good people, because the Bible also makes it clear that, in light of God’s holiness, there are no “good” people. We all fall short, and our most righteous deeds are a pile of dirty rags before the Lord. But the wonder of God’s purpose in our lives is that He works all of our shortcomings and shortsightedness and messiness into an eternal opportunity for good, if we trust in His sovereignty (see Romans 8:28).

Think of David, the man after God’s own heart. When bad things happened—when he was on the run from Saul, for instance, persecuted unjustly because of Saul’s jealousy—David still believed God was in charge and in control. He had a high view of God. This belief steadied him and kept him from dishonoring the Lord.

David’s suffering still ministers to us today. When bad things happened, David could say, “But God is still on His throne.” That means when bad things happen in our lives, it’s not the end of the story. Evil may succeed for a day or for a season, but in the end, God will triumph, and we will triumph with Him. In the meantime, every hardship is an opportunity to check your worldview and look to God. Are you looking?

http://www.connectwithskip.com/devomail/read/daily-devotional/2021/01/05/how-do-you-view-your-life

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