Today we begin a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We will be sharing highlights from the book in the weeks ahead, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us; the story offers hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.
The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God.
The Prologue sets the stage as God assigns certain divine giftings to two men who will become earthly kings. The first man is given a gift of external power. However, the messenger of God shares with the man that when his earthly pilgrimage is done, his true character will be known; it will be revealed by means of this power.
“Outer power will always unveil the inner resources or the lack thereof.”
The second man is given an internal inheritance, an inward seed planted deep in his heart. This promise will grow to a glorious thing, but not without pain, sorrow, and crushing.
The introduction to our story begs the question, “Does our time on earth shape our identity or reveal our identity?” As followers of Christ, we know that God is in control and that He has a plan, set in motion from before the foundations of the world. Would you agree that the way we respond to everyday circumstances reveals what we think about the Sovereign Lord in our hearts?
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (NASB)
And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters… Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away (Genesis 5:22, 24).
This account says twice that, before he was taken up, Enoch walked with God. I love the story of the little girl who was telling her mother the story of Enoch. She said, Enoch used to take long walks with God. One day he walked so far God said, ‘It’s too far to go back; come on home with me.’ That is what happened to Enoch.
What does it mean to walk with God? Here is a man who, in the midst of a brilliant but godless generation, walked with God. What does it mean? Enoch did not literally walk with God; this is unquestionably a figurative expression, but a figurative walk involves the same thing today as it did then. First, it means he went in the same direction God went. He was moving the way God was going. God is forever moving in human history. He is moving now to accomplish certain things in human life, and He has been doing so for centuries. The person who walks with God is the person who knows which way God is going and goes the same way. Now, what is that? Perhaps we cannot indicate it positively, but we certainly can negatively: God moves always in unswerving hostility toward sin. He is opposed to that which destroys and wrecks human life. No matter how good it looks, no matter how attractive it seems, God is against it. And the person who walks with God is the person who walks in unswerving hostility toward sin in his or her own life and refuses to make up with it or permit it to rule or to reign. That is the first thing in a walk with God. Continue reading →
God has blessed Mars Hill with an incredible team of men and women who love Jesus – the risen, reigning, and returning King. Together, we passionately pursue Him as we work to see the Great Commission fulfilled. Together, we study the Scriptures. We embrace and celebrate the mystery of faith and the magnificence of our AWESOME God. And we long for our Savior’s return, when we will know fully as we are fully known.
The Holy Spirit has breathed unique wisdom, discernment and gifts for service into each member of our staff. That said, we are delighted to commence a new series of devotionals, in which each member of our staff will be sharing insights from their inimitable journey with our Father.
We hope that God’s redemptive work in our lives will resonate with what He’s doing in yours.
Today’s Devotional is from team member, Joe Birkmire. Joe is serving Mars Hill as Director of Production Operations.
Life is interesting. What a way to start a devotional right? You see, if someone approached me about Jesus Christ before I was born again I would have silently made fun of them or just brushed them off. I did not want them to indoctrinate me with their way of thinking. My first response was to play devil’s advocate and prove why they were wrong and why I was right. Most of my knowledge on the subject was coming from the History Channel and other television sources, so I am sure my points were so misleading. The truth is, I made a decision to go after things in this world and spiritual matters did not really make sense even though I knew the truth and I was simply ignoring it. I still had morals and I think I was a good person…but I just could not get myself to really believe in Jesus and what He did for me on the cross. Before I share my story please join me in reading John 3:1-8:
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The phrase “born again” literally means “born from above.” This comes from two Greek words. Yevváw (gennaō), which means be born, regenerate, or be delivered from and ävw0ev (Anōthen) means from above, from the first, from the beginning. I think the born again question is often a struggle for a lot of people. Take 2 Corinthians 5:17, for example, “Therefore, If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come.” There it is again…the phrase born again but written differently.
When I was growing up I always went to church with my family. But, after High School and especially college, I was rarely seen in church. I did not want to go, but, to be honest, deep down I knew something was out of place or probably more accurate to say, I was running from the truth. I knew who Jesus was, but I wanted the world more.
You see, I trusted Him a long time ago, so I thought, at a Christian Young Life Camp called “Wilderness” in the Rocky Mountains. That was where I accepted Jesus for the first time at the age of 16, but it didn’t really change me at that time. Regardless of this experience being real (complete) or not I will never forget that trip. I was more caught up in the emotion rather than really believing in Jesus Christ, and all that He did for me on the cross. When I got back from the trip I did not live it out like I should have.
Then about 10 years ago at age 27, I was invited to go with a friend to another church. The only reason why I went was because there was nothing else better to do. For me to go to an unfamiliar church was out of my comfort zone, especially since I had not been in a while. But after the church service that Sunday morning, the most awkward event happened to me; a young woman yelled out to me…“Are you born again?”
My first reaction was…she’s crazy. More importantly, why was I being captivated by this thought of being born again days later? This statement was so far over my head. Looking back I was just like Nicodemus questioning Jesus with, “how can one be born again?” I also could not stop thinking about my experience in the mountains. This born again question really made me think about “me.” Who am I? Why can’t I just believe? Continue reading →
…as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. And the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.”
– Matthew 28:1–6
On the morning of the third day after Jesus had been crucified, a group of women went to visit the tomb. They were not the first. Earlier that morning, an angel of God descended from heaven. The soldiers guarding the tomb were struck with fear, and the angel moved the stone that sealed the entrance. The tomb was empty! Just as He promised, Jesus had risen from the dead!
…Over the next forty days, Jesus physically appeared to many people. With some He walked and talked. With others He shared a meal. In one instance, He appeared before more than five hundred people.
– The HOPE, Chapter 11
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
How important is the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus? The Apostle Paul wrote that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then our faith is worthless! (1 Corinthians 15:17). In upcoming lessons we gain a deeper appreciation of Paul’s powerful statement as we consider the significance of the resurrection. But let’s start by examining the overwhelming evidence that the resurrection of Jesus actually occurred, and that it was not just a fabrication or a myth as some skeptics claim.
Volumes have been written on this subject, but for the purpose of our study, we will consider four areas of evidence:
The Empty Tomb – Jesus had said publicly that He would rise from the dead. Knowing this, the Hebrew religious leaders feared that someone might try to steal His body and then start a resurrection rumor. So they convinced the governor to post soldiers at the grave site and to place an official seal on the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). The governor’s soldiers were highly motivated to guard the tomb, for they knew that if they failed to obey orders the punishment could be death. Breaking a government seal was also punishable by death – and yet the tomb was empty!
The Response of the Disciples – Even in light of the empty tomb and eyewitnesses, some argue that the account of Jesus’ resurrection was a carefully designed conspiracy. But that argument loses its strength when you consider the passionately committed lives of His disciples after the resurrection. Many of those who followed Jesus, including all but one of His twelve disciples, were martyred for their steadfast belief in Him. More than any others, these men would have known if the resurrection was a hoax. Yet they were boiled in oil, sawed in half, crucified upside down, thrown to lions and speared to death. Some men are willing to die for what they believe is true, but only a madman or a fool would die for what he knew was a lie.
The Testimony of Experts – In a court of law, experts are often called upon to evaluate evidence. Throughout time countless scholars have weighed in on the evidence for the resurrection and concluded it to be a fact of history. As stated above, volumes have been written on this subject. As an example, consider the following quote from Thomas Arnold, Royal Professor of Modern History at Oxford and author of the book, History of Rome: “I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”
Don’t be sidetracked. The truth is a person… Jesus.
Lesson 53 from The HOPE Study Guide
Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”… Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Pilate therefore said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”
And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him. But you have a custom, that I should release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” Therefore they cried out again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber. Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him.
– John 18:33–19:1
Now Jesus had spoken often of the Kingdom of God. So the governor asked Him, “Are you a King?” Jesus said that His Kingdom “is not of this world.” The governor said to the religious leaders, “This man has done nothing deserving of death.” But the religious leaders continued to seek the death of Jesus, claiming He was a threat to the people and the governor. Jesus did not defend Himself. The governor was amazed.
– The HOPE, Chapter 10
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
Entire books have been written on the events that took place during the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Because The HOPE is a summary overview of the Bible, it cannot deal with all of the events of the Bible, and certainly not with each one in detail. This lesson will focus primarily on just one detail in one of these events.
After celebrating the Passover meal, Jesus and His disciples went to a garden. There Jesus was seized and taken before the Hebrew religious leaders. They questioned Jesus and found Him guilty of claiming to be the Son of God. He was then sent to the foreign governor (Pilate) who ruled over the land of the Hebrews. The Hebrew religious leaders reasoned that if Jesus asserted before Pilate His claim to be a king (or any other kind of “ruler”), then the governor would be forced to deal harshly with Jesus, perhaps even putting Him to death. This is where our present lesson begins.
Pilate asks Jesus if He is a king. Jesus answers that His Kingdom is not of this realm. Jesus then says that He has “come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” At this point we can only speculate what the governor is thinking. Both Matthew 27:14 and Mark 15:5 tell us that the governor is “amazed” at Jesus. Even though Pilate may not understand exactly who Jesus is, he knows that Jesus is someone of a very exceptional nature. The governor then asks Jesus, “What is truth?”Continue reading →
God’s means of salvation is the only means of salvation.
Lesson 23 from The HOPE Study Guide
Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.
– Gen 6:17-19
But there was a man named Noah who followed God. And God gave Noah detailed instructions to build a huge boat, called an ark. Then, God sent a male and female of every kind of animal to enter the ark. And after Noah and his family were inside the ark, God closed the door. Then God made it rain for forty days and nights, flooding the whole earth and destroying everything that lived on the earth. For one hundred and fifty days water covered the earth. But Noah and his family, and the animals, were safe in the ark. When the water finally subsided, the ark came to rest on a mountain, and the animals went their own way. And so it was that Noah and his family escaped God’s judgment of evil in the world; not because they were without sin, but because they believed God.
– The HOPE, Chapter 4
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
The story of Noah is nothing short of amazing. Skeptics call it a fable. Yet in ancient civilizations from every region of the world, stories of a global flood abound. H.S. Bellamy in Moons, Myths and Men estimates that there are over 500 flood legends worldwide.1
In the Bible this story is found in Genesis, Chapters 6–9. Volumes have been written on these chapters, but for the sake of our study today we will focus on three subjects.
1. The judgment of God – the result of His holy character
In the previous lesson, we saw from Genesis 6:6 that God was deeply grieved over the sin of mankind. In Genesis 6:7 we read of God’s intent to “blot out” man from the face of the earth. At first, one might think that God’s intention to blot out man in verse 7 was motivated by His grief in verse 6. It might appear that God, becoming disappointed with man, somehow lost His patience. But is that really true?
We humans are often disappointed when our expectations are unmet. But God, who is not limited by the dimensions of time and space, knows the future (see verses in Lesson 6). What He expects is what happens. What happens is what He expected. So how could God be disappointed? Continue reading →
The first question is not is He good, but rather is He God?
Lesson 17 from The HOPE Study Guide
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said,’ You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.’ And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
– Genesis 3:1–5
And so it was one day as Eve was walking in the garden near the tree of knowledge that Satan spoke to her. She was without fear, for fear had not yet come into the world. Satan asked her about the forbidden fruit. He questioned God’s warning and His motive toward man. Eve listened and began to doubt God. She considered the fruit and ate. Then she gave the fruit to Adam, and he ate. And immediately, they were aware of their nakedness and they were ashamed.
– The HOPE, Chapter 3
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
The current lesson continues our study of Satan’s interaction with Eve at the tree of knowledge. Let’s think about Satan’s tactic with Eve as recorded in the Bible passage above.
Eve told Satan what God said about the forbidden tree, “You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.” Satan responded, “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”1
At first, it appears that Satan is simply contradicting God, or at least trying to re–interpret what God has said. He seems to be trying to get Eve to question whether she really heard what she thought she heard. Instigating doubt and confusion is certainly one of Satan’s primary tactics.
But if you dig more deeply, there appears to be even more to Satan’s strategy. In his line, “You surely shall not die!” you can almost hear him saying to Eve, “Oh come now. God wouldn’t do that to you …would He?” Satan is leading Eve to question God’s intentions toward her. Then he follows up with, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” This sounds like Satan is hinting that perhaps God doesn’t really want Eve to become all she can be, which would then cause her to wonder, “Does God really want what is best for me?”
At the core of this line of thinking there lurks a very dangerous question: “Is God really good?” People throughout time have stumbled over this very question. When Eve begins to ask it, slam…the trap is shut. Doubting that God is for her, she will now begin to look after her own interests.
Man’s role and God’s role.
Lesson 12 from The HOPE Study Guide
Adam was given the freedom to choose, a freedom central to God’s purpose. For man was created to love God and to be loved by God. And love is not truly love without the freedom to choose love. So Adam had a choice, to taste the fruit, or not; a choice with a consequence, life or death.
– The HOPE, Chapter 2
Observe & Consider
From the moment God told Adam not to taste of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam was confronted with a choice. Much has been written on the seemingly great tension between the ideas of God’s sovereignty (or control) over this world and man’s responsibility (or freedom) to make choices.1
Some say that God determines the destiny of every person; others say that man is a free moral agent who by his own choices determines his destiny. The fact is that both ideas seem to be taught in the Bible. For example, in Joshua 24:15 Joshua exhorts the Hebrew people: “…choose for yourselves today whom you will serve …as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
And, in John 15:16, Jesus says to His closest friends and followers, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain…”
This study guide is not meant to exhaustively examine and resolve the tension between God’s control and man’s choice. That theological argument lies beyond our scope. However, it may be helpful for you to reflect upon the following thought from those who have prepared this material. Continue reading →
A scientific case for creation.
Lesson 8 from The HOPE Study Guide
According to His story, God spoke all of creation into existence. By His Word He made everything out of nothing… According to His story, God created the heavens, the earth, and every living thing in six days.
– The HOPE, Chapter 1
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
Even among those who believe that the world was created by God, there are different interpretations of the creation account found in the Bible. However, among the predominant Biblical views there is also agreement on many key concepts. After reading the preceding excerpt from The HOPE video, let’s consider a few of these concepts.
First, because God is all powerful, not limited by anything, He can create however He chooses, even simply by speaking. This concept is clearly presented in the Bible:
“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)
“…by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed.” (2 Peter 3:5)
Secondly, God made everything that is, out of nothing. Think about that. When we humans create, we must utilize or draw upon things that existed before us. When we “create” we are really “re-creating.” But God, who created from nothing, is creative in the ultimate sense: Continue reading →
Lesson 2 What is a reference point and why do we need one?
Observe & Consider
In Lesson 1 we considered the question of life’s meaning and purpose. We also recalled this line from The HOPE: “For those who seek answers, for those who are listening, there is a voice.” (The HOPE video, Introduction). And finally, we concluded with the question, “Am I listening?”
Perhaps you are listening for answers to questions about life and meaning. The problem is there are so many competing voices. Beyond the major world religions (i.e. Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Christianity), there are hundreds of religions and world views. All of these advocate a particular approach to life. In many cases, each of them claims to be the way to find God. However, none of them fully agree (and most radically disagree) on the nature of God and how He may be found. With so many conflicting teachings, how can a person know which way is the right way? It would help to have a reference point.
Every traveler needs help to find his way through a strange land. Some might rely on a trusted guide – one who has successfully completed the journey and is able to help others do the same. Some might use a map or instructions from one who knows the way. Others have depended upon a landmark or a star as a fixed reference point by which they can know their position and measure their progress. Continue reading →