devos from the hill


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God’s Will for You is God’s Will for Your Children

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways. 

Genesis 22:1-2 – Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

Situation #1 – Bob recently agreed to be an elder in his Church. The elders meet monthly for a 60-90 minute meeting. But 4 times a year, they meet for half a day on Saturday. The next Saturday meeting falls on the same day as one of his daughter’s softball games. Bob is one of 3 volunteer coaches. There is no Church “crisis” to be dealt with, but the Church is facing tremendous opportunity on several fronts. Typically in these half-day Saturday meetings, as the elders prayerfully discuss the course of the Church, God moves, bringing fresh insight and discernment that impacts the life of the Church. Should Bob go to the elders meeting or the softball game?

Situation #2 – When he was a teenager, God put it in Tony’s heart that he should become a missionary doctor as a way to help reach unreached people groups in Southeast Asia. In college, he met Alicia. They fell in love and married after college. While Tony was in med school they had their first child and became pregnant with a second. After med-school, Tony was offered a fellowship in a prestigious infectious disease program.  One thing led to another, and Tony’s plans to become a missionary doctor were delayed time and time again. The children were now 7 and 9. One night at Church, Tony’s heart was again stirred by a visiting speaker; a missionary from Southeast Asia. As Tony and Alicia discussed this, the main hurdle was the children. They were both exceptionally bright and were flourishing in one of the best private schools in the city. Tony and Alicia were concerned that the children could not reach their full potential on the mission field.  What should Tony and Alicia do?

Who wouldn’t want the best for their children, right? But many Christians in America today are obsessed with positioning their children for success (as the culture around them defines it) to the point that it is actually detrimental. Their motives may be good, but these parents may actually be buffering their children from the very life experience, and perhaps the adversity, that God would use to shape their soul and character, preparing them for their calling in life.

Consider Abraham, when God told him to take his son and offer him as a sacrifice to God. Can you imagine what Abraham was thinking and feeling? How could this be a good thing? Continue reading


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 22

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. 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; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Twenty-Two

As a young shepherd boy, David did a lot of watching and waiting. He would certainly lead his flock to water or to grassy areas, but once arrived, there was much waiting. Waiting for the sheep to drink and eat.  Watching out for predators. Thinking about where to graze next. It is easy to see how this job lent itself to learning about God through observing nature and pouring out his own heart back to God.

David certainly knew that there were animals in his realm that would love to feast on one of his charges. But he did not have to go looking for these enemies, instead, he used his alone time to prepare himself for when they would eventually attack.

Chapter 22 of our book finds King David and Joab discussing what to do about the growing rebellion of his son, Absalom. As the general of the king’s armies, Joab was used to being a man of action. Thus, he queried the king what should be done about Absalom. King David says that he has no plan and will do as he always has; he will do nothing.

In our discussion of this situation, we concluded that David was not timid or without a plan because of fear. We know that he was a capable warrior and that he certainly had the position as king to thwart a rebellion. However, we believe that David also had an understanding of Psalm 46:10 which says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

David had the realization that God was in control and if he were to step in and try to do something without clear direction from God, he might interfere with God’s plan.

Things to consider:

  • Are you able to “be still” and seek God in the face of opposition or trials?
  • Can you discern between the feelings of your soul or spiritual conviction? See Hebrews 11:1

In closing, read Psalm 5, which is a psalm of David. You will notice that in the presence of his enemies, David’s action is to take refuge in the Lord, his righteous defender!


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 20

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. 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; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Twenty

27 “How long must I bear with this evil congregation that murmurs against me? I have heard the complaints of the Israelites that they murmured against me. 28 Say to them, ‘As I live, says the Lord, I will surely do to you just what you have spoken in my hearing. 29 Your dead bodies will fall in this wilderness—all those of you who were numbered, according to your full number, from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against me.  – Numbers 14:27-29 NET

And let us not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by snakes. 10 And do not complain, as some of them did, and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come. – 1 Corinthians 10:9-11 NET

Murmuring, grumbling, and complaining. We all do it. We express our discontent with our world, sometimes under our breaths where few can hear it and sometimes a bit more audibly for the benefit of others. It may seem innocuous enough…like we are just venting or letting off steam. But, there is actually great harm at the root of it and as the Scripture passages above reveal, these expressions of discontent are an affront to God.

The story of Absalom, 3rd son of King David, is an excellent example of how even a private, inward discontent can fester and grow into an all-out rebellion and life of destruction. (For background on Absalom, you may want to read 2 Samuel 13 – 18.)

Absalom was angered when his half-brother raped his sister. We can only imagine the frustration and bitterness that Absalom felt when their father, King David did nothing about the situation! No discipline, no confrontation, no acknowledgment, no rectification.

David failed to deal with the issue, and that sin brought much grief to the family and kingdom. But, his failure does not let Absalom off the hook for his own failure to deal with the situation in a just and open manner.

Instead of bringing the matter to the King and more importantly to THE King, God Himself, Absalom let his discontent simmer under the surface. He let it affect his every thought and action. It drove him to find his own solution…take over and become the new king! Over years, he methodically charmed his way into the peoples’ hearts by tapping into their own discontent, with promises that he could and would fix their problems. Eventually, it led him to full rebellion against his father, the King and ultimately to his own death.

Some Things to Ponder:

Murmuring, Grumbling and Complaining

  • provides no benefits.
  • dulls our spiritual senses, causing us to forget about what He has done and missing out on what He is doing
  • becomes a stage for Satan to get a foothold in our lives
  • gives a poor testimony of God to others
  • is an affront to the God who ordains our lives

As noted in Lesson 13, God uses discontent to accomplish His purposes in us. The question is how will we respond to our discontent? Saul’s response was to go mad and throw spears. Absalom chose instead to let his discontent fester over a long period and turn into a full on outright rebellion. Yet David, for all his sins and faults, stayed faithful in recognizing that God was sovereign over all and the source for all wisdom, instruction, and direction for life.


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 10

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. 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; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Ten

“How does a person know when it is okay to separate oneself from the Lord’s anointed – especially if the Lord’s anointed is after the order of King Saul?

David never made that decision. The Lord’s anointed made it for him. The king’s own decree settled the matter!

‘Hunt him down; kill him like a dog!’

Only then did David leave. No, he fled. Even then, he never spoke a word or lifted a hand against Saul. And please note this: David did not split the kingdom when he made his departure. He did not take part of the population with him. He left alone.”

And so begins the next chapter of our book. Saul’s jealousy and madness have finally progressed to the point that he is demanding David’s death. David, knowing that he has been anointed by God to be the next king at some future time which has yet to be revealed, chooses wisely to flee and hide. David could have fought back. He had garnered enough fame and support that he likely could have persuaded many in King Saul’s court and army to turn their allegiance to him instead. But David knew that it is God who makes kings and appoints times, and God had not yet given the go-ahead for him to be king. The only thing left to do then was to get out of Saul’s way.

This sets the stage for our discussion using the following questions:  Sometimes God leads us into a situation which turns sour; how do we know when it is okay to leave that situation? And, what should our exit strategy be?

The kinds of situations we talked about included those such as jobs, churches, volunteer commitments, and the like. Things usually look pretty good when you commit to a church, but after some time the leadership may start to take you in a direction you don’t want to go. Perhaps the worship style changes or the leaders demand that you take a more active role in engaging the community.

We should not leave a situation because we have become uncomfortable or unhappy. Like David, we leave when we are no longer capable of fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives in that situation. And, like David, it may take a while to come to that realization …and we may go through a season of having spears chucked at us before the full intentions of the king are made known.

This is not to say that we should stick it out in situations of actual abuse! But there are times when our situation may actually be one of being tested like Job rather than hunted by King Saul. The point is to seek God’s leading rather than cater to our own discomfort. God may be using discomfort to draw out or build up something in us.

Lastly, when you see that it is time to depart, don’t try to take an entourage with you! Don’t gossip about it. Don’t work others up into a frenzy. Just be obedient to your call and go. We are each responsible to follow God’s leading and we should not want to lead others away from what God may be doing in their lives.

Below are two excerpts from Psalm 18, written by David, in response to his tough situation. Think about the heart of David and the mindset that he had in trusting God so completely that his relationship with Saul did not undo him.

I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.  – Psalm 18:1-3

For You will light my lamp;
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.  – Psalm 18:28-30


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 7

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. 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; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Seven

Unlike anyone else in spear-throwing history, David did not know what to do when a spear was thrown at him. He did not throw Saul’s spears back at him. Nor did he make any spears of his own and throw them. Something was different about David. All he did was dodge the spears.

David could have retaliated. But he didn’t. He could have defended himself or questioned or complained. But there was something in David that produced a much different response. It was as if David was unoffended by what was happening around him.

Think about it. David had no way of knowing Saul’s motivations for attack. But his reaction speaks to what he did know – that God’s justice doesn’t require our defense.  Or to say it another away, acting on our own defense is an interference to God’s justice.

Look at 1 Peter 2:21 and the example of Christ’s suffering,

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to Him who judges righteously

In the face of injustice Jesus didn’t retaliate but instead trusted in what His Father had prepared for him to do. Jesus understood that the mockers and guards and religious leaders with their barrage of insults and accusations were merely the instruments chosen by God, to accomplish a greater divine purpose. Knowing this, Jesus uttered no threats but pressed into trusting the Father.

David had the attitude that was Christ’s, one we should aim for today in our own hearts. When we trust in God as our defender and deliverer, we can rest knowing that in Him we are spear-proof. We will never control the spears that are thrown our way, but today we can establish our response.

It is with the mind of Christ, like David, we can live the unoffended life. A life dependent on God’s justice, not our own retribution.

 

 


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 6

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. 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; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

 

Chapter Six

Today’s devotional study delves into some of the issues at play behind the scenes in I Samuel 18. Saul becomes jealous and angry with David and throws a spear at him; David responds by ducking and running.

Our author suggests that David might have instead chosen to pull the spear out of the wall and return the favor. Didn’t David have the right to defend himself? Wouldn’t people have thought him justified, bold, even courageous to fight back? Especially since the motives of the King were unfounded. David had done nothing wrong!

The King was acting out of jealousy and of fear that his own reputation was waning among the people. But the issue here is that however irrational his motive, Saul was still the God-appointed King and David knew that. David knew that even though the prophet, Samuel had anointed him to be king someday, that day had not yet come. King Saul was still the sovereign ruler under God. And there was no directive in place for David to take the kingship from Saul, so the best course of action was just to do his job and stay out of the line of fire.

Chapter 6 deals largely with God’s divine establishment of authority. Read (as we did) Romans 13 and consider your reaction to this passage of scripture. What do you find hard to swallow? Do you think there are any exceptions to “the rule”?

You might also consider reading more about David’s actions throughout I Samuel 16, 17, 18. He showed courage time and again when carrying out the orders given him, both in taking care of his father’s business and in his battle assignments from the king. He also had no fear when standing up for the Lord’s reputation on the battlefield with Goliath. But, he showed great restraint and humility when dealing with the king himself. David knew his place and did not try to elevate or promote himself. He knew who was in charge of them all!

In closing, you may want to read Psalm 40, penned by David. Here is an excerpt:

I relied completely on the Lord,
and he turned toward me
and heard my cry for help.
 He lifted me out of the watery pit,
out of the slimy mud.
He placed my feet on a rock
and gave me secure footing.
 He gave me reason to sing a new song,
praising our God.
May many see what God has done,
so that they might swear allegiance to him and trust in the Lord!
 How blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord
and does not seek help from the proud or from liars!

Psalm 40:1-4 NET


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 2

The Mars Hill staff is going through a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. 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; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Two

Even though David is growing up, our story today finds the young man still tending to the family’s flock of sheep. But something was about to change. The prophet, Samuel paid a visit to David’s household looking for one whom God was calling out for a destiny of leadership, and it was not until Samuel had seen the very last of the brothers in this family that God’s choice was revealed. This young sheepherder was anointed; set apart as a future king.

There were two things of note in today’s reading. The first was that God chose David because He found that he “loved his Lord with a purer heart than anyone else on all the sacred soil of Israel.” All of that time spent alone, tending the sheep, had given David opportunity to dwell on spiritual things. “And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’” – Acts 13:22

The second observation was that the Lord’s anointing was not followed immediately by David’s appointment as king. On the contrary, he went through a decade of agony and suffering; as the book says, on that day, David was enrolled into the school of brokenness.

God was calling David out to rule a nation, but there were still lessons to be learned to be the kind of man and leader God needed him to be. A.W. Tozer said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”

In many ways, David’s life is a metaphor for the Christian life. It is often misperceived that when a person follows Christ, everything in their life will suddenly be made right and carefree. Just the opposite is likely to occur. When we become a child of God, He brings people and circumstances into our lives that will help to shape us to be more like Christ. Our lives here on earth are about preparing us for the day when we will reign with Christ.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.    – Philippians 3:8-11 ESV