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 26

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-Six

We are nearing the end of our story. In the last few weeks, King David has consulted prophet, priest, and warrior. And the prophet, priest, and warriors have consulted each other. The great debate over what should be done in response to Absalom’s rebellious take-over of the throne is on everyone’s mind.

The conversation between Abishai and Joab, two of David’s nephews who serve in his army, raises some very good questions. Joab says men will “sacrifice anything to satisfy ambition.” This is in reference to Absalom rising up against his father the king.

In response, Abishai adds, “He (Absalom) has raised his hand against the very anointed of God — against David! If Absalom, who has no authority, will divide the very kingdom of God…what in the name of sanity might that man do if he be king?”

These words led us to consider that Absalom, like many today, had not only lost respect for the authority of the king but had also lost sight of who the real King was! As there were things that the king did or didn’t do to his satisfaction, he decided that he knew best and he should become the king.

Things to consider:

  • Once we have shifted the emphasis from the power of “the king” to the power of the “individual,” we have essentially made ourselves kings. What kind of problems do you think might arise if we are all little kings?
  • Absalom lost sight of the fact that it was God who appointed Saul and then David to be king. If God is the appointer of kings, wouldn’t that make Him the ultimate authority?
  • Ambition, as defined by  businessdirectory.com, is “The desire to achieve something, or to succeed, accompanied with motivation, determination and an internal drive.” The question raised by today’s devotional….is ambition really ever satisfied? One man said that if you’re ambitious then it’s in your nature to find a flaw in your current situation. The next step would be to try and improve your situation, but if you’re really ambitious then you will just find another flaw that needs to be fixed. If Absalom had taken the throne from David, do you think he would have finally experienced peace and satisfaction?
  • “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” – James 13:6 ESV
  • “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3 ESV


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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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What If It Doesn’t Get Easier?

Faith is a gift from God (Rom 12:3 – “… God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”).  There are times when God may give us the faith to move mountains (Matt 17:20, 20:21). But there are also times when God intends us to climb the mountain and to trust Him for the faith to do so.  Whether it’s moving mountains, or climbing them, God has a purpose for both.

What if our greatest challenge in life does not get easier? Consider these verses.

We Will Rejoice all the More at His Coming

1PE 4:12-1312  “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13  but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.”

  • Question – Are you ready for His coming?

We Will Know (Have an Intimate Understanding) of His Grace & Power

2CO 12:9-109 “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

  • Thought – You won’t really know His grace & power if you don’t need His grace & power.

We Will Know Him, the Power of His Resurrection and the Fellowship of His Sufferings

PHI 3:7-117 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

  • Question – How well do you know Him? Is that well enough?

Continue reading


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The Church – A Work in Progress

Don’t reject Jesus based upon the witness of the Church.
Lesson 63 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.

– Ephesians 5:25–27

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Have you ever known anyone whose reason for rejecting Jesus was that, “the Church is just full of hypocrites”? It is a common sentiment. When you consider some of the weird things going on in the Church today or when you consider Church leaders who have not been good examples of Jesus followers, it is not difficult to see why people are turned off by the Church. But is that a good reason to reject Jesus?

In the world of music, classical composers like Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven are considered to be masters. It is enthralling to experience one of their works performed by a world class symphony. However, when a fifth grade orchestra attempts to perform the same work, the results are dramatically different. No one judges the genius of Bach when the fifth grade symphony falls short of perfection. It is almost expected. But when the Church falls short of perfection, many people question the value of following Jesus.

The person who rejects Jesus because of the Church needs to be aware of two things. First, Jesus is perfect regardless of how well the Church represents Him. And two, just because Jesus has not yet “perfected” the Church, or those who make up the Church, doesn’t mean that He is not able to do so, or that He won’t. The Church is a work in progress. Continue reading


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God’s Love and Justice Intersect

At the cross His justice was satisfied and His love fulfilled.
Lesson 54 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

After nailing Jesus to the wood, they lifted Him up to die. Over Him they placed a sign indicating that on this cross hangs the King of the Hebrew people. The religious leaders objected, but the soldiers followed the governor’s orders. The sign remained. Some reviled Him …others mourned. Yet through it all Jesus did not say a harsh word. Instead, speaking to His Father in Heaven He said, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” For three hours darkness fell over the land. It seemed so senseless. And yet it made perfect sense.

God is righteous and just and pure. He could not accept the evil that entered the world through Satan. Nor could He accept the evil that entered humankind through Adam, for to do so would be to violate His character, and corrupt His nature.

But God is also love. He created people to love them and to be loved by them. For God to judge people for the evil in them would be to destroy the very objects of His love.

This was a dilemma of divine proportions. But according to His story, this moment had been planned before creation, and predicted throughout the ages.

At the cross Jesus took our sin upon Himself. He paid the penalty for our sin. He became our substitute. At the cross God’s justice was satisfied, and His love fulfilled.

– The HOPE, Chapter 10

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Millions of people around the world wear crosses as jewelry. But in reality, the cross is an instrument of death, not an ornament.1 After being “tried” by the Hebrew religious leaders, the governor, and a Hebrew king named Herod…after being beaten to near death…after being rejected by a frenzied crowd…Jesus was then sent out to a place called Golgotha (the Place of the Skull) to die on a cross.

While the events surrounding the cross of Jesus are described in the final chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, no amount of words can fully describe or capture the meaning of that cross and what Jesus accomplished on it. What He did was horrible and yet beautiful, obscene and yet holy, common and yet magnificent, simple and yet brilliant.

If you have not already done so, read carefully the excerpt above from The HOPE. Consider the phrase “a dilemma of divine proportions.” The dictionary defines a dilemma as a situation that requires a choice between options that seem mutually exclusive; a problem that seems to defy a solution. If you could pull back the facade of visible forces that appear to rule our world, (namely the power of people and the power of nature), you would find two invisible forces behind it all, shaping the course of history as we observe it. The first is God’s love for people, and the second is His righteous responsibility to judge them. These two great forces seem to be irreconcilable to each other – “a dilemma of divine proportions.” Yet at the cross of Jesus these two great forces were forever reconciled! Continue reading


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The Greater the Obstacle, The Greater His Glory

A life that glorifies God has God–sized challenges.
Lesson 35 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. And the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea…

– Exodus 14:21–23

…Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea…

– Exodus 14:26–27

…And when Israel [the Hebrew people] saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses. Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and said, “I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will extol Him. The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name…

– Exodus 14:31–15:3

Finally, the Pharaoh released the Hebrew nation. And the people went out of Egypt. But the Pharaoh had a change of heart. With his army, he pursued the Hebrew people to the edge of the sea. So God divided the sea for the Hebrew people to cross on dry land. And when the Egyptians pursued them, God caused the sea to return, drowning the whole army.

– The HOPE, Chapter 6

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

As if peering through the lens of a camera, let’s look at today’s lesson from two perspectives. First we’ll look at the close–up view, and then we’ll zoom out for a wide angle view.

From the close–up view you can almost feel the salt mist as the sea lies in front of you while the Egyptian army is closing in behind. You lived your whole life as a slave in Egypt. Then in an incredibly dramatic turn of events, the ruler of Egypt not only decides to let you go, but he sends you out with many valuable possessions. You’ve hardly left Egypt and thousands of people are crowding in on you and your family. Fear is on every face. Then, just when you think that all hope for freedom is gone, Moses lifts his staff and the sea in front of you parts! God has made a way where there was no way …not only a way of escape for your people, but also a way to destroy the threat of the mighty Egyptian army.

Now let’s zoom out and re–examine this same event in a wider context. Recall that in the first lesson of this chapter, we considered a dream in which God gave Abraham an amazing preview of what was to come:

  • Abraham’s descendants would be strangers in a land that is not their own.
  • They would be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years.
  • Ultimately God would judge the nation in which they are enslaved.
  • After God’s judgment, Abraham’s descendants would leave that nation with wealth.
  • Abraham’s own life would end in peace at an old age.

With today’s story, everything God told Abraham had come to pass. Those who had listened to (and believed) the story of Abraham that had been handed down from generation to generation must have been looking forward to this day. They were no less surprised when God parted the sea, but they may have been a little less anxious, knowing that God had promised to deliver them and that everything else God had promised up to that point had come to pass. Continue reading