devos from the hill


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The Good Thing or The God Thing?

Everybody had an agenda for Jesus – do you?
Lesson 51 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.

– Mark 9:31–32

From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”

– Matthew 16:21–25

He began explaining to His disciples the true nature of His mission. He told them that soon He would be given over to the religious leaders and killed. Three days later He would rise from the dead. His disciples heard what He was saying, but they could not bring themselves to embrace the full meaning of His words.

– The HOPE, Chapter 10

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

As the end of His earthly ministry neared, Jesus began telling His disciples that soon He would suffer and die, and three days later rise from the dead. From the Mark 9 excerpt above, “they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him,” it is clear that His disciples had no place in their thinking for what Jesus was saying. And what’s more, His words were so hard for them to handle that they feared to ask for an explanation.

The response from Peter in the Matthew excerpt above is even more dramatic. Peter didn’t simply fail to understand, but boldly rejected what Jesus was saying. “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” Peter is saying “God forbid it” to Jesus, who is God! Jesus responds to Peter so strongly that it is almost startling. “Get behind Me, Satan …you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Jesus was essentially saying that Satan himself was working through Peter to protest God’s will in action.

Jesus then spoke words that apply not only to Peter, but to everyone who wants to follow Jesus, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”

What a contradiction to our natural way of thinking! If you want to save your life, you’ve got to give it up for His sake. This statement challenges the hearer to go far beyond simply acknowledging that Jesus is the Christ (the Deliverer), the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16)! The challenge here is complete abandonment to His will. Continue reading


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Liar, Lunatic, Lord – “Who Do You Say that I Am?”

Why Jesus left us no other choice.
Lesson 50 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

He began asking His disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

– Matthew 16:13–17

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

The people of Jesus’ day had varied opinions about who He was. Not much has changed in our day. If you asked a number of people on the street who Jesus is, you’d probably get a number of different answers. Some might say, as Peter did in the verse above, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. But others would likely identify Him merely as a great teacher or a prophet, or perhaps a man who performed miracles.

The question Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” is the most important question a person will ever answer. Having considered the ministry and the claims of Jesus over the past several lessons, the time has come for us to deal with this question.

Some may argue otherwise, but Jesus did not leave us the option to say that He is merely a great teacher, or a prophet, or a man who performed miracles. The reason we do not have this option is summed up in an argument that was first made by C.S. Lewis,1 and later by Josh McDowell.2 This argument insists there are only three possible answers to the question “Who was Jesus?”

Jesus claimed to be God. Some deny that He really made this claim, but that is in fact the reason the religious leaders wanted Him dead. Jesus was clear about His claim and that claim leads to only one of three possibilities:

  1. Jesus sincerely believed that He was the Son of God, but He was Himself deceived, so much so that He was willing to die because of it. This would put Jesus in the category of a lunatic.
  2. Jesus knew that He was not the Son of God, but He was willing to lie about it. This would not only make Him a liar, it would make Him a very evil man because He was intentionally misleading people, many of whom would suffer and die because they believed Him.
  3. Jesus was who He claimed to be: the Son of the Living God.

 

Jesus left us no other options. We cannot call Him just a good man, because a good man would not mislead people by saying that He was something He was not. We cannot call Him just a good teacher, because a good teacher would not teach something that was untrue. And if Jesus was deceiving people, either intentionally, or because He was Himself deceived, then we cannot conclude that His power to perform miracles was from God. It would be more reasonable to assume that the power had come from Satan.

Continue reading


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The Ministry of Jesus – Teaching and Miracles

Jesus proves Himself.
Lesson 47 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.

– John 21:25

The very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

– John 5:36

As Jesus and His disciples journeyed through the land, people gathered around Him. He was a master communicator. With wonderful stories and illustrations, Jesus taught people the ways of God, and called them to live according to those ways. Jesus had compassion for the outcast and the brokenhearted. He convicted those whose hearts were full of pride. He spoke with the authority of one sent from God, but He was not just a man of words.

Jesus expressed His compassion and proved His authority with miracles. He was reported to have calmed storms and walked on the sea. On two occasions He took just a few loaves of bread and a handful of fish, and multiplied them to feed thousands of people. Jesus gave sight to the blind, caused the lame to walk, and healed people of horrible diseases. He cast demons out of people, and He even raised people from the dead. For thirty years, Jesus had lived in obscurity. But now, He was demonstrating His power over the physical and the spiritual world, over life and death.

– The HOPE, Chapter 9

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

During the three years between His baptism and His death and resurrection, Jesus traveled throughout the land of the Hebrews ministering to the people. There were two main aspects to the public ministry of Jesus. The first of these was His teaching.

As we read about the teaching of Jesus in the Bible, it is characterized by authority (Matthew 7:29, Mark 1:22, Luke 4:32) and wisdom (Matthew 13:54, Mark 6:2). Amazed (Matthew 7:28, Mark 1:22, Luke 4:32) and astonished (Matthew 13:54, Matthew 22:33, Mark 6:2, Mark 11:18) are the words used most to describe the reactions of those who heard Jesus teach. Even among those who doubt that Jesus is the promised Deliverer, His teaching is considered remarkable. His “Sermon on the Mount” and numerous parables1 are viewed to be among the greatest wisdom literature in the world.

The second aspect of Jesus’ ministry had to do with the miracles He performed. Most of today’s lesson will be concerned with the miracles of Jesus. But before we go further, let’s define our terms. The modern word “miracle” is derived from the Latin word miraculum, which means, “a wonder” or “something wonderful.”2 In the Bible, there are four words (two Hebrew and two Greek) that are translated as the word “miracle.” In each case, these words describe an intervention by God in which the ordinary course of nature is overruled, suspended, or modified.3 The Biblical term “miracle” means something much more than its Latin root.

Note that the Biblical use of the word doesn’t simply refer to the involvement of God in the affairs of man. It refers to what C. S. Lewis calls “a divine interference with nature by a supernatural power.”4 God does innumerable things for us on a daily basis, but He doesn’t necessarily supersede the laws of nature to do them. However, if you had terminal cancer one day, and then the next day it was gone, that would be completely contrary to the laws of nature. A miracle defies natural explanation because it defies natural law. Continue reading


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Abraham – Knowing the End before the Beginning

He walked out what God had already shown him.
Lesson 31 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions. And as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.”

– Genesis 15 : 13-15

God promised to bless Abraham, and through Him to bless all the nations of the earth. God made the same kind of promise to Abraham’s son, Isaac, and to Isaac’s son, Jacob.

– The HOPE, Chapter 6

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In Lessons 26–30 we studied Abraham and some of the events surrounding his life. As you recall, God called Abraham and promised to bless him that he might be a blessing to all the nations. Before moving forward, consider these things about God’s promised blessing:

  1. Though the blessing came through Abraham, it is for everyone who is willing, by faith, to receive it.
  2. The Bible calls this promise of blessing a covenant.1 When God makes such a covenant,2 it is an irrevocable promise to do what He has said. God will do what must be done to bring it to pass.
  3. God, who is eternal, all knowing, and all powerful,3 isn’t trying to figure out how to bring it to pass. He already has every detail planned. This will become increasingly more evident over the next few lessons.

 

As we continue on in The HOPE, we see that God made the same “kind” of promise to Abraham’s son Isaac, and Isaac’s son Jacob. By the word “kind,” The HOPE is allowing for the fact that while God may have worded it differently, it was basically the same promise being passed down through Abraham’s descendants. They are, in a sense, entering in to God’s promise to Abraham.

Now as we have noted, the fulfillment of this promise has been planned in detail by God. To understand this better, let’s go back to Genesis 15. Here we read that God declared Abraham righteous (Lesson 27). Also in this chapter, we read that God, after causing a deep sleep to come over Abraham, gave him a detailed vision of what was to come – not just in his lifetime, but for the next several hundred years! Continue reading


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Beware of Pursuing God’s Will without God

The world still bears the burden of their good intentions.
Lesson 28 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.

– Genesis 16:1–2

But how could God’s promise to Abraham be fulfilled? For Sarah to have a child seemed impossible. Rather than waiting on God, and His timing, Sarah gave her servant Hagar to Abraham, and Hagar gave birth to a child named Ishmael. Eventually, just as God had promised, Sarah also bore a child from Abraham. They called him Isaac. And Sarah became bitter toward Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham was distressed.

– The HOPE, Chapter 5

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In previous lessons we’ve seen Abraham’s faith in God, and in God’s promise to make him the father of a great nation and to bless all the nations through him. Today’s lesson looks at Abraham ten years after God first made that promise (Genesis 12:1-3). Abraham’s wife Sarah is about 75 years old, and still she has not born Abraham a child! So Sarah gives up what is a wife’s most cherished privilege, the right to her husband’s undivided affection, and she offers her maid, Hagar, to her husband that he might have a child by her and thus “fulfill” God’s promise. And of course Abraham could have said no, but he didn’t.

Not only does Sarah’s plan create turmoil within her marriage, but the epic conflict and human tragedy that has resulted from Sarah’s foolishness is still being felt today. Hagar’s son, Ishmael, would become the father of the Arab nations of our world, and the son that Sarah would later conceive would become the father of the nation of Israel. Hardly a day goes by that the news media does not cover some violent incident related to the Israeli – Arab conflict and the dispute over the right to the land that God promised to Abraham.1

Before continuing, recall that in our study of God’s story we have observed a recurring theme. What appears from our perspective to be a disastrous event is often a necessary part of God’s higher plan to accomplish His eternal purposes. For example, in response to the arrogance of the people at the tower of Babel, God confused their language. The result was chaos, and God scattered the people across the earth. But this was also the beginning of the nations as we know them today. And ultimately God will bring glory to Himself and blessing to humankind by doing something only He can do, namely bringing the nations together to live in perfect unity and peace with God and each other. Continue reading


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Whom Does God Consider Righteous?

It’s not about trying to be good, but trusting God.
Lesson 27 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And He took him (Abram) outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

– Genesis 15:5–6

Now Abraham and Sarah lived in Canaan for a long time, but they remained childless. Again, God spoke to him saying that his descendants would be like the stars of the heavens…too many to count. Abraham believed God, and God counted his faith as righteousness.

– The HOPE, Chapter 5

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we saw how Abraham responded in faith to God’s calling and promise. God called Abraham to leave his home and journey to an unknown land, and promised that He would make Abraham the father of a great nation. Today’s lesson looks at Abraham several years after that initial step of faith, and still Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were childless! Again God speaks to Abraham, promising that his descendants would be like the stars–too many to count (Genesis 15:5). Abraham had no evidence that he would have even one child, let alone a multitude of descendants. But Abraham believed God, and God reckoned (or counted) it (his faith) to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). This verse is one of the most important in the Bible, for it sums up the basis by which a person can be right with God, and have a relationship with God.

The word “righteousness”1 has to do with law, morality and justice. In Biblical terms, one who is righteous is without guilt. He is perfect or “right” in relation to the law. However, if you flipped the pages of your Bible to Romans 3:10, you would read that, “There is none righteous, not even one.” Abraham was infected with sin, just as every person since Adam (see Lesson 18). If we were to more closely examine Abraham’s life, we would see clearly that his life fell short of perfection.

Only God is perfect! He alone is holy and righteous! And because God is holy and righteous, He cannot tolerate or overlook sin. Sin violates the character of God and ultimately He must judge it. Simply put, sin drives a wedge between God (who is sinless) and man (who is sinful).

The word “reckon”2 (or “credited” or “counted” as some translations read) could be considered an accounting or a mathematical term. If God were to do an audit of Abraham’s righteousness based on Abraham’s own merit, he would be found lacking. But because he trusted God, Abraham was credited by God with a righteousness that was not his own.

To better understand the concept of being “reckoned righteous” consider the story of a judge who served during the great American depression.3 One night a man was brought into his courtroom. The desperate man had been caught stealing bread to feed his starving family. As the man explained his story, the judge felt sympathy for him, but the law left the judge no option. I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions. Ten dollars or ten days in jail. Then, moved by compassion, the judge reached in his own pocket and pulled out ten dollars to pay the fine. Continue reading


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Abraham – A Man Who Walked by Faith

Step by step, God initiated – Abraham responded.
Lesson 26 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

– Genesis 12:1–3

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

– Hebrews 11:8

From among the nations of the earth God called out a man, who is known to us as Abraham. God told Abraham to leave his home and go to a land He would show him. Abraham did as God said, taking all his people and possessions. God promised that Abraham would possess this land, and become the father a great nation. And through him, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. It was a peculiar promise, for Abraham and his wife, Sarah, had no children of their own. But Abraham obeyed God just the same, and led his people to the land of Canaan.

– The HOPE, Chapter 5

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we saw how God brought about the nations of the world. We also learned that God’s plan will ultimately bring unity and blessing to the nations and glory to God. In this lesson we will consider an event that marks a very significant step toward that end.

From among all the nations God called out one man named Abraham. We can only imagine how it went when Abraham told his wife, Sarah, what he heard from God.

Abraham: We’re going to pack up and leave our home.

Sarah: Why would we do that?

Abraham: Because God said so.

Sarah: Why would He do that?

Abraham: Because God is going to make me the father of a great nation, and He is going to bless all the nations through me.

Sarah: But we don’t even have children.

Abraham: I know.

Sarah: And neither of us is young.

Abraham: I know.

Sarah: So where are we going?

Abraham: I don’t know.

Abraham had nothing on which to base his actions…nothing but his faith in God. But he took the step that God told him to take. And today, Abraham is known as the father of three of the world’s major religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.1 He is without question one of the most significant figures in all of history. His name appears in the Bible over 260 times, often as an example of a man of great faith. Continue reading


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Safe Even Through Judgment

God’s means of salvation is the only means of salvation.
Lesson 23 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

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


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The Uniqueness of The Bible – Part 2

It takes faith to believe the Bible is not a work of God.
Lesson 4 from The HOPE Study Guide

Observe & Consider

In Lesson 3, we considered the Bible’s diversity and harmony and its textual reliability – two attributes that make it unique among all the books in the world. Today we will consider two more things that truly separate the Bible from any other book and give it credibility as the most reliable reference point that one could have in the journey of life.

The Bible is unique in its historical accuracy.

Historical accuracy is yet another factor to consider in determining the reliability of an ancient text. In other words, “Do archeological findings substantiate what is recorded in the text?” In the case of the Bible, the answer is clear

  • “…it may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries.”

– Dr. Nelson Glueck (Rivers in the Desert, p. 31)

  • “…archaeology has confirmed countless passages which have been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contradictory to known facts…Yet archaeological discoveries have shown that these critical charges…are wrong and that the Bible is trustworthy in the very statements which have been set aside as untrustworthy…We do not know of any cases where the Bible has been proved wrong.”

– Dr. Joseph P. Free (Archaeology and Bible History, pp. 1, 2, 134)

The Bible is unique in its prophetic record.

Before considering the Bible’s prophetic record, it is important to understand what distinguishes the prophets of the Bible from other so–called prophets. According to the book of Deuteronomy in the Bible, the test of a true prophet of God was 100% accuracy. If one who called himself a prophet did not pass this test, the penalty was death.1 Now that is motivation to represent God accurately!

It is amazing to discover that there are more than 1,800 prophecies in the Bible.2 Many of these prophecies were fulfilled in the lifetime of the prophet who gave them. Still more have been fulfilled since the writing of the Bible. Many prophecies are yet to be fulfilled. To this day, no Biblical prophecy has ever been proven false! Continue reading


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Do You Have Living Hope?

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter
Part 2 of a 3-part series on Hope

Yesterday morning I watched a video, taken on a mobile phone, of a young pastor in a country dominated by militant Muslims. He was being martyred for sharing his faith. The frenzied screaming of masked men holding a knife to his neck, yelling at him to recant, was more than I could bear. Knowing what was about to take place, I was grateful that the man showing the video turned it off just before they took the pastor’s life. I was, and still am, deeply affected by what I viewed. It is sobering to know that this kind of thing is taking place in many parts of the world today. (And the pastor’s example was a sharp contrast to the touchy, feely, whiny cultural Christianity that pervades America.)

It is no mistake that the subject of today’s devotional (Part 2 of a 3 part series on “hope”) was planned last week. Our focal verse is 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . .” That young pastor stood firm for Christ, his “living hope” was stronger and more real than anything possessed by (or that possessed) his captors.

In context of this verse and those that follow, it is clear that our living hope is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ; not only on the fact that it actually happened, but also on what He accomplished in our behalf as a result. Because of the resurrection we have an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for us (v.4)!

Consider the following. Each thought lays a foundation for the next. Continue reading