devos from the hill


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God Always Provides …

God Always Provides for His Plan and Purpose
by Fred Carpenter

1) Consider the following Scriptures:

Matthew 21:1-6
1 When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 “If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, ‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.'” 6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them…

Zechariah 9:9
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

2) What do you see in these verses? (can you think of other things?)

  • v1 – He didn’t send all the disciples, just two. God’s work doesn’t depend on large numbers. These disciples weren’t going to search for the donkey and the colt. They were going to retrieve the donkey and the colt. When Jesus sent His disciples out to do ministry, He sent them in two’s.
  • v2-3 – The instructions were clear. God is in the details. The more specific the prophecy in Zechariah, the more glory to God when we read of its fulfillment in detail in Matthew (and Mark and Luke).
  • v2-3 – The provision had been prearranged. God had somehow prepared the heart of the person who owned the donkey and the colt. For every story there is a back story, and every character is vital to the greater narrative.
  • v5 – This was done so prophecy might be fulfilled. 9:9 was written about 500 before the event in Matthew 21.
  • v5 – Jesus didn’t just need a ride into town. He specifically needed a donkey and colt (and according to the parallel passages in Mark 11 and Luke 19, a colt that had never been ridden). A Jewish king might have come on a mule (1 Kings 1:38). A warring conqueror might have come on a war horse. A donkey and a colt symbolized humility, not war and aggression. Consider also that our passage identifies this donkey as a beast of burden. Jesus was about to take on the burden of the sin of the world.
  • v6 – The two disciples followed His instructions exactly, without questions.
  • This whole story defies natural wisdom and probability. It does not depend on human ingenuity and capacity. It reveals and magnifies the hand of God.

3) From what you have read, what can you apply to your life? (here is a partial list)

  • As we’ve seen with the owner of the donkey and the colt, every person is vital to the story – even if the role is “behind-the-scenes”. You are important to God’s story!
  • A lot of time passed between the prophecy in Zechariah and its fulfillment. Sometimes the story takes time to unfold. Be patient.
  • God will provide exactly what we need in order to fulfill His plan and purpose. Walk in His plan, and He will provide all you need to fulfill His purpose for your life.


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The Significance of the Resurrection – Part 2

Man made new – the death of the old man.
Lesson 58 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

– 1 Corinthians 15:17

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

– Romans 6:4-7

…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

– Colossians 2:12

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

– 2 Corinthians 5:17

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we considered what the Apostle Paul wrote about the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19. In this lesson we will continue our study of the resurrection, starting with one verse from that passage. From verse 17 above, we read that if Christ was not raised from the dead, then we are still in our sins. Let’s dig deeper at this precise place.

Recall from Lesson 18 that sin has infected every person since Adam. Now some people have the idea they can rid themselves of sin by living a good life, by becoming an increasingly better person. This is not what the Bible teaches. According to the Bible, the only way to deal with sin is to judge it and put it to death (Romans 8:13), and that is what Jesus accomplished by His death on the cross.

Now notice from Romans 6:5-6 above, that in some sense, when Jesus was crucified, you (your old self) were crucified with Him. As you think about this concept, it may be helpful to keep in mind that because God is not limited by time and space, what God accomplishes in time and space is not limited by the ordinary constraints of time and space. Hence, in some way, though you might not fully grasp it now, Jesus took you with Him to the cross, even though you had not yet been born.

Also, it is important to note that when the Bible uses the term old self (or old man), it is referring to who you were before trusting Jesus to pay for your sin and reconcile you to God. In other words, “old self” refers to who you were as a person under the penalty and the power of sin. So as we carefully read verses 6 and 7, we see that your old self was crucified together with Christ so that “your body of sin might be done away with,” so that you “should no longer be a slave to sin,” but rather be “freed from sin.” God deals with sin by taking you (your old self) to the grave. And continuing with verse 7, “He who has died is freed from sin.” It is a good thing to be freed from the power of sin, but it is not good if we remain dead in a grave. That is why the resurrection is so important! Continue reading


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The Resurrection – Fact or Fiction?

Proof of the resurrection.
Lesson 56 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…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 Eye Witnesses – The Bible records numerous encounters that various people (including His inner circle of disciples who knew Him better than most) had with the resurrected Jesus (Matthew 28:9-10,Matthew 16:20; Mark 16:12-18; Luke 24:13-43; John 20:14-18, John 26:29; John 21:15-23). On one occasion Jesus appeared to a group of 500 people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6).
  • 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.”

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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.

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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