devos from the hill


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The Mystery of History – Ray Stedman

Read the Scripture: Acts 4:23-31
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. Sovereign Lord, they said, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.  Acts 4:23-24

After being released from custody of the Sanhedrin, the apostles did not go out to organize a revolutionary committee to overthrow them. They did not even try to arouse a popular demonstration. The clear evidence of this passage is that they had popular support. But the apostles do not rely for even one minute upon political or popular pressure. They cast themselves upon the unique resource of the church in any age, which, when it forgets it, becomes nothing more than an instrument of distortion. They cast themselves wholly upon the sovereign power of God at work in history. That is the greatest force to alter a power structure that the world has ever seen. It has been ignored by the church many times and thus Christians have frittered away their efforts in relatively useless activities which make a lot of noise but never accomplish anything.

The apostles found encouragement in two things: First, the sovereignty of God, his overruling control of human events. The very first word of their prayer recognizes this,Sovereign Lord. God holds the world in the palm of his hand, and is intimately involved in every human event. They found great consolation in that, but I find many Christians have forgotten it. These disciples openly recognized that God had even predicted the very opposition they faced. Later, they quote the second Psalm in support of it. They had clearly been doing what Christians ought to do under pressure: They had gone to the Scriptures. They had found in the second Psalm the prediction of the actual opposition they were facing.

This second thing they saw is what we might call, the mystery of history. You can see it in verse 28 where they say of the Sanhedrin, They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. In other words, the God of history uses the very opposition to accomplish his purposes! That is what they saw. God worked through the free will of man. These people opposed the plan of God. They tried to thwart God’s purposes. They tried to derail his program. But God operates in such a marvelous way that he uses even this opposition to accomplish his will. That is the story of the cross and of the resurrection of Jesus.

That principle is what these Christians reckoned upon. They recognized a principle at work in human affairs which is the most powerful force known to man, and which the church frequently ignores to its peril.

Thank you, Father, that I can trust in your sovereign power and control even over those events which do me harm.

Life Application: What are two important principles we derive from God’s Word regarding our reactions to deepening moral decay and human suffering? Are we willing to act faithfully, while acknowledging the mystery and majesty of God’s sovereignty?

We hope you were blessed by this daily devotion.

From your friends at www.RayStedman.org

Copyright © 2014 by Ray Stedman Ministries — This daily devotion is from the book Immeasurably More: a year of devotions from the writings of Ray Stedman; compiled by Mark Mitchell. It may be copied for personal non-commercial use only in its entirety free of charge. All copies must contain this copyright notice and a hyperlink to www.RayStedman.org if the copy is posted on the Internet. Please direct any questions you may have to webmaster@RayStedman.org.


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Guiding Principles of Mars Hill

For over 35 years, Mars Hill films and videos have been used around the world to introduce thousands of people to faith in Christ. Since its inception,CMars Hill has gone through various seasons of ministry, producing different genres of media (short dramatic film, video curriculum, documentary, etc.) for diverse audiences and purposes. Each season has had, and in many cases is still having, a unique and significant impact.

The common thread that ties all of this ministry together is a set of guiding principles that influence what we do and how we do it. Perhaps you will find something of value in these principles to guide you in life and ministry.

 
The manner in which we pursue the purpose of Mars Hill
is influenced by valuing the following beliefs.

  1. The belief that at any point in time, God has a specific mission for this ministry and that He has a specific plan by which He would have us fulfill that mission
  2. The belief that through personal and corporate prayer, prayerful evaluation of relevant information and prayerful discussion, we can (as God allows) come to a conviction concerning His mission for Mars Hill and His plan to fulfill that mission
  3. The belief that this conviction, which the Bible calls faith (Heb.11:1), should be the basis of every decision and action, for “whatever is not from faith is sin ” (Rom.14:23)
  4. The belief that God will confirm the mission and plan through corporate unity as well as spiritual conviction
  5. The belief that the mission and plan will always be consistent with the Word of God, the Mars Hill Statement of Faith, the Mars Hill Mission Statement and the legal documents that govern the structure and operation of Mars Hill
  6. The belief that God will always provide what we need in order to do what He is calling us to do
  7. The belief that there are times when God calls us to do things that contradict natural wisdom. However, in such times there is still value to natural wisdom in that it gives us the ability to understand the gaps we are trusting God to fill. God makes Himself known when He does what only He can do.
  8. The belief that quality is important, because what we do makes a statement about the One we serve
  9. The belief that the ultimate measure of success is faithfulness to what God has called us to do

For more than 35 years, the stated purpose of Mars Hill has been
“To use media to draw people to Jesus Christ.”


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The Model Prayer – Pt 2/6

The Teaching of Jesus on Prayer – Part 2 of 6
Expanded and Adapted From The HOPE Study Guide

If you wanted to learn how to pray, who would you choose for a teacher? In Matthew 6:9-13, you can find a model prayer given to you by Jesus Himself. It was not given simply to recite, but to teach you how to pray. It has been called “the true pattern for all prayer.” Each verse in this prayer identifies an important aspect of prayer. This is part 2 of 6 in our study of the model prayer. Our focus here is verse 10.

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10

Because He is God, your heavenly Father knows what is in your heart. He knows what you are going to say before you say it. So why pray? The ultimate purpose of prayer (and of every created thing) is to glorify God. Through prayer, you have the incredible privilege of participating in God’s awesome eternal plan. Prayer is not about getting God to do something He does not want to do. Prayer is a means by which we appropriate (take possession of, lay hold of) God’s will. Prayer is a means by which God ushers His will into this world.

Jesus said that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). If you take Jesus at His word, then apart from Him we cannot even pray – at least not effectively. Recall that by His word, God spoke the world into existence (Psalm 33:6, Psalm 9). As you become intimate with God, study His Word, walk in obedience, and listen in prayer, the Holy Spirit will use you in prayer to speak His will into this world. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Realize that God’s will is perfect and good (Romans 12:2), and that He is able to do exceedingly more than you could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

In a way, what is available to you through prayer is like a special expense account with unlimited funds. An expense account is defined as an arrangement by which all expenses are paid to fulfill a certain task, which in this case is Kingdom business. Many people hardly ever draw on that account; and when they do, the amount they withdraw is meager compared to the actual account balance. Many submit requests for funds, but are denied because the request is not in line with the purpose for which the account is intended. Discover how to appropriate all that God has for you through prayer! Continue reading


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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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Joseph – Submitted to His Purpose

A living example of Romans 8:28.
Lesson 32 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

– Genesis 50:20

Jacob had twelve sons, but there was one son named Joseph whom he loved very much. And Joseph’s brothers were very jealous of him. So they seized Joseph and threw him in a pit. Then they sold Joseph to some traders who were going to a land called Egypt. The brothers dipped Joseph’s clothing in blood, and told their father that Joseph had been eaten by a wild beast.

Joseph entered the land of Egypt as a slave. But in Egypt, God placed Joseph in the service of powerful people. And in time, Joseph was summoned to appear before the ruler of all Egypt, who was called the Pharaoh. Joseph was asked to interpret a dream. God gave Joseph the correct interpretation concerning a great famine that would come upon the earth. The Pharaoh was pleased with Joseph, and so it was that he placed Joseph in authority over the land of Egypt.

Now when the famine came over the earth, Joseph’s family suffered greatly in the land of Canaan. But in Egypt Joseph had filled the storehouses. And even though Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers, he still had a deep love for his family. Because of the position God had given Joseph, his entire family was permitted to come and live in Egypt, escaping starvation. And so it was that a people through whom God promised to bless the nations came to dwell in a land that was not their own.

– The HOPE, Chapter 6

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Many Bible students believe that Joseph’s life foreshadows God’s promised Deliverer, who we will soon study in upcoming chapters of The HOPE. In fact, the similarities between Joseph and the promised Deliverer are truly amazing.

Consider that both Joseph and the promised Deliverer …1

As we study the lives of Joseph and the promised Deliverer, we see another similarity, one that allowed all the similarities listed above to be manifested. Both Joseph and the promised Deliverer were submitted to a purpose that was not their own doing. They understood that their lives were part of a greater plan, and they co–operated with that plan. In  John 6:38, the words of the promised Deliverer are recorded, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

In Joseph we recognize the evidence of a purposeful divine influence guiding the events of his life. Like a leaf that has fallen into a great river, Joseph’s life was moved by the powerful flow of a divine current. And with each event that came into his life (even the difficult ones), Joseph submitted to that flow rather than resisting it. God used Joseph’s life to accomplish exactly what He had planned beforehand, bringing good to Joseph and to others, and glory to Himself.

ASK & REFLECT

  •  From Joseph’s life, what can we learn about God and about our relationship with Him?
  •  Why do you think God would orchestrate Joseph’s life to have so many similarities with the life of God’s promised Deliverer?
  •  God creates every person with a purpose (Ephesians 2:10). In retrospect it is not difficult for us to recognize the purpose of Joseph’s life, but what about Joseph himself? Do you think that Joseph always understood the purpose of his life, or the reason for the events that came into his life?

DECIDE & DO

You may not yet know the purpose of your life or the things that come into your life, but you can know the One who gives purpose to your life. And like Joseph, in every circumstance you can submit to the flow of His divine current in your life.

Do you know God like Joseph knew Him? Are you confident of His guiding presence? If not, then go immediately to the Knowing God section at the end of this study guide.

Has God brought a difficult circumstance into your life? If so, follow the example of Joseph. See it as an opportunity for God to work in and through you, bringing good to you and others and glory to Himself. For “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Footnotes

1Some of this listing was suggested by “Parallels between Joseph and Jesus,” Life Application Study Bible: New International Version. (Tyndale House Publishers, 1997).

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB


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God Will Provide

God provides all we need for what He calls us to do.
Lesson 30 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And 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.”

– Genesis 22:1–2

And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”

– Genesis 22:10–14

And together they went to the appointed place. There they prepared the altar and arranged the wood. God had not yet provided another offering. So Abraham bound his son on the altar. Still there was no other sacrifice. So Abraham lifted his knife to slay his son. Then there came from Heaven a voice saying, “Do not lay a hand on the lad.” And there in the thicket was a ram, caught by its horns. And so it was that God provided an offering in place of Abraham’s son. This was a picture of the offering that God would one day provide for the sin of humankind.

– The HOPE, Chapter 5

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

This lesson deals with one of the most dramatic and profound stories in the Bible. Abraham was a man who loved God and followed Him with faithful abandon for decades. And yet God, who loves life and loves people, asked this man to do the unthinkable: to offer his beloved son as a sacrifice. And if that was not enough drama, recall that Isaac was the one through whom God promised to bless all people! It was not only Abraham’s hope, but the hope of the entire world that was bound to that altar. What do we do with this story? How can we understand it?

On the surface, this story seems to contradict much of what the Bible has shown us about God. But as we have also seen in previous lessons, the Bible may stretch us and challenge our understanding, but it is important not to jump to conclusions based upon what “seems’” or appears to be a contradiction as we read the Bible. From our study of God’s story thus far, we know that God is perfect in His goodness and wisdom.

So with that understanding as our foundation, let’s consider the story of Abraham and Isaac.

Genesis 22:1 says that God “tested” Abraham. There are two ways to look at a test. Most of us are familiar with tests taken in school. Such tests are meant to determine the degree to which one has mastered a course of study. Most of us know what it’s like to wonder whether or not we will do well on such a test. There is, however, another type of test, one that measures identity rather than performance. For instance, metals are often tested to determine their purity. There is nothing the metal can do to affect whether or not it will pass the test. Either the metal is pure, or it’s not. This kind of test simply measures the identity of what is being tested.

Consider that in the case of Abraham, the One who tested him was also the One who prepared him for the test, namely God. And like a precious metal that is refined by fire to remove impurities and make it pure, Abraham had been refined by God through the years by the fires of his faith walk. There was no question with God as to whether or not Abraham would do well on this test. This was not a risky experiment. God knew exactly what Abraham had become: a man who put God first, before everything, even his own son. God knew Abraham’s identity, and this test would simply reveal it! Abraham’s life is a testimony to what God can accomplish in a person who is willing to follow wherever He leads. This story dramatically shows forth Abraham’s faith for the world to see …and God is glorified as a result. 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