It is one thing to know about God, it is quite another to know Him personally and experientially. The Bible says that not only does God love us, but He actually IS love. To know God is to grasp the meaning or meanings of what love is, and to engage with Him so as to encounter love in all the ways He intended from the very beginning of time.
The English language uses the word, love, to describe many things. But the writers of the New Testament have 4 words for love.
Eros – sexual love
Phileo – brotherly “platonic” love
Storge – natural, innate love, such as the love of a mother for a child
Agape – unconditional, divine, love
All of the scripture below deals with divine (agape) love. When the writer of 1 John met the challenge of defining the infinitely complex, all powerful, all knowing, majestic, glorious Creator of the universe, he wrote only 3 words, “. . . God is love” – 1 John 4:8.
Over the next few weeks, we will contemplate together, the human experience of knowing divine love. To start down this path, let’s consider the importance of knowing divine love. Continue reading →
This year marks the 40thanniversary 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.
Part 1 on The Importance of Honesty and Authenticity in Team Communication
I have always been amazed at the way a flock of birds or a school of fish can move together in perfect unison. This synchronized movement is called murmuration. And while scientists are getting closer to understanding what kind communication makes this possible, there is still much that is unknown about murmuration.
I believe that this natural phenomenon is a picture of the way the Body of Christ should move in this world. I pray that this is how the team at Mars Hill would move, under the divine orchestration of the Holy Spirit, as we pursue the mission to which our Father has called us.
Honest and authentic communication is key to this kind of Spirit-led, coordinated movement. This is the first of two devotionals on this subject.
29 It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. – Exodus 34:29-30
34 But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, 35 the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him. – Exodus 34:34-35
12 Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, 13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted because it is removed in Christ. – 2 Corinthians 3:12-14
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. – 2 Corinthians 3:17
In 1980, Mars Hill released a short film called Face Value. That film was inspired by the example of Moses as recorded in Exodus 34 and 2 Corinthians 3. When Moses personally spent time in the presence of God, his face actually began to shine with the glory of God. Because of this, Moses hid his face behind a veil when he returned to be with the people. He did this for two reasons.
Reading the Old Testament account, we learn that Moses did not want to cause fear in the people when they saw his shining face. Reading the New Testament account we discover the second reason. Moses did not want the people to witness the fading of this glory.
Like a veil, a mask is used to cover one’s face. In the movie, Face Value, the characters wore masks to hide what they were really thinking and feeling; their fears, insecurities, and sense of unworthiness. Such feelings are common to all people, but for fear of rejection, few are able to be honest about them and reveal them to others.
Living our lives behind masks creates distance between us. And in that space, the enemy has room to move, fostering mistrust and indifference. It is certainly not the kind of relationship that creates the unity a team of people needs in order to move in Spirit-led unison to pursue their mission.
The accounts in Exodus 34 and 2 Corinthians 3 illustrate the difference between the temporary glory of the Old Covenant and permanent glory of the New Covenant. Paul likens the veil over Moses’ face to the spiritual veil that covers the hearts of those who are under the Old Covenant of law. And in verse 14, Paul writes that this veil is removed in Christ.
Moving down to verse 17 we read, “. . . where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” That is the key to transparent and honest communication! Because Jesus has purchased our forgiveness with His blood on the cross, we have a basis by which we can be forgiven by God, we can forgive each other, and we can even forgive ourselves. From Romans 8:1 we read, “. . . there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We don’t have to fear rejection. Now you may be thinking, “I believe that to be true, so why don’t I feel that I have that freedom?”
Unpacking verse 17, a little further, consider the phrase, “. . . where the Spirit of the Lord is. . .”
Now any astute student of the Bible will tell you that God is omnipresent, He is everywhere. And in Colossians 1:16-20 we read of the pre-imminence of Christ. He is before all and He holds everything together. So, is Paul just being rhetorical when he uses this phrase, “. . . where the Spirit of the Lord is. . .”? No, he is not.
God is everywhere, but we must allow Him to have His way in us and among us. He does not bypass our will to receive His forgiveness, nor does He bypass our will in forgiving others, or ourselves. In Paul’s terms, the Spirit of the Lord is where the Spirit of the Lord is welcomed.
What can we do as a team to foster the kind of unison that is modeled for us in the natural world of birds and fish? Trust the Spirit. Drop the masks. Get real. Pursue transparent and honest communication. Create a culture of forgiveness. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32.
Read Part 2 on The Importance of Honesty and Authenticity in Team Communication.
And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
– John 14:16–20
And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language.
– Acts 2:1–6
…we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.
– Acts 2:11
Not many days after Jesus has ascended to heaven, His followers were gathered together. Suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a rushing wind filling the whole house. They saw what appeared to be tongues of fire, which came to rest on each person. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and began speaking in languages other than their own. Just as Jesus had promised, His followers were not alone, for His very presence was being manifested in them by the Spirit of God filling them.
– The HOPE, Chapter 12
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
On the eve of His crucifixion Jesus promised His disciples He would not leave them as orphans. He told them that the Father would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16), who would be with them forever. On the fiftieth day (the Pentecost) after His resurrection, Jesus’ promise was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit came and filled the followers of Jesus.
In Genesis 1:26 God speaks of Himself in a plural form. “Let us make man in our image.” In Matthew 28:19 Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” These verses (and many others1) speak to a truth that is clearly taught in the Bible, though not necessarily explained. God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), and He is three–in–one. He is not one God with three parts. He is not three distinct Gods existing in community. God is three–in–one. This truth is known as the doctrine of the Trinity, and though it is supported by scripture it remains a mystery to the human mind.
Just as the Bible speaks of the Father and the Son as God, so also it speaks of the Holy Spirit as having the attributes of God:
Although He is God, manifesting all the attributes of God, the Holy Spirit does not draw attention to Himself. Rather most theologians would say that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to mediate or manifest (make known) the person and presence of Jesus Christ in God the Father. In John 14:9, Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” The Holy Spirit reveals Jesus (John 15:26) and Jesus reveals the Father. Continue reading →
Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
– Luke 24:44–49
He opened their minds to understand the events that had taken place in light of all that had been spoken through the prophets from ages past. He explained that for the forgiveness of sins, it was necessary that He suffer death and rise again.And He spoke of the Kingdom of God, saying that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him. Now the time had come for Jesus to go to the Father, and prepare a place in heaven for all those who love Him. Jesus promised His followers that soon the Spirit of God would come and empower them to share His truth and love and forgiveness with the whole world. After saying this, Jesus left them and ascended into the clouds.
– The HOPE, Chapter 11
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
When we sense that time may be short we often choose our words more carefully. For this reason, final words are likely to be more important, even life changing words. In the brief time after His resurrection and before His ascending to heaven, Jesus spent precious time with His followers. During that time, He explained:
What had happened to Him – Jesus explained that His death and resurrection were all part of the plan that had been foretold in God’s Word. It was necessary that He die for the forgiveness of sin.
What would happen next to them – On the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that He would go to the Father to prepare a place for them in heaven (John 14:2-3). But He also promised to send another, One from the Father whom He called the Helper (John 14:16-20). As the time for Jesus’ departure drew near, Jesus reiterated the promise He made to His disciples: to send this One who is in fact the Spirit of God and who is known in the Bible as the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17, Acts 3:3;Acts 4:31; Acts 5:32).
What His followers should keep on doing until they are reunited with Him – Jesus told His followers that until He returned they were to share the truth of what they had witnessed with the whole world, with people from every nation.
In the next and final chapter of our study, we will look more closely at Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit, and His instructions to share His truth with the whole world. But in this lesson, it is fitting that we should conclude our study of His death and resurrection by examining it in the context of God’s grand plan. Continue reading →