Hurricane Harvey dumped over 9 trillion gallons of water over the greater Houston area and Southeast Texas, enough to occupy 33,906 Empire State Buildings, from basement to penthouse. The flooding was the worst in U.S. history!
Biblically, there are 3 explanations for the occurrence of natural disasters.
1) The Natural World – Prior to the fall of man, Adam and Eve walked in a world of perfect harmony and balance, without natural disasters. We live in a fallen world, one that is in the painful process of giving birth to a new creation.
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. – Romans 8:22
2) Satan – God has given Satan limited power to affect this world. We see this in the book of Job when God allowed Satan to bring natural calamity into Job’s life.
Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. – Job 1:12
3) God – In order to accomplish His purposes in this world, God also brings natural calamity.
The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. – Isa 45:7
And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. – 1 Kings 19:11-12. Continue reading →
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.
“This book (A Tale of Three Kings) reflects my concern for this multitude of confused, brokenhearted, and often bitter Christians who now find their spiritual lives in shambles and who are groping about for even the slightest word of hope and comfort.” – Gene Edwards, Author’s Preface
For today’s devotional consideration, we read from our book what could have been an exchange between King David and Abishai, his nephew. He alone accompanied David when he entered the camp of Saul while he slept and took his spear and water jug. He commanded a third of David’s army. He slew a Philistine giant who threatened David’s life, and on one occasion withstood 300 men, and slew them with his own spear.
This man, Abishai, was obviously an invaluable right-hand man to the king, but even such a trusted companion does not always grasp the deep heart motivations of the one they serve. This becomes apparent as Abishai presses King David for what he will do regarding the growing rebellion to take the throne led by David’s own son, Absalom.
Abishai remembers well the madness of King Saul. He knows the irrational thoughts and actions that Saul directed towards David, fearing that David would take the throne from him. He had witnessed with his own eyes David’s restraint and mercy towards Saul when he could have brought him down and taken what he knew was destined to be his.
No man would have faulted David for standing up to Saul’s unwarranted attacks and fighting back. In this chapter, Abishai repeatedly reminds David that he would have been humanly justified in defending himself against the mad king, but now that he IS the king, he has, even more, rights to defend his throne.
King David responds to Abashai’s urgings for action; he was not an Absalom towards Saul and he does not want to be a Saul towards Absalom! The following reveals what his heart knows to be true:
“I did not lift a finger to be made king. Nor shall I do so to preserve a kingdom. Even the kingdom of God! God put me here. It is not my responsibility to take or keep authority. Do you not realize, it may be His will for these things to take place? If He chooses, God can protect and keep the kingdom even now. After all, it is His kingdom.”
Abishai presses him once more. “You know that Absalom should not be king!” And David responds, “Do I? No man knows. Only God knows, and He has not spoken. I did not fight to become king, and I will not fight to remain king.”
David was prepared to let it all go if that is what God wanted. Finally, Abishai got it. And his admiration for his king grew even deeper.
Things to consider:
O LORD, You have searched me and known me! A Psalm of David. Psalm 139:1 ESV (David’s relationship with God is evident throughout this entire Psalm; he understands how well God knows him and he freely expresses his thoughts and desires back to God.)
And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:27 ESV
…but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we declare it, not to please people but God, who examines our hearts. I Thessalonians 2:4 NET
If God knows us so well, and He is sovereign over all, what keeps us from resting in the hope and comfort that He will guide our lives in the ways and the times that they should go?
I recently read the following quote from Thomas Edison…
We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.
Conversely… He (God) knows everything. – 1 John 3:20 (ESV).
This week in our staff devotional time we read and discussed the following quotes and scriptures regarding omniscience (all-knowing) of God. I encourage you to meditate on these verses and ask yourself, “how do these truths about God affect how I live?”
A.W. Tozer wrote, “God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, …all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desire, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.
Because God knows all things perfectly, He knows no thing better than any other thing, but all things equally well. He never discovers anything, He is never surprised, never amazed. He never wonders about anything nor (except when drawing men out for their own good) does He seek information or ask questions.” (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, NY: Harper, 1987, pp.62-63).
“He looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.” – Job 28:24
“His understanding is infinite.” – Psalm 147:5
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God…” – Deuteronomy 29:29
“He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.” – Daniel 2:22
“In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” – Colossians 2:3
“To Him belong counsel and understanding.” – Job 12:13
“He knows the secrets of the heart.” – Psalm 44:21
“For I know the things that come into your mind.” – Ezekiel 11:5 (ESV)
“Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” – Matthew 6:8
“The LORD know the thoughts of man, that they are a mere breath.” – Psalm 94:11
“For I know the plans that I have for you, ‘declares the LORD,’ plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11
Peter tells us, “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). He doesn’t say that they will ask about our faith. Or about our doctrine. Or even about our good conduct. They might ask those things. We want them to. But Peter is expecting that they will ask about our hope. Why?
Why in 1 Peter 3:15 does the unbelieving world ask Christians about their hope?
This was a compelling question for us. We invite you to read and consider as we did in our staff meeting today, how we can understand, experience, and share our hope more fully.
The following is a list of thoughts and attitudes, common to us all. But, each and every discouraging statement is countered by a glorious truth from God and His Word. If you are struggling or downhearted, read His words; let His declarations wash over you and renew your perspective.
“It’s impossible” All things are possible with Me.
“The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” – Luke 18:27
“I’m too tired” I will give you rest.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
“I feel unloved” I love you.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
“I can’t go on” My grace is sufficient.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, So that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” –2Corinthians 12:9
“I can’t figure this out” I will direct your steps.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5,6
“Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21
“I can’t do it” You can do all things.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13
“I’m not able” I am able.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” – 2Corinthians 9:8
“It’s not worth it” It will be worth it.
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” – Galatians 6:9
“I can’t forgive myself” I forgive you.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” –1John 1:9
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1
“I can’t resist this temptation” I have provided a way.
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” – 1Corinthians 10:13
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7
“I don’t have enough to make it” I will supply all your needs.
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19
“I’m afraid” You do not have to be afraid. I am here and I’ve got this.
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. – 2Timothy 1:7
“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
“I am anxious and stressed” You can cast all your cares on Me.
“. . . humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. – 1Peter 5:7
“I don’t have enough faith” I have given you all the faith you need.
“God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” – Romans 12:3
“I’m not smart enough” I give you wisdom and the mind of Christ.
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – James – 1:5
“Who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 2:16
“I feel alone” I am with you.
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20
“I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU” – Hebrews 13:5
“I feel inadequate” You are complete.
“. . . in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority” – Colossians 2:10
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 4:12-13 – 12 “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 12:9-10 – 9 “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 3:7-11 – 7 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?
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.
– 1 Peter 1:3
…with God all things are possible.
– Matthew 19:26
After making certain that Jesus was dead, the soldiers allowed His body to be taken down from the cross. By the end of the day, His body would be laid in a tomb, which would be sealed with a very large stone. At the insistence of the religious leaders, soldiers would be posted to guard the tomb. For those who loved Jesus, this was a time of great confusion and loss.
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!
– The HOPE, Chapter 11
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
The past few lessons have dealt with some “meaty” teaching about the resurrection of Jesus. Now, let’s take what we’ve considered in those lessons, and make it very personal. Reading the account from The HOPE above, and considering what you have already learned, try to put yourself in the place of those who loved Jesus. For those who loved Jesus, this was a time of great confusion and loss.
Jesus had filled His followers’ hearts and minds with many hopes and dreams. This wasn’t just a popular religious leader that was being buried in the tomb; this was the One who had given meaning and purpose to every aspect of their lives. When He died, something in them died as well. Their reason for living was buried behind the huge stone that sealed the entrance to His tomb.
Have you ever experienced the death of your dream of something that inspired and gave meaning to your life? Perhaps someone told you your dream was impossible, or the circumstances of your life changed or became so difficult that you could not see any way to follow your dream. Whatever changed, when it did all hope of your dream seemed dead.
Of course, we know as we read on in the resurrection account that Jesus was raised, and so were the hopes of those who loved Him! But beyond all the theology, beyond all the historical proof of its reality, there is something profoundly personal about the resurrection of Jesus. Because of the resurrection, we can know that with God nothing is impossible! No matter what anyone says, no matter how difficult your circumstances, even if your dream appears to have died…with God nothing is impossible! Jesus’ resurrection from the dead brings hope to the discouraged heart! Continue reading →
Knowing Him through His Story.
Lesson 40 from The HOPE Study Guide
In the Garden of Eden, God promised to send a Deliverer. Through Hebrew prophets, God gave hundreds of promises concerning this Deliverer, who would one day conquer Satan, sin and death forever. In the temple, the smoke from sacrifices ascended day after day, year after year, generation after generation, giving the Hebrew people a constant reminder of humankind’s need for the Deliverer. But when would He come? How would He come? By now, some must have wondered if He would come at all.
– The HOPE, Chapter 7
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
Today’s lesson marks the midway point in the story of The HOPE. Thus far we have considered many Biblical truths and events. Just as God intended, this has set the stage for what is to come. Looking back we have dealt with:
Why the Bible can be trusted as God’s revelation to man (Lessons 3 and 4)
What the Bible says about God – Who He is and what He is like (Lesson 6)
What the Bible says about man – created in image of God but separated from God by sin (Lessons 9 and 10)
God’s purpose for man – to love God and to be loved by God (Lesson 13)
The nature of sin and its effect upon man and his relationship to God (Lessons 18 and 19)
What the Bible says about Satan and the war he wages against God and man (Lesson 14)
God’s promise to send a Deliverer Who will conquer Satan, sin, and death forever (Lesson 20)
How the nations of our world came to be (Lesson 25)
How God called out a man, Abraham, through whom He promised to bless all nations (Lesson 26)
How God’s promise was kept alive through Abraham’s descendants (Lesson 31)
How from Abraham’s descendants God formed the Hebrew people, through whom He would send the Deliverer and fulfill His promise to bless all nations (Lesson 32)
All of these events and truths are recorded in the first five books of the Bible. These five books (known by the Hebrew people as the Torah) were carefully compiled and painstakingly preserved prior to the time period covered in our current lesson (approximately 400 B.C. to 1 A.D.). See Lesson 3 to review Hebrew methods of guarding the accuracy of copies of the Bible. Continue reading →
God’s first promise of a Deliverer.
Lesson 20 from The HOPE Study Guide
And the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
– Genesis 3:14–15
And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
– Genesis 3:21
Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the Garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every direction, to guard the way to the tree of life.
– Genesis 3:23–24
So God made for them garments of animal skin. This was an acceptable covering. But it was only a partial remedy, for it did not take away the sin…and though they could not understand it at the time, it was a picture of the price God would ultimately pay to free humankind from sin. God sent Adam and Eve out from the garden, lest they eat from the tree of life and walk the earth forever, never knowing life as it was meant to be. As for Satan, God pronounced a judgment on him. And in that judgment we find God’s first promise, that one day, through a descendant of Eve, God would send a deliverer to defeat Satan forever.
– The HOPE, Chapter 3
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
Often in life, we must hear the bad news before the good news means something to us. The first four lessons in Chapter 3 dealt with some ugly stuff – Satan and sin. But in this, the final lesson of the chapter, we turn a corner. This section shows us (as we shall see throughout this study) that God has a beautiful plan that will not be thwarted.
God will one day vanquish Satan, sin and death forever!
Lesson 15 from The HOPE Study Guide
Our adversary, Satan, seeks to usurp God’s power and thwart God’s purposes in our lives. But the Bible is clear, Satan will not win his war against God. The last word belongs to God, and God alone. The HOPE says it like this:
Satan cannot defeat God, for God is all–powerful. And the day will come when Satan and all the demons will be thrown into the place of eternal torment God has prepared for them, a place called the lake of fire. But until then, Satan will do all he can to hurt God by attempting to destroy that which God loves.
– The HOPE, Chapter 2
Observe & Consider
The final book of the Bible tells us of a day when Satan will be cast into a lake of fire forever.1 In that same book we learn that after Satan is vanquished, God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
What a day that will be! Do you long for it? Does a world without suffering, sorrow or death even seem possible to you? According to God, not only is it possible, it is certain. From your current vantage point, particularly if the place you’re in is filled with pain, it may be hard to even imagine such a day. But God sees what we cannot see. He has a different vantage point.
Consider this illustration. Tapestry is a form of textile art, where many threads are interlaced or woven on a loom. If you look at a finished tapestry from front side, it may depict a beautiful design or scene. But if you turn the canvas over to the backside, the yarns will often look completely chaotic. It may appear to have no resemblance at all to the image on the front side. The backside can be ugly. Continue reading →