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 →
Mars Hill was founded in 1977 by Fred Carpenter and Larry Kreider. Together they shared a vision for the potential of ministry through media. In this year, marking the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions, we are taking the time to recount the lessons God has taught us; lessons that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.
As I was reflecting on 40 years of ministry, I was drawn to the life of Moses as he led the Hebrew people out of Egypt, through the Judean wilderness, and toward the land God had promised to give them.
As the Hebrew people were nearing the fulfillment of God’s promise to inherit a land of their own, these are the words that Moses spoke to them:
“All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your forefathers. You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” – Deuteronomy 8:1-2
This moment of entering the Promised Land was part of a bigger plan that God Himself had set into motion years before with a covenant promise to Abraham and his descendants. As this promise was about to be fulfilled, Moses exhorted the people to remember all the hardships they had faced and all the ways that God had faithfully led and provided for those that trusted in Him.
While I do not directly compare the Mars Hill journey to this chapter in the lives of God’s chosen people, there are some universal truths that the Word of God reveals to us. As Christians, the message for us all is that the lessons learned in this life are preparing us for what God has for us in eternity.
Just like the Hebrew followers, all the circumstances and challenges that Mars Hill has faced in the in the last 40 years have drawn us, both corporately and individually, into deeper relationships with the Lord. They have also, sharpened the focus of the ministry.
Another observation from the life of Moses is found in Psalm 103:7, “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel. Notice that the people saw the acts of God. They saw the sea part, they saw Him provide manna from heaven, but Moses spoke with God. He got to discuss things with Him and hear some of the reasons behind His actions.
John Morris of the Institute of Creation Research says, “We have a distinct privilege, as to know something of the “acts” of God. Scripture records many instances where He performed even miraculous deeds on behalf of His children. There is perhaps a greater privilege–that of reflecting on His “ways,” as well. “Ways,” in this context, may be understood as God’s actions and behaviors which reflect His underlying character, resulting in His “acts.”
Adrian Rogers said, “There is something more important than knowing the will of God–it is knowing the WAYS of God. There are 2 ways to know Him: Know His works (see what He does) and Know His WAYS (have insight into God’s character).To know the difference will mean the difference between peace and panic.”
“His way” is not referring to the Law (doing things His way), but to His very character. God’s ways are clearly different than ours, as stated in Isaiah 55:8 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD, and also in Romans 11:33 – Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
But, we who are in Christ have the same privilege as Moses did, to draw near to God and learn His ways. I Peter 4:1-2 tells us, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” Through Christ, we have been shown more of God’s character and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to apply His ways to our lives as Philippians 2:5 tells us, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
Revelation is progressive and it is important to take the time to remember what God has taught us. Remembering keeps us sharp and ready to learn new lessons. It is also an encouragement to review what the Lord has done in us and for us – laying a foundation of hope and assurance that He will continue to build on.
Heb 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Rick Warren suggests keeping a journal of insights and life lessons that God has taught you about Himself, ourselves, life, relationships, and everything else. Reviewing this journal can keep us from having to relearn lessons… Hebrews 2:1 – Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
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.
As a young shepherd boy, David did a lot of watching and waiting. He would certainly lead his flock to water or to grassy areas, but once arrived, there was much waiting. Waiting for the sheep to drink and eat. Watching out for predators. Thinking about where to graze next. It is easy to see how this job lent itself to learning about God through observing nature and pouring out his own heart back to God.
David certainly knew that there were animals in his realm that would love to feast on one of his charges. But he did not have to go looking for these enemies, instead, he used his alone time to prepare himself for when they would eventually attack.
Chapter 22 of our book finds King David and Joab discussing what to do about the growing rebellion of his son, Absalom. As the general of the king’s armies, Joab was used to being a man of action. Thus, he queried the king what should be done about Absalom. King David says that he has no plan and will do as he always has; he will do nothing.
In our discussion of this situation, we concluded that David was not timid or without a plan because of fear. We know that he was a capable warrior and that he certainly had the position as king to thwart a rebellion. However, we believe that David also had an understanding of Psalm 46:10 which says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
David had the realization that God was in control and if he were to step in and try to do something without clear direction from God, he might interfere with God’s plan.
Things to consider:
Are you able to “be still” and seek God in the face of opposition or trials?
Can you discern between the feelings of your soul or spiritual conviction? See Hebrews 11:1
In closing, read Psalm 5, which is a psalm of David. You will notice that in the presence of his enemies, David’s action is to take refuge in the Lord, his righteous defender!
And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters… Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away (Genesis 5:22, 24).
This account says twice that, before he was taken up, Enoch walked with God. I love the story of the little girl who was telling her mother the story of Enoch. She said, Enoch used to take long walks with God. One day he walked so far God said, ‘It’s too far to go back; come on home with me.’ That is what happened to Enoch.
What does it mean to walk with God? Here is a man who, in the midst of a brilliant but godless generation, walked with God. What does it mean? Enoch did not literally walk with God; this is unquestionably a figurative expression, but a figurative walk involves the same thing today as it did then. First, it means he went in the same direction God went. He was moving the way God was going. God is forever moving in human history. He is moving now to accomplish certain things in human life, and He has been doing so for centuries. The person who walks with God is the person who knows which way God is going and goes the same way. Now, what is that? Perhaps we cannot indicate it positively, but we certainly can negatively: God moves always in unswerving hostility toward sin. He is opposed to that which destroys and wrecks human life. No matter how good it looks, no matter how attractive it seems, God is against it. And the person who walks with God is the person who walks in unswerving hostility toward sin in his or her own life and refuses to make up with it or permit it to rule or to reign. That is the first thing in a walk with God. Continue reading →
To begin today’s devotional, we discuss the difference between the universal presence of God and the manifest presence of God.
“The Presence (of God) and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same. There can be the one without the other. God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His Presence. On our part there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work it is to show us the Father and the Son. If we co-operate with Him in loving obedience God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face” – A.W. Tozer
Read through the following collection of scriptures and quotes on the Presence of God. Reflect on the ones that jump out at you. Consider what attitudes and actions you might need to alter in order to be more aware of God’s Presence on a consistent basis.
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” – 1 Corinthians 3:16
“Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” – Psalm 16:11
“In Him we live and move and have our being” – Acts 17:28
His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service. – Baptist Faith and Message
We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. – C. S. Lewis
I want the presence of God Himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with religion… I want all that God has or I don’t want any. – A. W. Tozer
Don’t equate the presence of God with a good mood or a pleasant temperament. God is near whether you are happy or not. – Max Lucado
You can have all of your doctrines right—yet still not have the presence of God. – Leonard Ravenhill
We cannot enter into the presence of God while we are rebelling against God. – A. W. Tozer
The most holy and necessary practice in our spiritual life is the presence of God. That means finding constant pleasure in His divine company, speaking humbly and lovingly with him in all seasons, at every moment, without limiting the conversation in any way. – Brother Lawrence
We (Christians) are always in the presence of God. There is never a non-sacred moment! His presence never diminishes. Our awareness of His presence may falter, but the reality of His presence never changes. – Max Lucado
The true meaning of existence is disclosed in moments of living in the presence of God. – Abraham Joshua Heschel
Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God. – Sam Storms
What if all it took to bring us to our knees and to ignite our affections was the Word opened and the presence of God? What if that was enough for us? What if it didn’t take a great band to evoke that kind of response from us in worship? What if His presence – His Word opened – what if it was enough? – David Platt
Sometimes the very presence of God is barred by our presuppositions and our intense and constant desire for triumph. – Ravi Zacharias
If you find a reluctanc to go into the presence of God, there may be unconfessed, unrepented sin in your life. Part of your quiet time is to get your heart clean and pure. Each of us needs to take ourselves by the nape of our necks and confess and repent before we come into God’s holy presence to fellowship. – Adrian Rogers
Prayer is the window that God has placed in the walls of our world. Leave it shut and the world is a cold, dark house. But throw back the curtains and see His light. Open the window and hear His voice. Open the window of prayer and invoke the presence of God in your world. – Max Lucado
The real crisis of worship today is not that the preaching is paltry or that it’s too drafty in church. It is that people have no sense of the presence of God, and if they have no sense of His presence, how can they be moved to express the deepest feelings of their souls to honor, revere, worship, and glorify God? – R. C. Sproul
If the presence of God is in the church, the church will draw the world in. If the presence of God is not in the church, the world will draw the church out. – Charles Grandison Finney
A man who knows that he lives in sin against God will not be inclined to come daily into the presence of God. – Jonathan Edwards
The real issue relating to exclusiveness is whether or not the Christian actually has a relationship with God, a presence of God, which non-Christians do not have. Apart from Christian spiritual formation as described here, I believe there is little value in claiming exclusiveness for the Christian way. – Dallas Willard
The Christian life is to live all of your life in the presence of God. – R. C. Sproul
If we rely on anything else besides faith to maintain the practice of the presence of God, we will certainly fail, whether this is our feelings, or experiences, or sincerity, or good intentions, or reasonings, or plans. The reason these things will fail while faith will not fail is that all these things depend on us, while faith depends on God. It is a gift of God. – Peter Kreeft
When we are enjoying the conscious presence of God, we are fulfilling the tenets of our salvation. – A. W. Tozer
Only when we are captured by an overwhelming sense of awe and reverence in the presence of God, will we begin to worship God in spirit and in truth. – Alistair Begg
There is a strain of loneliness infecting many Christians, which only the presence of God can cure. – A. W. Tozer
Nothing in or of this world measures up to the simple pleasure of experiencing the presence of God. – A. W. Tozer
Peace comes not from the absence of trouble, but from the presence of God. – Alexander MacLaren
Most theists are deists most of the time, in practice if not in theory. They practice the absence of God instead of the presence of God. – Peter Kreeft
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?
The need for a regular quiet time for personal prayer and feeding on His Word…
In a 2013 poll of its readers, Leadership Journal (a publication for vocational Christian workers) reported that 91% of the respondents admitted to some form of burnout in ministry, and 18% said they were “fried to a crisp right now.”
For today’s Mars Hill staff devotional, we read and discussed the following thoughts concerning our need to have a regular quiet time for personal prayer and feeding on God’s Word – a daily time to be refreshed and nourished by the Living Water and the Bread of Life.
“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” – Mark 1:35
“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” – Luke 5:16
In the book “Directions,” James Hamilton writes:
Before refrigerators, people used icehouses to preserve their food. Icehouses had thick walls, no windows, and a tightly fitted door. In winter, when streams and lakes were frozen into silver-gray pathways, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the icehouses, and covered with golden sawdust. Often the ice would last well into the summer. One man lost a valuable watch in this sawdust while working in an icehouse. He searched diligently for it carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn’t find it. His fellow workers also looked, but their efforts, too, proved futile.
A small boy who heard about the fruitless search slipped into the icehouse during the noon hour and soon emerged with the watch. Amazed, the men asked him how he found it. The boy replied, “I closed the door, laid down in the sawdust, and kept very still. Soon I heard the watch ticking.”
Beloved, often the question is not whether God is speaking but whether we are being still enough, and quiet enough, to hear what He has to say to us. Be still and get God’s direction for your life!
“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10 (ESV)
“In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” – Psalm 5:3 . . . ” Your ears will hear a word behind you, this is the way; walk in it.” – Isaiah 30:21. . . Let God order your morning prayer, and He will show you how to order your day.
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” – Matt.4:4 . . . Daily feeding from the Word of God is vital to prevent spiritual malnourishment.
“If we are weak in communion with God we are weak everywhere.” – C.H. Spurgeon Continue reading →
God has blessed Mars Hill with an incredible team of men and women who love Jesus – the risen, reigning, and returning King. Together, we passionately pursue Him as we work to see the Great Commission fulfilled. Together, we study the Scriptures. We embrace and celebrate the mystery of faith and the magnificence of our AWESOME God. And we long for our Savior’s return, when we will know fully as we are fully known.
The Holy Spirit has breathed unique wisdom, discernment and gifts for service into each member of our staff. That said, we are delighted to commence a new series of devotionals, in which each member of our staff will be sharing insights from their inimitable journey with our Father.
We hope that God’s redemptive work in our lives will resonate with what He’s doing in yours.
Today’s Devotional is from team member, Horace Compton. Horace is serving Mars Hill as a Ministry Partnering Associate.
My devotional is anchored in 3 scriptures: 1) Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.” 2) Isaiah 40:31, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” 3) Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
As I looked at a panoramic view of my life in my mind, I saw that I was blessed to be born into a Christian family where I was introduced to Christ as a child and was baptized. Since that time I have worshiped and served Him wherever life’s journey has taken me.
As a child, I experienced the loss of several close family members which was difficult for me. At the age of 13, I learned about the power of prayer when my older sister went into cardiac arrest during surgery. The doctors were able to revive her after she had gone without oxygen for several minutes, but she remained in a coma with repeated episodes of convulsions for an entire week. The prognosis was that she most likely would not survive, but if by some miracle she did survive, she would certainly be brain damaged. My family and I, our church family, and other Christians who knew of her situation prayed fervently for her. She eventually awakened from the coma with no brain damage and no recollection of what she had been through. Today, she is still alive at the age of 79, living a comfortable life as a retired 4th-grade teacher.
When I became a young adult, I saw God deliver me from myself, once while I was in college and again when I was in the Navy. In spite of my failed initial attempt at college, God allowed me to eventually earn 2 degrees, a B.S. and a Masters. While in the Navy, I successfully completed Communication School, with a Top Secret security clearance because of the sensitive nature of the work I was doing. I was stationed in San Francisco and was really having a “good time.” Then I received a call from home that my mother was seriously ill and I should come home right away if possible. I went home and discovered that her condition was much worse than I thought. She was terminally ill with breast cancer and had only been given a short time to live. WOW!
After an extensive letter writing campaign between her physicians and the Navy, I was awarded a Hardship Discharge under Honorable conditions with all benefits in place and no reserve duty required. Five months later, at the age of 54, my mother passed away after experiencing horrific pain and suffering that was extremely difficult to watch. If my family was looking for a reason to be angry with God, this was it. But, we were not angry because – The Lord giveth and The Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21b).
Two years later, after having taken a woman I loved dearly, the Lord sent another woman into my life whom I have loved dearly for the past 40 years, my wife. During this 40 year period, my wife was pregnant 6 times, experiencing 4 miscarriages, 1 full-term baby born with a birth defect who lived 21 days in the NICU at Hermann Hospital, and my daughter who now, at the age of 33, is a board certified OB/GYN. We also have an adopted son who is a graphic designer.
All of these experiences have left this song in my heart – “Through It All” by Andre Crouch.
( Listen as Horace shares the song with us!)
In closing, five year ago, I met Doug (another staff member) at the tennis court and now, a new journey has begun. So, whatever the trials are that we may experience here at Mars Hill, all we have to do is remember those 3 scriptures I shared at the beginning to Trust, Wait, and Know.