devos from the hill


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The Importance of Knowing Divine Love

From the desk of Fred Carpenter

Tears in the city
But nobody’s really surprised, you know
My heart’s taking a beating
Existence is bleeding me dry, you know

But way down in my heart of hearts
Way down in my soul of souls
Way down I know that I am a fortunate man
To have known divine love.

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


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Your Part in the Grand Story

A challenge to complete the Great Commission.
Lesson 65 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…

– Matthew 28:19

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

– Mark 16:15

…repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

– Luke 24:47

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.

– Matthew 24:14

And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations.

– Mark 13:10

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

– 2 Peter 3:9

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we considered the final goal of God’s grand story as it has been revealed to man: “That God might be worshipped with white–hot affection by a redeemed company of countless persons from every tribe and tongue and people and nation”1 (Revelation 5:9, Revelation 7:9). From 1 Corinthians 2:9, we saw that what God has prepared for those who love Him is too wonderful for us to even comprehend. We also saw that those who love God will dwell in a new heaven and a new earth where they will reign with Him and glorify Him forever! (Revelation 22:5, Psalm 86:12).

But when will these things take place? If you recall from Lesson 60, we read that just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave his followers some final instructions. These instructions are commonly known as the Great Commission and may be found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. (They are listed at the beginning of this lesson.) Notice from Matthew 24:14 that “the end” (the final goal of God’s grand story) will not come until the gospel is “preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations.”

Recall from Lesson 25 that a nation, in the Biblical sense of the word, is not simply a geographic country, but rather a people group that is distinct from other people groups by virtue of language, culture, tribal affiliation, etc. Immediately after God’s judgment at Babel, 70 nations were born. In our world today there are thousands of nations. Many of them have yet to be reached with the Gospel. And until they are reached, the end (or the beginning depending on how you see it) will not come. Continue reading


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God’s Love and Justice Intersect

At the cross His justice was satisfied and His love fulfilled.
Lesson 54 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

After nailing Jesus to the wood, they lifted Him up to die. Over Him they placed a sign indicating that on this cross hangs the King of the Hebrew people. The religious leaders objected, but the soldiers followed the governor’s orders. The sign remained. Some reviled Him …others mourned. Yet through it all Jesus did not say a harsh word. Instead, speaking to His Father in Heaven He said, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” For three hours darkness fell over the land. It seemed so senseless. And yet it made perfect sense.

God is righteous and just and pure. He could not accept the evil that entered the world through Satan. Nor could He accept the evil that entered humankind through Adam, for to do so would be to violate His character, and corrupt His nature.

But God is also love. He created people to love them and to be loved by them. For God to judge people for the evil in them would be to destroy the very objects of His love.

This was a dilemma of divine proportions. But according to His story, this moment had been planned before creation, and predicted throughout the ages.

At the cross Jesus took our sin upon Himself. He paid the penalty for our sin. He became our substitute. At the cross God’s justice was satisfied, and His love fulfilled.

– The HOPE, Chapter 10

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Millions of people around the world wear crosses as jewelry. But in reality, the cross is an instrument of death, not an ornament.1 After being “tried” by the Hebrew religious leaders, the governor, and a Hebrew king named Herod…after being beaten to near death…after being rejected by a frenzied crowd…Jesus was then sent out to a place called Golgotha (the Place of the Skull) to die on a cross.

While the events surrounding the cross of Jesus are described in the final chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, no amount of words can fully describe or capture the meaning of that cross and what Jesus accomplished on it. What He did was horrible and yet beautiful, obscene and yet holy, common and yet magnificent, simple and yet brilliant.

If you have not already done so, read carefully the excerpt above from The HOPE. Consider the phrase “a dilemma of divine proportions.” The dictionary defines a dilemma as a situation that requires a choice between options that seem mutually exclusive; a problem that seems to defy a solution. If you could pull back the facade of visible forces that appear to rule our world, (namely the power of people and the power of nature), you would find two invisible forces behind it all, shaping the course of history as we observe it. The first is God’s love for people, and the second is His righteous responsibility to judge them. These two great forces seem to be irreconcilable to each other – “a dilemma of divine proportions.” Yet at the cross of Jesus these two great forces were forever reconciled! Continue reading


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And God Was “Willing” to Be Grieved

His willingness to be grieved shows how much He loves you.
Lesson 22 from The HOPE Study Guide

Introduction

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

– Genesis 6:5–6

The earth became filled with evil. And God was grieved!

– The HOPE, Chapter 4

Observe & Consider

In the previous lesson we considered how rapidly sin increased on the earth in the generations after Adam and Eve. Today we will consider God’s response to this as recorded in Genesis 6:6. But before we attempt to discover what God might say to us through this verse, let’s determine what it is not saying.

The phrase, “And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth,” could be understood in a number of ways. For instance, a person might say, “I’m sorry I got myself into this mess.” And by that he would mean, “I wish I hadn’t done what I did to be in this situation,” or “If I had it to do over, I would do it differently.” Applying this line of thought, could we read Genesis 6:6 and reasonably conclude that God regretted doing what He had done, as if He had made a bad decision?

We cannot conclude such a thing, and here’s why. The Bible never contradicts itself. A verse should always be considered in light of the whole Bible, and when we look at what the whole Bible says about God we learn that:

  • His ways are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4). Creating man could not have been a mistake because God doesn’t make mistakes.
  • He knows everything (Psalm 139:16). God knew that He would have sorrow and grief over the sin of mankind, even before Adam and Eve were created.

So what is this verse saying to us? To say that God was sorry and that He grieved in His heart shows us that God has emotions. In fact, the Bible frequently ascribes emotions to God. At various times He is said to be grieved (Psalm 78:40), angry (Deuteronomy 1:37), pleased (1 Kings 3:10), joyful (Zephaniah 3:17), and moved by pity (Judges 2:18). But who can really understand the emotions of God who is infinite? Continue reading


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Created to Love God and Be Loved by God

Where does your picture of God come from?
Lesson 13 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

For man was created to love God and to be loved by God.

– The HOPE, Chapter 2

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

How we perceive a person inevitably influences the way we respond to that person. For instance, if you learned from a co-worker that your supervisor was very angry with you, how do you suppose you would feel to see him (or her) suddenly appear at the doorway of your office?

Or, if you were driving down the street and listening to some of your favorite music and you saw a police car approaching from behind with lights flashing, would you immediately look at your speedometer to make sure you were not breaking the law? If you’re like most people, you would.

In the same way, your perception of God will most likely determine your immediate response to Him. We saw the line above from The HOPE in an earlier lesson, but didn’t dwell on it then. But because this simple statement is so significant, let’s look at it again and delve more deeply into what it means to us. If this statement is true, then it becomes a foundation for every other truth we’ll consider in our study of God’s story through the HOPE. If it is not true, then you could hardly be blamed for abandoning this endeavor here and now. Continue reading


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Free from the Fog of Fear

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18 NASB

Today we are talking about fear. Not the kind of fear that suddenly grips you with terror, but the kind that lurks below the surface of your conscious mind. The fear we equate with terror comes on us in an instant, like a life-threatening wound from a gunshot. The kind of fear we are talking about today is more like a slow moving disease. It’s the kind of fear you may not even be aware of, or have forgotten was there, until you’re faced with a challenge (or an opportunity) that reminds you of its power.

This is the kind of fear every one of us inherited as a son of Adam. This kind of fear can rob you of peace and joy, and keep you from running unencumbered toward your destiny. This kind of fear can bring the flow of your life to a standstill, just as a dense fog can bring the vibrant flow of traffic in a busy city to a dead halt.

But consider this, according to the Bureau of Standards in Washington, a dense fog, covering seven city blocks to a depth of 100 feet is composed of less than one glass of water. That amount of water is divided into about 60 billion tiny droplets. Yet when those minute particles settle over a city or the countryside, they can almost blot out everything from sight. Continue reading


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Our Secret Weapons

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Authentic Christianity
Ray Stedman

Key Take-away:
– We will all be engaged in a battle today. How foolish would it be for a soldier to go into battle without his weapons?! God has provided the weapons we need to be victorious. Do we know what they are? Are we using them?

Read the Scripture: 2 Corinthians 10:1-6

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).

Paul says we do not employ the weapons of the flesh. What are those weapons? What does the world use to try to solve the problems it recognizes in society? You know what it uses: coercion, manipulation, pressure groups, compromises, or demonstrations that ultimately result in raised voices, clenched fists, and outbreaks of conflict. These are the weapons of the world. So it is understandable why those who are governed by the flesh would seek to employ fleshly weapons to get things done. But the universal testimony of history is these do not work.

We have other weapons. They are mighty, they are powerful, and they accomplish something. They will demolish strongholds of evil, Paul says. But there are no answers in this passage to the question, What are these weapons? The apostle has referred to them in various places in his letters.

The first weapon available to us is truth. The Christian is given an insight into life and reality that others do not have. We know what is behind the forces at work in our society today, and we ought to know how to go about overcoming them. That is what truth is all about. Truth is realism. The wonderful thing about the Word of God is that when you understand the world as the Bible sees it, you are looking at life the way it really is. That is why it is so important that we understand the Scriptures, that we refresh our minds with them all the time, for we are constantly bombarded with illusion and error every day, and it is easy to drift back into thinking the way everybody around us thinks.

Love is also a powerful weapon, and in Scripture, the Word of God links truth with love. When you begin to treat people with courtesy instead of anger, when you accept them as people with feelings like yours and understand that they too are struggling with difficulties and see things out of focus as you often do, when you begin to treat them as people in trouble who need help–that is what love is–then you change the whole picture.

Along with truth and love in Scripture is faith. Faith is the recognition that God is present in history. He has not left us alone to stumble on our own way. The Lord Jesus sits in control of all the nations of earth. Faith believes that and expects Him to do something. In Hebrews 11 we have the great record of the plain, ordinary men and women like you and me who found, by faith, that they could stop the mouths of lions, open the doors of prisons, and change the course of history.

Another powerful weapon for the Christian, proceeding from faith, is prayer. The power of prayer is held before us throughout Scripture. We are constantly exhorted to expose the situations in which we find ourselves to the prayers of believing people, both individually and corporately, praying that God would move in and change things. Again and again the record testifies that Christians who pray have drastically altered events.

Lord, help me from here on to begin to use the weapons of truth, love, faith, and prayer.

Life Application: For every Christian, spiritual warfare is a given, whether engaged actively or passively. Are we alert to identify and engage our spiritual weaponry?

Copyright © 2007 by Elaine Stedman — This daily devotion is from the book The Power of His Presence: 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 http://www.RayStedman.org if the copy is posted on the Internet. Please direct any questions you may have to webmaster@RayStedman.org.

http://www.raystedman.org/daily-devotions/2-corinthians/our-secret-weapons