devos from the hill


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Prayer – The Last Resort, or the First?!

This year marks the 40th anniversary 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.

The Lung Surgery that Wasn’t Needed
by Fred Carpenter

You’ve no doubt heard this before. Someone facing a challenge or a crisis has done all they can do. And then it is said (often with some resign), “Well, it’s in God’s hands now; all we can do is pray.” But, what does the Bible teach us about prayer? Is prayer our last line of defense?

Late in 1998, I was experiencing some respiratory issues and my doctor said I should get a chest X-ray. The X-ray revealed a very small spot on one lung, but the doctor was not overly concerned at that point. He recommended we should check it again in a year, which is exactly what we did.

The next time they did a CT chest scan, and the results took a more serious turn. The spot had grown. The doctor told me wanted to remove the affected area and get the appropriate tests run to see if it was malignant. He even talked about the possibility of needing to remove an entire lobe of my right lung.

Being faced with such sobering results, I now saw this as a situation that needed serious prayer. In James 5:15, the Bible cites two prayers of the prophet Elijah as examples of effective prayer. In the first of these (1 Kings 17:1), Elijah prays that it would not rain in Israel until he prayed for rain. And then, 3 ½ years later, when Elijah prayed for rain (1Kings 18:42-46), it rained. The interesting thing about these prayers is that they don’t sound like prayer. When he utters them, he is not asking God, he is simply proclaiming what is going to happen. Upon closer examination of 1 Kings 17-18, we understand that Elijah is simply speaking what God told him to speak (see 18:1).  Continue reading


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The Greatest Miracle of All

Forgiveness of sin – the miracle of all miracles.
Lesson 49 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” But there were some of the scribes sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your pallet and walk?’ But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins–He said to the paralytic–“I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.”

– Mark 2:5–11

But of all the things that Jesus did, the thing that seemed to anger them the most was when He told people their sins were forgiven. For only God has the authority to forgive sin.

By claiming to do what only God could do, Jesus was in fact claiming to be God, an act that, according to Hebrew law, was punishable by death.

– The HOPE, Chapter 9

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

When it comes to the subject of miracles, the documentation of the miracles of Jesus is in a class by itself. There are, however, others in history who have (or have been said to have) performed miracles. This not only includes other characters in the Bible, but also the founders of other religions.

But there is one miracle that no other person in the Bible and no other founder of a major world religion can claim: the forgiveness of sin. Jesus actually told people their sins were forgiven (Matthew 9:2,Mark 2:5, Luke 5:20, Luke 7:47). The basis for the forgiveness that He offered is what Jesus would ultimately accomplish by His death and miraculous resurrection.

Most of the Hebrew religious leaders were infuriated that Jesus would say “Your sins are forgiven” for only God can forgive sin. By claiming that He had the authority to forgive sin, Jesus was in fact claiming to be God. He knew it – and so did they. And because these religious leaders didn’t believe that Jesus was God, they considered His words as blasphemy: speaking evil of or against God, or making the claim to be God.1Blasphemy was an offense punishable by death in the Old Testament (Leviticus 24:16).  Continue reading


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Seeking the Blessing, but not the Blesser

Even today people seek the blessing over the Blesser.
Lesson 48 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy.

– Isaiah 35:5–6

And Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and also from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude heard of all that He was doing and came to Him. And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the multitude, in order that they might not crowd Him; for He had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed about Him in order to touch Him.

– Mark 3:7–10

News of Jesus spread quickly throughout the land. Hundreds of years earlier, a Hebrew prophet wrote that with the coming of God’s promised Deliverer, the blind would see, the deaf would hear, the lame would leap like a deer, those who could not speak would shout for joy, and good news would be proclaimed! Some, whose hope was set on God’s promised Deliverer, were asking, “Is Jesus the One?” Many were not as concerned with who He was as with what He could do for them.

– The HOPE, Chapter 9

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

As Jesus traveled about the land teaching and doing miracles, the word about Him quickly spread. From Mark 3:7-10 we read that a great multitude from many different regions had heard what Jesus was doing and came to Him. But after further consideration of this verse, notice what is revealed about their motives.

They wanted something from Him. They came for healing, but Jesus wanted to teach them who He was. He did heal many, as the verse reads, but Jesus was not primarily interested in healing physical ailments. According to Bible teacher Ray Stedman, “He had a greater mission – to teach and preach the Word to them so as to heal the hurt of the heart and the spirit.”1 The crowd was making this very difficult because of their focus upon the physical. This is still happening today, as crowds clamor for the power, but not the person of Jesus. Anticipating this would happen, Jesus instructed His disciples to prepare for Him a way of escape. When the people pressed in to touch Him, making it impossible for Him to continue teaching, He would withdraw by boat. In Matthew 13:1-5, Mark 4:1 and Luke 5:3, we read that Jesus actually taught from a boat.

Notice what is actually taking place in this story. The people wanted something from Jesus: their physical healing. It wasn’t wrong for them to seek physical healing, but they made it such a priority, pressing in on Jesus, that they ultimately failed to get what they were after. They sought after the blessing more than the Blesser. Continue reading


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The Ministry of Jesus – Teaching and Miracles

Jesus proves Himself.
Lesson 47 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.

– John 21:25

The very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

– John 5:36

As Jesus and His disciples journeyed through the land, people gathered around Him. He was a master communicator. With wonderful stories and illustrations, Jesus taught people the ways of God, and called them to live according to those ways. Jesus had compassion for the outcast and the brokenhearted. He convicted those whose hearts were full of pride. He spoke with the authority of one sent from God, but He was not just a man of words.

Jesus expressed His compassion and proved His authority with miracles. He was reported to have calmed storms and walked on the sea. On two occasions He took just a few loaves of bread and a handful of fish, and multiplied them to feed thousands of people. Jesus gave sight to the blind, caused the lame to walk, and healed people of horrible diseases. He cast demons out of people, and He even raised people from the dead. For thirty years, Jesus had lived in obscurity. But now, He was demonstrating His power over the physical and the spiritual world, over life and death.

– The HOPE, Chapter 9

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

During the three years between His baptism and His death and resurrection, Jesus traveled throughout the land of the Hebrews ministering to the people. There were two main aspects to the public ministry of Jesus. The first of these was His teaching.

As we read about the teaching of Jesus in the Bible, it is characterized by authority (Matthew 7:29, Mark 1:22, Luke 4:32) and wisdom (Matthew 13:54, Mark 6:2). Amazed (Matthew 7:28, Mark 1:22, Luke 4:32) and astonished (Matthew 13:54, Matthew 22:33, Mark 6:2, Mark 11:18) are the words used most to describe the reactions of those who heard Jesus teach. Even among those who doubt that Jesus is the promised Deliverer, His teaching is considered remarkable. His “Sermon on the Mount” and numerous parables1 are viewed to be among the greatest wisdom literature in the world.

The second aspect of Jesus’ ministry had to do with the miracles He performed. Most of today’s lesson will be concerned with the miracles of Jesus. But before we go further, let’s define our terms. The modern word “miracle” is derived from the Latin word miraculum, which means, “a wonder” or “something wonderful.”2 In the Bible, there are four words (two Hebrew and two Greek) that are translated as the word “miracle.” In each case, these words describe an intervention by God in which the ordinary course of nature is overruled, suspended, or modified.3 The Biblical term “miracle” means something much more than its Latin root.

Note that the Biblical use of the word doesn’t simply refer to the involvement of God in the affairs of man. It refers to what C. S. Lewis calls “a divine interference with nature by a supernatural power.”4 God does innumerable things for us on a daily basis, but He doesn’t necessarily supersede the laws of nature to do them. However, if you had terminal cancer one day, and then the next day it was gone, that would be completely contrary to the laws of nature. A miracle defies natural explanation because it defies natural law. Continue reading