devos from the hill


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The Good Thing or The God Thing?

Everybody had an agenda for Jesus – do you?
Lesson 51 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.

– Mark 9:31–32

From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”

– Matthew 16:21–25

He began explaining to His disciples the true nature of His mission. He told them that soon He would be given over to the religious leaders and killed. Three days later He would rise from the dead. His disciples heard what He was saying, but they could not bring themselves to embrace the full meaning of His words.

– The HOPE, Chapter 10

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

As the end of His earthly ministry neared, Jesus began telling His disciples that soon He would suffer and die, and three days later rise from the dead. From the Mark 9 excerpt above, “they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him,” it is clear that His disciples had no place in their thinking for what Jesus was saying. And what’s more, His words were so hard for them to handle that they feared to ask for an explanation.

The response from Peter in the Matthew excerpt above is even more dramatic. Peter didn’t simply fail to understand, but boldly rejected what Jesus was saying. “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” Peter is saying “God forbid it” to Jesus, who is God! Jesus responds to Peter so strongly that it is almost startling. “Get behind Me, Satan …you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Jesus was essentially saying that Satan himself was working through Peter to protest God’s will in action.

Jesus then spoke words that apply not only to Peter, but to everyone who wants to follow Jesus, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”

What a contradiction to our natural way of thinking! If you want to save your life, you’ve got to give it up for His sake. This statement challenges the hearer to go far beyond simply acknowledging that Jesus is the Christ (the Deliverer), the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16)! The challenge here is complete abandonment to His will. Continue reading


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The Greater the Obstacle, The Greater His Glory

A life that glorifies God has God–sized challenges.
Lesson 35 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. And the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea…

– Exodus 14:21–23

…Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea…

– Exodus 14:26–27

…And when Israel [the Hebrew people] saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses. Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and said, “I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will extol Him. The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name…

– Exodus 14:31–15:3

Finally, the Pharaoh released the Hebrew nation. And the people went out of Egypt. But the Pharaoh had a change of heart. With his army, he pursued the Hebrew people to the edge of the sea. So God divided the sea for the Hebrew people to cross on dry land. And when the Egyptians pursued them, God caused the sea to return, drowning the whole army.

– The HOPE, Chapter 6

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

As if peering through the lens of a camera, let’s look at today’s lesson from two perspectives. First we’ll look at the close–up view, and then we’ll zoom out for a wide angle view.

From the close–up view you can almost feel the salt mist as the sea lies in front of you while the Egyptian army is closing in behind. You lived your whole life as a slave in Egypt. Then in an incredibly dramatic turn of events, the ruler of Egypt not only decides to let you go, but he sends you out with many valuable possessions. You’ve hardly left Egypt and thousands of people are crowding in on you and your family. Fear is on every face. Then, just when you think that all hope for freedom is gone, Moses lifts his staff and the sea in front of you parts! God has made a way where there was no way …not only a way of escape for your people, but also a way to destroy the threat of the mighty Egyptian army.

Now let’s zoom out and re–examine this same event in a wider context. Recall that in the first lesson of this chapter, we considered a dream in which God gave Abraham an amazing preview of what was to come:

  • Abraham’s descendants would be strangers in a land that is not their own.
  • They would be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years.
  • Ultimately God would judge the nation in which they are enslaved.
  • After God’s judgment, Abraham’s descendants would leave that nation with wealth.
  • Abraham’s own life would end in peace at an old age.

With today’s story, everything God told Abraham had come to pass. Those who had listened to (and believed) the story of Abraham that had been handed down from generation to generation must have been looking forward to this day. They were no less surprised when God parted the sea, but they may have been a little less anxious, knowing that God had promised to deliver them and that everything else God had promised up to that point had come to pass. Continue reading


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Joseph – Submitted to His Purpose

A living example of Romans 8:28.
Lesson 32 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

– Genesis 50:20

Jacob had twelve sons, but there was one son named Joseph whom he loved very much. And Joseph’s brothers were very jealous of him. So they seized Joseph and threw him in a pit. Then they sold Joseph to some traders who were going to a land called Egypt. The brothers dipped Joseph’s clothing in blood, and told their father that Joseph had been eaten by a wild beast.

Joseph entered the land of Egypt as a slave. But in Egypt, God placed Joseph in the service of powerful people. And in time, Joseph was summoned to appear before the ruler of all Egypt, who was called the Pharaoh. Joseph was asked to interpret a dream. God gave Joseph the correct interpretation concerning a great famine that would come upon the earth. The Pharaoh was pleased with Joseph, and so it was that he placed Joseph in authority over the land of Egypt.

Now when the famine came over the earth, Joseph’s family suffered greatly in the land of Canaan. But in Egypt Joseph had filled the storehouses. And even though Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers, he still had a deep love for his family. Because of the position God had given Joseph, his entire family was permitted to come and live in Egypt, escaping starvation. And so it was that a people through whom God promised to bless the nations came to dwell in a land that was not their own.

– The HOPE, Chapter 6

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Many Bible students believe that Joseph’s life foreshadows God’s promised Deliverer, who we will soon study in upcoming chapters of The HOPE. In fact, the similarities between Joseph and the promised Deliverer are truly amazing.

Consider that both Joseph and the promised Deliverer …1

As we study the lives of Joseph and the promised Deliverer, we see another similarity, one that allowed all the similarities listed above to be manifested. Both Joseph and the promised Deliverer were submitted to a purpose that was not their own doing. They understood that their lives were part of a greater plan, and they co–operated with that plan. In  John 6:38, the words of the promised Deliverer are recorded, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

In Joseph we recognize the evidence of a purposeful divine influence guiding the events of his life. Like a leaf that has fallen into a great river, Joseph’s life was moved by the powerful flow of a divine current. And with each event that came into his life (even the difficult ones), Joseph submitted to that flow rather than resisting it. God used Joseph’s life to accomplish exactly what He had planned beforehand, bringing good to Joseph and to others, and glory to Himself.

ASK & REFLECT

  •  From Joseph’s life, what can we learn about God and about our relationship with Him?
  •  Why do you think God would orchestrate Joseph’s life to have so many similarities with the life of God’s promised Deliverer?
  •  God creates every person with a purpose (Ephesians 2:10). In retrospect it is not difficult for us to recognize the purpose of Joseph’s life, but what about Joseph himself? Do you think that Joseph always understood the purpose of his life, or the reason for the events that came into his life?

DECIDE & DO

You may not yet know the purpose of your life or the things that come into your life, but you can know the One who gives purpose to your life. And like Joseph, in every circumstance you can submit to the flow of His divine current in your life.

Do you know God like Joseph knew Him? Are you confident of His guiding presence? If not, then go immediately to the Knowing God section at the end of this study guide.

Has God brought a difficult circumstance into your life? If so, follow the example of Joseph. See it as an opportunity for God to work in and through you, bringing good to you and others and glory to Himself. For “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Footnotes

1Some of this listing was suggested by “Parallels between Joseph and Jesus,” Life Application Study Bible: New International Version. (Tyndale House Publishers, 1997).

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB


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Do You Have Living Hope?

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter
Part 2 of a 3-part series on Hope

Yesterday morning I watched a video, taken on a mobile phone, of a young pastor in a country dominated by militant Muslims. He was being martyred for sharing his faith. The frenzied screaming of masked men holding a knife to his neck, yelling at him to recant, was more than I could bear. Knowing what was about to take place, I was grateful that the man showing the video turned it off just before they took the pastor’s life. I was, and still am, deeply affected by what I viewed. It is sobering to know that this kind of thing is taking place in many parts of the world today. (And the pastor’s example was a sharp contrast to the touchy, feely, whiny cultural Christianity that pervades America.)

It is no mistake that the subject of today’s devotional (Part 2 of a 3 part series on “hope”) was planned last week. Our focal verse is 1 Peter 1:3, “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 . . .” That young pastor stood firm for Christ, his “living hope” was stronger and more real than anything possessed by (or that possessed) his captors.

In context of this verse and those that follow, it is clear that our living hope is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ; not only on the fact that it actually happened, but also on what He accomplished in our behalf as a result. Because of the resurrection we have an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for us (v.4)!

Consider the following. Each thought lays a foundation for the next. Continue reading


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Can God Trust You to Share in the Fellowship of His Sufferings?

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings…” – Philippians 3:10 NASB

What can we learn from an 87 year old missionary doctor who in 1964, while single and serving God in the Congo, was captured by rebels, beaten and raped? We realize that this is the second consecutive devotional we’ve done on the topic of suffering, but we think you’ll really benefit from getting to know Helen Roseveare. This video (8 min. 21 sec., part 2 of 5) will give a glimpse into how Helen experienced God in the middle of that night;

The Question – Can you thank God for trusting you with suffering, even if He never explains why?

Continue reading


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No Joy without Sorrow

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

In the 16th chapter of John, we find Jesus preparing His disciples for what is to come. He paints a picture of the suffering they will endure (v16:2) and He tells them that, though He is going away, He will send a Helper, the Holy Spirit (vrs16:7-15). Then in verse 16:20 (ESV) He says, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow (grief in some versions) will turn into joy.”

Depending on how you read this one verse, you will either find the comfort Jesus intended, or you will miss it. What if you take His words to mean, “You will have sorrow for a time, then that time will end and you will have a time of joy.”? There may be some comfort in knowing that the suffering and sorrow has an end; that it doesn’t need to last forever. But this alone falls way short of the comfort Jesus intended. After all, why do we have to go through the hard and painful part? Why not just go straight to the joy? Continue reading


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Tested and Tempted . . . Confident in Christ?

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
Tested and Tempted, Part 2 of 2
From Fred Carpenter

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

In last week’s devotional, we considered the Greek word “peirazo”, which literally means, “to make proof of.” We discovered that in the New Testament it is sometimes translated as “test” and sometimes as “tempt.” We concluded that Satan “tempts” us to prove that we are not who God says we are, and God “tests” us to prove that we are exactly who He says we are. Are you confident when you face a test in life?

In the world of higher education, there are certain schools into which it is extremely difficult to gain admission. Yet once a candidate is admitted, the entire program is geared to ensure that the candidate will successfully complete his or her course of study. In fact, Business Insider (an online news magazine) recently ran the story, “13 Schools Where It’s Almost Impossible To Fail.” Each of the schools listed are elite schools with extremely selective admissions. The list includes, the Harvard and Yale Law Schools, the Columbia Business School and MIT. Continue reading


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Tested and Tempted . . . What’s the Difference?

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
From Fred Carpenter
Tested and Tempted Part 1 of 2

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” – Matthew 4:1 NASB

After Jesus was baptized, He was led by the Spirit (of God) into the wilderness to be tempted.This temptation is described in Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, and Luke 4:1–2. Notice that the Matthew 4:1 passage says the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, but it does not say that the Spirit tempted Jesus. That is an important distinction because the Bible also says in James 1:13 that, “God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” Satan (who is called the tempter in Matthew 4:3 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5) is the one who does the tempting.

Based upon the James 1:13 passage, notice that it was futile for Satan to tempt Jesus, for “God cannot be tempted.” In the end, the temptation of Jesus served only to further the purposes of God. It was all part of His plan. This will become even more evident as we consider the word “tempt.”

“Tempt” (or tempted) comes from the Greek word “peirazo,” which is actually a legal term meaning “to make proof of.” In light of this root definition, we could say that Satan was tempting Jesus in order to prove that He was no different than any other man that had ever lived; that He was just like Adam and that He would fold under pressure. Ultimately, the same way that a prosecuting attorney seeks to disqualify the testimony of a defendant, Satan wanted to disqualify Jesus as the Deliverer who would free mankind from Satan, sin, and death. Continue reading


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Getting Rid of a Stiff Neck

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

 

One of the MHP staff recently woke up with a stiff neck. The symptoms? Constant pain, limited vision, inability to rest, diminished capacity to enjoy life. This made him think about the parallels to being spiritually stiff-necked like the spiritual leaders Stephen was addressing in Acts 7:51-53 (NASB).

“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”

What is the outcome of remaining spiritually stiff-necked?

A man who hardens his neck after much reproof Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy. Prov 29:1 (NASB)

Is a stiff-neck curable?

Looking at them, Jesus *said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27 (NASB)

stiff-necked


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Look Again and Think

Mars Hill Staff Devotional

Do not worry about your life . . . —Matthew 6:25

Are the cares of this world choking out the life of God in you? This morning our staff used an Oswald Chambers message to consider reasons not to worry. Very freeing!!!

A warning which needs to be repeated is that “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches,” and the lust for other things, will choke out the life of God in us (Matthew 13:22). We are never free from the recurring waves of this invasion. If the frontline of attack is not about clothes and food, it may be about money or the lack of money; or friends or lack of friends; or the line may be drawn over difficult circumstances. It is one steady invasion, and these things will come in like a flood, unless we allow the Spirit of God to raise up the banner against it.

Read more about it here:  http://utmost.org/look-again-and-think/