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Embrace the Tension!

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.

Part 2 on The Importance of Honesty and Authenticity in Team Communication

Last week, in our devotional, we discussed the need for honest and authentic communication in the Body of Christ. This week, we’re going to dig a little deeper into this issue, focusing on the idea of “authentic communication.”  What is it, what is the basis for this kind of communication, and what does it look like?

What is it?

If you Google the term “authentic Christianity,” you’ll get 121,000 results . . . books, articles, sermons, blogs, etc. Most all of them have to do with what a person does . . . performance.

Because the word “authentic” does not appear in the Bible, I turned to Webster. Authentic means – of undisputed origin.  Applying this definition then, we can conclude that authenticity is really more a matter of nature and identity (origin) than performance.  Just as we should expect an apple tree to bear apples, so also, we should expect an authentic Christian to communicate in an authentic manner.

So, what is it about being a Christian that provides a basis for this kind of communication?

Chapter 4 Ephesians of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians has a lot to say about unity in the Body of Christ. To lay a foundation for today’s subject read Eph.4:20-25.

Eph 4:20  But you did not learn Christ in this way,
Eph 4:21  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,
Eph 4:22  that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
Eph 4:23  and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
Eph 4:24  and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Eph 4:25  Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.

Verse 25 tells us that Christians should “SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you.” The word “speak” here is a present active imperative indicating that we are to make a habit of speaking the truth . . . of communicating in an authentic manner.

Verses 22-24 tell us why we should communicate in this manner. Like an apple tree bearing apples, it is simply something we do, if in fact we are laying aside the old self and putting on the new self . . . if we are being renewed in the spirit of our mind.

Stephen Mcalpin, Lead Pastor of Adorn Church in Los Angeles writes, “Authenticity in the Church is the quality of our exposure of brokenness and adornment in God’s grace. An authentic person is one who is both privately and publically putting off the old self and, by God’s grace, putting on the new self.”

Christ followers are a people caught in between two worlds; one that is broken and one that is adorned in the glory of God’s grace. If we are not OK with living in the tension between these two worlds, we will live a dishonest life. We must fully embrace both realities, for that is Truth.

I’ve always been intrigued with a certain aspect of the Chronicles of Narnia. The children who traveled to the world of Narnia found themselves in the middle of a fierce war. And like all wars, it was violent and ugly with life and death consequences. All the while, the children knew that Narnia was not their home. It was not their ultimate reality.  And yet, with arrows flying and swords flashing they fully embraced their role in the battle for Narnia.

How about us? Are we OK enough with living in this fallen world that is not our home that we can be honest about our pain and struggle, and at the same time honest about our true identity in Christ and our citizenship in His Kingdom?

What does authentic communication in the Body of Christ look like?

This question is answered for us Ephesians 4:26-32.

Eph 4:26  BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
Eph 4:27  and do not give the devil an opportunity.
Eph 4:28  He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
Eph 4:29  Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Eph 4:30  Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Eph 4:31  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Eph 4:32  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

People of Truth are not fake. They communicate what is really going on in their lives, but they do it in ways that are appropriate, not grieving the Holy Spirit, and being sensitive to the one to whom they are speaking.


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The Highest Use of Media in Ministry

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.

Televangelism in America is a multibillion-dollar industry. Many claim that televangelism is an effective way to reach the lost. The facts do not support that claim. According to studies cited in the book, “Televangelism and American Culture”, by Quentin J. Schultze, less than .01% of the people in America who attend church do so because of the influence of mass evangelism, including radio and television. According to Schultze, and those he cites, televangelism is primarily a confirmatory medium. In other words, the audience is mostly Christian, viewing content they already agree with.

On the other hand, Schultze also cites research revealing that friends and relatives count for 75%-90% of all the conversions in America. Plain and simple, relationship is key to evangelism! Believing this to be true, I’ve had to ask myself, as the co-founder and president of a media ministry, “How does this affect my view of what I do in creating and using media?”

To answer this question, I must first acknowledge this fundamental truth. Our God is a relational God, and He is all about relationship. The Triune nature of God defines for us, the ultimate and perfect model of relationship. As members of the Body of Christ, we are joined together in such a way that we cannot understand our true identity, or truth itself, apart from our relationship with each other. Consider Paul’s words in Romans 1:11 “For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established . . .” Paul wanted to be there in person. What he wanted to give them was more than information, more than objective truth. It was something that could not be sent in a letter. Continue reading


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Man’s Thoughts – God’s Thoughts

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


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The Resurrection – Fact or Fiction?

Proof of the resurrection.
Lesson 56 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. And the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.”

– Matthew 28:1–6

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!

…Over the next forty days, Jesus physically appeared to many people. With some He walked and talked. With others He shared a meal. In one instance, He appeared before more than five hundred people.

– The HOPE, Chapter 11

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

How important is the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus? The Apostle Paul wrote that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then our faith is worthless! (1 Corinthians 15:17). In upcoming lessons we gain a deeper appreciation of Paul’s powerful statement as we consider the significance of the resurrection. But let’s start by examining the overwhelming evidence that the resurrection of Jesus actually occurred, and that it was not just a fabrication or a myth as some skeptics claim.

Volumes have been written on this subject, but for the purpose of our study, we will consider four areas of evidence:

  • The Empty Tomb – Jesus had said publicly that He would rise from the dead. Knowing this, the Hebrew religious leaders feared that someone might try to steal His body and then start a resurrection rumor. So they convinced the governor to post soldiers at the grave site and to place an official seal on the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). The governor’s soldiers were highly motivated to guard the tomb, for they knew that if they failed to obey orders the punishment could be death. Breaking a government seal was also punishable by death – and yet the tomb was empty!
  • The Eye Witnesses – The Bible records numerous encounters that various people (including His inner circle of disciples who knew Him better than most) had with the resurrected Jesus (Matthew 28:9-10,Matthew 16:20; Mark 16:12-18; Luke 24:13-43; John 20:14-18, John 26:29; John 21:15-23). On one occasion Jesus appeared to a group of 500 people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6).
  • The Response of the Disciples – Even in light of the empty tomb and eyewitnesses, some argue that the account of Jesus’ resurrection was a carefully designed conspiracy. But that argument loses its strength when you consider the passionately committed lives of His disciples after the resurrection. Many of those who followed Jesus, including all but one of His twelve disciples, were martyred for their steadfast belief in Him. More than any others, these men would have known if the resurrection was a hoax. Yet they were boiled in oil, sawed in half, crucified upside down, thrown to lions and speared to death. Some men are willing to die for what they believe is true, but only a madman or a fool would die for what he knew was a lie.
  • The Testimony of Experts – In a court of law, experts are often called upon to evaluate evidence. Throughout time countless scholars have weighed in on the evidence for the resurrection and concluded it to be a fact of history. As stated above, volumes have been written on this subject. As an example, consider the following quote from Thomas Arnold, Royal Professor of Modern History at Oxford and author of the book, History of Rome: “I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”

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What Is Truth?

Don’t be sidetracked. The truth is a person… Jesus.
Lesson 53 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”… Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Pilate therefore said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”

And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him. But you have a custom, that I should release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” Therefore they cried out again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber. Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him.

– John 18:33–19:1

Now Jesus had spoken often of the Kingdom of God. So the governor asked Him, “Are you a King?” Jesus said that His Kingdom “is not of this world.” The governor said to the religious leaders, “This man has done nothing deserving of death.” But the religious leaders continued to seek the death of Jesus, claiming He was a threat to the people and the governor. Jesus did not defend Himself. The governor was amazed.

– The HOPE, Chapter 10

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Entire books have been written on the events that took place during the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Because The HOPE is a summary overview of the Bible, it cannot deal with all of the events of the Bible, and certainly not with each one in detail. This lesson will focus primarily on just one detail in one of these events.

After celebrating the Passover meal, Jesus and His disciples went to a garden. There Jesus was seized and taken before the Hebrew religious leaders. They questioned Jesus and found Him guilty of claiming to be the Son of God. He was then sent to the foreign governor (Pilate) who ruled over the land of the Hebrews. The Hebrew religious leaders reasoned that if Jesus asserted before Pilate His claim to be a king (or any other kind of “ruler”), then the governor would be forced to deal harshly with Jesus, perhaps even putting Him to death. This is where our present lesson begins.

Pilate asks Jesus if He is a king. Jesus answers that His Kingdom is not of this realm. Jesus then says that He has “come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” At this point we can only speculate what the governor is thinking. Both Matthew 27:14 and Mark 15:5 tell us that the governor is “amazed” at Jesus. Even though Pilate may not understand exactly who Jesus is, he knows that Jesus is someone of a very exceptional nature. The governor then asks Jesus, “What is truth?” Continue reading


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Liar, Lunatic, Lord – “Who Do You Say that I Am?”

Why Jesus left us no other choice.
Lesson 50 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

He began asking His disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

– Matthew 16:13–17

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

The people of Jesus’ day had varied opinions about who He was. Not much has changed in our day. If you asked a number of people on the street who Jesus is, you’d probably get a number of different answers. Some might say, as Peter did in the verse above, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. But others would likely identify Him merely as a great teacher or a prophet, or perhaps a man who performed miracles.

The question Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” is the most important question a person will ever answer. Having considered the ministry and the claims of Jesus over the past several lessons, the time has come for us to deal with this question.

Some may argue otherwise, but Jesus did not leave us the option to say that He is merely a great teacher, or a prophet, or a man who performed miracles. The reason we do not have this option is summed up in an argument that was first made by C.S. Lewis,1 and later by Josh McDowell.2 This argument insists there are only three possible answers to the question “Who was Jesus?”

Jesus claimed to be God. Some deny that He really made this claim, but that is in fact the reason the religious leaders wanted Him dead. Jesus was clear about His claim and that claim leads to only one of three possibilities:

  1. Jesus sincerely believed that He was the Son of God, but He was Himself deceived, so much so that He was willing to die because of it. This would put Jesus in the category of a lunatic.
  2. Jesus knew that He was not the Son of God, but He was willing to lie about it. This would not only make Him a liar, it would make Him a very evil man because He was intentionally misleading people, many of whom would suffer and die because they believed Him.
  3. Jesus was who He claimed to be: the Son of the Living God.

 

Jesus left us no other options. We cannot call Him just a good man, because a good man would not mislead people by saying that He was something He was not. We cannot call Him just a good teacher, because a good teacher would not teach something that was untrue. And if Jesus was deceiving people, either intentionally, or because He was Himself deceived, then we cannot conclude that His power to perform miracles was from God. It would be more reasonable to assume that the power had come from Satan.

Continue reading


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The Beautiful Side of Evil

A primary strategy of Satan: the perversion of good.
Lesson 16 from The HOPE Study Guide

Introduction

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said,’ You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.’ And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

– Genesis 3:1–5

And so it was one day as Eve was walking in the garden near the tree of knowledge that Satan spoke to her. She was without fear, for fear had not yet come into the world. Satan asked her about the forbidden fruit. He questioned God’s warning and His motive toward man. Eve listened and began to doubt God. She considered the fruit and ate. Then she gave the fruit to Adam, and he ate. And immediately, they were aware of their nakedness and they were ashamed.

– The HOPE, Chapter 3

Observe & Consider

The section of The HOPE we are now considering is described in greater detail in Genesis 3. Notice from the Bible passage above that Satan appeared to Eve and spoke to her as a serpent. Yet Eve, unlike you or I might be, was not frightened by this serpent. Let’s consider why that might have been.

First, up to this point in God’s story we see no indication that fear even exists in the world God has created. The first recorded manifestation of fear is in Genesis 3:10, after Adam had disobeyed God. And from Genesis 9:2 we might conclude that up until that time, animals did not fear man (or at least their fear of man was minimal). Imagine the mindset of Eve at this time, never having encountered anything in the world that would evoke fear in her!

Secondly, let’s consider the way in which Satan presents himself. The word that is translated as serpent in the Genesis passage comes from the Hebrew word nachash1, which literally means, “shining one.” Ezekiel 28:12-18 describes Satan as an exceptionally beautiful creature. 2 Corinthians 11:14 says that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” From these verses it is evident that evil does not always appear to be evil. Continue reading