devos from the hill


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Refugees – A Biblical Perspective

The world is witnessing the largest refugee crisis since the horrors of World War II. Today, there are close to 60 million refugees worldwide, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In one sense, all men are refugees; we have all been forcibly displaced. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden and we, as their descendants, continue to search for a safe place where our souls can rest. Ephesians 2:19 eludes to the fact that those outside of God’s household are strangers and aliens.

The Bible recounts the stories of men and women, groups and nations who were displaced by natural disaster, famine, persecution, war, human trafficking and more.  We can become so familiar with these old stories that we miss seeing them in terms of today’s social injustices.

Noah and his family were displaced by the flood. Abraham and Sarah were driven to another land by famine. Jacob fled to another land because his brother threatened to kill him. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had to flee to Egypt due to political persecution. *

During his 3-year ministry, Jesus was a homeless refugee. In Matthew 8:20, Jesus said to the Scribe, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” As his followers, we must consider what holds our heart’s affections. Am I willing to give up my home and side with the homeless to follow him?

Syria has over twenty million citizens made up of eighteen different people groups. Around 4.8 million of these people have become refugees and another 6.5 million have become displaced within Syria and are seeking refuge. Christian missionaries have spent years praying, strategizing, and risking everything to go to these people with the gospel. After raising tens of thousands of dollars, undergoing extensive training, leaving everything familiar, and going through the long process of learning a foreign language – only then, could missionaries reach these people. The paradigm has shifted!

We serve a God who scatters. Through scattering, God places His people where they need to be to have an impact on communities, peoples, and nations. When we see that people are being scattered, the believers response needs to be “What is God doing?” and “How can I serve?”

*Click Here to read a fuller list of Refugees in the Bible by the International Association for Refugees

sharing the gospel with refugees


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How Could Jesus Be Born Without Sin?

How sin is transmitted
Lesson 42 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…

— Romans 5:12

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.

— Genesis 3:15

God’s plan was unfolding. But who could have ever imagined it would happen like this? From the ancient promises of God, one might have considered that to overcome sin, the Deliverer would be without sin, just as God is without sin. But who would have expected that the Deliverer, promised by God throughout the ages, would be God Himself in human form?

— The HOPE, Chapter 8

And through Adam, sin would be passed down from generation to generation, infecting all humankind to this very day.

— The HOPE, Chapter 3

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we said that we would revisit the issue of a holy God putting on flesh. How could a sinless God enter this sin infected world as a human and yet remain sinless? First, let’s deal with why this is important, and then we’ll deal with how it is possible.

As we see from the Chapter 8 HOPE excerpt above, in order for the Deliverer to free mankind from sin, He would need to be sinless Himself. This line from The HOPE summarizes the truth of a key theological doctrine. The Deliverer had to fulfill the Law in order to be the mediator and reconciler between God and man. In order to fulfill the Law, He had to be without sin.

Many verses in the Bible state that the Deliverer was without sin (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5). But how is this possible? Repeatedly in our study of The HOPE we have read about the sin that has infected all mankind (see Chapter 3, Lesson 18). And from Romans 5:12 above we read that “just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” How then could the Deliverer be born of a human and not be infected with sin? Let’s consider two possibilities.

First, we must acknowledge that if God can do whatever He pleases, then He could certainly have miraculously protected Jesus from being polluted by sin while He was inside Mary’s womb.1

Second, we must consider carefully Romans 5:12. Notice that the verse says that “through one man sin entered the world” and so death spread to “all men.” The verse does not say through “one man and one woman” sin entered the world. Sin entered the world through Adam, not through Eve. It was Adam, not Eve, who passed sin on to their descendants.2 Perhaps this is why in Genesis 3:15, God promises that the One who will bruise (literally “crush”) Satan on the head will be One who comes from the seed of woman, not from the seed of man. Continue reading


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Before There Is a Problem, God Has the Solution

God’s first promise of a Deliverer.
Lesson 20 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

– Genesis 3:14–15

And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

– Genesis 3:21

Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the Garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every direction, to guard the way to the tree of life.

– Genesis 3:23–24

So God made for them garments of animal skin. This was an acceptable covering. But it was only a partial remedy, for it did not take away the sin…and though they could not understand it at the time, it was a picture of the price God would ultimately pay to free humankind from sin. God sent Adam and Eve out from the garden, lest they eat from the tree of life and walk the earth forever, never knowing life as it was meant to be. As for Satan, God pronounced a judgment on him. And in that judgment we find God’s first promise, that one day, through a descendant of Eve, God would send a deliverer to defeat Satan forever.

– The HOPE, Chapter 3

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Often in life, we must hear the bad news before the good news means something to us. The first four lessons in Chapter 3 dealt with some ugly stuff – Satan and sin. But in this, the final lesson of the chapter, we turn a corner. This section shows us (as we shall see throughout this study) that God has a beautiful plan that will not be thwarted.

Continue reading


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Shame and Blame – The Fruit of Sin

The victim mentality – a vicious cycle.
Lesson 19 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Before Adam and Eve ate of the fruit – And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

– Genesis 2:25

After – Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked?” Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” And the man said, “The woman whom Thou gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

– Genesis 3:7–13

Then she gave the fruit to Adam, and he ate. And immediately, they were aware of their nakedness and they were ashamed. Something terrible had happened. Something had changed … Adam and Eve tried to hide from God, and to get rid of their shame by covering themselves with leaves. But this did not work, for their problem was not outward, but inward. Shame is the result of sin, and sin was at work in them like a poison.

– The HOPE, Chapter 3

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Before eating the forbidden fruit, there is no indication that Adam and Eve had ever known shame1  (Genesis 2:25). After they disobeyed God, they saw their nakedness and for the first time felt exposed and vulnerable. So they tried to cover themselves. Then they tried to hide themselves from God. Why? Because they were afraid. They may have been afraid of God’s response, but they were actually hiding themselves from the only One who could really help them, the very One they needed the most.

It is very interesting that God would ask, “Where are you?” God is all knowing. He knew where Adam and Eve were hiding. But His question was not just rhetorical. He was bringing Adam and Eve face to face with the result of their sin. The question “Where are you?” takes on a much greater meaning if applied to their spiritual condition more than their physical location. They were at a desperate place, and God’s question was like holding up a mirror. They needed to recognize the seriousness of their situation.

Notice what happens next, when they are “found.” Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames Satan. Shame was one of the first fruits of sin, and blame was a direct result.

ASK & REFLECT Continue reading


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Sin – What Exactly Is It?

The deadly spiritual disease that infected all humankind.
Lesson 18 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…

– Romans 5:12

Then she gave the fruit to Adam, and he ate. And immediately, they were aware of their nakedness and they were ashamed. Something terrible had happened. Something had changed. The evil in Satan was like an infectious disease. And through Adam’s disobedience, this disease was released into the world. It is called sin. It is a power that works within a person to destroy his or her relationship with God, ultimately bringing death to all it touches. Adam and Eve had been created to live forever in perfect harmony with God. By eating the fruit, they acted independently from God, which is exactly what Satan had done. Now they would experience death, first spiritually, then physically. And through Adam, sin would be passed down from generation to generation, infecting all humankind to this very day.

– The HOPE, Chapter 3

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

The word sin appears over 350 times in the Bible. It is most often used to identify an act against God (often referred to in the Bible as a transgression). One of the definitions of sin is literally, “missing the mark.”With this in mind, we could say that the “mark” is God’s way, and when we miss it, we are sinning.

Sin is also used in the Bible to describe the power that influences people to rebel against God’s authority. It is not only an act or an action against God; it is a personified power that influences us to act against God (seeGenesis 4:7 and Romans 6:12-13). Through Adam, this deadly power spread to the whole human race.

You can see why The HOPE describes sin as being like an infectious disease.It can’t be diagnosed with medical technology because it is not a physical disease. It’s a spiritual disease, and it always brings death. And only God has the cure.

ASK & REFLECT

Many people have the idea that all we must do to be right with God is be good. And a popular notion exists that anyone who manages to do more good than bad in life will go to heaven. The problem is that even if one lives a perfect life (which none of us can–Romans 3:23), that person would still be infected with sin, which is enough to keep us from having a right relationship with God. You see, it’s not only our “sins” that drive a wedge between us and God; it’s our “sin.” And just as we looked at Satan in Lesson 17 and determined that we are no match for him on our own, so also we cannot master sin without the power of God working in us.

  •  Are there things in your life with which you struggle, perhaps even habitually?
  •  Are there urges and desires in your life that you cannot eradicate, no matter how hard you try?
  •  Having honestly answered these questions, do you find it difficult to believe that there is a power at work within you called sin? Continue reading


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A Deadly Line of Thought

The first question is not is He good, but rather is He God?
Lesson 17 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 current lesson continues our study of Satan’s interaction with Eve at the tree of knowledge. Let’s think about Satan’s tactic with Eve as recorded in the Bible passage above.

Eve told Satan what God said about the forbidden tree, “You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.” Satan responded, “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.”1

At first, it appears that Satan is simply contradicting God, or at least trying to re–interpret what God has said. He seems to be trying to get Eve to question whether she really heard what she thought she heard. Instigating doubt and confusion is certainly one of Satan’s primary tactics.

But if you dig more deeply, there appears to be even more to Satan’s strategy. In his line, “You surely shall not die!” you can almost hear him saying to Eve, “Oh come now. God wouldn’t do that to you …would He?” Satan is leading Eve to question God’s intentions toward her. Then he follows up with, “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.” This sounds like Satan is hinting that perhaps God doesn’t really want Eve to become all she can be, which would then cause her to wonder, “Does God really want what is best for me?”

At the core of this line of thinking there lurks a very dangerous question: “Is God really good?” People throughout time have stumbled over this very question. When Eve begins to ask it, slam…the trap is shut. Doubting that God is for her, she will now begin to look after her own interests.

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