devos from the hill


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Beware of Pursuing God’s Will without God

The world still bears the burden of their good intentions.
Lesson 28 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.

– Genesis 16:1–2

But how could God’s promise to Abraham be fulfilled? For Sarah to have a child seemed impossible. Rather than waiting on God, and His timing, Sarah gave her servant Hagar to Abraham, and Hagar gave birth to a child named Ishmael. Eventually, just as God had promised, Sarah also bore a child from Abraham. They called him Isaac. And Sarah became bitter toward Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham was distressed.

– The HOPE, Chapter 5

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In previous lessons we’ve seen Abraham’s faith in God, and in God’s promise to make him the father of a great nation and to bless all the nations through him. Today’s lesson looks at Abraham ten years after God first made that promise (Genesis 12:1-3). Abraham’s wife Sarah is about 75 years old, and still she has not born Abraham a child! So Sarah gives up what is a wife’s most cherished privilege, the right to her husband’s undivided affection, and she offers her maid, Hagar, to her husband that he might have a child by her and thus “fulfill” God’s promise. And of course Abraham could have said no, but he didn’t.

Not only does Sarah’s plan create turmoil within her marriage, but the epic conflict and human tragedy that has resulted from Sarah’s foolishness is still being felt today. Hagar’s son, Ishmael, would become the father of the Arab nations of our world, and the son that Sarah would later conceive would become the father of the nation of Israel. Hardly a day goes by that the news media does not cover some violent incident related to the Israeli – Arab conflict and the dispute over the right to the land that God promised to Abraham.1

Before continuing, recall that in our study of God’s story we have observed a recurring theme. What appears from our perspective to be a disastrous event is often a necessary part of God’s higher plan to accomplish His eternal purposes. For example, in response to the arrogance of the people at the tower of Babel, God confused their language. The result was chaos, and God scattered the people across the earth. But this was also the beginning of the nations as we know them today. And ultimately God will bring glory to Himself and blessing to humankind by doing something only He can do, namely bringing the nations together to live in perfect unity and peace with God and each other. Continue reading


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Two Trees – Two Ways

Two approaches to God – works and grace
Lesson 11 from The HOPE Study Guide

Introduction

And out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil… And the Lord God commanded the man saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.

– Genesis 2: 9, 16-17

In the middle of the garden, there were two trees. One was the tree of life, the other, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God told Adam he could eat from any tree in the garden, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he must not eat, for when he does he will surely die.

– The HOPE, Chapter 2

Observe & Consider

Thus far in God’s story, we’ve witnessed much drama, but no conflict. God created Adam and Eve and placed them in a beautiful garden where they had all they needed. But two trees stood in the midst of the garden. One tree yielded life, the other death; first a spiritual death, and ultimately a physical death.

Bible scholars throughout history have considered the meaning of these two trees. Most agree that the trees represent two entirely different ways of relating to God and life.The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is thought to represent man’s attempt to be fulfilled, and rightly related to God, through his own effort – often by acquiring knowledge and trying to do what is right in His own eyes. The Bible says the end of this approach is death.2

However, the tree of life is, according to theologian John Calvin, a reminder to man that “he lives not by his own power, but by the kindness of God; and that life is not an intrinsic good, but proceeds from God.” 3 The tree of life represents the life–giving favor which flows from God – favor we do not merit and cannot earn, but can only receive in humility and thanksgiving. Continue reading


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“Peace and Quiet” – Without His Presence There Is No Peace

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” – John 14:27

An anechoic chamber is a room designed to completely absorb reflections of sound. Orfield Labs in South Minneapolis has an anechoic chamber that has held the Guinness World Record for the “World’s Quietest Room” since 2004. The room is built with fiberglass acoustic wedges 3.3-feet thick, and it has double walls of insulated steel and one-foot thick concrete. Measured at -9 decibels, the room is so quiet that you can hear your blood flowing. The silence is so maddening it can cause hallucinations. The longest anyone has been able to bear the room was 45 minutes.

Anechoic Chamber, DTU - Denmark, © Baarnaud-Dessein

Anechoic Chamber, DTU – Denmark, © Baarnaud-Dessein

When I first heard of this room, my thoughts went immediately to a missionary who shared with me what he thought hell would be like. The picture he painted was that of a person alone in total darkness forever. So often classic images of hell portray a large number of people writhing in agony in an inferno. Whether the image of fire is literal or metaphorical is one issue. But who is to say that hell is a communal experience, as opposed to one of total isolation. A student of the Bible could go either way on this question. I recently read an article in which CS Lewis was reported to have said something like, “Hell is no one but yourself, forever and ever.” What a terrifying thought!

In today’s “rat race”, it is not unusual to hear someone say they’re longing for a little “peace and quiet.” But taken to the extreme of an anechoic chamber, that expression may deserve reconsideration. What makes this room so horrific, and why don’t deaf people go insane like those who are in an anechoic chamber too long? Well first off, being in an anechoic chamber is not like being deaf. A person who is totally deaf cannot hear anything with their ears, but they can still feel sound. Sound is a physical thing and we all feel it with our body. And while the sound we feel might not be an adequate basis for communication, if it is coming from outside our own bodies, then at least we know we are not alone in the universe. Continue reading


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He Is Our Peace

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
Read the Scripture: Ephesians 2:14-18

Key Take-aways: a) Jesus doesn’t just give us peace, He is our peace! – b) Peace is not the absence of conflict.
True peace is oneness and the secret of oneness is a Person!

For he himself is our peace… (Ephesians 2:14a).

This is not mere doctrine. If you are having a conflict with anybody, this is the way of peace: For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one. Paul starts with a definition of what true peace really is. True peace is oneness. It is not merely the cessation of hostility, the absence of conflict; it means being one. Anything else is superficial and temporary and highly unsatisfactory. You know this to be true. You have made peace on superficial terms and have found it only external. If you merely agree not to fight, it is not peace. And invariably it results in a new outbreak, with all the previous animosity surging to the surface once again. This is why what we call peace among nations never lasts–because it isn’t really peace. It isn’t oneness at all. It is only a weariness with warfare, an agreement to stop it for awhile until we can all recuperate and rearm. Then it breaks out all over again, because nothing is ever settled.

But here the apostle tells us the secret of peace. The secret of oneness is a Person: he himself is our peace. And when Christ Jesus makes peace–between individuals or between nations–that peace will be a satisfying, permanent, and genuine peace. ‘What Paul is saying is that in order to live at peace, you must have peace. The problem with most of us is that we want to start by clearing up only the results of conflict. God never starts there; He starts with the person. He says peace is a Person, and in order for you to live at peace with someone else, you must be at peace with the Person of Christ. If you have His peace, then you can start solving the conflict around you. But you never can do it on any other basis. So the place to start, the origin of peace, is the settling of any problems between you and Jesus Christ.

Many people come to me with various problems involving conflict. Usually they are upset, troubled, discouraged, or angry. They report all the terrible things the other person has done and all the reasons they are justified in being so angry. I listen to it all, and then I say to them, Yes, you’ve got a problem. But that isn’t your only problem. You really have two problems. And the one you haven’t mentioned at all is the one you must start with. Then I point out to them that their basic problem is that they don’t have any peace themselves. They are upset, angry, and emotionally distraught. And everything they do is colored by that emotional state. And it is impossible to solve the problem until they themselves acquire peace.

But this is the promise of God to Christians: He is our peace. And once their attitude is changed, once their heart is settled, once they have put the matter into the hands of the Lord and they see that He is active in it, that He has a solution, and their own heart is therefore at peace, then they can begin to understand what is happening and can apply some intelligent remedies to the situation that will work out the problem. There is profound psychological insight in the fact that the apostle begins with the declaration that Christ is our peace. He alone can accomplish it.

Father, thank You for the access I have to You. Help me to believe the message of peace and thus to enter into the joy and peace of life with You.

Life Application: Peace is the absence of war, but what is true peace? What is the inevitable result of peace made based on external conditions? Where do we find true peace & oneness?

See Ray Stedman’s devotional for more . . .http://www.raystedman.org/daily-devotions/ephesians/he-is-our-peace

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.