devos from the hill


2 Comments

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


Leave a comment

The Significance of the Resurrection – Part 2

Man made new – the death of the old man.
Lesson 58 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

– 1 Corinthians 15:17

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

– Romans 6:4-7

…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

– Colossians 2:12

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

– 2 Corinthians 5:17

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we considered what the Apostle Paul wrote about the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19. In this lesson we will continue our study of the resurrection, starting with one verse from that passage. From verse 17 above, we read that if Christ was not raised from the dead, then we are still in our sins. Let’s dig deeper at this precise place.

Recall from Lesson 18 that sin has infected every person since Adam. Now some people have the idea they can rid themselves of sin by living a good life, by becoming an increasingly better person. This is not what the Bible teaches. According to the Bible, the only way to deal with sin is to judge it and put it to death (Romans 8:13), and that is what Jesus accomplished by His death on the cross.

Now notice from Romans 6:5-6 above, that in some sense, when Jesus was crucified, you (your old self) were crucified with Him. As you think about this concept, it may be helpful to keep in mind that because God is not limited by time and space, what God accomplishes in time and space is not limited by the ordinary constraints of time and space. Hence, in some way, though you might not fully grasp it now, Jesus took you with Him to the cross, even though you had not yet been born.

Also, it is important to note that when the Bible uses the term old self (or old man), it is referring to who you were before trusting Jesus to pay for your sin and reconcile you to God. In other words, “old self” refers to who you were as a person under the penalty and the power of sin. So as we carefully read verses 6 and 7, we see that your old self was crucified together with Christ so that “your body of sin might be done away with,” so that you “should no longer be a slave to sin,” but rather be “freed from sin.” God deals with sin by taking you (your old self) to the grave. And continuing with verse 7, “He who has died is freed from sin.” It is a good thing to be freed from the power of sin, but it is not good if we remain dead in a grave. That is why the resurrection is so important! Continue reading


1 Comment

The Wrath of God Poured Out on Jesus for You

The incredible meaning of propitiation.
Lesson 55 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.

– Romans 3:25

Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

– Hebrews 2:17

…and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

– 1 John 2:2

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

– 1 John 4:10

At the cross Jesus took our sin upon Himself. He paid the penalty for our sin. He became our substitute. At the cross God’s justice was satisfied, and His love fulfilled. Then Jesus said, “It is accomplished.” And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.

– The HOPE, Chapter 10

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we considered that Jesus’ work on the cross resolved a dilemma of divine proportions: it fulfilled God’s love for man and, at the same time, satisfied His righteous justice in regard to sin. There is something more that was satisfied by Jesus on the cross – God’s anger at sin and its destructive effect on this world.

Have you ever heard or read of something so evil that it turns your stomach? Many people respond to these kinds of stories by saying, “If God is so good, then how can He allow such a thing to take place?” When people say this, it is an indication that there are some truths of which they are not aware.

Regarding sin and its effect in the world, God has more anger than we can understand. But there is a reason that God doesn’t just pour out His anger and judge this sinful world immediately. We can know this reason from 2 Peter 3:9-10 , “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”

From this verse we see what will someday happen to this world and all of its works–it will all be burnt up. Ultimately, God isn’t trying to preserve or rescue this sin infected world; He is creating a new one (Revelation 21:1). But as much as God is angered by sin in this world, this verse also tells us Jesus is not slow about His promise (to return and to judge the world), but He is patient because He wishes that none should perish. In other words, as intense as His anger is over sin, His love for people is even more intense.

Though His judgment of this world may not be immediate, it is imminent and inevitable.1 And it will be terrible. This brings us back to the point of today’s lesson. Continue reading


1 Comment

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


Leave a comment

God of the Unexpected

The birth of Jesus.
Lesson 41 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.”

– Luke 1:30–31

And she gave birth to her first–born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

– Luke 2:7

After thousands of years of watching and waiting, it finally happened. One night in the city of Nazareth, a young woman named Mary had an unexpected visitor. An angel from God told her she would bear a son, and that she was to name Him Jesus, which means, “The Lord is our deliverance.”

…But Bethlehem was very crowded and there was no bed for Mary. So they found shelter in a stable. And so it came to pass that the Promised Deliverer, the Son of God, came into the world as an infant born in the most humble of settings.

– The HOPE, Chapter 8

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

God often does things very differently than we would do them. In fact, He often does what we would not expect. In Isaiah 55:8 it is written, “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.” The truth of this verse is incredibly illustrated in the coming of God’s promised Deliverer. Consider two things about His coming.

First, rather than expecting man to make a way to God, He came to man! This simple yet profound truth separates the essential message of the Bible from every other religious system in the world. Other religions teach what man must do to make a way to God. However, such teaching: a) fails to recognize the vastness of the chasm between God and man created by sin, b) inflates man’s potential to close that chasm and c) diminishes the holiness of God by implying that such a thing is even possible. The Bible teaches there is nothing man can do to make a way to God, but because God so loved man He came to him instead!

Second, consider how God came to man. He came in a way that is so intimate and humble it is almost unthinkable. He came as an infant born to a young virgin in the most mundane of settings: a common stable. This is not a scenario that the mind of man would invent. It is God’s way.

Many religions view the physical world as intrinsically evil. For these religions, it would be an abomination to believe that a Holy Creator God would put on the flesh of a man and subject Himself to a sin filled, fallen creation.1 (We’ll consider this matter further in our next lesson.)

Even for those who can embrace the amazing method of God’s arrival, there is still something very odd about the manner in which He came. He came quietly, in obscurity. When a political candidate decides to run for election, he (or she) often hires a public relations firm to “represent” him. The goal is to create momentum for the campaign by creating as much visibility and public interest as possible. The same is true of an entertainer preparing to go on tour, or for a movie that is about to go into distribution. The press releases and the hype begin flying.

God’s promised Deliverer arrived with no fanfare or publicity. In an earthly sense, the audience for this event was small – just some shepherds and few barnyard animals. This is the event by which western civilization measures time (BC and AD),2 and yet it went unnoticed by most of the people of that time and place. In the spirit realm, however, a celestial audience of angels gave a heavenly ovation as the eternal God entered time and space in the flesh of a man! (Luke 2:13). Continue reading


2 Comments

The Source of Unshakable Hope

Knowing Him through His Story.
Lesson 40 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

In the Garden of Eden, God promised to send a Deliverer. Through Hebrew prophets, God gave hundreds of promises concerning this Deliverer, who would one day conquer Satan, sin and death forever. In the temple, the smoke from sacrifices ascended day after day, year after year, generation after generation, giving the Hebrew people a constant reminder of humankind’s need for the Deliverer. But when would He come? How would He come? By now, some must have wondered if He would come at all.

– The HOPE, Chapter 7

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Today’s lesson marks the midway point in the story of The HOPE. Thus far we have considered many Biblical truths and events. Just as God intended, this has set the stage for what is to come. Looking back we have dealt with:

  • Why the Bible can be trusted as God’s revelation to man (Lessons 3 and 4)
  • What the Bible says about God – Who He is and what He is like (Lesson 6)
  • What the Bible says about man – created in image of God but separated from God by sin (Lessons 9 and 10)
  • God’s purpose for man – to love God and to be loved by God (Lesson 13)
  • The nature of sin and its effect upon man and his relationship to God (Lessons 18 and 19)
  • What the Bible says about Satan and the war he wages against God and man (Lesson 14)
  • God’s promise to send a Deliverer Who will conquer Satan, sin, and death forever (Lesson 20)
  • How the nations of our world came to be (Lesson 25)
  • How God called out a man, Abraham, through whom He promised to bless all nations (Lesson 26)
  • How God’s promise was kept alive through Abraham’s descendants (Lesson 31)
  • How from Abraham’s descendants God formed the Hebrew people, through whom He would send the Deliverer and fulfill His promise to bless all nations (Lesson 32)

All of these events and truths are recorded in the first five books of the Bible. These five books (known by the Hebrew people as the Torah) were carefully compiled and painstakingly preserved prior to the time period covered in our current lesson (approximately 400 B.C. to 1 A.D.). See Lesson 3 to review Hebrew methods of guarding the accuracy of copies of the Bible. Continue reading


2 Comments

The Passover – Images of the Promised Deliverer

A picture of the promised Deliverer.
Lesson 34 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

“Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household…Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.’”

– Exodus 12:3, 5, 6

‘And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.’

– Exodus 12:13

Moses returned to Egypt. And with his brother, Aaron, Moses went before the Pharaoh. But the Pharaoh’s heart was hard toward the Hebrew people, and he refused to let them leave Egypt. So God sent a series of terrible plagues on Egypt. But none of the plagues touched the Hebrew people. After each plague, the Pharaoh still refused to let the people go. Then God commanded every Hebrew family to slay a lamb and place blood from the lamb over the door of their dwelling. And God sent death to every first–born in the land, except those who were in a dwelling with blood over the entrance. As with Adam and Eve in the garden, and Abraham and his son on the mountain, it was yet another picture of how a sacrificial substitute would someday deliver humankind from Satan, sin, and death.

– The HOPE, Chapter 6

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

As we see from the Bible verses and The HOPE excerpts above, Moses returned to Egypt to deliver his people. But the ruler of Egypt refused to let them go, even after God sent a series of plagues which should have caused him to realize that God Himself was behind Moses’ request. After nine plagues which brought diseases, insects, reptiles and various natural disasters to Egypt (without affecting the Hebrew people),1 God told Moses to institute something that is celebrated in part by the Hebrew people to this very day. It is known as the Passover.

Through Moses, God instructed the Hebrew families to take an unblemished lamb into their households and to care for it for four days. That sweet innocent lamb must have become like a member of the household! After four days they were to kill the lamb and prepare it for a meal. God gave them specific instructions for preparation of the lamb, and what they should eat with it. Every element of the Passover meal was rich with special meaning. Numerous books have been written on this subject. (See “For Further Study”).

God also instructed the Hebrew people to place blood from the lamb over the doors of their houses. God said that He would send death to every first born in the land, passing over those dwelling in any house with blood over the door. And everything came to pass, just as God said. Continue reading