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Who Knew? - 12/30/14 -Download PDF

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” (Hosea 4.6)

Knowledge is a powerful asset for anyone to own. Whether based upon pure truth or upon evil, it has its own ability to bless or to curse.

Nearly every item of information we personally own has come to us from some other person – a teacher, parent, or mentor for example. No one has a monopoly on every bit of information available to human beings nor can anyone, in his lifetime, personally explore every facet of our world – not to mention our universe.

We are told many things that we take for granted as indisputable facts which are neither proven nor provable. For example, I have been told by several people that no two snowflakes are identical. I am sure that information came from someone who lives in the North, because we southerners have limited experience with snow. Yet, it is difficult to believe that anyone has observed every snowflake that has ever fallen since the Creation of the world. After all, if anyone makes this claim they must have empirical data to back up such a claim. Those who have not seen every snowflake are simply making an assumption based upon a limited information base or upon pure speculation.

Early in our marriage, my wife and I came to terms on a difference of opinion concerning the spoilage of cheddar cheese. My in-laws had given us a rather large wedge of cheddar cheese, which, over time had become moldy on the outside. As my new wife picked up the three pound chunk of cheddar and aimed at the trash bin, I ran to the orange victim’s defense. She had been taught to throw out moldy cheese; I had been taught to trim off the mold and eat the rest. Who was right? Well, I always try to beat her to the chunk before she has a chance to toss the furry slab.

Over the years, I have become cynical when hearing “wisdom” concerning modern dietary trends. Are eggs good for you or bad for you? Can you control your cholesterol levels with diet? Is red meat healthful or harmful? Will you die if you drink a glass of milk from a container with an expired date?

Already you are thinking of answers and snappy come-backs to those questions, however, most probably your information is not from personal experimentation – it is from what you have been told by experts who learned the information from other experts.

Hosea’s indictment is against people who have a lack of knowledge – personal knowledge. The knowledge of which he speaks is a knowledge gained from personal study – trying and testing the information for its value and truth. It is knowledge of the Holy One gained from personal involvement with God – knowledge unknown, except through rumor, to the average church goers who gain their intelligence by gleaning orts and bits from the feast table prepared by a pastor or Sunday school teacher.

Paul cried out, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” (Philippians 3.19) Paul was not satisfied to know “about” Christ, he wanted to have a personal knowledge of Him. In the midst of physical agony and despair, Job avowed, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” (Job 19.25)

The believers of Berea wanted to know more of Christ and His power to save. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17.11) “More noble” suggests they were of a higher birth when applied in a secular fashion. Here, it suggests they were of a higher spirit, persons with greater desire to know and understand – someone who reaches out to be more like Christ – someone who reaches out to know more truth than mere human instruments are able to impart.

Only by getting our feet wet (we must wade into the water and become thoroughly soaked) in God’s Word will we be able to learn truth. Teachers and preachers are wonderful, but they are not the end-all answer to our learning. We must personally apply ourselves experimentally by learning and proving God’s Word for ourselves.

Never take a preacher’s word as inspired (even though it may be inspiring) until you have compared it to God’s written Word. Never stand firmly upon any fact until you can examine it against the real truth offered by God.

I would rather learn my truth from the One who has been here all the time and has existed throughout the ages, than to put the destiny of my eternal soul in the hands of an “expert” who heard it from someone else.

Rev. John H Hill

Perspective – Soar as Eagles - 12/24/14 -Download PDF

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40.31

One of the great problems Christians face today is one of perspective. Jesus said, “Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.” (John 8.23)

When I was young, my mother taught me the trick to finding small things lost on a flat surface, i.e. a floor. She told me that if I put my eye close to the floor and look across the flat surface, the lost object would be easier to see. Although she was accurate in her assessment, she failed to warn me that I would also see the dust bunnies hiding in the corners of the room. Being so close to the floor revealed many small things often overlooked from a standing position.

One day while deer hunting from a ground blind, I realized how my vision was limited. Every twig and branch became an obstacle to a clear view of the land around me – trees and brush needed to be cleared in order to see more than a few paths of opportunity. The vantage point was much better from several feet off the ground in a tree stand. From that vantage point, one day, I saw supper walking around – I took aim and fired. The deer leaped and took off (a common reaction to a well-placed shot).

Without paying much attention to exactly where the deer had been, I dismounted my stand and went looking for signs that my aim was true (from the ground things look much different than from a stand). Not finding any evidence of a hit, I returned to my stand and took a look with the proper perspective. While looking through my binoculars from the stand, I saw the reason for the lack of evidence when I was on the ground. From about sixty yards away, I missed the deer by about one inch – the evidence was buried in a tree trunk.

Back on the ground, after having gained a higher perspective, I could see deer tracks and put my finger on the bullet hole in the sweet gum tree. Had that stand been in my mother’s living room, we would have never seen the dust on the floor or any other trifling things that may have existed. Gaining altitude removes us from the petty and offers to us an enhanced ability to see things from a grander perspective.

During my college years I took a course entitled “Missionary Aviation.” The outcome of the course, if passed, was a single-engine, private pilot’s license. While the ground school required much mental effort, the actual flying of the small airplane was relaxing and rejuvenating. Getting away at 3,500 feet offered freedom from the stress of college studies and a different perspective of Chattanooga, TN, where we lived. On the ground, we could see that much of the city was less than clean – much was run-down and trashy. From the sky, it was a beautiful sight to behold – especially at night, when the city was aglow with her streetlights.

It is amazing when we realize that the higher we go, the less encumbered we are by living room dust. The higher we go, the more amazed we become with God’s beautiful creation – and with God Himself.

Although I have never been in space, I have seen pictures taken from great distances – even from the moon. It is amazing, indeed, to see the beautiful, blue earth enshrouded with a canopy of white clouds – beautiful indeed.

From high above the clouds, no marks of human existence are visible – no dust on the floor – no blemishes – only the glory of God. How wonderful it would be if we could maintain that spiritual perspective in our everyday activities! How wonderful to see things from God’s perspective – with eternity in view. All of the petty problems that encumber our days would fade into oblivion as we rise higher and higher spiritually on the wings of God’s blessing.

We must rise above floor level and even above flying level. We must rise spiritually with a view of life from God’s perspective. Is it possible that the more petty are our concerns, the lower to the ground we are?

Rev. John H Hill

Seeing the Vision - 12/17/14 -Download PDF

“And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves.” (Daniel 10.7)

Have you ever noticed people who really seem to be in a close relationship with God? Their conversation and attitude is so different that it is obvious to anyone around. It is not that they are snobby or aloof, they just seem to live on a different plane of existence – they actually walk with God.

Over the years, I have had the privilege of knowing some of these older spiritual giants – not television personalities or well-known outside their local sphere of life; but, spiritual giants just the same.

Upon taking my first position as pastor in North Carolina, I met such a man – Herman Matthews. A farmer all his life, it was obvious there was something different about this man. When entering into his presence, he exuded an air of wisdom that was not of this world – he had walked with God. When seeking godly counsel, this young preacher often went to this man for advice – it seemed natural since he had walked with God.

Another such individual with whom I was acquainted was my father – William Hill. Not known far outside of his home town and county, Dad was sought out by various churches to teach the Bible in the absence of pastors. It was not uncommon to see cars (or company trucks) parked in the driveway in the evenings – people with whom he had worked seeking his advice – Dad had walked with God. Although he was not an emotional person and never raised his voice in anger, when Dad spoke in his church people listened because Dad had walked with God.

The relationship these men had with God resulted not from seminary degrees – neither had more than a high school education. It resulted not from world-wide fame of television ministries – neither were world travelers unless you count time traveling for Uncle Sam during WWII. It resulted not from attending seminars or even church services – there are many professing Christians in the world who attend church regularly while living lives of sin and debauchery.

It seems that many today think they can be spiritual – having a relationship with God – by reading cute stories, quick devotionals, or slipping into church once a week if time permits. As a matter of fact, this relationship has very little to do with “adding” Jesus to your lifestyle.

I use the term “adding” intentionally because modern Christianity adds Jesus, God and church to an already cluttered calendar between tee time and Sunday afternoon football. It is as if they live their lives in any chosen fashion and throw Christ a tip at the beginning of the week hoping to have “good luck” as a result. They then wonder why their prayer life is anemic and their personal life is falling apart.

People who walk with God do not simply meet God at a corner café and become best of friends instantly. People who walk with God must, well, walk with God. The relationship takes time and effort. It takes putting other interests on the back burner and putting Christ first.

Our passage in Daniel 10 makes a distinction between Daniel’s experience and the experience of those who were in his company. Those in his company knew something spiritual had happened – they had felt the “vibrations” of a heavenly presence but understood nothing of the meaning. Daniel, because of proper preparation, not only heard and felt, but he experienced the divine presence of God.

Daniel’s secret is found in his earnest desire to know and understand God – to walk with Him. He was willing to sacrifice for the relationship. “I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” (Daniel 10.3)

Saints who successfully walk with God are those who have sacrificed much for that privilege. We must understand that these older saints did not become wise overnight – it took a lifetime of walking and talking with their Lord. We must understand that relationships are developed with more than a text and a tweet – personal one-on-one bonding is essential.

During my formative years, I do not remember my Dad ever attending a single one of my ball games. Although he played ball with us in the yard and took us to and picked us up from games, much of the time he was either working or studying God’s Word – he was walking with God. Looking back on it, I suppose I was disappointed at times; however, I would rather have a father who walked with God than one who knew how to throw a curve.

What some teach their children lasts for a lifetime – what a man of God teaches his children lasts for eternity.

Rev. John H Hill

Prayer and The Seventy Weeks - 12/10/14 -Download PDF

“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” Daniel 9.24

Daniel 9 is the foundational passage upon which many modern, premillennial scholars base their beliefs. Discussing the seventy weeks of Daniel’s prophecy is exciting to say the least – much speculation and conjecture has been proposed as to how these weeks fit into God’s overall plan for the world.

As I read these verses, my mind travels to a conversation I had with one of my daughters the other day. She asked me how some people could be so strict with “biblical” rules while ignoring others that are obvious. When I questioned her, the rule most often overlooked by fundamentalist Christians (in her opinion) concerns gluttony. How can someone who seems to obviously overlook that rule lay down the law to anyone one concerning his personal shortcoming? Granted, some have thyroid problems, but it seems unlikely that there is an epidemic of rebellious thyroids among preachers.

Fundamentalists will be quick to point out wrongs in hair styles on men quoting I Corinthians 11.14 where Paul points out that it is a shame for a man to have long hair only to completely pass over the next several verses requiring ladies to keep their hair long. A quick look around any congregation and the odds are that there are more short-haired women than long-haired men. Interestingly enough, these verses are in the same chapter dealing with proper attitudes when believers fellowship together during the Lord’s Table (Communion).

This is a matter pastors must deal with on a daily basis – not only in the lives of others, but in their own personal lives. The issue here is not to point out whether it is right or wrong to have long or short hair or to be obese or skinny. The point is that believers become too consumed with fixing others’ faults that they completely forget to consider their own.

Daniel 9 is a good example of this. Of the twenty-seven verses in this chapter, only four deal with the prophecy of the seventy weeks. Two verses are introductory and twenty-one verses deal with personal struggles in prayer between Daniel’s attempts at being right with God – confessing sin and seeking God’s will. How many times have we read this chapter only to miss the main theme – intercessory prayer and confession?

His attitude was one of intense desire to be in a right, submissive mind-set as he approached God. “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.” (Daniel 9.3) Sack cloth and ashes! But you say, “We don’t do that anymore!” Most do not fast anymore either, however, urgent prayer requires drastic means. If we are not truly broken over our sinful condition, there will never be change.

His spirit was one needing to come completely clean before the Holy God. “And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments.” (Daniel 9.4, 5) While enslaved by a second kingdom and at least a third king, Daniel did not pray for release from his captors; he prayed confessing his faults and sins. When a sinner (and we all are sinners, Romans 3.23) attempts to shift blame or accuse others (even a wicked government) for their predicament they will never find peace and spiritual satisfaction. While I cannot control what my government leaders do, I can control my relationship to God. It is very easy to point our finger at those in high places and blame them for the plight of the world; however, we find ourselves taking a more realistic stance when we hold ourselves accountable.

His confession includes his lack of listening to God’s messengers. “Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.” (Daniel 9.6) Herein lays the greatest problem – not properly applying God’s Word to our lives. While pointing our finger at others who wear the wrong hairstyle or do not fit in to the mold of a fundamentalist’s dress style, we maintain our forty inch waists and drive ninety miles per hour on the interstate.

Where does this leave us? According to Daniel, it leaves us confused (bosheth – “ashamed”). When we should be praying for our leaders, we are smearing them. When we should be confessing our personal sins, we are justifying them. When we should be drawing near to God with a good conscience, we are making the world and its philosophy our way of life.

The conclusion to which my daughter arrived was telling. Her response was, “It’s no wonder that people on the outside don’t want what we have on the inside.” Sad, but often true.

When considering your own personal way of life, do people on the outside really clamor to become like you?

Rev. John H Hill

Dreams and Visions - 12/2/14 -Download PDF

“And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man. And I heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.” Daniel 8.15, 16  

Much is being said these days about personal “experiences” in one’s Christian lives. After all, how can we argue with someone who has experienced a special dream or vision – especially when they are convinced it is directly from God’s throne to their heart.

So many false doctrines and subversive cults have been built upon an individual’s personal perception of what they believed as a result of something one person experienced. And, based upon that experience a charismatic leader is able to put together a strong network of other deluded people who will follow anything their leader suggests.  

Charles Manson, infamous for the Tate/LaBianca murders, used the Bible and a personal agenda to fuel his “family.” Believing himself to be the fifth angel of Revelation 9. 1, Manson considered himself to be the fulfillment of God’s prophecies concerning the end times. Further mistranslating Revelation 9.3, Manson taught that the locusts were in fact beetles and applied that verse to a popular singing group – The Beatles. Manson retired his family to the desert (where he believed the doorway to the abyss was located) and began building his “Bible-based” empire.  

He believed that when his group’s number reached 144,000, the door of the abyss would open and he would have command over who would enter and who would not.

“Perhaps most critically, was Manson's interpretation of verse 15: ‘And the four angels were loosed, that had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, that they should kill the third part of men.’  Manson saw verse 15 as a prophecy of the imminent Helter Skelter in which a revolt by blacks would result in a killing of one-third of the population.  Manson may have believed that he was setting this revolt in motion in August of 1969 when he loosed from Spahn ranch his Family members with instructions to kill.” *

Although far more radical than most people would ever experience, Manson believed his visions and based what he believed upon his personal interpretation of the Bible. A list of self-deluded individuals could go on for longer than we have time to discuss, however, as a believer in Christ we should be prepared to give a sound, reasonable and Bible-based answer for any position we take – whether we have had an experience or not. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (I Peter 3.15)

So, how do we know that the dream, vision, miracle, prophecy or any other experience is from God and not from a wrongly digested piece of pepperoni? Here are some easy tests to help validate your experience.  

1. God will not direct us to act against His revealed Word. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1.8, 9) For example, God will never direct a saved person to marry an unbeliever – never! (II Corinthians 6.14) If a personal experience leads you away from God’s Word, it cannot be a part of God’s revealed will and plan for your life.  

2. God will use His Word to verify His truth. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (I Thessalonians 5.21) Put your experience to the test – see if it is in line with the principles of God’s Word. Know His Word and use it in every situation of life – even when you are making a purchase. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119.11)

3. God will use faithful believers to give personal direction. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (I Corinthians 11.1) I find it amazing how many professing Christians go to the world for their advice. The young couple who are having marital problems would rather listen to a counselor who is either not married or who has been married multiple times than to listen to an aged, saintly couple who have celebrated many years of marriage together. Far too many young people obtain their philosophy from modern television shows or secular music than from God’s Word. Be sure to ask the advice (and interpretation) from a godly pastor, youth worker or Sunday school teacher – someone with experience in walking with the One who matters.

4. God will allow us to experience personal proofs. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3.10) Here, God invites the obedient believer to “prove” Him – notice, I said “obedient” believer. Before believing a vision is from God rather than a reaction to some pain medicine, be certain your spiritual life is in shape. It is not uncommon to find ourselves in difficult circumstances because we have wrongly interpreted situations in our lives to be proofs of God’s direction. The fact is that no one living outside of God’s will is able to properly interpret God’s “signs.” God may offer signs, but if they are written in heavenly language and the individual’s heart is selfish the signs will do more damage than good.  

Before believing any “sign” or “experience,” take a moment to verify its origin – is it from God?

* http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/manson/mansonrevelation.html

Rev. John H Hill

Thankfulness - 11/26/14 -Download PDF

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” Colossians 3.15

While thinking of a Thanksgiving meditation, my thoughts went to a secular song I had heard in my childhood days – “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep).” Written by Irving Berlin in 1954, this song was part of the original score for the well-known movie, “White Christmas.”

Interestingly enough, the song most remembered from the movie was the one which bore the same name even though “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” was nominated for an Academy Award as "Best Song." It was defeated in the vote by a more frivolously themed song entitled, “Three Coins in the Fountain.” It seems in the Academy that the concept of being thankful was shoved into a back shelf in lieu of a song about money and wishes.

“When I'm worried and I can't sleep I count my blessings instead of sheep And I fall asleep Counting my blessings.

“When my bankroll is getting small I think of when I had none at all And I fall asleep Counting my blessings.

“I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds.

“If you're worried and you can't sleep Just count your blessings instead of sheep And you'll fall asleep Counting your blessings.”

The lyrics are simple, yet poignant and the theme is not alien to biblical principle or the goodness of God. Maybe it was a spinoff from the well-known hymn, “Count Your Blessings” written by Johnson Oatman, Jr. in 1897. The chorus to his hymn follows:

“Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God hath done! Count your blessings, name them one by one, *Count your many blessings, see what God hath done. [*And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.]”

A few days ago someone approached me suggesting that our lives, families, government, and churches were filled with bad things – problems. Wanting to know my thoughts on the matter, I agreed that there was much about which to be concerned – even much about which to be alarmed. I also suggested to him that we have a choice – we can choose to either be frazzled by the world’s condition or be fascinated by the greatness of our God.

It seems Christians follow the Academy’s lead by preferring negativity over remembering blessings. When we focus on the bad, that is often all we see. When we focus on God’s blessings, we see with greater understanding that God is good – that He is faithful – and that He is in control. He is in control – even during difficult days.

We should never allow the current situations of life to overwhelm us, but should be ever reminded of God’s ability to bring about good according to His perfect will.

To the believer in Christ, God offers the following promise: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8.28)

Am I blind to problems – temptations and trials – in my life? No! But, by the grace of God I choose to focus on the good that God is doing rather than on the difficulties that threaten. This is, by the way, a commandment from God.

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5.18)

*Alternate ending

Rev. John H Hill

Bi-Vocational - 11/18/14 -Download PDF

“After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.” Acts 18.1-3

Some time ago a friend, who is in the ministry, asked me to write a devotional about bi-vocational servants of our Lord – those who supplement their income by having a job outside of the ministry.

As I considered it, my mind ran in various directions. At first, I felt a bit of sympathy for those who serve our Lord in a position that cannot sufficiently compensate them for their labors. Then, I wondered how I could properly comment on a subject of which I knew little by personal experience.

Weeks went by with this concept bouncing around in my head until I came to realize that I am bi-vocational – and have been for my entire ministry. From chopping wood to help the elderly to small engine and auto mechanics to cabinetry and furniture making, there have always been side jobs. The most recognizable avocation on my agenda is being a sports official.

As my mind shifted from vocational to bi-vocational, I began to think of all the biblical characters who were bi-vocational. David was a shepherd and songwriter. Amos was a gatherer of sycamore fruit. Peter was a fisherman. Luke was a doctor. Paul was a tentmaker.

Each of these servants of our Lord remembered well their roots when they went into proper religious service. David continued writing hymns of praise. Amos remembered who he was and used his pastoral experiences to lead his people. Peter never quite gave up his profession. Luke was referred to by Paul as the “beloved physician.” (Colossians 4.14) Paul used his profession as a common denominator that gave him a door into fellowship with Aquila and Priscilla.

The Lord also drew my attention to those with whom I have gained sweet fellowship over the years – high ranking FIFA soccer officials, basketball and football officials, and volleyball officials – officials of all stripes and from all walks of life – people many single vocation servants of the Lord have never and will never have opportunity to meet or reach with the Gospel.

More and more my cogitations moved me to realize that the bi-vocational servant is afforded far more opportunities to reach some of the unreachable than those who are “full-time” in the ministry. Due to my avocations, I have seen many come to know our Lord as personal Savior and several are a part of the church I pastor. These are all people who may have never become a part of the family of God had it not been for reaching out into the world rather than remaining cloistered in my safe religious world.

To some, becoming a “full-time” minister for Christ may seem the epitome of success; however, that sometimes stifles our ability to reach the world. It was Paul who said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (I Corinthians 9.22)

Believers are, essentially, all bi-vocational. We each have the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3.14) as our primary vocation – developing ourselves spiritually to conform to the image of Christ (Romans 8.29), and seeking His kingdom first (Matthew 6.33). Whether you are a pastor, coach, bricklayer or pipefitter your primary vocation is to please the One who called you into His family.

Any vocation or avocation becomes an opportunity to reach others for Christ. Whether it is through a paid position or volunteer service, we should use every opportunity and talent for the glory of Christ. (Matthew 28.19, 20)

Rev. John H Hill

The Ancient of Days - 11/11/14 -Download PDF

“I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.” Daniel 7.9

I remember my first presidential election – it was in 1976 and I was in college in Tennessee. Even then, at twenty years of age, I had figured out that each candidate would promote his own agenda while making less than flattering remarks about his opponent’s position.

Although I was born during the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, I have no recollection of him or of his legacy. Since my father served in WWII, he had a rather high opinion of this president – after all, Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander who helped bring an end to a costly war.

My first recollection of a president was of John F. Kennedy and that of his assassination. The day of his funeral, several of the elementary classes gathered together in the school library to watch the proceedings on television. Whether you liked him or not, tears flowed freely because we all felt vulnerable – and, we cared for his son and daughter who would grow up without a father.

I paid little attention to the next president, Lyndon B. Johnson. Most of what I knew of him was that he had big ears and his wife had a funny name – Lady Bird. Somehow the name did not seem fitting for the first lady of the greatest nation in the free world, but I suppose everyone should be allowed a quirk or two.

Then there was the scandal of Water Gate. At the time it seemed a great deal of hoopla because most everyone in Washington was spying on everyone else – so what was the big deal? Maybe Mr. Nixon spied on the wrong person or forgot to tip the hat lady. Whatever was the cause politics in Washington have never been quite the same.

Gerald Ford followed Nixon as the only president who was never elected to become vice president or president. His term in office was just about as exciting, and had it not been for the flare of his wife, Betty, he may have been forgotten altogether.

Jimmy Carter seemed honest enough and claimed to be a believer in Christ, but did not seem capable of getting past the minutia micro-managing and into the big picture items that could affect millions.

Then came Ronald Wilson Reagan – some suggested that he might be the anti-christ because there were six letters in each of his names. That and the fact that he was divorced and re-married certainly put him in the category of the demonic – not to mention the fact that he had spent much of his life as a Hollywood actor. He may be remembered for his ability to handle a hostile press as much as with his defiant stand against Mr. Gorbachev and the Berlin Wall.

George H. W. Bush is probably remembered more for his socks than for anything special he accomplished while in the White House.

And, of course, William Jefferson Clinton who redefined the word “is” and stole the hearts of millions of Americans with his suave appearance.

George W. Bush, with his Texan ways, for a time was able to calm a fearful nation following the most dastardly attack by a foreign enemy on U.S. soil.

Each of these presidents were unique – each were individuals with differing personalities and differing agenda. Policies were made and enforced only to be changed or overturned by a new president coming into office. Even though so varied, these presidents had several things in common.

First, they were all there as a direct act of God. When addressing Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel declared, “he {God} removeth kings, and setteth up kings.” (Daniel 2.21) Had God deemed otherwise, none of these men would have served in the capacity as a U.S. President.

Second, they were all human and prone to error. Regardless of criticism, each one had his own personal faults – none was perfect.

Third, they each deserved our prayer support. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (I Timothy 2.1, 2)

Finally, they all had a limited amount of time to accomplish their goals. At some point, and in some manner, their tenure as president ended. All things considered, we must conclude that when they left was a matter of God’s timing. Remember, God not only sets up kings, but He also removes them.

There is coming a future kingdom, after God has taken down all others, that will endure for all of eternity. It will be ruled by the Ancient of days – the One without beginning or ending – the One who is Creator of all – the One who is ultimately in control. This great God will establish His kingdom forever.

Whatever your political bent happens to be, remember that there is only One upon whom you may safely cast all your care – that One is “the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2.13)

Rev. John H Hill

Which Lion’s Den Are You In? - 11/5/14 -Download PDF

“Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.” Daniel 6.16

One of the wonderful memories I have of childhood is sitting on one arm of Dad’s chair with my brother sitting on the other arm listening with wide-eyed anticipation as our father told us the stories of Bible heroes.

My favorite was of David, son of Jesse, who was an ordinary boy empowered by God’s Spirit. He was the little guy who stood up to the giant – not in his own power – but in the power of the Almighty. The giant, Goliath, had instilled fear in the hearts of the heartiest warriors of Israel’s kingdom and even sent chills up the spine of King Saul. Even though King Saul was head and shoulders taller than any other man in Israel (I Samuel 9.2), he shrunk in fear when faced with this formidable foe.

David’s bravery came not from his prowess or from his training, it came from an unvarnished and untainted faith in God – that God was in charge and did not enjoy having His name defamed by the heathen.

Coming in at a close second to my favorite is this story found in Daniel 6. As my father related this story, he reminded us that Daniel was not Superman or any other superhuman hero – he was a simple man yielded to His God – the true God.

As his detractors (the unbelieving leadership of his country of residence) plotted to have Daniel removed from his position, Daniel held to his personal plan of devotions by praying to God three times a day despite the new law forbidding that practice. Knowing they could not find reason to accuse him for personal error (Daniel 6.5), they planned to trap him in his spiritual devotion. Since he was their political superior, they needed to work their plan in a most devious way not to implicate themselves.

Appealing to King Darius’ pride through feigned solidarity, the political leaders suggested he impose a thirty-day restriction requiring anyone who had a request to make that request only through the king. “Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.” (Daniel 6.6, 7)

This request would certainly be the end of Daniel – they knew he would not cease in his prayer life – and, he did not. He prayed as was his custom three times a day facing Jerusalem.

Of course, the spies were watching. One can almost hear their snickering as they make their way to the king to report their good news. Although reluctant, the king could do nothing to change the ruling because the law was written according to the mandates of the Medes and Persians – laws that could not be altered once enacted.

Before nightfall, Daniel was cast into the lions’ lair – a den filled with ravenous beasts clawing to get some fresh meat. Although Daniel was supposed to be the main course for the evening, God sent His angelic protection to stop the mouths of the lions. (Daniel 6.22) Since the king and the political leaders were each concerned for Daniel’s safety (although for different reasons), Daniel most probably had the most restful night of the lot.

Having been saved from the fury of the lions, Daniel again gave all praise and glory to God – Darius was convinced that there was no other God like Daniel’s God – and, the detractors were silenced.

While you may not face the fury of ferocious beasts for taking a stand for your Savior, you do face detractors – those who would laugh and scoff at your faith. The den of lions you face may not have blood-stained teeth, but they are just as real – they occupy the cubicle next to you or the dug-out across the field from you. They may be at the corner store or in the pew across the church. Whoever they are, the lions are real and their den is a place of destruction – they lay in wait at nearly every turn.

To be in the lion’s den alone is tragic; however, to be in the lion’s den with God’s attending angel offers restful solicitude. One of the most comforting thoughts a believer may entertain is that it is safer to be in the lion’s den in God’s will with God’s attending angel than to be in a walled and heavily protected fortress outside of God’s will.

Remember Belshazzar?

Rev. John H Hill

Awards That Mean Nothing - 10/28/14 -Download PDF

“Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.” Daniel 5.29, 30

The scene was a dismal one in which a ruler, Belshazzar, who had been handed everything was not satisfied with all he had. Enjoying his misplaced security and self-importance within his fortress walls, Belshazzar decided he needed to kick his revelry up a notch by bringing in the vessels of Jehovah which should have been properly placed within the Temple.

While he thought he was showing disdain to a conquered people, he did not understand the spiritual significance of his actions. By using these vessels, Belshazzar was spitting in the face of the Almighty. He thought he was looking past superstition by exalting the materials from which these vessels were made; however, in reality, he openly expressed his shallowness by exalting that which could do nothing to advance him from a worldly, self-absorbed understanding of life.

n his mind, he believed that he was the center of the universe, yet his universe revolved around his wealth, power, and influence. From that universe, he was shaken to the bone when the handwriting appeared on the wall warning him of his impending doom. Even then he had no change of heart – he awarded Daniel for the interpretation by putting a gold chain around his neck and promoting him.

“In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.” (Daniel 5.30, 31)

The reward offered to Daniel was meaningless because it came from a meaningless source.

Many people follow the way of Belshazzar – they chase awards and rewards that have little or no eternal value. The Bible declares that our first priority is to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. (Matthew 6.33) This is a kingdom of eternal value – a kingdom filled with eternal rewards – a kingdom worth seeking. You have heard the saying, “Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Although it has become trite over the years, it remains true – and we will all give an account of our aspirations in the presence of the One who died for us to save us.

Paul, the Apostle, asserts, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14.12) The word translated “account” is the Greek word “logos” indicating a personal representation. We will all stand before God and express our reasons for seeking fame and glory from the world rather than seeking first His kingdom. We will express our reasons for missing church and for not spending personal time alone with Him in His Word. We will express our reasons for our aspirations to achieve positions of glory in our earthly environment rather than seeking a closer, more personal walk with our Savior.

Many things we hold dear will be meaningless as we stand at the great bar of judgment. The earthly rewards will burn up in the flames of His countenance. “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.” (I Corinthians 3.12, 13) That which makes someone famous on earth has very little importance when placed before an eternal tribunal.

You may be remembered as the best shortstop to ever have played – you may be remembered as the best provider for your family that has ever existed – you may be remembered as the greatest mom or dad in your community. All of these are nothing if they are not done for the glory of God – they will be burned in His righteous fire.

When Daniel was offered marvelous gifts from Belshazzar’s kingdom, he chose rather to be true to His God – suffering earthly ridicule in order to gain eternal rewards. “Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation.” (Daniel 5.17)

When you stand before your Lord, will His verdict be, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting” (Daniel 5.27) or will it be “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”? (Matthew 25.21)

Rev. John H Hill

Last But Not Least - 10/22/14 -Download PDF

“But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream.” Daniel 4.8

One of the most amazing attributes I see in Daniel is his patience. It is not a normal patience, but one in which true patience operates.

The psalmist wrote, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40.1) The opening phrase may be literally translated as “I waited to wait.” Although a bit awkward, the phrase means, that while he was waiting he was patient - longsuffering - the opposite of impatient.

Daniel records several instances in which Nebuchadnezzar chose to listen to his untrustworthy advisers rather than Daniel. The reason why is a mystery because it seems the advisers were either wrong or impotent and Daniel was true and accurate.

Daniel’s ability to wait patiently was exacerbated by the fact that he was the chief ruler under Nebuchadnezzar - he should have been asked. He was a star. He should have privilege and place - He should have first row seating - He should be recognized for all of his accomplishments. Yet, he waited patiently.

While others were recognized for their position and family heritage, Daniel waited. While others gave bad advice, which led to more wrong decisions, Daniel waited. While the detractors were flaunting their position and influence, Daniel waited. While others filled their lives with parties and revelry, Daniel waited.

Learning to wait is a wonderful accomplishment - a step toward maturity. Impatience is the vice and tormenter of immature and self-centered people. It creates drama that the mature person handles with ease but derails the emotions of the immature.

The successful deer hunter has learned this well. Just because he sees a four-legged creature with brown hair and a short white tail is no reason to aim and pull the trigger. The patient deer hunter understands that the first one out of the woods may simply be walking ahead of a trophy buck.

The patient husband understands this as he waits for his family to join him in their automobile for a pleasant ride to church on Sunday morning. His joy and his delight are in knowing that they will all worship together and that the wait is well worth the reward. He is unlike the impatient husband who honks the horn and revs the motor in frustration while waiting.

That describes the psalmist’s attitude - “while I was waiting, I waited.”

Daniel knew the answers to the king’s problems rested squarely in the hands of the Almighty. He knew, with confidence, that God would give answer in His time and that God would use whichever method or person He so chose for the task.

Daniel was content to be used or not - to be called on or not - to be recognized early or late. All of this was in God’s hands.

The mature believer never needs to push his way into the fray - that only frustrates the situation. The mature believer understands that God’s way is perfect. Yet, he also understands that he needs to be ready when God calls. Too often, a believer removes himself from a godly solution because he is pouting over not having been appointed to the starting team.

Are you waiting patiently for God or just biding time? Understanding that God is in complete control allows us the leisure to rest in God and His will knowing He will call us up when it is His time.

Rev. John H Hill

Duplicity - 10/13/14 -Download PDF

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” Daniel 3.16-18

A wise man once said, “If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.” Wedding that thought with a person who has little moral rectitude and less integrity results in a disaster waiting to happen. One of our presidents from the early twentieth century quipped, “I’m looking for a one-armed secretary because I’m so tired of hearing someone say, ‘on the one hand this, and one the other hand that.’”

Where may we find a person who stands on principle rather than polls? Where may we find a friend who will stand us through the fire rather than run for cover? Where may we find a counselor who will tell us the truth rather than philosophy from a jaded textbook based upon the whims of another who cannot answer the questions for himself? Where may we find an honest person, who will look at himself in the mirror of truth and make a candid evaluation of himself?

I became a pastor at the age of twenty-four (way too young) and knew I had much to learn. Coming in just over the age of some of the teens in the youth department, I realized that nearly every adult was older than I - much older. All of our deacons were older men for whom I had a great amount of respect and still do; however, I learned early why they often did not want to make quick decisions during deacons’ meeting. They would rather have a month to think things over before committing to a decision.

It seemed that the business of the deacons’ meetings would be taken home and the deacons’ wives would, shall we say, “encourage discussion” with their husbands over the pertinent topics of church business being considered. At first the deacons’ wives would call my wife to get the scoop only to realize that I never discussed deacons’ business at home until the deacons and I had a chance to come to a consensus.

I found it a bit troubling to come to the meeting the next month only to find that the men had completely changed their minds and the direction we were headed then, after having a month to think about it, was all wrong.

As a young pastor, I learned many valuable lessons - one of which is that a wife has tremendous sway over her husband and that if the ladies of the church are happy the whole church is happy. Many other valuable lessons have been gleaned from this over the years, but that must be saved for another discussion.

Nebuchadnezzar had just made a powerful statement about Daniel’s God in Daniel 2.47. “Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret." In the next chapter, he denied his admission by building a personal edifice to his own greatness - a golden statue that stood ninety feet tall - to which, he required obedience and worship. This requirement came on the heels of his declaration that God is a God of gods.

Obversely associated with Nebuchadnezzar were three Hebrew youths who knew the foundation upon which they stood - they had no problem identifying idolatry and wickedness because they held tightly the truth delivered to them by God. They knew what they believed and would stick to it no matter the consequences.

They understood that it was not just wrong to worship other gods in their home land of Israel, it was also wrong to worship other gods when they were away from home. The circumstances, environment, culture, and legal requirements made no difference in their determination to do that which pleased their God. If it was wrong yesterday, then it is wrong today and it will still be wrong tomorrow. It does not matter whether a teacher at school, a preacher, or psychologist claims otherwise - if it is wrong, it is wrong - if it is right, it is right.

Even though doing the right thing may not be the most economical path or the most popular path, it will be the most blessed path. When pressed to make a decision, these three young men were not careful (“did not find it necessary”) to answer the king. Whether God saved them or not - whether God would send a miracle or not - they would not deviate from what they knew to be God’s will for their lives.

How blessed we would be to have friends, religious leaders, politicians and others in places of leadership who would stand upon principle rather than change with the prevailing winds of the times.

How blessed would be our friends, families and co-workers if we would make such a commitment to truth and right and maintain consistency in our lives.

Rev. John H Hill

King of the World - 10/7/14 -Download PDF

“And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.” Daniel 2.1

It was during his second year as king of the world that Nebuchadnezzar dreamed some disturbing dreams. While some believe that Nebuchadnezzar could not recall his dreams, he at least remembered enough to know he did not like what he saw.

Having all the choicest psychologists, counselors, stargazers, and conjurers at his disposal, he called together all who fit a worldly system of thought - hoping they would give him answers to his quandaries. After finding them all incompetent and issuing an order of execution, Daniel comes on the scene. Daniel convinced the king’s henchman to give him audience with the king and the king agreed to give Daniel time to pray and seek God’s guidance in the matter.

God answered by giving to Daniel both the contents of the dream and its interpretation. After giving God all the praise and glory for his discovery, Daniel began by disclosing that the head of gold on the statue represented Nebuchadnezzar - the king of the world. While the thought of being king of the world should have been elation enough to satisfy the most arrogant of kings, it seems he could not live with the fact that his would not be an eternal kingdom.

Daniel’s interpretation showed that although glorious and magnificent, Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom would be of a short duration ended by an invading force - the Medes and the Persians.

Nebuchadnezzar was true to his word when he promised to reward anyone who could decipher his dreams and he lavished possessions and position on Daniel and his friends.

He came short, however, of fully accepting God’s Word and Will. Being king of the world (of whatever world you are in) brings great responsibilities. Moreover, in a sense, each of us is king of some “world.” That world may be your workplace, your home, your room, or your collection of baseball cards, but we all have a world over which we command great influence.

Nebuchadnezzar’s desire to control his world led him to erect a ninety-foot statue made of gold in an attempt to establish his personal empire and circumvent God’s revealed will. (Daniel 3.1) He attempted to force all his subjects to worship it in hopes of lengthening his dominion. (Daniel 3.4-6) Because of his extreme egoism, God brought him low - so low he lost his mind for seven years. This was also revealed to him in a dream by God and interpreted by Daniel. (Daniel 4)

Nebuchadnezzar ultimately lost this kingdom, but the greater loss was one God has specifically placed in his care - Belshazzar, his son. Had Nebuchadnezzar been as intent on rearing his son (a great part of his world) with the knowledge and experiences God had blessed him with, how different would have been the outcome!

Nebuchadnezzar was one of the greatest pagan kings of all times - one to whom God showed special attention and concern - one to whom God revealed more of His will than to any other non-Hebrew monarch. Nebuchadnezzar, however, chose the world over God’s will. He chose that which was large over that which was important. He chose to advance himself rather than submitting himself to God’s plan.

Mark quotes Jesus as saying, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8.36) It is not a great stretch to suggest that this could easily apply to our God-given responsibilities to the world over which He has given us to rule.

When Paul wrote of our need to be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, he completed that thought by suggesting each of us find our personal “world” and work in it as would be pleasing to our God who has entrusted us with that responsibility. “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12.3)

Find in your life that world God has given to you and make it pleasing in God’s sight - with neither arrogance nor selfishness. Make it pleasing to God.

Rev. John H Hill

The Value of a Name - 9/30/14 -Download PDF

“Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation.” Daniel 2.16

One of the great advancements toward gaining maturity as an individual is in learning which voices we should heed and how to best communicate our thoughts to others.

As a sports official, I hear a variety of comments from crowds, players and coaches (sometimes from my own family members). There is an art to understanding the voices that become loud in the heat of a game and an art to interpreting what is being said.

From an official’s perspective, there are those whom we pay no attention to - they obviously do not know the spirit or the letter of the rules. Some of this results from fans and coaches who watch Saturday (college) football expecting the rules to be the same on Friday night (high school). When a fan yells about a discrepancy between the rules and their understanding, we ignore them - nothing can be gained when an official gets into a verbal confrontation with a fan - most of them who yell are emotional and void of rational thought.

Coaches make up a distinct class of people - after all, they are in charge of their teams and should be given proper respect. Most of the coaches I serve are high on my list of respected people. I admire their commitment to the young people they teach; however, there are some who cause one to wonder why they do what they do - they seem so unhappy.

A few years ago during a football game with a particularly vocal coach, the coach called a timeout in order to have a coach-referee conference. Those conferences are designed to help the officials right a wrong application of a rule. This coach did not understand that and began berating our crew of officials to me before the timeout was officially underway. I asked him, “Coach, are you wanting to discuss a misapplication of a rule or are you wanting to vent?” His response was obviously not one of reconciliation but of argumentation - the timeout was over and our crew went about our business of officiating the game.

Some coaches yell the entire game thinking they are helping their team when in reality they are being ignored or endured.

On the other side are the ones who really want the best for their players and the game. They ask questions that are valid and in a manner conducive to reasonable responses. When they say something, we listen because we know they are not simply making a noise. When they become emotionally charged, we must assume that something big happened and we missed it.

Nebuchadnezzar had heard his wise men and magicians tell so many tales and spin so many yarns that he had reached the end of his patience. His edict sent forth order these men to either tell him the meaning of his dream and be rewarded or show their inability and be destroyed. Their many words and learned arguments brought no solution to their problem - they were condemned.

As the king’s henchman was going out to execute these false Masters, he met Daniel along the way. (Daniel 2.14) After Arioch explained the situation to Daniel, Daniel went to the king and asked for time. What Nebuchadnezzar had refused to give to all the wise men of the nation, he gave freely to Daniel. Daniel’s voice was one the king valued. His was a voice that carried weight because he stayed away from deceit, raging emotionalism, accusations, and other forms of verbal manipulations. Daniel was straightforward and consistent.

Consider this - when trials and testings come are you one whom people gravitate toward or away from? Do you find that people to whom you are speaking drift off and fade away rather than pay close attention? When you are in a conversation, do you find that everyone except for you stops talking?

Maybe it is time to reconsider the value of your conversation. “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4.6)

Rev. John H Hill

When God Gives Up - 9/23/14 -Download PDF

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.” Daniel 1.1, 2

Of course, we understand that God never gives up. That would suggest defeat and He is not a loser. Giving up would indicate giving over rather than giving up - a concept often exhibited in Scripture.

This concept may be understood by the old adage, “Give someone a long enough rope and sooner or later he will hang himself with it.” When our actions and attitudes go so awry that we are no longer conscious of being convicted of sin and error, we are standing on dangerous grounds. The Apostle Paul offers, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” (Romans 1.28)

What a frightening concept - to be given over to our own lusts and desires - to a reprobate mind (“unapproved, unaccepted - one not standing the test”). Paul further suggests that this type of mindset will place us squarely outside of God’s blessing and into the spiritually unprotected realm of the world. “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (I Corinthians 9.27) Notice that Paul cannot separate the physical from the spiritual - he cannot do wrong in his body without having it affect his spirit. Being a castaway, (same Greek word translated “reprobate” in Romans 1.28) means to be rejected as worthless literally and morally.

Living the modern lifestyle of free love and sexual experimentation does not now, nor never has fit into God’s design for His creation. The author of Hebrews emphatically states, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13.4) For those living within the bounds of marriage, the sexual relationship is a beautiful thing. For those exercising their sexual “liberties” outside the bounds of marriage, the relationship is clearly against God’s Word and to justify it shows the mind has lost its ability to make spiritually sound decisions.

Anytime we step outside of the prescribed teachings of God’s Word, we are endangered of losing our shield of protection. “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” (Proverbs 30.5) Not only is it terrifying to have God’s hand of protection removed from our lives it is a more fearful state to fall into the hands of the living God for His correction. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10.31)

To think that you do not matter in the general affairs of society, remember that most positive changes have either been started by or accomplished by a single individual. And, the downfall of nations can be traced to the willful neglect of individuals who believed their liberties outweighed their duties.

The nation of Israel fell to the Philistines due to the wickedness of Eli’s sons. (I Samuel 4) Because Achan did not heed God’s warning, Israel lost an easy battle. (Joshua 7.1) Please notice in Joshua’s account that the nation was held accountable for one man’s sin.

Because of Israel’s sin against God - especially that of her leadership - the ungodly king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, took Israel’s king, her people, and her treasures. For many years, the world’s powers controlled the destiny of Israel. Israel was stripped of her dignity and freedom to worship as God required. Because of her waywardness, Israel had stretched the rope of God’s mercy to its full length and had become suspended upon the noose of their own creation.

There is good news. God never leaves His people without a witness - there was Daniel and his three friends who refused to eat of the king’s meat and refused to be assimilated into the fabric of the world’s system. Because they took a stand, Israel had hope - a hope that reached well beyond their national borders and has blessed a new generation of people called “the Body of Christ.”

His message is so clear and poignant that liberals have a difficult time believing he actually wrote it. His clarity is the result of a close walk with God - a walk of personal separation to God and from the world.

God is still looking for those who will put the world behind and follow Him. He is waiting to bless. His blessing comes when we turn back to Him.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7.14)

Rev. John H Hill

With Purpose - 9/16/14 -Download PDF

“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” (Daniel 1.8)

I am often amazed by the godly character and determination exhibited by Daniel and his three friends. We know Daniel (“God is my judge”) by his given, Hebrew, name most probably because he wrote the book bearing it.

After having been taken to Babylon, Daniel and his three friends were renamed. Among other things, this was an attempt by the captors to help the new trainees begin a new identity void of their previous devotion and loyalties. Daniel became Belteshazzar meaning “one who lays up treasure in secret.” With this new name he would be reminded every day that his new treasure was a result of “Bel” and not “El.” (You can see these designations for God in his two names.)

Along with Daniel were Hananiah (“God has favored”), Azariah (“Jehovah has helped”), and Mishael (“who is like God”). Hananiah was renamed Shadrach meaning, “the great scribe.” Azariah was renamed Abednego meaning, “servant of Nebo” (the god of enlightenment). And, Mishael was renamed Meshach meaning, “one who controls.”

Making an attempt not to bore you with a bunch of facts, the renaming of these teenagers exalted the Babylonian gods and the young men’s several abilities and characteristics. After settling into their new place, Ashpenaz, chief of the king’s eunuchs, gave them new names derived from his impression of them as he inspected his new wards.

They were, in fact, very handsome young men with exceptional minds and abilities. These were the most outstanding from the royal families of the Jews - the choice of the people. They were away from home - in a strange country - among a strange people - in a possibly hostile situation - apart from their royal luxuries and given new names being expected to forget their past - their heritage.

Amid this environment, Daniel made a decision - he purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s “meat” (“delicacies”). He was offered the finest of cuisine served by the most proficient servants. He was moved from one palace to another, yet, he purposed to stay away from foods that would identify him with the palace in Babylon.

He purposed - made a decision.

Many Christians today make decisions and purpose in their hearts concerning certain activities or indulgences, while having no real understanding of what brought on the crisis. Ignorance is not a reason for sticking to doing things because “That’s the way we have always done it,” and “My way or the highway” has never been an acceptable Christian philosophy.

The young men were more than smart - they were students who enjoyed learning. “Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.” (Daniel 1.4)

They did not purpose in their hearts because that was the way they were brought up, or because their parents had told them to do it. They did not purpose in their hearts because they were spoiled kids who were rebellious. They did not purpose in their hearts because everybody else was doing it.

They purposed in their hearts because of the Word of God and the Person of God Who was real in their lives. These teenagers had studied to show themselves approved unto God. (II Timothy 2.15) Their walk with God was far more important to them than riches, position or power offered to them by a foreign king. Do not forget; their walk was an educated and knowledgeable walk - one not based upon fantasy or things handed down - but founded securely upon their personal inspection of God’s Word.

We are surrounded these days by voices who cry out saying they are acting upon a word from God. Before you follow anyone or make a decision to support one of these voices, do your homework. Compare them to the written Word of God. Never hold your ground just so you can say you held your ground - base your life upon a real understanding of the true God.

One last thought - many today believe spirituality is based upon our ability to irritate those who oppose us. Had Daniel maintained a similar attitude, he never would have found favor in the sight of his masters and never would have had the opportunity to preach truth to at least four heathen kings.

Rev. John H Hill

Pampered - 9/9/14 -Download PDF

“For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” Malachi 4.1, 2

As the Old Testament comes to a close, Malachi offers a poignant message to all to hear - really hear what God is saying. There is a distinction between two classes of people - the saved and the lost - those who have complete trust in Christ for salvation and those who do not.

When passing someone on the street or in a shop, you may not readily be able to discern whether that person is a child of God or not. I suppose it would be nice to have a special nametag so we could identify each other in the world. After all, the Bible says that one of the proofs of our salvation is seen in our love for other believers. (I John 3.14) Life would be a lot easier if we could identify all those believers out there so we could be nice to them.

However, that may be the point. If we cannot identify all the believers, maybe we should be “…kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4.32) How was it that Christ treated us? Did He wait for us to improve our selves before He would consider us worthy of His attention? Did He wait until we became a church member or took the sacraments before He would look in our direction? Did He wait until we had on proper clothing and had the right smell before He would consider us?

The truth is that, “…God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5.8) Did you catch that? While we were sinners - before we had cleaned ourselves up, and before we had joined a church Christ died for us - to save us from eternal damnation. That was the result of God’s commending (“to combine or place together”) His love toward (“in the direction of”) us.

For any believer to look on another individual and sense anything but compassion for their eternal destiny is to fall short of God’s intended purpose for our lives. The Bible says, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5.6) While we should condemn the sin, along with its results, we must be quicker to love the sinner - loving them as much as we love our own comfort.

There is a great day of separation coming - a day when those who reject the pleadings of a loving God are turned into eternal punishment and those who accept the love of God are forever blessed. The last words of Malachi before a period of 400 years of absolute divine silence emphasize the distinction between these two groups - that some are destined for eternal torment and others for eternal bliss.

The first group falls into Malachi 4.1, “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” The great Day of the Lord is coming - it is even at the doors. (Matthew 24.33; Mark 13.29) Be ready! Commit to Christ! Those who reject are without excuse.

The second group falls into Malachi 4.2, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” In these present times, we often suffer criticism, heartache and rebuke. Others are often unkind and harsh (sometimes even fellow believers who should know better and treat us better).

That Great Day of the Lord will be different for those who love the Lord and fear His name - it will be a time of great rejoicing and healing. How tragic it would be for us to serve our Lord here on earth only to find that we must spend eternity with the broken bones and fractured personalities! God would never allow that to happen. He sent His Son to pay the price for our sins and to secure for us an eternal home of bliss. The healing comes swiftly (“in his wings”) and puts us in a special place of comfort and blessing (“calves of the stall” - speaking of those who are nursed and cared for - pampered).

Next time you are tempted to treat another with scorn or contempt, remember that this life is temporary. In the Day of the Lord, those who love Christ will receive complete healing and satisfaction. With that in mind, we should live our lives as unto Christ - looking for that great and wonderful day when He shall settle all accounts and bring all His redeemed home.

Rev. John H Hill

God’s Jewels - 9/2/14 -Download PDF

“Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” (Malachi 3.16, 17)

Over the years, I have accumulated several awards - mostly plaques - from various venues including ones for our short-lived and small Christian school, to recognitions in officiating sports and even some from churches I have served. My diplomas, along with many of these awards, are displayed either on a wall in my study or in a pile somewhere since I have run out of wall space.

Each one has special significance and I treasure them; however, those from long ago are mere memories that may have been forgotten except for the reminder on the wall (or in the pile). Somewhere in a drawer (or two), I also have certificates of accomplishment including small engine repair, locksmithing, constable training, and concussion recognition.

While I retain much of the knowledge learned as I went through the various training, the excitement on the day of completion and receiving the award has long since died. It is amazing how excited we can be over various accomplishments and how quickly the excitement fades.

In order to accomplish any goal, several concepts must be in place. First, there must be a desire to obtain the stated objective. It is hard to imagine anyone going after a goal without first desiring to have it. Of course, there are some awards that come as a surprise; however, without desire most attempts slip into oblivion.

Next, there must be some fear of failure. This is not a bad fear - it is the fear that drives us to study harder - to do one more push up - to read one more paragraph - to run one more mile. It is that fear that causes us to think more of the possibility of failure than of the labors of success.

Finally, there must be a determination to finish the course. To see the end result prior to arrival is a key to finishing. We must be able to see beyond the moment and grasp a glimpse of the light at the end of our personal tunnel.

At the end of our lives, not everyone will receive a trophy for “participation.” Daniel reminds us that, “…many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12.2) In other words, some will not receive the Crown of Life - it is reserved only for those who trust in Christ as Savior. (James 1.12; Revelation 2.10 - Each of these verses is prefaced by requiring that the individuals be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.)

While the way to salvation in Christ Jesus is a simple thing, the road is not easy. Trials beset and often nearly overwhelm us with their ferocity. The way to overcome is continually to keep our eyes on Jesus. (Hebrews 12.2) Furthermore, the way that we accomplish that is to speak often of our Lord and His goodness - His tender loving kindness - His mercy and His grace. How much stronger would be our fellowship if we based it upon speaking of Him rather than speaking of the latest Dow Jones average or the most recent scores on the gridiron?

We so often are drawn to others who share our personal interests. It seems from the above reference, that rule applies to our God, too. God draws His jewels from a common pool of individuals - from those who fellowship together - from those who fear Him and think about Him often.

Remember that the awards of this life last for a lifetime, but the rewards from God last for eternity. The jewels who enjoy fellowship with Him are recorded in His book of Remembrance - never to be forgotten and never to grow old - never to be overlooked and never to be placed in a pile.

Rev. John H Hill

For the Priests - 8/26/14 -Download PDF

“And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.” Malachi 2.1, 2

One of the great blessings offered to the believer by Christ is that the believer becomes a part of a royal priesthood. Peter writes about it in his first epistle, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (I Peter 2.9)

To be able to personally enter into the holy of holies and meet our Savior individually could only be bettered by our future relationship when we become heirs together with Him. What a thrill to know that we, every believer, has this personal privilege!

Of course Jesus is the Great High priest; however, we are encouraged “…therefore {to} come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4.16) The believer needs not to go to any other in order to pray - he has the opportunity to go immediately to his Savior’s side for help. He needs no order of priests or lectionary readings to get him through life’s challenging moments.

As a pastor, I am often called to the bedside of an ailing or dying loved-one to offer up my petition before the Lord. While I can enter into that chamber of prayer with the family and friends, there is no greater, more passionate prayer I could give than that of a heart-torn mother or grieving father. The cry of a nearly hysterical Daddy who is holding his sick baby will more quickly attract the attention of a waiting-room attendant than the appeal of a friend who is along for moral support.

Becoming our own personal priest through the blood of Christ is, however, far more than a right to pray for our own needs. With it comes a great responsibility - the responsibility to hear what our Savior says to us and to obey His commands.

Malachi offers several commandments concerning our relationship as priests. First, he says we must hear the commandment. At times, my wife will come to me to remind me of something I have promised her I would do. And, some of those times I really do not remember making any kind of a commitment - usually, I simply do not remember the conversation. There are times, I am sure, she thinks she has told me and thinks I have responded positively; however, the information never sank into my brain. While I would like to cast blame upon her lack of communicative skills, the real blame generally lies with me. After all the words have been said, I have not heard.

One preacher suggested that the average believer does not need to know more of God’s Word until we begin to take heed to the part we already know. How much better, for example, would life be within the Christian community if we really heard the second great commandment? “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22.39b)

The second requirement for priests is that we make God’s commandments a matter of our heart. Although the Hebrew word for “heart” and the Greek word for “heart” speak of two different body parts, each is suggestive of the passions of the inner man. Suppose we took God’s commandments and passionately followed them rather than bemoaning the fact that He requires anything of us at all.

To catch a sermon between the ninth and tenth holes during a round of golf or pausing long enough from a shopping trip to hop into a church building to hear a concert and listen to a sermon does not seem to meet the above requirements - “if ye will not lay it to heart.” Laying it into our hearts means that it has become a part of who we are - it has changed us from the inside out.

The purpose is that in everything we do, we should bring glory to the name (reputation) of our God. The lives of believers should point to the awesomeness of the One who saved us. Our lives should set us apart as children of the King of kings - the God of all gods - the Lord of all lords.

Candid enough is the injunction that if we do not properly fulfill our duties as priests, our yea will not be yea and our nay will not be nay. Our words of wisdom will not be profitable and our words of caution will not be effective.

Let me encourage you to get into the Word for yourself - read it - memorize it - make it a part of your life. It is then that God’s Word becomes alive and vibrant. It is then that you, as a priest, are able to help others along their path to knowing God.

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10.17)

Rev. John H Hill

Childlike or Childish - 8/19/14 -Download PDF

“I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?” Malachi 1.2a

One of the greatest times parents experience is when their children mature to a level when they know - really, and personally know - how much you have sacrificed to make things better for them.

There are those wonderful times as your child grows up when she begins to amaze you with her perceptions - when she first looks up and recognizes your face, you pick her up and she nestles into your shoulder. That is the childlike nature that causes her to feel safe and secure - she falls asleep without caring where she is, where she is going or how long she will be gone. Her only concern is that her head is resting on Daddy’s shoulder and she is supported by his arms. In that moment, daughter and Daddy experience a silent but memorable moment of love and trust.

As age begins to creep on and she becomes a toddler, she begins to explore the world. She wants to be free from her Daddy’s hand so she may roam unencumbered by his grip; however, whenever startled or unsettled she will flee back to the safety of his side. As she clamps a firm grip on Daddy’s leg, she looks up into his eyes - he can see her adoration and confirmation of his love in her countenance. In that moment, daughter and Daddy experience a silent but memorable moment of love and trust.

She is now old enough to move out of the house during the day and attend kindergarten. While Daddy tries to keep back the tears as his baby is spreading her wings, she steps out of the car and takes hold of the hand that will teach and protect her during her learning experience. Daddy says a quiet prayer for his little girl as she turns his way for one final look of assurance before committing herself to the strange building filled with unknown people. In that glance, daughter and Daddy experience a silent but memorable moment of love and trust.

Relationships grow throughout the school years - girlfriends and boyfriends (sometimes friend-boys if nothing is official), teammates and coaches, upperclassmen and lowerclassmen - all of the varied experiences are necessary to growth and maturity. Much of this is vital to the ultimate severing of the cords that unleashes this precious baby into the real world - so much Daddy must teach - so many things Daddy must endure through the maturation process of his baby. With these experiences, daughter and Daddy begin a more mature relationship that takes more than a simple look or a hug - this must involve understanding, and the understanding affords the needed love and trust.

She begins to look more to her friends and counselors for input and begins to widen her circle of relationships - all the while Daddy is still paying the bills and providing a comfortable home for the family.

Never before had she noticed that the boy down the street lived in a fancier house and the girl across town rode in a more expensive car - until now. Never before had she questioned bedtime or curfew requirements. It seems, that overnight the precious little darling has turned into a suspicious alien you have never met. Not only does she question the rules but also questions your motives. As you begin to explain your concerns and that you are acting out of love, she shoots back with, “How have you loved me? You don’t trust me, or you would let me go!”

The more you try to explain, the worse the situation becomes. Your love, as seen by your child, is now restrictive rather than protective. Your arms are no longer a safe haven, but talons with which to ensnare her and tear away her liberty. As you explain all the things you have done, all the stuff you have purchased, all the time you have spent on her, and all the miles you have driven on her behalf she turns a deaf ear as if none of that expressed any type of parental love.

At what point may we conclude that the childlike faith and love of this precious creature has turned into childishness? It occurs at about the same time Christians begin to lose sight of all the benefits our Savior offers to each of us freely. It begins when we lose sight of our utter dependence upon Him for our satisfaction and fulfillment - when we become deluded into believing we can somehow manufacture peace and contentment without His help.

When we take for granted all the wonders of our Savior’s love, we may be inclined to react in a childish manner and say, “Wherein have you loved me?” When we consider all the blessings God has given to us, we will be inclined to react in a childlike manner and say, “Look at all the marvelous ways God has shown His love to me!”

Rev. John H Hill

Is God Pleased? - 8/12/14 -Download PDF

“Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.” Haggai 2.13, 14

In an attempt to make a point, Haggai refers to the Law of God. His question concerns separation of the holy from the unholy - the clean from the unclean - the sacred from the profane.

The illustration and contrast is simple. In the first case, Haggai asks the question, “If a priest who is carrying ‘holy flesh’ touches something that is unclean, does it make the unclean item clean?” The answer is, “No!” On the other hand, if something that is unclean touches something that is clean, will it defile that which is clean? The answer is, “Yes!”

In other words, if you have a glass of distilled water and introduce a toxic substance, the entire solution would become toxic. By simply adding more distilled water, the toxicity would not be removed. It may be weakened, but would still be present.

By application, Haggai was trying to have the priests understand that the purity of God’s Word could never be mixed with ideas and philosophies of the world and retain its desired effect - it would become altogether impure.

Pure is one of those absolutes that cannot be made better. For example, one does not use the terms “more pure” or “most pure” because no comparison can be made to purity. We would properly say, “more nearly pure” or “most nearly pure.” The same terminology (when properly used) applies to the word “clean.” Something is either clean or it is not - it cannot be cleaner than something else.

When pertaining to God’s Word, His Word is pure and clean. When applying God’s Word to our lives, we must do so in a clean and pure fashion if it is to bring about the desired result.“The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19.9)

Mixing the pure Word of God with worldly philosophies contaminates the entire mixture.

To what extent, then, does a believer become involved in the world? Jesus answered that question long ago,“If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15.19)The application of this truth is that while we are in the world, we are not of the world. Our lives should portray a very clear depiction of our spiritual nationality.

The “when in Rome do as the Romans do” concept is not acceptable for the believer who has committed his way unto the Lord. There can be no compromise of belief when applying God’s Word it is either true and clean or it is not. Going into a bar to rescue a friend is a far cry from going into a bar in order to mingle.II Corinthians 6.17is still in the Book,“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”

We cannot be clean and pure while living comfortably with the world. Furthermore, whatever work we accomplish while in association with the world is unclean and impure.

The good news is that a purifying agent may be introduced into the mix to clean up the mess. God’s answer is to allow Jesus to wash us thoroughly - bringing a new “clean” to the mixture - a purified water that is without taint. Only Christ can do that.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (I John 1.7)

Rev. John H Hill

Consider Your Ways - 8/6/14 -Download PDF

“Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled {sic} houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.” Haggai 1.3-7

We live in a most unusual age. It is an age in which people find themselves having to be constantly entertained. Very few seem to enjoy the quiet of being alone in a solitary place.

Over the years I have seen changes in several venues - especially at sports events. While the National Federation rules prohibit music and other “noises” when a ball is live, there are opportunities for a quick-handed sound technician to blast a two-second burst of some song between pitches at softball games or fill a timeout during a basketball game.

While awaiting the opening tipoff at a basketball game a few years ago, I was monitoring the players during their warmup drills and noticed one with some green “thingies” stuck in his ears. Upon further investigation, I detected that he had a music device and was listening to his tunes while warming up.

The days of the boom box are behind us and the days of the ultra-mini sound machines have arrived. Multitasking is now applied to what once was considered a cell phone. That which was a few years ago considered a luxury and could make and receive calls is now a hand held world of connectivity with more power and potential than the machines responsible for landing men on the moon and sending rovers to Mars.

What Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne and Gene Roddenberry dreamed of we take for granted.

With all the modern devices, it would seem everyone would be happy; however, the truth is that no matter how much the world offers the average person wants more. The cell phone with web access is, today, a necessity. We can only wonder how the first 6,000 years of humanity made it without handheld gaming equipment.

Having a cell phone is no longer a luxury - it is a must. Having the ability to get on line from anywhere at any time is no longer a luxury - it is a must. Having personal entertainment equipment small enough to carry around and pull out at any boring moment is no longer a luxury - it is a must.

Somewhere there must be a satisfaction point - a place or attitude in which a person becomes satisfied with who they are and what they have.

Standing in contrast to what one would think, those who have very little are much more satisfied with what they have than those who have many things. Many Christians have become like the little, spoiled kid who, after opening all of his Christmas presents, asked, “Is that all?”

Much of today’s luxuries become, within a few years, fodder for yard sales. Remember, no one makes money selling things at yard sales - they simply make back pennies on the dollar from high priced gadgets they no longer use.

The people of Haggai’s day became so self-absorbed that they put aside building God’s house. They were more intent on their toys and savings accounts - more intent on their luxurious homes and position in the community - more intent on having the next pleasure and making more money.

Haggai’s warning was that their efforts only provided a place to lose wealth. They were putting their money in bags with holes - spending with nothing to show for their efforts.

The problem during Haggai’s day is common to our time. Oh, they were not wasting money on electronic gadgets, but they were spending their wealth and energies on things that would not last. I would venture to say that there is not a single home from that era still standing and in use today. Within a hundred years from now, all of the things of this earth that we hold dear will mean absolutely nothing to us.

Haggai’s admonition was that these people should invest in things with eternity in view. They should not become overly infatuated with worldly trends - after all, they are worldly and will not last.

Both our Lord and Haggai encouraged the listeners to “Consider your ways.” Before you get that next upgrade or purchase your next smart gadget, think about how long it will last and what you can use it for to gain eternal benefits.

Rev. John H Hill

Just Listen! - 7/30/14 -Download PDF

“She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God.” Zephaniah 3.2

Have you ever been frustrated with a younger person who would not heed your sage advice? Whatever the subject might be is of no real concern - they just refuse to listen to your wisdom.

I have watched as coaches become frustrated with players who refuse to hold the bat properly or use a proper motion when spiking a volleyball. Others do not seem to understand the relationship between a proven technique in a particular football block and success as a blocker.

When I say these things, I speak from experience - often bad experiences of not properly stretching prior to workouts and not properly executing hits and throws. Oh, in my day I could throw the ball hard, run fast and lift heavy weights; however, by not taking heed to proper advice (and an abundance of years later) my steps are slowed by bursitis, my throws are non-existent because of rotator cuff problems and I generally allow the younger ones to lift the heavy stuff - just because.

Had I listened in the earlier years, getting into and out of bed would not be such a strenuous workout.

Before you become too frustrated with the younger group, who refuse to listen and heed your well-earned wisdom, you must remember that each of us ignored much of it during our period of maturation.

From their perspective, your gray hair suggests being out-of-touch rather than having gained valuable experience. Even though they may agree with Solomon that there is nothing new under the sun, they hold tenaciously onto the concept that no one anywhere could have possibly experienced the conundrum of their present situation.

While it is true that the drama in relationships has existed since the beginning of time, the youth have no experience in dealing with it so they believe they are the first ones to ever encounter such problems. For most, true quantifiable evidence can only be established from personal observation. In other words, nothing of their situation existed prior to their personal experience.

Therefore, the cycle continues. Those with less experience shun those who have great experience. Seldom do we find people (young or old) who are eager to give up their own cogitations in lieu of accepting the methods of others.

Throughout the years, I have not often encountered a coach, teacher, pastor or parent who knowingly and maliciously passed along hurtful advice. Some are probably out there somewhere, but most “old” people are eager to pass along their wisdom - what has worked for them and what has not. While some do so out of a sense of pride in their own personal accomplishments, they are not there to intentionally do harm.

What we must remember is that there is a God who has never been in the habit of issuing bad advice just to watch the pitiful humans writhe in pain. He is always reaching out to draw people into His loving care and then He offers His advice in order to help us conform to the image of His dear Son.

He is deliberate in His actions and wise beyond our comprehension. When He offers His advice, we should jump at it because we know it is right and best for our lives.

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him.” II Samuel 22.31; Psalm 18.30

Rev. John H Hill

Cherethites - 7/23/14 -Download PDF

“And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil.” Zephaniah 1.12

Today’s youngsters really do not understand the dynamics of us older people - especially when it comes to being “green.” Many believe we were wasteful because we never recycled, however, they again do not understand our way of life.

While it is true that we used paper bags to carry our groceries from the store to our homes, we never bought trash bags because we used those same bags to hold our trash until we could get it to the burn pile. What was not consumed was fed to the hogs or the dogs and the rest was burned. I suppose we should have been more careful when we separated everything to be sure we put it in its proper place. However, neither the hog nor the dog seemed to care.

For extra money, we would ride down the road looking for empty drink bottles we could redeem for cash at the local grocery store. Rather than recycle, the grocery would send them off to the soft drink bottlers to be washed and reused. We had never heard of aluminum and so were devoid of the opportunity to recycle the cans - but, drinks did not come in cans, they came in bottles.

We were so wasteful. While working in the field, we never recycled our drinking bottles. After all, it was a rare occasion when we actually had a bottle. Quite often, water was delivered to us from the barn to the field on a tractor. Hanging somewhere from the tractor, our boss supplied us with a dipper. Now that I think of it, the dipper may have been made of aluminum.

The dipper served our entire workforce in the field. After the first person dipped in the bucket and drank, he would throw the rest to the ground. The next person would dip a bit, swirl it around in the dipper, throw it to the ground (thereby sanitizing the dipper), and dip in the bucket to get his drink. After a few trips between the field and the barn, the bucket collected some things that floated - grass, flies, and other assorted buoyant objects. It also collected some things that sank - dirt and other debris. The foreman would encourage us to drink, “A little dirt never hurt anyone.”

To be quite honest, the floaters bothered me more than the sinkers. It was necessary to pick out the floaters or else get a mouth full and spit. At any rate, the sinkers were more settled - not causing any real damage or threat - just laying there on the bottom of the bucket. It is really amazing we survived childhood and left anything to our posterity since we were so mindless about our environment and so careless about germs.

In the above verse, the sinkers are called “lees.” The imagery comes from wine making, where the wine, if allowed to remain on the sediment too long, will thicken into syrup. The image suggests that the people described here were complacent in their sinful behavior and interpreted the delay in judgment as divine apathy. This speaks of the dregs that settle to the bottom of a wine bottle, which, over time become hardened and nearly impossible to remove.

Zephaniah, under the direction of God, is chastising complacent men for being satisfied with their present condition. Their lackadaisical attitude would render them destitute. Their opinion of God - that He is not involved and that He does not care - would be their ruin.

The day is coming in which God shall shine His spotlight upon all those who have become thick and slow in His service. He will search through His kingdom to determine who is watching for His return. He will bless those who long to see Him and punish those who believe He does not care. He will show the naysayers how involved He really is. We should be ready for His coming. We should stir up the syrupy discharge - get unsettled. We should get into gear and let everyone know that God is at work in our lives and in the world today.

His coming is near.

“The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.” Zephaniah 1.14

Rev. John H Hill

Settled Lees - 7/16/14 -Download PDF

“Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant. And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks.” Zephaniah 2.5, 6

Zephaniah chapter two places the reader within a great prophecy of coming judgment against the enemies of God. The great and powerful Assyrian kingdom, along with the Philistines, are implicated in this indictment as having been judged and found guilty of all manners of evil. God’s people were in the middle of the war zone as the Almighty reached out from heaven to inflict defeat upon the once-proud nations.

In order to strengthen their army, these nations hired mercenaries - military hit men - to handle the cleanups that offered no spoil. During the time of David, the Cherethites were his close, personal guards led by the renowned Benaiah, one of David’s valiant men who made certain of the king’s well fare. They also made up a sizeable entourage when Solomon was crowned king. As long as the kings could pay the price, the Cherethites served well.

An obvious problem was that they were allowed into the innermost circles of the kingdom. While being paid, they were happy and loyal. When the money stopped, they became a lethal enemy of the state, which was a nation God loved.

The Cherethites became well-trained assassins following the time of David. They hired out to the highest bidder as special forces. Their knowledge of national secrets made them nearly invisible. They seemed unstoppable and brought fear into the lives of anyone who happened across their path.

Making their fortunes, not by being paid exorbitant wages for their services, but by plunder and looting, these men showed no mercy as they swept the countryside in search of booty. Although a few tried, every attempt at thwarting their advance ended miserably.

They had no respect for the God of Israel - at least, not yet. They moved arrogantly along; smugly because they believed that they were unstoppable. Who would dare stand in their way!

However, there was a promise! It was a promise given by God that the word of the Lord was against them. God promised to destroy them - to remove any inhabitant and establish a community of shepherds with their sheep. It would be a place with cottages not castles - of sheep folds not fortresses. This would be a place where God’s people could reside in peace and safety - under the protection of the Almighty.

Years prior to this, David testified concerning the protection God offers.“And David spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul: And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.” II Samuel 22.1-3

God has offered to us a similar promise saying,“For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Hebrews 13.5b, 6

God did take care of His people - God takes care of His people today as well. When we trust in the Lord, we have no need to fear because God is still in control.

The next time you feel as though there is no one you can call for help, try looking in your phone directory for a Cherethite. You will not find one because God took care of them - He kept His promise. He will keep His promise to you, too. The God who keeps watch over the sparrow, is certainly watching over you.

Rev. John H Hill

High Places - 7/9/14 -Download PDF

“The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.” Habakkuk 3.19

Habakkuk was coming to the end of a great experience with God. This experience took him from his place of comfort to a place of misunderstanding to a place of confident assurance. As mentioned previously, the trials of life are intended for our learning and the difficulties are intended for our strengthening.

Well-honed athletes understand this as they condition themselves for the competition. Modern techniques for conditioning have replaced many of the outdated concepts. While some things remain constant, others are adapted through science and study. For example, a marathon runner still suffers from the tearing of muscles as he runs and strains for the glory; however, there is more to it than simply running farther and faster today than he did yesterday. Following that line of training could create a permanent disability in the person who is training.

Generally speaking, however, no one is able to run the race or compete adequately who has not suffered through the training - no one will score the winning soccer goal who has never played soccer in their life. The fluid moves of a well-seasoned soccer player are quite impossible to those who have never suffered the intense rigors of the practice sessions.

Habakkuk 3 is a prayer - Habakkuk’s prayer of acceptance. He begins to see the wisdom in God’s actions and to trust God for the outcome. Habakkuk, however, needed a new perspective before he could move on to rejoice in God’s provision - He needed a view from above.

This chapter is introduced as “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.” Shigionoth - another one of those enigmatic Hebrew terms we so quickly glide over without noticing. Shigionoth is a plural form of Shiggaion. With a bit of probing, we understand that the term Shiggaion speaks of something troubling or vexing - something that has no immediate answer, but needs greater or higher understanding in order to come to terms with the problem. Usual or normal answers offer no help - friends suggest no plausible remedies, and all attempts for an answer escape our understanding.

To make matters more difficult, Habakkuk prays this of the plural not the singular. He prays, not of one dilemma, but of several that need answers more lofty than he can imagine. When David tried to understand God’s ways, he spoke out of his personal inability,“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” (Psalm 139.6)Into the lives of God’s children come situations, perils, distresses, temptations, and a myriad of challenges. While less experienced believers struggle with seemingly simple trials, the more mature (well-educated in life’s trials) believer has less difficulty because he has been there and succeeded.

Through every deep river, he has learned to call on someone beyond himself - someone who knows the trail and is able to guide him into all understanding.

I have difficulty understanding how the marathon runner can do what he does. What exactly does it take to run thirty miles without stopping? It requires looking beyond the immediate and seeing the end. It takes the vision to see a greater Power than what resides within the human body. It necessitates a look at the One who has been there, won the battles ahead of us, and offers to go with us through each of our own trials.

The answer is to keep our eyes focused on the goal.“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12.2)

While your trials are not the same as mine, the answer to each is the same - Jesus is the all-sufficient one. Not only will He get you to the end of the trial, but He will have you dancing on the mountaintops. As our author finishes his communication with God, he triumphantly asserts: “The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.”

Rev. John H Hill

Lord, Are You Listening? - 6/24/14 -Download PDF

“O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!” Habakkuk 1.2

There have been times in each of our lives when we have felt the gates of heaven have been shut - the ceiling has been made of iron and our Lord is not listening. We have prayed, earnestly prayed with tears, and yet there seems to be no response.

Maybe it was that final exam; the one you had to pass in order to move on to the next level. Maybe it was that time when your child was in the emergency room; the time you poured out your heart to God for healing and relief. Maybe it was the evil co-worker who seemed to have it in for you; the one who hindered your promotion or damaged other relationships. Maybe it was the ornery brother or sister in Christ; the one who simply did not understand your righteous motives and spread false rumors.

We have all been there, and the experience was less than enjoyable. If there could only be a sign - some sort of a visible expression that God was listening. Just knowing He was aware of your situation and that He cared.

In those times, there is silence.

The sweet psalmist of Israel experienced this.“I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.” (Psalm 142.4)During David’s difficulties, he felt as if he was in a prison.

Joseph experienced this while waiting in the pit as his brothers plotted what to do with the “dreamer.” (Genesis 37.19) Jeremiah experienced this while imprisoned in the well after having preached God’s Word to his own people. (Jeremiah 18.20) Job experienced this while enduring extreme suffering - both physical and spiritual - as he listened to his miserable comforters who offered no help and no answer to his situation.

Each of these suffered silence from God while enduring incredibly due to no fault of their own. They were in the will of God and yet suffered. They prayed but their prayers seemed to go unheard.

The greatest example of heaven’s silence was experienced by our dear Savior while on the cross. His words echo the plaint of the forlorned and languishing soul, which had lost contact with their Rock. Quoting from the words of David, our Lord cried out in His distress,“saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27.46)

The times we are soaring on eagles’ wings are not times of great learning. While on the mountain top, we may enjoy the view and bask in the glory of creation; however, we can only reminisce of the grandeur of God’s magnificence.

Personal lessons are best learned when we are alone and desperate. Those are the times of great soul searching - the times when we look for the personal strength and hidden resources God has provided for us. Those are the times we realize that God has entrusted to us a great amount of His confidence that we will choose wisely and follow despite the difficulties.

When Joseph passed the test, he became the deliverer of his people and obtained favor with a heathen nation. When Jeremiah passed the test, he became a great preacher of the truth of God’s Word blessing many generations with God’s plan. When Job passed the test, he became a great example of God’s grace and restorative powers by showing we are never alone.

When Jesus passed the test, He made a way for all humanity to be saved - to have access directly to the Father through His atoning work.

Remember, it is the darkness and distresses of life that prove our character and build our courage. These difficulties force us to find the strength we need to go on and to obtain the blessings God has prepared for us.

The next time you are in difficult straits, thank God that He has entrusted to you a special opportunity to learn and to become a greater blessing.

Rev. John H Hill

Knowledge in Relationships - 6/17/14 -Download PDF

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” (I Peter 3.7)

I have heard more times than I care to, from men, that they simply cannot understand women. If that is true, then we must discount this command given by Peter under the inspiration of God’s Spirit to “dwell with them according to knowledge.” This he spoke referring to husbands and how they should live with their wives.

Any good, working relationship must be built upon knowledge. The necessary knowledge here requires a learning process: an on-going process of learning and applying truths in a way that brings about the best results. This is the true understanding of wisdom.

The word “knowledge,” gnosin, is a noun that expects someone to investigate in order to come to a proper conclusion. It offers the concept of continual learning. (II Timothy 2.15)

On the day of our wedding, my wife (to be) and I became aware of uncomplimentary conversations being held about our possibility of making it as a married couple. We were from different backgrounds with different tastes and different likes and dislikes. Still in our teens, we understood that the statistics were against us. Some suggested we would last no longer than six months. That was 39 years ago.

One thing the rumor-mongers did not take into consideration was our resolve. We determined that we would work through problems and that the word “divorce” would never be a part of our vocabulary. We further determined that we would continue to put our Savior first in our relationship. Whenever a problem arose, we looked first to Christ to learn from Him the reason for the situation.

Over the years, we have tried to apply these principles to every relationship. Having dealt with deacons, church members, coaches, teachers, and a myriad of other personalities, this principle always applies. If we can get past the exterior and see the heart - learning motives and understanding what makes a person “tick” goes a long way in developing those relationships.

Sometime ago, I worked the bases on a 4A high school softball game. From a position behind shortstop, I made a call at first that seemed rather obvious - the runner was out. From my peripheral vision, I saw the head coach step from his dugout to head my direction. I took a deep breath to calm myself before the encounter. His face showed intensity - I braced myself for the conflict. As he moved into my “personal zone,” he spoke with a quiet voice, “You were in good position to make that call.”

I said, “Yes, sir.”

“She was out by almost a step wasn’t she?”

“Yes, sir.”

(He then kicked a little dirt.) “I just came out here to let my girls know I was supporting them. Good call.” (He kicked a little more dirt as he walked away.)

I gained much respect for the man that day. He was showing support for his girls - not attacking me.

On another occasion, I was working a rather big 4A football game that was not going as was expected. The home team coach became irate - he wanted a coach-referee conference. He called his timeout and began yelling before I had a chance to get to his sideline. With approximately 8,000 fans, his yelling could be heard across the field by my wife and daughter who were sitting in the visitors bleachers (not letting anyone know they were related to the guy on the field). He yelled for a while as my line-judge and I listened. Soon, he calmed down and softened. I asked him if he was ok and if there was anything else I could do for him. Before the stunned expression left his face, we headed back to the field to get the game moving.

He was not angry with me - he was angry because his team was not playing up to their potential. He had his say - his team received their motivation - they won the game.

So often, we react to the outward appearance of things - the rants and the raves - the whining and complaining - the external and superficial - when we should be learning why they respond as they do.

A parent who disciplines every child in the exact same manner may seem fair, but they fail to learn why their children do not respond in similar fashion to each other. Each child is an individual. A husband who takes the advice from a friend who offers standard methods of “handling” his wife, learns little and gains no wisdom. A wife is a unique creation, too. Teachers who believe students are made from a common mold, miss the wonderful uniqueness of God’s creation.

As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, we must commit ourselves to learning. As we learn to appreciate the inner person, we learn to love as Jesus loves.

Rev. John H Hill

Total Transparency - 6/10/14 -Download PDF

“Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts; and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will shew the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame.” Nahum 3.5

One of the classic Gilligan’s Island episodes showed how the castaways discovered a plant that would allow each of them to hear clearly the thoughts of the others. In the beginning, all seemed to be going well.

Just think of it - never having anyone grossed out by your talking with your mouth full. All you would need to do would be to think a thought and immediately your husband would know what to get you for your birthday. As a father, you could add the “thought-power” behind your posturing when junior did not immediately respond to your request that he take out the trash. There would never be a misunderstanding because of a misplaced word.

However, the shipwrecked septet soon learned that total transparency is not always the best method of communication between friends. While I am not suggesting dishonesty, it is often expedient not to tell everything you know either. Furthermore, it is a good policy to think through a matter before opening one’s mouth. Someone expressed it as, “Be sure your mind is in gear before your mouth takes off.”

Uncontrolled lips do more damage than we could possibly calculate. The wise man said,Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Proverbs 18.21)Furthermore, the Apostle warns,“Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell... But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3.5, 6, 8)

While the tongue can be stalled prior to disclosing some innermost, destructive thought, every thought - even the most intimate and carefully hidden - is open in the eyes of our Father.“Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4.13)

Sometimes our good motives are mistaken by others - never mistaken by God. Sometimes our actions do not measure up to our lofty and spiritual aspirations - never misconstrued by God. Sometimes our good works are misinterpreted as self-serving or evil by those we are trying to help - never macabre in the sight of God.

Remember, man looks on the outside, but God looks into the heart - He understands our mind and heart.

While all of those thoughts should bring comfort to the children of God, they should bring conviction to any who are separated from Him. That same Almighty God who knows us from the inside out is the same Almighty God who sees the heart of each lost individual.

The verse above (Nahum 3.5) is set toward the end of the Great Tribulation during the battle of Armageddon. All through their lives, those merchants who have not discovered the goodness of God through Christ Jesus have built their businesses upon faulty foundations. Whether those foundations were philanthropic or openly profiteering, they were not built unto the glory of God.

Remember that nothing not built unto the glory of God will last. It is as a structure built upon the sand that falls when the storm comes.

During the battle of Armageddon, the piercing eyes of the Lamb of God - the Lion of the tribe of Judah will see through the facade of goodness and into the selfish, corrupt heart. God will “discover” (“bear openly, denude”) the “skirts” (“private parts”) of all those who have opposed Him. He will make their deceitfulness and divisiveness transparent. He will allow all to see clearly that these merchants have worked evil and that He has worked tirelessly to bring blessing to the world.

Although we may think we would like to know everything there is to know (i.e. the very thoughts of God), we are much better off leaving the infinite in the hands of the One who knows the end from the beginning - the One who knows best what to reveal to us and when it should be revealed.

Never worry - God is still in control. When the time is right, God will bring everyone into account for his or her deeds according to their heart attitude, and you will have perfect knowledge so you may see the righteous goodness of God.

Rev. John H Hill

Truth or Consequences - 6/3/14 -Download PDF

“And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.” Genesis 38.26

Some years ago during a building project, a South Florida church was experiencing problem with looters. It seems that they would order materials and have them delivered; however, sometime during the night, the materials would be stolen. Hardly a week would go by without their experiencing theft - often of large pieces of materials and equipment.

During a fellowship time between a couple of pastors, the problem came up in the discussion. A fellow pastor suggested the expanding church seek out some of the meanest, orneriest Christians they could find and pay them to stand watch over the building site. It seems that the mean, ornery Christians were able to quell the problem.

When I first heard that story, my mind began doing spiritual calisthenics - how could a pastor even consider that any of the fellow believers were mean and ornery!

The Bible does not hide the reality of those we hold in high esteem, but relates them to us in real life fashion. That is what makes the Bible so unique - it does not sugarcoat the heroes - it reveals them as they are. If they were perfect, none of us would have opportunity to reach their stature.

Take some time and read the story of Judah and Tamar. Judah, patriarch of the kingly tribe of Israel, had serious spiritual and personal problems. Spiritually, he went to the wrong place to find his life-mate. His wife was a Canaanite - a worshiper of false gods who defied the One true God. When Judah’s three sons were born, he chose a wife for his eldest from the same idolatrous place - Canaan. Her name was Tamar.

Tamar married Judah’s eldest, Er, but the marriage was not long lived. Er was wicked in God’s sight and God took his life before they had children. (Genesis 38.7) Under Old Testament law, when a widow had no son, her husband’s brother was to raise up lineage for her by fulfilling the duties of a husband in his place.

Enter Onan, the second son. Onan cohabitated with Tamar, but refused to father a child through her so God took his life, too. (Genesis 38.10) Just after that, Judah’s wife died. He was left with only one remaining son, Shelah. Fearing for the life of his third son, Judah made a promise to Tamar that he never intended to keep.

In the course of time, when Shelah had matured and it was obvious that Judah had reneged on his promise, Tamar took things into her own hands. She set a trap for Judah and caught him. Making herself out to be a harlot, she made herself available and Judah fathered a child through her.

While that is probably not a story you would like to tell your six year old before tucking her in for a good night’s sleep, it is a true story of a mean and ornery believer. At this point, it would be nice to sit back and say that his example is unique and that every other believer was kind and gentle.

The fact is that each one of us is a piece of work God is still chiseling on - we each have our shortcomings and personal peculiarities. As you read Genesis 38, you will see that Judah lived a double standard. The standard to which he held Tamar (who did not come from a Jehovah-based background) was higher than that to which he held himself. When the gossip reached his ears that she was pregnant, he blurted out that she should be burned to death. (Genesis 38.24) Somehow, the fact that he had committed adultery himself eluded his memory.

How often have we held others to a higher standard than we hold ourselves? How many times have we rushed to judge someone without ever knowing his or her circumstances or background? How quickly do we accept unfounded words spoken against a fellow believer and make rash decisions based upon hearsay?

How easy it is to become that mean and ornery Christian when we forget that a primary mandate of the Christian faith is to love one another even as Christ loved us (Ephesians 5.2) - to prefer one another (believers) to others (Romans 12.10) - to let the world see that we are family because of our love one to another. (John 13.35)

Rev. John H Hill

Huzzab - 5/27/14 -Download PDF

“And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts.” (Nahum 2.7)

Having dabbled a bit with translation work from Greek to English, I sometimes come across a word in the Greek that has no specific English equivalent. It seems that whenever one language is translated into another, some nuance from the original is lost. Dialects tell more about a person than the place from which they hail - they offer shades of meaning for a people group that distinguish them from other groups.

Some of these differences may be seen when working with a text penned by the Apostle John and another penned by the Apostle Peter. With Peter’s cutting and splicing of Greek words, He would have made a really good Southern. If you listen closely in the cool of the evening, you may be able to hear Peter yell at a neighbor’s dog, “nowyougitonouttahere!”

While some are able to pick up vocal inflections and tones of a specific dialect or accent, most have flaws that glare in the presence of a native who speaks, for example, Southern English. Television and movie personalities (I refuse to call them stars), when attempting a Southern accent seem to do well when heard by an audience of non-Southerners; however, someone from North Carolina can make a distinction between a Southern drawl born in North Carolina from one born in South Carolina.

One way of handling the translation enigma is to simplify to the point of exclusion by using transliteration. Transliteration is simply writing the Greek word using English letters. A simple illustration of this is in the Bible’s use of a common word of praise: alleluia. The word, alleluia, gives no meaning or sense unless the reader understands the significance of its background. Although many have misused this term, it is a transliteration from the Hebrew meaning, “praise to Jah (Jehovah).”

Another way of handling this translation difficulty is a shotgun approach - meaning that the translator attempts to explain what the writer intended to say. Take for example my statement “shotgun approach.” To a lawyer, the shotgun approach may mean that they are pursuing every available avenue hoping they will make a case at some point. To the Southerner, well, it may be taken literally when going hunting or when bringing his daughter’s beau into the lap of marital bliss.

Huzzab is one of those words which is not easily translated. Nearly every Hebrew linguist has an opinion - often unique to himself or herself. Some suggest it is a proper name for the Queen of Nineveh. Others suggest it speaks of the towers and fortifications of the city. Still others say that it is an undiscoverable truncated term (translation - a cut off word) that cannot be understood because the meaning has been lost.

Huzzab is a great word - it could easily have been included in the great dictionary of Southern terms. It even sounds like a good Southern word - I could almost hear my mother yelling from the back door, “Johnny, it’s time for supper. Get your huzzab home, right now!” Or, “I didn’t know one little boy could make such a huzzab while my back was turned!”

In Nahum 2, God commissioned the destruction of proud, arrogant Nineveh by the hand of the Babylonians. Though Nineveh had wealth and apparently impenetrable fortifications, they would be leveled never to be heard from again. Their strongholds would be broken - their women and children would be taken - their mighty men would run for cover - their wealth would be laid out in the open for the plunderers to take at will - their haughty king and queen would be ousted and ashamed.

Huzzab seems to be one of those words God left in His preserved Word as a reminder that nobody messes with God’s people without consequences. It matters not whether the afflictions placed upon His people are fortifications, destitution, or deprivation - God will put down the oppressors and lift up His fallen.

Never fear the Huzzab - God is still in control.

Rev. John H Hill

Forgetful Hearers - 5/20/14 -Download PDF

“God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies….The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” (Nahum 1.2, 7)

One hundred fifty years had passed since the fiery preacher, Jonah, had staggered into the city. After spending three days and nights in the belly of the great sea creature, his appearance more resembled a ghost than a human. Still weakened by the gastric juices of the fish and reeling from the stench that had soaked into his pores, Jonah cried out against Nineveh - the great city - the capital of Assyria.

His message was terse - probably seasoned with a disposition brought on by the disciplinary actions evinced by God. It was a message that was almost suicidal in its delivery,“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” (Jonah 3.4)

One can almost imagine him as he moved deliberately through the city - with bleached skin, foul body odor, and tattered clothing - and, yes, with a real attitude. Jonah enjoyed the message because he wanted the Assyrians to suffer - to be destroyed.

After delivering his message, Jonah went outside the city to watch the fireworks. He waited and nothing happened - at least no fire fell from heaven to destroy the city.

Those heathenistic barbarians actually listened to the message - and, repented. They believed the message from God. Everyone in the city, including the king and all the animals, put on sackcloth and mourned over their blood-guiltiness - they repented.

Between the time Jonah preached the message from God until the time of Nahum’s prophecy was about 150 years. It took about that long for the people of Nineveh to return to their evil ways. Somewhere along the way, the parents forgot to teach their children - the grandparents forgot to teach their grandchildren. The fear of the Holy One had slipped through the cracks and the Assyrians were again worshiping idols and persecuting God’s people. God acted - Nineveh was destroyed, never to be seen again.

All that time, Israel was trusting God for provision and deliverance. Under bondage and threatened with terror, they found God not only to be “good, {and} a strong hold in the day of trouble,” but they also realized that He “knoweth them that trust in him.” He was their personal, one-on-one God. To those who are not true believers, He is ritual, liturgy and ceremony. To those who truly believe, He is personal - a friend that sticks closer than a brother - a very present help in time of trouble.

Beyond being personal, enjoying a close relationship with God, the believer also knows that “God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.”

Many times we may feel that God is not there - not listening and does not care. We should never confuse His grace and patience with unconcern. God offers the wayward multiple opportunities to repent; however, He does not forget the pains of His children.

“Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” (Psalm 56.8) When the Great Tribulation begins (recorded inRevelation 6with the opening of the seals), the removal of the first four seals allows the world to be overtaken by the evil forces, which have been thwarted by the Holy Spirit for many years.

The fifth seal has for those same years subdued the prayers of the martyred saints throughout the Church age - those who had faithfully followed their Lord and God. While it may seem they are remembered in history only as martyrs, God remembers them as His special ones. Just as He stores our tears in His eternal bottle, so also He collects our prayers against the great day of judgment.

Even as the Ninevites were brought to justice, all the wicked will have their day in court facing the God of judgment.“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12.19)

In that day of reward, He will bless His children with indescribable joys.“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16.11)

It may not be today, and it may not be tomorrow; however, God is true to His promise. When pleading with God over the possibility of righteous souls living in Sodom, God said,“That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18.25)He will make all things right.

Rev. John H Hill

The God of Salvation - 5/13/14 -Download PDF

“Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me….Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.” (Micah 7.7, 18)

The entire prophecy of Micah addresses the need for people to be ready when they meet their God. Present day happenings, troublous or joyous, teach us great lessons that mature us and ready us for future catastrophic events - or, at least they should make us ready. Our world is changing - drastically changing heading toward the future coming of the king of Kings - the Lord Jesus Christ and Armageddon.

People prepare themselves in various ways.

There are the naysayers, deniers, who join their voices with the skeptics of whom Peter wrote.“And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (II Peter 3.4)While we, as believers, should not become overly anxious, we should not take the “Que Sera, Sera” (Whatever will be, will be) attitude either. Denial has never been an effective way to prepare for the future.

There are those who seek to surround themselves with friends and family. While that is comforting in the present (and highly recommended), it will do nothing to help when our organized world begins to crumble. During the Tribulation of the last days, love will be replaced with fear - concern for others will be replaced with instincts for survival. Suzanne Collins, in her book, “The Hunger Games,” graphically illustrates this as “tributes” from various districts are placed in an arena where they fight to the death. At first, some unite in order to help their odds of survival. In the end, it is everyone for himself.“For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.” (Micah 7.6)In the end, friends and family will not be the answer.

Some will resort to personal defenses - armaments and bunkers. Conducting a web search for “preparedness” results in a plethora of sites offering lists of items necessary for survival in the coming Apocalypse. In order to be properly prepared, one must have a sufficient cache of weapons, clothing, food, and various other supplies. Preparation includes instructions for protecting your stash from friends and neighbors who have not properly prepared for their own survival.“Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.” (Micah 7.5)As a result, personal preparation avails little - there will always be someone with a bigger and more powerful weapon.

Jesus tells the story of two men - one wise and the other foolish. (Matthew 7.24-27) While the wise man built his house upon the firm foundation of God’s Word (the Rock), the foolish man build his house upon human philosophies and reasonings. When the end came, the foolish man’s house fell flat; however, the wise man’s house stood firm. It was not enough to have ornate decorations, luxurious landscaping or the latest in electronic gadgetry. It was not enough to have home security systems or a great education. When the storms of life encroached, the structure fell flat because it was not built upon a solid foundation.

In the final summary of life, our ability to stand is directly related to the Foundation upon which we build our lives - that foundation is Christ alone. In introducing His parable, Jesus said,“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7.21-23)

During any stage of our lives, we must not forget to build upon the proper Foundation.“Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.” (Micah 7.7)

Rev. John H Hill

Heart - 5/6/14 -Download PDF

"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6.8)

God's people had forgotten what it meant to be God's people. They had been away so long that being in the presence of the Almighty made most of them uncomfortable.

As a child, our family would take a trek to northern North Carolina for our Hundley reunion. I always enjoyed the ride and the scenery. One particular trip, when I was about ten years old, brings back memories.

My father would point out places and items of interest along the way - things like the small Presbyterian church where Dad grew up and where my uncle Miller Hundley had served as an elder. As we turned down the dirt road leading to my uncle's home, Dad pointed to a shack in the middle of a field and said that was the place he was born. That especially caught my attention because it appeared to be a seedy excuse for a tobacco barn - not fit for human occupancy.

The location of Dad's birthplace made it possible for him to spend much time with his uncle - working on the farm, wading in the creek, or just being there. Dad assured me that I would really like Uncle Miller because he was Dad's favorite uncle - they had spent so much time together.

As we parked the car, Aunt Percy and Uncle Miller came out with warm greetings - expressing how glad they were to see us and have us visit for a spell. Of course, my brother and I got the tweak on the cheek from Aunt Percy who gushed over how we had grown.

After giving us some simple boundaries (to keep us from falling off the mountain), we all settled in for a family get-together - only, something felt wrong. No matter how kind and gracious our hosts tried to be, they were strangers. Yes, they were family - same blood - same roots, yet, strangers. The food was wonderfully tasty and plenteous - but we were eating in the home of strangers. In a crowded house filled with people, I felt alone - desperately alone.

How could my father think these foreign people were special? Why was it that he felt so comfortable in their home while I felt so miserable? After many years, I believe I have the answer. The answer comes from spending time together - great quantities of time - time that allows hearts to knit together.

In the latter days of my mother's life on earth, one of our greatest pastimes was burning brush. We would get a pile of limbs and other yard debris, wait until dark, pull up a couple of lawn chairs and burn the stuff. After Dad went to be with the Lord, Mom did not require vacations and trips, entertainment and excitement - she wanted fellowship. More sacred to her than anything purchased was time spent with her son - sometimes we would talk and sometimes we would not - we would simply be together.

Over the past several years, I have come to appreciate the times my wife and I have when we are alone together. I must admit that we have both snored through the greater part of some movies at home while holding hands (usually one of us wakes up only to ask the other if our snoring was causing too great a commotion).

The time we spend together cannot be replaced with things or activities. Time is your most valuable commodity - it can be used only once. When it is gone, it is gone forever.

So, what was it that God wanted from His children? He never asked anyone to give up chocolate for Lent; however, He did say,"My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways." (Proverbs 23.26)

"Give me thine heart." This is the way to fellowship and pleasing God. So often, parents leave their children to babysitters and daycares only to find that as teenagers their children are strangers. Many believers go their own way only to attempt family reunions with a God they have never spent time with - offering Him gifts He does not want - attempting vain rituals that have lost their meaning because they come from a stranger.

Remember, God is not as interested in what you offer Him in the collection plate, as He is in having you walk with Him daily. How comfortable are you when you are in God's presence?

Rev. John H Hill

The Place - 4/29/14 -Download PDF

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5.2)

The mighty angel Gabriel had appeared to both Mary and Joseph. His appearance to Mary assured her that the child she would carry and bare would, in fact, be the only begotten Son of God. He would be the fulfillment of all the Old Testament’s prophecies concerning the advent of God in flesh - Immanuel, God with us.

Joseph, too, had been informed of the miraculous conception. Had he not been blessed with a supernatural encounter from this same angel, he would have done the right thing by the Law and have Mary put away. Because of his tenderness, this would be done in secret so that Mary would suffer no more public disdain than was absolutely necessary. He must have loved her - else, he would have had her stoned. However, the angel spoke to Joseph and he believed.

The Scriptures record that Joseph was a just man (Matthew 1.19) - a man who adhered to the Law - a man who was devout in his religion. It also records Mary’s song, the Magnificat, (Luke 1.46-55) showing us how deeply religious and learned was Mary.

They were an ideal couple making a home suitable for the birth of our Savior. We can safely assume that they began preparations for the arrival of Mary’s firstborn son. There in Nazareth, they began arrangements for the baby’s “space.” It seems, no matter what era, a newborn baby needs space - among other things.

Time for the baby’s arrival grew near, but something was wrong - terribly wrong. Micah had prophesied that the baby would be born in Bethlehem - they were still living in Nazareth. Since Micah was the only prophet to predict that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, could I be overreacting - after all, this is just a single, minor detail spoken by one “minor” prophet.

In order for God’s Word to be true and accurate, God used the entire Roman government - from Caesar Augustus to the census bureau to the local Governor. God controlled an entire nation - the world power - to accomplish a minor glitch in location. When you think of something so nearly impossible that it would take an act of Congress to get it done, well, here you have it.

From Joseph and Mary’s perspective, it would have taken more than a mere suggestion. Mary was “great with child” (Luke 2.5, at least in her last trimester) - Bethlehem was 80 miles away (through rough terrain) - and, the ambulance was a donkey. Awaiting them in Bethlehem was the unknown.

All of this that the Word of God would not be broken even in the least of matters.

Throughout history, God has done some remarkable things in order to accomplish His plan. He allowed the entire nation of Israel to fall so that Daniel could personally meet the king of Babylon and deliver to him and the world a message of the end times. He prepared a great fish to encourage a wayward prophet, Jonah, to preach to a city with more than 200,000 children. He sent some hornets ahead of His people into Canaan to inspire at least three nations to move out allowing Israel safe passage. (Exodus 23.28) He ordered His servant, Ezekiel, to preach in a graveyard (Ezekiel 37.4) to teach him of the blessed future prepared for God’s chosen people. He sent His Son into a world of sinners to die as a substitute for our sins so that we would never need to taste His wrath.

So, what difficulty daunts your way? What troubles are you experiencing? Have you considered that God may be using incredible circumstances to move you into a position where He can bless you beyond your wildest imagination?

Rev. John H Hill

God’s Ways - 4/22/14 -Download PDF

“But they know not the thoughts of the LORD, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor.” Micah 4.12

Someone once said, “I don’t have enough faith to believe in evolution.” Carrying that one step further, I do not believe I have enough faith to be an atheist.

Think about that for just a moment. For anyone to say emphatically that there is no God, one must assume that he knows everything there is to know about the entire universe - that he has searched out the far reaches of the unknown and proven God does not exist. I really do not have enough faith to believe in someone like that, especially since the furthest anyone has reached beyond this planet is less than the distance a spitball travels from the end of a straw by comparison.

The fact is that many people, who cannot place their faith in an all-wise God, willingly place their faith in their own musings and understandings without giving a thought to the possibility of error.(Psalm 93.3, 4)Because they do not understand God’s ways, they assume all things continue naturally without Almighty intervention.

Peter calls them scoffers.“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts.” (II Peter 3.3)While we understand that this means they will choose their own way - determining what is right and what is wrong by their own personal standards - it also suggests that they will be self-absorbed and willingly ignorant of the truth.(II Peter 3.5)

While some have attempted to bridge the generation gap, the greatest chasm of all is the gulf between our understanding and God’s. The Bible declares,“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55.9)Even though many reach great heights of wisdom and understanding, no one has reached the level of God’s wisdom.

Think about it for a moment. If we could understand all there is to know about God, how great would He be? If we could understand His plan perfectly, His love intimately, and His foreknowledge extensively, one of two things would be true. Either we would have unlimited ability in knowledge (which we know is not true) or God would be no greater than a human (which could not be true).

Very comforting, indeed, is the thought that we are not left to our own devices. Very marvelous, indeed, is the fact that we cannot attain unto the knowledge and greatness of the All-knowing God. And yet, this perfect God invites each of us to His throne room, not to be judged, but to commune in fellowship in His presence. With His power, He commands all nature, yet, He deigns to include us in His conversation.

Unlike the gods of various religions that use their powers for their own amusement, our God used His to make a bridge so that we could approach Him - a bridge build by the blood of the Lamb, His Son.

Remember that the difference between true Christianity and every other religion in the world is that in Christianity, God reaches out to humanity, but in every other religion, man attempts to reach out to a god. The plea of every other religion in the world is seen in Lucifer’s attempts at the overthrow of God.“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Isaiah 14.14)That statement shows the desire to know and to be like God - to usurp His place.

Because His ways are so beyond our ways, the heart-cry of every believer should be more akin to Paul’s. His desire was not to gain more knowledge of the world, but to understand more of God - to have a more personal walk and fellowship with his God - so that we may know Him.

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3.10, 11)

Rev. John H Hill

In the Dark - 4/15/14 -Download PDF

“Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.” (Micah 3.4)

I have never been a great fan of spelunking; however, I do enjoy an occasional stroll in a well-prepared cavern after all of the dangers have been removed - walkways have been carefully put in place (with handrails) - and, of course, lighting. As I get a bit more age on my weary bones, the non-skid surfaces are especially appreciated.

Our last big family vacation prior to Mandy’s death, took us North into Amish country - some of Pennsylvania’s most beautiful country. During our return, we decided to swing by Luray Caverns near Luray, Virginia. It is amazing how someone can take a hole in the ground and make it attractive enough to draw tourists from all over the world.

Some of the most ornate rock formations drew our attention as we followed the guide through the labyrinth of passageways. At one place, he pointed out a rather small passage explaining that was the place where one of the original spelunkers had been trapped by a shifting rock. The rock pinned his leg so he could not go forward or backward - he was stuck. The passage was too small for him to turn around in to regain his freedom - he was stuck. One can only imagine what it was like to be trapped as the only light he had began to burn its last bit of fuel and plunge him into complete darkness.

At one particularly impressive place in the cave, a drop-off surrounded by a guardrail, the guide stopped. He cautioned each one of us to hold on to the railing because we needed a solid reference point when he turned off the lights. I am thankful he warned us - the darkness was more intense than I had ever experienced - more intense than I had expected.

In the darkness, I used my free had to check my vision. As I moved my open palm toward my face, I had no perception of its being there until I felt it touch my nose. Complete - total - absolute darkness! Had it not been for the handrail, I could have been upside down and never realized it.

During times of normal darkness, one can become accustomed to the dark. Physically speaking, it is a good thing since our eyes adapt to those situations. Spiritually speaking, it is not a good thing since becoming accustomed to the dark indicates our consciences have been seared and we are no longer aware of the tragic results of sin.

After only a few seconds (which seemed much longer), some in the group became uneasy - restless. They lost their orientation and sought a light source. The guide lit a small candle. Oh, how bright it seemed in the total darkness. All heads turned toward the light - it was the only light in the entire cavern.

The world around us is dark - spiritually dark. It is a darkness that spiritually minded people can feel - it is stifling. The candle is lit - God’s Word is available; however, many have become so accustomed to the darkness that they are no longer affected by the light - they can see just enough to be able to feel their way around the sin-darkened world. But then, the darkness becomes more intense - their little light is no longer sufficient - a rock falls and pins them helplessly in a strait place - they cry out to God for help.

As their light begins to go out, panic sets in - they are in the dark, and no one is there to help. Because they have gone their own way for so long, God hides His face from them - they suffer alone.

If you are reading this, there is still time to develop a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It has never been His desire for you to spend your life traipsing through the caverns of the earth alone - He wants to walk with you. He wants to be a companion which sticks closer than a brother - He wants to be your friend.

Now is the time - today is the day to begin this relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. In doing this, you will find that He is ever near - you really have no need to call out hoping He will hear. He will be at your side always.

Rev. John H Hill

Interlopers - 4/8/14 -Download PDF

“Therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot in the congregation of the LORD.” Micah 2.5

The wayward people of God had carelessly followed other gods. They sought fulfillment in the world and with the things the world offered. Their main aspirations concerned gain - making money and living a comfortable life - regardless of the cost. In their efforts, they put pleasure above responsibility - wealth above purity - entertainment above spirituality.

During the prophecy of Micah, the word of the Lord warned of impending trouble: trouble being brought on by their lack of loyalty to God and those things concerning holy living.

Because they carried the name of Abraham as their progenitor, they believed they had a special place in God’s plan regardless of what they believed, with whom they aligned themselves, or of their deeds. There was, in their minds, a special connection to the blessings of God based upon their family heritage - not because of their personal involvement with their God.

Many people today rely upon their familial connections - their heritage - to keep them in the good graces of God rather than upon a personal relationship with Christ.

Rarely does a week go by in which I am not contacted by someone asking for help from our church. While my heart often goes out to them, I am at the same time amazed that total strangers would call on people they do not know, asking for help. Several times a year, we have requests from unknown people asking to use our facilities for weddings and social events.

My first question elicits a variety of responses, “Where do you attend church?” The responses range from anger that I would have the gall to pose such a question, to suggesting that it is none of my business. Since we keep no monies on our property, I often suggest that the individual come to church during one of our regular services, worship with us, and we would try to help after the service concludes. To those who seek the use of our facilities, I say that we are a church and allow our members and regular attenders to use the facilities at no cost, but we do not rent to anyone. To those seeking a place to have a wedding, I suggest they contact their own pastor - after all, the people of the church to which they belong should enjoy a church wedding with the couple in the church they love.

Only a pastor could imagine the comments. They range from thoughts of sectarianism to isolationists - from radicals to uncaring fundamentalists - from antisocial to hatemongers. How dare we require someone to attend our church before allowing someone to use the facilities!

Over the years, some have visited on the appointed day, and we have helped. Some have come over a longer period of time, and we have helped much. Some have attended long enough to establish themselves as either members or regular attenders, and we have welcomed them with a church wedding. Most have used the time to gain from our church what they could before moving on to the next victim.

We have a great and wonderfully caring people at our church, and we regret nothing we have done to help; however, there are many today who claim to be a part of a church family and expect the church to offer them a share of the spiritual pie. There will be many in the last days that will cry out,“Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?”Yet, because they are Christian in name only, the Savior will respond,“I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7.22, 23)

They will have no cord (measuring line) to cast (measure out an allotment) in the congregation (assembly) of the Lord. No one should wait for the undertaker to take him or her to a church service. We all should be an active and vital part of the house of God - more than someone who simply wears a name.

Rev. John H Hill

The Lord Cometh - 4/1/14 -Download PDF

“For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.” (Micah 1.3, 4)

As I grew up, most people believed in a heaven and a hell - real places that offered either bliss or blast. Of course, how one described them depended much upon their personal concept rather than upon actual Scripture. Even those who believed the Bible and feared eternity in hell had some misconceptions of that awful place of punishment.

Because of our position in the Bible Belt, kids that were not church attenders had some concept of heaven and hell. Many of them viewed heaven as some place in the sky where dead people floated on clouds while playing harps. Hell, on the other hand, was a place of fire and brimstone where bad people went - however, not many, except for those who attended “hellfire and brimstone” preaching churches actually believed anyone would really go there. No one was really bad enough - all had some “redeeming” quality that would be weighed against the bad - they would make it.

In many circles, preaching on heaven and hell has fallen by the wayside. Preachers and churches have become more socially minded, meeting the needs of the homeless and poverty stricken, rather than forewarning of eternal damnation. In order to avoid offence and maintain popularity and in hopes of keeping offerings coming in, many offer parishioners things they want to hear.

However, is that not what the Bible maintains?“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” (II Timothy 4.3)Itching ears: people looking for preachers who will make them feel good rather than warn them of things to come.

The fact remains that there is a real, literal hell to shun and a real, literal heaven to gain. The Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world(John 1.29, 36)is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah(Revelation 5.5). The message of hope and eternal life for those who believe is the same message of condemnation to those who do not believe(I Corinthians 1.18). The same Jesus who came as a baby in the manger(Luke 2.7, 12, 16)will one day split the eastern sky returning in power and great glory(Matthew 24.30). The Jesus who peacefully gathered thousands together on a hillside and preached to them while holding a child in His lap(Mark 10.14)is the same Jesus who will return to earth defeating the Antichrist and conquering the kings of the world(Revelation 17.14). Are you ready?

Many times in the past, we have been warned of the threats of war and natural disasters - often the threats have been followed by real, dangerous situations. Problems abound within our nation and internationally, yet so many continue as if there was no threat at all. Are you ready?

Whether disasters such as hurricane Katrina or “9-11” were sent directly from God or not, each took out thousands of lives. Whether wars in the Middle East resulted from poor planning or great tactical strategies, many lost their lives. Are you ready?

Driving under the influence of intoxicants - texting while driving - sightseeing rather than concentrating on the road - all these contribute to the deaths of thousands every year. Whether the deaths are a direct result of personal sin or not, only God knows for certain; however, regardless of the reason - many are dead. They are either in heaven or in hell. Are you ready?

Just as quickly as death may result from an automobile accident or a nuclear explosion, even so quickly will Christ return to the earth.“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24.27)

He will return - He will fight - He will win. The earth and all that is in it shall cave under His return. He will rule.

Rev. John H Hill

Anger - 3/25/14 -Download PDF

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.” Jonah 4.1

What is it that makes you angry?

Much can be determined by what causes anger in a person. Generally speaking, anger is counterproductive to accomplishing desired tasks.

When a coach becomes angry with an official over a botched call, he loses his ability to correct problems that could help win a game. Someone once said that a sports official is the only job in which the individual is expected to be perfect from the start and get better. I have watched many times as a coach becomes so obsessed with the faults of an official that he begins to worry more about the officiating than about the game - at that point the game begins to deteriorate and a close game becomes a blow-out all because of anger.

When you are cut off in traffic, there is little recourse unless you want to do something out of the range of sensibility. Blowing the horn - tailgating - saying select words through your windshield are all counterproductive. While it may help relieve some tension, it does very little to change the situation and could lead to a dangerous outcome.

When someone says hurtful words to you or about you, anger wells up and fills your thoughts to the point of eruption. A natural response would be to act in kind by saying some hurtful things about your antagonist.

None of those responses help the situation and seldom produce positive results. The problem of anger is not due to what someone has done to you or said about you. The problem of anger is internal - how you respond to trying situations.

In Jonah’s case, he had just been through an ordeal - a special meeting of minds with a fish and a special command by God. After much ado, Jonah obeyed God and preached to the people of Nineveh expecting God to destroy the city with all the people. His message was simple,“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” (Jonah 3.4)He preached, but God had pity on the repentant populace.

Jonah felt insulted - he had preached the very word of God and God had let him down. His integrity was in question and he felt abandoned. He was so hurt, he desired death. How could God have let him down? These heathen deserved God’s wrath. He looked like a fool.

One thing Jonah had forgotten was that“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (II Peter 3.9)God’s desire is to use His servants to bring people to a saving knowledge of His dear Son.

Vance Havner once commented that often Christians pray the wrong prayer. They pray that God would use them when God is using them all He can. A better prayer would be, “Lord, make me usable.” God went to great lengths to make Jonah usable, but in the end, God used Jonah all He could. Jonah made himself useless because of his own self-worth syndrome. Rather than rejoicing over the great soul harvest in Nineveh, Jonah pleaded for death because of his hurt feelings.

How often are we rendered useless to God because we take offense at things we cannot control - things that are personal affronts, which change nothing about us except our personal assessment of ourselves - things God is using to help shape us into a vessel of honor in His work.

Rev. John H Hill

True Repentance - 3/18/14 -Download PDF

“For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.” Jonah 3.6

Some of the most dangerously volatile situations law enforcement officers encounter concern domestic disputes. Whether or not the victim feels trapped with no place to go or enjoys being victimized is anyone’s guess; however, the officer often will take down the aggressor only to find himself being attacked by the victim.

How can that be? The officer is there to help the victim, yet the victim erupts with violence aimed at the rescuer.

During the struggle, when the tables are turned and the aggressor has been forcibly subdued, he may begin to think of his situation and call out asking for forgiveness. Hearing his pleas the plaintiff relents offering him another chance.

To the obvious question, she may answer, “But he said he was sorry,” or “He promised he would never do it again.”

So often, in the heat of a situation, we all are guilty of making bargains with God - expressing our heartfelt sorrow over something we have done while promising to be better and never fail again.

Simply mouthing words of sorrow and regret are not equivalent to true repentance.“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (II Corinthians 7.10)“Sorrow” in this verse translates a word meaning: “sorrow, pain, grief, annoyance, or affliction” and applies to persons who are in mourning. This type of sorrow cannot be spoken easily - it does not roll off the tongue quickly because it is an issue ejected from one’s soul because of pain.

Hear David’s cry of sorrow:“I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.” (Psalm 6.6)We must realize that repentance, a change of mind, follows true sorrow. David had made himself sick because of his sin, which is not a bad place to be.

He could not escape the reality of it.“For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51.3)What David relates here is that he has owned up to the reality of his willful disobedience and his inability to please God is always conspicuous. There were no options for him - he had to change.

That describes true repentance - when we are so overwhelmed with where we are that we cannot go on unless we change - truly change. Nevertheless, the change begins from within - from the urging of God’s Spirit that dwells within each believer.

It seems that everyone in the world (except for a few skinny people) have gone on diets. The diets do not last long because the dieter is not sick and tired of wearing a mu-mu everywhere - their outward profession is not changed by an inward conviction. Please do not be offended by that because every decision falls into the same category - in order to make life-long changes, we must be changed from the inside.

Repentance comes at no great effort to those who are truly sick of living in sin. As long as we justify ourselves and shift the blame to something else, we will continue making decisions that have no effect on how we live.

The king of Nineveh heard the preaching of the Prodigal Prophet, Jonah, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” He believed what he had heard and became so convinced of his sinfulness that he made drastic changes that lasted for over 150 years. That is repentance.

Some have wondered which comes first - salvation or repentance. According to God’s Word, there must first be a deep, heart-felt sorrow in an individual’s heart. (II Corinthians 7.10) This must be followed by belief (faith) in God’s provision for salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10.10)

Once belief has taken hold, repentance is easy. The new nature provided by the Holy Spirit’s regeneration abhors the evil we once loved - we begin to do those things that are natural to the children of God.

Rev. John H Hill

Inside a Fish - 3/11/14 -Download PDF

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly. Jonah 1.17 - 2.1

When I was young (first grade as I recall), I thought I could outrun my father. Although I do not remember my offense, I do remember that he required my attendance - my close attendance so he could correct a particular problem. As I ran away, I yelled over my shoulder, You cant catch me!

Now, most parents take those words as a personal challenge - most find they must retort with some catchy expression such as, When I get my hands on you, youll wish youd listened to me! My father was patient.

As I sped away, laughing and enjoying the freedom from parental tyranny, I noticed my father said nothing - not a word. For a few moments, he stood on the front porch and watched - then he sat down on the top step, pulled out his pocketknife and began whittling on a piece of wood. He never became frustrated nor flustered - never contentious nor out of control. He simply sat patiently and waited.

Dad knew all too well several things. First, he knew that he could wait longer than I could. It was beginning to get dark, and at the age of a first grader, the darkness brought scary things to mind. I would return to the nest of safety. Second, he knew that I would return. That was the only home I knew and if I went to the neighbors (my pastor and his family) they would simply return me to my front doorstep. Third, he knew that I was a child who was prone to wander and explore - that eventually, I must return.

Throughout my life, I have learned many things, personal things and things that have helped me in my parenting. I learned that our home should be a safe haven for my children - even when they are disinclined to agree with me. It should be a place to which they can flee when in danger - a compelling place that draws them when distressed. I learned that I do not always need to make every decision for my children - they need to be able to make decisions on their own. Sometimes their decisions are not the same things I would do; however, I need to let them make them. When they have made mistakes, they need to know they can come home without reprisal.

Jonah, for various reasons, believed he could outrun and outdistance God. He forgot that God was sitting on the front porch of the world - that in order for Jonah to find peace and safety, he must return to God. God had plenty of time and could afford to give his wandering child some room.

While Jonah was relaxing, in the bottom of the ship, God stuck His finger in the sea and stirred it up a bit - He blew across the crest of the waves and created a storm. Those who were seasoned mariners were terrified - Jonah slept in the ship. While God whittled, the shipmates confronted Jonah who confessed that he was running from God. As God leaned back and relaxed, Jonah was tossed overboard. God was waiting - never confounded nor perplexed - never anxious nor fretful - God knew.

Even though the waves of the sea failed to turn Jonahs heart, God did not worry. Even though the storm threatened the boat, God did not become frustrated with Jonah. Before Jonah hit the foaming water, God called for His specially prepared fish and pointed in Jonahs direction - the fish obeyed and Jonah became supper.

Finally, Jonah realized he could not outrun God - he could not outdistance God - he could not outlast God. Jonah realized that God was patient. At any point during this ordeal, Jonah could have surrendered his will to Gods will. He could have lived under the blessing of his Creator. Because of his stubbornness, rather than blessing, Jonah was inside a fish.

Whenever you find yourself inside a fish, you may want to ask yourself why. If you already know the answer, follow Jonahs example - start confessing. If you do not know the answer, I am certain God will reveal it to you.

Being in the belly of a fish is a persons individual choice; however, it is not where God wants you to be.

Rev. John H Hill

Gods Reminders - 3/4/14 -Download PDF

But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. (Jonah 1.3, 4)

We had planned a day of Crappie fishing on Lake Tillery in Stanly county, North Carolina. Armed with open-face and bait-casting reels, lots of jigs and spinners, we set out early in the morning in a 12-foot johnboat powered by a 15-horse power outboard motor.

Lake Tillery is a reservoir between Badin Lake and Blewett Falls Lake in the Uwharrie Lakes Region of North Carolina - the reservoir boasting a maximum depth of 200 feet with drop-offs at the lakes edge of up to 75 feet. Steep escarpments rising nearly straight up that could not easily be scaled without proper climbing gear bound much of the lake. It is a beautiful sight to behold.

The small motor moved us slowly, across the calm water, to the cove we had planned to fish - the boat and motor were not large enough to create a wake since the boat had two medium sized adults, one medium sized teenager, a cooler, and other supplies.

Generally speaking, crappie fishing is either a feast or famine situation - they either attack your bait or they are completely disinterested. This day was the latter - nothing we put in the water attracted anything - not even a weed.

After a couple of hours without any success, we decided to stop fishing to eat our lunch. It was then we noticed some clouds had moved in - really dark clouds. Being in the sheltered cove, we had not noticed the wind had picked up - this storm would be harsh.

As we moved from the cove back onto the lake, we realized the wind was strong - blowing sideways into our faces. The small motor struggled against the wind unable to push hard enough to get the front of the boat up - we were riding about a foot out of the water and the waves were breaking just above the front of the boat - we were taking on water. Thoughts of scuttling items, swimming for shore (but, there was no shore - only cliffs), jumping over and holding to the side of the boat all raced through our minds.

After what seemed a lifetime and exhausted by the trauma, we reached the dock having sent up many prayers. The boat was so filled with water it should have sunk - so heavy we had to drain water before we could pull it from the lake. We thanked God for His protection.

What went wrong? We were all experienced anglers. We knew the lake and our equipment, and we had been together in this same boat many times.

We had ignored the weather reports. We were so intent on our own plans that we forgot to exercise sound wisdom. While the storm was brewing, we became complacent in our little cove - fell asleep in the serenity of the cove.

Jonah, the prophet, had heard Gods Word - had studied Gods Word, and knew Gods Word. When God spoke, Jonah did not apply Gods Word - he ignored his teaching that Gods way is always best and ran out of Gods will and headlong into the storm. He found himself in the wrong boat, heading the wrong direction, and seeking the wrong goal. At this point, his life was worth only what value God placed on it because it was certainly not worth much in Jonahs own estimation.

Quite often, we head out in a direction without first consulting Gods desire for our lives - we head out on a course that is contrary to Gods will. When that happens, we face strong winds and overwhelming currents - we struggle more fervently and hang on more tenaciously, yet, we are heading in the wrong direction.

Many times the storms of life are strategically placed by God to slow us down - to make us reconsider our position - to offer us an opportunity to turn around.

When we were struggling on Lake Tillery, had we reversed our course the wind would have been at our back helping our progress. Although we would have been forced to walk a few miles to get back to our vehicle, we would have been safe.

Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. When you find yourself struggling against friends, parents, church members, and family, maybe you are heading the wrong direction. Maybe God is suggesting that you stop and reconsider your course before you become shipwrecked and lose it all.

Rev. John H Hill

Pride and Prejudice - 2/25/14 -Download PDF

"The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, You who live in the clefts of the rock, In the loftiness of your dwelling place, Who say in your heart, 'Who will bring me down to earth?'….Because of violence to your brother Jacob, You will be covered with shame, And you will be cut off forever.” Obadiah 1.3, 10

This story begins years prior in a family setting when father and mother chose favorites between their two children – Jacob and Esau. The sons were vastly different – Jacob was smooth skinned and enjoyed a domestic life while Esau was ruddy and enjoyed the outdoors.

Their difference was accentuated by the fact that Mom and Dad did nothing to try to bring peace between the boys. One of the saddest family verses in Scripture isGenesis 25.28, “And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.”Isaac loved Esau…but Rebekah loved Jacob is a tragic indictment against both parents.

Envy and insecurity ruled the home leading to schemes by Mom and the younger Jacob to gain the special blessing from the father. The entire story may be read in Genesis 25-27 showing the results of the scheming – subterfuge leading to estrangement – guile leading to further deception – greed leading to hostility.

Even though Esau had been wronged, after more than twenty years of separation, he had made much of his situation and was willing to give up on his vow of vengeance against his brother. In fact, when Jacob and Esau met,“…Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.” (Genesis 33.4)Esau had made a good life for himself and had moved on. (Genesis 33.9)

Somehow in the translation and application of this scene of forgiving and forsaking, both sides of this family missed what had transpired between the brothers – the families held on to the animosity and suspicion the brothers had abandoned. They had taken up a cause that no longer existed.

To their own hurt, many times people take up causes that should have been left behind. How often do good people waste great energy fighting in causes that should have been long buried. Some are still fighting the Civil War – some are still haggling over inheritances that were divided years ago – some still hold contempt for the kid who delivered a punch in the seventh grade.

Many years after Jacob and Esau had buried the hatchet, the descendants of Esau (the Edomites) still kept the flames of hatred alive. They very smugly believed they could continue their hostility without consequence. Their abode was high in the rocky recesses of Petra – a seemingly impenetrable fortress – unreachable and therefore unconquerable. They failed to remember that“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16.18)They forgot that Israel was the apple of God’s eye, and that touching Israel touched God. (Zechariah 2.8) They chose to rely upon their own devices rather than placing their trust squarely on the shoulders of the Almighty believing that even God could not reach them through their protection.

He could not only reach them, but He also would. God remembered the evil deeds of the Edomites and the righteous deeds of the Israelites – the wickedness of heart of the Edomites and the God-loving heart of the Israelites – the decadent spirit of the Edomites and the dependent spirit of the Israelites.

For their violence against Israel, Edom would be completely cut off – their great abilities and talents spent for naught. For their faithfulness to God, Israel would be blessed – their great abilities and talents used for a greater purpose, God’s glory.

Remember that we all must be careful which causes we choose to fight. Selfish and long-settled feuds bring pain and suffering – they should be abandoned and left for the Lord to sort out. Conflicts brought on for vengeance or personal satisfaction never offer the desired result. There are times when we must take our burden to the Lord and leave it there.

Rev. John H Hill

Memories - 2/18/14 -Download PDF

“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” Hebrews 13.7

In 1896 Charles M. Sheldon wrote the book, “In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?” The story begins with a pastor working on his Sunday sermon – a bit irritated that he had been interrupted several times. Just after asking his wife to keep him from any further interruptions while he finished his “work for the Lord,” a persistent knock at the front door again disturbed him.

He really had no time for the interruptions; after all, he was working on a sermon to inspire his people to follow Christ – a sermon to explain the necessity of following Jesus in His example and sacrifice – a sermon that would offer three logical steps in accomplishing this new life of personal sacrifice. Rev. Henry Maxwell had chosen for his text I Peter 2.21, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.”

“In His Steps” takes this pastor and his congregation on a spiritual journey that will bring them face-to-face with themselves and how truly lacking they were in their application of spiritual truth to everyday living.

“What would Jesus do?” is a question each of us must ask ourselves, but not in the modern, trite rendition that glides so easily off our lips popularized by WWJD bracelets and trinkets. It is a question we must ask ourselves with full knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – and, we must answer it.

The author of Hebrews, in his concluding comments, tells his readers to “remember them which have the rule over you.” In order to understand the “remember,” we must understand who are the ruling ones. While many suggest these are ones ranging from pastors to government officials, from husbands to parents, the Greek (hegeomai) suggests ones who lead the way – those who have gone before us. These are the ones whose steps we must follow.

The first ten chapters of Hebrews introduce us to the Great God and Savior who is better than the previously held, often repeated, sacrifices under the Old Covenant. He is shown as the All-Sufficient One, who takes away the sin of the world through His work on the cross. Chapter eleven is the great “Hall of Faith” chapter, which introduces us to others who have gone before proving that following Christ is not only possible but is also the best way to live. These, through their lives, offer vivid illustrations of what Jesus would do and provide footprints into which we can step.

What would Jesus do? The question begs us to follow in His footsteps – to do the things He would do as exemplified in the lives of those who have gone before us – those who knew the Savior personally and looked forward to His appearing. How did they follow Him? by knowing Him intimately – by knowing really what He would do in any given situation.

Whether or not we are following Christ does not depend upon our personal experiences or emotions. It does not depend upon our spiritualizing or fabricating some sentimental idea of some great teacher, but in knowing Him personally.

Just as the little boy follows his father in the snow, placing his feet in the footprints left for him, even so we must place our feet in the prints left by our Savior and His faithful followers who have gone before us. In order to do that, we must study to show ourselves approved and to do those things we have studied. We must learn to know Him, and the power of His resurrection.

We must learn which are His footsteps and then follow in them.

Rev. John H Hill

The Plumbline - 1/28/14 -Download PDF

“And the LORD said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more: And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” (Amos 7.8, 9)

From my formative years I remember the word “plumb” being thrown around – often to indicate exaggeration or emphasis. For example, when someone did something that made no sense you might hear, “That boy is plumb crazy.” I heard that once from an older country gentleman as my friend and I jumped from the roof of a barn just to prove we could do it. I think I remember hearing him say something like, “Ya’ll watch this!” just before he jumped.

We both survived the deed, or at least I think I did, without any permanent brain damage. Still, in the opinion of the older gentleman, we were plumb crazy.

Plumb is a word that is applied to something that is properly aligned – something that is straight and true. A plumbline is a simple device made of a string and a weight tied onto one end, and used to make walls and vertical structures conform to a perfect vertical line. If a wall is not plumb, the entire structure will suffer stress, lean, and eventually collapse.

In order to withstand winds and storms, the structure must be plumb.

Amos heard the call of God while he was tending sheep and harvesting sycamore fruits. (Amos 7.14) As he began his ministry of preaching God’s Word, he was overcome with the magnitude of the calling – the entire nation was out of plumb with God.

The descendants of Isaac had erected spiritual high places where they served idols. Israel (the Northern kingdom) had rejected the true places of worship. Families had begun to trust in the might of the house of Jeroboam for protection. And, others had turned away from Amos, God’s true prophet. A final pressure point that caused the structure to fail was when Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, declared Amos unfit by suggesting thatthe land is not able to bear all his words.” (Amos 7.10)They had removed themselves from following after the one true God – they were out of plumb.

In reality, the land could not continue with a leaning structure – one that was out of plumb.

Because of God’s love and mercy, He dropped a plumbline in the midst of His people to test their vertical relationship. The plumbline represents His Law – the Word of God. It is by the Word of God that every thought, attitude and action must be tested. All of the counselors and counselling in the world cannot correct a spiritual structure that is out of plumb. We must be plumb separated and plumb dedicated to God and His Word.

When a life is not completely straight by God’s Word, it is plumb crooked and plumb sinful. It is plumb ridiculous and plumb crazy.

In order to be plumb, take out your Bible and put away those things that are not in agreement with God’s Word. Study the Truth – God’s Truth as revealed in His Word and align yourself with Him. Not only will He lead you in the right direction and give you a perfect vertical relationship, but He will also make your paths straight and give you solid footing.

“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” (Psalm 40.2)

Rev. John H Hill

Complacency - 1/22/14 -Download PDF

“Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!... but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” (Amos 6.1, 6b)

Israel had become smug. They were living in luxury and enjoying the fruits of freedom and wealth. Their beds were costly – their couches were comfy – their food was the finest of the fine. (Amos 6.2) Anything they could possibly desire for creature comforts was readily available to them. It seemed that all was well; yet, there were spiritual problems.

While sports teams sometimes sail through regular season defeating every opponent easily, a good coach knows that may not be the best way to end a season – undefeated. Often with a stellar season comes a feeling of euphoria – even complacency – as the team goes into playoffs. An attitude of “no one can beat us” begins to surface, and with it, a false sense of security.

As an official, I have opportunity to see teams over long periods of time as they go from a so-so group of athletes to a competent team able to win – and often win big. I watch as the stronger team presses the weaker team full-court, running up the score and humiliating the other team. After many years on the field and court, I have come to understand the principle of “what goes around comes around.”

One such team sailed high and fast past every opponent – won the state championship – thought they were invincible. That year they were. They pressed and ran up scores in a spirit of egoism rather than sportsmanship – defeating some challengers by fifty or more points. On one occasion, the final score was 113 to 6. I can only imagine the mindset of someone who would do that; however, what was forgotten was that the starting lineup all graduated that year and moved on with life. The coach found how challenging it is to be faced with hard presses and unrelenting offenses the next year when he had no ball handlers. A previous year’s complacency had lulled him into the belief that his good fortune would continue forever.

Israel had become one of those who believed they had gained their position in the world on their own.“Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns {powers, i.e. defeated nations} by our own strength?” (Amos 6.13, See Psalm 75.10)

Christians in free countries need to be aware. The freedom we enjoy came at great cost and with great effort. We are not free to worship because we are a privileged people, but because God has made it possible through His power, grace and mercy. In a moment, our freedoms could be taken; and we could find ourselves holding secret worship services in the woods and other hidden places.

A real believer enjoys freedom because of God’s good pleasure not because he deserves any special privileges. Remember that some of the most stalwart believers were tortured and burned for their stand for Christ.

As we draw nigh to God in our quiet times, we should shake off the complacency our security and affluence engenders and remember to thank Him for His provision and for our freedom. We should praise Him because He has seen fit to bless us with such wonderful blessings in freedom to worship. We should remember who we really are and who He really is. He is Savior and Provider – the Lover of our souls who has sacrificed in order to make us free.

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64.6)

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3.5)

Rev. John H Hill

Seek Good - 1/14/14 -Download PDF

“Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.” (Amos 5.14)

Evil is such a contemptible word. While I suppose some live to do evil, most rational people would prefer being good. When asked, “How are you doing?” most people respond with, “I’m good.” Even though proper English would require “I’m well,” their mindset is that they are not bad – certainly not evil.

The book of Genesis introduces us to the concept of good and evil. God placed the original couple in a perfect environment, Eden, told them to enjoy and tend everything except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were warned of its hazards.

First, in the day of the eating they would surely die – they did die at that moment spiritually and later physically. Their spiritual capacity was throttled back so that their ability to commune with and have fellowship with God had been severely thwarted. They were spiritually handicapped – not able to enjoy a clear, rich understanding of the love God had for them. They were afraid of Him for the first time.

Second, they were warned that they would know the difference between good and evil. That sounds like it should have been a blessing; however, it was not. Up to the point of their sin, they had known only good. There was no propensity to sinning and their relationships were pure – between each other and between them and God. Knowing evil plunged them into the slough of despond where the constant struggle to do good would elude them.

God’s Word requires us to both know the difference between good and evil and to seek (diligently search for answers) good – to do good.“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5.20)

Knowing the difference is not so difficult. The Hebrew word translated “good” is tawb. Tawb describes those things that are pleasing to God, our Creator. Antediluvian humanity missed this point. The godly line descending from Seth looked at the daughters of men, descendants of Cain, and saw them as fair (tawb – pleasing to God) and intermarried with them destroying the God-ordained separation between believers and unbelievers. (Genesis 6.2)

On the other side is the concept of evil which translates the Hebrew word ra. Doing evil is any activity that is not pleasing to God. It may be something as horrific as adultery or murder – or, it may be something that seems as benign as fishing on Sunday rather than attending the house of God. (Hebrews 10.25)

As a youth growing up in a conservative southern community, those things considered evil by our adult counterparts included long hair on boys and short skirts on girls – going to the movies or dancing – staying out past 11:00 – and, of course, smoking and drinking. While there is wisdom in the old conservative manners, much of the argument addressed symptoms rather than cause.

While a man is actively seeking the Lord, he will not commit adultery. While a teenager is actively seeking the Lord, she will not engage in habits that defile the body. While a wife is actively seeking the Lord, she will not be overtaken by fantasies offered in racy novels. While any person is actively seeking the Lord, he is also actively fleeing those things that would displease His Savior. Giving Jesus first place and everything else a lesser place brings God glory and offers the believer a fellowship divine.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6.33)

Rev. John H Hill

Abused - 1/7/14 -Download PDF

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8.28

Next to John 3.16, this could be the most used verse in the Bible. It also could be the most abused. Abused, not because of what it says or does not say, but because of what is omitted.

From using it in attempts to soothe the bereft to coddling a child with a skinned knee, this verse has been misquoted and misused to the point where it has lost its meaning and power – it has become trite.

When my daughter died – when my wife was in the hospital – when my child had a broken arm – when I was visiting someone in the hospital – the most quoted phrase was, “And we know that all things work together for good.” Granted, there are other worse things to say when trying to help a parent who has lost a child. Things like, “Well, at least you have two more daughters.” There was one well-meaning soul who suggested he knew my hurt because when he was young his beloved dog was hit by a car and killed.

And, after all, brother, you know that all things work together for good. Having two remaining daughters does no more to ease the hurt than to have a friend suggest my deceased is somehow equivalent to a dog. (I hope I have not offended any dog owners, but children are different from a pet.) I wanted to scream because they did not finish the verse. Not everything in life works together for good from a human perspective.

I have found that any loss we have experienced has prepared us for greater blessings – not only personally received blessings but also blessings we have shared with others. God offers to those who have experienced loss to be a blessing to others who have had similar experiences – fellowship on a different level than can be found on clubs or teams – fellowship from having shared a deep, life-changing encounter.

So, how is this verse applied? What does it mean? Verse 28 cannot be dissected or separated from verse 29. While it is true that all things work together for good, the outcome has qualifiers.

First, the working together for good is dependent upon the person’s love for God. There is no rhyme or reason offered to those who do not love God – they cannot see beyond their own personal, self-centered desires. They are aliens and strangers to the household of faith: they cannot understand anything beyond human reasoning. All they see in death is death with hope of something of which they are unaware.

The preposition “for” (eis – “into”) suggests movement. Every event in the life of one who loves God moves toward good – a good that is beyond human understanding or reasoning.

Second, the working together for good is dependent upon the person’s having been called by God – called to be a part of the family of God. Having been called by God indicates that this person has been reconciled (changed from enemy to friend) to God through the blood of Christ Jesus. Those who are not of the redeemed cannot expect anything to work for good. In fact, all of life’s events that should heighten his awareness of God’s calling only provide stumbling blocks on the slippery slope to hell. In the judgment, he will remember vividly those encounters with God along the pathway of his life – not all will work out for his good.

Third, the “good” is not necessarily a short-term happy feeling. The “good” is God’s “purpose” (translated in Hebrews 9.2 as “showbread” – the bread placed in the sanctuary of the Temple as a testimony of God’s perfect plan). God’s plan for the believer is to bring him to a place where He can “show him off.” Just as in the days of Job, (a man who was perfect before his trials but made to understand more deeply the mind of God through suffering) God looked down and pointed out this single man to Satan as God’s example of grace. God showed Satan that Job would not fail his Redeemer because he loved God and had been called. Job looked beyond the present moment into the future and said,“I know that my Redeemer liveth.” (Job 19.25a).

The reason we can say that all things work together for good is that the believer understands what “good” is. “Good” is that which promotes the cause of Christ and brings believers more in line with who Christ is. “Good” is that which God has predestined us to be. “Good” is to live in the image of Christ.

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate {planned ahead of time} to be conformed {having a similar appearance} to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8.29)

Rev. John H Hill