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The Body - 10/27/15 - Download PDF

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (I Corinthians 1.10)

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” (I Corinthians 12.12)

One of the great blessings of being a sports official comes from the numbers of people I meet – people from all walks of life and some, literally from around the world. Backgrounds and cultural differences sometimes vary quite sharply; however, that is some of the appeal.

Recently I had the opportunity to work a football game with three men I had never met. Two of them looked vaguely familiar, but we determined it was because we had seen each other at a state officials’ clinic and not because we had worked together.

One of the men was much taller than I and one was shorter – one was thinner and one was, well, let’s just say he was healthier. One worked in developing parts for automated machinery – one was in sales – another a farmer, and I, a preacher.

Of course, there were five distinct positions represented on the field: Referee, umpire, head linesman, line judge and back judge. Each with specific and well-defined responsibilities – each one dependent upon the ability and expertise of the other.

From our perspective, the game went very well. The players played football; the coaches coached; and the fans yelled. At the end of the game (an overwhelming victory for the home team), the losing coach ran over to us and told us it was the best officiated game he had had all year.

How is that possible? Officials who had never met prior to our pre-game conference working together in a contest that made the losing coach happy!

The answer lies in the fact that each part, although quite different, made up a successful whole. We were not five officials on the field – we were the third team. By supporting and assisting each other, we not only made our partners look good, but we also looked good ourselves.

One of the greatest weaknesses within any local assembly of believers comes when someone is forced into a role that does not suit their spiritual makeup. God has equipped some of His children with great abilities in soul winning. While we should all be looking for opportunities to share our faith with the lost, not everyone will be an aggressive soul winner. The believer who has the gift of service would definitely go soul winning if you pressed him, but he would be uncomfortable and out of place; however, if you asked him to mow the grass or clean the restrooms, he would be both happy and comfortable.

During our football game, one of the most valuable components to our smooth game was the ball-boys. These were unpaid, unofficial members of our crew who made certain that we had a ball ready for the offensive to snap. Not often recognized for their work and certainly not receiving the same accolades as the star quarterback or wide receiver, these individuals do as much to ensure a smooth ball game as anyone on the field.

While the preacher, soloist, pianist or organist may receive more recognition, their work can be only as successful as the other members of the church who do their jobs faithfully. There is nothing quite like being a pastor in “deep meditation” prior to the morning service only to be interrupted by someone saying that the toilet paper is all used up in one of the restrooms.

Nothing quite like the experience a pastor has when he is drawing his message to a climactic ending – looking for great revival to flood over his congregation – knowing the Lord is about to do a great work – then, when everyone is just about to break down in tears and run to the altar, a baby screams.

Thank God for nursery workers!

A successful church is not one in which there is 100% participation in the Saturday morning, door-to-door soul winning efforts. A successful church is one in which each member knows his gifts and performs them in the way God expects.

Not everyone can wear the stripes and be on the field, but those running balls, bringing water to the players, and taping injuries are just as vital to the game.

Not everyone can stand behind a pulpit or sing a solo, but those filling the toilet racks, changing diapers, and setting up tables for a social are just as vital to the church.

The body is one with many individual parts. When the parts work together properly, the church runs smoothly and our Savior is honored.

Rev. John H Hill

Are You Listening? - 10/20/15 - Download PDF

“We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” (I John 4.6)

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” (James 4.6)

His attendance at church was neither consistent nor sporadic. He came on special occasions – usually when one of his children had a special part in a play or some other presentation. He never sang when the congregation sang and never became involved other than to fill a spot on a church pew.

He paid the tuition to send his children to a Christian school and made the activities of the school a chief priority in his life. His attitude was friendly and upbeat – he fit in well with the crowd at the games.

We often had conversations together concerning salvation, the Lord, the Bible and other things “religious” – he was an atheist.

Our conversations were never argumentative (arguments with unbelievers very seldom help the situation), but common discussions showing respect for each other’s positions. On one occasion I offered him the book “Who Moved the Stone” by Frank Morison and asked him if he would mind reading it. The ruse I offered was that I found the evidence compelling and would like his opinion of the work – whether he thought the research and logic to be sound. After about a month, he returned with the opinion that Morison had done a wonderful job in defending his faith and that the research was indeed well documented and sound.

Still, he claimed to be an atheist. Rather astounding – especially if you have ever read the book.

Articulate, with a pleasant personality and a good conversationalist, this man had no desire to seek further into the possibility of there being a God out there somewhere or in having a relationship with someone or something he could not see. A fool? According to Scripture, yes! (Psalm 14.1) An imbecile? Hardly. He was intelligent – very intelligent.

It seems his problems with God stemmed from interpersonal relationships with believers. While his family professed faith in the God he did not know, they could never seem to settle with a local group of believers (a local church) for any extended period of time. In other words, they were church hoppers. They would attend a church for a while, often for a few years, find fault with the people and/or the leadership and move to another assembly. His rationale was that if the people in the church were fake, then the God they served must be fake, too.

Another situation that caused him some disillusionment was the ingenuousness of the people haunting the hallowed halls of the place of worship. He had visited all of the churches to which his family had belonged over the years and had a simple test. Since most people in the South greet new visitors and occasional attenders with a common phrase, “How are you today?” he would use it to his advantage – as a test of their true concern. His response was normally, “Terrible.” With that he would listen for their attentive response.

You can imagine what it was, because most of us are not careful to hear what someone else is saying. We are more careful to respond as we have programed ourselves to respond. Most would respond, “That’s good,” or “Wonderful. Glad to hear it.” They would then move on.

His test worked – the true believers proved themselves to be not interested in him personally – at least they did not slow down long enough to properly express an interest in him. As far as I know, he still occasionally attends special meetings with his family – still testing the church people, and still unbelieving.

We speak of having compassion – of showing true Christian, brotherly love – of being Christ-like in our living – yet, when we have opportunity we often fail the test.

We enter our place of worship focused on our seat and bypass visitors in order to reach our appointed place. We rush out of the sanctuary after service to beat the traffic (or the lines at the restaurants) missing great opportunities to greet those for whom Christ died.

I understand that I John 4.6 speaks more of hearing the teaching of the Word of God by the elders of the New Testament assemblies; however, the truth is there for us. Knowing God suggests that we need to take time to listen – to pay attention to those who need the Savior. After all, if we are not available to the lost for communication, to whom shall they turn?

“…he that knoweth God heareth us…”

Rev. John H Hill

Working - 10/13/15 - Download PDF

“But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” (John 5.17)

The word “worketh” is a present, middle deponent, indicative. What that means is that this is a statement of fact (indicative) and that it is always a present reality – The Father was working when Jesus made this statement and the Father is still working today. Furthermore, it says that the Father is personally working (middle deponent).

Jesus readily admitted that the works He accomplished while on the earth were at the bidding of the Father and in accord with the Father’s desires. “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5.19)

One specific scenario is of special interest – it is recorded in Luke 8 and 9. The disciples had been with Jesus for many months, witnessing His works – the works that the Father had sent Him to accomplish. They had seen the sick healed, the demoniacs released, the dead raised, and thousands fed from a few morsels of someone’s lunch.

Beyond that, they had been sent on a special mission to preach the kingdom. On their journey, they had their provisions met and they accomplished many of the same miracles our Lord had accomplished. They fed the hungry, healed the sick, released the demoniacs, and raised the dead.

After having personally experienced the Father’s blessings on their lives through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, in Luke 9 we find them doubting and complacent. As Jesus made His preparations to meet His Passion and most glorious moment, they were asleep.

Without a doubt, they were exhausted. They had ministered to thousands and had followed Jesus all across the countryside. “He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9.20-23)

This was His battle cry as He entered into the final days of His earthly ministry. Peter’s refusal to accept this brought a stern rebuke from the Master, yet the truth of this statement did not sink into the disciples’ hearts. While they slept, our Savior’s countenance changed, Moses and Elijah ministered to Him, and the glory of the Lord came down.

While they slept, the Father was working.

On the sea, in the storm, the Father was working. When the sick were healed and the spiritually oppressed were suffering, the Father was working. While Lazarus was in the grave, the Father was working. During our Lord’s Passion, the Father was working. As Jesus gave up His life and blood in payment for the sins of the world, the Father was working. On that great resurrection morning, the Father was working.

When He heard the sinner’s prayer, the Father was working.

We so often fail to remember the past times the Father was working in our lives – He is still continuously working. Through your present trials and tribulations, the Father is working. His presence is always with us for He said through His Son, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13.5) He is always there. The grace in which He bathed us in the past is the same sustaining grace He offers us today.

“I was lost, oh so lost and He found me

He was there, Always there,

His love surrounded me

Then I knew all my prayers had been answered one by one,

I know He loves me –

Just Look at what He’s done.”

--Kim Reid

Rev. John H Hill

Communication - 10/6/15 - Download PDF

“But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” (Matthew 5.37)

The Andy Griffith Show introduced my generation to a number of interesting people and used them to reinforce principles and values of honesty and integrity. One such character, “Gentleman Dan” Caldwell, happened upon Mayberry as a con man of great notoriety. His reputation as a “gentleman” preceded him. Barney was enamored with Dan before the state police dropped him off, and before long Dan had Aunt Bea and Opie eating out of his hands.

Barney became embarrassed with the jail because “Gentleman Dan” had been in all the big city jails. His two-cell jail just would not do. Aunt Bea was taken in and began giving favors. Opie began calling him “Uncle Dan” and emulating Dan’s language.

Dan’s special skills included telling people what they wanted to hear and twisting the truth to fit his personal agenda. After making his promises, Dan would seal his word as truth by saying, “On my word as a gentleman.” The problem was that his sophistication was nothing more than a thin façade – his word was worthless.

When Dan weaseled his way out of the cell and into possession of Barney’s gun, his façade fell off when he threatened Andy in front of Opie. All at once the truth hit those who were taken in and “Gentleman Dan” was exposed.

No honest, thinking, responsible Christian would ever intentionally con someone else, yet, it happens. It may come as a promise of confidentiality or of a needed service around the home. The confidentiality is broken when the confidant “shares” private concerns with a friend for the purpose of adding strength to the prayer. After all, two or three praying together certainly must be better than one. Prayer concerns certainly must trump confidentiality. And, emergencies come up keeping us from honoring our word to help the person in need around their house. After all, it is an emergency – they will understand.

No honest, thinking, responsible Christian would ever intentionally lie to someone else, yet, it happens. It may come as a slight misrepresentation of a truth or as a quotation from someone who is not completely reliable. Most often, when hearing a tale told by more than one person we have become accustomed to hearing both sides of the story. Even though there is only one truth, we must listen carefully in order to discern which (if either) is telling the truth – or which part of their story is true and which is not. There is also a problem when we quote from an unreliable source only to be forced into a compromising position when their word is found to be false.

Sometimes we become so emotionally involved in a situation that we fly to bent conclusions based upon false information and personal feelings.

While we may expect such things from the unsaved (having no stable foundation, James 1.8), we should expect only truth from our Christian brothers and sisters. Often, Bible teachers teach what others have studied rather than searching the Scriptures for themselves and spending personal time alone with God. Some pastors find themselves in difficult straits trying to explain a passage of Scripture after having only read someone else’s commentary on it.

Face Book is filled with statements made by emotionally charged individuals (both believers and unbelievers) who have not verified what they post. Believers have succumbed to arbitrary attacks on others based upon talking points and statements without facts. It seems that the “yea” is no long a “yea” and the “nay” is no longer a “nay.”

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt" has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Some have attributed it to Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Clemens, Samuel Johnson, and even Voltaire. At best, the origin of the statement is obscure. To emphatically contend that Abraham Lincoln was first to make it, one would be stretching the unprovable; however, the truth of the statement is real.

While Face Book may seem a fun place to vent our emotional eruptions, it has also become a place where believers are losing their ability to positively influence others for the cause of Christ. Before making emphatic statements based upon unproven and emotionally charged thoughts, we should all stop and consider the affects our words have on our testimony for Christ.

If people find our posted statements to be unreliable, how can we expect them to appreciate our statements of faith?

Rev. John H Hill

Empty - 9/29/15 - Download PDF

“And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.” (Luke 9.10)

The disciples had just returned from a mission of spreading the message of the kingdom of God. They had gone out empty (without provisions for the trip) and they had returned without having made financial profit (they returned empty as they had gone). They had preached, healed and raised the dead – a mission not overlooked by Herod the Tetrarch. They had made an impression on both populace and political leadership. Yet, they were empty.

Herod was perplexed. The word “perplexed” indicates that he had weighed all possible opinions and came up dry – intellectually and spiritually. He could not understand the influence of this itinerate Preacher and His followers. Who was He? Elijah? John the Baptist? All plausible explanations came up short. He was empty.

The disciples had performed great miracles in the name of Jesus. Their needs had been provided and they had accomplished great things – enough things that all were amazed at the results. When the people followed needing food, their response was to send them away. They were empty.

Followers who had heard the message and seen the miracles still followed without offering any suggestions for handling this problem. They were seekers who had no ability to help themselves – away from home and unprepared, they wandered as sheep having no shepherd. Hungry and despondent, they were empty.

The political system had no answers – it failed to meet the people’s basic needs. It was empty. All the miracles in the world did not heal the problems of the world – the problems still existed. It was empty. The great crowds of people, spiritual seekers were still without hope. They were empty.

Herod abandoned them. The disciples said to send them away. Our Lord said, “Give them to eat.” Perplexed with the situation and abandoned of ability, the disciples were rattled and confused. “We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people. For they were about five thousand men….” (Luke 9.13b, 14a)

Against impossible conditions and insurmountable opposition, Jesus said, “Make them sit down by fifties in a company.” (Luke 9.14b) Jesus was not empty.

Having considered all this, Jesus asked His disciples, “Whom say the people that I am?” (Luke 9.18ff) The people missed it. “They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again.” (Luke 9.19) Jesus led His disciples into the realm of fulfillment when He asked, “But whom say ye that I am?” Finally someone understood what it meant to be full: “Peter answering said, The Christ of God.” (Luke 9.20)

Nothing the world offers brings fulfillment – it leaves the soul, the inner man, empty. Only Jesus, the Christ of God, offers complete satisfaction. Accepting Christ as Savior fills the soul to overflowing. Everyone who encounters Christ in a personal, individual, saving way leaves with his cup filled to overflowing.

“Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6.30-34)

Rev. John H Hill

What is Truth? - 9/22/15 - Download PDF

“Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.” (John 18.3)

Sometime in my childhood, our Superintendent of Education for Moore County, North Carolina, Dr. Lee, made a comment that stuck with me. He said, “Education is what you have left when you have forgotten all you have learned.” I have no idea whether that was original with him, but it caused me to think.

During my eighth grade year, my history teacher, Marvin Gaster, taught us a lesson about discernment that I have never forgotten. Using the Cold War era as a setting, he gave the following allegory: The United States and Russia were in an automobile race against each other. There were only the two entrants. As it turned out, the United States won the race; however, when reporting the results to the Russian people, the Russian press manipulated the truth. They said that Russia had entered an international racing competition which included them and the United States. As a result of the race, the Russians finished second while the United States finished next to last.

While the Russians spoke the truth, they manipulated it to make themselves seem to be victorious over the United States.

This concept was further driven home during my college years by a soft-spoken professor. The course was Statistics 101. As he introduced the course, he quoted from someone saying, “Figures never lie, but liars figure.” With modern communications and the rapidity and ease of transferring information around the world, it is difficult sometimes to be able to discern the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Google and Face Book offer information at the fingertips; however, we must remember that just because something is framed eloquently or displayed ornately it is not necessarily true. Modern society, urged on by reality shows (that aren’t so real) and television talk shows (that are out for the spectacular) rarely measure up to biblical truth. In fact, a good rule of thumb is, “If you see it on TV or in the media, it probably is not true.”

Political figures have armies of minions who manipulate facts in order to twist them for their own purposes. It seems no one is able to take facts and objectively report them without “spin.” The scientific community has devolved into a politically correct group of activists.

So, as one preacher once proposed, “What do you do when you disagree with the Bible?” His answer: “You change your opinion to match God’s Word.”

With that in mind, we must remember that in the next several months politicians will manipulate data and stretch truth to its breaking point in an attempt to get your vote. Many have already swallowed the bait by being ardently loyal to a party rather than to their sound thinking and biblical understanding. We should be careful not to allow our party loyalty to cause us to drift into a world of fiction.

Notice a couple of examples. Consider the global warming debate. Science (“falsely so called,” I Timothy 6.20) suggests that global warming will be the end of the world. When considered against biblical truth, that may be true but it cannot occur for at least another 1,007 years (Tribulation and Millennial Kingdom of Christ are yet future).

Scientists debate over the point at which a “fetus” becomes a living being. Biblically there is no debated. Life begins at conception. When David was confessing his deplorably sinful condition before God he said, “In sin did my mother conceive me.” He uses the personal pronoun, “me” – not fetus – not parasite – not mass of tissue. Jeremiah rejoiced in the fact that God knew him by name when he was yet unborn. (Jeremiah 1.5) Furthermore, David expressed great joy in the fact that God knew Him personally while he was developing inside his mother. (Psalm 139.16) Killing what is inside of a mother’s womb is murder – does not matter whether it was a “love-child” or the result of a rape – it is still a life.

Most politicians suggest firmly that they have the answers to the world’s problems – they do not. No matter what side of the aisle you sit on, whether the right or left, or somewhere in the middle, they do not have the answers because their truth has been twisted.

There is only One who has the truth – and He is the Truth. (John 14.6) Any departure from Him or deviation from His teachings makes that individual a liar bearing false information and spewing inaccurate accounts. (Romans 3.4)

If you want to be a child of the Truth, whenever there is a question you must choose to side with God and His Word or you will be walking on a wrong path.

Rev. John H Hill

Sound Doctrine - 9/15/15 - Download PDF

“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:” (Titus 2.1)

In our modern churches, many have departed from teaching sound doctrine. There seems to be a movement to shun the basic teachings of the faith in favor of enjoying a praise service filled with leaders attempting to get people charged up and ready for the preaching, which essentially is a message to encourage and exhort.

Please do not misunderstand; there is nothing wrong with uplifting music and encouraging preaching, however, a disciple (learner, student) of Christ needs more foundational teaching. If a Sunday service is able to fire up a congregation, a Monday-morning cranky co-worker can steal the blessing by showing up with a bad attitude.

There are some doctrines that are essential to understanding God, Christ and salvation: the virgin birth of Jesus, the inspiration and inerrancy of God’s Word, the deity of Christ, and salvation only through faith in the sacrificial, substitutionary death, burial and resurrection of our Savior-God. Without those, at least, salvation is not possible. To believe in the historical Jesus saves no one – to believe in the kind and gentle Jesus is ineffective: one must believe that He is God and that He paid the price for humanity’s sins by shedding His blood and rising from the dead.

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12) “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1.12, 13)

You will notice in the above verse (Titus 2.1) that Paul is speaking of “sound doctrine” that applies to those who believe and are attempting to live a life of discipleship for their Savior – the ones in Titus 2 are believers and should be adding to their saving faith a testimony of “sound doctrine.” Notice also that Titus 2.1 ends with a colon. The colon indicates that what follows explains what precedes. In other words, the sound doctrine of which Paul writes is explained in the rest of the chapter.

I should warn you that this teaching from God’s Word is not politically correct, but it is essential if the Christian community is to replicate itself and live pleasing lives to our God.

Space prevents me from writing at length on this subject, but a cursory look reveals that “aged men” (not necessarily old, but mature Christians) should be leaders of younger men. They should take their assignment seriously – training young men to be serious minded and how to be the next generation of leaders. Above all they should know what they believe, why they believe and how to apply what they believe into practical, day-to-day situations. They should show great patience as they teach the young men to be sober-minded as well. (Titus 2.6) Whether playing games or working, mature men should be training the younger generation in how to be good husbands and fathers. Men are required, according to sound doctrine, to love their wives as Christ loved the church and as they love their own bodies. (Ephesians 5.25, 28) Would you rather eat or do something sweet for your wife. Hmmmmm.

Likewise, the “aged women” are to teach young women how to live holy lives and to be keepers at home. (Like I said, this is not politically correct.) How different would society be today if Christian women actually taught their daughters how to be a godly wife! What would our churches be like if older women taught younger ladies how to love their husbands and their children! Sometimes husbands and colicky babies are not the easiest group to love – it takes patience and understanding. Then there is the issue of being discreet, which literally means “to be of a sound mind” - not to be impulsive but self-controlled.

Young men should exemplify mature and sober living. Their lives should be above reproach and honoring to Christ. They should take this roll seriously. Again, how different would society be if all Christian young men lived soberly, loving their wives and taking care of their family responsibilities! (II Thessalonians 3.10; I Timothy 5.8)

While we should be able to give an answer to those who do not believe with our knowledge of God’s Word (I Peter 3.15), we should be equally ready to show to those around us what Christ-like living is by our personal application of “sound doctrine.”

Rev. John H Hill

The Best Seat in the House - 9/8/15 - Download PDF

“And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?” (James 2.3, 4)

It seems that the Bible has much to say about the best seat in the house. Our Lord spoke of this very thing as something not to be pursued. “But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” (Matthew 23.5-7)

It seems that the Bible has much to say about the best seat in the house. Our Lord spoke of this very thing as something not to be pursued. “But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” (Matthew 23.5-7)

We all like to be recognized and enjoy being pampered. We delight in getting a seat on the fifty yard line of an important ball game or the table closest to the speaker at a banquet. After all, it only seems right to be recognized for some accomplishment we have achieved – Most Valuable Player – Mother of the Year, etc.

There has never walked on the face of the earth anyone more important that our Lord Jesus Christ, yet He never asserted His position while here. He never took the best seat – never asked for special favors – never required being at the front of the line. Not only did He not take special favors, but His ministry taught that humility was a greater accomplishment than acclaim.

There has never walked on the face of the earth anyone more important that our Lord Jesus Christ, yet He never asserted His position while here. He never took the best seat – never asked for special favors – never required being at the front of the line. Not only did He not take special favors, but His ministry taught that humility was a greater accomplishment than acclaim.

Jesus set the groundwork for us to understand “…that God is no respecter of persons,” (Acts 10.34b – Peter’s words) and that “…in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” (Acts 10.35) With God there is no black or white – skin color is not within His realm of consideration. God looks at the heart.

For any individual who has placed his faith in the saving power of Jesus Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3.28)

This principle is nowhere better illustrated than in the last part of Luke 8. While Jesus is wading through a throng of people, He is stopped by an exhausted ruler of the synagogue named Jairus. Jairus, a man of great renown and a spiritual leader of his people, humbles himself in the presence of Jesus begging Christ’s indulgence on his daughter’s behalf – she is dying. It seems obvious that Jairus is desperate since he has come to this renegade teacher--time was of the essence.

As Jesus continued meandering through the crowd’s press, He stopped short. Someone had touched Him. Healing power had flowed from out of Him. When He asked “Who touched Me,” you can almost sense the disciples’ bewilderment as they probably thought, “Who didn’t touch You?”

The woman was unclean – an outcast of society – penniless (having spent all on doctors who had no cure) and most probably without friends. Anyone who would befriend her would become unclean and also an outcast.

Jesus did not rebuke her for stopping Him on His urgent mission of healing the only daughter of this dignitary. He took time for her, “And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” (Luke 8.48)

Meanwhile, while He took time for this outcast, the ruler’s daughter died. What must have been going through the mind and heart of this great leader of the people! Was he thinking what Martha and Mary openly expressed? “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” (John 11.21, 32)

God is not One to offer special privileges except to those who have come to Him through the blood of Jesus Christ. Being a good person or doing good deeds does not procure a seat at the table of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, neither is He One to exclude someone who has come to Him in faith.

To God, a soul is a soul – precious in His sight. Anyone expecting to be accepted in the eternal fellowship of heaven must come by way of the same, single path – Jesus Christ.

To God, a soul is a soul – precious in His sight. Anyone expecting to be accepted in the eternal fellowship of heaven must come by way of the same, single path – Jesus Christ.

We have a great responsibility to accept anyone God accepts. After all, we are family.

Rev. John H Hill

The Butterfly - 9/1/15 - Download PDF

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” I Corinthians 10.13

I have always been fascinated with butterflies. With weak and fragile wings they float and flit about being carried by updrafts and antagonistic winds. Imagine what a bumblebee could do if it had wings like a butterfly.

Such a wonderfully colorful creature that one would never suspect the ordeal it endured in order to become this delicate beauty.

When I was a child, there was a day when I found a cocoon as the butterfly writhed in seeming agony in its attempts to escape its bonds. For a long while I watched the struggle until childlike compassion took over and I freed the butterfly. Carefully, I pulled open the case and afforded the imprisoned insect its freedom.

Already you are thinking about my gross error. You are correct. The butterfly did not survive the escape. As a matter of fact, it lasted only a few minutes – never even having the opportunity to unfurl its wings. With wings still blanketing its body, it lay lifeless.

The reason for the death was that it needed the struggle – it needed to work its way through the prison of its trial. God designed it that way. Without struggle the butterfly would never survive much less fly.

The path of service for Christ follows a similar path. A true disciple understands that growth can only occur as we are exercised in the discipline of the Cross.

Sometimes the obstacles come from God Himself. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Hebrews 12.11) These are the times God uses disciplinary measures to bring us back to the proper course. It is never any fun being disciplined, but the result is a closer walk with and better understanding of God and His ways.

Sometimes the obstacles are of our own making. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6.16) As we yield ourselves to following the wrong leader, our path becomes increasingly more difficult until we find ourselves in a prison of our own making.

Sometimes the obstacles are imposed upon us by others. “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.” (II Timothy 4.14, 15)

No matter how the cocoon is formed or by whom, we all find ourselves in cocoons that imprison us – causing us great effort to free ourselves from them. The casing seems suffocating and restricting. Escape seems nearly impossible – “nearly.” However, there is a way. There is always a way.

The word “temptation” is a word with wide application. It may suggest a temptation; however, it may also suggest a testing, an experiment, or a proving. As a believer in Christ, there is a power working within us that is far greater than any cocoon of trial or temptation that could possibly render us useless “…because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (I John 4.4) He is a Power that gives us the ability to soar on eagles wings and scale the heights upon hind’s feet. (Isaiah 40.31; Psalm 18.33)

There is always a way of escape even if the way is difficult – but the way is there. It is offered by our Savior. And, though the way seems impassible, it is not. While it is proper to pray, “deliver us from evil,” (Matthew 6.13) it is not proper to pray to be delivered from the hardships because the hardships of life are the things that make us fit to soar on the winds.

Rev. John H Hill

Dog Tired - 8/25/15 - Download PDF

“And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.” Mark 4.36

There were times at the end of the day that I would hear my mother say, “I’m so tired I can’t see straight.”

Have you ever been there? So tired that when you stepped into your home that you felt you could not even make it to the bed? So exhausted that you collapsed on the couch or recliner?

Mark gives to us a unique portrait of our Savior – the God-man. Even though Jesus was/is God, while on earth He was afflicted with hunger and exhaustion just like any of the rest of us.

His ministry of the day included receiving blasphemous comments by the scribes. “And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.” (Mark 3.22) Not to be out done, the Pharisees joined in the accusations. “But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.” (Matthew 12.24)

All of this came about because Jesus was doing good deeds: healing, casting out devils, and teaching the truth of the Kingdom of God.

To add to this emotional exhaustion, Jesus’ family showed up to take Him home. Evidently Jesus friends had called His family because they thought He had lost His mind. “And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself {out of His mind}.” (Mark 3.21)

Exhausted and hungry (Mark 3.20), abandoned by His family, Jesus knew He had further business to attend to that day. He had to teach His disciples despite the circumstances, and He had yet to stop a storm and deliver a demoniac.

Mark also gives to us a unique view of the depths of Jesus’ exhaustion. While the other Gospel writers may leave us to believe that Jesus made His way into the ship as would anyone, Mark says that the disciples, “… took him even as he was in the ship.” (Mark 4.36)

The word “took” (paralambano) is a compound word suggesting that someone takes another by the hand and leads or carries that person along. It is no wonder that Jesus could sleep through the storm. Marvin R. Vincent (“Vincent’s Word Studies”) suggests that this is a very graphic statement indicating that Jesus, “fell off (ἀπό) into sleep.” He could not take another step. Sleep did not simply come to Him; it overtook Him.

He was so soundly asleep that even though the ship was in peril of sinking, He slept on. Those on the ship had no little chore in awaking Him from this deep slumber. While the waves filled the ship and the winds blew from every direction, Jesus slept on.

The disciples in trying to rouse Him, shouted their concern both at the storm and the Savior, “Carest thou not that we perish?” Were they correct in their assessment? Did Jesus really not care?

Jesus, the God of eternity, knew their destination would be reached. He had an appointment the next day with a demon possessed man in Gadara. This was not a matter of a lack of caring but of Sovereign confidence. Remember what He had told His disciples? “Let us pass over unto the other side.” (Mark 4.35)

Even though there are times in our lives when our ship is sinking, our Savior has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. We can be confident that all the storms of life are nothing more than a few grains of sand in our shoes – irritating but not derailing.

“With Christ in the vessel, we can smile at the storm,
Smile at the storm, Smile at the storm,
With Christ in the vessel, we can smile at the storm
As we go sailing home.

“Sailing, sailing home, Sailing, sailing home,
With Christ in the vessel, we can smile at the storm
As we go sailing home.”

Rev. John H Hill

The Light - 8/18/15 - Download PDF

“No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light…. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.” (Luke 8.16, 18)

Stating the obvious, Jesus says that no one would be so inane as to light a candle and then hide it. A lit candle must be out in the open, in the dark, to be effective. Also, an unlit candle is useless until light is applied.

The candle has no light within itself, but must be lit from an outside source. It then burns as a result of the lighting.

The question here is, “What is the light?”

We have all been exposed to statements such as: “I saw the light,” “Let your light shine,” and “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” The fact is that our light shines every day to the people with whom we have contact – whatever that light may be.

After stating the obvious, Jesus exhorts His hearers to “Take heed how ye hear.” How means “in what manner.” We seldom consider how we hear, but it is important. As an example, we often use background music while doing another task such as studying. The background music may soothe but is seldom remembered consciously because our minds were occupied with something else. A student of music, however, would be paying close attention to the scores, timing and expressions while listening because that is part of his focus.

A question that exists in Christendom concerns the light. What is the light?

Some suggest that education is the light. Gaining information and intelligence certainly expands ones opportunities to succeed; however, information and intelligence may serve to worsen a situation. Teaching a thief the locksmithing trade will only help him be a more proficient thief.

Some suggest the answer is a better, more healthful diet. Eating properly is a good idea; however, eating too much of the right food will also worsen the situation. Eating only tofu and bean sprouts will certainly lead to weight loss, but may also lead to malnutrition.

Some suggest exercise is the most important thing. Everyone should be active at something if they are able. An idle body tends to atrophy; however, too much exercise may harm the body.

Some suggest that having strong family relationships is paramount. Having your children around for family meals and devotions is important, but this is not the light of which Jesus spoke.

Each of these would suggest that they have seen the light. They take their light and put it on a candlestick for all to see and encourage others to follow their example.

When He had made His comments He was told that His family was outside wanting to see Him. He said, “My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.” (Luke 8.21)

Herein lies the answer – the Light is Jesus. “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8.12) In order to shine forth the Light, we must know the Light – we must make certain the Light burning on our candle properly expresses the true identity of the Savior.

By properly representing the true Light, all the other things will fall in line.

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10.31)

Rev. John H Hill

God is Love - 8/11/15 - Download PDF

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love….And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (I John 4.8, 16)

God is love. Such a simple, yet profound statement. Have you ever thought about it? Really thought about it?

Of all the “God is” statements in the Bible, this may be the grandest expression of the Person of God we have.

Some years ago, the definition of the word “is” was brought into question by one of our national leaders. Until that time, I had never even thought of the meaning because, well, it is what it is – isn’t it?

Although I have never taken an official survey, I suppose that if ten people were asked, “What is love?” there would be ten different answers. To some, love is a cute puppy. To others, love is a faithful wife or husband – or having children who are obedient and kind. To a dating couple, love might be defined as exchanging rings and vows in a church at an altar with a pastor officiating the ceremony.

When we think of God, we most often think of the things He does rather than what He is. We consider Him a loving God – but that is something He does because of who He is. We consider Him the source of all mercy and grace – but that is something He gives because of who He is. We have opportunity to love Him because He first loved us and we offer mercy and grace to others because of the mercy and grace He has extended to us.

For some who experience difficult times in their lives, they may take a position that God is not showing His love. There is that word “is” again. When heartache and pain invade our lives is God less loving? Not if we believe John’s words: “God is love.”

From a human perspective, the word “is” may change with time – it is what it is now. God, however, is not affected by time or environmental conditions. God is love – all the time. His Word expresses it and His eternal nature demands it. He is the immutable, eternal God.

Whether the world (or a believer) admits it, in God’s sight the word “is” requires something unconditional and unchangeable. During the good times and the bad times, God is love.

In the English translation, the word “love” is the predicate nominative – meaning that the sentence may be reversed with the same meaning. For example, “God is love” may be read “Love is God” with the same meaning. The Greek is a bit different in that this is considered to be an anarthrous predicate indicating that the predicate’s intended meaning is hinged upon the subject. In other words, love is a characteristic of God and without God there is no love.

What that means is that God is fundamentally and essentially LOVE: not merely loving. True love can only be experienced as we develop a relationship with this God of love; because, without Him love does not exist. With Him love becomes deeper as we walk in fellowship with Him.

One of the reasons human love can deteriorate is that it is based upon personal attractions rather than upon the God of love. As we age, our interests change – we sometimes grow together but sometimes grow apart. There are activities I engaged in when I was younger that I no longer enjoy as I get older. Playing football in the rain, as an example, has far less appeal now than it did when I was in my teenage years. But the God of love becomes closer to me each day of my life.

Agape translates love in both of our verses. Agape has often been described as an unselfish, giving love – one that expects nothing in return. It is an enduring love that comes from God – the self-sacrificing love that causes One to die for the sins of the world. Agape actually means “brotherly love, affection, good will, love, benevolence” – things that to us seem fleeting and changing with varying moods and situations.

However, when we consider the fact that God is love, moods and situations will not cause change in our expressions of love. Only as we detour from our personal relationship with our Savior/God do our acts of love change and diminish with time. As we faithfully continue to apply God’s love character to our lives, our love becomes solid and unchanging.

Rev. John H Hill

Wisdom’s Children - 8/4/15 - Download PDF

“But wisdom is justified of all her children.” (Luke 7.35)

There seems to be a common flaw within much of leadership these days – whether it is pastoral, parental, governmental or any other type of leadership. That flaw is consistent with the suggestion that a child should do as they are told and not as they see the parent do.

My mother once told me that her father’s philosophy of discipline often included the statement, “Do as I say, not as I do.” While that alleviates immediate pressure while children are young, it does little to instill within their lives personal principles that will guide their lives even after they have left the nest.

In my personal experiences, I believe I have learned more about myself from my children than from any other source. As a matter of fact, some of my most personal moments of truth have come when I have tried to correct flaws in my children that I have not mastered in my own life. Mastering a flaw or short-coming is essential if we are to properly equip our children with spiritual truth and the ability to apply God’s Word for themselves.

It is momentarily easier to force our young into obedience – but only until they reach an age in which they are capable of making decisions for their own lives. When they reach that age, they must have something within that will guide their thought processes and enable them to make sound, mature decisions.

Have you ever wondered why children who have been brought up in Christian schools and Christian homes depart from the faith when they graduate from high school? If the invested knowledge has not reached the heart – if it is still a “do as I say” mentality – they will lose their way when they are on their own. When children are young they can be forced into obedience, but for that obedience to continue, they must understand the Master’s heart.

When any leader requires his followers to be blind followers, they never develop personal wisdom.

Jesus uses two polar opposites to express His position concerning wisdom.

The Pharisee was ritualistically perfect – the woman of the city was an habitual sinner. The Pharisee had kept all of the Law and felt himself to be on equal footing with the Savior – the woman of the city had habitually broken the Law and believed she was not worthy to sit with the Savior. The Pharisee thought he had no need of a Savior – the woman of the city knew she needed a Savior.

Wherein lay wisdom? Was it in the Pharisee’s belief or in the woman of the city’s belief? Who would have been harder to reach with the truth of God’s love? Who was closer to the kingdom of God?

There is an old adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Some are so filled with the “words” of the Scriptures that they are not filled with the “Spirit” of the Scriptures. They have heard it so much that they can quote it at will, but it has not changed their lives for the better. They have become so familiar with Jesus that they no longer stand in awe at His majesty. The church has become a social gathering place rather than a place of worship – children run the aisles and climb on the pulpit furniture because they have not caught the grandeur of the presence of the Holy.

The reality of salvation is that the closer we draw to our Savior the more majestic and wonderful He appears. Familiarity with Him does not breed contempt, but rather, admiration.

It is far better to “stand amazed in the presence” – never to become so comfortable that we lose the wonder of it all – than it is to be so comfortable that we fail to remember our great need as sinners.

True wisdom understands and acknowledges our position as servants and sinners as truly as it recognizes the deity of the Savior. And, wisdom is justified (shown to be right and acceptable) in the lives of all her children. Just as an apple tree bears only apples, even so the child of Wisdom bears wisdom.

Rev. John H Hill

Be Still - 7/28/15 - Download PDF

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46.10)

One of my Dad’s favorite sayings during my childhood was, “Be still.”

I have never considered myself to be over-active. ADD and ADHD had not been invented until long after I had grown into my adulthood years; however, when I became more active than suited my father he would slow us down with that simple command. It was a command that he expected us to follow quickly.

From my perspective, the command was never to be questioned because I knew the consequences of not obeying. While my father was a wonderful, caring dad, he never put up with childish foolishness. Discipline was swift and well-placed.

From his perspective, the command had a purpose. It is really difficult to instruct a youngster while he is flitting about. In order to clearly instruct a child, one must first have his undivided attention.

At times, I have taken my child’s face in my hands and said, “Look at me when I speak to you.” Distractions – the flit of a butterfly, or a passing cloud, or any other peripheral activity seems sufficient to draw a child’s attention away from a serious discussion for learning.

In the military, a sharp “atten-hut” is sufficient to arrest the attention of a recruit; however, in Christian life God often must use greater devices to gain the disciple’s focus. To the prophet, God sent the whirlwind and a fire, but His word came not in either of those – it came in a still, small voice.

God still speaks to His children in His still, small voice, but only when we listen and are not flitting about occupied with matters of lesser importance.

While a yard of high grass may be distracting, it is not as important as pausing to speak with our Father. While we worry when our child has the sniffles, we should worry more when we have not walked in the garden with our eternal Companion. While the dishes piled high in the sink may be heavy on our minds, the piles of worries that we can lay at the base of the cross are of far more importance.

God wants our attention, and, He will have it. When we do not respond to His still, small voice, He may use sickness or death – tragedy or disaster – to have us look into His face when He speaks.

When Vance Havner (late Baptist evangelist) was asked what he would change about his life and ministry, he responded with, “I would do less.”

A coach who spends all of his time wrapping ankles will rarely win a state championship because he is busy about something good but not about what is essential. A carpenter who spends all of his time bidding jobs will have difficulty making financial ends meet because he is busy about obtaining jobs but not about getting the job done. A pastor who spends all of his time with the business end of the ministry may balance the budget and make twenty visits per week but will be so frazzled on Sunday that he will be feeding his sheep chaff rather than grain.

Being busy does not equate with accomplishing God’s calling. When Martha complained to Jesus that she was doing all the work while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, He responded with, “And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10.41, 42)

The follower of Christ does not impress Him by all the things we “do.” We impress Him by giving Him our attention – by being still in His presence – by pausing often to hear Him speak.

We should carefully consider how much of His blessed instruction we have missed while we were too busy to be still and look into His face.

Rev. John H Hill

Rumor Has It - 7/21/15 - Download PDF

“And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.” (Luke 7.17)

I suppose each of us has been affected by rumors. Unfortunately, when the word “rumor” is used it does not connote a pleasant context.

According to Noah Webster’s Dictionary of the American English (1828 Edition), the primary meaning of this word is, “Flying or popular report; a current story passing from one person to another without any known authority for the truth of it.”

I am certain we have all been involved in some fashion, either on the good side or the bad side, of a rumor of the first type. Whether with intent or simply by mistake, we have offered wrong information as fact or have fell victim to someone else’s misinformation. Remember, bad rumors about you are never started by your friends.

Modern means of having knowledge at our finger tips has not improved the situation at all. Just this week my wife and I were on a flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Charlotte, North Carolina when our plane was diverted to Charleston, South Carolina (which is where we wanted to be anyway) because of severe thunderstorms in Charlotte. No sooner had passengers regained their ability to connect to the internet when someone said, “The thunderstorm threat was lifted in Charlotte before our plane touched down.” All were patient, but some were a bit uneasy because of the foreboding delays. In fact, the rumor was wrong. Charlotte was socked in for another two hours.

Simply because information flies at Mach speed does not ensure that it is entirely accurate. The speed of information only verifies what the Scriptures have said for hundreds of years that people are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (II Timothy 3.7)

Many years ago, a prominent preacher’s obituary was printed in a state newspaper. The problem was that this preacher was still alive. He responded to the erroneous report by offering his own editorial in which he said, “The rumor of my recent demise has been grossly exaggerated.”

There are so many “Monday-morning quarterbacks” out there who think they know everything there is to know. Given the internet, they become more certain of faulty information and misguided reasoning because whatever their “facts” happen to be, they may be found on the internet. After all, everything posted somewhere on the internet must be true. Right? Wrong!

Ill-conceived rumors have broken relationships, destroyed reputations, and begat wars. Martin Luther King, Jr. was right in his assessment when he said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

There are, however, some rumors we may all spread that will have a positive, eternal result.

Webster’s secondary meaning for the word “rumor” is, “Report of a fact; a story well authorized.” With his definitions, Webster uses each word in a sentence to show its proper sense. Here is his: “This rumor of him went forth throughout all Judea. Luke 7.”

In the King James Version of the Bible, logos translates the word “rumour.” Logos most commonly translates into “word,” and is best known in John 1.1-5 where the author equates the Word as being in the beginning with and co-equal with God. In Luke 7, Jesus created quite a stir by raising the widow’s son from death to life while he was being carried to the cemetery on a bier (an open funeral couch) – open for all to see. By reading the passage, one finds that He did so in the presence of a great number of people including disciples, town’s people, and religious leaders.

The information concerning the Person, power, work and salvation of Jesus Christ is prolific. In closing his gospel record, John wrote, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” (John 21.25)

There are so many good rumors about the Savior, Jesus Christ, that we should have little time to spread rumors that may be hurtful and in most cases inaccurate. Let us put aside idle words and put on a vibrant discussion about the One who really matters.

Rev. John H Hill

Marveling - 7/14/15 - Download PDF

“When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” Luke 7.9

Many things in the world cause me to stand in awe.

Some years ago I traveled with my wife and some friends to the Grand Canyon. We started at the small end and worked our way to the “grand” end – driving along and stopping to take a look at the various stopping points. With each stop the view became more marvelous; however, when we reached the observation deck the view was indescribable. It was marvelous.

When our children were young, our family traveled to Niagara Falls. Whether viewed from the United States side or the Canadian side – or from the deck of a boat at the bottom of the falls, the view was marvelous.

During my college days, I took a course called “Missionary Aviation.” Students earned three hours credit for passing the written test and another three hours credit for passing the flight test and receiving our pilot’s license. I had several reasons for taking the course, but one of the greatest was my fear of heights. One can only imagine how I marveled as we taxied down the runway in the 1952 Cessna 150 for the first time. I marveled that it would actually fly and I marveled as we gained altitude, taking wing and seeing things from a heavenly viewpoint.

To a tour guide at the Grand Canyon, the view may not seem quite so impressive as it did when we saw it the first time. To the captain of the boat which took us to the bottom of Niagara Falls, the routine may become mundane. To a veteran fighter pilot, a flight in a Cessna 150 would certainly be less than thrilling.

To the Creator God, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1.16, 17), all of those things must seem less than impressive. Pike’s Peak, Mount Everest and the Marianas Trench are all a part of His creation. After all, He made it all.

“He measured the sea in the span of His hand. Mountains were placed at His command. And at the sound of His voice the sun shines through, And there’s nothing, no nothing, that my God can’t do.”*

“Though men may strive to go beyond the reach of space To walk beyond the distant glimmering stars. This world's a room so small within my Father's house The open sky but a portion of his yard. **

With that in mind, what does it take to impress God?

The word “marveled” in Luke 7.9 variously translates in the King James as “marveled, amazed, and wonder.” It carries the idea of amazement and admiration. Although the particular Greek word occurs 48 times in Scripture, it is used of Jesus only three times. Twice it is used of one scene recorded by both Matthew (8.10) and Luke referring to Jesus’ amazement at the Centurion’s great faith.

It seems the Centurion had great enough faith in Jesus’ ability to heal that he would be satisfied if Jesus would but speak a word in order for the servant to be healed. No laying on of hands – just a word. No visit – just a word. Jesus marveled at this man’s great faith.

The only other occasion this word is used concerning Jesus’ attitude is found in Mark 6.6 where Jesus marvels at the unbelief of those of His own country. Because of their lack of faith Jesus’ ministry was hindered and He did very few miracles there.

So what is it that causes our God to marvel? Faith.

*Lyrics by Dottie Rambo and Jimmy Davis ** Lyrics by Stuart Hamblin

Rev. John H Hill

Aging in Christ - 7/7/15 - Download PDF

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (I John 2.15)

One of the greatest truths ever spoken is, “You are known by the company you keep.” We should all keep in mind that there is a great difference between reaching out to the wayward and hanging out with the wayward.

Over the years I have spoken at camps – both Christian and sports – and have found that most young people have built-in radar. As soon as the young people step off the bus and onto the campus, their radar antennae go up in search of like-minded (and of like attitude) campers. It is amazing how the good campers tend to congregate with other good campers and the not-so-good campers congregate with other not-so-good campers.

Throughout life, we run into similar situations in nearly everything we do. And, this peculiarity is intensified by acquaintances we meet along the way. Good people not only become better people, but they also surround themselves with good people. Power-hungry people surround themselves with others who seek to climb the ladder of success.

We will all be known by our associations – those with whom we spend time on a consistent basis and how we respond to the availability of power, our popularity and our success.

Each of these factors is directly related to the graciousness of God. “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” (I Corinthians 12.11) “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2.13)

Too often believers think that their position and notoriety come from their own personal efforts forgetting that without God they are nothing – that everyone deserves to be condemned because of personal sin.

This week I had the opportunity to meet a couple of my all-time favorite people – Phil Balsley and Don Reid. Two men from a group, who have toured the world, entertained dignitaries including royalty and presidents, stood before thousands, accumulated more awards for musical accomplishments than any other group in the history of Country and Gospel music.

Upon our first handshake, I realized that the Spirit of God was in their lives compelling them to worship and to have faith in the salvation offered by God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Having rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty, they had no need to acknowledge a stranger or to show Christian kindness – but, they did.

I saw them serving in their local church, doing tasks often left to the cleaning people – yet, enjoying the opportunity to serve their Savior and offer a bit of hospitality to an unknown.

That is the spirit Christ places within a true believer – His Spirit. That is the spirit which says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11.28) That is the spirit which says, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19.14) That is the spirit which requires, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8.17)

The Spirit of Christ is never too big or too popular or too proud to meet the “little-guy” on the street and welcome him into their circle. The Spirit of Christ is one that recognizes a fellow believer and makes him feel like he is a part of the family. After all, true believers will be known by their love for each other (John 13.35) because we are blood relatives and will express that love by our acceptance of each other. As we get older, we should become more loving toward the brotherhood – we should prefer the brotherhood – we should be more Christ-like in our attitudes toward the brotherhood. No job should be too menial for our participation and no brother in Christ should be too lowly for us to accept into our fellowship.

Watching my two new friends, I realized their tremendous spirit of humility as they tended to the things of their Savior – honoring Him with their sweet spirit and love.

“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” (Romans 12.10)

Rev. John H Hill

Preparation - 6/23/15 - Download PDF

“And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho. And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day. And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.” (Joshua 5.10-12)

With God, many things do not seem to fit into proper “human” models. As an example, the Apostle Paul states: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (II Corinthians 12.10), suggesting that weakness somehow indicates power.

He also said, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” (I Corinthians 1.27)

That does not sound like the optimum method of running a world-wide kingdom; however, God delights in seeing the little guy succeed when he does so through the power of God’s Spirit. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4.6b)

As Joshua encamped with his people just prior to the siege of Jericho, he sought the Lord’s will concerning the conquest of Canaan. The answers were puzzling – the arrangements were incredible – the preparations were devoid of common sense; however, the results were beyond fantastic.

Word had spread quickly about God’s drying up of the Jordan, and the safe crossing of the Israelites – especially during the flood stages of the river. The enemy was ripe for picking because their hearts had “melted” and they had no “spirit” left in them. (Joshua 5.1)

Intel would suggest a quick attack – attack while the enemy is confused – attack while the door is open. But, attack!

When God spoke to Joshua His command made little human sense but great spiritual sense. The command was to circumcise all the males who had been born since having left Egypt – all who had not been circumcised during the forty years in the wilderness. The several days involved for healing following this operation might offer the Canaanites and Amalekites time to reconsider and regain heart.

The importance of this action may only be seen through spiritual eyes. Circumcision was the personal token on the Israelite’s side of a special covenant relationship to their God. It was an outward expression of an inward commitment to separate themselves from the world and serve only the One, True God.

While in the wilderness, the Israelites had drifted into habits devoid of spiritual awareness – devoid of personal dealings with God. They must renew their vows – personally and individually.

Interestingly enough, after each male was circumcised and Israel had celebrated the Passover, and everyone was rejoicing in their revived personal relationships, God cut off the manna. For most of the time in the wilderness, God had provided food – manna – to keep them alive. After this act of revival/renewal, God abruptly stopped providing.

They called the place “Gilgal” meaning “a rolling away,” which indicated “freedom” – more than just freedom from Egypt. They were now free to make decisions to serve and honor their God.

Being blessed of God does not mean that a believer gets everything they want; neither does it mean that all the flowers will be blooming and that the sky will always be a beautiful cloudless blue.

Sometimes in the middle of revival blessings, God says “no more handouts.” After all, the handouts are simply another form of slavery – slavery to the one holding the purse.

The end of this story is beautiful. As Joshua stood near Jericho, realizing he would need to muster a military force large enough to overpower an impenetrable city, his covenant God met with him and assured him that he was not alone.

Being in a perfect relationship with God never suggests that your bills will all be paid and that you will experience perfect health. It does guarantee that you will be walking on holy ground with a Friend who sticks by you closer than a brother.

Rev. John H Hill

Love and Loyalty - 6/16/15 - Download PDF

“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” (Luke 6.31-34)

Many years ago I was invited to meet with a North Carolina church’s pulpit committee. The position they sought to fill was primarily a youth pastor slot, but also included other responsibilities including worship leader, choir director and Christian school administrator. Other than having a rather wide open job description, it seemed odd that I should meet with the committee in the absence of the pastor. He was away until late Saturday night so I would not meet him until Sunday morning prior to Sunday school.

After a wonderful meal prepared by the wives of the committee, we all sat down to begin the screening process for the open position. The chairman called the meeting to order and open with the following statement/question: “In order to move forward, we need to settle one specific issue; do you pull for UNC or State?” (Yes, he was serious.)

At the time, I suppose I leaned a bit toward UNC; however, the question brought me to a crossroad in my life/career. It seemed the committee should rather have questioned me about my salvation and call to the ministry – possibly even about my love for my Savior and loyalty to His cause.

That was the question Jesus concerned Peter with following the resurrection. Three times Jesus asks Peter, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” and twice Peter responds with, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee,” and once with “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” (John 21.15-17)

Some find it confusing, at least difficult to understand why Jesus would ask three times and Peter would respond similarly. The answer lies within the Greek words translated as “love.”

Four times a derivative of the Greek “phileo” is used: all three of Peter’s responses and the last of Jesus’ three questions. Jesus uses a derivative of the Greek “agape” in His first two questions to Peter.

Phileo is easy enough to understand. It is the Greek from which we get the word Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love; and philanthropy – the love of humanity. It generally means an affection that causes us to become involved with something or someone – to show that we care.

This could even be referred to as being a “fan” – as an example, someone “loving” a sports team or school. Loyalty to a sports team revolves around some of the flimsiest of foundations. Those with a phileo love of a team often shift their loyalties during March-Madness when “their” team fails to make it to the next round. Of course, they never quite lose their affection for “their” team, but can just as easily cheer for an alternate in order to enjoy the “fellowship” with friends during the Final Four.

That is what Peter did. While he was healing, feeding the 5,000, and following Jesus during the peak of His earthly ministry, Peter was right there – cheering and enjoying the victories. When the pressure came, Peter folded – he was a fan of a winning team. Warming himself by the fire, among the enemy, he switched teams. While this is not an overly harsh indictment against Peter, it is an accurate observation – when his team seemed to be losing, his loyalty shifted.

The specific question Jesus put before Peter twice used the Greek word agape. Agape has been defined, explained, mythicized and mystified even though the meaning can be summed up into one word – “loyalty.”

Agape is a committed love that asks for nothing in return, yet stays consistently behind the object of attention. This is the love a man has for his wife despite the advances of available, often more attractive, younger models. This is the love a believer has for his Savior, despite the allure of career or other promised benefits. This is the love a church member has for his local assembly, despite low attendance and sometimes low morale.

This is a love that stays true without regard to prevailing situations or exciting alternatives. It stays true in the face of persecution and prosperity. It stays true.

This is what Jesus asked Peter, “Will you be loyal to Me?”

Rev. John H Hill

Your Church - 6/9/15 - Download PDF

“Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord….A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” Proverbs 6.14, 19

Take a moment and consider why you go to the church you are now attending. Why are you a member of that local group?

There are many possible answers to that question.

Culture and background (how you were reared) is certainly a consideration. This lends itself to a cohesive local group based in part upon heritage and assumed inbred similarities. Farmers have much in common with other farmers, and yuppies have much in common with other yuppies. These common bonds are certainly not weakening agents.

Style and method (how you choose to worship) is another consideration. How do you worship? While some enjoy a service filled with “action” (the “running-down-the-aisle” high energy meeting), others enjoy a calm and peaceful, serene meeting with God. Some enjoy strict liturgy while others enjoy a free-style worship.

Family and friends (how you associate) may be a strong consideration. Of course the local church should bear a strong family environment with people of common interests offering the feeling of belonging, and family and friends aids that cohesiveness.

Youth groups and activities (how you will be fed and led) seem to be a must in one’s consideration. What does this church have to offer my children and other opportunities for other-than-worship opportunities?

Over the past forty-plus years of ministering in local churches, I have been amazed at the number of people who, for one reason or another, find a church home and within months discover that it is not meeting their spiritual needs. What is missing in the above formulae is God’s will as to the family’s involvement in a church. In choosing a church, God’s will should be paramount.

When people join a local assembly, it is difficult to understand how God could lead them to a church only to lead them away within a few months because of hurt feelings or misunderstandings. Could God have been wrong in His sovereign choice? Does God lead a person to a different church every couple of years?

The church people have gone the way of modern society – “If it feels good, do it. When it doesn’t feel good, change venues.” Invariably these same people will find a “new, Holy Spirit filled” church where they will be excited for a time. They will contact friends and associates from previous churches inviting them away from a place where God has led them – explaining that they have found the “place.” They sow discord among the brethren (that applies to brethren anywhere, not just a particular local assembly), feeding their own personal desires and not realizing what they are doing to the body of Christ – a body far more important than personal feelings.

John exhorts believers to be sure of their personal relationship with the Savior, to be faithful to Him, and to realize the bond that holds true believers together. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (I John 2.19)

Whatever church you choose to associate yourself, make certain the doctrine is true to God’s Word and that God has led you there. Make certain that you are really a member of Christ’s body through personal salvation and that you nourish that body knowing you are a part of this same body. “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” (Romans 12.5)

Be a blessing to others. Be faithful to the place God has called you. Guard yourself from doing damage to Christ’s body through engaging in personalized petty differences and sheep-stealing.

Whenever there is a questionable situation – one in which you “feel” provoked into action – take the advice of the writer of Hebrews. “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)

Rev. John H Hill

Believing in Vain - 6/2/15 - Download PDF

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” (I Corinthians 15.1, 2)

One of my all-time favorite quotations is: “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”*

The Bible warns us that in the latter days, scoffers will come walking after their own lusts. It seems that we live in a day in which many church-people interpret the Bible according to their own pre-conceived notions of what it should say rather than what it really says.

In sincerity, they spend their lives sincerely trusting in a personally devised belief system based upon a smidgen of biblical input and a load of feelings. They conscientiously build their hopes for the future upon ideologies which have no sure footing.

When the Psalmist wrote, “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), He spoke as much about being brought out of the vanity of human understanding and upon the rock of stability as prepared by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In sincere ignorance, many believe if they are good enough – go to church often enough – put enough money in the offering plate – do enough good deeds – they will somehow make it in the final balancing act of good versus evil. After all their lives are better than most and who should be allowed to judge that? In conscientious stupidity they defy the truth of the teaching of God’s Word – that salvation comes only through the shed blood of Jesus the Christ. That is true salvation – one “by which also ye are saved.”

There is a narrow path when it comes to saving faith. The path is paved by the blood of the only acceptable Redeemer. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12)

Salvation is not by works. “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) The best works we have to offer (prior to personal salvation) are not good enough. “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)

Salvation is by grace through faith. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2.8, 9)

Grace is God’s kindness He shows through the sacrifice of His Son. Faith is a firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing.

Since faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed, saving faith demands that it must be planted firmly upon the proper foundation. “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10.38, 39)

Remember, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” To trust in anything other than “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14.6) is an exercise in eternal futility.

*Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963.

Rev. John H Hill

Come Unto Me - 5/26/15 - Download PDF

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” (John 7.37)

The setting for this verse was the last day of the great Feast of Tabernacles. A runner would run through the streets of Jerusalem with a container of water – ending his run at the crowed altar area, he would pour out the water at the altar as a reminder to every one of the water God miraculously provided for a thirsty Israel in the wilderness.

Done every day during the Feast, on the last day the altar area would be crowded – Jerusalem would be filled with people celebrating their deliverance from Egypt and from the desert heat endured by their fathers.

As the water was being poured out on this particular day, Jesus stood in the midst of this great sea of people and cried out, saying, “If anyone should be thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”

The statement would have come to a mixed multitude. Some would have understood and recognized the correlation between the wilderness water and the Water of Life standing before them. Some would have immediately become offended because of the audacity of this break of protocol. Some would have risen with disdain against this man who would dare to equate Himself with God’s ability to satisfy one’s soul. Some would have suspected Him of having lost His mind.

It is to this same mixed multitude that the invitation goes today. Jesus stands amongst us offering the same invitation, saying, “Come unto Me.”

In the Scriptures, He calls the little ones to Himself and warns the grown-ups to stay out of the way as they come – indicating that anyone coming to Him must come as a little child. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19.14) The little child comes without pretext or preconceived ideas. He comes simply because Jesus calls him – He comes to the loving arms of the Savior in complete unadulterated trust.

Jesus calls to those who are laboring – burdened down so greatly that they have no hope of moving on without help. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11.28) Not only does the Savior offer to take upon Himself our load, but He offers “rest” (Greek = anapauo – “refreshment”). As the burden of sin, vain attempts at gaining salvation, and useless practices at alleviating guilt are erased by the Savior; we breathe the fresh air of freedom.

Jesus calls all to repentance – to drink of the life-giving water. The supply would be great enough to fill the believer to overflowing – spilling out to reach others with the same eternal life having been offered. “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7.38)

At the close of many evangelistic efforts, a favorite invitational song offers this hope – “Just As I Am.” It expresses the only requirement for receiving the refreshing water of salvation – to come, just as you are.

“Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

“Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; Because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!”*

It is not by mistake that final plea of God’s recorded message to the world is “Come!” “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22.17)

Those who come unto Him, He will never cast out (John 6.37); but, you must come.

* Charlotte Elliot, 1789-1871

Rev. John H Hill

Does It Fit? - 5/19/15 - Download PDF

“And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him. And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.” I Samuel 17.38-40

Maybe it was from my Sunday school stories I had heard as a child; or, maybe it was from a preacher who was waxing eloquent; or, maybe it was from my own imagination – but from somewhere I had made up my mind that David was swallowed up by King Saul’s armor. Even modern-day animations tend to picture David as something less than masculine – and certainly not a real man’s man.

It seems that literary license has again invaded reality when it comes to describing the confrontation between David and Goliath.

While it is true that Goliath stood a bit over nine feet in height and dwarfed David, and that David was most probably between fifteen and nineteen years of age; David was not a wimp by any stretch of one’s imagination.

When Saul’s men suggested that he get someone to play music to calm his demons, David was suggested because of his musical ability and his physical prowess. “Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.” (I Samuel 16.18) Notice all of the things said about this young man, especially that he was a “mighty valiant man” and that he was “a man of war.” This was mentioned before his encounter with Goliath.

Even at this young age, David was a healthy lad having killed a bear and a lion. Concerning the lion, David reported to King Saul that he had “caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.” (I Samuel 17.35) Hmmm – it would have been easier for him to use his sling, but David grabbed the lion by the beard, gave him an uppercut and then killed him. Not only does that suggest courage, but great strength as well.

When offering to face Goliath, David refused King Saul’s armor. Most suggest that the armor was too large for David because King Saul stood head and shoulders above the other men of Israel. (I Samuel 10.23) The Bible does not say that Saul’s armor was too large for David, only that David had not been trained with it. “And David girded his {Saul’s} sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.” (I Samuel 17.39)

In the fields, keeping watch over the sheep, David had become reliant upon God alone. He was neither enamored by the weapons of human warfare nor by the latest craze from worldly designers. David was consumed with and by his personal relationship with God.

David went with his sling, but not in his own power. David went without military gear, but not without the presence of God. David went without sword, but not without those things with which God had prepared him. David went when no one else would, but not alone.

The giant Goliath was much more than a physical match for David, but Goliath had not simply disdained David – he had defied David’s God.

So often we go into spiritual battles trying to use the weapons belonging to others – we have been to the seminars and rallies – have read all the spiritual self-help books, and have heard others explain what to do and how to do it. In reality, God has gifted you with special, unique gifts in a combination that only you have. Your battles, although sometimes similar, are never exactly like anyone else’s battles. You cannot use the devices God has given others – they just do not fit. You must use those things God has supplied for you.

David was the only one with a sling. He had no sword. He chose to leave the armor behind. He used what God had given him. He won the battle and brought glory to the God of his people.

Rev. John H Hill

He Was Standing - 5/12/15 - Download PDF

“But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7.55, 56

Throughout my life, there have been many times that have caused me to stand to my feet.

Some of those times were when I was directed to do so. For example, during church services we stand or sit at the direction of the service leader. A good worship service leader will be sure that we are standing during the song just prior to the offering. (It makes getting to one’s wallet so much easier than when sitting.)

Those who have any understanding of the cost of freedom will stand at attention offering a salute when our National Anthem is played. Only the deluded fail to respond with proper respect. I find it difficult to remain completely silent throughout a proper rendition of that honored score. I find myself at least humming because of its grandeur.

As I write this, we are at the end of several sporting seasons for high school sports. Most of us have been excitedly propelled to our feet by a great play on the field or court. Even from a sports official’s perspective, players amaze us. Double or triple plays on the diamond – one-on-one saves by the keeper on the soccer pitch that takes a “gimme” goal from a high ranking striker – a grand slam home run; these all get us to our feet, especially if it is the last play of the game.

When your child gets his first base hit in real ball, you take pictures – stand – yell – and often completely lose your dignity – “That’s my boy!”

I wonder sometimes what it takes to get God – our Lord and Savior – to stand to His feet. His position in heaven is to be seated at the right hand of God the Father making intercession for us. There, when Satan accuses the saints of God, our Savior presents His blood to the Father who sees us, not through our sins and short-comings, but through that precious, all-sufficient blood.

Most of my life is far less than exciting – much is, by human standards, quite mundane – filled with short-comings and failures. I am certain there are more times when my Savior must point to the blood rather than to my actions.

Very few people have caught the attention of God in this sense. Job was one. Satan, the Accuser, positioned himself within the fellowship of some Old Testament believers. As God looked on with gratitude, He spoke to Satan, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (Job 1.8)

In the above text speaking of the stoning of Stephen, the Bible says that Stephen saw Jesus “standing.” The verb “standing” is in the perfect tense – indicating an action completed in the past, once and for all, with no need of repetition. However, it is in the active tense and progressive mood meaning that the ovation offered Stephen are on-going. In the vernacular, Jesus was and is proud of this servant who preached the Word and held to his testimony even to death.

Praise and exaltation for a grand slam homerun or a last second, game-winning shot from mid-court lasts for a short time. Those acts get fans and teammates on their feet – shouting and yelling until voices become raspy. However, the accolades endure for a moment when compared to eternity.

How awesome would it be to live a life that brings our Savior to His feet – to meet Him standing at the portal of eternity – smiling and saying, “Well done – bravo! Come on in and enjoy eternity!

Rev. John H Hill

The Books Were Opened - 5/5/15 - Download PDF

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Revelation 21.12

Twice in the Bible do we find the phrase, “the books were opened” – in our text and in Daniel’s prophecy (7.10). Each instance concerns the end of time – after the Almighty has defeated all earthly powers and has set up His eternal kingdom. Each time, judgment is involved: individual and personal judgment for one's deeds, whether good or bad.

Scripture teaches us that everyone will give an account for the things we do while passing our days on earth. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (II Corinthians 5.10) But, by what measure will our deeds be tested? How much of what we do will be manifest? What kind of record is being kept and by whom?

While there seem to be a number of possibilities, let me pose just a few for you. It seems that the records are excruciatingly detailed and intricate. Consider our Savior’s words: “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12.36) That seems like the holes in the sieve of activity are very discriminating. Negatively, every idle (“lazy, useless”) word will be scrutinized by God. Positively, every tear you shed while in distress is being recorded as well. “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” (Psalm 56.8)

The point is that God misses no detail – His all-seeing eye attends to every aspect of our lives down to the most minute detail. All of that information is being recorded in books for future review.

Of course the standard by which all deeds are tested is the Word of God. Remember, that the Word became flesh (the Word being the Son of God who took the form of a man) and dwelt among us. (John 1.14). However, the books having been opened will be the ones in which our life’s story has been recorded – our personal and detailed biography includes deeds, attitudes and purposes. Our lives will be more open on that great day of judgment than ever before – judged by the One who knows all, has it recorded in His possession, and has never committed a sin Himself.

As the books are opened and our deeds revealed, we will have no opportunity to find sympathy, empathy or pity on the part of the Judge. After all He has never been guilty of anything – ever!

Along with the books of our deeds will appear two other books. At first they seem similar, but upon closer examination there is a distinct and vital difference. The first is the Book of Life. From the time of conception, each new life is recorded in this book. It represents all who have lived – all who have been conceived. The names are recorded as someone who has received physical life.

From this book there is the possibility of being blotted out sometime in the future. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.” (Exodus 32.33) We should also understand that between Revelation 20.12 and Revelation 20.15 something occurs that has removed names from the book. In the first verse, all the dead – small and great – stand before the Great Judge. In Revelation 20.15, there are some names missing – they have been blotted out.

Here is the answer – the Book of the Living records all who every have physical life upon the earth. When a person believes in Jesus Christ for salvation, his/her name is added to the Lamb’s Book of Life, which are written in permanent ink made from the blood of the Lamb. Names having been added to the Lamb’s Book of Life will guarantee that names will not be blotted out of the Book of Life.

Physical death is inescapable and is followed by judgment (Hebrews 9.27). Those who have trusted in Christ will die once – only physically. The fact that their names have been recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life guarantees that their names will remain in the Book of Life. “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Revelation 3.5)

The one who does not receive the salvation offered through the shed blood of Christ will die physically, and because their name was not recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life, their name will be blotted out of the Book of Life – they will die again – the second death – which is eternal.

It is vital that everyone who reads this message trust in the only One who can save from the second death. “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20.15)

Rev. John H Hill

Mistaken Popularity - 4/28/15 - Download PDF

“But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (I Samuel 16.7)

Our Christian world is filled with clichés and adages taken from the Scriptures. Often, however, what comes from our mouths, supposedly inspired by our reading of the sacred text, bears little or no resemblance to the reason the passage was written.

The present text is a prime example of such misapplication. Take a moment to carefully examine exactly what is being said within the context.

God has just commissioned Samuel to anoint a new king for Israel. A problem facing Samuel was that the present king, Saul, was still living and in good health. Even though God had rejected Saul, and had taken his kingdom from him – Saul was still alive and kicking. Also, many in the kingdom were still loyal to the king.

Saul, the one having been refused, was not the person with long hair or dirty clothes – he was not the one who spoke with a different accent or had a different colored skin – he was not the one from the wrong side of the tracks or without a recently purchased vehicle.

The one having been refused was the king. He was chosen and appointed, in part, because of his appearance. He was tall and handsome. He was an imposing figure over the common person – standing at least head and shoulders taller than the average man among them. In the beginning, he was humble and personable – fame, however took him to plains of arrogance beyond understanding.

When given a new commission to anoint the next king of Israel, Samuel was warned against having a beauty pageant or a popularity contest. As a matter of fact God told Samuel that the right choice would not be one that seemed obvious. It would be God’s choice.

As a believer, we have a great responsibility to look beyond the superficial veneer – the outward appearance of others and seek their hearts.

Viewing Saul and David only on the surface, we would tend to believe Saul to be the better. After all, he never murdered anyone or covered up an adulterous affair – David did both; yet Saul was rejected by God while David was often allowed re-admittance into the fellowship of God’s grace.

Outwardly, Saul was a fine specimen – his countenance (physical appearance) wonderfully portrayed the characteristics of man’s king. Inwardly, he was driven by opinion and pressure from mere humans. When he repented, it was to assuage popular opinion rather than to please God.

Outwardly, David was the last of the line from which Samuel had to choose. He would rather spend his time with the sheep, playing his harp – alone – than in the presence of dignitaries. Inwardly, he was a devout worshiper of the One true God. When he repented, his desire was to make right his relationship with God without regard to popular opinion.

Today, it seems our world is filled with supposed heroes who are covered with veneer – beautiful on the outside, but reeking on the inside.

Who are the heroes today? Movie stars? Athletes? Rock stars? TV reality personalities? Even believers promote the rich and the beautiful. For the most part, these all are painted with makeup and publicity hype – covering their real inside with nothing more than an artificial beauty. This was the problem Jesus had with the professional religious group. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23.27)

Is it any wonder our children grow up with shallow, worldly ideals – choosing financially secure careers rather than spiritually productive lives. We need to teach our young to look beyond the outward appearance.

Not so “beautiful” are the real heroes we should be holding up before our children – their teachers, pastors, Sunday school teachers – the mentors who will never make it into the national spotlight – those faithful leaders who may never be seen on a movie screen, yet are beautiful on the inside. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52.7)

Rev. John H Hill

Of Giants and Grasshoppers - 4/21/15 - Download PDF

“And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13.33)

I suppose we have all found ourselves in this position – the place where God wants us to go seems so daunting that we feel like grasshoppers when faced with the duty.

After having been a pastor/preacher for nearly forty years, many would assume that bringing the Word to a congregation of people should seem second nature – that God must have called someone gifted with speaking skills to use in this position. Not so!

While others in my peer group seemed naturals at speaking, singing and being in front of groups, I was dragged kicking and screaming into the pulpit. At the age of twelve, I felt a definite calling of God on my life to be a pastor – not an evangelist or missionary – not a Bible conference speaker or a Gospel singer – but, a pastor. Being young, the call was exciting, even exhilarating as I romanticized the prospects of standing before people and delivering the Word.

One great hurdle loomed in my way – I was deathly afraid of being in front of crowds. Hence, my giant. I could sing in a choir or be an extra in a play, but the very thought of standing, alone, while speaking brought floods of nausea to my soul.

High school speech class – preparing and presenting speeches before a group of my peers made me sick for days. College speech class and Homiletics (pulpit speech) were seemingly insurmountable as I approached the obstacle – stood at its base and gazed at its height.

My pastor was the first to invite me to preach for him at Summer Hill Baptist Church in Carthage, NC. The people of the church were very gracious but I fear my presentation was less than eloquent. After escaping the group and settling into our car to drive off, I asked my wife of less than a year, “Well, honey, what did you think?” Awaiting her praise, she responded by asking, “Are you sure God called you to preach?” When I said, “Yes,” she said, “Well, God can only do so much.”

The giant grew along with despair and doubt. How to get past this giant as a grasshopper was more than I could imagine. “Are you sure God called you to preach?” The question resounded in my head and heart. It almost overwhelmed my soul.

What we must remember is that amidst the giants, God is there with His desire for us. With that desire is the ability to accomplish what He has called us to do. The place to which God has called us along with the job are so appointed by God that through our submission to His will, He accomplishes the task.

Zerubbabel was faced with a daunting task – he was facing his own giant of God’s calling. The angel who spoke with him assured him, “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4.6) Zerubbabel walked up to the base of his giant, looked up, and conquered through the power of God’s Spirit.

David was faced with a real, physical giant – one named Goliath. The giant, however, was not the huge man standing before him. The giant was spiritual. This giant had frozen the entire nation of Israel, along with her king, in their tracks. They stood day after day listening to his verbal abuse. David walked up to his giant, looked up, and saw the face of God hovering over.

God enjoys using grasshoppers to do His will. If He only used the beautiful, tall, and talented, the glory would go to the person rather than to God. When the grasshopper submits his will to the will of the Almighty, God imbues him with power beyond his means. The hurdles and giants are laid low and made easy to accomplish.

The victory is not by more effort, but by more submission.

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (I Corinthians 1.25-29)

Rev. John H Hill

Do You Recognize Him? - 4/14/15 - Download PDF

“For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.” (John 20.9)

“They knew not the scripture.” How could they not know the Scripture? These were some of the chosen twelve – Peter and John. These were two of Jesus’ spiritual “inner circle” the leaders of the group – the top choices among those Jesus selected to carry on His work after His earthly ministry was completed.

These two men had experienced some of the greatest experiences ever recorded in human history. While many criticize Peter for having lost faith in the storm (Matthew 14.28, 28), none of the critics have ever stepped over the side of a ship during a storm and walked on the water. While we dream of the future wonders prepared for us by our Savior; only Peter, James, and John ever saw Him in His transcendent glory (Matthew 17.2) – a glory so magnificent that it overshadowed the presence of two hallowed saints (Moses and Elijah) on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matthew 17.3)

These two men were among the seventy commissioned by our Lord to go out healing and raising the dead – working miracles through His power as they preached the good news of the Messiah’s arrival. They were present at the raising of Lazarus (John 11.43) – of the raising of the little girl (Luke 8.54, 55) – of the healing of the lepers (Luke 17.14) – and, of so many inexplicable events orchestrated by the Anointed One.

These two men had enjoyed the blessings of provision as they served, and then ate, among the 5,000 hungry seekers. They were amazed how the small lunch had produced enough for all with a full basket left over for each of the twelve disciples. (Mark 8.19)

These two men were among the honored guests in Lazarus’ home only a week before the crucifixion when Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with the costly spikenard and wiped His feet with her hair. When accused of excessive expenditure, Jesus explained that she had done this with regard to His coming burial. (John 12.7) They were there when Jesus explained to the inquisitive Greeks that His time had come “that the Son of man should be glorified.” (John 12.23) And they were there when Jesus fulfilled the Passover by instituting the Lord ’s Table. (Matthew 26.27-29)

How could they not know the Scripture after having learned from Jesus for over three years? How could they possibly not believe when the women came excited and out of breath with the angels’ report?

The answer lies in the word “know.”

There are at least three Greek words translated “know” in the New Testament. The most common is ginosko simply meaning to know something from having learned it. Putting all jokes about the difficulties of understanding the modern math, we still learned that two plus two is four. No arithmetic gymnastics can change that – we learned it as a fact and it is true. We know (ginosko) it.

A second word is a variation of the first – epiginosko. This word requires experiential knowledge – knowledge more than what has been learned only from books. Epiginosko means that we have learned from being involved. As I look into the night sky, I see the moon and know that it is there – it declares the glory of God. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong had an epiginosko understanding of the moon when he placed his foot on the moon’s surface. What he had learned in his studies of science, he applied and experienced.

The third word is of a different ilk – eido, adding new truth to the concept of knowledge. Eido requires more than textbook learning and experiential understanding. Often translate “see” in the New Testament, it requires an inner understanding of the context and application of a truth. It conveys the idea of complete recognition. When Jesus offered to Martha the special knowledge concerning the power behind resurrection truth, she said about Lazarus, “I know (eido) that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (Luke 11.24) She was absolutely convinced that Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life. This understanding prompted her to leave the fate of her deceased brother in Jesus’ care.

So many today have knowledge of the Scriptures – some even have experiential knowledge as they have lived through difficult times in which they have seen God’s hand at work. However, not everyone who claims saving knowledge in the Lord’s finished work have the inner understanding and abiding peace that comes with knowing that “the Son abideth ever.” (John 8.35)

What the disciples thought they knew, they did not know until they saw the empty tomb. Then, all the Scriptures they knew made sense. Each one, in his own way, had some doubts – especially Thomas, to whom Jesus said, “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20.29)

Is your knowledge of God the type that causes you to cry out with Thomas, “My Lord and my God”? (John 20.28)

Rev. John H Hill

They Didn’t Know - 4/7/15 - Download PDF

“For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.” (John 20.9)

“They knew not the scripture.” How could they not know the Scripture? These were some of the chosen twelve – Peter and John. These were two of Jesus’ spiritual “inner circle” the leaders of the group – the top choices among those Jesus selected to carry on His work after His earthly ministry was completed.

These two men had experienced some of the greatest experiences ever recorded in human history. While many criticize Peter for having lost faith in the storm (Matthew 14.28, 28), none of the critics have ever stepped over the side of a ship during a storm and walked on the water. While we dream of the future wonders prepared for us by our Savior; only Peter, James, and John ever saw Him in His transcendent glory (Matthew 17.2) – a glory so magnificent that it overshadowed the presence of two hallowed saints (Moses and Elijah) on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matthew 17.3)These two men were among the seventy commissioned by our Lord to go out healing and raising the dead – working miracles through His power as they preached the good news of the Messiah’s arrival. They were present at the raising of Lazarus (John 11.43) – of the raising of the little girl (Luke 8.54, 55) – of the healing of the lepers (Luke 17.14) – and, of so many inexplicable events orchestrated by the Anointed One.

These two men had enjoyed the blessings of provision as they served, and then ate, among the 5,000 hungry seekers. They were amazed how the small lunch had produced enough for all with a full basket left over for each of the twelve disciples. (Mark 8.19)

These two men were among the honored guests in Lazarus’ home only a week before the crucifixion when Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with the costly spikenard and wiped His feet with her hair. When accused of excessive expenditure, Jesus explained that she had done this with regard to His coming burial. (John 12.7) They were there when Jesus explained to the inquisitive Greeks that His time had come “that the Son of man should be glorified.” (John 12.23) And they were there when Jesus fulfilled the Passover by instituting the Lord ’s Table. (Matthew 26.27-29)

How could they not know the Scripture after having learned from Jesus for over three years? How could they possibly not believe when the women came excited and out of breath with the angels’ report?

The answer lies in the word “know.”

There are at least three Greek words translated “know” in the New Testament. The most common is ginosko simply meaning to know something from having learned it. Putting all jokes about the difficulties of understanding the modern math, we still learned that two plus two is four. No arithmetic gymnastics can change that – we learned it as a fact and it is true. We know (ginosko) it.

A second word is a variation of the first – epiginosko. This word requires experiential knowledge – knowledge more than what has been learned only from books. Epiginosko means that we have learned from being involved. As I look into the night sky, I see the moon and know that it is there – it declares the glory of God. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong had an epiginosko understanding of the moon when he placed his foot on the moon’s surface. What he had learned in his studies of science, he applied and experienced.

The third word is of a different ilk – eido, adding new truth to the concept of knowledge. Eido requires more than textbook learning and experiential understanding. Often translate “see” in the New Testament, it requires an inner understanding of the context and application of a truth. It conveys the idea of complete recognition. When Jesus offered to Martha the special knowledge concerning the power behind resurrection truth, she said about Lazarus, “I know (eido) that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (Luke 11.24) She was absolutely convinced that Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life. This understanding prompted her to leave the fate of her deceased brother in Jesus’ care.

So many today have knowledge of the Scriptures – some even have experiential knowledge as they have lived through difficult times in which they have seen God’s hand at work. However, not everyone who claims saving knowledge in the Lord’s finished work have the inner understanding and abiding peace that comes with knowing that “the Son abideth ever.” (John 8.35)

What the disciples thought they knew, they did not know until they saw the empty tomb. Then, all the Scriptures they knew made sense. Each one, in his own way, had some doubts – especially Thomas, to whom Jesus said, “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20.29)

Is your knowledge of God the type that causes you to cry out with Thomas, “My Lord and my God”? (John 20.28)

Rev. John H Hill

Praise and Worship - 3/31/15 - Download PDF

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalm 139.14)

My childhood church had various names for our weekly gatherings. On Sunday morning we enjoyed Sunday school and the morning Worship service. Sunday evenings brought Training Union and the evening Evangelistic service. On Wednesdays, we attended the Mid-Week Prayer Time and Bible Study.

Most of the time I clearly understood the designations. After all, we studied the Bible during Sunday school and learned how to apply what we learned during Training Union. Wednesdays were, well, times of church-wide prayer and Bible study.

The ones that I never quite got my mind around were the two on Sunday – the Worship service and the Evangelistic service. Again, looking through the eyes of a rather naïve child, I saw little difference between the two. In each, we would sing some songs, listen to announcements, hear the choir and pass notes during the preaching.

Even in today’s modern churches, there is something misunderstood about worship. Many services are enhanced by Praise and Worship teams – people who try to get everyone in the right spirit to hear what the preacher says. Sometimes the Praise and Worship time becomes so intense that the preacher is left with very little opportunity to preach and apply the Word. When that happens, we should quickly remind ourselves that the primary reason for our gathering together is for learning and application. (See Acts 5.42; Hebrews 10.24, 25)

Many today, it seems are contented with having someone “lead” us into praise and worship when the two concepts should not be confused with each other.

The thought of praise is easy enough to understand. By searching the Scriptures, we find that praise generally concerns an outward show of appreciation for the things God does in us, for us, and through us. Praise may excite us to run and dance, laugh and cry, or sing and make melody unto our God. It may be public or private – in the prayer closet or out on the street. This type of spontaneous burst of excited praise would cause quite a stir in some of our Sunday morning worship services.

After a great victory, David praised God in the streets by dancing. (II Samuel 6.16) After safely crossing the Red Sea, Miriam danced and sang a song of praise, while accompanying herself with timbrels (tambourines), unto God for His deliverance. (Exodus 15.20) After receiving salvation and being baptized, the Ethiopian eunuch went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8.39)

While this type of outbreak may be spontaneous, it is the reaction of the redeemed in honoring God for what He has done. Worship, however, focuses on what God is. Even though we may be taught about God and His attributes, we cannot be led in worship unto Him. Worship comes when we truly understand who and what He is.

Scripture illustrates something of this worship as mortals find themselves in the presence of heavenly creatures. Upon being confronted with a voice from the throne room of God, John, having realized he was in the presence of something other-worldly, worshiped. “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19.10)

There is no better statement in Scripture describing worship than the first sentence of Revelation 19.10, “And I fell at his feet to worship him.” The Greek word translated “worship” is proskuneo from which we derive our English word meaning “to prostrate oneself.”

Consider the Scriptures. Whenever a human encountered a heavenly (either angelic or godly visitation), they were on their faces – awestruck and fearful. The only ones who do not react in this fashion are those who have little or no knowledge of God – in their ignorance they show flippancy in His presence.

True worship is personal – our personal realization of the greatness and majesty of God. Worship comes every time we are so overwhelmed by His Person that we realize anew our relative smallness in His presence.

When we try to substitute praise for worship, we must seem like an impish two-year old running down the aisles of a church while the grown-ups are trying to pray.

Remember, when Jesus healed the ten lepers all ten prayed to him and praised Him – only one worshiped Him. (Luke 17.12-16)

Rev. John H Hill

The Punch Man - 3/24/15 - Download PDF

“And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.” Mark 1.32-34

The first time I heard the term “punch-man,” my cognitive senses went into calisthenics. Never having heard of any such thing, one of my first thoughts went to Muhammed Ali – maybe one of the best punch men in the business. However, standing before me was a true to life punch man, yet he looked nothing like a fighter.

In reality, he was, to use an old term, a jack-of-all-trades. A punch man is the person who comes in behind a construction crew after they are finished to correct all the messes they have made. For example, he will fix the crooked molding and repair the jutting drywall nails that are showing pride. (Proud is a term indicting that a piece is protruding past its intended place.) He will correct the botched paint spot in the living room ceiling and adjust the hang in your closet door – the one that does not latch unless you lift up on the handle.

In other words, the punch man is the person who can come into a situation of diverse needs and correct the problems. These people do not normally deal with structural integrity, but put their talents to work on the cosmetic and functional aspects of the structure. These are the people who make things look good.

Mark 1.32-34 parallels the last part of Luke 4. In each of these passages, we see Jesus as He appears to be a “punch man.” Because sin has so skewed humanity from the perfection in which God created it, we all struggle with our attempts to reach God – and with our attempts to please Him.

One of the great problems facing us is that we tend to become overly concerned with the crooked molding or the out of plumb door jamb – with the proud drywall nail that has made a bubble in our perfectly smooth wall – with the closet door that hangs just a bit out of kilter – with the shingle that someone attached backwards.

This was the problem of those seeking the Messiah during the days of Christ Jesus. Crowds thronged to see Him – to hear Him – to catch sight of one of His fabulous displays of power through a healing or an exorcism.

When He stood proclaiming that He was the fulfillment of the prophet’s message concerning the One who would come – the fact that they would not repent and believe, they tried to throw Him over the side of a mountain to His death.

As long as He simply smoothed emotions – healed the sick – cast out demons – and brought peace to broken families, they were all behind Him. It was something like the man with the broken clock who took only the clock hands to the horologist. When asked why he did not bring the whole clock, he replied, “The clock sounds fine. It is the hands that do not work properly.”

While the punch man can cover many imperfections in the veneer, he does little to fix the real problem – the structure. Emotional stress, sickness, demonic oppression or possession, and broken homes is a symptom of a deeper disorder caused by a faulty foundation and exacerbated by an equally unsound structure.

Modern psychologists help with the visible imperfections, but often have nothing to repair the foundational and structural problems of a broken life. Counseling can hide a proud nail, but if the foundation is not true (straight and right), the best counseling in the world is temporary because the imperfection will again surface.

Jesus is no punch man – He is the answer to the real problems stemming from foundational and structural issues. Just as the potter who destroys the imperfect vessel only to remake it, even so Jesus takes away from the repentant sinner the life built upon an unstable foundation – tears up the old and builds a new foundation upon which He builds a new structure with beautiful cosmetic effects.

He does this because His work is perfect and He expects to present all who believe in Him to His Father as perfectly fit together. After all, He is the Author of all that is good and beautiful. (Ezekiel 36.26; Ephesians 5.27; James 1.17)

Rev. John H Hill

Education and Christianity - 3/17/15 - Download PDF

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2.15)

Within some groups which align themselves with biblical Christianity, we find many who believe that the only thing necessary to be an effective servant for the Lord is a willing and available heart. They often believe that education is a deterrent to spirituality. While it is true that the most educated people in the world are useless in the cause of Christ if their heart is not converted to Christ or is not willing to serve, education is not the cause of a lack of spirituality.

Coincidentally, it seems that those who advocate less education are those who have less education – sometimes attempting to cover the fact that they have not been ones who “strive for the mastery.” (I Corinthians 9.25) Indeed, the well-educated are often held in contempt rather than praised for their accomplishments.

While quoting the apostle in saying, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” (I Corinthians 9.22.b) they certainly miss much of the point. Rather than looking at the positive side of education, they disdain certain activities that should be avoided – activities such as becoming a drinker in order to win a drunk.

Another missed point falls under II Timothy 2.15 when students of the Word apply the “studying” to only the Word. The studying may come in varying shapes and sizes – for example, a missionary making plans to go into a foreign country must study the language in order to “rightly divide the word of truth” in a different language. That same missionary may translate perfectly, word-for-word, the Scriptures into that foreign language, but if he does not understand the culture, his ministry will be flawed and ineffective.

Also, tremendously helpful when sharing our faith with others is the ability to understand and relate to that person’s situation. Beginning a conversation with a northerner by describing southern barbeque may not bring about the desired effects. It would be far more advantageous to speak with the northerner about something more familiar to him. (Of course there are some well-rounded northerners who appreciate southern barbeque.)

When speaking with an auto mechanic, it would be tremendously helpful if you knew something about internal combustion engines and methods of fuel delivery.

I Corinthians 9.19-22 is a positive statement suggesting that believers become well-rounded individuals – skillful in a variety of enterprises in order to reach people of various backgrounds and situations. Here is the I Corinthians passage, “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Paul became a Jew in more than name only – he became a Pharisee. He was born a Jew, but studied to improve himself so he could understand better the Jewish situation. He studied the Law in order to intelligently discuss the Law with those who still lived bound under its power and in order to intelligently present the Gospel to those who lived apart from the Law. He studied religions (“weak” seems to indicate those who had no spiritual strength to come to the truth) in order to logically defend the Gospel (Christian apologetics) against false teachings.

In our studies to show ourselves approved of God, there is not necessarily a need for anyone to gain a Ph.D.; however, there is place for that. Some believers need to become police officers, in order to share their faith with other officers. Some need to be politicians, in order to share the gospel with other politicians. Some need to become sports officials, bankers, firemen, CEOs, etc. in order to win those for Christ.

We understand that the Bible was written by about 40 human authors over a period of about 2,500 years. Of those human authors, notice the most prolific: Moses, Luke, and Paul. Moses was educated in the courts of Pharaoh for 40 years and in the wilderness for another 40 years prior to God’s using him as the leader of His people. Eighty years of education and forty of ministry. Luke was a physician – a doctor. Even during the New Testament times he would have studied many years prior to gaining his status. Paul was formally educated in a variety of disciplines.

Notice that each of these three had much personal and practical education. Herein is the point – those who have greater knowledge with abilities to apply the knowledge open up to themselves a greater opportunity to reach a more diverse group of people for our Savior.

Believers should never stop studying. We should always be expanding our minds and abilities. We should always be adding new skills and understandings to our lives in order that “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Rev. John H Hill

Sacrifice and Submission - 3/10/15 - Download PDF

“And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (I Samuel 15.22, 23)

Saul had been commanded by God to carry out an order of Divine judgment against a nation of people called the Amalekites. Often we realize God’s direction in our lives and have no real idea why – just that He desires it of us. Of course, God’s will never leads us into sin; however, He often leads us into situations of which we cannot logically deduce the reason.

There was no logic behind God’s call to Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees. Yet, God called him to leave a good life and go to a place that was made certain only by the fact that God had called. There were no guarantees of success or promises of fortune – God just said, “Go, and I will lead you.”

There was no logic behind God’s call to Jonah to go to Nineveh. It was more than simply a heathen city – it was a city filled with cruelties that had been honed to fine edges over many years. These people were masters at barbarism, yet God called Jonah to go and preach to those in that heathenish society. He was to preach judgment; however, God showed mercy.

In this passage, Saul was commissioned by God to be His arm of judgment against a desperately wicked and cowardly people. These were the ones who had attacked Israel during the wilderness wanderings – attacked them from behind slaughtering and pillaging the old, weak and sickly.

Saul was in a privileged position because God had not only told him what to do, but also why to do it. As in most of Saul’s cogitations, he thought he had a better idea. When confronted with his sin, Saul took credit for the part of the operation that made him look good and passed the blame onto his followers for the things that did not fit the divine command of God. (See I Samuel 15.20 and 21 – notice the phrases “I have” and “the people.”)

How different was this from David’s confession! After having greatly sinned against God, David was on his face mourning his lost fellowship with God. “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51.2, 3) With David there is no blame-shifting – no self-exaltation for being half-way obedient. With David it is a simple action of coming clean before the God who sees and knows all.

Saul, on the other hand, tried to sacrifice his way back into fellowship with God. Here, it was not the sinner who wept before God for his sins, but the preacher who mourned because of God’s displeasure. (I Samuel 15.11) No one can buy their way to God.

Sin can never be covered by great sacrifice – especially sacrifice from a heart that is out of tune with God. God desires obedience from a committed and obedient heart. He does not enjoy fellowship with those who repeatedly sin – who try to make things right by bringing God a box of chocolates or a dozen roses.

“To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” The fat of the ram was considered the best of the best – it was the prime part of the sacrifice offered to God. While out of fellowship with God, the greatest sacrifice in the world is not enough to purchase a renewed fellowship. Even a confession to a priest is insufficient if it is not from a desperate heart. (I Samuel 15.24-26)

God’s response to Saul’s attempts at confession showed that God knew the heart – a heart that was not seeking the divine, but self-fulfillment – not seeking the sacred, but secular – not seeking the permanent, but personal.

Saul was given every opportunity to be faithful to God and to obediently serve Him. Time and time again, he made foolish decisions (I Samuel 13.13) that caused God to turn away from him and to another (I Samuel 15.28). God “repented” (turned from one direction to another) from pursuing Saul as king over Israel. (I Samuel 15.11) His Spirit began working with a man who was after God’s own heart, David. (I Samuel 13.14)

Saul’s great hope lay in a proper approach to God. It was the same approach the child of God is offered today. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1.9)

Confession means that we acknowledge our sin to be sin – that we are personally and solely responsible for our actions – that our actions have breached our personal fellowship with God – that we completely submit our lives to Him – that we must come perfectly clean and open before His throne of grace where He waits with open arms for our return.

Rev. John H Hill

A Loving Father - 3/3/15 - Download PDF

“For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” (John 5.21, 22)

Quite often a parent will give in to the exasperating whinings of a child who is pleading for a pet. The child will offer nearly anything to win the approval of Mom and Dad in order to gain the prized possession – a puppy at Christmas or a dyed chick at Easter.

He will offer all of his earthly possessions (and part of his brother’s) just to get the animal. Dad, “I’ll mow the grass – clean out the garage – wash the dishes – keep my room clean.” And, the list goes on. Dad tries his best to dissuade the eager child with reminders of the great responsibility involved in taking care of a pet. “You’ll have to clean up after him, feed him and bath him when he’s dirty,” exhorts Dad.

“I’ll do it all. You won’t even know he’s here. I’ll take care of him,” comes the answer.

It is amazing how the “new” wears off of the pet. Responsibility of ownership is great and far too often that valued pet takes second place to computer games and other enjoyable activities. If only the child could see in advance the impending responsibilities – understand what would be required of him.

When our Lord Jesus Christ paid the purchase price to redeem humanity from our doom as sinners – ones who were completely apart from a loving heavenly Father – He knew the cost and the responsibility involved. He knew that we would spoil the carpet and ourselves – leaving us less than lovely. As a matter of fact, He chose us knowing we were unloved and unlovely.

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5.8) Had we been cute, loveable puppy-like creatures, we could understand how God would love us; but, we were unlovely when God commended (“exhibited”) His love for us. He exhibited His love for us – all of us. (II Peter 2.1 – even for those who deny Him – See also John 3.16)

In His love, God the Father sent forth His Son to pay the price for our sin – that which separates us from a loving relationship with the Father. The Son, Jesus Christ, knowing our condition and understanding the responsibility, purchased us with His own blood – taking upon Himself the full responsibility for our relationship with His Father. “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (II Corinthians 5.19)

Reconciliation – what a wonderful word. It means “to return into favor with” someone. Through the blood of Christ, we are brought into favor with the Father. In return, the Son takes upon Himself the responsibility of caring for us – which He does through the gift of His Spirit. (See John 14.16, 17) This reconciliation includes the everyday care from our Owner on our behalf so that when He presents us to His Father we smell good and are clean. “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5.27)

Sometimes I hear someone make a statement such as, “I can’t see how a loving God would ever send anyone to hell.” This may shock you, but God the Father does not. He has put all judgment into the hands of His Son – Jesus Christ.

In the judgment, (Hebrews 9.27) Jesus will be the judge and jury. He holds the title to every soul that has ever lived. Judgment is solely His responsibility.

Every person will be brought to judgment for what they have done with their lives. (Matthew 16.27; Revelation 20.12, 13) Every person will be given heaven or hell because of what they have done with the blood of Christ. (I Peter 1.18, 19; I John 1.7)

The bottom line: God saves those who come to Him through the blood of Christ – Christ Jesus judges those who come to God through His own blood which He used as payment for the very people who went astray. As owner, Jesus has the authority and responsibility to care for His purchased possession – judging each one by His own personal standard of excellence – His blood.

If you have never approached God through the blood of Jesus, the approach has been wrong. Today may be the day for you to make a proper approach. (John 14.6)

Rev. John H Hill

Spirituality - 2/25/15 - Download PDF

“And Saul built an altar unto the LORD: the same was the first altar that he built unto the LORD.” I Samuel 14.35

All of us have rules by which we live. There are times, when looking at others’ rules; we think we would like to incorporate some of their rules into our own lives. At other times, we wonder how certain people could possibly exist while living under their particular standards.

Several years ago on the night of our daughter’s wake, I received a phone call at our church from an acquaintance I had met through officiating soccer. He was a Hindu – a devout Hindu. He was a very learned gentleman – the kind of person who humbly went about life living his faith. His message to me went something like this: “John, I would be there to support you in your difficult time; however, my family and I have our prayer time every evening at 6:00. We will be in prayer and cannot be there to help support you. You have great faith in your God – He will give you strength to face your trials.”

A first reaction by some of my “Bible-thumping” friends would be to criticize this man for his misplaced belief in a false system of worship. I felt honored that he, of another faith, would be considerate enough to call, and humbled that he could see faith in my life. Yes, he was wrong in what he believed – sincerely wrong.

Over the years I have observed many who are of other faiths and often have been humbled by their devotion to their belief system. Their devotion is toward a god that does not hear and cannot redeem, yet, their dedication puts most professing Christians to shame.

While we criticize those who do not know the truth of God’s salvation by grace and through faith in Jesus Christ, our own lives are filled with ritual rather than relationship. We preach a good line – even emphasizing standards – but fall short of a daily walking with the Savior who bought us with His own shed blood. We tend to evaluate our spiritual standing by our devotion to our list of rules and regulations.

In I Samuel 14, Saul was facing the Philistines with a depleted army and against overwhelming odds. He had tried to coerce God into action by moving ahead of God and lost his claim to an everlasting royal lineage. (I Samuel 13.13) With his personal relationship with God gone, he tried various methods to draw God back into his life. He sent for the ark of God. He sought guidance with the Urim and Thummim. He called on God’s prophet. He issued a personal vendetta against his enemies. He even built an altar. All-in-all, Saul became a flamboyantly professing believer – yet, without true spirituality.

Because of his aspirations to spirituality without proper fellowship, he became a double-minded man – unstable. “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1.8) Seeking spirituality through “things” rather than a “Person” will always cause spiritual insanity – a life based upon feelings rather than truth.

The one thing he lacked was repentance. He thought that the altar, proper clothing, church ritual, etc. could bring him a closer walk with God. It did not then, and it will not now.

Sin always separates us from our God. “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59.2) No amount of kneeling, singing, shouting, church-attending, or spiritual service will restore you to that blest position at the side of the Savior.

The answer to regaining true fellowship is in confession and repentance. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1.9) Confession is from a Greek word meaning “to agree with God.” Side-stepping or covering sin only makes the dilemma worse. That choice leads to greater spiritual insanity and double-mindedness.

Just as putting a tutu on a pig does not change the swine into a ballerina even so putting a coat and tie on a sinner and allowing him to attend church does not make him a saint. Being baptized and taking communion does nothing for the wayward believer – as a matter of fact, it could be quite harmful. (See I Corinthians 11.30)

The way to spirituality is through fellowship with our Savior. Confessing quickly and often – keeping a very short list of things separating you from God – walking so closely to your Savior that no one can come between you – that is the answer to real spirituality.

Rev. John H Hill

A Voice in the Wilderness - 2/18/15 - Download PDF

“As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Luke 3.4)

This statement is recorded for us in each of the gospel records and is applied to John. It shows the fulfillment of Isaiah’s declaration as recorded for us by Malachi. “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4.5, 6 See Isaiah 40.3)

For several years, John had been preparing himself for preaching the way for the Lord from his wilderness hangout. How early he began is not known; however, it is plausible that he went to the wilderness sometime shortly after his bar mitzvah – around the age of thirteen.

While John had every right to the priesthood, he chose to follow the leading of God rather than the tradition of men. Others of his ilk had chosen the way of the religious establishment – the easy way – the way of advancement and prestige. The problem was that the priestly hierarchy was a rough and bumpy path. John had come to make the way “straight” for the entrance of Messiah – the Anointed of God – Jesus.

John’s ministry was to remove problems that would keep the seeking people from having a straight and unfettered path to God’s salvation. “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.” (Luke 3.5 See Isaiah 40.4, 5)

Some find themselves in the valley of despair. While there, they look in all directions and can only see the steeps barring their way to advancement to eternity. Their view of God is never clear – it is always obscured by their own personal efforts.

Some find themselves on the mountain top. While there, they look in all directions and can only see themselves – their own achievements – the fact that they are at the top of their religious aspirations. Their view of God is obscured by their own achievements – thinking they are above the possibility of reproach.

Some find themselves on level, but stony ground. Every step is laboriously taken across lumpy and bumpy ground. While on the path, every pebble becomes a major obstacle barring their inability to see the glory of God. They trip along and stumble over the cares of life – so obsessed with their next step that their view of God is marred by the dirt around their feet.

Some find themselves on a winding road. They believe that truth and salvation is just around the next bend in the road. By advancing along, they move past curve after curve – after religious curve – hoping that the next seminar or preacher will have the answer to their problems; however, their view of God is non-existent because of the curves. Even though they are moving along on a spiritual road, they never find satisfaction.

John came to elevate the valleys, lower the mountains, smooth the rubble and straighten the curves. His purpose? “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3.6) How to accomplish this was a concern of major consideration. If poverty or religion, license or legalism could not accomplish, what did the voice say?

“John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.” (Luke 3.16, 17)

The answer? John introduced the One who would baptize with the Holy Ghost – the One who would bring true salvation – Jesus Christ. Salvation is not in things or observances – rituals or performances. Salvation is in Christ alone.

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12)

It is that simple.

Rev. John H Hill

Becoming a Man - 2/11/15 - Download PDF

“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him….And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Luke 2.40 & 52

Unless we understand the dynamics of these verses (Luke 2.40-52), the scene appears to be an out-of-place, random occurrence in the early life of Jesus. After all, why this. The text says that His parents traveled to Jerusalem every year on this occasion in order to be in compliance with the Law. (Luke 2.41)

Other than the fact that this was possibly the first time Jesus had traveled with the caravan to the Feast of the Passover (Luke 2.42), little leaps off the pages in an assault of our reasoning. However, there is a small, nearly unnoticed fact that should give us pause in our reading. Remembering that neither a jot nor a tittle shall be removed (or changed) from God’s Word under His sovereign preservation of Holy Writ, a simple capital letter speaks volumes.

In Luke 2.48, Mary, after having searched with Joseph and the entire caravan for three days, found Jesus. She was obviously exhausted – mentally, emotionally, and physically. Upon finding Him in the Temple with the teachers, Mary cried out, “Why have you done this to us? Look! Your father and I have sought You in great distress!”*

I wonder if she took Him by the shoulders and shook Him. That is what my mother would have done – something like she did do on a particular occasion. Of course, my mother went a step further than a mere verbal lashing – she lashed with something more fleshly while encouraging me to never do that again. Until we had children of our own, we did not understand that some of the lashing was an outlet for pent up hysteria from the possibility of losing a child.

The capital letter we must notice however is the capital “F” found in Luke 2.49 – in the word “Father.”

For all of His life Jesus had referred to Joseph as “father” – for, truly Joseph was the man in charge of the home, the one who was teaching Jesus carpentry, the one who had adopted Him as his own. While Jesus was growing up, Joseph was the father – the man responsible for this family. Although Joseph was not Jesus biological father, he was the parent Jesus referred to as father.

After Mary had expressed her distress, Jesus rather calmly responded with, “Why were you seeking for Me? Did you not understand that I must be in My Father’s business?”* Notice the capital “F”? Things have moved from being a carpenter’s apprentice to One preparing Himself to receive glory from His Father – with a capital “F.”

This was no random point in time – no insignificant trip to Jerusalem – no typical Passover celebration – this was the time of Jesus’ coming out. At twelve years old the Jewish boy became a man – responsible for His own actions and specifically answerable to God for all His decisions. Jesus was twelve – Bar Mitzvah - Bar mitzvah translates to “an person who is subject to the law.” Jesus was required to meet with the questioners before His thirteenth birthday so that He would be in compliance with the Law.

No longer about His father’s business – He was now about His Father’s business.

Jesus very calmly and politely reminded His mother that she should have known this. His angels had met with her twelve years prior explaining to her who He was – the Anointed of God. This was the day of that unveiling – when Jesus would begin His preparation into the ministry (which would begin according to the Law when He turned thirty years of age).

Until that time, Jesus remained submissive to the God-ordained authorities in His life – Joseph and Mary. “And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them.” (Luke 2.51a) He knew who owned the capital “F,” but also recognized His responsibility to the one who owned the little “f.”

Becoming a man means more than making one’s own decisions. In order to be grown-up, we each must reach the place where we recognize and become obedient to God rather than people; however, becoming a man also requires that one place himself under proper authority – those God has ordained to be the leaders in your life. Only as we are good followers (understanding who to follow) can we become good leaders.

* From “a personal translation,” John H. Hill (unpublished work)

Rev. John H Hill

Sovereignty or Free Will - 2/4/15 - Download PDF

“And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.” I Samuel 13.13

The debate rages on – it is as fresh today as ever. Among evangelical Christians, there has probably never been a more heated discussion than this. Proponents on either side suggest that any not holding to their position cannot possibly be living in a right relationship with God.

So, what is the question? The question, simply put, is, “If God is sovereign (truly in control of everything), how can free will (the ability to make personal, individual and independent decisions) be possible?” Is God truly in control? Is He on the great throne or not?

While this may be a bit deeper than most writings we call devotionals, the answer is not that difficult. A great thinker once commented that when there is wide disagreement on a given subject, the reality of truth will probably lie somewhere in the middle.

To some the concept of the sovereignty of God requires that people have no choice – they are predestined to heaven or hell – they are predestined to marry their spouse – they are predestined to go to college or to drop out, etc. with no personal choice and without individual options. While that takes away personal responsibility and places sin, death and taxes squarely upon the shoulders of the Almighty, it does little to help anyone realize their culpability for wrong choices – it causes God to be the Author of all the wrongs in the world. You have heard the question, “If God is out there, how can He allow innocent children to be beaten or starve to death?”

On the other side is the concept of free will – that people, in fact, control all future events – that your eternal destiny is something of a coin toss because just as easily as someone “accepts” God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, they are as prone to lose it through another ill-advised decision.

In His sovereignty, God has offered to us a simple, yet profound example of how all this works.

I Samuel 13 and 14 offers a comparison. Saul was encamped at Michmash facing the advancing Philistine army. Samuel had instructed Saul to wait until he could come to make proper sacrifice to the Lord on behalf of Saul and the Israelites. With the Philistines moving and the Israelites scattering, Saul decided to offer the sacrifice himself. When Samuel arrived, he was angry that Saul had not waited and told Saul in no uncertain terms that God desired to establish the eternal kingdom through Saul’s lineage: “…for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.” (I Samuel 13.13a)

Because of Saul’s foolish choice, the kingdom was taken from him and offered to David. “But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.” (I Samuel 13.14)

Had Saul obeyed God, he would be remembered today as Israel’s great king – very possibly with Jonathan as second king of Israel. Since Saul was not obedient, he lost more than the kingdom – he lost his family and heritage.

Did this catch God by surprise? Did God move to plan B? Not at all! Although Saul lost his blessing for a lack of obedience, God still accomplished His purpose of defeating the Philistines. Furthermore, God did it with greater style than had He allowed Saul this accolade.

Jonathan, Saul’s son, who carried one of Israel’s two swords (I Samuel 13.22) took the battle to the Philistines along with his armor bearer. What Saul should have accomplished with 3,000 troops God accomplished through two men – Jonathan and his armor bearer. (I Samuel 14.11-16)

God accomplished the defeat of the Philistines according to His sovereign will. Saul lost his blessing for not being obedient to God’s command.

God’s will cannot be assuaged – He will accomplish His will with us or without us. As a believer in Christ, we must align ourselves with the Sovereign God or lose our personal blessing.

Rev. John H Hill

The Deity of Christ - 1/28/15 - Download PDF

“And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” (John 20.26-28)

Enter the doubter – Thomas. Evidently Thomas had a rather skeptical spirit – one that needed physical proof before he could see the spiritual. In addressing this, our Lord said, “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20.29)

For Thomas to make such a statement connecting the words “Lord” and “God” together with the man, Jesus, standing before him was more than a simple statement based upon blind faith. Thomas, indeed, had seen the prints of the nails in Jesus’ hands and feet, and had examined the gaping hole in Jesus’ side made by the spear. A hole deep enough to pierce the pericardium producing the blood and water which flowed from our Savior’s side.

This was not the first evidence to which Thomas had been exposed. Throughout His early ministry, many godly people had referred to Jesus as special – as one of a kind – as the only One sent from the Father to accomplish God’s divine will in providing salvation for a world of lost sinners.

Titles applied to our Lord were not empty expressions vainly attempting to laud a commoner to a position of relevance; but, were descriptions of deity in terms mere mortals could understand.

In the opening words of John’s gospel, He is called the Logos. As the Logos (translated “word”), He is the manifester or revealer of God. That the Logos is not some inferior being who merely conveys an impression of God to man is clear from the first verses of John’s gospel, where He is declared to be eternal and God Himself. Logos, in the Greek, requires the presence of someone during communication – unlike Rhema, which requires only statements, or Glossa, which requires only words. Logos requires a personal visitation.

Son of God, though used in several senses in Scripture, often denotes the essential deity of Christ. Consider Peter’s confession, “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16.16) Then there is Jesus personal confession, “But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said…” (Matthew 26.63, 64a)

In both the Old and New Testament, Jesus is called, “God.” For example, Isaiah calls Him, “The mighty God” (Isaiah 9.6) and added that a forerunner would “make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40.3) Isaiah also used the term “Immanuel” (Isaiah 7.14) which interprets “God with us.”

When Thomas made his declaration affirming his belief that Jesus was both Lord and God, Jesus did not correct him – rather, Jesus commended him for his new found discovery. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20.29) Other references to the deity of Christ include: Psalm 45.6; Titus 2.13; and Hebrews 1.8.

Another title, Lord, is sometimes applied to Christ in the New Testament in such a way as to be practically the equivalent of God. Luke, in his gospel record, links both the terms “Christ” and “Lord” with the child, Jesus. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2.11) And, further avows the fact that the One of whom Isaiah wrote was indeed the Christ, God in the flesh, “As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Luke 3.4)

Paul makes it clear that this One, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, is the One upon whom anyone’s salvation hangs. “And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2.11) There is, after all, only one way for a person to gain a saving relationship with the Father and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12)

Rev. John H Hill

The Time of the End - 1/21/15 - Download PDF

“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Daniel 12.4)

When commenting on the end of things, someone quipped that he had read the last book and knows who wins. Daniel had a unique view of things to come, yet some of the truth he had was closed up until the “time of the end.”

It seems plausible that those things sealed up in Daniel’s book have been revealed to us in the final book – the Revelation. In it, John opens up to us those wondrous truths reserved for those who fear the Lord. After all, the ultimate truth of the person of Jesus Christ – the One coming in the end – is reserved for those who love Him and His appearing. (II Timothy 4.8)

There are many today who are running “to and fro” without coming to the knowledge of the truth. Knowledge abounds – there is the internet, study guides, and even Hollywood has checked in with modern movies attempting to offer “truth” about the coming end time events.

Amazingly enough, many flock to these movies, accepting them as the gospel truth, even when they are produced by people who possess no truth. There is a rush to gain knowledge – everyone wants to know how and when it will all end – and what will be their fate.

From alien abductions to attacks by Bigfoot – from reincarnation to ethereal utopia – people are clamoring to make sense of it all. While there is a proliferation of “experts” espousing a cornucopia of theories – no one seems to have a concept upon which everyone can agree.

Knowledge – expanding the mind – is a wonderful thing so long as the expansion is based upon viable truth – truth from a reliable source – the only reliable Source – God’s Word.

So, what does God’s Word say about the end time? Daniel reveals, “And 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)

Whether a person dies physically or is alive when the Lord Jesus Christ takes out His believers, there are only two types of people in the world. This distinction is not based upon the color of skin or of family heritage – it is based solely upon what an individual believes about this man, Jesus Christ. The Bible clearly states, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9.27, 28)

In some manner, we will all leave this world – leave it for eternity. After we leave it, we will be faced with the One who not only knows the truth, but is also truth itself. (John 14.6) Even though many know about Christ; that knowledge alone is not enough in the grand scheme of things. A vast amount of knowledge will do nothing to secure a person’s eternity. “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2.19) A person must know Christ, personally.

The only hope for eternity is when one has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – having made Him Savior and Lord.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1.12)

This is the real knowledge and that which changes a person from one who will wake up to everlasting contempt and one who will wake up to everlasting life. What do you believe? Are you basing your eternity upon human theories and suppositions or are you basing your eternity upon the One who has power over death and eternity?

Rev. John H Hill

Death - 1/14/15 - Download PDF

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (I Corinthians 15.55)

Often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the quotation, ““Nothing is certain except for death and taxes,” should, in fact, be attributed to Christopher Bullock in The Cobler of Preston (1716). Whoever was first to say it, we all have at some time thought it.

While no one enjoys a visit from the IRS, the thought of death evokes a multitude of emotions. Younger people tend to think very little of the surety of death, yet, as we grow older the concept begins to loom more on the horizon of our minds.

The Bible has much to say concerning death. The unbeliever (those not believing in Christ Jesus for salvation) are abandoned to their own cogitations. Looking death square in the face may elicit feelings of helplessness and hopelessness – there is neither security nor solicitude – there are only faulty reasonings based upon their own feelings.

When a loved one dies, the unbeliever tends to run to the church for some comfort even though in life they had no time for such things – other engagements were more important.

One dear saint many years ago refused to have her funeral in a church explaining that since her children would not attend church with her while she lived she would not force them to attend after she was gone.

I have stood at the bedside of several (both believers and unbelievers) as they left this life for the next. There is such a stark difference between the experiences that anyone present should easily realize the hopeless abandonment of those who entered eternity without Christ when compared to those whose hope was in Christ.

For the believer, death is not an enemy to be shunned – it is in fact a portal through which we gain our eternal reward – forever in the presence of Him who loves us more than we could ever imagine. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” (Revelation 14.13)

There is no thought of loneliness to those who have walked in fellowship with their Creator. “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:…We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (II Corinthians 5.6, 8) Our hope is in the One who is Lord even of death. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (I Corinthians 15.26) Our Savior defeated this last enemy when He rose from the grave after having paid the price of our redemption.

Imagine that! Absent from the body and present with the Lord! The transport of the believer will be instantaneous into the presence of our loving heavenly Father. We shall be carried on angel wings to our new home. (Luke 16.22)

For the person who has never placed their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, the end resembles Dantes’ Divine Comedy, which depicts a sign over the gateway to hell stating, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

For the believer in Christ, we have the blessed assurance, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116.15) Why precious? “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” (I Corinthians 15.54)

Death, to the believer, is not the end – it is just the beginning. When a believer dies, we should rejoice that they are no longer earthbound, but rather freed from earthly encumbrances.

“DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so, For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow, Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me. From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee doe goe, Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie. Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell, And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well, And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then; One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”* -- John Donne

("Death Be Not Proud" is a poem by English metaphysical poet John Donne, written around 1610 and first published posthumously in 1633. It is the tenth sonnet in Donne's posthumously published Holy Sonnets.)

Rev. John H Hill

The Big "I" - 1/7/15 - Download PDF

“And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.” (Daniel 11.36)

The king spoken of in these verses is most probably the Antichrist of the Great Tribulation period. He follows a long list of nepotistic rulers (using favorites rather than patriots) who have attempted to rule the world by their own means and in their own ways apart from the God who created all. They serve the big “I.”

In every situation, the authority to rule (or lead) comes from God, who sets up and takes down rulers for His own purposes. “And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding.” (Daniel 2.21)

How easily we forget this truth – from the President down to the common laborer – the times are in God’s hands. He controls the world’s authorities – all of them.

Even though we find it difficult to completely understand the “why,” we do have some hints given to us in Scripture.

King David, Israel’s first God-ordained king, was a man after God’s own heart. Although imperfect, he illustrated God’s relationship with His people. It was a time of conquest and glory. God’s people, mostly, were in God’s will and living a blessed life.

During the times of Israel’s rebellion against God, other kings arose within Israel who raised altars to other gods, bringing upon themselves and the nation God’s wrath. Division and dispersion ensued as the people splintered away from their covenant relationship with their God and joined themselves to idols.

Under the great yoke of bondage, God gained Israel’s attention. They began to return to the God of their fathers. One man in particular began to study the written Word – that man was Daniel. While reading and interpreting the prophecies literally, he received special revelation concerning God’s plan for Israel and the world.

Sadly, there would be more despotic rulers controlling the world and more suffering on the part of God’s people. The intense suffering would be exacerbated by unreasonable demands that the enslaved sing songs of joy. “For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” (Psalm 137.3)

Filled with great despair and grief, the misplaced people of God did as they were told – yet, without joy. The enemy was in control (or so it seemed) and Israel did not discern the unseen Hand that was still in control.

While the world is filled with violence, distrust and hatred, it is difficult to understand how a gracious God could possibly be in control. We continue telling ourselves that God loves us and that He is in control – sometimes in an attempt to bolster our own faith – often without being successful in the attempt.

Quite often the problem is that we have become so attached to this world that we have forgotten that we are aliens and sojourners here. This world is not our home – we are foreigners in a strange land. It is difficult to sing songs of praise and triumph when Satan is on the throne. Like it or not, we are living in the enemy’s land. (II Corinthians 4.4)

We, as did Abraham, look for a city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 11.10) When we enter that eternal abode – the one prepared by Jesus for His elect (John 14.1-3) – we shall enter with joy and singing from the heart. It will be a place of perfect day with the only rightful Ruler in complete control.

“And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 35.10)

Rev. John H Hill