devos from the hill


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The Difference Between Obedience and Sacrifice

“And Samuel said, “Has 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 listen than the fat of rams.” – 1 Samuel 15:22, ESV

There is a difference between obedience and sacrifice.

In 1 Samuel 15, we read that King Saul did not obey God’s command (through His prophet, Samuel) to follow a specific battle plan. This was not the first time Saul failed to obey. In 1 Samuel 13, Saul offered an unlawful sacrifice to God. He knew it was the wrong thing to do, but he did it anyway. And now in verse 22 of chapter 15, Samuel spells it out for Saul, “to obey is better than sacrifice.”

The time, place and manner of a sacrifice can be usually be determined ahead of time, and often by us. A sacrifice can often be a matter of our own choice and will. This is rarely, if ever, true of obedience. Sacrifice can be a matter of our initiative. Obedience is always a matter of our response to God’s initiative. Obedience may require sacrifice, but Saul’s sacrifice was not an act of obedience.

BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) is the 6-month SEAL training course held at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado, CA. SEAL candidates start with five weeks of “Indoctrination” and “Pre-Training”, then go through the 3 phases of BUD/S. The 1st phase is the toughest, consisting of 8 weeks of Basic Conditioning that peaks with a grueling segment called “Hell Week” where candidates are tested to their limits.  Continue reading


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How’s Your One-on-One Time with God?

The need for a regular quiet time for personal prayer and feeding on His Word…

In a 2013 poll of its readers, Leadership Journal (a publication for vocational Christian workers) reported that 91% of the respondents admitted to some form of burnout in ministry, and 18% said they were “fried to a crisp right now.”

For today’s Mars Hill staff devotional, we read and discussed the following thoughts concerning our need to have a regular quiet time for personal prayer and feeding on God’s Word – a daily time to be refreshed and nourished by the Living Water and the Bread of Life.

“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” – Mark 1:35

“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” – Luke 5:16

In the book “Directions,” James Hamilton writes:

Before refrigerators, people used icehouses to preserve their food. Icehouses had thick walls, no windows, and a tightly fitted door. In winter, when streams and lakes were frozen into silver-gray pathways, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the icehouses, and covered with golden sawdust. Often the ice would last well into the summer. One man lost a valuable watch in this sawdust while working in an icehouse. He searched diligently for it carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn’t find it. His fellow workers also looked, but their efforts, too, proved futile.

A small boy who heard about the fruitless search slipped into the icehouse during the noon hour and soon emerged with the watch. Amazed, the men asked him how he found it. The boy replied, “I closed the door, laid down in the sawdust, and kept very still. Soon I heard the watch ticking.”

Beloved, often the question is not whether God is speaking but whether we are being still enough, and quiet enough, to hear what He has to say to us. Be still and get God’s direction for your life!

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10 (ESV)

“In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” – Psalm 5:3  . . . ” Your ears will hear a word behind you, this is the way; walk in it.” – Isaiah 30:21. . . Let God order your morning prayer, and He will show you how to order your day.

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” – Matt.4:4 . . . Daily feeding from the Word of God is vital to prevent spiritual malnourishment.

“If we are weak in communion with God we are weak everywhere.” – C.H. Spurgeon Continue reading


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Lessons to Learn from Paul’s Thorn

Dealing with a thorn that has been embedded in your hand or foot can be a very difficult, if not an excruciating experience. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, we can learn some valuable life lessons as we read about Paul’s thorn:

7) Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me – to keep me from exalting myself! 8) Concerning this, I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9) And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10) Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

What exactly was Paul’s thorn? Some of the more popular theories include a temptation, a difficult relationship, a chronic eye problem, and a speech impediment. God does not tell us the exact nature of the thorn. If we knew, then we might not think this verse applies to our own unique and specific thorn. Turning from what we do not know about Paul’s thorn, there are several things we can know.

1) The thorn does not come during or after a low point in Paul’s life (i.e. – a tragedy or defeat), but after a high point, a great experience (as described in the preceding verses – 2 Cor. 12:2-4). Likewise, the failures of Israel described in I Corinthians 10 came after having experienced some of the most incredible miracles and manifestations of God recorded in scripture (their deliverance from Egypt, God’s provision in the wilderness, etc.). We do not usually drop our guard during a time of testing. But after the trial has passed and the victory is won, it is human nature to let down our guard. That is when we are vulnerable. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – I Peter 5:8. Continue reading


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The Garment of Grace

God has blessed Mars Hill with an incredible team of men and women who love Jesus – the risen, reigning, and returning King. Together, we passionately pursue Him as we work to see the Great Commission fulfilled. Together, we study the Scriptures. We embrace and celebrate the mystery of faith and the magnificence of our AWESOME God. And we long for our Savior’s return, when we will know fully as we are fully known.

The Holy Spirit has breathed unique wisdom, discernment and gifts for service into each member of our staff. That said, we are delighted to commence a new series of devotionals, in which each member of our staff will be sharing insights from their inimitable journey with our Father.

We hope that God’s redemptive work in our lives will resonate with what He’s doing in yours.


Today’s Devotional is from team member, Ryan Renfrow.
Ryan is a new addition to Mars Hill, serving as one of our Ministry Partnering Directors.

The primary scriptures for this devotional are John 13:1-20 and Isaiah 52.

True discipleship takes place when believers stop wearing a mask… the mask of “I’m fine, thanks” or the mask of “No. No prayer requests at this time.” My life has been full of changes lately and the nature of change is dealing with adjustments. Those aren’t always easy, and sometimes we think we have a grip on a situation just to be thrown another curve ball and find ourselves taken off course. Charles Spurgeon said, “I’ve learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages”. I’ve hit wave after wave in my personal life lately and this week I was brought to John 13.

John 13 begins what is known as the Upper Room discourse, the final teachings of Jesus to his disciples, hours before the events of the crucifixion. Think of these passages as Jesus’ final rallying speech, preparing the troops for what was to lie ahead. Here was Christ, the image of the Invisible God, our Lord and Savior who holds all things together, literally taking the role of a servant. He got up from where he was reclining at the table and began to use his own garment to wash the feet of his disciples. One by one, he went to them, took their feet in his hands, and washed them clean. Simon Peter didn’t understand what he was doing, he couldn’t have been the only one. This led Jesus to reply “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand ” (13:7). The disciples still did not know what was about to take place as Jesus would love them to the ultimate end – the laying down of his life. The image of him washing their feet was a visible representation of what was about to take place on a much larger scale.

But Jesus didn’t just wash his disciples’ feet to give them an object lesson, he washed their feet in example – just as he served his disciples they were in turn to serve one another. Imagine Jesus, kneeling at the disciples feet, knowing that one was going to betray him, another disown him, the rest would leave him deserted and yet he took them in his hands and removed the dirt and dust from their feet. I’m thinking of those in my life who have hurt me the deepest, those who have disappointed me, and I stop to consider if I would have the humility to wash their feet and serve them in such a way. Could I look in the eyes of those I knew would hurt me and still love them the same and with such humility? Because I’m much more like Ryan than Jesus, I have to say probably not – I will find ways to make myself feel better sometimes at the expense of those who have hurt me. But then I stop and remember, it’s awfully hard to look down on someone when you’re supposed to be washing their feet.  Continue reading