devos from the hill


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Have You Discovered the Christian Life is Not Difficult … It’s Impossible?!

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

A Verse That Will Change Your Life
from Fred Carpenter

If I had to name a handful of Bible verses that have most changed my life and work with Mars Hill, Galatians 2:20 would definitely be one of them.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – Galatians 2:20 NASB

Giving it All and Hitting the Wall – How this Came to be Such an Important Verse to Me

In 1983, I had just completed our most difficult film project to that date. Although the project was highly successful, I was totally spent from all the pressures of making it happen. I hit the wall hard and found myself wondering if I could keep this up and do it all over again. Not only had the stress drained me mentally, but I wound up in the hospital with some physical issues caused by the way I had pushed myself. I remember my Dad saying, “Fred, you have to quit trying to save the world in your own strength.”

It was at this time that I was introduced to a book by Dr. Bill and Annabel Gillham called “Lifetime Guarantee.” Their teaching in this book expanded on the truths we find in Galatians 2:20. It set me free. I discovered that the life God has for us is not really about what we do for Christ, but rather, what He does through us.

The Exchanged Life – His New Life for Our Old One

Hudson Taylor said that Galatians 2:20 taught what he referred to as “The Exchanged Life” (Consider investing a few hours and read his short but powerful story of the exchanged life in Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret). Taylor understood that none of us can live the Christian life in our own strength or resist temptation by our own will power. He came to realize that only Christ can successfully live the victorious Christian life for it is, after all, His resurrection life which reflects His victory over the power of sin and death. Continue reading


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Do You Worship the Work?

Today our staff discussed the following thoughts as we prayerfully considered the question, “Do you worship the work?”

From AW Tozer, “Gems from Tozer” – “We take a convert and immediately make a worker out of him. God never meant it to be so. God meant that a convert should learn to be a worshiper, and after that he can learn to be a worker…The work done by a worshiper will have eternity in it.”

Luke 10:38-42 38)Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39)She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40)But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41)But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42)but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

From Oswald Chamber’s, My Utmost for His Highest – Do You Worship the Work? – Beware of any work for God that causes or allows you to avoid concentrating on Him. A great number of Christian workers worship their work. The only concern of Christian workers should be their concentration on God. This will mean that all the other boundaries of life, whether they are mental, moral, or spiritual limits, are completely free with the freedom God gives His child; that is, a worshiping child, not a wayward one. A worker who lacks this serious controlling emphasis of concentration on God is apt to become overly burdened by his work. He is a slave to his own limits, having no freedom of his body, mind, or spirit. Consequently, he becomes burned out and defeated. There is no freedom and no delight in life at all. His nerves, mind, and heart are so overwhelmed that God’s blessing cannot rest on him.

But the opposite case is equally true – once our concentration is on God, all the limits of our life are free and under the control and mastery of God alone. There is no longer any responsibility on you for the work. The only responsibility you have is to stay in living constant touch with God, and to see that you allow nothing to hinder your cooperation with Him. The freedom that comes after sanctification is the freedom of a child, and the things that used to hold your life down are gone. But be careful to remember that you have been freed for only one thing– to be absolutely devoted to your co-Worker.

We have no right to decide where we should be placed, or to have preconceived ideas as to what God is preparing us to do. God engineers everything; and wherever He places us, our one supreme goal should be to pour out our lives in wholehearted devotion to Him in that particular work. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Two takeaways from today:
1) If you are frustrated or burnt out with your work, it could be that your are focused on the wrong thing….the work!

2) God gives us work to do, but it is so easy to get caught up in getting the job done that we lose sight of the fact that the One who gives us the work is the One who will give us what we need to accomplish the work. The job is always an opportunity to engage with God and worship God, allowing Him to work through us to accomplish His will.


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Are You Poor in Spirit?

I have heard it said by scoffers that Christianity (or any religion for that matter) is just a crutch for those who are too weak to live life on their own. The world admires a strong independent spirit and looks down upon weakness and dependence.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3

According to, Greek scholar, Kenneth Wuest, to be blessed is to be spiritually prosperous. At first pass, this might seem to contradict what Jesus said in Matthew 5; how can the ‘blessed’ be both ‘poor’ and ‘prosperous’ at the same time? But as someone has pointed out, in order to get your cup filled (of Him), it must first be empty (of us)!

James Smith was a reformed Baptist preacher and predecessor of Charles Spurgeon at New Park Street Chapel in London from 1841 until 1850. From his notes we read . . .

I. “Poverty of spirit” is not something put on, but that which concerns the inner character (spirit). The characteristics of those who are “poor in spirit” are –

A. BROKENNESS OF HEART (Psa. 51:4-7). A deep sense of personal unworthiness.

B. SELF-DISTRUST. “No confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). “In me dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18).

C. ENTIRE DEPENDENCE. Living by faith. “Apart from Me, nothing” (John15:5).

II. The nature of this blessedness. This is the kingdom. They come under the reign of grace. A present possession.

A. CHOSEN BY GOD (1 Cor. 1:28, 29). The poor in spirit are the chosen of Heaven.

B. INDWELT BY GOD (Isa. 57:15). The humble heart is the abode of God.

C. RICH IN FAITH (Jas. 2:5). Faith will buy anything from God. It is the current coin of the kingdom.

D. DIVINELY CARED FOR (Isa. 66:2). “To this man will I look that is poor, and of a contrite spirit” (Isa. 66:2). This is the look of continual favour, which is the blessedness of the poor in spirit.

How do we become “poor in spirit?” Throughout the ages, there have been those who have believed that an external life of poverty produces an internal life of poverty. However, we cannot, through human effort, manufacture the condition of being poor in spirit. Such a spiritual disposition is not a goal. Rather, it is the result of making God our goal.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones – The way to become poor in spirit is to look at God. Look at Him; and the more we look at Him, the more hopeless shall we feel by our­selves, and in and of ourselves, and the more shall we become ‘poor in spirit’. Look at Him, keep looking at Him. Look at the saints, look at the men who have been most filled with the Spirit and used. But above all, look again at Him, and then you will have nothing to do to yourself. It will be done. You cannot truly look at Him without feeling your absolute poverty, and emptiness.

FB Meyer – To be poor in spirit is to be vacant of self and waiting for God. To have no confidence in the flesh; to be emptied of self-reliance to be conscious of absolute insufficiency; to be thankfully dependent on the life-energy of the living God, that is poverty of spirit; and it has been characteristic of some of the noblest, richest, most glorious natures, that have ever trodden the shores of Time. Happy are they who are conscious of a poverty which only the Divine indwelling can change into wealth, and who are willing to confess that they would rather be in hell and have God, than in heaven and not have Him.

Yes, there are those who say that Christianity (or more specifically Christ) is just a crutch for those who are too weak to live life on their own. They are right, and I am so glad they are, for I would much rather live under the reign of grace than under the law of vain and perishable works.

 

 


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Who are You?

In Adam vs. In Christ

The Lord sees the spiritual condition of mankind in two ways…we are either “in Adam” or “in Christ.” In today’s devotional,  we examined the following scriptures which reveal to us the characteristics of one who is “in Adam,” that is one who has not yet accepted the substitutionary death of Christ on their behalf vs. the realities of one who is “in Christ.” If you are in Christ, you have recognized your need to be freed from the sin which indwells your flesh. You acknowledge that Jesus Christ is God, made flesh, and is the only one, ever, capable of paying your debt and providing the way for you to be restored to a relationship with our creator.

As you read these verses, let them remind you who you were…but more importantly, meditate on the verses that declare who you are…now…in Christ! Let them change you and free you to let Christ live His life through you.

In Adam You Were:

  • Alienated from God. – Col 1:21 >  . . .  you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,
  • Condemned to death. – Rom 6:23 >  For the wages of sin is death . . .
  • Separated from God without hope. – Eph 2:12 >  remember that you were at that time separate from Chris . . . hope and without God in the world.
  • A slave of sin. – Rom 6:17 >  . . . you were slaves of sin . . .
  • Spiritually dead. – Eph 2:1>  And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,  Rom 5:12 >  Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men
  • An enemy of God. – Rom 5:10 >  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
  • Spiritually deaf and blind. – Eze 12:2 >  Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear;  2Co 4:4 >  in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
  • By nature a child of wrath. – Eph 2:3 >  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath . . .
  • Darkened in your understanding, excluded from the Life of God and hardened in heart. – Eph 4:17 >  So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,  Eph 4:18 >  being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;
  • Patterned after your spiritual father, Satan. – Joh 8:44 >  “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

In Christ You Are Now:

  • Washed, sanctified, justified. – 1Co 6:11 >  . . .  you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.  Rom 3:24 >  being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
  • Indemnified (Though God rejects your sinful performance, He does not reject you!). – Rom 8:1 >  Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  • Alive (formerly dead). – 1Co 15:22 >  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  Eph 2:4 >  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,      Eph 2:5 >  even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
  • A new creation. – 2Co 5:17 >  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come
  • Seated in heaven (present tense). – Eph 2:6 >  and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
  • Complete. – Col 2:10 >  and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

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What is a “strong Christian”?

Have you ever heard this phrase used to describe someone? “Oh, he (or she) is a strong Christian.” When I hear that I can’t help but wonder, what is really being communicated? Is this describing someone who has been a Christian for many years, or perhaps a person with a lot of Bible knowledge, or maybe a teacher or a leader in the Church?

If these are the marks that define a strong Christian, then I’ve got to take what I am hearing with a grain of salt. Why? Well, for one thing, the Bible never uses that term to describe a Christ-follower. Secondly, in my 41 years of following Jesus, I have seen many people who could be described by those characteristics and yet they have faltered and fallen in their walk. In fact, I would count myself in that number.

Consider these verses . . .

Eph. 6:10 (NASB) – “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”

2 Cor. 12:9 (ESV) – “for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Cor. 12:10 (NASB) – “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Psa. 27:1 (KJV) – “the LORD is the strength of my life.”

John 15:5 (NASB) – “apart from Me you can do nothing.”

These verses make it clear that when it comes to the Christian life, our strength is not in and of ourselves. Our strength is in Jesus!  I love the observation that I picked up years ago from Bill Gillham. “The Christian life is not difficult. It is impossible. Jesus is the only one who had ever really lived the Christian life, and that is what He wants to do today, through you!”

The measure of a “strong Christian” is not how much he or she knows about God and His word, but rather how much he or she is depending on Jesus today. And please note that “today” is italicized for emphasis. The degree to which you depended on Jesus in the past will not make you strong today. Our dependency on Jesus must be present tense.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – Galatians 2:20.

Who are you depending on right now? Are you drawing on your own resources to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1) or are you drawing upon His resource? If you are depending on His life in you (Gal.2:20), then you are a strong Christian.

 


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Beauty for Ashes – Isaiah 61:1-3

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, Beverly Bates.
Beverly is Assistant to the VP of Administration and she cares for the team in countless ways.

A big part of my family heritage is: attending church! I grew up in a rural Ohio farm community and not only attended the same, small, country church that my great great grandparents went to, but I was very involved in the church.

The summer after my third-grade year was an exciting time for me! I was finally old enough to attend Church Camp, which meant a whole week away from farm chores, picking green beans, hoeing the garden, mowing cemeteries, and picking cherries from Aunt Rowena and Uncle Fred’s cherry trees.

At Camp St. Mary’s I looked forward to the week of vacation activities: swimming in a pool every day, making craft projects, canoeing in the canals, and singing around the campfire.

Camp was a fun place, and it is where I accepted Jesus in my heart. I did not share my good news with anyone back home, which means I was not encouraged in my faith or discipled by anyone.

Around the age of 13, I thought I knew everything and became a Smart Aleck!

I started making stupid choices and hanging with the wrong crowd. Eventually, being young and dumb, and giving in to peer pressure, at the age of 17 I made a poor choice that would affect my future in ways I did not think of at the time:  I made the choice of turning my back on God.

It would be another six years of going down the wrong path before I realized I needed to rededicate my life to the Lord, which I did!

The Lord is helping me keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and to live daily in a way that brings honor and glory to Him.

From what I have observed during my 16 years at Mars Hill, my co-workers, and our board members relentlessly pursue the Lord, and it is my desire to do the same. Because of Christ living His life in me and through me, I don’t have to live in bondage to sin any longer but have been set free to obey Him. I thank the Lord that He has placed good leadership at Mars Hill to help me grow in my faith journey. Continue reading


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Growing in God

The Basics of Growing in Your Relationship with God.
From The HOPE Study Guide

THE BASICS OF GROWING IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Coming into a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ is a wonderful beginning – but it is just that: a beginning. While it may be the end of the journey called “coming to faith,” it is only the start of another journey that might be called “growing in God.” The apostle Paul claimed that “knowing” Jesus Christ was the great goal of his life. He said, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

Paul saw growing in God as an undertaking that would consume him until death ushered him into God’s very presence! So how do we come to know our great, saving God, and to grow in Him? There are many ways, but time has shown that a few are key. Our knowledge of Him cannot help but grow as we study His Word, communicate with Him in prayer, share life with other believers, tell others about what God has done for us, and follow Him daily in faith and obedience. We’ll examine each of these briefly in turn.

1. STUDY GOD’S WORD

You would never expect a child to grow into a healthy adult without proper nourishment. Children eat to grow. Likewise, the Word of God is the spiritual food that nourishes every growing Christian. The apostle Peter encouraged Jesus’ followers to, like newborn babies, “long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (1 Peter 2: 2-3). Just as there are many styles of eating – there are also many ways to “take in” God’s life–giving Word. Consider these to begin:

  • Reading your Bible daily. Many plans exist for reading a portion of the Bible each day. If you are a new follower of Christ, you might begin by reading a few verses of the gospel of John daily until you have finished the book. Then move to another gospel (Matthew, Mark or Luke), or one of Paul’s “missionary” letters like Ephesians or Philippians. You might also find a “devotional” Bible which selects portions of scripture for you to read daily, and includes thoughts to consider on that particular passage.
  • Reading through the whole Bible. Some Bibles are published with guides for reading the Bible through in a systematic way. If your Bible does not contain such a guide, you can easily find one. Several are available at http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/12/27/reading-the-bible-in-2013/.
  • Discovering God’s Word is filled with promises for you. Memorize and meditate on His promises. Again, some Bibles will have at least a partial listing of God’s promises in their reference section. Others are available at no charge:   http://bible.org/article/selected-promises-god-each-book-bible.
  • Studying the Bible in a group. Studying God’s Word together with other Christians is a wonderful way to grow in insight and in community. Seek out a leader in a Bible–believing church in your area and ask about group studies that might be available to you.

In every instance, the emphasis on Bible study should not be simply academic, or study for study’s sake. You are studying not to gain “head knowledge” but to know more deeply and fully the God whose saving plan has included you. You are a part of His story now!

2. COMMUNICATE WITH GOD

Prayer is simply communication with God – and it is so important. It may seem at times like one–way communication, but it is not. Prayer involves speaking to God and listening for His voice in return – as He speaks through His Word, through His servants, and through the still, small voice of His Holy Spirit. Through prayer we thank God for His goodness to us, confess our sins, praise Him for who He is, and make requests of Him. It is in regular prayer that we grow in our relationship with God and mature in our faith. The Bible says we should pray about everything, and that we should pray “without ceasing.” Truly, nothing is too small to take to God in prayer. He is the Lord of all life.

  • Get in the habit of spending time each day with God. Learn to listen as well as to speak. Some people call this time with God a “quiet time” – but it may not be quiet at all. You may pray aloud, sing praises, or read aloud prayers from scripture during this time. The important thing is to set aside a time for God that will not be compromised, even if it is just a few minutes of undistracted focus every morning or evening.
  • Keep a prayer journal. Recording your prayers can help you see how God has led you, and to praise Him for His faithfulness in giving not just what you ask him for – but what you truly need. Be sure and share answered prayer with others, too. God’s faithfulness to you can be used to build someone else’s faith as well!
  • Study what Jesus taught about prayer in The Model Prayer at the end of this study. When Jesus’ disciples said “Lord, teach us to pray,” this is what Jesus offered in response. Many people say this prayer in a rote, or routine way – hardly thinking of what the words mean. As you study this prayer, consider each part of it, and what it says about God’s constant care and concern for you.
  • Train yourself to maintain a running dialogue with God throughout the day. Some call this “practicing the presence” of God. Simply remind yourself that God is with you all day, every day – and that you are free to speak with Him about anything, at any time.

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