devos from the hill


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His Grace is Sufficient

In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul writes that he was given a “thorn in the flesh” by God to prevent him from becoming arrogant. He asked the Lord three times to remove it and the Lord would not. The following verse was the Lord’s answer to Paul:

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.  – 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

Grace! It cannot be touched or held in your hand. It is not an object to be observed or measured. A common definition is the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. But this statement from the Lord to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you,” what does this mean? When we are hurting or tormented or placed in some undesirable circumstance for which there is no way out, how do we lay hold of this grace?

In my life, there have been four areas where I have encountered this grace.

Through the Body

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  – John 13:35  Through fellowship groups, Bible study groups, and accountability partners, I have received encouragement, I have been specifically upheld in prayer, and I have had tangible needs met. God’s sufficient grace has been bestowed on me through others within the body of Christ.

His Truth – the Quickening of His Word in which is Hidden in our Heart 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28  By filling my mind with His Word, I have a solid foundation for my life so that even if the framework breaks down, I am securely anchored. Continue reading


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The Work of God Through Us

Today’s devotional is from Ligonier Ministries

 

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”    – Philippians 2:12–13

Paul often depicts authentic Christian living as the imitation of God and, since Christ is God incarnate, the imitation of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1; Eph. 5:1). He has such imitation in view in Philippians 2:5–11 when he exhorts us to have the same mind as Jesus in how we serve others. In other words, we must have the same goal as Jesus in not seeking our own interests in a way that denies the good of others.

Christ’s obedience to His vocation was an essential part of not pursuing His own ends at the expense of others, as 2:5–11 explains. Thus, it is clear that our obedience is an essential part of imitating the Savior. As a consequence of Jesus’ submission to the will of His Father, all the Lord’s disciples, patterning their lives on His example, must submit to the Almighty’s will. What is this will? That we “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” (vv. 12–13).

The Apostle gives examples of what it means to obey God and work out our salvation in verses 14–18. Today we will note what the call to work out our salvation says about persevering in faith. Scripture explains that we are not saved by signing a card, raising a hand, or walking an aisle for an altar call. Instead, we are saved by the possession of an authentic, living faith. This faith manifests itself through good works of repentance, confession, and service to God and neighbor (Luke 23:39–43;Matt. 7:21–27; James 2:14–26). None of these works get us into heaven; only the perfect righteousness of Christ, which we receive by resting on Him alone by faith alone, gives us access to the Father (Gal. 2:15–16; 2 Cor. 5:21). Yet those who are resting on Jesus alone demonstrate this faith by their works (James 2:14–26).

Persevering in faith, which is evident in our perseverance in good works of service, is achieved as we, by the Spirit, strive to serve the Lord, repent when we fail, and rely always on His enabling mercy (1 John 1:8–9). Simply put, it is living a life that does not take the gospel and its implications lightly. At the same time, even though we play a role in perseverance by obeying God’s commands, heeding His warnings, and more, the very fact that we do persevere is ultimately grounded in divine sovereignty. God wills and works out our salvation through us (Phil. 2:13), and His elect cannot fail to stay in faith until the end of their lives. Augustine says that “[we] are to work with fear and trembling so th

Coram Deo

Augustine says that “[we] are to work with fear and trembling so that [we] will not, by attributing the good working to [ourselves], be elated by the good works as if they were [our] own” (ACCNT 8, p. 245). Even as we are aware that we work out our salvation in fear and trembling, we must also know that ultimately it is God who gives us the desire to persevere and moves us to do so. Indeed, salvation is of Him from first to last.

Passages for Further Study

Ezekiel 36:26–27
Hebrews 7
Philippians 1:6
Jude 24–25


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“What’s One Little Sin?”

Never underestimate the consequence of sin . . . or your need for God’s grace.

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point,
he has become guilty of all.” – James 2:10.

Now, what do we do with this verse? Is it saying that if we commit one sin, then we have committed all sins? Is it saying that all sins are equal before God?  Well, the answer is yes and no. Let’s look at both.

  • No – because not all sin results in the same earthly consequence. If I murder my brother, or if I just hate him to the point of saying hateful things, both are sin. Jesus calls hatred murder. But if I only hurt my brother with words, He’s not dead. Not all sin has the same earthly consequence.
  • Yes – because ultimately our sins are not only against our fellow man. All sins are ultimately against God, who gave us the whole law. “Against You, You only, I have sinned . . .” (Ps 51:4).

The common denominator for all sins is that they are all basically actions done independently from God. It is impossible for a man to predict the ultimate harmful consequence(s) of an action that is done independently from God, no matter how big or small the action.

In 1999, Lockheed Martin, the huge aerospace firm, wrote a contract and missed a small detail. They misplaced a comma in an inflation-adjusted formula that was written into the contract. That mistake cost Lockheed Martin $70 million dollars.  One little, misplaced comma cost $70 million dollars!

Like that comma, even the “smallest” sin can have far-reaching repercussions.  And if our sins are ultimately against God Himself, then we can know that even the “smallest” sin against an infinite God has infinite consequence. Or as John Piper puts it, “ . . . in that sense every sin is infinitely heinous.”

Now, what are we to do with this sobering reality? If you are inclined to works and keeping score, you could beat yourself up . . . all the time.  But I believe God intends a different response. As we come to recognize the gravity of the sin that is in us, the frequency of our independent actions and the inestimable consequence thereof, I believe God would have us develop a profound sense of gratitude for His amazing grace and a constant recognition of our need for that grace!

“. . . but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Rom 5:20-21

“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.” – 2 Cor. 12:9


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Thoughts on Grace

Our English word, “grace” comes from the Greek word, “charis.” It is used over 155 times in the Bible.

Consider what these men of God have to say about grace…

J. Vernon McGee– God is overloaded with GRACE. You and I just don’t know how gracious He is. He has an abundance of GRACE. GRACE has been defined as unmerited favor, but I call it love in action. God didn’t save us by His love. He gave His Son, and it is by His GRACE that we are saved. He has so much of it. You may say, “Oh, I am so wrong on the inside, so sinful.” Go to Him and tell Him you are wrong on the inside and ask Him for GRACE to overcome it. He will give you GRACE. He is the living Christ, interceding at God’s right hand for you. Now some may doubt the surplus of His GRACE. May I say to you, all the medicine in the world cannot cure the sick; the remedy must be taken. Likewise, God has the GRACE, my friend; lay hold of it! It is possible for a man to die of thirst with a pure spring of water right before him. He has to drink of it; he has to appropriate it before it can save his life.

Ray Stedman  – GRACE is your heritage as a Christian no matter what your circumstances. GRACE is all God’s power, all His love, all His beauty available to you.

D.L. Moody – A man can no more take in a supply of GRACE for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God’s boundless store of GRACE from day to day, as we need it.

Thomas Brooks – Saving GRACE makes a man as willing to leave his lusts as a slave is willing to leave his galley, or a prisoner his dungeon, or a thief his bolts, or a beggar his rags.

Erwin W. Lutzer – When the mask of self-righteousness has been torn from us and we stand stripped of all our accustomed defenses, we are candidates for God’s generous GRACE.

C.H. Spurgeon – Self-consciousness is a sure sign that there is not much depth of GRACE.

Thomas Brooks – The life of GRACE is the death of sin, and the growth of GRACE the decay of sin. (Rom. 5:20-21, Rom. 6:1, 11)

Vance Havner once gave the following acronym for GRACE:

G stands for Gift, the principle of GRACE. (Eph. 2:8-9)

R stands for Redemption, the purpose of GRACE. (Eph. 1:7)

A stands for Access, the privilege of GRACE. (Rom. 5:1-2)

C stands for Character, the product of GRACE. (2 Cor. 5:17)

E stands for Eternal Life, the prospect of GRACE. (Titus 3:7)

D.L. Moody – The law tells me how crooked I am. GRACE comes along and straightens me out. (Rom. 5:20)

Stephen Olford – Without this GRACE there is no pardon for the past, no power for the present, and no prospect for the future.  (2 Cor. 12:9, 1 Pet. 1:13)

Stephen Olford – GRACE is God’s goodness and severity converging. GRACE is God’s mercy and justice uniting. GRACE is God’s love and power redeeming.

Augustus Toplady  – GRACE finds us beggars but leaves us debtors. 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


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Consider What Great Things He Has Done For You!

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, Brenda Bowman.
Brenda serves Mars Hill with Partner Relations and Special Projects.

Brenda CU_2b brighter_QL0A5057

About 20 years ago, in the middle of a sermon, the Lord impressed me with a verse that made me think, “That is what I want my life to be about….that is my motto.” That verse is 1 Samuel 12:24 (NASB):

“Only fear the Lord 
and serve Him in truth with all your heart;
for consider what great things He has done for you.”

The verse begins with the fear of the Lord. I desire to respect, trust, depend on, take seriously, and honor the Lord. These are just some of the things that define fearing the Lord for me.

Serving Him in truth with my heart is the most ambiguous part of this verse to me. I am still discovering what this means and what it should look like in my life. Some of it is manifest in my physical life, such as serving Him in my work and serving Him in the body of Christ. But I think there are even deeper levels that I am unearthing; levels that have to do with being and living IN truth. There is a constant war within me to be truthful….with myself, with Him, with others. I want to fudge in hopes that I will come off in a better light. I will even try to fool myself!

The easiest part of this verse, and the part that helps get me back on track is the last part…considering – remembering what great things He has done for me!

That really is a key for me in working on the first two parts of the verse. Remembering His great sacrifice for me on the cross is the most obvious and most monumentally humbling thing I can bring to mind. But there are also the many prayers He has answered, with “yeses and nos.” I can also list many times that He has been merciful so that I did not receive as severe a consequence as I deserved or gracious so that I got some blessing that I definitely didn’t warrant. Continue reading


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The Model Prayer – Pt 4/6

The Teaching of Jesus on Prayer – Part 4 of 6
Adapted and Expanded from The HOPE Study Guide

 

If you wanted to learn how to pray, who would you choose for a teacher? In Matthew 6:9-13, you can find a model prayer given to you by Jesus Himself. It was not given simply to recite, but to teach you how to pray. It has been called “the true pattern for all prayer.” Each verse in this prayer identifies an important aspect of prayer. This is part 4 of 6 in our study of the model prayer. Our focus here is verse 11.

 “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” – Matthew 6:12

One writer has observed that, “As bread is the first need of the body, so forgiveness is the need of the soul …it is the entrance into all the Father’s love and all the privileges of children.” Based on the work of Christ on the cross, God offers the gift of forgiveness for every sin you have ever committed or ever will commit. But for a gift to become yours, you must receive it. You enter into the blessing of God’s forgiveness when you trust Christ as your Savior. You continue to walk in the freedom of His forgiveness as you confess your sins and as you forgive those who have sinned against you.

Diving in for a closer study of specific words in this verse, we find unfathomable meaning and power.

Our English word “forgive” does not give an adequate picture of the Greek word used in this verse. This word “aphiemi” means to send away from one’s self. And here, it is used in the aorist imperative tense, calling for this action to be carried out effectively and with a sense of urgency. In other words, this sending away is timely and complete.

When missionaries in northern Alaska were translating the Bible into the language of the Eskimos, they discovered there was no word in that language for forgiveness. After much patient listening, however, they discovered a word that means, “not being able to think about it anymore.” That word was used throughout the translation to represent forgiveness, because God’s promise to repentant sinners is, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34).

Notice also in today’s verse, Jesus’ use of the word debt in… “forgive us our debts.”  Luke, in his record of the model prayer, wrote “forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4).  Embracing both of these accounts of Jesus’ teaching on prayer we must conclude that an act of “sin” results in a “debt.” And a debt demands to be satisfied with a complete payment. The debt resulting from sin against a Holy, Perfect, Infinite, Creator God is a debt so great we could never pay it, though some try. The debt resulting from sin against our fellow man can only be satisfied when it is released. And when someone sins against us, we must forgive if we are to walk in freedom.

In Matthew 18:23-36, Jesus tells the parable of master who forgave the debt of his servant. But when that servant refused to forgive a fellow servant of a much smaller debt, the master became angry and threw the unforgiving servant in prison. There are many lessons in this parable, but certainly, one is that when we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, we are the one who suffers. We can be imprisoned unforgiveness.

Forgiveness, in this world, it is an uncommon grace. But it is what we all desperately need, from God and from others . . . and toward others.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32