devos from the hill


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Prayer – The Last Resort, or the First?!

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.

The Lung Surgery that Wasn’t Needed
by Fred Carpenter

You’ve no doubt heard this before. Someone facing a challenge or a crisis has done all they can do. And then it is said (often with some resign), “Well, it’s in God’s hands now; all we can do is pray.” But, what does the Bible teach us about prayer? Is prayer our last line of defense?

Late in 1998, I was experiencing some respiratory issues and my doctor said I should get a chest X-ray. The X-ray revealed a very small spot on one lung, but the doctor was not overly concerned at that point. He recommended we should check it again in a year, which is exactly what we did.

The next time they did a CT chest scan, and the results took a more serious turn. The spot had grown. The doctor told me wanted to remove the affected area and get the appropriate tests run to see if it was malignant. He even talked about the possibility of needing to remove an entire lobe of my right lung.

Being faced with such sobering results, I now saw this as a situation that needed serious prayer. In James 5:15, the Bible cites two prayers of the prophet Elijah as examples of effective prayer. In the first of these (1 Kings 17:1), Elijah prays that it would not rain in Israel until he prayed for rain. And then, 3 ½ years later, when Elijah prayed for rain (1Kings 18:42-46), it rained. The interesting thing about these prayers is that they don’t sound like prayer. When he utters them, he is not asking God, he is simply proclaiming what is going to happen. Upon closer examination of 1 Kings 17-18, we understand that Elijah is simply speaking what God told him to speak (see 18:1).  Continue reading


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Refugees – A Biblical Perspective

The world is witnessing the largest refugee crisis since the horrors of World War II. Today, there are close to 60 million refugees worldwide, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In one sense, all men are refugees; we have all been forcibly displaced. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden and we, as their descendants, continue to search for a safe place where our souls can rest. Ephesians 2:19 eludes to the fact that those outside of God’s household are strangers and aliens.

The Bible recounts the stories of men and women, groups and nations who were displaced by natural disaster, famine, persecution, war, human trafficking and more.  We can become so familiar with these old stories that we miss seeing them in terms of today’s social injustices.

Noah and his family were displaced by the flood. Abraham and Sarah were driven to another land by famine. Jacob fled to another land because his brother threatened to kill him. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had to flee to Egypt due to political persecution. *

During his 3-year ministry, Jesus was a homeless refugee. In Matthew 8:20, Jesus said to the Scribe, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” As his followers, we must consider what holds our heart’s affections. Am I willing to give up my home and side with the homeless to follow him?

Syria has over twenty million citizens made up of eighteen different people groups. Around 4.8 million of these people have become refugees and another 6.5 million have become displaced within Syria and are seeking refuge. Christian missionaries have spent years praying, strategizing, and risking everything to go to these people with the gospel. After raising tens of thousands of dollars, undergoing extensive training, leaving everything familiar, and going through the long process of learning a foreign language – only then, could missionaries reach these people. The paradigm has shifted!

We serve a God who scatters. Through scattering, God places His people where they need to be to have an impact on communities, peoples, and nations. When we see that people are being scattered, the believers response needs to be “What is God doing?” and “How can I serve?”

*Click Here to read a fuller list of Refugees in the Bible by the International Association for Refugees

sharing the gospel with refugees


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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;

Continue reading


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Born again? What does this mean?

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, Joe Birkmire.
Joe is serving Mars Hill as Director of Production Operations.

Joe devo shot 1Life is interesting. What a way to start a devotional right? You see, if someone approached me about Jesus Christ before I was born again I would have silently made fun of them or just brushed them off. I did not want them to indoctrinate me with their way of thinking. My first response was to play devil’s advocate and prove why they were wrong and why I was right. Most of my knowledge on the subject was coming from the History Channel and other television sources, so I am sure my points were so misleading. The truth is, I made a decision to go after things in this world and spiritual matters did not really make sense even though I knew the truth and I was simply ignoring it.  I still had morals and I think I was a good person…but I just could not get myself to really believe in Jesus and what He did for me on the cross. Before I share my story please join me in reading John 3:1-8:

 1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The phrase “born again” literally means “born from above.” This comes from two Greek words. Yevváw (gennaō), which means be born, regenerate, or be delivered from and ävw0ev (Anōthen) means from above, from the first, from the beginning. I think the born again question is often a struggle for a lot of people. Take 2 Corinthians 5:17, for example, “Therefore, If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come.” There it is again…the phrase born again but written differently.

When I was growing up I always went to church with my family. But, after High School and especially college, I was rarely seen in church. I did not want to go, but, to be honest, deep down I knew something was out of place or probably more accurate to say, I was running from the truth. I knew who Jesus was, but I wanted the world more.Joe devo shot 2

You see, I trusted Him a long time ago, so I thought, at a Christian Young Life Camp called “Wilderness” in the Rocky Mountains. That was where I accepted Jesus for the first time at the age of 16, but it didn’t really change me at that time. Regardless of this experience being real (complete) or not I will never forget that trip. I was more caught up in the emotion rather than really believing in Jesus Christ, and all that He did for me on the cross. ­When I got back from the trip I did not live it out like I should have.

Then about 10 years ago at age 27, I was invited to go with a friend to another church. The only reason why I went was because there was nothing else better to do. For me to go to an unfamiliar church was out of my comfort zone, especially since I had not been in a while. But after the church service that Sunday morning, the most awkward event happened to me; a young woman yelled out to me…“Are you born again?”

My first reaction was…she’s crazy. More importantly, why was I being captivated by this thought of being born again days later? This statement was so far over my head. Looking back I was just like Nicodemus questioning Jesus with, “how can one be born again?” I also could not stop thinking about my experience in the mountains. This born again question really made me think about “me.” Who am I? Why can’t I just believe? Continue reading


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“You follow Me.”

A devotional from Fred Carpenter, inspired by John 21…

“What is that to you? You follow Me.”

Can you imagine, walking on the beach with Jesus after His resurrection. That was the scene of an intimate encounter between Jesus and Peter (Find the full account of this story in John 21). Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter 3 times denied he even knew Jesus. Yes, Jesus already knew what was in Peter’s heart. He was giving Peter the opportunity to walk out the healing he desperately needed after his failure. Jesus then went on to explain to Peter that he would eventually die a martyr’s death. John, who would live out his natural life on the island of Patmos, was following behind. Looking at John, Peter asked, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” (John 21:22).

“What is that to you? You follow Me!” For those of us who tend to compare ourselves to others, or who think we know what we need to have, to be or to do in order to be fulfilled, these words can be extremely hard . . . or incredibly comforting.

One morning, years ago, I was having a quiet time with God. Well actually, I was “belly-aching” to God. The English version of The HOPE (a dramatic video presentation of Creation to Christ) had been out for quite some time, and we had completed a handful of translations. All of our work was now related to creating and disseminating even more translations. Most of our production staff who helped create The HOPE had moved on to other things. Production people enjoy exciting new challenges, and cranking out translations of The HOPE was certainly not as creatively challenging as producing it the first time around. As I compared myself to others on my team who had moved on to new challenges, I felt like I was, in a sense, left holding the bag.

Everywhere I went, well-meaning people asked me, “So, are you working on a new project?” “No, we’re still working on The HOPE.” I would reply. Then I would feel the need to explain that each language version of The HOPE was like a new project, or that writing a 65-lesson study guide was a huge challenge in and of itself. I suppose I was trying to somehow say we were still a creative and productive ministry, even though we weren’t working on “a new project.” I understood that my significance is not in what I do, but rather in who (and Whose) I am. But still, I felt like my significance was under attack. Continue reading


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The Model Prayer – Pt 5/6

The Teaching of Jesus on Prayer – Part 5 of 6
Expanded and Adapted 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 5 of 6 in our study of the model prayer. Our focus here is verse 13.

 “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” – Matthew 6:13

The Big Thought – As verse 11 leads you to pray for your physical need, and verse 12 the need of your soul, so verse 13 teaches you to pray for your spiritual need. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds you to “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” But you need not be fearful, for 1 John 4:4 reminds you that “greater is He (The Holy Spirit) who is in you than he (Satan) who is in the world” (descriptions added).

God offers you every spiritual resource you need to defeat the enemy. And as it is with God’s provision for your body and soul, you may also appropriate His spiritual resources through prayer. Notice that in verses 10-13 the pronouns are plural. Pray not only for your needs, but also the needs of others. Praying for others is called intercession. Think about it – many of your friends are even now being stalked by our adversary; some are being held captive by evil spiritual forces. Through prayer, you have the privilege of participating in their rescue!

Digging Deeper – When considered in light of another Bible verse, the phrase “lead us not into temptation” may seem puzzling. James 1:13 reads, “Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted by God: for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” If God does not tempt anyone, then why does Jesus teach us to pray to our Father, “lead us not into temptation”?

The word “temptation” in this verse is translated from the Greek peirasmós, which appears in the New Testament 21 times. Sometimes it is translated as temptation; and other times it is translated as testing, trials or trial. The word literally means, “a putting to proof or to make proof of.” It is very much like what is done in a court of law when an attorney tries to prove a case. Continue reading