devos from the hill


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 3

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Three

Before he became the king, David served a king… King Saul. During this time, Saul often felt torment and David, being the experienced musician, would play his harp and sing many of the songs that he had penned while tending sheep and meditating on things of God.

David’s beautiful music soothed Saul’s spirit for a while, but at the same time, it was one more reason for Saul to be jealous of David. As Gene Edwards says in his book, “Saul felt threatened by David, as kings often do when there is a popular, promising young man beneath them. The king also knew, as did David, that this boy just might have his job some day.”

David was caught in an uncomfortable position! He had come to serve in the palace at the king’s request, yet he was increasingly aware of the king’s angst against him. Focusing on David’s part of this drama, we considered David’s obedience to serve in whatever situation God put him in, whether it was as a sheepherder, an errand boy or now, as a palace musician.

In Gene Edwards’ book, the author believes that David understood what God wanted. He wanted broken vessels – people who understand that brokenness comes with pain. People who will not run from it but instead, trust God to be their strength through the adversity. Continue reading


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 1

A devotional from Gene Edwards book, A Tale of Three Kings

Chapter One

Our lesson today begins with the young boy, David. He is the youngest of 8 boys and at the bottom of the pecking order, he is relegated to the most menial duties of taking care of the family’s flock of sheep.

As the story in the book unfolds, we see that young David spends a lot of time on his own with his charges. He fills some of his time playing his harp and singing. He has much time to ponder the world and think about the God of his ancestors.

Additionally, he takes up the art of slinging stones with increasing accuracy. This proves to be a most excellent skill when he sees, one day, a bear about to attack one of the sheep. He is able to take down the bear with the precision acquired from so much practice! In another incident, David also killed a lion who threatened his flock.

Is it any wonder that when faced with the challenge to come up against the giant Philistine, Goliath, David feels physically, mentally and spiritually prepared?

All of that time spent alone, tending sheep, left to his own thoughts and devices, David could have become bitter and angry or filled with self-pity and fear. He could have rebelled against his lot in life and run off on his own. He might have developed a victim mentality and given himself over to slothfulness. Instead, he embraced his circumstances and found ways to develop useful skills that would give him aid at many times throughout his life. Even his musical ability was used to soothe Saul’s troubled spirit seen in I Samuel 16.

By working in and through David’s circumstances, God could be seen preparing him for some very great accomplishments, ultimately ruling a nation. Likewise, God is preparing in us, what he has prepared for us! It may not be by the means we think it is and it may not be for the reason we think it is; the important truth is to keep our hearts tuned to praising God and our minds fixed on learning what He has for us to do in each and every moment. When our time comes for action we will be ready.


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To Walk With God

Contemplating the Way in Which One Walks with God… One Step at a Time
A Mars Hill Staff Devotional by Ray Stedman and Fred Carpenter

Read the Scripture: Genesis 5:1-27

And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters… Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away (Genesis 5:22, 24).

This account says twice that, before he was taken up, Enoch walked with God. I love the story of the little girl who was telling her mother the story of Enoch. She said, Enoch used to take long walks with God. One day he walked so far God said, ‘It’s too far to go back; come on home with me.’ That is what happened to Enoch.

What does it mean to walk with God? Here is a man who, in the midst of a brilliant but godless generation, walked with God. What does it mean? Enoch did not literally walk with God; this is unquestionably a figurative expression, but a figurative walk involves the same thing today as it did then. First, it means he went in the same direction God went. He was moving the way God was going. God is forever moving in human history. He is moving now to accomplish certain things in human life, and He has been doing so for centuries. The person who walks with God is the person who knows which way God is going and goes the same way. Now, what is that? Perhaps we cannot indicate it positively, but we certainly can negatively: God moves always in unswerving hostility toward sin. He is opposed to that which destroys and wrecks human life. No matter how good it looks, no matter how attractive it seems, God is against it. And the person who walks with God is the person who walks in unswerving hostility toward sin in his or her own life and refuses to make up with it or permit it to rule or to reign. That is the first thing in a walk with God. Continue reading


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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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NO RESERVES – NO RETREATS – NO REGRETS

William Whiting BordenIn Cairo, Egypt, at the end of a garbage-lined alley, in a poorly kept grave yard, there is a grave stone with this inscription . . .

  Apart from faith in Christ there is no explanation for such a life.
“Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”
 – St. Mark XVI 15

This is the grave of William Whiting Borden (1887-1913).

An heir to the Borden Milk Co., William was born into affluence in Chicago, Illinois on November 1, 1887. In 1894, William’s mother became a Christ follower and she began taking him to Chicago Avenue Church (now Moody Church). William soon responded to the gospel preaching of Dr. R. A. Torrey, turned to Christ and was baptized.

When William graduated from high school in 1906, his parents offered whatever he wanted as a graduation present. He chose a trip around the world. For three months, he traveled by boat, train and on foot. He came home convinced that he wanted to be a missionary. His father saw this as a youthful aspiration, and assuming he would grow out of it, sent William off to Yale to earn a business degree.

Athletic, handsome and one of the most popular students at Yale, William started a morning prayer group that soon spread across the campus. By the end of the first year, 150 freshmen were meeting weekly for Bible study and prayer. By the time William was a senior, 1,000 of Yale’s 1,300 students were meeting in such groups. Continue reading


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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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“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