devos from the hill


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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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What is Holding You Back?

In Philippians 3:13-14, we finds these words written by the Apostle Paul: “13) Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies  behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

From this passage, let’s focus today on the phrase “forgetting what lies behind.” But before we do that, let’s be clear about the “it” Paul is referring to when he says, “I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet.” Paul is not referring to his inheritance of eternal life in Christ. The overwhelming weight of Paul’s testimony throughout his letters is that he was chosen by God (Eph. 1:4) and that God will complete the work He started in Paul (Phil.1:6).

The “it” that Paul is speaking of is the fullness of spiritual maturity in Christ. More specifically, it is the three things he identified in verse 10, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings . . .”

Now, with that behind us, let’s consider what Paul is getting at when he says, “forgetting what lies behind.” From the context, one must conclude that whatever Paul is referring to must be forgotten, because it is holding him back from reaching what lies ahead – “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (v14). But what is it that Paul must forget?

As we find so often in scripture, God gives us enough to get the principle, without giving us so much that we might say, “Well, that example doesn’t really describe me.” For example, when we read about Paul’s thorn (2 Cor. 12:7), the scripture is not clear as to what it might be. It is very inclusive, leaving open the possibility that Paul’s thorn could be very much like my thorn. Ouch! Continue reading


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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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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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God’s Provision

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, Doug Whitehead.
Doug serves Mars Hill as the VP of Administration.

Do I REALLY trust God for my provision?

I should consider this question in every facet of my life.  Do I trust God for His provision of my sanctification, protection, healing…everything?  Today, I’m narrowing this question down to one area, my financial support or material provision.

Belonging to a ministry that lives in a community of missionary-faith-based supported staff (say that three times fast) brings me face to face with this question and continually causes me to consider and sometimes walk in the reality of God’s absolute provision for my support.  If I am wavering in my faith about God providing my salary support and all that it entails, then God brings me assurance of the reality of His provision right when I need it.  For example, when I work with new staff people to help them in the process of discovering who God is bringing to them to support their work at Mars Hill, when I recount (REMEMBER) the stories of God’s provision to them, it re-charges me and continues to build my faith in Him as my provider.

Whether it’s God’s reminder through His word that “He owns the cattle on a 1000 hills” (Psalm 50:10) or “my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus,”  (Phil. 4:19) or “therefore, don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” (Matt. 6:31) and “your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matt. 6:32)…….the scripture is very specific that God will provide what we need.

Continuing to REMEMBER what God has done and how concerned I was before He did it, helps me with my faith and trust that He will continue to provide.  (Beverly keeps a long list of the things that God has provided for her for this very purpose!)  When I reflect back on how the Lord provided, it is humbling.  For example, when I first joined the ministry of Mars Hill my second child hadn’t even been born but I remember saying to the Lord “ there won’t be enough left over to prepare for my children’s college expenses so I’m going to have to trust you to come through.  I let that concern go for many years, but it started creeping back into my mind as our boys moved closer to the college years.

When the guys were something like 17 and 15 years old we were at the beach with our best friends.  I was expressing my concern to my friends that we didn’t have any money for college expenses and if either of our sons was injured, all the preparation in their respective sports wouldn’t do much good.  There were so many unknowns about the athletic scholarship path.  I recognized there wasn’t any security on that path.  Somehow, before the trip was over, the Lord reassured me that I should continue to trust Him.

Now, one son has a college degree from the University of Texas and the other has a college degree from Rice University and we didn’t have to borrow a penny.  Some of the Lord’s provision for these years came in the most unexpected way.  The Lord keeps answering that prayer for His provision for college expenses as it appears that both my youngest son and his wife can get a free Masters and MBA degree at the college they are currently working for. Continue reading


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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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The Model Prayer – Pt 6/6

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

“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
– Matthew 6:13b 

Verse 13b does not appear in all early manuscripts of the Bible. However, for the purpose of this devotional, let’s consider this verse a powerful proclamation, which praises God. And praise is certainly the appropriate response for one who has been blessed by intimate fellowship with God.

In Exodus 33, we read about a dialogue between Moses and God that took place after the nation of Israel had been incredibly dishonoring to God. Moses had a lot to speak with God about. At the conclusion of their conversation, Moses told God that he did not want to go forward unless the presence of God went with him. After concluding your time of prayer with God, you would not want to go on without a sense of His presence either, would you?

The Bible teaches that God inhabits (KJV), or is enthroned upon (NASB, ESV), the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). In other words, when you praise God, you are inviting Him to manifest His presence in your life. And when that happens, the powers of darkness will flee because they cannot stand the presence of God. Perhaps you should stop here and let those last two sentences sink in. Think about it, the power of praising God. Is it a regular experience in your life?

Hebrews 13:15 tells us that praise should be a constant theme in our walk with God: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Praise brings glory to God . . . and it so good for us!

If you want to make praising God a more constant part of your life and you’re finding it difficult to get there, then ask Him to help. Pray David’s prayer in Psalm 51:15 on a regular basis: “O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise.”

The word that punctuates our verse today, “amen”, literally means “so be it.” In the words of one writer, “To add ‘amen’ to our prayer is like the judge striking his desk with the gavel, proclaiming, ‘It is done.’ ”

 


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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


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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


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The Model Prayer – Pt 3/6

The Teaching of Jesus on Prayer – Part 3 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 2 of 6 in our study of the model prayer. Our focus here is verse 11.

Give us the day our daily bread.” – Matthew 6:11

When you give your life to God, you are no longer your own. You belong to Him, and your well-being is His responsibility. He is your Father, and He promises to provide what you need to live the life He has called you to live. Consider the following verses – Matthew 6:25-33, Psalm 37:25Philippians 4:19. It has been said that God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s provision. That statement is most often applied to ministries, but it is equally applicable to people.

A plural prayer – Notice that this prayer instructs us to pray in the plural; “us” and “our”, not “me” and “my.”  As a child of your heavenly Father, you are a member of the Body of Christ. Your identity is only fully understood and experienced in relationship to His Body (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). If God has given you two loaves of bread, and you only need one, then He has given you your brother’s loaf. Your mission as a member of the Body of Christ is to allow your Father to show you who is to receive that second loaf.  In this, the Body will be built up, and the character of our Father will be made known.

A daily prayer – Why the “daily” part? For one thing, depending on God for your daily needs keeps your relationship with Him current and fresh. It also helps you to see a clear relationship between your need and His provision. Keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of prayer is not to get things or to get things done. It is to glorify God by knowing Him and making Him known. When you pray specifically for a specific need and that prayer is answered in a specific way, then God becomes more real to you and to those around you who know what He has done. He receives glory, and you grow in your understanding of His character, His nature, and His ways.

A page from the life of George Mueller (1805-1898) – Prayer was the vital component of George Mueller’s nineteenth-century ministry to England’s orphans. As founder of several orphanages, he handled more than $8 million, although his own worldly possessions were valued at about $800 at his death. The following is just one example among many of Mueller’s dependency on God through prayer.

“The children are dressed and ready for school. But there is no food for them to eat,” the housemother of the orphanage informed George Mueller. George asked her to take the 300 children into the dining room and have them sit at the tables. He thanked God for the food and waited. George knew God would provide food for the children as he always did. Within minutes, a baker knocked on the door. “Mr. Mueller,” he said, “last night I could not sleep. Somehow I knew that you would need bread this morning. I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in.”

Soon, there was another knock at the door. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. The milk would spoil by the time the wheel was fixed. He asked George if he could use some free milk. George smiled as the milkman brought in ten large cans of milk. It was just enough for the 300 thirsty children.*

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication (petition) with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6, emphasis added).

* http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/church-history-for-kids/george-mueller-orphanages-built-by-prayer-11634869.html