devos from the hill


Leave a comment

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.

 


2 Comments

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


Leave a comment

Lessons to Learn from Paul’s Thorn

Dealing with a thorn that has been embedded in your hand or foot can be a very difficult, if not an excruciating experience. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, we can learn some valuable life lessons as we read about Paul’s thorn:

7) Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me – to keep me from exalting myself! 8) Concerning this, I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9) 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. 10) Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

What exactly was Paul’s thorn? Some of the more popular theories include a temptation, a difficult relationship, a chronic eye problem, and a speech impediment. God does not tell us the exact nature of the thorn. If we knew, then we might not think this verse applies to our own unique and specific thorn. Turning from what we do not know about Paul’s thorn, there are several things we can know.

1) The thorn does not come during or after a low point in Paul’s life (i.e. – a tragedy or defeat), but after a high point, a great experience (as described in the preceding verses – 2 Cor. 12:2-4). Likewise, the failures of Israel described in I Corinthians 10 came after having experienced some of the most incredible miracles and manifestations of God recorded in scripture (their deliverance from Egypt, God’s provision in the wilderness, etc.). We do not usually drop our guard during a time of testing. But after the trial has passed and the victory is won, it is human nature to let down our guard. That is when we are vulnerable. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – I Peter 5:8. Continue reading


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

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


1 Comment

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


Leave a comment

God Always Provides …

God Always Provides for His Plan and Purpose
by Fred Carpenter

1) Consider the following Scriptures:

Matthew 21:1-6
1 When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 “If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, ‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.'” 6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them…

Zechariah 9:9
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

2) What do you see in these verses? (can you think of other things?)

  • v1 – He didn’t send all the disciples, just two. God’s work doesn’t depend on large numbers. These disciples weren’t going to search for the donkey and the colt. They were going to retrieve the donkey and the colt. When Jesus sent His disciples out to do ministry, He sent them in two’s.
  • v2-3 – The instructions were clear. God is in the details. The more specific the prophecy in Zechariah, the more glory to God when we read of its fulfillment in detail in Matthew (and Mark and Luke).
  • v2-3 – The provision had been prearranged. God had somehow prepared the heart of the person who owned the donkey and the colt. For every story there is a back story, and every character is vital to the greater narrative.
  • v5 – This was done so prophecy might be fulfilled. 9:9 was written about 500 before the event in Matthew 21.
  • v5 – Jesus didn’t just need a ride into town. He specifically needed a donkey and colt (and according to the parallel passages in Mark 11 and Luke 19, a colt that had never been ridden). A Jewish king might have come on a mule (1 Kings 1:38). A warring conqueror might have come on a war horse. A donkey and a colt symbolized humility, not war and aggression. Consider also that our passage identifies this donkey as a beast of burden. Jesus was about to take on the burden of the sin of the world.
  • v6 – The two disciples followed His instructions exactly, without questions.
  • This whole story defies natural wisdom and probability. It does not depend on human ingenuity and capacity. It reveals and magnifies the hand of God.

3) From what you have read, what can you apply to your life? (here is a partial list)

  • As we’ve seen with the owner of the donkey and the colt, every person is vital to the story – even if the role is “behind-the-scenes”. You are important to God’s story!
  • A lot of time passed between the prophecy in Zechariah and its fulfillment. Sometimes the story takes time to unfold. Be patient.
  • God will provide exactly what we need in order to fulfill His plan and purpose. Walk in His plan, and He will provide all you need to fulfill His purpose for your life.


2 Comments

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.’ ”

 


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

The Model Prayer – Pt 2/6

The Teaching of Jesus on Prayer – Part 2 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 10.

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10

Because He is God, your heavenly Father knows what is in your heart. He knows what you are going to say before you say it. So why pray? The ultimate purpose of prayer (and of every created thing) is to glorify God. Through prayer, you have the incredible privilege of participating in God’s awesome eternal plan. Prayer is not about getting God to do something He does not want to do. Prayer is a means by which we appropriate (take possession of, lay hold of) God’s will. Prayer is a means by which God ushers His will into this world.

Jesus said that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). If you take Jesus at His word, then apart from Him we cannot even pray – at least not effectively. Recall that by His word, God spoke the world into existence (Psalm 33:6, Psalm 9). As you become intimate with God, study His Word, walk in obedience, and listen in prayer, the Holy Spirit will use you in prayer to speak His will into this world. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Realize that God’s will is perfect and good (Romans 12:2), and that He is able to do exceedingly more than you could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

In a way, what is available to you through prayer is like a special expense account with unlimited funds. An expense account is defined as an arrangement by which all expenses are paid to fulfill a certain task, which in this case is Kingdom business. Many people hardly ever draw on that account; and when they do, the amount they withdraw is meager compared to the actual account balance. Many submit requests for funds, but are denied because the request is not in line with the purpose for which the account is intended. Discover how to appropriate all that God has for you through prayer! Continue reading