devos from the hill


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How to Know if You are Really Experiencing the Love of God

By Fred Carpenter

I came to faith in Jesus Christ in 1974, near the end of my senior year at the University of Texas. Just prior to that, I was practicing Transcendental Meditation and studying Mahayana Buddhism. I believe there were 2 things God used to prime my departure from TM and MB.

The first catalyst was a book written by Francis Schaeffer, entitled, “He is There, He is Not Silent.”  This book deals with the epistemological, metaphysical and moral necessity of the God of the Bible. Those are some high-sounding words, but basically, it came down to this. My study of Buddhism was producing more questions than answers, and that book by Francis Schaeffer answered every question I was asking!

The second eye-opener had to do with a matter of love. During that period of my life, I was befriended by a group of Christian guys. When my colleagues in TM talked about the need for love in the world, it was more like describing the need for people to achieve a certain state of being in which everybody is on the same wavelength. It was abstract. With my new Christian friends, I actually saw love in action. For them, love was not an idea, it was something very concrete. As I consider the subject of today’s devotional, I am reminded of that difference. 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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The Garment of Grace

God has blessed Mars Hill with an incredible team of men and women who love Jesus – the risen, reigning, and returning King. Together, we passionately pursue Him as we work to see the Great Commission fulfilled. Together, we study the Scriptures. We embrace and celebrate the mystery of faith and the magnificence of our AWESOME God. And we long for our Savior’s return, when we will know fully as we are fully known.

The Holy Spirit has breathed unique wisdom, discernment and gifts for service into each member of our staff. That said, we are delighted to commence a new series of devotionals, in which each member of our staff will be sharing insights from their inimitable journey with our Father.

We hope that God’s redemptive work in our lives will resonate with what He’s doing in yours.


Today’s Devotional is from team member, Ryan Renfrow.
Ryan is a new addition to Mars Hill, serving as one of our Ministry Partnering Directors.

The primary scriptures for this devotional are John 13:1-20 and Isaiah 52.

True discipleship takes place when believers stop wearing a mask… the mask of “I’m fine, thanks” or the mask of “No. No prayer requests at this time.” My life has been full of changes lately and the nature of change is dealing with adjustments. Those aren’t always easy, and sometimes we think we have a grip on a situation just to be thrown another curve ball and find ourselves taken off course. Charles Spurgeon said, “I’ve learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages”. I’ve hit wave after wave in my personal life lately and this week I was brought to John 13.

John 13 begins what is known as the Upper Room discourse, the final teachings of Jesus to his disciples, hours before the events of the crucifixion. Think of these passages as Jesus’ final rallying speech, preparing the troops for what was to lie ahead. Here was Christ, the image of the Invisible God, our Lord and Savior who holds all things together, literally taking the role of a servant. He got up from where he was reclining at the table and began to use his own garment to wash the feet of his disciples. One by one, he went to them, took their feet in his hands, and washed them clean. Simon Peter didn’t understand what he was doing, he couldn’t have been the only one. This led Jesus to reply “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand ” (13:7). The disciples still did not know what was about to take place as Jesus would love them to the ultimate end – the laying down of his life. The image of him washing their feet was a visible representation of what was about to take place on a much larger scale.

But Jesus didn’t just wash his disciples’ feet to give them an object lesson, he washed their feet in example – just as he served his disciples they were in turn to serve one another. Imagine Jesus, kneeling at the disciples feet, knowing that one was going to betray him, another disown him, the rest would leave him deserted and yet he took them in his hands and removed the dirt and dust from their feet. I’m thinking of those in my life who have hurt me the deepest, those who have disappointed me, and I stop to consider if I would have the humility to wash their feet and serve them in such a way. Could I look in the eyes of those I knew would hurt me and still love them the same and with such humility? Because I’m much more like Ryan than Jesus, I have to say probably not – I will find ways to make myself feel better sometimes at the expense of those who have hurt me. But then I stop and remember, it’s awfully hard to look down on someone when you’re supposed to be washing their feet.  Continue reading


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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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Remain in His Presence

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, Jean Ngo.
Jean is serving Mars Hill as Ministry Partnering Director.

The following is insight I gained from the Smashing False Idols Evangelism Conference 2007 with Tim Keller.

Perhaps it’s something none of us want to admit but do you remember a moment when you got really angry with another person?   What should you do in that moment?  Should you cry out to God for help?  Plot revenge?  Run and never look back?  Let’s explore this issue in the book of Jonah.

In Chapter 1, we find the prophet fleeing from what God commanded him to do:

“Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come before Me.”  But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. 

One reason proposed for why Jonah flees is because of fear for his own safety.  All of us have encountered moments when we hold back sharing what we would like to share for fear of that person hurting or rejecting us.  In Jonah’s case, going to Nineveh and sharing what God said held the potential of offending an entire city of 120,000 people.  It seems reasonable to think Jonah feared for his safety.  However, there may be another reason…

Upon deeper reflection (and with the help of a great fish), Jonah prayed (2:8-9):

Those who regard vain idols Forsake their faithfulness, But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving.  That which I have vowed I will pay.  Salvation is from the Lord. 

In Chapter 3, Jonah went back and did what the Lord told him (vs. 4-5):

Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”  Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.

God showed great mercy to the people of Nineveh humbling themselves (3:10):

When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them.  And He did not do it. 

That should be the end of the story, right?  The protagonist did his job…the people of the city repented…and God saved the people.  The End!  No.

It might surprise us that Jonah actually gets angry with what happened.  In Chapter 4, vs.3, he asks the Lord to take his life from him, for death is better to me than life.  Jonah is deeply disturbed God spared the city from destruction.  Why? 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 Church – A Work in Progress

Don’t reject Jesus based upon the witness of the Church.
Lesson 63 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.

– Ephesians 5:25–27

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Have you ever known anyone whose reason for rejecting Jesus was that, “the Church is just full of hypocrites”? It is a common sentiment. When you consider some of the weird things going on in the Church today or when you consider Church leaders who have not been good examples of Jesus followers, it is not difficult to see why people are turned off by the Church. But is that a good reason to reject Jesus?

In the world of music, classical composers like Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven are considered to be masters. It is enthralling to experience one of their works performed by a world class symphony. However, when a fifth grade orchestra attempts to perform the same work, the results are dramatically different. No one judges the genius of Bach when the fifth grade symphony falls short of perfection. It is almost expected. But when the Church falls short of perfection, many people question the value of following Jesus.

The person who rejects Jesus because of the Church needs to be aware of two things. First, Jesus is perfect regardless of how well the Church represents Him. And two, just because Jesus has not yet “perfected” the Church, or those who make up the Church, doesn’t mean that He is not able to do so, or that He won’t. The Church is a work in progress. Continue reading