devos from the hill


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Contemplating the Presence of God

Mars Hill Staff Devotional

To begin today’s devotional, we discuss the difference between the universal presence of God and the manifest presence of God.

“The Presence (of God) and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same. There can be the one without the other. God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His Presence. On our part there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work it is to show us the Father and the Son. If we co-operate with Him in loving obedience God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face” – A.W. Tozer

Read through the following collection of scriptures and quotes on the Presence of God. Reflect on the ones that jump out at you. Consider what attitudes and actions you might need to alter in order to be more aware of God’s Presence on a consistent basis.

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” – 1 Corinthians 3:16

“Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” – Psalm 16:11

“In Him we live and move and have our being” – Acts 17:28

His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service. – Baptist Faith and Message

We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. – C. S. Lewis

I want the presence of God Himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with religion… I want all that God has or I don’t want any. – A. W. Tozer

Don’t equate the presence of God with a good mood or a pleasant temperament. God is near whether you are happy or not. – Max Lucado

You can have all of your doctrines right—yet still not have the presence of God. – Leonard Ravenhill

We cannot enter into the presence of God while we are rebelling against God. – A. W. Tozer

The most holy and necessary practice in our spiritual life is the presence of God. That means finding constant pleasure in His divine company, speaking humbly and lovingly with him in all seasons, at every moment, without limiting the conversation in any way. – Brother Lawrence

We (Christians) are always in the presence of God. There is never a non-sacred moment! His presence never diminishes. Our awareness of His presence may falter, but the reality of His presence never changes. – Max Lucado

The true meaning of existence is disclosed in moments of living in the presence of God. – Abraham Joshua Heschel

Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God. – Sam Storms

What if all it took to bring us to our knees and to ignite our affections was the Word opened and the presence of God? What if that was enough for us? What if it didn’t take a great band to evoke that kind of response from us in worship? What if His presence – His Word opened – what if it was enough? – David Platt

Sometimes the very presence of God is barred by our presuppositions and our intense and constant desire for triumph. – Ravi Zacharias

If you find a reluctanc to go into the presence of God, there may be unconfessed, unrepented sin in your life. Part of your quiet time is to get your heart clean and pure. Each of us needs to take ourselves by the nape of our necks and confess and repent before we come into God’s holy presence to fellowship. – Adrian Rogers

Prayer is the window that God has placed in the walls of our world. Leave it shut and the world is a cold, dark house. But throw back the curtains and see His light. Open the window and hear His voice. Open the window of prayer and invoke the presence of God in your world. – Max Lucado

The real crisis of worship today is not that the preaching is paltry or that it’s too drafty in church. It is that people have no sense of the presence of God, and if they have no sense of His presence, how can they be moved to express the deepest feelings of their souls to honor, revere, worship, and glorify God? – R. C. Sproul

If the presence of God is in the church, the church will draw the world in. If the presence of God is not in the church, the world will draw the church out. – Charles Grandison Finney

A man who knows that he lives in sin against God will not be inclined to come daily into the presence of God. – Jonathan Edwards

The real issue relating to exclusiveness is whether or not the Christian actually has a relationship with God, a presence of God, which non-Christians do not have. Apart from Christian spiritual formation as described here, I believe there is little value in claiming exclusiveness for the Christian way. – Dallas Willard

The Christian life is to live all of your life in the presence of God. – R. C. Sproul

If we rely on anything else besides faith to maintain the practice of the presence of God, we will certainly fail, whether this is our feelings, or experiences, or sincerity, or good intentions, or reasonings, or plans. The reason these things will fail while faith will not fail is that all these things depend on us, while faith depends on God. It is a gift of God. – Peter Kreeft

When we are enjoying the conscious presence of God, we are fulfilling the tenets of our salvation. – A. W. Tozer

Only when we are captured by an overwhelming sense of awe and reverence in the presence of God, will we begin to worship God in spirit and in truth. – Alistair Begg

There is a strain of loneliness infecting many Christians, which only the presence of God can cure. – A. W. Tozer

Nothing in or of this world measures up to the simple pleasure of experiencing the presence of God. – A. W. Tozer

Peace comes not from the absence of trouble, but from the presence of God. – Alexander MacLaren

Most theists are deists most of the time, in practice if not in theory. They practice the absence of God instead of the presence of God. – Peter Kreeft

 


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Confirm Your Calling, Develop Your Faith

Today’s devotional is from Staffer, Ryan Renfrow
A look at 2 Peter 1:3-11, with focus on 5-7.

…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (ESV)

Peter reminds believers that because of the divine power of the Gospel we have everything we need in life and godliness –What more do we need, really?

While we may have access to all we need, it is still possible for the believer to become unfruitful or ineffective in the knowledge of Christ. We find here, Peter’s desire for the believer to grow in the faith which first led them to the Lord Jesus Christ.

John Calvin when reading this passage said our “faith ought not to be naked or empty”. C.H. Spurgeon commented that Peter’s list is of qualities that are jewels to be adorned. Piper reminds us this is not a list of qualities to add to our faith, but rather qualities that further develop our faith.

Let’s think about that.

Faith alone is what turns us from guilty sinners into righteous sons and daughters. And Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that faith is a gift from God. This faith that saves us is not the finish line but the starting point to a life rich in meaning and purpose. Our faith is meant to strengthen, deepen and manifest fuller as we experience more and more of God and his glory in our lives.

Consider this analogy; God has built a beautiful house just for you and called it “faith.” He invites us into this house of faith, to be in relationship with him through his Son, Jesus Christ. When we accept his offer, we dwell in the house of faith with Him. Once inside we begin to explore cabinets, look behind doors, we learn more about what living in relationship with God is like. What does he expect? How does he treat others? We discover more and more truths about his divine nature. Who is he? What’s he like? We learn to adjust our thoughts and actions living in this new house. Faith becomes a place of great growth, great trial, and great reward.

If you visited my house today, you would quickly see reflections of me. You would see pictures of people I love and things of sentimental value. These fixtures become part of my house, they add to the quality, they tell stories of who I am.  These fixtures turn my house, into a home. In the same way, think of Peter’s list of qualities as furnishings to our house of faith.  Peter desires the believer to strive for virtue and knowledge and steadfastness because these greatly adorn the faith we were given from God. These qualities not only become the fruit of a full faith, but they deeply nurture the roots that confirm our faith more and more.

When we are loving God supremely and loving other’s sacrificially, we will find ourselves pursuing more knowledge of the Lord, practicing better self-control, exhibiting greater steadfastness in trials, desiring more of God’s glory, caring more deeply for fellow believers and loving others more genuinely.


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Are You Poor in Spirit?

I have heard it said by scoffers that Christianity (or any religion for that matter) is just a crutch for those who are too weak to live life on their own. The world admires a strong independent spirit and looks down upon weakness and dependence.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3

According to, Greek scholar, Kenneth Wuest, to be blessed is to be spiritually prosperous. At first pass, this might seem to contradict what Jesus said in Matthew 5; how can the ‘blessed’ be both ‘poor’ and ‘prosperous’ at the same time? But as someone has pointed out, in order to get your cup filled (of Him), it must first be empty (of us)!

James Smith was a reformed Baptist preacher and predecessor of Charles Spurgeon at New Park Street Chapel in London from 1841 until 1850. From his notes we read . . .

I. “Poverty of spirit” is not something put on, but that which concerns the inner character (spirit). The characteristics of those who are “poor in spirit” are –

A. BROKENNESS OF HEART (Psa. 51:4-7). A deep sense of personal unworthiness.

B. SELF-DISTRUST. “No confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). “In me dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18).

C. ENTIRE DEPENDENCE. Living by faith. “Apart from Me, nothing” (John15:5).

II. The nature of this blessedness. This is the kingdom. They come under the reign of grace. A present possession.

A. CHOSEN BY GOD (1 Cor. 1:28, 29). The poor in spirit are the chosen of Heaven.

B. INDWELT BY GOD (Isa. 57:15). The humble heart is the abode of God.

C. RICH IN FAITH (Jas. 2:5). Faith will buy anything from God. It is the current coin of the kingdom.

D. DIVINELY CARED FOR (Isa. 66:2). “To this man will I look that is poor, and of a contrite spirit” (Isa. 66:2). This is the look of continual favour, which is the blessedness of the poor in spirit.

How do we become “poor in spirit?” Throughout the ages, there have been those who have believed that an external life of poverty produces an internal life of poverty. However, we cannot, through human effort, manufacture the condition of being poor in spirit. Such a spiritual disposition is not a goal. Rather, it is the result of making God our goal.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones – The way to become poor in spirit is to look at God. Look at Him; and the more we look at Him, the more hopeless shall we feel by our­selves, and in and of ourselves, and the more shall we become ‘poor in spirit’. Look at Him, keep looking at Him. Look at the saints, look at the men who have been most filled with the Spirit and used. But above all, look again at Him, and then you will have nothing to do to yourself. It will be done. You cannot truly look at Him without feeling your absolute poverty, and emptiness.

FB Meyer – To be poor in spirit is to be vacant of self and waiting for God. To have no confidence in the flesh; to be emptied of self-reliance to be conscious of absolute insufficiency; to be thankfully dependent on the life-energy of the living God, that is poverty of spirit; and it has been characteristic of some of the noblest, richest, most glorious natures, that have ever trodden the shores of Time. Happy are they who are conscious of a poverty which only the Divine indwelling can change into wealth, and who are willing to confess that they would rather be in hell and have God, than in heaven and not have Him.

Yes, there are those who say that Christianity (or more specifically Christ) is just a crutch for those who are too weak to live life on their own. They are right, and I am so glad they are, for I would much rather live under the reign of grace than under the law of vain and perishable works.

 

 


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What If It Doesn’t Get Easier?

Faith is a gift from God (Rom 12:3 – “… God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”).  There are times when God may give us the faith to move mountains (Matt 17:20, 20:21). But there are also times when God intends us to climb the mountain and to trust Him for the faith to do so.  Whether it’s moving mountains, or climbing them, God has a purpose for both.

What if our greatest challenge in life does not get easier? Consider these verses.

We Will Rejoice all the More at His Coming

1PE 4:12-1312  “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13  but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.”

  • Question – Are you ready for His coming?

We Will Know (Have an Intimate Understanding) of His Grace & Power

2CO 12:9-109 “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, 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.

  • Thought – You won’t really know His grace & power if you don’t need His grace & power.

We Will Know Him, the Power of His Resurrection and the Fellowship of His Sufferings

PHI 3:7-117 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

  • Question – How well do you know Him? Is that well enough?

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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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Will You be More Holy in Heaven than You are Now?

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

This week’s staff devotional is a sequel to the one from last week. If you recall, last week we observed that in the epistles of the New Testament, Christians are referred to as saints 56 times and as sinners only 3. Yet, as I shared from my experience, I hear frequently from pulpits that we (Christians) are sinners, and very infrequently that we are saints. I proposed one big reason for this. We live in a world that focuses on performance over identity. I also posted a response that expands on this thought.

Next week we’ll move on to a different topic, but today we’re taking our thoughts from last week one step further. We’ll begin with a question that could cause you to recoil, but please, hang with me. Here it comes. Did you know that you won’t be any holier in heaven than you are now? Now before you tune me out, please hear this. I am not in any way promoting the heretical doctrine of sinless perfection. As Christians, the power of sin still lurks in us (1 John 1:8). However, if you recoiled from that question, then you might be more focused on your performance than your identity. If you need more background regarding this, then visit or revisit last week’s devotional.

The words, saint, sanctified and holy are translated in the New Testament from Greek words (hagios and/or hagiazo) which come from the same root and literally mean “set apart.” When God gave you the understanding and the faith to appropriate His work on the cross, you were changed. You became a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17), and because of this, you became “set apart.” By virtue of His life in you, you became a partaker of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). You became like Him, and different than the world around you. You may not always act like it, but that doesn’t change what He did in you. Notice from 1 Corinthians 1:2 and Hebrews 10:10, you “have been sanctified”. This phrase is in the perfect tense which conveys the idea of completed past action. Notice from Colossians 3:12 and Hebrews 3:1, the word holy is used to describe a present condition. Continue reading


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Saint or Sinner, Which are You?

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

I’ve noticed a growing trend from the pulpit in evangelical Churches (at least the ones I am familiar with) to proclaim that we are all just a bunch of sinners. But are we really? What does God say about those who have been born from above into His family?

In Acts 2 we read about the promised coming of the Holy Spirit. He came to indwell men and make them new creatures in Christ. Did you know, that from Acts 2 to the last chapter of Revelation, there are only 3 verses (1 Tim 1:15, Jms 4:8 & Jms 5:20) that refer to Christians as sinners, yet there are 56 that refer to Christians as saints? For example . . .

Rom 1:7 – “to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints”
Eph 1:1 – “to the saints who are at Ephesus”
Phil 1:1 – “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi”
Col 1:2 – “to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae”

Paul never opens one of his letters to the Churches with, “to all the sinners at . . .” And yet I’ve heard it from the pulpit more times than I can count, “We are all just sinners.” 56 to 3. Why don’t we hear more statements that line up with the 56? There may be more than a few reasons for this, but for the purpose of today’s devotional, we’ll look at just one. Continue reading