devos from the hill


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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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Growing in God

The Basics of Growing in Your Relationship with God.
From The HOPE Study Guide

THE BASICS OF GROWING IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Coming into a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ is a wonderful beginning – but it is just that: a beginning. While it may be the end of the journey called “coming to faith,” it is only the start of another journey that might be called “growing in God.” The apostle Paul claimed that “knowing” Jesus Christ was the great goal of his life. He said, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

Paul saw growing in God as an undertaking that would consume him until death ushered him into God’s very presence! So how do we come to know our great, saving God, and to grow in Him? There are many ways, but time has shown that a few are key. Our knowledge of Him cannot help but grow as we study His Word, communicate with Him in prayer, share life with other believers, tell others about what God has done for us, and follow Him daily in faith and obedience. We’ll examine each of these briefly in turn.

1. STUDY GOD’S WORD

You would never expect a child to grow into a healthy adult without proper nourishment. Children eat to grow. Likewise, the Word of God is the spiritual food that nourishes every growing Christian. The apostle Peter encouraged Jesus’ followers to, like newborn babies, “long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (1 Peter 2: 2-3). Just as there are many styles of eating – there are also many ways to “take in” God’s life–giving Word. Consider these to begin:

  • Reading your Bible daily. Many plans exist for reading a portion of the Bible each day. If you are a new follower of Christ, you might begin by reading a few verses of the gospel of John daily until you have finished the book. Then move to another gospel (Matthew, Mark or Luke), or one of Paul’s “missionary” letters like Ephesians or Philippians. You might also find a “devotional” Bible which selects portions of scripture for you to read daily, and includes thoughts to consider on that particular passage.
  • Reading through the whole Bible. Some Bibles are published with guides for reading the Bible through in a systematic way. If your Bible does not contain such a guide, you can easily find one. Several are available at http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/12/27/reading-the-bible-in-2013/.
  • Discovering God’s Word is filled with promises for you. Memorize and meditate on His promises. Again, some Bibles will have at least a partial listing of God’s promises in their reference section. Others are available at no charge:   http://bible.org/article/selected-promises-god-each-book-bible.
  • Studying the Bible in a group. Studying God’s Word together with other Christians is a wonderful way to grow in insight and in community. Seek out a leader in a Bible–believing church in your area and ask about group studies that might be available to you.

In every instance, the emphasis on Bible study should not be simply academic, or study for study’s sake. You are studying not to gain “head knowledge” but to know more deeply and fully the God whose saving plan has included you. You are a part of His story now!

2. COMMUNICATE WITH GOD

Prayer is simply communication with God – and it is so important. It may seem at times like one–way communication, but it is not. Prayer involves speaking to God and listening for His voice in return – as He speaks through His Word, through His servants, and through the still, small voice of His Holy Spirit. Through prayer we thank God for His goodness to us, confess our sins, praise Him for who He is, and make requests of Him. It is in regular prayer that we grow in our relationship with God and mature in our faith. The Bible says we should pray about everything, and that we should pray “without ceasing.” Truly, nothing is too small to take to God in prayer. He is the Lord of all life.

  • Get in the habit of spending time each day with God. Learn to listen as well as to speak. Some people call this time with God a “quiet time” – but it may not be quiet at all. You may pray aloud, sing praises, or read aloud prayers from scripture during this time. The important thing is to set aside a time for God that will not be compromised, even if it is just a few minutes of undistracted focus every morning or evening.
  • Keep a prayer journal. Recording your prayers can help you see how God has led you, and to praise Him for His faithfulness in giving not just what you ask him for – but what you truly need. Be sure and share answered prayer with others, too. God’s faithfulness to you can be used to build someone else’s faith as well!
  • Study what Jesus taught about prayer in The Model Prayer at the end of this study. When Jesus’ disciples said “Lord, teach us to pray,” this is what Jesus offered in response. Many people say this prayer in a rote, or routine way – hardly thinking of what the words mean. As you study this prayer, consider each part of it, and what it says about God’s constant care and concern for you.
  • Train yourself to maintain a running dialogue with God throughout the day. Some call this “practicing the presence” of God. Simply remind yourself that God is with you all day, every day – and that you are free to speak with Him about anything, at any time.

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When Life Throws You a Curve Ball

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

It’s a popular phrase. You’ve probably heard it, “When life throws you a curveball.”

Because the World Series is starting this week, I’m going to toss up the question, “What do you do when life throws you a curve ball?”

The curve ball is thrown by rotating the index and middle fingers down, resulting in spin on the ball that gives it the motion of a downward “curve”. It’s one of the hardest things in sports to execute well. It gives the opposition fits when thrown properly. Some pitchers have a curve ball that actually seems to skip or accelerate on the downward motion as it nears the plate.

What are the options for a batter when he is thrown a curve ball? Well, the first challenge is just to recognize if it is a curveball. It takes a lot of practice and physical gifting to be able to visually pick up on the spin of a baseball. Assuming a batter has some capacity to recognize a curveball, his first option, particularly if he’s low in the count, might be to “take it”; just watch it go by. Many batters know what it’s like to see that pitch coming right down the middle of the plate, thinking they can do whatever they want with the pitch. They can almost taste it. So they let loose with a swing, only to find at the last split second that the pitch is “dropping off the table.” There’s no way to adjust in time to connect with the ball. The best they can do is to try not to look like too much of a clown as their knees buckle and they thrash the air. Why do that if you don’t have to, if you can take it? If it’s early in the count you can give up a strike, and there is the possibility it will drop out of the strike zone and be called for a ball. Continue reading


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Active and Passive

Mars Hill Staff Devotional – July 31, 2012

For today’s staff devotional, we discussed “Being versus Doing”.
Key take away: He is the initiator and we are the responders.
Our role is to say “yes” and follow. His role is to lead and do what
only He can do . . . in us, through us and around us.

Active and Passive by Ray Stedman
Read the Scripture: John 15:4-11

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me (John 15:4).

Notice that our Lord divides this passage into two sections. There is an activity that is to be done, and a passivity that is to be acknowledged. We are to remain in Him (that is active, something we do), and we are to let Him remain in us (that is passive, something we allow Him to do). Both these relationships are essential, not one as opposed to the other, but both together.

When our Lord says Remain in me, He is talking about the will, and the decisions we make. We must decide to do things that keep ourselves in contact with Him. The Holy Spirit has placed us into Christ. Now we must maintain that relationship by the decisions we make, such as exposing ourselves to His Word and having a prayer relationship with Him. We remain in Him when we bear one another’s burdens and confess our faults and share in fellowship with one another. All of this is designed to relate to Him: Remain in me. If we do that, we are fulfilling this active, necessary decision of the will to obey His Word.

This is what Bible study and prayer are all about. They are not mere mechanical practices that every Christian ought to do in order to get brownie points with God! No, they are means by which we know Him. If you open your Bible and begin to read it without the conscious expectation that it is going to tell you something about Him, you will read in vain. If you try to pray as though it were some exercise in which you chalk off fifteen minutes’ worth, mechanically going through a list, it is a valueless experience. But if you pray because you are talking with One whom you love and want to know more of, sharing with Him out of the fullness of your heart, then prayer becomes a beautiful experience. That is remaining in Him.

But that is only part of it. Jesus says, Remain in me, and I in you. There is also the other side–Let me remain in you. That has to do with empowerment, enablement. You can make choices, but you cannot fulfill them. And though you are responsible to make choices, you are not responsible for the power to carry them out. There you are to depend on Him, to let Him abide in you. You are to rest upon His ability to see you through. As you venture out on that basis, you expect Him to carry you through.

Both of these are absolutely essential. Making decisions and then trying to do the whole thing yourself is going to produce intense activity, but no results. On the other hand, letting Him take all the responsibility and making no choices at all will also produce a fruitless life. We must determine to expose ourselves to Him; we must seek His face in the Word, in prayer, and in fellowship with others. And then we must count on Him to see us through, to supply that enabling power that makes us able to love and forgive and rejoice and give thanks. When we do, we are remaining in Him and letting Him remain in us.

Father, teach me the proper balance between making hard choices to remain in You and resting in You to do in me what only You can do.

Life Application: What is the tremendous difference between our will power and our activity power – between our power to choose and our power to do?

Copyright © 2007 by Elaine Stedman — This daily devotion is from the book The Power of His Presence: a year of devotions from the writings of Ray Stedman; compiled by Mark Mitchell. It may be copied for personal non-commercial use only in its entirety free of charge. All copies must contain this copyright notice and a hyperlink to http://www.RayStedman.org if the copy is posted on the Internet. Please direct any questions you may have to webmaster@RayStedman.org.

http://www.raystedman.org/daily-devotions/john-13to17/active-and-passive