devos from the hill


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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.

Continue reading


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The Source of Unshakable Hope

Knowing Him through His Story.
Lesson 40 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

In the Garden of Eden, God promised to send a Deliverer. Through Hebrew prophets, God gave hundreds of promises concerning this Deliverer, who would one day conquer Satan, sin and death forever. In the temple, the smoke from sacrifices ascended day after day, year after year, generation after generation, giving the Hebrew people a constant reminder of humankind’s need for the Deliverer. But when would He come? How would He come? By now, some must have wondered if He would come at all.

– The HOPE, Chapter 7

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Today’s lesson marks the midway point in the story of The HOPE. Thus far we have considered many Biblical truths and events. Just as God intended, this has set the stage for what is to come. Looking back we have dealt with:

  • Why the Bible can be trusted as God’s revelation to man (Lessons 3 and 4)
  • What the Bible says about God – Who He is and what He is like (Lesson 6)
  • What the Bible says about man – created in image of God but separated from God by sin (Lessons 9 and 10)
  • God’s purpose for man – to love God and to be loved by God (Lesson 13)
  • The nature of sin and its effect upon man and his relationship to God (Lessons 18 and 19)
  • What the Bible says about Satan and the war he wages against God and man (Lesson 14)
  • God’s promise to send a Deliverer Who will conquer Satan, sin, and death forever (Lesson 20)
  • How the nations of our world came to be (Lesson 25)
  • How God called out a man, Abraham, through whom He promised to bless all nations (Lesson 26)
  • How God’s promise was kept alive through Abraham’s descendants (Lesson 31)
  • How from Abraham’s descendants God formed the Hebrew people, through whom He would send the Deliverer and fulfill His promise to bless all nations (Lesson 32)

All of these events and truths are recorded in the first five books of the Bible. These five books (known by the Hebrew people as the Torah) were carefully compiled and painstakingly preserved prior to the time period covered in our current lesson (approximately 400 B.C. to 1 A.D.). See Lesson 3 to review Hebrew methods of guarding the accuracy of copies of the Bible. Continue reading


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Hope – Four Things You Need to Know About It

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

1) You can’t live without It

  • “(Hope) is something as important to us as water is to a fish, as vital as electricity is to a light bulb, as essential as air is to a jumbo jet. Hope is basic to life….without that needed spark of hope, we are doomed to a dark, grim existence. How often the word “hopeless” appears in suicide notes. And even if it isn’t actually written, we can read it between the lines. Take away our hope, and our world is reduced to something between depression and despair.” – Chuck Swindoll
  • “If a person has given up hope, he has entered the gates of hell, whether he knows it or not, and has left behind him his own humanity.” – Eric Fromm
  • “The last thing that dies in a person is hope.” – Diogenes
  • “The absence of hope is the essence of despair.” – Anon.

Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl has written extensively on hope. He observed in the camps, without exception, that when a person lost hope, he/she gave up, and their end was imminent.

2) There is a difference between the world’s definition of hope and God’s definition of hope

The world – Hope is a wishful thinking, an optimistic desire that a thing will come to pass, all the while, living under a cloud of uncertainty that it might not. “All too often, hope is pessimistically defined as the little boy did when he said: “Hope is wishing for something you know ain’t gonna happen.”

The Bible – Hope is a confident expectation, based on the promises of God. (Vine’s dictionary) Vines. It comes from the Greek word, elpis (el-pece’) which means to anticipate, usually with pleasure; expectation or confidence.

  • “’Hope’ is biblical shorthand for unconditional certainty.” – John Blanchard
  • “Hope is not, ‘I have not got it, but I hope I may,’ but ‘I have not yet got it, but I know I shall.’” – Guy King
  • “Hope is faith in the future tense.” – Peter Anderson

3) There is a difference between hope and faith

“. . . faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
– Heb 11:1 (NASB)

Hope is an expectation of future blessing based on the promises of God.

Faith is the present spiritual condition that gives us the assurance and conviction regarding that future blessing.

4) There is a way to get more hope.

a) Perseverance – Rom 5:4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;

b) God’s Word – “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” – Rom 15:4 (NASB)

Your HOPE will increase as your heart and mind become saturated with the plan and purposes of God as revealed in His word. The title for our video, The HOPE, was inspired by Romans 15:4. In concert with the soon-to-be released updated version of our HOPE website, we’re launching a study through The HOPE Study Guide which will be available on this new website in several languages. Every week, in our staff devotional, we’ll dive into a new lesson. We plan to start the study on October 1. It will take us about a year to complete. We’d love to have you, and everyone you know, join us. Spread the word, and the HOPE that comes through His Word!


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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