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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Why Don’t We Experience God’s Love More Fully and Frequently?

By Fred Carpenter

In our recent Mars Hill staff devotionals, we’ve been diving into the topic of “experiencing God’s love.” Recently, I was reading in the Gospel Coalition website and I came across this quote from pastor Colin Smith.

“Many Christians live at a great distance from a felt experience of the love of God. So much Christianity in the West is shallow and satisfied. It affirms a creed, but it so often lacks spiritual life. Across the country, there are millions of people who have a faith, who’ve been brought up in the church to believe Jesus died and rose, but they have no living experience of God’s love.”

As I’ve talked with people about our current devotional series, I am increasingly convinced that Colin Smith’s observation is accurate. But why do so many Christians go through life with little or no real experience of God’s love? Before we delve into that question, let’s be clear about what we are asking, and to whom we are addressing the question.

First, we are not questioning the reality of God’s love. We are asking why we don’t experience that reality more fully and frequently. Continue reading


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Do You Really Experience God’s Love?

By Fred Carpenter

The Mars Hill staff has started a new Devotional Series on experiencing divine love. The incentive to go down this path began last year when I attended the memorial service of a very beloved and godly woman. Her granddaughter shared that the greatest lesson she learned from her grandmother was simply, “How to let Jesus love on me.” Her words went straight to my heart of hearts as I thought to myself, “Do I even know how to do that?”

Apparently, I am not the only one who struggles with that question. I recently read about a seminary professor who asked 120 of her students the question: “Do you believe that God loves you?” Out of 120 Christian students preparing for ministry, only two said, “yes.” The rest gave answers like this: “I know I’m supposed to say, ‘Yes’ . . . “I know the Bible says he loves me . . . but I don’t feel it,” or “I’m not sure I can really say I believe it.” (Link to quote source article, TGC)

Is it a Realistic, Biblical Expectation to Actually Experience the Love of God?

Citing Romans 5:5, John Piper affirms that the actual experience of God’s love is indeed a realistic, Biblical expectation . . . “Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Piper goes on to explain, “This is a Spirit-given experience of God’s love, not a logical inference from an argument. It is something poured out. It is something felt in the heart. Known in the way the heart knows.” Continue reading


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The Importance of Knowing Divine Love

From the desk of Fred Carpenter

Tears in the city
But nobody’s really surprised, you know
My heart’s taking a beating
Existence is bleeding me dry, you know

But way down in my heart of hearts
Way down in my soul of souls
Way down I know that I am a fortunate man
To have known divine love.

It is one thing to know about God, it is quite another to know Him personally and experientially. The Bible says that not only does God love us, but He actually IS love. To know God is to grasp the meaning or meanings of what love is, and to engage with Him so as to encounter love in all the ways He intended from the very beginning of time.

The English language uses the word, love, to describe many things. But the writers of the New Testament have 4 words for love.

Eros – sexual love
Phileo – brotherly “platonic” love
Storge – natural, innate love, such as the love of a mother for a child
Agape – unconditional, divine, love

All of the scripture below deals with divine (agape) love. When the writer of 1 John met the challenge of defining the infinitely complex, all powerful, all knowing, majestic, glorious Creator of the universe, he wrote only 3 words, “. . . God is love” – 1 John 4:8.

Over the next few weeks, we will contemplate together, the human experience of knowing divine love. To start down this path, let’s consider the importance of knowing divine love. Continue reading


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The Backstory to the Houston Astros 2017 World Series Win

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” –  Galatians 6:9

“The essential thing “in heaven and in earth” is, apparently, that there should be long OBEDIENCE in the same direction, there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living . . .” – Friedrich Nietzsche

By now, most people are aware of, and many are still buzzing about, the Houston Astros World Championship win. But few are aware of the backstory. It is a wonderful illustration of how these things don’t just happen. More often than not, victories like this are the fruit of “a long obedience in the same direction.”

To better understand this backstory, let’s look at the career roadmap of Jeff Luhnow – General Manager of the Houston Astros.

  • He was born; December 29, 1966, in Mexico City, Mexico
  • He Attended schools in Mexico City through 10th-grade and a preparatory high school in California for his 11th and 12th-grade years.
  • He holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in economics and engineering. He then earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
  • Prior to baseball, Luhnow worked as an engineer, management consultant, and technology entrepreneur. He worked for McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm, for five years. He also served as general manager and vice president of marketing for Petstore.com.
  • In 2003, Cardinals owner William DeWitt, Jr. had noticed what the Oakland A’s had done with their “Moneyball” tactics and was looking to run his team in a more analytical, data-driven manner. He hired Luhnow as vice president of baseball development in 2003. His hiring raised eyebrows since he had no previous experience in baseball and had not played the sport since high school. He was derided with nicknames like “the accountant” and “Harry Potter.”
  • Luhnow established a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic and extended the Cardinals’ scouting in Venezuela. (His roots in Latin America were significant in this.)
  • Under his watch, the Cardinals won five minor league championships. From 2005 to 2007, the first three Cardinals drafts, overseen by Luhnow, produced 24 future major leaguers, the most of any team during that period. In 2011, the Cardinals won the World Series.
  • On November 17, 2011, Jim Crane bought the Astros. On December 8, 2011, Jeff Luhnow was hired as the new manager.
  • On their road to the championship, the Astros (#18 on the MLB payroll list) beat the 3 highest paid teams in MLB – 3) RED SOX – $ 199,805,178, 2) YANKEES – $ 201,539,699, 1) DODGERS -$ 242,065,828.

Application to Mars Hill – 40 years in the Making

The HOPE, The Story of God’s Promise for All People, is now in over 67 languages, with over 20 new translation projects currently in process. Daily – over the Internet, on satellite television, in remote villages on solar-powered video projectors, and in many other ways and places too numerous to list – people around the world are encountering the great good news of Jesus Christ through The HOPE. There is much cause for praise!  But we should remember, the foundation for this ministry was built over decades.

Applicable Observations from Scripture

Some Things Take Time

Galatians 6:9  – Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

1 Corinthians 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast and immovable. Always excel in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Psalm 126:5 – Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.

God’s Work is meant to Be; Walk in it –

2 Corinthians 4:1 – Therefore, since we have this ministry through the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

 You might “Beat the Odds” once or twice but you can’t build something of lasting value that way –

Proverbs 13:11 – Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.

Rejoice at what God is doing! – Heaven is Celebrating!!!


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Mission Control; Divine Coordination

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

He will also lift up a standard to the distant nation, And will whistle for it from the ends of the earth; And behold, it will come with speed swiftly.Isaiah 5:26

Urbana is a Christian student missions conference sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. It has been a major force in raising up missionaries for more than 70 years. The first Urbana was held in 1946 in Toronto. Jim Elliot, known for his missionary work and martyrdom in Ecuador, attended the second Urbana as a student. The slogan for that Urbana was “From Every Campus to Every Country.” Since that time, Urbana has generally been held every three years. And over those years, the list of speakers has been made up of giants in the modern movement to reach the unreached for Christ. From 1948–2003, Urbana took place at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

In the last week of December 1993, I was blessed to attend an Urbana conference with (then) Mars Hill videographer, Kevin Bryan. We had gone to document the conference for a video series we were making at the time, GENERATION. It was awesome to watch 17,000 students show up at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign campus in the dead of winter and pack the Assembly Hall (Arena) to capacity in order to learn about missions. Continue reading


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Why Jesus Has Not Returned

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

If had to name five passages of scripture that have most influenced the ministry of Mars Hill, 2 Peter 3:9-13 would be one of them.

In the final scene of the Old Testament section of our movie, The HOPE, the storyteller says, “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.” At that moment, a Hebrew man runs to the center of the village, falls to his knees and cries out, “How Long!!!”

More and more, when I see what is happening in the world around me, I feel just like that man. “How Long, Lord, before you return and right all that is wrong?”

Prophecy buffs look at things like the increasing rate of natural disasters, an unprecedented number of wars and rumors of wars, phenomena in the heavens, and the events in and around Israel to assess where we are on God’s prophetic timetable. And rightly so, these are all that the Bible calls, “signs of the times” (Matt.16:3, Matt.24:3). But these are only signs. None of them give us reasons for the delay of Christ’s return.

There is, however, a place in God’s Word where we can go to understand why Jesus has not yet returned. In 2 Peter 3:9 we read, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” This verse is telling us that, as bad as things are, and as much as God hates sin and evil, He loves those who have yet to turn to Him even more. He is “not slow about His promise” (to return); He is waiting for those whom He knows are yet to come to Him.

And because we know that is the reason for His delay, what should we be about? Very simply, we should be about sharing and living out the Gospel with those who have not yet heard it or received it. When I get another dose of bad news in the world, it doesn’t defeat me. It actually empowers me to renew my commitment to engage in the Global Great Commission. How about you?

Moving on down to verse 12 in 2 Peter, we are told that we should be “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God…” There are three things we need to know about this verse.

1) First, we cannot, in the absolute sense, hasten (or “speed”, as some translations read) the coming of that day. It is fixed in the mind of God, and only the Father knows it (Matt.24:36). We should apply this verse as if to say we should “participate” in the hastening of that day. And how do we participate? By reaching those who have not yet been reached. The day will not be moved. If you don’t participate in hastening it, God will raise up someone else who will.

2) Secondly, we should know that the “day of God” in this verse is not the same as the “day of the Lord”, which appears several times in the Bible. The day of the Lord is a terrible time when God judges this world. The day of God is that time when God ushers in “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter3:13).

3)  And finally, “the coming” of that day is not just an event on the calendar. That little phrase “the coming,” actually comes from the Greek word “Parousia,” which literally means “the presence.” It is a technical term which was used in reference to the coming of a king. It was a royal visit, and the presence of the king changed everything! It is not just a new day in which things are different, it is a new day because His glorious presence fills the day!

Do look for that day? Do you long for His presence? Then be about His business. Reach those whom He died for!

 


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“You follow Me.”

Note: This devotional was originally given on May 5, 2015. However, because it plays such key part in the narrative of Mars Hill, it is worth repeating in this year of remembering the lessons God has taught us in 40 years of ministry.

“What is that to you? You follow Me.” – John 21:22

Can you imagine, walking on the beach with Jesus after His resurrection? That was the scene of an intimate encounter between Jesus and Peter (Find the full account of this story in John 21). Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter 3 times denied he even knew Jesus. Jesus already knew what was in Peter’s heart, but now He was giving Peter the opportunity to walk out the healing he desperately needed after his failure. Jesus then went on to explain to Peter that he would eventually die a martyr’s death. John, who would live out his natural life on the island of Patmos, was following behind. Looking at John, Peter asked, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to Peter, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” (John 21:22).

“What is that to you? You follow Me!” For those of us who tend to compare ourselves to others, or who think we know what we need to have, to be, or to do in order to be fulfilled, these words can be very difficult . . . or incredibly comforting.

One morning, years ago, I was having a quiet time with God. Well actually, I was “bellyaching” to God. The English version of The HOPE (a dramatic video presentation of Creation to Christ) had been out for quite some time, and we had completed a handful of translations. All of our work was now related to creating and disseminating even more translations. Most of our production staff who helped create The HOPE had moved on to other things. Production people enjoy exciting new challenges, and cranking out translations of The HOPE was certainly not as creatively challenging as producing it the first time around. As I compared myself to others on my team who had moved on to new challenges, I felt like I was, in a sense, left holding the bag.

Everywhere I went, well-meaning people asked me, “So, are you working on a new project?” “No, we’re still working on The HOPE.” I would reply. Then I would feel the need to explain that each language version of The HOPE was like a new project, or that writing a 65-lesson study guide was a huge challenge in and of itself. I suppose I was trying to somehow say we were still a creative and productive ministry, even though we weren’t working on “a new project.” I understood that my significance is not in what I do, but rather in who (and Whose) I am. But still, I felt like my significance was under attack.

So, there I was that morning, asking God, “Am I ever going to get to make another film?” On the heels of that question, a thought came into my mind. It didn’t sound like my thought. It stopped me completely. “Isn’t this what you prayed for? The HOPE is being used around the world to bring people to Christ.” Immediately, I was convicted. “Forgive me, Lord. Yes, that is exactly what I prayed for. That is what is important, and I want to be faithful to it.”  Then, another thought came to me, one that I definitely would not have thought on my own, “Good, you can be creative for eternity, but you can only do this now.”  Well, that certainly put an end to my whining about moving on to the next thing. And I’m so glad it did. The HOPE is now having an impact far beyond anything I could have imagined. But even if I couldn’t say that, I know that God’s plan is the best plan.

On that morning with God years ago, I didn’t cave in to the pressure to pursue new projects so that I would “feel” more significant in the eyes of others, or in my own eyes. But it wasn’t because I was so strong and wise and mature in and of myself. It was because I had a profound conviction concerning two things: God’s specific mission for Mars Hill at that time and the confidence He had in me to be faithful to that mission.

I was gripped by the keeping power of His gaze on me and by the importance of the mission He had given us, more so than by the opinion of the world around me . . . or even my own opinion of what would fulfill me. There is only one opinion that ultimately matters. I was actually comforted by the words “Follow me.”  There is such freedom that comes when that statement finds its place in your soul. It is liberating. You don’t have to follow anything or anyone else.


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Reflections from Hurricane Harvey – Asking the Question, “Why?”

Hurricane Harvey dumped over 9 trillion gallons of water over the greater Houston area and Southeast Texas, enough to occupy 33,906 Empire State Buildings, from basement to penthouse. The flooding was the worst in U.S. history!

Hurricane Harvey

Biblically, there are 3 explanations for the occurrence of natural disasters.

1) The Natural World – Prior to the fall of man, Adam and Eve walked in a world of perfect harmony and balance, without natural disasters. We live in a fallen world, one that is in the painful process of giving birth to a new creation.

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. – Romans 8:22

2) Satan – God has given Satan limited power to affect this world. We see this in the book of Job when God allowed Satan to bring natural calamity into Job’s life.

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. – Job 1:12

3) God – In order to accomplish His purposes in this world, God also brings natural calamity.

The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. – Isa 45:7

And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. – 1 Kings 19:11-12. Continue reading


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Possessions That Possess You

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

“So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” – Luke 14:33 

In this year of remembering things God has taught us in 40 years of ministry with Mars Hill, we’ve already looked at some of the lessons learned during the economic downturn in Houston during the late 80’s. God has a way of using difficult times to teach us lessons. This is yet another lesson from that time.

The board of Mars Hill had gathered on a Saturday morning for the quarterly board meeting.  At that time, our budget was much smaller than it is now, and facing a $25,000 deficit was a potentially catastrophic issue. As we prayerfully discussed our options, a thought came into my mind. Our camera is worth $25,000+. I didn’t share the thought, but immediately, as the board was discussing the situation, I began having an inner conflict over the idea of selling our camera.

We were a small media ministry with big dreams. And that camera was truly a high-end piece of technology. When other producers heard we had this camera, you could see it in their response, “Wow, you’ve got an Arri SR High Speed!!!” As I thought about my feelings, I realized my struggle was more about being the owner of that camera than it was about the camera itself. The Holy Spirit won the argument, and I jumped into the discussion, “We can sell our camera.” The room was quiet. There was somewhat of a miracle story behind the way we received the camera, and they all knew it.

Even before the board could finish processing the thought, one of our staff interrupted the meeting. “Fred, Mr. Smith is on the phone, and I think you might want to take the call.” I excused myself from the meeting. Mr. Smith told me he’d been praying about our work and had decided to donate $25,000 to the ministry. Walking back to the conference room, the story of the rich young ruler came to mind. It is recorded for us in Mat.19:16-26, Mar.10:17-27 and Luk.18:18-27. Continue reading