devos from the hill


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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


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Stay Teachable!

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.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” – Romans 11:33

“For the word of God is living and active . . .” – Hebrews 4:12

“My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you,  Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding;  For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding;  If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures;   Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God.  For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” – Proverbs 2:1-6

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” – Matthew 4:4

The Bible is the most remarkable book in all the world. Most books are read, and then placed on a shelf.  But the Bible is a living source (Heb.4:12) of inexhaustible truth. The Bible can light your path, shape your character and feed your soul. It was written by the Spirit of God through men, and it requires the Spirit of God in a man/woman to understand it. If indeed the Spirit of God indwells you and you have eyes to see and ears to hear, then you can read the Bible for a lifetime, and still not absorb all the truth it contains.

It is extremely dangerous for a Christian to come to a place in their walk where they (whether consciously or unconsciously) have the mindset that they know all they need to know. A Christ follower must remain teachable for life. He/she must always approach the Word of God with the attitude that they are going to encounter something fresh. Perhaps even something that, though it was there all the time, they’d never seen it. The next truth you discover in God’s Word could change the course of your life.

I try to make a habit of daily Bible reading. Never do I come away from that time without receiving at least some hope, encouragement, assurance or maybe a conviction about something in my life that needs to change. Often over the years I discover something in a passage I’ve never seen before, even though I may have looked at the passage many times before. And then there have been those times when I’ve encountered something that has actually changed the course of my life.

There are two such truths that have not only changed the course of my life, but also the course of the ministry of Mars Hill, which in turn has changed the lives of countless numbers of people. That is the power of the Word of God!

The first of these truths has to do with what is often called “the exchanged life.” It is summed up in Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” This truth has taught me that what produces eternal fruit, is not what I do for Jesus, but what He does through me. It has taught me that the true measure of success is faithfulness. I am confident that an understanding of this truth has significantly influenced how we do what we do at Mars Hill. For more on this truth, visit our devotional, “Have You Discovered the Christian Life is Not Difficult … It’s Impossible?!”

The second truth has to do with God’s heart for the nations.  And by nations, I am not referring to countries, but rather to people groups (ethnos in the Greek) who are separate and distinct from other people groups by virtue of language, religion, political and geographic boundaries, tribal affiliation and several other factors too numerous to mention. The verse that God first used to impact me regarding the nations is Matt. 24:14, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” And then, as I began to mine God’s Word, I discovered that the theme of God’s heart for the nations is throughout the Bible.

“And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” – Rev. 5:9

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb . . .” – Rev. 7:9

And being compelled by this truth in the Word of God, I began to seek out all the data I could find to help me get a picture of the state of world evangelization. I learned that while there are only a few hundred countries in the world, there are about 16,000 Biblical nations.  It broke my heart to learn that thousands of people groups (nations) had yet to be reached with the Gospel!  As I taught the Mars Hill board what I was learning, they too were moved.

It is by no means an overstatement to say that these truths from God’s Word have determined the very course of the ministry of Mars Hill for these past two decades. With nearly 70 translations of The HOPE in use by missionaries around the world, and over 30 new translation projects in process, we are on a path to help populate heaven with people from more nations than I even knew existed prior to that time. That is the power of God’s Word!

How about you? Are you still finding fresh truth in God’s Word? If so, great! What you discover in His Word will shape your soul for eternity. If not, then learn to come to God’s Word with an attitude of expectation. I can say beyond all shadow of a doubt, there are precious truths and priceless wisdom you’ve yet to see on those pages.  And you might even discover something that will change the course of your life!

The Word of God is like an endless fountain. You cannot possibly drink in all the water that springs from this fountain. But you can drink all you need to satisfy your thirst for now. And when you are thirsty again, there is always new fresh water to quench your thirst, and satisfy your soul.