devos from the hill


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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