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

For the next several weeks, the Mars Hill staff devotionals will dive 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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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.


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You May be Stronger than You Think!

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.

I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. – 1Corinthians 9:23-27

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. – Proverbs 23:7

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

As a young single man, I met up regularly for about two years with some of my buddies for runs around the Rice University campus. For the majority of our run, we “jogged” at a fairly fast clip.  And then toward the end, someone would pick up the pace and we’d finish in a race. In junior and senior high school my sports were swimming, surfing, and basketball. I was never known as much of a speedster when it came to running.

But one day, near the end of our run around Rice, something happened that I’ve never forgotten. As usual, I was sucking for air and trying hard to keep up with the pack when someone started to pass me. Something inside of me said, “Not this time! Fred, let go and abandon yourself to this!” Suddenly, I felt as though my legs were moving faster than I had ever known them to move. I never knew I could run that fast. It was if I had just discovered a gear I didn’t even know I had. Not only was I keeping up, I was passing guys.

When you shift your car into a higher gear to go faster, the engine does not work harder. The RPMs (revolutions per minute) actually decrease and the engine runs more efficiently (with less effort if you will), and you go faster. That’s the best example I can think of to explain what I experienced that day. It wasn’t about trying harder. It was about letting go of what was holding me back, and discovering a new gear I didn’t know I had.

Finishing the run first, I got a look from the others that seemed to say, “Man, you’re taking this too seriously!” But for me, that wasn’t it at all. It wasn’t about besting someone else, it was about overcoming something inside of me. And the barrier was not physical, it was in my heart and mind. Continue reading


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The Highest Use of Media in Ministry

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.

Televangelism in America is a multibillion-dollar industry. Many claim that televangelism is an effective way to reach the lost. The facts do not support that claim. According to studies cited in the book, “Televangelism and American Culture”, by Quentin J. Schultze, less than .01% of the people in America who attend church do so because of the influence of mass evangelism, including radio and television. According to Schultze, and those he cites, televangelism is primarily a confirmatory medium. In other words, the audience is mostly Christian, viewing content they already agree with.

On the other hand, Schultze also cites research revealing that friends and relatives count for 75%-90% of all the conversions in America. Plain and simple, relationship is key to evangelism! Believing this to be true, I’ve had to ask myself, as the co-founder and president of a media ministry, “How does this affect my view of what I do in creating and using media?”

To answer this question, I must first acknowledge this fundamental truth. Our God is a relational God, and He is all about relationship. The Triune nature of God defines for us, the ultimate and perfect model of relationship. As members of the Body of Christ, we are joined together in such a way that we cannot understand our true identity, or truth itself, apart from our relationship with each other. Consider Paul’s words in Romans 1:11 “For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established . . .” Paul wanted to be there in person. What he wanted to give them was more than information, more than objective truth. It was something that could not be sent in a letter. Continue reading


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Your Greatest Strength May Be Your Greatest Weakness

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.

“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 . . . for when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Cor. 12:9&10

Since the early days of Mars Hill, I have used a personality profile assessment with all incoming staff. The one we use is called the DiSC. This assessment is not a test that one could pass or fail. It is more like a mirror that simply reveals who you are. I have found that our personality is much like our fingerprint or the color of our eyes. It is simply how God has wired us. It reveals how we naturally respond to the world around us.

The idea of basic personality types, or temperaments, dates back to the days of early Greco-Roman medicine. The Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460 – c. 370 BC) incorporated four basic personality temperaments into his medical theories. These included sanguine (enthusiastic, active, social), choleric (driven, goal oriented, often Type A), melancholic (analytical, creative, introspective), and phlegmatic (relaxed, steady, often peaceful). Most people have a combination of these, with one or two being predominant. There is not a right or wrong personality type. God makes every person unique, for a different purpose. Each one is fearfully and wonderfully made” – Ps.139:14

Much like Hippocrates’s 4 temperaments, the DiSC assessment is based on the idea that there are four basic personality “styles”, and a vast number of combinations of these four. The DiSC styles are dominance (D), influence (i), steadiness (S), and conscientiousness (C). Generally, people do well in roles that rely on their strengths. For example, if you need a cheerleader on your team, you’d want to find someone with a high amount of “i”.  If you want someone to pay close attention to the details to make sure nothing is missed and everything is done right, then you’d want someone with a high amount of “C”.

I’ve learned that it is not good to expect someone to function outside of their natural bent, in a style in which they are weak, over a long period of time.  That person will not flourish and be happy, and neither will you. Continue reading


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God’s Will for You is God’s Will for Your Children

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. 

Genesis 22:1-2 – Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

Situation #1 – Bob recently agreed to be an elder in his Church. The elders meet monthly for a 60-90 minute meeting. But 4 times a year, they meet for half a day on Saturday. The next Saturday meeting falls on the same day as one of his daughter’s softball games. Bob is one of 3 volunteer coaches. There is no Church “crisis” to be dealt with, but the Church is facing tremendous opportunity on several fronts. Typically in these half-day Saturday meetings, as the elders prayerfully discuss the course of the Church, God moves, bringing fresh insight and discernment that impacts the life of the Church. Should Bob go to the elders meeting or the softball game?

Situation #2 – When he was a teenager, God put it in Tony’s heart that he should become a missionary doctor as a way to help reach unreached people groups in Southeast Asia. In college, he met Alicia. They fell in love and married after college. While Tony was in med school they had their first child and became pregnant with a second. After med-school, Tony was offered a fellowship in a prestigious infectious disease program.  One thing led to another, and Tony’s plans to become a missionary doctor were delayed time and time again. The children were now 7 and 9. One night at Church, Tony’s heart was again stirred by a visiting speaker; a missionary from Southeast Asia. As Tony and Alicia discussed this, the main hurdle was the children. They were both exceptionally bright and were flourishing in one of the best private schools in the city. Tony and Alicia were concerned that the children could not reach their full potential on the mission field.  What should Tony and Alicia do?

Who wouldn’t want the best for their children, right? But many Christians in America today are obsessed with positioning their children for success (as the culture around them defines it) to the point that it is actually detrimental. Their motives may be good, but these parents may actually be buffering their children from the very life experience, and perhaps the adversity, that God would use to shape their soul and character, preparing them for their calling in life.

Consider Abraham, when God told him to take his son and offer him as a sacrifice to God. Can you imagine what Abraham was thinking and feeling? How could this be a good thing? Continue reading