devos from the hill


Leave a comment

“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.


1 Comment

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


Leave a comment

Money in the Mouth of a Fish, and an AC Unit on the Roof

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.

“However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.” – (the words of Jesus to Peter when he was challenged by the tax authorities as to whether or not his Master paid taxes) – Matt. 17:27

Several years ago, as we were approaching another hot Houston summer, Doug Whitehead, our VP of Administration informed me that one of the two Mars Hill air conditioner units on our roof had gone out. The AC unit was not our landlord’s responsibility, it was ours. We talked about our options: hold off and endure the heat until we were in a better financial position, or bite the bullet and purchase a replacement unit.

Whatever our decision, we determined that the first thing to do was to get up on the roof and assess the situation; the type of unit, its location, etc. Upon doing our diligence, we discovered something very unusual. Much to our amazement, next to our dead unit, there was another unit in perfect condition (a third unit) just sitting there. Before we moved into our space, it was occupied by a restaurant which needed three AC units to handle a capacity crowd. When we moved in, that third unit was never connected, and it was now available to us!

We marveled at God’s provision! The first thought that came to my mind was the fish story from Matt. 17. God had that fish swallow the coin to pay the tax before Peter even knew it was needed. From that AC experience, I learned a lesson that has set a pattern for me to this very day. Continue reading


Leave a comment

He’ll Take Care of the Rest

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.

God Always Provides Exactly What We Need… to Do Exactly What He is Calling Us to Do

31“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32“For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:31-33

The normative pattern at Mars Hill is that every full-time person serves as a media missionary.  In that role, these staff members build teams of people who share in their missionary calling, through prayer and giving. It is a walk of faith. That is how I have been living for 40 years. And I can say honestly that God has never failed to provide exactly what I needed in order to do what He was calling me to do.

Many times, there has been a very direct relationship between my need, and what was clearly His provision. I remember well, a time in the early days of Mars Hill, when my wife and I did not know how we were going to make ends meet, and God would lead people to do things, like anonymously leave a bag of food and diapers on our porch or provide a scholarship for our kids to do something, not in our budget. There were many times like that, and today they are treasured memories that taught me priceless lessons about God’s faithfulness.

In light of Matthew 6:33, and my personal experience of trusting in His provision for 40 years, there are three things I’d like to share.

1) He knows exactly what we need and it is His role as our Father to provide it.

In 1986, two things in my world were on a collision course. It looked like I was in for the perfect storm. First, my staff was growing. Second, this growth was happening as Houston was heading into what was arguably the worst economic environment it had seen since the Great Depression. At that time, we had not yet determined that all full-time staff would build ministry teams. I was feeling the weight of it.

One night, in a Bible study I led, we were sharing prayer requests. I shared that when I started Mars Hill, I was single, and I could have been content living out of my car if need be. The only person I had to trust God for was me. Then I got married. And then my staff grew, and they began to marry. Then I started a family, and my staff started families. In the beginning, I only had to trust God for one person, “now I feel as though I’m trusting Him for 40 people.” I suppose I was asking the group to help me deal with the weight of it all. That’s when one of the wives in the group said, “Well Fred, you know, Jesus trusted the Father for the whole world.” I don’t think she knew how profoundly her words would impact me to this very day.

It’s true. Our Father knows exactly what we need, to do what He is calling us to do, and it is His role as our Father to provide it. If Jesus trusted the Father for the whole world, certainly I could trust Him for 40 people. Which leads me to my second point.

2) Our role is simply to be faithful to what He is calling us to do.

Jesus came, not to do His will, but the will of His Father.  Jesus is our model.  Our part is to be faithful to what God is calling us to do. And as the old Keith Green song says, “He’ll take care of the rest.” The problem comes when we start doing things He is not calling us to do, or we are not doing the things that He is calling us to do.

I believe that “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (v.33) plays out differently in the life of every believer. Certainly, we are all called to “. . . love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deu. 6:5).  But as we live that out, we discover our unique, personal calling . . . our mission in life.

In his 2nd letter to Timothy (chapter 2, verse 4), Paul compares a faithful disciple of Christ to a soldier. A soldier is not to get entangled with the things that a regular citizen is concerned with. The soldier keeps his focus on the mission, and the army takes care of the soldier’s basic needs. The same principle applies to a faithful disciple. Stay true to the mission He has given you, and He will provide what you need to follow through.

And I would humbly submit, it is one thing for me to state this principle. It is another to state after having experienced it over and over for 40 years in the trenches of a faith-based ministry.

3) We have unlimited resource in Him.

I have a friend who is very involved and successful in both business and ministry.  He once shared with me that the difference between the two is this. In business, you have a limited amount of capital, and your challenge is to figure out how to use it as effectively as possible.

In ministry, your challenge is to figure out what God is calling you to do and how to do it as effectively as possible, knowing that His resource (including capital) is unlimited.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of scaling back your mission in order to operate within your own limited resource. But God is never resource constrained. His resource is infinite! “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”; boldly pursue your mission, and “He’ll take care of the rest!”


Leave a comment

Trust – The Most Important Component of Any Effective Team

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.

Most would agree that trust is an important component to a healthy relationship or an effective team. But let’s be honest. Who do you trust so much that you would share your deepest darkest secrets?  Is there really anyone who you believe always puts your best interest above their own?

Navy Seals are taught, when entering a building where they expect to engage the enemy, that one Seal is to focus only on clearing the left side of the room, and another is to focus only on clearing the right side. They must not turn away from that on which they are to fix their focus. Only through extensive training and discipline is it possible to truly trust that your partner is covering your blindside by doing his job, and doing it well.

I am very aware that partnering among ministries is vital to the completion of the Great Commission, and that partnering requires trust. However, the greatest misstep I have made as the leader of Mars Hill was when I suspended our policy to follow a proven protocol for creating translations of The HOPE, and I trusted a ministry partner to do things that I later discovered he could not do. It was a very costly mistake on many levels, but it was also one of my greatest life lessons. Since that time, I’ve put a great deal of thought-time into the subject of trust. Continue reading


Leave a comment

A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 10

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Ten

“How does a person know when it is okay to separate oneself from the Lord’s anointed – especially if the Lord’s anointed is after the order of King Saul?

David never made that decision. The Lord’s anointed made it for him. The king’s own decree settled the matter!

‘Hunt him down; kill him like a dog!’

Only then did David leave. No, he fled. Even then, he never spoke a word or lifted a hand against Saul. And please note this: David did not split the kingdom when he made his departure. He did not take part of the population with him. He left alone.”

And so begins the next chapter of our book. Saul’s jealousy and madness have finally progressed to the point that he is demanding David’s death. David, knowing that he has been anointed by God to be the next king at some future time which has yet to be revealed, chooses wisely to flee and hide. David could have fought back. He had garnered enough fame and support that he likely could have persuaded many in King Saul’s court and army to turn their allegiance to him instead. But David knew that it is God who makes kings and appoints times, and God had not yet given the go-ahead for him to be king. The only thing left to do then was to get out of Saul’s way.

This sets the stage for our discussion using the following questions:  Sometimes God leads us into a situation which turns sour; how do we know when it is okay to leave that situation? And, what should our exit strategy be?

The kinds of situations we talked about included those such as jobs, churches, volunteer commitments, and the like. Things usually look pretty good when you commit to a church, but after some time the leadership may start to take you in a direction you don’t want to go. Perhaps the worship style changes or the leaders demand that you take a more active role in engaging the community.

We should not leave a situation because we have become uncomfortable or unhappy. Like David, we leave when we are no longer capable of fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives in that situation. And, like David, it may take a while to come to that realization …and we may go through a season of having spears chucked at us before the full intentions of the king are made known.

This is not to say that we should stick it out in situations of actual abuse! But there are times when our situation may actually be one of being tested like Job rather than hunted by King Saul. The point is to seek God’s leading rather than cater to our own discomfort. God may be using discomfort to draw out or build up something in us.

Lastly, when you see that it is time to depart, don’t try to take an entourage with you! Don’t gossip about it. Don’t work others up into a frenzy. Just be obedient to your call and go. We are each responsible to follow God’s leading and we should not want to lead others away from what God may be doing in their lives.

Below are two excerpts from Psalm 18, written by David, in response to his tough situation. Think about the heart of David and the mindset that he had in trusting God so completely that his relationship with Saul did not undo him.

I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.  – Psalm 18:1-3

For You will light my lamp;
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.  – Psalm 18:28-30


Leave a comment

A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 2

The Mars Hill staff is going through a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Two

Even though David is growing up, our story today finds the young man still tending to the family’s flock of sheep. But something was about to change. The prophet, Samuel paid a visit to David’s household looking for one whom God was calling out for a destiny of leadership, and it was not until Samuel had seen the very last of the brothers in this family that God’s choice was revealed. This young sheepherder was anointed; set apart as a future king.

There were two things of note in today’s reading. The first was that God chose David because He found that he “loved his Lord with a purer heart than anyone else on all the sacred soil of Israel.” All of that time spent alone, tending the sheep, had given David opportunity to dwell on spiritual things. “And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’” – Acts 13:22

The second observation was that the Lord’s anointing was not followed immediately by David’s appointment as king. On the contrary, he went through a decade of agony and suffering; as the book says, on that day, David was enrolled into the school of brokenness.

God was calling David out to rule a nation, but there were still lessons to be learned to be the kind of man and leader God needed him to be. A.W. Tozer said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”

In many ways, David’s life is a metaphor for the Christian life. It is often misperceived that when a person follows Christ, everything in their life will suddenly be made right and carefree. Just the opposite is likely to occur. When we become a child of God, He brings people and circumstances into our lives that will help to shape us to be more like Christ. Our lives here on earth are about preparing us for the day when we will reign with Christ.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.    – Philippians 3:8-11 ESV