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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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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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Blossom Where You are Planted

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.

“Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3 NASB

When we are young adults, looking at the endless possibilities before us, it seems logical to pick a goal and map out a plan for how to get there. But, when you are a follower of Christ, you become aware that you are not alone in these decisions. In fact, you learn that He already has plans, big plans; so it becomes a matter of discovering what those plans are and what your role in them will be.

I have shared in the previous two devotionals that upon graduating from film school God had given me a deep conviction that I would someday make films that would introduce people to Jesus Christ. However, I had no direction or idea about how that would come to pass.

At that time, I was living in Houston, doing odd media jobs, waiting tables, and strategizing what my next move should be. I attended a church but had not joined a church or become involved in church life because I didn’t know if I would be staying in Houston. Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York seemed the more logical places to pursue a film career.

While searching for something encouraging in God’s word one day, I read Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” The Holy Spirit spoke to me through this verse. I thought I would find something about my plans coming to pass, but what I saw was not what I was expecting. I realized I had been reading that verse backward. I was trying to make a plan and commit it to the Lord, expecting Him to then show me the work. Continue reading


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The God Idea: Part 2, Creative Process

The Model for the Creative Process
By Fred Carpenter

Mars Hill was founded in 1977 by Fred Carpenter and Larry Kreider. Together they shared a vision for the potential of ministry through media. In this year, marking the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions, president, Fred Carpenter is taking the time to recount the important lessons God has taught us; lessons that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

So, you have heard from the Lord and you believe that you have a “God Idea” that He wants you to implement. Now What?

Having been involved in the producing, writing and directing of film and video for more than 40 years, I have given much thought to the nature of the creative process.  Several years ago, I was blessed to come across what I believe to be the best model for the creative process that one could ever find. It continues to shape our approach as a ministry today.

From Dorothy Sayers’ book, The Mind of the Maker, pp. 35-36…

“For every work [or act] of creation is threefold, an earthly trinity to match the heavenly.

First, [not in time, but merely in order of enumeration] there is the Creative Idea, passionless, timeless, beholding the whole work complete at once, the end in the beginning: and this is the image of the Father.

Second, there is the Creative Energy [or Activity] begotten of the Idea, working in time from the beginning to the end, with sweat and passion, being incarnate in the bonds of matter: and this is the image of the Word.

Third, there is the Creative Power, the meaning of the work and its response in the lively soul: and this is the image of the indwelling Spirit.

And these three are one, each equally in itself the whole work, whereof none can exist without the other: and this is the image of the Trinity.”

Let’s take a few moments to look at these three “steps” in the creative process more closely.

The Creative Idea – The very first verse in the Bible reads “1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1. Before we know God as Father, Savior or Comforter, we know Him as Creator. The creative process begins with God. He is indeed, the “genesis” of everything.

It is significant that the word for God in Genesis 1:1, is the Hebrew word, “Elohim.” This is a plural name for God, which tell us the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were all involved as God in the creation of the heavens and the earth. Applying Dorothy Sayers’ model, this process of creation began with the “Creative Idea”; the first Person of the Trinity, the Father.

From scripture, we know that no human has seen, or can see the Father (John 6:46). So it is with the “Creative Idea.”   When the “Creative Idea” is born in a receptive soul, it is not seen by anyone.  It may not even be clearly seen by the one in whom it is born. It is nonetheless very real.

For me, the process of creating a new media project starts with a “God Idea”, or in Sayers’ terminology, the “Creative Idea.”  When the idea comes, it is often hard to articulate to others because it does not yet have form and shape, nevertheless, it is very real. I can almost identify with various elements and characteristics of the project as if they already exist, even though the project does not actually exist in time and space. I can almost envision the effect it will have on a viewer, even though no one has yet seen it. Continue reading


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Remembering What God has Taught Us Through 40 years of Ministry

Mars Hill was founded in 1977 by Fred Carpenter and Larry Kreider. Together they shared a vision for the potential of ministry through media. In this year, marking the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions, we are taking the time to recount the lessons God has taught us; lessons that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

As I was reflecting on 40 years of ministry, I was drawn to the life of Moses as he led the Hebrew people out of Egypt, through the Judean wilderness, and toward the land God had promised to give them.

As the Hebrew people were nearing the fulfillment of God’s promise to inherit a land of their own, these are the words that Moses spoke to them:

“All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your forefathers. You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” – Deuteronomy 8:1-2

This moment of entering the Promised Land was part of a bigger plan that God Himself had set into motion years before with a covenant promise to Abraham and his descendants. As this promise was about to be fulfilled, Moses exhorted the people to remember all the hardships they had faced and all the ways that God had faithfully led and provided for those that trusted in Him.

While I do not directly compare the Mars Hill journey to this chapter in the lives of God’s chosen people, there are some universal truths that the Word of God reveals to us. As Christians, the message for us all is that the lessons learned in this life are preparing us for what God has for us in eternity.

Just like the Hebrew followers, all the circumstances and challenges that Mars Hill has faced in the in the last 40 years have drawn us, both corporately and individually, into deeper relationships with the Lord. They have also, sharpened the focus of the ministry.

Another observation from the life of Moses is found in Psalm 103:7, “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel. Notice that the people saw the acts of God. They saw the sea part, they saw Him provide manna from heaven, but Moses spoke with God. He got to discuss things with Him and hear some of the reasons behind His actions.

John Morris of the Institute of Creation Research says, “We have a distinct privilege, as to know something of the “acts” of God. Scripture records many instances where He performed even miraculous deeds on behalf of His children. There is perhaps a greater privilege–that of reflecting on His “ways,” as well. “Ways,” in this context, may be understood as God’s actions and behaviors which reflect His underlying character, resulting in His “acts.”

Adrian Rogers said, “There is something more important than knowing the will of God–it is knowing the WAYS of God. There are 2 ways to know Him: Know His works (see what He does) and Know His WAYS (have insight into God’s character).To know the difference will mean the difference between peace and panic.”

“His way” is not referring to the Law (doing things His way), but to His very character. God’s ways are clearly different than ours, as stated in Isaiah 55:8 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD, and also in Romans 11:33 – Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!

But, we who are in Christ have the same privilege as Moses did, to draw near to God and learn His ways.  I Peter 4:1-2 tells us, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” Through Christ, we have been shown more of God’s character and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to apply His ways to our lives as Philippians 2:5 tells us,  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

Revelation is progressive and it is important to take the time to remember what God has taught us. Remembering keeps us sharp and ready to learn new lessons. It is also an encouragement to review what the Lord has done in us and for us – laying a foundation of hope and assurance that He will continue to build on.

Heb 5:13  For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.

Heb 5:14  But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

 

Consider This:

 Rick Warren suggests keeping a journal of insights and life lessons that God has taught you about Himself, ourselves, life, relationships, and everything else. Reviewing this journal can keep us from having to relearn lessons… Hebrews 2:1 – Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.

 


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 24

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 Twenty-Four

Today we listened in on a conversation between two of King David’s closest advisors, Nathan, the prophet of God and Zadok, the priest.

God had spoken to David through Nathan on a number of occasions. For instance, in 2 Samuel 12, God revealed to Nathan that David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, and had her husband killed in battle to cover up the fact that she was bearing his child. God then had Nathan confront and rebuke King David. He spoke truth to David, even when that truth was difficult to hear.

Zadok the High Priest was loyal to the King, but more importantly, he was faithful to God. He followed God’s laws and was certain to support the ruler who followed after and was anointed by God.

In the imagined conversation between these men, they are debating whether or not they should offer their unsolicited advice to David regarding the impending hostile take-over of the kingdom by David’s son, Absalom. Zadok thinks Nathan should confront King David as he has before, and find out what his plan is.

But Nathan isn’t so sure that he needs to talk to David. He says to Zadok, “There is no real difference between the man who discovers a Saul in his life and the man who finds an Absalom in his life. In either situation, the corrupt heart will find its ‘justification.’ The Sauls of this world can never see a David; they see only Absalom. The Absaloms of this world can never see a David; they see only Saul.”

Our prophet believes that David will respond to the man under him (Absalom) the same as he responded to the man over him (Saul). For he trusts that David’s heart is purely to follow God.

Things to consider:

  • Circumstances don’t make the person; they reveal the person.
  • What you are will determine what you will see.                                                                              Matthew 5:8, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  • How might we get a pure heart? See Romans 12:1-2…but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.                                                                                                                                      

See also, Ephesians 4 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  

 


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 23

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.

“This book (A Tale of Three Kings) reflects my concern for this multitude of confused, brokenhearted, and often bitter Christians who now find their spiritual lives in shambles and who are groping about for even the slightest word of hope and comfort.” – Gene Edwards, Author’s Preface

Chapter Twenty-Three

For today’s devotional consideration, we read from our book what could have been an exchange between King David and Abishai, his nephew. He alone accompanied David when he entered the camp of Saul while he slept and took his spear and water jug. He commanded a third of David’s army. He slew a Philistine giant who threatened David’s life, and on one occasion withstood 300 men, and slew them with his own spear.

This man, Abishai, was obviously an invaluable right-hand man to the king, but even such a trusted companion does not always grasp the deep heart motivations of the one they serve. This becomes apparent as Abishai presses King David for what he will do regarding the growing rebellion to take the throne led by David’s own son, Absalom.

Abishai remembers well the madness of King Saul. He knows the irrational thoughts and actions that Saul directed towards David, fearing that David would take the throne from him. He had witnessed with his own eyes David’s restraint and mercy towards Saul when he could have brought him down and taken what he knew was destined to be his.

No man would have faulted David for standing up to Saul’s unwarranted attacks and fighting back. In this chapter, Abishai repeatedly reminds David that he would have been humanly justified in defending himself against the mad king, but now that he IS the king, he has, even more, rights to defend his throne.

King David responds to Abashai’s urgings for action; he was not an Absalom towards Saul and he does not want to be a Saul towards Absalom! The following reveals what his heart knows to be true:

“I did not lift a finger to be made king. Nor shall I do so to preserve a kingdom. Even the kingdom of God! God put me here. It is not my responsibility to take or keep authority. Do you not realize, it may be His will for these things to take place? If He chooses, God can protect and keep the kingdom even now. After all, it is His kingdom.”

Abishai presses him once more. “You know that Absalom should not be king!” And David responds, “Do I? No man knows. Only God knows, and He has not spoken. I did not fight to become king, and I will not fight to remain king.”

David was prepared to let it all go if that is what God wanted. Finally, Abishai got it. And his admiration for his king grew even deeper.

Things to consider:

O LORD, You have searched me and known me! A Psalm of David. Psalm 139:1 ESV   (David’s relationship with God is evident throughout this entire Psalm; he understands how well God knows him and he freely expresses his thoughts and desires back to God.)

And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:27 ESV

…but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we declare it, not to please people but God, who examines our hearts. I Thessalonians 2:4 NET

Final Thought:

If God knows us so well, and He is sovereign over all, what keeps us from resting in the hope and comfort that He will guide our lives in the ways and the times that they should go?


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 11

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 Eleven

“Caves are not the ideal place for morale building. There is a certain sameness to them all, no matter how many you have lived in. Dark. Wet. Cold. Stale. A cave becomes even worse when you are its sole inhabitant…and in the distance, you can hear the dogs baying.”

When David had to flee the presence of King Saul, there were not too many places for him to take refuge. Imagine hiding out in a cold, dark cave – all alone, knowing that you were being hunted by the King and his army. Add to the emotional conflict of the situation, that David had done nothing wrong; King Saul was simply jealous of David’s relationship with God and threatened by the knowledge that David would one day replace him as King.

David had gone from shepherd to soldier to King’s companion to cave-dwelling fugitive. God was allowing everything to be crushed out of David – little by little.

So, what did this crushing circumstance produce in David? How did he respond? Continue reading


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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


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 9

Chapter Nine

From last week’s devotional, we know that God is the one who appoints authorities in our lives. And we know that we are expected to follow those authorities even when they don’t really make sense. We also know that God’s greater concern is for the motives of the heart and He will use the authorities and circumstances in our lives to shape and mold our hearts to be like His.

Today’s devotional digs a little deeper into this process of making us more like our heavenly Father. The author of our book declares, “I’m in David’s situation, and I am in agony. What do I do when the kingdom I’m in is ruled by a spear-wielding king? Should I leave? If so, how?”

Further, he says, “You have your eyes on the wrong King Saul. As long as you look at your king, you will blame him and him alone, for your present hell. But be careful, for God has his eyes fastened sharply on another King Saul. Not the visible one standing up there throwing spears at you. No, God is looking at another King Saul….God is looking at the ‘King Saul’ in you.”

The author of our book so skillfully points out that, like David, we all have King Saul within us. Saul is representative of three enemies of God; worldly thoughts and desires of the soul, power of sin in our flesh, and Satan and his powers of darkness. Even though we, like David, may have a heart turned to God, we are still in this world and connected to our earthly flesh.  In accepting Christ as savior, our spirit is regenerated at once but our outer man has to go through a longer and, most often, unpleasant sanctifying process. Sanctification is all about bringing the rest of our being under the will and the reign of God.

“King Saul sought to destroy David, but his only success was that he became the instrument of God to put to death the ‘Saul’ who roamed about in the caverns of David’s own soul.”

Some closing thoughts from Scripture about embracing the circumstances and authorities in our lives that God may be using to sanctify us…

My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. – James 1:2-4 NET

Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. – Romans 5:3-5 NET

1Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.  – Romans 12:1-2 NET