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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“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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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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When God Communicates through His Peace (or Lack Thereof)

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 said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. 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 KJV

Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. – Isa 30:21

It was the first weekend in September 1987 when a friend invited me to join him and his son on a fishing trip to Colorado. We would fly out of Houston in a private plane the next Saturday. I had been dealing with some difficult issues at Mars Hill, and my friend thought I needed a break. It was a very appealing invitation, but I didn’t have a peace about it, so I asked if I could let him know in a few days.

I prayed about what to do, and I weighed the pros and cons. But, aside from all the reasons for and against, I just could not get a peace about going. On Wednesday night, I still did not have an answer for my friend. I asked God to do something to make it clear to me why I should or shouldn’t go. I did not want to tell my friend that a lack of peace was really the only reason I couldn’t go.

That night, something strange was going on in my ears. It was the sort of thing that might happen if you had a sinus infection. But I felt good. I knew I wasn’t catching a cold. My only symptom was that my ear canals seemed to be blocked. I had never experienced anything quite like it before. The next morning I called my friend. I explained my concern that if I went up in a small private plane, then whatever was going on in my ears could get worse. He understood and told me his wife would take my place on the plane.

All day Thursday and Friday, my ears were clogged, but no pain. On Saturday morning, I went to the Mars Hill studio to work on a project. There was no change with my ears. About mid-morning, my wife, Nancy, called. I could hear it in her quivering voice; something was very wrong. She told me that another friend of ours, a Delta pilot, had just called her. He seemed to be very distressed and asked if she was OK. A strange question she thought.  “Sure, I’m good. What’s up?” He then asked, “Where’s Fred?” Nancy told him I had gone up to the Mars Hill studio. “Are you sure?”  “Of course, I’m sure. Why are you asking me this?” Continue reading


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Are You Really Ready to Glorify God?

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.

“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” – John 12:27-28

Most Christians would say they want to glorify God. But what does that really mean, and how do we do it? To glorify God literally means to magnify Him. To magnify Him doesn’t mean that we make Him bigger in an absolute sense. God is already infinite, and you can’t get any bigger than that. We can’t really add to God’s immeasurable glory.

To glorify or magnify God actually means to make Him bigger and greater in the eyes of others. It’s like driving on a road toward a mountain. In the distance, the mountain may look small. But as we draw nearer, the true size of the mountain becomes more evident. The actual size of the mountain has not changed, our view of it has changed as our proximity to it has changed.

I believe there is more to glorifying God than singing praise songs. I believe God is glorified most when others see Him do things that can only be explained in terms of God, things for which no man can take credit. God is glorified when we see compelling visible evidence of His mighty invisible hand moving in us, through us and around us. The only problem with this is that, in order to glorify God in this manner, we must be willing to follow Him into challenging situations that are way beyond our ability to control . . . situations in which only He can do what needs to be done to see us through.

The passage above takes place after Jesus (Whom John the Baptist called the Lamb of God – John 1:29), entered Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and to meet His own death as foretold by the prophets (i.e. – Isa 53:7).  Speaking of the excruciating death, the cross, that awaited Him, Jesus said, “for this purpose, I came to this hour.” Jesus was willing to follow the Father into a situation that He, the eternal God-man, had never experienced. 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


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Does Wisdom Really Come from Many Counselors?

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.

A Verse That is Often Misunderstood by Fred Carpenter

You’ve probably heard it said, “There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors”. You won’t find that exact quote in the Bible, though there are a number of verses that speak to the value of stepping outside your own frame of reference to seek counsel from others.

“Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors, they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22

But is it true, does wisdom come from a multitude of counselors?

In 1986 we released our 8th film, One In A Million. Like the films before, it was a short dramatic discussion-starter that raised a life issue for teens and leaders to grapple with in pursuit of biblical answers. In 9 years of ministry through media, we had developed a solid reputation and user-base. But now, I had no clear direction for what the next film project should be so we decided to send out a survey to some 20,000 youth workers to see what topics they wanted us to address.

We got back a sizable response. The most commonly requested topics read like the “top ten” list of youth issues from a youth worker 101 training curriculum; dating, parents, drugs & alcohol, self-image, etc. Only 2 or 3 made any mention of helping kids come to know Christ or helping them share their faith with their friends. I certainly considered all of this valuable feedback, but more importantly, I committed all of this input to prayer….what did God want?

I became concerned that my “multitude of counselors” had become so relevant in their profession, that they had almost become irrelevant. They were having difficulty seeing the forest for the trees. God gave me the conviction to listen to the few counselors that wanted a film to lead their kids to Christ and to move them to share their faith with others. So, we set out to create the hardest hitting evangelistic film possible. 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