devos from the hill


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The Backstory to the Houston Astros 2017 World Series Win

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.

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” –  Galatians 6:9

“The essential thing “in heaven and in earth” is, apparently, that there should be long OBEDIENCE in the same direction, there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living . . .” – Friedrich Nietzsche

By now, most people are aware of, and many are still buzzing about, the Houston Astros World Championship win. But few are aware of the backstory. It is a wonderful illustration of how these things don’t just happen. More often than not, victories like this are the fruit of “a long obedience in the same direction.”

To better understand this backstory, let’s look at the career roadmap of Jeff Luhnow – General Manager of the Houston Astros.

  • He was born; December 29, 1966, in Mexico City, Mexico
  • He Attended schools in Mexico City through 10th-grade and a preparatory high school in California for his 11th and 12th-grade years.
  • He holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in economics and engineering. He then earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
  • Prior to baseball, Luhnow worked as an engineer, management consultant, and technology entrepreneur. He worked for McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm, for five years. He also served as general manager and vice president of marketing for Petstore.com.
  • In 2003, Cardinals owner William DeWitt, Jr. had noticed what the Oakland A’s had done with their “Moneyball” tactics and was looking to run his team in a more analytical, data-driven manner. He hired Luhnow as vice president of baseball development in 2003. His hiring raised eyebrows since he had no previous experience in baseball and had not played the sport since high school. He was derided with nicknames like “the accountant” and “Harry Potter.”
  • Luhnow established a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic and extended the Cardinals’ scouting in Venezuela. (His roots in Latin America were significant in this.)
  • Under his watch, the Cardinals won five minor league championships. From 2005 to 2007, the first three Cardinals drafts, overseen by Luhnow, produced 24 future major leaguers, the most of any team during that period. In 2011, the Cardinals won the World Series.
  • On November 17, 2011, Jim Crane bought the Astros. On December 8, 2011, Jeff Luhnow was hired as the new manager.
  • On their road to the championship, the Astros (#18 on the MLB payroll list) beat the 3 highest paid teams in MLB – 3) RED SOX – $ 199,805,178, 2) YANKEES – $ 201,539,699, 1) DODGERS -$ 242,065,828.

Application to Mars Hill – 40 years in the Making

The HOPE, The Story of God’s Promise for All People, is now in over 67 languages, with over 20 new translation projects currently in process. Daily – over the Internet, on satellite television, in remote villages on solar-powered video projectors, and in many other ways and places too numerous to list – people around the world are encountering the great good news of Jesus Christ through The HOPE. There is much cause for praise!  But we should remember, the foundation for this ministry was built over decades.

Applicable Observations from Scripture

Some Things Take Time

Galatians 6:9  – Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

1 Corinthians 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast and immovable. Always excel in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Psalm 126:5 – Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.

God’s Work is meant to Be; Walk in it –

2 Corinthians 4:1 – Therefore, since we have this ministry through the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

 You might “Beat the Odds” once or twice but you can’t build something of lasting value that way –

Proverbs 13:11 – Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.

Rejoice at what God is doing! – Heaven is Celebrating!!!


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Confirm Your Calling, Develop Your Faith

Today’s devotional is from Staffer, Ryan Renfrow
A look at 2 Peter 1:3-11, with focus on 5-7.

…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (ESV)

Peter reminds believers that because of the divine power of the Gospel we have everything we need in life and godliness –What more do we need, really?

While we may have access to all we need, it is still possible for the believer to become unfruitful or ineffective in the knowledge of Christ. We find here, Peter’s desire for the believer to grow in the faith which first led them to the Lord Jesus Christ.

John Calvin when reading this passage said our “faith ought not to be naked or empty”. C.H. Spurgeon commented that Peter’s list is of qualities that are jewels to be adorned. Piper reminds us this is not a list of qualities to add to our faith, but rather qualities that further develop our faith.

Let’s think about that.

Faith alone is what turns us from guilty sinners into righteous sons and daughters. And Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that faith is a gift from God. This faith that saves us is not the finish line but the starting point to a life rich in meaning and purpose. Our faith is meant to strengthen, deepen and manifest fuller as we experience more and more of God and his glory in our lives.

Consider this analogy; God has built a beautiful house just for you and called it “faith.” He invites us into this house of faith, to be in relationship with him through his Son, Jesus Christ. When we accept his offer, we dwell in the house of faith with Him. Once inside we begin to explore cabinets, look behind doors, we learn more about what living in relationship with God is like. What does he expect? How does he treat others? We discover more and more truths about his divine nature. Who is he? What’s he like? We learn to adjust our thoughts and actions living in this new house. Faith becomes a place of great growth, great trial, and great reward.

If you visited my house today, you would quickly see reflections of me. You would see pictures of people I love and things of sentimental value. These fixtures become part of my house, they add to the quality, they tell stories of who I am.  These fixtures turn my house, into a home. In the same way, think of Peter’s list of qualities as furnishings to our house of faith.  Peter desires the believer to strive for virtue and knowledge and steadfastness because these greatly adorn the faith we were given from God. These qualities not only become the fruit of a full faith, but they deeply nurture the roots that confirm our faith more and more.

When we are loving God supremely and loving other’s sacrificially, we will find ourselves pursuing more knowledge of the Lord, practicing better self-control, exhibiting greater steadfastness in trials, desiring more of God’s glory, caring more deeply for fellow believers and loving others more genuinely.


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Tested and Tempted . . . Confident in Christ?

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
Tested and Tempted, Part 2 of 2
From Fred Carpenter

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

In last week’s devotional, we considered the Greek word “peirazo”, which literally means, “to make proof of.” We discovered that in the New Testament it is sometimes translated as “test” and sometimes as “tempt.” We concluded that Satan “tempts” us to prove that we are not who God says we are, and God “tests” us to prove that we are exactly who He says we are. Are you confident when you face a test in life?

In the world of higher education, there are certain schools into which it is extremely difficult to gain admission. Yet once a candidate is admitted, the entire program is geared to ensure that the candidate will successfully complete his or her course of study. In fact, Business Insider (an online news magazine) recently ran the story, “13 Schools Where It’s Almost Impossible To Fail.” Each of the schools listed are elite schools with extremely selective admissions. The list includes, the Harvard and Yale Law Schools, the Columbia Business School and MIT. Continue reading


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Time for a Declaration of Dependence

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
Thoughts about Freedom and Independence
from Fred Carpenter

July 4th is the day when the U.S.A. celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress in 1776. Considering the current spiritual condition of our nation, perhaps it is time for America to rethink the meaning of freedom and to adopt a Declaration of Dependence.

Independence

The world values independence, the freedom from having someone tell you how to run your life. The Bible on the other hand, speaks about a dependence that leads to freedom and fulfillment. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matt.16:25

The mark of a mature Christian is not how much he knows, but rather how much he depends on Christ to express His life in and through him on a moment by moment basis. Jesus said, “. . . apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5.

Dependence on Christ, not only results in our fulfillment, it results in the glorification of God. In fact, in a sermon preached on July 8, 1731, Jonathan Edwards made the case that when we do not depend on God, we rob him of glory. “Now whatever scheme is inconsistent with our entire dependence on God for all, and of having all of him, through him, and in him, it is repugnant to the design and tenor of the gospel, and robs it of that which God accounts its luster and glory.” Continue reading


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Beware of the Need to Know

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” – Deuteronomy 29:29 NASB

Are you an information junkie? Where does checking the news (financial, sports, political, etc.) fit into your daily routine? Do you have a need to know things you don’t really need to know? Do you have a need to know why God has brought (or allowed) something into your life before you can embrace it? Do have a need to know why before you follow the instructions of someone in authority over you, be it God or man? Do you tend to over plan and over prepare before moving forward?

The Bible has a great deal of positive things to say about being sober minded, diligent and wise as we walk in this world. But there is a difference between counting the cost (which is encouraged in the Bible – Luke 14:28) and trusting in what we can count rather than trusting in God.

In 1 Chron. 21:1, we read that “Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.” Satan exploited David’s “need to know”. But “God was displeased with this thing, so He struck Israel.” – 1Chron. 21:7. A census is not evil in and of itself, but in this situation, it was the how and why of the census that resulted in God’s anger toward David.

First, the instructions for numbering the people were given in Exodus 30:12. David did not follow those instructions. Second, David’s census was a violation of ownership. A person only has the right to inventory what he owns. You can’t go into your neighbor’s house and count his possessions without his permission. By taking this census, David was saying, these are my people. He is not acknowledging God’s ownership of the people. He counted them as if they were his. And finally, David’s census reveals that he was not trusting in God. Counting men was a king’s way to determine the size of his army. But it revealed that David was depending on human strength rather than on God. David’s census was rooted in unbelief, and the consequences were disastrous. God sent a plague which killed 70,000 men.

Satan also spoke to Eve’s “need to know”. In Genesis 3:2-5 we read that “The woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden (the tree of the knowledge), God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! ’For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”

Of course, we are all personally familiar with the result of that event. Eve acted on her innate “need to know” and sin entered the world, infecting mankind and bringing death to this very day.

Do you have a need to know things that you really don’t need to know . . . things that really belong to God? Spare yourself (and others) the grief. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” – Isaiah 26:3

Some Key Take-aways by the staff:
1. It is one thing (& perfectly ok) to ask God, “why?” It is another thing to have to know before you can trust Him!
2. Parents can play a key role in how easy or difficult it is to superintend our need to know. As we are lead through early life by our parents, having to trust them without all the knowledge that they have, as they guide us, it builds our character for trusting and following God the Father.
3. Perhaps the ultimate purpose of knowledge is to bring us to the end of ourselves so that we can rely solely on God.


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The Deadly Folly of Doing God’s Work Man’s Way

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

The ark of the covenant; a chest of acacia wood, 45 inches long, 27 inches wide, and 27 inches deep. It contained the tables of the law, the pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod (Heb. 9:4). The lid of the ark was the place where God’s presence was manifested. During the days of Samuel, the Israelites took the ark from Shiloh into battle and lost it to the Philistines (1 Sam. 4:3-4; 10-11). In 1 Chronicles 13 and 2 Samuel 6 we read of David’s attempt to bring the ark from the land of the Philistines to Jerusalem.

What begins with seemingly good intentions ends with disaster. One of David’s men is struck dead by God when he tries to keep the ark from falling off a cart, and David becomes so angry about the matter that he just leaves the ark with a nearby family and returns to Jerusalem without it. What went wrong?

Counsel without Wisdom – David’s first step was to consult every leader in Israel regarding the matter. “Then David consulted with the captains of the thousands and the hundreds, even with every leader” (1Ch 13:1). But David did not seek God, or search the scriptures concerning the thing he was about to do. Apart from God there is no wisdom, even in a “multitude of counselors” (Proverbs 24:6).

Praise without Power – Then David further masked over his error by staging a huge praise event around the return of the ark. “David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, even with songs and with lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals and with trumpets” (1Ch 13:8). According to 2 Sam.6:1, there were over thirty thousand men involved in the event! God is not impressed with pomp and ceremony. God looks at the heart. Quoting from Isaiah 29:13, Jesus said in Matt 15:8, “These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Continue reading


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Prayers of Faith and Cries of the Heart

This Week’s Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

“Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. (18) Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” James 5:14-18 NASB

 

In James 5:15&16, we read about the effectiveness of a “prayer offered in faith.” And in verses 17&18, the prayers of Elijah are cited as an example of such a prayer. These examples are recorded in 1 Kings 17:1 and 1 Kings 18:1 & 18:42-46.

Elijah’s prayer In 1 Kings 17:1 reads more like a confident prophetic proclamation than a request, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” Because Elijah was a righteous man (Jas 5:16) and a prophet of God, we must conclude that these words did not originate from Elijah’s self-initiative, but from God’s revelation to Elijah. Elijah was praying in accordance with God’s will.

In chapter 18, we find it explicitly stated that God told Elijah exactly what to do and say, (18:1) “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.” Then Elijah went up Mt. Carmel, got on his knees, and again, prayed in accordance with God’s revealed will. This account is given to us in James 5:17&18 so that we might know how to pray today. Continue reading