devos from the hill


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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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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


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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


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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 6

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 Six

Today’s devotional study delves into some of the issues at play behind the scenes in I Samuel 18. Saul becomes jealous and angry with David and throws a spear at him; David responds by ducking and running.

Our author suggests that David might have instead chosen to pull the spear out of the wall and return the favor. Didn’t David have the right to defend himself? Wouldn’t people have thought him justified, bold, even courageous to fight back? Especially since the motives of the King were unfounded. David had done nothing wrong!

The King was acting out of jealousy and of fear that his own reputation was waning among the people. But the issue here is that however irrational his motive, Saul was still the God-appointed King and David knew that. David knew that even though the prophet, Samuel had anointed him to be king someday, that day had not yet come. King Saul was still the sovereign ruler under God. And there was no directive in place for David to take the kingship from Saul, so the best course of action was just to do his job and stay out of the line of fire.

Chapter 6 deals largely with God’s divine establishment of authority. Read (as we did) Romans 13 and consider your reaction to this passage of scripture. What do you find hard to swallow? Do you think there are any exceptions to “the rule”?

You might also consider reading more about David’s actions throughout I Samuel 16, 17, 18. He showed courage time and again when carrying out the orders given him, both in taking care of his father’s business and in his battle assignments from the king. He also had no fear when standing up for the Lord’s reputation on the battlefield with Goliath. But, he showed great restraint and humility when dealing with the king himself. David knew his place and did not try to elevate or promote himself. He knew who was in charge of them all!

In closing, you may want to read Psalm 40, penned by David. Here is an excerpt:

I relied completely on the Lord,
and he turned toward me
and heard my cry for help.
 He lifted me out of the watery pit,
out of the slimy mud.
He placed my feet on a rock
and gave me secure footing.
 He gave me reason to sing a new song,
praising our God.
May many see what God has done,
so that they might swear allegiance to him and trust in the Lord!
 How blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord
and does not seek help from the proud or from liars!

Psalm 40:1-4 NET


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 3

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 Three

Before he became the king, David served a king… King Saul. During this time, Saul often felt torment and David, being the experienced musician, would play his harp and sing many of the songs that he had penned while tending sheep and meditating on things of God.

David’s beautiful music soothed Saul’s spirit for a while, but at the same time, it was one more reason for Saul to be jealous of David. As Gene Edwards says in his book, “Saul felt threatened by David, as kings often do when there is a popular, promising young man beneath them. The king also knew, as did David, that this boy just might have his job some day.”

David was caught in an uncomfortable position! He had come to serve in the palace at the king’s request, yet he was increasingly aware of the king’s angst against him. Focusing on David’s part of this drama, we considered David’s obedience to serve in whatever situation God put him in, whether it was as a sheepherder, an errand boy or now, as a palace musician.

In Gene Edwards’ book, the author believes that David understood what God wanted. He wanted broken vessels – people who understand that brokenness comes with pain. People who will not run from it but instead, trust God to be their strength through the adversity. Continue reading