devos from the hill


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Do You Really Experience God’s Love?

By Fred Carpenter

The Mars Hill staff has started a new Devotional Series on experiencing divine love. The incentive to go down this path began last year when I attended the memorial service of a very beloved and godly woman. Her granddaughter shared that the greatest lesson she learned from her grandmother was simply, “How to let Jesus love on me.” Her words went straight to my heart of hearts as I thought to myself, “Do I even know how to do that?”

Apparently, I am not the only one who struggles with that question. I recently read about a seminary professor who asked 120 of her students the question: “Do you believe that God loves you?” Out of 120 Christian students preparing for ministry, only two said, “yes.” The rest gave answers like this: “I know I’m supposed to say, ‘Yes’ . . . “I know the Bible says he loves me . . . but I don’t feel it,” or “I’m not sure I can really say I believe it.” (Link to quote source article, TGC)

Is it a Realistic, Biblical Expectation to Actually Experience the Love of God?

Citing Romans 5:5, John Piper affirms that the actual experience of God’s love is indeed a realistic, Biblical expectation . . . “Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Piper goes on to explain, “This is a Spirit-given experience of God’s love, not a logical inference from an argument. It is something poured out. It is something felt in the heart. Known in the way the heart knows.” Continue reading


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The Importance of Knowing Divine Love

From the desk of Fred Carpenter

Tears in the city
But nobody’s really surprised, you know
My heart’s taking a beating
Existence is bleeding me dry, you know

But way down in my heart of hearts
Way down in my soul of souls
Way down I know that I am a fortunate man
To have known divine love.

It is one thing to know about God, it is quite another to know Him personally and experientially. The Bible says that not only does God love us, but He actually IS love. To know God is to grasp the meaning or meanings of what love is, and to engage with Him so as to encounter love in all the ways He intended from the very beginning of time.

The English language uses the word, love, to describe many things. But the writers of the New Testament have 4 words for love.

Eros – sexual love
Phileo – brotherly “platonic” love
Storge – natural, innate love, such as the love of a mother for a child
Agape – unconditional, divine, love

All of the scripture below deals with divine (agape) love. When the writer of 1 John met the challenge of defining the infinitely complex, all powerful, all knowing, majestic, glorious Creator of the universe, he wrote only 3 words, “. . . God is love” – 1 John 4:8.

Over the next few weeks, we will contemplate together, the human experience of knowing divine love. To start down this path, let’s consider the importance of knowing divine love. Continue reading


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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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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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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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Stay Teachable!

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.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” – Romans 11:33

“For the word of God is living and active . . .” – Hebrews 4:12

“My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you,  Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding;  For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding;  If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures;   Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God.  For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” – Proverbs 2:1-6

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” – Matthew 4:4

The Bible is the most remarkable book in all the world. Most books are read, and then placed on a shelf.  But the Bible is a living source (Heb.4:12) of inexhaustible truth. The Bible can light your path, shape your character and feed your soul. It was written by the Spirit of God through men, and it requires the Spirit of God in a man/woman to understand it. If indeed the Spirit of God indwells you and you have eyes to see and ears to hear, then you can read the Bible for a lifetime, and still not absorb all the truth it contains.

It is extremely dangerous for a Christian to come to a place in their walk where they (whether consciously or unconsciously) have the mindset that they know all they need to know. A Christ follower must remain teachable for life. He/she must always approach the Word of God with the attitude that they are going to encounter something fresh. Perhaps even something that, though it was there all the time, they’d never seen it. The next truth you discover in God’s Word could change the course of your life.

I try to make a habit of daily Bible reading. Never do I come away from that time without receiving at least some hope, encouragement, assurance or maybe a conviction about something in my life that needs to change. Often over the years I discover something in a passage I’ve never seen before, even though I may have looked at the passage many times before. And then there have been those times when I’ve encountered something that has actually changed the course of my life.

There are two such truths that have not only changed the course of my life, but also the course of the ministry of Mars Hill, which in turn has changed the lives of countless numbers of people. That is the power of the Word of God!

The first of these truths has to do with what is often called “the exchanged life.” It is summed up in Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” This truth has taught me that what produces eternal fruit, is not what I do for Jesus, but what He does through me. It has taught me that the true measure of success is faithfulness. I am confident that an understanding of this truth has significantly influenced how we do what we do at Mars Hill. For more on this truth, visit our devotional, “Have You Discovered the Christian Life is Not Difficult … It’s Impossible?!”

The second truth has to do with God’s heart for the nations.  And by nations, I am not referring to countries, but rather to people groups (ethnos in the Greek) who are separate and distinct from other people groups by virtue of language, religion, political and geographic boundaries, tribal affiliation and several other factors too numerous to mention. The verse that God first used to impact me regarding the nations is Matt. 24:14, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” And then, as I began to mine God’s Word, I discovered that the theme of God’s heart for the nations is throughout the Bible.

“And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” – Rev. 5:9

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb . . .” – Rev. 7:9

And being compelled by this truth in the Word of God, I began to seek out all the data I could find to help me get a picture of the state of world evangelization. I learned that while there are only a few hundred countries in the world, there are about 16,000 Biblical nations.  It broke my heart to learn that thousands of people groups (nations) had yet to be reached with the Gospel!  As I taught the Mars Hill board what I was learning, they too were moved.

It is by no means an overstatement to say that these truths from God’s Word have determined the very course of the ministry of Mars Hill for these past two decades. With nearly 70 translations of The HOPE in use by missionaries around the world, and over 30 new translation projects in process, we are on a path to help populate heaven with people from more nations than I even knew existed prior to that time. That is the power of God’s Word!

How about you? Are you still finding fresh truth in God’s Word? If so, great! What you discover in His Word will shape your soul for eternity. If not, then learn to come to God’s Word with an attitude of expectation. I can say beyond all shadow of a doubt, there are precious truths and priceless wisdom you’ve yet to see on those pages.  And you might even discover something that will change the course of your life!

The Word of God is like an endless fountain. You cannot possibly drink in all the water that springs from this fountain. But you can drink all you need to satisfy your thirst for now. And when you are thirsty again, there is always new fresh water to quench your thirst, and satisfy your soul.


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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