devos from the hill


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Why Don’t We Experience God’s Love More Fully and Frequently?

By Fred Carpenter

For the next several weeks, the Mars Hill staff devotionals will dive into the topic of “experiencing God’s love.” Recently, I was reading in the Gospel Coalition website and I came across this quote from pastor Colin Smith.

“Many Christians live at a great distance from a felt experience of the love of God. So much Christianity in the West is shallow and satisfied. It affirms a creed, but it so often lacks spiritual life. Across the country, there are millions of people who have a faith, who’ve been brought up in the church to believe Jesus died and rose, but they have no living experience of God’s love.”

As I’ve talked with people about our current devotional series, I am increasingly convinced that Colin Smith’s observation is accurate. But why do so many Christians go through life with little or no real experience of God’s love? Before we delve into that question, let’s be clear about what we are asking, and to whom we are addressing the question.

First, we are not questioning the reality of God’s love. We are asking why we don’t experience that reality more fully and frequently. 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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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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You May be Stronger than You Think!

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.

I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. – 1Corinthians 9:23-27

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. – Proverbs 23:7

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

As a young single man, I met up regularly for about two years with some of my buddies for runs around the Rice University campus. For the majority of our run, we “jogged” at a fairly fast clip.  And then toward the end, someone would pick up the pace and we’d finish in a race. In junior and senior high school my sports were swimming, surfing, and basketball. I was never known as much of a speedster when it came to running.

But one day, near the end of our run around Rice, something happened that I’ve never forgotten. As usual, I was sucking for air and trying hard to keep up with the pack when someone started to pass me. Something inside of me said, “Not this time! Fred, let go and abandon yourself to this!” Suddenly, I felt as though my legs were moving faster than I had ever known them to move. I never knew I could run that fast. It was if I had just discovered a gear I didn’t even know I had. Not only was I keeping up, I was passing guys.

When you shift your car into a higher gear to go faster, the engine does not work harder. The RPMs (revolutions per minute) actually decrease and the engine runs more efficiently (with less effort if you will), and you go faster. That’s the best example I can think of to explain what I experienced that day. It wasn’t about trying harder. It was about letting go of what was holding me back, and discovering a new gear I didn’t know I had.

Finishing the run first, I got a look from the others that seemed to say, “Man, you’re taking this too seriously!” But for me, that wasn’t it at all. It wasn’t about besting someone else, it was about overcoming something inside of me. And the barrier was not physical, it was in my heart and mind. 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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The Highest Use of Media in Ministry

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.

Televangelism in America is a multibillion-dollar industry. Many claim that televangelism is an effective way to reach the lost. The facts do not support that claim. According to studies cited in the book, “Televangelism and American Culture”, by Quentin J. Schultze, less than .01% of the people in America who attend church do so because of the influence of mass evangelism, including radio and television. According to Schultze, and those he cites, televangelism is primarily a confirmatory medium. In other words, the audience is mostly Christian, viewing content they already agree with.

On the other hand, Schultze also cites research revealing that friends and relatives count for 75%-90% of all the conversions in America. Plain and simple, relationship is key to evangelism! Believing this to be true, I’ve had to ask myself, as the co-founder and president of a media ministry, “How does this affect my view of what I do in creating and using media?”

To answer this question, I must first acknowledge this fundamental truth. Our God is a relational God, and He is all about relationship. The Triune nature of God defines for us, the ultimate and perfect model of relationship. As members of the Body of Christ, we are joined together in such a way that we cannot understand our true identity, or truth itself, apart from our relationship with each other. Consider Paul’s words in Romans 1:11 “For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established . . .” Paul wanted to be there in person. What he wanted to give them was more than information, more than objective truth. It was something that could not be sent in a letter. 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