devos from the hill


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He’ll Take Care of the Rest

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.

God Always Provides Exactly What We Need… to Do Exactly What He is Calling Us to Do

31“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32“For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:31-33

The normative pattern at Mars Hill is that every full-time person serves as a media missionary.  In that role, these staff members build teams of people who share in their missionary calling, through prayer and giving. It is a walk of faith. That is how I have been living for 40 years. And I can say honestly that God has never failed to provide exactly what I needed in order to do what He was calling me to do.

Many times, there has been a very direct relationship between my need, and what was clearly His provision. I remember well, a time in the early days of Mars Hill, when my wife and I did not know how we were going to make ends meet, and God would lead people to do things, like anonymously leave a bag of food and diapers on our porch or provide a scholarship for our kids to do something, not in our budget. There were many times like that, and today they are treasured memories that taught me priceless lessons about God’s faithfulness.

In light of Matthew 6:33, and my personal experience of trusting in His provision for 40 years, there are three things I’d like to share.

1) He knows exactly what we need and it is His role as our Father to provide it.

In 1986, two things in my world were on a collision course. It looked like I was in for the perfect storm. First, my staff was growing. Second, this growth was happening as Houston was heading into what was arguably the worst economic environment it had seen since the Great Depression. At that time, we had not yet determined that all full-time staff would build ministry teams. I was feeling the weight of it.

One night, in a Bible study I led, we were sharing prayer requests. I shared that when I started Mars Hill, I was single, and I could have been content living out of my car if need be. The only person I had to trust God for was me. Then I got married. And then my staff grew, and they began to marry. Then I started a family, and my staff started families. In the beginning, I only had to trust God for one person, “now I feel as though I’m trusting Him for 40 people.” I suppose I was asking the group to help me deal with the weight of it all. That’s when one of the wives in the group said, “Well Fred, you know, Jesus trusted the Father for the whole world.” I don’t think she knew how profoundly her words would impact me to this very day.

It’s true. Our Father knows exactly what we need, to do what He is calling us to do, and it is His role as our Father to provide it. If Jesus trusted the Father for the whole world, certainly I could trust Him for 40 people. Which leads me to my second point.

2) Our role is simply to be faithful to what He is calling us to do.

Jesus came, not to do His will, but the will of His Father.  Jesus is our model.  Our part is to be faithful to what God is calling us to do. And as the old Keith Green song says, “He’ll take care of the rest.” The problem comes when we start doing things He is not calling us to do, or we are not doing the things that He is calling us to do.

I believe that “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (v.33) plays out differently in the life of every believer. Certainly, we are all called to “. . . love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deu. 6:5).  But as we live that out, we discover our unique, personal calling . . . our mission in life.

In his 2nd letter to Timothy (chapter 2, verse 4), Paul compares a faithful disciple of Christ to a soldier. A soldier is not to get entangled with the things that a regular citizen is concerned with. The soldier keeps his focus on the mission, and the army takes care of the soldier’s basic needs. The same principle applies to a faithful disciple. Stay true to the mission He has given you, and He will provide what you need to follow through.

And I would humbly submit, it is one thing for me to state this principle. It is another to state after having experienced it over and over for 40 years in the trenches of a faith-based ministry.

3) We have unlimited resource in Him.

I have a friend who is very involved and successful in both business and ministry.  He once shared with me that the difference between the two is this. In business, you have a limited amount of capital, and your challenge is to figure out how to use it as effectively as possible.

In ministry, your challenge is to figure out what God is calling you to do and how to do it as effectively as possible, knowing that His resource (including capital) is unlimited.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of scaling back your mission in order to operate within your own limited resource. But God is never resource constrained. His resource is infinite! “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”; boldly pursue your mission, and “He’ll take care of the rest!”


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 10

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 Ten

“How does a person know when it is okay to separate oneself from the Lord’s anointed – especially if the Lord’s anointed is after the order of King Saul?

David never made that decision. The Lord’s anointed made it for him. The king’s own decree settled the matter!

‘Hunt him down; kill him like a dog!’

Only then did David leave. No, he fled. Even then, he never spoke a word or lifted a hand against Saul. And please note this: David did not split the kingdom when he made his departure. He did not take part of the population with him. He left alone.”

And so begins the next chapter of our book. Saul’s jealousy and madness have finally progressed to the point that he is demanding David’s death. David, knowing that he has been anointed by God to be the next king at some future time which has yet to be revealed, chooses wisely to flee and hide. David could have fought back. He had garnered enough fame and support that he likely could have persuaded many in King Saul’s court and army to turn their allegiance to him instead. But David knew that it is God who makes kings and appoints times, and God had not yet given the go-ahead for him to be king. The only thing left to do then was to get out of Saul’s way.

This sets the stage for our discussion using the following questions:  Sometimes God leads us into a situation which turns sour; how do we know when it is okay to leave that situation? And, what should our exit strategy be?

The kinds of situations we talked about included those such as jobs, churches, volunteer commitments, and the like. Things usually look pretty good when you commit to a church, but after some time the leadership may start to take you in a direction you don’t want to go. Perhaps the worship style changes or the leaders demand that you take a more active role in engaging the community.

We should not leave a situation because we have become uncomfortable or unhappy. Like David, we leave when we are no longer capable of fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives in that situation. And, like David, it may take a while to come to that realization …and we may go through a season of having spears chucked at us before the full intentions of the king are made known.

This is not to say that we should stick it out in situations of actual abuse! But there are times when our situation may actually be one of being tested like Job rather than hunted by King Saul. The point is to seek God’s leading rather than cater to our own discomfort. God may be using discomfort to draw out or build up something in us.

Lastly, when you see that it is time to depart, don’t try to take an entourage with you! Don’t gossip about it. Don’t work others up into a frenzy. Just be obedient to your call and go. We are each responsible to follow God’s leading and we should not want to lead others away from what God may be doing in their lives.

Below are two excerpts from Psalm 18, written by David, in response to his tough situation. Think about the heart of David and the mindset that he had in trusting God so completely that his relationship with Saul did not undo him.

I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.  – Psalm 18:1-3

For You will light my lamp;
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.  – Psalm 18:28-30


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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


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Refugees – A Biblical Perspective

The world is witnessing the largest refugee crisis since the horrors of World War II. Today, there are close to 60 million refugees worldwide, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In one sense, all men are refugees; we have all been forcibly displaced. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden and we, as their descendants, continue to search for a safe place where our souls can rest. Ephesians 2:19 eludes to the fact that those outside of God’s household are strangers and aliens.

The Bible recounts the stories of men and women, groups and nations who were displaced by natural disaster, famine, persecution, war, human trafficking and more.  We can become so familiar with these old stories that we miss seeing them in terms of today’s social injustices.

Noah and his family were displaced by the flood. Abraham and Sarah were driven to another land by famine. Jacob fled to another land because his brother threatened to kill him. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had to flee to Egypt due to political persecution. *

During his 3-year ministry, Jesus was a homeless refugee. In Matthew 8:20, Jesus said to the Scribe, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” As his followers, we must consider what holds our heart’s affections. Am I willing to give up my home and side with the homeless to follow him?

Syria has over twenty million citizens made up of eighteen different people groups. Around 4.8 million of these people have become refugees and another 6.5 million have become displaced within Syria and are seeking refuge. Christian missionaries have spent years praying, strategizing, and risking everything to go to these people with the gospel. After raising tens of thousands of dollars, undergoing extensive training, leaving everything familiar, and going through the long process of learning a foreign language – only then, could missionaries reach these people. The paradigm has shifted!

We serve a God who scatters. Through scattering, God places His people where they need to be to have an impact on communities, peoples, and nations. When we see that people are being scattered, the believers response needs to be “What is God doing?” and “How can I serve?”

*Click Here to read a fuller list of Refugees in the Bible by the International Association for Refugees

sharing the gospel with refugees


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Do You Worship the Work?

Today our staff discussed the following thoughts as we prayerfully considered the question, “Do you worship the work?”

From AW Tozer, “Gems from Tozer” – “We take a convert and immediately make a worker out of him. God never meant it to be so. God meant that a convert should learn to be a worshiper, and after that he can learn to be a worker…The work done by a worshiper will have eternity in it.”

Luke 10:38-42 38)Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39)She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40)But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41)But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42)but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

From Oswald Chamber’s, My Utmost for His Highest – Do You Worship the Work? – Beware of any work for God that causes or allows you to avoid concentrating on Him. A great number of Christian workers worship their work. The only concern of Christian workers should be their concentration on God. This will mean that all the other boundaries of life, whether they are mental, moral, or spiritual limits, are completely free with the freedom God gives His child; that is, a worshiping child, not a wayward one. A worker who lacks this serious controlling emphasis of concentration on God is apt to become overly burdened by his work. He is a slave to his own limits, having no freedom of his body, mind, or spirit. Consequently, he becomes burned out and defeated. There is no freedom and no delight in life at all. His nerves, mind, and heart are so overwhelmed that God’s blessing cannot rest on him.

But the opposite case is equally true – once our concentration is on God, all the limits of our life are free and under the control and mastery of God alone. There is no longer any responsibility on you for the work. The only responsibility you have is to stay in living constant touch with God, and to see that you allow nothing to hinder your cooperation with Him. The freedom that comes after sanctification is the freedom of a child, and the things that used to hold your life down are gone. But be careful to remember that you have been freed for only one thing– to be absolutely devoted to your co-Worker.

We have no right to decide where we should be placed, or to have preconceived ideas as to what God is preparing us to do. God engineers everything; and wherever He places us, our one supreme goal should be to pour out our lives in wholehearted devotion to Him in that particular work. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Two takeaways from today:
1) If you are frustrated or burnt out with your work, it could be that your are focused on the wrong thing….the work!

2) God gives us work to do, but it is so easy to get caught up in getting the job done that we lose sight of the fact that the One who gives us the work is the One who will give us what we need to accomplish the work. The job is always an opportunity to engage with God and worship God, allowing Him to work through us to accomplish His will.


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Contemplating the Presence of God

Mars Hill Staff Devotional

To begin today’s devotional, we discuss the difference between the universal presence of God and the manifest presence of God.

“The Presence (of God) and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same. There can be the one without the other. God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His Presence. On our part there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work it is to show us the Father and the Son. If we co-operate with Him in loving obedience God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face” – A.W. Tozer

Read through the following collection of scriptures and quotes on the Presence of God. Reflect on the ones that jump out at you. Consider what attitudes and actions you might need to alter in order to be more aware of God’s Presence on a consistent basis.

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” – 1 Corinthians 3:16

“Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” – Psalm 16:11

“In Him we live and move and have our being” – Acts 17:28

His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service. – Baptist Faith and Message

We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. – C. S. Lewis

I want the presence of God Himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with religion… I want all that God has or I don’t want any. – A. W. Tozer

Don’t equate the presence of God with a good mood or a pleasant temperament. God is near whether you are happy or not. – Max Lucado

You can have all of your doctrines right—yet still not have the presence of God. – Leonard Ravenhill

We cannot enter into the presence of God while we are rebelling against God. – A. W. Tozer

The most holy and necessary practice in our spiritual life is the presence of God. That means finding constant pleasure in His divine company, speaking humbly and lovingly with him in all seasons, at every moment, without limiting the conversation in any way. – Brother Lawrence

We (Christians) are always in the presence of God. There is never a non-sacred moment! His presence never diminishes. Our awareness of His presence may falter, but the reality of His presence never changes. – Max Lucado

The true meaning of existence is disclosed in moments of living in the presence of God. – Abraham Joshua Heschel

Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God. – Sam Storms

What if all it took to bring us to our knees and to ignite our affections was the Word opened and the presence of God? What if that was enough for us? What if it didn’t take a great band to evoke that kind of response from us in worship? What if His presence – His Word opened – what if it was enough? – David Platt

Sometimes the very presence of God is barred by our presuppositions and our intense and constant desire for triumph. – Ravi Zacharias

If you find a reluctanc to go into the presence of God, there may be unconfessed, unrepented sin in your life. Part of your quiet time is to get your heart clean and pure. Each of us needs to take ourselves by the nape of our necks and confess and repent before we come into God’s holy presence to fellowship. – Adrian Rogers

Prayer is the window that God has placed in the walls of our world. Leave it shut and the world is a cold, dark house. But throw back the curtains and see His light. Open the window and hear His voice. Open the window of prayer and invoke the presence of God in your world. – Max Lucado

The real crisis of worship today is not that the preaching is paltry or that it’s too drafty in church. It is that people have no sense of the presence of God, and if they have no sense of His presence, how can they be moved to express the deepest feelings of their souls to honor, revere, worship, and glorify God? – R. C. Sproul

If the presence of God is in the church, the church will draw the world in. If the presence of God is not in the church, the world will draw the church out. – Charles Grandison Finney

A man who knows that he lives in sin against God will not be inclined to come daily into the presence of God. – Jonathan Edwards

The real issue relating to exclusiveness is whether or not the Christian actually has a relationship with God, a presence of God, which non-Christians do not have. Apart from Christian spiritual formation as described here, I believe there is little value in claiming exclusiveness for the Christian way. – Dallas Willard

The Christian life is to live all of your life in the presence of God. – R. C. Sproul

If we rely on anything else besides faith to maintain the practice of the presence of God, we will certainly fail, whether this is our feelings, or experiences, or sincerity, or good intentions, or reasonings, or plans. The reason these things will fail while faith will not fail is that all these things depend on us, while faith depends on God. It is a gift of God. – Peter Kreeft

When we are enjoying the conscious presence of God, we are fulfilling the tenets of our salvation. – A. W. Tozer

Only when we are captured by an overwhelming sense of awe and reverence in the presence of God, will we begin to worship God in spirit and in truth. – Alistair Begg

There is a strain of loneliness infecting many Christians, which only the presence of God can cure. – A. W. Tozer

Nothing in or of this world measures up to the simple pleasure of experiencing the presence of God. – A. W. Tozer

Peace comes not from the absence of trouble, but from the presence of God. – Alexander MacLaren

Most theists are deists most of the time, in practice if not in theory. They practice the absence of God instead of the presence of God. – Peter Kreeft

 


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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.