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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What is an Authentic Christian?

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.

In our last two devotionals, we discussed the importance of honest and authentic communication in the body of Christ. Along the way, we touched briefly on the question of what it means to be an “authentic Christian.” Today, we’ll dig a little deeper into that subject.

As was noted in our discussion, there are thousands of books and sermons addressing what it means to be an authentic Christian, even though the term never actually appears in the Bible. Most writers and expositors define an authentic Christian in terms of performance (what a person does, or how he/she behaves.)  However looking at the primary definition of “authentic”; of undisputed origin, we concluded that authenticity as a Christian has more to do with nature than performance. As we discussed, just as an authentic apple tree will ultimately bear apples, so also, an authentic Christian will ultimately be inclined to walk in a manner that is consistent with his/her nature.

What then is an “authentic Christian?” Ontology is the study of the nature of being. An ontologist would tell us there is a significant relationship between the nature of a being and the life of a being. So, in order to understand the nature, and hopefully the definition, of an “authentic Christian,” let’s look at a word that does appear in Scripture; “life.”

In the New Testament, three Greek words are translated as the word, life.

  1. Bios (used over 10 times in the New Testament) is the life of the physical body. It is where we get the word biology.
  2. Psuche or Psyche (used over 100 times in the New Testament) is the life of the human soul, that is, the mind, emotion, and will. It is where we get the word psychology.
  3. Zoe (used over 130 times in the New Testament) is the divine life uniquely possessed by God. It is real life in all its fullness. “I have come that they may have life (zoe) and may have (zoe) abundantly.” – John 10:10

In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explains the significant difference between Bios and Zoe.

“In reality, the difference between Biological life and Spiritual life is so important that I am going to give them two distinct names. The Biological sort which come to us through Nature, and which (like everything else in Nature) is always tending to run down and decay so that it can only be kept up by incessant subsidies from Nature in the form of air, water, food, etc. is Bios. The Spiritual life which is in God from all eternity, and which made the whole natural universe is Zoe. Bios has, to be sure, a certain shadowy or symbolic resemblance to Zoe: but only the sort of resemblance there is between a photo and a place, or statue and a man. A man who changed from having Bios to having Zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man. And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumor going around that some of us are some day going to come to life.”

In this excerpt, C.S. Lewis deals with the difference between Zoe and Bios. However, the difference between Zoe and Psuche is just as significant. Whether a person is “born again” (John 3:3–7) and has Zoe, or not, the soul is eternal. The difference that Zoe makes has to do with the eternal destiny and quality of the life of the soul.

I came to faith in Christ at the age of 22. Prior to that time, I was involved in Eastern mysticism. I had a very active Psuche (Soul), but I did not have Zoe (His Life). When Jesus flooded my life (Psuche) with His Life (Zoe), I immediately sensed a change. The blinders were lifted from the eyes of my soul. The world seemed brighter and more vivid. Time seemed to move slower. It was as if the whole universe has suddenly come into focus. That was His life in me. That was Zoe!

I’ve talked with many others about their “born again” experience; what theologians call regeneration.  Not everyone has such a dramatic experience, particularly those who came to faith in Christ at an early age. Coming to Christ as a young child doesn’t allow much time for the world to shape a soul. So then, I would not propose that the dramatic change I experienced is the only defining, or even the main, evidence of Zoe in a person.

I would propose that the main evidence of Zoe has to do with our disposition toward God, and toward sin.  And by sin, I not only refer to actions that offend God, I also refer to the power of sin that dwells in the flesh of every person. I have talked with people who struggle with a habit they know is harmful and does not honor God, even to the point of questioning their salvation. Their behavior and struggle may be chronic, but they are not “OK” with it. They never stop wanting to live in a way that pleases God. I believe that it is the Zoe in them that gives them the motivation to get back up and continue seeking God, no matter how many times they fall.

Dear friend, please to do not miss the significance of what I am trying to communicate. Some people would say that the sign of an authentic Christian is how well he/she walks the walk. While there is some truth in that statement, I would strongly insist it is not the main sign. Anyone can fake the Christian walk for short periods of time. In my opinion, it is the person who never stops struggling, who never gives up the fight, who is never “OK” with sin, who gets up when he/she falls and keeps going. It is the Zoe (His Life) in a person that makes this possible.

Simply stated, an authentic Christian is a person who has Zoe.  How’s the Zoe in you today?

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. – John 6:35

 


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Embrace the Tension!

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.

Part 2 on The Importance of Honesty and Authenticity in Team Communication

Last week, in our devotional, we discussed the need for honest and authentic communication in the Body of Christ. This week, we’re going to dig a little deeper into this issue, focusing on the idea of “authentic communication.”  What is it, what is the basis for this kind of communication, and what does it look like?

What is it?

If you Google the term “authentic Christianity,” you’ll get 121,000 results . . . books, articles, sermons, blogs, etc. Most all of them have to do with what a person does . . . performance.

Because the word “authentic” does not appear in the Bible, I turned to Webster. Authentic means – of undisputed origin.  Applying this definition then, we can conclude that authenticity is really more a matter of nature and identity (origin) than performance.  Just as we should expect an apple tree to bear apples, so also, we should expect an authentic Christian to communicate in an authentic manner.

So, what is it about being a Christian that provides a basis for this kind of communication?

Chapter 4 Ephesians of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians has a lot to say about unity in the Body of Christ. To lay a foundation for today’s subject read Eph.4:20-25.

Eph 4:20  But you did not learn Christ in this way,
Eph 4:21  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,
Eph 4:22  that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
Eph 4:23  and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
Eph 4:24  and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Eph 4:25  Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.

Verse 25 tells us that Christians should “SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you.” The word “speak” here is a present active imperative indicating that we are to make a habit of speaking the truth . . . of communicating in an authentic manner.

Verses 22-24 tell us why we should communicate in this manner. Like an apple tree bearing apples, it is simply something we do, if in fact we are laying aside the old self and putting on the new self . . . if we are being renewed in the spirit of our mind.

Stephen Mcalpin, Lead Pastor of Adorn Church in Los Angeles writes, “Authenticity in the Church is the quality of our exposure of brokenness and adornment in God’s grace. An authentic person is one who is both privately and publically putting off the old self and, by God’s grace, putting on the new self.”

Christ followers are a people caught in between two worlds; one that is broken and one that is adorned in the glory of God’s grace. If we are not OK with living in the tension between these two worlds, we will live a dishonest life. We must fully embrace both realities, for that is Truth.

I’ve always been intrigued with a certain aspect of the Chronicles of Narnia. The children who traveled to the world of Narnia found themselves in the middle of a fierce war. And like all wars, it was violent and ugly with life and death consequences. All the while, the children knew that Narnia was not their home. It was not their ultimate reality.  And yet, with arrows flying and swords flashing they fully embraced their role in the battle for Narnia.

How about us? Are we OK enough with living in this fallen world that is not our home that we can be honest about our pain and struggle, and at the same time honest about our true identity in Christ and our citizenship in His Kingdom?

What does authentic communication in the Body of Christ look like?

This question is answered for us Ephesians 4:26-32.

Eph 4:26  BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
Eph 4:27  and do not give the devil an opportunity.
Eph 4:28  He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
Eph 4:29  Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Eph 4:30  Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Eph 4:31  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Eph 4:32  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

People of Truth are not fake. They communicate what is really going on in their lives, but they do it in ways that are appropriate, not grieving the Holy Spirit, and being sensitive to the one to whom they are speaking.