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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Let’s Get Real

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 1 on The Importance of Honesty and Authenticity in Team Communication

I have always been amazed at the way a flock of birds or a school of fish can move together in perfect unison. This synchronized movement is called murmuration. And while scientists are getting closer to understanding what kind communication makes this possible, there is still much that is unknown about murmuration.

I believe that this natural phenomenon is a picture of the way the Body of Christ should move in this world. I pray that this is how the team at Mars Hill would move, under the divine orchestration of the Holy Spirit, as we pursue the mission to which our Father has called us.

Honest and authentic communication is key to this kind of Spirit-led, coordinated movement. This is the first of two devotionals on this subject.

29 It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. – Exodus 34:29-30 

34 But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, 35 the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him. – Exodus 34:34-35

12  Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, 13  and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14  But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted because it is removed in Christ. – 2 Corinthians 3:12-14

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. – 2 Corinthians 3:17

In 1980, Mars Hill released a short film called Face Value. That film was inspired by the example of Moses as recorded in Exodus 34 and 2 Corinthians 3. When Moses personally spent time in the presence of God, his face actually began to shine with the glory of God. Because of this, Moses hid his face behind a veil when he returned to be with the people. He did this for two reasons.

Reading the Old Testament account, we learn that Moses did not want to cause fear in the people when they saw his shining face. Reading the New Testament account we discover the second reason. Moses did not want the people to witness the fading of this glory.

Like a veil, a mask is used to cover one’s face. In the movie, Face Value, the characters wore masks to hide what they were really thinking and feeling; their fears, insecurities, and sense of unworthiness. Such feelings are common to all people, but for fear of rejection, few are able to be honest about them and reveal them to others.

Living our lives behind masks creates distance between us. And in that space, the enemy has room to move, fostering mistrust and indifference. It is certainly not the kind of relationship that creates the unity a team of people needs in order to move in Spirit-led unison to pursue their mission.

The accounts in Exodus 34 and 2 Corinthians 3 illustrate the difference between the temporary glory of the Old Covenant and permanent glory of the New Covenant. Paul likens the veil over Moses’ face to the spiritual veil that covers the hearts of those who are under the Old Covenant of law.  And in verse 14, Paul writes that this veil is removed in Christ.

Moving down to verse 17 we read, “. . . where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” That is the key to transparent and honest communication! Because Jesus has purchased our forgiveness with His blood on the cross, we have a basis by which we can be forgiven by God, we can forgive each other, and we can even forgive ourselves. From Romans 8:1 we read, “. . . there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  We don’t have to fear rejection. Now you may be thinking, “I believe that to be true, so why don’t I feel that I have that freedom?”

Unpacking verse 17, a little further, consider the phrase, “. . . where the Spirit of the Lord is. . .”

Now any astute student of the Bible will tell you that God is omnipresent, He is everywhere. And in Colossians 1:16-20 we read of the pre-imminence of Christ. He is before all and He holds everything together. So, is Paul just being rhetorical when he uses this phrase, “. . . where the Spirit of the Lord is. . .”? No, he is not.

God is everywhere, but we must allow Him to have His way in us and among us. He does not bypass our will to receive His forgiveness, nor does He bypass our will in forgiving others, or ourselves. In Paul’s terms, the Spirit of the Lord is where the Spirit of the Lord is welcomed.

What can we do as a team to foster the kind of unison that is modeled for us in the natural world of birds and fish? Trust the Spirit. Drop the masks. Get real. Pursue transparent and honest communication. Create a culture of forgiveness. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32.

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


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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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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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God’s Will for You is God’s Will for Your Children

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. 

Genesis 22:1-2 – Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

Situation #1 – Bob recently agreed to be an elder in his Church. The elders meet monthly for a 60-90 minute meeting. But 4 times a year, they meet for half a day on Saturday. The next Saturday meeting falls on the same day as one of his daughter’s softball games. Bob is one of 3 volunteer coaches. There is no Church “crisis” to be dealt with, but the Church is facing tremendous opportunity on several fronts. Typically in these half-day Saturday meetings, as the elders prayerfully discuss the course of the Church, God moves, bringing fresh insight and discernment that impacts the life of the Church. Should Bob go to the elders meeting or the softball game?

Situation #2 – When he was a teenager, God put it in Tony’s heart that he should become a missionary doctor as a way to help reach unreached people groups in Southeast Asia. In college, he met Alicia. They fell in love and married after college. While Tony was in med school they had their first child and became pregnant with a second. After med-school, Tony was offered a fellowship in a prestigious infectious disease program.  One thing led to another, and Tony’s plans to become a missionary doctor were delayed time and time again. The children were now 7 and 9. One night at Church, Tony’s heart was again stirred by a visiting speaker; a missionary from Southeast Asia. As Tony and Alicia discussed this, the main hurdle was the children. They were both exceptionally bright and were flourishing in one of the best private schools in the city. Tony and Alicia were concerned that the children could not reach their full potential on the mission field.  What should Tony and Alicia do?

Who wouldn’t want the best for their children, right? But many Christians in America today are obsessed with positioning their children for success (as the culture around them defines it) to the point that it is actually detrimental. Their motives may be good, but these parents may actually be buffering their children from the very life experience, and perhaps the adversity, that God would use to shape their soul and character, preparing them for their calling in life.

Consider Abraham, when God told him to take his son and offer him as a sacrifice to God. Can you imagine what Abraham was thinking and feeling? How could this be a good thing? 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