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The Safest Place on Earth

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.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a safe place? This is a story about the safest place on earth.

In 1985 Mars Hill was working on a film called Angel of Light. It dealt with the “New Age” movement and spiritual deception. One evening while in production, my wife, Nancy, and children were on the set. I could see that filming was going well past midnight, so I suggested to Nancy that she take the children home. She was driving our van, and on the way home, while stopped at an intersection, several men approached the van and started banging on the doors, trying to turn the handles and open them.

With the men pulling at the doors, Nancy hit the accelerator and sped off. Arriving home, she got out and went to open the side passenger door to let the children out. The van door was a little ajar and slid open easily at her touch. What kept those men from doing the same?

Nancy was still awake when I got home and related the whole story. We prayed together and thanked God for keeping them from harm, then settled down and went to sleep. Later that morning, while it was still dark, something woke me up. I felt as though someone was watching us. I sat up and saw two figures just beyond the sliding glass door from our bedroom to our patio.

One figure was clearly in focus and the other was behind and somewhat translucent. Both were imposing in stature and cast in bright light. I pinched myself to make sure I was really awake. Could it be? Angels! They did not speak, but a great sense of awe and then peace came over me. Like a flash of light on an unexposed piece of film, their image was etched in my mind. And then, they vanished. Continue reading


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Have You Discovered the Christian Life is Not Difficult … It’s Impossible?!

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.

A Verse That Will Change Your Life
from Fred Carpenter

If I had to name a handful of Bible verses that have most changed my life and work with Mars Hill, Galatians 2:20 would definitely be one of them.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ 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.” – Galatians 2:20 NASB

Giving it All and Hitting the Wall – How this Came to be Such an Important Verse to Me

In 1983, I had just completed our most difficult film project to that date. Although the project was highly successful, I was totally spent from all the pressures of making it happen. I hit the wall hard and found myself wondering if I could keep this up and do it all over again. Not only had the stress drained me mentally, but I wound up in the hospital with some physical issues caused by the way I had pushed myself. I remember my Dad saying, “Fred, you have to quit trying to save the world in your own strength.”

It was at this time that I was introduced to a book by Dr. Bill and Annabel Gillham called “Lifetime Guarantee.” Their teaching in this book expanded on the truths we find in Galatians 2:20. It set me free. I discovered that the life God has for us is not really about what we do for Christ, but rather, what He does through us.

The Exchanged Life – His New Life for Our Old One

Hudson Taylor said that Galatians 2:20 taught what he referred to as “The Exchanged Life” (Consider investing a few hours and read his short but powerful story of the exchanged life in Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret). Taylor understood that none of us can live the Christian life in our own strength or resist temptation by our own will power. He came to realize that only Christ can successfully live the victorious Christian life for it is, after all, His resurrection life which reflects His victory over the power of sin and death. Continue reading


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Specific Answer to Specific Prayer Glorifies 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.

Lessons in Praying Specific Prayer
By Fred Carpenter

The year was 1985. My work in media ministry was growing as was my young family. My wife, Nancy, and I had 2 small children and a third one was on the way.

One day I got a phone call from my distressed wife. She reported that she had been driving on the freeway with our two young children in the backseat, in their car seats, when suddenly our boisterous son, Wes, tried to open the back door of the car…from his car seat! Needless to say, Nancy was unnerved.

At that time, I was leading a men’s Bible Study. We always closed the study time with prayer, and on this day I shared what had happened with Nancy and Wes, and I requested prayer for their safety. Nothing more was said about the matter at that time.

God, of course, was continuing to move in my heart and mind to pray for my family as they traveled about town in our old Honda. It had been a great car, but it seemed that my family was about to outgrow it. I started asking God, “Do we really need another car or do I just want a new car? Show me, Father. I want to pray according to your will.” Continue reading


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The God Idea: Part 1 – Dreams, Visions, Convictions

How Dreams, Visions, and Convictions Come and Grow 
By Fred Carpenter

Mars Hill was founded in 1977 by Fred Carpenter and Larry Kreider. Together they shared a vision for the potential of ministry through media. In this year, marking the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions, president, Fred Carpenter is taking the time to recount the important lessons God has taught us; lessons that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

“That’s a good idea!” Have you ever heard or said that?  Most likely you have. But, consider this, while every “idea” that comes from God is “good”, not every idea that is good according to people, is a “God idea.” When it began 40 years ago, the ministry of Mars Hill was not just a “good idea.” It was something more. In today’s devotional we discussed this, and began our conversation about dreams, visions, and convictions by reading the following scriptures from The Bible:

Genesis 37:5-8  Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Please listen to this dream which I have had; for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.” Then his brothers said to him, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

 Habakkuk 2:1-3  I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved. Then the LORD answered me and said, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.”

Hebrews 11:1  Now, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Read the full chapter of Hebrews for examples of faith.)

“Convictions of Things Not Seen” That Have Shaped the Ministry Path of Mars Hill

Beginnings. The year 1974 was significant for me in 2 ways, I became a follower of Jesus Christ and I graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in Film. Even though I was young in my faith, I had come to Christ after much searching, and I was quickly coming into the strong conviction that I would not be pursuing a film-making career in Hollywood. In fact, I had lunch with some friends from school and as we exchanged plans for our futures I told them, “I’m going to make films to introduce people to Christ, but I don’t think they’re going to look like anything else out there.” Even as I spoke these words I thought to myself, “Where did that idea come from?” Continue reading


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Remembering What God has Taught Us Through 40 years of Ministry

Mars Hill was founded in 1977 by Fred Carpenter and Larry Kreider. Together they shared a vision for the potential of ministry through media. In this year, marking the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions, we are taking the time to recount the lessons God has taught us; lessons that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

As I was reflecting on 40 years of ministry, I was drawn to the life of Moses as he led the Hebrew people out of Egypt, through the Judean wilderness, and toward the land God had promised to give them.

As the Hebrew people were nearing the fulfillment of God’s promise to inherit a land of their own, these are the words that Moses spoke to them:

“All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your forefathers. You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” – Deuteronomy 8:1-2

This moment of entering the Promised Land was part of a bigger plan that God Himself had set into motion years before with a covenant promise to Abraham and his descendants. As this promise was about to be fulfilled, Moses exhorted the people to remember all the hardships they had faced and all the ways that God had faithfully led and provided for those that trusted in Him.

While I do not directly compare the Mars Hill journey to this chapter in the lives of God’s chosen people, there are some universal truths that the Word of God reveals to us. As Christians, the message for us all is that the lessons learned in this life are preparing us for what God has for us in eternity.

Just like the Hebrew followers, all the circumstances and challenges that Mars Hill has faced in the in the last 40 years have drawn us, both corporately and individually, into deeper relationships with the Lord. They have also, sharpened the focus of the ministry.

Another observation from the life of Moses is found in Psalm 103:7, “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel. Notice that the people saw the acts of God. They saw the sea part, they saw Him provide manna from heaven, but Moses spoke with God. He got to discuss things with Him and hear some of the reasons behind His actions.

John Morris of the Institute of Creation Research says, “We have a distinct privilege, as to know something of the “acts” of God. Scripture records many instances where He performed even miraculous deeds on behalf of His children. There is perhaps a greater privilege–that of reflecting on His “ways,” as well. “Ways,” in this context, may be understood as God’s actions and behaviors which reflect His underlying character, resulting in His “acts.”

Adrian Rogers said, “There is something more important than knowing the will of God–it is knowing the WAYS of God. There are 2 ways to know Him: Know His works (see what He does) and Know His WAYS (have insight into God’s character).To know the difference will mean the difference between peace and panic.”

“His way” is not referring to the Law (doing things His way), but to His very character. God’s ways are clearly different than ours, as stated in Isaiah 55:8 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD, and also in Romans 11:33 – Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!

But, we who are in Christ have the same privilege as Moses did, to draw near to God and learn His ways.  I Peter 4:1-2 tells us, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” Through Christ, we have been shown more of God’s character and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to apply His ways to our lives as Philippians 2:5 tells us,  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

Revelation is progressive and it is important to take the time to remember what God has taught us. Remembering keeps us sharp and ready to learn new lessons. It is also an encouragement to review what the Lord has done in us and for us – laying a foundation of hope and assurance that He will continue to build on.

Heb 5:13  For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.

Heb 5:14  But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

 

Consider This:

 Rick Warren suggests keeping a journal of insights and life lessons that God has taught you about Himself, ourselves, life, relationships, and everything else. Reviewing this journal can keep us from having to relearn lessons… Hebrews 2:1 – Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.

 


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 26

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 Twenty-Six

We are nearing the end of our story. In the last few weeks, King David has consulted prophet, priest, and warrior. And the prophet, priest, and warriors have consulted each other. The great debate over what should be done in response to Absalom’s rebellious take-over of the throne is on everyone’s mind.

The conversation between Abishai and Joab, two of David’s nephews who serve in his army, raises some very good questions. Joab says men will “sacrifice anything to satisfy ambition.” This is in reference to Absalom rising up against his father the king.

In response, Abishai adds, “He (Absalom) has raised his hand against the very anointed of God — against David! If Absalom, who has no authority, will divide the very kingdom of God…what in the name of sanity might that man do if he be king?”

These words led us to consider that Absalom, like many today, had not only lost respect for the authority of the king but had also lost sight of who the real King was! As there were things that the king did or didn’t do to his satisfaction, he decided that he knew best and he should become the king.

Things to consider:

  • Once we have shifted the emphasis from the power of “the king” to the power of the “individual,” we have essentially made ourselves kings. What kind of problems do you think might arise if we are all little kings?
  • Absalom lost sight of the fact that it was God who appointed Saul and then David to be king. If God is the appointer of kings, wouldn’t that make Him the ultimate authority?
  • Ambition, as defined by  businessdirectory.com, is “The desire to achieve something, or to succeed, accompanied with motivation, determination and an internal drive.” The question raised by today’s devotional….is ambition really ever satisfied? One man said that if you’re ambitious then it’s in your nature to find a flaw in your current situation. The next step would be to try and improve your situation, but if you’re really ambitious then you will just find another flaw that needs to be fixed. If Absalom had taken the throne from David, do you think he would have finally experienced peace and satisfaction?
  • “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” – James 13:6 ESV
  • “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3 ESV


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 23

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.

“This book (A Tale of Three Kings) reflects my concern for this multitude of confused, brokenhearted, and often bitter Christians who now find their spiritual lives in shambles and who are groping about for even the slightest word of hope and comfort.” – Gene Edwards, Author’s Preface

Chapter Twenty-Three

For today’s devotional consideration, we read from our book what could have been an exchange between King David and Abishai, his nephew. He alone accompanied David when he entered the camp of Saul while he slept and took his spear and water jug. He commanded a third of David’s army. He slew a Philistine giant who threatened David’s life, and on one occasion withstood 300 men, and slew them with his own spear.

This man, Abishai, was obviously an invaluable right-hand man to the king, but even such a trusted companion does not always grasp the deep heart motivations of the one they serve. This becomes apparent as Abishai presses King David for what he will do regarding the growing rebellion to take the throne led by David’s own son, Absalom.

Abishai remembers well the madness of King Saul. He knows the irrational thoughts and actions that Saul directed towards David, fearing that David would take the throne from him. He had witnessed with his own eyes David’s restraint and mercy towards Saul when he could have brought him down and taken what he knew was destined to be his.

No man would have faulted David for standing up to Saul’s unwarranted attacks and fighting back. In this chapter, Abishai repeatedly reminds David that he would have been humanly justified in defending himself against the mad king, but now that he IS the king, he has, even more, rights to defend his throne.

King David responds to Abashai’s urgings for action; he was not an Absalom towards Saul and he does not want to be a Saul towards Absalom! The following reveals what his heart knows to be true:

“I did not lift a finger to be made king. Nor shall I do so to preserve a kingdom. Even the kingdom of God! God put me here. It is not my responsibility to take or keep authority. Do you not realize, it may be His will for these things to take place? If He chooses, God can protect and keep the kingdom even now. After all, it is His kingdom.”

Abishai presses him once more. “You know that Absalom should not be king!” And David responds, “Do I? No man knows. Only God knows, and He has not spoken. I did not fight to become king, and I will not fight to remain king.”

David was prepared to let it all go if that is what God wanted. Finally, Abishai got it. And his admiration for his king grew even deeper.

Things to consider:

O LORD, You have searched me and known me! A Psalm of David. Psalm 139:1 ESV   (David’s relationship with God is evident throughout this entire Psalm; he understands how well God knows him and he freely expresses his thoughts and desires back to God.)

And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:27 ESV

…but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we declare it, not to please people but God, who examines our hearts. I Thessalonians 2:4 NET

Final Thought:

If God knows us so well, and He is sovereign over all, what keeps us from resting in the hope and comfort that He will guide our lives in the ways and the times that they should go?


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 22

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 Twenty-Two

As a young shepherd boy, David did a lot of watching and waiting. He would certainly lead his flock to water or to grassy areas, but once arrived, there was much waiting. Waiting for the sheep to drink and eat.  Watching out for predators. Thinking about where to graze next. It is easy to see how this job lent itself to learning about God through observing nature and pouring out his own heart back to God.

David certainly knew that there were animals in his realm that would love to feast on one of his charges. But he did not have to go looking for these enemies, instead, he used his alone time to prepare himself for when they would eventually attack.

Chapter 22 of our book finds King David and Joab discussing what to do about the growing rebellion of his son, Absalom. As the general of the king’s armies, Joab was used to being a man of action. Thus, he queried the king what should be done about Absalom. King David says that he has no plan and will do as he always has; he will do nothing.

In our discussion of this situation, we concluded that David was not timid or without a plan because of fear. We know that he was a capable warrior and that he certainly had the position as king to thwart a rebellion. However, we believe that David also had an understanding of Psalm 46:10 which says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

David had the realization that God was in control and if he were to step in and try to do something without clear direction from God, he might interfere with God’s plan.

Things to consider:

  • Are you able to “be still” and seek God in the face of opposition or trials?
  • Can you discern between the feelings of your soul or spiritual conviction? See Hebrews 11:1

In closing, read Psalm 5, which is a psalm of David. You will notice that in the presence of his enemies, David’s action is to take refuge in the Lord, his righteous defender!


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 17

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 Seventeen

Today we get to join with a young soldier and sit at the feet of a wizened old soul, one who had lived alongside David in the days before he was king and also the days of his rule. We can relate to the questions the young soldier asks about King David and his mighty men of valor. We may even come up with a few questions of our own, but the answers will give us all pause for thought.

Young soldier:  Are you, sir, one of David’s mighty men of long ago – one of those men of whom we have heard so much?

Old soldier:   If you are asking if I am a former thief and cave dweller and one who followed a sobbing, hysterical fugitive, then yes, I was one of the ‘mighty men of David.’

Young soldier:  But, sir, you make the great king sound like a weakling. Was he not the greatest of all rulers?

Old soldier:  He was no weakling. Nor was he a great leader.

Young soldier:  Then what, good sir? What was the greatness of David?

Old soldier:  The clearest memory I have of my king, when we lived in the caves, is that his was a life of submission. Yes, David showed me submission, not authority. He taught me no the quick cure of rules and laws, but the art of patience.

Men who speak endlessly on authority only prove they have none. And kings who make speeches about submission only betray twin fears in their hearts: They are not certain they are really true leaders, sent of God. And they live in mortal fear of a rebellion.

My king spoke not of submitting to him. He feared no rebellion…because he did not mind if he was dethroned!

No, authority from God is not afraid of challengers, makes no defense, and cares not one whit if it must be dethroned.

As far as David’s having authority: Men who don’t have it talk about it all the time. David had authority, but I don’t think that fact ever occurred to him.

Scripture to consider:

… Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me—so that I would not become arrogant. I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NET

Final Thoughts:

If we need power and authority, we are probably not ready or suited for it!

To borrow from John Piper, God’s design is to make us a showcase for His power…not by getting rid of all our weaknesses; but by giving us strength to endure and even rejoice in tribulation.

Although David did not know it, his heart and attitude was a reflection of the One, king of kings, who would follow about a millennia later; the One that Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians 12:9 >> So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.

 


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 15

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 Fifteen

“We desperately need God, but we don’t necessarily need Him for what we think we need Him for. We need Him to show us what we need Him for!”

What kind of man was Saul? Who was this one who made himself David’s enemy?

He was a farm boy, a country kid who made good. He was tall, good-looking, and well-liked. He came from a good family. Abraham, Jacob, and Moses were his ancestors. He was anointed of God.

It was Saul who took the Israelites and welded them into a united kingdom. He created an army out of thin air. He won battles in the power of God, defeating the enemy again and again. He was a prophet. The Spirit of God came on him in power and authority. He did and said unprecedented things. A leader, chosen by God with power from God.

Saul was also eaten with jealousy, filled with self-importance, and willing to live in spiritual darkness. He “needed” power to maintain his position and authority as king.

Is there a moral in these contradictions? What made Saul’s failures different from David’s? To quote Gene Edwards, “There is a vast difference between the outward clothing of the Spirit’s power and the inward filling of the Spirit’s life.”

All people begin life with the same problem…a heart that is self-centered.  As Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” In those who are merely clothed with the Spirit’s power, the hidden man of the heart may remain unchanged. But for those filled with the Spirit, the deceitful heart is dealt with.

When God gave Saul power, it revealed Saul’s heart to elevate himself. When God gave David power, it revealed a heart that desired to know more of God in His glory and excellence.

God gives people power…even unworthy people – not because He wants us to be powerful, but because there is a greater agenda He wants to accomplish. For some like Saul, it will be their undoing. For others like David, it will be a part of the ongoing process of revealing and transforming the heart.

Application:

Are you asking God for the power to do what you think you need to do or are you asking Him first to reveal to you what you actually need?

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. – 2 Peter 1:2-3