devos from the hill


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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


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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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Prayer – The Last Resort, or the First?!

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.

The Lung Surgery that Wasn’t Needed
by Fred Carpenter

You’ve no doubt heard this before. Someone facing a challenge or a crisis has done all they can do. And then it is said (often with some resign), “Well, it’s in God’s hands now; all we can do is pray.” But, what does the Bible teach us about prayer? Is prayer our last line of defense?

Late in 1998, I was experiencing some respiratory issues and my doctor said I should get a chest X-ray. The X-ray revealed a very small spot on one lung, but the doctor was not overly concerned at that point. He recommended we should check it again in a year, which is exactly what we did.

The next time they did a CT chest scan, and the results took a more serious turn. The spot had grown. The doctor told me wanted to remove the affected area and get the appropriate tests run to see if it was malignant. He even talked about the possibility of needing to remove an entire lobe of my right lung.

Being faced with such sobering results, I now saw this as a situation that needed serious prayer. In James 5:15, the Bible cites two prayers of the prophet Elijah as examples of effective prayer. In the first of these (1 Kings 17:1), Elijah prays that it would not rain in Israel until he prayed for rain. And then, 3 ½ years later, when Elijah prayed for rain (1Kings 18:42-46), it rained. The interesting thing about these prayers is that they don’t sound like prayer. When he utters them, he is not asking God, he is simply proclaiming what is going to happen. Upon closer examination of 1 Kings 17-18, we understand that Elijah is simply speaking what God told him to speak (see 18:1).  Continue reading


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Blossom Where You are Planted

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.

“Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3 NASB

When we are young adults, looking at the endless possibilities before us, it seems logical to pick a goal and map out a plan for how to get there. But, when you are a follower of Christ, you become aware that you are not alone in these decisions. In fact, you learn that He already has plans, big plans; so it becomes a matter of discovering what those plans are and what your role in them will be.

I have shared in the previous two devotionals that upon graduating from film school God had given me a deep conviction that I would someday make films that would introduce people to Jesus Christ. However, I had no direction or idea about how that would come to pass.

At that time, I was living in Houston, doing odd media jobs, waiting tables, and strategizing what my next move should be. I attended a church but had not joined a church or become involved in church life because I didn’t know if I would be staying in Houston. Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York seemed the more logical places to pursue a film career.

While searching for something encouraging in God’s word one day, I read Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” The Holy Spirit spoke to me through this verse. I thought I would find something about my plans coming to pass, but what I saw was not what I was expecting. I realized I had been reading that verse backward. I was trying to make a plan and commit it to the Lord, expecting Him to then show me the work. 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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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 9

Chapter Nine

From last week’s devotional, we know that God is the one who appoints authorities in our lives. And we know that we are expected to follow those authorities even when they don’t really make sense. We also know that God’s greater concern is for the motives of the heart and He will use the authorities and circumstances in our lives to shape and mold our hearts to be like His.

Today’s devotional digs a little deeper into this process of making us more like our heavenly Father. The author of our book declares, “I’m in David’s situation, and I am in agony. What do I do when the kingdom I’m in is ruled by a spear-wielding king? Should I leave? If so, how?”

Further, he says, “You have your eyes on the wrong King Saul. As long as you look at your king, you will blame him and him alone, for your present hell. But be careful, for God has his eyes fastened sharply on another King Saul. Not the visible one standing up there throwing spears at you. No, God is looking at another King Saul….God is looking at the ‘King Saul’ in you.”

The author of our book so skillfully points out that, like David, we all have King Saul within us. Saul is representative of three enemies of God; worldly thoughts and desires of the soul, power of sin in our flesh, and Satan and his powers of darkness. Even though we, like David, may have a heart turned to God, we are still in this world and connected to our earthly flesh.  In accepting Christ as savior, our spirit is regenerated at once but our outer man has to go through a longer and, most often, unpleasant sanctifying process. Sanctification is all about bringing the rest of our being under the will and the reign of God.

“King Saul sought to destroy David, but his only success was that he became the instrument of God to put to death the ‘Saul’ who roamed about in the caverns of David’s own soul.”

Some closing thoughts from Scripture about embracing the circumstances and authorities in our lives that God may be using to sanctify us…

My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. – James 1:2-4 NET

Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. – Romans 5:3-5 NET

1Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.  – Romans 12:1-2 NET


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 8

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 Eight

We are now in our eighth week of A Tale of Three Kings. The Hebrew people who worship Yahweh had asked to be ruled by a king. Yahweh granted their request and through the prophet, Samuel, Saul was anointed – chosen to be the first king of Israel. Saul was a successful king in that he was a powerful and accomplished military man; in a short time, he managed to free the people from most of their enemies, giving them a great sense of security.

But, Saul relied on his own strength and human abilities so that he became insecure and envious when someone else showed equal or greater ability. That someone was young David. David had come to fight for the king and to serve the king. David’s victories on the battlefield were exceeding Saul’s and his favor off the battlefield was gaining him quite a following, too. This was making Saul quite mad with jealousy towards David.

Our chapter begins with the following, “MY KING IS MAD. At least, I so perceive him. What can I do?”  But if we are going to apply some basic principles of this story to our own lives, this is not the only question we found ourselves faced with. The people under Saul’s rule knew that he had been chosen by God to be king. A few were aware that David had also been anointed. But David was still under Saul’s authority as God had not said when Saul’s rule was to end and David’s to begin.

Today we do not have such specific directives from God through prophets like Samuel, but we do have people in authority over us on many levels. How do we know who is the Lord’s anointed? Are they after the order of King Saul or King David? If it turns out they are quite mad, how should we respond? Consider the statements and scriptures below.

God alone knows the heart of each and every one of us. Heart is very important to God!

  • All a person’s ways seem right in his own opinion, but the LORD evaluates the motives. – Proverbs 16:2 NET
  • …then listen from your heavenly dwelling place, forgive their sin, and act favorably toward each one based on your evaluation of his motives. (Indeed you are the only one who can correctly evaluate the motives of all people.) – I Kings 8:39 NET
  • After removing him, God raised up David their king. He testified about him: ‘I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after my heart, who will accomplish everything I want him to do.’ – Acts 13:22 NET

God may reveal to us His anointed if we ask Him; it is His wisdom on which we rely, not our own.

  • Then they prayed, “Lord, you know the hearts of all. Show us which one of these two you have chosen…” – Acts 1:24
  • The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned. – 1 Corinthians 2:14 NET

We are not called to respect leaders because they are infallible, but because God has placed them over us. We follow God; therefore we follow those whom God puts in authority.

  • Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. – Romans 13:1 NET

There is a purpose for the king’s role in your life – even if he is subject to madness. It may be a lesson to prepare you to be the next king. Like David, you may try to appease the king or you may need to avoid the king, but you can definitely trust that the King of Kings, the Lord, will deliver you from the circumstance at His appointed time.

 In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humbleAnd God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you. Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering. 10 And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. – 1 Peter 5:5-10 NET