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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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 24

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-Four

Today we listened in on a conversation between two of King David’s closest advisors, Nathan, the prophet of God and Zadok, the priest.

God had spoken to David through Nathan on a number of occasions. For instance, in 2 Samuel 12, God revealed to Nathan that David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, and had her husband killed in battle to cover up the fact that she was bearing his child. God then had Nathan confront and rebuke King David. He spoke truth to David, even when that truth was difficult to hear.

Zadok the High Priest was loyal to the King, but more importantly, he was faithful to God. He followed God’s laws and was certain to support the ruler who followed after and was anointed by God.

In the imagined conversation between these men, they are debating whether or not they should offer their unsolicited advice to David regarding the impending hostile take-over of the kingdom by David’s son, Absalom. Zadok thinks Nathan should confront King David as he has before, and find out what his plan is.

But Nathan isn’t so sure that he needs to talk to David. He says to Zadok, “There is no real difference between the man who discovers a Saul in his life and the man who finds an Absalom in his life. In either situation, the corrupt heart will find its ‘justification.’ The Sauls of this world can never see a David; they see only Absalom. The Absaloms of this world can never see a David; they see only Saul.”

Our prophet believes that David will respond to the man under him (Absalom) the same as he responded to the man over him (Saul). For he trusts that David’s heart is purely to follow God.

Things to consider:

  • Circumstances don’t make the person; they reveal the person.
  • What you are will determine what you will see.                                                                              Matthew 5:8, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  • How might we get a pure heart? See Romans 12:1-2…but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.                                                                                                                                      

See also, Ephesians 4 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  

 


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 12

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 Twelve

“He (David) ran – through soggy fields and down slimy riverbeds. Sometimes the dogs came close; sometimes they even found him. But swift feet, rivers, and watery pits hid him. He took his food from the fields, dug roots from the roadside, slept in trees, hid in ditches, crawled through briars and mud.”

The author of our book once again uses poetic license to spark our imagination so that we might gain a greater understanding and appreciation for David’s experiences in running from King Saul. Often when we read the accounts of the ancient scriptures, we check off the sequence of events without giving adequate thought to the physical actions that played out or the amount of time it took.

In A Tale of Three Kings, Gene Edwards is helping us relate to David by painting a plausible picture of the kinds of details we would be subject to if we were on the lam with David. There are also a few details the author didn’t include which may give you even greater sympathy for this young anointed one.

First of all, do you know how long David had to hideout from the wrath of Saul? Try eight years! That is a long time to be hunted….a long time to be looking over your shoulder….wondering who, if anyone, you could trust.

As a result, David was constantly on the move; often to foreign places. One of those cities where he sought shelter and rest was Gath. Our book says, “Here, too, he was feared, hated, lied about, and plotted against.” Why would this be? Does it surprise you to know that Gath was a Philistine city and the hometown of Goliath, the very imposing man that David had killed in battle some years before!

King Saul’s relentless pursuit of David caused him to seek refuge even among his enemies. These were David’s darkest hours. David was surely a beaten and battered man. But, whenever he came to the end of himself and had nowhere else to turn, he turned to his God, who had proved Himself trustworthy to David, time after time.

Being beaten and battered by life is something that is common to us all. For some, these experiences yield brokenness resulting in the pursuit of God’s will and God’s way. For others, the tests and trials of life produce just the opposite; a rebellion against God, and a rejection of His way.

Consider the trials that you have gone through. Was your response to seek God’s help and follow His lead? Or, did you look for solutions and escapes routes of your own?

Consider these words written by David while in pursuit from Saul:

O taste and see that the Lord is good:
blessed is the man that trusts in Him. – Psalm 34: 8 (David)

The Lord is near the brokenhearted;
he delivers those who are discouraged. – Psalm 34:18 (David)

The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. – Psalm 34:22 (David)


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The Temptation of Jesus

The difference between a test and a temptation.
Lesson 45 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

— Matthew 4:1

And when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

— Luke 4:13

Jesus then departed to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. But Jesus would resist and Satan would flee. This wilderness encounter was a test. And just as a precious metal is tested to prove its nature, this test was further proof that Jesus was indeed the Son of the God come to earth to do the will of His Father. After resisting Satan, Jesus came out of the wilderness in the power of the Spirit.

— The HOPE, Chapter 8

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

After Jesus was baptized, He was then led by the Spirit (of God) into the wilderness to be tempted. This temptation is described in Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-2. Notice that the Matthew 4:1 passage says the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, but it does not say that the Spirit tempted Jesus. That is an important distinction because the Bible also says in James 1:13 that, “God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” Satan (who is called the tempter in Matthew 4:3 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5) is the one who does the tempting.

Based upon the James 1:13 passage, notice also that it was futile for Satan to tempt Jesus, for “God cannot be tempted.” In the end, the temptation of Jesus served only to further the purposes of God. It was all part of His plan. This will become even more evident as we consider the word “tempt.”

“Tempt” (or tempted) comes from the Greek word “peirazo,” which is actually a legal term meaning “to make proof of.”1 In light of this root definition, we could say that Satan was tempting Jesus in order to prove that He was no different than any other man that had ever lived; that He was just like Adam and that He would fold under pressure. Ultimately, the same way that a prosecuting attorney seeks to disqualify the testimony of a defendant, Satan wanted to disqualify Jesus as the Deliverer who would free mankind from Satan, sin, and death. Continue reading


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Tested and Tempted . . . What’s the Difference?

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
From Fred Carpenter
Tested and Tempted Part 1 of 2

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” – Matthew 4:1 NASB

After Jesus was baptized, He was led by the Spirit (of God) into the wilderness to be tempted.This temptation is described in Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, and Luke 4:1–2. Notice that the Matthew 4:1 passage says the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, but it does not say that the Spirit tempted Jesus. That is an important distinction because the Bible also says in James 1:13 that, “God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” Satan (who is called the tempter in Matthew 4:3 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5) is the one who does the tempting.

Based upon the James 1:13 passage, notice that it was futile for Satan to tempt Jesus, for “God cannot be tempted.” In the end, the temptation of Jesus served only to further the purposes of God. It was all part of His plan. This will become even more evident as we consider the word “tempt.”

“Tempt” (or tempted) comes from the Greek word “peirazo,” which is actually a legal term meaning “to make proof of.” In light of this root definition, we could say that Satan was tempting Jesus in order to prove that He was no different than any other man that had ever lived; that He was just like Adam and that He would fold under pressure. Ultimately, the same way that a prosecuting attorney seeks to disqualify the testimony of a defendant, Satan wanted to disqualify Jesus as the Deliverer who would free mankind from Satan, sin, and death. Continue reading