devos from the hill


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3 Steps to Experiencing God’s Love More Fully and Consistently – Part 2 / Step 2

Step 2 – Embrace His Role as the Leader in the Divine Dance of Love
by Fred Carpenter

In Review

In the first of this 3-part series we considered 2 things that are necessary in order to experience God’s love more fully and consistently:  1) you must be thirsty for His love (we looked at 3 types of thirst), and 2) you must believe it is possible.

Let us begin our study this week by considering a quote from CS Lewis

“For we are only creatures: our role must always be that of patient to agent, female to male, mirror to light, echo to voice. Our highest activity must be response, not initiative. To experience the love of God in a true, and not an illusory form, is therefore to experience it as our surrender to His demand, our conformity to His desire: to experience it in the opposite way is, as it were, a solecism against the grammar of being.”

This quote from CS Lewis goes against two extremes that are prevalent in the American culture, 1) the fear of being “out of control” (and thus the need to be in control), and 2) a satisfaction with spectating, observing, and being entertained, rather than engaging.

These 2 observations from Lewis speak to the 2nd and 3rd steps in our quest to experience God’s love more fully and consistently. This week we will think about the 2nd, understanding that God is the initiator in this magnificent pursuit.

Perichoresis – the Divine Dance

a.  The word, perichoresis, comes from two Greek words – a) peri, meaning “around” (this root found in the word, “perimeter”), and b) chorein, meaning “to give way” or “to make room” (this root found in the word “choreography”.) Perichoresis could be translated as “going, or moving, around.” Theologians have used this word to describe the interaction of the Trinity as a sort of choreographed dance. All members of this triune dance move precisely and fluidly to create a meaningful work together. In other words, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dance as one. Continue reading


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Why Don’t We Experience God’s Love More Fully and Frequently?

By Fred Carpenter

For the next several weeks, the Mars Hill staff devotionals will dive into the topic of “experiencing God’s love.” Recently, I was reading in the Gospel Coalition website and I came across this quote from pastor Colin Smith.

“Many Christians live at a great distance from a felt experience of the love of God. So much Christianity in the West is shallow and satisfied. It affirms a creed, but it so often lacks spiritual life. Across the country, there are millions of people who have a faith, who’ve been brought up in the church to believe Jesus died and rose, but they have no living experience of God’s love.”

As I’ve talked with people about our current devotional series, I am increasingly convinced that Colin Smith’s observation is accurate. But why do so many Christians go through life with little or no real experience of God’s love? Before we delve into that question, let’s be clear about what we are asking, and to whom we are addressing the question.

First, we are not questioning the reality of God’s love. We are asking why we don’t experience that reality more fully and frequently. Continue reading


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Do You Really Experience God’s Love?

By Fred Carpenter

The Mars Hill staff has started a new Devotional Series on experiencing divine love. The incentive to go down this path began last year when I attended the memorial service of a very beloved and godly woman. Her granddaughter shared that the greatest lesson she learned from her grandmother was simply, “How to let Jesus love on me.” Her words went straight to my heart of hearts as I thought to myself, “Do I even know how to do that?”

Apparently, I am not the only one who struggles with that question. I recently read about a seminary professor who asked 120 of her students the question: “Do you believe that God loves you?” Out of 120 Christian students preparing for ministry, only two said, “yes.” The rest gave answers like this: “I know I’m supposed to say, ‘Yes’ . . . “I know the Bible says he loves me . . . but I don’t feel it,” or “I’m not sure I can really say I believe it.” (Link to quote source article, TGC)

Is it a Realistic, Biblical Expectation to Actually Experience the Love of God?

Citing Romans 5:5, John Piper affirms that the actual experience of God’s love is indeed a realistic, Biblical expectation . . . “Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Piper goes on to explain, “This is a Spirit-given experience of God’s love, not a logical inference from an argument. It is something poured out. It is something felt in the heart. Known in the way the heart knows.” Continue reading


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The Importance of Knowing Divine Love

From the desk of Fred Carpenter

Tears in the city
But nobody’s really surprised, you know
My heart’s taking a beating
Existence is bleeding me dry, you know

But way down in my heart of hearts
Way down in my soul of souls
Way down I know that I am a fortunate man
To have known divine love.

It is one thing to know about God, it is quite another to know Him personally and experientially. The Bible says that not only does God love us, but He actually IS love. To know God is to grasp the meaning or meanings of what love is, and to engage with Him so as to encounter love in all the ways He intended from the very beginning of time.

The English language uses the word, love, to describe many things. But the writers of the New Testament have 4 words for love.

Eros – sexual love
Phileo – brotherly “platonic” love
Storge – natural, innate love, such as the love of a mother for a child
Agape – unconditional, divine, love

All of the scripture below deals with divine (agape) love. When the writer of 1 John met the challenge of defining the infinitely complex, all powerful, all knowing, majestic, glorious Creator of the universe, he wrote only 3 words, “. . . God is love” – 1 John 4:8.

Over the next few weeks, we will contemplate together, the human experience of knowing divine love. To start down this path, let’s consider the importance of knowing divine love. Continue reading


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Your Part in the Grand Story

A challenge to complete the Great Commission.
Lesson 65 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…

– Matthew 28:19

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

– Mark 16:15

…repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

– Luke 24:47

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.

– Matthew 24:14

And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations.

– Mark 13:10

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

– 2 Peter 3:9

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we considered the final goal of God’s grand story as it has been revealed to man: “That God might be worshipped with white–hot affection by a redeemed company of countless persons from every tribe and tongue and people and nation”1 (Revelation 5:9, Revelation 7:9). From 1 Corinthians 2:9, we saw that what God has prepared for those who love Him is too wonderful for us to even comprehend. We also saw that those who love God will dwell in a new heaven and a new earth where they will reign with Him and glorify Him forever! (Revelation 22:5, Psalm 86:12).

But when will these things take place? If you recall from Lesson 60, we read that just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave his followers some final instructions. These instructions are commonly known as the Great Commission and may be found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. (They are listed at the beginning of this lesson.) Notice from Matthew 24:14 that “the end” (the final goal of God’s grand story) will not come until the gospel is “preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations.”

Recall from Lesson 25 that a nation, in the Biblical sense of the word, is not simply a geographic country, but rather a people group that is distinct from other people groups by virtue of language, culture, tribal affiliation, etc. Immediately after God’s judgment at Babel, 70 nations were born. In our world today there are thousands of nations. Many of them have yet to be reached with the Gospel. And until they are reached, the end (or the beginning depending on how you see it) will not come. Continue reading


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God’s Love and Justice Intersect

At the cross His justice was satisfied and His love fulfilled.
Lesson 54 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

After nailing Jesus to the wood, they lifted Him up to die. Over Him they placed a sign indicating that on this cross hangs the King of the Hebrew people. The religious leaders objected, but the soldiers followed the governor’s orders. The sign remained. Some reviled Him …others mourned. Yet through it all Jesus did not say a harsh word. Instead, speaking to His Father in Heaven He said, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” For three hours darkness fell over the land. It seemed so senseless. And yet it made perfect sense.

God is righteous and just and pure. He could not accept the evil that entered the world through Satan. Nor could He accept the evil that entered humankind through Adam, for to do so would be to violate His character, and corrupt His nature.

But God is also love. He created people to love them and to be loved by them. For God to judge people for the evil in them would be to destroy the very objects of His love.

This was a dilemma of divine proportions. But according to His story, this moment had been planned before creation, and predicted throughout the ages.

At the cross Jesus took our sin upon Himself. He paid the penalty for our sin. He became our substitute. At the cross God’s justice was satisfied, and His love fulfilled.

– The HOPE, Chapter 10

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Millions of people around the world wear crosses as jewelry. But in reality, the cross is an instrument of death, not an ornament.1 After being “tried” by the Hebrew religious leaders, the governor, and a Hebrew king named Herod…after being beaten to near death…after being rejected by a frenzied crowd…Jesus was then sent out to a place called Golgotha (the Place of the Skull) to die on a cross.

While the events surrounding the cross of Jesus are described in the final chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, no amount of words can fully describe or capture the meaning of that cross and what Jesus accomplished on it. What He did was horrible and yet beautiful, obscene and yet holy, common and yet magnificent, simple and yet brilliant.

If you have not already done so, read carefully the excerpt above from The HOPE. Consider the phrase “a dilemma of divine proportions.” The dictionary defines a dilemma as a situation that requires a choice between options that seem mutually exclusive; a problem that seems to defy a solution. If you could pull back the facade of visible forces that appear to rule our world, (namely the power of people and the power of nature), you would find two invisible forces behind it all, shaping the course of history as we observe it. The first is God’s love for people, and the second is His righteous responsibility to judge them. These two great forces seem to be irreconcilable to each other – “a dilemma of divine proportions.” Yet at the cross of Jesus these two great forces were forever reconciled! Continue reading


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And God Was “Willing” to Be Grieved

His willingness to be grieved shows how much He loves you.
Lesson 22 from The HOPE Study Guide

Introduction

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

– Genesis 6:5–6

The earth became filled with evil. And God was grieved!

– The HOPE, Chapter 4

Observe & Consider

In the previous lesson we considered how rapidly sin increased on the earth in the generations after Adam and Eve. Today we will consider God’s response to this as recorded in Genesis 6:6. But before we attempt to discover what God might say to us through this verse, let’s determine what it is not saying.

The phrase, “And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth,” could be understood in a number of ways. For instance, a person might say, “I’m sorry I got myself into this mess.” And by that he would mean, “I wish I hadn’t done what I did to be in this situation,” or “If I had it to do over, I would do it differently.” Applying this line of thought, could we read Genesis 6:6 and reasonably conclude that God regretted doing what He had done, as if He had made a bad decision?

We cannot conclude such a thing, and here’s why. The Bible never contradicts itself. A verse should always be considered in light of the whole Bible, and when we look at what the whole Bible says about God we learn that:

  • His ways are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4). Creating man could not have been a mistake because God doesn’t make mistakes.
  • He knows everything (Psalm 139:16). God knew that He would have sorrow and grief over the sin of mankind, even before Adam and Eve were created.

So what is this verse saying to us? To say that God was sorry and that He grieved in His heart shows us that God has emotions. In fact, the Bible frequently ascribes emotions to God. At various times He is said to be grieved (Psalm 78:40), angry (Deuteronomy 1:37), pleased (1 Kings 3:10), joyful (Zephaniah 3:17), and moved by pity (Judges 2:18). But who can really understand the emotions of God who is infinite? Continue reading