devos from the hill


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How to Know if You are Really Experiencing the Love of God

By Fred Carpenter

I came to faith in Jesus Christ in 1974, near the end of my senior year at the University of Texas. Just prior to that, I was practicing Transcendental Meditation and studying Mahayana Buddhism. I believe there were 2 things God used to prime my departure from TM and MB.

The first catalyst was a book written by Francis Schaeffer, entitled, “He is There, He is Not Silent.”  This book deals with the epistemological, metaphysical and moral necessity of the God of the Bible. Those are some high-sounding words, but basically, it came down to this. My study of Buddhism was producing more questions than answers, and that book by Francis Schaeffer answered every question I was asking!

The second eye-opener had to do with a matter of love. During that period of my life, I was befriended by a group of Christian guys. When my colleagues in TM talked about the need for love in the world, it was more like describing the need for people to achieve a certain state of being in which everybody is on the same wavelength. It was abstract. With my new Christian friends, I actually saw love in action. For them, love was not an idea, it was something very concrete. As I consider the subject of today’s devotional, I am reminded of that difference. 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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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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Reflections from Hurricane Harvey – Asking the Question, “Why?”

Hurricane Harvey dumped over 9 trillion gallons of water over the greater Houston area and Southeast Texas, enough to occupy 33,906 Empire State Buildings, from basement to penthouse. The flooding was the worst in U.S. history!

Hurricane Harvey

Biblically, there are 3 explanations for the occurrence of natural disasters.

1) The Natural World – Prior to the fall of man, Adam and Eve walked in a world of perfect harmony and balance, without natural disasters. We live in a fallen world, one that is in the painful process of giving birth to a new creation.

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. – Romans 8:22

2) Satan – God has given Satan limited power to affect this world. We see this in the book of Job when God allowed Satan to bring natural calamity into Job’s life.

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. – Job 1:12

3) God – In order to accomplish His purposes in this world, God also brings natural calamity.

The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. – Isa 45:7

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. Continue reading


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Free from the Fog of Fear

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18 NASB

Today we are talking about fear. Not the kind of fear that suddenly grips you with terror, but the kind that lurks below the surface of your conscious mind. The fear we equate with terror comes on us in an instant, like a life-threatening wound from a gunshot. The kind of fear we are talking about today is more like a slow moving disease. It’s the kind of fear you may not even be aware of, or have forgotten was there, until you’re faced with a challenge (or an opportunity) that reminds you of its power.

This is the kind of fear every one of us inherited as a son of Adam. This kind of fear can rob you of peace and joy, and keep you from running unencumbered toward your destiny. This kind of fear can bring the flow of your life to a standstill, just as a dense fog can bring the vibrant flow of traffic in a busy city to a dead halt.

But consider this, according to the Bureau of Standards in Washington, a dense fog, covering seven city blocks to a depth of 100 feet is composed of less than one glass of water. That amount of water is divided into about 60 billion tiny droplets. Yet when those minute particles settle over a city or the countryside, they can almost blot out everything from sight. Continue reading