Unfailing Grace

by Carolyn Hope

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)

“By the grace of God I am what I am.” This is such a powerful statement, especially when you consider that it came from Paul. The man who had once been such a strong antagonist against the church became one of its greatest apostles. Only the grace of God can cause such a total transformation.

What is grace, though?

Many times, we look at grace like an eraser. We think its sole purpose is to remove our sin. If you look at the original Hebrew, however, you’ll find that grace means a gift or favor. Grace then, is God’s gift to us and favor toward us. We cannot earn or deserve grace, but God freely gives it to us anyway. The full purpose of grace isn’t simply to take the trash out of our lives so we don’t stink anymore – it’s actually to impart into our lives to make us new and right.

Grace is an empowerment to live the way God calls you to live. The beauty of His grace is that it is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9). It is always more than enough. God’s grace is a source of power inside you that will never run out or die. This power is what pushes you to become better and more than you’ve ever been before. Live gracefully (full of grace) today. You have what it takes.

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An Unfailing God

by Carolyn Hope

We have a God who is unfailing. Never once has He failed, nor will He ever fail in the future. People let us down, disappoint us, and deplete our hope. God does not.

There are many characteristics of God, many facets of who He is. In every one of them, He is unfailing. He is unfailing in patience, in grace, and in love. This week, I hope you will find affirmation and confidence in the unfailing nature of our Jesus. He is always for you. He will always pursue you. You can count on Him to come through for you; He will, every time.

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Chosen Ones: You!

by Carolyn Hope

“I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.” (Isaiah 41:9)

Isaiah 41 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. It so confidently affirms God’s power and tender love for His children. We see from this verse that it doesn’t matter where you come from, or how far from God you have been. He will always call you back to Himself.

He also decrees that you are His chosen one, and He won’t ever change His mind. We live in a culture that says, “If it’s broken, you don’t like it anymore, or it doesn’t meet your expectations, throw it away and get a new one.” That’s not how God views you. You are not dispensable, nor are you replaceable. There’s only one you, and Jesus wants you for who you are. He won’t ever get tired of you. He’ll never be impatient with you. You don’t have to be nervous about God’s attitude toward you. You are always accepted, and you’ll always be His chosen child.

Rest in the truth that you were chosen, and you were chosen for a reason. You are enough for whatever God calls you to. With Him by your side, you can do anything. You can walk confidently, knowing that your Father forever chooses you.

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Chosen Ones: The Hostile

by Carolyn Hope

Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning. (Ephesians 3:8-9)

Paul is one of the most influential Christians that have ever lived. He wrote nearly two-thirds of our New Testament, and he started many churches on his missionary journeys, but before his conversion, Paul was the church’s most fervent of enemies. He persecuted the early Christians with zeal, hunting them down to throw in prison and even execute. Absolutely convinced that Christianity was a cult, he was determined to put an end to it.

This was the man that Jesus chose to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Of all people, Paul! That would be like choosing an ex-abortion clinic owner to be the head of the Pro-Life movement. A more similar situation would be an ISIS leader getting radically saved and then becoming a prominent leader in today’s church. It contradicts both our reasoning and our feelings.

God chooses even His enemies for His work. He doesn’t look at them with hatred, but with love and a heart to bring them into His family.

Paul recognized that he was undeserving of his calling. God’s choosing you is not a consequence of your behavior. You can’t earn a calling; it’s a gift that Holy Spirit has handed you, and He won’t take it back. Your only responsibility is to respond to the call. You are worthy. God said you were so when He chose you – and He did indeed choose you. Do not let your feelings of unworthiness hold you back from the dream in God’s heart for you.

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Chosen Ones: The Outcasts

by Carolyn Hope

Now there were four men with leprosy sitting at the entrance of the city gates. “Why should we sit here waiting to die?” they asked each other … “we might as well go out and surrender to the Aramean army. If they let us live, so much the better. But if they kill us, we would have died anyway.” So at twilight they set out for the camp of the Arameans. But when they came to the edge of the camp, no one was there! For the Lord had caused the Aramean army to hear the clatter of speeding chariots and the galloping of horses and the sounds of a great army approaching … So [the lepers] went back to the city and told the gatekeepers what had happened … Then the gatekeepers shouted the news to the people in the palace. (2 Kings 7:3-11)

For a long time, the Arameans had been attacking the capital of the ten tribes of Israel, Samaria. Samaria suffered a great famine, because of the length of the siege. They were so desperate that they were selling dove dung for food, and mothers began eating their very own children. In this time of despair, God brought a miraculous, supernatural end to the enemy’s siege. He chose four lepers to discover His answer to the famine.

Think about it. God could have chosen anyone in Israel – the king, the generals, the warriors, the prestigious priests – but He didn’t. No, instead he picked four men on the brink of death, with nothing to hope for. These men were outcasts of society, considered better off dead. When God looked at them, however, He saw the beauty of their hearts, and He used them to be the first to witness His deliverance. They proved themselves to be good stewards of saving news when they took the word back to the gatekeepers that the enemies were gone. They could have kept the plunder to themselves, and they were certainly tempted to do so. However, in humble gratitude, they went back to the people who would not touch them in order to proclaim the freeing provision of the Lord.

God does not take into consideration other people’s views of you when He chooses you. He’s not concerned about whether society accepts you or not. He cares about your heart. You may think you’re not worth choosing, because you’re sick, or rejected, or an outcast. Jesus tenderly looks you in the eyes and says, “I choose you. I choose you to be Mine. I choose you for the work I want to do in this world. You are just the person I’ve been looking for.” God didn’t choose you by accident, or by default, or because there was no one better. He chose you because you are valuable, you are uniquely needed, and only you can fulfill the calling He has placed on your life. You can accept yourself; Jesus has already accepted you as perfect for His plan.

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Chosen Ones: The Weak

by Carolyn Hope

Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” (Judges 6:14-16)

Gideon’s first reaction to God’s call was to disqualify himself on the basis of his family and his own person. “We’re the weaklings,” he said. “I am the least of them all.” God had already told Gideon that he was a strong, mighty warrior; yet Gideon’s view of himself was the exact opposite. He insecurely replied, “How can I?” And the Lord’s comfort was found in two promises: His presence, and the certainty of victory. The rest of Judges 6 and 7 tells us that God indeed was with Gideon, and the Israelites were given a complete and powerful victory.

You may look at your family, your background, or your failures and think that God could never use you. That’s the opposite of the truth! Jesus says His strength is made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Whatever you think you are or aren’t, does not define your identity. Your identity is found in God’s Word, and your calling comes from His heart. He has chosen you for a purpose on purpose. The One who made you says you are able to do what He asks you to do. Your past, your family line, or your insecurities do not disqualify you. What Jesus says about you is the truth, and you can trust Him to keep His promises.

If you’re feeling small, insignificant, weak, or afraid, remember: God used a mere 300 to defeat thousands of enemies. He can do far more with your life than you can imagine; and if you’ll submit to Him, you’ll see firsthand the mighty power of God.

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Chosen Ones: The Impure

by Carolyn Hope

Then Joshua secretly sent out two spies from the Israelite camp at Acacia Grove. He instructed them, “Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho.” So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night … “Now swear to me by the Lord that you will be kind to me and my family since I have helped you” … So Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute and her relatives who were with her in the house, because she had hidden the spies Joshua sent to Jericho. (Joshua 2:1, 12; Joshua 6:25)

Jerusalem was a wicked city, an immoral and depraved place. Even so, there must have been many far better choices to help the Israelites than a prostitute, but that’s who Rahab was, and she showed herself to be a worthy choice. She protected the Israelite spies at the risk of her life. In return, she asked that she and her family be spared from the destruction the Israelites were about to bring upon Jerusalem. Not only was she allowed to live, but God honored her. She became a part of the lineage of Jesus.

You don’t have to be perfect, holy, or spotlessly pure to be chosen by God. He chose you to be His child in the midst of your wretchedness, just as He chose Rahab while she was still a prostitute. The sins you’ve committed cannot separate you from the love Jesus has for you; neither can they keep you from becoming who He has called you to be. God is a redeeming God; Rahab, a woman of impurity, became the great-great-great-great-great-etc. grandmother of Jesus, the only human being who was perfectly pure (see Matthew 1 for the genealogy of Jesus). You may think that what you’ve done or been is too sinful, too messed up, or too ugly to be reversed, but it isn’t. God doesn’t pick people based on their failures. He picks people because of the potential He sees within them, and the person He knows they can become. Don’t count yourself unworthy and unusable because of your past, or even your present state. Your Father has purposes for you that are greater than your impurities.

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Chosen Ones

by Carolyn Hope

God has a way of picking people that the world would never think to choose. The Bible is full of characters that we would deem less-than-desirable because of all their issues and imperfections. Yet, in His surprising, glorious way, God selects them for His work. He can and does use anyone to build His kingdom.

This week, I hope to encourage you with some examples of the unlikely people that God chose. Some were outcasts, the weak, and the impure. Through their stories, we can see how God’s choice is incredible, certain, and enough. You have been chosen to be a child of God, and you will do great things for Him. You can rest in God’s choice of you; His choice is always the best.

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Faithful to Empower

by Carolyn Hope

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Throughout the Old Testament, we see many instances where God empowered specific people. Before Israel had a king, God appointed Samson as a judge, and many times He gave him the strength to defeat hundreds of enemies at once. Later in Israel’s history, the Holy Spirit came upon Elijah, and he was able to run and overtake the chariot of the king. There are many others who received the power of God for a particular purpose at some point. These experiences, however, didn’t last. Holy Spirit came and went, but didn’t stay.

Then came Pentecost, where the believers who had been praying together were filled with Holy Spirit, and the words of Jesus in Acts 1 and the prophecy of Joel 2 were fulfilled. Now we live in a new era, under a new covenant; we can be empowered by Holy Spirit not just for short bursts of time, but for all of our lives. We can live empowered.

God doesn’t want you to be weak or helpless. He created you to be a powerful, mighty warrior. And He is faithful to give you the power you need. If you don’t feel like your life is a life of power, ask the Lord to empower you. He will do it because He loves you and believes in you.

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Faithful to Restore

by Carolyn Hope

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. (Colossians 1:21-23)

When Jesus first created man and woman, He made them with the ability to have an intimate relationship with Him. Then in their temptation, they chose to sin, and that personal relationship was hindered by their iniquity. From then on, mankind struggled to maintain a relationship with God.

God wasn’t satisfied with our sinful state, and so He sent Jesus to make things right for us. Now, we can be brought back into intimacy with our Father and Maker. We have been restored. Not only are our sins forgiven, but we have been made new. Once we were dirty and at fault; now we are holy in His sight and without blemish!

Your restoration didn’t end with your salvation. God is still restoring – He’s restoring your health, your relationships, your business, your finances, your hopes and dreams, and more. What has been broken or destroyed, Jesus can and will make new. Call on Him today to make every wrong thing right again. He is faithful to restore every part of your life.

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