Psalm 3: A Certainty of Victory

by Carolyn Hope

You are standing in a valley, sword in one hand, shield in another. You’re out of breath from running; you’ve stopped because there’s nowhere left to turn. Utterly surrounded, you stare at all the enemy forces; thousands upon thousands are waiting to attack. There is no escape, for every direction and every side are filled with foes.

You hear a whisper ripple through the soldiers, Where is your God? Who can save you now? This whisper is repeated in a rising scale, until it becomes a deafening shout, a unified lie that nearly drowns out all thought.

You look at your sword, then your shield. You look up to the sky. A defiant glimmer shines in your eyes. With your jaw clenched and your muscles tight, you throw your sword and shield to the ground. Ignoring the shouts, the cheers, the taunts, and the jeers of your enemies, you spread your empty arms wide and yell into the air, GOD IS MY SHIELD! HE IS MY SWORD! THE LORD IS MY DEFENDER!

A hush comes over the crowd of attackers. You turn and view them all, and you begin to laugh. I am not afraid of you, you declare, for My King will defeat you! You are nothing against Him! He will have the victory!

Then you watch, as the light rises in the sky and your adversaries fall to the ground. He listened; He answered; He came. And the victory was won.

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Pictures From The Psalms

by Carolyn Hope

One of the most beloved books of the Bible is the book of Psalms. Composed by several different authors, Psalms is a collection of songs to the Lord. Often, these descriptive, honest works give us a peek into the emotions of those who follow after the Lord. They can bring much comfort and solace to hurting hearts, and also offer an appropriate outlet for our joy. No matter what you’re going through in life, there is something in Psalms that can speak to you.

This week, instead of bringing my thoughts on a particular chapter or verse, I’d like to provide you with mental pictures – short stories – to help you imagine what the author could have been feeling or walking through. The Hebraic Psalms in their original form were written with emotion, beautiful poetry, and captivating imagery. These characteristics are, unfortunately, hard to maintain when translated into the English language.

My hope is that this week, I can help you stop and ponder, and picture, what the Psalmists were saying. I’d like to, if I can, take you back to a place of beauty and powerful, emotional, truth. There are indeed truths in the principles we find in the Psalms, and those are not to be forgotten. For now however, I’d like to highlight the storytelling nature of this prose, which should be remembered.

As you read each of these snippets, I encourage you to also read through the respective Psalm. See for yourself what the author wrote, and let its words permeate your heart. Even in dim, dark, painful times, you have a God, a King, and a Father who will give you victory.

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Victory

by Carolyn Hope

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

This passage of Scripture comes from John’s discourse on the differing spirits: those which are from God and those which are from the world. Although there are many spiritual forces against us, we have nothing to fear; the Spirit within us, the Spirit of God Himself, is far greater than anything in the world.

Many children are naturally afraid of the dark. Some cannot sleep without some kind of light on or someone being with them. There is something about darkness that stirs up the imagination to unusual and terrifying thoughts. Shadows can make even the most innocent of objects seem suspicious. When the presence of another person enters, however, peace settles. A young child can rest sweetly just knowing that there’s someone with him.

In this world is much darkness, but you have no reason to fear. As a child of the most high King, you are empowered with a light that obliterates darkness. Your God, Emmanuel, is always with you, and as such, you are never alone. You have already overcome that which rises against you because there is an unmatched greatness within you – the greatness of Holy Spirit. Walk in confidence, dear one. Victory is yours!

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Training

by Carolyn Hope

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. … Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7, 10-11)

Part of being a child is being disciplined. Parents discipline their children because they love them too much to let them run rampant and continue in destructive behavior. God is a very good Father who doesn’t want us to live anything less than His best for us, and so he disciplines us.

What is discipline, though? Our minds automatically interpret “discipline” as unpleasant consequences to wrong actions (some would call it punishment). The Greek word translated as “discipline” in this passage is paideuo. It can mean “to discipline” by implication, but it has other definitions listed first; these are “to train, educate, or tutor.” Such terms have more to do with teaching a child than punishing him.

I’d like to invite you to consider God’s discipline more as training than as punishment. Will there be times of correction? Yes. Will the Lord’s training, stretching, growing, and re-directing always be pleasant? No. Likely, it will be hard and challenging. Even so, it is for our good that God disciplines us. Rather than leave us where we are, His heart is to lead us into more. He knows we can be greater than we presently are, and so in patience and kindness, He teaches us and transforms us.

When you hear God’s voice, pay attention to what He’s saying. Listen to His wisdom. Make the changes He asks you to.

If you find yourself walking through a trial, see it as a chance to grow and to show yourself for who you are, as opposed to a punishment sent by your Father because you aren’t yet perfect. Dear child, Jesus paid the full and complete price for your sin and imperfections. Why would the Father then also punish you? It would be wrong and unjust of Him to do so. If He allows something hard to come into your life, it is not from a place of anger but from a place of love and trust. Perhaps the reason your situation hasn’t miraculously disappeared is that He knows you can overcome it and He wants you to triumph. God’s discipline, though usually more painful than pleasant, is never to break you; it’s always to shape you into more.

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Revelation

by Carolyn Hope

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” (Matthew 11:25-26)

Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 1 that, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God … But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (verses 18 and 27). In essence, the Gospel does not make sense to human reasoning. It seems foolish and ridiculous; yet upon belief, it suddenly makes sense.

Children are willing to believe crazy, impossible things. You can tell them that you came from an alien planet and once had blue skin, and they would be amazed. Their trust and faith don’t rely on mental reason. Often we call them ‘gullible’ and ‘naïve’ … yet the simple believing nature of children was applauded by Jesus. He said that it pleased God to reveal things to little children which even the wise could not comprehend.

Revelation doesn’t come through reason but through faith. It is when you believe that Holy Spirit begins depositing truth in your heart. You are called to have a child-like faith. Will you be brave enough to simply believe what God says? Will you take Him at His Word and not try to figure everything out? Will you trust Him to fulfill His promises when they don’t make the least bit of sense?

Your Father is trustworthy. He is true and faithful. He has much more to give you, and much more to show you. As you rest in His promises, I believe you’ll find a deeper well of revelation and understanding. God delights in sharing secrets with His children. In order to hear His whispers, you must draw near. In order to draw near, you must believe (see Hebrews 11:6).

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Transformation

by Carolyn Hope

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Another way to say this verse could be, ‘As dearly loved children, imitate God and live in love, just like Christ loved us.’ When you love someone, you’ll naturally start to become more like him. You’ll want to spend time with him, and as you do, you’ll begin to behave, speak, look, and sound more and more like him. You may not even realize it’s happening; it is simply part of the process of love.

John tells us that one day, we will be fully transformed into the likeness of Christ (1 John 3:2); for now, we are being transformed daily (Romans 12:2), following after the Spirit and modeling ourselves after our Father.

I have a brother, Jonathan. He is the spitting image of my Dad. It’s so interesting to watch him grow up and to observe how he has modeled my father. They started out physically alike, but now in my brother’s mannerisms, speech, thinking, reasoning, sense of humor, etc. he resembles my father amazingly. Even the way he stands and walks is exactly like my Dad! The likeness between my brother and my father is unmistakable and striking, and has only grown with time.

You were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Though once lost in sin and shame, you have been saved, redeemed, and brought back into the loving arms of your Father. As you seek Him, reading His Word, learning His heart, and spending time in His presence, you are becoming more and more like Him. You may not notice the change that is taking place, but others will. You are being transformed; it’s a process that takes time, so be patient with yourself. Do not fear that becoming more like Jesus means losing your individuality. You will always be uniquely you, but the more you resemble Christ, the closer you are to who you were originally designed to be. You are His son or daughter. When you act like Him, speak like Him, laugh like Him, and think like Him, the world cannot deny you are His.

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Access

by Carolyn Hope

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:15-17)

In the first portion of Romans 8, Paul discusses the difference between living according to the Spirit and living according to our sinful nature. Those who live by the Spirit, he says, are children of God. He then tells us some of what being a child of God means for us in the verses above. As children, we call God our Abba, our Father. In addition, being God’s children makes us His heirs who will share in the glory of Jesus.

Something happens when we transition from slave to son. Not only are we given freedom and an inheritance, but we enter into a newfound intimacy with our Father. We can approach Him with confidence, knowing that He loves us, and we can go deeper into our love for Him each day.

In one of my college classes, I experienced such a shift in relationship with my professor. Throughout the class, I could feel him watching me and I didn’t know why. We had very little interaction, though I much respected him and gratefully learned from him. Our final test was an in-person lab in which we had to put into practice all we had learned. My test date came, and it went extremely well, better than I had even hoped. After that day, something changed in my relationship with that teacher. From that point on, when he looked at me, it was with pride. It was as if he knew all along I would do well, and I had proved him right. A door had been opened, and I could freely approach him knowing that he would fully accept me. I began attending the church he pastors, and he has become a father figure to me that I am very grateful for. My relationship with him has touched my heart in ways I never expected.

When you believed on Jesus, you became the son or daughter God created you to be. You are His child, and nothing can change that. He views you with great love, joy, and pride. He has deep confidence in you and in all that you will do. You have access to your Father, a freedom to approach Him without hesitation, and an intimacy that is unprecedented and incredible. Draw close to your Father today; His arms and His heart are wide open to you.

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The Faith of a Child

by Carolyn Hope

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)

Children are fantastic and beautiful blessings. Though certainly not perfect, they bring much light and joy to their families, their friends, and the world. There are many admirable qualities that children possess.

Not everyone values children. Some view them as nuisances, in the way, annoying, or unimportant. Jesus did not hold such a view; He loves children, and He thinks most highly of them. These verses from Mark clearly display that.

While there are plenty of points one could dwell on in this passage, the phrase I’d like to key in on is, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Children, of all people, are the ones Jesus said God’s kingdom will go to. Not the rich, nor the influential, nor the powerful. Not the well-behaved, the righteous, or the perfect. Children.

How fitting it is then when the New Testament epistles describe Christians as children of God. He is a loving Father who adopted us into His family. As His child, there are new realities given to you, such as access, revelation, and victory. This week, I hope you will be encouraged to have the faith of a child and to walk in confidence of your identity.

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Enduring Resolve

by Carolyn Hope

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)

Besides articles, pronouns, prepositions, and conjunctions, there is only one word used twice in these verses: “endured.” We are aware that Jesus went through the worst possible experience there could ever be for our sake. He didn’t simply get through the beatings, the lashes, the nails, and the cross; Jesus endured. Dictionary.com defines ‘endure’ as “to hold out against; sustain without impairment or yielding; undergo.”

The pain and suffering Jesus bore did not change Him. It did not deter His mission from the Father, and it could not dampen the fire in His heart. His love for us held out against death and the grave. His love won the victory!

Many times when we’re going through something rough and unpleasant, we just want to ‘get through.’ Our focus is on getting out of that misfortunate circumstance as quickly as possible. There is nothing wrong with wanting such times to be over, but I want to encourage you to endure. Let the process unfold. Let Jesus be glorified in your response to your situation.

It’s in the depth of darkness that light shines the brightest; it’s under the greatest pressure that the truest beauty comes forth. Rise up and let your heart present itself. Painful circumstances are often the time that God uses to display His glory within us. Let yourself be a beacon of hope and truth as you endure for His sake. This is resolve; to not simply remain, but to rise up and let all that’s within you present itself to the world.

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Diligent Resolve

by Carolyn Hope

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. (Genesis 39:6-12)

Most of us are familiar with the life of Joseph. He was a dreamer, gifted and called to more than he knew. He was a leader, a good manager, and greatly blessed by God’s hand on his life. He was also handsome. The wife of Joseph’s master took notice of him and soon pressured him to do things with her that he should not do.

Joseph not only refused her advances, but he also avoided her completely. He was resolved to keep his purity, and he guarded his heart well. When Potiphar’s wife confronted him with sexual temptation, he ran away. He was diligent in staying pure and honoring God with not only his life but with his body as well. On the surface, it seems that his resolve backfired. He was unjustly sent to prison, punished for a crime he did not commit. This downhill turn, however, was actually part of the path God used to elevate him to the highest position he could possibly attain. Man may not have honored Joseph for his resolve to purity, but God did.

Resolve requires diligence. Every day you must be faithful to guard your heart. Be alert; pay attention. Sometimes being resolved means getting out of a place you shouldn’t be in. Others may not appreciate the stands you take or the commitments you keep. Know that your Father will honor your choice to remain true to who you are and who He made you to be. People may not see the sacrifices you make to maintain your resolve, but He sees, and He is pleased when you choose diligent resolve.

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