Psalm 116: A Rescued Child

by Carolyn Hope

It’s dark. Cold. Damp. I try to look around, but it’s too dark to see. So I feel instead; my bare feet perceive cold, earthy stones. My hands touch walls of dirt. I find myself in a circular grave, waiting to die.

Tears begin to fall as I realize there’s no escape. I am young; I’m but a child. I don’t want to die!

Frantically, I cry out for help, “Is anyone there? Can anyone save me? Help! Help!” I keep screaming until my voice is hoarse and my mouth is dry. When I can no longer croak out a call of distress, I sink to the ground. It’s over.

Then suddenly, unexpectedly, finally, I hear a voice: “Hello! Is someone down there?”

I jump up to respond, but my voice breaks. I clear my throat and try again, “Yes!” All that comes out is a faint whisper. Will whoever this is even hear?

I am quickly reassured when my would-be-rescuer responds, “Don’t worry! I’ll get you out!” I hear something thunk! against the ground, and the voice tells me, “Grab hold of the rope and I’ll pull you up!”

I crawl around for a few minutes until my hand finds something coarse and thick. I grab it with both hands and tug on it slightly. Swiftly, miraculously, I am lifted out of the darkness and drawn into a shockingly pleasant light. Once my eyes have adjusted, I observe my savior. Instantly, I’m smitten. This is a man of kindness, goodness, and strength. This is a man with love in his strikingly blue eyes. This is a father.

He looks me over, making sure I have no injuries. He wipes my tears and gathers me in his arms. Then he whispers, “Let’s go home.”

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Psalm 93: A Mighty King

by Carolyn Hope

The King sits on His throne. As you enter the courtroom, you take in His glory. His robes are made of majesty, royal red interwoven with gold. Under His robes lies His armor, forged in the fire of His strength. Before Him rests the world on its secure stand; no earthquake or shaking can move it.

This is the throne of the ages, and this is the God who forever has been and forever will be.

As you observe this scene, waters from the earth begin to rise up. Floods begin to mount, higher and higher, until they reach the throne room. A whistling wind rips through, causing the waters to thrash and pound; waves higher than you have ever seen crash around you, and each crash brings peals of thunder so great that your very bones reverberate from the sound.

The King stands from His throne, and the waves immediately bow before Him. The waters deplete, the howling wind deflates, and all is back to peace. As the King sinks once again into His throne, you stare in awe at His simple might and unstoppable authority. Forever He has been; forever He will be. Nothing can stand against the one and only King.

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Psalms 42-43: A Daring Hope

by Carolyn Hope

Where am I? How did I end up here? You think to yourself as you wake up. The ground beneath you is dry and dusty; the sun beats down hotly on your skin. You look at your hands, and you find they’re tied together. But your feet are free. You stand up and gaze around. You’re in a circle of bodies, surrounded by glaring faces. They sneer at you and shout offenses. The pressure is building, and it won’t be long before something breaks.

Someone from behind kicks you forward. “Where’s your God now?” He demands. “Did you lose him? Did he forget about you?” The antagonists laugh and mock you, “He’ll never come!”

You feel weak and dazed. Taking a deep breath, you close your eyes, and the noise around you goes silent as you remember:

In the city of Jerusalem, you make your way to the temple. Relatives, friends, fellow citizens and chosen ones go behind you as you lead the way. There’s singing, dancing, praising, shouting. Joy permeates the air as you head to the house of the Lord.

A rough shove stirs you from your memory. Here you are surrounded, but it is by enemies and foes. Here, there is shouting, but it is the noise of mockery, not worship. Your eyes flash open, and in audacity you stare at those who encircle you. Your blazing bravery is met with laughter and ridicule. “You don’t stand a chance! Where’s your God when you need him? He’ll never come!”

Your emotions rage, but your feet stand still. What am I doing? You wonder. Why shouldn’t I give in? How could I possibly get out of this? You shake your head and take hold of your thoughts. “No,” you say aloud. “I dare to hope in my God!” In your heart, you know: He will fight for you, He will defend you, and He will lead you home.

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Psalm 27: A Source of Safety

by Carolyn Hope

As the sun rises over the mountains, I approach a tall tower. It’s still in the distance, but steadily I make my way toward it. I am aware of the lion stalking me in the nearby greenery; yet I feel no fear. If he charges after me, his feet will stumble. He’ll only end up with a bruised nose and a broken pride.

This land is covered with bandits, but they will not touch me. If they should attack me, my courage will remain.

I go to ask my God for only one thing: that I may abide in His tower, where I may be with Him. There I will find safety. There will be my security and refuge. There, protected and confident, I will pay no heed to the enemies that come against us. No, for I will be too busy praising my Lord and giving Him all my heart!

I knock on the tower door. Will He answer?

“Lord, You have always been good to me. You have always helped me when I had a need. Please, don’t turn me away! Don’t close the door to me! I’m relying on You and You alone.”

If I were to knock on my parent’s home, would they turn me away? Certainly not. Yet, even if they did, my God wouldn’t. No, He will never turn me away.

“I’m here, Lord. Teach me strategy. Show me how to live and walk in a world full of enemies. They observe my every move, waiting to pounce at just the right moment. Don’t let them catch me. They breathe lies and formulate threats to intimidate me.”

I am not intimidated; rather, I am fearless. I know that my God will be good to me. In this life, here in this place, I expect His goodness to come.

So I will wait with patience and bravery. My heart will take courage. I wait for my God to come.

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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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