Fatherly Relations (Relations with the Father)

by Carolyn Hope

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. (Ephesians 1:2-6)

The bulk of this passage is describing what God has done for us and how He has become our Father. Before the first sunrise, before the first day, the Lord decided to adopt us into His family. It was always His plan to draw us to Himself through Jesus; and the thought of our becoming His brought Him joy and delight. We don’t have to do a thing to gain His favor. All we have to do is believe Him. Because of this, we give Him praise. Not out of obligation or duty, but from the abundant overflow of gratitude in our hearts.

How do we interact with our Perfect Father? We do so with freedom, confidence, and love. We are free to approach Him at any time and about anything. We can be confident in the goodness of who He is, and in who we are because of Him. Finally, we can walk in love, for we are always, unchangeably, unshakably loved by our Dad; and because He loves us, we can love Him back.

Last week, I was serving in the nursery at my church. There were a dozen children in the class, ranging from about five months old to three and a half years. One particular baby was in there for the first time, and he was doing really well. Toward the end of the service, however, he got a little fussy because he was tired but didn’t want to fall asleep. I picked him up and held him, rocking him gently and holding him close. After a couple minutes, he settled into my arms, calm and peaceful. Soon he was sleeping, and he remained asleep even after the service was over and his dad picked him up.

Your Father holds you tenderly and gently, and you are forever secure in His embrace. Settle into His love. Let yourself find rest and peace in His strong arms. You don’t have to work, or strive, or stay awake. In His presence, you can be free. You can be confident that He will take care of you. His love for you is perpetual and enough. You are enough in Him.

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Feisty Relations (Relations with Foes)

by Carolyn Hope

Once more he asked them, “Who are you looking for?” And again they replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.” “I told you that I AM he,” Jesus said. “And since I am the one you want, let these others go.” He did this to fulfill his own statement: “I did not lose a single one of those you have given me.” Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?” (John 18:7-11)

When confronted with danger, our natural response is to fight it or to run away. Jesus did neither. He stepped forward and submitted Himself as the Sacrifice for us all. He could have defeated his enemies right then and there; He didn’t. He could have lashed out in hatred or anger; He didn’t. He could have slipped away as He had done before with hostile crowds; He didn’t do that either. In bravery and compassion, Jesus remained the same person and Savior that He always was.

Peter’s response, on the other hand, was to pull out his sword and attack. In all four Gospel accounts of this scene, Jesus squelches the violent impulses of his disciples. A movement that did not start with violence and was not run by force would not end in violence or force. This is not to say that self-defense or fighting for a cause is evil; the point is simply that opposition did not change God’s plan or His heart.

When people or circumstances rise against you, do not let them change you. Whatever you do, however you respond, let it be from who you are, not from fear or pressure. Walk in your authority and the peace that has been given to you. Let your decisions be based on your character, not your emotions. Who you are is more powerful than any weapon. Whatever you do, be true to yourself, and fight for who God says you are.

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Friendly Relations

by Carolyn Hope

After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has. So take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf. …” So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite did as the Lord commanded them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! (Job 42:7-10)

Friends don’t always say the right things. Sometimes when we’re going through a rough patch in life, they simply don’t know what to say; but there’s an unexpressed yet ever-present pressure to speak, and honestly wanting to help, they come up with words … words that aren’t always what we need to hear.

This was the case with Job’s friends. Job was suffering. He was hurting and depressed. Reasonably, his friends were concerned for him, and so they came to offer counsel and comfort. There was a problem, however: these friends had faulty doctrine and wrong theology, which they imposed upon Job. In so doing, they didn’t help him; rather, they hindered him.

At the end of Job’s trial, God sent his friends to ask him to pray for them, and he answered their request. He prayed for them, interceding on their behalf. What is not stated but can be inferred is that Job must have forgiven his friends. How else could he offer a sincere and acceptable prayer to God for them? I believe Job chose to release them from anger, bitterness, or pain in his heart because he loved them and wanted the best for them.

Your friends will not always be who you need them to be, but you can still choose to love them. Even when they have caused you pain, you can forgive them and move forward. Will you be the kind of friend who doesn’t hold a grudge? Will you give people grace and be patient? It can be so hard to do that, especially when you’re hurting. I know. I’ve been there. My encouragement to you if you find yourself in this situation is two words: one more. Give that person one more chance. Hold on for one more day. Call him or her one more time. Don’t give up just yet.

Friendships, true quality friendships, are hard to come by. The friends that you have are worth your struggle and your sacrifice. Keep pushing through the hard times. You can do it. You will make it. It is worth it.

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Foreign Relations

by Carolyn Hope

When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, which brought honor to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. … When she met with Solomon, she talked with him about everything she had on her mind. Solomon had answers for all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. … Then she gave the king a gift of 9,000 pounds of gold, great quantities of spices, and precious jewels. … King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba whatever she asked for, besides all the customary gifts he had so generously given. Then she and all her attendants returned to their own land. (1 Kings 10:1-3, 10, 13)

Solomon’s reputation and renown were worldwide. The queen of Sheba heard of his greatness, and I imagine she was skeptical. She came to test him, to see if what was spoken of Solomon was really true. He was able to answer every question and meet every issue she proposed.

What I’d like to focus on in this encounter is the peaceful generosity of both parties. There are many examples of wars and hostility among the nations, both in Scripture and in history. Here we find an interaction that was peaceful and kind. The queen of Sheba gave to Solomon; Solomon gave to her; and back and forth they went. Both powers left the exchange satisfied and blessed. They were better off than when they started, for they were both generous and willing to share not only riches but knowledge and experiences as well.

This is a great picture for us in how we should interact internationally. When encountering people radically different than yourself, choose to be kind. Choose to be generous. Share yourself with them, be gracious to them, and give. Be open and receptive to their questions and queries. Listen to others’ honesty without being offended. As we learn to be mutually kind and open ourselves up to each other, we’ll find a wealth greater than anything we’ve ever known. There’s a beauty in sharing our lives with others and a joy in hearing of theirs. Don’t be afraid to give yourself away; you won’t leave empty or dissatisfied.

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Familial Relations

by Carolyn Hope

When Abram heard that his nephew Lot had been captured, he mobilized the 318 trained men who had been born into his household. Then he pursued Kedorlaomer’s army until he caught up with them at Dan. There he divided his men and attacked during the night. Kedorlaomer’s army fled, but Abram chased them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. Abram recovered all the goods that had been taken, and he brought back his nephew Lot with his possessions and all the women and other captives. (Genesis 14:14-16)

When Abraham left his country to follow God’s call, he brought his wife and his nephew, Lot. Lot’s father, Haran, died fairly early in life, and so Abraham took Lot in. Abraham kept a careful eye on him throughout their journey to Canaan. As they walked together, God blessed them both. They became very wealthy, so much so that the plot of land they shared could no longer support them both. Abraham and Lot decided to part ways, and Abraham graciously offered his nephew the first pick of the land before them. Lot decided to settle in a city called Sodom.

Sodom was a distasteful choice for a destination, for it brought much trouble into Lot’s life. In this part of the story, Sodom (along with a few other cities) lost a war, and because of that, Lot was taken captive. When Abraham heard what had happened, he wasted no time in going after his nephew. With a mere 318 men, Abraham did what five fighting forces could not do: he defeated the enemy and brought back every captive as well as multitudes of plunder. He rescued Lot. He fearlessly fought for his nephew. Lot wasn’t necessarily the ‘Best Nephew Ever.’ He wasn’t perfect, and he made plenty of mistakes. That did not stop Abraham from doing everything in his power to ensure he was safe.

The love you have for your family will motivate you to do crazy, reckless, unprecedented things. When you fight for those you love, there is a relentless force driving you forward until your mission is complete. Family is worth fighting for. Are they perfect? No. Do they mess up sometimes? Yes. You can still choose to actively love them and ardently pursue them.

Be there for your family when no one else is. Give them grace beyond understanding. Fight battles for them even when it will leave you bloody and bruised. God created families, and He created them to be together. Choose unity. Choose peace. Fight for your family, not against them. Let your love for your relatives be a fire within you too great to keep contained.

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Relations

by Carolyn Hope

Life is full of different relationships. Every person is unique, and as such, so is every relationship or interaction between two or more people. Sometimes, relationships can get extremely challenging or perhaps seem like a drag. As a task-oriented person, I can attest to occasionally feeling like people are distractions. In reality, however, life is about relationships and people; indeed, God is about relationships and people.

This week, I want to explore a few different types of relationships, highlighted in some accounts from Scripture. The way we act toward family and the way we behave with friends is not the same. While in no way will this be a thorough, complete, or exhaustive exploration, I hope to get you started in viewing the interactions of people in Scripture as relational advice for our own lives. From foreign relations to the relationship we have with our Father in heaven, the Bible covers it all. Every story, record, and verse in the Word is full of principles that are beneficial for the life God has called us to live.

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The Ruler

by Carolyn Hope

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are. You will be in charge of my court, and all my people will take orders from you. Only I, sitting on my throne, will have a rank higher than yours.” Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:39-41)

Finally, in a moment of unquestionable victory, God elevated Joseph from the prison cell to second-in-command. Such a jump to power could have had shaky ramifications. In reality, though, it wasn’t so different a situation. The luxuries and the extent of Joseph’s new position were greater, but how he functioned and who he was didn’t change.

Joseph was a slave in Potiphar’s house, and there he was elevated to second-in-command. He was then a prisoner, who was eventually placed just under the warden in authority. Now we see him before the head of all of Egypt, and once again he is lifted to the second highest place of influence and power.

This was Joseph’s life. Joseph was a ruler. It’s who God made him to be; and as such, everywhere he went, he ruled. Because Joseph was faithful in the little and in the hard times, God knew he could be trusted to be faithful in much and in even harder times. Joseph had to be faithful over a household before he could be faithful over a country. He needed to learn to steward well in the dirty prison that was barren of hope before he could serve an empire facing a ruthless famine. Everything in Joseph’s life prepared him for this time.

God has a calling on your life; it’s real, it’s powerful, and it’s important. In your journey to reach the fullness of your potential, you will go through seasons of testing and trial. These times aren’t usually exciting or pleasant, but they are the training ground to prepare you for an even greater purpose. Will you push through and be patient? Will you determine to learn from where you are now? Will you be faithful in the small and seemingly insignificant? Don’t be discouraged. God has great dreams for you. If you’ll submit to your current season and become cemented in character and identity, you’ll be ready for what comes next.

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The Interpreter

by Carolyn Hope

And they replied, “We both had dreams last night, but no one can tell us what they mean.” “Interpreting dreams is God’s business,” Joseph replied. “Go ahead and tell me your dreams.” (Genesis 40:8)

Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once, and he was quickly brought from the prison. After he shaved and changed his clothes, he went in and stood before Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream last night, and no one here can tell me what it means. But I have heard that when you hear about a dream you can interpret it.” (Genesis 41:14-15)

Joseph’s story as recorded in Scripture started with a dream. How fitting it is, therefore, that his interpreting the dreams of other’s helps him arrive at the fulfillment of his.

This scene from Joseph’s life illustrates to us not only his gifting and ability but also his willingness to help. God clearly gave Joseph understanding to know the meaning of these dreams, but Joseph chose for himself to hear them and then to deliver the truth they carried. Amidst his own personal suffering, he did not keep from helping alleviate that of others. The character of Joseph shines in his response to others’ discomfort.

Your circumstances are not in your control; what you do with them and in them is. Are you willing to help others even while in pain yourself? Will you still use your gifts when your opportunities run dry? Will you lift others up when you’re at rock bottom? In the middle of your hardship, let your character develop and deepen. You may not consider yourself as visible, but God sees you and cares for you.

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The Prisoner

by Carolyn Hope

So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained. But the LORD was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the LORD made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. (Genesis 39:20-22)

Here in Joseph’s story, we find the great setback (or so it seems). Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph and failed. He chose purity, and in turn, was thrown in prison. This is the point where many would have given up and thrown the towel in. Even in this place of imprisonment, God prospered His chosen one. In chains and darkness, amidst broken (and perhaps dangerous) people, Joseph found two things: the faithfulness of God, and the favor of the warden.

Life can get extremely frustrating. You do what is right and then are punished when you should be rewarded. Just as you thought you were making progress, you’re taken further backward than you’ve ever been. Though it’s tempting, don’t despair in these times. Here’s why: even in the deepest pit you could ever find yourself in, you can still know the faithfulness of your God and be given favor despite all odds. There is always hope in Christ. Choose to hope. Choose to believe. Choose to view your situation with eyes of faith. It will be made right. It will be okay. Now, in this moment, it can get better. Trust your Father; He will make it better, and He will meet you where you are.

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The Slave

by Carolyn Hope

When Joseph was taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelite traders, he was purchased by Potiphar, an Egyptian officer. Potiphar was captain of the guard for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. The LORD was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. Potiphar noticed this and realized that the LORD was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did. This pleased Potiphar, so he soon made Joseph his personal attendant. He put him in charge of his entire household and everything he owned. (Genesis 39:1-4)

Joseph went from being the favorite son to a slave in a matter of minutes. That sounds like a rude awakening, doesn’t it? Interestingly, the Bible doesn’t give us a picture of a learning curve for Joseph. The first description we are given about Joseph’s life as a slave is that God was with him and he was successful. What should have been a disastrous situation instead became a place of favor and blessing.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would have adjusted well to being taken captive and then forced to work for a foreign people in a foreign nation. It’s remarkable to me that there is no record of Joseph having a pity party, trying to run away, or resenting his master. Rather, we are given an example of a slave who honored others and served them without complaint. Though estranged from his family and far from all that was familiar, Joseph didn’t lose the Lord, nor did His favor leave him. God ensured that success followed Joseph wherever he went and blessed whatever he did.

When you find yourself in an uncomfortable, undeserved situation, you don’t have to live defeated. When nothing seems familiar, remember the One who never forsakes you. Jesus is ever with you, and He will enable you to not only make it through a season, but also to grow and thrive in it. If you will commit yourself to serve, regardless of where you are, you’ll find that God will meet you there. He delights in simple service. You are not called to slavery, for you have been made free in Christ, but you are called to serve. Take courage, remain humble, and trust your Guide. He won’t ever lead you astray. Even if it’s painful now, be strengthened by the truth that there is purpose in this path you’re on. His plans for you are good, and you have no need to fear.

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