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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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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Undying Resolve

by Carolyn Hope

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me,  I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’” (Luke 18:1-5)

In this passage from Luke, Jesus relays a story of a widow who had been wronged. Widows in Jesus’ time were typically poor and lonely, with no guarantee of outside support. Consequently, this widow most likely did not have the funds or means to provide for herself, much less pay for a fair hearing or sway the judge’s decision. All she had was her persistence. All she had was her resolve.

Day after day after day, this woman pursued her cause. She did not give up and she did not lose hope. I believe that in order to be so ardently persistent, she must have woken up each morning thinking, ‘Today will be the day he gives me justice.’

It was, in essence, a battle of the will. Who would give out first? We see that the widow won her case because the judge got tired of seeing her face. As stubborn as he was, he was no match for her undying resolve. He knew that she would not stop coming until he relented.

When you have nothing else to give, you have resolve. When it feels like you have no choice, you can still choose persistence. No matter how long it takes or how impossible it seems, don’t stop fighting. Your cause, your call, and your life are worth a continual pursuit. Be persistent in your resolve. Don’t let go and don’t back down. You will be victorious. If what you’re facing comes down to a battle of the will, be the one whose will doesn’t die. Be a person of undying resolve. You will succeed when you refuse to take no for an answer.

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Resolved

by Carolyn Hope

Happy New Year! Welcome to a new calendar, a new day, and perhaps a new season. 2017 has ended and 2018 begins.

At the start of every year, many people draft up their New Year’s Resolutions. Some will keep them; others will not. New Year’s Resolutions are great in theory, but in practice can be very difficult. Nevertheless, there are those who keep such resolutions, and the reason they do so is that they are resolved.

To resolve can be defined as, “to settle” or “to determine.” It means making a decision and not turning back from it. This week, I’d like to show you part of what it means to live in such a way. There are many characters in Scripture who exhibited great resolve in their lives. Through a few of them, I want to highlight some different angles and aspects of what resolve is. Resolve is undying, defiant, and diligent. It refuses to give up or back down, no matter the cost.

You may have struggled with keeping a New Year’s Resolution (I certainly have), but I want to encourage you that you can live resolved. If there is one thing you should be resolved to, it is following wholeheartedly after Jesus. He will never lead you astray, and He will empower you to live determined all the days of your life.

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Lead Role: Jesus

by Carolyn Hope

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11-12)

Have you ever seen a play or movie in which the main character doesn’t have any lines? Yet this is what we find in the Nativity. Jesus is the star, the main event, the reason for the season. Throughout this story, however, he never says a word. Amazing.

We tend to treat Mary as the main character, or perhaps Joseph, or the wise men, or the shepherds. The truth is, Jesus is the one the story’s all about. In his sweet way, he quietly appears and doesn’t promote himself or draw attention to himself. He just is … and that is enough.

The greatest part of this story is the moment that Jesus is born. It’s what everyone’s been waiting for, eagerly anticipating, dreaming for, and hoping for. And when he is born … well, he’s born. The attendees to his birth are some dirty animals, some hay and straw, and a few rag-tag shepherd boys. When you think about it, it’s not what we would consider special. It’s not the type of phenomenal entrance that we would imagine. Still, it was supernatural. It was holy. It was beautiful. Jesus came, and He was. It’s simply astonishing.

That God would come down to earth as a human, and the weakest kind of humanity at that. That He would take on the position of a helpless baby. Protector and Provider humbled Himself to be protected and provided for. He could have come with an army of angels, descending from the clouds on a white horse, sword in hand and a crown on his head. He could have come as a fearsome, warrior king. That’s certainly what everyone expected. No. No, he came the way the rest of us come. We enter this world cold, naked, and more vulnerable than any other creature. Jesus did too. What a beautiful heart He has!

Jesus saw no need to seek attention. His humility shone brighter than the most glorious, majestic arrival we could imagine. I want to encourage you that there is great power in simple humility. Be who you are. You don’t have to promote yourself. There is no need for you to seek attention or affection. You don’t have to make everything work. Your responsibility is to be who the Lord made you to be and to do what He has told you to do. That’s it. Humble yourself, dear one, and your King will lift you up (see James 4:10 and 1 Peter 5:6). Be who you are; that is enough.

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Lighting: The Star That Shone

by Carolyn Hope

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. (Matthew 2:9-11)

We often speak of how the Magi followed the star to the house where Jesus was, but what about the star itself? It was used of God just as much as any character. The star shone brightly and with a purpose: to lead the Magi to the Messiah. It even went ahead of them, only stopping when it came to the house Jesus resided in. We often view stars as fixed points in the sky. What if each star is only waiting for the signal from its Maker to move? This star moved, much like the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire that led the Israelites in the wilderness. The star came forth at the moment of Jesus’ birth, and it went before these mighty men from the East, showing them the way to the newborn king’s resting place.

It blows my mind that God would use a star in such a potent way. Imagine the awe of the Magi, men who had studied stars for much of their lives. This star was unlike any they had ever observed. God brought something that they related to and caused it to draw them to Jesus.

Each one of you is a unique and needed star. There are people who need to see your light, people who need to hear your words and know your love, so that they may be led to the Savior of the world. There are people that you can relate to, people that you can touch in a way that others can’t. God is sending you to them to shine bright and show them the way to everlasting truth. Let the light of your life shine for all to see. It is powerful, it is needed, and it is enough.

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Hope That Dares

by Carolyn Hope

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”  (Lamentations 3:21-24)

These few verses in Lamentations are very often quoted, and they should be. There’s a great depth of truth within them. What many people don’t realize, howbeit, is where these poetic promises come from. Jeremiah was in despair. He was lamenting (hence the title of the book). Jerusalem, the once illustrious city, was in shambles. Nothing was as it should be. For much of Jeremiah’s ministry, he had warned the Israelites of this coming day if they did not repent. Now it was there, happening just as he had prophesied, and it broke his heart. Out of a place of deep depression and hopelessness, Jeremiah “dared to hope” in the only One he had left: the Lord, who is faithful in love and brings new mercy every morning.

This passage is very dear to my heart, for I have walked through pain and despair as well. When I was 17, my mother became pregnant twice. Both times resulted in a miscarriage at 11 or 12 weeks. After the first miscarriage, I felt stronger. After the second miscarriage, I was completely broken. My hope was obliterated, and I lost my communication with God. I found myself in a place where I could no longer hear the One I lived for. This led me to despair, depression, and hopelessness. I even came to a point where I was planning how to end my life. The pain of living was too great, the hurts of my heart too much to bear.

During this time, I read Lamentations, and I related to every description Jeremiah gave of his pain. It was these four verses that kept me going and pushed me toward a breakthrough. My favorite part of Lamentations 3:21-24 is the beginning phrase, “Yet I still dare to hope.” Everything is broken and destroyed … yet I still dare to hope. Everything I thought I knew, everything I believed I was, I’m unsure of … yet I still dare to hope. I want to give up, I’m tired of trying … yet I still dare to hope.

I am here today because I dared to hope. I dared to hope in a day when my joy would return. I dared to hope in a God Whose mercy is new and enough for each day. I dared to hope in Jesus, the one Who not only saved me from hell but would deliver me from depression and heal my heart.

Friend, He did it. He healed me, restored me, and has brought me to a greater level of intimacy and joy than I have ever known. He is worth hoping in. He’s worth believing in. He’s worth trusting in.

Whatever pain you have, whatever season you’re in, dare to hope. Don’t give up yet. Don’t let go. There’s an answer to your problem, and His Name is Jesus. There’s a reason to keep living: His Name is Jesus. He is your inheritance; you can hope in Him. When your life seems hopeless, Holy Spirit within you will hope. Let your hope in your King be a candle that never blows out. Dare to hope … deliverance is coming.

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Fruit #7: Faithfulness

by Carolyn Hope

And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are partners with those called to heaven, think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest. For he was faithful to God, who appointed him, just as Moses served faithfully when he was entrusted with God’s entire house. (Hebrews 3:1-2)

Here in Hebrews, we see two examples of faithfulness: Jesus and Moses. Jesus was faithful to His Father all his life on earth and remains faithful today. Moses likewise was faithful as a shepherd of the Israelites throughout all their wanderings in the wilderness.

Faithfulness is not an instantaneous attribute. It must be built and developed over time. Being faithful starts with day one, then day two, day three, and so on. In order to be faithful, one must make consistent choices. Faithful people are dependable and reliable; the reason they are so is that again and again, they choose to be there when you need them.

You can be faithful by being consistent and steady. Show up to work on time, every day. Keep your word to people; when you say you’ll do something, do it. Deliver your promises in the time frame you said you would. Faithfulness doesn’t require routine, though it often helps. If you’re struggling to be faithful in a certain area, try setting a specific time each day or each week to do what you need to for that. Be encouraged; you have the power to be faithful within you. Jesus, Whose Name is Faithful and True, will guide you in a life of faithfulness.

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Fruit #3: Peace

by Carolyn Hope

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. (Romans 5:1)

In a crazy world full of chaos, it can be a challenge to find peace. Often our first response to the storms that come against us is to panic and cry out for God to get us out of there! There is a peace available to us, however, and that peace comes to us through the Prince of Peace Himself.

When Jesus lived, died, and rose from the grave for us, He made a way for peace to enter our lives. We now have a secure standing before God, and peace is a beautiful by-product of that.

If you find yourself starting to worry or be stressed, remember who you are and Whose you are. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” As you turn your focus to your Father, He will give you a peace that surpasses your understanding (Phil. 4:7). Reach out and take hold of the peace that is already yours.

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