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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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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Fruit #1: Love

by Carolyn Hope

We know what real love is because Jesus gave his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 4:16)

The Bible speaks a lot about love. There are numerous examples of God’s love and people’s love for one another. The New Testament gives us instruction to love each other, and some passages give us details on how to do that. 1 Corinthians 13 is the famous ‘love chapter,’ in which Paul beautifully describes the attributes of love. Here is an excerpt from that Scripture: “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. … love will last forever!” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8).

The most principle and extravagant example we are given of love is Jesus Himself. 1 John tells us that God is love. Therefore, everything that Jesus did was done from a place of love for us. His life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension all speak of His love. Jesus gave up everything for us, sacrificing all for our sake. This is what the truest, deepest love looks like; it’s a radical, selfless surrender on behalf of someone else.

The Lord created you from love, for love, to love. In order to love others well, you must first understand you are loved by God. His love for you is deep, wide, long, and high; it’s immeasurable. You can love others by sacrificing yourself for others. Such sacrifices, whether small or large, are often difficult, but as your love grows for a person, choosing the best for them becomes easier. Learning to love is a journey. Whatever place you are right now, rest in the love of your good Father and as you do, He’ll teach you to love the people in your life.

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Unfailing Love

by Carolyn Hope

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

There are different levels of love. The love you have for your best friend is different than the love you have for your brother or sister. The love you have for your parents is not the same as the love you have for your spouse. There are different depths of love, and each relationship reflects that.

Jesus talked about the greatest level, the deepest depth, of love. There is a love that is stronger than all the others, and that is the kind of love that will lead you to give up your very life for another. This love is relentless, reckless, and willing to do whatever it takes to give someone what they need. It’s willing to give up everything for another person. When you think about it, there are prices and costs for everything in this world. Life, however, is priceless. It’s worth more than money can buy. The most expensive gift, therefore, is your life.

This is the kind of love that Jesus gave us. He surrendered His perfect, priceless life for you. The cross, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is a picture of God saying, I will do whatever it takes. His love for you was so deep that there was NOTHING He would hold back from you. The Lord’s love for you is incomparable. It is trustworthy (1 John 4:16), and it never, ever, ever fails (1 Cor. 13:8). He gave it all for you. He loves you far too much to let you go.

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Up Close with Chris McClarney

by Kelly Head

If you’re going through hard times, Chris McClarney might be just the music to put on “repeat” on your iPhone. He is a rising singer and songwriter who captures the heartfelt thoughts a typical believer might feel, and expresses them through soulful songs of hope. Chris penned the sincere worship song called “Your Love Never Fails.” This song is what first brought the spotlight onto Chris when the single caught the attention of the Bethel Church worship group in Redding, California, called Jesus Culture.

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They recorded it on their 2008 “Your Love Never Fails (Live)” album. The rest is history, as the song has now become the theme song of sorts for the current youth worship movement. The Newsboys later recorded the song, and it again topped the charts earlier this year. Chris also recorded the song on his album “Defender,” which is filled with soulful and message-driven songs. Chris was quite seasoned even before his “fame” hit, having already been a worship leader for 15 years. Today, he leads worship at churches, youth events and conferences across the country and globally. Recently, Chris led worship at Youth For The Nations, a large teen summer camp/conference, in Dallas, TX where The Voice caught up with the down-to-earth, humble musician. He shared how he got his start, his first encounters with charismatic Christianity and his message to those with a God-dream in their hearts. This soulful musician was born in Nashville to youth pastor parents. While Chris is now a unique and rising voice, he got his start almost by accident. “I was about 13 years old, and we were doing a little church home group at the time. They asked if anybody knew how to lead worship. I did not know how to lead worship,” he laughs, “but I said to myself, ‘How hard can it be? I like to sing, I play piano and I just bought a guitar.’ So I was like ‘Yeah, I can lead worship.’ I guess it went all right because they kept asking me to lead.” The home group turned into a youth group that quickly grew to more than 400 members. It was there that Chris had the room to hone his abilities. Then five years later, a life-changing event ultimately changed the course of his ministry. A buddy of Chris’s, who was a youth leader at the church, died in his sleep, devastating the entire youth group. “I remember thinking, ‘Why didn’t we pray for him?’ Because, I guess I just never heard the sermon that said we weren’t supposed to pray for sick people and expect them to get better,” he said. “It’s funny growing up in a conservative church. If someone’s grandma were sick, we would always pray for the grandma, but I’m not sure where the line was (in expectation).” Although he had taken prayer requests like this, Chris had no personal experience with sickness, death or healing. His only frame of reference for such miracles was what he had seen from television evangelists. “But after [the death of my friend], I got really interested in the Holy Spirit and was searching for answers. “I asked a friend if he knew anybody that spoke in tongues and where people fell over when they prayed. He said, ‘Man, you need to meet my brother, he is totally one of those crazy guys.’”

So, Chris went to church with the brother. “I wanted the Holy Spirit so badly,” he said. “So I prayed what they prayed about the Holy Spirit coming and filling us with power and authority. Others were speaking in tongues and falling over, but I just didn’t feel anything. I didn’t think, ‘Oh that’s all not real.’ I just thought,‘I guess that’s just not for me.’”

So Chris went back to leading at his conservative youth group. But about six months later, “weird stuff” kept happening. “It’s stuff that wouldn’t be weird now, but it was really weird to me then. Songs were going on longer than they used to, and people would cry during worship. Once, people started repenting of their sins during worship. These things probably should [have been] a normal part of our church life, but was a new experience to me then.”

Chris started seeking answers. “So I asked my friend, ‘Hey, do you think that your prayer worked? Did the Holy Spirit actually fill me up, even though 
I didn’t fall over, and now He’s moving in power and the things that I feel?” The friend affirmed, “That is totally real.”
Chris was so excited and amazed by his new experience with the Holy Spirit, that he couldn’t wait to share it with other members of his youth group. So he invited a group of his friends from church to a Saturday evening charismatic church service. They all started speaking in tongues, shaking and getting filled with the Holy Spirit. “From that, a ‘thing’ started in our church, and it began to make the leadership really uncomfortable.” Eventually, Chris was asked to change his ways or leave the conservative church.

From there, Chris began to “church hop,” until he realized he needed to commit to a fellowship of like-minded believers. He promised himself that he would stay at the next church until the Lord told him to move on. That next move turned out to be to an intercity ministry he found by a providential invitation from Jeff Deyo from the group Sonic Flood. The invitation came right at a time when Chris was questioning a recording deal that he ultimately decided against. The night of worship actually led to Chris ministering there over the next three years. That time in his life really solidified a deep heart desire to help with mercy ministries (those helping the needs of people physically), which is something that deeply defines the heart of Chris as a worship leader.

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“I thought, this is kingdom stuff, actually giving people clothes and loving on children that don’t have dads, helping orphans and widows. This is what I want to do. So I sold everything I owned (which was basically nothing) and moved down there.” It was during his years in the Nashville innercity ministry that he met his wife Jasmine with whom he now has three children. After the intercity ministry, Chris ended up becoming the worship leader at Jasmine’s home church, Grace Center, in Nashville, Tennessee. He and Jasmine ministered there for the next 10 years. It was at Grace that he became connected with the ministry of Bill Johnson, and Bill’s son Brian. It was through this relationship that Jesus Culture heard “Your Love Never Fails” and decided to put it on their album. The rest, as they say, is history. Despite the recognition, Chris still sees himself as primarily a worshipper. “If you want me to come do a ‘show,’ it’s not going to be very good. I’m more about what we can do together as a group, us and the people that come to worship together. 
I think it’s really beautiful and much better than whatever we can do on our own.”

It’s been a long journey, but Chris is very happy with where he is now. “I sometimes sit back and think, ‘Wow, my job is to help people connect to God.’ As a worship leader, I think that’s helping remove the boundaries that separate people from the Lord. Music is a great way to do that. 
It kind of cuts through the junk of the week and the pressures that are weighing on all of us,” he said.

On reaching your dreams, Chris says, “Follow the Lord and if He’s made a promise to you, or if there is a calling on your life, or even if it’s something you want to do, I think the Lord is into what we want to do. Do it, follow your dreams and be awesome! Take risks and then 
at the same time, find people that can speak wisdom into your life and kind of temper that. Find the balance; take it slow when you need to. But also keep going after it; don’t worry about your age 
or anything like that. There are so many stories that don’t fit the mold. Just keep trusting God!”

Chris McClarney ministered at Youth for the Nations last year, a conference for youth and youth leaders held on the Christ For The Nations campus. To find out more about YFN, visit their website by clicking here.

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