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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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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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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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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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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Some Final Ponderings

by Carolyn Hope

The past two weeks, we’ve observed several different pieces in the story of our Savior’s birth. We’ve read about shepherds, prophets, and angels. We’ve seen individual characters such as Elizabeth and Mary. There are many parts to play in such a momentous birth, a birth that shook the world.

I’d like to leave you this week with a few thoughts:

  1. God took the lowliest and the least and used them in mighty ways. Shepherds were outcasts; angels were often unseen; the prophets were rejected. Mary was ordinary; Elizabeth was old. Every character had multiple reasons for disqualification, yet God never considered those. He chose them, and He chooses you too. When God calls you, nothing can disqualify you. You yourself are enough for the journey He is leading you on.
  2. One ordinary night became an encounter. At an unexpected time and an unexpected place, God showed up. What started as a normal day became a day that changed history. You never know what today could bring. Stay expectant and stay hopeful. Wake up each morning eager to see all that God will do. He is working and moving on your behalf. Today could be the day that everything changes.
  3. God’s plan for your life is greater and more risky than you could ever imagine. Mary and Joseph’s calling to be the parents of the Christ was incredibly dangerous; yet they were never unsafe as they followed the Lord. There will be great risk in your story, and there will even be danger. Do not let those facts deter you or frighten you, for your God is with you through every moment. He will protect you and fight for you through it all.

I hope you have had a very Merry Christmas!

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