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Have you ever had one of those moments where someone points something out from scripture and you think to yourself ‘How have I not seen this before?!’?  On Sunday evening I was listening to an outstanding message from George Gourlay – ‘The King who is Victorious’ (i’d really recommend you have a listen – it’ll be up on the Harvest Church podcast soon) and he mentioned something about Jesus’ posture in victory that rocked me.

He pointed out the verse ‘ The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’ (Mark 12, quoting Psalm 110).  Notice this – Jesus is sitting on His throne in the perfect rest of His victory even BEFORE the enemies are made His footstool.  He is modelling what it looks like to live in Kingdom victory before the final expression of breakthrough.  He is in complete and utter rest.  No striving, no pacing around in worry, no begging the Father to come through as if we need to beg and plead to get Him to act… none of that.  Rather He is seated in total confidence that the victory He has won is irreversible, unshakable and is being inevitably worked out.  The footstool part is just a matter of time.

I’m so provoked by this.  There are so many things that i’m trusting for and praying for and if i’m honest, pushing for.  And it’s not that any of those things are bad, but on Sunday evening I was reminded that although I may not feel it at times, the most true reality is that i’m living in a seat of victory in Christ and the enemies that I see (suffering, injustice, sickness etc) and the breakthroughs that I long for are going to come about not from my pushing but from my understanding of what’s already been done and what’s been promised by a faithful Papa.  I’m not saying we stop praying or fasting or anything else we feel faith to do. I’m just suggesting we do those things with the beautiful peace that comes from complete confidence. Rest doesn’t mean inactivity (we know that Jesus isn’t inactive even as He’s seated – He’s interceding for us) but rest does mean certainty.

I have a wonderful friend who is living out this truth in the most remarkable way.  She is sick.  Sick to the point of death.  And while her body has been slowly but steadily ravaged by the horrible disease that is cancer, i’ve never seen a more inspiring and Jesus-pointing model of resting in victory even before her breakthrough.  She’s not out of touch with what is happening in her body.  She’s not living a super-spiritual denial of the facts.  She’s well aware that this cancer will take her very soon should her breakthrough not come on this side of eternity.  But even as I type this i’m overwhelmed as I think of the sheer confidence she’s living with.  He is good.  He WILL make the enemies a footstool.  It’s only a matter of time.

But this isn’t a truth that’s only relevant for us if we’re trusting for a breakthrough of healing.  This is a truth that is a gift for our everyday moments of life.  Our good good Papa is offering us a perfectly peace-filled place to live from.  Confident, certain and unshakable.  Victory over pain and sickness and death and brokenness is irreversibly ours because we’re in Christ.  And rest assured the footstool is being prepared even as you read this.

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I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find it all too easy to forget where I am.  I can go through days forgetting the fact that although what I see of my surroundings with my human eyes is earthbound, in actual fact i’m sitting totally joined with Jesus in Heavenly places.  Totally joined with Him.  So intertwined that there is not a single moment of my day where it’s possible to untangle myself from Him.  If He’s on a throne, then so am I.  If He’s sitting at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1), then so am I.

This morning i’ve been musing over what it actually means to be seated at the Father’s right hand.  When scripture mentions the words ‘right hand’, what is it that the Word is trying to communicate?  Doing a search through the Bible to open up the significance of ‘right hand’ is a seriously encouraging read.  Ephesians isn’t simply trying to tell us our direction from the Father but rather trying to open our eyes to the overwhelming Kingdom resource that we’re sitting in.

Take Genesis 48 for example, when we read of Jacob blessing Joseph’s children,  his right hand was so significant that where he placed it was where the lion’s share of blessing, birthright and inheritance would go.  Then look at Exodus 15 – from His right hand comes so much power that the enemy is shattered & wiped out.  At His right hand are pleasures evermore (Psalm 16), a place of refuge (Psalm 17) and source of support (Psalm 18).  His right hand is filled with righteousness (Psalm 48) and brings deliverance and salvation (Psalm 60, Psalm 98).  From His right hand comes creative power (Isaiah 48).  The Son of His right hand is one who He makes strong (Psalm 80).

We are the sons and daughters of His right hand.  We are literally sitting in the wild and uncontainable current of His blessing, favour and inheritance, His power and deliverance and covering of refuge, His spine-strengthening joy and life-giving pleasure, His heart-cleansing righteousness, His ability to create all things from nothing and to bring forth what is seen from the unseen.

Whatever your earthly world looks like today, know this: His enemy-shattering power is all over you.  His favour and blessing of birthright rest on you.  His arms of comfort and support and refuge surround you. The power to create hovers expectantly over you. You are the sons and daughters of His right hand and He will bring you strength.

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I recently read an incredibly sad and provoking book entitled ‘Half the Sky’ by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  It is a book all about women, documenting how women are the most oppressed people on the planet today.  It shows oppression to be not only the horrors of human trafficking, but a wide range of experiences where women are told they are somehow less or smaller than the men around them.  It’s a heart wrenching read, but also one of mobilising the reader to action.  It’s the sort of book that makes you want to stand up and change the world because surely when God created woman, He did not intend for her to be oppressed and held down but rather to lead and shape the world around her.  He did not make her small and insignificant, but placed her in a place of honour in creation – alongside man – to rule the world (Genesis 1:28).

About a decade ago if you had asked me what I believed God’s intention was for women I wouldn’t quite know how to answer you.  As a child I grew up thinking that girls were equal to boys in every way.  I believed that I could be or do anything.  In my late teens I had a conversation at church that shook that belief in me.  A conversation that left me questioning what God’s heart really was towards women.  And that conversation – painful and confusing as it was at the time – was an incredibly helpful one in hindsight as it set me on a journey of study and encounter.  I wanted to come to a place of peace in my heart – to understand what God’s intention is for me as a woman and to understand what scripture says about my role.

I’ve written the points below as a brief summary of some of what i’ve read and understood from scripture.  I hope this post will be an encouragement to many – that the God of the Bible is FOR women and is not interested in holding them back.  I hope also that this post may make some readers think again about some of the scriptures that may have been used to suggest that God has placed a lower ceiling on women than He has on men.  In the end, I hope that whatever your view on the role of women, you will find me not to be offensive but rather passionate and ultimately full of love for both those who agree and disagree with me.  I think that God is much more interested in us loving each other within our different opinions than proving our point to be correct but doing so in a way that lacks love for one another.  I hope the former will be true of me.

Please bear in mind that i’m not trying to write this post as a conclusive thesis on the matter – i’m writing with my two children under two around me… makes for a somewhat chaotic writing process!

For the purposes of brevity, i’ve summarised my view on the role of women down to three main headings:

1. Equality from Eden to eternity

2. Jesus loved to liberate women

3. Paul loved strong women

Equality from Eden to Eternity –

In Eden we see that Adam and Eve both had a mandate together to rule over and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28). Adam didn’t rule Eve to then rule the earth.  They were equal co-rulers.  Before the fall, men and women were created to rule alongside one another.  There’s no hint of hierarchy.  There’s no hint that Adam was the main ruler and Eve the subordinate.

Some have tried to use the word describing Eve – a helper (Genesis 2:18) – to insinuate that her role was somehow a deputy to Adam.  But if we look into the word helper (in Hebrew: Ezer) we realise just how absurd that insinuation is.  The word does not have the connotation of inferiority but rather of adding strength.  In the Old Testament, the word Ezer is most consistently used of God – the point being that it is a word describing someone who is bringing much needed strength rather than someone who isn’t important enough to be the main leader.

Others have tried to use creation order as their basis to prove that Adam had more authority than Eve.  There’s not much logic to this however.  If anything, creation becomes more complex and authoritative the further on in order.  The animals came before both Adam and Eve.  That doesn’t give them greater authority, but rather the opposite!  I certainly don’t claim this to prove that Eve had more authority than Adam, but neither do I find justification for claiming the opposite.

Jumping ahead from Eden, right through to eternity, we catch a glimpse in the New Testament again of God’s desire to see men and women standing alongside each other – together in equality to rule and reign.  Men and women are co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), seated in Him (Ephesians 2:6) and reigning with Him (Revelation 5:10), the focus no longer our gender but our one-ness in Christ (Galatians 3:28).

I wonder why, when God created men and women to rule together from Eden to eternity, we would think that His intention for our present age is any different?  Why would we think that God would introduce hierarchy as His intention now when hierarchy is not His intention either in Eden or in the Kingdom fully come?

Jesus Loved to Liberate Women –

If Jesus is to show us the heart of the Father, then we see that Papa God loves to liberate women and see them flourish in roles that some would reserve only for men.  Jesus let Mary sit at his feet (Luke 10) – the posture of a disciple – scandalising everyone around Him as He redefined what a woman could and couldn’t do.  He catapulted the Samaritan woman into being the first evangelist (John 4) and used Mary as the first witness to His resurrection (John 20) – completely disinterested in the fact that this would make the testimony of His victory weaker to those who saw women as somehow less able than men.

Jesus’ encounters with women consistently lifted them up and honoured them.  I wonder if this is true of us who represent Him?  I’m not talking about patronising or flattering women.  I’m talking about allowing women to walk in authority – as Jesus did – despite what the traditions around us may think.  His example is both encouraging and provoking.

Paul Loved Strong Women – 

I love reading through Romans 16.  It’s a chapter where Paul honoured those who laboured with him in the gospel.  The chapter is full of affection, admiration and respect.  The remarkable thing about that chapter is that Paul names several women within it.  He is not offended by their strength, not taken aback by their gifting, not scandalised by their positions of authority.  He honours them:  Phoebe, Priscilla (who interestingly is named before her husband Aquila in case you are still adamant that order connotes authority), Mary, Junia (who alongside her husband Andronicus is named as outstanding among the apostles), Tryphena and Tryphosa, Persis, Julia.  Women who were deacons, apostles, co-labourers in Christ.  No hint of hierarchy or male dominance in Romans 16.

It’s interesting to me that we largely ignore how Paul loved and affirmed strong women who had authority in Romans 16, ignore how he didn’t put any gender qualification on operating in gifts of the Spirit including teaching and leadership (Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12) or in holding offices of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher (Ephesians 4) all in favour of a handful of verses he wrote to a church that was struggling with false teaching and so needed specific, corrective insight (1 Timothy 2).

I find this sad because 1 Timothy 2 is no more authoritative on the role of women than the other verses, it’s just that it gets much more airtime.  It’s tragic that people defend holding women back by claiming that they are just following the ‘plain reading of scripture’ when what they mean is that they are following an inadequately shallow reading of 1 Timothy 2:11+12 whilst ignoring the ‘plain’ reading of Romans 16 and Galatians 3:28 and 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, let alone taking into account the broader brush strokes in scripture of the heart of God and Jesus’ example towards women.

This blog will become far too long if I go too in-depth on 1 Timothy 2 but let me just say a few things to whet the appetite –

  1. The word translated authority in 1 Timothy 2:12 (authentein) is an incredibly complex word.  This is the only time it is used in the Bible.  The normal word for authority (exousia) is used multiple times by Paul elsewhere but here he chooses the word authentein – we would be in error if we did not see this as a caution in how we are to translate the word.  This has led many well respected academics and theologians to point to authentein not being a word meaning just authority but rather a word with the connotation of grabbing or usurping authority.
  2. The word translated as silent or quiet in 1 Timothy 2:11 by many is the greek word ‘hesychia’.  Outside of Paul’s teaching on women, this word, or its Greek root ‘hesychios’ are found in four other places in the New Testament – 1 Timothy 2:2, 2 Thessalonians 3:12, Acts 22:2 and 1 Peter 3:4.  In all these contexts, the word conveys a sense of being at peace/at rest/peaceable rather than having a low level of volume!  It would seem that Paul’s instruction is that women learn in a way that is at rest rather than resisting or argumentative towards instruction (this fits well with the general tone of the surrounding passages about encouraging unity and peace rather than division).
  3. Even without the complications around translating ‘authentein’, 1 Timothy 2:15 should make us aware that this whole passage simply cannot be interpreted at a cursory glance.  There is no way of getting away with a ‘plain reading’ of 1 Timothy 2.  If you walk away at a shallow reading of the chapter, you will walk away in error.  Many have done this with the teaching on women.
  4. The context of the book of 1 Timothy is I believe a great key in its interpretation.  It was written by Paul primarily to correct the false teachings being propagated in Ephesus.  It was not a letter laying out his core, timeless beliefs (which would be more true of the book of Romans for example), but rather a letter trying to correct specific errors in a specific community.  If we mistake Paul’s applications to a specific community as his principles for all communities, we run the risk of falling into great error ourselves.

There is much more that I could say on these headings, let alone all the other headings i’ve left out!  But, let me finish this post by saying this:

The more I read and study scripture, the more I realise that God loves women.  God’s heart is to liberate women.  He wants full expression of life in women as much as in men and has put His incredible authority on women as much as on men.  He has called men and women together to manifest Kingdom life all over the earth.  He is not the author of misogyny but rather is a proud Father cheering on His daughters (and sons!) to bring heaven to earth as heirs of His Kingdom.  Isn’t it time we as the church joined the cheers of our Father for women to be powerful and beautiful and all they were created to be?  Isn’t it time we honoured the Priscillas and Junias and all the rest among us?  Romans 8 tells us that all creation is longing and waiting for the full revelation of the children of God.  I think it’s time to set our women free.

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I’ve got to be honest, I got really grumpy with God this week.  Grumpy to the point where I must have resembled my toddler having a tantrum about not getting whatever it is that he wants.  Grumpy to the point where I was accusing Him of not caring and not being all that He’s promised He will be.  I think God must have used up extra patience from His storehouse on me this week…!

The thing is, it’s been a tough few weeks – battling illness in our home, children not eating or sleeping (or both!), multiple visits to different medical professionals and scary diagnoses being mentioned and looming threateningly overhead.  The levels of pressure have been up and the number of hours of sleep have been low.  That’s a dangerous combination right there.

And so, after another night of broken sleep my frustration and hurt and disappointment and weariness came tumbling out in some big questions – ‘Where are you God?! Why aren’t you breaking in? Don’t you care? We feel like we’re drowning over here!’  In all honesty, it felt good to let it out.  It wasn’t my prettiest moment, but it was real!  The funny thing is, even as the accusations were coming out of me, there was a deeper truth holding me steady in my heart, aware that the questions were rising out of my flawed perspective and sleeplessness rather than a new found discovery of flaws in Him.  But it did my heart good to let the hurt out so that I could invite truth and affection in.  Once i’d spent my hurting emotions fully, I was able to just be still for a while and as I did that, of course I could hear Him speaking into my circumstances.

I was reminded of 1 Kings 19:11-13 when Elijah is waiting to encounter God, but God is not in the dramatic earthquake or wind or fire but rather in a quiet gentle whisper.

The truth is, i’m a woman who likes breakthrough earthquakes – quick, epic turnaround moments where the landscape of my circumstance changes drastically in just a few moments.  And of course God does work that way at times, and I really love it when He does!  But the reality is, that’s not the only way He brings breakthrough and life.  Some of His ways are more subtle, quieter and less dramatic.  It’s easy for me to miss the whisper when i’m hoping to see Him in the earthquake.  But this week, after my outburst, God has graciously been pointing me to all His whispers of breakthrough in the last season.  Whispers of incredible loving family and community who have surrounded us and given us strength.  Whispers of health improvement in small increments where it’s easy to overlook the improvement because it’s not complete… but it’s improvement nevertheless!  Whispers of miraculous energy levels even despite shockingly low levels of sleep.  Whispers of smiles and giggles from poorly children where love and joy has overpowered illness.  The list goes on and on when I start to adjust my lenses.

So i’m writing this this morning with my circumstances having been somewhat improved but not yet completely restored.  But i’m smiling and full of hope knowing that God is whispering to me even now and that every moment of my setting is a set up for me to encounter His goodness if i’ll just stop and be still and let the whispering God envelop me again.

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I’ve been thinking about generosity and abundance a lot in the last few days.  I love the invitation in scripture to enter into cheerful giving – that means it is possible for generosity to be attached to a whole lot of fun and joy.  Many of us may not feel the words fun and generosity belong in the same sentence, but the more I enter heaven’s invitation to live generously, the more i’m convinced that it has the power to inject unreasonable levels of joy into our lives.

Here are my favourite two reasons why:

Firstly, as we give generously, stretching ourselves and our means, we get to let go of the reality of the seen realm and tap into the greater reality of the unseen realm where there are limitless resources and storehouses that never run dry.  The fact is that if we allow our bank balances to have the final word on how we live and give, then they will have just that, the final word.  We will have tied ourselves to them for our provision, for our adventure, for our blessing. But if we allow heavenly storehouses the final word on how we live, on how we give, then our bank balances will not have a defining hold on us and we’ll be allowing a far greater, richer reality to resource our lives.

Secondly, when we give generously it is one of the moments when the expression ‘Like Father, like daughter (or son)’ shines most brightly, for our heavenly Papa is the most lavishly generous being in existence – He is the prodigal Father – and we can never out-give Him, but we certainly can look like Him as we live open handedly. Everything He does is an overflow of abundant generosity. It makes me smile to think i can look a whole lot like Him as i enter into the adventure of giving.

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Just a quick thought today –

Recently I was reading Matthew 6 and something so simple yet incredibly encouraging jumped out at me.  If we don’t understand the Father, we’ll think we have to bring something ‘worthy’ to make Him listen to us – in Matthew 6, Jesus talks about reliance on clever and long winded language.  But in reality, if we are basing His listening to us on anything we have to offer – be it gift, strength of faith, impressive eloquence or anything else we can think of, then we simply have not understood Him.

As He teaches, Jesus here makes a step from the incorrect belief of gentiles that long prayers lead to being heard and simply says instead – your Father knows.  Your Father is listening not because of anything you can bring.  He listens simply because He is your Papa and He knows.  He knows your needs.  He gets it and He gets you.  He’s listening not because of what you can convince Him of.  He’s listening because of who He is.  He is your Papa and His heart is for you.  A little further on in Matthew 6, Jesus teaches against worry and does so again on the basis of relationship.  He is your Father.  And you are valuable to him.  Not because of what you do, but because in making you His child He gave you value.  Full stop.

So today as you go to Him – whether in hurried prayers in the midst of thousands of demands, or whether in hours of glory and soaking up His goodness, understand this:  He’s listening to you.  Not because of anything you are or aren’t doing, but simply because He’s your Papa and that’s what He does.  He really is just that kind.

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For a little while now i’ve been thinking over the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.  It’s an epic story – almost unbelievable – yet it really happened!  My focus hasn’t been so much about Jesus and the incredible miracle He performs, but rather His disciples and their role in the whole thing.  I’ve been trying to put myself in their shoes, trying to imagine how they felt as Jesus asked them to do something so completely ridiculous as feed a crowd of more than five thousand people with someone’s pitiful packed lunch.

Can you imagine it?  Matthew 14 tells us that Jesus and the crowd are in a desolate place – there’s no hope of relying on anything in that setting to bail the disciples out when Jesus asks them to feed the crowd.  The disciples are faced with thousands of hungry people… a crowd that are so hungry that they may well be tipping into the well known phenomenon of hanger (the meeting point between hunger and anger!) at any moment!  And as they face this crowd that may well turn into a rioting mob pretty soon, Jesus is asking them to do the impossible.

Just at the point when things probably seemed like they couldn’t get much worse, Jesus gets everyone to sit down so there’s an increasing sense of expectation, prays over five loaves and two fish and then breaks them up and hands the pieces (which when divided by 12 can’t have been much more than one handful each) to his disciples.  At that point the disciples must have been looking into their hands and then looking up at the crowd wondering what on earth Jesus expected them to do.  Was this some kind of painful, un-funny joke?  It’s actually quite an embarrassing moment if you think about it.  They must have been so nervous as they made the walk from Jesus towards the crowd, they must have been calculating how many crumbs they could break their handful into and wondering how many people they could possibly placate before the crowd would start rioting in disappointment and frustration.  Surely not an easy moment for them.

I wonder at what point the multiplication happened.  At what point did the disciples realise that the pieces just kept remaining in their hands even though they were handing them out.  Please note that there’s no mention that the disciples had any help carrying the food which presumably means that the multiplication didn’t happen all in one go at the beginning so that the disciples knew there would be enough for everyone, but rather must have happened in the process of them walking from one person to another which meant that they required faith to keep going until the very last person’s needs were met.

It’s remarkable to me that they did it.  That they agreed to Jesus’ crazy plan.  That they obeyed even when what they held in their hands right up until the very last second was painfully small.  The fact that they did walk from Jesus to the crowd with such meagre supplies tells me that they must have been convinced enough about Jesus’ heart for them and ability to do something amazing (although my guess is they had no idea what kind of miracle was about to take place), to make them walk forward into the crowd, rather than finding the quickest route out of that desolate place.  The disciples must have believed that Jesus was for them.  That Jesus wouldn’t set them up for failure in such a horrible elaborate way.  That Jesus wouldn’t ask them to do something if He didn’t have some kind of plan up His sleeve.  They must have had enough faith in who Jesus was for them to empower them to walk towards an otherwise pretty certain beating up.

I’m so inspired by what the disciples did.  At the beginning of this year as i’m looking at a busy diary and fresh challenges (some fun and some definitely not so fun!) and increasing demands on what i already feel are meagre resources, i’m provoked by the faith of the disciples to meet the challenge head on.  They knew Jesus enough to know that He isn’t mean.  They knew Him enough to know that He isn’t a fan of cruelly setting up to fail those who trust in Him.  They knew Him enough to know that He cared about them and that when He put them in crazy situations it was because He wanted to do through them equally crazy miracles!

So, at the beginning of 2017, as i look at the packed lunch in my hand and feel the nudge of Jesus to walk forward and feed thousands with what surely is not enough, i’m challenged to believe that His heart is for me.  That He loves me.  That He’s not setting me up for some kind of spectacular defeat, but rather catapulting me into the wonderful realm of the miraculous.  I’m provoked to press myself ever deeper into His heart for me so that the crazy situations i find myself in, the situations that feel horribly overwhelming, suddenly become opportunities for increase and Kingdom breakthrough.

What resources are you holding in your hand at the start of this year and what situations are you facing that far outweigh your ability? Rest assured, it’s a set up.   A wonderful, God-filled, Kingdom-favoured set up.  He’s going to do the impossible and He’s going to do it through you.

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This morning i was thinking again of the story of Jesus and his disciples in a boat in the midst of a storm.  Remember that one?  Jesus is fast asleep while his disciples are understandably terrified as the storm rages all around them and the waves are breaking in, filling the boat.  They think they’re going to drown and are wondering why Jesus isn’t doing anything to help.  They find him asleep and wake him with these words, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ (Mark 4:38)  And Jesus amazing, wonderfully gets up, speaks to the storm and suddenly everything is quiet and still again.  He then turns to the disciples and asks them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ (Mark 4:40).

Often i have read these words and thought that Jesus was asking the disciples why they didn’t have faith that He could calm the storm, but i’m not so sure that that’s what He’s getting at anymore.  I think that Jesus’ question as to whether the disciples had faith is in relation to their earlier question – ‘Teacher do you not care that we are perishing?’ – which in fact was a question of love not of power.  They weren’t asking whether Jesus could calm the storm, they were asking if He cared enough to do so.  ’Do you not care that we are perishing?!’… ‘Here we are in the midst of a storm and you are fast asleep as if you don’t care enough about us to do anything about the waves that are about to overwhelm us!’  And Jesus turns to them, having quieted the storm, and asks them why they are afraid and if they still have no faith.

If 1 John 4:18 is right, perfect love drives out all fear.  Jesus sees the disciples are afraid and the reason is that they have not fully understood His perfect love and so in the midst of the storm, fear rushes in because their hearts are crying out with questions about His heart and whether it has enough affection for them to meet them in their most vulnerable space.

I wonder how many who read this today are finding themselves in the midst of a tumultuous storm.  I wonder how many of us in our brokenness are crying out with questions about God’s heart towards us.  There’s nothing quite like the combination of a storm and a sleeping God (or so we assume because of His seeming lack of breaking through) to make us question whether we really are that important to Him and whether He cares all that much for us.  The enemy loves to jump into the boat with us and shout in our faces that God doesn’t really love us and the storm is proof of it.  Oh but don’t listen to the enemy – he is a liar.  His only intention is to deter you from your destiny.  Let me encourage you, even in the midst of the most terrifying of storms: GOD LOVES YOU.  His heart is full to overflowing with affection for you.  He sees you.  He hears you.  Even in the midst of your storm, He is putting in motion His plan to make all things work for your good and has dispatched His goodness and mercy to be your unwavering companions.  Take heart, stand tall, lift up your weary head and let the warm rays of His steadfast love light your way ahead.

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This week i’ve been reading through the account of Abraham and Sarah and their crazy radical challenging life.  What’s struck me is that the Bible’s account of their story doesn’t really start with them but starts with Abraham’s father Terah.

In Genesis 11 we’re told that Terah had three sons, one of whom (Haran) died while they were in their homeland of Ur of the Chaldeans.  We’re then told that Terah set off from Ur to go to the land of Canaan but when he came across a place called Haran he settled there instead and never made it any further into his adventures.  I wonder if he settled in Haran because of the son that he had lost of that same name?

It makes me think of how crucial it is for us as the people of God to process our hurts and disappointments well.  If we don’t learn to fully deal with the hurts of our past, we may like Terah be tempted to settle in places where we end up keeping those wounds alive rather than walking free into the crazy wonderful destiny that God has marked out for each of us.

The beautiful thing about this story is that God redeems what is lost for Terah and calls Abraham to continue journeying to where his father had started out – and promises all of that land as an inheritance for him and his offspring.  Oh the kindness of our God – giving to Abraham what Terah had hoped for all those many years ago.

Let me encourage you (and me!) today: let’s be quick to bring our wounds and hurts before Jesus and allow Him to bring healing and restoration to our hearts and minds so that we are a people who walk fully free of our pasts, empowered to keep pressing forward into all the adventures that God has promised us.

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Over the last couple of days i’ve been reminded of some well known verses in the book of Ezekiel (chapter 37) where God takes the prophet to a valley filled with the bones of an army.  It’s a valley that represents utter hopelessness and total defeat – you only see a graveyard of an army if that army was defeated.

And yet, into this hopeless place of defeat, God speaks to Ezekiel and tells him to prophesy to these dead, defeated, dry bones and tell them to live.  And of course, as Ezekiel obeys the promptings of God and makes prophetic declarations of life even in this valley of defeat and failure, life springs up and what was once silenced by the enemy is restored to full strength and glory.

I wonder how many of us carry the shame of our previous defeats?  Moments where we failed to be all that we’re created to be.  Moments where opportunities – so promising – were missed and seemingly forever lost.  I wonder if for some of us, God is calling us to revisit these valleys in our hearts where we have grieved over dry bones, and is prompting us to declare life into the places where we’ve fallen before.

What strikes me about the passage in Ezekiel is that we’re told there were very many bones – a vast army defeated – and that they were very dry – this defeat had happened quite a while ago.  I believe some of us are being called to revisit the places we would see as our biggest defeats, our most epic failures, and into those many bones that may have been in the valleys of our hearts for quite some time, we are to start prophesying flesh and breath and life.

The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the grave is very much alive in us and still loves to bring dead bones back to life.  In a Kingdom where the grave itself holds no permanence and weakness is the perfect platform for power, defeats and failures are merely opportunities for God to show His nature as restorer of what is broken all over again.  Let Him in, excavate those dry bones and let Kingdom power break out to make the valleys shake with the sounds of life once again.

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