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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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Earthquakes to Whispers
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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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brooke-cagle-52215 2
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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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listen

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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fresh bread 2
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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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Do You Not Care
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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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KeepOnWalking

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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FacingValleysofourDefeat

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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ButGod

It’s been a few months now that i’ve been living in the ‘But God…’ space.  You may not call it what i do, but i can bet that you’ve lived in that space too at some point or another.  It’s the space where all your circumstances seem to be completely opposite to what God has promised you.  It’s the point of tension between what your world looks like and what God has said it should look like.  It’s not an easy space to live in.

And when i’m in that space, i find the words ‘But God…’ trip off my tongue so frequently.  ‘But God, why are you letting this happen?!’… ‘But God, don’t you remember what you’ve said?’… and on and on my questions go.  Initially my ‘But God…’ questions were not questions of faith but rather questions of complaint.  Questions which at the heart of them contained doubt as to whether God cared about what He’d said and what was going on in my life.  But then i read some words in Genesis 32 which changed the ‘But God…’ question for me.

In Genesis 32 we see Jacob who has been called by God to go back to the land of his fathers hearing some seriously frightening news that his brother Esau (who Jacob previously cheated out of his father’s blessing) is on his way to meet him with 400 men by his side.  Not news that Jacob wanted to hear at all!  So when he hears the news, this is what Jacob prays –

“O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. 11 Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. 12 But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”

Here’s Jacob obeying the call of God and trusting His promise to him and suddenly he hears terrifying news.  News that stole every last bit of courage for his home-coming out of him.  News that filled him with fear as he realised that he may never make it to his homeland given that Esau was on his way to meet him and presumably was not particularly impressed by the wrongs Jacob had committed against him.  As Jacob stood bang in the middle of the point of tension between what He’d heard God say to him and what his circumstances seemed to be screaming at him (i.e. TURN AROUND AND RUN AND SAVE YOURSELF!), he began to pray a ‘But God…’ prayer, but not one that was steeped in doubt bur rather in faith –

But you said, ‘I will surely do you good…’’ (verse 12) (italics mine)

Jacob stood in the ‘But God…’ space and chose to make it a place of courage, a place of faith.  He reminded himself (and God!) of the goodness promised him and then refused to obey what his circumstances were telling him to do.  He refused to turn around.  He refused to give up.  He made his home in the ‘But God…’ space.  But God had promised to surely do him good, so onwards he would go.

I wonder what promises God has spoken over you that your circumstances are trying to get you to turn away from?  I wonder whether you are listening to the discouraging voice shouting in your ear ‘Turn around! You’ve got it wrong! Go back to where it was safe!’ or whether you’re allowing the still small voice to wash over you with ever increasing certainty, ‘But You said you will surely do me good.’

God has promised that His goodness and mercy will follow you all of the days of your life.  Into the wind, into the waves, into the heart of the storm they will follow you. Don’t give up.  Don’t turn around.  Onwards into his promises let us go, choosing to make our home in the ‘But God…’ space until all the other things fade away and what He has promised unfolds in all its brightness before our eyes.

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Image1

Recently i was reading through Ephesians 5 and came across this verse that really impacted me –

‘… instead [of filthy or foolish talk] let there be thanksgiving’ (Ephesians 5:4)

The Message translation puts it like this: ‘Thanksgiving is our dialect’.

I like that. I am created to be a woman who is fluent in thanksgiving. A woman who is aware of her good, good Papa in all circumstances so is able to speak the language of gratitude irrespective of my surroundings. A woman who finds that thanksgiving is instinctive – not something i have to actively think about but something that just comes out naturally.

Much like learning any language, it may be challenging to begin with and the language may not flow too easily from me. But, with enough intentionality, enough time given to practice and any language becomes increasingly instinctive.

I want thanksgiving to be instinctive for me.

A couple of weeks ago i read a Bill Johnson quote – “Complaining proves nothing but that you can hear the voice of the devil”.

Complaining is a practice completely at odds with thanksgiving. Complaining puts me in the slip stream of the devil’s ideas and intentions for my circumstance. Thanksgiving on the other hand is the language of heaven – constantly connecting me with the heart of my kind Papa who has shown His goodness to me time and again.

So here’s my challenge to you and to me – let’s be a people who start speaking the language of our home and let thanksgiving flow from our lips. Let us step out increasingly to see our intentionality lead to fluency. Let our natural response in all circumstances become the dialect of thanksgiving because we are a people who know that our Papa is with us and His goodness will be our ever present reality.

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