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Just a quick confession at the start of this year:  I started a ‘read the Bible in one year’ plan.  I’m already behind.

BUT despite the fact that I’m finding it a challenge to get through all of the reading for each day (not really the point, is it?!) God’s been speaking to me wonderfully through the book of Genesis and has set me up with a thought that i’m trusting will shape this year.

I was reading the familiar creation story again and something exciting popped out at me.  As you read the account of God making the world, you see that God creates everything that fills the earth according to its kind – plants and trees ‘according to their kinds’ (1:11) and fish and birds ‘according to their kinds’ (1:21) and beasts and livestock and creepy crawlies ‘according to their kinds’ (1:25).  And then this recurring phrase suddenly changes when God makes man.  He doesn’t make humanity ‘according to its kind’ as you would expect from everything He’s created so far.  Rather, He creates humanity according to HIS kind – ‘in the image of God He created them’ (1:27).

You were created according to the God-kind.  You are not ‘only human’ as the enemy would love you to believe, putting a lid over you of what you can and can’t achieve.  There’s actually no such thing as being ‘only human’ in that sense, because humanity wasn’t created with the limitation of its kind – it was created with the impossibility of the God-kind.

At this time most years, I look ahead with both excitement and some sense of being overwhelmed as my diary is booked right until the end of the year already and there is so much that I’ve agreed to that feels far beyond me.  But since reading Genesis 1, I’ve had this recurring thought in my head – I’m not ‘only human’.  There is no such thing.  I’ve been made according to His kind and right from the beginning He designed me to think outside the box and to disagree with seeming impossibilities.  Yes, the fall broke that beautiful reality, but coming alive in Christ brings me right back to my original design and His original intention.

So, as you look ahead to this year, I want to encourage you to ignore the enemy’s condescending lies that you can’t possibly have what it takes because you are only human.  What a lot of nonsense!  You have been made according to the God-kind where His intention is for you to live outside the box of possibility and feasibility.  Everything in your make-up was designed to touch the impossible and shine with His glory on the earth.  Get ready 2018, you’re going to be the year of smashing impossibilities.

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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’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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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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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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There are some friends that pull you towards another world. Friends that stir in you a hunger for something more, something other, something altogether more beautiful than the world you’re living in. Talking to them awakens in you the cry for the life you’ve always wanted, the life you were created to live – even if you were unaware of it before. This week i have the privilege of spending time with just such a friend. Talking to him of miracles and encounters and heavenly resource and Kingdom breakout tugs at my heart for more than i’ve settled for.

I don’t want to build my life simply with routines to inform me about another world (which is so easily what ‘spiritual disciplines’ can be reduced to), i want to build my life with routines that enter me into that world.

For whether i know it or not, that other world, that upside down Kingdom is coexistent with and in fact dominant over the world i’m living in. And if i want to, if i allow the cry of my heart to bubble up, if i listen to the quiet but determined invitation offered to me, i can experience in the here and now the vibrancy and colour of that Kingdom as it becomes my most perceived reality. Who are you spending your time with? Find friends who will help you listen to your heart cry. Put into your life-diet books and video clips and blog posts and anything else that will tug at you until you cannot ignore the life you were always created to live. ‘Seek the things that are above where Christ is seated… set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ (Colossians 3:1+2) – notice Paul isn’t saying ‘set your heart and mind on Jesus’ (although that’s a great thing to do!), but he’s saying ‘fill your heart and mind with the things, the realities of heaven where Christ is’. Let’s live from heaven’s technicolor reality and let the pale greys of earth fade away.

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A few years ago two friends and i moved into a council estate in south east London. Our aim was simple – we wanted to be an expression of the Kingdom on earth – to love and befriend the community, heal the sick, feed the hungry, proclaim freedom to the captives… you get the idea. Central to our vision was a tired looking building right at the heart of the estate which we wanted to turn into a community centre – a place where we could serve and love and feed people from. The idea was exciting and crazy and full of adventure – and we loved it! We felt like God had spoken to us, given us a strategy, provided us with a home on the estate and we couldn’t wait to get started.

Fast-forward almost 5 years on and you’ll find the same estate with no community centre. Some of us moved out of the estate onto different adventures. A few other courageous adventurers moved in to take our place. Some beautiful unlikely friendships were formed with a few people on the estate. But as yet, no obvious outbreak of what we dreamt. All that we lived and breathed in our hearts and minds have somehow not made it into earthly reality – yet. I have to be honest, it’s painful when i think about it. It makes me sad to think back to wild, exciting hopes and dreams spoken of and prayed into in our little flat – hopes and dreams that we didn’t quite see through to spilling over outside our front door.

So five years on, i have to admit that sometimes dreams don’t seem to come true. But i want to say as emphatically as i can through my computer: it’s still worth the dreaming. And here are a few reasons why:

1. God is attracted to faith, not performance. It makes me smile because i know every person who was involved in throwing themselves into that dream for the estate brought pleasure to God’s heart. I can seem Him beaming over us even now, because we took the risk, because we believed that we could make a difference, because we believed that God plus one person is a majority no matter how many stand against you. And i still believe those things with all my heart. I would rather go out on a limb a million times more and fail whilst trying, than stay safe in my own secure bubble never jumping into the unknown with God. The thrill is in the jump.

2. Going on adventure is wonderful and painful and crazy and fun and may not have any of the results that you were aiming for, but if you have open eyes, you’ll see lots of results you hadn’t anticipated. I learnt so much in the years that i lived in that little grubby flat. Learnt how to pray and then pray and pray some more, learnt about my fears, learnt about how far i was willing to jump into the unknown if i thought God was in it, learnt about how hard my heart can be toward the broken and how much i need to embrace the new loving identity that God has given me, learnt about how faithful God is even when things don’t go as planned, learnt about how beautiful deep friendships can be, how precious friends are who agree to go on wild adventures with you just because they love you and have your back.

3. Nothing is wasted in the Kingdom. Nothing. The time we gave to that estate is not wasted but sown. The prayers we gave for that estate are not wasted but sown – God heard every one. The energy and money and dreams and hopes and anything else we gave are not wasted but sown. The Kingdom operates with sowing and reaping. My friends and i, and doubtless many before and after us, got the privilege of sowing. We put good seed into that ground. Miraculous seed. Supernatural seed. And that seed can’t help but grow. I may not be the one reaping on the estate – but i know someone will, because the seed we planted was good and inherently fruitful. Not only that, but in all that time that we were sowing on the estate, God was sowing into us – and His seed in us is good, fruitful and miraculous. I get to reap the benefit of that seed and oh i am so very grateful to Him for it.

Maybe not many of you reading this have dreamt of living on a council estate. But i know many of you will know what it feels like to see your dreams seemingly not come true. Let me encourage you, keep dreaming anyway. No matter what the enemy would want us to believe, one way or another, our dreams will bear much fruit.

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One of my favourite books read this last year has been Chuck Parry’s ‘Free Falling’. If you haven’t read it, do. It’s a challenging, inspiring, thought-provoking book chronicling the many miracles Chuck has witnessed during his life so far. I remember reading it in a coffee shop and the presence of God falling on me so wonderfully and sweetly, i felt thoroughly undone and put back together again all in one moment. One of the highlights for me is when Chuck talks through his take on Jesus’ words in John 15, ‘If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love’. He makes the point that Jesus is not referring to the 10 commandments or some rule book. In fact, if you go through the New Testament looking for commands that Jesus gives, (which i haven’t done, but Chuck has!), those given most frequently are:

Be made whole (summarising all of His healing commands)
Believe
Fear not
When Jesus teaches us to live in His love – a position of rest, of receiving – He tells us to pay special attention to His commands – commands for us to live in wholeness, commands for us to put our full weight of belief in Him, commands for us to live lives free from fear (for perfect love casts out fear).

I want to live just such a life. Whole. Faith-filled. Fearless. The beauty is of course, that Jesus’ words have within them the power to accomplish that which they demand. This is why he never prayed for the sick, he simply told the person to be healed. It’s why he said to the woman caught in adultery, ‘Go and sin no more’ – not a word of disapproval, but one of transformation, for as he said it power was released to her to go and sin no more. It’s why Peter who had observed the potency of Jesus’ commands says to Him as Jesus is walking on water, ‘Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you’, for as Jesus gives the invitation ‘Come’, power is released for Peter to step out and walk on waves alongside His master. Jesus is not placing on us a heavy duty of obedience, but in speaking a command over us He is releasing the power for its accomplishment. And so, Jesus’ commands become wonderful invitations into lives of fullness and freedom. No matter who you are or where you are today, Jesus is speaking a power-filled invitation over you, words of heaven’s potency – be whole, believe, fear not. Because He has said them, we get to walk in them. Wow.

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